Baxter Kruger

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June 27, 2024
Jesus Christ: The Mediator of Creation
Published on: June 27, 2024

by Baxter Kruger, Ph.D.

When most of us hear the name of Jesus we think of an individual man who lived, died on a cross, and rose again. According to our tradition Jesus was and is a real man. He did live, die, rise again, and ascend to the Father. What I call our great blind spot in the West is not so much here, but in the fact that we do not see any real connection or relationship between Jesus and ourselves, and between what happened to him in his life, death, resurrection and ascension, and us. Although we readily assume that the whole race of humanity fell in Adam, we see Jesus’ death only as an act of God for us, but not as an act that involved us—all of us, and all of creation. His death and resurrection were things that happened to him, not to us. To be sure, they were intended for our benefit, but humanity was a spectator to these events and is in no sense connected or related to him in his death and resurrection—until we do something to bring Jesus into our lives today.

This assumption of separation between Jesus and us is, in my opinion, one of the fundamental failures of Western Christianity. The blind spot of separation begets and perpetuates a multitude of ‘us-them’ divisions, including and especially religious divisions, that are destroying our lives and the planet. Moreover, this assumption necessarily makes our faith a work we do that relates us to an absent Jesus, rather than a mind-boggling, liberating, hope-begetting discovery of the reality of his union with us and with all creation.

Such a Jesus may make perfect sense to us in our individualistic mindset, but I contend that it betrays the Jesus of the apostles and of the early church. The apostolic Jesus is the Father’s eternal Son, and the One anointed in the Spirit, and he is the One in and through and by whom all things were created and are constantly sustained. These three funda­men­tal truths about Jesus Christ have rarely been held together with the incarnation in Western Christianity. And failure here has fueled the oppressive racial, relational, sexual, ecological, environmental, religious, and political and social hell we find ourselves in today.

When these three realities—that Jesus is the Father’s eternal Son, and the One anointed in the Spirit, and the One in and through and by whom all things were created and are constantly sustained—are seen together and taken seriously in the incarnate Son, we suddenly find ourselves standing before a Jesus who is far larger than we have dared to dream. This Jesus is the fountain of all life, the mediator of all existence, the center of the whole cosmos, “the Light of the world” (John 8:12), and the sole reason for the continued existence of creation. He is “the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end” (Rev 22:13). This Jesus Christ is “the King of kings and Lord of lords” (1Tim 6:15; Rev 17:14; 19:16).

To speak of this Jesus is to speak definitively about the being of God, but also about all creation and the human race, and about their relationship to each other. In this incarnate Son, the life of the triune God and of creation and of all humanity are not separated, but bound together in relationship, indeed in union. Jesus is himself the one in whom these relationships originate and are sustained. He is the union.

Behind this stunning truth stand two realities that we must take time to note with great care. First, Jesus Christ is the eternal, beloved Son of the Father, who shares all things with Him in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. Athanasius, in his treatise Against the Arians, quotes the Presbyter Arius’ book Thalia saying that “God was not always Father. He was God alone and solitary, before He was the Father, and afterwards He became a Father.”1 The implications of such a conception are staggering and multi-dimensional. Not least of which is that it forces us to search for the ‘nature’ and ‘character’ of God beyond the blessed Trinity. In 325 AD the Council of Nicaea was convened to address this question directly, and concluded that the relationship of the Father and the Son is not created but divine and eternal. Jesus Christ is not a creature, but “Light from Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, of the same being as the Father” (homoousios to Patri). This critical phrase is enshrined in the heart of the Nicene Creed. For Athanasius there was never a time when the Father was without His Son and Spirit,2 existing alone as an abstract, non-relational, single-person deity, simply god and not Father. As he stated bluntly: “The Holy Trinity is no created being.”3 And as Hilary of Poitiers declared:

I call to mind that the very centre of a saving faith is the belief not merely in God, but in God as Father; not merely in Christ, but in Christ as the Son of God; in Him, not as a creature, but as God the Creator, born of God.4

Here we stand before the beautiful mystery of the very being of God. Three divine persons completely dwelling in one another in indivisible oneness without loss of distinct personhood—perichoresis.5 There is no dimension of divine being deeper than or beyond or before the communion of the blessed Three, who live forever in indivisible oneness and love. This relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit is not new, not a mere form that the hidden and unknowable God assumed during the incarnation; it did not begin on Christmas morning. This is who God is and always has been and always will be. And this divine relationship forms the womb of creation.

