In a recent post I mentioned the importance of emphasizing the complete work of Christ. Every dimension of Christ’s life and work (Incarnation, perfect life, Cross, Resurrection, Ascension and Second Coming) is vitally important and we must not emphasize one at the expense of the others. I thought it would be helpful to put together a post offering a summary statement on each dimension. I need to stress summary statement. Each of these is worthy of book-length treatments, if not a multi-volume work. Without further delay, here we go:
Incarnation: “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn. 1:14). First, had the Incarnation not happened, none of the following would have been possible. There is, however, much more to the Incarnation. Historic Christianity has affirmed that in the Incarnation the two natures of God and man are united in the person, Jesus Christ (see the Definition of Chalcedon). Christ has come as the Second Adam to do what our first father, Adam, failed to do. Christ also must redeem Adam’s failure conquering both sin and death (Rom. 8:2). Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) explained why the Incarnation was necessary for this redemption to happen. Referring to atonement, he wrote:
For God will not do it, because he does not owe it, and man will not do it, because he cannot [pay it]. Therefore, for the God-Man to do this, the person who is to make this satisfaction must be both perfect God and perfect man, because none but true God can make it, and none but true man owes it. Thus, while it is necessary to find a God-Man in whom the integrity of both natures is preserved, it is no less necessary for these two complete natures to meet in one person…
Early church-father, Gregory of Nazianzus (330-390) said it this way; “What he has not assumed, he has not saved.” Without the Incarnation there is no salvation (1 Tim. 2:5)!
Perfect Life: The entire life of Christ is of the utmost necessity. Christ lived a perfect life, never sinning, and earned the Father’s favor and blessing (Heb. 4:15, Mark, 1:11, Luke 2:52). He stated that His bread was to do the will of the Father (Jn. 4:34). Theologians refer to the two ways in which Christ was obedient, as active and passive obedience. Christ’s active obedience was His doing the Father’s will and accomplishing the work the Father sent Him to do. Also, in Christ’s life we see the reality of His Kingdom (Mk. 1:15). Christ proclaims the Kingdom in His teaching and displays the Kingdom in His actions (Mk. 1:38). The Good News of the Kingdom is that sin and death will be defeated. The miracles of Jesus show the Kingdom reality by displaying the very reversal of sin and death (Mark 2:1-11; John 11:1-44).
Cross: Christ’s passive obedience is displayed at the cross. The Bible is clear that Christ died for the sins of those who would repent and believe (Mark 10:45; Rom. 4:25, 5:8; 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Pet. 3:18). On the cross, Christ received the punishment that was due to us for our sin and rebellion, which was His passive obedience (Rom. 3:22-26). However, that’s not all of the Good News. Christ not only took our punishment but we are also credited with His righteousness. This is why His active obedience is important (2 Cor. 5:21).
Resurrection: The resurrection is our assurance that Christ accomplished the work the Father gave Him. As I heard someone say once; if on the cross Christ paid for our sins, then the resurrection is proof that the “check cleared.” If the resurrection had not happened we would have no hope and still be dead in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17). The resurrection is also the assurance of the new creation. Christ is the first-fruits of what is to come (Col. 1:18; 1 Cor. 15:20). Christians are now a part of that new creation spiritually (2 Cor. 5:17), but Christ’s bodily resurrection is proof of the new heaven and earth to come (Rev. 21-22).
Ascension: In the ascension, Christ bodily left earth and ascended to the right-hand of the Father in Heaven (Luke 24:51). R.C. Sproul said of the ascension, “This is a dimension of the life and work of Christ that is woefully neglected.” In Eden, after the Fall, Adam was placed under the curse of death and was exiled from God’s presence. However, in the ascension of Christ we once again have our flesh in God’s presence in heaven. Not only that, but the believer who is joined to Christ by faith is present with Him there (Eph. 2:6). The Bible also tells us that Christ, our Great High Priest, is there interceding for us (Rom. 8:34). J.I. Packer says that in the ascension we have our “propitiation in person in heaven” speaking a better word for us (Heb. 12:24). The ascension also displays Christ’s supreme Kingship (Eph. 1:20-23).
Second Coming: While the timeline of events surrounding Christ’s second coming may be debated among Christians, we agree that Christ’s bodily return will happen (Acts 1:11). Christ inaugurated His Kingdom in His earthly ministry (Mark 1:15). When Christ returns He will consummate His Kingdom and it will be fully and finally realized. We currently live in the tension of what theologians call the “already, not yet” of the Kingdom (Rom. 8:14-15, 23). The Kingdom has already broken in, but not yet been fully realized. We currently catch glimpses of the reality of the Kingdom in the local church (Kingdom outposts) and see fruit of the Kingdom through Gospel ministry (Matt. 28:18-20; 1 Cor. 3:6). We are awaiting and anticipating His return and proclaiming His Gospel until that day. Maranatha!
Hopefully this brief overview will emphasize why each dimension of Christ’s life and work are vital and cannot be overlooked or ignored.