Recently I posted on the importance of Christ’s simultaneously complete human and divine natures, also called the “hypostatic union”, to the cross. I mentioned that I wanted to comment more on Christ’s dual natures, and apparently since this is my own blog, I can do this. I wonder how long they were going to let me go before I figured this out? Just goes to show…
The hypostatic union of Christ is just as important to the sanctification of Christians as it is to their justification. We can begin to see this in the book of Colossians. The errorists at Colosse were trying to convinve the church that they could grow in holiness through a form of legalism called asceticism. Asceticism is the practice of self-denial for personal purity. Particularly, the false teachers at Colosse were advocating that church members abstain from certain foods. This was a lie:
“Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:”Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These are all destined to perish with use, because they are based on human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence.” (Colossians 2:20-23)
One of the critical errors of legalism is the thinking that what we do on this side of eternity manipulates eternity itself. It is as though the individual could reach through the invisible plane between the temporal world and eternity and put some holiness beans on the judicial scales that measure their life. This is of course absurd, but when we pretend that we are sanctified by avoiding certain kinds of food (read: beer and wine) or certain kinds of music, or by observing special days, fasting, or whatever we might do, we are guilty of the Colossian heresy (a portion of it, at least).
As my pastor explained to us a few weeks ago in church, pagans of the time of the early church had a warped view of the relationship between the material world and the spiritual world. They saw the two as being somewhat fused together. In part, this explains how a person could fashion an idol made of wood, call it a god, and worship it. This is part of what Paul was getting at when he told the Athenians at Mars Hill, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands, as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things;” (Acts 17:24-25).
These false teachers were bringing their pagan baggage into the church. This thinking that material things can manipulate spiritual things is rampant in the church as is easily sold to earnest Christians seeking to grow spiritually. Abstention from alcohol was sold to me as true holiness some years ago. My studies in Colossians reminded that it is not what goes into my mouth, but what comes out of it that matters (Matt 15:17). Of course, moderation in all things applies as well (1 Cor 9:25). But my view back then was that I was just “better off not touching the stuff.”
I see now that the problem with anything that goes into the mouth is that the heart can appropriate it for evil. Is the answer to avoid alcohol? Any food can be eaten with gluttony. Sex, while declared good between a man and his wife, can be perverted even within the bounds of marriage. Orange juice can be consumed excessively. It is the heart which must be brought under subjection (Jer 17:9)! And no material thing can touch the heart.
So I am left with a dilemma. I cannot manipulate my eternal destiny from here. Problem is, because of my sin weighing down those judicial scales, I do need some of those aforementioned beans. But again, I can’t cross that plane, can I? It would seem that I need someone who lives over there to do it for me, and somehow He needs to get over to my side of realty.
In comes Jesus Christ: fully man and fully God. He takes on human flesh:
“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form,” (Colossians 2:9)
His dual nature is the solution to my problem. He takes on human flesh, obeys God laws for me, dies in my place, and ascends to heaven. His beans go on my scale by faith:
“and in Him you have been made complete,” (Colossians 2:10a)
Those key words “in Him” mean that what He has done applies to me because I am united with Him by God’s gift of faith. Since He has crossed between planes, my problem is solved.
This gives me a revolutionary view of my relationship to material things. I know think of material things in terms of why I desire them. I think in terms of my affections, my desires, and whether they worship Christ or myself. I think of the effect that food, drink, music, etc have on me and why I might pursue them. Rather than having a checklist of things I do or don’t do, I work to evaluate my own motives in every case. This is the nature of pursuing holiness. Not beer, and certainly not beans.