Christianity – An Alternative Approach


(This article is intended to serve as a supplement to and further explanation of my earlier articles What is Christianity?, Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained and If the Individual Recapitulates in Miniature the History of the Race …. Anglican W.H.Griffith Thomas once wrote a book entitled “Christianity Is Christ” first published in 1909. I take my cue from him.)

Christianity is summed up in Christ. As sinlessly incarnate he is often rightly described as the perfect man. (1* The word ‘perfect’ appears to have been much understood in the course of church history where undue emphasis has been placed on Jesus’ sinlessness to the serious neglect of his maturation as a man, cf. Luke 2:40-52. James 1:4, like Mt. 5:48, Phil. 3:12, Heb. 6:1, etc., points to its real meaning of mature or complete.) Regrettably, this designation, though true, is misleading for, as the letter to the Hebrews in particular makes clear, he was and is the perfectED man (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28, cf. 4:14; 7:26). To say this prompts the question as to how he was made perfect as implied by Hebrews 1:3 rather than being regarded as uniformly and statically perfect, righteous and holy like Adam who in the minds of those who accept traditional orthodoxy was at his creation.


Conception

First, it must be recognized that, according to the Bible, the eternal Word when he was made flesh, began at the beginning like the first Adam. (2* As I have already implied, the church has historically presented our first parents and even the creation itself as initially perfect (mature or complete). However, on the assumption of Adam’s initial ‘high estate’ (Milton) and subsequent sin both creature and creation have been regarded as ‘fallen’ and thus in need of redemption. This is manifestly not the biblical picture.) Not to have done so would have disqualified him as man created in the image of God as presented in Genesis 1:26-28. While it is true that Paul arguably portrays Jesus as having descended like Adam into the lower parts of the earth at his incarnation (Eph. 4:9), to be precise Jesus as man was created in the womb of the Virgin Mary who herself stemmed from the earth through Adam (Gen. 2:21-23). This surely implies on the assumption of recapitulation, that is, that procreation recapitulates creation, that Mary’s womb (cf. Gen. 3:20; Dt. 7:13) typified the Garden of Eden which was the original womb of the race (cf. Gen. 1:11f.,24; 2:7). (3* On this see in more detail my Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained, Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny, Man’s Fourfold State, etc.)


Infancy

Once he was conceived as the seed of God his Father (cf. Heb. 7:10) Jesus gestated for nine months in the womb of his mother Mary in complete ignorance (cf. Rom. 9:11). Then like all human beings he was ‘born of woman’ (Job 14:1; 15:14; 25:4; Gal 4:4, etc.) and proceeded to develop as a baby. It is important to note at this point that Jesus, the second Adam, differed from the first Adam. The latter did not attain to intelligent self-consciousness until shortly before he was ejected from the Garden of Eden where, though physically adult, like a baby he learned one negative commandment which, though it promised life, he proceeded to break (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:6, cf. Rom. 7:9f.). By contrast Jesus confirmed his divine sonship by keeping the commandment and eventually the whole law (of Moses). Since the precondition of eternal life or the new birth is keeping the law (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17), as the future Saviour of mankind Jesus’ goal was to please his Father (John 6:38) and to seek glory and honour in his sight (cf. Rom. 2:7,10). This he eventually achieved (Heb. 2:9). Thus, once he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb. 1:3). But we are moving ahead of ourselves.


Childhood

Infancy as we know it nowadays both as individuals and as a race is characterised by both physical and mental (spiritual) immaturity. Indeed, it is lived in ignorance (Dt. 1:39; Heb. 5:12-14) and like Adam (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:5,22) and even Jesus himself (Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4) we know neither the law nor good and evil until we are on the verge of childhood. It is at this point that we begin to blossom as human beings recognisably made in the image of God. It is not without significance that the first racial covenant was made with Noah and not with Adam, and it is correspondingly made with all human individuals transgenerationally. In other words, even the heathen are its conscious beneficiaries (cf. Dt. 4:15-19; Acts 14:17 and the Areopagus address in Acts 17). Thus it is that Jesus, the individual, after infancy began his earthly pilgrimage by recapitulating his forefathers’ stay in heathen Egypt (Mt. 2:15, cf. Ex. 13:8).


Adolescence

On his return to his native land, Jesus as a Jew who had originally been circumcised on the eighth day began his stint under the law (cf. Luke 2:40-52). A Jewish boy, recapitulating and thereby reflecting the experience of his forefathers under Moses, took personal responsibility for law-keeping as a son of the commandment following his bar mitzvah at about the age of thirteen. The reason why it was a paramount necessity for Jesus to live under the law was so that he might serve as our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) specifically as man and successfully keep it on mankind’s behalf. In this way he met the divine precondition (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Ezek. 20:11,13,21, etc.) and brought in the (eternal) life and incorruption (2 Tim. 1:10 Gk., cf. 1 Cor. 15:53) originally promised to Adam and to all his progeny but thwarted by universal sinfulness (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:9-20, etc.).


Adulthood / Maturity / Perfection

Thus it was that Jesus as man achieved what had eluded all his predecessors (cf. Heb. 11): he kept the law and gained the eternal life signified by his baptism and his Father’s words of approbation (Mt. 3:13-17). Whereas in the OT prophets and other sinners were occasionally and temporarily blessed by the gift of the Spirit (e.g. Saul, 1 Sam. 10:10), Jesus received him permanently (John 1:32; 3:34; 6:27) and, led by the Spirit, he was able to fulfil all righteousness (Mt. 3:15), that is, live the regenerate life here on earth to perfection. As born again (or from above), in the words of Paul, he condemned sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3). Or, as the matter is expressed by the author of Hebrews, through his fleshly death (undergone as a spotless lamb, 1 Pet. 1:19, cf. Heb. 9:14) he was able to destroy the one who had the power of death, that is, the devil and deliver his sheep from bondage (Heb. 2:14f.).

So Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, fulfilled his quest to live to perfection man’s original vocation to obey God (cf. Gen. 2:16f.; Lev. 18:5; John 4:34; 6:38; 8:29), gain glory and honour and ascend to heaven from where he had descended in the first place (John 3:13; 6:62f.; 13:3, etc.) with this express intention (cf. Heb. 10:7). In this way as man’s representative he served as the pioneer of all believers’ into the presence of the Father (cf. Heb. 6:19f.; 10:19f.; 12:2). And thus as man he regained the glory he had temporarily laid aside at his incarnation (John 17:5,24; Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 2:7,9). Now as believers we can live in full assurance that as man glorified at God’s right hand he rules over all (Mt. 11:27; 28:18; John 17:2). In a word, Jesus, the man, the second Adam, is Lord (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3), the OT designation of God himself. As such he is also our elder brother (Heb. 2:10-18).

If then Jesus is man’s pioneer or trailblazer to glory (cf. Heb. 2:9-13; 12:2), we who believe in him must follow in is steps (John 12:26; 14:3; 17:24; Rev. 14:4). If he, as Irenaeus suggested, became what we are, we are intended to become what he is. In light of this it is less than surprising that Paul whose own aim was perfection (Phil.3:12-14) should write that we are to be conformed to the image of the Son of God as those who are predestined (cf. Eph. 1:4-6), called, justified and finally glorified (Rom. 8:29f.).

If all this is true, then the story of man in Christ is one of ascent and of perfection (maturation) from initial imperfection and immaturity. Man’s pilgrimage involves transformation from ground to glory, from dust to destiny, from conception to coronation (cf. Heb. 11). Only for those who disavow Christ is the story one of permanent descent or degeneration (2 Pet. 2:12-22; Jude 10-13; Rev. 13, cf. Ezek. 13). Thus those who make a pact with the devil and imitate evil (3 John 11) will retain their solidarity with him for ever (Rev. 20:10-15; 21:8).


Traditional Error

On the assumption that the above outline is essentially correct, it is the tragedy of history that the church has been deceived in general by its commitment to the worldview propounded by Augustine of Hippo. The notion that God originally created a perfect world inhabited by a perfect, holy, righteous and even immortal Adam and Eve is a mistake of the first order of magnitude. Rather than lose their original righteousness, Adam and Eve like all babies who recapitulate their experience simply lost their innocence. The idea that they ‘fell’ and brought a curse on all creation represents a thorough misunderstanding of the evidence that Scripture provides. As the apostle indicates, sin is not the only fly in creation’s ointment. Our problems in this world stem primarily from the nature of creation which being visible is not only temporary (2 Cor. 4:18) but also corruptible and futile by divine design (Rom. 8:20, cf. 1 Cor. 15:17-19). (4* On this see e.g. my Manufactured Or Not So.) While the new birth and bodily transformation are meant to be our means of escape (5* See further my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities, Escape.), they fail because we succumb to sin and need to be rescued. God by his grace in Christ effects our deliverance (Isa. 45:22-25; Rom. 14:11; Phil. 2:9-11).

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See further my

The Journey of Jesus

The Ascent of Man

Perfection

Man’s Fourfold State

The Human Path to Perfection

Salvation

Topsy-Turvy Theology

The Corruptibility Of Creation

Creation Corruptible By Nature

Did God Make a Covenant with Creation? , etc.

Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained

(I have maintained for many a long year that the ‘Christianity’ propounded by the churches is seriously distorted. The ecclesiastical view is the product of dogma arrived at principally by the questionable fifth century vagaries and fanciful ruminations of Augustine of Hippo, his contemporaries and successors. Strictly speaking, Christianity is a new covenant phenomenon but its roots are firmly embedded in the OT. Thus, to avoid the charge of Marcionism, it is necessary to begin at the beginning with the book of Genesis in order to discover what true Christianity is.)


Creation

The unexplained invisible God is the Creator of the visible material creation (Gen. 1:1; Heb. 11:3,6; Rev. 4:11, cf. Rom. 1:20).

He created the earth to be inhabited (Gen. 1; Ps. 115:16; Is. 42:5; 45:12,18).

Mankind (epitomised by Adam the individual) was formed by God, who is universal Father (Eph. 3:14f.), in the depths of (mother) earth as seed (Gen. 2:7, cf. 2:19; 3:19; Job 10:8-11; Ps. 139:15). (1* Adam was a type (Rom. 5:14) of the second Adam, Jesus, who was also created as seed and like David (Ps. 139:13) gestated in his mother’s womb (Luke 1:31,35).)

On the assumption of recapitulation it is obviously as seed that Adam is first placed (or sown) in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race, to be conceived, to gestate and develop with a view to tilling or cultivating it (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:8,15; Ps. 104:14).

Eve was created out of Adam (cf. Heb. 7:10) as Adam himself had been created out of the earth (Gen. 2:21-23, cf. 1 Tim. 2:13a; 1 Cor. 11:8,11f.).


Procreation / Conception

Once the creation of seed-bearing plants (Gen. 1:11f., cf. Jer. 2:21; Ps. 80:8; Mark 4:26-29) and living creatures (Gen. 1:20-25) including mankind (Gen. 1:28) has been achieved, under the providence of God procreation takes over (Gen. 5:1-4; Luke 3:38, cf. Isa. 45:9f.). As the image of his Creator Adam fertilizes (inseminates) Eve who is his glory (1 Cor. 11:7, cf. Ezek. 24:16,25) as the earth was the glory of God (Rom. 1:20; Rev. 4:11, cf. Dt. 11:11f.). Thus Eve, whose womb symbolizes the Garden of Eden (cf. Job 3; Jer. 20:14-18), typifies (mother) earth and, as the earth in microcosm, becomes the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). (We are not told why a woman’s hair, which emphasises gender distinction, is her glory, 1 Cor. 11:15, but if women typify the earth this natural covering perhaps implies her fruitfulness or fertility, cf. Dt. 7:13; 28:4,11; 30:9, etc.). (2* As God rejoices over the land and its people (Isa. 62:4, cf. Dt 11:11f.), so a young man rejoices over his bride (Is. (62:5).)

Adam and Eve clearly mature (evolve) to physical adulthood but since initially like babies and animals they know neither the commandment nor good and evil (Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22), they are like the rest of the animal creation lacking conscious intelligence.

Like babies both Adam and Eve gradually attain to knowledge and understanding. Again like babies the first word they understand is the word ‘no’ (Gen. 2:16f., cf. Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4; Heb. 5:12-14).


Birth

Once they come to know the commandment Eve, deceived by the devil and unable to resist the temptations of the flesh (Gen. 3:1-6), breaks it (1 Tim. 2:14) with Adam’s connivance. As a consequence they are separated from the tree of life (Gen. 3:24, cf. Isa. 59:2) and cast out of the Garden (Gen. 3:23, cf. Isa. 59:2; Job 3; 5:7; 7:1; 14:1; Eccl. 2:23; Jer. 2:21; 5:25; Jer. 20:14-18). In other words, they are ‘born’ and cursed like the Israelites after escaping from Egypt and receiving the ten commandments (Isa. 48:8).


Infancy

Once outside the Garden, they find themselves confronted by a hostile, intractable and naturally corruptible world (Gen. 3:15-19) over which they are meant to exercise dominion or rule (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:5,15; 3:23). As both the infants of the race and sinners to boot they are completely incompetent to achieve this. So unsurprisingly, the untilled ground is cursed. (3* Modern babies of course gain knowledge much earlier than their original parents did. Since they have mature working parents to care for them, they do not experience the ‘cosmic’ curse that afflicted Adam’s immediate descendants.) In fact it is to all intents and purposes like an uninhabited or deserted land a desolation (cf. e.g. Lev. 26:27-39; 2 Chron. 30:7; Isa. 6:11; 24 passim) resembling the field or vineyard (cf. Isa. 5:1-7) of the sluggard in Proverbs 24:30-34, at best only suitable for animals (cf. e.g. Ex. 23:29; Isa. 7:23-25; 27:10; 32:13f.).

Given the gradual transition of man from (animal) flesh to spirit (cf. Isa. 31:3; 1 Cor. 15:46), it is less than surprising that the earth is given over to violence (Gen. 6:5,11f.). And since the creation including man lacks any guarantee, it is cursed and unproductive. In this situation man and indeed all flesh is inevitably slated for cataclysmic destruction, that is, by flood (Gen. 6:7,13,17; 7:4). However, in his mercy and with his plan of salvation in mind God establishes a covenant with Noah who is significantly obedient (Gen. 6:22; 7:5, etc.). This covenant which counteracts general curse (cf. Jer. 31:35-37; 33:25f.) is to endure to the end of the earth (Gen. 6:18-22; 8:20-9-17; Isa. 54:9f., cf. Luke 17:26-30) like the law (Mt. 5:18). (4* According to the author of Hebrews Abel and Enoch as adults are justified by faith and therefore saved even before the covenant is made. The covenant guarantees the perpetuation of all animal life and hence the earth only until the plan of salvation is accomplished (cf. Job 12:10; Jer. 31:35-37 and 33:17-26). Once the harvest of the earth is reaped and garnered, the visible physical creation, having served its purpose, is obliterated (Heb. 1:10-12; 12:27; 2 Pet. 3:5-12, cf. Mt. 13; Rev. 7:2f.))


Childhood

The mere fact that God makes an ‘agreement’ with Noah instead of unilaterally imposing a mere commandment on him as he did on ‘baby’ Adam at the beginning suggests that Noah has achieved greater mental development and is more mature than his antecedents. Weaned and cleansed of his infantile filth by the flood (1 Pet. 3:21), he can recognize a rainbow, the sign of the covenant, and respond positively to it (Gen. 9:14-17). This of course is beyond the capacity of the animals which are named by Adam (Gen. 2:19) even though they are also the covenant’s beneficiaries (cf. Ps. 104:14-27; Acts 14:17; 17:25-28, etc.). From this point on the human race spreads abroad and begins what we now know as civilisation even if it is still in the process of being won. It reminds us of the dispersal of disciples after the establishment of the Christian covenant in the NT (Acts 8:1) to begin the still continuing evangelisation of the world (cf. Mt. 28:18-20).

The call of Abraham, originally a resident of heathen Ur of the Chaldeans, and the solemn covenant promises made to him (Gen. 12,15,17) underline the fact that the scattering of mankind throughout the world will eventually lead to their ultimate blessing and ingathering in Christ (cf. Mt. 24:31; Rom. 15:8-12; Gal. 3).


Adolescence

But long before this could take place, a considerable period of education was necessary. (5* John Stott with rare insight sees the importance of this in his book Our Guilty Silence, cited in Authentic Christianity (p.334). By contrast Marcionism ignores this and leads almost inevitably to infant baptism.) Thus after 400 years of slavery in heathen Egypt, the immediate posterity of Abraham were eventually released from bondage, passed through the wilderness and received their national charter as a royal priesthood and a holy nation when Moses gave them the law (Ex. 19f.). Thus they walked tall as the servants of God (Lev. 25:42,55) in the Promised Land. Yet even as servants they were still under guardians or, as the KJV pointedly but somewhat inaccurately puts it, under a schoolmaster (Gal. 3:24f.). Again, it is significant that the individual male, though circumcised on the eighth day, did not become a Son of the Commandment till his bar mitzvah at about the age of thirteen when he took personal responsibility for keeping the law. However, as inveterate sinners the Israelites were constantly under the domination of their enemies (cf. e.g. Judges). Indeed, at one stage they were even sent into Assyrian and Babylonian exile and deprived of the land, the birthright they cherished and regarded as God’s permanent gift (cf. Ps. 137, etc.). Happily, in accordance with God’s promise to Jeremiah, after 70 years they returned home from Babylon (2 Chr. 36:22f.; Ezra 1:1-3, etc.). Yet even there they continued to suffer (cf. Ezra 9:9; Neh. 9:36).

It was during the dispensation of the law that God supplemented the Abrahamic covenant promises with those made to David as 2 Samuel 7 and Psalm 89 plainly indicate. It was from this time on in particular that the Messianic hope took shape and fortified God’s people through exile and general distress (cf. 2 K. 13:23; 2 Chr. 21:7). Furthermore, confirming hints made by Moses (e.g. Dt. 29:4; 30:6) the prophets Jeremiah (31:31-34) and Ezekiel (11:19; 36:26f.) promised a new covenant which would eventually supersede the law which had brought them into bondage. (6* Paul sketches the maturation or perfection of the individual from birth through slavery, servanthood to eventual freedom and sonship in Christ in Galatians 4:1-7. This clearly corresponds with, even recapitulates the experience of the race.)

Adulthood / Maturity

Since no one in the elect nation in general proved capable of keeping the law (Eccl. 7:20, etc.) which was the essential precondition of eternal life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17), the new covenant failed to materialize and the voice of prophecy fell silent for many a long year. However, in the end, John the Baptist arrived on the scene heralding the coming of the Messiah.


Atonement

In the event the Messiah was somewhat different from the one who had been expected. Though certainly a son of David, instead of proving a mighty warrior capable of driving the Romans out of the Promised Land (cf. John 6:15; 18:36), his main concern as the Son of God was to deal with sin which was universal (cf. John 18:37). So after personally keeping the law flawlessly himself (Mt. 3:17; John 8:46; 1 Pet. 2:22) and thereby meeting the precondition of the naturally necessary (John 3:3-7) new birth (Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17), he was baptised and empowered by the Holy Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17). (7* It is vitally important to recognize that both new birth from above and bodily transformation are natural necessities and not the consequence of sin. See my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities.) Sealed in this way (John 3:34; 6:27), he went about preaching, healing and doing good (Acts 10:38). Finally, in order to cleanse the sins of his people he laid down his life in sacrificial atonement. In this way he achieved the perfection to which he was called (Mt. 5:48; John 19:30; Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28) and qualified as man’s representative and perfected image of God to sit at his Father’s right hand (Heb. 1:3, etc.).


Ascension / Transformation / Glorification

Of course, after death, since he had not sinned himself (Acts 2:23f.), he rose again and resumed his life in the flesh as he had promised (John 10:17f.; Luke 24:39). However, since flesh and blood by nature cannot enter the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50), this necessarily led to his eventual ascension, transformation and glorification. In this way he blazed a trail into heaven (Heb. 2:10; 6:19f.; 10:19f.; 12:2) for all, both the living and the dead (1 Cor. 15:51-55; Heb. 9:15; 1 John 2:2), who had put their trust in him.


Jesus Saviour / Priest / Lord

Thus it is that Jesus became the one and only necessary Saviour of mankind (Acts 4:12). For it is in heaven that he remains man, permanently the image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3) and firstborn of all creation. It is as Lord (the OT word for God) and our heavenly high priest that he ever lives to intercede for us (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:24f.).


Perfection

The plain fact is that Jesus attained to the perfection of God (Mt. 5:48; 19:21, etc.) in the flesh (Rom 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.) and in so doing first recapitulated then pioneered the covenantal and experiential history of the race which Paul pointedly refers to as one man (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:15; 4:13) or the bride of Christ (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27, cf. Rev. 21:9; Mt. 22:1-14). Needless to say, it is to his image of man perfected in the image of God that we ourselves are called to be conformed (Rom. 8:29) and by recapitulation to be perfected in our turn (Heb. 10:14; 11:39f.; Rev. 3:21). Like him we all begin at the beginning by being born of woman who typified the earth and like him attain to a perfected end (Heb. 11:39f.). Thus we are prepared, even qualified, to enter the kingdom of God, the culmination of the plan formed before the creation of the earth (Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2). In other words, this was our goal when we were created (Gen. 2:16f.; Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17; John 3:3,5; 1 Cor. 15:50).


Conclusion

It is vital to our understanding that the (believing, Heb. 11:39f.) race is seen as one man or the bride of Christ and that individuals are members of the one body, family or branches of the same tree. Otherwise expressed, the individual and the race correspond. (8* If this is so, the traditional Augustinian worldview which assumes original perfection and is followed by original sin, fall, curse and the eventual restoration of the physical universe, etc., is false.)

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Additional Notes

(1) In First Peter we are, first, like Adam perishable seed (1:23); second, new-born infants (2:2); third, weaned on milk (2:2); fourth, grown up (2:2); fifth, saved if committed to the Lord (2:2f.). (Cf. 1 John 3:9 where, as born again, we are God’s seed who obviously grow up, cf. 2 Pet. 1:5-11; 3:18, etc.)

(2) Whereas the churches following Augustine teach DESCENT from Adam’s original righteousness and perfection (cf. Milton’s “high estate”), the Bible teaches ASCENT from an initial low estate limited by sin. Only Jesus’ ascent from ground to glory was unsullied and uninterrupted (Eph. 4:9f.). He alone was fully perfected (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:26,28, etc.).

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See further, for example, my

Covenant Theology in Brief

Did God Make a Covenant with Creation

The Corruptibility Of Creation

Concerning Futility

Recapitulation in Outline

Epitome – Jesus The Epitome Of Recapitulation

Augustine: Asset or Liability?

Preunderstandings of the Millennium?

Perfection

The Human Path to Perfection

Man’s Fourfold State

More Meditation on Creation, Evolution and Recapitulatio

Worldview

Why Infant Baptism is Unchristian

The Theology Behind Baptism

Christianity – An Alternative Approach

If the Individual Recapitulates in Miniature the History of the Race …

If the Individual Recapitulates in Miniature the History of the Race …


Following Irenaeus, the father of theology, I have argued for many years that recapitulation is essential for understanding the Bible, man in particular. (1* See my I Believe in Recapitulation; Recapitulation in Outline) I contend that Jesus could not have served as our Saviour if he had not been a man himself. Otherwise expressed, the Word’s incarnation was a necessity if the teaching of Genesis 2:16f. was to be fulfilled. Having begun at the beginning in the dust, to gain eternal life man had to fulfil the law (Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17, etc.) and only Jesus, the man, succeeded in doing this in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). And he serves as our covenant representative (cf. 1 John 2:2).


If it is true that the individual recapitulates the experience of the human race in miniature or, expressed alternatively, if the mature or perfected individual is the race in microcosm, the race must appear as follows:


Creation/Procreation

Since we begin in the loins of our father (Heb. 7:10) who is the image of God (1 Cor. 11:7, cf. Eccl. 11:5) Adam must have been created by his Father God (Luke 3:38) in (mother) earth as seed (Gen. 2:7; Job 10:8f.; Ps. 139:15; Gen. 1:28, cf. 9:1,7; Jer. 2:21). Correspondingly, Jesus as the second Adam and God incarnate was sown by God his Father in the Virgin Mary’s womb which typified the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:20 and note also Gen. 1:2 and Luke 1:35; Mt. 1:18,20).


Conception

If the individual is transferred as seed to his/her mother’s womb to gestate (Ps. 139:13-16, cf. Luke 1:31), the same must be true of Adam who was transferred by God to be conceived in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race (Gen. 2:8,15).


Gestation

After conception, Adam (mankind) gestated unconsciously for an unknown length of time in the Garden of Eden, indeed until he was physically mature in contrast to the foetus of the modern individual which gestates microcosmically, so to speak, in its mother’s womb for a mere nine months. On the other hand, in his animal state Adam remained mentally undeveloped until eventually like a baby he learnt only one commandment (Gen. 2:16f.) which he broke and became a sinner (Eccl. 7:29; Ezek. 28:13-15; Rom. 7:9). In other words, mutatis mutandis the experience of the individual mirrors the history of the development of the race. In light of this it can be said that Jesus who did not sin but epitomized the race was eventually qualified to atone for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2, cf. John 3:16; Heb. 11).


Birth

While a modern baby is born both physically and mentally undeveloped (cf. Rom. 9:11), Adam was ‘born’, that is, ejected from the Garden of Eden, physically fully mature but a sinner like the Jewish nation at a later stage of its development or evolution before it was separated from the rest of the nations under the law of Moses (Isa. 48:8).


Infancy

Infants such as we were enter this world ignorant of law (Rom. 4:15, etc.) and therefore innocent (Dt. 1:39, cf. 1 K. 3:7,9; Heb. 5:13, cf. Rom. 9:11, etc.) and completely dependent on our human parents, but Adam being first had none. This can only mean that he failed to exercise the dominion over the earth which was basic to his calling (Gen. 1:26-28). As a consequence of this the land was unproductive (Gen. 3:17-19, cf. 2:5; 4:12; 5:29) or cursed like that of the sluggard in Proverbs (24:30-34, cf. 6:9-11;10:4;19:15; 20:4,13; 23:21; Is. 1:19). From this we are forced to infer that the immediate posterity of Adam, the antediluvians, though physically mature were like all infants ruled by the flesh (cf. Gen. 6:12,17). Unsurprisingly, so long as man remained in a state of transition from animal to human, the earth was filled with animal-like violence (Gen. 4:8; 6:5-7,11-13) which concluded with the curse of the flood.


Covenant Child

The prospect of the flood indicated that all that breathed would be destroyed (Gen. 6:7). If this had occurred, the plan of salvation would have been aborted. But, intent on fulfilling his purpose of grace to man, God showed favour to Noah and undertook his preservation and that of his family. Thus whereas no covenant was made with Adam and his descendants in their infant immaturity (Gen. 1:28-31), God made one with Noah (Gen. 6:18; 8:20-9:1-17) who, since he was able to recognize and appreciate the significance of rainbows and name the animals (Gen. 2:19), was clearly the first racial child. This guaranteed the fruitful future of the world to its end (Gen. 8:22; Dt. 11:21; Luke 17:26f.). Needless to say, we are all its beneficiaries in the twenty-first century. Even unbelievers reap its benefits (cf. Dt. 4:19; Acts 14:17; 17:25) and the sun shines and the rain falls on good and evil alike (Mt. 5:45, cf. Dt. 4:19).


Promises

It is not surprising that we individuals are as children the recipients of our fathers’ promises which take on various guises not least in education (see next paragraph). When God made promises to his child Abraham who as heathen noticeably served false gods in Ur (Josh. 24:2), he was obviously treating him as the future father of many nations to whom he was to be a blessing (Gen. 12:1-3,7). Later on of course the promises made to David undergird the Messianic hope that is finally fulfilled in Jesus himself who was the son of both Abraham and David (Mt. 1:1; Luke 1:32, etc.).


The Law

Just as a modern father is concerned about the education of his child, so it was with the human race God brought into being. First, Abraham’s kindergarten experience eventually led to his own children’s spending long years in heathen, specifically Egyptian, slavery. (2* The later exile was of course punishment, Hos. 8:13; 9:3; 11:5, though even it was not without its educational benefits.) This in effect served as a primary school not only for Moses (Acts 7:22) but even for Jesus himself who as a child followed in his ancestors’ footsteps (Mt. 2:15). Once this primary education was completed, the next step was the instruction of boys at age 13 under the law of Moses. Again it should be noted that Jesus in his turn recapitulated his ancestors’ experience (cf. Ex. 13:8; Luke 2:39f.,52). Thus he was prepared under the law for laying the foundation of the kingdom of God and the new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).


Regeneration

As we have already noted above, Scripture tells us that the precondition of eternal life (regeneration) which is the goal of man is keeping the law (Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17, etc.), and since the aim of the race and individual alike is perfection (Lev. 19:2; Mt. 5:48; 19: 21; Heb. 6:1; James 1:2-4, etc.), that precondition had to be met by man. However, the OT makes it clear beyond dispute that no one from the time of Adam himself had succeeded in meeting it (1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20, cf. Rom. 3:9-18, etc.). Just as all sinned, so all died (Rom. 5:12, cf. 3:23). As a consequence new birth remained an unfulfilled promise throughout old covenant times (Dt. 30:6; Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 11:19; 36:26f.). Jesus, however, kept the law thereby earning the approbation of his Father and his permanent gift of the Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17; John 1:32f.; 3:34; 6:27). In other words, having completed his stint under the law at his baptism, he now proceeded to forge the regenerate life under the leading of the Spirit before inaugurating a new covenant by his death (Heb. 9:15; 13:20, etc.). Now if this was true of Jesus, the individual, it is also intended to be true of us, his disciples, who constitute the race, for we follow in his footsteps or recapitulate his experience (cf. Rom. 6:3-11). As Paul implies in Galatians 4:1-7, we are born of woman, nurtured under the covenant with Noah, educated according to law, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb and regenerated by the Spirit. Thus we are first (human) animals, slaves as children under Noah, (if we are Jews) servants under the law and finally sons of God who have the Spirit (cf. Rom. 8:9).

At this point, however, the reader may well have recognized a significant difference, for whereas earlier I have suggested that the individual descendant of Adam recapitulated the experience not only of Adam himself but of his descendants, modern Christians as a third race (cf. 1 Cor. 10:32; Gal. 3:28) recapitulate the career of the individual, that is, Jesus himself, our pioneer (Heb. 2:10; 12:2 NRSV). This is true not only morally (1 Cor. 11:1, etc.) but also generically (1 Cor. 15:45-49; 2 Cor. 3:18), for we are gradually conformed to his complete image (Rom. 8:29f.). Thus we finally reign with Christ, who is our brother (Heb. 2:11-13), in eternity (2 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 3:21).
So, like the incarnate Jesus himself we are successively (animal) flesh (note Jesus was born in a stable), heathen slaves as children (Mt. 2:15), servants (adolescents under law, cf. Luke 2:40-52) and finally sons as we are led by the Spirit (Mt. 3:17; Rom. 8:9-17).

Conclusion

If what has been sketched above is true, man the mature individual epitomizes the race in its eventual maturity (cf. Eph. 4:13-16; Col. 2:19). Jesus himself is of course the supreme example. The experience of both is covenantal, for all who reach maturity pass through slavery, servanthood and sonship before attaining to perfection and receiving the inheritance (cf. Gal. 4:1-7) or reward (Heb. 11:26) along with Christ himself (Rom. 8:14-17). In view of this we should be less than surprised that Scripture sees the race as constituting one man (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:15; 4:13) or alternatively as the bride of Christ (Rev. 21:2,9, cf. Eph. 5:22-33). Of course, as Hebrews 11 in particular implies, diminished responsibility is part of the essence of the church, for it is made up of ‘saints’ gathered from all history (cf. Heb. 11:39f.) and from the four corners of the earth (Mt. 24:31; Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 7:9). The fact is that though the vine was originally planted as pure seed (Jer. 2:21, cf. Ps. 80:8) but went wild, it will nonetheless in essence be saved though many branches may be pruned and cast into the fire (John 15:1-6).

________________________________________________


See further my

Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny

Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?

Christianity Simply and Briefly Explained

Epitome – Jesus The Epitome Of Recapitulation

Notes on the Eternal Son

 

1. Both John (1:1) and Paul (Phil. 2:6) clearly teach that before his incarnation Jesus was God. There is not the slightest suggestion that he was the eternal Son of God, a point that could easily have been made if it was true.

2. If Jesus was the Son in eternity, he must have derived from his Father and, as eternally generated, he was subordinate. Both John and Paul clearly deny this. On the assumption of his subordination, how can we infer that the Son was involved on an equal footing in the plan of salvation (covenant of redemption) formed before the foundation of the earth (Eph. 1:4)?

3. The mere fact that the triune God made fleshly man in his image with a view to its eventual unique fulfilment in the image of his Son (Rom. 8:29)  suggests that a change in nature was indispensable. Thus the Word in order to conquer as man in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.) changed his nature and changed it again when he was transformed at his ascension (cf. John 3:13; 13:3; 6:62; 1 Cor. 15:50; Eph. 4:9f.).

4. Theologians agree that the economic Trinity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not taught in the OT. It was Jesus who as the incarnate Son taught his disciples to call God Father on the basis of his own incarnate sonship by which he became their elder brother (Heb. 2:10-13, cf. Rom. 8:29).

5. If Jesus was the Son of the Father in eternity, who was his mother? Since Melchizedek who was Jesus’ type is presented to us as lacking both father and mother (Heb. 7:3), we are compelled to draw the conclusion that when the Son of God is referred to, projectionist language* is being used as it is elsewhere (e.g. John 3:16f.; Gal. 4:4; Heb. 1:2; 1 John 4:9f.).

