You Can’t Keep a Good Savior Dead: Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

Resurrection Sunday is just past, and here we are, almost 2,000 years later still celebrating. What are we celebrating? We rejoice that an obscure carpenter from the middle of nowhere, who was brutally put to death by the Roman government, raised Himself from the dead on the third day after His crucifixion. We are celebrating that this obscure carpenter, this peasant man from backwater Galilee was Himself the eternal God in human flesh, and that He somehow managed to put away the enmity between God and rebellious humankind. How did He somehow manage that? He became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

A divine exchange.

The innocent, offended party reached out to the seething hatred of humanity, and allowed Himself to become the satisfaction for our sin. The innocent for the guilty.

His life was poured out to death, and death swallowed Him whole. In the belly of death, as it began trying to digest Him (like everyone else who ever died), He instead came back to life, bursting the body of death from the inside. Death could not handle Him, this Jesus of Nazareth. He was more than a carpenter. His resurrection is a glorious mystery only partially understood – yet we know that in some mystical way we share in His resurrection – those of us who have called on Him as Lord and been baptized in His name will in like manner defeat death on the final day of history.

Yes, please.

Our dear uncle from almost 1,700 years ago, Athanasius of Alexandria, has so much gold to share with us newer folk. I post quotes from his magnum opus (On the Incarnation) each Tuesday, and so I hope you are in some way helped in your Christian faith by reading these glorious nuggets of theological contemplation. Let’s see what he has to say about all this I’ve been saying.

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

How has death been doing since it met Jesus Christ?

I like this question, kids…

If, then, it is by the sign of the cross and by faith in Christ that death is trampled underfoot, it is clear that it is Christ Himself and none other Who is the Archvictor over death and has robbed it of its power.

Death used to be strong and terrible, but now, since the sojourn of the Savior and the death and resurrection of His body, it is despised; and obviously it is by the very Christ Who mounted on the cross that it has been destroyed and vanquished finally.

When the sun rises after the night and the whole world is lit up by it, nobody doubts that it is the sun which has thus shed its light everywhere and driven away the dark. Equally clear is it, since this utter scorning and trampling down of death has ensued upon the Savior’s manifestation in the body and His death on the cross, that it is He Himself Who brought death to nought and daily raises monuments to His victory in His own disciples.Uncle Athanasius

How can you think otherwise, when you see men naturally weak hastening to death, unafraid at the prospect of corruption, fearless of the descent into Hades, even indeed with eager soul provoking it, not shrinking from tortures, but preferring thus to rush on death for Christ’s sake, rather than to remain in this present life? If you see with your own eyes men and women and children, even, thus welcoming death for the sake of Christ’s religion, how can you be so utterly silly and incredulous and maimed in your mind as not to realize that Christ, to Whom these all bear witness, Himself gives the victory to each, making death completely powerless for those who hold His faith and bear the sign of the cross? No one in his senses doubts that a snake is dead when he sees it trampled underfoot, especially when he knows how savage it used to be; nor, if he sees boys making fun of a lion, does he doubt that the brute is either dead or completely bereft of strength.

These things can be seen with our own eyes, and it is the same with the conquest of death. Doubt no longer, then, when you see death mocked and scorned by those who believe in Christ, that by Christ death was destroyed, and the corruption that goes with it resolved and brought to end.

My favorite uncle.

This convicts me to not hold this life too tightly, and to not be too afraid to meet the toothless death who is powerless to keep me from my Savior and King.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to share in the resurrection of the just with you (are you trusting in Jesus for the forgiveness of your sins?).

-Justin

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Even the Idolatrous Egyptians are Being Converted! Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday as we sit at the feet of our forefather in the faith – a warrior for Christ who relentlessly pursued truth in all the churches. I’ve been posting quotes from his magnum opus “On the Incarnation of the Word” each Tuesday so far.

 

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

You live(d) in Egypt, right?

Yes, kids, and the sunsets in Alexandria were glorious.

OK… well we were wondering, dear Uncle: what message finally got through to the Egyptian people to turn their hearts and minds away from the false gods of their ancestors?

