Tuesday, June 14, 2011

God restores us: Atonement and new birth (part 2)

If we see our main problem as our guilt before God, then we look to Christ first of all for forgiveness. If we see our main problem as our defeat by sin and death, then the good news of Christ is that he conquers sin and death. But we have other problems that Christ addresses, and other needs that Christ fulfills. If our problem is that our souls have been vandalized by sin -- sometimes with our own willing help in destroying our own heart, mind, and soul -- then the good news of Christ is that he restores our souls.

Often when we speak about atonement, we separate the work of God so that the work of Christ is said to be limited to paying our debt and suffering our punishment -- that, and being a great teacher. We often speak as though the work of restoration and new life belongs to the Holy Spirit apart from Christ.

But in the writings of the apostles we see that Christ does more than fix a balance sheet between us and God; he also makes us new creations and draws us into fellowship with God. He renews the original work of creation, what we were originally designed to be. He works to make our souls whole again and restores us to the image of God.

This is not a exactly a new perspective on our redemption. The writers of the Bible spoke this way, focusing on our renewal as part of our redemption. Here, in this post, I'd like to show how the earliest Christians saw Christ as being a vital part of our renewal. I will not set out to make a complete catalog of something that a reader could search out easily enough in a Bible; this is meant more as a survey of the kinds of things the writers of the Bible said on the topic:

That our redemption involves our being restored in the image of God:
You have taken off the old man with his acts and have put on the new, being renewed in knowledge after the image of him who created him. (Col 3:10)

That this image of God comes to us, first of all, through Christ:
Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him were all things created, whether in heaven or on earth, visible and invisible. (Col 1:15)

That our renewal is a kind of reprise of creation, as Paul compares Christ, the "heavenly man", to the first man or "earthly man":
As we have borne the image of the earthly man, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly man. (I Cor 15:49)

(Next in this series: how speaking in terms of the image of God can help us explain Christ's work to people from other cultures.)

1 comment:

Martin LaBar said...

"a reprise of creation"