Emmanuel: God With Us

Emmanuel: God With Us

Christ being the new Adam changes the definition for us of what being human means.

While the death and resurrection of Christ are at the core of our theology, it is important for us not to take those events in isolation from the bigger picture of Jesus’ life. On Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Christ. We celebrate Emmanuel, the God who came and dwelt among us (John 1:14).

In the incarnation—the union of divinity and humanity in Christ—the world was changed. God created everything good. Because of Adam’s choice, sin tarnished what was good. Paul tells us that sin abounds, but he also tells us that in Christ, grace much more abounds (Rom. 5:23, NRSV). Paul refers to Christ as the “new Adam.” Christ became the new Adam to show that humanity was not destined for sin; it wasn’t what we were created for.

Because of Christ’s incarnation, sin doesn’t have to define us any longer. True humanity is defined in Christ.

God created us out of love, because He is love. God did not wish to live without us, and in tying Himself to humanity, we can now tie ourselves to Him.

As Wesleyans, our tradition emphasizes sanctification and Christlikeness; but being Christlike does not simply mean imitation. It is participation in Christ. Christ offers us pardon for our sin—praise His holy name! But He also offers us a new relationship, grounded in His action to tie Himself to us. We are called to be Christlike in imitation, but we can imitate only when we participate. God has freely chosen to love us; we must choose to freely love Him in return.

It may sound blasphemous to speak of becoming like God. One may ask, “Wasn’t trying to be like God Adam’s sin?” But that is not the whole story. The sin of Adam was not simply to be like God, but to be like God apart from God. Adam’s failure was that he chose the avenue of his own power and self-sufficiency to seek the likeness of God and, in doing so, he made himself a shabby idea of God.1

Sin causes humans to isolate themselves. But God does not isolate; God demonstrates His existence by fully giving and receiving in a community of love. Humans become Christlike only when they enter into that community. What Adam intended to take by force is shown to be, through Christ’s incarnation, what God eternally wants humanity to receive by grace.2 

God incarnate shows us that He is for us, not against us.

Christ, in the glorious unity of His divinity and humanity, is the new Adam. He came to save. But saving us does not merely mean taking away the penalty of our sin. It also means transforming us into the image of His Son by His Spirit as loved ones. Only in His image can we truly impact the world for His Kingdom.

Isaac Gilmore is Pastor at Crosspoint Church of the Nazarene in Madison, Wisconsin, USA.

[1] Joseph Ratzinger, Dogma and Preaching, Matthew J, O’Connell, (Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1985), 25.

[2] Aaron Riches, After Chalcedon: The Oneness of Christ and the Dyothelite Mediation of His Theandric Unity, (Modern Theology) 214.