The Incarnation and the Worshiping Community (Part 2 of 2)
Last week we looked at the Incarnation from the perspective of the theological significance of the doctrine for our corporate worship. We explored the reality of “God with us” and how vital this doctrine is for understanding the full contour of the Christian Worldview and the intertwining elements of creation, fall and redemption
As an example, we looked at the great Christmas hymn of Isaac Watts, “Joy to the World.” In this hymn, we found that Watts showed the fullness of creation, fall and redemption as he celebrated the redemptive joy of Christ’s victory that we celebrate in this season of Christmas.
The eternal truths of the Incarnation are effective in transforming individual lives as men, women and children respond to Christ in faith. Yet, we do not want to slip into the error of many Christians and assume that personal salvation is the primary purpose for the presence of Christ on earth as “God with us.” We must be careful to see how the redemptive plan of God begins with humanity, and then flows throughout all of creation as a result of His continued presence on earth.
It is this aspect of Incarnation in particular that we explore in this article. The rippling effects of sin corrupted and twisted all of man’s relationships. First, his relationship with God is broken and severed. Following that, his relationship with self was damaged, as well as his relationship with others, and finally the rest of the created order. As redeemed individuals, it becomes our task to come alongside the work of Christ in redemption and be “little” redeemers in every part of our world in each of these four relationships. We become the incarnate presence of Christ in the world.
Paul’s writings indicate many ways in which the body of Christ—the Church, as a fully functioning organism with Christ as its head (Colossians 1:18)—is the very presence of Christ on earth. He expects the body to grow into a “mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13). As the body grows and works together with the gifts that each member supplies, the presence of Christ in the Church is pushing back the effects of sin (Ephesians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 12:4-27). We see in Peter’s words, quoted above, that this is the reality of God’s grace among us.
Let me summarize directly, so we do not overlook the importance of this point: Christ is still incarnate today, in the Church, the body of Christ. God is “with us” through the presence of the Holy Spirit that indwells every believer (Ephesians 1:13-14), and as a result the Incarnation is a reality today as represented in the body of Christ – the Church. As Christian communities, we are meant to step into this world and work to redeem all that we touch.
With this in mind, we come to find the significance of the Incarnation for today. Not only did the presence of Christ on earth ultimately solve the problem of our sin through his death, burial and resurrection, but also His redeeming work continues through those very people that have been redeemed through His work on the cross. In many ways, the statement is true: “We are His hands. We are His feet.”
The practical side of this is that the relationships that were broken—due to sin (with God, self, others, and the created order)—are open to our influence for redemptive purposes. We celebrate the coming of the Christ Child at Christmas, and we remember the fullness of His life which redeems us, then we ourselves become a part of His redemptive work.
We may find that we have opportunity to lead an unbeliever into faith. We may remind or restore a believer to an active relationship with Christ. We may encourage or exhort a fellow Christian in some area of life or doctrine. In these things we are participating in redeeming the broken relationship mankind has with God.
Some of us are trained or gifted to help those who individually struggle with one’s inner self. The brokenness of the emotional life has many sources—from difficult childhoods to severe experiences in later life. But even in these, Christ has come to restore and heal. Those who can lead people in these areas are participating in the redeeming work of Christ.
In another way, some Christians have a heart and ability to help in the restoration of broken relationships. Broken marriages, rebellious children, severed friendships, and other examples of relational difficulties affect each of us directly, or in close proximity. Christ has even come to push back this brokenness. You, who are part of this process, whether as professionals or simply as friends, have entered into Christ’s redeeming work as well.
Those who fix broken things are a vital part of Christ’s incarnate work today. Whether you seek to care for the environment, enhance the processes of manufacturing, farm the land, refine the systems of government or business, or repair the vehicles that transport us by land, sea or air, each and every one are part of the redemptive work of Christ!
We really are Christ’s presence on earth. The One Who became incarnate in the flesh as Jesus Christ, continues to be active through the Church, the body of Christ. This truth is the effective nature of the Incarnation that we can celebrate at Christmas, each and every day! We celebrate in our corporate worship gatherings, as well as when we move out from our enclaves into the world in which we live.
(Original Post on December 12, 2013 at the Worldview Church: http://www.breakpoint.org/worshiparts/articles/18930-the-incarnation-and-the-worshiping-community-part-2)
Posted on December 19, 2016, in Christian Worldview, Content of Worship, Corporate Worship, Leadership, theology and tagged creation, fall, Mark Sooy, redemption, theology, worldview, WorshipThink. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.