There should be little doubt in the mind of the Christian as to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ. To the Church, the whole of history and eternity are held together in this unique act of incarnation. Jesus: fully human and fully divine.
McFarlane observes that ‘never before had such an event required expression. Something hitherto unspoken broke through the established markers concerning God’s being.’
In essence this unique event has no parallels from which comparisons might be drawn. No precedents to which can be referred. It is the most important component of the Christian gospel in its unique quality.
Yet, as Bosch asserts, protestant churches have ‘by and large had an underdeveloped theology of the incarnation.’ Within evangelicalism there has been a great stress placed upon the eternal work of Christ often to the detriment of teaching regarding his compassion for those in need in this life.
Before I made a decision to become a Christian as a fourteen year-old youth I, oddly enough, gave out leaflets on behalf of a local church at the Whit Walks in my home village. Here I was, someone who knew very little about Christianity, someone who wasn’t even sure if I wanted anything to do with it, giving out leaflets to others.
During this somewhat unregenerate evangelistic début I realised that it would be a good idea to read the words on the leaflet for myself.
The tract was called the ‘Incomparable Christ’. For the first time I had been made aware of enormity of the person of Jesus.
His uniqueness is a challenge to us all and we in the church should never allow such revelation to fade with familiarity. It is striking that many of the groups that wander off into what is perceived as doctrinal heresy do so at this point; the person of Jesus, though still often highly esteemed, is reinterpreted as less than the divine character accepted by historic Church belief.
The uniqueness of Christ, the head, is reflected by the uniqueness of the Church, his body. None of us can claim to be perfect or, indeed, to be part of a church without faults. But ontologically the church is unique. Although not to be confused with the Kingdom of God the church, as the body of Christ, is unique in its calling and in its relationship to God. It is my conviction that whatever can be said of the character and ministry of Christ should be said of his body.
Of course no individual can rightly compare with the Incarnate One yet we are all designed to image God. In terms of design and purpose the church is to continue all that Christ has begun and finished. When we look at his life we must be moved to respond in kind. When we look at his character we must be charged to walk in his footsteps.
The New Testament gives us a good deal of help in trying to navigate this journey. Jesus is described as our great High Priest and in this he is depicted as unique. No one else was found good enough to break through the veil into the Holy of Holies and thereby blaze a trail for us to follow. The church on the other hand is to be a Priestly Nation and in that role we follow Christ in making intercession for a world that does not understand. Great High Priest and Priestly Nation: an incredible relationship.
Jesus again is described as our Apostle being sent as a messenger on behalf of the Father to this prodigal world: unique in his place of departure and also in his arrival at the cross. We, his body, are also sent and therefore Apostolic by design and purpose. We are called to continue this message of grace and hope.
The first chapter of the book of Hebrews tells us that God spoke to humanity in many different ways through the Prophets of old but now he has spoken to us by his Son. Ephesians chapter three tells us that it is God’s intention that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made know.
This tells us that the story continues and that the manifold things that God has in store for his creation are to be shown through the church. They resonate through the words of the Prophets; we have seen them and have access to them, in the finishing work of Christ. Now the world can touched them through his body the church. In this there is something of a tension. How can we communicate such a unique event? What symbols, motifs and analogies can we utilise in order that such a unique story can be embraced?
To be continued……………………….
‘Christ and the Spirit’ Graham WP McFarlane Paternoster 1996 pg10
‘Transforming Mission’ David J Bosch Orbis Books pg 512