Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© 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 190 – Emergence of the Church (cont’d) – The Work of God the Son
14 Feb 2002
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
We’re going to go back a little bit and review on positional truth and we want to go back and to page 72 because remember we are trying to approach this by using the Trinity. We’re going backwards through the Trinity, from the Holy Spirit back to the Son and then the Father. The issue here is to define the unique features of the Church Age that are not the same as in other ages, not the same as Israel, etc. We’ve covered the things that the Holy Spirit has done, these are only a sampling. The Holy Spirit regenerates, He indwells, He baptizes, He seals, He makes intercession and He gives spiritual gifts. But all that, that work of the Holy Spirit to do these things, that actually flows out of the work of the Son. So the work of the Holy Spirit, if you can look upon it this way, He implements the content of the work that the Son does.
We’re at the Second Person and the analogy that you can use to think Trinitarianly, if there’s an adverb like that, is that the Father is the speaker, the Son is the message and the Holy Spirit is the effect of the message, or the implementation of the message. We really have approached this kind of backwards because we started with the implementation of God’s program for the Church Age. And the Holy Spirit is the on-scene commander; He is the one who is on planet earth, that’s His locale. He’s omnipresent, obviously, but His place of operations is this planet, this earth, which is pretty flattering that He has seen fit, just like the Lord Jesus Christ during the period of His incarnation saw fit to visit this planet. Right now the Holy Spirit’s center of operation is the church. The church is not a building, the church is not an organization; the church is the set of believers in the Lord Jesus Christ.
We come now to the Son, and we want to look at certain things. There are some aspects here, I was going fast last week and I realized afterwards I didn’t point some things out. One of them was the fact that when we get talking about the righteousness that is imputed to our account that comes from Jesus, this is the heart of the Reformation. I want to read a section of a book called Justification by Faith Alone and it’s actually a paperback version of some of the writings of America’s most outstanding conservative theologian of the 19th century, Charles Hodge. Charles Hodge was an eloquent spokesman for the conservative evangelical theologians at the time in this country when liberalism was really coming in, toward the 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, that whole period of time. It was really a theological devastation that hit his country at that point. It was men like Charles Hodge, who taught many years at Princeton, who was part of the old guard, trying to hold on. He wrote a lot on this issue of imputed righteousness.
The introduction of this is Dr. Robert Raymond who writes this, and I mention this not because I want to stir up some religious controversy but because I think we need to understand this. Last week I mentioned that Roman Catholics and Protestants do not agree on this righteousness issue. The problem is that thinking is so shallow and sloppy on both the Protestant and Catholic sides of the fence, because our whole culture thinks sloppily, that we can’t even articulate the difference, and people don’t see the difference. So you have to think wait a minute, if there’s no difference why did we have a Reformation? Something was different, it split Europe right across the middle, so what was going on? What was the distinction? Obviously Protestants and Catholics agree on the Person of Jesus Christ, they agree that He’s God and He’s man, they agree to the fact that the Apostles founded the church, they agree that the Scriptures are the inerrant Word of God, or they did agree at that point. But here’s what they disagreed about; let me read a section of this.
This is a very concise statement of the difference. This is why there was a Reformation. “The word ‘alone,’ after the word ‘faith,’ ” he’s talking here about the statement justified by faith alone, “The word ‘alone’ after the word ‘faith’ in the statement’s proposition on justification is thundering by its absence.” It’s talking about the coalescence of Protestants and Catholics today. He says, “the whole controversy in the 16th century,” the Reformation, 16th century, “the whole controversy in the 16th century in this doctrinal area turned on whether sinners were justified by faith alone sola fide, or by faith and good works which earned merit before God.
The Protestant Reformers following Paul’s teaching on justification in Romans and Galatians affirmed the former and denied the latter. Rome denied the former and affirmed the latter. The Protestant Reformers, again following Paul and his argument in Galatians, maintained that the path the sinner follows here leads either to Heaven or to Hell. The Protestant Reformers clearly saw, over against Rome’s doctrine of salvation which was and still is, central to the maintenance of its priest’s craft and thus its economic fortunes. One: Saving faith is to be directed …” now here’s the set of statements, and I’m going to read through these. These are eloquent statements of the difference between these two points of view. I think after I get through about five or six of these statements you’ll see what the difference is.
