Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Jesus Christ is only salvation

It's been a little while since I've posted anything here, so I thought I would rectify that with some meditations on this verse from 1 John:

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

What I wish to focus on here is John's language regarding Christ. He doesn't say that Christ's death is the atonement for our sins. Rather, he says that Jesus himself is the atonement for our sins, and not only for our sins, but also for the sins of the whole world. The suggestion is that the very personal existence of the Godman Jesus Christ is advocacy for the salvation of the whole world! That is Christ's life summed up: atonement and intercession on behalf of the world.

As Joseph Ratzinger has said, "Jesus Christ is only salvation." His concern is not the damnation of the world, nor the demonstration of his glory through the rightful rejection of some antecedently chosen or overlooked reprobates. Far from it! His very life is an advocacy for the salvation of ὁ ὅλος ὁ κόσμος, the whole world. If we are not saved, it is because we have rejected Christ's offer and work of salvation, which was the very substance and essence of his life.

Why is it so important that we think about Christ in this way? I think we can see why if we take a look at the next verses John writes:

Now by this we may be sure that we know him, if we obey his commandments. Whoever says, “I have come to know him,” but does not obey his commandments, is a liar, and in such a person the truth does not exist; but whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has reached perfection. By this we may be sure that we are in him: whoever says, “I abide in him,” ought to walk just as he walked.

Here as everywhere else in the letter, John motivates obedience in his audience -- not by a threat, not by a warning about dire impending doom, but through an appeal to love. Perfect obedience means perfect love of God; apart from loving God, we might say, it is impossible to please him and to obey his commandments. On the other hand, if you love God, which is here equated with knowing him, then you will naturally and obviously obey his commandments.

But how can we love God, if we are not sure that he is for us? How can I love Jesus Christ, if I am not convinced that he loves me? I think John saw this clearly, and therefore his presentation of God is unanimously and always a positive and "friendly" one: God is love, God is for us, Jesus Christ is the atonement for our sins, he is ready to forgive us for anything, and so on.

This is why it is so important to know and think of Jesus Christ as salvation: it may be impossible to love him, and therefore to obey him, otherwise.