Why Jesus? Part Two

We cannot afford to make Jesus’ life mostly about His death. I believe doing this is one of the major reasons why most people still like Jesus but don’t like a lot of Christians. This sad commentary reveals the difference between the Christian religion and following Christ.” (From “Why the Incarnation Matters – Part Two“) As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”  

The point is, how does Jesus’ life impact your living in this world? Last time, we saw that Jesus came so that we could know God as He actually is, not as we had imagined Him to be. We’re now ready to look at the second reason for Jesus’ birth and life.

To restore us to who we actually are

The second reason Jesus came on Christmas day was to show us God’s original intention for humankind. The Mirror Bible brings this out in John 1:18:

1:18 Until this moment God remained invisible to man; now the authentic begotten son, the blueprint of man’s design who represents the innermost being of God, the son who is in the bosom of the father, brings him into full view! He is the official authority qualified to announce God! He is our guide who accurately declares and interprets the invisible God within us. (John 1:18 Mirror *)

Here’s how the Message Bible describes God’s intent for humankind in Christ as the prototype:

29-30 God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son. The Son stands first in the line of humanity he restored.We see the original and intended shape of our lives there in him. (Rom.8:29 MSG *)

What these passages (and others) are telling us is that Jesus was the blueprint to restore humankind back to our original design. The original had become marred beyond recognition and God could not stand by and watch the object of His deepest affection go into total ruin. This is why sin was to be taken away. Unfortunately, we only look at sin as bad behavior and legal infractions, but this misses the most important point.

The Greek word for “sin” is ἁμαρτία (hamartia). According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, it means “tragic flaw…to fail of one’s purpose; to err, sin,” originally “to miss the mark.”

In Greek tragedy, hamartia is commonly understood to refer to the protagonist’s error or flaw that leads to a chain of plot actions culminating in a reversal from their good fortune to bad. (Wikipedia)

In this light, we see God’s intent is to reverse the flaw that led to this tragic chain of events that had befallen humankind. So, sin is better seen as what we do when we’re not fully functioning as human beings. (For further explanation go to “Missing the Mark.”)

Most of the early church fathers saw the incarnation of Christ as the unveiling of God and the restoration of man’s true self. Athanasius (298 -373 AD) gives a brilliant analogy of Christ’s redemptive purpose using the illustration of the subject being repainted for a new portrait when the original becomes disfigured in His work, On The Incarnation:

“You know what happens when a portrait that has been painted on a panel becomes obliterated through external stains. The artist does not throw away the panel, but the subject of the portrait has to come and sit for it again, and then the likeness is re-drawn on the same material. Even so was it with the All-holy Son of God. He, the Image of the Father, came and dwelt in our midst, in order that He might renew mankind made after Himself, and seek out His lost sheep, even as He says in the Gospel, ‘I came to see and save that which was lost.'”

Athanasius goes on to say this is what is meant by our redemption:

“This explains His saying to the Jews: “Except a man be born anew….” He was not referring to a man’s natural birth from his mother, as they thought, but to the re-birth and re-creation of the soul in the image of God.

For more on this, see my post, “Incarnation is about Restoration.” I will finish this as I did in that post:

Think about this restorative process as a trajectory of glory. Jesus not only becomes our life in God, He becomes the way for us to become truly human, for He reveals the truth about who we really are (John 14:6).

3:18 The days of window-shopping are over! In him every face is unveiled. In gazing with wonder at the blueprint likeness of God displayed in human form, we suddenly realize that we are looking at ourselves! Every feature of his image is mirrored in us! This is the most radical transformation engineered by the Spirit of the Lord; we are led from an inferior mind-set to the revealed endorsement of our authentic identity. You are his glory! (2 Cor.3:18 MIRROR *)

We will continue on this theme next time.

* All emphasis added.

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About Mel Wild

God's favorite (and so are you), a son and a father, happily married to the same beautiful woman for 37 years. We have three incredible adult children. My passion is pursuing the Father's heart in Christ and giving it away to others. My favorite pastime is being iconoclastic and trailblazing the depths of God's grace. I'm also senior pastor of Cornerstone Church in Wisconsin.
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13 Responses to Why Jesus? Part Two

  1. “So, sin is better seen as what we do when we’re not fully functioning as human beings.”

    Yes, amen. That’s well put, Mel. We’re a bit like cars running on two cylinders and burning oil. We’re not “bad,” we’re just really ineffective and not reaching our potential. LOL ,also prone to crash.

    This is really good, too. “Think about this restorative process as a trajectory of glory. Jesus not only becomes our life in God, He becomes the way for us to become truly human.”

    Not sure if you’ve seen the Passion bible? I’m pretty rigid about such things, but the wording in there seems good, the focus is really on God’s heart for us.

