(This article is intended to serve as a supplement to and further explanation of my earlier articles What is Christianity?, Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained and If the Individual Recapitulates in Miniature the History of the Race …. Anglican W.H.Griffith Thomas once wrote a book entitled “Christianity Is Christ” first published in 1909. I take my cue from him.)
Christianity is summed up in Christ. As sinlessly incarnate he is often rightly described as the perfect man. (1* The word ‘perfect’ appears to have been much understood in the course of church history where undue emphasis has been placed on Jesus’ sinlessness to the serious neglect of his maturation as a man, cf. Luke 2:40-52. James 1:4, like Mt. 5:48, Phil. 3:12, Heb. 6:1, etc., points to its real meaning of mature or complete.) Regrettably, this designation, though true, is misleading for, as the letter to the Hebrews in particular makes clear, he was and is the perfectED man (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28, cf. 4:14; 7:26). To say this prompts the question as to how he was made perfect as implied by Hebrews 1:3 rather than being regarded as uniformly and statically perfect, righteous and holy like Adam who in the minds of those who accept traditional orthodoxy was at his creation.
First, it must be recognized that, according to the Bible, the eternal Word when he was made flesh, began at the beginning like the first Adam. (2* As I have already implied, the church has historically presented our first parents and even the creation itself as initially perfect (mature or complete). However, on the assumption of Adam’s initial ‘high estate’ (Milton) and subsequent sin both creature and creation have been regarded as ‘fallen’ and thus in need of redemption. This is manifestly not the biblical picture.) Not to have done so would have disqualified him as man created in the image of God as presented in Genesis 1:26-28. While it is true that Paul arguably portrays Jesus as having descended like Adam into the lower parts of the earth at his incarnation (Eph. 4:9), to be precise Jesus as man was created in the womb of the Virgin Mary who herself stemmed from the earth through Adam (Gen. 2:21-23). This surely implies on the assumption of recapitulation, that is, that procreation recapitulates creation, that Mary’s womb (cf. Gen. 3:20; Dt. 7:13) typified the Garden of Eden which was the original womb of the race (cf. Gen. 1:11f.,24; 2:7). (3* On this see in more detail my Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained, Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny, Man’s Fourfold State, etc.)
Once he was conceived as the seed of God his Father (cf. Heb. 7:10) Jesus gestated for nine months in the womb of his mother Mary in complete ignorance (cf. Rom. 9:11). Then like all human beings he was ‘born of woman’ (Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4; Gal 4:4, etc.) and proceeded to develop as a baby. It is important to note at this point that Jesus, the second Adam, differed from the first Adam. The latter did not attain to intelligent self-consciousness until shortly before he was ejected from the Garden of Eden where, though physically adult, like a baby he learned one negative commandment which, though it promised life, he proceeded to break (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:6, cf. Rom. 7:9f.). By contrast Jesus confirmed his divine sonship by keeping the commandment and eventually the whole law (of Moses). Since the precondition of eternal life or the new birth is keeping the law (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17), as the future Saviour of mankind Jesus’ goal was to please his Father (John 6:38) and to seek glory and honour in his sight (cf. Rom. 2:7,10). This he eventually achieved (Heb. 2:9). Thus, once he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:3). But we are moving ahead of ourselves.
Infancy as we know it nowadays both as individuals and as a race is characterised by both physical and mental (spiritual) immaturity. Indeed, it is lived in ignorance (Dt. 1:39; Heb. 5:12-14) and like Adam (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:5,22) and even Jesus himself (Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4) we know neither the law nor good and evil until we are on the verge of childhood. It is at this point that we begin to blossom as human beings recognisably made in the image of God. It is not without significance that the first racial covenant was made with Noah and not with Adam, and it is correspondingly made with all human individuals transgenerationally. In other words, even the heathen are its conscious beneficiaries (cf. Dt. 4:15-19; Acts 14:17 and the Areopagus address in Acts 17). Thus it is that Jesus, the individual, after infancy began his earthly pilgrimage by recapitulating his forefathers’ stay in heathen Egypt (Mt. 2:15, cf. Ex. 13:8).
