Is Christ really our brother, then I would like to know what we can be in need of?
His heritage is life and death, sin and grace, all that is in heaven and earth, eternal truth, power, wisdom, righteousness; he governs and rules over all, over hunger and thirst, over fortune and misfortune, over everything imaginable, whether in heaven or on earth, not only spiritual but also secular affairs; and the sum total of all is, he has all things in his hand, be they eternal or temporal. Now if I believe on him, I become partaker with him of all his possessions, and obtain not only a part or a piece; but, like him, I obtain all, eternal righteousness, eternal wisdom, eternal strength, and become a lord and reign over all. The stomach will not hunger, sins will not oppress, I will no more fear death, nor be terror-stricken by Satan, and I will never be in want, but will be like Christ the Lord himself.Martin Luther - A Second Sermon on Christ's Resurrection, Mark 16:1-8 - ON THE FRUIT AND POWER OF CHRIST'S RESURRECTION.
In a sinful world, grace is always love’s first expression.
Ray Ortland helpfully picks out this thought from Schaeffer’s “The Mark of the Christian”:
Francis Schaeffer proposed two powerful things we can do, to display observable love for one another in response to these verses and also John 17:23:
One, “When I have failed to love my Christian brother, I go to him and say, ‘I’m sorry.’ That is first. It may seem a letdown — that the first thing we speak of should be so simple. But if you think it is easy, you have never tried to practice it. . . .”
Two, “There must also be open forgiveness. And though it’s hard to say ‘I’m sorry,’ it’s even harder to forgive. The Bible, however, makes plain that the world must observe a forgiving spirit in the midst of God’s people. . . .”
“[Does the world] observe that we say ‘I’m sorry,’ and do they observe a forgiving heart? Let me repeat: Our love will not be perfect, but it must be substantial enough for the world to be able to observe it, or it does not fit into the structure of John 13 and 17. And if the world does not observe this among true Christians, the world has a right to make the two awful judgments which these verses indicate: that we are not Christians, and that Christ was not sent by the Father.”
Francis Schaeffer, “The Mark of the Christian,” in The Church at the End of the Twentieth Century (Downers Grove, 1970), pages 143-146.
We certainly do discover God by admiring his incomprehensible essence, which still lies hidden in the hope of the promise. But we also see him through the greatness of his creation, and the consideration of his justice, and the help of his daily providence. We see him when with pure minds we contemplate what he has done with his saints in every generation, when with trembling heart we admire his power, with which he governs, directs, and rules all things, or the vastness of his knowledge, and that eye of his from which no secrets of the heart can lie hidden. We see him when we consider the sand of the sea, and the number of the waves measured by him and known to him, when in our wonder we think that the drops of rain, the days and hours of the ages, and all things past and future are present to his knowledge; when we gaze in unbounded admiration on that ineffable mercy of his, which with unwearied patience endures countless sins that are every moment being committed under his very eyes. We see God in the numberless opportunities of salvation he grants to those whom he is going to adopt. We see him in the way he made us be born so that from our very cradles his grace and the knowledge of his law might be given to us. Finally, we see him in the way he undertook the dispensation of his Incarnation for our salvation, and extended the marvels of his sacraments to all nations. But there are numberless other considerations of this sort, which arise in our minds according to the character of our life and the purity of our heart, by which God is either seen by pure eyes or embraced.
St. John Cassian, Conferences, 1.15
– A Year With The Church Fathers
What a cross of mental suffering must the Jewish rulers have endured when they heard so great a multitude proclaiming Christ as their King! But what honour was it to the Lord to be King of Israel? What great thing was it to the King of eternity to become the King of men? For Christ’s kingship over Israel was not for the purpose of exacting tribute, of putting swords into His soldiers’ hands, of subduing His enemies by open warfare; but He was King of Israel in exercising kingly authority over their inward natures, in consulting for their eternal interests, in bringing into His heavenly kingdom those whose faith, and hope, and love were centred in Himself. Accordingly, for the Son of God, the Father’s equal, the Word by whom all things were made, in His good pleasure to be King of Israel, was an act of condescension and not of promotion; a token of compassion, and not any increase of power. For He who was called on earth the King of the Jews, is in the heavens the Lord of angels.
