Two Problems Solved
Now we can see God’s problem, if we may use such human language, and the only possible purpose of redemption. How will He regain for Himself His stolen property–us humans who have become containers and manifestors of that usurping god, the spirit of self-love, in place of Himself, the Spirit of self-giving, whom we had been created to receive in the Tree of life? So often the gospel is preached and the offer of salvation made on a much more superficial level. The idea is given that we are out of step with God through sin, but that a restoration has been made by the atoning death of Christ, which has removed the guilt and eternal consequences of our sins, and restored to us sonship and fellowship with God. Now let us carry on living with the help of God.
But, we are then told, we shall not live as we ought to, nor find heart satisfaction unless we own Him as Lord as well as Saviour: Saviour He must be or we are damned: Lord He should be or our lives will be fruitless. To have Him as Saviour is mandatory: to have Him as Lord is optional. What nonsense! Redemption is only redemption when God regains (buys back) for Himself His dwelling place, our human personalities which were created for no other purpose than to contain Him. Therefore unless redemption immediately makes that a fact, and a saved sinner is from that instant the dwelling place of the Living God, there is no salvation.
Through ignorance a redeemed person may not realize what has happened to him and may blunder about as a consequence, but it has happened all the same; and so often the responsibility for our blundering, soulish, flesh-manifesting though redeemed, lives lies at the door of a gospel only half-preached, or believers only half instructed. And does that not really mean that the preachers themselves are only half-enlightened, because we surely give out what we have within? There is much talk these days of depth-psychology. We surely need evangelical depth-theology. Do we not need to reorientate our gospel message, and tell right out to the non-Christians that we are not bringing them some panacea for happier living or future security? We are bringing them a total revolution, a life which is nothing less than God Himself living in them through the radical replacement effected by Christ crucified and risen, with all the radical consequences which will follow from a Christ-centred in place of self-centred life. And it is by no means merely the non-Christians who need to become Christians. The much harder job is to make the Christians Christians!
God’s Problem: Broken Law
God’s full salvation! To use human language again, He had two problems to solve; one was His, the other ours. God’s problem was broken law. Broken law has inevitable consequences. Law is the term we use to define the way a thing works. It works this way, not that. Break the law and you suffer the consequences. The law of our lungs is that they must have air. Refuse them air and we suffocate. The fundamental law of the universe is love, for God is love. Everything which is not God’s self-giving love is broken law; therefore our whole natural life without Christ living in us is broken law, for He only is self-giving love; everything else is self-loving love. The consequence of this broken law is repeatedly made plain in the Bible in terms like everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord: outer darkness: weeping and gnashing of teeth: indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish: where their worm dieth not and the fire is not quenched: the lake which burneth with fire forever and ever. How can even God deliver us from such consequences?
The whole Bible revelation from the earliest chapters of Genesis to the end of Revelation gives one plain answer. Substitutionary sacrifice is the only way of "deliverance from the wrath to come", and that sacrifice was the offering of God’s own lamb, His Son, whom He "sent to be the propitiation for our sins"; it was actually God Himself "in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself". Such a fact, though attested to by all the centuries of Bible revelation, will forever be an absurdity to natural philosophy. Justification by the blood of Christ–human reason can never take that and never has, nor the other truths concerning Christ coming in the flesh, His incarnation, physical resurrection and return in person; human reason is the vehicle, albeit the highest, of human self-sufficiency; and blinded self never can and never will see God by its own resources. God’s truth can only come by God’s revelation, not of this world, and is only available to faith; and faith means nothing less than the bowing down and falling prone of proud reason, and the committal of ourselves with all the passion of our being to Someone and Something He did for us which we can never and shall never prove, but do believe. It is the absurdity of faith–to the Greeks in their human wisdom foolishness, and the Greeks live on by their thousands to-day, often in the garb of Christian preachers and seminaries–but to us who believe "Christ, the wisdom of God and the power of God."
By this one tremendous act in history, planned and prepared even before sin and the human race were in existence (which gives us a glimpse into the certainty that God has been managing His own affairs and ours before ever the devil gave the appearance of taking over), what we called God’s problem was totally resolved. Not only had the penalty been paid by the One who was made a curse for us; but with that, the guilt was non-existent; forgiveness had become a universal certainty, because the One who forgives is the One who had made the forgiveness possible in His blood; and finality is reached in the term which was such a favourite of Paul’s–justification, the condemned criminal leaving the court without a stain on his character, as if he had never committed the crimes. So it is with us who are in Christ by faith–"accepted in the Beloved," "made the righteousness of God in Him." Perfect and forever wonderful.
Man’s Problem: Indwelling Sin
But that has not resolved what we call the second problem–man’s problem. Justification removes the consequences of man’s sins, but not the source of them. The root must be dealt with, not merely the fruit. If the ultimate problem and cause of all the devastation is the indwelling spirit of error, salvation can only be complete if he is cast out forever, and the union of this false spirit with the human spirit destroyed. If the sole purpose of redemption is that we humans should be God’s dwelling place, then it is obvious that a salvation which only removes the guilt and penalty of man’s rebellion, but not the rebel king on his usurped throne, has come short of its purpose. God cannot seat Himself on a throne already occupied, nor can He permit a rival claimant within. The New Testament writers, therefore, take us on from the circumference to the centre of Christ’s redeeming work, and open to us the inner core of its total accomplishment. It might almost be called the hidden truth; not that it is hidden in the Scriptures, it is presented as plainly and factually as the truth of justification, and is really only a logical extension of it; but it is hidden in the sense that thousands treasure the outer shell of salvation; far fewer crack the shell and feed on the kernel.
