O Come, O Come, Emmanuel! (11)

He who is bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh ever lives as our High Priest who through the consummation of His self-sacrifice as the Lamb of God makes intercession for us. As such He is enthroned at the summit of all being as the reconciling center of all things visible and invisible. He is none the other than our Lord Jesus, the incarnation of the Love of God, into whom and around whom all things revolve in the revelation of God to humanity and humanity to God, whose Kingdom, as the Nicene Creed affirms, will have no end. 18

—Thomas F. Torrance, “The Christ Who Loves Us” in A Passion for Christ, 18

God as Subject

All priestly action within the place of meeting was by way of acknowledgment and witness to God’s testimony of Himself in the Covenant. God is not acted upon by means of priestly sacrifice. Priestly action rests upon God’s Self-revelation in His Word and answers as cultic sign and action to the thing signified. That is particularly clear in regard to the teaching of the OT about atonement, for the various words used to express expiation or reconciliation are used with God as Subject always, never with God as object (except in describing heathen sacrifice), and are only used with man as subject in the secondary sense of liturgical obedience to God’s appointment. It is actually God Himself who performs the act of forgiveness and atonement, but the priestly cultus is designed to answer to His act and bear witness to His cleansing of the sinner.

—T. F. Torrance, Royal Priesthood, 3

Christ for Us

After His ascension He ever lives before the face of the Father as our Leitourgos  [Hebrews 8:2] and Intercessor, for there He confesses us before the face of God as those for whom He died, as those whose names He has entered as members of His Body.

Because that is Christ’s confession, it is also our confession. We may now take His confession as our own, His answer of prayer on our lips, and in His Name go boldly before the throne of grace. That confession is the one thing we hold on to. It is the confession of our hope, for all our hope rests on the obedience of Christ on the Cross and His confession before the Father. The confession of the Church which answers to the confession of the High Priest is the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God continually.

—T. F. Torrance, Royal Priesthood, 13

Christ in Our Place

In Jesus Christ we are given more than the creative mould for our human responses, we are provided with the very essence and core of man’s worship of God. In His life, death, resurrection and ascension He offered Himself through the eternal Spirit in our name and on our behalf, presenting us in Himself to the Father, once and for all, so that He remains forever our sole offering in deed and word with which we appear before God.  We do not draw near to God in worship either with our own self-expression or empty handed, but with hands of faith filled with the self-oblation of Christ, for He constitutes in His vicarious humanity the eloquent reality of our worship.

—Thomas F. Torrance, “The Word of God and the Response of Man” in God and Rationality, 157-158

Thy Will Be Done

From the side of God [Christ] acts in the steadfastness of divine truth and love in judgment, from the side of man He acts in unswerving obedience to the Father. In that unity of the divine-human steadfastness the Word of God is spoken, the Word of Truth and Grace is enacted in our existence of flesh and blood, and the answer of man is given in the obedience of a perfect life, in the prayer which is the whole assent of Jesus to the will of God as it confronts the will of man: ‘Not my will but Thine be done.’ That is the prayer which He teaches His people and puts on their lips: ‘Our Father which art in Heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.’

—T. F. Torrance, Royal Priesthood, 12-13

Christ in Our Place

In all our worship and prayer, private and public, informal or formal, we come before God in such a way as to let Jesus Christ take our place, replacing our offering with His own self-offering, for He IS the vicarious worship and prayer with which we respond to the love of the Father.

—Thomas F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 98

Defining Worship 18

Worship is the natural expression of faith.

Worship is essentially a dialogical activity in which we stand over against God even when we draw near to Him, distinguishing His transcendent nature from ourselves, while relating ourselves appropriately to His holiness and majesty and responding thankfully to the mercy He extends towards us.

—Thomas F. Torrance, “The Word of God and the Response of Man” in God and Rationality, 156, 157

Worship & Culture 14

However much, therefore, worship and prayer may vary in linguistic and behavioural forms, as they inevitably and rightly do when they are expressed in the habits of different societies, peoples, cultures and ages, they nevertheless have embedded in them an invariant element which derives from the normative pattern of the incarnate love of God in Jesus Christ. Insofar as worship and prayer are through, with and in Christ, they are not primarily forms of man’s self-expression or self-fulfilment or self-transcendence in this or that human situation or cultural context, but primarily forms of Christ’s vicarious worship and prayer offered on behalf of all mankind in all ages. However, precisely because our worship and prayer are finally shaped and structured by the invariant pattern of Christ’s mediatorial office, they are also open to change in variant human situations and societies, cultures, languages and ages, even with respect to differing aesthetic tastes and popular appeal, if only because these variant forms of worship and prayer are relativised by the invariant form of worship and prayer in Christ which they are intended to serve. Hence when worship and prayer are objectively grounded in Christ in this way, we are free to use and adapt transient forms of language and culture in our worship of God, without being imprisoned in time-conditioned patterns, or swept along by constantly changing fashions, and without letting worship and prayer dissolve away into merely cultural and secular forms of man’s self-expression and self-fulfilment.

—T. F. Torrance, “The Mind of Christ in Worship: The Problem of Apollinarianism in the Liturgy,” in Theology in Reconciliation, 213.

Faith in and of Christ

Regarded merely in itself, however, as Calvin used to say, faith is an empty vessel, for in faith it is upon the faithfulness of Christ that we rest and even the way in which we rest on him is sustained and undergirded by his unfailing faithfulness. Thus the very faith which we confess is the faith of Christ Jesus who loved us and gave himself for us in a life and death of utter trust and belief in God the Father. Our faith is altogether grounded in him who is “author and finisher,” on whom faith depends from start to finish.

—Thomas Torrance, “The Mediation of Christ in Our Human Response” in The Mediation of Christ, 94