What was Christ’s mission?
We have often heard it said that Jesus came to save mankind.
And all Christians can agree on this point.
Yet most cannot seem to discern what the phrase means.
Many people never bother to think about the statement, so they do not know its meaning.
And some others try to explain it, but their methods are flawed.
The pick up the Bible, pick verses they like form it, and then construct an explanation of the statement which sounds good to themselves.
Then they try to pass off what they’ve told themselves as the truth.
Yet the people who like to construct explanations this way rarely have any sort of authority to do so.
All they have is (1) the Bible, (2) their thoughts, and (3) their gut.
Yet they do not have the authority to decide the proper theology of Christianity. So one Protestant will say one thing, a second will say a second thing, and a third will say yet another thing.
Then they’ll all pass off their statements as “the truth”.
But none of them has the authority to offer a definitive word on the topic.
That is why it is better to listen to a saint, preferably one of the Church Fathers, in order to know what was Christ’s mission.
Fortunately, one of them was kind enough to leave us this information.
St. Ambrose, Archbishop of Milan, provides us with an excellent answer to the question:
What was Christ’s mission?
Christ came to show man that man could overcome the world through His example. In the ages after the fall, man had allowed the world and its temptations to draw him into evil. Christ came to show a better way to be – the way to God. God became man so that man could become God.
Pay close attention to the last sentence in that answer.
God became man so that man could become God.
As you understanding of this statement expands, so too will your knowledge of the proper Christian mode of being.
It is, more or less, the entirety of The Gospel in one sentence.
However, because we are not so holy yet, it is good to consult with the Church Fathers on the topic of Christ’s coming.
So, what does St. Ambrose tell us was Christ’s mission?
Exposition of the Christian Faith – Ambrose
St. Ambrose was the bishop of Milan during the late fourth century. He devoted a large portion of his time in ministry to fighting against the heresy of Arianism. This required him to clearly explain the Christian faith in a world that valued the opposite of what Christians believed. The following is one such explanation.
Introduction to Christ’s Mission
The purpose and healing effects of the Incarnation. The profitableness of faith, whereby we know that Christ bore all infirmities for our sakes — Christ, Whose Godhead revealed Itself in His Passion; whence we understand that the mission of the Son of God entailed no subservience, which belief we need not fear lest it displease the Father, Who declares Himself to be well pleased in His Son.
- Christ suffered for mankind.
- He revealed himself as God.
- He is The Son to The Father.
- The Father is pleased with His Son.
How Christians Ought to Emulate Christ
Let us likewise deal kindly, let us persuade our adversaries of that which is to their profit, let us worship and lament before the Lord our Maker. For we would not overthrow, but rather heal; we lay no ambush for them, but warn them as in duty bound. Kindliness often bends those whom neither force nor argument will avail to overcome. Again, our Lord cured with oil and wine the man who, going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among thieves; having forborne to treat him with the harsh remedies of the Law or the sternness of Prophecy.
- Persuading others to Christianity is good for them.
- Christians warn against the life of sin and its consequences.
- Kindness often wins against those who can not be beaten by force or argument.
The Purpose of Christ’s Coming
To Him, therefore, let all come who would be made whole. Let them receive the medicine which He has brought down from His Father and made in heaven, preparing it of the juices of those celestial fruits that wither not. This is of no earthly growth, for nature nowhere possesses this compound. Of wondrous purpose took He our flesh, to the end that He might show that the law of the flesh had been subjected to the law of the mind. He was incarnate, that He, the Teacher of men, might overcome as man.
- To come to Christ is to be made whole.
- Christ is medicine.
- The good found in Heaven will not be found on Earth.
- Christ was God incarnate as man.
What Was Christ’s Mission? To Triumph as a Man
Of what profit would it have been to me, had He, as God, bared the arm of His power, and only displayed His Godhead inviolate? Why should He take human nature upon Him, but to suffer Himself to be tempted under the conditions of my nature and my weakness? It was right that He should be tempted, that He should suffer with me, to the end that I might know how to conquer when tempted, how to escape when hard pressed. He overcame by force of continence, of contempt of riches, of faith; He trampled upon ambition, fled from intemperance, bade wantonness be far from Him.
- It would not profit man if Christ was not man.
- Christ suffered as a human to show that what he asked could be done.
- Jesus overcame temptation as a man, so others can do the same.
