Humiliation for Exaltation

It seems not only that Christ creates the Church by dying and rising again, but that within Him and especially within His death and resurrection the Church is actually present (Ramsey, 17).

Jesus Christ, in His solitary obedience, is the Church (Ramsey, 18).

Ramsey’s second chapter is titled “One Died for All.”  I remember that this chapter was the hardest one for me to get though–not necessarily because it was complicated, but because it was a time in the semester where I was over-tired and under-slept.   With that in mind, it’s a joy to reread it.  The two quotes above come from the second half of the chapter.  Ramsey’s point is to deepen our understanding of what he discussed in the first chapter: that the Church was not founded by Jesus’ apostles, but by Jesus himself, and that the purpose of the Church is to be discovered in His death and resurrection.

We must search for the fact of the Church not beyond Calvary and Easter but within them (Ramsey, 17).

Ramsey spends the first half of the chapter discussing the place of the “church” or the “assembly” in the Old Testament.

The songs of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 42:1-4; 49:1-6; 50:4-9; 52:13-53:12) have been interpreted in various ways: the nation or an individual; a past event or a future one.  Two things, though, are quite clear:

  1. God’s purpose for humanity is in some way coupled with the suffering of a servant.
  2. There was no instance in Hebrew literature, between the exile and the Lord’s day, of any identification of the sufferer with the Messiah (Ramsey, 14).

(If anyone knows if this second point has since been improved upon, please share).

It was in Jesus Christ, in the fullness of time, that these songs of anguish and suffering were identified with the figure of the Messiah.  The very parts of Scripture that his contemporaries had failed to interpret, Jesus the Messiah interpreted and executed, so that the theme of the Suffering Servant was brought right into the center of the themes, more familiar to his contemporaries, of Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God.

Jesus’ apostles and disciples after him would proclaim this boldly (Acts 3:13, 26; 4:27-30; 8:32; 1 Peter 2:21-24).  Jesus died “in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled” (Mark 14:21; Luke 22: 37; Mark 15:34).

Christ’s Passion was a fulfillment not only of certain passages of the Old Testament, but of the Passion which Israel suffered:

Christ’s death was the act of divine power that broke the forces of evil and set up God’s Kingdom among men (Ramsey, 16).

God’s plan for Israel was that it would be the nation through which the entire world would be blessed.  Israel never lived up to that calling.  But Israel the nation was then summed up in Jesus the individual.   It was still God’s purpose to unite humanity through a people; and this people does not mean a loose collection of believers in Jesus, but a new nation to which the characteristic descriptions of the old Israel–the Vine, the Temple, the Bride–are transferred, and which has the same sense of the solidarity of one race, brought to birth by a creative act of God (Ramsey, 16).

In this new nation, of course, its people are drawn from any and every nation, from Jew and Gentile, men and women.  And death is no longer a stumbling block, but the center of its existence, worship, and unity.  What we call “the Church” is a new Israel.  The Church is the unity of all those who, by following Jesus’ solitary obedience, continually choose to die to self and be raised by God to new life, life lived to and for God and His purposes.

Here then is a complete setting forth of the meaning of the Church; the eternal love of Father and Son is uttered in the Christ’s self-negation unto death, to the end that men may make it their own and be made one.  The unity, in a word, means death.  The death to the self qua self, first in Christ and then in the disciples, is the ground and essence of the Church (Ramsey, 22).

The death of Christ contains the Church: he was baptized into our humanity, and he refused the rights of self before God.  But what makes possible the life of the Church is the resurrection: The Cross was to Jesus not a defeat needing the resurrection to reverse it, but rather a victory so decisive that resurrection follows quickly to seal it.  We cannot separate the exalting on the Cross from the exalting to heaven.

As He is baptized into man’s death, so men shall be baptized into His; and, as he loses His life to find it in the Father, so men may by a veritable death find a life whose center is Christ and in the brethren.  One died for all, therefore all died.  To say this is to describe the Church of God (Ramsey, 23).

 

Thoughts?  Ramsey titled this chapter One Died For All.  The following chapter completes the quote, Therefore All Died.  The next post will then take a deeper look into what the “therefore” implies.  What does it really mean to die to self?  And what does that do to the form and life of the Church?

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