| Section I: The Diagnosis|
Disobedience and Disaster
It is only logical that in trying to discover the origins of things we should turn to the book of the beginnings. The Bible does not attempt to be a chronicle of world history. It is a highly selective, God's eye view, of key events in the destiny of the human race; it is mankind's story. It is the only genuine explanation for the world as we have come to know it. Other histories do touch mankind's history from time to time but the creation of the angels is not mentioned, and the animal creation is only referred to in passing. It is man's story, but where other histories touch ours the point of contact gives fascinating insights.
At a specific point in human history God breathed a spirit of life into the creature he had formed and that creature became a living soul. Man was made with a unique description and destiny; he was made in the image and likeness of God. He was given authority to care for the rest of the creation as its chief servant. His role was to be a servant-king for creation itself; true dominion is the authority to serve. The man, Adam, was placed into the garden of Eden to serve it and guard it. The woman shared this destiny with the man, being in Adam when Adam received his commission.
There's a gentle hint of the nature of man's relationship with God in the words of Christ to the Pharisees regarding divorce. Jesus says that God had decreed that one man and one woman should be united, but a reading of the account in Genesis might suggest that Adam made the statement. Adam was to learn by revelation rather than experiment. His relationship with God was such that God's words could flow spontaneously from him.
This intimacy was devastated by mankind's sin. The sin was disobedience. The biblical revelation is that the woman was deceived by the Tempter, but that the man sinned with his eyes wide open. The story and its consequences are all too familiar. Sin brought immediate separation from fellowship with God and consequently from the presence of God too. It also quickly revealed the characteristic human trait of blaming others for our own faults.
The sin was not merely the taking of forbidden fruit; that was the outward manifestation of an inward folly. Man had imbibed the Satanic lie that he need not remain under God's authority; he could go-it-alone and become a god himself. The noun god is used in the Old Testament to describe not only the one true God, but to designate someone in ultimate authority in a given situation. Consequently it is used of judges and angels in certain contexts.
The nature of the temptation and man's response to it shows clearly that this was a break for freedom, and a usurping of God's rightful place. The letter to the Romans contains this same truth; although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, nor were thankful.
Although the man had been warned of the consequences of such action he made his choice and sealed his fate. The temptation, like most temptations, was at its root a slander against God's character. God was reported as being selfish and possessive. God was portrayed as standing between men and man's true destiny. God's influence must be eradicated. Men had nothing to loose but his chains.
As in all temptations there was a point of contact between the Tempter and tempted. It is probable that Adam did have a sense of destiny; future glories awaited him. There was within him amazing potential and the Tempter tapped into it. Satan is not a creator. He does not have the power to create but he does have the power to corrupt what has already been created. The most beautiful instincts in the human race have been distorted almost beyond recognition by this cosmic vandal.
God had greatness in store for man, but in His time and by His means. This Satanic short-cut was a slur on the character of God, and a buy-now-pay-later bait which Adam swallowed whole. Frustration is a sign of unbelief. It is also an indication that I want to be in control. I will be a god. I will impose my will. I will have what I want now. For the believer it is a sure call to prayer. Activities pursued in frustration never produce lasting satisfaction; they merely bury the seeds of impatience for a future harvest.
If Adam did fear that his opportunity was passing there is a remarkable parable of this in the Bible story of King Saul. At his beginning Saul was an exemplary man; physically and morally he was head and shoulders above his peers. Greatness awaited him. His destiny was to be a powerful servant-king for the people of Israel. At a point early in his reign frustration and fear ruled his conduct. Instead of waiting for God's time he precipitated an action which he reasoned was in everyone's best interests; a religious sacrifice to prevent the army's defection.
Samuel the prophet echoes the words of an earlier fateful day; "what have you done?" He had forfeited his destiny; that is what he had done. We shall return to this theme later. For King Saul the disaster would take some time to work through. His initial feelings may have been shame or loss, but the full consequences were not immediately apparent. Saul had pre-empted God's provision in an independent action which was the beginning of the end of his unique role as a servant-king of Israel.
In the moment of Saul's sentence of dismissal comes a promise of another man who will fulfil God's destiny. Sauls intended destiny was not a fantasy, but the genuine intention of God. God, however, is not to be taken by surprise and the future provision was already in hand. This is all a remarkable echo of the Genesis account. Light shines in the darkness. It was in mankind's darkest hour that God declared his settled intention to the vandal; I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel.
Man's disobedience had an immediate consequence for the creation that had been placed under his authority and care. The creation as we now know it has been described as a beautiful bride who on the day of her intended wedding receives the news that the husband-to-be has committed suicide. It is a stark and sombre image.
This is not the place to examine the controversy between Creationism and Darwinian Evolution hypotheses, but the world as we see it is now is both wonderful and amazingly cruel. For every evidence of a wise and loving creator there seems to be a counter-evidence for nature red in tooth and claw. Most sensitive observers will see in nature cause for celebration of the marvel of life and that which evokes a feeling of deep distress.
