How does one begin to give thanks for the atonement of Christ? The incarnation, suffering, death, burial, and resurrection of the Only Begotten Son of God constitute the single most significant set of events (which are theologically one event) in the history of creation. It is by the atonement that eternal life is provided for the elect. It is through the atonement that all of creation is being recreated, healed of the presence and influence of sin. By His blood we are bought out of depravity and into heavenly citizenship; by His stripes we are healed; by His suffering we are being perfected; by the mystery of His incarnation we are made to be the body of Christ.
I choose tonight to give thanks for His suffering. Christ suffered at the hand of humanity and the hand of God. In His suffering He was perfected as our redeemer. In His suffering He fulfilled His identification with us and made possible our identification with Him. Peddlers of cheap grace move quickly beyond the atonement trying to shift the focus away from the humiliation, suffering, and death and onto the resurrection, ascension, and return of Christ.
Herein is the offense of the gospel, Christ suffered and died. This is an offense not just because it reveals a God who suffers but because we have been called to follow Him into suffering and death. If you would live you too must choose to suffer and die. It is through suffering we are made to conform to His image and likeness, through suffering we are perfected in righteousness, through suffering we are transformed into His bride and body.
Thus, the irony of the atonement is made evident. It is only through suffering that healing comes. By His stripes we were healed. In His suffering He has made provision for the healing of creation. Because of the atoning sacrifice of Christ the Day of the Lord has broken forth. What shall be already is; the old is passing away. In the words of the Church of God, “Divine healing is provided for all in the atonement.” This is not a triumphalistic statement denying the realities of life between the times; the old is not yet gone and the new is not yet fully here.
God does heal; healing is carried in the wings of our Savior. It is a sign Jesus has indeed risen and conquered death, hell and the grave. It is normative in the presence of God and thus should be normative in the life of the church. I believe it is not normative because we refuse to identify with the sufferings of Christ. Life comes to those joined to His death; healing comes to those joined to His suffering.
August 28, 2010