6. All the evidence suggests that the Word who was God humbled himself and became a real man of flesh and blood (Phil. 2:7; Heb. 2:14) and as such was created in the image of God like the rest of us (Gen. 1:26f., cf. Heb. 2:17).** Denial of this constitutes heresy (1 John 4:3; 2 John 7). But the NT stresses the fact that now in heaven, he is no longer incarnate (1 Cor. 15:50 Heb. 2:7,9; 5:7), for it is impossible for a ‘hand-made’ body of flesh any more than a temple (cf. Mark 14:58; 2 Cor. 5:1) to contain the nature of the omnipotent, omnipresent Creator God (1 K. 8:27; Isa. 66:1f.; Acts 7:49). Following his ascension, transformation, glorification and heavenly session, however, Jesus, who was and ever remains God in person, is still man the second Adam and the image of God in nature (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3 and note 1 Cor. 15:24-28), and it is to his image that we human beings are conformed (Rom. 8:29, cf. 1 Cor. 15:49; 2 Cor. 3:18). It is as such that he is accorded the attributes and generic nature of God (Mt. 28:18; Eph. 1:10,20-22; Col. 1:15-20; 2:10) and pronounced Lord (Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:9-11).

7.  Again we see that change is inherent in the situation. This is further supported by the recognition that when the Word laid aside his glory in order to become incarnate (cf. John 17:5,24), he thereby divested himself of his divine nature (kenosis, Phil. 2:7). So while forever  God in person, ontology and identity, Jesus  as man made in the image of God recovered his former glory and received by delegation (Acts 2:36; Rom. 1:4) rule and authority over all things  (Mt. 11: 27;  28:18) as was implicitly promised to Adam on condition of obedience (Ps. 8:4-8, cf. Ps. 21:5; Rom. 2:7,10; Heb. 2:5-9). In other words, what he relinquished at his incarnation, he recovered as man when, having overcome the world notably in the flesh (John 16:33; Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.), he was transformed and sat down at his Father’s right hand.

8. If this is true, Chalcedon’s two-nature or hypostatic union theory (dyophysitism) is fallacious, for how could he who was the divine agent of creation inherit what he already owned  (Dt. 10:14; 2 K. 19:15; Ps. 24:1; 50:10f., Col. 1:16, etc.) unless he was first impoverished (2 Cor. 8:9) and emptied of his divine nature (Phil. 2:7)? John also implies this when, having told us in 1:4 that in him was life, he informs us in 5:26 that God has granted the Son also to have life in himself. The truth is that the widely asserted notion that God the Word could not change his nature without ceasing to be God in person, a notion that is not taught in Scripture but apparently inferred from Greek philosophy, is as mistaken as the idea that man cannot shed his flesh and blood and remain man (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50). Paul especially maintains that he could and did and this to the praise and glory of God (Phil. 2:5-11). In brief, our Saviour is both God in person and man in nature and as such he rules the universe.

9. But there is more to say. If the Word laid aside his divine glory to become flesh, he ipso facto laid aside his divine nature. If he did not, then he must have had two natures at one and the same time in which case he was not human but clearly different from all his brothers (cf. Heb. 2:10-13). This is explicitly denied by the author of Hebrews (2:17). But if we say that he retained his divine nature, then his divine nature was crucified along with his human nature of flesh which is absurd. But to say this is also to imply that his divine nature died which is impossible since God who has neither beginning nor end is both immortal and imperishable.

10.  According to Jesus and Paul there are two natural necessities for man: spiritual rebirth (John 3:1-8) and bodily transformation (1 Cor. 15:50). The incarnate Jesus achieved both as his baptism (Mt. 3:13-17) and his ascension (Eph. 1:21f.; 4:9f.; Phil. 3:21) show. Thus not without reason did Paul insist that it was Jesus the man who brought to light both life and ‘incorruption’ (Gk.  2 Tim. 1:10, cf. 1 Cor. 15:53) and now serves as our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5).

11. If Jesus was genuinely human and had only one nature as such, how do we know that he retained his own identity as the Word of God? There are at least five basic answers to this. First, he was virgin-born; second, his Father owned him as his Son especially at his baptism and transfiguration; third, he enabled him to perform miracles or signs testifying to his identity (cf. John 3:2,21, etc.); fourth, he justified him by raising him from the dead because he was personally sinless (Acts 2:23f.), and only God by divine intention can be sinless (Rom. 3:19-26; 4:15f.; 11:32; Gal. 3:22; Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5), and, fifth, he transformed him at his ascension and enabled him to sit at his right hand.

12.  But there are two other important points to make: Isaiah 42:8 and 48:11 both inform us that God will by no means give his glory to another (cf. 1 Cor. 1:29; Eph. 2:9). Thus, while the Word became flesh for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9), he was transformed at his ascension (cf. John 20:17) and regained his former glory (John 17:5,24, cf. Mt. 28:18). This was notably to the glory of God (Phil. 2:11, cf. Rom. 14:9) not to fleshly man. We are also told that there is one God and one mediator between God and man the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5) implying that Jesus was both God and man. Only he as such could bridge the gap between the two.

 

* An excellent example of projectionist language is provided by Wayne Grudem in his commentary on 1 Peter, p.159 (Leicester, 1988). He points out that we refer quite naturally to the birth of the Queen in 1926. The truth is, however, that at that time she was not the Queen and could not reasonably have expected to become so. The picture changed, however, when King Edward V111 abdicated. On the assumption that he works all things according to the counsel of his will (Eph. 1:11), God ordained that she should become Queen in 1953.

** Donald Guthrie rightly says in his New Testament Theology, p.404 (Leicester, 1981) that the NT carefully safeguards both the real pre-existence and the real human nature of Jesus Regrettably, presumably on the hypothesis that Jesus retained his divine nature when he became flesh and took on human nature as well (Heb. 2:14,17), he asserts on page 406 that the NT theologian has no alternative but to state the dual nature and leave it there. If this is so, these statements are clearly contradictory. The plain fact is that if Jesus was truly human, his divine nature which was eternal and ‘not made by hand’ (acheiropoietos) and human nature which was temporary (Heb. 2:7,9) and ‘made by hand’ (cheiropoietos) could not possibly co-exist in his ‘hand-made’ physical body at one and the same time. Replacement is central to the issue (1 Cor. 15:53f., cf. Mark 14:58; 2 Cor. 5:1; Heb. 9:11,24; 10:9, etc.). If it is maintained that they could, Docetism with which the church has been plagued for centuries is the inevitable outcome. In order to ‘house’ the generic nature of God, Jesus, the man of flesh and blood, had to be transformed (1 Cor. 15:50) to take on the fullness of the divine image (Col. 1:15, etc.) in accordance with his Father’s intention at his ascension (Mt. 28:18; Col. 1:19; 2:9, cf. 1 K. 8:27; Acts 7:49f.).  Not for nothing does Paul say that Jesus brought to light both life and ‘incorruption’ (Gk 2 Tim. 1:10, cf. 1 Cor. 1:53). It should be noted that in the book of Revelation both God (Rev. 4:10) and the Lamb (Rev. 5:13) live forever and ever. 

See further my:

Eternal Son?

Still Docetic

More on Docetism

The Ecclesiastical Christ,

Baillie and Packer on Kenosis

Two ‘Natural’ Necessities

,Manufactured Or Not So

and other articles listed on the home page

On Seeing, Hearing And Touching

 

Our five senses are vital to us for living in this created world. Arguably they are not equally important, but tasting and smelling play an important role in enhancing and adding variety to life. The sense of smell of course is absolutely fundamental to the animal world and without it many animals couldn’t function. Not only would wolves and the like be seriously incapacitated in hunting, they would not be able to reproduce (cf. Jer. 2:23f.).

The ability to see, hear and touch indicates that humans are physically alive. This is made apparent by what occurs at Sinai when the Israelites received the law of Moses. In pointing up the contrast between Mount Sinai, which symbolizes the old covenant, and Mount Zion, which symbolizes the new, with reference to the former the author of Hebrews highlights touching, seeing and hearing (12:18-21). From this we are meant to infer that the old covenant relates to this created material world in which we presently live and to the flesh or our unregenerate nature in particular. Of course, as is implied by the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem and the spirits of the righteous made perfect, heaven is differently constituted. It is a spiritual kingdom not a physical one. Elsewhere it is made evident that this city is physically invisible. Otherwise expressed, the true temple (Heb. 8:2) exists on the other side of the curtain of our flesh (Heb. 6:19f.; 10:19f.) in the heavenly places (Heb. 9:11f.,24). Indeed, from 11:3 we draw the conclusion that the real, heavenly or eternal world is spiritual, the throne (Mt. 5:34) or house of God (John 14:2) who himself is spirit (John 4:24).

It is worth adding at this point that the law that was inscribed on stone as opposed to the heart, and its sign, fleshly circumcision, were noteworthy for their visibility and inherent transience (Heb. 8:13; 2 Cor. 3:11f.) in a fading world which was slowly but surely giving way to an invisible and imperishable one (1 Pet. 1:3f., cf. Rom. 8:24f.). Indeed, Scripture underlines the fact that the law ceases to operate at death for both the race (Mt. 5:18) and the individual (cf. Rom. 4:15; 7:2,8). Paul differentiates strongly between the two covenants in 2 Corinthians 3 and the author of Hebrews in chapter 8. While the old covenant operated in this present world with particular reference to the flesh, the new or eternal covenant relates to the world to come, to heaven itself and the spiritual or glorified body that will become ours when we are finally and fully conformed to the image of Christ morally, corporeally and generically (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21). The new covenant involves an invisible hope, eternal life and the presence of God (cf. Rom. 8:24f.; Heb. 7:19).

 

1 John 1:1-3

Elsewhere, seeing, hearing and touching are delineated explicitly as a group most obviously in 1 John 1:1-3. The implication of this is that as John Stott indicates in his commentary that it is the risen Lord who reveals himself to his disciples. His fleshly body is real, that is, physical (cf. Luke 24:39) precisely because he was heard, seen and touched (p.69). Stott adds appropriately that this historical Jesus is the same person as the eternal Word. In light of this it is to be regretted that elsewhere Stott arrives at the strange conclusion that Jesus was transformed at his resurrection (see especially his The Contemporary Christian, ch. 4). Just how Jesus could be at once real flesh and blood, visible, audible and tangible and at the same time transformed, that is, corporeally fitted for heaven with a spiritual body (1 Cor. 15:44), is more than a little difficult to understand. (1* If as according to the Chalcedonian Creed Jesus had two natures at one and the same time, apart from the fact that he was never truly incarnate his transformation would appear to be superfluous. Or at least his human nature was apparently swallowed up, absorbed by or merged into his divine nature. Shades of Nirvana! By contrast, what Scripture surely teaches is that as the eternal Word he became man, John 1:14. As such he met the condition of life, which was righteousness obtained by keeping the law, and was perfected in the image of God, Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3. So it is as the Lamb that he sits at the right hand of God, Rev. 22:1, etc.)

Paul makes the situation crystal clear when he says that flesh and blood cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. He goes further and asserts that the inherently perishable cannot inherit the imperishable and that transformation is a necessity of nature or, otherwise expressed, divinely ordained (1 Cor. 15:50-53), an integral part of God’s plan of salvation.

That this is so Paul makes inescapably apparent when he avers that even those at the end of history who do not die  and undergo resurrection in the same manner as Jesus nonetheless have to be changed (1 Cor. 15:51-53). Even for them as for Jesus a body of glory or what Paul calls a spiritual body is a necessity as well as a blessing. The argument that Jesus was glorified in the flesh is plainly denied by Scripture. (2* The nearest to this was surely his transfiguration when his Father bore testimony to him, 2 Pet. 1:17.) Why then is it held so tenaciously by many Christians? The answer lies in the clearly false idea inherited from Augustine of Hippo that sin is the problem. Even in the 21st century evangelical Christians who purportedly believe in the authority of Scripture are still touting the notions of original sin, fall, cosmic curse, redemption and restoration. The evidence for these is hard to find for God of set purpose subjected the material creation to futility from the start as Genesis 1:1 implies. If the visible creation had a beginning, it will surely have an end (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 12:27). And we who are physically creation in miniature are subject by nature quite apart from sin to corruption (Rom. 8:20; Heb. 1:11). Jesus’ own subjection to the aging process puts this beyond doubt.

So what does the NT teach? Like the OT before it, it insists that creation which has a beginning (Gen. 1:1) and therefore an end (Gen. 8:22) is naturally corruptible and subject to an inexorable aging process (Ps. 102:25-27). Of course, Romans 8:18-25 like Hebrews 1:10-12 teaches this, but traditional dogma as opposed to biblical doctrine disallows it. The fact is that sin is neither referred to nor implied here and Paul clearly assumes that he himself is going to heaven when he dies (2 Tim. 4:18), not to a renewed material creation which tradition tells us has been ruined by sin. (3* On this see e.g. my A Brief Review of ‘The Mission of God’ by C.J.H.Wright.)

It may be claimed at this point that Isaiah in particular saw things differently and anticipated either a transformed creation or a totally new one (Isa. 65:17ff.; 66:22f.). In reply to this it is necessary to point out that Isaiah was an OT prophet and was not a recipient of the revelation that Jesus brought. In other words, while he understood earthly things he had little understanding of heavenly things (John 3:31; 8:23). When Jesus came, he re-interpreted or clarified what the prophets had tried so hard to appreciate (1 Pet. 1:10-12). Certainly it is true that 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1 refer to the new heavens and new earth, but again careful scrutiny makes it clear that they are not referring to a renewal of the present creation as many assume. After all, righteousness dwells in heaven which is the throne of God (2 Pet. 3:13, cf. Mt. 6:10,33). In any case even the OT entertained the idea of two ages in that it anticipated the coming of God or the eternal Messiah. The NT is more explicit as Matthew 12:32; Luke 20:34-36, Ephesians 1:21 and various other references make clear. Thus we have the present age and the one to come (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17, etc.). The difference is that between the eternal heaven and the temporal earth.

What is clear from all this is that seeing, hearing and touching all relate to this present material world. A visible, audible and tangible incarnate Jesus belonged very much to this world. In a word, he was still flesh as he himself explicitly stated (Luke 24:39). But at his ascension he was changed in order to inherit the eternal blessings of David and to sit at God’s right hand (1 Cor. 15:50-53). No longer was he as man a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7,9) but as the first-born they now worshipped him as Lord (Heb. 1:6).

Elsewhere Paul emphasizes the difference between the visible physical and the invisible spiritual by pointing up the character of the law and circumcision. In Romans 2:29f. he differentiates between the outward and inward (cf. 2 Cor. 4:16), in 2 Corinthians 3:6 between the letter and the spirit (cf. 2 Cor. 3:6), in Ephesians 2:11 and Colossians 2:11 between the physical (what is made by hand) and the spiritual (what is not made by hand) and in Philippians between the  physical (flesh) and the real (spiritual).

 

John 20:26-29

Seeing, hearing and touching Jesus constitutes the essence of Doubting Thomas’ meticulous examination of Jesus after his resurrection from the dead. Doubter though he was, Thomas was nonetheless convinced by the undeniable evidence that his own careful scrutiny elicited. His conclusion that Jesus had indeed risen from the dead and that he was God though still in the flesh was the positive reaction that Jesus clearly approved of and intended. As a consequence, while Jesus underlined the importance of Thomas’ conclusion that he was God in person despite his obvious human nature (flesh and blood) by asserting that those who believed on the basis of Thomas’ own testimony, that is, without seeing for themselves were blessed. This of course highlights the basis of our faith which along with the word itself (Rom. 10:17) is built on credible eyewitness testimony (cf. 2 Cor. 5:7). We are justified by faith, not by the works of the visible law.

 

Luke 24:39

There is more to be said, however. Again in Luke 24 Jesus himself takes the initiative when he appears to a group of his disciples along with the eleven. Here he is at pains to dispel any idea that he is a mere spirit by inviting them to see, touch and obviously to hear. He draws their attention to his visible flesh and bones, shows them his hands and feet (presumably with their scars) and then significantly, as if to add confirming proof, he asks them for something to eat (cf. Acts 10:41). When he raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead, he himself had verified the fact that she was physically alive by telling her parents to feed her (Luke 8:55).

It is unfortunate to say the least that the plain teaching of Luke 24:39 does not always serve its intended purpose of providing convincing proof of the physical resurrection of Jesus (cf. Acts 1:3). Why? Because under the influence of false presuppositions, it is inadequately interpreted, virtually denied. Even so able a scholar as Marshall is guilty of making some strangely convoluted comments at this point.  For example, on the basis of inadequate evidence he says (pp.898f.) that it is as a supernatural visitor that the risen Jesus is portrayed. If this is the case, then Jesus has not been physically raised but spiritually transformed. Yet while on the one hand Marshall can stress the physical reality of the risen Jesus (p.900), on the other he acknowledges that this leads to an apparent contradiction with Paul’s dictum that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). (4* Cf. e.g. Harris, p.392 who refers to those who think in terms of ‘glorified flesh’, p.393, a contradiction in terms if ever there was one, and opts for that view himself on page 415. Just as devotees of Chalcedon argue for a two-natured Jesus on earth, so they argue for a two-natured Jesus in heaven! If they are correct, then Jesus has both a body of dust and a spiritual body at one and the same time. Neither Jesus, John 3:6, nor Paul will tolerate such an idea. Paul indicates indisputably that the bodies are successive not contemporaneous, 1 Cor. 15:45-49. In Always Reforming Reymond uses the term ‘two-natured’ to refer to Christ, e.g. p.123. In discussion of the idea of Jesus having two minds one human and the other divine, he recognizes that it “comes perilously close to overturning the one person character of Jesus”, p.111. It is a pity that he does not see that Chalcedon as such does this when it posits two natures. See further my Still Docetic and The Ecclesiastical Christ.) Like so many others Marshall has imbibed the clearly erroneous view that Jesus was transformed when he rose from the dead. (5* On this, see my John Stott on the Putative Resurrection Transformation of Jesus and Did Jesus Rise Physically From The Grave?.)   The so-called evidence for this is most unconvincing and inevitably conflicts with what is taught elsewhere. One has only to compare Luke 24:39 with Matthew 14:26 when Jesus walked on the sea to realize that physical miracles fall well short of proving a change in Jesus’ human nature. After all, even Peter walked briefly on water and went through locked doors on occasion (Acts 5:19; 12:10). He was certainly not transformed. In fact, at a later date near his death he referred explicitly to the putting off of this earthly tent or body (2 Pet. 1:14).

The plain fact is that Jesus was not changed or transformed until his ascension. Paul makes the situation crystal clear, first, by stating that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of heaven and, secondly, that like the new birth (Gk dei, John 3:7), transformation is a natural necessity (Gk dei, 1 Cor. 15:53) for entry into the kingdom of God. Apart from it we would all inevitably grow older and eventually die (cf. Heb. 8:13). And if we have any doubts about Jesus, I would draw the reader’s attention to references such as Luke 2:42, 3:23 and John 8:57. In other words, transformation is a necessity of nature for all who are flesh, and the incarnate Jesus was no exception. If he was, he was docetic, that is, he only appeared to be a man. Marshall’s apparent contradiction disappears once the notion of our Lord’s resurrection transformation from the dead is denied. Paul and Luke are in harmony, not at loggerheads.

 

Mary Magdalene

This point is underscored by yet another apparent contradiction found by some writers in John 20. In contrast with his invitation to Doubting Thomas to touch him, Jesus seems to do the exact opposite when he encounters Mary Magdalene. He tells her firmly not to hang on to him which in itself implies his genuine physicality. The only reasonable inference from his reaction is that he was about to ascend and undergo transformation (John 20:17). In light of this we conclude that he is gently telling Mary that she cannot keep him physically with her. Having accomplished the work his Father gave him to do he has of necessity to complete his journey to heaven (John 8:14; 13:3; 16:28, cf. Luke 9:31,51). It may well be asked at this point why he has to ascend at all if he has already been glorified and proved capable of living supernaturally here on earth. Clearly the idea that he was glorified after his resurrection renders the ascension redundant, and reduces it to little more than drama (cf. Harris, G. to G. p.423). Like Geisler, I smell deception here. But more to the point it seems to eviscerate Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53 of its intended significance. Indeed, it suggests a docetic Jesus who unlike the rest of mankind is an exception to the universal rule of ascension transformation just as he was according to Augustinian orthodoxy to the new birth. No longer can Jesus serve as the paradigm of those who ascend to heaven without dying.

 

Glory

It is important to stress another matter. If Jesus was transformed when he appeared to his disciples, he was already glorified, invisible and in his eternal state which is ipso facto permanent (cf. 2 Cor. 4:18). The truth of this can easily be demonstrated.

First, Paul claimed to have seen Jesus (1 Cor. 9:1), that is on his way to Damascus when he received his heavenly vision (Acts 26:19). Whatever he means by this he does not mean that he had physically seen him in his fleshly state but as glorified. When Moses in the OT wished to see the glory of God he had to be put into the cleft of a rock and covered by the hand of God for protection (Ex. 33:17-23). Why? Because to see God was to invite inevitable death (cf. Gen. 16:13; 32:30) since God is a consuming fire (Dt. 9:24, cf. 1 Tim. 6:16; Heb. 12:29). In Paul’s case blindness intervened and presumably gave him the necessary temporary protection from the blinding light to which he was exposed. His blindness both physical and spiritual was not relieved until he was baptized by Ananias after which we know that he was very much alive.

Next, Jesus prayed that his disciples should see his glory, that is, his majesty and splendour in heaven not on earth (John 17:24, cf. Isa. 33:17; 66:18).

Apart from Paul’s vision, we must also take into account John’s vision in the book of Revelation where Jesus appears as a consuming fire in the generic image of God (Rev. 1:12-17; 2:18; 19:11-21). His very return to rescue his people (John 14:3; Heb. 9:28) will involve a fiery judgement on those who rejected him (2 Thes. 1:8; 2:8). The premillennialist idea that Jesus will return in the flesh to reign on the earth for a thousand years is so absurd as to be hardly worth refuting.

 

Conclusion

I conclude that factoring in the biblical teaching on visibility, audibility and tangibility puts permanent paid to the traditional idea that Jesus was glorified in the flesh and ascended to heaven in that state. It is based on a serious misunderstanding of the evidence and results in complete distortion of the nature of the material creation. For, if Jesus was indeed physically transformed and glorified at his resurrection from the dead, the argument propounded by writers such as Stott (ch. 4), Harris (pp.245-252) and Chris Wright that the obviously temporal physical universe can be likewise transformed would appear to hold. (6* See e.g. my The Transience of Creation, The Destruction of the Material Creation, etc.)  But Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 15:50-53, not to mention passages like Hebrews 12:27 and 2 Peter 3:7,10-12,  to go no further, renders this view impossible. (7* See my Will Creation Be Redeemed?, The Essence of the Case Against the Redemption of Creation.)

Once more I must point out that these damning ideas arise from the Augustinian worldview which is falsely dominated by sin and cosmic curse. The truth is that all material things are transient (subjected to futility, Rom. 8:20) by nature, by divine decree, quite apart from sin (cf. Heb. 12:27).  The physically visible is intrinsically impermanent as God intended (2 Cor. 4:16-18). Sin only exacerbates the situation. Yet even the sinless but incarnate Jesus had to be transformed at his ascension for the simple reason that as flesh he was growing older and heading for inevitable death by decay like the rest of the animal world (Heb. 1:10-12, cf. Mt. 6:19f.; Col. 2:22). If not, he was different from all other men and women and hence docetic, thereby bringing his very incarnation into question. Indeed, it was doubtless Jesus’ ascension that enabled Paul to pen 1 Corinthians 15:50-54. There he presents us with two sorts of resurrection ascension, the one of the dead (v.52b) and the other of the living (v.51). Jesus, rather like Abraham who was a father in two senses, experienced and served after a fashion as the paradigm of both: he rose from the dead and was transformed alive at his ascension.

_________________________________________________________

References

J.R.W.Stott, The Contemporary Christian, Leicester, 1992.

M.Harris, From Grave to Glory, Grand Rapids, 1990.

I.Howard Marshall, The Gospel of Luke, Exeter, 1978.

R.Reymond in Always Reforming ed. A.T.B.McGowan, Leicester, 2006.

C.J.H.Wright, The Mission of God, Nottingham, 2006.

Man’s Fourfold State

 

In his Scottish Theology John Macleod described Thomas Boston’s Human Nature in its Fourfold State (1* Repr. London, 1964.) as ‘representative of the best of our Scottish religious classics’.  First published in 1720 it has even been republished in the twenty-first century. Not surprisingly given its title, it describes man in what is conceived to be his four main states: first, the state of innocence prior to the fall; second, the state of nature; third, the state of grace and finally, the eternal state.

While it reads remarkably well for the modern reader considering its age, its theology is dated despite the author’s attempt to be biblical.  For example, it soon becomes clear that the so-called age of innocence is really an original state of perfection (p.38), glory (p.45), immortality (p.52) and (mutable!) righteousness (pp.37,43) in which Adam was putatively created. When, however, he sinned, the original sin (cf. pp.143f.), we, his descendants who were said to be created ‘in him’ (Rom. 5:12), were thoroughly corrupted in body and soul (pp.130f.), and as a consequence of his Fall (pp.38ff.) we even today are born cursed (e.g. pp.473,475). In other words, Boston’s theology is thoroughly Augustinian (see e.g. pp.131f.) which means that it imposes on Scripture a worldview dominated almost exclusively by sin. This of course leads to its distortion which regrettably and to our detriment we still live with today in the twenty-first century. So what is wrong?

First, it needs to be recognised that Augustine of Hippo (d. 430 A.D.), who exercised and continues to exercise enormous influence on the church’s understanding of Scripture, failed adequately to grasp the meaning of the early chapters of Genesis which relate to the beginning of creation and human history. His assumption was that since God himself was perfect all that he created was perfect  (p.38) and not simply ‘good’ (= useful or serving a purpose like Eve’s “apple” in Genesis 3:6, cf. 2:9, etc.) as Scripture itself has it. With this view in mind he assumed that Adam though created from the naturally corruptible earth was fully mature or complete (cf. James 1:4) both physically and morally from the very start (p.45, etc.). Thus even today fundamentalist Christians assume that at creation Adam looked as though he was thirty years old (cf. p.209). After all, in their view there must be a chicken before there is an egg!  In light of this, the notion of Adam’s development or evolution was eliminated and was replaced by devolution or degeneration. However, when Darwin came dramatically on the scene in 1859 with the publication of his The Origin of Species, the churches were at a loss as to how to handle the situation, for science seemed to contradict the long-established and non-negotiable belief in a literal six-day creation. So, who was right? What can be said for certain is that the church with its Augustinian ideas of original perfection, even immortality, original righteousness, holiness, sin, fall, curse and final redemption had got it wrong. Since we know indisputably that we ourselves like Jesus develop from seed to maturity and, since we are also made in Adam’s image (Gen. 5:1-3), it follows remorselessly that Adam must have done likewise. We follow the pattern of his creation just a Jesus, the second Adam did (cf. 1 Cor. 15:46-49; Heb. 2:14). The truth is that development or evolution is basic to or foundational of our human nature. Creation (and hence procreation) is necessarily followed by development from the very moment of conception as Jesus’ own case illustrates (e.g. Luke 1-2). After all, perfection or maturity, the complete image of God, is our ultimate goal (Mt. 19:21; Phil. 3:12-14; Heb. 6:1, etc.).

Expressed alternatively, our call from an innocent or morally neutral beginning is to obey the commandment/law (Gen. 2:17) and seek honour and glory (Rom. 2:7,10; 1 Pet. 1:6f., cf. Ps. 8:5-8; Heb. 2:6-9). Thus the Bible, properly understood, is thoroughly teleological in its outlook and mankind kept by the power of God (cf. 1 Pet. 1:5) moves purposefully from (pro)creation to new creation (2 Cor. 5:17, cf. John 3:1-8, etc.) or from ground to glory. Since man in general proves incapable of keeping the commandment/law to gain righteousness which is the precondition of life (Gen. 2:16f.; Lev. 18:5), he inevitably comes short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23) and is in the event compelled to turn to Christ who alone attained to glory in the process of atoning for the sins of the rest of his brethren (1 Pet. 2:9). If man had been completely destroyed by the flood, he would have been to all intents and purposes still-born and God’s plan of salvation would have proved abortive. On this assumption, the covenant with Noah was integral to the plan of salvation (cf. Jer. 31:35-37; 33:25f., cf. Heb. 11:7).

 

From Immaturity to Perfection

What the Bible implies therefore is that creation in general but especially mankind as both community and individual begins in immaturity or imperfection with a view to attaining to maturity or ultimate perfection. This is made plain by an examination of the life of Jesus, who after an initial experience in immaturity or imperfection as a baby and subsequent development (cf. Luke 2:40-52, etc.), finally achieved perfection (Heb. 7:28) and so took his seat at his Father’s side as his exact image (Heb. 1:3). From this we are forced to infer on the assumption of his genuine incarnation that as the second Adam he perfectly recapitulated the career the first Adam failed to achieve. Thus to ascribe to man, that is, first Adamic man the attributes of maturity (cf. pp. 38,209) is to commit a major mistake and make nonsense of much of the Bible. The plain truth is that there was never any original righteousness, original sin, fall, cosmic curse and the like. These have all been read into Scripture not out of it. The biblical view is that God created man knowing neither good nor evil (cf. Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22), that is, innocent (cf. Dt. 1:39, etc.) and tested him like a baby verging on childhood by means of one commandment and later, as he developed, by means of the entire law of Moses. Of course, there is an important difference between early and modern man: Adam did not receive the commandment until, having gestated, evolved or developed in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race, he was physically mature. As Paul points out in 1 Corinthians 15:46 flesh precedes spirit. Put another way, mankind’s fleshly or animal development occurred before his moral and spiritual development. And since the commandment was given with a view to his achieving righteousness which was the precondition of eternal life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, etc.), the idea that he was originally righteous before he was even capable of receiving the commandment is simply absurd.

 

The State of Innocence

It is at this point that we begin to become aware of the massive misunderstanding that Boston laboured under. His miscalled age of innocence which he regarded as a state of righteousness based dubiously on Ecclesiastes 7:29 and the like was a delusion. The truth is that after creation as seed in the bowels of the earth (cf. Ps. 139:15f.) and transfer to the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race (cf. David’s transfer to his mother’s womb in Ps. 139:13), man was like the rest of the animal creation, a human animal, that is, flesh. The difference between Adam (mankind) and the rest was that he was made in the  image of God (Gen. 1:26-28, cf. Ps. 8:5-8; Heb. 2:6-9) with a view to his ultimately gaining his exact likeness as Jesus the second Adam eventually succeeded in doing (Heb. 1:3).

 

The State of Nature

Inevitably, given his Augustinian presuppositions, Boston regarded man’s natural state as sinful from the very start and hence miserable. His false assumption that he inherited Adam’s sinful nature by birth (cf. Gen. 5:1-3) involved complete failure to recognise the fact that we all, like Adam himself, begin at the very beginning in total ignorance and genuine innocence (Dt. 1:39, etc.). Ezekiel 18 in particular makes it plain beyond reasonable dispute that it is impossible to inherit, as opposed to being influenced and affected by (Ex. 20:5f.; 34:6f.), our parents’ moral nature, whether righteous or unrighteous, for this is the result of life lived in reaction to commandment or law (Rom. 6:16). As Paul makes so transparently plain in his letter to the Romans, where there is no law, there can be no transgression, which means that the entire animal world is innocent. The reason why man becomes sinful after initial innocence is, as was implied above, that he breaks the commandment once he is able to receive it (cf. John 8:34). Paul, who has a wholly undeserved reputation for teaching original sin (2* The Augustinian dogma of original sin involves the transmission (Catholics) or imputation (Protestants) of sin even to embryos. Verses like Psalm 51:5 and Ephesians 2:1-3 are quite wrongly used to support this view. See further my The Redundancy Of Original Sin, Does Romans Teach Original Sin?.) clearly rejects the idea that he was born sinful when in Romans 7:9f. he tells his readers that he was (like Adam and Eve) born ‘alive’ and sinned only when he learned the commandment. If this is not true, we immediately have difficulties with Jesus who is regarded throughout the churches as sinless. As a consequence of belief in original sin, the Roman Church and many Protestants are now saddled with the unbiblical notion of the Virgin Mary’s immaculate conception and the sinfulness of sex. (3* See my Thoughts On ‘Adam, The Fall And Original Sin’.)

Of course, Boston strikes gold when he insists along with the Bible that once man is constituted a sinner, he is completely unable to recover himself and is in urgent need of redemption by other means.

 

The State of Grace

For Boston, as for all who adopt the Augustinian worldview, recovery from the sinful state of nature which stems from original sin is by regeneration. But this, though true in a sense, raises the question of the order of salvation. (4* See my Cart-Before-The-Horse Theology, etc.)   It is assumed by all who cleave to Augustine and original sin that regeneration or new birth comes first. In other words, regeneration functions like election which is outside the range of man’s choice (cf. Rom. 9:11; 11:6). But is this really the case? While it must be conceded that regeneration is a monergistic act of God to which man can no more contribute than he can to his physical birth, according to the Bible it follows on from repentance and faith (conversion, e.g. Acts 2:38). This is proved by the fact that Abraham who is regarded as the father of the faithful was classified by Paul as ‘ungodly’ (Rom. 4:5) and hence not born again. Indeed, it can be asserted without fear of contradiction that while many in the OT were genuine believers (see e.g. Heb. 11) not one was born again. How do we know? The answer is that all to the very last man and woman were sinners (1 K. 8:46; Ps. 143:2; Eccl. 7:20, etc.) and as such in light of Leviticus 18:5 incapable of regeneration until Christ came to atone for their sin.

 

The New Birth and Nature

But there is another problem that Boston failed to deal with adequately on account of his allegiance to Augustine, that is, that the prime function of the new birth is not to counteract sin, original sin in particular, but our natural condition apart from sin. In John 3 Jesus fails to mention sin but concentrates all his attention on our human nature as flesh. In other words, he stresses the necessity (John 3:7, Gk dei), not the imperative, of spiritual regeneration, while in 1 Corinthians 15:53 Paul underlines the necessity of corporeal transformation since it is impossible for mortal, corruptible flesh to inherit the eternal kingdom of God. (5* Cf. my Death and Corruption.) In light of this we are compelled to conclude that we are physically corrupt by creation and naturally in bondage to decay (Rom. 8:18-25). Even the sinless Jesus in contrast with his heavenly Father (Heb. 1:11) was subject to obsolescence (Luke 2:42; 3:23, etc.) like the earth from which he stemmed through his mother.

