Milk First, Meat Later
[SLIDE] As we continue in the book of Hebrews today, we come crashing into the heart of the letter’s Christology.
Christology? That’s a pretty big word, you might be thinking. If we break it apart, we find first Christ, and then ology – Christology is what we understand about Jesus Christ.
[SLIDE] Already the book of Hebrews has told us some things about who Jesus is. He was with God before the foundations of the earth. He is the Son of God. And for a time, he was made a little lower than the angels – took human form and lived among us. He took on our life and because of what he has done for us, we are now children of God.
Last week, we recalled how easily we forget what God has done for us. Like the Hebrew people in the desert, we wander and grumble and always want something else than the rest, the grace, that has been prepared for us. But Christ cuts through all of our excuses and denials and speaks to our heart, shows us the right path, if only we are willing to listen.
So what are we listening for? What is it that Jesus wants us to accept? What has Christ done for us?
The answer begins with chapter 4 verse 14. Jesus is the great, high priest and we are invited to approach the throne of grace with boldness to find mercy and grace in time of need.
We need to turn our lives around, approach God in Christ and accept the grace we find there.
Seems simple enough doesn’t it?
[SLIDE] Hebrews doesn’t think so. Because immediately after these phrases, we have a whole series of explanations about what it means for Jesus to BE the person waiting there for us – what it means for him to be the high priest… what exactly Jesus is doing there on the throne of grace?
For just a moment, lets skip through a few more verses and go to verse 11, this time in the Message translation – “I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you’ve picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby’s milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago!”
We’re going to stick with the milk today – and next week we’ll tackle the more difficult stuff about what it means for Jesus to be the priest.
So beginning with the basics. We need to repent from our past lives and turn with faith towards God… Or as we put it all through the month of August – God keeps telling us, I love you, I forgive you, and I have a job for you.
[SLIDE] For most Protestants – Lutherans, Presbyterians, Baptists, Methodists – our focus is on the “I forgive you” part. We know who God is, we know who Christ is, through what Christ has done/accomplished for us.
That is Christology. By looking at what Christ did, we have a better understanding of how we are forgiven, how we are justified, how we are saved.
Think about this in another way. If a new person comes to town, we get to know them by asking questions about what they have done in the past. We ask where they lived. We ask where they studied. We ask what their job was. And we continue to get to know if they are a good person or not, if they are trustworthy, not by what they say, but what they do – how they treat us once they become a part of our community.
The same goes with Jesus. Once we understand what Jesus has done for us, we understand how we can put our lives in his hands.
There is a bit of a problem however. There isn’t just one answer to that question.
[SLIDE] In fact, in the Western world there are actually three different understandings of how Jesus saves us.
This word at the top, atonement, is basically a fancy way of saying just that. How we become at-one again with God – how we make amends, how we are reconciled to our creator.
Looking at why Jesus went to the cross, three major theories have been laid out.
1. Christus Victor – in the battle for good and evil, we are held prisoner to sin, held captive by Satan. In Jesus’ victory over death, evil is defeated and we are set free
2. Satisfaction – problem is that we have broken the covenant and a penalty must be paid. Jesus knows we are guilty, but his action on the cross bears the punishment for us.
3. Moral Example – the cross is the natural outcome of the life of Jesus – who spoke truth to power and dared to love those who society turned away. In his life and death, he shows us how we should also live.
How many of you knew there was more than one way to understand why Jesus went to the cross?
We’re going to look at each one a little bit more in depth.
• Christus Victor – We are captured, not free; imprisoned to Satan and sin; evil has control over us
Addiction is a sort of prison – we can be imprisoned and homeless and not even know it
How can we be set free? Christ the resurrected one rescues us, defeats sin and death.
• Forensic – we are in the defendent’s seat – we have broken the covenant and must face the consequences
Satisfaction (Anselm) God’s honor has been destroyed by our sin & we have infinite debt to God. Only the God/Man can make our satisfaction
Penalty Satisfaction (Aquinas)Our offense against God disrupts order, God as a just God must keep the righteous order and justice must be recieved. Christ pays the penalty to restore the balance.
Substitutionary Justification (Luther/Calvin) God’s work in Christ is enacted in us – we are acquitted, pardoned and our record is cleared.
• Moral Example (Abelard) – we have lost the understanding of and ability to love and Christ’s life, death, and resurrection shows us what true faithfulness looks like
All three of these are at play in Wesley and should be in ours as well
• if we respond to this pardoning love and allow God deeper access to our lives, we will be liberated from our captivity to sin and the transformation into the fullness of our lives… penalty/satisfaction emphasis with a moral element and a ransom effect.
We too heavily emphasize just the judicial understanding of sin – that claims we must be tried, found guilty, and punished for what we have done wrong.
In my understanding of God, it is through judgment that we are free to recognize we need the grace of God, repent of our sins and live lives worthy of the calling of God. Punishment is not required. Because Christ already restored us. The moment Christ became human, we were reconciled to God. The moment Christ rose again, the powers of this world that plague us were defeated. But then Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit so that we could also participate in that resurrection, so that we could be made new.