[Essay Contest 2017] Christ had to come even if people did not sin
What does it mean to be human? While Wikipedia might simply call us the “last extant members of the subtribe Hominina,” theology and the sacred scriptures tell us that we are much more. They tells us, in fact, that we are made in the image of God. Not only that though, they also tell us that we are made with “with reasonable and immortal souls, endued with knowledge, righteousness, and true holiness.” Similarly, the subject of the Christian faith, Jesus Christ himself, shares these qualities with us. However, Christ did not come just to restore us to this state but instead has come to elevate us to new heights. Christ would have had to come, regardless of our sin because God’s plan for us is to become closer to himself than we can even imagine.
The end of humanity is not a restoration to a natural sate, but to a supernatural. In scripture we read in the second letter of Peter that we are to become “Partakers of the divine nature.” Indeed, Calvin in his commentary on 2 Peter tells us the end of the work of Christ by saying, “Let us then mark, that the end of the gospel is, to render us eventually conformable to God, and, if we may so speak, to deify us.” This process of deification is an addition to the natural state. That is to say, this process results in a superadded gift of God which is added to the very nature of humanity. We become something that is more than human in the process of partaking of the divine nature. Calvin himself is reiterating the point of the early church fathers. In On the Incarnation Irenaeus boldly proclaims that Christ became man so that “man might become God.” This is the truth of the incarnation! So from the time of the early church to Calvin we find an awareness of this deep truth that people receive something from Christ that they never had to begin with; we participate in the divine life; we become love.
We can see how the overflowing love we find in Christ is our participation in divinity by reflecting on just what it means that “God is love.” When we talk about the trinity we recall the words of Agustine in De Trinitate VIII where he writes, “Therefore there are three things— he who loves, and that which is loved, and love.” God is the one who loves, Christ is the one who is loved, and the Spirit is the sigh, the breath that is the love between lovers. We can even look to modern writers for this same principle where Piper, so loved by our subreddit, writes
“God could know himself and God could love himself. In knowing himself he begot the Son, the perfect, full and complete personal image of himself. In loving himself the Holy Spirit proceeded from the Father and the Son.”
Love is the very life and energy of the Trinity. So when we are instructed by Jesus that the whole of the commandments can be summed up in loving God and neighbour, he is instructing us to take of the very energies of God. We partake of the divine and the grace of God transforms us from one degree of glory to another. Perhaps Aquinas sums it up best by saying, “full participation of the Divinity, is the true bliss of man and end of human life.” The blessedness of God that we obtain is what makes us higher than the angels and transcends heaven and earth. The end of the gospel is to become more than human.
It can be seen that while others might say that Christ came to restore us to a true humanity, it should rather be said that Christ not only came to restore us to our natural, “true,” state but also to add to our natural state. Where before we were not heirs with Christ, now we are. Where before, we were not glorified with Christ, soon we will be. Where before, we did not have God dwelling in us, now we have the Spirit bearing witness with us. Romans 8 shows us the very reason that Christ came. Indeed, Jesus Christ, who was called “Immanuel” is no longer with us but is at the very right hand of God. It is instead his Spirit, his love, that is "God with us" and transforming us. This does not mean that we become God for participating in God’s energies does not make us at all omnipotent or omnipresent just as Christ’s body is not omnipresent. Rather, Christ in the incarnation expresses perfectly this union of the energies of God with the essence of man. The state of perfect humanity with the supernatural grace of life. This effect is apart from sin. The supernatural state that Christ obtained was from being in every way like we are, as Hebrews says, but more. He is super-human. One might say that this is just restoring us to our natural state, but it isn’t. We see this most clearly in 2 Corinthians 2:6-16. Paul does “declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.” The wisdom from God is only obtained after the incarnation, it is added to the very nature of our humanity to make us also super-human. This is why Christ needed to come, he satisfied sin, but the mere satisfaction of sin and restoration of people is not enough, he also had to bring us closer to himself than we ever were prior to that point. This is why, even apart from sin, the incarnation is a necessity even if the atonement is not.
The Gospel is the gospel because it is news. It is the news of how humans, though we are sinful, can be closer to God than we ever thought imaginable. Indeed God dwells in us by his spirit and makes us his own by adoption and through it all we obtain something that not even Adam and Eve had in Eden. However, all this, things that make us super-human, are obtained through Christ. All this would have not been obtained without the incarnation. While sin did happen, and pondering what-ifs is often unfruitful, it must be said that sin did not cause the incarnation. Rather, the incarnation has always been planned not just for sin, but for all who trust in God to reach the highest of heights possible by a participation in the energies of God. In the incarnation, Christ presents for us a new model of humanity, by his death he gave us the means to get there, and by the faith we express we join with him in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit.
Submitted by hutima