 

The Eternal State

Boston’s final state is of course the eternal state, and, though he says things in explanation of it which are positively excruciating like the precious nature of our bodily dust as it lies in the ground (p. 355) in drastic defiance of 1 Corinthians 15:50 (cf. Mt. 10:28), we can accept it in general as involving, after death, resurrection, judgement, heaven or hell.

 

The True View

So, if the Augustinian worldview that Boston uncritically imbibed is false, what is the true view? If we are to assume that human nature is subject to a fourfold state at all, what is it?  Let us begin at the beginning.

First, we need to recognise that Adam regarded as an individual is archetypically and hence representatively mankind according to the flesh. (6* It is imperative at this point to reject the widespread idea that Adam was the covenant head and representative of all his descendants. Apart from the fact that it is not taught in Scripture it would inevitably catch the sinless Jesus in its trap!)  He is both individual and community, at once a single, individual man and the race in miniature. As created in the ground (dust, clay) he is portrayed as knowing neither good nor evil, ignorant of law and therefore genuinely innocent. Since God created the earth to be inhabited (Gen. 1; Ps. 8; Isa. 45:18, etc.), we can deduce in light of our own experience as his descendants, that Adam’s initial state was that of (perishable) seed (cf. 1 Pet. 1:23). In other words, God, the Creator himself, was his Father (Luke 3:38) and the corruptible earth was his mother. As such he was transferred to the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race (Gen. 2:8,15), to gestate and there as a seed-bearer he produced Eve as he himself had been produced from the ground. Thus, as Paul implies in 1 Corinthians 11:7,12, when procreation replaces and recapitulates creation, Adam typifies God himself, while Eve the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20) who, like Adam himself though the image of God is also flesh, typifies the earth. Just as we ourselves are procreated by means of a seed-bearing mother and father (cf. Isa. 45:10), so like Adam we are the children of God and the earth (1 Cor. 15:47a) with a view to our becoming like the man of heaven, Jesus our Lord (1 Cor. 15:46-49).  It perhaps needs to be firmly stated at this point that Jesus, who was genuinely flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14), also followed the same pattern. As created (incarnated) by God (cf. Heb. 10:5), he also as the second Adam was fashioned in the Garden, that is, Mary’s womb (cf. Jer. 1:5) in order to be finally perfected and ascend into heaven at the end of his fleshly or Adamic life (cf. Eph. 4:9f.).

If all this is true, then Boston’s Augustinian outlook must be deemed radically wrong, based as it is on massive misunderstanding of the biblical worldview. But there is much more to say. When he first left Eden, the Garden womb, the first Adam was already physically mature and already a sinner who had already broken the commandment and a true forerunner of the Jews (Isa. 48:8).  In this sense he was ‘born’ physically full-grown but manifestly infantile in spirit. As such he was radically different from us, his modern children.  Today we might well consider him to be retarded or a late developer. In any case, as Paul intimates, he was flesh before he was spirit (1 Cor. 15:46) but his long period of gestation has now been diminished with the result that we his children recapitulate his experience in a much shorter time. (7* I fancy that the great ages of the antediluvians arise out of the fact that the distinction between the individual and the race in man’s early history is sometimes less than clear. This becomes apparent when we consider that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny in the Bible.)

If, however, Adam’s exile from Eden constituted his birth, in contrast with ours today it occurred consciously with the result that he had to face an inhospitable, intractable even hostile world as the epitome of infant mankind, the race. Needless to say, in his immaturity, not to mention his moral disorientation, he was hardly fitted to exercise dominion as man’s basic vocation required (Gen. 1:26-28). Unsurprisingly, since this was the case, the land was cursed and unproductive like that of the sluggard in Proverbs 24:30-34. After all, infants are hardly noted for their commitment to hard work (cf. Gen. 3:19; 5:29). In modern times, however, when they are born babies as we know them in ignorance and weakness, they are almost completely dependent on mature parents. It is not until they are on the cusp of childhood that they begin to take steps to fend for themselves and experience some of what the antediluvians experienced in their ‘infancy’. If this is true, then the so-called ‘cosmic’ curse of traditional theology is defunct. It was terminated by the covenant with obedient Noah which guaranteed that there would never again be worldwide as opposed to local floods preventing his exercise of dominion (cf. Isa. 54:9). The mere fact that Noah’s covenant (Gen. 9:1-17) is couched in somewhat similar terms to the commandment Adam received at the beginning in Genesis 1-3 is testament both to the grace and salvific purpose of God. For this covenant will endure to the end of the world when God’s harvest will be finally reaped (Gen. 8:22, cf. Isa. 54:9f.; Luke 17:26-30; Acts 14:17; 17:25-28.). (8* See my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?)

 

The Natural Man

The truth is that compared with Adam and his immediate descendants who were the infants of the race, Noah was clearly a child, cleansed or metaphorically baptised by the flood from his infantile filth (1 Pet. 3:21). Of course, Noah was a sinner deceived by the lusts of the flesh (Gen. 9:21, cf. 8:21) and a true son of Eve who was deceived (Gen. 3:6, cf. 1 Tim. 2:14) and who typified the heathen referred to by Paul in Romans 1 (cf. 7:11) and Ephesians 4:17-19. He was thus to all intents and purposes the first heathen to live consciously under the covenant with nature.  In fact he epitomized the natural man who though without excuse (Rom. 1:20, cf. Eph. 2:3) lacked adequate knowledge of God (cf. Eph. 2:12). But at least in light of the covenant he had more in prospect (cf. Ps. 8:5-8) and was ranked with the faithful  by the author of Hebrews (Heb. 11:7).

 

Man Under Promise and Law

Unlike Boston who assigned the natural or heathen man to hell as Augustine did unbaptised and hence unregenerate babies, God established a covenant with the heathen Abraham through whom he promised to bless the entire heathen world (Gen. 12:1-3,7). Out of this matrix and in fulfilment of his promise God later made a covenant of law through Moses  with a view to separating the children of Abraham (cf. Ex. 33:16; Lev. 20:24,26) so that they could serve the world as a royal priesthood and a holy nation  (Ex. 19:5f.). In other words, the election of Israel had in view the promised blessing (Isa. 42:6; 49:6). In contrast with the ‘child’ Noah, Moses was the first ‘adolescent’, for the Israelites did not become sons of the commandment who took personal responsibility for keeping the law until their bar mitzvah at age 13 (cf. Luke 2:40-52). Prior to that time they were tied to their mothers’ apron strings and ranked with them virtually as heathen.

 

Recapitulation

On this assumption, it becomes clear that the individual recapitulates the race and their development occurs concurrently. Just as mankind begins as seed in the earth, gestates in the Garden of Eden, enters the natural world and attempts forlornly to work his passage before suffering the curse of the flood, so the individual is procreated in his mother’s (garden) womb, undergoes infancy in blissful ignorance, and then, after attaining to childhood and “Egyptian” bondage, achieves adolescence under the law of Moses. Here the problem is that he is incapable of keeping the law, and as Jeremiah in particular became aware he needs a new covenant to give him life (Jer. 31:31-34). And since God is still intent on bringing salvation to the world (cf. John 3:16), he himself comes in the person of Jesus the Christ, first to fulfil the Mosaic covenant that promised life if it was kept (Mt. 5:17f.) and  to establish a new covenant by which his beneficent worldwide purpose can be achieved (cf. 1 John 2:2). (9* On this, see especially Galatians 4:1-7 where Paul’s sketch of the transition from (animal) birth through slavery and servanthood to sonship is plain.) So what is the biblical fourfold state of man?

The Biblical View of Man’s Fourfold State

 

The First State: Animal (Flesh)

On the assumption that man (Adam) is created by God as seed in the ground (Gen. 2:7; 3:19,23; 18:27; Job 10:8-10;  Ps. 139:15f.; Eccl. 12:7), he is transferred like the rest of the animals (Gen. 2:19) to gestate in the Garden of Eden (the  womb of the race) until he achieves physical maturity or adulthood. Since at the start he is ignorant of the commandment (law), and knows neither good nor evil (Gen. 2:16f.; 3:5,22, cf. Dt. 1:39, etc.), he is morally innocent. When, however, in contrast with the other animals, he develops like a baby to the point of understanding and receives the commandment, like Paul at a much later date (Rom. 7:9f.), he fails to keep it and becomes a sinner incapable of recovering himself (cf. John 8:34; Rom. 7:23f.). His way back to Eden and innocence is as surely barred (Gen. 3:24) as Nicodemus’, like that of Job (ch.3) and Jeremiah (20:14-18), was to his mother’s womb (John 3:4). Needless to say, this pattern is followed by all his offspring who recapitulate his experience. But as Genesis 3-6 indicate, having once begun in sin Adam’s or mankind’s degeneration in sin continues resulting in a curse on the largely untilled ground which culminates in the flood. In the event, the flood does not destroy the earth but wipes out all of mankind (2 Pet. 3:6) with the exception of Noah (Heb. 11:7) with whom God makes a covenant promising productivity to the end of history when the plan of human salvation will be complete (cf. Luke 17:26-37).

The first state of racial man (Adam) then is purely fleshly or animal (cf. Gen. 2:16,19; 1 Cor. 15:46) but it involves gradual transition on the spiritual level to human babyhood. Thus when he becomes conscious of the commandment, like a modern infant having broken it he also becomes conscious of much else like death, companionship and the need to work for his food (Gen. 3:19, cf. 2 Thes. 3:10). Eve on the other hand who has obviously had children before now becomes conscious of pain in childbirth (Gen. 3:16). In other words, pain is not so much the result of sin as tradition would have us believe but of the conscious intelligence which inevitably accompanies sin. After all, sin cannot occur apart from knowledge (Rom. 4:15; 7:8, etc.). Provided we recognize the difference in physical maturity between the birth and development of racial man and our own we can readily accept the idea of recapitulation, for the pattern is the same. Just as Adam was sown in the womb of the race, the Garden of Eden, so we are sown in our mother’s womb (Isa. 45:9f.), a place of idyllic total supply  to which both Job (ch.3) and Jeremiah (20:14-18) who suffered much wished they could return, but like Adam himself (Gen. 3:22-24) and Nicodemus could not (John 3:4). There was no going back for development or evolution is the law of life (creation). (10* See my No Going Back.). It is worth adding here that to attribute pain to sin rather than to knowledge is to fail to understand that the sinless Jesus experienced pain (hunger, thirst, fatigue, etc.) apart from sin. (11* See my Nature Red in Tooth and Claw.)

So man’s degeneration in sin following Adam’s birth or ejection from the Garden of Eden culminated in the flood which destroyed all mankind except Noah and his family. (12* Elsewhere I have argued that babies who know neither good nor evil and therefore cannot exercise faith are not saved yet both Genesis and Hebrews 11:4-6 make it crystal clear that  Abel and Enoch who were obviously among the ‘infants’ of the race were saved by grace through faith before the covenant made with Noah. We need to remind ourselves, first, that they were physically adult ‘late developers’ and, secondly, that where there is knowledge there is room for both sin and/or faith, Rom. 6:16.) As indicated above, Noah was more developed and mature than Adam and his immediate descendants and was, if we accept the idea of recapitulation, the first child (as opposed to infant) of the race.

 

The Second State: Heathen

As the first racial child Noah was also the first heathen, for the Bible makes it plain that all the heathen are the conscious beneficiaries of the covenant with Noah (13* The rest of the animal creation is of course the unconscious beneficiary of the covenant.) Both Moses (Dt. 4:19) and Paul (Acts 14:17), for example, remind us that this is the case. Even Abraham was heathen and like his children in Egypt was an idolater (Jos. 24:2,14; Ezek. 20:7f.). So it is with children in general. According to Paul they too are slaves (Gal. 4:1-3), and need to grow up (Eph. 4:11-16) and be perfected (cf. 1 Cor. 13:11).

 

The Third State: Under Law

To fulfil his promise to Abraham to be a blessing to the world God next separated the Israelites, the children of Abraham, by rescuing them from bondage in heathen Egypt and giving them the law through Moses at Sinai.  While it is strictly speaking true that only the Jews had the law as such (Dt. 4:7,32-34; Ps. 147:19f.), its impact on the rest of the world is indisputable. Our education system involving primary, secondary and tertiary grades reflects it. In view of this, the KJV translation of Galatians 3:24f. which refers to a schoolmaster, though somewhat inaccurate, is both meaningful and hence felicitous. (Boston of course was a federalist (pp.131f.) who assumed a covenant with Adam of which Scripture knows nothing. Thus he barely mentions Noah and Moses whose covenants are integral to the Bible and our understanding of man.)

 

The Fourth State: The State of Grace

While Paul lays heavy stress on man’s inability to keep the law (Gal. 3:10-13, cf. 3:21) and hence gain life (cf. Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5), the author of Hebrews points out that the law as such is weak, ineffective (7:11,18f.; 8:7), obsolescent (8:13)  and requires replacement by another covenant which can give life as Jeremiah had realized long before (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:8-12). This covenant is in the event inaugurated by Christ who kept the law to perfection and died to cover sins committed under the first covenant (Heb. 9:15).  Thus those who believe in him are baptised by the Spirit as he was and so receive eternal life. In the state of grace believers are no longer under the law of Moses but live the regenerate life led by the Spirit until at physical death, like Jesus their pioneer, they undergo bodily transformation and glorification (1 Cor. 15:50-55). The state of grace or regeneration, then, culminates in what Boston rightly refers to as the eternal state, but it is really a fifth not a fourth state at least for the Jews.

 

Jesus: The Perfected Man

If Jesus was our trail blazer as the author of Hebrews especially claims (6:19f.; 10:19f.; 12:1f.), then on the assumption of recapitulation we should expect to see that his earthly pilgrimage mirrors that of the race.  And that indeed is the case. First, as truly incarnate he was born of fleshly woman (Gal. 4:4) who typified the earth (cf. Gen. 3:20; 1 Cor. 11:12; Eph. 4:9), and was linked with the animals in a stable. Next, after weaning in infancy, as a child like his forebears he was nurtured as a heathen slave in Egypt (Mt. 2:15; Gal. 4:1-3). Thirdly, as an adolescent he was put like all Jewish circumcised boys under the tutelage of the law in the Promised Land (Luke 2:40-52). Fourthly, having kept the law to perfection and pleased his heavenly Father, he was baptized by the Spirit and born again (Mt. 3:13-17). (14* See my Was Jesus Born Again?) Finally, after atoning in an act of supererogation for the sins of his fellows (cf. 1 John 2:2), he ascended into heaven, was transformed, glorified and seated at his Father’s right hand as a man who had gained the exact image of God (Heb. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). .

This recapitulation of the human odyssey is not quite exact, however; it needs clarification. For the truth is that while he clearly recapitulated first Adamic life, Jesus pioneered or ‘precapitulated’ second Adamic life (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45-49). Thus, contrary to widespread traditional teaching, he did not identify with us in baptism, rather it is we who identify with him. (15* See my Baptism And Identification.) For, first, at his incarnation he had to recapitulate to perfection the journey the first Adam failed to complete, but then, once he was born again, he had to pioneer the regenerate life (fulfil all righteousness) which Adam and all his natural progeny never experienced at all. (16* It should be carefully noted that not one of the OT saints listed in Hebrews 11 was born again. All were sinners and hence excluded, Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5. It was only when God provided “something better” that they were perfected, Heb. 11:39f.) For them the new birth was just a promise (Dt. 30:6, etc.) unfulfilled until Jesus who kept the law brought in life and incorruption (Gk. 2 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 15:53, cf. Rom. 8:1).

The fivefold state of the incarnate life of Jesus tabulated:

1.  Born flesh of woman in an animal stable (Luke 2:7, cf. Eph. 4:9).

2. Childhood in heathen Egypt (Mt. 2:15).

3. Tutelage under law in the Jewish Promised Land (Luke 2:40-52).

4. Baptism and regeneration (Mt. 3:13-17) to pioneer the Christian life in the Spirit.

5. Ascension, bodily transformation, heavenly session in glory (Eph. 4:10, cf. 1:10,20-22; Mt. 28:18).

The perfected Jesus (Heb. 7:28, etc.) was thus the epitome of incarnation, recapitulation, human development (evolution) and perfection. In order to mediate between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), he became the very image of God (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4).  As such he is able to redeem the race (1 John 2:2), for, as Gregory Nazianzus said, to redeem all he had to assume all (cf. Heb. 2).
If this is true then, despite his subjection of creation to futility (Rom. 8:20, cf. Heb. 1:10-12) the watchmaker was not so blind after all. As for the selfish gene, deluded it is going nowhere but to ultimate destruction.

 

See further my:

Augustine: Asset or Liability?

Covenant Theology

Covenant Theology in Brief

Perfection

Concerning Original Righteousness

Correcting Traditional Distortions Of Scripture

Adam – Part 1 – Adam’s Pedigree And Goal

Adam – Part 2 – Individual and Community

Adam – Part 3 – The Two Adams

Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny

Are Babies Saved?

Recapitulation in Outline

No Going Back

Two ‘Natural’ Necessities

Death and Corruption

Was Jesus Born Again?

Worldview

Concerning Futility

Romans 8:18-25 In Brief

etc.

The Human Path to Perfection

 

According to traditional church dogma, man, like creation in general, was created perfect, fully mature or complete.  To all intents and purposes he was a god-like creature. Some ‘sound’ Bible teacher would have us believe that when he was created Adam looked as if he was thirty years old! Unfortunately, the Bible fails to support this scenario. Rather it indicates, first, that creation was originally a chaos and had to be reduced to order, and, second, that mankind, that is, Adam, who emanated from it (Gen. 2:7), far from being holy, righteous and perfect, was created knowing neither good nor evil (Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22) and like a baby in the womb had to begin at the beginning with a view to attaining both physical and spiritual maturity. Thus the author of Hebrews clearly conceives of Jesus himself, the second Adam, as beginning in innocent imperfection in the womb of Mary his mother but ending fully perfected (2:9-10; 5:9; 7:28) and so eventually being seated at the right hand of God (Heb. 1:3,13, etc.).  In view of this it is hardly surprising that the apostle Paul pictures himself in Philippians 3:12-14 as a heaven-bound pilgrim in the process of being perfected.  And according to the author of Hebrews, the same holds true with regard to the rest of us (Heb. 3:1; 11:39f., cf. Eph. 4:1; 1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:11). In light of this, the traditional idea that when Adam sinned, he ‘fell’ from putative perfection and brought a curse on himself and the rest of creation over which he was meant to exercise dominion is an imposition on the plain teaching of Scripture. So what is the real story of man’s odyssey from earth to heaven implied in the very first chapter of Genesis but only properly accomplished by Jesus himself (John 3:13; 6:38,62; 13:3; Eph. 4:9f.; Heb. 4:14; 7:23-28; 9:24)?

 

Seed

Man like all animal flesh (cf. 1 Cor. 5:46) is created by God presumably as seed in the earth which is our mother. (1* In other words, the egg precedes the chicken on which see my The Chicken or the Egg.)  This is implied in Genesis 2:7 and 19. It is confirmed by Psalm 139:15 and Ephesians 4:9 (cf. John 3:13, etc.) which clearly indicate that all the posterity of Adam stem from him whose own origin was the earth. Thus all are regarded in the rest of the Bible as dust (Job 34:15; Ps. 103:14, cf. 78:39; Eccl. 12:7; 1 Cor. 15:47-49) or clay (Gen. 3:19; Job 4:19; 10:9; 2 Cor. 4:7).

 

Eden

Once he has been created as seed, Adam the individual who epitomises the race as Jesus, the second Adam, does his people, is then sown by God in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8,15), clearly the womb of the race, to gestate and develop. Like Esau and Jacob in their mother’s womb at a much later date (Rom. 9:11), at this stage he knows neither good nor evil and so survives in blissful animal-like ignorance. In other words, he resembles the rest of the animals over which he is later given the dominion that was planned from the start (cf. Gen. 1:26-28, cf. Gen. 2:19). However, like seed sown in a garden he sprouts up (cf. Isa. 45:8; 55:10; 61:11), and eventually attains to physical maturity (cf. Mark 4:26-28).

 

Adam’s Posterity

However, it is plain that Adam himself differs from his posterity in that they do not like him literally begin life in the earth. Once initial creation has occurred, since Adam and the rest of the animals and plants are by divine design created as seed-bearers (Gen. 1:11f.), procreation which recapitulates creation takes over (cf. Isa. 45:10). So far as man himself is concerned, in the providence of God Eve derives from Adam (Gen. 2:18,20-22) as he himself derived as seed from the earth and we ourselves in our turn emanate as seed from our fathers’ loins (cf. Isa. 48:1 NASV, NRSV; Heb. 7:10) to be placed in our mother’s womb (cf. 1 Cor. 11). Together like the rest of the animal creation Adam and Eve reproduce as we see later in Genesis 5:1-4. In other words, Adam as the image of God (1 Cor. 11:7) sows Eve who is typically mother earth (cf. Gen. 3:20, or mother earth recapitulated in miniature, cf. 1 Cor. 11:12) in order to reproduce. Thus it should cause us no surprise that the second Adam recapitulates the birth of the first Adam by being born of woman rather than specifically in the earth. In light of Genesis 3:16, where strong emphasis is placed on Eve’s increased pain in childbirth, we are forced to conclude that animal, including human, reproduction occurred naturally, though unconsciously, in Eden. In short, since procreation mirrors creation, it ensures that eventually the earth is fully inhabited as God intended (cf. Gen. 10f.; Isa. 45:18).

 

The Curse

This brings us to the issue of the so-called cosmic curse. Historically, given the church’s frame of reference derived from Augustine of Hippo who died in 430 AD, the curse somewhat mysteriously followed on Adam’s alleged perfection when he sinned and produced what is still called the ‘fallen world’ which we inhabit even today in 2016. However, since in light of the fact that the earth had a beginning implying an end (Gen. 8:22) and was ‘made by hand’ (e.g. Isa. 45:11f. (2* Usually, Gk cheiropoietos. See my Manufactured Or Not So.), we are bound to infer that it was never perfect, only ‘good’ like a tool serving God’s (temporal) purpose (Gen. 1). Alternatively expressed, it was, like the law that related to the flesh, provisional and was subjected to futility from the start (cf. Rom. 8:20; 2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 1:10-12, etc.) with a view to a better invisible (Rom. 8:24f.) world once it had served its purpose as man’s nurturing and testing ground (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-5:5; Gal. 1:4). It follows from this that man as flesh which stemmed from the earth was naturally incapable of inheriting the spiritual kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). For all that, the curse was clearly a reality in the early history of the race and it began when Adam and Eve sinned (Gen. 3:14-19). The question is: Of what did it consist or what was involved? The answer would appear to lie in the nature of the relationship between creation and man as outlined in Genesis 1. There we learn that man’s vocation is to exercise dominion over or to rule the obviously imperfect created world (Gen. 1:26-28). But this he failed to do, first, because he sinned by disobeying God’s one commandment given to test him (Gen. 2:16f., cf. Ex. 15:25; 16:4, etc.) and, second, because, though physically mature, he was racially speaking but an infant (cf. Eph. 4:11-16, etc.). If we extrapolate from what we know of man the individual who recapitulates the community, we can infer that Adam despite his physical maturity was spiritually infantile and like modern infants dominated by his flesh.  This scenario is epitomized especially by Eve who apart from succumbing to the devil’s deception caved in to her physical desires (Gen. 3:6, cf. Rom. 7:11; Heb. 3:13). Adam, however, though acquiescing in Eve’s weakness was typically held to be more responsible because it was he who had received the commandment directly from God just as the Jews, as the elect people of God, summed up in or epitomized by Paul in Romans 7:13-24, were to do later. (3* See my Interpreting Romans 7.) So it was Eve who in this way came to symbolize the heathen who were without the law (Rom. 2:14f., cf. 1 Tim. 2:14), while Adam who received the commandment typified the Jews who were given the law of Moses in all its fullness (Rom. 2:17-29; 9:4, cf. Amos 3:2; Mic. 3:11; John 5:45).

If it is true that Adam and Eve exemplified the gestation of mankind to physical maturity in the Garden of Eden or the womb of the race, their sin occurred just prior to their ejection from that womb with the result that like Israel at a later date before entry into the Promised Land (Isa. 48:8) they entered the inhospitable, intractable outside world as we know it as sinners.  It is of vital importance to note that the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the idyllic Garden of Eden into the harsh world outside constituted their birth (cf. Job 3:3,10f.; 10:18f.;  Jer. 20:14-18). That the external world was not cursed but simply natural, futile and recalcitrant is proved by such references as Genesis 13:10, Exodus 16:3; Numbers 16:13, Isaiah 36:17 and the ‘exceedingly good’ Promised Land flowing with milk and honey (Num. 13:27; 14:7). It is clear from Acts 14:17, 17:27, 1 Corinthians 10:26-30 and 1 Timothy 4:3f. that Paul knew nothing of the putative cosmic curse  our ecclesiastical tradition has palmed off on us, though minor curses stemming from lack of habitation, carelessness and neglect feature regularly throughout Scripture as Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28, for instance, indicate. (4* See further my Cosmic Curse?, Supplement to ‘Cosmic Curse?’, Understanding the Curse, Observations on The Curse, etc.) As indicated above, it is as both the slaves of sin (John 8:34) and as ‘infants’ that Adam and Eve failed to fulfil their vocation to rule the earth. Little wonder that the world we read of in Genesis 4-8 is cursed. It culminated in the cataclysm of the flood which destroyed the bulk of mankind who failed to bear fruit before their dispersion throughout the earth. Since the Creator had a plan of salvation in mind, however, he did not make a ‘full end’ (cf. Jer. 4:27, etc.) of the created world as Noah knew it. Instead he made a covenant with him which guaranteed not only the survival of creation but also the creature until his salvific purpose was fulfilled (Gen. 8:22, cf. Jer. 31:35-37; 33:19-26).

 

The Curse and Modern Man

At this point it is necessary to note the difference between early man and modern man. Early man developed physically to full maturity before he left Eden or the racial womb; modern man does not attain to physical maturity until long after he has left his mother’s womb. In other words, while the former as a physical adult, though with minimal understanding, was under an obligation, even compulsion to work in order to subdue a recalcitrant and intractable earth and thereby earn a living by the sweat of his brow (Gen.  3:19, cf. 2 Thes. 3:10), the latter is born a baby as we know it. This means that its infancy occurs in total dependence and blissful ignorance. It is only as it is weaned that it gains understanding of and hence accountability through knowledge of the transgenerational commandment which is basically the word ‘no’, as it was in Adam’s case. This can only mean that during its infancy the modern baby does not endure the curse on creation that Adam experienced. For, first, in its ignorance of the law or commandment like an animal it knows neither good nor evil (Dt. 1:39) and is clearly not accountable; second, it is incapable of working in any case; and, third, it has mature parents to do that for it. It thus inherits a world fashioned by the history and culture of its forebears (5* Ex. 20:5f.; 34:6f.; Ps. 51:5 on which see my Thoughts On ‘Adam, The Fall And Original Sin’.), and this can mean suffering specifically as in the case of the children of Israel in the wilderness (Num. 14:33) and/or blessing when entry into the Promised Land is achieved, though even this in the event is not without its problems as Hebrews 3 and 4 indicate.

 

The Covenant with Noah

So God dealt with the problem confronting early man by making a covenant with Noah who in contrast with Adam was conspicuously obedient (Gen. 6:22, etc.) and faithful (Heb. 11:7). Clearly, compared with Adam and his immediate successors he had undergone some development and maturation, that is, he had progressed from infancy to childhood, as mankind’s original vocation etched in Genesis 1:26-28 and repeated in Genesis 9:1-10 implies. The covenant, significantly lacking in Adam’s case (pace various modern commentators), and hence the flood, guaranteed, first, the continuous fruitfulness of the earth to the end of the age (Gen. 8:22, cf. Luke 17:26-30), and, second, that there would be no more ‘cosmic’ curse until the divine purpose was fulfilled (Gen. 9:11, cf. Isa. 54:9) when the earth would be finally destroyed by fire (Heb. 12:27; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12, etc.).

It is important to point out, however, in light of the writer’s assertion in Genesis 8:21 that sin which has loomed so large in traditional Augustinian theology is at a relative discount. The difficulties facing early man certainly stemmed from sin which was an exacerbating factor but they arose primarily from nature which meant that only the fit could survive. For contrary to tradition,   creation, far from being a perfect and autonomous benefactor like Eden is, first, naturally futile and intractable and has to be inhabited, worked, cultivated and subjected to man’s dominion to make it fruitful (Gen. 1:26-28; 9:1,7,20). But, second, man as part of nature himself is subject to the moral law (the commandment) on the one hand but immature on the other. In fact, it was the gradual development from animal (flesh) to man that constituted the essence of human difficulty. Whereas animals can readily live off the land, so to speak (cf. Gen. 2:16), without consciously working, self-conscious intelligent man cannot, especially if he is to exercise dominion by developing the earth’s resources and human society as was obviously intended. It is not without reason therefore that the OT in particular depicts a regression from land previously rendered fertile by human industry to desolation when it is uninhabited and/or neglected as at the exile (cf. Isa. 5:6; 6:11,  etc.). When it is not cultivated and worked, it is fit only for occupation by animals (cf. Ex. 23:29; Dt. 7:22; Prov. 24:30-34; Isa. 5:6; 7:23-25, etc.). The period depicted in Genesis 4-8 is then largely a period of barren transition, not of permanent universal curse. Man’s animal beginning is under the providence God gradually giving way to his conscious intelligent humanity. And it is in light of this that further covenants are made by the Creator preparing the way for continued development to maturity or perfection. Regretfully, historical covenant theology has failed to understand this.

 

The Covenant with Abraham

Apart from the fact that there was technological development under the covenant with Noah (Gen. 10f.), man’s spiritual progress was apparently slow and sin continued to disfigure his divine image.  (6*It is worth pointing out here that man’s own physical nature was part of the creation over which he was required to rule. So while genuine progress was made in ‘taming’ nature under Noah, less success was achieved controlling the flesh as is evident even today, cf. James 3:1-9.) However, in his grace and mercy with ultimate salvation in view God’s next significant move was to call Abraham and make a covenant of promise with him. Even at this early stage it is made clear that Abraham was not only to become a great nation but to be a blessing to the nations of the entire earth (Gen. 12:2f.). The promises that God made to him regarding both land and people were of such importance that they were covenanted (chs. 15,17). Much later the author of Hebrews stresses their emphatic nature when he says that the promises were confirmed by an oath (Heb. 6:14,18). Thus the hope of all believers as the true children of Abraham is a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul guaranteeing  ultimate entry into heaven itself, for  we  follow in the steps of Jesus who has already pioneered our way to perfection and the presence of God (Heb. 2:10-13; 6:19f.; 12:2).

 

Life in Egyptian Bondage

Along with the promises made to Abraham is the warning of difficulties lying ahead (cf. Acts 14:22), for the land of Canaan in which he lived as a sojourner in anticipation of heaven (Heb. 11:13-16) was not to become that of his posterity until after they had spent 400 years as slaves in Egypt (Gen. 15:13). After that long and gruelling period in the house of affliction, the children of Abraham were finally rescued by Moses. As with Jesus himself who recapitulated his forebears’ experience (Mt. 2:15), their childhood slavery (cf. Gal. 4:1-3) eventually came to an end and, having passed through the trials and temptations of the wilderness, they finally reached the Promised Land.

Before going further it is important to notice that all this took place under the covenant with Noah by which even Egypt, like Assyria later (Isa. 36:17), was blessed (cf. Num. 11:5; 16:13), perhaps not least because it was worked by Hebrew slaves. If it was finally ‘cursed’ or ruined (Ex. 10:7), this was because Pharaoh persecuted Abraham’s posterity (cf. Gen. 12:3), and not because the land as such was under the so-called cosmic curse. However, the time had come for the promises to be fulfilled, at least in part (cf. Heb. 6:15; 11:39), and a new dispensational covenant was called for, though even it contained a promise of life (cf. Rom. 7:10). It is necessary to stress here, however, that the covenant with Moses did not involve the obliteration of either the covenant with Noah or that that with Abraham (cf. Gal. 3:17). If it had, the plan of salvation as such would have foundered.

 

The Covenant with Moses

Now that the children of Israel who had proved so prolific during their Egyptian bondage were numerous enough to form a nation, it was necessary for them to be given a constitution. This occurred at Sinai when God emphasising that he had rescued his people from Egypt (Ex. 20:2) now imposed his law on them. Why? First, it was a step away from what had been their lawless heathen state when they worshipped foreign gods in Egypt (Josh. 24:2; Ezek. 20:7f.,16,24). The law thus became a wall of separation between God’s elect people and the nations in general (Lev. 20:22-26). But second as Paul says it was intended to point up transgressions (Gal. 3:19). While not salvific itself though it promised good if kept (Dt. 5:33), it demonstrated man’s inability to keep it (John 7:19; Heb. 2:2; 10:28), and hence the need for salvation by other means, that is, by faith like that of Abraham and so by Christ (Gal. 3:14,29).

As Paul says, the law served as a school master (KJV), as a guardian of God’s people who were still in relative spiritual minority and would remain so until Christ arrived. In other words, it was temporal and provisional and would eventually pass away (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8:6-13). It did in Jesus’ own case when having kept it he was baptised by the Spirit (Mt. 3:13-17) and as the regenerate Son was no longer under the law. In view of the teaching of some a caveat must be entered at this point, for apart from faith in Christ, the law still stands. It has come to an end only for those who put their faith in the Saviour who has fulfilled the law (Mt. 5:17). For them as regenerate believers he is the end of the law (Rom. 10:4, cf. Gal. 3:24).

 

The Promissory Covenant with David

Moses himself though the mediator of the law, which significantly was regarded as delivered by angels (cf. Gal. 3:19), proved a failure and possession of the land was achieved initially under the leadership of Joshua. However, the land flowing with milk and honey soon proved to be less than an idyllic and permanent rest, a point stressed later in Hebrews 3 and 4. But throughout the OT, life continued to be lived under natural law on the one hand and the moral law on the other. In the event the law proved impossible to keep as the OT people themselves were well aware (1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20), and they suffered as a consequence from frequent setbacks at the hands of their enemies, even God himself (Isa. 63:10). Nonetheless, hope was inspired by the wonderful covenant promise made to David in 2 Samuel 7 (cf. Ps. 89) despite his own failure under the jurisdiction of the law. For all his faults David epitomised Messianic hopes which sustained a troubled, even exiled and subjugated people through turbulent centuries. As perhaps all people in their relative, especially spiritual, minority become  aware, the fulfilment of the promise of the future seems long delayed, but after many trials and temptations it eventually arrives. The path to perfection is more involved than we think and it involves yet a further phase.