The biblical revelation is that the creation itself is in distress; things are not as they were, or as they were intended to be nor, indeed, as they will be at some future time. Events have occurred which have profoundly affected the world around us. The language of Romans is poignant; we read of it being subjected to futility, imprisoned in corruption, it groans as in the pains of childbirth.
Let's stay with the picture of frustration. The English word comes from a word meaning in vain. The effort seems to be pointless. Life is an endless round of might-have-means. This painful conclusion is what the writer of Ecclesiastes discovered for himself. Here was a man equipped with all the resources of his day to find fulfilment in life. At every attempt in every area of life he arrives at the same verdict; all is in vain. It is literally meaning-less.
This is not to say that there is no enjoyment in life, but that it is always hauntingly incomplete. Life is a short, fevered rehearsal for a concert we cannot give. When we appear to have attained some proficiency we are forced to lay down our instruments. There is not time enough to think, to become, to perform what the constitution of our natures indicates we are capable of.
So man sits, like Charles Dickens' Miss Haversham, amidst the dying wreckage of all those might-have-beens. So much for this bold bid for freedom. The short-cut to destiny is found to be a certain route to disaster.
| 2004/5/21 7:03||Profile|
Santa Clara, CA
For some time I have been puzzled by a strange omission in modern Evangelicalism. Literature dealing with the issues of heart holiness has been conspicuous mainly by its absence.
"Heart holiness" ah, yes. I couldn't agree more Ron. It seems that we have been preached practical application to the point that Christianity is just another system.
Always thought it was a heart issue to begin with.
This book is an expression of a heartlonging that men and women who belong to Jesus Christ should know the provision of their Lord not only for a future heaven but for their earthly pilgrimage too. He has made available to us all things that are necessary for life and godliness.
Looking forward to more on this.
Hope you are well, we miss you around here.
*Edit:You beat me to the punch there, was still typing as you were posting the first chapter. Thanks Ron.
| 2004/5/21 7:23||Profile|
| Section I: The Diagnosis|
There are aspects of life in which we can discover nothing at all by our own ingenuity.
In material matters we have the physical facts around us and the scientific method with which to evaluate them. Some facts can be proved by experiment, others deduced from probability.
The world of spiritual realities is quite different. In this world we can only receive what has been revealed. There are many claims regarding this kind of revelation; some rely on inward convictions, some on sudden impressions. For many centuries Christians have relied on the testimony of the scriptures to provide information which they could acquire in no other way.
God had banned the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil with the warning that death would be the consequence if the prohibition were breached. What could death have meant to Adam in his idyllic surroundings? The principal of death was not completely unknown to him. The first chapter of Genesis speaks of God's creation of seed bearing plants which would reproduce according to their kind. It seems that seed falling into the ground and then dying in order to multiply was pre-Adamic and therefore before mankind's sin.
We have no means of knowing how long Adam may have been able to watch this phenomenon before his disobedience. Perhaps there was no need to observe in order to understand; perhaps he knew by revelation. Certainly he would sense the ominous implications of the warning and understand that some final, irreversible condition was being referred to. In the place of an endless future there came the possibility of an ending. Something which was would be no more.
The warning is also very specific as regards time for in the day that you eat the fruit of it you shall surely die.
Adam's likeness to God was not physical but moral and spiritual, and the life which would end in death was not primarily physical but spiritual. In the event this was clarified in that Adam did not die physically for a considerable time afterwards. The sentence however was enacted on the very day of the disobedience; in that day he died.
He died in his likeness to God. He died in his relationship with God. He died in his access to God. In that day he died and his destiny died with him; more on this theme later. Death implies an absence and these absences began in that day. Before there had been a living likeness to God; now there was an absence. Before there had been a living relationship with God; now there was an absence. Before there had been a living access to God; now there was an absence. All that had been living in his link with God, died.
It is this death which Paul's letter to the Romans reveals was the result of sin entering the human race. It is also this death which has spread to all men. When Paul speaks of this death in Romans 5: 12-20 he invariably uses a definite article. This has the effect of showing the particular death that he has is mind. It is not just death, but The Death. It is The Death which Adam experienced, and it has spread to all men.
This truth is illustrated in Genesis itself. Chapter 5 is a long genealogy which begins with Adam and ends with Noah and his sons. The first two verses repeat the formula of Genesis 1:27 God created man, he made him in the likeness of God. He created them male and female and called them Mankind in the day they were created. The next verse speaks of the generations which followed Adam. And Adam lived 130 years and begot a son in his own likeness, after his image, and named him Seth. The tragedy of Genesis 3 lies between the verses.
On the site of ancient Ephesus the visitor can gain a good impression of the splendour of the ancient city. It. is built almost entirely of white marble; streets, harbour, library and public baths shine in the bright sun. At the street corners there are white marble statues, and the public buildings have friezes of white marble figures. Unfortunately an impression is all that the visitor can gain. Generations of Turkish boys have spent their childhood throwing stones at the white marble figures; partly in accord with their religious objection to idols, and partly, I suspect, because they .were boys. The figures no longer have faces. They are still the images they once were, but at another level they are not.