We are entitled to recognize this as a distinct second aspect of the one work of redemption, because Paul presents it as such. Romans 1-5 and 6-8 are the classic passages on the two. In this second one, we are pointed away from a Saviour dying alone on Calvary for our sins, to ourselves who died with Him. We have to look at Christ crucified then from two different points of view. In the first, we see Him dying there alone on our behalf. He trod that winepress alone. He was uniquely our substitute. We gaze on Him there as the Israelites on the brazen serpent, an illustration He Himself used to Nicodemus concerning His coming death. The most sacred word in the Scripture which presents this truth to us is His blood–"the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot." It is a sure sign that a humble believer has divine illumination concerning his sin and Christ’s redemption, when that blood is most precious to him and he anticipates worshipping forever at the feet of "the Lamb as it had been slain in the midst of the throne"; and it is equally a danger signal when any who profess to believe, belittle the blood. The blood is the life, as Moses revealed, and His blood was the life of God drained out to its last drop for the whole world.
But then we have a change of emphasis. We no longer look at Christ crucified, and concentrating our attention solely on Him dying for us, see just who He is and what He did for us, and see Him as a lonely figure hanging there. Our attention is now turned to the fact that He did it for us. We see Him now as our representative. If He was there for us, then we were there also. We do not see Him alone now, we rather see ourselves whom He represented. It might be called the reverse side of the one coin. The interest is now centred, not on what He went through to pay the penalty for our sins, but on what effect such a death and resurrection has on us in our present personal lives, in the light of the fact that we went through it with Him. Obviously this is a more difficult mental concept, and that is part of the reason why it is so sidestepped in our thinking, grasping and teaching. Any child can understand the historical fact of the Saviour dying two thousand years ago for us; but it is more difficult to understand a living relationship whereby I myself, a living twentieth century person, actually participated in a scene of 2000 years ago, with certain revolutionary effects on my daily life.
But understanding is only one key to a double-locked door. Faith is the other key, and faith is not mental acceptance by human reason, it is passionate inwardness by which our whole being embraces and attaches itself to a Person who just is not to natural reasoning. When that stride of faith has been really taken over the gulf that forever separates natural reason from supernatural revelation, then an inward Christ is met with inwardly ("the Son revealed in me" as Paul wrote of his conversion), and then it is no longer difficult to speak the language or understand the truths of this reverse side of the cross when they are presented to us–we are with Him there.
What then were the consequences of this fact that when He died and rose, it was actually we, the whole world of believers, who died and rose with Him? The fact that He was called by Paul the last Adam is a striking indication. Adam is the progenitor, the forefather of the race. The whole coming race was in his loins as a seed. Therefore what he was, we are. He having received the wrong spirit into him, we are born with that same false indwelling person. As David said, "in sin did my mother conceive me", remembering that sin is basically the spirit of sin, the god of sin. The last Adam, therefore, is God’s replacement for the first; indeed in God’s perspective and foreordination a negative is always only a type or foreshadowing of its positive, which accounts for Paul saying that Adam was a figure of Him that was to come; and that again is a significant hint to us of what our attitude should be when we pray for needs to be supplied or situations changed. The last Adam is also the progenitor of the last race, to be God’s eternal dwelling-place and means of manifestation. God’s grace is that He does not create some new race as presumably He could; but He recreates the new out of the old; for love must save, even as we must be co-saviours when Love lives in us. To do this, the last Adam must be born a man among men, and as the God-man in whom Satan had no place, try though he may, go through a death and resurrection. The death would sever the old and false union, the resurrection would be the new union.
I know no three Scriptures which state this more succinctly than 2 Cor. 5:21, Rom. 6:10, 1 Pet. 3:18. The first opens the depth of the Saviour’s identification with us. God made Him to be sin for us. To bear our sins was to suffer in our stead. To be made sin was to be in God’s sight a world indwelt by the spirit of sin. That is the depth to which He went. This in itself was necessary if the next statement was to become fact: "in that He died, He died unto sin once." He had died for sins; now it says He died unto sin. When a person dies, body is separated from spirit. When Jesus died, having been made sin (having the spirit of sin), His holy dead body was eternally separated from that sin-spirit; but it was not just Jesus lying there a dead body; it was we. We, all believing people, that moment were cut off from the indwelling usurper. When He arose from the dead, the third statement says He was "quickened by the Spirit," the Holy Spirit of God. Here was the firstborn from the dead of the new humanity with the Spirit of God, His own Spirit united to Him as representing us. We believers were all there also. In Him the old union was forever broken, the new union forever replaced it. God had come into His own.
Here was full salvation, commemorated whenever we partake of the symbols of the body and blood of Christ: the blood by which we are justified and continually cleansed, which was a Christ regarded as dying by Himself for us: the body by which the old union is severed and the new created. Paul, significantly enough, says of those twofold symbols that we are "one bread and one body," for we were identified with Him as His body in His death and resurrection; but he does not say we were one blood, for that was uniquely He Himself.
More Articles from The Intercessor, Vol 24 No 2
- God’s Twofold Restoration
- The Editor’s Note
- The Necessity of Doubt
- Death to Sin: The Radical Solution of the Cross
- Romans Tells Us How
- Two Problems Solved
- Our Total Salvation: The Two Works of Jesus on the Cross and in the Resurrection
- Book Review: Paul’s Key to the Liberated Life: Romans Six to Eight
- How Acquire Faith?
- Faith in Action
- Rees Howells and the New Birth
- Free From the Law of Sin and Death
- Words to Live By
- What Really Happens at Regeneration?
- The Total Remedy