Second, every act of God is therefore a trinitarian act, arising out of and involving the relationship, the indivisible oneness, of the Father, Son, and Spirit. All things, therefore, as the apostles perceived and testified, have their origin and existence not simply through God, but in and through and by the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Spirit. For it is impossible for the Father to act in isolation from the Son and the Holy Spirit. The Trinitarian life is one of indivisible love and action.

Here let us pause and take note of the apostolic witness to the astonishing reality of Jesus Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of all things—the Mediator of Creation. First from the great Apostle Paul:

Col 1:15-17. And He is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

1 Cor 8:6. [Y]et for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things, and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and we exist through Him.

And now from the author of Hebrews and the great apostle John:

Heb 1:1-3. God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the Word of His power.

Jn 1:1-4. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being by Him; and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.

All things “without exception,” in John Painter’s simple phrase,6 whether visible or invisible, in the heavens and on earth, came into being and continue to exist—to be held together, sustained, given life, preserved—in Jesus Christ, the Father’s eternal Son and Anointed One. It seems to me of critical importance to recognize that confessing the eternal Trinity and Jesus Christ as the Creator and Sustainer of all things—the Mediator of Creation—means that prior to the incarnation there is a relationship between the Father’s Son, Jesus Christ, and all creation, including the whole human race. One monumental implication of Jesus’ identity as the Mediator of Creation is that prior to our faith and repentance, or our baptism and our participation in the Eucharist, Jesus Christ has a vital relationship with us all.

The creation of all things in and through Jesus is not like a child blowing soap bubbles into the air. Once the bubbles come into being they detach from the wand and from the child. The child could go back into the house and watch a cartoon on TV and the soap bubbles she created would float off independently of her. There would no longer be any real connection between the child and the bubbles she created. This is not the apostolic vision of Jesus Christ as Creator, for he continues to uphold us and give life to all. Without him the soap bubbles would disappear from existence.

We should note here a few comments from Athanasius, whose entire understanding of the gospel revolves around the relationship between the eternal Word of God and creation.7

The holy Word of the Father, then, almighty and all-perfect, uniting with the universe and having everywhere unfolded His own powers, and having illumined all, both things seen and things invisible, holds them together and binds them to Himself, having left nothing void of His own power, but on the contrary quickening and sustaining all things everywhere…. And not to spend time in the enumeration of particulars, where the truth is obvious, there is nothing that is and takes place but has been made and stands by Him and through Him.8

The Father is as the Fountain of existence, and the Son is the Life which flows from that Fountain, and by which all creatures have their principle of life, and their preservation in it.9

And we should note a few declarations from John Calvin, the first of which comes from his commentary on John 1:4:

So far, he has taught us that all things were created by the Word of God. He now likewise attributes to Him the preservation of what had been created; as if he were saying that in the creation of the world His power did not simply suddenly appear only to pass away, but that it is visible in the permanence of the stable and settled order of nature—just as Heb. 1.3 says that He upholds all things by the Word or command of His power…. the Word of God was not only the fount of life to all creation, so that those which had not yet existed began to be, but that His life-giving power makes them remain in their state. For did not His continued inspiration quicken the world, whatsoever flourishes would without doubt immediately decay or be reduced to nothing. In short, what Paul ascribes to God, that in Him we have our being and move and live (Acts 17.28), John declares to be accomplished by the blessing of the Word. It is God, therefore, who gives us life; but He does so by the eternal Word.10

The same point is made in his sermon on John 1:1-5.