    • Mel Wild says:

      Thanks IB. I don’t have the Passion Bible (yet), but a lady in one of our Bible studies has one and whenever she quotes from it, I love what it says. I keep thinking I need to get that. 🙂

  2. Nan says:

    I notice you use the Greek definition for sin. Could this have anything to do with the fact that the Hebrew people (God’s “original people”) do not see “sin” in the same way as Christians do?

    The Hebrew word for sin is chet, which literally means “missing the mark.” According to Jewish beliefs, everyone is born innocent; that is, they enter the world free of sin; a person sins when he or she strays away from making good, correct choices. IOW, throughout life, individuals may make choices that lead to sin, but it is not part of their inherent nature.

    It was Paul who developed the “original sin” doctrine that exists within Christian doctrine. And he did this in order to convince the Jews the Mosaic law was now defunct because … Jesus. And, as we all know, Paul’s words have become the be-all, end-all foundation for Christianity.

    • Mel Wild says:

      I would agree with your points on the word “sin,” Nan. “Missing the mark” is a commonality between the Hebrew and the Greek words.

      But I don’t necessarily agree with your point that Paul developed the doctrine of Original Sin (the way it’s traditionally taught). This may seem like a technicality, but I believe Paul agreed with the Hebrew understanding. “Original Sin” doctrine can be traced instead to Augustine in the fifth century. Augustine developed the doctrine primarily from reading the Latin Vulgate’s rendering of Romans 5:12. (He admitted he couldn’t read a lick of Greek and actually had contempt for the language.) But the problem comes in the translation. The Vulgate (I’ll use the English Douay-Rheims 1899 American Edition (DRA)) reads as follows:

      12 Wherefore as by one man sin entered into this world, and by sin death; and so death passed upon all men, in whom all have sinned. (Rom.5:12 DRA)

      I’ve highlighted the word in questions. Apparently, in Latin, you can translate this Greek phrase (transliterated: epi hos pas) either “in whom all” or “because all,” but you don’t have this latitude in the original Greek. Almost all modern translations correct this error. Here’s one example:

      12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom.5:12 NASB).

      So, Paul wasn’t necessarily teaching that all humans are born sinners, but that they will and do sin. And, of course, the NT goes on to say that the only exception to this was Christ. This would mean that Paul, like his Hebrew ancestors, believed that everyone is born innocent, but we will eventually sin. We have a propensity to sin. And this is why we need a Savior, because we are flawed human beings.

      • Nan says:

        I won’t get into a theological discussion with you because, well, I’m just a layperson. But I do interpret Paul’s words differently than you when he says, through one man sin entered into the world. To me, it clearly indicates he is referencing Adam — and since we’re (supposedly) all descendants of him, we are all sinners. Augustine may have expanded on this (many years later), but from the scriptures alone, it’s obvious to me the doctrine is original to Paul.

        To take it one step further … if we recognize/accept this was a teaching of Paul (not Jesus) then it would seem the idea everyone “needs a savior” would lose its impact.

        As a sidenote: if the teachings of Yeshua were so powerful (e.g., Sermon on the Mount, loving others as yourself, etc.), why does the church feel the need to stress the “sinfulness” of humankind? Why not emphasize how to live according to these more positive incentives?

        • Mel Wild says:

          To me, it clearly indicates he is referencing Adam — and since we’re (supposedly) all descendants of him, we are all sinners.

          As I said, not to split hairs, but “sin entering the world through Adam” and saying that we somehow genetically inherit sin from Adam are not necessarily saying the same thing. What I believe Paul is saying is that we sin because of the world we we’ve been thrown into, not because we are genetically born sinners. When Adam’s eyes were opened, he perceived God and the world around him based in fear and insecurity rather than trusting in God’s other-centered, self-giving love. And a “world construct” in alienation from God (that Jesus called “this world”) was developed around this faulty view. God’s redemptive plan was to reverse that paradigm through Christ, casting out our orphan-based fear with His perfecting love (1 John 4:18).

          On your sidenote: I actually agree with you. As I said in part one, the tragedy of emphasizing sin is that we focus on forgiveness rather than adoption. Paul’s focus was actually on the latter. In fact, you could argue that Paul believed God is not counting our sin against us anymore (2 Cor.5:19). Forgiveness was a means to a greater end.

      • Salvageable says:

        “Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5). This predates Paul by quite a long span of time. Not to mention “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). Sin is indeed in us from our origins. Jesus came to rescue us from both actual sins and original sin. J.