“One: Saving faith is to be directed to the doing and dying of Christ alone, and not to the good works or inner experience of the believer.” Let’s run that by again slowly. “Saving faith is to be directed to the doing and dying of Christ alone, and not to the good works or inner experience of the believer.” Where does that put the focus? Do you see the difference in focus? One is focusing on Jesus Christ’s finished work; the other is focusing on my spiritual life as a method of justification.
“Two: That the Christian’s righteousness before God is in Heaven at the right hand of God in Jesus Christ and not on earth within the believer.” “… not on earth within the believer” again “the Christian’s righteousness before God is in Heaven at the right hand of God in Christ Jesus and not on earth within the believer.” Big difference! The first statement concentrated on the Person of Christ over against the believer, the second statement concentrates on the location difference. One locates it in Heaven; the other one locates it on earth, big difference.
“Three: The ground of our justification is the vicarious work of Christ for us,” preposition, f-o-r, “the work of Christ for us, not the gracious work of the Spirit in us.” Let me say that again. “The ground of our justification is the vicarious work of Christ for us, and not the gracious work of the Spirit in us.” Again, see the difference.
“Four: The faith righteousness of justification is not personal but vicarious,” that is, the righteousness doesn’t come out of even the Spirit’s work in our hearts. That is righteous, that’s a righteous work, but it’s not perfect because we’re imperfect. So that can’t be the basis of righteousness, righteousness is that which is given to us. It is not personal, not our person, but its vicarious, it’s someone else’s on our behalf. “It is not infused but imputed,” and by that is meant: “infused” means God puts it into our hearts by the Holy Spirit—that’s “infused righteousness.” The Protestants didn’t deny there was infused righteousness, nobody is denying that there’s infused righteousness, that’s the new nature. It’s just that the Protestants said that’s not the basis of salvation, that’s a fruit, that’s an effect of, not a cause of. So it’s not infused, but imputed. “Not experiential, but judicial.” Now this is a hard statement. But the righteousness that justifies is not an experiential righteousness, as far as our experience; it’s experiential as far as Jesus, but not us. It is judicial in the sense that the Father judicially applies it to our account, that’s imputed. “It is not our righteousness but it’s a righteousness alien to us,” that is it comes from outside of us. “It is not earned, but it’s graciously given.”
I think that’s a pretty thorough set of statements, so that’s why this becomes important. The content of this thing is the heart of what God has done for the church of Jesus Christ, and once we glimpse that, that is what gives a security, because it’s a legal standing. It doesn’t matter how you feel now, it’s not a result of your feelings, it’s not a result of, you know, this is a bad day, I feel sick, I feel like I’ve got eight versions of the flu or something like that, it’s not anything like that. It’s the legal standing, it is not feelings. Since it’s not feelings, then it’s not made vulnerable by how I feel; it’s not made vulnerable by how many sins I’ve committed. God knew that we were stinkers before He imputed the righteousness to us, so we’re not going to surprise Him because we pull a couple of boners, that doesn’t surprise Him. The righteousness is imputed and credited.
We come to page 37 where, in that last paragraph, I’m trying to distinguish what characterizes believers in the Church Age, with regard to justification by faith, and believers in previous dispensations with regard to absolute righteousness. That’s why the paragraph says: “The missing righteousness appears in the life of Christ recorded in the Gospels. Christ solved the mystery. Justification of sinful human beings could occur if somehow Christ’s righteousness could be credited or imputed to their account. … The church, unlike believers in previous dispensations, knows the historic basis of its justification in clear fashion. It has less excuse to drift into various legalisms that seek to exalt human works.”
Do you see what I’m saying there? In the Old Testament all they had was a promise that somehow God was going to solve the problem of salvation, but they didn’t have a clue about how this was going to happen. Actually they had more faith than we do in a sense because everything was yet to come, it was all promised; but we can look back on history that’s already occurred, that righteousness has now historically been earned, it’s been generated, and that’s why we can have that confidence at work.