There are two things we must properly consider. One, that we have beginning and life through this Word. The other, that we are sustained through Him—and not only we, but all the world.11

[A]nd we can behold Him in all creatures, because he sustains all things.12

And note the following from his commentary on Genesis:

Previously, direct communication with God was the source of life to Adam; but, from the moment in which he became alienated from God, it was necessary that he should recover life by the death of Christ, by whose life he then lived.13

Following the apostles and early leaders like Athanasius, Calvin is at pains to point out that the creation and the continued existence of all things flow from Jesus Christ. This is not a novel insight, but part of the bedrock of the perennial tradition. Jesus is the Mediator of Creation, not merely was the Mediator once long ago.

Likewise the Trappist monk and mystic Thomas Merton comments: “All creatures, spiritual and material, are created in, through, and by Christ, the Word of God…. [I]t is He Who sustains them in being. In Him they ‘hold together.’ Without Him they would fall apart.”14 And Professor Colin Gunton writes: “There is already and always a relationship between the Son of God and the world, and it now, uniquely, takes the form of personal presence.”15 And Karl Barth: “Man never at all exists in himself…. Man exists in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.”16

Even this small collection of quotations about Jesus as the Creator and Sustainer of all things—the Mediator of Creation—exposes our disastrous assumption of separation. Part of the blame here may in fact fall on Calvin who seems to contradict his own thought in his famous beginning to Book Three of his Institutes of the Christian Religion.

In Book Two Calvin sets out his vision of the finished work of Christ, summarizing it beautifully: “We see that the whole of our salvation in all its parts is comprehended in Christ [Acts 4:12]. We should therefore take care not to derive the least portion of it from anywhere else.”17 Then he immediately opens Book Three with this statement:

How do we receive those benefits which the Father bestowed on his only-begotten Son—not for Christ’s own private use, but that he might enrich poor and needy men? First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us.18

Here is not the place for a full discussion of what Calvin may or may not be saying in the total picture of his theology.19 But taking this statement at face value brings two questions into sharp focus. First, are we to think of Jesus as an isolated “container” of sorts, in whom all his divine life and salvation are housed in disconnection from us and his creation? How could this be if Jesus is, not simply was, the Mediator of creation so that all things continuously derive their existence and life from him? Second, is it possible for the Holy Spirit to be split off from Jesus, to go or be anywhere that Jesus is not? Calvin seems to suggest, here at least, that there is a divisible relationship between Jesus and the Spirit, such that the Holy Spirit can come to us, and work in us, perhaps on the basis of what Jesus did in his “separation from us,” and lead us to faith in Jesus—and only then are we united with Christ.20

But the relationship between Jesus and the Spirit, as we will see later, and indeed as we can already see, is an indivisible relationship. Thus instead of thinking of the Holy Spirit crossing some divide that Jesus has not crossed in his incarnate journey, namely into our darkness, and then giving us faith to believe—apart from Jesus—so we can then be united to Christ and receive his benefits, I contend the opposite: that the Holy Spirit accompa­nied Jesus into our great delusion, and thus from inside the darkness and indeed from inside our own souls, the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirits to the reality of our union with Jesus the Mediator of Creation—so that we may then believe in this Jesus and experience his life.

Behind these questions are more foundational ones. Did the eternal Son and Anointed One break his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit when he became a human being, in some sort of divine divorce, as if he no longer lived in indivisible union with them? Is it biblical and apostolic to think of Jesus Christ in such isolation from the Father and the Holy Spirit? And did he dissolve his relationship with the human race and all creation in his incarnation, such that the One in whom all things were created and are continually upheld suddenly abdicated that aspect of his being? Do the passages that we have looked at briefly give any ground for thinking that creation actually exists and continues to be without the Creator Son? And thus the question, what does the incarnate life, death, resurrection, and ascension of this Mediator of Creation therefore mean, if not that the relationship he has with all creation (which from our vantage point was weakened and threatened by the fall of Adam) is now healed, restored, renewed, recreated, and made eternally secure in him?

If Jesus were not the Father’s eternal Son, in and through and by whom all things are created and constantly sustained, it would be sensible to see him as a mere individual, even a repository of grace, and to see ourselves disconnected from him and unrelated to what happened to him. But given that he is the Mediator of Creation, given that his relationship with his Father and the Holy Spirit is unbroken, and given that he continues to uphold creation, then what happens to him has dramatic implications for everything from the being of God to every atom, the entire human race, and the whole cosmos.

