Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Organic Unity of Christ

Paul underscores Christ’s centrality in salvation by saying, “The promises were spoken to Abraham and to ‘his seed’. The scripture does not say ‘and to his seeds’, meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed’, meaning one person who is Christ” (Gal.3:16). Therefore, according to Paul, crushing the serpent’s head is the work of Christ. If Christ is the only seed, then what about “the rest of her seed” (as mentioned in Rev. 12:17)? Where do faithful Christians fit in?

Actually, in a God-centered theology, Christians DON’T fit in! This is a hard lesson… There is nothing intrinsic with salvation. It is not in the flesh and bone, or DNA of Adam (who was made from clay, right?). And, though, God gave Adam the ‘breathe of life’, so did God also give this same gift, or ‘naphesh’, to all animals (Gen. 1:30). Moreover, what God ‘giveth’, he also “taketh away”. Hence, God’s curse of death upon ‘Adam’s seedline’ is nothing to brag about, “you will return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19). Bragging about Adam is like bragging about clay or even mud...

Modernism has elevated the powers and capacity of man. Modernism first insinuates itself by denying original sin, and from this "human reaffirming" worldview many errors are breed. Amongst eisogesis errors is dispensationalism. Dispensationalists often treat salvation as individualistic and pietistic in character. Here, “free will” or the ‘inward self’ is the agent of saving power, i.e., man enables himself to desire and love God. There's less and less conviction and even repentance. As dispensationalism spreads its influence, we see an increasing veneration of the 'self'. Thus, christian 'pop psychology' passes for biblical truth and exhortation today. However, Christ must be the starting point of all knowledge, and one fact pertaining to the Gospel of Grace is that individual free will plays NO part in the actual workings of regeneration or Christian love for God. We must first realize who we are--not 'gods' but fallen, evil men. Below is clear, scriptural evidence for the source of our salvation:

The Bible says, “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—--children born not of natural descent, nor human decision, or a husband’s will, but born of God” (J 1:12-13).

“It does not, therefore, depend on a man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (Rom. 9:16).

John 15:16, "You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit".
Mark 10:26-27, “The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God”.

How can we maintain a piestic or private view of salvation if our justification is not the work of our own 'individual' hands-- “He did not come by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth. For there are three who testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood” (1 John 5:7-8). The ‘spirit, water, and blood’ are NT signs that point to God’s Promise-—i.e., the ‘water’ of baptismal circumcision (1 Cor 10:1-2), ‘blood’ of Christ (Heb. 9:12, 20; Eph. 2:13), and the sealing of Christ's inheritance (our body and soul) by the ‘holy spirit’ (Eph 1:13).

God’s covenants, therefore, are NOT private, piestitic relations. Like with the Old Testament, Baptism is a sign of covenant circumcision (R. 6), bringing us into a federal or collective household of Abraham. Therefore, the sign of covenant includes us into a new family or body, and certainly is corporate in nature. Not only does it point to our inclusion in a covenant community, but the sacrament itself was administered in the NT to entire households, (see Lydia and the jailer in Acts 16; Cornelius’ entire gentile household was similarly washed Act 10). When the Kingdom was re-established on Pentecost, Peter exhorted all men to repent, repeating in the same corporate/federal langauge of the OT, “Repent and be baptized for the promise is unto you and your children, and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts. 2:38-39) Covenants certainly apply to individuals, but simultaneously point to and add the context of households, tribes, and nations. 1 Pe. 2:9, "But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation". Certainly, if the Kingdom is one that increases to rule the entire earth, a corporate and universal aspect obviously declared NT. Zech 14:9, "And the LORD shall be King over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and His name one."

Second, only Jesus Christ can guarantee and seal the blessings of His covenant--yet another aspect beyond our ‘individual’ power. God, not man, writes his covenant into our heart—an event which human eyes do not see or hear (2 Co 3:17; 1 Tm 1:17; Ez. 36: 25-27; J 3:8)—but is miraculously effected by the Holy Spirit nonetheless. This witness of the Holy Spirit was promised as a stipulation of the Covenant between the Father and Son, “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth…but you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you” (J 14:17). John says if we are in Christ, we possess His Spirit, “And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us” (1 J 3:24). So, we have the witness of Sprit changing our spirit, “For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba—Father!” The Spirit Himself testifies to our spirit that we are God’s children” (R 8:14-15).

So, where do faithful Christians fit in? “I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (J 14:20). By the power of the Triune Godhead--Holy Spirit, Christ and the Father--an infused, organic relationship unites Christ and his People. What's interesting about 'infusion' is the collapsing of difference, 2 Cor 3:18, "But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the Spirit." Infusion implies an organic inclusion. Paul often describes this unity vegetatively, “if the root is holy, so are the branches…if you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap of the olive root, do not boast” (R. 11:16-18). Jesus likewise compared himself genetically, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from you can do nothing. If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers” (J 15:5-6).

The Christian therefore is dependent upon the infused Spirit for all inner workings of Grace, but this 'work' never elevates the christian above or on par to Christ. Vegetative language describes Christ as a life generating root or seed. Another organic allegory that establishes Christ's power of salvation is the marriage relation between man and woman, “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given to her to wear. (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints)” (Rev. 19:7-8). We know marriage is pictured vegatatively, “and the two will become one flesh” (Matt 19:5). But Christ is never the Woman, rather He is the head of our salvation, our husband and leads us in all matters, “For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savoir (Eph 5:22). Recall, the Spirit's invisible role in our hearts: Rom. 8:5, "For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit." and v.11 "But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you."

Therefore, while the “seed” or "Christ" is indeed singular; by the Holy Spirit, it points to the body of believers, who have been grafted, wedded, or infused into the Triune God-—i.e., “the rest of her seed”. “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have supremacy”. (Col. 1:19). Therefore, our concept of Kingdom ought to be qualified by this “royal WE”. Again, does God have only One Son? Yes, he does, but this Son died and was also resurrected into a glorious NEW body. What made the body glorious was its new parts which existed to serve him, branches bearing fruit.

The firstborn Son of God--Jesus--is indeed singular, but by his Spirit he becomes the source of renewing life, joining men to Himself, grafting them into an everlasting Tree of Life, joining them as 'one flesh', so they too may share in the identity of an "Only Beloved Son".
By the infused Spirit, what was singular amongst men (a single seed) becomes plural,"The Word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart."(Deut. 30:14). Compare this to Luke 8:11, "...Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Therefore, Deut 30 may also be read as "the seed is near you, in your mouth and in your heart..."

Where is this 'plural' seed in Gen. 3:15? "And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel." The offspring of the woman, as per Gal. 3:16, remains Christ, but since we are infused as His body, scripture also says, "And the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you. Amen" (Rom. 16:20).

It is Christ, the head, who commands and leads us to victory, but it is the body--the army of saints, led by the Spirit--which obey and trample.

"And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship, and said unto him, What saith my lord unto his servant? and the captain of the Lord's host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy. And Joshua did so.”--Joshua 5:14-15.

Next: Imputed federal salvation