Man is still in the image of God, and as such is to be respected and honoured. But at another level the image is now spoiled and defaced; the work of the Vandal. Adam received an image and likeness to God, but before he could pass on the likeness the image was distorted. The likeness he passed onto Seth was the likeness of a being who was no longer what God had made him to be.
The Death not only spread throughout the race; it also reigned. The most astounding fact of life concerning mankind as we now find it is that man is dominated by this Death. Man had been intended to feed at the Tree of Life, and Life would have been his most significant characteristic. The Life is now conspicuously absent, and in its place Death is king. This reign touches everything he does.
He is not loved any less by the God who created him in His own image and likeness. In the same way those grieving over a lost loved one do not love any less. But things can never be as they were. The atmosphere of this is caught in the earliest chapters of the scripture where we discover the Creator searching for that which is lost; Adam, where are you? 
There is a dramatic phrase sometimes used to express the utter helplessness of a project or individual; they are described as being dead in the water. It is another powerful picture. To see the carcase of a fish or an animal dragged too and fro by the tide is a vivid picture of Death. That which is dead can no longer affect events. It is at the mercy of other forces. There is little point is urging more effort to an ebbing and flowing corpse.
This starting point of revealed truth is repeated in Paul's letter to the Ephesians when he refers to those who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked... This is a startling picture; dead but won't lie down! It points to the fact that Death is not only an absence of Life, but is the presence of an ominous force. It holds its victims in its lifeless grip and refuses to let go.
But there is a gleam of hope here to which we must return later. It is in the single word once, and in the past tenses of the verbs. Paul is writing to people over whom The Death no longer reigns. He shared himself this same confidence of having been freed from Death's lifeless grip.
3.Romans 5:12, 14, 17, 21
4.Romans 5:14, 17
6.Ephesians 2:1, 2
7.2 Corinthians 1:9, 10
| 2004/5/24 10:57||Profile|
| Section I: The Diagnosis|
sins and Sin
Evangelical Christians have long distinguished a difference between sins and sin. Sins are the outward expression; sin is the inward dynamic. A tree is recognisable through its fruit, but it is not the fruit which produces the tree but the reverse. All tbe fruit may be removed from a tree, but the removal of the fruit will not alter the nature of the tree. Given the proper conditions the fruit will return evidencing the life which is within.
The Finnish language has dozens of different words for snow. Each word conveying some important feature of the particular kind of snow; its wetness, its usability for building etc. To the Finns snow is never just snow. They have become highly sensitized to snow. In a similar manner the Hebrew people of God became highly sensitized to sin.
The scriptures have several different words for man's failure to comply with God's expectations. One word means to miss the target, as a wayward arrow.(1) Another means to be lawless (2) and yet another means to cross a barrier(3) . Sometimes the scripture will string together a whole list of them as in the phrase keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin(4) .
Sometimes the scripture takes one single area of life and declares that the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue alone is implicated in blasphemy, lies, slander, gossip, backbiting, murmuring etc; here is a world within a world. Small wonder that James describes it as being humanly untamable(5) .
The outsiders notion that God is not pleased with mankind has an obvious Bible base. One central purpose of the relationship into which God brought the people of Israel was that they would become convinced of their sinfulness(6). Rather than enhancing man's self-image much of God's purpose under the law was to demolish man's too good an impression of himself. The Law of Moses was never given as a means of do-it-yourself salvation; it was given to reveal man's true condition and to restrain it. This is tellingly recorded in our Lord's conversation with the religious leaders of His day; the law concerning divorce had been given not to acquire merit or to eliminate sin, but because of the hardheartedness of man(7) .
The positive expression of God's expectation from His people is expressed in the couplet You shall love God; you shall love your neighbour, but for the people of Israel it was expressed in the main in a serious of negatives beginning You shall not. Right living cannot be created by legislation, but wrong living can be exposed and restrained by it.
The true nature of the problem was illustrated again by our Lord in His contention with the Pharisees from Jerusalem who were insistent upon the outward niceties. Our Lord's point is that sins of evil thoughts, murder, immorality, crime, and the like were not the causes of mankind's problem, but rather the symptoms of it(8) . It was not the outward which polluted the inward; it was the inward which produced the outward. The most the law could do was to identify and restrain the outward failure; the cure would have to be sought elsewhere.
Romans identifies the Adam-Death that mankind has experienced by the use of the definite article and describes it as a king upon a throne. In this image Death is personified; It is not only an absence of1ife, but the illegal reign of an alien power. Romans refers to Sin a similar way. The Sin entered; the Sin was the channel for The Death; the Sin reigned(9) .
There is a vital spiritual revelation to be seen here. The'Sin entered. Something passed from the outside to the inside; that is a workable definition of the word entered. A change of status is revealed. The Sin is older than the human race, but there was a point in time when The Sin entered the human race. Through the man Adam The Sin found entrance into the human race and brought The Death as its companion.
The Greek word enter is the most usual word used for enter in the New Testament. There are, however, one or two uses of the word which may illustrate further the enormity of what happened to the human race of that day. John records that Jesus gave to Judas Iscariot a choice part of the meal and continues after the piece of bread; Satan entered him(10) . A second is even more sobering; Behold; I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me(11) .