Christ as a Healer
This medicine Peter beheld, and left His nets, that is to say, the instruments and security of gain, renouncing the lust of the flesh as a leaky ship, that receives the bilge, as it were, of multitudinous passions. Truly a mighty remedy, that not only removed the scar of an old wound, but even cut the root and source of passion. O Faith, richer than all treasure-houses; O excellent remedy, healing our wounds and sins!
- Faith is an excellent medicine. The modern discovery of the Placebo Effect confirms this.
The Value of the Truth
Let us bethink ourselves of the profitableness of right belief. It is profitable to me to know that for my sake Christ bore my infirmities, submitted to the affections of my body, that for me, that is to say, for every man, He was made sin, and a curse, that for me and in me was He humbled and made subject, that for me He is the Lamb, the Vine, the Rock, the Servant, the Son of an handmaid, knowing not the day of judgment, for my sake ignorant of the day and the hour.
- Right belief profits the believer.
For how could He, Who has made days and times, be ignorant of the day? How could He not know the day, Who has declared both the season of Judgment to come, and the cause? A curse, then, He was made not in respect of His Godhead, but of His flesh; for it is written: Cursed is every one that hangs on a tree. In and after the flesh, therefore, He hung, and for this cause He, Who bore our curses, became a curse. He wept that thou, man, might not weep long. He endured insult, that you might not grieve over the wrong done to you.
- Christ suffered so that you would not.
What Was Christ’s Mission? To Suffer for Man
A glorious remedy — to have consolation of Christ! For He bore these things with surpassing patience for our sakes — and we forsooth cannot bear them with common patience for the glory of His Name! Who may not learn to forgive, when assailed, seeing that Christ, even on the Cross, prayed — yea, for them that persecuted Him? See you not that those weaknesses, as you please to call them, of Christ’s are your strength? Why question Him in the matter of remedies for us? His tears wash us, His weeping cleanses us — and there is strength in this doubt, at least, that if you begin to doubt, you will despair. The greater the insult, the greater is the gratitude due.
- Faith in Christ comforts the weary.
- The power of forgiveness follows faith.
- Great insults create the need for great gratitude.
The Willful Ignorance of His Beholders
Even in the very hour of mockery and insult, acknowledge His Godhead. He hung upon the Cross, and all the elements did Him homage. The sun withdrew his rays, the daylight vanished, darkness came down and covered the land, the earth trembled; yet He Who hung there trembled not. What was it that these signs betokened, but reverence for the Creator? That He hangs upon the Cross — this, thou Arian, you regard, that He gives the kingdom of God — this, you regard not.
That He tasted of death, you read, but that He also invited the robber into paradise, to this you give no heed. You gaze at the women weeping by the tomb, but not upon the angels keeping watch by it. What He said, you read, what He did, thou dost not read. You say that the Lord said to the Canaanite woman: I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, thou dost not say that He did what He was besought by her to do.
- Acknowledge Christ as God. Do this even when you are insulted for it.
- The Arians doubted the power of christ to deliver the Kingdom of Heaven.
- The people who doubt Christ’s divinity pick-and-choose which of his deeds to focus on.
Christ and His Free Will
You should hereby understand that His being sent means not that He was compelled, at the command of another, but that He acted, of free will, according to His own judgment, otherwise thou dost accuse Him of despising His Father. For if, according to your expounding, Christ had come into Jewry, as one executing the Father’s commands, to relieve the inhabitants of Jewry, and none besides, and yet before that was accomplished, set free the Canaanite woman’s daughter from her complaint, surely He was not only the executor of another’s instruction, but was free to exercise His own judgment. But where there is freedom to act as one will, there can be no transgressing the terms of one’s mission.
- Jesus had free will. He was not forced to come to earth. Nor was he forced to do any specific thing upon it.
The Father & The Son
Fear not that the Son’s act displeased the Father, seeing that the Son Himself says: Whatsoever things are His good pleasure, I do always, and The works that I do, He Himself does. How, then, could the Father be displeased with that which He Himself did through the Son? For it is One God, Who, as it is written, has justified circumcision in consequence of faith, and uncircumcision through faith.
- The Father is pleased with the Son because the Son does as The Father does.
What Was Christ’s Mission? To Show God and Man Combined
Read all the Scriptures, mark all diligently, you will then find that Christ so manifested Himself that God might be discerned in man. Misunderstand not maliciously the Son’s exultation in the Father, when you hear the Father declaring His pleasure in the Son.
- Christ sometimes speaks in a way that implies that The Father is God and The Son is not. These implications are false and the products of poor understanding on the part of the one who received them.