If You Think . . . (3)
Jesus Only Came to Earth Because We Sinned
Why Did Jesus’ Come to Earth?
If you think Jesus only came to earth because we humans sinned and had to be rescued, you’ve got a surprise coming. That’s only a partial truth, and worse, when we make it the whole truth it ends up distorting the whole picture.
How’s that, you ask? Here’s a question for you: if Jesus came only because we sinned and needed to be rescued, doesn’t that make sin necessary? If God’s coming among us as one of us, the great miracle and mystery of the Incarnation, is only to rescue us from sin, then we had to sin for him to come, right? Otherwise, on this reckoning, Jesus would not have come, God would not be one of us, we would not truly know God, and all else the comes from the Incarnation that we find in scripture. I hope that strikes all of you as wrongheaded as it does me!
So it boils down to what we see as God’s endgame, his eternal purpose (Ephesians 3:11). If Jesus’ coming to rescue us from sin is not the divine endgame, what is? And how does that relate to his death for the forgiveness of our sin?
Once free of the idea that God created us to sin so that he could send his Son to die for us and save us from our sins and for eternal life in heaven with him forever (the latter of which we critiqued in our last post), we can read the creation stories with fresh eyes where it becomes clear that God wants to share his life with humanity on the earth he created for this purpose. That’s the endgame.
And what’s more, God always intended to send Jesus to become one of us. God always intended to become human so he could share the closest, most intimate, relationship he could have with us. And that’s why Jesus became incarnate. Irenaeus, the great 2nd century theologian, makes the case for this view plain:
“This is the reason why the Word of God was made flesh, and the Son of God became Son of Man: so that we might enter into communion with the Word of God, and by receiving adoption might become Sons of God. Indeed we should not be able to share in immortality without a close union with the Immortal. How could we have united ourselves with immortality if immortality had not become what we are, in such a way that we should be absorbed by it, and thus we should be adopted as Sons of God?” (Against Heresies, III.19.1)
Baxter Kruger adds:
“First, the goal of the incarnation is not to appease an angry god, but to reach us with the very life that the Father’s Son experiences with his Father and the Holy Spirit. Adoption—being included, fellowship, the sharing of life, union, not legalities and accounting—is the point. Second, in the incarnation there is a two-way movement of ‘accustoming.’ In Jesus, due to his unbroken relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Holy Spirit are accustoming themselves to dwell with and in us, and in his life and death, Jesus is accustoming human nature to receive and share in nothing less than the life of the blessed Trinity. There is in Jesus a stunning stooping on the part of the Triune God, and an equally stunning transformation or conversion of our humanity to bear the life and glory of the Trinity. Jesus is and will forever be the mediator, the One in whom the life of the Trinity and the life of humanity are together in real fellowship and union. At the heart of the incarnate life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus lies this two-way movement of togetherness, which forever calls us to give ourselves to participate in Jesus.”
A glance at the last vision of the book of Revelation confirms this. There we find a new creation. The heaven and earth renewed and restored as God always intended. The New Jerusalem, God’s people, descend from heaven to this new earth to live there with God forever (Revelation 21:3). The creation stories (Genesis 1-2) and this last vision of Revelation (chs.21-22) are the only four chapters of the Bible free of the brokenness of sin. In them we get the clearest picture of what God started and what God achieved, the inauguration and consummation of his fondest dreams.
If you think Jesus came only to die for the forgiveness of our sins, think again. Read the Word again and be captured by God’s BHAH (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) of becoming one of us to share together with us forever on this good earth!