The sonship of Believers is the result of the union of God with His people. The remarkable fact of this union – God in us and us in God - is that both partake of the same Spirit, yet live in the uniqueness of their nature and identity. Yet not so remarkable when we think on the fact that we are hewn from the same rock. Our oneness with each other is found in our oneness with God. We are both persons. God is our Father we His sons and daughters.
This relationship of inter-woveness is less a legal act and more the accomplishment of the Last Adam giving birth to the new Eve who is His church. Just as Eve was fashioned from the rib that came from Adam’s side, so you and the church - the Bride of Christ came out of the side of Jesus. The flow of blood and water resulting from the soldier’s spear thrust is symbolic in that the life of God flows from the shed blood and the living water that is Jesus in person.
Jesus Christ is not only for us. He represents us and is in place of us. Yet there is more. He is our union with Father and Holy Spirit. This is certified in John 17 and John 14.20 NIV.
Paul speaks of Christ our life because He is our life in every way. There is no way in which He is not our life. It’s when we seek life in anything not Jesus either in the secular sphere or in religion that we weaken ourselves and enter the flesh and a state of separation from God. Here we become blind, are in danger of speaking nonsense in Christ’s name and we multiply a spirit of death in place of life. But as Paul writes, ‘We are delivered from the body of death when in Christ’s life.
The vicarious humanity of Jesus is His life as us and for us. Paul declared Christ in you. Then he went further and spoke of Christ your life. He is the expression of God through us and the Christ of God acting as us. Thus theologian Christian Kettler observes.
“The substitutionary atonement in terms of the vicarious humanity of Christ is first of all a critique that we do not want to hear. Many contemporary views of the atonement will gladly embrace Christ’s solidarity with us but shy away from substitution. Could it be because we do not want aspects of our cultures touched by the gospel?” Or is it, we may ask, because we want to legitimise ‘our gospel’ no matter how much it diverges from the gospel of Jesus and Paul?
Kettler speaks to the independent spirit in man that seeks to bend Christ’s living way to our own way.
“Is this not just another way of saying that we do not want certain places in our lives to be touched by Jesus Christ? (My dear professor of historical theology, Geoffrey Bromiley, remarked once to me that the problem was not a lack of belief in substitutionary atonement, but that evangelicals did not believe in substitutionary atonement enough!) We may even retreat to a so-called “Christian worldview” that only joins Christianity with many competing worldviews and is ultimately a ripe example of postmodern relativism.” (1)
Relativism assumes that every community of Christ is an expression of Christ’s Body even if it lives from a distortion of the gospel of the Kingdom. In this mode we may adopt the conceit that all Christian communities are a legitimate expression of the gospel of Christ even if they are a re-write of Jesus, Paul and John. But if we do we must also consider that some of the organs are diseased, some limbs are gangrenous and come communities are tumours and growths in the Body.
Here we may manipulate words and utter propositions sustained by argument. What counts is our believing and living in God’s new covenant provision of union with God and the expression of Christ as the church in fullness and joy. It’s the cross that makes us the Body. It’s the dilution of the cross that defines us as a dead body. Paul confronts wishful thinking and double talk when he writes,
‘I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!’ Gal 2.21 NIV.
(1) Kettler, Christian D.. The Breadth and Depth of the Atonement: The Vicarious Humanity of Christ in the Church, the World, and the Self: Essays, 1990–2015 (p. 29). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.