Sunday, December 21, 2008

The “Greatest Subject” Subjects Himself

We began the Oikonomia blog on August 1 with an entry entitled “God: The Greatest ‘Subject?’” to provoke some discussion, particularly around the following logic: God is the subject of the greatest book ever written, the Holy Bible, which is a tremendous reservoir of knowledge. Therefore, He might be considered the “Greatest Subject.”

On the other hand, the Bible reveals God as subject to no one because He owns all and is ruler of all; He is King of creation not a steward or caretaker on behalf of a master. But wait! Has God indeed been subject? We asked this question on August 1, then proceeded to discuss in subsequent entries how God did subject His creation to be under the dominion of humans who were commanded to serve as stewards. But humankind rejected their honorable role as ruling subjects, and God brought judgement upon them and their descendants.

Some would argue that God is unjust in judging humans for our failure. If He is truly God and our Creator, isn’t He being unjust to subject creation to our care then bring judgement for our failure? Indeed, isn’t God unjust on two counts. First, how can a righteous God be so unsympathetic toward mankind whom He created? Second, how can a supposedly omniscient God even know the limitations of our humanness as created beings in contrast to His divinity?

In response to the first indictment, the Bible reveals God as a Creator Who is fully aware of our limitations. For example, in a summary of the history of the nation of Israel in Psalm 78, Asaph recounts how the nation rebelled against God and writes in verses 38-39:

But He, being compassionate, forgave their iniquity and did not destroy them;
And often He restrained His anger And did not arouse all His wrath.
Thus He remembered that they were but flesh, A wind that passes and does not return.

And, David writes of God’s knowledge in Psalm 103:14:

For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.

But how can we believe that the God of heaven is truly “mindful of our condition?” After all, He is God and we are not. This second indictment has an ontological basis; namely, that God’s nature as “spirit being” prevents Him from relating across a “great divide” to humans who reside in a body of flesh, made from the dust of Earth. How can God know what it is like to be human? Perhaps if He were to subject Himself to the limitations and temptations we face, we could believe that He really is mindful of our frailty.

The fact is, according to the biblical revelation, God has done just that. The “Greatest Subject” through His divine Son, Jesus Christ, became the subject of the limitations of the human condition and the subject of the imperfect judgement, ridicule, misunderstanding, scorn, and abuse of humans. Paul recounts in Philippians 2: 3-11 how Christ Who existed in the very form of God, ontologically speaking, emptied Himself, not of His deity, but of His divine right to act apart from the will of His Father in heaven. Therefore, in Christ, the perfect God-man, we see God coming across the “great divide” as a servant and steward of His Father’s kingdom to represent the very nature of God to mankind while experiencing all of the limitations of humanness, yet without sin. Being the sinless “lamb”, Jesus Christ could make the ultimate sacrifice, bearing our sin and rebellion on the cross which caused at that unique point in all eternity, His separation from the Father (spiritual death), the price necessary to bring atonement for our sins (Romans 6:23).

Philippians 2:1-11 is a fitting passage to read at Christmas time. As you read it, consider the imagery of heaven’s glory, the manger scene in Bethlehem, the meekness of Jesus as He walked this Earth serving, teaching, and healing many, and then dying a cruel death on a Roman cross. God is indeed the “Greatest Subject” because He became the Servant, the Steward Who would first identify with humanity both in life and in death; then, be raised to Eternal Life to make way for all who will subject themselves to accept Him as their perfect sacrifice to cover sin. His shed blood purchases (redeems) the believer from the slave market of sin and enables us through the power of His Holy Spirit to be bondservants and stewards in service of the King as we conduct our affairs humbly and justly on the Earth, His valued “footstool.”

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