If we were created in and are enlivened through and sustained by this Creator Son, then, for good or ill, what happens to him in his incarnate life, death, resurrection, and ascension necessarily involves us. How could it be otherwise? How could the death and resurrection of this Creator Son incarnate be a single hair less momentous and cosmic and universal than the event of creation which he called into being? Note here Thomas F. Torrance’s comment:

Since he is the eternal Word of God by whom and through whom all things that are made are made, and in whom the whole universe of visible and invisible realities coheres and hangs together, and since in him divine and human natures are inseparably united, then the secret of every man, whether he believes or not, is bound up with Jesus for it is in him that human contingent existence has been grounded and secured.21

As the apostles testify, this Son’s death was not only the death of an individual man, but also the death of the One in whom all things were created and are held together. What is the meaning of this Son’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension, if not that in him we were crucified, dead, and buried, and we were raised again to new life and exalted to the Father’s embrace, and creation itself was recreated in him? How could the human race and creation be excluded from what happened to this Mediator of Creation? How could we possibly be mere spectators to the incarnate journey of this Creator Son into our darkness and sin? How could we conceive of him as simply an individual man?

Note carefully the words of the apostle Paul in 2 Corinthians 5:13-17:

For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf. Therefore from now on we recognize no man according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.22

On this passage Paul Minear puts the momentous insight of the apostle succinctly:

In the context of this statement [2 Corinthians 5:17] Paul located this transition from the old to the new at a single point: the death of all men in Christ’s death for all, and the living of all men for him who was raised for all. To the apostle, what happened in Christ simultaneously transformed not only the status of creation but also the vantage point from which this creation must be viewed.23

And read carefully the words from Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, 2:4-7:

But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come he might show the surpassing riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

And this single, stunning statement from Colossians 3:3:

For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

And from Romans 6:6:

[K]nowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.

And from the apostle Peter’s first epistle, 1:3:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

Because the apostles see that Jesus is the divine Son and Creator and Sustainer of all things—the Mediator of Creation—they envisage the incarnate Son not only as a real human, but as The Human, The Last Adam24 in whom all the race of Adam and creation are gathered. For the humanity of the Creator Son incarnate is inherently an “all-inclusive vicarious humanity.”25

Decades ago, back in the eighties when I was studying theology with Prof. James Torrance, I sat in the Aberdeen airport waiting for my brother who was coming to visit us from the States and play some golf.26 I was reading the newspaper when I happened to notice a dark-haired young man in his mid-to-late thirties. He was nervous, walking back and forth between the terminal door and the Arrivals monitor every five minutes or so. At length he smiled, let out a sigh of relief, and relaxed, positioning himself thirty feet in front of the terminal doors in the middle of a group of others.

As I put the paper down to watch, the doors flew open and a few folks hustled through. Then there was a steady stream of people, some all but running to catch a flight, some not sure which way to go next, some smiling, obviously thrilled to be back home in Scotland. The crowd began to disappear, and the dad began to look anxious. Then it happened. A brown-haired little boy of about eleven appeared by himself in the doorway.

Standing perfectly still the boy scanned the crowd like an alarmed deer. I heard his dad shout something, probably his son’s name, but I couldn’t tell for sure. But the boy heard his father’s voice and started running across the airport. To me it seemed like everything in the airport went into slow motion, and I had the perfect seat to watch it. The little boy’s eyes were full of delight as he ran. His dad just stood there with a huge smile on his face. No parent or grandparent could have watched without tears.

In one motion the boy dropped his bag and jumped as his dad embraced him. They kissed each other and cried. They laughed. But mostly they just held each other. It was a simple, beautiful embrace. Watching through tears in my own eyes, I heard these words whispered to me: “Baxter, Baxter, there is the gospel. There is the resurrection and ascension of My Son coming home from the far country. There is our embrace. And the good news is, he is not alone, he has you and the whole world with him.”