 

The Messianic Covenant

Inability to keep the law, which is the precondition of life (Lev. 18:5), requires another means of salvation, that is, rescue by Christ who according to the gospel is our righteousness (1 Cor. 1:30). Though justification by faith featured early in the piece especially in the career of Abraham (Gen. 15:6, cf. Heb. 11), the need for regeneration or eternal life is only met by Christ who alone kept the law (cf. Mt. 19:16-21). But even though we accept him as Saviour and Messianic king, the Son of David, life remains a struggle, a time of continual testing (Job. 7:17f.; Ps. 11:4f.). Even when born again after being justified by faith in him, we still have to face the fight between flesh and spirit as he did (Heb. 4:15), and to overcome a thousand and one difficulties thrown up by unpredictable events in a futile and decaying world. There are enemies both within and without and they all have to be overcome if we are to attain to perfection. Having accepted Christ as our Saviour and having a heavenly goal in our sights, we are however guaranteed another helper in the form of the Spirit. And thus we follow by faith in the steps of him who served as our pioneer into heaven itself (Heb. 6:19f.; 10:19f.; 12:1f.).

 

Recapitulation

At this point it is essential to recognise the parallel or correspondence between the path to perfection of the race in general and the pilgrimage of the individual. What historical theology has lost sight of under the pervasive and baneful influence of Augustine of Hippo is the notion of recapitulation. For while Augustine spoke of an originally perfect world including man ruined or cursed by Adam’s sin, Irenaeus who preceded him rightly stressed development from intrinsic immaturity to final perfection despite sin. Clearly the latter’s case was illustrated by Jesus himself who having begun in infancy finally achieved perfect manhood and so took his seat at this Father’s side. Though we are all dust as the children of Adam, by God’s grace we follow in his steps (Eph. 4:9, cf. John 1:14; Heb. 2:14). So as human beings created in the image of God, we are first animal flesh (even Jesus was born in a manger), then (Egyptian) slaves (cf. Mt. 2:15), servants under the law and finally sons by the Spirit through faith in Jesus (John 1:13; 3:16). In other words, we follow the covenant pattern and are baptised first into Noah, then, if we are Jews into Moses (cf. Gal. 3:19-24), and finally into Christ (Gal. 3:27).  Again it might be said that we who accept the priesthood of all believers conform to the symbolism of the temple and pass through the court of the Gentiles, the court of the Israelites, the holy place of the priests and finally enter the holy of holies which our high priest alone has entered (Heb. 9:24, cf. 6:19f.; 10:19f., etc.).

 

Perfection Achieved

On the assumption that this is the scriptural view, it is imperative for us to jettison with rigour and despatch the worldview that we have inherited from Augustine. The notion that Adam as mankind’s representative was originally created perfect, that is, fully mature, holy and righteous from the start but sinned occasioning original sin and a fall which brought a curse on the entire created world is not only false but ludicrous. It has turned theology on its head! Little wonder that as Christians we are at war with science. The truth is that science and modern technology in general properly understood are the consequence of mankind’s dominion over creation and reflect the fulfilment of his vocation as taught in Genesis 1.  But whereas the natural man made in the image of God has reached the moon, only Jesus, the Son of God, has conquered in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.) and attained to heaven to take his seat at his Father’s side. And this the rest of us who believe in him will also do in due course (Rev. 3:21), for our goal from the start was heavenly perfection (Rom. 8:31-39; Heb. 11:39f.).

 

See further my:

Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny

Augustine: Asset or Liability?

The Ascent of Man

The Human Pilgrimage from Ground to Glory

The Journey of Jesus

Recapitulation in Outline

Nature Red in Tooth and Claw

Perfection, Challenging The Church

Death and Corruption

Creation Corruptible By Nature

The Biblical Doctrine Of Human Evolution

etc.

Baillie and Packer on Kenosis

 

Baillie

In an article entitled Still Docetic (see also my The Ecclesiastical Christ) I have argued that when Paul says that Jesus as the Word originally had the nature of God and was equal with God but emptied himself, he meant precisely what he said, that is, that he divested himself of his divine nature but obviously not his personal identity (1* Cf. 1 John 5:18b which would appear to differentiate Jesus’ natural birth of God his Father, cf. Heb. 10:5, from our new birth referred to in 1 John 5:18a.) in order to become a real flesh-and-blood man (Heb. 2:14) born of woman (Gal. 4:4) with a view to gaining the complete image and likeness of God which the rest of mankind found to be beyond their natural capabilities. Needless to say, this is widely, almost universally denied in the church. The orthodox traditional view is that Jesus was simultaneously both God and man in two natures or what is sometimes known as Chalcedonian Dyophysitism. As we might expect, after rejecting ‘kenosis’ Baillie in his God Was In Christ takes this position.

Having rejected anhypostasis, the idea that Jesus adopted human nature but not human personality (p.85), Baillie is at pains to maintain that the Jesus of the New Testament was a real man by producing ample evidence to support his case (e.g. pp.125-132). On page 151 he insists that Jesus is ‘wholly human’ but then avers that what was incarnate in him was of the essence or nature of God. If this is true, then Jesus was not wholly human after all. Apart from the fact that a man in his natural state as flesh and blood ‘made by hand’ could not possibly ‘house’ the essence or nature of God (cf. 1 K. 8:27; Acts 7:48-50; 17:24) (2* For the same reason it is impossible to accept Mary as the mother of God (theotokos) on the hypothesis that God the Son had the nature of God when he was conceived!), he was docetic, not truly man, but a freak, a hybrid or a third alternative. To put the issue otherwise, if Jesus was truly man, there could be no complete communicatio idiomatum or transfer of attributes till he had been transformed and glorified at his ascension. As man Jesus like all other men needed to begin at the beginning, be perfected (cf. Mt. 5:48; 19:21; Phil. 3:12-14, etc.) and gain God’s complete image (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-53) in order to exercise the delegated powers of God and rule at his right hand (Rev. 3:21). This we might well infer from Matthew 11:27; 28:18, John 13:3, Romans 1:4, and so forth.

The truth is that like so many others Baillie,  conditioned and inhibited by tradition, fails to listen to what the Scripture says, that is, that the Word who was God and so had the nature of God in eternity (Col. 1:16) became man (John 1:1-14). He was created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26f.) so that he might gain his complete likeness. To do so he who was equal with God (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6) and definitely not subordinate to him (which he would have been if he had been his eternal Son) was born in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:8, cf. Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). For a while, that is, until he had been perfected (Heb. 7:28) and glorified (Heb. 1:4,6; 1 Pet. 3:22), like all other men he was made lower than the angels (Ps. 8:4-6; Heb. 2:7,9). Bluntly, he did what we are constantly told he could not do, that is, change his nature. If John 1, Philippians 2 and Hebrews 1 and 2 mean anything at all, they deny the immutability of the nature of the Word which is to place an unacceptable restriction on the God who we are told can do all things (Luke 1:37) except lie and deny himself. In plain words, Chalcedon’s two-nature theory denies the incarnation and is therefore heretical.

This of course raises other questions. First, Baillie along with others seems to think that if Jesus became exclusively man in nature, he could not possibly be God. But the idea that God cannot become man is expressly rejected by Scripture which in light of later teaching plainly implies as early as Genesis 1:26 that he can. It not only imposes limits on the Almighty but also in effect denies the doctrine of the Trinity. Such denial, however, seems to be an inference from the Greek philosophical notion of the utter transcendence, immutability and impassibility of a strictly monadic or ‘monochrome’ God. It ignores his complex tri-personality.

Second, however, it resembles the thesis of some (e.g. Geisler, p.122, etc.) that man who is flesh and blood cannot change his nature without ceasing to be man.  Put simply, the argument is that if man loses his flesh and blood, he is no longer human. In the event, Baillie implicitly rejects this idea since he clearly recognizes that in order to enter the kingdom of heaven man must of necessity shed his flesh and blood which is by nature incapable of being eternalized (1 Cor. 15:50). Paul leaves us in no doubt about this, and his ‘dei’ (Gk) in 1 Corinthians 15:53 is every bit as emphatic as that of Jesus in John 3:7 regarding the new birth. The apostle’s claim that Jesus himself brought to light both immortality and ‘incorruption’ (imperishability, Gk. 2 Tim. 1:10, cf. 1 Cor. 15:53) implies basic change and transformation in accordance with God’s eternal plan for man who was purposely made in the potential image of God (cf. 2 Cor. 5:1-5).

Next, Baillie’s assumption, like that of Archbishop Temple, that if the Word changed his nature, he would cease to be God leads him to believe that the creation which was his own handiwork would collapse. The obvious answer to this problem is the old adage which he himself concedes is a sound principle (p.96) that the works of the Trinity with respect to outsiders are undivided (opera Trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa). Here Baillie seems to have a somewhat different understanding of the expression from others who take the view that since the three persons of the (immanent) Trinity are consubstantial and equally God, they can each perform the functions of the whole Godhead. If this is true, then Archbishop Temple’s question about what was happening to the rest of the universe during the days of the incarnation is superfluous. God as Creator, now Father, and Spirit performed the divine functions of or on behalf of the Word with whose person as Son they obviously retained their relationship (cf. John 10:30,38; 14:10, etc.) in executing the plan of salvation. During his incarnation, Jesus, the man made lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7,9), who as the Son of God born of woman was clearly dependent on his Father (see especially Heb. 5:7) could not possibly have received the incommunicable attributes of God. As noted above, it was not until he had been perfected, transformed and received the generic nature of God as a man who was the image of God (Col. 1:15, etc.) that he received the power to rule the universe (Mt. 28:18; Rom. 1:4; Eph. 1:20-23; Heb. 1:3).  In other words, God did not abdicate during the incarnation; rather, he undergirded and maintained it and thereby ensured that the Word, his now human Son, received all the support that he needed as a genuine human being. This is made clear especially in the letter to the Hebrews. Not for nothing does Professor Bruce Ware lay strong stress on Hebrews 5:7 (ch. 4). Indeed, if Jesus did not receive the indispensable support that all we human beings need, he could not have been fully incarnate. He could not have been as weak as the rest of us (Mt. 26:41; 2 Cor. 13:4) and our elder brother to boot (Heb. 2:10-13, cf. Rom. 8:29).

The fact is that Baillie appears to contradict himself for he implicitly denies any separation in the Trinity. Given the evidence, the reductio ad absurdum he claims is involved is itself absurd. To solve his conundrum he needs to admit the separation in the sense that the persons of the Trinity are distinct, that they perform different functions and divide their labour. Yet salvation or redemption remains a work in which the entire Godhead is involved.  At this point there is divine solidarity (3* Packer in George, p.102, Writings 1, pp.147f.). Thus it is that the incarnate Jesus Christ who died and was raised by God is proclaimed Lord to the glory of God (Phil. 2:11). Romans 10:9 and 14:9, like Acts 2:33,36, can hardly mean anything else. And this is the consistent message of the NT brought out by the familiar if somewhat misnamed covenant of redemption dear to the hearts of the Reformed. The death of the Son as flesh, that is, as human not divine in nature (Acts 3:15; 1 Cor. 2:8; Col. 1:22), is what is involved, and the idea that the divine nature could die is scouted. Alan Richardson, an Anglican, also maintains in his Introduction to New Testament Theology, that all the persons of the Trinity act in every divine work but perform different functions (p.123). For all that, his exposition at this point appears to confuse the immanent with the economic Trinity. The result is that having asserted that ‘Son’ implies derivation, subordination and dependence, he goes on to insist on both the equality and the subordination of Jesus as eternal Son. The truth is, however, that the Son cannot be both equal and subordinate, both divine and human in nature, at one and the same time. To borrow Warfield’s words, Christ’s equality as God is essential, a necessity of nature; his subordination is economic, a matter of arrangement (p.154).  While Paul (Phil. 2:6), John (1:1) and the author of Hebrews (ch. 1f.) all by implication insist on original or immanent equality, they teach sonship and subordination only at the incarnation. The whole point of Hebrews 1, contrary to the assertion of Lane who says especially with regard to verses 7-12 that they substantiate the conclusion that the Son is superior on account of his eternal unchangeable nature and role in creation (p.24), is that in fact they testify to the superiority attained by the victorious incarnate Son. (4* Hughes, with reference to the aorist participle genomenos, having become, in verse 4, concurs with Spicq who says it points to a dated event in history and “designates a superiority which was achieved and clearly indicates that the theme here is not the Son in his eternal existence but Christ with his glorified human nature”, p.50 n.3, cf. p.48). Verses 1-4 can hardly mean anything else. After all, in his divine pre-existence as Creator he was by nature superior to angels – a point that hardly requires substantiation. Unsurprisingly therefore, all three apostolic writers also insist on Jesus’ accomplishment of victory (John 16:33, etc.) in the flesh (John 19:30, cf. 17:1-4; Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). In view of this, Richardson’s affirmations are mutually contradictory. Like all Chalcedonians he is trying to make a distinction without a difference. What the Word performed as God in his pre-existence, that is, creation (Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:10-12), and what he achieves as flesh (John 16:33; 2 Cor. 5:18f.; Heb. 2:14f.) are fundamentally different. At bottom, for Chalcedonians the incarnation did not really occur but only appeared to. They are cryptic docetists.

Baillie’s problem is that he adheres uncritically to the widespread but innately contradictory idea that Christ has two natures at one and the same time. He writes that the kenotic theory appears to him to be a story of a temporary theophany in which the one who was formerly God has been changed temporarily (sic) into a man and in effect to have relinquished his divinity or divine nature. From this he draws the conclusion that having divested himself of his distinctively divine attributes in becoming human, he has ceased to be divine. What he, Baillie, fails to add is that in nature but definitely not in personal identity this is precisely the case, a point that no one to my knowledge despite all the evidence to that effect seems prepared to admit.

 

Change in Nature

Change in nature, however, is basic to the plan of salvation. If man as created in the image of God is intended to attain to glory but in the event proves incapable of doing so because he cannot fulfil the precondition (Lev. 18:5), then change in the nature of the Word himself as Rescuer is inevitably the divine intention. This is implied by Jesus himself when he is reported as saying that he descended in order to ascend (John 3:13; 6:38,62; 13:3, cf. Eph. 4:9f.). Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 15 that like the new birth corporeal transformation is naturally necessary, that is, divinely ordained and inherent in the plan of salvation. (5* See my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities .) Flesh and blood cannot by nature go to heaven (15:50) but must undergo transformation both as such and as being inherently temporary and corruptible. So if the Word was capable of change in order to become flesh and blood, he, Jesus, was also capable of change to enter the kingdom of heaven and become the first born of all creation (Col. 1:15, cf. 1 Cor. 15:45b). Indeed, he himself on occasion (e.g. John 3:13; 13:3) insisted that as the one who had descended and implicitly changed his nature (or, as Paul put it, emptied, humbled (Phil.2:7) and impoverished himself, 2 Cor. 8:9, cf. Heb. 2:7,9), he would ascend and change his nature once more and take on as man the generic nature of God which was his purpose from the start. How could he fill all things if he remained flesh (Eph. 4:9f., cf. Col. 1:19; 2:9)? The point of all this is that change in nature is, as already intimated, basic to the plan of salvation (cf. 2 Cor. 5:5). Our own resurrection transformation means that as God’s sons by adoption we must of necessity take on the generic nature of God himself or, to be more precise, we must be conformed to the image of his Son Jesus (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21) who has become the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8) and hence our hope of glory (Col. 1:27).

Thus it is that when  Jesus still in the flesh is raised, transformed and exalted in power (Rom. 1:4, cf. Mt. 28:18),  like Joseph in Egypt he is appointed Lord (Acts 2:33,36). As the exact or perfected image of God (Heb. 1:3, cf. 2 Cor. 4:4, Col. 1:15) he takes his place at his Father’s side (Heb. 1:3,13; 4:14; 7:26; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2; Rev. 3:21). And just as Joseph remained subordinate to Pharaoh (Gen. 41:40, cf. Acts 7:10), so the human Jesus, though still God, the eternal Word, by identity, remains subordinate in nature to his heavenly Father (1 Cor. 15:24-28). As for us, the redeemed, we acknowledge Christ as Lord too, all to the praise of God our Creator and Redeemer in Christ (cf. Phil. 2:9-11; Rev. 4 & 5).

 

Packer

J.I.Packer (Writings, p.38) suggests that some Chalcedonians sensing the smell of Docetism speculate (‘guess’, sic!) that in order to experience genuine human limitations Jesus had to abandon some of his divine powers when he became man. One would have thought that this was obvious. If not, the incarnation was a sham and Jesus as God was able to rely on his own divine powers (cf. Jud. 6:31). (6* See above on Baillie and my Still Docetic.)

On page 72 Packer astonishingly says that there is no hint of any such forfeiture and that the very suggestion seems to undermine Jesus’ authority as a teacher and thus dishonour him. Just how is not made apparent. Apart from noting that explicit evidence can be mustered to counter this (e.g. John 8:28f., 10:38), it would appear at this point that the very incarnation is at stake. The NT writers are adamant that Jesus was truly human and depict him as such. Denial is heresy (1 John 4:2f.; 2 John 7). The author of Hebrews goes so far as to say that he differed from the rest of us only in that he did not sin (Heb. 2:17, cf. 2:14f.; 4:15).

Packer goes on to posit a rather strange and muddled dilemma relating to Jesus’ temporary abandonment of his heavenly omnipotence and omniscience (cf. Heb. 2:7,9). He suggests that on the assumption of kenosis it would seem to follow on the one hand that Jesus’ present heavenly experience is not now fully human or if it is, he has not regained the powers he abandoned at his incarnation and never will. But surely this is precisely what Scripture denies. What could be clearer than texts like Matthew 11:27,28:18, John 3:13,13:3, Romans 1:4 and Ephesians 4:9-10? The whole purpose of the incarnation was for Jesus as man to achieve for man the complete image of God that eluded the rest of us because we could not keep the law which was the precondition of eternal life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5). According to Scripture, in his humanity Jesus was perfected (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28) and became the exact image of God (Heb. 1:3, cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). As such he took his place at his Father’s side and proceeded to exercise as man all the powers characteristic of God. That is why he is described as Lord (Acts 2:33,36; Rom. 14:9; 2 Cor. 4:5; Phil. 2:11,  and compare Rev. 5:11-13 with  4:8-11).

Next, Packer, conceding Jesus’ acknowledgement of ignorance of the time of his return, weakly suggests in effect that he suppressed or held in abeyance his knowledge at his Father’s behest. The evidence for this seems to be entirely lacking in view of his own assertion that his words were always words he derived from his Father (John 12:49; 17:8, cf. Rev. 1:1). As a genuine man he was as dependent here as he was for the works or signs he performed (John 5:19,30; 8:28f.). Even contemporaries like Nicodemus were so impressed by him that they concluded God must be at work in him (John 3:2; 9:16,33; 10:38; Acts 2:22; 10:36-43, etc.). (7* See also my Did Jesus Perform Miracles?)

Packer further claims that Jesus’ human limitations should be explained not in terms of the incarnation but of the eternal life of the Trinity. But surely they should be explained in terms of both, for the Trinity and the incarnation are indissolubly linked! In view of the NT’s strong stress on the reality of the incarnation, Jesus’ consequent humiliation (Phil. 2:7), his human weakness (2 Cor. 13:4), his impoverishment (2 Cor. 8:9) and the plan of salvation in general, Packer’s comment constitutes a false dichotomy. Apart from the doctrine of the Trinity, the incarnation, which was planned in eternity by the immanent or essential Trinity which means that by definition all the persons were equal, was impossible. The so-called covenant of redemption demands complete equality. Without it Jesus was to all intents and purposes a subordinate creature which is simply intolerable.

Yet another point must be made. If Jesus as flesh and therefore physically part of creation was not self-sustaining but had to be sustained by his Father like the rest of mankind, by the same token creation itself must have been sustained by his Father during his incarnation. In other words, Archbishop Temple’s original question was for a Christian believer really superfluous and misconceived. As Jesus himself said, God continued to work (John 5:17a). And this enabled Jesus himself to work (John 5:17b) for he did what he saw the Father doing (John 5:19,30, etc.). As Baillie might have expressed it, God was at work in Christ! So when the Jews claimed that Jesus was illegally healing on the Sabbath, they were implicitly accusing the God they claimed to worship of breaking his own law, thus rendering him unrighteous.

Elsewhere (p.227) Packer rightly says that, in view of Jesus’ ascension to glory and his sending of the Holy Spirit, the Acts of the Apostles might well have been called ‘Acts of the Holy Spirit’. Even more obviously relevant to my thesis, however, is Alan J.Thompson’s contention evident in the title of his book ‘The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus’. This draws attention to God’s unfolding plan of salvation which necessitated, first, the Word’s incarnation to trial and temptation in human weakness (8* This, like his crucifixion, Acts 3:15; 1 Cor. 2:8; Col. 1:22, was impossible in his divine nature, James 1:13.) and, given his victory over the world (John 16:33) in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.), his subsequent transformation to power and lordship and consequent enthronement as man at his Father’s side. Here we can hardly fail to see that the once dependent Jesus has been exalted and become King of the universe in fulfilment of the Davidic promises and lives and reigns for evermore as the Lamb of God (Rev. 4:10; 5:12f.). As appointed Lord he now applies the salvation he achieved on earth. The Jesus the original apostles saw and the one Paul ‘saw’ on his way to Damascus has undergone a dramatic change. The difference is surely the difference in nature but certainly not in person (Acts 9:5). And even if we acknowledge with Paul his permanent subordination to God (1 Cor. 15:24-28), it is as man which he ever remains in nature but not as deity. While in person he is both God and man, as man in nature he can never become God, only his image (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3) as Joseph to all intents and purposes became the image of Pharaoh (Gen. 41:40-44; 44:18). We must never forget the ‘ad extra’ and the difference between the immanent and the economic Trinity.  After all, just as Joseph was a foreigner to Pharaoh, so was Jesus the man distinct from God. Of course, the relationship between Jesus and God was closer than that of Joseph and Pharaoh, for Jesus at his incarnation became the very Son of God, human but not divine.*  In the final analysis all the glory is God’s (Rev. 4:11). Soli Deo Gloria.

* Perhaps a better analogy than Joseph’s experience is that provided by Nebuchadnezzar. He, in contrast with Jesus who freely experienced personal humiliation, was sentenced against his will to undergo a change of nature (Dan. 4:28-37). Again like Jesus after a fashion, he eventually enjoyed restoration. The difference is, however, that though remaining, like Nebuchadnezzar, the same person throughout his experience, Jesus’ change in nature was permanent. He remains forever man the complete image of God (Heb. 1:3, etc.) and it is to his image that we are conformed (Rom. 8:29; 1 Cor. 15:49; Phil. 3:21). In his love, he has for our salvation assumed human nature. Just as Nebuchadnezzar remained the same person, so Jesus remained and remains God in person. In this sense alone he is both God and man at one and the same time. It is for this reason that God and the Lamb occupy the same throne (Rev. 3:21; 5:13). Pace Chalcedon!

See further my Eternal Son? Still Docetic, The Ecclesiastical Christ.

 

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References

D.M.Baillie, God Was in Christ, London, 1956.

N.Geisler, The Battle for the Resurrection, Nashville, 1992.

T.George, ed., God the Holy Trinity, Grand Rapids, 2006.

P.E.Hughes, Commentary of the Epistle to the Hebrews, Grand Rapids, 1977, repr. 1987.

William L.Lane, WBC Hebrews 1-8, Dallas, 1991.

J.I.Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, Vol. 1, Carlisle, 1998.

A.Richardson, An Introduction to the Theology of the New Testament, London, 1958.

Alan J.Thompson, The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus, Nottingham/Downers Grove, 2011.

Bruce A.Ware, The Man Christ Jesus, Wheaton, 2013.

B.B.Warfield, The Saviour of the World, Cherry Hill, repr. 1972.

Adam’s Genealogy and Destiny

 

If Adam, the individual, was the first human being created by God, the prototype of all his posterity, he must have had both a father and a mother or he was different from the rest of us. If not, according to the author of Hebrews he must have resembled Melchizedek who had neither (Heb. 7). But this would erode the distinction which is made between the first and the second Adams for the latter in his pre-existence as the eternal Word was God (John 1:1) of whom Melchizedek who had no genealogy was the type.
Any apparent confusion at this point can be unravelled first by recognizing that the incarnate Jesus had both parents, for the eternal God was his Father, as he constantly maintained, and the Virgin Mary his mother, as we are plainly taught in both Matthew and Luke and which we infer from Paul (Gal. 4:4). As a true human being and the second Adam, Jesus also had Adam as his father through his mother who derived from him (Gen. 2:21f.; Luke 3:38). But if Adam was a son and his Father was God, who was his mother? Clearly the answer must be mother earth in whose womb he was created as seed (Gen. 2:7, cf. Ps. 139:15; Eph. 4:9). And it was as such that he was transferred to the Garden of Eden to be conceived and to gestate as a human being (Gen. 2:8,15) as David did in his own mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13). However, there has been a historical tendency to think of God as the divine potter making or fashioning Adam out of clay in a single day. Though this is arguably suggested by texts like Genesis 2:7, Job 10:8f., Psalm 119:73, Jeremiah 18:1-6 and 2 Corinthians 4:7, it clearly involves denial of man’s development or evolution, and the fundamentalist idea that when Adam was created he looked as if he was thirty years old must be dismissed out of hand. Thus the imagery prominent in Job 10:11 and Psalm 139:13 of being knitted or woven (ESV) in the depths of the earth is obviously more appropriate (cf. Eph. 4:9).
 
 
Woman and Mother Earth
 
From this, and bearing in mind that procreation is creation recapitulated, it seems fairly obvious that a woman’s womb is mother earth in miniature, a fruitful garden in fact , later to become the Garden of Eden where both Job (ch.3;10:18f.) and Jeremiah (20:14-18) who suffered much wished they had stayed. However, as Nicodemus realized once they were born, there was no going back (John 3:4, cf. Gen. 3:24). This point is underlined by Genesis 3:20 where we are told that Eve became the mother of all living implying that the earth from which she herself as dust derived through Adam was the ultimate mother. Otherwise expressed, Eve epitomized or typified the earth (1 Cor. 11:12) as Adam, the image of God, epitomized or typified God (1 Cor. 11:7). This being so, it was both inevitable and paramount that Jesus, the incarnate Son and second Adam, should be born of woman (Gal. 4:4) who was dust (Ps. 103:14) like Adam himself (Gen. 3:19: 1 Cor. 15:47). (1* Charles Wesley sang: “Our God contracted to a span, Incomprehensibly made man”. He would have been nearer the truth if he had said that he was ‘condensed to a seed’ in line with the rest of us who begin as seed, 1 Pet. 1:23, cf. Mark 4:26-29, in our father’s loins, Heb. 7:10, cf. John 1:13!)

It is an interesting fact that the link or correspondence between woman and earth becomes apparent elsewhere in Scripture. For just as the earth was created to be inhabited and fruitful (Gen. 1; Is. 45:18), so woman likewise was created to be fruitful (Gen. 1:27f.; 9:1,7). Thus, unsurprisingly, we are told in Deuteronomy, for example, that just as the ground was meant to be fruitful so was woman (Dt. 7:13; 28:4,11; 30:9). And so at his incarnation Jesus was the fruit of Mary’s womb (Luke 1:42). On the other hand, it is also made apparent that just as uncultivated, uninhabited, even unmarried (Isa. 62:4) land is desolate, so is an unmarried woman as exemplified by the daughter of Jephthah (Jud. 11:34-40) and by the daughter of David, Tamar (1 Sam. 13:20, cf. the temple, Mt. 23:38, and the body, James 2:26). In light of the general teaching of Scripture we might well expect that deliberate failure to be fruitful is condemned by Paul in 1 Timothy 4:3f. (cf. Heb. 13:4).
 
 
Populating the Earth
 
If it is true that God finished his specifically creative work on the sixth day, it is clear that assuming the earth was to continue to be inhabited, seed-bearing plants and animals under the providence of God had to be maintained by procreation and even lead to an increased population necessary to cover the earth. In light of this we might expect that so far as man was concerned, Adam, as the image and glory of God, fertilised or impregnated his wife, who was his glory (1 Cor. 11:7), just as God acting as the Father of Adam (cf. Eph. 3:15; Acts 17:26-28) had initially fertilised mother earth. (2* This in no way implies that woman is inferior to man since both are made in the image of God and called to the same goal of perfection in that image. It is simply a matter of recognizing their different but complementary sexual roles while on earth, cf. 1 Cor. 11:12. In heaven, where God sows and populates mother Jerusalem, Gal. 4:26, John 1:13, Heb. 12:22-24, the difference is obliterated, Luke 20:34-36.) In this way, the creation of mankind was recapitulated by procreation which in accordance with the purpose of God proved prolific and ensured the dispersion of man throughout the earth (Gen. 10f.).
 
 
The Curse

Biblical teaching raises a problem in that it refers to the curse on the ground relating to Adam’s sin as Genesis 3:17-19 indicate. This prompts the question of the nature of that curse. (3* If Adam is regarded simply as one individual man who occupied a limited space, how is it that the entire earth has been deemed to be under a curse as a consequence of his sin? The very idea is undermined by verses like Genesis 13:10, Exodus 16:3; Numbers 16:13 and Isaiah 36:17, not to mention the land flowing with milk and honey itself even though it had been occupied by the sinful Canaanites.) Does it mean that the good earth that God had created was subjected to constitutional change and deemed to be ‘fallen’ on account of Adam’s sin? Though this has apparently been the view handed on to us by our Augustinian tradition which has tended to regard the original creation as ‘perfect’ instead of as merely ‘good’ or useful or functional (4* Walton, pp.187f.), it is far from convincing not least since Scripture later considers the physical creation pejoratively irrespective of sin, for whatever is ‘made by hand’ (cheiropoietos) even by God himself is deemed to be ‘second class’ (Ps. 102:25-27; Isa. 51:6; Mt. 6:19f., etc.). (5* See further my Manufactured Or Not So.) Even at the very start of the Bible we are informed that creation has a beginning and implicitly an end. This end is confirmed later in Genesis 8:22, for example, (cf. Dt. 11:21; Heb. 1:11, etc.). And since all animal flesh and plant life derive from it, it too is subject to corruption or decay, not least the incarnate Jesus who like the rest of us gradually grew older (Luke 2:42, etc.). And the inevitable consequence of this was eventual disappearance (Heb. 8:13, cf. 2 Cor. 4:16-18).

 

Genesis 3

So what is being got at in Genesis 3? The answer is surely to be found in Genesis 1 where we are told that man’s basic call was to subdue and exercise dominion over an obviously transitory, futile (Rom. 8:20) and ‘defectible’ earth. Unfortunately, this is what Adam and his immediate posterity failed to do. They were prevented, first, by their sinful attitude or reluctance (Gen. 5:29) like that of the sluggard in Proverbs 24:30-34, and, second, by their limited capacity as the ‘infants’ of the race. We can appreciate their situation better if we accept the notion of recapitulation and recognize that just as an infant individual in our own day does not work, so neither did the race work effectively at its ‘infant’ beginning. There is a basic difference, however. Adam emerged from Eden, the secondary womb of the race, where he had gestated to physical maturity but with only minimal understanding. Like a modern infant on the verge of childhood he could understand only one commandment, to all intents and purposes the word ‘no’. This is surely why there was no covenant made with Adam in contrast with Israel who after its heathen experience had developed sufficiently to accede to the Mosaic covenant (Ex. 24:3,7). Though a covenant, especially the covenant with Noah, is divinely initiated and disposed, it nonetheless implies at least minimal mutuality. (6* See e.g. Packer, p.11, contra Murray who somewhat overstates his case by unduly accentuating the sovereignty of God, p.13, at this point with respect to Noah. He fails to realise that a covenant is ineffective unless it is made with a person who has recognizable rational intelligence enabling him to respond however minimally. See, for example, his own comment on revelation in Romans 1:19, p.38. So while Noah’s faith and obedience are conspicuous, Gen. 6:22; Heb. 11:7, etc., infants, who know neither good nor evil, cf. Heb. 5:13f., are incapable by nature of positive reaction and so are out of the reckoning. Like animals they are totally subject to the one who forms them, cf. Isa. 45:9f.) The difference between Adam who was given a bare commandment which he broke and Noah whose call to commitment (Gen. 9:1-17) despite his sinfulness, was effective is plain. While a covenant may be sovereignly and unilaterally disposed, its acceptance and fulfilment must be at least in principle bilateral. If it were not so, it is difficult to see why flood was permanently erased and the curse not perpetuated. (7* See further my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?) Whereas at the start he had lived an idyllic animal-like life in Eden (cf. Gen. 2:16), once he had been ejected like a baby emerging from its mother’s womb, he was faced with the harsh world outside Eden which proved anything but a spontaneous benefactor (cf. Job 3; Jer. 20:14-18; Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18; Gal. 1:4). After all, God himself of set purpose had subjected it to futility with something better in mind (Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12). In other words, Adam now had to consciously work for a living and this was not merely difficult but obviously went against the grain as later Cain (Gen. 4:11-14) and Lamech in particular indicated (Gen. 5:29). Nonetheless, the ultimate goal of man was honour and glory (Gen. 1:26; Ps. 8; Rom. 2:7,10; Heb. 2:9).
 