The next work is the “Death and Resurrection” of Jesus Christ. We share that too. That is a difficult one but if you turn to Romans 6, it’s an unavoidable one. Before we get to Romans 6 we have to go through Romans 5 because Romans 5 gives us the design of the human race, that this thing called the human race is a strange thing. The human race goes back to a federal head, Adam. And it seems very unfair to our ears when we first hear this, that you and I sit here in these dying bodies, because father Adam sinned. Well you say, what right does God have to cause me to die, to put me under a sentence of physical death because of what Adam did? That’s why in Romans 5 it says “As by one man sintered the into the world,” the evidence that Paul uses in that logical structure is that everybody dies and there has to be a cause of death, and the cause of death has to be universal, and it’s not due to personal sin. So what is it due to? It’s due to Adam’s sin imputed to our account. You say well, that’s not very fair. But verse 14 tells us that the reason God designed the human race that way, so we would share in Adam’s sin was so that the human race could be redeemed by sharing in Christ’s righteousness. All the Romans 5 argument precedes Romans 6.
Romans 6: Now we get into the historic death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. When you start Romans 6 you notice in verses 3–4 you have a very strange statement. This is a difficult truth, but it says, “Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?” Then it continues,  “therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.  For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also [be united with Him] in the likeness of His resurrection,  knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sins,” etc. Verse 8: “Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”
So now just as Adam’s destiny is past, by virtue of the federal design of the human race, so Christ’s death and resurrection is passed on to those who are in Christ. To get what’s going on here, let’s draw another diagram. This is a variation of the diagram that I’ve shown you for years about the good evil chart. When Adam sinned, we introduced a period of history that goes on such that we say it’s mortal history, or mortalized, and by “mortalized” we mean that it’s history gone awry. It is the design of Eden that now is self-destructing and that self-destruction is universal. Every member of the human race shares this. So not only is it mortal as it was back here in the days from creation to the fall, you also had a mortal creation in that it was subject to the possibility of death. Now after Adam, all the way to the end, it is mortalized in the sense now we are mortal and we are dying, we’re actually mortalized.
The Lord Jesus Christ, at this point, dies and He rises from the dead. Now because we’ve heard the Easter story so many times we take this for granted, but you have to be careful here. In the Jewish mind prior to Jesus’ ministry, they hadn’t got a clue about any resurrection happening, other than the resurrection of what happened over here. This is what they thought of when they thought of resurrection; it was something that Daniel said would happen in the end times, not now. So when Jesus rises from the dead, the only way the Jewish mentality can interpret that is that this… and by the way, the Jewish mentality is that history here is immortal.
What does immortal mean? What’s the “im” prefix? Actually in the English language what we really have is “in” plus “mortal.” The problem is you can say n and m together, your mouth messes it up, and it’s immortal. The “im” prefix is the negation of the noun. So if I say mortal and then I say immortal, that means it’s not mortal. So there’s a distinctly different history here. Here it’s history subject to death; here it was potential, here it’s actual. This creation is not subject to death and will never be subject to death, and can’t be subject to death; that’s immortal existence.
When Jesus, therefore, rises from the dead over here instead of over here, we have taken a piece of immortal history that was programmed for the end times and we’ve moved it back into temporal history. So now we have at least one person who is immortal, who walks around in a resurrection body. No one else does, only Jesus, walks in a resurrected body, and He now is the Firstfruits of this immortal history. That’s a nice theory, but what does it mean?
What Romans 6 is saying is that when we are placed in Christ through, notice the instrumentality, verses 3–4 is baptism. That’s not water baptism there, that is the Holy Spirit’s baptism and goes back to why we started a couple of weeks ago by looking at positional truth from the standpoint of what the Holy Spirit does and then working backwards through the Trinity to the Son. So we move back from the Holy Spirit to the Son. What was one thing the Holy Spirit did? The Holy Spirit baptized us. What do we say that the baptism of the Holy Spirit was but it’s separating; it’s an identification and separation. Baptism was used to signify judgmental separation. The baptizing work of the Holy Spirit is the implementation of us joining the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. So the baptism of the Spirit is linked to this in Romans 6. Remember the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the order of the Trinity, the Father is the ultimate speaker, the Son is what the message spoken, and the Holy Spirit is the implementation.