I knew instantly that I had seriously underestimated Jesus. As a typical American, I was an individualist. I had always believed that Jesus was the Son of God and that he became a human being, but I thought of him as an individual who did something for us. I had not seen—even though Professor Torrance was telling us so fifty times a day, in his great phrase “the vicarious humanity of Christ”27—that in Jesus something happened not only for us, but to us and with us.

One of the first times I told this story was in 1997 in Adelaide, Australia. As I finished the lecture I took a seat on the front row and then heard a young girl crying, “Mr. Kruger, Mr. Kruger,” as she ran down the aisle. As she called my name, my heart sank, for I assumed I had said something that had upset her. She sat beside me in tears. As I hugged her, I asked, “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing is wrong, Mr. Kruger.”

“Why are you crying?” I asked.

“When you told your story of the little boy in the airport, the Lord gave me a vision.”

“What did you see?”

“I saw God on a throne, and there were steps everywhere leading up to him. And there were heaps of people all over the steps. We were all trying to get to God, but none of us could make it; we were all bruised and cut, our knees were bloody, and we were all exhausted and sad and crying because we could not make it to God.”

“That is sad,” I said. “Did you see anything else?”

“Then I saw Jesus.”

“And what did Jesus do?”

“Jesus walked over to us, gathered us all into his arms, and walked up the steps and sat down in his Father’s lap.”

We sat silent for a moment in the beauty of that vision. I gave her a kiss on the cheek and whispered, “that is the gospel.”

If Jesus were the Lone Ranger or perhaps the Marlboro Man, he could ride into the sunset and not much more than a little dust would be disturbed. But he is the Creator and the Sustainer of his creation. What becomes of him is not of peripheral significance for his creation—to say nothing yet of what it means to the Father and the Holy Spirit, with whom Jesus is indivisible. If he rides into the sunset, he takes the dust and the ground, the earth and sky, the sun and moon, and all the soap bubbles with him. If the human race fell in a mere man named Adam, what happened to us in the life and death of the incarnate Creator and Son of the Father?30 If the Creator dies, the creation has no way of continuing to be; if he goes down, we go down. And that is the astonishing truth the disciples of Jesus are trying to tell us.

The incarnate Mediator of Creation died, and we died with him.31 He rose, we rose. He ascended, we ascended—Adam, all of us, and all of creation were lifted up in renewed union with the Father and the Holy Spirit.32 Herein lies hope for all of us who are broken and know that if it is up to us to secure a relationship with Jesus Christ we are doomed. But Jesus Christ, the Father’s Son and Anointed One, the Mediator of Creation does not abandon his creation. He has taken responsibility for his creation and for all our destructive blindness.33

Footnotes

1 Cited in The Orations of St. Athanasius Against the Arians (London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, n.d.), I.5. See also Thomas F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith (Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1988), 116ff.

2 Ibid., I.11, 17; cf. II.34. See also John of Damascus, Exposition of the Orthodox Faith, I.VIII, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, vol. IX, second series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983).

3 Ibid., I.18.

4 St. Hilary of Poitiers, On the Trinity, I.17, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, second series, IX (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1983).

5 For more on perichoresis see my lectures, “The Light of the World: From Jesus Christ to Perichoresis and the Logic of the Cosmos,” in the series “The Light of the Cosmos” available at our website, http://www.perichoresis.org. See also Thomas F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1996), 168-202, and Jürgen Moltman, The Trinity and the Kingdom of God (London: SCM Press, 1981), 174ff.

6 John Painter, “The Death of Jesus in John: A Discussion of the Tradition, History, and Theology of John,” in The Death of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel, edited by G. Van Belle (Leuven: University Press, 2007), 350. See also his “Theology, Eschatology and the Prologue of John,” SJT 46.1 (1993), 32.

7 See the careful study by Khaled Anatolios, Athanasius: The Coherence of His Thought (New York: Routledge, 1998).

8 St. Athanasius, Against the Heathens, §42, in A Select Library of Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, second series (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1980); see also §41, and On the Incarnation of the Word, §3.