 
Death

Of course, once Adam could understand the commandment, he could also appreciate the need to obey (cf. Paul in Romans 7:9f.). During his earlier animal life when like a baby he had lacked conscious intelligence (cf. Rom. 9:11), he was unaware of the existence of death and various other things such as animal copulation (cf. Gen. 2:21-23). However, Genesis 3:16, which emphatically underlines the increase in Eve’s pain on giving birth, points unerringly to the fact that Eve had had children before she became a consciously intelligent and comprehending human being. The difference in perception of pain between a mother and her baby at this point ought to be evident to us all. (8* See further my Nature Red in Tooth and Claw, Correspondences.) It is important to mention here that Adam’s immediate posterity was greater than a superficial reading of the evidence might suggest. This doubtless explains Cain’s fear of others who might kill him (Gen. 4:14f.). (9* Again it must be pointed out on the assumption of recapitulation that Adam and Eve though clearly individuals were also corporate figures who, like the second Adam, epitomised the race. Little wonder that commentators find it difficult to distinguish references to them, Adam in particular, in the early chapters of Genesis. See, e.g. Wenham, pp.32,91,115,126.)
 
 
Noah’s ‘Baptism’

It is doubtless helpful to draw attention here to Noah’s ‘baptism’ referred to in 1 Peter 3:21 at the time of the flood (cf. 2 Pet. 2:5). The apostle apparently sees Noah as being cleansed of his infantile filth just as Jewish flesh was later cleansed by washings (Heb. 9:10) and we ourselves are cleansed by the water of baptismal regeneration when we believe in Christ and become Christians (1 Cor. 6:11; Eph. 5:26; Tit. 3:5). This is clearly a significant advance on the experience of Adam who questionably believed the promise (protevangelium) of Genesis 3:15. As far as we know, in his manifest immaturity he, like a baby, fell short of the faith of Abel and Enoch. Certainly the author of Hebrews 11 does not refer to him in his cloud of witnesses. This being so and assuming that a covenant is bilateral at least in principle, the likelihood of his being the conscious beneficiary of a divine covenant is remote indeed. (10* See again my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?) The contrast between the merely disobedient ‘infant’ Adam and the enterprising and obedient ‘child’ Noah is significant. With a covenant to guarantee success, Noah, the first heathen before Abraham, was capable of achieving well beyond any aspirations Adam might have had. In fact, by contrast, he was well and truly launched on the path to perfection along with those who followed in his train under the law of Moses (Heb. 11:23-40). The fact that many even today live almost entirely under the dominion of the flesh (cf. 2 Pet. 2:19; Rom.6:16, contrast 13:14) emphasises the difference between man and animal as both Peter (2:2) and Jude especially intimate.

 

Biblical Comprehensiveness

The wonder of the biblical revelation is its comprehensiveness. Rightly understood, it teaches us not only about the existence of God and about creation, the creation of man in particular, but about the entire development, evolution or perfection (maturation) of man both physical and spiritual. Man is progressively baptised into Noah (1 Pet. 3:21), Moses (1 Cor. 10:2) and finally into Christ (Rom. 6:3, cf. Mt. 28:19). Sadly because of traditional ideas about original perfection, sin, fall and curse, the latter has largely been obscured. But the truth is that man (Adam) was created imperfect (immature) with a view to his final perfection or complete likeness in the image of God (Gen. 2:17; 5:1-3; 6:9; 17:1; Lev. 11:44; 19:2; Mt. 5:48; Heb. 6:1, etc.). While physically he resembled the rest of the animal, even vegetable (Isa. 40:6; 1 Pet. 1:23), creation and was subject to natural death (1 Cor.15:50) and what Walton calls biodegradability (p.188), that is, corruption or decay even apart from sin, spiritually he could aspire to eternal life and corporeal transformation in the presence of God himself. In the event, like all his posterity but One, Adam failed on account of sin. The second Adam, however, who though flesh did not sin (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.) and thereby met the precondition of life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5), achieved that elusive perfection and took his place at his Father’s side as the very embodiment of the complete image of God (Heb. 1:3, cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). And it is in union with him, our elder brother (Rom. 8:29; Heb. 2:10-13) and firstborn of all creation (Col. 1:15), that we too take our place (Rev. 3:21). All believers together throughout history will be perfected (Heb. 11:39f.) and all together (Rev. 7:9) will with Christ inherit all things (Rom. 8:17,32).
 
See further my Cosmic Curse?, Supplement to ‘Cosmic Curse?’, Understanding the Curse, Observations on the Curse, Romans 8:18-25; The Chicken or the Egg, Perfection, The Biblical Doctrine Of Human Evolution.

 

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References

John Murray, The Covenant of Grace, London, 1954.

The Epistle to the Romans, London, 1967.

J.I.Packer, Collected Shorter Writings, Vol.1, Carlisle, 1998.

John H. Walton, NIVAC, Genesis, Grand Rapids, 2001.

G.J.Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Waco, 1987.

Interpreting John 3:5

 

The interpretation of John 3:5 is controversial. Even those who take a strong stand on its meaning admit that various other views are or have been current. For instance, J.I.Packer, in a helpful sermon on the Trinity (p.5), claims that alternative views are much fought over but goes on to declare categorically that explanations that posit a contrast between the water of John’s baptism, Christian baptism or the waters of physical birth are on the wrong track. He goes on to assert that ‘water’ and ‘the Spirit’ are two aspects of the one reality, that is, the fallen and unresponsive human heart. In order to justify this assertion he appeals to Ezekiel 36:25-27 which promises the renewal of Israelite hearts.

Don Carson, in a far more detailed analysis of this verse befitting a major commentary, also opts for essentially the same view and like Packer appeals to Ezekiel 36:25-27 which he regards as being of basic importance. His point is that in this passage water and spirit come together so forcefully as to signify first cleansing from impurity and secondly transformation of heart enabling people to follow God wholly (p.195).

 

John 3 and Original Sin
 
However, Carson’s reference to impurity like that of Packer to the fallen human heart raises questions. While throughout chapter 36 Ezekiel is certainly concerned with sin, where is the evidence in the discussion between Nicodemus and Jesus that it is even vaguely on the horizon? Traditionally, of course, following Augustine and his belief that Adam lost his original righteousness when he sinned, it has been assumed that the new birth occurs to counteract sin, original sin in particular. But as I have argued extensively in various articles (1* See my Some Arguments Against Original Sin, Does Romans Teach Original Sin?, Thoughts On ‘Adam, The Fall And Original Sin’, The Redundancy Of Original Sin.), original sin is contrary to what the Bible teaches and this can be demonstrated in part by a correct exegesis of John 3:1-8 to go no further.

 

Flesh and Spirit
 
After all, the focus in this passage is on flesh and spirit, and sin is gratuitously read into it not out of it. This point is underlined especially by verse 6 which differentiates between physical and spiritual birth and more particularly by verse 7 where Jesus says it is necessary (Gk dei), not imperative, for all who are flesh to be born again. If the imperative had been used as it is, for example, in Mark 1:15 (cf. Luke 13:3) with regard to repentance, the picture would change. The truth is, however, that man as flesh and blood is excluded by birth nature from entering the spiritual kingdom of God. This being so, he needs, first, to be born from above, that is, receive God’s own nature (cf. Carson referring to John 4:24) as Jesus strongly insists and John implies in 1:13, and, second, to undergo corporeal transformation as Paul avers in 1 Corinthians 15:50. In other words, these things are necessary irrespective of sin. (2* See my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities.)
 
 
John 3:3
 
This point is underlined by John 3:3 where Jesus says that unless ‘one’ or ‘anyone’ (Gk tis) is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Commenting on this Berkhof, categorically and surely correctly, says that this statement leaves no room for exceptions (p.472). But if this is so, then Jesus himself as the Word incarnate, that is, flesh, must be included. To appreciate the truth of this we have only to look at passages like Matthew 3:13-17 which, if we are prepared to let the text speak for itself without allowing traditional ideas regarding original sin to intrude, we can safely assume that incarnate Jesus himself, who has kept to perfection the law which promises life (Lev. 18:5) and thereby pleased his Father, is as a man of flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14,17) given eternal life.
 
 
John 3:7
 
Commenting on John 3:7 Carson (p.197) agrees that the challenge of the ‘you must be born again’ here is of universal application. Unfortunately, however, noting that the ‘you’ is plural, he immediately contradicts his own assertion and argues that this sets Jesus himself not merely over against Nicodemus but the entire human race. In a way he is right, but what he apparently fails to realise is that, as I have suggested above, Jesus is already uniquely born again and will remain so until Pentecost when he sends the Spirit to regenerate those who believe in him. If this is not so, then Jesus cannot possibly be classified as the second Adam, the leader (Heb. 6:20) of the new regenerate or third race (cf. 1 Cor. 10:32). Again, if it were not true, Paul could hardly have written as he did in 1 Corinthians 15:45-55. For on the assumption that Jesus was a genuine man, the unavoidable inference we must draw is that Jesus was by necessity born from above at his baptism and transformed at his ascension. In no other way could he have become the Saviour of man.
 
 
Synonymous parallelism
 
So then, what conclusions do we draw from this? Surely John 3:5-6 are to be understood as yet another instance of synonymous parallelism which is quite common in the Bible. At this point, Gordon Fee’s comment on 1 Corinthians 15:50 is a propos. He says there that the second line makes the same point as the first and adds that together the two terms declare most decisively that the body as it is at present cannot inherit the heavenly existence (p.798). My contention is then that Jesus is saying essentially the same thing in John 3:5-6. To attain to our heavenly goal it is indispensably necessary that we are born again and that, since our mortal and corruptible flesh (2 Cor. 4:11) cannot possibly be our eternal dwelling (2 Cor. 5:1), we are corporeally transformed. In light of this, it is hardly surprising that we learn first from Jesus that we must be born from above (John 3:7) and from Paul that our perishable and mortal body must put on both imperishability and immortality (1 Cor. 15:53). (See note.) Needless to say, as if to clinch the issue, Paul teaches us in 2 Timothy 1:10 that Jesus brought both to light.
I conclude then that in referring to water and spirit in John 3:5 Jesus is pinpointing the two births made explicit in John 3:6 that are experienced irrespective of sin by all believers who are finally saved.
See further my Was Jesus Born Again?
 
 
Note
 
There has been an unfortunate historical failure to differentiate between immortality and corruption with the result that in some translations (e.g. NIV, NRSV) 2 Timothy 1:10 refers to “life and immortality”, which is tautologous, instead of to life and “imperishability” or “incorruption”. See also Romans 1:23, 2:7 and 1 Tim. 1:17 as referred to by Vine, pp.131,320. This has serious repercussions when this naturally aging earth (Heb. 1:11, etc.) is assumed to have fallen prey to Adam’s sin and is subject to redemption. On this see, for example, my Romans 8:18-25 In Brief, John Stott on the Putative Resurrection Transformation of Jesus.

 

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References
 
L.Berkhof, Systematic Theology, London 1959.
 
D.A.Carson, The Gospel According to John, Leicester, 1991.
 
G.D.Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, Grand Rapids, 1987.
 
J.I.Packer, Celebrating the Saving Work of God, Shorter Writings, Vol. 1, Carlisle, 1998.
 
Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary, Nashville 1985.

Eternal Son?

 

Writers on theological themes frequently refer to Jesus as the eternal Son. Kevin Giles has even written a book entitled The Eternal Generation of the Son. It is a scholarly and powerfully argued example of the theologians’ craft, but is it convincing? Even its author admits that the eternal sonship, though ecclesiastically orthodox, is not clearly taught in Scripture (see e.g. pp.66,88), but it figures in the Nicene Creed which is almost universally accepted in the church. It is regularly recited in the communion service of Anglicans following their (Australian) Prayer Book (p.117) which  refers to Jesus as “the only Son of God eternally begotten of the Father … begotten not made.” As a great admirer of Athanasius who strongly defended the Nicene Creed’s emphasis on the true deity of the Son of God in his opposition to Arianism, Giles is clearly biased in his favour. But the question that confronts one whose final authority is Scripture is: Is it scriptural? I have no hesitation in replying in the negative. There are serious problems with it as I shall now seek to demonstrate.

 

The Word of God

First, as I have already noted the idea of the eternal Son does not come from Scripture which refers by contrast to Jesus as the (eternal) Word of God through whom all things were made. John’s gospel begins in this way and goes so far as to equate the Word with God.  It then proceeds to say in terms that can hardly be mistaken that the Word became flesh (John 1:14). What is striking about this is that it does not say that the eternal Son became flesh which, on its hypothesis, it ought to. Then in Philippians 2 the apostle Paul clearly adopts the same stance though he uses different terminology. He maintains that Jesus was in the form (NRSV, ESV, etc.) or had the nature of God (NIV) and was thus equal with him. Like John he goes on to refer to his humiliation, first, in taking the nature of a servant, that is, a man of flesh and blood (cf. Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14), and, second, as such, being obedient even to the point of death. Now it is obvious that it is only as a man that the Word could die and make atonement for the sins of the people. If he had retained the nature of God he would have been incapable of this, for by definition God lives for ever. This is the point made by the author of Hebrews who stresses the necessity of the incarnation for the purposes of atonement (e.g. Heb. 2:10-18).

Despite this, theologians and commentators in general refer frequently to the fact that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Few Christians would wish to dissent from this depending on what is meant. Since the Chalcedonian Creed, which stresses the hypostatic union or the idea that in becoming man the Word retained his divine nature, is almost universally accepted by the orthodox, questions are raised.  The famous words used to support dyophysitism or the dual nature of the Son are that they are united “unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably”. Apart from noting that many theologians are not unnaturally unhappy with this terminology not least because it appears contradictory, they seem to be willing to accept it as orthodox because they cannot think of anything better and there is much at stake. (1* It might be helpfully added at this point that ecclesiastical orthodoxy, though rightfully exercising powerful influence,  may nonetheless be biblical heresy.).

 

Two Natures

However, the very idea that the two natures, the divine which is spirit (John 4:24) and the human which is flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14) can be united is open to question for the simple reason that it erodes their natural and fundamental difference highlighted throughout the Bible (e.g. Is. 31:3; Jer. 17:5; John 3:6; 6:63) and destroys their distinctive attributes. It is far worse than trying to mix oil and water or, to use a more biblical analogy, to mix clay and iron (Dan. 2:33). But we can go further and note that it applies to man himself whose constituent parts are flesh and spirit (John 3:6). These can be united in one person but they remain permanently distinct as natures. And this distinction is vital for our understanding of salvation, for Paul tells us that flesh and blood cannot by nature (emphatically not because of sin which is frequently read into it) inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). If this were not so, all the animals which are flesh would be candidates for salvation. After his spiritual regeneration (John 1:13; 3:1-8), a change or transformation in the body of man, presently flesh, is therefore indispensable. And while whatever Paul means when he refers to our spiritual body in 1 Corinthians 15:44 may be somewhat opaque, it certainly does not refer to a body of flesh wholly directed by the spirit as some would have us believe. If it did, then Jesus himself does not have a glorified body in heaven but is still flesh and blood. (2* See my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities.) But there is more to say.

 

Retaining the Divine Nature

If the Word did not lay aside his divine nature and glory at his incarnation contrary to what the apostolic authors appear to claim, he never truly became man. At best he was a freak or a third alternative and certainly not the second Adam, a genuine son of the first (Luke 3:38). At this point we can begin to appreciate the devastating consequences of traditional thinking. First, it results in Docetism: Jesus appeared to be man but was not really so. This heresy has plagued the church for centuries and continues to manifest itself in Jehovah’s Witnesses and in Islam. Second, it implies that he was not our kinsman redeemer (Heb. 2:14,17) and as such never made atonement for the sins of his brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:10-13). This being so, they are consequently still in their sins. Of course, it may be urged that God being the omnipotent God can forgive whomever he pleases, but to say this is to deny his moral nature as we understand it. For the Bible makes it indisputably plain that the only way in which man can be saved is by keeping the law. This we are taught somewhat cryptically, it must be conceded, as early as Genesis 2:17, but clearly in Leviticus 18:5 which text is cited frequently throughout the rest of the Bible (e.g. Ezek. 18:9; 20:11,13,21; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12, etc.).

Next, if the Word retained his divine nature during his incarnation, why did he rely so heavily on his heavenly Father? Why did not he flex his own divine muscles (cf. Jud. 6:31)? And the popular idea that was, first (I think), propounded by Archbishop Temple and widely disseminated by Donald Baillie in his book God Was In Christ, is hardly relevant given the doctrine of the Trinity? The assumption that while he was in the cradle, even the womb, Jesus, or his alter ego, was upholding the universe is not only nonsense but an implicit denial of his true humanity. According to Scripture, Jesus himself as human flesh and blood had to be sustained, guarded and protected by his heavenly Father as, for example, his flight to Egypt as a child to evade the clutches of the murderous Herod plainly implies. So how could he possibly sustain the universe so long as he was himself lower than the angels in mortal, corruptible flesh (cf. Heb. 2:7,9)  which itself derives from the  corruptible earth and which by definition as creation is non-self-sustaining? (3* Colossians 1:17 and Hebrews 1:3 both refer to Christ sustaining the universe, but this is after his triumph, transformation and session at the right hand of power, cf. Mt.26:64; 28:18; Rom. 1:4. We ignore the reality of the incarnation and the subsequent delegation of powers at our peril.) If the principle enshrined in the old theological dictum that the works of the Trinity in the world are not divided is true, and this is accepted by the likes of Baillie and Richardson, the equality of the persons of the Trinity is upheld and the Word was, to use Calvin’s word, autotheos, himself God. (4* J.I.Packer refers rightly if somewhat inconsistently, it would seem to me, to the “Triune aseity” as being central to the disclosure of who and what God is, Vol. 2, p.217.) This being the case, we are bound to infer that neither God the Father nor God the Spirit ceased to operate but continued to maintain the universe as hitherto. Does this mean that the Trinity was divided after all? Not at all. The three persons despite their evident distinctiveness retained their solidarity in accordance with the plan of salvation (traditionally the so-called covenant of redemption), though there was so far as the economic Trinity is concerned a division of specific labour. As Jesus himself pointed out, during his incarnation his Father continued to work thereby enabling him to work too (John 5:17).

 

Miracles

This prompts yet another question. Did Jesus as man perform miracles? (5* See my Did Jesus Perform Miracles?.) Was he in other words a magician, a human wonder worker? The answer to this, it would seem to me, must be a categorical no. First, he himself stressed the fact that he did nothing apart from his Father (John 5:19, 30, etc.) to whom, as a weak man of flesh (2 Cor. 13:4; Heb. 2:17), tempted at all points as we are (Heb. 4:15), he constantly prayed for help (e.g. Heb. 5:7).  Since, however, his relationship with his Father was not broken by sin (Isa. 59:2), his prayers as he said were always answered (John 9:31; 11:22,42, cf. Mark 11:24). Second, he taught that his works or signs pointed to the fact that God was at work in him and that on that basis he should be believed (John 10:37f.). Third, his contemporaries saw him as a real man among men like themselves in whom the power of God was manifest and accordingly they praised God (Luke 18:43; 19:37; John 3:2; 9:16,33, etc.). Fourth, apart from Jesus’ own assertion in John 14:9, Doubting Thomas, after subjecting him to meticulous physical examination concluded that he was God (John 20:28) but obviously not God in nature, for how can mere men physically examine the nature of the invisible God who after all is  a consuming fire (Isa. 33:14; Heb. 12:29)? At this point even modern science with all its undeniable capability is impotent.

 

Miscellaneous Difficulties

But there are other problems with the notion of eternal Sonship. First, Alan Richardson among others points out that “the very word ‘Son’ implies derivation, subordination and dependence” (p.123) in effect denying the Triune aseity referred to by Packer in note 2 above. If it does, then it clearly applies to the incarnate Son but certainly not to the eternal Word who was God (John 1:1) and therefore equal with God (Phil. 2:6). If it did, the Son was eternally subordinate and hardly a party on an equal footing to the so-called covenant or Trinitarian plan of redemption. He was arguably dragooned into incarnation by an imperious Father who was prepared to have his way come what may. (6* This apparently was the widely rejected thesis of one Steve Chalke in a book I haven’t read.) This is far from the picture painted in the NT where Jesus claims to be always one with his Father both ontologically and morally (John 10:30, cf. 5:19,30; 8:28f.; 14:9; 17:11,22).

On the assumption that the reasoning of the preceding paragraph is valid, eternal Sonship destroys the nature and aseity of the Trinity as I understand it. In effect, the eternal generation of the Son represents the evisceration of both the incarnation and the humiliation. Just how the second person of the immanent or essential Trinity can be regarded as subordinate is difficult to fathom.  It surely derogates from both his glory and his humiliation. But even more to the point, how could God be a father and the Son a son in eternity?  The OT is unaware of any such animals, as we shall see. (This is not to deny that the Creator God is sometimes regarded as the Father of man and especially of Israel in a physical or metaphorical sense, Isa. 63:16; Acts 17:28f., etc.)

 

Exegesis

Many commentators cite Scriptures like John 3:16f., Galatians 4:4, Hebrews 1:2 and 1 John 4:9f. as clear indications that Jesus was the Son of God by nature, that is, in his eternal pre-existence. Regarding Galatians 4:4, it can be plausibly argued that what Paul is saying is that God the Father sent his born-of-woman or incarnate and therefore subordinate Son to secure the redemption of those who were under the law. Indeed, in light of the comment made above regarding the author of Hebrews’ insistence on the necessity of the incarnation for this very purpose (cf. 1 John 4:9f.), it is difficult to arrive at any other conclusion. So far as Hebrews 1:2 is concerned, F.F.Bruce , for example, refers to the eternal Son (p.5) then comments that the plain implication is that as (eternal)  Son he inherits the title “Son” as he inherits all things (p.8). This is demonstrably confusion of thought. (7* Cf. Lane who claims that the eternal Son entered into a new experience of sonship during his incarnation, p.121. On the other hand, Lane is apparently less than certain about the issue and suggests that the reference to the Son in 1:2a is proleptic, p.25.) Surely, the whole of Hebrews 1 is designed to show its Hebrew readers that even the OT foreshadowed that it was the human, not the eternal Son who would inherit all things. And we, as his sanctified brothers and sisters (Heb. 2:11-15), would with him enjoy the spoils (Rom. 8:16f.,32). After all, in eternity the Word who was God and Creator by definition already owned all (cf. Ps. 50:10-12, etc.). But he graciously impoverished himself (2 Cor. 8:9) and gave them up so that he might inherit all as man, though not from the devil (Mt. 4:7-10). The same must be said regarding his being granted life in himself (John 5:26, cf. 1 Cor. 15:45) when according to John 1:4 as the Word he already had it! At this point the distinction between the divine and human natures is stark. It is vital for us to understand that we ourselves do not become God as Jesus was but his perfect image in Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18). Though ever God in person, Jesus is now as man permanently the image of God in his perfected human nature (Heb. 1:3) and as such exercises the divine powers delegated to him by his Father as was obviously the intention from the start (Mt. 26:64; 28:18; Rom. 1:4).  Alternatively expressed, the truth is that the Word who was God in nature and ever remained God in personal identity freely and lovingly assumed human nature with a view to bringing his brothers and sisters to glory (Heb. 2:10). The problem with much evangelical thinking, which is arguably Apollinarian according to Brown (p.170), is that it lacks an adequate appreciation of the humanity of Jesus and spends its energies on proving his divinity. But the humanity of the Son would have seemed obvious to Jesus’ contemporaries who were only too aware that he was a man along with them but  clearly indwelt by God himself (John 1:32; 3:34; 6:27, cf. 1 John 1:1-3).

 

Projectionist Language

If this is so, we must conclude that the language used by the biblical writers is what is known as projectionist. An excellent example of this is provided by Wayne Grudem in his commentary on 1 Peter 3:20 (p.159). There, he says, in reference to the queen of England as born in 1926, that we all realize that at that time she was not only not queen but not even prospectively to be regarded as such. It is only in retrospect that she can be referred to as queen at birth, and all who know the history of the period are well aware of this. It is therefore vital for us when reading the NT to get our chronological perspective right. But more to the point, it can be proved conclusively that the author of Hebrews was thinking in this way. For, if we ask who Jesus the eternal Son’s father and mother were in eternity, he replies that he had neither, since his priesthood was of the order of Melchisedek whose parentage or genealogy was significantly lacking. In other words, Jesus was God the eternal Word who became Son by nature at his incarnation at which time he had both Father and mother. (8* In his summing up, it is sad to find Giles submitting to the very fallacy he frequently warns against, that is, confusing the immanent and economic Trinity. On page 258, he tells us that what is revealed in the economy reflects what is antecedently true in eternity. All I can say is that someone forgot to tell the evangelists. They are filled with awe at the eternal Word’s condescension in incarnation, John 1:14; Phil. 2:6-8; 1 John 1:1-3.) Clearly, in order to fulfil the plan of salvation or covenant of redemption the immanent Trinity voluntarily and purposely undertook a change in relationship (cf. e.g. Ps. 2:7; Acts 13:33; Heb. 1:5).  The OT Creator God became Father and the Word became his incarnate Son born of Mary. No wonder Paul stresses the Son’s humiliation. But we can also add that the Father who gave up his Son underwent far greater ‘trauma’ than Abraham ever did, for his relationship with the Word was intrinsic (cf. John 10:30) and the change that was freely experienced was driven by love (John 3:16f.). This proves once more that salvation was a fully Trinitarian affair. The three persons may have adopted different roles but far from being separate, they functioned in solidarity and mutual commitment. Ultimately, all was undertaken for the glory of God. What a God!

 

Conclusion

It is hardly necessary to add in conclusion that Jesus in laying aside his glory (John 17:5) also laid aside his divine nature in order to become man made lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7,9). Since in the power of God his earthly campaign (cf. John 3:13; 6:62;13:3; Eph.1:19-23; 4:9f.) proved successful (John 19:30; Acts 2:22; 17:31), he was able to regain his glory as man even if we concede that in doing so (cf. Mt. 28:18) he remained forever the exact image of God (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3, cf. Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18) and in his permanent and perfected manhood subordinate to God (1 Cor. 15:24-28).  The mere fact that Paul teaches the subordination of the Son at this point would seem to prove that his humanity was subordinate to his divinity in contrast with the equality he taught in Philippians 2:6. However, the incarnation never for one moment involved the obliteration of his personal divine identity. In his love and humility the Word who was ever God in person had freely surrendered his divine nature in order to assume fully and finally perfected human nature. And it is as the perfected image of God (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3) that the once incarnate God the Word will reveal his glory (John 17:24, cf. Phil. 3:21) to those who wait for him (Tit.2:13f.). Not without reason do we salute the Lamb of God seated alongside our Creator God (Rev. 3:21; 4 & 5; 7:14f.; 22:3) and give him glory.

 

See also my:

Still Docetic

The Ecclesiastical Christ

Baillie and Packer on Kenosis

 

 

__________________________________________________

 

References:

F.F.Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, London/Edinburgh, 1065.

Kevin Giles, The Eternal Generation of the Son, Downers Grove, 2012.

W.L.Lane, Hebrews 1-8, Dallas, 1991.

Wayne Grudem, 1 Peter, Leicester/Grand Rapids, 1988.

J.I.Packer, Collected Writings 2, Serving the People of God, Carlisle, 1998.

More Meditation on Creation, Evolution and Recapitulation

 

Some years before 2016, I wrote a couple of pieces on recapitulation (1* See my I Believe in Recapitulation and Recapitulation in Outline.) which I considered a neglected feature of biblical teaching. Though the idea was prevalent in the early church (Irenaeus in particular is associated with it) once the teaching of Augustine and his contemporaries became dominant in the fifth century it largely disappeared from theological discourse and has remained largely hidden from view ever since. Most modern dictionaries fail even to refer to it and it is scarcely ever mentioned in more general writings. For all that, there is good reason to believe that it is of fundamental importance. Here my intention is to try to pinpoint its radical nature from the very beginning.

 

Creation and Reproduction

In bringing the world into being from nothing God intended it to be inhabited (Gen. 1; Isa. 45:18, cf. Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9; Tit. 1:2). In order to achieve this aim, instead of using a system of continuous creation or repeatedly starting from scratch our Creator introduced a system of reproduction or procreation. Once he had finished creation, he sowed the earth with seed-bearing plants and animals which reproduced according to kind (Gen. 1) and thus established a pattern or blue print which he subsequently followed. In other words, the pattern he used followed the lines of his own action at creation. Just as he as Creator fertilized the ground which served as mother earth (cf. Ps. 139:15f.), so, having created man (Adam) in his own image as a seed-bearer, he called on Adam to mimic him (cf. Isa. 29:16; 45:9f.) by fertilizing (dusty) Eve who became the mother of all living (Gen. 1:28; 3:20, cf. 9:1,7). In this way the whole world has been populated and all peoples of the earth have common first parents and are made in their image (Gen. 5:1-3, cf. Heb. 2:14).

 

Evolution and Recapitulation

But this system of reproduction or procreation necessarily involved evolution and recapitulation, for the offspring of each successive generation, though beginning at the beginning as seed before becoming babies knowing neither good nor evil (Rom. 9:11) and then undergoing further development, inherited the conditions formed by its parents or predecessors. At this point we do well to pause a moment and note that without recapitulation the evolution, development or maturation of man as a race would be impossible. Seed bearers reproduce their own kind who together eventually form the race. Thus it is that man is both individual and community, and the individual (cf. Jesus, the true vine or the man of heaven) epitomizes the race or is the race in miniature. Not without good reason does the OT stress human solidarity, for together we form one man as Paul strongly emphasizes (Gal. 3:28; Eph. 2:15; 4:13f.). In other words, each generation (as implied by Psalm 51:5, for instance), though initially innocent itself (Dt. 1:39, etc.), entered a world whose history, culture, material conditions and general outlook inevitably made a powerful impact on its successor both for good and evil. Thus parental, social, cultural, moral and historical conditioning can potentially have both beneficial and disastrous consequences as Numbers 14:31-34 in particular indicate at the exodus (cf. Ex. 20:5f.; 34:6f.; Num. 14:18). It should be noticed that this is seriously different from inheriting either their faith or their sin (2* See my Thoughts On ‘Adam, The Fall And Original Sin’.) Though undeniably inheriting the physical nature of its parents as flesh and blood (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50; Heb. 2:14), the child does not inherit its parents’ moral nature. However, since it eventually becomes a law-breaker in its own right, it clearly repeats it (pace Art. 9 of the C of E). Bluntly, as it develops it acquires its own moral nature in reaction to its knowledge of law (cf. Rom. 6:16; 2 Pet. 2:19). Otherwise expressed, since the commandment is transgenerational, reaction to it can in principle differ. This is implied by the prophets like Moses (Ex. 32:33), Jeremiah (31:29f.) and Ezekiel (ch. 18), for example. Indeed, Moses makes it plain in Deuteronomy 24:16 that children cannot be put to death for any but their own sins. But the point is important for another reason: it focuses attention on the sheer impossibility of what is traditionally known as original sin which teaches that all Adam’s posterity sinned ‘in him’. This being so, Jesus like all babies was born personally innocent (Dt. 1:39, cf. 1 K. 3:7,9; Isa. 7:15f.; Heb. 5:12-14), and the idea that he only avoided the entail of Adam’s sin by not being born of ‘carnal concupiscence’ is totally without biblical support. At the end of the day the virgin birth is irrelevant to the issue of sin which after all is based on law (Rom. 4:15, etc.) as the Genesis account of Adam’s transgression, not to mention that of Paul (Rom. 7:9f.), indicates. And since Jesus, in contrast with Adam and indeed all others (Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23), kept the law in its totality (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22), he alone as man achieved (eternal) life in accordance with the promise (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, etc.) and eventually brought both immortality and incorruption (Gk.) to light (2 Tim. 1:10; 1 Cor. 15:53f.).

To return to the question of recapitulation, however, David with remarkable insight recognizes that as a physical descendant of Adam, through or rather ‘in him’ as flesh (cf. 1 Cor. 15:21f.) he recapitulated his experience: he was in effect formed in the ground as seed and as such was transferred to his mother’s womb (Ps. 139:13-16). Like all his fellows he was ‘born of woman’ (cf. Gen. 3:20). This was and remains mankind’s universal experience since the pattern established by God is unvarying. This is the picture painted in Genesis all over again, for having created Adam (man) in ‘mother’ earth God transferred him obviously as seed to the garden of Eden to gestate and mature (Gen. 2:8,15). The inference is then that the garden is the prototype or antitype of the female womb which is said to bear fruit (Dt. 28:4,11, etc.).

But the recapitulation of the pattern initially established by the Creator perhaps becomes clearer when we consider that Paul in the process of discussing the issue of authority and gender roles tells us in 1 Corinthians 11:7 that while a man (Adam) is the image and glory of God, a woman is the glory of man. From this we infer that just as God initially fertilized mother earth, so now man like God himself fertilizes woman who in her turn becomes the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20). Briefly, in order to procreate a husband transfers the seed (sperm) formed in his loins to the garden or womb of his wife which eventually bears fruit.