Augustine: Tractates On The Gospel of John 51.4
“It is too beautiful to be true: The mystery of being, unveiled as absolute love, coming down to wash the feet and the souls of its creatures; a love that assumes the whole burden of our guilt and hate, that accepts the accusations that shower down, the disbelief that veils God again when he has revealed himself, all the scorn and contempt that nails down his incomprehensible movement of self-abasement—all this, absolute love accepts in order to excuse his creature before himself and before the world.”
Hans Urs von Balthasar, Love Alone is Credible, Chapter 7
“Divine compassion presupposes both impassibility and passibility. It is the main contention of the patristic understanding of the incarnation that God, remaining fully divine, became human, accepted the limitations of human existence, subjected himself to voluntary suffering for the salvation of the world and triumphed over sin, death, and corruption in the end. God is impassible inasmuch as he is able to conquer suffering and he is passible inasmuch as he is able to suffer in and through human nature.”
Paul Gavrilyuk, The Suffering of the Impassible God: The Dialectics of Patristic Thought, Oxford University Press, 2006
“This is the rule of our faith, the foundation of the building, and what gives support to our behaviour.
God the Father uncreated, who is uncontained, invisible, one God, creator of the universe; this is the first article of our faith.
And the second is: The Word of God, the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to the prophets according to their way of prophesying and according to the dispensation of the Father. Through him all things were created. Furthermore, in the fullness of time, in order to gather all things to himself, he became a human being amongst human beings, capable of being seen and touched, to destroy death, bring life, and restore fellowship between God and humanity.
And the third article is: The Holy Spirit, through whom the prophets prophesied, and our forebears learned of God and the righteous were led in the paths of justice, and who, in the fullness of time, was poured out in a new way on our human nature in order to renew humanity throughout the entire world in the sight of God.”
Irenaeus of Lyons, Quoted in Alister E McGrath (ed), The Christian Theology Reader, 2nd ed, Blackwell 2001, pp 174-175.
Here is a neat Early Church example of the Trinity as Gospel. The writer of the Epistle to Diognetus demonstrates that Christ reveals to us God’s nature as the foundation of our salvation. What was hidden before – the true relationship of God to the world and therefore his character – is revealed through Christ, giving us understanding of God, creation, ourselves and making salvation available to us:
“He always was was, and still is, and will ever be kind and good and free from anger and true; and he formed in his mind a great and unspeakable plan which he communicated to his Son alone. As long, then, as he held and preserved his own wise counsel in concealment he appeared to neglect us, and to have no concern or care for us. But after he revealed and laid open, through his beloved son, the things which had been prepared from the beginning, he conferred every blessing all at once upon us, so that we should both share in his benefits and see and understand”
Epistle to Diognetus, Chapter 8, Quoted in Michael Green, Evangelism in the Early Church , Hodder & Staughton:London, 1970, (134).
“The Word of God, the Only Son, has always been present to humanity. According to the Father’s pleasure, he has united and mingled himself with the work which he had formed. He became flesh. This Word made flesh is Jesus Christ, Our Lord. It is he who suffered for us, who has been raised for us, who will return in the Father’s glory in order to raise all flesh, to reveal salvation and to apply the rule of just judgement to all who will be subject to his power. There is, thus, only one God, the Father, as we have demonstrated; and one Christ Jesus, Our Lord, who has passed through all ‘economies’ and has recapitulated everything in himself (Eph 1:10). In this ‘everything’ man is also included, this work formed by God. He thus also recapitulated man in himself; invisible he became visible, indiscernible he became discernible, impassible he became passible, the Word made man. He recapitulated everything in himself in order that, just as the Word of God has the primacy over the supercelestial, spiritual and invisible beings, he might also have it over visible and corporeal beings, assuming this primacy in himself and setting himself up as Head of the Church (Eph 1:22) in order to draw all to himself at the proper time”
Irenaeus of Lyons, Adversus Haereses III:16:6.
“The glory of God is man fully alive, and the life of man is the vision of God. If the revelation of God through creation already brings life to all living beings on the earth, how much more will the manifestation of the Father by the Word bring life to those who see God“
Irenaeus of Lyons – Adversus Haereses IV:20:7.