9 Orations of St. Athanasius, III.1.

10 John Calvin, The Gospel According to John, translated by T. H. L. Parker, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), 10-11. For more on Calvin’s view of Christ as mediator of Creation, see Julie Canlis, Calvin’s Ladder (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 53ff, and Peter Wyatt, Jesus Christ and Creation in the Theology of John Calvin (Eugene: Pickwick, 1996), 55ff. Note also Calvin’s comment on Acts 17:28: “Now, we see that all those who know not God know not themselves; because they have God present with them not only in the excellent gifts of the mind, but in their very essence; because it belongeth to God alone to be, all other things have their being in him. Also, we learn out of this place that God did not so create the world once that he did afterward depart from his work; but that it standeth by his power.” In Commentary from the Acts of the Apostles (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprinted 1981), 168-169.

11 Cited in Julie Canlis, Calvin’s Ladder, 59.

12 Cited in Canlis, Calvin’s Ladder, 71. Note Calvin’s passing comment on Hebrews 11:3: “Now the faithful, to whom he has given eyes, see sparks of his glory, as it were, glittering in every created thing. The world was no doubt made, that it might be the theatre of the divine glory.” In Commentary on Hebrews (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprint, 1981), 266.

13 John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, reprint, 1981), 3:22. Note also, “Yet I am not dissatisfied with what has been handed down by some of the fathers, as Augustine and Eucherius, that the tree of life was a figure of Christ, inasmuch as he is the Eternal Word: it could not indeed be otherwise a symbol of life, than by representing him in figure. For we must maintain what is declared in the first chapter of John, that the life of all things was included in the Word, but especially the life of men, which is conjoined with reason and intelligence. Wherefore, by this sign, Adam was admonished, that he could claim nothing for himself as if it were his own, in order that he might depend wholly upon the Son of God, and might not seek life anywhere but in him.” In Commentary on Genesis, 2:9.

14 Thomas Merton, The New Man (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1961), 137.

15 Colin Gunton, The Christian Faith (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), 98.

16 Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, reprint, 1985), II/1, 149. See also III/2, 132ff.

17 John Calvin, The Institutes of the Christian Religion, edited by John T. McNeill and translated by Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1960), II.XVI.19.

18 Institutes, III.I.1; see also III.XIV.6. But note here Louis Berkhof’s careful statement; “Lutherans generally treat the doctrine of the mystical union anthropologically, and therefore conceive of it as established by faith…Reformed theology, on the other hand, deals with union of believers with Christ theologically, and as such does far greater justice to this important subject. In doing so it employs the term ‘mystical union’ in a broad sense as the designation not only of the subjective union of Christ and believers, but also of the union that lies back of it, that is basic to it, and of which it is only the culminating expression, namely the federal union of Christ and those who are His in the counsel of redemption, the mystical union ideally established in that eternal counsel, and the union as it is objectively effected in the incarnation and the redemptive work of Christ.” In Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, reprint, 1979), 447.

19 For more here see Julie Canlis, Calvin’s Ladder; and Peter Wyatt, Jesus Christ and Creation in the Theology of John Calvin. And see Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1957) II.2, 34-76. This section of Barth is on the foundation of the doctrine of election, but it is most relevant to the question of the mediation of Jesus Christ in Calvin’s thought, especially the small print sections.

20 Note here Louis Berkhof’s comment, “[I]t is quite evident that it is not correct to say that the mystical union is the fruit of man’s believing acceptance of Christ, as if faith were not one of the blessings of the covenant which flow unto us from the fulness of Christ, but a condition which man must meet partly or wholly in his own strength, in order to enter into living relationship with Jesus Christ. Faith is first of all a gift of God, and as such a part of the treasures that are hidden in Christ.” In Systematic Theology, 449.

21 Thomas F. Torrance, The Trinitarian Faith, 183. See “Professor Thomas F. Torrance on Union with Christ: Excerpts from The School of Faith: The Catechisms of the Reformed Church” (London: James Clarke & Co., 1959) at http://www.perichoresis.org.

