St. Ambrose – Bk 3 – Chapter 11

incarnation2Chapter 11.

St. Ambrose returns to the main question, and shows that whenever Christ is said to have been made (or become), this must be understood with reference to His Incarnation, or to certain limitations. In this sense several passages of Scripture— especially of St. Paul— are expounded. The eternal Priesthood of Christ, prefigured in Melchizedek. Christ possesses not only likeness, but oneness with the Father.

76. When, therefore, Christ is said to have been made, to have become, the phrase relates, not to the substance of the Godhead, but often to the Incarnation— sometimes indeed to a particular office; for if you understand it of His Godhead, then God was made into an object of insult and derision inasmuch as it is written: But you have rejected your Christ, and brought Him to nought; you have driven Him to wander; and again: And He was made the derision of His neighbours. Of His neighbours, mark you— not of them of His household, not of them who clave to Him, for he who cleaves to the Lord is one Spirit; 1 Corinthians 6:17 he who is neighbour does not cleave to Him. Again, He was made a derision, because the Lord’s Cross is to Jews a stumbling-block, and to Greeks is foolishness: 1 Corinthians 1:23 for to them that are wise He is, by that same Cross, made higher than the heavens, higher than angels, and is made the Mediator of the better covenant, even as He was Mediator of the former.

77. Mark how I repeat the phrase; so far am I from seeking to avoid it. Yet take notice in what sense He is made.

78. In the first place, having made purification, He sits on the right hand of Majesty on high, being made so much better than the angels. Hebrews 1:3-4 Now where purification is, there is a victim; where there is a victim, there is also a body; where a body is, there is oblation; where there is the office of oblation, there also is sacrifice made with suffering.

79. In the next place, He is the Mediator of a better covenant. But where there is testamentary disposition, the death of the testator must first come to pass, as it is written a little further on. Howbeit, the death is not the death of His eternal Godhead, but of His weak human frame.

80. Furthermore, we are taught how He is made higher than the heavens. Unspotted, says the Scripture, Hebrews 7:26-27 separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; not having daily need, as the priests have need, to offer a victim first for his own sins, and then for those of the people. For this He did by sacrificing Himself once and for all. None is said to be made higher, save he who has in some respect been lower; Christ, then, is, by His sitting at the right hand of the Father, made higher in regard of that wherein, being made lower than the angels, He offered Himself to suffer.

81. Finally, the Apostle himself says to the Philippians, that being made in the likeness of man, and found in outward appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, being made obedient even unto death. Philippians 2:7-8 Mark that, in regard whereof He is made, He is made, the Apostle says, in the likeness of man, not in respect of Divine Sovereignty, and He was made obedient unto death, so that He displayed the obedience proper to man, and obtained the kingdom appertaining of right to Godhead.

82. How many passages need we cite further in evidence that His being made must be understood with reference to His Incarnation, or to some particular dispensation? Now whatsoever is made, the same is also created, for He spoke and they were made; He gave also the word, and they were created. The Lord created me. These words are spoken with regard to His Manhood; and we have also shown, in our First Book, that the word created appears to have reference to the Incarnation.

83. Again, the Apostle himself, by declaring that no worship is to be rendered to a created existence, has shown that the Son has not been created, but begotten, of God. Romans 1:25 At the same time he shows in other places what there was in Christ that was created, in order to make plain in what sense he has read in Solomon’s book: The Lord created Me.

84. Let us now review a whole passage in order. Seeing, then, that the sons have parts of flesh and blood, He too likewise was made to have part in the same, to the end that by death He might overthrow him who had the power of death. Hebrews 2:14 Who, then, is He Who would have us to be partakers in His own flesh and blood? Surely the Son of God. How, save by means of the flesh, was He made partaker with us, or by what, save by bodily death, broke He the chains of death? For Christ’s endurance of death was made the death of Death. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55 This text, then, speaks of the Incarnation.

85. Let us see what follows: For He did not indeed [straightway] put on Him the nature of angels, but that of Abraham’s seed. And thus was He able to be made like to His brethren in all things throughout, that He might become a compassionate and faithful Prince, a Priest unto God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people; for in that He Himself suffered He is able also to help them that are tempted. Wherefore, brethren most holy, you who have each his share in a heavenly calling, look upon the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Jesus, regard His faithfulness to His Creator, even as Moses was in his house. These, then, are the Apostle’s words.

86. You see what it is in respect whereof the writer calls Him created: In so far as He took upon Him the seed of Abraham; plainly asserting the begetting of a body. How, indeed, but in His body did He expiate the sins of the people? In what did He suffer, save in His body— even as we said above: Christ having suffered in the flesh? In what is He a priest, save in that which He took to Himself from the priestly nation?
87. It is a priest’s duty to offer something, and, according to the Law, to enter into the holy places by means of blood; seeing, then, that God had rejected the blood of bulls and goats, this High Priest was indeed bound to make passage and entry into the holy of holies in heaven through His own blood, in order that He might be the everlasting propitiation for our sins. Priest and victim, then, are one; the priesthood and sacrifice are, however, exercised under the conditions of humanity, for He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and He is a priest after the order of Melchizedek.
88. Let no man, therefore, when he beholds an order of human establishment, contend that in it resides the claim of Divinity; for even that Melchizedek, by whose office Abraham offered sacrifice, the Church does certainly not hold to be an angel (as some Jewish triflers do), but a holy man and priest of God, who, prefiguring our Lord, is described as without father or mother, without history of his descent, without beginning and without end, in order to show beforehand the coming into this world of the eternal Son of God, Who likewise was incarnate and then brought forth without any father, begotten as God without mother, and was without history of descent, for it is written: His generation who shall declare? Isaiah 53:8

89. This Melchizedek, then, have we received as a priest of God made upon the model of Christ, but the one we regard as the type, the other as the original. Now a type is a shadow of the truth, and we have accepted the royalty of the one in the name of a single city, but that of the other as shown in the reconciliation of the whole world; for it is written: God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself; 2 Corinthians 5:19 that is to say, [in Christ was] eternal Godhead: or, if the Father is in the Son, even as the Son is in the Father, then Their unity in both nature and operation is plainly not denied.

90. But how, indeed, could our adversaries justly deny this, even if they would, when the Scripture says: But the Father, Who abides in Me, even He does the works; and The works that I do, He Himself works? John 14:10 Not He also does the works, but one should regard it as similarity rather than unity of work; in saying, The things that I do, He Himself does, the Apostle has left it clear that we ought to believe that the work of the Father and the work of the Son is one.

91. On the other hand, when He would have similarity, not unity, of works, to be understood, He said: He that believes in Me, the works which I do, shall he do also. John 14:12 Skilfully inserting here the word also, He has allowed us similarity, and yet has not ascribed natural unity. One, therefore, is the work of the Father and the work of the Son, whether the Arians please so to think or not.

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