This latter reference speaks not only of entrance but of a consequent relationship; a relationship which was to be the consequence of entrance through an opened door. I am making a conscious effort to understate things here rather than be drawn into extreme speculations, but we seem to be reading of profound things. It is plain that Satan's entrance into Judas had some profound effect upon him; it is also plain that Christ's entrance into the open door of a life also has a profound and lasting consequence.
In some similar manner The Sin entered through man's disobedience and The Death accompanied The Sin. As Satan controlled the man Judas and directed him in his attempt to eradicate God, so The Sin entered Adam and established a settled state of enmity towards God.
On two separate occasions I have visited Auschwitz, the Nazi extermination camp in southern Poland. It is almost mind-numbing to contemplate the atrocities that took place there. My reaction at the second visit was no different to my reaction at the first visit; it is almost impossible to believe that men could behave like this towards other men. And yet the recollection of my own childhood cruelties bore a witness that what one man is capable of, all men are capable of. What is it in the human race that produces behaviour like this? Animals don't behave like this, why the human race?
There is the only one adequate explanation for the present spiritual state of the human race. An alien has entered, and has taken the throne. Our Lord described the characteristic behaviour of this alien by saying he was a murderer from the beginning and comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy(12) . This is the death-through-sin that Adam experienced and which was revealed so clearly in Cain's slaughter of Abel.
This Death-through-Sin has contaminated the entire race for The Death has spread to all mankind, because all sinned(13) . This is (roughly) what the theologians refer to as the doctrine of Original Sin and consequent Total Depravity of Man. It is does not mean that there is no good in man, but it emphasizes the truth that the contamination has left no part untouched. This is true for the individual and for the entire race.
To return to our original picture at the beginning of the chapter, individual sins may be identified and restrained. The individual pieces of fruit may be removed from the tree, but the essential mature of the tree remains. The specific sin may be identified and dealt with; the liar may recognise his sin and cease from it; the adulterer may recognise his sin and cease from it. Society and the individual will be all the more comfortable for these outward changes, but inside there lurks the spirit of the destroyer and the liar.
When my daughters were younger they would dress our Staffordshire Bull Terrier in baby clothes and make it a member of the family. They shaped its daily life with rules as to when to sit and when to stand. Its behaviour was exemplary... as long as there were no cats in the vicinity. However human its outward behaviour might appear the presence of its ancient enemy always provoked the dog that was within. Law can reform manners but it can never change nature.
(1) Hebrew Chatja; Greek-hamartia; to miss the mark
(2)Greek anomia; lawless
(3)Hebrew pasha; Greek parabatEs; to overstep a fixed limit
(4)Exodus 34:7 The Hebrew Old Testament has at least 15 different words for sin.
(12)John 8:44, 10:10.
| 2004/6/18 12:40||Profile|
| Section I: The Diagnosis|
Our Old Man
The exact phrase our old man is used only in Pauls letter to the Romans, although the concept of the old man is to be found in Ephesians and Colossians. (1) Many modern translations opt for the phrase old self(2), but this is more in the way of an interpretation than a translation; the original phrase is simply old man.
To lose the phrase old man is not only sad, but it spoils the inbuilt contrast with another biblical phrase the new man. This is not mere pedantry. The modem concept of the self is from modem western philosophy/psychology. It is always dangerous to substitute a modern technical term for an ancient biblical technical term. It results in a theology which is based on the latest version of the dictionary rather than on the fixed biblical revelation.
This can be illustrated by a personal experiment. Before you read any further ask the question "'what do I understand by the concept of the self?" If you have you done that, now ask the question "is a new self likely to be an improvement on an old self?" The twentieth century concept of the self is not a biblical one. This is not to say we must never use the word, but only that when we do so we are sure that we are not confusing others... or ourselves.
Some other modem versions opt for phrases such as old nature or old being. This may be somewhat closer to the original sense but still does not do it full justice.
We may understand the theme better if we start from the beginning. The Bible is not a western book, and many western insights sit uncomfortably with its own insights. I will repeat what has already been stated in saying that man is dependent upon divine revelation. One on Job's friends asked the question Can you discover the deep things of God?(3) How can a creature discover the Creator? How can the finite comprehend the infinite? Man cannot examine God in laboratory conditions; he will discover only what God has permitted to be revealed. There are aspects of our human condition which are revealed and need to be received if we are to understand the true nature of things.
One of these revealed truths is the corporate-ness of the human race. An English poet has said that No man is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main, Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls,' it tolls for thee.(4) This glint of truth is one not often emphasized in the western world where the emphasis is more usually upon individual rights and responsibilities. In the east the concept is taken to the opposite extreme with blood feuds which last for generations and ancestor worship. In between these two extremes lies the biblical revelation of the corporate-ness of the human race.
There is an illustration of truth which the writer to the Hebrews uses which is strange logic to the western mind. The writer is declaring the superiority of Christ and the New Covenant to Moses and the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant's priesthood stemmed from Aaron, the brother of Moses, a descendent of Levi. In that covenant the people of Israel paid a tenth or their income to the priestly clan of Levi.