Superficially there is a problem, however, for Adam does not leave the garden (womb) until he is physically adult. After gestating like an embryo in complete ignorance (cf. Rom. 9:11) in the garden of Eden, he is naturally like a baby still lacking conscious or rational intelligence (Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22, cf. 1 Cor. 13:11; Heb. 5:13). But eventually as he develops he becomes capable of understanding only one negative commandment like an infant on the cusp of childhood. In fact, of course, mutatis mutandis  or making the appropriate changes,  on the racial level when he is ejected from Eden he resembles spiritually a new born baby about to begin its infancy. Thus having broken the commandment, he begins his infancy as a sinner like Israel whom he typified. (3* Adam, who received the commandment directly from God in contrast with Eve, clearly typifies Israel who received the law at Sinai. It is not a little interesting therefore to note with Isaiah that Israel like Adam also began its infancy sinful, Isa. 48:8. After all, it had already sinned during its heathen period in Egypt, Jos. 24:2; Ezek. 20:7f. So far as we are concerned, as those who are born of woman and ignorant of law and of good and evil, we do not, because we cannot, sin until our childhood, Gen. 8:21.) It is in this state of sinful spiritual infancy that he begins his somewhat forlorn attempt to exercise the dominion over the earth to which he was originally called (Gen. 1:26). In view of what we are taught in Genesis 3:17-19, he is like the sluggard depicted in Proverbs 24:30-34. (4* Kidner’s comment on Gen. 3:18 appropriately draws attention to Proverbs 24:31 and Isaiah 34:13. On the latter Motyer comments that the chaos and desolation reflect the situation that obtained before God’s imposed order on creation, Gen. 1:2; Is. 24:10; Jer. 4:23.)  But since the earth by nature requires cultivation or the exercise of dominion in order to become productive, it is hardly surprising to learn that this proves to be a period of curse. There are two reasons for this: first, man is morally disoriented and, second, the untilled earth is in a state of corruption or ruin (Gen. 6:11-13). In fact the land, though inhabited by sinful Adam, Cain, Lamech and their ilk is not adequately tilled and so remains largely desolate. (5* Admittedly, Abel and Enoch are mentioned and, though they were sinners too like Noah who followed them, they were justified by faith, cf. Heb. 11:4-7.) It fails to produce as was intended and does not in fact flourish until God makes a covenant with the faithful and notably obedient Noah who having undergone some development is prototypically man in his heathen childhood (cf. Acts 14:17; 17:27). In contrast with the racial ‘infant’ Adam who is simply commanded, God makes a covenant with the ‘child’ but obedient Noah promising that he will never again curse the earth and its creatures but guarantee its general fruitfulness to the end of the age (Gen. 8:22). And Jesus himself confirms that this will indeed be the case (Luke 17:27f.). (6* See further my Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?.) It is worth noting at this point that in Genesis 8:21 (cf. 6:5; Jer. 3:25) we are told specifically that man is evil from his youth not from his infancy,  and certainly not from his conception, as tradition and the advocates of original sin would have us believe. The inference we must draw from this is that at the start mankind did not gain even infantile understanding until he was physically adult.

All this may seem speculative and theoretical so the question we must now pose is: Does it receive further support from Scripture? First, the idea that when a man (who is the image and glory of God) fertilizes a woman (who is the glory of man) recapitulates the action of his Maker who initially fertilized mother earth is borne out by Isaiah 62:4. For there we read of land that is ‘married’. This surely corresponds with the notion that when land is uninhabited (e.g. Isa. 6:11, etc.), ‘unmarried’ or neglected as at the exile or by the sluggard (Prov. 24:30-34, Mt. 25:14-30, cf. Gen. 4:12; 5:29), it becomes a desolation (cf. Isa. 5:5f.; 7:23-25, etc.). As such it is cursed or ruined. (7* This does not contradict what is said above about the land flourishing under the covenant with Noah. Minor or limited curses as opposed to a universal ‘cosmic’ curse are prevalent throughout Scripture after Genesis 9, see e.g. Lev. 26; Dt. 28; Heb. 2:2. Renewal on repentance is also a possibility throughout the old covenant dispensation as Ezek. 36:22-38, for example, indicate.)

 

Desolate Land, Desolate Women

But we can go further. The fact is that uninhabited land that is not tilled and is hence a desolation appears as the symbolic prototype of an unmarried woman who is childless and  hence fruitless. Apart from Sarah and Hannah who though married happen to be barren, we can cite the case of Jephthah’s daughter who we are told bewailed her virginity (Jud. 11:37) – a far cry from the cult of virginity that has characterized Roman Catholicism. Again we might refer to Tamar who after her rape lived as a desolate woman in her brother Absalom’s house (2 Sam. 13:20). The truth is that childlessness was as serious an issue in early Bible times as was desolate or fruitless land that was uninhabited, untilled and neglected. On the other hand fertile land under cultivation resembles a married woman who is regarded as a delight (Prov. 31:27f.; Isa. 62:4f.; Ezek. 24:16; Mal. 3:12. See also 1 K. 9:3; 2 Chr. 7:16).

The point is also made in the NT. For instance, we might focus attention on Paul’s reference to the Jerusalem above as our mother (Gal. 4:26) who fertilized by God himself uniquely brings about the new birth (John 1:12f.). But he goes on to infer from this that though a human mother may be desolate and fail to bear physical children, she may nonetheless be spiritually fruitful (Gal. 4:27 quoting Isa. 54:1). In this passage clearly Paul has in mind the contrast between the original physical fertility of Hagar (cf. Gen. 16:10) and the physical barrenness of Sarah who eventually gave miraculous birth to ‘spiritual’ Isaac, the child of promise. He, of course, foreshadowed new covenant new birth and the direct activity of God. As I have argued elsewhere (8* See my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities.), Jesus makes it clear in John 3:7 that spiritual rebirth is as much a natural necessity (i.e. integral to God’s plan of salvation) apart from sin as Paul makes it clear in 1 Corinthians 15:53 that corporeal transformation is also. (9* Note the Greek word ‘dei’ underlining necessity.)

 

The Incarnation

There is yet another point to be made. The idea that God originally ‘married’ the land is supported by the incarnation. For, in fertilizing the Virgin Mary who was dust (cf. Ps. 103:14) to produce the fleshly or incarnate Jesus, God was again conforming to the pattern he had established at creation (cf. Gen. 1:2; Luke 1:35).  So just as the first Adam stemmed from the ground or mother earth, so the second Adam stemmed from Mary who was flesh (dust, Gen. 3:19; Ps. 103:14) and a true daughter of Adam and Eve (cf. Luke 3:38). It might be usefully added at this point that even Jesus himself was classified with fleshly animals when he was born in a stable.

All this again points up the fact that in effect we all begin at the beginning, that is, in the earth, where our first parents began knowing neither good nor evil (Gen. 2:7) like the animal world in general (Gen. 1:24; 2:19). The traditional idea, which begins with perfection and ignores evolutionary development is based on a false inference drawn especially from Genesis 5:1-3 that we inherit Adam’s moral nature along with his physical nature, is clearly a massive error. If this had been the case, Jesus himself would have been born sinful. So it is not for nothing that are we told that we are dust (Ps. 78:39; 103:14, etc.) like Adam himself (1 Cor. 15:47-49). And it is only as those who are (biologically) ‘alive’ like Paul that we break the commandment, become sinners and are doomed to death (Rom. 7:9f.).

 

Evolution and Recapitulation

But desolation is not confined to unmarried women any more than it is to the temple (Mt. 23:38) and to the dead body (James 2:26). As the curse of the early chapters of Genesis indicates, men contribute to general fruitlessness through failure to exercise dominion by working acceptably. Thus we have the cases of sinful Cain and Lamech which illustrate early on the sluggard’s aversion to tilling the ground (Prov. 24:30-34). Jesus even produces a parable condemning a man with only one talent which he fails to use appropriately. He describes him as ‘wicked and slothful’ and ‘worthless’ (Mt. 25:26,30, ESV). (10* See my Supplement to ‘Cosmic Curse?’. On the purely physical level it is worth directing attention to Onan who wickedly spills his seed on the ground, Gen. 38:9f. Again with regret we can hardly fail to recognize the fact that the celibacy of the priesthood which has played such a nefarious role in the course of church history and continues to do so to this day in February, 2016, contravenes the teaching of Paul in 1 Timothy 4:3f. regarding the illegitimate taboo on marriage and failure to recognize the ‘goodness’ as opposed to the traditional ‘perfection’ of creation.) Then again we can call to mind men who are sterile like barren Sarah because they are eunuchs and as dry trees incapable of bearing fruit (Isa. 56:3-5). This of course brings to mind the Lord Jesus himself who never married and produced physical offspring, not because it was evilly carnal (something he clearly disavows, Mt. 19:5) but because he had a prior commitment to the kingdom of God (Mt. 19:12) which inevitably involved his early death. Of course, it is primarily failure to bear spiritual fruit that is the point at issue under the new covenant as John 15:1-6, Romans 7:4 and Hebrews 6:7f., for example, demonstrate. For all that, we can scarcely fail to note that in omitting to bear physical fruit Jesus was arguably contravening man’s basic call to be fruitful in Genesis 1:28 and again in 9:1,7. There is doubtless a solution to this problem. Jesus was the Word made flesh. As such he imitated his Father in the flesh (cf. John 5:19). However, his Father was the Creator not a procreator of fleshly offspring as the virginal conception implies (cf. Gen. 1:2; Luke 1:35; Heb. 10:5). God is solely or monergistically Father of those who are spiritually born again (John 1:12f.; Heb. 12:9). In light of this it must be assumed that Jesus’ function in this world was not the procreation and production of physical offspring (which role he had in principle performed as the Word of God who played his part in creation) but of spiritual ones as John 5:26, 17:2 and Hebrews 2:13 intimate.

 

The Basic Point

So what is my basic point? It is that man (Adam) is both individual and community and since he is made in the image of God and called to take on his total likeness, he is meant to follow or recapitulate the pattern that God himself established at creation. He is intended to be (pro)creative, productive and fruitful as God himself has been and, according to John 5:17, continues to be. Left to itself the earth (and the flesh its product) is largely inert, barren, sterile, intractable and futile like an unmarried or deserted woman, so it is essential that it should be inhabited, tilled and made productive in accordance with man’s original calling (Gen. 1:26-28, cf. Ps. 8:4-8). This is true on both the physical and spiritual levels. According to Paul creation and creature alike resemble a woman in travail (Rom. 8:22, cf. Mark 13:8) who will eventually give birth and thereby reveal the adopted sons of God (Rom. 8:19,23). (11* See further my Romans 8:18-25.) But once its harvest has ripened and been reaped and garnered, it ceases to be of value and, having been subjected to ultimate futility from the start (Ps. 102:26f.; Rom. 8:20; Heb. 1:11), it will be destroyed (cf. Mt. 3:12; 13:30; Heb. 12:27; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12) like the flesh its product which typifies it (1 Cor. 15:50).

 

Jesus the Epitome of Recapitulation

Yet another point must be made and that is that Jesus himself is the essence of recapitulation. (12* See my Epitome – Jesus The Epitome Of Recapitulation.) His whole intention while in the flesh was to imitate (John 5:19; 10:30; John 14:9) and please his heavenly Father (John 8:29), to do his will (John 4:34; Heb. 10:7), bear fruit (John 15:1), fulfil all righteousness (Mt. 3:15) and to be perfected in his likeness (Mt. 19:21; Heb. 1:3; 7:28). In other words, Jesus as man lives the life that God himself would live. Otherwise and more relevantly expressed in this context, in his incarnate state he recapitulates on earth the life of God (cf. John 14:9) and,  created in his image, he gradually attains to his complete likeness as the image of God (cf. John 13:31f.; Heb. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15). As a genuine man having personally evolved from ground to glory or from creation (Heb. 2:14; 10:5) to coronation (Heb. 2:9) he has paved the way for his brothers (John 3:13; Eph. 4:9f.; Heb. 2:9-13), who by following in his tread recapitulate his odyssey (Rev. 14:4).  So at the end of his earthly career as man in the flesh, having been fully perfected (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28) he is given all the authority of God himself (Mt. 28:18) and rightly takes his seat at the side of the divine majesty (Heb. 1:3; 8:1). And it is as regnant sovereign Lord that he is able to send the Spirit to empower his disciples to go and bear fruit and to bring the plan of salvation to final fruition.

 

Salvation Completed

The original plan of salvation (Eph. 1:4) involving the inherent evolutionary development and recapitulation of man both individual and community is ultimately fulfilled when Christ returns in his glory and that of his Father at the end of the age (Mt. 16:27, etc.). It is then that he will reap his harvest of the sons of God (Isa. 53:10f.; Mt. 3:12; 13:30; 24:31, cf. Rom. 8:19,23) and present his kingdom, or alternatively his bride (Eph. 5:27), to his Father (Col. 1:22,28, cf. Dan. 7:13f.),  mission accomplished (cf. John 17:4f.). In this way is the marriage between God and his people first foreshadowed in the OT (e.g. Isa. 54:5; Jer. 31:32; Hosea) made manifest. And, having proved fruitful, it will finally be celebrated (Mt. 22:10; Rev. 7:9-17; 19:6-8). (13* It will be obvious from these references that I believe that the various metaphors ultimately point to the same thing: our covenant God will eventually dwell permanently with his people in his eternal rest, Ex. 25:8; 29:45; Lev. 26:11f.; Ezek. 37:27f.; John 14:1-3; Rev. 21:3; 22:3f.)

 

Note

If what has been sketched above is anything like the truth the traditional Augustinian worldview which dominates the churches even today in 2016 involving original perfection, holiness, righteousness, immortality, sin, fall and cosmic curse is not only false but ludicrous. The plain truth is that modern science shorn of its naturalism is closer to what the Bible teaches than traditional ecclesiastical dogma.

See further my:

Cosmic Curse?,

Supplement to ‘Cosmic Curse?’,

Understanding the Curse,

Observations on The Curse,

Exercising Dominion,

The Book of Revelation and Romans 8:18-25,

The Biblical Doctrine Of Human Evolution,

Perfection,

Correspondences,

The Ascent of Man,

Nature Red in Tooth and Claw,

Correcting Traditional Distortions Of Scripture.

 

________________________________________________________

References:

D.Kidner, Genesis, London, 1967.

J.A. Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah, Leicester, 1993.

G.Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Waco, 1987.

Creation: Evolution, Recapitulation, Perfection

 

1. God creates mother earth and sows her with seed-bearing plants (cf. Mark 4:26-29) and living creatures (Gen. 1:11f.,20-25).

2. Since he intended her to be inhabited (Gen. 1; Isa. 45:18), he creates animal life (Gen. 2:19) as reproductive seed-bearers.

3. Along with the animals he creates Adam in mother earth (Gen. 2:7; 139:15f.).

4. Having created Adam as seed God puts him in the Garden of Eden, the womb of the race to gestate  and develop (Gen. 2:8,15, cf. Ps. 139:13). (1* Wenham comments that the garden is symbolic of a place where God dwells (p.61) like the river flowing out of it (p.65, cf. pp.61,62,86,88,90 and note Psalm 46:4f.). (For an extended version of Wenham’s comment on p.61 that the garden is an archetypal sanctuary prefiguring later tabernacles and temples, see Beale.)

4. God creates Eve out of Adam (Gen. 2:21-23, cf. Heb. 7:10). Wenham (p.83) comments that woman was taken out of man (2:23) as man was taken out of the ground (3:19), (cf. 1 Cor. 11: 7,11f.).

5. As God sowed mother earth, so Adam as the image and glory of God (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7) sows Eve and produces offspring (Gen. 4:1f.; 5:1-4). Reproduction or procreation is therefore creation recapitulated as suggested by Isaiah’s comments in 45:9-10 (cf. 29:16).

6. Woman like the earth when sown becomes the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20).

7. God created Adam to till the ground (3:23, cf. 2:5,15). So, just as uninhabited and hence untilled and unsown ground is barren or cursed, fit only for animals (e.g. Isa. 7:23-25; 13:17-22; 32:13f.; 34:11-15), so is a woman without a husband. She is unmarried, unsown and desolate (Isa. 62:4, cf. 51:1; Jud. 11:37-40). The same is true, of course, of the temple when it is deserted (cf. 1 K. 8:29; Isa. 64:11; Mt. 23:38) and also the body (James 2:26).  At this point is it I worth comparing Mark 14:58 and 2 Cor. 5:1.

8. When like babies Adam and Eve have developed enough to acquire knowledge of the commandment, they break it, sin and are cast out of the idyllic garden womb. In other words, though full-grown physically, they are ‘born’ as conscious human beings (contrast Rom. 9:11) with the result that they now have to work their passage in a harsh environment (Gen. 3:17-19,23, cf. Job 3:3,11; 5:6f.; 7:1; 10:18; 14:1; Jer. 20:18).  What for real or modern babies at a later stage in man’s evolution is the cradle period or infancy of life is for physically adult Adam (mankind) the time of the curse on the earth. For him work is onerous, even an enemy (Gen. 3:17-19) as both Cain and Lamech indicate (Gen. 4:12; 5:29). It is only later in the course of human development when faithful and notably obedient Noah comes on the scene that a covenant is established and man becomes willingly industrious and capable of fulfilling man’s calling which is to exercise dominion over the earth (Gen. 1:26-28).

9. Just as God delights in his land with its temple and has his eye permanently on it (Dt. 11:12; 1 K. 9:3, cf. 8:29; Isa. 64:11), so a young man delights over his bride (Isa. 62:4f., cf. Zeph. 3:17; Sol. 5:16; Jer. 2:2) who at the age for love (Ezek. 16:8) becomes a fruit-bearing garden of delight (Dt. 28:4,11; Ps. 127:3-5; 128:3; Ezek. 24:16, cf. Hos. 9:10-16). (2* See Chris Wright, p.215 n.10 and Wenham, p.90.) Just as creation implies evolution, so love implies fruit-bearing (cf. Isa. 5:1-7; John 3:16; 14:15, etc.).

 

Further Reflection

 

Woman

If a woman is mother earth recapitulated (or in miniature) and hence mother of all living (Gn. 3:20), children are the fruit of her womb (cf. Dt. 28:4,11; 30:9; 1 Tim. 5:14). Furthermore, once they are born, they continue to be sustained by her and suckled at her breast until they mature.

 

Incarnation

The relevance of all this to the incarnation can be spelled out as follows: Just as God fertilized the earth to produce Adam (Gen. 2:7), so God fertilized the virgin Mary to produce Jesus, the second Adam (Luke 1:35, cf. Gen. 1:2; Job 31:15; 10:9; 33:6; Ps. 139:13; Heb. 10:5). In other words, he did not need to go back to the original beginning (though note Ps. 139:15; Eph. 4:9) but used Mary who through Adam stemmed from the earth (Gen. 2:7,21-23)  and was flesh/dust (Ps. 103:14, cf. 139:13; 1 Cor. 15:47-50). Thus through Mary the first Adam was the father of the second (Luke 3:38).

 

Fruitfulness

Just as (pro)creation implies evolution and recapitulation, so it implies fruitfulness  (cf. Gen. 1:28; 9:1,7). In the words of Isaiah, God created the earth to be inhabited (Isa. 45:18). As creator he is nothing if not a sower and a planter (Gen. 2:8; Ps. 80:8f.; Isa. 27:6; Jer. 1:5,10, etc.). So it is among human beings who as flesh are creation in miniature. They are created in his image and as such are meant to be (pro)creators or sowers on both the physical (Isa. 29:16; 45:9f.)  and the spiritual levels (Ps. 85:11f.; Isa. 45:8; 61:11; Luke 8:11; Mark 4:20; John 15:16, cf. Isa. 54:1; 56:3-5; Gal. 4:27). As they mature they reach the age for love and are intended to bear fruit in children (Ezek. 16:8; Jer. 2:2). Lack of them in Sarah’s, Hannah’s and Jephthah’s daughter’s case is something of a disaster, though we need to be aware of Isaiah 54:1 and 56:3-5. Oswalt claims that Isaiah 5:1-7 has sexual overtones (p.152) and Israel is the source of God’s delight and the object of his desire (p. 154). Motyer refers to the men of Judah as ‘the garden of his delight’ or ‘the plant of his intense pleasure’ (p.69). But here it is noticeable that the intended fruit is spiritual rather than physical. Justice and righteousness are what was required. So it is in the NT where the fruit of the Spirit as opposed to that of the flesh is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22f., cf. Ezek. 15:1-8; John 15:1-5). Failure to bear fruit spells destruction (Mt. 25:24-30; John 15:6; Heb. 6:7f.)

 

Harvest

Of course, fruitfulness eventually leads to harvest at the end of the age (Mt. 3:12; 13:30; James 1:18; Rev. 14:4) when creation is consummated by the salvation of the people of God (Rev. 5:9; 7:9). Even now creation as a whole is groaning in the pains of childbirth and Christians have/are the first fruits of the Spirit (Rom. 8:22f.; James 1:18) implying that there are many more to follow (Mt. 8:11; Rev. 7:9).

 

Recapitulation

Creation - Evolution, Recapitulation, Perfection - table Creation Procreation Creation of Adam (mankind) as seed in the ground Seed in father’s loins (Heb. 7:10, cf. Ps. 139:15) Placed in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8,15) Placed in the womb (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7,11f.) Gestation to physical maturity and knowledge Gestation of fetus (cf. Rom. 9:11) Birth=permanent ejection from Eden (Gen. 3:23f.) Birth and no return (John 3:4) “Infancy” under the curse Infancy (unconscious therefore no curse) Noah, covenant with creation, heathenism Baptism into Noah=childhood (1 Pet. 3:21) (Acts 14: 16f. and 17:24-31) Moses (law) baptized into (1 Cor. 10:2). Moses: baptized into (1 Cor. 10:2) (adolescence) (bar mitzvah, cf. Luke 2:40-52) Christ (Messiah): baptized (Mt. 3:13-17), Christian: baptized (Rom. 6:1-4; Gal. 3:27f.), regeneration (cf. Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5) faith, imputed righteousness, regeneration Ascension transformation, heavenly session Death, resurrection transformation, session (Rev. 3:21) (Rev. 3:21)

 

Creation

Procreation.

Creation of Adam (mankind) as seed in the ground Seed in father’s loins (Heb. 7:10, cf. Ps. 139:15

(3:3, cf. v.8)

(15:50, cf. 2

Cor. 4:18)

Placed in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:8,15) Placed in the womb (cf. 1 Cor. 11:7,11f.)
Gestation to physical maturity and knowledge Gestation of fetus (cf. Rom. 9:11)
Birth=permanent ejection from Eden (Gen. 3:23f.) Birth and no return (John 3:4)

“Infancy” under the curse

Infancy (unconscious therefore no curse)

Noah, covenant with creation, heathenism (Acts 14: 16f. and 17:24-31) Baptism into Noah=childhood (1 Pet. 3:21)

vv.3,5

vv.44,46

Moses (law) baptized into adolescence (1 Cor. 10:2). Moses: baptized into (1 Cor. 10:2) bar mitzvah, cf. Luke 2:40-52

Christ (Messiah): baptized (Mt. 3:13-17)

Christian: baptized (Rom. 6:1-4; Gal. 3:27f.)

regeneration (cf. Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5) faith, imputed righteousness, regeneration
Ascension transformation, heavenly session (Rev. 3:21) Death, resurrection transformation, session (Rev. 3:21)

Summary: Galatians 4:1-7, cf. Rom. 8:12-25.

(See further my Correspondences, The Chicken or the Egg, More Meditation on Creation, Evolution and Recapitulation.)

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References:

G.K.Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission, Leicester, 2004.

John N.Oswalt, The Book of Isaiah Chapters 1-39 (1986) and 40-66, Grand Rapids, 1998.

Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1-15, Waco, 1987.

Chris Wright, The Message of Ezekiel, Leicester, 2001.

More on Docetism

 

Concerning Identity and Nature

Perhaps the most pervasive of all heresies affecting the Christology of the church is Docetism, the idea that Jesus was not truly man but only appeared to be.  (1* On this see my Still Docetic.)  The problem is frequently referred to but almost never properly addressed. Even Evangelicalism tends in the direction of Apollinarianism which taught that the eternal Word replaced the rational soul in Jesus.  I would argue that the basic reason for this, and central to generally received theology, is the almost universal belief enshrined in the Chalcedonian Creed which teaches that in becoming man Jesus retained his divine nature in what is known as hypostatic union. In other words, despite denial and the claim that the two natures were united ‘unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably’, in true Nestorian style Jesus had at one and the same time two separate natures, one fully divine and one fully human, hence Chalcedonian Dyophysitism and Dyotheletism. Though this hypostatic union seems to fly in the face of John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11 and Hebrews 1 and 2 to go no further, all of which underline the fundamental truth of the incarnation, that is, that the Word did in fact become a genuine man, denial leaves us with a Jesus who was different from all other human beings that ever lived.  And if this is true, we are forced to recognise that the second Adam was not really man and hence that, since atonement was made by one who was not like us in every respect (Heb. 2:17), it was therefore ineffective. (It is worth adding here that Hebrews 5:7 gives the impression that Jesus as a genuine human being relied totally on his Father and not on his putative divine nature. See also my Did Jesus Perform Miracles?.)

Assuming that this inference is correct, we are forced to ask why the church has historically made such a basic mistake. I would argue that the problem stems primarily from failure to distinguish between identity and nature. In becoming man the Word did not cease to be who he was for clearly he retained his identity. (2* Cf. Boice who says that Jesus is the Logos who speaks the word of God, p.65. Again he says that he speaks the words of God because he is the Word, pp.67,71. Then he refers to the twofold identification of Christ: his ontology and is activity, p.68. On p.69 he says that Jesus reveals God because he is God and follows Barrett when he describes him as an ontological mediator between God and man. Then on p.72 he says that Jesus is the self-communication of God. On p.74 he sums up by saying that the revelation communicated in Christ is by its very nature a mediated revelation providing no direct vision of the Father but creating the human possibility of recognizing the Father. It is therefore self-authenticating and saving.) But he manifestly changed his nature (Heb. 2:14, cf. Rom. 8:3). If he did not, he never really became man. And this according to John constitutes horrendous heresy (1 John 4:2f.; 2 John 7).

The basic reason why Chalcedon taught the hypostatic union or two natures in one person was that it was deemed impossible for the Word to be fully divine if when he took on flesh he dispensed with his divine nature. However, if this is regarded as a truism of universal application, it leaves us with big problems in other areas, for we ourselves as human beings made in the image of God necessarily, that is, by divine decree, change our natures. Both Jesus himself and Paul insist on this. While Jesus teaches that we must be spiritually born again (John 3:7) to enter heaven, Paul tells us in no uncertain terms that since flesh and blood (=human nature or the physical natural man) cannot by nature inherit the kingdom of God, we must all be corporeally transformed (1 Cor. 15:50,53). Stated baldly, we must dispense with our flesh and blood just as Jesus divested himself of his divine nature at his incarnation. It must be noticed at this point that sin does not figure in either scenario. Both regeneration and transformation are natural necessities inherent in the plan and purpose of God. So if man can change his nature in order to be perfected in the image of God, so could the Word himself in becoming man. Furthermore, having become man with the express intention of attaining to the glory intended for man but prevented by sin (cf. Heb. 2:10), he had to change his nature again and become the complete and acknowledged image of God as man (John 3:13; Eph. 4:9f. and note John 20:17.) (3* See further my Two ‘Natural’ Necessities.)

 

Man Created Perfect

The underlying problem here would seem to be that traditional theology has held that man as created was fully formed devoid of development (though noticeably involving the change from dust to flesh) and thus implying that apart from sin he was immutable, fixed and static, apparently in accord with Greek philosophy. Augustine of Hippo whose views have done so much to fashion the thinking of the churches especially in the West held that Adam was created perfect, immortal, holy and righteous but ‘fell’ when he sinned. Creation also was regarded not simply as good and serving a temporal purpose (cf. Ps. 102:25-27; 2 Cor. 4:18, etc.) but initially perfect despite Genesis 1:2. But it was then radically, even constitutionally, affected by the ‘fall’ and its consequent curse. The result of this was that creation is now regarded as ‘fallen’ rather than simply futile by nature, that is, by divine decree (Rom. 8:18-25). (4* Regrettably Romans 8:18-25 has been massively misunderstood. It surely corresponds with passages like Hebrews 1:10-12, and 8:21 clearly refers to the creature who is differentiated from creation though derived from it. See further my Romans 8:18-25 and Romans 8:18-25 In Brief. The traditional view reflects Augustinian theology on the one hand and exegetical ineptitude on the other.) In other words, tradition has it that man’s nature has changed for the worse because of sin. What the Bible really teaches, however, is that man was created imperfect or immature knowing neither good nor evil (Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22) with a view to attaining to the maturity or the perfection of God himself (Lev. 11:44f.; 19:2; Mt. 5:48; Heb. 6:1; 1 Pet. 1:16, etc.). (5* See my Perfection.)  In view of our present subject it is useful to add here that it was ‘made by hand’ (usually cheiropoietos in Greek) which is a pejorative term characteristic of the OT. Man, like the physical creation in general (Isa. 45:11f.), was thus created defective (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18, etc.) and naturally in contrast with God himself (Heb. 1:10-12; 3:3). So if he was to take on his Creator’s generic nature and be glorified (cf. Rom. 5:2; 8:30; 1 Pet. 1:3; 5:10; 2 Pet. 1:4, etc.), he had to be changed on that account alone. Ideas of restoration, however, belong to the temporary old covenant and are contrary to the new covenant which is concerned with replacement and transformation (cf. Heb. 10:9b, etc.). (6* See further my Manufactured Or Not So.)  Otherwise expressed, man as the image of God was potentially like him but was prevented from becoming fully so by sin and the devil.

 

Beginning at the Beginning

The truth is that God began at the beginning and made man, that is, Adam imperfect or immature like all babies in both the animal and vegetable world. Failure to recognise that Adam began as seed created in the ground and was translocated to the womb or the Garden of Eden simply reveals traditional blindness (Gen. 2:8,15; Ps. 139:13-16). He was not merely capable of growth, development or evolution but inherently perfectible, that is, designed to attain to the completeness or perfection of God himself (Mt. 5:48, cf. James 1:4). As made in the divine image man was expected or rather required to become his complete likeness. (7* See again my Perfection.) In the event, since God always planned to be the Saviour of man (Isa. 45:22-25; Rom. 11:32; 1 Cor. 1:29, etc.) whom he deliberately consigned to sin so that he could exercise his mercy (Rom. 3:19; 11:32; Gal. 3:22) and display the glory of his grace (Rom. 3:24-26; Eph. 1:6,12,14), he sent his Son Jesus who uniquely met the precondition of salvation by keeping the law as man himself (Lev. 18:5; Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). And so it was as man that Jesus eventually became the exact image of God (2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). In light of this we as sons or daughters are called to be conformed to the image of the one true Son (Rom. 8:29) who is our elder brother (cf. Heb. 2:11-13). Bluntly, as created, man was not statically perfect, as Augustine taught, but naturally immature and hence subject to dynamic development and providential change. While as flesh, like the earth from which he derived he was capable of attaining to physical perfection or maturity only to lapse into final dissolution like the rest of the animal, indeed the whole physical creation (cf. Heb. 12:27; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12), as spirit he could be born from above (John 3:3,7) and achieve perfection in the presence of God (Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:18; 3:12). This was the course pioneered by Jesus (Luke 13:32; Heb. 12:2) who was not so much the perfect man as the progressively perfected man as Hebrews in particular makes clear (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28). As man, he not only acquired the complete image of his Father himself (Heb. 1:3, etc.) but ensured that his sheep did so too by dying to cover their sins (Heb. 2:10-13, etc.) and thereby opening up for them the door of heaven and the presence of God (John 14:1-3, cf. Eph. 2:17f.).

 

Change from Word to Man and Man to Divine Image

It is vital to point out again that the Word not only changed his nature in order to become man but as man’s trail blazer into heaven also changed it as man. At his incarnation, though the ‘natural’ Son of God, he began his earthly career as a son of Adam (Luke 3:38) born of woman, that is, of the dust of the earth (Gen. 3:20; Gal. 4:4) thereby recapitulating to perfection the career of the first Adam, his original human progenitor (cf. 1 Cor. 15:47-49). As such he passed through the entire gamut of human development as Irenaeus taught long ago. “Created” (Heb. 10:5) first by God and conceived in the womb of Mary (cf. Eden), he then gestated and after birth experienced life as animal flesh in the stable at Bethlehem. After that he became a child of nature under the covenant with Noah and as such experienced heathenism in Egypt like his forebears before him (Mt. 2:15). Then like all Jewish boys he served his adolescence as a servant under the law (Lev. 25:42,55) till, having kept it flawlessly in accordance with Leviticus 18:5 (cf. Gen. 2:17), he gained eternal life at his naturally necessary baptismal regeneration (Mt. 3:13-17, etc.). Had he not done so, he would have been in no position to give his flesh in death (Col. 1:21f.) for his people (cf. Gal. 4:1-7). For it is only as a spiritually regenerate son that he could freely offer his fleshly life (cf. Mt. 17:25-27) and take it again (John 10:17f.). So long as he remained under the law (Gal. 4:4) he remained under obligation himself, and his death under it would have been permanent and irretrievable since it would have implied debt and sin (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). At best, like Noah, Daniel and Job, none of whom experienced new birth, he would only have been able to save his own life by his righteousness (Ezek. 14:14). In the event, however, as one who had personally and perfectly kept the law, was sinless (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22) and therefore born again (Lev. 18:5) but had died on behalf of his people, he was necessarily raised from the dead (Acts 2:24, cf. 1 Pet. 3:18).

 

Jesus the Son of God and the Son of Man

In further clarification of this it needs to be appreciated that Jesus’ ‘natural’ sonship of God (cf. 1 John 5:18b) which involved his incarnation and birth of Mary should not be confused with his development as a genuine man. As he himself so plainly taught, all, including himself even though he was the ‘natural’ son of God, who were born of the flesh, that is, as sons of Adam, had of necessity to be born again (John 3:3,7). So far as the latter is concerned, as man he himself had to attain to sonship by his obedience, for this was the human precondition of life (Lev. 18:5, etc.). Then, having laid down his life in atonement for the sins of his people and been physically raised from the dead, Jesus did not undergo corruption (Acts 2:27, etc.). This being so he remained flesh but as such, as Paul indicates, he could not enter the kingdom of heaven, for flesh and blood are excluded by nature (1 Cor. 15:50). So in order to regain his former glory, he had to be changed (John 17:5,24). As the author of Hebrews makes plain, he remained flesh only for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9). However, to be glorified he needed a body of glory (cf. John 17:24; Phil. 3:21) to match his regenerated spirit and this he gained at his ascension transformation which served as the paradigm of those who at the end of the world neither die nor undergo resurrection as he did (1 Cor. 15:50-53).

 

Glorification

But the all-important point is that he was glorified as man (John 17:5). Though clearly retaining his identity throughout his earthly pilgrimage, far from regaining his divine nature again, as man he gained God’s generic nature (Mt. 28:18; Rom. 1:4, etc.). He was not merely designated Lord to the glory of God (Acts 2:36; Phil. 2:9-11) but was recognised as the exact image of God (Col. 1:15; 2 Cor. 4:4; Heb. 1:3). It was as such that having had all things subjected to him, he himself was finally subjected so that God may be all in all (1 Cor. 15:28). In other words, his own manhood is and remains in subjection to his deity, for though man cannot become God, he can share his generic nature as his son (2 Pet. 1:4, cf. Mt. 28:18; Rom. 1:4).