22 On this passage see also Francois du Toit, Mirror Study Bible (Mirror Word Pub., 2012).

23 Paul S. Minear, Images of the Church in the New Testament (London: Lutterworth, 1961), 111. Note also Herman Ridderbos’ comment on this passage: “[T]he unmistakable fact is passed over that in Paul dying, being buried, etc., with Christ does not have its ultimate ground in the ceremony of incorporation into the Christian church, but rather in already having been included in the historical death and resurrection of Christ himself. Of particular significance is the pronouncement of 2 Corinthians 5:14ff., where a clear transition becomes perceptible from the ‘Christ for us’ to the ‘we with [or in] Christ.’ … From this it is to be concluded that ‘having died,’ ‘being in Christ,’ ‘being new creation,’ the fact that his own are no longer judged and ‘known according the flesh’ (namely, according to the worldly mode of existence), has been given and effected with the death of Christ himself.” In Paul: An Outline of His Theology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1975), 59-60.

24 See Rom 5:12ff; 1 Cor 15:20ff and 45-49.

25 J. B. Torrance, Worship, Community, and the Triune God of Grace (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity, 1996), 52.

26 This story is published in C. Baxter Kruger, The Shack Revisited (New York: Faith Words, 2012), 142-144.

27 See his essay, “The Vicarious Humanity of Christ,” in The Incarnation, edited by Thomas F. Torrance (Edinburgh: Handsel, 1981), 127ff, and Worship, 50ff.

28 Note Thomas F. Torrance’s statement that Jesus “was so one with us that when he died we died, for he did not die for himself but for us, and he did not die alone, but we died in him as those whom he had bound to himself inseparably by his incarnation. Therefore when he rose again we rose in him and with him, and when he presented himself before the face of the Father, he presented us also before God, so that we are already accepted of God in him once and for all.” In Atonement: The Person and Work of Jesus Christ (Downer’s Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), 152.

29 Note this comment from C. S. Lewis “He goes down to come up again and bring the whole ruined world with Him. One has the picture of a strong man stooping lower and lower to get himself underneath some great complicated burden. He must stoop in order to lift, he must almost disappear under the load before he incredibly straightens his back and marches off with the whole mass swaying on his shoulders.” In Miracles (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), 148. I am grateful to Roger Newell for this reference. See Roger J. Newell, The Feeling Intellect: Reading the Bible with C. S. Lewis (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2010), 33.

30 See Rom 12ff. F. J. Huegel puts these words into Jesus’ mouth: “The old man is crucified; I take him with me to the tomb and, as I rise, it is you who rise in me. As I ascend to the Throne it is you who ascend with me. You are a new creation. Henceforth your life shall flow from me and from my Throne.” In The Enthroned Christian (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, n.d.), 59.

31 Note Karl Barth’s comment: “He has made an end of us as sinners and therefore of sin itself by going to death as the One who took our place as sinners. In His person He has delivered up us sinners and sin itself to destruction. He has removed us sinners and sin, negated us, cancelled us out: ourselves, our sin, and the accusation, condemnation and perdition which has overtaken us… The man of sin, the first Adam, the cosmos alienated from God, the ‘present evil world’ (Gal 1:4) was taken and killed and buried in and with Him on the cross.” In Church Dogmatics, translated by G. W. Bromley (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1985), V/1, 253-54.

32 “With the birth and resurrection of Jesus, with Jesus himself, the relation of the world to God has been drastically altered, for everything has been placed on an entirely new basis, the unconditional grace of God.” In Thomas, F. Torrance, Space, Time, and Resurrection (Edinburgh: The Handsel Press, 1976) 34. Note also James B. Torrance, “When Jesus was born for us at Bethlehem, was baptized by the Spirit in the river Jordan, suffered under Pontius Pilate, rose again and ascended, our humanity was born again, baptized by the Spirit, suffered, died, rose again and ascended in him, in his representative vicarious humanity.” In Worship, 49-50.

33 Note here Jesus’ astonishing declaration moments before he turns toward the cross: “And I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known; that the love wherewith You love Me may be in them, and I in them” (John 17:26).

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Baxter Kruger
C. Baxter Kruger has traveled the world for 30 years proclaiming the good news of our inclusion in Jesus and his relationship with his Father in the Spirit. He enjoys cooking crawfish, hand carving fishing lures, playing golf, and loves spending time with his grandchildren.

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