Lord’s Day 23 (Q/A 59-61): TRUE FREEDOM

59   Q.    What good does it do you, however,
                to believe all this?

A.    In Christ I am righteous before God
and heir to life everlasting.^1

^1 Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; John 3:36

60   Q.    How are you righteous before God?

A.    Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.^1
Even though my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments,
of never having kept any of them,^2
and of still being inclined toward all evil,^3
without any merit of my own,^4
out of sheer grace,^5
God grants and credits to me^6
the perfect satisfaction,^7 righteousness, and holiness of Christ,^8
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
and as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient for me.^9
All I need to do
is accept this gift with a believing heart.^10

^1 Rom. 3:21-28, 5:1; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Phil. 3:9
^2 Rom. 3:9[-18]
^3 Rom. 7:23
^4 2 Tim. 3:5
^5 Rom. 3:24; Eph. 2:8
^6 Rom. 4:4; 2 Cor. 5:19
^7 1 John 2:2
^8 1 John 2:1
^9 2 Cor. 5:21
^10 Rom. 3:22; John 3:18

61   Q.    Why do you say that
                through faith alone
                you are righteous?

A.    Not because I please God
by the worthiness of my faith.
It is because only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness
make me righteous before God,^1
and because I can accept this righteousness and make it mine
in no other way
than through faith.^2

^1 1 Cor. 1:30; 2:2
^2 1 John 5:10

Lord’s Day 23 (Q/A 59-61)

A source of anxiety for any person is being accepted, knowing that I belong to a community, that I am wanted and missed.  It’s been said that the 11 words someone dying wants to hear on their deathbed are:

“I forgive you, I love you, and I will miss you.”

Alain du Boton in Status Anxiety speaks of that anxiety that we all feel in living up to expectations, in trying to put our best feet/face forward, in having as many “likes” on Facebook statuses, or Retweets on Twitter. We can even use the Twitter hashtag (#) to couch our modesty and relegate it to #firstworldissue.

The ancient church theologian, St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons, observed that the “The glory of God is humanity fully alive.”  Being fully alive is to be truly free. To be truly free is to have our lives anchored and continually delighting in the One who is the most free, the One who is truly free: the triune God.  The Reformed theologian Hans Urs Von Balthasar spoke of the glory of God and the beauty of God as so interrelated to the love of God that to speak of one is to speak of the other..it’s to speak of theological aesthetics.

Humanity, being created in the image of God and that image being replenished in the face of God’s own Son Jesus Christ, is truly and fully alive when our hearts and lives are in the God-man, Jesus the Christ.

Q/A 59-61 is about theological aesthetics, the beauty of God, both in the subjective genitive sense (God’s own beauty) and the objective genitive sense (God’s reflection of beauty given). In the subjective genitive sense – Jesus Christ is the very beauty of God, the fullness of God, God’s face, God’s beauty mediated to us human beings. Jesus the Christ, the human enfleshment of that shekinah glory which Moses was prevented from beholding but was only given the opportunity to see the nape of God, is the glory of God.  In the objective genitive sense, God’s beauty, God’s glory given to us finite, limited, prideful, anxiety-producing, status-driven human beings.

Q/A 59-61 describes the antidote to our tired souls, worn-out ways, and over-strategized egos. In its force, Q/A 59-61 says calm down, let go, you are accepted, you are embraced, you have been made right with God (justification).

When in our Western culture we have been acclimated to the notion that the amount you invest (in money, time, etc.) will result in equal to or greater than the input, Q/A 60 essentially says – you can try your best, you can be at your worst, you can fulfill all the commandments (which you never will) or you can break the commandments (which we do all the time) – but God in Christ names you as one of God’s own because of Christ alone.

The anxiety is not on us. In fact for us human beings, from our vantage point, it’s a covenant of grace. We are to believe, to receive the gift. But note, that this section is within the section on the Holy Spirit. And as we saw in the prior sections, the Holy Spirit works faith in us. So even then, we cannot credit to ourselves that we have a lot of faith or weak faith, or any notion that seeks to quantify what we think we have; all that we have is a gift from God, even the gift of faith. So, from where we stand/sit, our saved-ness, the free gift of love from God to which we are called to believe is, indeed, a covenant of grace. It is God’s sure and certain promise that God is for us, that we live in freedom to live for God, to love God and love one another.

So, the anxiety is not on us. The anxiety, the covenant of works, was on the God-man, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who took upon Himself alone the desire of the triune God to seek and to save that which was lost, to reconcile and redeem humanity that is more prone to do things our own ways, to be shackled to our own vices and contrivances, than to be fully alive in God.

Recall the  deep anguish of Jesus Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane, petitioning our heavenly Father to “let this cup pass from me, if it be possible” because of the anxiety of fulfilling to the fullest what the covenant of grace required, which for him was a covenant of works.

In His willingness to succumb to his executioners and to death itself, Jesus Christ shows us what it means to be truly free, as His death and then His resurrection to a new life, is the proof-positive of God’s glory, God’s beauty, God’s love, and God’s freedom all on display.

Thus, what God in Christ through the Holy Spirit does is to call us to true and everlasting freedom. That is, by the anchoring into God’s own life and heart, we are free to love and live, and fully live according to God’s will and God’s ways.