“Wake me up inside…” (part 5c): Karl Barth’s Doctrine of Reconciliation (iv.1.58)

(iv.1.58.4 cont.) *There are three forms to Sin. 1. Sin negates the first form of […]

Lauren R.E. Larkin / 12.9.10

(iv.1.58.4 cont.) *There are three forms to Sin. 1. Sin negates the first form of grace of God: that “God gives Himself to us, He makes Himself responsible for our cause, He takes it into His own hand”. Sin transgresses the great first commandment: Love the Lord your God with all your soul, mind, body, and strength. Sin negates that Jesus, very God, humbled Himself to become human in order to take humanity to Himself; thus, it negates Jesus’ High-priestly office; this is the sin of pride. 2. Sin negates the second form of the grace of God: that “He wills and seeks us as we are, in our creatureliness, as men, that we may be raised to the status of [His] children”. In this second form, sin negates the divine direction and the divine ordering, and elevates humanity in the place of God as true King. Thus, sin negates Jesus’ kingly office; this is the sin of sloth. 3. Sin negates the third form of the grace of God: that “God does not act above our heads, he does not ignore us, but He addresses us and calls us”. In this third form, sin negates the divine promise and lies to humanity that “they know better”. Thus, sin negates Jesus’ prophetic office (as the Guarantor); this is the sin of falsehood.

The reality of sin is true not in the sense of its own autonomous right, but as it is compared (or contrasted) or rather illuminated by the event of the divine “Yes” and “No” that is the event of the Cross. “The reality of sin cannot be known or described except in relation to the One who has vanquished it”. [In plainer words: we do not know we are really sinners until we see what has occurred in the event of the Cross.] Sin confirms Jesus as victor, because Jesus has the final word against it. “…the sinful No of man has been matched and opposed and destroyed by the divine Yes spoken by Jesus Christ even in the sphere of man and the world”. Jesus’ work of atonement is the victory of Jesus over sin. It is the “divine Yes” which has contradicted the “sinful no” of humanity, which is “maintained and fulfilled in the sphere of sinful humanity and sinful world”, and which vindicates “as the first and final word”. This tripartite understanding of reconciliation by Jesus Christ’s atonement lines up with the threefold grace of God (divine verdict, divine direction, and divine promise), the threefold nature of Christ (Jesus as God, Jesus as Man, and Jesus as God-Man), and the threefold being of humanity in Christ (faith/justification, love/sanctification, and hope/calling and teleological goal). In all three there is one common source, one common overlap, one common emphasis: Jesus Christ.

[Jesus] is the One who justifies, sanctifies, and calls. He is the High-Priest, King, and Prophet. In the whole event of atonement, justification, sanctification and calling, as grounded in the divine verdict, direction and promise, have as it were a central function. In them, in the understanding of grace under these concepts, it is still a matter of expounding the being and work of Jesus Christ as the Reconciler of the sinful world and therefore of sinful man with God.

In this tripartite (x3) understanding of reconciliation, humanity is dealing with not only what has occurred objectively in and by Jesus’ atoning work; but also with the subjective appropriation of the grace of God. In this subjective appropriation lie the gift, work, reception, and accomplishment of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit’s work is grounded in the teleologic orientation of the calling and work of Jesus Christ: as the Guarantor of truth. It is by the work of the Spirit that Christians are differentiated from non-Christians. While all maybe justified, sanctified, and called, not all have this distinguishing mark: that they can hear and see and understand all that and how God is for them, and what their true being is. By the power of the Spirit, sin is made known, need for something outside of the self is made known, hope is made known. “In this special sense Christians and only Christians are converted to him. This is without any merit or cooperation on their part, just as the reconciliation of the whole world in Jesus Christ is without its merit or co-operation”. By the power of the Holy Spirit and the work of Christ in the atonement the objective reality of humanity acquires a subjective reality. “[T]he same One and All is now in the eyes and ears and hearts, in the existence of these men, Christians, who are specially taken and determined by His Holy Spirit”. The Holy Spirit is by whom the whole of Christianity and all Christians exist.

*This is the second to last entry…and there was great rejoicing! 😀