On his return to his native land, Jesus as a Jew who had originally been circumcised on the eighth day began his stint under the law (cf. Luke 2:40-52). A Jewish boy, recapitulating and thereby reflecting the experience of his forefathers under Moses, took personal responsibility for law-keeping as a son of the commandment following his bar mitzvah at about the age of thirteen. The reason why it was a paramount necessity for Jesus to live under the law was so that he might serve as our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) specifically as man and successfully keep it on mankind’s behalf. In this way he met the divine precondition (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Ezek. 20:11,13,21, etc.) and brought in the (eternal) life and incorruption (2 Tim. 1:10 Gk., cf. 1 Cor. 15:53) originally promised to Adam and to all his progeny but thwarted by universal sinfulness (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:9-20, etc.).
Adulthood / Maturity / Perfection
Thus it was that Jesus as man achieved what had eluded all his predecessors (cf. Heb. 11): he kept the law and gained the eternal life signified by his baptism and his Father’s words of approbation (Mt. 3:13-17). Whereas in the OT prophets and other sinners were occasionally and temporarily blessed by the gift of the Spirit (e.g. Saul, 1 Sam. 10:10), Jesus received him permanently (John 1:32; 3:34; 6:27) and, led by the Spirit, he was able to fulfil all righteousness (Mt. 3:15), that is, live the regenerate life here on earth to perfection. As born again (or from above), in the words of Paul, he condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). Or, as the matter is expressed by the author of Hebrews, through his fleshly death (undergone as a spotless lamb, 1 Pet. 1:19, cf. Heb. 9:14) he was able to destroy the one who had the power of death, that is, the devil and deliver his sheep from bondage (Heb. 2:14f.).
So Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, fulfilled his quest to live to perfection man’s original vocation to obey God (cf. Gen. 2:16f.; Lev. 18:5; John 4:34; 6:38; 8:29), gain glory and honour and ascend to heaven from where he had descended in the first place (John 3:13; 6:62f.; 13:3, etc.) with this express intention (cf. Heb. 10:7). In this way as man’s representative he served as the pioneer of all believers’ into the presence of the Father (cf. Heb. 6:19f.; 10:19f.; 12:2). And thus as man he regained the glory he had temporarily laid aside at his incarnation (John 17:5,24; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 2:7,9). Now as believers we can live in full assurance that as man glorified at God’s right hand he rules over all (Mt. 11:27; 28:18; John 17:2). In a word, Jesus, the man, the second Adam, is Lord (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3), the OT designation of God himself. As such he is also our elder brother (Heb. 2:10-18).
If then Jesus is man’s pioneer or trailblazer to glory (cf. Heb. 2:9-13; 12:2), we who believe in him must follow in is steps (John 12:26; 14:3; 17:24; Rev. 14:4). If he, as Irenaeus suggested, became what we are, we are intended to become what he is. In light of this it is less than surprising that Paul whose own aim was perfection (Phil.3:12-14) should write that we are to be conformed to the image of the Son of God as those who are predestined (cf. Eph. 1:4-6), called, justified and finally glorified (Rom. 8:29f.).
If all this is true, then the story of man in Christ is one of ascent and of perfection (maturation) from initial imperfection and immaturity. Man’s pilgrimage involves transformation from ground to glory, from dust to destiny, from conception to coronation (cf. Heb. 11). Only for those who disavow Christ is the story one of permanent descent or degeneration (2 Pet. 2:12-22; Jude 10-13; Rev. 13, cf. Ezek. 13). Thus those who make a pact with the devil and imitate evil (3 John 11) will retain their solidarity with him for ever (Rev. 20:10-15; 21:8).
On the assumption that the above outline is essentially correct, it is the tragedy of history that the church has been deceived in general by its commitment to the worldview propounded by Augustine of Hippo. The notion that God originally created a perfect world inhabited by a perfect, holy, righteous and even immortal Adam and Eve is a mistake of the first order of magnitude. Rather than lose their original righteousness, Adam and Eve like all babies who recapitulate their experience simply lost their innocence. The idea that they ‘fell’ and brought a curse on all creation represents a thorough misunderstanding of the evidence that Scripture provides. As the apostle indicates, sin is not the only fly in creation’s ointment. Our problems in this world stem primarily from the nature of creation which being visible is not only temporary (2 Cor. 4:18) but also corruptible and futile by divine design (Rom. 8:20, cf. 1 Cor. 15:17-19). (4* On this see e.g. my Manufactured Or Not So.) While the new birth and bodily transformation are meant to be our means of escape (5* See further my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities, Escape.), they fail because we succumb to sin and need to be rescued. God by his grace in Christ effects our deliverance (Isa. 45:22-25; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:9-11).
See further my