© Charles A. Clough 2002
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 3 – The Historical Emergence of the Church
Lesson 189 – Emergence of the Church – The Work of God the Son
07 Feb 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
Tonight we’re going to develop the consequences of the emergence of the church and by that I mean the positional truth that characterizes us as believers. It’s positional truth that’s particular to the Church Age. Some of it is similar or the same to the saints of previous ages, but a lot of it is different, so we want to stress that the church has its own unique destiny, it’s own unique structure, it’s own unique positional truth. Why that’s important for us as believer is that in a hostile world system we have to, if we’re going to walk by faith, not try to do it ourselves; if we’re going to walk by faith we have to operate from a position of strength. The problem is it isn’t our strength. It’s not working something up, it’s not working up some emotion - it’s perceiving - and that comes only through contact with the Word of God. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” It’s only by perceiving the content of the truth of Scripture that you can get your eyes on a position of strength, and operate from the position of strength, and not from the position of weakness.
My wife and I have been taking a little mini course on Islam just to understand it better, and it’s very interesting, the more we get into this and realize some of the content, you say wow, what a bankrupt system and what riches we have in Christ, and we don’t even realize it. That’s why studying heresy always fascinated me because when you study heresies or cults or anything like that there’s something you’ll always see. It’s a blinding of some truth. Satan will take something that either the church hasn’t articulated, the church hasn’t done something here, the church hasn’t done something there, just enough to be weak in an area, and then he, just like a parasite, clamps down on that. And it’s very interesting parallel because medically that’s what parasites are, parasites feed on weak flesh and heresies feed on sloppy theology. I think one of the things having got into Islam a little more deeply now I realize that one of the things that Islam has done is that he doesn’t even try to be speaker friendly. One of the interesting things about Islam, it has never, ever tried to be friendly and gooey, it comes forward right from the start, blunt, truthful and if you don’t like it, get out of the way. It’s very interesting. Whereas the church that has the authoritative Word of God always tries to apologize for it, back up for it, or do something. And I think we’re paying a price for not being a little more aggressive in articulating the Scripture, and its authority and that there’s no excuse for disbelieving it.
On page 72 of the notes we start to go through these positions. We’ve already covered the contribution of the Holy Spirit in previous sessions, and we said that you can remember that by the acrostic, [RIBS] Regeneration, Indwelling, Baptizing, Sealing, giving at least one spiritual gift to every believer, and making intercession for every believer. So those are six things that the Holy Spirit has done. What we’re going to do now is we’re going to move on to God the Son and eventually we’ll move on to God the Father, sort of reversing the order of the Trinity here.
We introduced it last time on page 72, follow with me again just to remind us of the structure of the Trinity. “It is well to remember an aspect of the Trinity to help put these eighteen blessings into a coherent whole. The words that the Triune God chose to use in Scripture” by that I mean when in John God uses His word for the Son He calls Him the Logos, the Word. When God chooses a word for the Third Person of the Trinity, He uses pneuma, and that is spirit, which is an analogue to wind. “The words that the Triune God chose to use in Scripture direct us to think of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in terms of a speaker, his message, and the effects of the message.” If you just think in terms of the fact that all content comes from a speaker. We’ll get to that more with the Father, but I just want to emphasize that the speaker is the source of the message. The effect of the message is the result of the message. So there’s a sequence.
By saying that speaker precedes the message, what we’re saying is that you can’t have a message coming out of an impersonal source. If God is the source, God the Father is always seen to be the source, the fundamental source and it’s always a personal source, over against a mechanism, a gas cloud, a machine, atoms, the strong force, the weak force, gravity, whatever you want to say, those are not the ultimate causes. By making God the Father the ultimate cause guarantees that behind everything, every cause, every secondary and tertiary cause, there’s a person behind it. You can’t have information that hasn’t come from a person’s mind. So wherever you see design, it just didn’t happen, and one of the great myths of our time that the public school has forced upon us, because they are under the control of the humanists, is that you can get information from non-information, you can get purpose from the impersonal. So right up front with the Trinity we cut all that off because ultimately whatever has happened in the world has been spoken into existence. God spoke the universe into existence. “In the beginning was God;” not “in the beginning was gas.” So we have a speaker as the source of all things.
Then you have what the speaker speaks, and the speaker speaks a message, and the message has content and information that you can think, engages your mind, and that content, that message, that meaning, and that purpose is centered on the Second Person of the Trinity. That’s why you can always tell a genuine work of the Holy Spirit from a charlatan operation, because charlatan operations inherently have to deny the Trinity somewhere. What they do to deny the Trinity is glorify the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not in the business of glorifying Himself. The Holy Spirit is in the business of glorifying the Son, so where the Holy Spirit genuinely works it will always be a Christ-centered, Second Person of the Trinity-centered operation.
Then we have the bona fide area of the Holy Spirit. What does He do? The Holy Spirit, if we follow the speaker, the message and the effects of the message, He cranks up the effects. He’s the one that takes the message and does something with it. A good example: Genesis 1, in the beginning the darkness was on the face of the earth and the spirit was hovering. In the Hebrew it says He was vibrating, He’s hovering; it’s like a bird sitting there waiting for the command. And then God says “let there be light,” God speaks, the Father, and He says the word, the logos, “let there be light, and there was light.” Who brought that light into existence? The Holy Spirit did, but He brought it in in accordance with the plan. He’s always the One who carries out the plan and you always see Him in that role. He’s a perfect servant, He carries out the plan and the plan, not He, gets the glory.