The writer argues that this priesthood was inferior to the King-Priesthood of Melchizedek because Levi paid his tenth to Melchizedek. When did this admission of greater and lesser" occur? Before Levi was born; when he was still in the loins of his grandfather Abraham. Levi, who received tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Mechizedek met him.(5) This is either a weird logic or a revelation of key facts of spiritual life.
The fact is that I was in Adam, and so were you. In Abraham, Levi paid tithes; in Adam I sinned, and so did you. This truth is taught in Paul's letter to the Romans; through one man sin entered the world; and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.(6) The tense of the verb sinned is very significant; it implies a completed action at a point in time.(7) If Paul had wanted to say because all do sin, or even all will sin he would have used a different form of the verb. We can capture the atmosphere of this tense if we translated Paul's phrase as death spread to all men because all did sin.
I cannot opt out from Adam's behaviour; I am involved as an integral part of the corporate entity which is the human race. Once the human race was just Adam, now it is more complex but viewed from one perspective it is still a single entity. This may not be the perspective we usually view things from, especially if we have had a western type of education, but it is a perfectly valid perspective. More importantly it is a vital God's-eye-view perspective and we shall miss much if we refuse the information that this revelation provides for us.
If I place a scrap of paper within the pages of this book the scrap of paper will share the experiences of the book. In I put the book on my shelf I have also put the scrap of paper on my shelf. If I give the book away I have also given the scrap of paper away. From the moment the scrap of paper was inserted into the book it has shared the book's history. As the tree is in the acorn so I was in Adam from the beginning. But within the tree which was in the acorn are more acorns, and so on.
Adam sinned, and I was in him when he sinned. I share his history, his guilt and the consequence of his sin. I share his separation from God and the separation from the unique spiritual life that is only possible if I am in right union with God. To quote Paul's inspired writing again in Adam all die.(8) Whatever happened to Adam in spiritual terms also happened to me. Whatever he did is now my history too.
What Adam had become and the consequent states of the whole entity of the human race are referred to in the New Testament as our old man. It is not my oId man as distinct to your old man, it is our old man. This is our old man; the common heritage of the whole race, irrespective of colour or religion. This is one of the reasons that the phrase old self is such an inadequate alternative for old man. Self focuses on the individual rather than the corporate experience of the race.
How then shall we describe our old man? It is mankind wrongly related to God; mankind spoiled and defaced. It is also mankind in a misalliance with another spirit; mankind under the wrong king. It is a mystical body under the wrong headship and it functions as one man.
It is important to understand just how wrong mankind has become in order to understand the impossibility of any do- it-yourself salvation. If this is what is really wrong with mankind it is clear that none of the usual suggested cures can ever provide the remedy. Education, philosophy, politics, legislation, personal discipline, religion; none of these, nor any combination of them, can ever provide a remedy for this ancient condition.
I use the word ancient purposely. The original word used for old in our phrase is palaios(9), meaning not merely having grown old but ancient. This is mankind's ancient problem. Almost as old as man himself, and which has never known the slightest improvement in its inward condition.
In deed, we are told that it is itself in a constant state of deterioration(10). It is in a constant state of being corrupted as a result of deceiving passions. There is no hope therefore of it outgrowing its strength or its growing weary.
None of this is to say that man is any the less wonderful. It is not so say that man is not capable of greatness or kindness, nor is it to indicate that God loves him the less. Mankind is wonderful but spoiled incurably. It is still the object of God's special favour and love, but if he is to be rescued from what he has become it will need an inward dynamic that is at least as powerful as that which caused his condition.
1. Romans 6:6, Ephesians 4:22, Colossians 3:9
2. RSV, NRSV, NASB, NIV
3. Job 11:7
4. John Donne 1573-1631 Devotions 17
5. Hebrews 7:1-10
6. Romans 5:12
8. 1 Corinthians 15:22
9. as used in the word palaeontology. The knowledge or study of ancient things.
10. NASB is being corrupted [the present participle]
| 2004/6/21 16:09||Profile|
| Section I: The Diagnosis|
A Lost Destiny
C S Lewis wrote a science fiction trilogy; the second volume was called Voyage to Venus. It told the story of a man from earth who arrived on Venus just as that world was being created. Lewis Venus had its own Adam and Eve, and its own devil. The man from earth is instrumental in preventing a repeat of earths tragedy and as the book comes to its conclusion the whole of the Venus creation is gathered around its own Adam and Eve in happy celebration. The couple wants the visitor from earth to share their celebrations, but he cannot bear the sight and lies face down on the ground. Dont raise me up, he says I have never seen a real man or a real woman. I have lived all my life among shadows and broken images.
We have learned to live in our fallen world; we have never known anything better. They say that you never miss what you never had, but I dont think it is true. We do miss what we never knew although we are hard pressed to explain our longings. The cultures of the world look backwards or forwards to a golden age when things will be as they ought. Where does this longing for Utopia, Shangri-La arise? How is that we can imagine this thing that has never been?