So the Holy Spirit by virtue of the baptism implements Christ’s death and resurrection in some way to us. Let’s think about that? What difference does it make? It doesn’t make any difference physically because we’re still in our dying bodies. So whatever the baptism of the Holy Spirit does, it hasn’t taken care of our mortalized bodies, we’re not resurrected yet. And yet Paul says we have been crucified with Him, and we are raised with Him somehow. So what is happening here is that the death and resurrection, the transfer from mortal to immortal history, has happened in the realm of our spirit.
One of the other things the Holy Spirit does is He regenerates, and when He regenerates He doesn’t resurrect, though that’s coming, but the regeneration is the act of recreating the human spirit. And that human spirit, once it’s recreated, is patterned after Jesus Christ. Now if we go back to the life of Christ, and this is why 2–3 years ago we spent weeks going through this and some of you wondered why we spent all that time, now we’re coming back to it. Remember when we went through the four great categories in the life of Christ, we went through His life, and we had quite a bit of discussion about two words, kenosis and impeccability. Kenosis was Jesus gave us, not His deity, He couldn’t give that up, He gave up the independent use of His divine attributes. That’s Philiippians 2:5–8, He gave up the independent use of His attributes. What does that mean? It means that when Jesus Christ was walking around in Satan’s world, Satan knew what He was after so Satan was trying to destroy Jesus; he’s trying to oppose Him at every point. Jesus is sitting here and He’s taking fire from the enemy. What tools does Jesus use to defend Himself in Satan’s land? The filling of the Holy Spirit.
At Aberdeen Proving Ground we do testing and we have torture tests for tanks and we have vehicles out there and there’s all kinds of concrete barriers and you look at these poor truck chassis as they go over this thing and the front part of the truck is going like this, the back part like this; what are we trying to do. We’re stressing those frames to make sure it works so when a guy’s out there and somebody’s firing at him, it’s not going to fall apart. That’s not the time for something to fall apart; there are enough problems with incoming enemy fire and not worry about whether the truck is going to fall apart or not. So it’s tested. Look at it this way. The Lord Jesus Christ, under kenosis, is testing out the filling of the Holy Spirit and proving it works, and proving it works consistently, day after day in a perfect way.
We also mentioned that impeccability is that Jesus Christ was able not to sin, but He was also not able to sin. That created some discussion. Remember how we resolved that? We said that the phrase posse non peccare, able not to sin, refers to His humanity—that His humanity was able not to sin. And non posse peccare means that in His deity He could not sin. God cannot sin, God is always righteousness. What creates the dilemma for us is, and we’re going to revisit this about four or five more times so don’t worry if you don’t get it right now, it’s going to keep coming up. That’s why when I was back here I covered it, because you can’t get away from it because when you start with these things it keeps rising to the surface all the time. The problem is that people have a hard time; we all have a hard time, visualizing how Jesus Christ can be impeccable and temptable. If He is temptable and the temptation is genuine, how can you say He cannot sin? Doesn’t that make it appear as though the temptations that Jesus faced are different than the temptations that you and I face? Because we are peccable, He wasn’t.
So did He have an easier time? And the answer is no, He had a worse time because He was impeccable He couldn’t fail, He took the full heat. We collapse before the pressure gets too high, but Jesus had to sit there, stand there and take it. So all during this time we have Jesus Christ generating … and every time He’s doing that, by the way, see how this package stays together, this is the salvation package. While He’s doing that He’s generating this absolute righteousness that later will be credited to our account. So lots of things are happening here.
But the point we want to make now is that Jesus Christ when He died and was raised from the dead, and we have His resurrection ahead of the general resurrection, He is now immortal. That eternal life, this immortal is actually eternal life, that’s another thing that we have from Him, that eternal life is impeccable, and that’s why you read, as we said in 1 John 3, “he who is born of God cannot sin.” That is referring to the impeccability of the eternal life, it’s not talking about he doesn’t sin a lot, it means he can’t sin. You say well wait a minute, we all sin. That’s right. But if you read John he qualifies that up a few verses when he says “those who abide in Christ,” and “those who abide in Christ” are in fellowship, and at that point, which means it doesn’t last with us more than five or ten minutes sometimes, but at that point, that eternal life is manifested, and that eternal life is what is perfect. It’s Jesus Christ’s life, it’s not ours, it’s Jesus Christ’s life, and we can’t take credit for it. We get that, that’s all part of this package that comes in with sharing the death and resurrection of Christ.
