Vicarious. It is a strange word, but it has quickly become one of my favorites. It is difficult to know when one has learned a word or first started using it, but for theological purposes I began using this word when I read Worship, Community and the Triune God of Grace by James B. Torrance last year.
In his book, Torrance uses the word “vicarious” fairly often and the way he uses it has significantly expanded my understanding of the work of Christ. “Vicarious” is how Torrance gives interpretation to the Incarnation of Christ. Here are a few quotes from the book for you to mull over.
“In our name, he lived a life agreeable to the will of God, in our name vicariously confessed our sins and submitted to the verdict of guilty for us, and in our name gave thanks to God. We pray ‘in the name of Christ’ because of what Christ has done and is doing today in our name, on our behalf.” (p. 46).
In this quote, Torrance is speaking about prayer and what it means to pray in the name of Jesus Christ. Later on, Torrance continues to describe the benefits to Christians that Christ’s vicarious work in the incarnation brings.
“It is supremely in Jesus Christ that we see the double meaning of grace. Grace means that God gives himself to us as God, freely and unconditionally, to be worshiped and adored. But grace also means that God comes to us in Jesus Christ as man, to do for us and in us what we cannot do. He offers a life of perfect obedience and worship and prayer to the Father, that we might be drawn by the Spirit into communion with the Father, ‘through Jesus Christ our Lord.’” (p. 65).
“To do for us and in us what we cannot do.” Simply beautiful. I won’t say too much more but this is, at least for me, the beauty of thinking of Christ’s incarnation vicariously. I, as a human being, am hopeless, frail, and broken. But Christ came to earth and did for me and in me what I could never and would never be able to do. Praise and glory be to him.
Torrance, James B., Worship, Community & The Triune God of Grace, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1996).