Barth on Reconciliation

‘[Jesus] is the unrighteous among those who can no longer be so because He was and is for them. He is the burdened amongst those who have been freed from their burden by Him. He is the condemned amongst those who are pardoned because the sentence which destroys them is directed against Him. He who is in the one person the electing God and the one elect man is as the rejecting God, the God who judges sin in the flesh, in His own person the one rejected man, the Lamb which bears the sin of the world that the world should no longer have to bear it or be able to bear it, that it should be radically and totally take away from it.

This is undoubtedly the mystery of divine mercy. God acted in this way because He grieved over His people, because He did not will to abandon the world to its unreconciled state and therefore on the way which leads to destruction, because He wiled to show it an unmerited faithfulness as the Creator, because in His own inconceivable way He loved it. But in this respect it is as well to be clear that the mystery of His mercy is also the mystery of His righteousness. He did not take the unreconciled state of the world lightly, but in all seriousness. He did not will to overcome and remove it from without, but from within. It was His concern to create order, to convert the world to Himself, and therefore genuinely to reconcile it. He did not, therefore, commit an arbitrary act of kindness – which would have been no help to the world. He did what we might call a neat and tidy job. He accepted the world in the state in which He found it, in its alienation from Himself, in the state of sinful men. To bring about this conversion He really took the place of man. And He did not take the place of this man as God but as man: “to fulfill all righteousness,” to do right at that very place where man had done wrong, and in that way to make peace with man, to the triumph of His faithfulness, to His own magnifying in creation and by the creature. The Word became flesh that there might be judgement of sin in the flesh and the resurrection of the flesh.’  (Karl Barth, ‘Church Dogmatics’,  IV.1 p. 237)

Very God and Very Man

Here are a few thoughts from Barth on the idea of Jesus being both man and God, and what this means with regards to the sinlessness of Christ:

‘But if we ask where the sinlessness, or (positively) the obedience of Christ, is to be seen, it is not enough to look for it in this man’s excellences of character, virtues or good works. For we can only repeat that the New Testament certainly did not present Jesus Christ as the moral ideal, and if we apply the canons usually applied to the construction of a moral ideal, we may easily fall into certain difficulties not easy of solution, whether with the Jesus of the Synoptics or with the Jesus of John’s Gospel. Jesus Christ’s obedience consists in the fact that He willed to be and was only this one thing all its consequnces, God in the flesh, the divine bearer of the burden which man as a sinner must bear.

Jesus’ sinlessness obviously consists in His direct admission of the meaning of the incarnation. Unlike Adam, as the “second Adam” He does not wish to be as God, but in Adam’s nature acknowledges before God as an Adamic being, the state and position of fallen man, and bears the wrath of God which must fall upon this man, not as a fate but as a righteous necessary wrath. He does not avoid the burden of this state but takes the conditions and consequnces upon Himself.

This is the revelation of God in Christ. For where man admits his lost state and lives entirely by God’s mercy – which no man did but only the God-Man Jesus Christ has done – God Himself is manifest. And by that God reconciled the world to Himself. For where man claims no right for himself, but concedes all rights to God alone – which no man did but only the God-Man Jesus Christ has done – the world is drawn out of its enmity towards God and reconciled to God.’ (Karl Barth, ‘Church Dogmatics’, I.2, p. 157-158)