Pauls letter to the Romans adds a further thought to the accusation of universal sinfulness; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God(1), In that short sentence there lies the hidden half of our tragedy; we have not only sinned but we fall short of the glory of God. We never became what we were intended to be. In the words of C S Lewis, we have spent all our lives among shadows and broken images. Ephesus was a magnificent city; its white stones still glitter in the bright sun. It is a ruin; its glory is gone but just enough remains to give us an idea of what it must have been like in its prime. Our race is the same; it still glitters and is capable of marvelous exploits, but it is a ruin with just enough remaining to haunt us as to what might have been
What is man? That is a question that has often been asked and answered in a variety of ways. Mark Twain wrote an essay to answer the question and the human race constantly attempts to define itself, but is there a definitive answer? An intuitive shepherd boy asked the question some 3000 years ago and provided some astonishing answers.
What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: (Psa 8:4-6 KJV)
The current scientific consensus is that man is a little higher than the apes. David, the shepherd boy, had a different perspective; man is a little lower than the angels. In fact, the word translated angels here is a Hebrew word; elohim(2) and can be translated gods. Davids vision of mankind is amazing; there is nothing negative in his description. There is no sign of sin or its ravages. This is man as he was created; in the image and likeness of God. Our race was created to be the living link between heaven and earth. In our spirits we were a functioning part of the spirit world of God and angels. In our bodies we were a functioning part of the physical creation. Our unique glory was that we were to be equally at home in each.
David describes mankind as; crowned with glory and honour. Our race was created to be noble and glorious; instinct with life and power. If we were to give a definition I wonder if it would resemble Davids? Not unless we had the same vision. There is no sin in this definition of man because sin is not part of mans original constitution. It is easy to forget this; we have spent all our lives among shadows and broken images. He was created perfect in an original state of childlike innocence. As a consequence of right choices he would have become holy. God is holy, angels are holy, and man was created to be holy. Mans holiness would not have been angelic holiness anymore than the angels have divine holiness, but he would have been holy nevertheless.
Our race was given dominion over the rest of the sentient creation, but it was not a tyrannical dominion. He was to serve the creation and guard it (3). Man was creations masterpiece and its chief servant. His service of God was to be worked out in his serving of the creation; he would have become a co-worker with God. His original project was a garden with 3 rivers in it but all the earth was his potential task. He worked, not to pay the bills, but because it was his calling under God. When anything is functioning in the environment for which it was created there is perfect harmony; so it was to have been.
That plaintive cry comes to my mind again; what hast thou done? He plunged our race into disgrace and bestiality; that is what he had done. Perhaps we should not be surprised that the scientific consensus is that he is a little higher than the beasts; there is little evidence in his history that he was ever behaved like someone who was a little lower than the angels.
There is a amazing link to this theme in Pauls letter to the Corinthians. In reference to Christ and Adam he says; The first man is of the earth, earthy: the second man is the Lord from heaven(4). The first man is Adam, the second man is Christ. There have only ever been two men; the others did not deserve the label, and the first did not deserve it for long. If the definition of man is that he is in the image and likeness of God, and that he is crowned with glory and honour, then there have only ever been two men.
Christs qualification is plain to see. In his incarnation he was the one Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; (5) He was determined to carry this role through all his trials. Satan tempted Him by demanding that he prove He was the Son of God. Christs answer begins; it is written man shall not
(6) His life on earth was as the representative of the race; He was the second man.
What a culmination of tragedies had eclipsed Gods creation designed to be in His own image and likeness From his glorious beginnings to disgrace and degradation. From a being designed to be the dwelling place of God, he has become infested with an alien spirit. From a being with the capacity to be indwelt with Gods own life, he has become the carrier of Sin and Death. Man had become a magnificent ruin, haunted by a rebellious spirit. Gods glorious plan appeared to be wrecked by a cosmic vandal; the race of Man was spoiled beyond repair.
I am trying to be disciplined in the telling of this story but I cannot resist the temptation at this point to run ahead just a little. There have only ever been two men, but there will be more
The writer to the Hebrews had this in mind when he said; But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings. ( ). The disgraced race had a champion and he has prevailed; we shall know again the glory from which Adam fell, and more
Blessings abound whereer He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest;
And all the sons of want are blessed.
Where He displays His healing power,
Death and the curse are known no more;
In Him the tribes of Adam boast
More blessings than their father lost.(7)
1. (Rom 3:23 NASB).
2. Elohim sometimes refers to angels and judges and often God Himself. It is a word that is used to signify someone as ultimate authority in a given situation. This fits well with the context of Psalm 8.
3. And Jehovah God taketh the man, and causeth him to rest in the garden of Eden, to serve it, and to keep it. (Gen 2:15 Youngs Literal Translation)
4. 1Co 15:47 KJV
5. Heb 1:3 KJV
6. Matt 4:3,4
7. Heb 2:6-10 KJV
8. Isaac Watts: Jesus shall reign whereer the sun
| 2004/7/9 14:39||Profile|
I must say that I am touched beyond words by this latest entry. Few things I have ever read apart from God's word have moved me like this. I can't put my finger on exactly what God has done with me in these last 10 minutes- but I know it is something. Something leaped in my heart when I realized from whence we have fallen- and put another piece in this great tapestry that God is weaving in my heart.
