“The Mission of the Son”

I have a growing feeling that I am going to have to reconsider this daily posting thing. However, I have been doing some routine maintenance here, and I have settled on the new theme (at least for the next several months). I hope you enjoy the new look, and more of the same reflections on Barth.

Romans 8:1-10 | “The Spirit: The Decision”

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God. But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.

Barth is very thorough in expounding on the text; I got a little lost. But what struck me (i.e. recaptured my attention) was his exposition of what God was up to “by sending his own Son” (v.3); or, as Barth calls it, “the mission of the Son.”

GOD SENDS HIM [the Son]–not to change this world of ours, not for the inauguration of a moral reformation of the flesh, not to transform it by art, or to rationalize it by science, or to transcend it by the Fata Morgana of religion, but to announce the resurrection of the flesh; to proclaim the new man who recognizes himself in God, for he is made in His image, and in whom God recognizes himself, for He is his pattern; to proclaim the new world where God requires no victory, for there He is already Victor, and where He is not a thing in the midst of other things, for there He is All in All; and to proclaim the new Creation, where Creator and creature are not two, but one.

Barth narrowly defines “the mission of the Son” in such a way that Jesus’ message or ministry cannot be hijacked by human agendas or re-interpreted to suit our personal or political preferences. “The mission of the Son” is not merely rearranging our human societies (a kind of social/political/economic feng shui) according to even our best human standards of equality or fairness or justice. According to Barth, Jesus did not come to transfigure even the noblest of our earthly endeavors: arts, sciences, ethics, religion!

I find these negations a little hard to swallow. I will have to continue to ruminate on them. Nevertheless, I am entirely on board with Barth’s affirmations. God DID send his Son Jesus:

  • “to announce the resurrection,”
  • “to proclaim the new man,”
  • “to proclaim the new world,” and
  • “to proclaim the new Creation.”

Jesus is doing something entirely different, entirely new, something that doesn’t conform to or stand within any of our paradigms, not even our religious ones. He calls all of us to die, to rise again with Him, and to walk in newness of life. Praise God for His good news, and for sending His Son as both messenger and message of New Life.