Karl Baath’s “critique of human religionwas nothing other than the attempt to show that what makes the “true religion” true does not lie within the noun “religion”. It lies in the adjective “true” which depends for its truth upon Jesus Christ, who is the truth of God. Jesus Christ is God’s Word, his revelation. He is God’s Word made flesh. Jesus Christ reveals the true God and the true human being. As the true God, we see in Jesus Christ God’s freedom and grace. As the true human being, we see in Jesus Christ service and love.”
This is to say that real religion is more than a belief system. It is ‘being.’ Paul would describe this as ‘Christ in you’ and Thomas Torrance would label it ‘ontology.’ All being takes its nature from the trinity and we may rejoice that the trinity lives in us.
God’s word made flesh is Christ in you. Ontology implies a personal relationship that transcends doctrinal assertion and ideology. We are joined to God and He to us by love. Or not. Which immediately alerts us to the fact that if we are joined to God by the law it will be a more limited joining than being joined to God by God in the person of Jesus. “Jesus replied, "Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” Christ is not merely in us rattling around like a table tennis ball in a barrel. By the Spirit, Christ and the trinity are woven into our being. Just as there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus, so there is no separation either. Our inheritance post cross is fellowship with God.
There are many vessels of living water in the churches – people from whom pure rivers of life flow from the Christ in them. As well as dry-creek-beds of religion. The ‘Other Gospels’ that Paul warned us to steer clear of are best described as amalgams of law and religion.
Any perusal of the worst effects of religion from ancient times to the present reveals a propensity for religious professionals to pose as sellers of salvation of one kind or another – either as individuals or denominational merchants. Jesus prophetically foretold his dealing with them in the expulsion of the money-changers from the temple. The expulsion of merchants of religion for all time occurred through the cross, the resurrection and the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The antidote to religion as product is Christ in you: The incarnation.
There are no hoops to jump through in your relationship with God. Christ’s work is finished. Atonement has been made. You and our Father are one. Our role is to rest in this and draw the world and the religious into their inheritance. Some folks live from the limited ideas of their mothers and pass them on to their children to bind them. The adventurous and alive begin with their mothers ideas and advance into the ideas of God.
‘There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death’ Rom 8.1,2. The gift of God is spirit and life in the present and in the future.
The law of the Spirit of Life is personal and relational. So personal is it that it is the trinity. As sons/daughter we belong to this family and become fully alive when we believe in Jesus rather than in some modification of the knowledge of good and evil.
REJECT A DUD
The paucity and niggardly nature of law-based theologies and their inevitable production of parodies of the community of God’s people can be understood when we see the meaning of the cross and the sharing of God’s Self with us. The result was the achievement of atonement (at-one-ment) between God and human beings and our union with God. This is the sharing of God’s life with us in the form of Himself along with the reality of God’s being with us and in us in the core of our being. Participating in this inheritance we are the church Jesus builds without human hands. Each of us are an expression of Him. This is the real Body of Christ as distinct from the abstraction. Formed in the letter we are nothing. Formed in the Spirit we are everything.
To minister this spirit and life to individuals and to the community of the saints we must be ministers of the new covenant and not the old – for the old cannot minister union with God.
Christian Kettler puts it this way, “The atonement as the communication of the life of God for the sake of humanity’s healing and reconciliation is not only a “human ward” act but also a “Godward” act. This is only proper if the atonement reaches into the depths of human existence in order to restore the whole person to God and to others. But at the heart of the human dilemma is the inability to respond to God with the proper response of perfect obedience. The doctrine of the atonement means that in the vicarious humanity of Christ, the entirety of Christ’s life, culminating in his death on the cross, provides an atoning response of perfect worship, trust, service, and confession of sins to the Father on the behalf of humanity.” (1) Get this and live from it. Kettle is saying ‘Christ is you. Christ is us.’
Kettler is telling us that the essence of the Kingdom in and among us is God’s life as our life – which is achieved totally by Jesus Christ for us and by ‘being us.’
Luther spoke of the Great Exchange when describing grace. But such grace was more comprehensive and radical than he and many of us yet know. This grace is the reality that His relationship to His Father is our relationship to our Father and His life is our life in our inner being and outer actions.
(1) Kettler, Christian D.. The Breadth and Depth of the Atonement: The Vicarious Humanity of Christ in the Church, the World, and the Self: Essays, 1990–2015 (p. 12). Pickwick Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition.