Maturity, Not Merit
“What we have received from Jesus is not a collection of ‘merits,’ but rather His maturity.”
James B. Jordan writes:
The problem with the “covenant of works” notion lies in the fact that it is linked up with merit theology. There is no merit theology in the Bible. Merit theology is a hangover of medieval Roman Catholicism.
The problem with much “active and passive” talk is that it is part of the same erroneous scheme: Jesus’ “active obedience” earned merits that are then given to me, merits that Adam was supposed to earn. Such “merits” are some kind of “works,” and though this is not said, what is implied are something like Herculean labors, something beyond merely remaining faithful.
But that’s not what happened. Jesus simply remained faithful. He did not do any heroic works — there is no heroism in the gospel anywhere; only faithfulness. In a large sense, all of Jesus’ “work” was “passive.” He did not “go beyond” mere faithful obedience to the Law. But as a result of doing just that and no more, He matured into full adulthood. Notice that He was proclaimed king when He arrived at Jerusalem, was tried as a king, was robed as a king, and was crucified as a king. Contrary to Presbyterian theology, Jesus did not die primarily as a priest but as Melchizedek, as a king. That is, as an adult.
Or, better, as the One who was on the brink of becoming king, as the anointed Prince. Passing through death on the tree and then being resurrected in a transfigured state, Jesus became fully King and Adult.
Jesus resisted Satan in the wilderness. That’s what Adam failed to do. From that point on, for three plus years, He matured in faith, beyond the point where Adam failed. He matured to the point of being ready for adult responsibilities. Through his death, he became fully mature and was given dominion over ALL nations, over the wider world into which Adam had been prematurely cast.
That is the point of Galatians 3-4. Formerly we were children, but now in union with Jesus Christ we have become adults. What we have received from Jesus is not a collection of “merits,” but rather His maturity.
A fuller discussion of this theme of maturation can be found in James B. Jordan, From Bread to Wine: Toward a More Biblical Liturgical Theology, available for $15.00 from Biblical Horizons: www.biblicalhorizons.com
See also: Dying He Shall Die
ART: In the Garden of Eden, Kathryn Brimblecombe-Fox