It’s just another way of expressing the fact of eternal life, which gets us to the next thing in our study, and last week we covered that. [someone interrupts and asks a question or says something] The question concerns whether there’s a clear statement about eternal life continuing, whether we’re stating that we will live forever in God’s presence. It’s a concept that’s developed two ways. In the Old Testament God promised certain things to, for example, to Abraham, and He promised that Abraham would have Him, Jehovah, as his God. This is before any talk of resurrection happened in the progress, because resurrection, the actual specific doctrine of the resurrection really doesn’t appear until exilic times in the progress of revelation. Yet the strange thing is that, I think in Matthew 22 when Jesus speaks about the resurrection He draws on Abraham and the Abrahamic Covenant. You read that passage where Jesus is teaching about the resurrection, you’d swear that where is He coming from, until you start reasoning it out. And in the logic that Jesus used… His logic was this, that we are forever to dwell in the presence of God bodily is all implied in the Abrahamic Covenant.
How is it implied in the Abrahamic Covenant? Because Jesus says God identified Himself as the God who is the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He didn’t say I was the God of Abraham, and so Abraham passed out of existence, but I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as a present thing. That’s a sophistication, frankly, I would have lost going through the Abrahamic Covenant. I don’t think I would be alert enough to pick that out of the text, but the Lord Jesus Christ did, and after He picked out and He shows it to us, then we say oh, okay, I kind of see the logic there. So the first part of my answer is that the idea of us living forever in the presence of God appears to be implicit from the very start of Scripture, but it isn’t clear to us until someone points it out. Then you come forward in time and you pick up, beginning with the prophets of the Old Testament, the fact that now there will be a time in the future when all sin is done away with, there will be a new heavens and a new earth. The Millennial Kingdom and eternal state are not clearly distinguished at that point; they’re kind of thrown together. Then you go forward some more and all of a sudden you get to Daniel and now he’s talking about people coming up out of the ground from graves, and when these specifics come up, like the Daniel passage of resurrection, they, those later passages, have to be interpreted inside the framework of the earlier passages. And the earlier passages give the reason why resurrection is going to take place. The reason is that’s the only way these saints can live in God’s presence.
You say well, how does that imply resurrection? Because, go back to the first definition of life in the Bible. Here’s where it’s a good discipline to use a concordance and go back to first occurrences. Every time the Holy Spirit introduces a new word or a new term, as Scripture goes forward you want to watch it. What were the circumstances, what was the discussion, was there a problem back there, what was the solution to the problem, what was the whole discussion about. Where do you encounter life first? Forgetting whether it’s eternal life or just natural life? It’s in Genesis. And the particular passage that we’re thinking about is Genesis 2, when God takes the lump of clay and He breathes into it the breaths, plural, of lives, and man became a living, there’s the adjectival of life, a living nephesh, or soul. And if you stop right there and think about what has just been said, you see that there is a physical body involved and a spirit. God breathed into that body a spirit. So you have spirit and body together make life. So the logic here is that you cannot have people living in the presence of God without bodies, because not to have a body is not to live.
Those are the forces that gather to finally fill out this doctrine as you advance through successive revelation. Then you get in the New Testament and it’s quite clear that the disciples and Paul, not John, this is a difference, the disciples and Paul are using the word “eternal life” to refer to the future, not the present. They mean by eternal life what the traditional Jew meant by eternal life, this time in the future, when we will dwell in the presence of God, with our bodies. John has this strange new thing where John introduces the idea that eternal life is a present thing, that we possess now, and it’s called the Johannine theology. The liberals make a big thing out of this and say oh, see, there’s a conflict going on between Paul and John, these two guys couldn’t get together about eternal life. Nonsense!
