Spiritual arrogance?

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“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6)*. This statement of Jesus to Philip has led both atheists and representatives of other religions (mono and polytheistic) to accuse Jesus of spiritual arrogance. But is it true?

It should be said that this accusation, unfortunately, arises from a superficial error of evaluation and extrapolation from the historical and faith context in which Jesus spoke those words. Remember, Jesus was not conversing with individuals of other faiths but with his own co-religionists, jealous of their powerful and eternal God, Creator of the whole universe. Here was a God who manifested His character through a multi-directional expression of His essence of eternal love and mercy—the Ten Commandments—sculpting them by His own finger on stone plates, silent witnesses of His love and justice. But while being a proposal of life lived in complete communion with Him, God’s law conceals an underlying message of death: anyone who transgresses it will die an eternal death without any possibility of return; the reason for such resides precisely in its function as the expression of God’s character.

Unfortunately, sacred history reminds us that, shortly after the creation of human beings, Adam and Eve transgressed God’s law, so they had to die. However this death—which is not a chastisement but the natural consequence of separation from the Creator who is life—will only be temporary due to God’s unwillingness to lose His creatures.

So He reveals His plan to repossess them. The Bible is explicit in this respect. In Genesis 3:15, God, in His condemnation to Satan, introduces His promise of salvation. He showed to Adam and Eve, who were in hiding, the way out from their new situation— spiritual nakedness! As a solution to their dilemma He answered by covering them with the skin of an animal; yes, an animal that obviously had to be sacrificed. A passage in Revelation 13, “. . . the Lamb, slain from the foundation of this world”, opens up the evidence that this ritual was introduced to point to God’s plan of salvation; a hint to the figure of Jesus and His final victory: “And I will put enmity between you (the snake, Satan) and the woman, between your seed and hers; he shall bruise your head . . .”

This indicates that the offspring of a woman—a Being similar to her, but with many other characteristics—would achieve salvation, not only for the first couple but for all humanity. See how in the maze of biblical prophecy, the history of salvation is sorting out?

Chapter 53 of Isaiah, one of the greatest prophets, describes intentionally the activity of the Offspring of the woman, Jesus, whom God had promised to the first couple and who would overcome the obstacle of the eternal consequence of disobedience.

“For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground . . . He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all . . .” (verses 2-6, KJV).

And then, the key words “. . . by his knowledge my righteous servant shall justify many” (verse 11). [pullquote]

God’s plan of salvation toward anyone who accepts it is simple—even if it cost the whole deity an unimaginable pain that can never be forgotten: “the punishment that brought us peace has been on him” (verse 5, NIV).

What was this punishment? “. . . because he poured out his life unto death” (verse 12). This atrocious consequence emphasises the gravity of the transgression of the law of life that God, even if in an oral form, had given to the first couple at the time of their creation.

But the redemptive act of the “servant of the Lord“ finds its full reason in the effect that act produces: “my righteous servant shall justify many”. If divine law on the one hand expresses the essence of God’s love on the other, it reveals His justice. The first couple, with their transgression, had lost the quality of divine justice in which they had been created, so it was necessary to restore it. As a result of that justice, the first couple would have been inexorably cut off. But this was unacceptable to the triune God; He loved His creatures.

So divine love and justice were in conflict: to meet the one was to contradict the other. Only God was in a position to find the solution and God proposed the only possible one: the second Person of the Trinity would take the place of His creatures; this One would be charged with the consequence of transgression; this One would die in our place.

Isaiah presents the “servant of the Lord“ in His two qualities: human, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14)” and divine, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:5).”

For this reason, the Servant of the Lord, the Messiah, Jesus, becomes the only medium through which the sinner can return justified to the Father, as if He had never sinned.

This is the reason why Jesus’ declaration of being the only one Intercessor between God and humanity cannot be properly understood except in the context of the Jewish-Christian religion, and can in no way be mistaken for spiritual arrogance, being instead the revelation of a loving invitation to return to the divine embrace.

In fact, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16, NIV).

Gennaro Cozzi writes from Victoria.

*All Bible verses from NKJV unless otherwise marked.
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