        • Mel Wild says:

          Hi Salvageable. Thanks for your comments. There is honest disagreement on what original sin actually is among believers who take the Bible seriously. If we say “original sin” is when sin entered the world through Adam, I agree. While Augustine interpreted Romans 5:12 that we are born in sin, which as I already pointed out was a mistranslation, the earliest church fathers and the Eastern Orthodox never taught that. They taught and teach that we live in a sinful world and will sin. Our mind is corrupted and alienated from God. Many in the West only give Augustine’s Original Sin doctrine lip service and do not baptize infants for this reason. But all DO agree that sin did enter the world through Adam and we do sin because of this. Jesus came to take this sin away and then put His Spirit in us so this process can be reversed in our thinking and actions.

          Psalm 51 uses the Penitential genre, which uses hyperbole to express extreme remorse and humility. David is using hyperbole to express this remorse. It would be like saying, “I’m a worthless worm and can do nothing right!” It’s not to be taken literally. At the very least, you cannot make a dogmatic doctrine from David’s prayer. Also, Genesis 6 is not a verse for genetically inherent sin but that humankind’s actual sins had reached the point where everyone was totally corrupt and doing evil all the time. Yet, Noah was an exception, so he was not corrupted. After the Flood, God began to mitigate against this sinful propensity by making a covenant with Abraham and beginning the process of redemption. Although, as Paul said in Romans 8:3, it was inadequate to keep us from sinning.

          One point, of many, I could make that contradicts Augustine’s theory, is that if man is born a sinner then Jesus would’ve been born in sin, which we know this is not possible. Jesus was born with the propensity to sin (“sinful flesh”) but He never acted on the temptation to sin. Jesus was born with the same human body we had, capable of sinning, yet He was without sin:

          3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh (Rom.8:3 NKJV)

          Christ was not born in sin, yet He overcame humankind’s propensity to sin in the same kind of body we have that lives in this sinful world, by fully obeying and relying on God, so sin had no part of Christ whatsoever. People have postulated arguments to overcome this objection but they are not unarguably biblically-based ones. I hope that makes sense. Blessings to you and Merry Christmas.

        • Nan says:

          Sorry, Mel, but every so often you write something that jumps off the page at me. In this case, it was: you cannot make a dogmatic doctrine from David’s prayer. While the statement itself is probably correct, it is not at all uncommon for Christians to make “dogmatic doctrine” from multiple places throughout the bible. And, as is evidenced throughout Christianity, not everyone will agree on the meaning of the scripture(s) that was used.

          Further, I find it interesting that you tend to go into great detail to validate/substantiate your POV. It’s almost as if you need to “convince” others that your interpretation is correct.

          In any event … your Special Day of the year is approaching so I’ll just wish you a “Merry Holiday.” We’ll “talk” later. 🙂

        • Mel Wild says:

          While the statement itself is probably correct, it is not at all uncommon for Christians to make “dogmatic doctrine” from multiple places throughout the bible. And, as is evidenced throughout Christianity, not everyone will agree on the meaning of the scripture(s) that was used.

          Nan, as you probably know, there’s a difference between dogmatism and conviction. I can hold a conviction on a doctrinal position without being dogmatic. It’s wise to keep our dogma to the central tenets of Christ and respectfully disagree, if need be, on the non-essentials. The variations don’t change the essential faith among those who may have differing opinions on other matters of faith. Our union is not based on doctrinal agreement, but on faith in Christ.

          Further, I find it interesting that you tend to go into great detail to validate/substantiate your POV. It’s almost as if you need to “convince” others that your interpretation is correct.

          I’m not sure what your point is here. If I’m going to make a claim that’s not what is traditionally taught (or assumed), it would behoove me to give an adequate explanation for my perceived non-traditional view. If it was the common view in Western Christianity I would need no such explanation.

          Merry Christmas to you and yours as well. 🙂

  3. Pingback: Why Jesus? Part Three | In My Father's House

  4. Citizen Tom says:

    @Mel

    Interesting. I am not certain what to make of the distinction you are making about original sin, but admittedly doctrine is partly a theological fabrication that is inferred from the Bible. Oddly, the teaching of the Catholic Church can get very confused on that subject. They really don’t know know what to do with babies when they die. Frankly, I don’t think your take on the subject actually deals with the issue either. Consider John 3:16.

    John 3:16 New King James Version (NKJV)

    16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

    A new born can believe in Jesus?

    It is fairly obvious that Jesus loved children. So I suspect babies, toddlers, and the childlike of various ages will somehow make it into heaven, but I don’t know of a good theological argument for it.

    Are we born sinners, or is it just inevitable that we will sin? Is that a distinction without a difference? Not quite sure. I just know the Gospels emphasize Jesus’ death and resurrection. So I think it natural that we should also. Nevertheless, we cannot imitate Jesus’ death and resurrection. We each can only take up our cross and strive to imitate His love of and obedience to the Father.

    Anyway, I am enjoying going through this thoughtful series of posts. Thank you.

  5. Pingback: The Tragic Flaw | In My Father's House

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