Now we come to the work of the Son. All these previous things that we share as Christians are actions by the Holy Spirit to implement God’s plan. They actually aren’t the plan itself. By looking at any of these they make no sense whatsoever unless you have a plan behind them. It’s like somebody in the kitchen making something. They just don’t pour stuff together and something happens, there’s a recipe behind it. So these are all actions, so to speak, in the kitchen of the world system, and there’s a plan and a purpose and a grand scheme behind all these things that the Holy Spirit does. So, look upon RIBS plus intercession and spiritual gifts as works the Holy Spirit does to carry out the primary plan.
When we come to the Son we’re going to do six things again. Six things come to every Christian that constitute our position of strength, but these six things, in contrast to the six of the Holy Spirit, these are the center, these are the things that give meaning, purpose, and that reveal the content of the plan. This is why, bottom of page 72, the first one we’re going to study is imputed righteousness. I’m going to indicate that with a +R for a reason: imputed righteousness. We got into this a little bit when we were dealing with the call of Abraham, because Abraham is a model of being justified by faith, but the Father is the one who does the justifying. He’s the one that causes justification; He’s the one that recognizes it. But He couldn’t do that if there wasn’t genuine righteousness to be recognized. So that’s what we’re going to talk about, imputed righteousness.
This is unique, imputed righteousness is unique to Christianity. All other religions do not have imputed righteousness. Islam has no imputed righteousness, because Islam doesn’t even have a word for sin. You can’t have imputed righteousness if you don’t have a concept of sin. Absolute righteousness is the issue. Jesus Christ brings righteousness into historic existence. Prior to this it was an attribute of God; God was absolute righteousness. God the Father is absolute righteousness, God the Son is absolute righteousness, [and] God the Holy Spirit is absolute righteousness—that’s righteousness as a divine attribute. That’s not what we’re talking about here. This imputed righteousness is not a divine attribute; this imputed righteousness is the righteousness of a creature obeying perfectly God’s righteousness standards. Imputed righteousness is something that pertains to the creature, to make that creature come into conformity with the Creator who is Himself righteousness.
The problem and the dilemma is that all other religions substitute for imputed righteousness human works… ALL of them do this in some way, shape or form. You can lay your last dollar that every heresy known to man does this. It denies imputed righteousness. It’s one of the great satanic ploys, because what Satan wants to do is to get our eyes off of Him who is righteous, onto ourselves, or onto something else other than Him. And he does so by deluding us into thinking that we generate merit because we’re so good. Yeah, we’ve done bad things but we’ve also done a lot of good things and the good things outweigh the bad things, that kind of story, the old scales problem. That’s at the heart of every false religion.
We want to pursue this a little further. The last sentence of page 72, “They, as the first humans, [Adam and Eve] were to produce tangible and intangible goods and services which could be ‘priced’ or evaluated.” Let’s go back to Genesis 1. I’m trying to make this as non-religious as possible because the more religious you make it, the more we think we understand it and we don’t, we skip it. Turn to Genesis 1 the original commission given to men and because we’re going to use the word “imputed” we want to do a little exercise here so we understand the content and the meaning of imputed righteousness. Two words, we want to get down firm the meaning of both of those words, the word to impute, the verb, and the noun, that which is imputed, righteousness.
In Genesis 1:26, “And God said, Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky, and over the cattle, and over all the earth….” Verse 18, “And God blessed them God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and have rule over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the sky …” that’s the function man was given. That is what God wants man to do. That is where man screws up and when he rebels against God he does not rule the creation properly. In Genesis 2, a specialized version of the previous large-scale command, and He says He puts man in the Garden, verse 8; He placed man whom He had formed. Verse 9, “And out of the ground the LORD God” caused all this to happen, He made the garden that was “pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life,” etc. Verse 10, “And a river went out of Eden,” and it gives the environment, and then in verses 16-17 He tells them what he can’t do, and God makes a helper, verse 18 and the story goes on how He did that.
But the idea there is He put a man, verse 15, “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to till it and to keep it,” to produce something. If you think in images and if you’re a student of the Bible and the Word of God, try to think in terms of images a lot, because the Bible is filled with images and if you think in terms of images they’ll stimulate your imagination. If your imagination is stimulated it’ll make it a lot easier to apply. That’s why back in the days when we never had a TV and we had radio only, you had an image of this voice that you heard on the radio and your mind stirred up these images. After a while you’d see these people on television when television came out and good grief, that isn’t the way I thought of it, that person doesn’t look the way I imagined them to look. The greatest let down of my life was when I first saw the Lone Ranger on TV; it wasn’t the way I had conceived it from the radio program.
The point is that the imagination is powerful and God triggers our imagination with the imagery of Scripture. Right here is an image that will help you understand this issue of righteousness so you won’t get all spooked out, thinking of it only in terms of religious things. What was to be produced? If man is to subdue the earth, go back to Genesis 2, what was supposed to be produced? Crops, food, he was to produce something from the ground. Now when the curse happens in Genesis 3:18, what happens to the produce? Man’s purpose was to till the ground to bring it forth, to make the earth produce, to be productive. People wonder why in Genesis 2 it is talking about gold and water and all the rest of it—why is it doing that? Those are the natural resources that God has blessed creation with so man can do something. Man isn’t supposed to be just sitting, doing nothing, we’re supposed to be working and producing something useful.
In Genesis 3:18 when the curse comes the problem is, verse 17, “cursed is the ground because of you, in toil you shall eat of it,” meaning that the earth now resists our dominion. We’re still left trying to produce; the problem is the earth rebels against us. So the image is easy to think of, it’s the weeds, it’s the thorns, it’s the thistles and you want fruit and you have to work ten times harder now in a fallen world than you would have had to have worked before. In a way that’s therapy, by the way, because leisureness with a sin nature breeds trouble, and one of the great therapeutic devices of suffering in the world is that it makes us so weak because we constantly have to deal with this problem or that problem or some other problem, it keeps us looking upward. And if we didn’t have that constant resistance, we would really get into some sophisticated forms of sin. So there’s a built-in therapy to all the thorns and thistles.