There have only ever been two men; the others did not deserve the label, and the first did not deserve it for long.
This quote drove me to tears. Though I am here and not at liberty to shed them abundantly, I will shed them nonetheless.
Robert Wurtz II
| 2004/7/9 14:55||Profile|
Pietermaritzburg, South Africa
| Re: Lost Destiny|
I suddenly saw something about that:
5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in very natureA God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7but made himself nothing,
taking the very natureB of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
Its almost as if we can't lay ourselves down unless we know who we are where we have come from.
It is only as we realise who we are in Christ that the security comes to be able lay down our lives. Jesus who was the very nature of God did not hold onto it so tightly but let it go. It is an amazing paradox up is down, and down is up.
| 2004/7/9 15:31||Profile|
| Section I: The Diagnosis|
The Old Covenant
The rules in the kindergarten are different to the rules of the factory. The rules that govern the child will have a different purpose to those which govern the adult.
New readers of the Bible are often surprised by the difference in atmosphere of the Old Testament to that of the New Testament. Some, in the past, have even questioned whether it was referring to the same God! The English words Testament and Covenant are usually translations of the same Hebrew or Greek word, but sometimes it is difficult to get all the nuances from one language into another. The early Bible translators tried to solve this by deciding which was closer to the intention of the author and then choosing an English word which best carried the sense.
This has some side effects which can sometimes confuse the picture. As an illustration consider the second chapter of Acts which is almost half way into the New Testament/Covenant
However, the actual New Covenant did not come into full operation until Acts 2! This means that in one way of regarding things Acts chapter 1 is the last chapter of the Old Testament/Covenant. Are you still following this?
Just to make the matter a little more confusing the Old Covenant does not begin until halfway through the book of Exodus; so Genesis and the first half of Exodus are before the Old Testament/Covenant. Of course none of these things really matters very much as we are only talking about the way in which men have divided God's book. The chapter and verse divisions are just as arbitrary.
Let's see if we can't simplify things a little. In Genesis we have accounts of God's dealings with individuals and families, but the beginning of Exodus sets the scene for something quite different. God was about to enter into a special relationship with a whole nation. It is this special relationship with a whole nation that the writer of Hebrews calls the First or the Old Covenant. (1) The New Covenant, by contrast, was initiated by the shedding of Christ's blood, and the benefits of it were communicated to his followers in Acts 2.
There is a consequence to this which is not always realised namely that the larger portion of our Bibles, over 84% in fact, recounts events which occurred under the Old Covenant. (2) The time of the Gospels was unique in that there was a single person living in the experience of a New Covenant, while almost all his followers were still under the implications of the Old Covenant. That Old Covenant operated for approximately 1500 years and was only ever intended to be temporary; it is remarkable how long temporary things will last.
Why temporary? Because the Old Covenant was only ever intended to be a parenthesis in God's dealings with mankind. This is the amazing conclusion arrived at, under the inspiration of the Spirit, by Paul in his letter to the churches in Galatia. The Old Covenant, says Paul, was an addition to God's original promises to Abraham. Furthermore it was a temporary addition in force only until The Seed arrived to whom the original promise had been made. (3)
This is breathtaking in its implications. The Old Covenant's elaborate priesthood and sacrificial system, the temple with its magnificence, the unique position enjoyed by the nation that had entered that Old Covenant; all temporary additions until the Promised One should come? It is not difficult to see why Paul's preaching aroused such passions among the Jews of his day. The same passions had been aroused by Stephen, the man whose judicial murder Paul had himself witnessed. (4) No doubt Stephen's accusers were misquoting him, or were they? People often "hear" what has not been said, but usually there is some thread upon which the mis-hearers fasten their thoughts.
Under the inspiration of the same Spirit, Paul has more to say on this theme. He declares that we (the people of that Old Covenant) were under a paedogogus. A paedogogus was a guardian and guide of boys. Among the Greeks and the Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood. (5) Paul's point is that although the chosen nation had a wonderful destiny before them they had been like heirs who had not reached the age at which they might inherit their inheritance. The Old Covenant period had been the child-state of the nation.
The Sinai (Old) Covenant experience had been but the prelude to full sonship. (6) (There are other letters of Paul where it is important to notice when he switches from we to you.) The issues at stake here were vital to the survival of genuine New Covenant Christianity. Without these vital contributions Christianity would have almost inevitable drifted into becoming a sect within Judaism; an addition to an addition rather than finding its full destiny as an entirely New Covenant.
But the Old Covenant was a glorious covenant. This is also revealed in the scriptures. (7) We must not disparage the earlier provision of God; its failure was due to the failure of the human partners in the covenant not to the weakness of the covenant itself. It was a fading covenant, like the glory that ultimately faded from the face of its mediator Moses. The New Covenant too has a changing glory within it, but this time from great to greater. The events and writings of the New Testament are against the background of the final fadings of the Old Covenant. (8) But at its beginnings the Old Covenant had been truly glorious.
