What if God was one of us?

Book 2 Chapter 12 Section 1-7

“What if God was one of us?” was the provocative question posed by the singer Joan Osborne in 1995. If God became like us, what would He be like and would we want to know Him? Would He be popular or would we even recognise Him if He was sat on the bus next to us home? It was a song that struck at the heart of modern day secular life where have become so distanced from God that even if He showed up in physical form we would not have room for Him in society.

In this chapter Calvin describes how God did become one of us, why it was necessary and the difference it makes to us. He groups his thoughts under the nature of Christ and the work of Christ as Mediator.

1. The nature of Christ. Christ had to be both divine and man so that he was able to both be our true representative and also reconcile us to a pure God. No sinful human could approach the awesome holiness of God to be our representative. Interestingly Calvin goes so far to argue that even in our pre-fall sinless state we were still “of too humble a condition to penetrate to God without a Mediator”.

2. The work of Christ. This was no ordinary work. Christ took on human flesh and bones receiving “what is ours as to transfer to us what is His.” The work that Christ was sent to do required both a human and a divine nature for “it was His to swallow up death: who but Life could do so? It was His to conquer sin: who could do so but Righteousness itself?”. It was also necessary that as it was a man who had plunged mankind into ruin through disobedience, it should also be a man who through perfect obedience, brought back His children to a living relationship with their maker. “That He might present our flesh as the price of satisfaction to the just judgement of God, and in the same flesh pay the penalty which we had incurred.”

Finally, “since as God only, He could not suffer, and as man only could not overcome death, He united the human nature with the divine, that He might subject the weakness of the one to death as an expiation of sin, and by the power of the other, maintaining a struggle with death, might gain us the victory.”

Response

Meditating on the incarnation of Christ these last few days I am humbled by the fact that it ever happened. When the eternal Son of God considered all that becoming flesh and bones entailed – the torture of physical pain; the mental anguish of rejection (by the crowds) and betrayal (by his closest follower); the limitations of a body that got tired and weary and was subject to temptation; the spiritual separation from His eternal Father at His most testing time – I stand in awe that He decided to go through with it. As Calvin rightly points out at the beginning of this chapter, there was no need within the Godhead for Christ to become man, its was only for our sakes that meant the incarnation was necessary.

I have become so used to the incarnation that I take it for granted. But at some point way back in eternity the Father, Son and Holy Spirit made the decision (if we can put it in human terms) that this cost was worth paying. That they would love those sinful tiny creatures who had done nothing but spit in their faces. That they would not only love them, but they would implement a most costly and sacrificial plan to bring them into the bosom of God without compromising their holy integrity. What love, what grace, what mercy. That underserving and unthankful ones such as we should be swept up in the tsunami love of God.

“Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12.2

Father, Son and Spirit, we stand in awe and wonder at the price you were willing to pay to redeem us from the curse we were under. Jesus, we praise you that you were willing to go through with the plan set down before the creation of the world. We wait and long for the day when we will see you and fall in praise and adoration for all you have done for us. Amen

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