But right now just think of the image, plants, flowers, vegetables, fruit, the produce and the earth as a garden, here is the only place planted on earth, apparently. In other words, God planted the garden, and outside of the garden there are not necessarily fruitful trees. I don’t think you can show from the Scripture that the earth on the seventh day had trees and everything, but the fruit-bearing stuff was in the garden, and if Adam had to expand his family the idea was he would literally take over the acreage outside the garden and grow and expand; he would carry the seeds with him, he’d produce with them, and as he grew the picture would be that he completes the creation. That’s the economic force. The study of man’s productivity is what? It’s a study of economics.
What’s one of the central occupations of economics? How to deal with value, how to price something. We all go to the store, we look at this and we decide to buy this or not buy this and all the time we’re looking at it we’re putting value on it, pricing goods, pricing services. Different price at different levels, but how we price something reveals our value system. In the ebb and the flow, and this is why the free market capitalism is basically the most biblical system because it allows a freedom of valuation, you don’t have a bunch of bureaucrats with their arbitrary standard trying to price everything the way they say. The free market operates. This is why you have the commodities exchanges; this is why you have the stock market. If we didn’t have the stock market and the commodities and the futures market there would be no way to price goods and services throughout the globe. It would be up to a group of people like the communists tried it, some eight people get in a smoke filled room and figure out prices, it doesn’t work.
So in economics we’re pricing. What is it we’re pricing? The products of man. The act of pricing is to impute, that’s what that verb means. Now we’re getting at the image of impute righteousness. It means to credit or price something, to price a good, a price of service. In this case our economic work on earth, pricing a good or a service here that so and so did, or a company did, there’s this and that, we want to buy this, we don’t want to buy that, we evaluate whether we want to save a dollar here or spend it here, etc. etc. etc. All that’s economic activity, we all are familiar with it, it’s everyday life. But who created all of life? God did. Up at the Creator level He has something analogous to our pricing. Just as we, every day of our life price goods and services, He prices. His valuation system is perfect. And what He is doing is pricing not just nuts, bolts, shoe and toothpaste, what He is pricing our choices, and what we have brought forth as fruit. He prices us, He prices our lives. He puts a price or a value upon them. And that pricing is imputing. So, imputed righteousness has something to do with being credited with righteousness.
The problem is in Genesis 3 we’re supposed to bring forth fruit, goods, [or] services, out of the resources. After the fall, what comes out? Junk. And even to get the junk to come out requires a lot of work. This imagery of a fouled up agricultural productivity, turn to Proverbs 24. The Bible carries this forward in many places, we’ll just take two places just to show you that this imagery carries from cover to cover in the Bible. That’s why this imagery is worthwhile remembering, tucking away, when you get into these questions and you get too theological about it. We’re trying to avoid getting too theological here. In Proverbs 24:30, here’s an example in the book of Proverbs of a lazy person. There’s a work ethic in the Bible. Work didn’t happen because of the fall, Adam and Eve had a job to do before the fall. Labor is not bad. Some people get the idea that labor is bad; labor is the result of the fall. No it isn’t. God worked six days and rested the seventh. Some people think He rested six days and worked one day, like I’d like to do. No, that’s not the way it works.
Isn’t it remarkable, the first picture you see of our biblical God is as a laborer, as one who is working? That’s the first picture you’ve got of God in the Bible, working, and the last picture you’ve got in the Bible is it’s all done. He’s got a job to do, He gets to it, He gets it done and it’s over and finished. God is a laborer. In Proverbs 24:30 is the opposite. “I passed by the field of the sluggard, and by the vineyard of the man lacking sense;  and behold, it was completely overgrown with thistles, its surface was covered with nettles, and its stone wall was broken down.  When I saw, I reflected upon it; I looked, and received instruction.  A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.  Then your poverty will come as a robber, and your want like an armed man.” That’s wisdom for living in this world system. The work ethic doesn’t disappear after the fall; in fact, it gets more important after the fall because what this says, if we don’t labor, then the results of the fall overtake us more painfully.
You say well I still don’t see the connection with sin. Come to the New Testament, Heb. 6, same imagery, but now look at the application. Here’s where the imagery gets joined to the higher function of man living before God. Hebrews 6 is one of those warning passages, and you’ll notice verse 1 it says “Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,” etc. And it warns, verse 6, “… it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God. …” Verse 7 uses the same work imagery of the garden to characterize belief and unbelief in the larger spiritual dimension of man’s life.
Verse 7, “For ground that drinks the rain which often falls upon it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God.  But if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless,” it’s talking about the land here, it’s not talking about the people who farm the land, it’s talking about the land that is farmed by the people. Notice, the blessing in verse 7 is upon the ground that is fruitful. In verse 8, “but if it,” subject, “it” refers to the ground, “if the ground yields thorns and thistles, its worthless and is close to being cursed and ends up being burned,” you burn it off. Now clearly this image isn’t just brought in here accidentally. There’s a picture here of worthless ground.
Let’s go back and combine these images into the name of ourselves, the name of the human race. What is the name of the human race in the Bible? Adam. And what’s the name of the ground? ’Adamah. Why is Adam called Adam? Because he was made of the ground. So, what’s the closest earth to your soul? Your body. This that we walk around in, this is the ground that’s closest; the flesh is the ground that’s closest to us. We talk about the flower bed and all the weeds and the problem there; we’ve got a closer problem, and that is our own flesh, our own physical flesh. It’s part of the ground; it’s derived from the ground. Now the problem is, does our flesh produce fruit or does it produce thorns and thistles? In the fallen state, our flesh can only produce death, it can only produce thorns and thistles, it’s worthless, it’s cursed.