Think about the gospel stories about John and Jesus. Who was closest to Jesus? It was John. Who was the most sensitive one to the deeper thoughts of Jesus? Frankly, it’s John. Remember the test of this is that if you read John 3, that chapter starts out with Jesus talking to Nicodemus and I dare you to find out where by the end of that chapter it’s John talking, the author of the text. Now where is the transition in chapter 3? You can’t find it. It’s amazing; this is an old thing that people pointed to, and what the inference is that John was very young when he was a disciple. He was a teenager, frankly, an older teenager, probably a young business man and he was so impressed with Jesus that Jesus’ vocabulary became John’s vocabulary. Jesus was so much his hero that John’s Gospel, probably more than the other Gospels who were written by men when they were older, John wrote later too but I’m talking about his insights, John the Apostle appears to have perfectly mimicked, perfectly grasped the deeper things of Jesus with regard to the Church Age.
Another example of this, in John 14–17 it’s all stuff that the other guys don’t report on. It’s that intimate moment prior to going to the cross that Jesus began to share in the Upper Room the details of what was going to happen after the Cross. And what He was in essence doing, He was teaching about the whole Church Age in John 14–17. John is the one that records the high priestly prayer of Jesus. Who else does that? Matthew doesn’t, Mark doesn’t, [and] Luke doesn’t; only John does. So here’s the guy who is closest to Jesus, the guy who makes it his point in his writings to record Jesus’ special instructions about the church, yet to be created, and this is the man who says eternal life is now present, not just in the future but now. The problem is, and what makes it difficult is that the classic definition of life is spirit and body is a soul. So in what sense do we have eternal life now when we have a dying body? John apparently is viewing with anticipation that the spiritual part of the life has come, that’s the Nicodemus discourse, you know the wind blows where it wills, and you hear the sound thereof but you do not know where it goes. That’s the spirit. And John is apparently saying that through regeneration and the indwelling, and all that work of the Holy Spirit, He has brought eternal life to our spirits, and that eternal life is a piece or a chunk off the future brought into the present.
Someone asks a question or says something: Clough replies: John defines eternal life in John 17:3; in Jesus high priestly prayer what does Jesus say? He says this is life eternal, that you may know, not just know the Father, but Him who’s been sent. So the eternal life is Christ’s life shared. It’s not time in the sense it’s broken off and brought here, but it’s not going to be different. The picture here is that what we have now as eternal life isn’t going to go away and be something different in the future but rather, of course it will be expanded, but what we now possess is something that’s a treasure from the eternal future brought forward in time to be experienced now. That’s the shocking revelation of the Apostle John over against the other guys. The other guys were led by the Holy Spirit to emphasize other parts of revelation. And one of the things they do emphasize, as in 1 Corinthians when Paul deals with eternal life, there’s a whole chunk of text in 1 Corinthians 15 that deals with the resurrection body. That’s where the resurrection body comes in; we pick up the body in order to live. In fact, the end of 1 Corinthians 15 is what pastors use at funerals, “O death, where is thy victory” and mortality has picked up immortality, etc.
All of this to get back to the question asked, is it’s not so much that you have the specific word saying we will dwell in the presence of God, although Revelation 22 shows that, it’s rather part and parcel of the whole grand scheme of things all the way back to the beginning of the Scriptures, that there’s no such thing as real human life lived apart from the presence of God.
Comment made or question asked: Clough replies: Because you can’t split an attribute off from God and share it with someone else. All of His attributes are united together, so you can’t… He is eternally existing, so that eternal life is a thing of the creature. If you think of the Creator/creature distinction, His eternality is part and parcel of the Creator, and was there before the creation. So eternality is not a created entity, it’s the essence of God. Eternal life, however, is all the creature, it’s eternal life of the creature. Eternal life never existed. In fact, you could say the eternal life never existed, until the incarnation. The Old Testament saints are never said to have eternal life as a present entity. They were scheduled, so to speak, to get it, but they are never said to have eternal life. This is a feature that starts with Jesus and the incarnation. So it’s like anything else. It would be like what is the difference between God’s sovereignty and human choice? There is a similarity, but [blank spot]
… on page 77 follow with me where I say, “Unlike the ritual, Jesus’ atonement on the Cross was the real thing that happened in a moment of history and was finished. Jesus does not ‘re-offer’ Himself eternally before the Father.” That is where Protestant and Catholic theology cannot agree. “Jesus does not ‘re-offer’ Himself eternally before the Father.” You see why there’s a clash here between Protestant communion and Roman Catholic mass. There are two theological things going on in these two ceremonies. These two ceremonies, they may use bread and wine and the Protestants may use bread and wine but there’s a whole different thing going on. And you have to be aware of that. 16th century Europe was rent in half by the arguments over the Eucharist. We are considered by Catholics to almost be blasphemous in what they consider to be a very careless insensitive unspiritual, a denigration of the holy sacred mass. If I was a Catholic and I believed the mass was the body of Jesus and it was actually being done every Sunday, I would think that too if that’s what you believed. Except I don’t believe that, and I don’t believe that because I don’t see that in the Bible. That’s a church tradition, but it’s not taught in Scripture.
