Monday, December 23, 2013

For All the World He Came: An Arminian Advent Reflection

Universal Fall and Redemption
Humanity is unique. It is the pinnacle of God's creation. The universe, world, and its inhabitants were spoken into existence (Gen. 1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24). Man, alone, was formed by God (Gen. 2:7) and had life breathed into him (Gen. 2:7). The Creator displayed an affectionate intimacy with this creation that would incredibly bear His own image (Gen. 1:27). Mankind was created not out of necessity but out of the surging overflow of God's love. God's good love crafted in man the capacity to enjoy relationship with his Creator.
 

Adam, the first man, enjoyed this intimacy with God. Early man walked with God. But Adam sinned. He rebelled against his good, kind, Creator and Companion. Humanity plunged deep into the harsh consequences of sin, taking the world with it (Rom. 8:22). Man, now, was faced with being separated from the tender Companion. He, now, would meet death, physically and spiritually. Existence, now, was not the cool of Eden but the scorching pain and suffering of a broken world. Mankind was drowning in the ocean of his own making. He was now "dead in trespasses and sins" (Eph. 2:1).
 
But the King, Lord of the Universe, did not stand by while humanity damned itself. This King is kind. He is good. This King condescended to the world.  In Christ, the transcendent God became man. He joined humanity in its broken world. From child sacrifice to good works, Humanity has crafted religions of all varieties that seek to appease God for salvation. The liberating truth is that the good King gave Himself for humanity's salvation.
 

So the God-man Christ, came. The arrival of the long anticipated King came in the stink of a manger. Empowered by the Holy Spirit (Ac. 10:38) Christ was the perfect man. He lived the life Adam never could for the sake of the whole world. Adam brought death to all and Christ through death, brought life to all (Rom. 5:12-21). This atonement,  the laying of all our sin on him was predicted long before His arrival (Is. 53:6). Christ was rightly identified by John as the "Lamb of God which takes away the sin of the whole world" (Jn. 1:29). His atoning death was for the sins of the entire world (1 Jn. 2:2). He "tasted death for everyman" (Heb. 2:9)  so that all may live (2 Cor. 5:14-15). His death was a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:6). He died even for His enemies (Rom. 5:8, 10 ), and those that deny Him (2 Pet. 2:1 ). His death was the reconciliation of all things to Himself, including His prized image bearers: humanity (2 Cor. 5:19; Col. 1:20). 

"Whoever has seen me has seen the Father," said Jesus (Jn. 14:9). Christ, God the Son, is the fullest picture of the Father (Col. 2:9). It was the Father that in the most well known verse in all of the Bible, loved the world so much that He gave His Son for its redemption (Jn. 3:16). He sent "His Son to be Savior of the World" (1 Jn. 4:14), because He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Pet. 2:9). Because of Adam's sin He "consigned all to disobedience, that he might have mercy on all" (Rom. 11:32). He commands "all people everywhere to repent" (Ac. 17:30). He is kind enough, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, to draw all men to Himself (Jn. 6:44; Jn. 12:32). His grace has "appeared, bringing salvation for all people" (Tit. 2:11).

Advent and Arminianism
Advent is a rich season that allows us to focus our minds and hearts on the glorious mystery of God become man. This season of worshipful, thankful anticipation is for all Christians everywhere. Advent is broader than Arminianism. Much broader. But Advent has a different expression of joy for Arminians, though, than non-Arminians.
 

The theology opposed to Arminianism views Christ's atonement on the cross as a particular redemption for the elect alone. Though God could irresistibly redeem the non-elect, He leaves them in sin so He can display His justice in their eternal, fiery damnation.  What, then, did His atonement accomplish for them? It appeased His wrath so they wouldn't be destroyed right now. Presently, they can enjoy life. God's goodness is preserving them in this life. They enjoy God's grace temporally but will experience His wrath in Hell, eternally. God's love for them displayed on the cross is temporary, earthly, existence before their God-determined eternal misery in the damnation of Hell fire.

Against this theology of shallow, meaningless, love, Arminians express joy and delight in the birth of Christ because they see the love of God displayed for all the world. The Triune God acted in full force for all of humanity's redemption. The Father willed, the Son submitted, and the Spirit empowered Jesus Christ on His mission from the cradle to the cross.

For all the world the King came. He joined His creatures, partaking in humanity: eating, sleeping, weeping. In the fullest expression of love, this King laid His life down for everyone. He now works to expand His Kingdom by wooing His rebellious creatures with His love, inviting them to submit to His kind lordship.


Advent and its worshipful culmination in Christmas is the celebration of this King's universal, redemptive condescension. Anticipating His blessed nativity, we remember our own sinful hearts, desperately in need of a Savior. Surrounded by family and friends, we remember His love for all. In our giving of gifts, we reflect the King who gave Himself as the greatest gift to all of mankind. Christmas is the yearly reminder of the loving God, King of all, who gave Himself for all. 



Mild He lays his glory by,
Born that man no more may die;
Born to raise the sons of earth;
Born to give them second birth.


Come, Desire of nations, come,
Fix in us thy humble home;
Rise, the woman’s conquering seed,
Bruise in us the serpent’s head.

Now display thy saving power,
Ruined nature now restore;
Now in mystic union join
Thine to ours, and ours to thine.


Adam’s likeness, Lord, efface;
Stamp Thy image in its place.
Second Adam from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.


Let us Thee, though lost, regain,
Thee, the life, the inner Man:
O! to all thyself impart,
Form’d in each believing heart.
~Charles Wesley