So here you have the imagery slowly coming over and what looked like it was a simple gardening thing back in the Garden of Eden now gets a little heavier, it gets deeper, it gets more profound and we realize that our physical bodies are reproducing in this life or aren’t we. The fall of man forces our bodies to produce nothing except sin and human good. It produces things called good, but those things that are called good are inherently still worthless because they’re maybe pretty thorns and pretty thistles instead of ugly thorns and ugly thistles. But thistles it is, thistles they are, whether good or bad. So if that’s the case, what do we do about the righteousness problem?
Turn to Deuteronomy 25 where we have a court law, this is a section of Deuteronomy in the Mosaic Law Code that deals with instructions to judges who are holding trials. Deuteronomy 25:1, this is God’s direction for a courtroom; it is God’s direction for the juridical function of society in a nutshell. This is like one of the Ten Commandments applied to the judiciary proceedings. It says “If there is a dispute between men and they go to court and the judges decide their case, and they justify the righteous and condemn the wicked.” That’s the essence of a court. Think about it for a minute, “justify the righteous one and condemn the wicked one.” The act of justifying doesn’t produce the righteousness, does it, in a courtroom. The person who is declared to be righteous was righteous before he came into the court room. The court officially recognizes that and the act of officially recognizing it is called by the verb “justify.” You justify the righteous one.
Now if we are sitting here with a cursed ground that makes up our bodies, we have been told that we are supposed to produce fruit to Him, and all we produce is thorns and thistles, so we don’t produce any righteousness, do we want to go to court and be judged by God for that? I don’t and you shouldn’t either. The dilemma is how then can we be justified? The Old Testament saints knew this. Come forward toward the New Testament, stop at Psalm 143. This is one that Paul in Romans uses, I want to show you this because I don’t to leave the impression that somehow Paul just thought all this up and it wasn’t there in the Old Testament. Yes it was there in the Old Testament. And yes Old Testament saints struggled with this.
Psalm 143:2, a classic reference, if you don’t have any other reference in the Old Testament, write this one down because this is a reference that is so important that Paul uses it in his epistles. Here’s where Paul got the idea from under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Here’s the Psalmist and look what his prayer is. He says “do not enter into judgment with Thy servant,” here’s a guy who is born again, he’s the equivalent to being born again in the Old Testament, he’s believed on what promises were available to him just like we believe on what promises are available to us, but the Holy Spirit has taught him that all he is is a sinner. Therefore in verse 2 he says, “Do not enter into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight” and here it is, here’s where Paul got his doctrine from, “for in Thy sight no man living is righteous.” Old Testament, not New Testament, Old Testament teaching this. That is a revelation of Old Testament saints who had meditated upon the Law and God’s demands.
Just for a minute, let’s contrast this with Islam. In Islam all that Islam does is give more rules to man to follow. It says Allah wants you to obey him, and you’d better obey him because you’re going to be judged by him and he’s going to take your good works and he’s going to balance them with the bad, same thing, it happens in all the cults and false religions. And maybe you’ll get saved if your good works outweigh your bad works. Is that what verse 2 says? If you look carefully at verse 2 the only conclusion you can come to is no matter how many good works you do, we are still not righteous.
Isaiah 64 is another passage in the Old Testament, notice, Old Testament, not New Testament. In Isaiah 64:6 here is what God’s evaluation of good works is. “For all of us have become like one who is unclean,” just like a leper, “all our” what deeds? Our bad deeds? No, all our good deeds, “for all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are as a filthy garment, and all of us wither like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” That’s the Old Testament evaluating our nature.
If that’s the case, how can we be justified? The dilemma has always been how…, think of the Psalmist in 143:2, think of this guy, can you imagine talking to him. You know, the guy is on a talk show, and if you can imagine it, hey guy, do you really believe that no living person is righteous. That’s right. Well, what are you going to do with your life, what’s your hope for life. He would have had to have said God is somehow going to deal with it, I don’t know how He’s going to deal with it. But Yahweh tells me to trust in Him, He tells me that life is with Him, I know that I’m righteous, I know that all I produce is thorns and thistles, and there’s grace, He’s gracious to me, but I can’t stand in His courtroom. So what’s the deal? And he would not have had a clear cut answer other than God is going to deal with it. I trust that Jehovah God, who has given me all these promises, is going to take care of me somehow, I don’t know how.
Now come to the New Testament, Romans 3, that’s the breakthrough. The whole thing is resolved in Romans 3. And this is where Paul, why he was so excited about the gospel, because in Romans 3:26 he says … let’s look at verse 25, “whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God,” verse 25 right here, the last clause, look at it, that’s what was going on in the Old Testament, that is what was going on with that Psalmist who wrote Psalm 143:2, God “passed over the sins previously committed,” so in the Old Testament He was passing over the sins. He didn’t forgive them; He was just passing over them until such a time would come that the sin issue would be dealt with.
Now we come to verse 26, “for the demonstration,” that’s the cross, “the demonstration I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Notice the coalescence, this is the solution to the dilemma that God may be just, i.e. that He may be absolutely righteous and uncompromising and true to His own attribute of righteousness, and yet at the same time be able to declare as in a courtroom, remember the verb, what does the verb mean? Remember Deuteronomy 25, what does a good judge do, he “justifies the righteousness.” Well how can a good judge justify a crook? And that’s the mystery of the cross here. Because of the cross, God has a way to justify the unrighteousness without violating His righteousness. And the way He does that is because He imputes righteousness to us. Notice the righteousness isn’t of our hearts; God doesn’t look down and say oh gee, is there righteousness in here somewhere and says oh yeah, I think I see a little bit, I’ll justify that. The righteousness isn’t in us. These flowers are not acceptable, this is thorns and thistles. He’s not looking in here to see righteousness. And yet He’s crediting righteousness as being there.