“Jesus does not ‘re-offer’ Himself eternally before the Father. What He does do,” and here’s the positive side, we’ve been negative up to this point, what He doesn’t do; now here’s what He does do. “What He does do, is present the results of His once-for-all sacrifice throughout the age of grace until history ends. As we studied in Part Five of this series, Christ’s atonement is the basis for all grace whatsoever that the Father extends to fallen mankind. During the age of grace, the Father postpones judgment, and does so on the basis of Christ’s atonement.” Here’s where you take post-biblical Judaism and Islam and they both are making a profound mistake here, because what they’re saying is that somehow God in this infinite unknowable character of His He can be merciful without blood atonement.
How do you protect the sovereignty, the absolute sovereignty of God when He arbitrarily takes good works and bad works and He balances, He says okay, you got it, you didn’t, you got it, you didn’t. He’s arbitrarily … at every point here He’s accepting sins. Right? If I am a sinner and I’ve committed 4,000 sins and I’ve got 5,000 good works and 4,000 bad works, I’ve got a net gain of plus 1,000, so He opens the door for me. But what about the 4,000, they don’t go away; what happens to those 4,000 sins? They have no answer. And what in effect happens is that they denigrate the real holiness of God. As much as they like to talk about God being great and holy and all the rest of it, no, they have compromised and eroded the holiness of God by substituting a works system and every works system makes God have to accept unrighteous works. And you know what Isaiah 64:6 says about unrighteous works.
“During the age of grace, the Father postpones judgment, and does so on the basis of Christ’s atonement. As priest, therefore, Jesus Christ represents all mankind covered from final judgment until the end.” In other words, He covers for all mankind until the day of grace ends. And then the priestly intercession stops. The priestly intercession of Jesus is not going to continue for all men. It’s going out like a shield against high voltage. You know, here’s this big high voltage machine and the intercession of Christ stops it, it’s held back, it’s held back, it’s held back, it’s held back until the end of history, and He says okay, let it go. Boom. But the intercession for the saved goes through the final judgment, so it’s a different kind of intercession.
Now we want to get a picture, since we’ve focused on this priestly intercession, we want to go to Romans 8:34 and then we’re going to pick up some pictures of what Jesus’ intercession is doing for us, for you, for me tonight. Here’s the central New Testament passage on intercession. We said that the priesthood of Jesus primarily is concerned with intercession for us. Now you remember something here. What did we say the Holy Spirit was doing? Interceding. But remember I said watch it; remember I said when we got into the intercession of the Holy Spirit there’s something peculiar about that text. The text doesn’t have the Holy Spirit praying to the Father, the Holy Spirit is praying to the Son, because the one who searches the reigns and the kidneys according to the book of Revelation is the Son [Revelation 2:23]. So that being the case this intercession is not the same as this intercession; two different intercessions going on with two different purposes. See how complicated this salvation package is? We’ll be studying it for all eternity. There is so much glory of God in the salvation package that we will have all eternity to try to understand what He has done for us.
In Romans 8:34 here’s what Paul says. “Who is He that condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us,” past tense or present tense? Present tense! The intercession is happening still now. But the sacrifice is past tense, so it’s once for all sacrifice but continuing intercession. Now let’s see what the intercession looks like. There are two pictures. One of them you can remember—we’ve been through this. Job 1, Satan comes in to the council of God, let’s get Job, let’s go get Job, and God talks to Satan, etc. and says do this but don’t do this, He kind of shields Job, He says okay Satan, you’ve got a little bit, but you can’t take him all.