 

Immutability

Of course, it may be objected at this point that Jesus remains ever the same and that his traditional immutability must not be questioned. But the assertion that he remains the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8) refers to his identity and character not to his nature. If his nature never changed, if God never became man, we should still be in our sins. Atonement had to be made by man and Jesus the man was not only our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5) but also the propitiation of our sins (Rom. 3:25, ESV). As Paul says, he was made sin even though he knew no sin so that in him we believers might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21, cf. 1 Pet. 3:18).  And it is as such that we are his children (1 John 3:2f.) and hence his heirs along with Jesus (Rom. 8:17).

 

Necessary Change

Now if change is fundamental to man and inherent in the plan of salvation, then it must be true of Jesus or he never truly became man. In fact, in order to be our pioneer and trail blazer his manhood was indispensably necessary, for God’s original promise of eternal life (salvation) was made to man (Gen. 2:16f.; Lev. 18:5, etc.) and therefore had to be fulfilled by man. Of course, it can be claimed that God as our omnipotent Creator and Ruler can have mercy on whomever he pleases (Ex. 33:19; Rom. 9:15f.), but this ignores his character as a holy and righteous God. The truth is that he saves in accordance with his promise and character and to the praise of his glory. The wonder of the gospel is that our triune God so loved the world that he sent his Son born of woman to be our Saviour. This can only mean that the Word was willing to humble himself, change his nature and become man, that is, one of us (Heb. 2:10-13) in order to save us. And it is as glorified man that he is forever King of kings and Lord of lords to the glory of God (Phil. 2:11) through whom we inherit all things (Rom. 8:17,32).  Not for nothing is it said that God is love (1 John 4:7-12; John 3:16). (8* See my The Ecclesiastical Christ.).

 

Additional Note

On re-reading the above I am conscious that I have not made enough of 1 Kings 8:27 and Acts 7:49f. In my article Manufactured Or Not So I sought to draw attention to the basic difference between what is ‘made by hand’ (cheiropoietos, referring to created things) and what is ‘not made by hand’ (acheiropoietos, that is, what is not created, cf. Heb. 9:11,24; 12:27). This is surely the point at issue in 1 Kings 8:27 and Acts 7:49f. These texts implicitly deny that the nature of the eternal Word who was uncreated God could be contained in the frail, fleshly, ‘manufactured’ body of Jesus born of woman. To maintain that it could is to beggar belief and to contradict Solomon’s point. Jesus, having overcome the world in the flesh (John 16:33), had of necessity to be transformed and take his seat at this Father’s right hand before he could possibly exercise universal control (Mt. 11:27; 28:18) and serve as Lord (Phil. 2:9-11). So while the identity of Jesus remained intact throughout, his nature as flesh was necessarily changed (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50).

It is only as transformed, notably as the firstborn from the dead (Col. 1:18), that the fullness of deity could indwell him bodily (Col. 1:19; 2:9). The idea that a clay jar (2 Cor. 4:7), let alone a destructible tent (2 Cor. 5:1) not to mention a temple (1 K. 8:27), could contain the fullness of the  nature of the omnipresent God would surely have been shocking to Paul.

In The Message of The Person of Christ (Nottingham, 2013) Robert Letham asks in an appendix (pp.229-246) dealing with Nicaea and Chalcedon, Did the church get it wrong? My blunt answer is: Yes, it did.

 

_____________________________________________________

References:

J.M.Boice, Witness and Revelation in the Gospel of John, Grand Rapids, 1970 (British Ed.).

What’s Wrong with the Church and Evangelicalism

 

A thorough analysis of what is wrong with the Church and with evangelicalism in particular would take me far beyond my intentions, my research facilities, my energy and indeed my expertise. All I am concerned with here is theology or doctrine. Convinced way back in the 1950s (1* It was at that time that I realized that liberalism was devastating the Methodist Church in which I had been brought up. It was with great gratitude that I discovered as a student at Nottingham that belief in the authority and inspiration of the Bible could be cogently defended. Two publications in particular were godsends to me: ‘Fundamentalism’ and the Word of God by J.I.Packer and Our Lord’s View of the Old Testament by J.W.Wenham. Both of these can still be read with profit at the time of writing this (August 2011). Would that the authority of the Bible be more widely recognized and appreciated today. The Bible is a blessed and wonderful book, a miracle in itself.) that so-called experts biased by denominational allegiance and enlightenment presuppositions were dubious guides, I have endeavoured over the years to arrive at my own understanding of what the Bible teaches. (It would seem that scholars in general accommodate themselves to their environment. This is perhaps a survival strategy. However, as I was reminded by an email recently, while the ark was built by amateurs and stayed afloat, the Titanic was built by experts and sank!) It did not take me all that long to discover, even within evangelicalism where the Bible is purportedly regarded as the final court of appeal, that there are serious discrepancies between biblical and generally received teaching. Eventually, after having dismissed Pelagius in favour of Augustine, I discovered that Augustine himself, whose impact on the churches both Catholic and Protestant has been enormous, was susceptible to radical criticism. So now with England my home country in turmoil (August 2011) I venture to suggest that Christian influence which has been gradually diminishing is likely to continue to do so unless Christians are prepared to question their beliefs, repent and seek God’s blessing in these tumultuous days (cf. 2 Chron. 7:14). After all, unexamined and uncorrected tradition was a problem throughout both the OT and NT (cf. Mark 7:1-13), and it remains so today. So, what is radically wrong with our basic thinking? What have we inherited from our forebears (cf. 1 Pet. 1:18) that is poisoning our relationship with God and with our fellow man? Why has God himself apparently become our enemy (cf. Isa. 63:8-10, etc.)?

(For more extended treatment of the following topics the reader should consult the articles listed on the Home Page)

Original Perfection

The traditional ‘Christian’ worldview is built on the idea of original perfection. Augustine of Hippo misunderstood Genesis 1 and assumed that references to the goodness of creation meant perfection. But this is to turn the Bible on its head. Only the eternal God is perfect and, as created, temporal man is by nature imperfect or immature (cf. Heb. 3:3). He is only potentially made like God or in his image, but his ultimate goal is to be completely like him (Mt. 5:48), a feat quite beyond the capacity of fleshly animals. Because they sin, Adam and all his posterity fail to inherit the promise of eternal life (Gen. 2:17) – with One exception, the second Adam (Rom. 8:3, Heb. 2:14f.). He alone achieves man’s full potential, is perfected (Mt. 19:21; Heb. 2:10; 7:28, etc.) and becomes the exact imprint of the nature of God (Heb. 1:3 ESV). In him God completes his plan of salvation as believers are conformed to his image (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18).

See further my:

The Goodness of Creation

Perfection.

 

Original Righteousness

If Adam was not a sinner until he broke the law (commandment) of which he was initially ignorant, he could not possibly have been originally righteous since righteousness can only be gained by keeping the law (Dt. 6:25; Rom. 2:13; 6:16; 1 John 3:7, etc.). In his ignorance, like Jesus the second Adam (Isa. 7:15f.), he was neither good nor evil (cf. Rom. 9:11). He knew neither the one nor the other until he had first learned and then broken the commandment (Gen. 3:22). Original righteousness is thus an absurdity. Even Jesus himself as a son of Adam (Luke 3:38) was also born in ignorance (Isa. 7:15f., cf. Luke 2:40-52) and was not acknowledged as the Holy and Righteous One, the true Son of God, until he had finished his work (Acts 3:14; 7:52; 22:14; 1 John 2:1).

See further my:

Adam – Part 1 – Adam’s Pedigree And Goal

Does Romans Teach Original Sin?

Concerning Original Righteousness

and various essays on original sin.

Original Sin

The dogma of original sin, which teaches that we all sinned ‘in Adam’, seems to be almost universally accepted in the West, though not by the Jews and the Orthodox. The problem is that it is nowhere to be found in the Bible and, if it were, the Bible would contradict itself. Texts like Psalm 51:5 are not only misinterpreted, they are frequently mistranslated. If original sin or sin ‘in Adam’ is taught in Romans 5:12 which is flanked by Romans 4:1-8 and 6:23, then Paul is at odds with himself. In Romans 7:9f. he clearly teaches that he himself ‘imitated’, or rather repeated, Adam and Eve’s sins at the beginning (pace Art 9 of the C of E). If original perfection, as opposed to original goodness, that is, usefulness (cf. 1 Tim. 4:3f.), is a myth, so original sin and ‘fall’ are likewise myths. These are clearly alien to Scripture. For (a) we are all born like Adam ignorant of law (Dt. 1:39; Heb. 5:12-14) apart from which there is no sin (Rom. 4:15; 7:9f.), (b) we all learn the commandment/law from our parents (Prov. 1:8; 4:1-9; 6:20, etc.), and then (c) when the commandment eventually dawns on our consciousness (Rom. 7:9f.), we all break it, sin on our own account (Ps. 106:6; Rom. 5:12; 6:23) and thus lose our innocence.

See further my:

An Exact Parallel?

J.I.Packer on Original Sin

Thoughts on Romans 5:12-14

Are Babies Saved?

Some Arguments Against Original Sin

etc.

Covenant Theology

Traditional covenant theology in its various forms is at odds with what the Bible itself teaches. The idea that God made a covenant with creation which lacks conscious intelligence is manifestly false. The word ‘covenant’ implies at least minimal agreement or response. Thus a unilateral covenant is a contradiction in terms. In light of this it is less than surprising that in the Bible creation is commanded (Gen. 1, cf. Rev. 4:11). And animals which are part of creation are so too (e.g. Ps. 1 K. 17:4; Mt. 10:29; Luke 8:24f., etc.). This ought to alert us to the fact that initially Adam, though physically adult, received a single divine commandment like an infant. Thus the first covenant was established with Noah by which time mankind had developed somewhat from original infancy and animal ignorance. It was a temporal not an eternal covenant (Gen. 8:22). The law too was temporal (Heb. 8:7,13) and also related to this world and the flesh (Rom. 7:1; Heb. 7:16; 9:8-10). By contrast, the promises made to Abraham and David (Ps. 89:28,34) had eternity in view and were fulfilled in Jesus who himself established an eternal covenant (Heb. 9:14f.; 13:20). The new covenant has a heavenly orientation but because it overlaps the old, misunderstanding is ready to hand. We need to note that believers in Jesus are spiritually reborn before they have sloughed off their flesh.

See further my:

Covenant Theology

Covenant Theology in Brief

Covenant Continuity and Discontinuity

Did God Make a Covenant with Creation?.

Fall

Traditional theology is dominated by a so-called disastrous Fall. But if Adam, not having kept the law, was never righteous, from what did he fall? Obviously at worst he lost his innocence as all children do. This is proved by the fact that the sinful parents in the wilderness all died but their innocent children entered the Promised Land (Dt. 1:39; Num. 14:3,29-33). So the word ‘Fall’ used with respect to Adam is quite inappropriate. After all, all children eventually lose their innocence and become sinners as Jesus indicated (John 8:34, cf. James 2:10). Just as Adam and Eve (after a fashion) broke the commandment and became transgressors, so did Paul (Rom. 7:9f.) and the rest of us (Rom. 3:23). Since all fail to gain life by keeping the commandment that promises life (Gen. 2:17; Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16), all sin by breaking that commandment and so earn its wages in death (Gen. 5; Rom. 5:12).

What Fall?

Curse and Corruption

Since it had a beginning in time, creation was subjected by divine decree to corruption (decay) from the beginning (Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12). Land was only ‘cursed’ to the extent that it was abused or neglected (Gen. 3:17-19; Prov. 24:30ff.) by man whose job it was to tend and care for it, that is, to exercise dominion over it (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:15). Since it has a beginning (Gen. 1:1), creation must by divine decree have an end (Mt. 24:35; 28:20), and since it is physically visible (Rom. 1:20), it is transient by nature (2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 12:27). From the start it was therefore neither capable of nor intended to be restored or redeemed (1 Cor. 15:50b). It is by nature ephemeral (cf. Mt. 6:19f.; Luke 12:33; 2 Cor. 4:18).

See further my:

Romans 8:18-25

Cosmic Curse?

Will Creation Be Redeemed?

Regarding the Restoration of Creation

The Transience of Creation

The Destruction of the Material Creation

Thoughts on the Redemption of Creation.

The Flesh

Contrary to Manichean and Greek teaching, Scripture teaches that the flesh which derives from the earth is good, that is, serviceable (cf. 1 Tim. 4:3f.). Like the earth, however, it is inherently transient (Gen. 6:3). The flesh being intrinsically mortal (Rom. 6:12; 2 Cor. 4:11) is fed by perishable food and so perishes; the spirit is fed by spiritual food and endures (Mt. 4:4; John 6:22-63). This being so, our natural bodies need transformation by necessity (2 Cor. 5:1; 1 Cor. 15:50-54; Phil. 3:21).

See further my:

The Flesh

The Flesh A Slave

Another Shot at Romans 8:18-25.

Two Necessities

First, traditionally, regeneration has been regarded as the antidote of original sin. Two points need to be made here. First, as we have seen, original sin as traditionally conceived does not exist and in any case cannot be either transmitted or legitimately imputed to the innocent (Ex. 23:7; 1 K. 21; Prov. 17:15; Ezek. 18; Luke 23, etc.). Second, regeneration in Scripture is seen as a necessity not because of sin but because we are mortal, corruptible flesh by nature. The clear implication of John 3:1-8 is that  the fleshly or natural man as such cannot go to heaven (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50), thus rebirth, birth from above or spiritual birth is a ‘natural’ necessity. Second, precisely because the flesh, like the earth, is inherently corruptible, futile or subject to decay (Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12), it must be replaced by a spiritual (1 Cor. 15:44) or heavenly body, one that is ‘not made by hand’ (2 Cor. 5:1). In other words, since all material (visible) things are ephemeral, the NT points to the eternal or what is ‘not made by hand’ (cf. Mark 14:58). And since man cannot keep the law which promises life (Rom. 3:20), he must look to Jesus who did keep it for salvation (Heb. 2:9-13).

See further my:

Two ‘Natural’ Necessities

Manufactured Or Not So

Concerning Futility

The Transience of Creation

The Destruction of the Material Creation.

Restoration

The prophets of the OT were given only limited revelation and were naturally earth-centred in their outlook (Heb. 1:1; 1 Pet. 1:10-12). In light of this it is not at all surprising that faced with universal corruption and decay they thought in terms of healing and restoration (1 K. 13:6, etc.), even of the restoration of the earth (Isa. 65:17-25; 66:22). In other words, they had an understanding of earthly but not of heavenly things (cf. John 3:12,31). Since chronologically they preceded Jesus, they lacked the revelation that he brought (Heb. 1:2, cf. John 8:23). However, the covenant that Jesus inaugurated was, in contrast with the temporal old covenant, eternal and could only be fully implemented or consummated in eternity. So in the NT the new creation is not the old restored but the eternal heaven, the throne of God (Mt. 5:34, cf. Heb. 9:11,24). For example, when Peter refers to the world to come he does so by quoting Isaiah (65:17) but significantly adding the words ‘where righteousness dwells’ (2 Pet. 3:13). If we ask where righteousness dwells, all we have to do is recall the Lord’s prayer to remind ourselves that it dwells in heaven (Mt. 6:10, cf. v.33; 5:10,20). (On righteousness, see F.F.Bruce, Hebrews, p.20.) Corresponding with the new heavens and new earth is the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2) which, since it is the reality and not a shadow, is also not the old restored. Rather, like the temple (Mark 14:58), it is the heavenly Jerusalem (Heb. 12:22, cf. 11:16; 13:14) and since we are born from above, it is our mother (Gal. 4:26). Needless to add therefore our citizenship is heavenly (Phil. 3:20; Eph. 2:19; Col. 3:1).

So the currently (2011) widespread notion that the present creation will be redeemed because it was once perfect but is now ‘fallen’ is a palpable error.  The truth is that the present material creation which was ‘made by hand’ (Ps. 102:25; Isa. 45:11f.; 48:13) and hence plainly transient (Ps. 90:2; Mt. 24:35) will be replaced by one that is ‘not made by hand’ (2 Cor. 5:1; Heb. 1:12; 9:11,24; 11:13-16).

See further my:

Regarding the Restoration of Creation

The Case Against the Redemption of Creation, etc.

The Resurrection Transformation of Jesus

It is widely held that since Jesus was transformed at his resurrection, so the present creation also will be transformed. The idea is a complete fallacy contingent on the ideas of original sin, fall and curse referred to above. There is in fact no connection in Scripture between the resurrection of Jesus and the redemption of creation. As already noted, just as it is necessary (Gk dei) for flesh, and therefore the incarnate Jesus, to undergo new birth (John 3:7), so it is necessary (Gk dei) for flesh to be replaced at ascension transformation (1 Cor. 15:53). This was decreed by God from the beginning and gloriously fulfilled in Jesus. But since all men and women sin, they are completely unable to gain life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5) and achieve the immortality and incorruption needed to inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:53). Jesus, however, kept the law (Mt. 3:17; John 8:29; 15:10), died on our behalf and brought both to light for the rest of us (2 Tim. 1:10).

See further my:

Did Jesus Rise Physically From The Grave?

John Stott on the Putative Resurrection Transformation of Jesus

When Was Jesus Transformed?

Death and Corruption

Creation Corruptible By Nature.

The Order of Salvation

Because they believed in original sin our forebears assumed that regeneration was its cure and, not surprisingly, placed it first in the order of salvation (ordo salutis) and so baptized babies. This, however, is to stand theology on its head. Regeneration is our goal not our beginning. Adam was promised life if he kept the commandment (Gen. 2:17, cf. Lev. 18:5). Along with all his posterity (Rom. 3:23; 5:12), he failed (cf. Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16, etc.). Jesus, however, was an exception and succeeded, but he had to keep not only the one commandment of his early childhood but  the ‘law’ of his time of testing in heathen Egypt (cf. Eve), then, following his bar mitzvah (Luke 2:40-52), the entire law of Moses (cf. Adam). In this way he pleased his heavenly Father, received the Spirit at his baptism and was born again. Thus, having gained life in accordance with the promise (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, etc.), he then fulfilled all righteousness (Mt. 3:15). This involved his dying voluntarily and vicariously for his sheep and preparing himself for his return to glory at his ascension having finished the work he had been sent to do (John 17:4). In this way he became our pioneer (though unless we are among the end-time saints our pattern or paradigm is David, Acts 2:29,34; 13:36) into heaven itself (Heb. 2:9f.; 12:1f., cf. John 17:24). Since he is the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6), as his disciples we follow him wherever he goes (John 12:26; 14:3,19). And as the redeemed from humankind we are first fruits for God and the Lamb (Rev. 14:4).

See further my:

The Order of Salvation

The Order of Salvation in Romans

Redemption Applied (Order of Salvation)

Cart-Before-The-Horse Theology.

Justification and Sanctification

It is imperative to realize that if what has just been sketched above is correct, then justification which for sinners is achieved by faith precedes sanctification which in the NT relates primarily to regeneration. While our forebears believed that because of original sin, faith was the fruit of the new birth, Scripture clearly implies that despite personal sin faith is always possible as Hebrews 11 would seem to show. Not for nothing did Paul say that the law, on which sin is necessarily founded and defined (Rom. 4:15; 7:8; 1 Cor. 15:56), promised life (Rom. 7:9f., cf. Gen. 2:17). In other words, if we are capable of sin, we are also capable of faith (cf. Rom. 4:5) for both are based on knowledge (law). Recognition of this is hugely important since it shows that though sin and death are rampant throughout the OT, so is faith (Heb. 11) and therefore justification (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-8). By the grace of God faith is relative (cf. Eph. 2:8) and therefore possible to all, even the heathen and children who attain to knowledge (Heb. 11:6) and understanding of (the) law (Rom. 7:1,7). According to Revelation 7:9, for instance, the number of the saved is massive and worldwide.

The Implication of Tradition

Since regeneration has traditionally occupied first place in the order of salvation, inevitably those who are not born again have been considered to be eternally lost. For Augustine who taught infant baptism and hence infant regeneration, all who were not baptized were damned as sinners ‘in Adam’. Hence the heathen were considered a massa damnata (or perditionis) or a damned mass. In line with such views it was almost inevitable that both the heathen and especially the Jews were persecuted by the medieval church and the Inquisition, though sometimes with the best of intentions. The truth is that while only those who put their faith explicitly in Christ can be assured of their salvation in this life (1 John 5:13, cf. Heb. 12:21), it is by no means certain that those who do not are damned in the next. After all, they may exercise a relative faith in God especially in their minority as many under the old covenant did.

Recapitulation

This brings me to the doctrine of recapitulation barely referred to in the Bible (cf. Rom. 13:9; Eph. 1:10) but everywhere implied. It was of course taught by Irenaeus only to be virtually expunged from the ecclesiastical map by Augustine. The truth is, however, that we all begin at the beginning (cf. Dt. 1:39; Rom. 7:9f.; 9:11) and as individuals, like Jesus himself, recapitulate the covenant experience of the race (cf. Rom. 1-3; 7-8; Gal. 4:1-7). When Jesus spoke to his disciples after his resurrection, he made it plain that he interpreted for them the things about himself in all the Scriptures (Luke 24:27, 44f.). His concern was not merely with prediction of his coming but with his relationship with the world throughout the whole of history. To embrace the world in his atonement (1 John 2:2, cf. Heb. 9:15) he had as the second Adam to assume what needed to be saved (Heb. 2, cf. Gregory Nazienzen). In light of this we can readily believe that the time will come when a great multitude that no one can number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb will cry out “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9f. ESV).

See further my:

I Believe in Recapitulation

Recapitulation in Outline

What About The Heathen?.

Baptism

Those who believe in infant baptism which implies regeneration in Christ and is part and parcel of the new covenant have to all intents and purposes cut the old covenant out of their canon. If Jesus as the second Adam began at the beginning (cf. Isa. 7:15f.) and first recapitulated his forefathers’ heathen experience (Mt. 2:15) and life under the law (Luke 2:40-52) then, after his baptism, pioneered the future history of the race (cf. Eph. 4:9f.), so do those who believe in him today.

See further my:

Baptism Revisited

Regarding the Baptism of Jesus

Why Infant Baptism is Unchristian

The Theology Behind Baptism

Circumcision and Baptism

Adam – Part 2 – Individual and Community.

Worldview

My basic quarrel with tradition is that it presents us with a radically erroneous worldview and is far from being an adequate presentation of what the Bible teaches. Augustine of Hippo’s obsession with sin blinded him to the recognition that the material creation was inherently imperfect and defective quite apart from sin. (Note how Paul deals with the natural difference between the body of flesh and the body of glory, 1 Cor. 15:42-53.) After all, there are two ages, the first giving way to the age to come. Thus his teaching regarding original perfection, sin, fall and restoration led to his providing a thoroughly distorted framework which has perverted the understanding of the church ever since his day and, in effect, put the church at odds with history, experience and the genuine findings of modern science. He seems to have completely missed the fact that development, diminished responsibility and recapitulation are intrinsic to the biblical worldview.

See further my:

Not Only But Also

Concerning Futility

Worldview

The Biblical Worldview

Romans 8:18-25.

The reader who wants fuller support for my contentions should consult the articles listed on the Home Page

Some of my essays are not yet on my website but can be received on application via the Contact page

Jesus the Man

 

Introduction

I have argued elsewhere that, according to Scripture, the Word of God became flesh or man (John 1:14; Phil. 2:7), specifically Jesus, the son of God born of woman in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) (see my Still Docetic, The Ecclesiastical Christ.) . I deliberately express the issue this way since I am intent on denying that the person or Word of God in becoming incarnate retained his divine nature. Rather, contrary to the Chalcedonian creed, he became a genuine human being, a man like us in every respect (Heb. 2:14,17). In changing his nature he became totally dependent on his heavenly Father as ultimately all human beings are. (1* See further my Did Jesus Perform Miracles?.)

 

Jesus the Son

The Virgin Birth

Since he became truly and fully human, the second Adam, Jesus’ sonship like ours was progressive or subject to development. It began by his being conceived by and born of the Virgin Mary (Mt.1:20f.; Luke 1:31; Heb. 10:5). As such he was inevitably made a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7,9) with the intention of doing the will of God in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.; 10:7,9) in a way that no one had previously proved capable of doing (cf. e.g. 1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20). The reason for this is that he purposed by keeping the law as man to gain the righteousness which was the precondition of eternal life. This God had originally promised Adam, who was the first man made in the divine image, in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:17, cf. Lev. 18:5). So, just as God had spoken to his people by the prophets, he finally sent his own Son not merely to speak and reveal but ultimately to redeem (Heb. 1:1-3, cf. Gal. 4:4).

 

Baptism

Jesus then like Adam was the Son of God by physical birth (cf. Luke 3:38), and like all children he was subject to perfection, that is, development, growth and maturation (Luke 2:42-52, cf. Gal. 4:1-7). As a child he necessarily passed through the stages of infant ignorance (Dt. 1:39, cf. Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4) and childlike ‘heathenism’ under the covenant with Noah by recapitulating the history of his forebears. Like Israel the vine (Ps. 80:8), Jesus the true vine (John 15:1) spent time in and was called out of Egypt (Mt. 2:15). On his return to the Promised Land he underwent his bar mitzvah and lived as a Son of the Commandment. As such he was called to total obedience to the whole law. By achieving this to perfection he pleased his Father who acknowledged and confirmed him as his Son at his baptism (Mt. 3:13-17). In this way, as man he uniquely and permanently received the Spirit, that is, eternal life (John 1:32, cf. 3:34), new birth or birth from above. His baptism signified the first fulfillment of the promise originally made by God to Adam in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:17, cf. Leviticus 18:5, etc.).

In view of traditional misunderstanding it is vital to stress and clarify this. Like all human beings Jesus had natural, animal* or temporal life at his birth of woman (Gal. 4:4, cf. Rom. 7:9) but like Adam (Gen. 2:17) needed eternal life if he was to achieve perfection and attain to heaven. This he gained when he fulfilled the God-ordained precondition which involved keeping the commandment/law (Lev. 18:5, etc.).

* It should not go unnoticed that as a baby, as flesh born of woman, Jesus was nursed in a manger (Luke 2:7,12) and categorized with the animals (Luke 13:15; 14:5, NRSV).

 

Transfiguration

Jesus’ Sonship was further confirmed at his transfiguration described in Matthew 17:1-8. Here God refers to him and bears testimony to him as his beloved Son (cf. 2 Pet. 1:17). That he is his human Son emerges from the fact that his Father claims to be well pleased with him (17:5) as he had been at his baptism. This inference is confirmed by Jesus’ double self-designation as the Son of Man who is to suffer (v.12) and be raised from the dead (v.10). But before he could serve as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of his people, he had to qualify himself by remaining completely unblemished and acceptable in the sight of his Father (cf. 1 Pet. 1:19). This the first Adam had failed to do.

 

Resurrection

The resurrection of Jesus is the resurrection of the human Son by his Father (Acts 2:24). Of course, it might be argued on the basis of John 10:17f., where Jesus says he has the power to take his life again, that he has retained his divine nature but even here he claims to have the authority of his Father to do so. A dead man cannot be raised apart from the authority of God. He must be divinely vindicated (Acts 2:22-24, cf. Rom. 4:25) and the vindication in question is that of his Father. However, the situation is clarified in Acts 13:32f., for example, where it is the Son, begotten in time (today) not in eternity, who is raised in accordance with the promise God made to the fathers. That this passage has the human Son in view is further emphasized by the fact that he is said to be raised from the dead no more to return to corruption (13:34). It is only as the incarnate Son that Jesus experienced corruption (aging, decay) and, once he had ascended to heaven, his days of corruption and contact with it were terminated forever (Heb. 7:26, cf. 4:14). He had been made flesh only for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9, cf. 5:7) with the salvation of his people in view.

 

Ascension

Paul tells us that flesh and blood cannot (by nature) inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50, cf. John 3:6) and that we must all be changed (1 Cor. 15:51). Now since Jesus was truly flesh, he too had to be changed even as he had been spiritually born again at his baptism and this change clearly took place at his ascension (cf. John 20:17) and not, as is widely claimed, at his resurrection from the dead (pace e.g. Stott, pp.70ff., Harris, pp.xxv, etc., Carson, p. 557, and many others). It is as the incarnate Son of God that Jesus fully achieved the image and likeness of God (Heb. 1:3, cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15), indeed his very perfection (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28). If this were not the case, how could he be regarded as our pioneer and trail blazer into the very presence of God (Heb. 6:20; 9:24; 12:2, cf. Dan. 7:13f.), our elder brother (Heb. 2:10-13) to whose image we must be conformed (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18).

 

The Second Adam

Since Adam was the human son of God, so is Jesus or he could not possibly have been the second Adam. If Adam was a type of the one who was to come (Rom. 5:14), it follows that the antitype was also human flesh and blood by nature and divine only in person or identity (cf. Luke 3:38). If Adam was made from the ground or mother earth, Jesus derived from his mother’s flesh whose original source through Adam was the ground (Ps. 78:39; 103:14, cf. Job 10:8f., etc.). Mary was not theotokos or mother of God since God is eternal (cf. Heb. 7:3) but the mother of the human Jesus, genuine flesh and blood. Thus it was in the flesh that Jesus, God’s human Son born of woman, overcame (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.,17f.).

So we can safely conclude that just as Jesus the Son attains to heaven and the presence of his Father God (Eph. 2:18) as our pioneer (Heb. 9:24; 12:2), so do we, his fellows. By faith in him, the Son of God, and by regeneration (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3f.) we overcome the world (1 John 5:4f.) as he himself overcame (John 16:33). So, as a Son himself he brings his brothers to glory (Heb. 2:10) and guarantees them a share in the inheritance (Rom. 8:17).

 

Ecce Homo, Behold the Man

At the beginning of his gospel John tells us in clear language that in the beginning was the Word (cf. Gen. 1:1), and that the Word was with God and was God. In verse 14 he adds that this Word who brought creation into being came to his own (John 1:11), became flesh and lived (tabernacled) with men and women. We learn elsewhere that as flesh and descended from David (Mt. 1:1; Rom. 1:3) he was born of the Virgin Mary (cf. Luke 1:27; John 7:42). Through her he clearly became a son of man, God incarnate. Since he is born of woman (cf. Gal. 4:4) who herself is dust, he too is truly a Son of Adam, the archetypal man, who was created from the earth in the image of God (Luke 3:38). In this way he became the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-49), the replacement of the first (cf. Heb. 10:9). As such he was both God in person and man in nature (Heb. 2:14,17; 10:5-7). John goes on significantly to inform his readers that he and his fellow apostles have seen his glory as the only Son from the Father, and in verse 17 he noticeably differentiates between the old and the new covenants when he says that the law was given through Moses but grace and truth through Jesus Christ. Again, in a passage reminiscent of John 1, the same apostle (we assume) claims to have physically heard, seen and touched the life which was with the Father (as the Word was with God) on the basis of which eternal life is proclaimed (1 John 1:1-3). This stress on hearing, seeing and touching, highlighted in John 20:27-29 and Hebrews 12:18-21, is of prime importance since it points to the genuineness of Jesus’ human nature as flesh and blood prior to his ascension transformation and glorification (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-53).

 

Conqueror in the Flesh

It was then as man that Jesus of Nazareth is presented to us in Scripture as going about doing good (Acts 10:38) overcoming sin in the flesh (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22, cf. Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14) and as a man (Gk andra) being approved by God (Acts 2:22). Since God had originally promised Adam, the man made in his image, eternal life if he kept the commandment, only in this way could Jesus triumph over the devil and deliver those enslaved by him (Heb. 2:14f.). Thus in the book of Revelation it is Jesus the man, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but significantly also the root of David, who conquers (Rev. 5:5). And it is as a Lamb who has been slain that he stands among the elders (5:6. cf. v.9), sits at God’s right hand and receives glory along with him (5:13, cf. 4:11; John 17:5,24), for he, the man, is now King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14; 19:16).

 

The Mediator

The apostle Paul who like John described Jesus as having shared the nature of God in eternity (Phil. 2:6) in 1 Timothy 2:5 describes him as a man (Gk anthropos) who is the mediator between God and man. The author of Hebrews goes further and adds that Jesus is the guarantor or surety of a better covenant (Heb. 7:22) than that served by Moses (cf. Gal.3:19). A guarantor bears a greater burden than a mediator because he is responsible for the fulfillment of his obligation (see e.g. Bruce, p.151 n.70). As both God in person and man by nature Jesus fulfils his role to perfection.

 

The Priest

It is as man that Jesus became a priest replacing Aaron. At first blush it might be assumed that this was impossible because he belonged to the wrong tribe of Israel (Heb. 7:14). But this problem is overcome by a change in the law as well as the priesthood (Heb. 7:12) and Jesus is appointed a priest by an oath after the order of Melchisedek (Heb. 7:21). As the Word in eternity, like Melchisedek Jesus had neither father nor mother, neither beginning nor end whereas as man on earth he had both. And it was as man the Son of God that he gained an eternal priesthood (Heb. 7:3) because he continues forever (Heb. 7:16,24,28).

 

Propitiator, Intercessor and Sympathizer

Paul makes it clear in Romans 3:25 that it is by shedding his (human) blood that Jesus serves as the propitiator of his Father whose wrath was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18). The mere fact that all died reflected the fact that all personally sinned (Rom. 3:23; 5:12; 6:23) and did not simply fall prey to original sin as our baleful (Augustinian) tradition would have it. Thus all were in need of someone to make propitiation for them (1 John 2:2, cf. Heb. 1:3), to intercede on their behalf (Rom. 8:34) and to sympathize with them (Heb. 2:17).

 

The Inheritor, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords

If the Word played his part in the creation of the world, clearly all belonged to him as Creator (cf. John 1:11). In the words of Paul, all things were created through him and for him (Col. 1:17). The last asseveration, like that of the ultimate reconciliation referred to in verse 20, is pregnant with significance. For if all was his by creation, the implication is that he was to inherit all as man (Rom. 8:17, cf. Gen. 17:4-6; Gal. 3:14,29; Rom. 4:13). The devil himself seemed to realize this (Mt. 4:9) as he had when he tempted the first Adam (Gen. 3:1-6). That this promise was fulfilled is made clear in Hebrews 1:3f. where we learn that having made purification for sins Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, regained his superiority to the angels (Heb. 1:4) temporarily forfeited (cf. Heb. 2:7,9) and inherited a more excellent name than theirs. He who once endured extreme humiliation on earth (Phil. 2:7f.) is now exalted above the heavens (Heb. 4:14) as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14; 19:16).

