Thursday, October 05, 2006

Vos: "The cross affected an absolute separation between two worlds"

"The whole argument of (2 Corinthians 5:17ff) revolves around the substitution of one objective status and environment for another. It belongs to the chapter on “justification” equally much as to that on inward renewal. 2 Cor. 5:18 speaks of “all things” as “being of God,” which again is not naturally understood of the subjective internal condition of the believer alone. Also, the term “to reconcile” points to the objective sphere, and in its Greek import, as distinct from the English-Bible rendering, is quite flexible and broad enough to allow of this widening out of the concept to the idea of a “change” affecting the whole world.

"In view of all this there is ample reason for favoring the rendering “a new creation”, which, when once substituted, directly points to the eschatological antecedents of the idea and opens up the perspective of its other-worldly far-reaching significance. Hence the Apostle speaks in vs. 18 of all things, indicating that not a single point but a comprehensive range of renewal stands before his mind. The whole antithesis spoken of is for him determined by the complexion of the Christ who stands in the center of it: to know of, that is to reckon with, a Christ “according to the flesh” means one constitution of things, to reckon with a differently complexioned Christ (the Christ “according to the Spirit” is meant, though not explicitly named) means a different, an opposite constitution of things, which in this case can only be the eschatological one.

"Gal. 5:16: “For neither is circumcision anything nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” the thought of the new final order of affairs with new values of enduring equalizing character is by no means absent. On the negative side it clearly finds expression in the immediately preceding avowal: “Far be it from me to glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom (or which) the world has been crucified unto me and I unto the world.” The cross is here represented as effecting an absolute separation between two worlds, so as to have cut loose the Apostle from the world to which he at first belonged, and having transplanted him into another. And this separation was so radical that the two parts between whom it took place were afterwards equally unable to have community of interests one with the other: the world was no less crucified to Paul than Paul was to the world.

"At first it naturally seems difficult to fit in this conception of the effect of the cross with the usual modes of teaching developed concerning the same in other contexts of the Epistles. The difficulty disappears if we call to mind the Christologico-eschatological background of the statement. It is first of all with reference to Christ and the kosmos that such a sharp divorce has taken place through the cross. The cross, that is to say his death under the peculiar circumstances in which it took place, cut through the bond which for a definite period of time had tied Him to the kosmos; it threw Him out from the world, and He departed from it to enter another world, which was his real home." -- Geerhardus Vos, "The Pauline Eschatology", pp. 48,49