How can He credit righteousness to be there if the righteousness isn’t there? The answer is because He is crediting the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life; that’s the four Gospels. It was Jesus Christ as God-man, that’s what that kenosis and impeccability was all about, Jesus Christ lived a perfect life. Because Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, what did that show? That showed that human… you know you hear to be human is to err or to err is to be human or whatever it is. That’s not true. Jesus was human and He didn’t err once. The next time you hear somebody say that, toss that one out in the conversation, take a little salt and dump on to it. Say hey, that’s not true, I know one person, I bet you don’t even know His name, I know one person who was a human being and never erred once. Then just go on with the conversation like you’re talking about Saturday night football, see if the hook gets in a little bit.
The point is that here Jesus Christ generates righteousness and He becomes a stand in for Adam now. We don’t understand all this, but in Romans 5, people say oh, I think original sin is so horrible, it’s just disgusting that you Christians say that because Adam sinned you’re all sinners, I wasn’t there, don’t blame me for what Adam and Eve did, that is morally wrong. In Romans 5:12 there’s a reason why God designed our unity in Adam that everybody fusses about. “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—” Through one man sin entered into the world, obviously Adam. Death came as a result of sin. Death spread to all men because all sinned, past tense. And the debate has always been what does the verb mean at the end of verse 12, what does that verb “sinned” mean, when it says “because all sinned?” How could you sin if you didn’t exist in Adam’s time?
Verse 13 is the reason why Paul is saying this, “for until the Law sin was in the world; but sin is not imputed where there is no law.  Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses,” why does he say “until Moses?” What happened with Moses? The Mosaic Law came, which outlined the penalties of death for sin. But he says if you go behind the Law historically, prior to the giving of the Law, between that period of time, between Adam and Moses, did people die? Okay, what Paul then says is on what basis, why did everybody die before Moses. People could only die before Moses if they were condemned to die, and what were they condemned for? They were condemned for something, and it says, verse 14, “even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam’s offense, who is a type of Him who was to come.” So God designed the human race right from the start in the Garden of Eden so that the representative, Adam, the first guy in the chain, what he does affects the whole chain.
Adam sins and that automatically causes us all to be sinners. Oh, that’s unfair… Aha! But wait a minute. Because He designed the human race in this pyramidal form it means that if Jesus becomes the second Adam, what happens then? His righteousness spreads to the whole second pyramid, just like Adam’s sin spread throughout the first pyramid. It’s difficult, this is hard, but it involves the idea that every person who trusts in Jesus Christ is justified, not on the basis… [blank spot]
God accepts you and God accepts me only because of what He sees in His Son. So we don’t get religiously fatheaded about all the good and wonderful things we do. That’s not to say they’re not important, it’s just to get the perspective right. Our standing doesn’t depend on who and what we are; it depends on who Christ is, what He did. There’s the emphasis between Protestantism and Catholicism. Catholicism insists that you are justified on the basis of Christ’s righteousness plus the work of the Holy Spirit in your life. The doctrine of justification inside Roman Catholicism is not the same as the doctrine of justification inside Protestantism. That’s what the Reformation was about. The problem today is we have such sloppy thinking, due to the fact that in the school system we’re never challenged for any big questions, because every time you deal with a big question you’re into a religious issue and we can’t have religion, the lawyers all say, so therefore since we throw out religion we throw out all the big discussions and kids grow up learning trivia, learning a lot of facts, brilliant facts, ooh, I can do 8 different software programs in my computer. Well bully for you, what does that do for eternity? That’s not doing anything. The big substantive issues can’t be thought of. We can’t even understand why the Reformation happened.
That’s why we have evangelicals getting together with Catholics for different things. I’m not saying we don’t get along. Catholics have been very faithful to hold to certain things we hold dear to. Catholicism has exalted the person of Jesus Christ and we agree with them there. Catholicism has taken a hard line on the value of human life and we agree with them there, and we can be cobelligerents with them there. But just because I sit with my Catholic friend and we’re cobelligerent on this issue and that issue doesn’t mean we agree over here. We don’t agree over here and there’s a difference, there’s a completely different idea here. What we’re teaching in imputed righteousness is utterly unacceptable to Roman Catholics. What we’re saying is that the basis of our acceptance with God is because of a righteousness that is being presented to God the Father in heaven by the Son. It isn’t dependent on something going on here. With Catholicism and sloppy evangelicals if God is working a wonderful thing in my life, yes He is, but He’s not finished with it and the body, this thing that we call the flesh, is condemned, it still cranks out stuff.
That’s why in Romans 6–7 it says mortify the deeds of your body. Why do you have to mortify them if they’re okay? Until we’re resurrected our flesh is fallen; the fallen flesh is not acceptable. So we’re not acceptable before the Father other than through the Lord Jesus Christ. The difference is that the Protestant Reformation said that you can have assurance of salvation now because the basis of our salvation is finished. It’s the Lord Jesus Christ’s work that is finished. So Martin Luther, with his struggles as a priest, said I can rest, finally, I have peace with God, because where Luther was having the problem, he was introspecting and saying do I have enough good works? He was always looking, you know, contemplating his navel and all he saw was his shortcomings, because any mature Christian knows that the Holy Spirit teaches us and He makes us aware of all the crud. It never stops. You can be a Christian for 10 years, 15 years, 40 years, it doesn’t make any difference how many years you’ve been a Christian, the Holy Spirit still points out stuff, so you’re still aware of stuff that stands between you and God that has to be confessed, has to be dealt with. It never stops. Luther knew that. So he said if it never stops and my justification depends on what’s going on here, I have no assurance of salvation. And it almost drove the guy crazy, until he got straightened out by going to the text of Scripture instead of listening to Mother Church. He went to the text of Scripture and said oh, yeah, the text of Scripture says the righteousness is Jesus’ righteousness, not mine.
