For Our Salvation
Wednesday of Pentecost 11
8 August 2018
The Christological mysteries are for us. Christ becomes flesh of our flesh by the Virgin Mary through the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit. Christ does this not for His own benefit. There is nothing attractive in itself about becoming human if you are God of God, as Christ is. This sublime condescension on God's part that Christ should be clothed in our flesh in such a way as to be one of us, while remaining fully God of God is not merely some deep religious mystery. In fact, at one level it is fully explicable. The mysteries of the New Testament are not about religious depth, but the depth of human need and the passionate desire of the God who created us to bring a full and complete salvation to us in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. These mysteries are always a full disclosure of the heart and mind of God fulfilling his desire to save the foremost of His creatures. So the incarnation is not an intellectual ideal, but an act of God shaped by our desperate need. Our fall and subsequent depravity was the only explanation necessary for the incarnation.

Cyril of Alexandria was clear about the apotelesmatic character of the teaching of the incarnation. By "apotelesmatic" we mean that the incarnation has as its goal the salvation of humanity. It is not meant to benefit God, but to benefit us. This apotelesmatic approach is a sign of great theology. The theologian who knows and teaches religious things in themselves and never asks the question how they are to benefit God's beloved creation, simply misses the whole point of Christianity, which has been summarized in the creedal statement, "who for us men and for our salvation." We humans have often reduced the mysteries of the faith to intellectual mysteries or merely religious puzzles, divorcing those mysteries from the reality which is the incarnation of Jesus Christ of the Virgin Mary according to the eternal plan of God His Father to save us through that incarnation. He does not need to be born of the Virgin and yet submits to it for our benefit, that he might be a true substitute for us broken humans.

The personal union of the two natures in Christ is essential to our salvation. The two natures must be united into one indivisible and undivided person at the incarnation. Christ becomes the God man without either nature, the divine and human, giving up any of their properties or co-mingling the two natures and yet those natures being so united that there is but one person and not two persons at the incarnation. There cannot be Jesus the man and Christ the God. How would we ever know which would be working for us, providing salvation? Would such a divided "unity" ever bring anything like certainty to us poor sinners about the completeness of our salvation?

Cyril, of course, is taking deadly aim at the Christological theories of Nestorius, who speculated that the two natures in Christ were like two boards glued together, neither nature communicating with the other any of its attributes. In this theory, Nestorius was attempting to save God from contamination which he thought would occur by way of the incarnation. Oh horrors, how could God take on human flesh in such a way that he would be one indivisible person, the God-man! Greek philosophical theories about the nature of God and His purity trumped the clear teaching of Scripture about the two natures in Christ for Nestorius and his followers. Worst of all, this theory called into question the certainty of salvation worked by Christ our Lord. About this Cyril of Alexandria was deadly clear for the sake of our salvation.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Cyril of Alexandria
"We are tracking the goal of the inspired (Word) and in no way overstepping the definition of the faith, when we say that He who is from God by nature, the Only begotten (Jn 1:18), who is from the bosom of the Father, and He through whom are all things and in whom all things exist, even though before any age or time he had his own existence and always coexisted with Him who begot Him, descended to voluntary humiliation in the last times of the world and took a servant's form (Phil 2:7). He came a man economically in our condition and was made like His brothers and in all things by partaking of flesh and blood (Heb 2:14). He thus underwent birth with us and like us. He took to Himself the passing into being of His own flesh, although He did not need a second beginning unto being (for the Word was in the beginning and was God) but, that he might gather together the human race, a second firstfruits of all things after that first one, born after the flesh of a woman, according to the Scriptures.

"For although He was rich He became poor to bring us again into His own wealth (2Co 8:9) and to have all in himself through the flesh which was united to Him. We have been buried with Christ through baptism (Col 2:12) and have been raised and made to sit with him in heavenly places (Eph 2:6) for the steward of the mysteries, the herald and apostle, and minister of the gospel most-wise Paul (1Ti 2:7) has written. It is necessary therefore, for both the faith of the mystery and its exact demonstration, the fact of true union, I mean a union of person, that the mode of generation according to the flesh of the Only begotten may be without blame. He was called to know a second existence, though He Himself is the Maker of the world, lowering Himself economically to manhood for our sakes. He did not despise the laws of human nature but chose rather to have as His own together with the flesh the fleshly generation. Therefore, we say that He was born after the flesh who coexists with the Father. For thus He, though He is made as we are, condemned sin in the flesh and has brought to nothing the might of death in us (Rm 8:3), He who knew no sin (2Co 5:21), in whom we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28)." 

Cyril of Alexandria, Five Tomes against Nestorius, 1
Philippians 2:1-11

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (ESV)
Dearest Lord Jesus Christ, Your divine and human natures were truly united in one indivisible person in the incarnation of the Virgin Mary. You set forth the faith of this mystery of the personal union for the sake of our salvation. Though You are the Maker of the world, You lowered Yourself to manhood for our sakes. You placed Yourself under the law, that you might redeem us, who are under the law and adopt us as sons of God. Grant us in our day to believe the divine truth about the two natures in Christ and in that truth be assured of our eternal salvation by You. Amen.

For the members of the Boards of Regents of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis and Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, as they travel to their joint meeting in St. Louis this week, that they might be kept safe in their travels and that they would spend productive time together in the service of the church

For Pastor Ian Pacey as he partakes of a continuing education program, that he would be built up in the holy faith by it

For all pregnant women, that they and their children might be kept safe under the care of the God who grants life

For all those who are required to travel professionally, that they would be kept safe on the roads and in the skies by the holy angels who guard and guide them
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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