...and that ye be renewed in the spirit of your mind (Ephesians 4:23).

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24 June 2010

The Condescension of God

What words or images come to mind when we read the word “condescension”? Generally, this word is used negatively. Perhaps we think of someone who is rich mistreating someone who is poor. Maybe we think of someone highly educated thinking the rest of the world to be less enlightened. This word means, “To descend to the level of one considered inferior; lower oneself” (Dictionary.com). People who act in a condescending manner toward others are viewed in a negative way because we recognize we are all on the same level. We are all human beings regardless of our economic or educational levels. Therefore, we should not act rude or impolite to anyone.

While we typically think of condescension in a negative way, this word describes an exclusive quality of our God. Our God is a condescending being. With this thought in mind, we should view His condescension as a blessing for which we should be extremely grateful. There are numbers of examples of God condescending to humanity. First, the creation of humanity is an example of God’s condescension. God created Adam and Eve. He made provisions for their physical needs by placing them in the Garden of Eden: paradise. He made provisions for their spiritual needs by giving them law, the obedience to which enabled them to enjoy a relationship with God. Why did God do this? Did God have nothing better to do than provide for and interact with created, inferior beings?

God’s interaction with Israel is another example of His divine condescension. Their history is a lesson in God’s condescension. In Deuteronomy chapter eight, Israel was reminded of the blessings God had given them during their long journey from Egypt to Canaan. God fed them with quail and manna, their clothes did not ware out, and God gave them a land of great prosperity and substance. In this land, they would never endure famine (Deuteronomy 8:1-9). Did God have to do this? Certainly, Israel was not deserving of God’s blessings. Nevertheless, God provided for inferior beings.

Later in Israel’s history, God made a covenant with David. God blessed David at the end of his life by assuring the posterity of Israel (2 Samuel 7). Aside from David’s kingdom continuing through his heir, Solomon, his kingdom would continue from everlasting to everlasting. While David did not fully understand the plans of God, he did understand God was blessing him with an eternal kingdom. Why did God do this? Why would God promise to preserve Israel? Did God need Israel? Of course, He did not; however, He used an inferior nation for His eternal purposes.
A third example of God’s condescension relates to how He impartially blesses humanity. This was the line of reasoning Paul used to preach to the Epicureans, Stoics, and Athenians (Acts 17:22-29). God provided and continues to provide for humanity’s continual existence. He is the single explanation for life. When considering this indisputable truth, David’s question comes to mind: “What is man that thou art mindful of him…” (Psalm 8:4). This question sums the condescension of God towards humanity. What is it about the character of humanity, us, that causes God to lower Himself to the level of inferior beings to provide for their physical and spiritual welfare?

Finally, the supreme example of God’s condescension relates to deity being revealed in physical flesh and blood: Jesus coming to earth. The Bible describes Jesus as God in the flesh. John introduced the Messiah in his writing by stating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...and the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14).

Paul also described Jesus’ humanity by instructing, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth” (Philippians 2:5-10).

According to our definition of condescension, Jesus lowered Himself to the level of inferior creatures: us. This is truly an image of Jesus worthy of our consideration. Like God and the Holy Spirit, Jesus dwelt eternally in Heaven. He was surrounded by the glory of God and His own illuminating light. He reigned in a place unknown to sin, pain, sorrow, and death. His divine existence was one of eternal joy and happiness. However, Jesus elected to leave this place and dwell in the realm of the created. While maintaining His deity, He chose to have His magnificence exposed to the ills of humanity. Why?

The apostle Luke answered this question by recording the words of Jesus: “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). Jesus acknowledged His condescension by identifying Himself as the “Son of man”, having reference to His humanity. However, Jesus stated His reason for leaving Heaven and coming to earth. He came to pursue and save the inferior: the lost. Without Jesus leaving Heaven and coming to us, we would be hopelessly lost, forever estranged from the redemption of God.

God’s condescension through Jesus is evidence of His love for us. Jesus taught this when He told Nicodemus, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17). How can we through faith know God is in Heaven wanting to have a relationship with us? God’s only begotten Son came to us.

In conclusion, the condescension of God should be viewed among the many great blessings He has extended to us. Without His condescension, we would be hopeless. Today, we remain beneficiaries of His condescension. To this point, John described Jesus knocking at our door, waiting for us to give Him entrance: “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Revelation 3:20). God’s condescension can and will provide our salvation if we respond through obedience.

David Flatt
June 2010

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