So imputed righteousness is one of the great things that Jesus Christ provides for every believer, the righteousness of the same quality for every believer, young believers, older believers, believers of this race, believers of that race, it’s all the same righteousness, it’s all of Christ, nothing of us. It’s Chinese Christians, Korean Christians, Asian Christians, European Christians, American Christians, Latin American Christians, African Christians—ALL have the same righteousness in Jesus Christ. That’s a possession that is true for every believer.
We don’t have time to go on to the next one, but on the bottom of page 73 the second great thing that Jesus Christ does is that He has provided a route from mortal history into immortal history through the death and resurrection. If you thought imputed righteousness is challenging to understand, this is another ripper. This is very difficult to understand but we’ve gone through some of the background, which I did under imputed righteousness, it’s repeated on page 74 of the notes, you’ll see Romans 5 again, but just as Adam could experience nothing except physical death, let’s do a thought experiment for a moment and maybe this will help.
Let’s suppose Adam and Eve didn’t sin, thought experiment. What do you suppose would have happened had Adam and Eve not sinned. Now this is speculative, there is not some straight answer to this. But theologians hypothesize that if Adam and Eve hadn’t sin they would have ultimately been translated. By translated we mean the natural body would have become a resurrection body. Why do they say that? Because the natural body that Adam and Eve had at the point of creation was potentially mortal. It was mortal; it was liable to death. It was not eternally secure physically because the first time they sinned, boom, they would self-destruct. So the natural body, as perfect as it was, made in the Garden of Eden had a built-in self-destruct mechanism such that when it sinned, boom, it would start dying.
The resurrection body has no such self-destruct mechanism in it. The resurrection body, once it comes into existence, goes forever. That’s why all people are resurrected, both those who go to heaven and go to hell. That’s one of the things that makes hell hell, because you can’t get out of it. The resurrection body is forever, you’re stuck with it. The Lord Jesus Christ because of His righteousness goes to the cross, He is resurrected. Now Jesus’ resurrection is unique, because until Jesus rose from the dead, what do you suppose most Jewish people in Jesus day, disciples, what was their idea of resurrection. If you did an interview and asked Matthew before Jesus rose from the dead, before Matthew had an inkling this was going to happen, what do you suppose Matthew would have said or Joseph, or any of the guys said? They would have said, typical Jewish view, well, the resurrection happens in the future, the resurrection is the last chapter of history, that’s when everything ends and we go into the eternal state. They knew that and they knew of resurrection. That’s when they thought of resurrection. They never dreamed of resurrection happening now, at this moment of history, ahead of that time.
So when Jesus rose from the dead, now we’ve got a new thing here. Whoa, what is this! We’ve got a resurrection here but history doesn’t end, it keeps on going. As one theologian said, it’s taking a piece off of the eternal state, bringing it forward in time and putting it right here. That’s the significance of the resurrection of Jesus. It’s not just a lonely miracle that happened in the city of Jerusalem. The resurrection is the beginning of a cosmic conclusion to history, but thankfully it’s only started with one person, the second Adam, Jesus.
What we’re going to struggle with next week is that just as we share Christ’s righteousness and we get credited for it, that’s imputed righteousness, so also we appear to somehow participate in His death and resurrection. So that when the Holy Spirit regenerates us, He is taking eternal life that belongs in eternity, moving that eternal life here, dropping it in our soul, and He can do so because positionally that part of us isn’t going to change for all eternity. It’s that part of us that will be encased in a resurrection body. And He can do that because from our positional standpoint we are seen in some way to be “in Christ.” And because we’re in the Resurrected One, we share this partial experience of His resurrection, not of our bodies but of the regenerated human spirit. It’s a tough one, but that’s what Romans 6 is talking about. And that’s something else that the Bible brings up about the Lord Jesus Christ and our position. We’ll get to that next week.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question about the self-destruction of the body, the whole point is that you want to classify in your thinking the difference between mortal history and immortal history. Get that in mind, immortal history … you’ve all seen that evil chart, remember good and evil, when they’re separated, it’s eternally separated. In immortal history its ethical fixed, there’s no transition. It’s in mortal history where you can have transitions between good and evil, and mortal history is a sort of time that began, at least in the Garden with a probationary period, probation being that it was possible to sin but would the couple sin. The point being that knowing what we know about the eternal state, it’s not likely that God would have persisted the probationary period forever so when it ended …, but in order to end you’d have to end in resurrection.
That’s all I was trying to say, it was just a way I had of expressing it, maybe I didn’t do it clearly but what I was trying to get at was when you start messing around with something like the resurrection, what we have to be careful we don’t do is to make the resurrection seem like it was almost an isolated lonely singular miracle that happened in Jerusalem in the first century with Jesus. We have to, instead of doing that, we want to see that lonely singular act of Jesus rising from the dead on the third day as something that belongs to the future, and that in the Old Testament mind they would never have dreamed of a resurrection happening and then history keep on going. That would have been the end of history right there.