We’ve got a better picture, it’s in Zechariah 3:1–5. Here is a picture of what intercession looks like, the kind of intercession that Jesus does. “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.” What does Satan do? He accuses the brethren, and although he can accuse us to our minds, the real accusations of Satan we don’t even hear, they’re being done in heaven. Satan stands at his right hand to accuse him.  “And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, Satan!” By the way, this is a Trinity passage, notice Second and First Person’s here. “Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”  Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.” In the Hebrew language that isn’t filthy garments, that’s manure covered garments. So it’s a nice picture of filth, and the idea is that Joshua is a priest, and he is a sinner, he has manure all over his clothes, and that’s how God pictures sin, dirty stinking mess. It’s so fun to get into the original languages.
“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.  And he spoke and said to those who were standing before him saying, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ Again he said to him, ‘See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.  Then I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ ” That’s the picture, Satan comes, he accuses, and we are covered, and we are covered by the priest who has the right to make intercession for us with a perfect sacrifice because He’s the one that made the sacrifice. That’s why Jesus does the interceding, not the Holy Spirit. This intercession is not the Holy Spirit’s intercession; this is the Son’s intercession because the Son as God-man is the sacrifice, He can make this intercession.
Now a practical example, He did this, probably from all eternity as the angel of the Lord, but during His incarnation He did this once in a very famous passage, Luke 22. This is a picture of the continuing work of Jesus in our lives. Luke 22:31, this is that passage about Peter. Let’s read that in the light of priest. “Simon, Simon, behold,” now who’s the character getting involved here again? The same guy that we saw in Zechariah. Does this seem consistent? Who, then, is doing battle with Jesus over this ministry of intercession? This is the angelic conflict going on all the way up to the throne of God. That’s why in a previous chapter I talked about the angelic conflict during the Church Age and I said what is happening is that Satan had a chance, He thought, to be the top dog, and he blew it, and he hated the fact that the Father sent the Son to take his place. So he did everything he could to stop Jesus Christ and if he couldn’t stop Jesus he was going to kill Jesus, but he was going to get Jesus out of the way. He failed!
So what happens is that Jesus walks into the throne room, He sits down on that throne and from that point on there’s nobody else can sit there. At the time the Lord Jesus Christ ascended and sat down at the Father’s right hand, the game is over! The seat is occupied. Therefore what is Satan going to do? He’s going to back off and he knows that in order for Jesus, who sits at the Father’s right hand to execute the final plan of history, Jesus has to have a people for His name. Remember Daniel 7 and those other passages, because the imagery is always the King and His people. Well, we’ve got the King at the Father’s right hand but we don’t have the people of the King at the Father’s right hand, so where are the people going to come from. What is Jesus doing? Every time we trust in Jesus Christ alone for our righteousness, Jesus Christ then can go to the Father and He says here’s My righteousness, I cover that person. Satan’s over here criticizing, filthy garments, filthy garments. Jesus is over here interceding and He say you don’t have a legal claim; you’ve just got your case thrown out of court. Jesus is throwing cases out of court, case dismissed, case dismissed, case dismissed, case dismissed, you don’t have a cast. In other words, this angelic conflict is one that’s legally based. Who has the claim?
So in Luke 22 here this accuser is, here we go again. “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;  but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers,” once you repent strengthen your brothers. There’s a little thing there, it’s just a flash, just tiny, it only takes one verse, but it explains the whole chapter in Luke of what happened in Peter’s life.
Now if that went on with the apostles, do you suppose that’s going on with our lives? Someday in eternity we’re going to be faced with, I would envision, a discussion about do you remember the day that this happened in your life, remember what happened over here, remember what happened to that person, remember this situation, remember that circumstance, let Me show you what was going on and all of a sudden the curtain opens and we see this dialogue, and we say holy mackerel, if I’d known that this was a cosmic disturbance I think I would have handled the situation a little differently. But this gives you insight into what is going on with the constant intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ. We’ll continue next week because we’re going to finish up the work of the Son for the believers and we’re going to also contrast that intercession with the intercession of the Holy Spirit.