When God is the focal point, then His act of saving mankind becomes only a piece of the puzzle, Is there more to see beyond the Cross of Christ?
I have grown bored of the discussion among many contemporary Christians, who essentially return everything to a culminating point of Jesus on the Cross. Don’t get me wrong – I attribute an enormous amount of respect to this catastrophic event in our history, and without which we would be in a state of un-illuminated darkness. But giving more credence to the cross then the God who has been present since before mankind was a blip on the radar, is a bit limited to me. John 1 tells us that The Word (understood to be Jesus) was with God in the beginning. So God created man after He created the rest of the universe, and in creating man, He did something special: He created him in His Image. I don’t know what that means for you, but for me that means a sacrificially-loving God taking a risk and letting man choose his own destiny. Of course, God still is capable of overriding, but then He comprises His greatest gift. But what does the Savior do, much later on, after Adam and Eve choose to disobey their God? He offered offered us a change to embark on a relational course with our Creator again, which *most-likely* man wouldn’t choose on his own. And I say most-likely, because a couple of people in Biblical history are evidence that man can actually choose to obey his whole life rather then sin – ready?
Enoch – Walked with God for 300 years and then God took him. (Genesis 5:24) This is a very short account of the man, but this is the inspired account from Scripture, and others are said to be more conspiracy then fact (so I won’t invoke the book of Enoch)
Elijah – Taken up to heaven in a chariot of fire. (2nd Kings 2) This story is questionable, because if fear is sin, then Elijah is guilty. But if the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), then he was somehow redeemed prior to Jesus, to have not endured a physical death (at least on Earth).
Jesus – This a very obvious example on the surface, but look at the facts here. Jesus was fully man (Col. 2:9, Phil. 2:1-10, John 1:1-5), then he was capable of sinning. The author of Hebrews in verses 2:17-18 states that He suffered like we do, and did not sin. He was capable, and didn’t. What are we to do with this? In another place, Jesus said of Himself that He did only what He saw the Father doing. All of His power came from the Holy Spirit, just as ours does today. In John 14:12, Jesus even tells the disciples that they will do greater things then Him! I consider this a valid example of a person willing themselves not to sin while the capacity to do so was there.
Other cases could be made for others in the old testament too, like Job, considering how much trust God had for him, and how much perseverance he showed. At the very least though, these examples indicate to me that redemption at some level happened prior to Jesus. And Paul makes the claim, by the example of Abraham in Romans, that it was by faith. Well, faith, as I understand it, is a belief system that precludes the will, so what we belief determines how we will act.