 

Jesus the Righteous One and the Author of Life

It is worthy of note that Jesus the man is designated the Righteous One on various occasions (3:14; 7:52; 22:14, cf. 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:1). This of course harmonizes with his sinlessness (cf. 1 Pet. 2:22, etc.). In Acts 3:15 he is called the Author of life. This also presumably relates to his humanity for it was as man that he spilt his blood on our behalf and brought to light immortality and incorruption (2 Tim. 1:10). Apart from him we would all have been left in our sins, incapable of achieving the righteousness necessary for life (Lev. 18:5). It is by him that we must be saved or not at all (Acts 4:12). To have him is to have the Father also (John 14:6; 1 John 2:23; 4:15; 2 John 9)

 

Life Giver and Judge

In John 5:26 we read that Jesus was given life in himself (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45) along with the power to judge (John 5:22,27; Acts 17:31). This can only mean that he received these delegated powers as man (John 3:34f, 5:20), the human Son of God since in his eternal state as Creator he already had them (cf. John 1:4, pace e.g. Carson, The Son, pp.62ff.; John pp.256f.)

 

The Perfecter

It is a sad fact that our Augustinian tradition has taught us that creation, including man the creature, was created perfect rather than ‘good’, that is, useful or fit to serve a purpose (cf. Gen. 3:6 where food is portrayed as being edible, cf. 2:9). In other words, Augustine confused the beginning with the end. The truth is that man like a baby was created imperfect, that is, immature, knowing neither good nor evil. As such he had to be made perfect. Since the law being weak and useless could not make anything perfect, mankind was forced to find a better hope by which to draw near to God (Heb. 7:11,18f.; 8:7). That better hope was provided by Jesus, the man, who in accordance with the divine purpose uniquely achieved perfection (Lev. 11:44f.; 19:2; Mt. 5:48, cf. Phil. 3:12-14), the perfection of God (Heb. 1:3; 2:10; 5:9; 7:28). He thus became the pioneer and perfecter of his people (Heb. 12:2). Through him and in him we also attain to the presence of God (Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 3:21, cf. John 14:2f.), the fullness of our salvation.

 

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References:

F.F.Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, London, 1964.

D.A.Carson, Jesus The Son of God, Wheaton, 2012.

D.A.Carson, The Gospel According to John, Leicester/Grand Rapids, 1991.

 

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Outline of the Word’s Incarnation and his Exaltation as Man

1. The Word was God (John 1:1) and therefore equal with God (Phil. 2:6).

2. Superior to angels by nature as eternal Creator.

3. Became flesh (man) (John 1:14) and so changed his nature (Phil. 2:7).

4. Made less than angels for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9).

5. Sought glory and honour (Rom. 2:7,10; Acts 10:38, cf. 1 Pet.1:7).

6. Succeeded, so was raised in power (Rom. 1:4) and crowned with glory and honour (Heb. 2:9).

7. Superior to angels (Heb. 1:4,6; 1 Pet. 3:22).

8. The exact image of God (Heb. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15).

9. Jesus the man is the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8. cf. James 2:1) who sits with God on his throne (Rev. 3:21, cf. Mt. 28:18; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 4:11-14).

10. At his return he exercises as man the power of God (Mt. 28:18; Rom. 1:4) and sends out his angels to gather the elect from the four winds (Mt. 24:30f.; Heb. 9:28).

See further my The Journey of Jesus, The Exaltation Of Jesus.

Towards a Theodicy

 

I have argued over the years that the main reason why the present world must be regarded as pejorative in relation to heaven or the world to come is not on account of the sin of Adam, his fall from original perfection and the consequential curse on all creation but because God himself purposely subjected it to futility and corruption in hope of the world to come (Rom. 8:20). (1* See my Romans 8:18-25.) Rather than regard sin as the sole cause of all earthly ills, I maintain that it is only an exacerbating factor. (2* Cf. my Not Only But Also.) This seems to be demanded by the mere fact that both Jesus and the apostles in accordance with Jewish belief teach that there are two ages, the present one and the age to come (Mt. 28:20; Luke 20:34-36; Eph. 1:21, etc.). (3* See my The Two Ages.) As early as Genesis we gain hints of the world to come from 1:26,28, cf. Ps. 8:5f., and 2:17. In other words, eternal life which cannot be lived on a temporal earth which has a beginning (Gen. 1:1) and an end (Gen. 8:22; Mt. 24:35) is in prospect from the start. On the assumption, however, that my contention that Romans 8:18-25, like Hebrews 1:10-12, for example, point up the futility and corruptibility, the transience and potential destruction of this world in which sin also figures prominently, it is necessary for us as human beings made in the image of God to seek to justify the ways of God to man. So, on the assumption that it is a benevolent God who has brought creation into being, why all the pain, distress and suffering? Why didn’t the Creator simply make us as he made the angels who do not apparently undergo all the trials and tribulations common to man?  While it is comparatively easy to account for the sufferings of the Saviour as being necessary because of human sin, it is not so regarding suffering in general. So, given my premise that the creation has been subjected to futility by divine decree irrespective of sin, what can be said?

 

Suffering as the Purpose of God

First, to take the bull by the horns, suffering seems to be part of the plan and purpose of God (cf. Rom. 8:18a). Why do we read in Romans 8 itself that we are to be glorified with Christ only if we suffer with him (verse 17)? This question becomes especially acute when we reflect on the fact that so much pain seems purposeless. Apart from anything else we need to recognize the fact that creation itself in the form of heat and cold to go no further (cf. Ps. 147:17; 2 Cor. 11:27; Rev, 7:16) gives us problems.  If like Jesus, we suffer for sin (even if in his case it was on our account), that seems reasonable. Peter who has quite a deal to say about suffering in his first letter stresses that while we have no cause to complain if we suffer for evil conduct, we should nonetheless be prepared to suffer even unjustly. This in itself suggests that our heavenly Father sees something positive even beneficial in our suffering. And when we read on the one hand that we must (Gk dei) enter the kingdom of God through tribulation (Acts 14:22, cf. John 16:33) and on the other that we ought to count it all joy when we are tested and put under trial (James 1:2-4), this thought is confirmed.

 

Character Training

Why then are we tested? According to the OT man was called to exercise dominion over an intractable creation from the start (Gen. 1:26,28). This in itself required commitment, discipline and hard work beyond the capacity of ordinary men and women, and they were far from being forthcoming in our early ancestors as the brief allusions to Adam (Gen. 3:17-19), Cain (4:12) and Lamech (Gen. 5:29) make clear. There is no suggestion that even Noah was wholly committed even though as a man of faith he responded magnificently and obediently (Gen. 6:22) in contrast with his contemporaries. And others later, like Job (ch. 3) and Jeremiah (20:14-18) who were so sorely tried that they wished they had never been born, found it difficult to understand why they should be tested at every moment by the watcher of humanity (Job 7:18f.) even beyond their capacity to bear it.  But in case we have failed to appreciate it, the law itself, like the single commandment given to Adam, was clearly designed to humble those under it and to reveal what was in the heart of man (Dt. 8:2, cf. Ex. 16:4). Verse 16 of the same chapter goes somewhat further and indicates that along with the humbling and testing process there was the promise of good in the end (cf. Jer. 32:39-42).

 

Under the Law

This is a familiar theme in connection with the law. While Christians can hardly be unaware that Paul taught that the law was in effect a ministry of death (2 Cor. 3), it is frequently stressed in the OT that the law’s intention was the ultimate good of the elect nation (Dt. 4:40; 5:16,29,33, etc.). God required that his chosen people should be a disciplined (Dt. 4:36) and a righteous people (Lev. 26:1-13; Dt. 28:1-14) and as such they would not only be greatly blessed themselves but also a blessing to others worldwide (cf. Gen. 12:2f.; 18:18, etc.). This they could not be so long as they remained stiff-necked and stubborn in their sin (cf. Acts 7:51-53). Yet for all that they had not been chosen for their own righteousness but to demonstrate to the nations that their God was himself a righteous God who was intent on fulfilling his promise to their ancestors (Dt. 9:5). And that promise was ultimately the demonstration of the mercy of God to the nations including Israel itself (cf. Rom. 15:7-13). This, however, in Moses’ time was a long way ahead, but the plan was already being put into effect.

So while Israel should have been humble under the law and a demonstration to the heathen of the righteousness and mercy of God, it was not until Christ as the vine who epitomized Israel  came as the end of the law (Rom. 10:4) that the  objective of God was achieved.

 

Christians

If Israel as the kingdom of priests and a holy nation failed under the law, we as Christians under the leading of the Spirit are meant to be more successful (1 Pet. 2:9, cf. Mt. 5:13-16; Acts 26:18; Col. 1:13). In light of this James suggests that as Christians we should be more ready than Israel under the law was of being tested, disciplined (Heb. 12:3-11), humbled and rendered more patient in our aim to be more Christ-like and hence made perfect  as he was (James 1:2-4). Clearly Paul had the same idea in mind in Phil 3:12-15.

 

Becoming the Children of God

Why is all this necessary? Though it is true that God is our Creator and we are hence his offspring in that sense (Acts 17:29), in light of the fact that eternal life as the children of God is in view, the main reasons seem to be: character training (Rom. 5:3-5, cf. 2 Pet. 1:5-8), humility as epitomized by Jesus and the pursuit of perfection (maturity) or God-likeness (Lev. 11:44f.; 19:2; Mt. 5:48, cf. Rom. 8:29). (4* It is significant that throughout Scripture it is the humble, Mt. 23:12, etc., who will be exalted as Jesus was, Phil. 2:5-11.)

 

Overcoming the World

The Bible presents our Creator God as being sovereign over creation and all his handiwork. Since he has made us in his image, his intention is that we should under him exercise a delegated dominion too (Gen. 1:26,28). In this Adam and his immediate posterity signally failed and suffered curse as a consequence (Gen. 3:17-19; 4:12; 5:29). While still in the Garden of Eden our first forebears rather than ruling creation allowed created things to rule them (cf. Rom. 1:25). Consequently the triumph implied in Psalm 8 failed to be realized. This is in striking contrast with Jesus who was able to tell his disciples at the end of his life that he had overcome the world (John 16:33, cf. Rev. 5:5,12) despite his own trials and temptations (Heb. 4:15, cf.  5:7f.). This point is underlined by the author of Hebrews who tells us that at the end of  his period of incarnation Jesus was not only crowned with honour and glory (cf. Rom. 2:7, 10; 1 Pet. 1:7) but also by the grace of God  tasted suffering and death for his fellows (2:9).

 

The Flesh

Contrary to received Augustinian theology we were not perfect to start with (5* Perfection was our goal, Mt. 5:48, not our beginning!) as Adam was reputed to be nor were we born sinful as a consequence of his sin, but as we gained God-likeness as those made in the image of God we were required to rule creation or exercise dominion even over our own flesh. But the flesh has its own powerful passions and desires (Rom. 7:18f.,23; Gal. 5:17; James 4:1) and inevitably acts as persecutor (Gal. 4:29). Thus overcoming the world, the flesh and the devil in the flesh constituted our greatest challenge and one that all failed to conquer. According to Paul setting our minds on the flesh is death and enmity with God, and with such an attitude it is impossible to please him (Rom. 8:5-8). In the event, only Jesus as the Word made flesh succeeded in conquering specifically in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.). Only he progressed unsullied from ground to glory (Eph. 4:9f.), and in doing so paved the way of us his fellows or neighbours. In other words, he loved his neighbour as himself in accordance with his Father’s commands and in fulfillment of the law. We are now called to do the same in faith presenting our bodies (flesh) as a living sacrifice in spiritual worship (Rom. 12:1). Given this scenario, suffering is unavoidable.

 

The Devil

According to the Bible, not only did the devil succeed in deceiving Eve and the heathen in general (Rom. 1:24-32; Eph. 4:19) but in the event he gained mastery over Adam and the Jews as well despite their having the law. Even we as Christians are reminded that the devil is the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4) and that the whole world lies in his power (1 John 5:19, cf. John 14:30). We must therefore keep ourselves from idols (1 John 5:21). However, the glory of the gospel is that Jesus overcame the devil and was able to say that he, the devil, had no claim on him (John 14:30). This was apparent from his temptations recorded in Matthew 4, for example. And James is able to say that if we as believers in Christ resist the devil (4:7),   he will flee from us rampant roaring lion though he is (1 Pet. 5:8).

 

Sin

So, if we are to be like God and conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18) and not that of the devil (cf. John 8:44), sin must be overcome as mankind was warned as early as the book of Genesis (4:7). The light of the glory of the gospel of Christ who is the image of God is manifested in us as we overcome by the grace of God.

But while testing and temptation in the course of our pilgrimage through this world would appear to be reasonable in training, disciplining, humbling, sanctifying and perfecting us, can the same be said about the fiery trials, persecutions and hostilities that affect us so readily. Peter is convinced that it can. Like the law (Dt. 8:2,16) these reveal what the true state of our hearts is (1 Pet. 1:6f.). They also do something else, that is, reveal whether like the Israelites longing to return to Egypt (e.g. Num. 11:4-6), we prefer this world to the next as Esau apparently did (Heb. 12:16). After all, since some like Demas, having shown some semblance of commitment to the Christian cause, relapse and go back to the world (2 Tim. 4:10) as the Galatians were tempted to go back to Judaism (Gal. 5:1, etc.), John’s warning that we should not love this world is timely (1 John 2:15-17, cf. James 4:4). The basic reason given for this is that this world for all its genuine goodness is nonetheless purely temporary; it is a testing ground in preparation for the real world, that is, the age to come, that lies ahead of us. The question is whether or not we shall be considered worthy of attaining to that age (Luke 20:35). The danger of being waylaid and weighed down by dissipation and drunkenness and the cares of this life is acute and to yield is a recipe for ultimate disaster (Luke 21:34-36). In the circumstances, however, God has deemed it necessary (Gk dei) for trial and tribulation to try us (Acts 14:22) before we enter the kingdom. Even as he was called Paul was warned that suffering was to be his lot (Acts 9:16). This was verified by what happened to him later ( e.g. 2 Cor. 6:4-10; 11:23-29; 12:7-10). However, he was buoyed up by the promise of good to come (2 Tim. 4:18) which after all was a familiar Scriptural theme as numerous references make clear: Gen. 12:2,7; 28:13-15; 32:12; Ex. 3:8; 6:7f.; 18:9; Lev. 26:3-13; Num. 10:29-32; 14:7;  Dt. 6:24; 28:63; Jud. 8:35; 1 Sam. 25:30f.; 1 K. 8:66; Isa. 55:3; Jer. 29:10f.; 31:17,33; 33:9; Ezek. 36:11, etc.). The heavenly call (Phil. 3:12-14, cf. Heb. 3:1) and eternal life constituted no small considerations.

 

Natural Evil

Natural evil like earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, violent storms, tsunamis and the rest are doubtless designed to impress on us the shakability (Heb. 12:27), uncertainty and temporality of creation and the need to escape from this world into a safe haven where God is our refuge (cf. Gal. 1:4). Like the human body of flesh which is part of it, the visible creation is not only temporary but also corruptible (Rom. 8:20). This being the case, our recognition that it is so should serve as a stimulus to seek triumph over and deliverance from it. And the only way to do this is by committing ourselves to Christ.

 

Is the Suffering Warranted?

The question of whether the degree of suffering specifically for Christ experienced by some is warranted persists. In our weakness we are all inclined to think not (cf. Heb. 12:11), but the apostles warn us not to falter but rather to follow in the steps of Jesus. They remained convinced that in light of the glory to come pain paled into insignificance (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17). Indeed, Paul was prepared to say that the surpassing worth of knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection which involved his sharing of Christ’s suffering and becoming like him in his death was gain (Phil. 3:8-11). We doubtless need to adopt the same attitude even if we recognize with the author of Hebrews that all discipline is painful rather than pleasant (Heb. 12:11). After all, God is treating us as his children and this according to John demonstrates his love (1 John 3:1-3). If he treated Christ, the Righteous One, in this way (Heb. 5:7-9), then we must expect him to do the same with us. (6* It is noticeable that in his high priestly prayer Jesus does not ask that we should be taken out of the world but that God should keep us from the evil one, John 17:15.)  Training which yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness produces family likeness (Rom. 8:29; Heb. 2:11f.) and in this way eternal harmony is achieved (1 Cor. 15:27f.).

 

Producing Fruit

Fruit-bearing, of course, is basic to the Christian life but it involves suffering. Lack of it threatens destruction (7* See my Fruitlessness and Destruction.). In his discourse in John 15:1-11 Jesus indicates the importance of our being productive. He illustrates his point with reference to the vine which in order to be fruitful is subject to pruning by God himself. The pruning process is, however, painful but it glorifies God and brings us eventual joy as it did to Jesus (Heb. 12:2). Of course, the same is said with regard to holiness and righteousness by the author of Hebrews (12:10f.) who tells us that short-term discipline for those who are God’s children is for their good. (8* It is worth noting that the shortness of the time of discipline correlates with Rom. 8:18 and 2 Cor. 4:17.)

 

The Vindication of God

While the gospel enables us as believers in Christ to approach the throne of grace boldly (Heb. 4:16), it certainly does not suggest that we do so boastfully (1 Cor. 1:29, etc.). This world is so difficult to navigate that we are all forced to rely on an alien righteousness, as Luther put it, to achieve our heavenly goal (Heb. 2:9f.; 3:1). Jesus alone successfully kept the law (Gal. 2:16) and fulfilled all righteousness (Mt. 3:15) despite his own difficulties (Heb. 4:15, etc.). This is exactly as God intended (Phil. 2:10f.). And the time will come when despite the severity of the struggle (Acts 14:22, cf. Rom. 8:35-39; Heb. 11:32-40) which resembles the pilgrimage of the Israelites through the wilderness, we shall all fall before the throne of God and give praise (Rev. 5:13f.). When this occurs, God will be amply justified (Rev. 4:9-11).

 

The Love of God Ultimate

Behind all the pain and suffering of this world we are constantly assured not least in the OT that behind it is the purposeful love of God. Job who lived long before the coming of Christ was perhaps not as aware of this as we are, yet even he maintained his faith.

 

Perfection

At the end of the day, as creatures made in the image of God we are called as his children (Eph. 1:4-6; 1 John 3:1-3) to be perfect like God (Lev. 11:44f.; Mt. 5:48, cf. Phil. 3:12-14). In other words, God himself is not only our praiseworthy Creator (Rev. 4:11) but our model. His greatness is reflected in both creation (cf. Job 38-42; Ps. 19; Rom. 1:20) and redemption (Phil. 2:9-11). His love is manifested in his grace and humility. Our aim then is perfection in Christ (Mt. 19:17,21; Rom. 8:29). Of this Paul and the rest of the apostles were well aware and strove despite or rather through or by means of their sufferings to be conformed to the image of Christ (Phil. 3:10, cf. 2 Cor. 1:5f.; 3:18) who himself was the supreme image of God (Heb. 1:3, cf. Col. 1:15). The apostles, like Christ himself (Heb. 12:1f.), were clearly convinced that the temporary pains of this world were well worth enduring for eternal ends (Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:16-18).

 

Food for Thought

If Jesus thought that his sufferings on our behalf were worth his subsequent glory (cf. Luke 24:26; Acts 3:18; 1 Pet. 1:11; Heb. 12:2), how much more ought we to regard ours in the same light (cf. Rom. 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17). Clearly, where there is no pain, there is no ultimate gain.

On animal suffering, see my Nature Red in Tooth and Claw.

Note: Andersen, Job, pp.66-70,148f.

Human Nature

 

What according to the Bible is human nature? A simple answer is flesh and blood which man shares with the animal world (cf.  Gen. 6:17; Ps. 49:12,20; Eccles. 3:18-21; Heb. 2:14). In addition, however, man is made in the image of God (Gen. 1:26; 5:1-3).

Historically the church, though denying that he was initially so, has maintained that man also has a sinful nature. And in case there is any misunderstanding at this point it contends that man is born sinful because Adam his first father was sinful. This belief begs big questions which it is worthwhile subjecting to serious if brief criticism.

First, according to Jesus man becomes the slave of sin not by inheritance but by actually sinning (John 8:34, cf. Gen. 3:6; James 1:13-15; 2:10) in his youth (Gen. 8:21) but definitely not his infancy (Dt. 1:39, etc.)

Second, Paul says that he himself was born alive (like Adam and Eve) and did not die until he, like them, had actually broken the commandment (Rom. 7:9-11).

Third, he also says that where there is no law there is no sin (Rom. 4:15, etc.). In light of this, since babies do not know the law, they cannot break it. Of course, it follows from this that they cannot earn its wages which is death (Rom. 5:12; 6:23).

(Infant Mortality: If at this point it is asked why babies sometimes die, the answer is plain. Since there is no covenant with creation (and hence the creature) which is by divine decree destructible and corruptible (cf. Rom. 8:18-25; Heb. 1:10-12), they die naturally like animals in general. Since God has made to them neither threat nor promise, they die in the normal course of nature from disease or disaster. In their case, death cannot be the wages of sin for the simple reason that where there is no law there is no sin, Rom. 4:15, etc.)

Fourth, the apostle says that we acquire our sinful nature by our disobedience (Eph. 2:1-3). This he had obviously learned from his knowledge of Adam who did the same. In other words, like Paul in the course of our development we all repeat the sins of first Eve then Adam (Rom. 7:9-11, cf. 9:11).

For, fifth, all acknowledge that Adam was ‘born’ knowing neither good nor evil. He acquired his sinful nature by breaking the commandment and as a consequence was cast out of the Garden never to return (Gen. 3:24). My assumption is that the Garden was the womb of the race. Adam was, however physically adult while we, his offspring, are genuine babies when we are born. Once Adam was outside the Garden like Nicodemus, he could not re-enter it (John 3:4). According to Ezekiel 28:13, like the King of Tyre we all begin life innocent in the Garden (or womb) till in due course unrighteousness is found in us (cf. Eccl. 7:29). It is the story of Adam repeated or recapitulated (pace Art. 9 of the C of E).

Sixth, again according to Paul we become sinful or righteous by disobedience or by obedience (Rom. 6:16) which again indicates that we follow in the steps of Adam or of Jesus, the second Adam. In the event, as flesh we are able to follow Adam, in whose image we are made (Gen. 5:1-3), readily enough but we prove incapable of keeping the law like Jesus (1 Cor. 1:29; Gal. 2:16, etc.). In light of Hebrews 2:17 we are forced to conclude that the only difference between him and us is that, though sorely tempted, he did not sin (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22, cf. Rom. 3:19f., etc.) while the rest of us all do (1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:23; 5:12, etc.).

Seventh, if we are sinful at birth, like the leopard we cannot change our spots (cf. Jer. 13:23). So, according to Romans 1:26f., we are under natural compulsion and moral obligation to act according to  our nature. If original sin is true and we are also sinful by nature, we sin by not sinning. To illustrate briefly, herbivorous leopards in contrast with bulls (Ps. 106:20) are freaks, contradictions in terms. According to Psalm 104, however, God himself feeds the carnivorous lions he has created (Ps. 104:21, cf. v.27; Job 38:39,41). In other words, animals act according to their God-given nature not contrary to it, and we are expected to do the same.

 

The Future

This raises the question of the future. Does human nature go to heaven? As flesh which is unprofitable (John 6:63; Rom. 7:18; 8:6-8) man is like all animals mortal and corruptible and hence cannot by nature inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50). However, as a believer made in the image of God he is given eternal life and a spiritual body like that of Jesus himself (1 Cor. 15:46-53; Phil. 3:21).

Redemption or Replacement

 

Going to Heaven

When I was a child I learnt that if I was a good boy I would go to heaven and be with Jesus when I died. However, in recent 21st century times much has been made of the putative redemption of creation and I have been roundly told that earth not heaven is my real home. According to Tom Wright’s Surprised by Joy, for example, Isaiah 65:17-25 and 66:22f., which lie behind 2 Peter 3:13 and Revelation 21:1-4, inform us that the new heavens and the new earth are my ultimate destination. (1* See my A Brief Critique of ‘Surprised by Hope’ by Tom Wright.) In light of this it is widely held that the present earth which is said to have ‘fallen’ when Adam ‘fell’ will be redeemed, purged of sin and made fit for habitation by regenerate humanity. (2* Others like Chris Wright, Harris (ch.12) and Stott (ch. 4) hold similar views.)

 

Heaven and Jesus

An obvious problem with this view is that Jesus is portrayed as having returned to heaven from where he came in the first place (John 3:13; Eph. 4:9f.) and he promises that he will return to fetch his people to be with him for ever (John 14:2f.; 1 Thes. 4:17).

One may wonder why it is necessary to go to heaven if we can gain eternal life while we are on earth. The problem is of course that eternal life is spiritual (cf. John 3:1-8) while the temporal flesh and the earth from which it derives are not. If it countered at this point that man is not fully man without a body and an appropriate realm (kingdom) in which to live, it may be replied that though the body of flesh is headed for destruction a new and spiritual or glorified body ‘made without hands’ is promised us (2 Cor. 5:1, cf. 1 Cor. 15:46-54). So just as Jesus’ body of flesh was dispensed with at his ascension transformation, so will ours be (Phil. 3:21).

 

The Physical Creation

As has already been implied, creation is a purely temporary phenomenon. It had a definite beginning (Gen. 1) and hence a certain end (Mt. 28:20). The latter is vividly portrayed as occurring in a fiery holocaust resembling Sodom and Gomorrah (Luke 17:28f.; Heb. 12:27-29; 2 Pet. 3:7,10-12). Heaven or from our point of view the world to come is eternal. In contrast with the earth which is God’s footstool, it is the also throne of God (Mt. 5:34f.).

Matthew 5:35 highlights something else: Jesus refers here to Jerusalem as the city of the great King. The inference we draw from this is that the earthly Jerusalem is also temporary. As the author of Hebrews intimates, here on earth we have no lasting city (13:14, cf. Mt. 22:7) which in any case compares unfavourably with the city that is to come in the world to come (Heb. 1:6; 2:5; 6:5). It is in fact set in contrast with Sinai in Hebrews 12:22, and Sinai and all it represents is not only terrifying but also obsolescent (Heb. 8:13, cf. 2 Cor. 3:7-11).

 

The Kingdom of Heaven

According to the general teaching of the NT the kingdom of the earth (or all earthly kingdoms) will finally give way to the Kingdom of heaven. This is expressly stated in Revelation 11:15 (cf. 12:10-12; Luke 1:33). Certainly there is an element of comparison between this perishable world and the eternal next, between earth and the kingdom of heaven (cf. John 3:3,5; 1 Cor. 15:50). For example, in Hebrews earth like much else is seen as a type or shadow of that which is to come. However, Abraham and his fellow believers are said in Hebrews 11 to desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one where a city has been prepared for them (Heb. 11:14-16, cf. John 14:2).

 

The Two Ages

Jesus himself like his fellow Jews distinguished strongly between this age and the age to come. For instance, in Luke 20:34-36 he pertinently notes fundamental difference. Physical or fleshly mankind, like the animals in general in the present age, marry in order to propagate the species. This is necessary not simply to extend the number of people on the earth but to overcome the ravages of death (cf. Heb. 7:23). And in case his hearers have failed to grasp the point he asserts that those who qualify for the age to come cannot die anymore. However, as the author of Hebrews indicates, while believers die only once (Heb. 9:27), a second death pointing up eternal spiritual death comes to those who have rebelled irretrievably against God and are as his inveterate enemies destroyed. Again, in John 11 Jesus talking to Mary at the time of Lazarus’ death and resurrection emphasizes death in this age and permanence in the next (John 11:25f.). (See further my The Two Ages.)

 

Natural and Supernatural

What Scripture points to is the temporality and of all that is natural and our goal is the supernatural. Visible created things, though expressing the power and glory of God (Rom. 1:20), are intrinsically impermanent and will eventually be destroyed (Heb. 12:27). It is the invisible supernatural that is permanent and it is our destination. And we can only reach it by ourselves being given eternal life (the life of God) through faith in Christ and subsequent corporeal transformation after death.

 

The Lesson

On reflection this simply underlines the nature of our eternal God. While he himself is by nature both immortal (1 Tim. 6:16) and incorruptible (1 Tim. 1:17; Rom. 1:23), in contrast we his creatures are by nature both mortal (Rom. 6:12; 2 Cor. 4:11) and corruptible (2 Cor. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:52). Real life (cf. 1 Tim. 6:19) is eternal life or divine life. If we would have it, then we must build on the rock which is Christ (Mt. 7:24; 1 Cor. 10:4). It alone is unshakable (Heb. 12:26-28). In light of this the idea that what is natural can be redeemed is lamentably false. As Paul says the perishable by nature cannot be rendered imperishable (1 Cor. 15:50b). It was the Lord Jesus himself who brought to light   immortality and incorruption (1 Tim. 1:10). By faith in him we have been given both and the death by which this age is characterized is swallowed up in victory (1 Cor. 15:53f.).

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References:

M.Harris, From Grave to Glory, Grand Rapids, 1990.

J.R.W.Stott, The Contemporary Christian, Leicester, 1992.

C.Wright, The Mission of God, Nottingham, 2006.

N.T.Wright, Surprised by Hope, London, 2007.

Jesus and the Plan of Salvation

 

The plan of salvation is implied somewhat obscurely early in the Bible even before Adam has sinned. In light of this we are forced to infer that as created (Gen. 2:7) from the temporal earth (Gen. 1:1; 8:22; Heb. 1:11) Adam, in contrast with his Creator (Rom. 1:23, etc.), is by nature mortal and corruptible like the rest of the animal creation and hence naturally in need of salvation or eternal life even apart from sin. While still in the Garden of Eden he is told that in order to transcend the death to which he is subject by nature, or, to put it more positively, in order to gain (eternal) life, he must keep the commandment (Gen. 2:16-17). This, as we all know, he failed to do (cf. Gen. 3:6) and so he was paid the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23), died (Gen. 5:5) and returned to the dust from which he was taken (Gen. 3:19). Considering the fact that as the first and hence representative man according to the flesh he did as he did, it is hardly surprising that his posterity did likewise, all the more so since they had his sinful example and influence to contend with. In other words, they repeated if they did not actually imitate his sin (pace Art. 9 of the C of E). In the circumstances, as Paul intimates in Romans 5:12-21 they inevitably, but not necessarily as church dogma would have us believe, capitulated.

The point being made is one of the most common assertions in Scripture that if a man keeps God’s statutes he will live (Lev. 18:5, cf. Ezek. 20:11.13,21; Luke 10:28; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:12, etc.). If he does not, he will die (Gen. 2:17; James 1:15). Jesus apparently believed this to be axiomatic, for when questioned by the rich young ruler about how to gain eternal life Jesus bluntly asserts that it is necessary to keep the commandments (Mt. 19:17).

 

Keeping the Law

This of course is as we all know a tall order quite beyond the capabilities of ordinary men and women. For all that, in Mark 10:20 the young ruler boldly asserts that he has kept the commandments from his youth. Strangely, Jesus does not attempt to contradict him but simply takes him at his word. Perhaps we haven’t been told the whole story but in any case Jesus makes it clear that keeping the commandments is not enough. First, he recognizes that love of material riches is a stumbling block for his interlocutor and that he should sell all he has and give to the poor. In this way he will lay up treasure for himself in heaven. Secondly, Jesus tells him to follow him, and this according to Jesus’ teaching elsewhere will involve radical self-denial (Mark. 8:34).

 

The Inadequacy of (Keeping) the Law

There is doubtless another point Jesus is making. When he himself, having pleased his heavenly Father by keeping the law to perfection, permanently (John 1:32) received the Spirit and gained eternal life at his baptism, he pointed out to John the Baptist that he had to fulfil all righteousness (Mt. 3:13-17). In other words, keeping the law of Moses was not enough. Something more was necessary for him to achieve the perfection required by God (Mt. 5:48). To meet this requirement he would need the Spirit without measure (John 3:34). And as God’s Son he would doubtless receive this as Scripture implies (John 1:32, cf. Luke 1:32f.; Acts 13:34b).

The author of Hebrews makes the same point in a different way in 7:18f. and 8:7. While keeping the letter of the law was the precondition of salvation or regeneration, perfection demanded something more, that is, his total commitment to his heavenly Father and love for his neighbour as himself. As we all know Jesus himself achieved this (Heb. 5:9; 7:28) by giving himself (his flesh, Col. 1:22; 1 Pet. 3:18) as a sacrifice for his people according to the will of God (Heb. 2:9f., cf.  3:1-5). In this way he attained to perfection. After making purification for sins he sat at God’s right hand becoming the exact imprint of his nature (Heb. 1:3) and upholding the universe by his power (cf. Mt. 28:18; Rom. 1:4).

 

Following Jesus

It is at this point that we realize how important it was for the rich young ruler as it is for us that keeping the law (of which we are incapable in any case) is inadequate. We need above all to follow Jesus, to accept him as our Saviour. In this way we receive by faith his righteousness, the precondition of eternal life (Lev. 18:5, cf. Gal. 5:5). He alone fulfilled all righteousness. He alone achieved the perfection which was God’s standard (Mt. 19:21) and he alone was in a position to lay down his life in atonement for our sins (John 10:17f.). In light of this we must understand that following Jesus implies trusting in him alone for salvation (John 14:6). As Peter strongly asserts in Acts 4:12, there is no other name under heaven among men by which we must be saved.

 

Conclusion

Paul underlines the fact that our call as human beings is to keep the law and seek glory and honour (Rom. 2:7,10, cf. 1 Pet. 1:7) in accordance with the original mandate given to Adam in Genesis and accomplished by Jesus (Heb. 2:9). As the second Adam Jesus paved our way, conquered in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.), brought to light both life and incorruption (2 Tim. 1:10) and provided us with the perfection we needed (Mt. 5:48) to enter into the very presence of the holy God of heaven (Heb. 6:19f.; 9:11f., 24; 10:19f.; 12:2).