When Jesus rose from the dead, now we’ve got a situation, highly anomalous, by the way if you think about it. When Jesus walked around He made His appearances in a resurrected body. He was coexisting with people in not-resurrected bodies. So for a forty day period we had this anomalous condition never before seen in human history of resurrected people and non-resurrected people coexisting on the same planet. And it produces all kinds of strange things. Of course this is why the disciples and the apostles felt awe when they see His resurrected … imagine sitting here with all the doors shut and boom, here He is right in our midst. He’s not a ghost, you know, you just don’t walk through Him but you walk up to Him and you bump into Him. How come He’s got this body that just appeared, did it come through the wall or how did He do it, and it’s not a spirit, it’s a body.
So when we talk about resurrection we’ve got to pull some of these other things in. We’re pulling in immortal history; we’re pulling in some awfully big ideas here. That’s what I was trying to get at, you can’t just take the lonely miracle of Jesus and think of it as just confined to the grave and oh, that was a neat thing that happened to His body, it’s more than that, a lot more than that.
Question asked: Clough replies: History would have gone according to Old Testament … there were details in it that weren’t revealed in the Old Testament because now history would be going a different way, but yeah, history always has the what ifs. That’s what’s lacking in some of our ultra-Reformed people’s minds is they can’t conceive of history that has this inherent inflexibility in it, and it’s not flexibility in God’s sovereign will. That’s why last week we went through Acts 27. If you go through Acts 27, the shipwreck, a classic instance of sovereignty and human responsibility, you get no impression whatsoever of any kind of fatalism in that narrative, yet you get all the impression that it’s going to come out okay. But the pathway to coming out okay involves human responses, just like the pathway to you surviving until the Lord calls you home involves you eating three times a day, by choice.
Now how it all works I have no idea, nobody else does either. But you can’t fall into this hyper-mold. You ruin the thing because it’s our inability to rationally synthesize all this stuff together. We’re not the only ones; all people have the same problem. The guy that runs down to the store and grabs his last dollar to buy the horoscope to find out what his fortune is for the day has the same problem. Why do you buy a horoscope? Think about it. If the horoscope predicts what’s going to happen, then what’s going to happen is going to happen, so what are you going to do about it? Well, we can do something about it, we can kind of … all right, now you’re ooching, so don’t come to me as a Christian and say I’ve got a problem. You’ve got the same problem, see?
Question asked: Clough replies: The question is the warning passages in Hebrew are difficult, there’s warning passages elsewhere in the Bible. The problem is that there’s no question, starting from the imputed righteousness issue, there’s no question of that doctrine not providing security now, because in the context of Romans it says “therefore we have,” present tense, “peace with God.” And the peace of God that is given in Romans 5:1 is the peace that flows exactly from this doctrine we covered tonight, that our righteousness and security before God depends not upon our works, but depends on Christ work credited to our account. What then do we make of the warning passages?
There are three ways to handle the warning passages, and one way that has been true of what we call the Arminian branch of Christianity, the Wesleyan Methodist branch has been to interpret those as people who have believed and who have fallen away, they really are not of the final elect, they’ve fallen away. John Wesley himself believed this; George Whitfield, this was one of the friction points early on between him and the Church of England. The Arminian tradition has held that the warning passages are warning against loss of salvation due to sins that are committed in the life. The problem with that approach is that once that becomes a possibility it undermines this issue of justification in the sense that if the warning passages speak of loss of salvation, then in the present life now, while we can talk imputed righteousness, on a practical level it does me no good because I don’t know whether I have the imputed righteousness.
The second approach to the warning passages is what classical Calvinism does, which says that the warning passages are written to those who have not truly believed yet, who are the mere professers of things, and that they fall away because they never were regenerated, they were just hangers-on.
I don’t think you have to take either one of those approaches. I think there’s a perfectly sensible third approach that makes sense of the passage exegetically and doesn’t get you in all that doctrinal hot water. The way I would approach it, and it’s not me, it’s the third approach, is that the Bible, when it speaks of salvation, isn’t always talking about eternal salvation. We Christians do that. If you say somebody is saved, 99 out of 100 times there’s an automatic thing that goes on in your mind that says that’s eternal salvation. But that’s not how the Bible speaks of salvation.
All during the Old Testament, if you took a concordance and looked up the verb “saved” and the noun, “salvation,” I would dare say that 95% of the occurrences in the Old Testament is talking about physical deliverance. For example, the blessings and the cursings on Israel as a nation, talking about the salvation of the nation, it’s talking about historical salvation. And that is the mentality read into the Jewish community. This is why you can use the word “salvation” in a physical phase two sense for this life.
I’ll give you an example of where it happens. It’s in the communion service in 1 Corinthians 11, where it says if we judge not ourselves, we will be judged, and it’s an invitation before we partake of the elements in communion to not be judged. It’s using the word “judge” it could refer to eternal judgment, it’s the same verb. But in that context, thankfully it goes on to explain what the judgment is, it’s physical discipline; sickness and terminal illness can come from sinning against God. It doesn’t say all sickness is due to that, it just says that sickness can be caused by discipline, and if the person doesn’t confess their sins they’re going to check out, whether the doctor is there or not, God will kill believers to get them out of here. And it’s interesting; the reason is to minimize the damage to their soul. So believers that are messing around, God can kill you, can kill us out of mercy.
To get back to the question, the question comes to the warning passages in Hebrews. However you take Hebrews 6 that the question was raised of, Hebrews has about five other passages in it, the same thing, you’ve got to solve all of them the same way, which means your whole approach to the book of Hebrews is involved here. The book is written to what group, Gentiles, or Jews? Jews. Aha, so now we’re talking about a Jewish community and we’re using the word “salvation,” to a Jewish community shortly after the time of the resurrection. The Jewish community thought historically of salvation in a physical sense. After Christ died and rose again from the dead, the nation came under a cycle of discipline that was going to last forty years, from AD 30 to AD 70. And in AD 70 the city of Jerusalem would be invaded and the nation would be destroyed, period. Jews would die by the millions from the Roman invasion.