What was the purpose of this unique relationship which made the nation of Israel so special in salvation history? Its purpose was manifold. On the positive side it was to initiate a relationship with God which would mark them out as different to all other nations, though all nations were God's
The secular covenant of marriage is a fitting illustration of God's actions. In a marriage covenant there comes a point at which each of the partners belong to each other in a unique and exclusive sense. The two partners make their promises, enter into a covenant and from that moment belong to each other in a way that neither can belong to anyone else. The prophet Ezekiel took up this daring image when he brought God's words to the people of his day; I spread the corner of my garment over you and covered your nakedness. I gave you my solemn oath and entered into a covenant with you, declares the Sovereign LORD, and you became mine. (10)
From this moment in the nation's history all spiritual unfaithfulness was described as adultery. Another prophet took up the same theme as he proclaimed the coming of a different kind of covenant; "The time is coming, " declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them, declares the LORD. (11)
The marriage contract included their occupation of the land. Or to view the opposite side of the coin, it was a tenancy agreement with regard to the land and it demanded their faithfulness; if they kept the covenant they would keep the land. The book of Deuteronomy, which are the last words of Moses prior to his death and the entrance of the people into their promised land has this as a constant theme. The beginnings of the contract are recorded in a classical "if- then" statement which lies at the foundation of their destiny and consequent history; Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, (12)
This takes us onto the next step in our understanding of Israel's destiny. They were to be separated from all other nations in order to be available to God as a priest-nation. Priests were mediators; they stood between God and man. This nation was not being separated for its own private salvation but for a unique role in salvation history. As priests they must be taught so that they in turn could teach
others. (13) That privilege would bring with it fearful responsibilities. From he that had much, much would be required. They would be expected to live a quality of life which was in keeping with their lofty destiny. Moses last words are recorded in Deuteronomy 33.
26 [There is] none like unto the God of Jeshurun (14), [who] rideth upon the heaven in thy help, and in his excellency on the sky.
27 The eternal God [is thy] refuge, and underneath [are] the everlasting arms: and he shall thrust out the enemy jrom before thee; and shall say, Destroy [them].
28 Israel then shall dwell in safety alone: the fountain of Jacob [shall be] upon a land of corn and wine,. also his heavens shall drop down dew.
29 Happy [art] thou, 0 Israel: who [is] like unto thee, 0 people saved by the LORD
The work of preparing this covenant people went on through pain and prosperity, through special favours and hard disciplines right up to the time of John Baptist. His work was to get all things ready for their supreme mission; And he will go on before the Lord; in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous--to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (15)
The period of the Law was to have another purpose which is explained in a well known and often misapplied Bible verse; Where [there is] no vision, the people perish: (16) This is the familiar KJV rendering, but the context makes it clear that the NIV has got closer to the heart of this passage when it states; Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law. God's covenant people were not in ignorance of right behaviour. God's will had been revealed to them in order to restrain them. Where there is no revelation of God's will there will be no restraint to wickedness.
The Law was expressed initially mostly in terms of a series of prohibitions; thou shalt not rather than thou shalt. Read thoughtfully the Ten Commandments will be found to be Ten Prohibitions.
We shall need to return to this theme later, but we will do well to understand that Law can restrain but can never change character. Restraint of evil however is a blessing, although God's ultimate purpose is much greater than this. Much of the Law which now seems so imperfect to our modem sensibilities needs to be understood in the light of this; these imperfect legislations take into account the hardness of men's hearts. (I7)
This period of the Law was to have yet another purpose. It was to bring to the covenant people an adequate sense of their own failure. Again we must turn to the writings of Paul to appreciate this aspect of revelation. He is answering the hypothetical questions as to why the Law has not made him a better man. His answer brings this other purpose clearly into focus; Did that which is good; then, become death to me? By no means! But in order that sin might be recognised as sin, it produced death in me through what was good; so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. (18)
The law would strip away all possibility of camouflage. There would be no doubt as to mankind's true condition. This Covenant nation, at least, would not be able to pretend that they were good enough. But the intention of this was largely frustrated by the determination of that nation to use the Law as a means of acquiring merit; almost the direct opposite of its purpose. (19)
(1) Hebrews 8:7-13. Some call this the Mosaic (Moses) or Sinaitic Covenant.
(2) Genesis, Exodus 1-19, the Book of Job, Acts 2 through to the Revelation are the exceptions.
(3) Gal 3:19
(4) Acts 6:14
(5) Thayer Greek-English Lexicon
(6) Gal 4:1,2
(7) 2 Cor 3:7
(8) 2 Cor 3:13,18. Hebrews 8:13
(9) Exodus 19:5,6
(10) Ezekiel 16:8 NIV
(11) Jeremiah 31:31,32
(12) Exodus 19:5,6
(13) Malachi 2:7
(14) A Hebrew term meaning my upright one
(15) Luke 1:17 NIV
(16) Proverbs 29:18
(17) Matthew 19:8
(18) Romans 7:13
(19) Romans 10:2,3
| 2004/7/20 15:45||Profile|
Hey Ron where's chapter 7 ? Slow coach :-)
| 2004/10/5 17:06||Profile|