Well…

Does Scripture tell of anyone who was pierced in hands and feet or hung upon a tree at all, and by means of a cross perfected his sacrifice for the salvation of all? It was not Abraham, for he died in his bed, as did also Isaac and Jacob. Moses and Aaron died in the mountain, and David ended his days in his house, without anybody having plotted against him. Certainly he had been sought by Saul, but he was preserved unharmed.

Again Isaiah was sawn asunder, but he was not hung on a tree. Jeremiah was shamefully used, but he did not die under condemnation. Ezekiel suffered, but he did so, not on behalf of the people, but only to signify to them what was going to happen. Moreover, all these even when they suffered were but men, like other men; but He Whom the Scriptures declare to suffer on behalf of all is called not merely man but Life of all, although in point of fact He did share our human nature.

“You shall see your Life hanging before your eyes,”

they say, and

“Who shall declare of what lineage He comes?”

With all the saints we can trace their descent from the beginning, and see exactly how each came to be; but the Divine Word maintains that we cannot declare the lineage of Him Who is the Life. Who is it, then, of Whom Holy Writ (Scripture) thus speaks? Who is there so great that even the prophets foretell of Him such mighty things? There is indeed no one in the Scriptures at all, save the common Savior of all, the Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ. He it is that proceeded from a virgin, and appeared as man on earth, He it is Whose earthly lineage cannot be declared, because He alone derives His body from no human father, but from a virgin alone.

We can trace the paternal descent of David and Moses and of all the patriarchs. But with the Savior we cannot do so, for it was He Himself Who caused the star to announce His bodily birth, and it was fitting that the Word, when He came down from heaven, should have His sign in heaven too, and fitting that the King of creation on His coming forth should be visibly recognized by all the world.

He was actually born in Judea, yet men from Persia came to worship Him. He it is Who won victory from His demon foes and trophies from the idolaters even before His bodily appearing—namely, all the heathen who from every region have abjured the tradition of their fathers and the false worship of idols and are now placing their hope in Christ and transferring their allegiance to Him.

The thing is happening before our very eyes, here in Egypt; and thereby another prophecy is fulfilled, for at no other time have the Egyptians ceased from their false worship save when the Lord of all, riding as on a cloud, came down here in the body and brought the error of idols to nothing, and won over everybody to Himself and through Himself to the Father.

He it is Who was crucified with the sun and moon as witnesses; and by His death salvation has come to all men, and all creation has been redeemed. He is the Life of all, and He it is Who like a sheep gave up His own body to death, His life for ours and our salvation.

Ancient gospel, ancient Savior, same gospel for us, same Savior who saves Egyptians also saves all… The universal Word of Life!

My favorite uncle.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Tuesdays with Uncle Athanasius: How does the Salvation of Creation Tie in with Human Salvation?

AthanasiusAthanasius (c.297-373), my favorite early church father, fought heretics with all of his soul. I am brought to tears reading his glorious writings. Please indulge with me each Tuesday, as we cozy up at the feet of Uncle Athanasius.

This post takes a glance at a little Athanasian eschatology, sometimes known as Christus Victor in today’s parlance. To put it briefly, this is the holistic view of salvation wherein not only are humans saved from God’s wrath and from corruption, but the entire world will be restored by the same act of reconciliation, through the cross of Christ. Check him out…

Uncle Ath?

Yes, kids?

Will the rest of the natural world be saved along with humankind? We see corruption everywhere.

Well,

You must understand why it is that the Word of the Father, so great and so high, has been made manifest in bodily form. He has not assumed a body as proper to His own nature, far from it, for as the Word He is without body.

He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men.

We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning.

There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.

Regenerating human beings ends up including a regeneration of our world. Picture it like God reaching down to scoop us up in His hands of grace, and because He grabbed so widely, He ends up grabbing the earth and cosmos too. All things to be reconciled to Jesus! (Compare Matthew 19:28, Colossians 1:19-20, and Revelation 21-22).

My favorite uncle.

Thanks for reading,

-Justin

Athanasius, On the Incarnation, chap. 1, sec. 1, http://www.ccel.org.