The book of Hebrews can be thought of as a warning to the Jewish Christians of the time, telling them…, because remember in Acts 21 what were the Jewish Christians doing? They were not moving out, they were hovering around the temple, staying in Jerusalem, staying enmeshed in this cocoon of the Torah, failing to see the larger scale gospel as it pertained to the non-Jewish world, not moving out, not being witnesses in Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the world but just hanging in there inside their comfort zone, which was Judaism. The guy who has done a lot of work on this approach to Hebrews is Arnold Fruchtenbaum, who is a Hebrew Christian. He has a whole series, I think he’s writing a commentary, in which he holds to the position that the warning passages in Hebrews are the last address to the nation Israel through the believing community to get with the program or you will be killed, and you can try to repent all you want to, when you see Titus coming there, it’s all over. You don’t have much time, so you get with the program.
So it’s a warning to split the Christian Jews out of Judaism that was asking for Roman discipline. That’s a specific version of a third approach, that when you see these passages about warning, don’t always think in terms of loss of salvation, think of loss of life, loss now. God can physically … what’s the sin unto death in John, right in the context he’s talking about praying for medical reasons, and in the same context he’s talking about the sin unto death. If you put those two together what’s the nearest context of the sin unto death? It’s a physical illness problem. So the death there is a physical death; we tend not to have thought this way. I grant you that this is strange to a lot of us but that’s because we have this mental fixation that every time the New Testament uses salvation it’s talking about eternal salvation and that is not true. And we have neglected, we really have, we have neglected within our local churches to stress the fact that there is such a thing as chastening. Hebrews 12 talks about it. In fact, Hebrews goes to the point of saying that if you don’t see any chastening, if you see somebody who sins and they’re not being disciplined by God, it’s a sign they probably aren’t saved, that if you be without chastisement you are a bastard. That’s pretty blunt language.
So one of the blessings of the Father, we’ll get into that when we get on the First Person of the Trinity, one of the things God the Father does is He disciplines us and He can’t do it in the immortal history. The only place with room for discipline is now. So that, in a nutshell, is a third approach that’s used. Again, I didn’t invent that, that’s been around for a number of years. It’s gotten more attention recently because there have been more Hebrews who have become Christians who are in leadership circles who are saying whoa to you Arminians and Calvinists, you guys think too Gentile, now let’s introduce a little Jewish thinking here. I like to listen to Jewish Christians because I think they contribute something.
Question asked or statement made: Clough replies: That’s right, because what had they seen? Put yourself back there then, if you were a Jewish believer and you thought Jesus was the Messiah and you still entertained the Old Testament idea that Messiah was going to bring freedom, you’d say hey, you know, I’ve been a Christian here for ten years and all I see is Roman soldiers outside of my front lawn and I don’t see any deliverance. And I really don’t see that anything’s changed, and I’m getting kind of tired of this. Plus the fact the more the gospel went on, you saw in Acts 21 what was going on, that there was a tremendous socio-political pressure to get hostile to Christians. So now these people who were fence sitters are going to have to decide, get on this side of the fence or that side of the fence, but you can’t stay on the fence.
So at that point in history it was an awful time for persecution. And historically if you read what happened later, in AD 68 or 69, Vespasian brought the Roman army first to surround Jerusalem and he backed off because he realized after he got his troops in place he didn’t have the logistics to support the campaign, plus the fact he got called back to become Caesar. So he left his commander, who was Titus, in charge of the troops, and Titus said wait a minute, I’ve got an engineering logistics mess here. So he pulled his armies back. Now Jesus had warned in the Mount Olivet Discourse, He said look, when you see the armies encompass the city of Jerusalem you get out of here. Have you thought about it? If the armies encompass Jerusalem, how do you get out of Jerusalem?
Well, the miracle was the armies did encompass Jerusalem and then they backed off for logistical and engineering reason because the Romans did everything orderly, and during that backing out there were faithful Hebrew Christians that took off. And to this day the Jewish community resents those people, they call them traitors. There’s a Jewish word for it, I forgot what it is, but they will call a Hebrew Christian to this day by that nasty name. And that nasty name goes back to AD 70 when they took off, when the armies split and they took off and then came Titus and he surrounded the whole city, he just destroyed everybody, killed everybody, took Jewish slaves, sold them down into Egypt.
Some Jewish people fled over to Masada, they spit on some Roman legion, they said okay, you spit on us, we’re going to teach you a lesson and so they made four diamond formations in the rocks, you can still see them today, you get up on top of Masada and you can see them. And those Roman legions said we’re going to get you. Oh, you’ll never get us. You find out how we’re going to get you. So they took Jewish slaves, because they knew they were going to shoot arrows at them, they wouldn’t shoot fellow Jews so the Roman legions hid behind a wall of Jewish slaves and got them all with buckets and sand and they spent years building a ramp up the side of Masada. I told you, we’re going to get you, spit on us, okay, we’ll teach you a lesson. And that’s how they conquered Masada. But see, the Jews, this was a prize in the nation, and the only group of Jews that didn’t participate in this last stand were the Hebrew Christians. So this is why they are deeply resented within the Jewish community that still has a history of this. It’s not nice.
Question asked: Clough replies: He can kill you for all kinds of reasons, in 1 Corinthians 11 people were getting drunk in communion service. [same guy says something] Not necessarily totally abandon, these people just engage in some different versions of flagrant sins and God had enough of it. You know, you can’t predict what ticks Him off necessarily, it could be flagrant, on the other hand you could have Peter who denied the Lord Jesus Christ and he came back fine. There’s a flagrant violation right there, public, and Peter was preserved. Then some guy gets drunk in Corinth and he gets creamed. Beats me!