His Word Enfleshed, Part 1

How mankind becomes the language of God.

by COLIN MACINTYRE

I was finally home after a long trip overseas. It was good to be back, although my two brothers, the way they were acting— it seemed like something had changed. They told me about a South African preacher who had spoken at their churches. After the message, he had called for all who were sick to come up and be healed. He even had one of my brothers stand directly behind him with one hand on his shoulder, so that any doubt about what was going to happen would be removed.

Naturally, my curiosity was piqued.

I’ll never forget the night I made it to one of his services. The Scripture declared that evening over the crowd echoes still:

God’s love has reached its goal in us.
So we look ahead with boldness to the day of judgment.
Because even as He is, so are we in this world. —1 John 4:17

The verse seemed to grow in power and scope as the preacher handled the revelation, diamond-like, making it tilt and burn.

As Jesus is, so are we in this world…

As Jesus is now, not as He was…

…so are we

…not in the afterlife, but now, in this world.

It caught me completely off guard, to the point that I was trembling. I didn’t know what was going on, I just knew that whatever it was, it felt profoundly supernatural.

From So-so News to Really Good

At that time in my life, I was deeply entrenched in Calvinism’s acronym, TULIP. The letter T, symbolizing the total depravity of man, is a doctrine that teaches, in the circles I was frequenting, that humanity is not only wretched due to sin, but because of their fallen state, has no worth in themselves. It should come as no surprise, then, that in my life and ministry, I held a very negative view of people, especially in their relation to God.

Psychology agrees that there is a natural correlation, in that, when you value yourself, you value others (undoubtedly an echo of Imago Dei). And when you don’t — well, the side effects were a fundamental unwillingness to listen to unbelievers (and Christians who did not hold my view), and a style of evangelism that was more bull-in-a-china-shop than intuitive Paul-in-Athens.

But from that day, I began to search. This idea had somehow become personal. Obviously, the verse quoted was biblical, but I felt I needed to find out exactly how true the idea was that we were already like Jesus. By the time I had finished, I had found and recorded more than thirty-five descriptions of Jesus that correlated with descriptions of regenerate man.

  • As Jesus is the Son of God, so I am a son of God in this world.
  • As Jesus is the image of God so I have been created in God’s image in this world.
  • As Jesus is the righteousness of God, so I have become the righteousness of God in this world.
  • As Jesus is the glory of God, so I am the glory of God in this world.
  • As Jesus is the light of the world, so I am a light in this world.
  • As Jesus came by the Spirit, and was baptized by the Spirit, so I am born again by the Spirit and joined with him.
  • As Jesus is the Anointed One, so I have been anointed by him in this world.
  • As Jesus is the king of kings, so I have been made a king in this world.
  • As Jesus is the great high priest, so I have been made a priest in this world.
  • As Jesus is the most free being that has ever been, so I am free in this world.

And on an on it went, with nearly all of them attested multiple times throughout Scripture. It was true. As Peter wrote, here were great and precious promises, through which we might share in the divine nature. I felt stunned.

As you might guess, it was the beginning of a journey out of a bitter, fruitless, focus on the inherent worthlessness of man and into a bold and fruitful belief in the value of the Christian, folks in general, and, most surprisingly, myself.

For the first time, I saw that, like Jesus —our paragon and prototype — man was designed to be his Word in the flesh. The ideas and rationale of God fleshed out in a creature. That, where Adam had failed, Christ was the firstborn of a new species that embodied the vocabulary, archetypes and expressions of the Godhead (you might see yourself as a kind of creole, but no matter). Taken together, we are to be the translation team of heaven on earth.

These passages began to gleam with a fresh coat of paint:

Jesus answered, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word. My Father will love him, and We [Word] will come to him and make Our home with him [flesh].

May they [flesh] also be one in Us [Word], so the world may believe You sent Me [Word]. I have given them [Flesh] the glory You have given Me [Word].

Now if Christ [Word] is in you [flesh], the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ [Word] in you [flesh], the hope of glory.

A Fox in the Classist Henhouse

This notion of the saint’s divine identity is not at all unorthodox in historic Christianity. What else could be inferred from the term, new creation? Or Body of Christ? Or the Bride?

On this issue, I found a compelling voice in George Fox (1624 -1691). In many ways, the life experiences of this man still parallels modern controversies of Christian thought. Due largely to his radical convictions, a three-way battle arose between himself, the monarchy and the Puritans.*

George Fox

From the introduction to his personal journal:

“[Fox] met the doctrine of the divine right of kings with the conviction of the divine right of man. Every man is to be treated as a man. He was a leveler, but he leveled up not down. Every man was to be read in terms of his possibilities — if not of royal descent, certainly of royal destiny. This view made Fox an unparalleled optimist. He believed that a mighty transformation would come as soon as men were made aware of this divine relationship which he had discovered. They would go to living as he had done, in the power of this conviction.

“He began at once to put in practice his principle of equality — i.e. equality of privilege. He cut straight through the elaborate web of social custom which hid man’s true nature from himself. Human life had become “sicklied o’er with a cast of sham, until man had half forgotten to act as man.” Fox rejected for himself every social custom which seemed to him to be hollow and to belittle man himself. The honour which belonged to God he would give to no man, and the honour which belonged to any man he gave to every man. The Lord Protector and the humble cotter were addressed alike. He had an eye for the person of great gifts and he never wished to reduce men to indistinguishable atoms of society, but he was resolved to guard the jewel of personality in every individual — man or woman.”

The purpose of the poured out Holy Spirit was to guarantee that, though Jesus had ascended into heaven, the Anointing remained incarnate in the physical realm. It is one reason why Jesus taught that Holy Spirit would convict the world about “righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see Me.” Here, I believe righteousness includes a right view of ourselves, and not only right living.

At this point, a question often arises — why do we, the supposed righteousness of God, still continue to sin?

Find out in the brand new article, The Black Hole in Our Gospel.

Collect the whole set of cards, perfectly suited for your Bible study.

* The impact of George Fox’s unassailable belief in the value of man is undeniable. His influence, and that of the Society of Friends, much more than the Puritans helped spark an international awakening on the issue of slavery.

Thanks for reading! Don’t miss these other stories by Colin MacIntyre:

N E X T → Falling From the Rich Man’s Table

When the Merciful Rise ← P R E V I O U S