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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Finished Work of Christ ( 'What now?' )

What about it? It's no big secret, right? On the cross; Christ cried 'It is finished!', and gave up the ghost, in other words, died. Scripture is very clear, especially in the gospel according to John ( John 19:30 ( Romans 6:10 ), that Christ accomplished, once for all, what He came to do, but, as I've already written about in a previous article, there is some question about what exactly He came to do.

'And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins'. ( Matthew 1:21 )

The Apostle Paul told Timothy that 'Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief' ( I Timothy 1:15b ). That should be enough, but with Matthew's words above, we might contend, 'Who are His people then?' In the context in which that promise was given; was it not the Old Covenant people of Israel who were primarily in the mind of the Author? True enough, as far as that goes, but speaking of Paul's writings; what did Paul have to say about the covenant people of God? He told the Roman believers, comfortingly that, 'they are not all Israel who are of Israel', and the explains himself further saying 'those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed' ( Romans 9:6-8 ); not that those of the Hebrews which were born physically according to the flesh ( Romans 1:3 ) would not be counted part of the true 'Israel of God', although they wouldn't be counted as such on the merit of being born thus, but they would be called thusly when they were born spiritually, according to the promise of God ( Ezekiel 36:25-27, Isaiah 65:13-25, Daniel 9:24 )as when God told Abraham, in Genesis 18:10, 'I will certainly return to you according to the time of life, and behold, Sarah your wife shall have a son', which was itself a picture of the 'Virgin Birth', promised in Isaiah 7:14, 'Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.b]">[b]' Paul explained this in much the same way earlier, in Romans 2:28 & 29, 'For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God', and Jesus Himself explained this 'new' concept to Nicodemus, a spiritual leader of Israel, who did not understand the spiritual nature of God's promises, in John 3:1-21. All of this is probably 'old hat' to many of my readers, and I'm sure that most have no problem seeing what Jesus, Paul, and the apostles taught concerning the spiritual nature of God's promises; but many tend to differentiate too far between the spiritual and physical natures of these promises. Is there a physical aspect to the nature of God's promises? Most assuredly so; as I quoted N.T. Wright as saying, in his book 'Surprised by Hope', 'God ordered His world in such a way that His own work within that world takes place not least, through one of His creatures; in particular, namely, the human beings who reflect His image'. He spiritually delivered us from the natural consequences of sin ( Romans 6:23 ) that we may, as He revealed to John in Revelation 22:2, be those physical, yet spiritual 'healing leaves', to physically carry out the promises of God in the strength of His Spirit!

So we've seen that God sent His Son to earth to save His people from their sins, and that this was not exclusive of physical Jews but was inclusive of all sinners, both Jew and Gentile, who would believe on His name, those who had been chosen to be in Him, before the foundation of the world; now we must discuss what it means, or meant to be 'saved from our sins'. Paul told the Roman Christians that 'the wages of sin is death' ( Romans 6:23 ), so we can see that when Christ died to save us from our sins; He saved us from the penalty of sin, which is death. God told His Old Covenant 'children, through the prophet Ezekiel that 'the soul who sins shall die' ( Ezekiel 18:4b ), and Adam, our 'first' father, 'of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die' ( Genesis 2:17 ). Concerning this death from which Christ came to save His people; was God speaking of physical death or spiritual death? There has been, and still is, I believe, much discussion on this subject as well. Although the majority, if they're honest with themselves and Scripture, would admit that He was speaking of spiritual death here, though not necessarily the finality of spiritual death ( Revelation 20:14 ), everlasting separation from the presence of God. While they admit that Adam died in a spiritual sense, as God said he would, on the day that he partook; many still look for an everlasting physical life, in a spiritual, yet somehow physical renewed 'incorruptible' body. I've covered this subject too, somewhat, in my article 'A Spiritual Body', so I'll not go any further on it here.

Was Christ's work finished, like He said before He died, or was He just saying that? Was He simply telling us that His part was done, and now the rest, of course, with the guidance of His Holy Spirit, was up to us, that He had shed His precious blood merely on the hope that we would choose to accept His offer of salvation? I believe that He was telling us who would hear ( Mark 4:11 ( Revelation 22:15 ) That He had accomplished, in reality, the purpose for which He had been sent ( Isaiah 55:11, John 3:16 ), the salvation of His people, New Covenant Israel, or The Israel of God ( Galatians 6:16 ( Romans 9:6-8, Galatians 3:7 ).When espousing such a view, one might hear the argument, 'Why evangelize? Why even try, if it's already settled?' ( I've actually heard this argument ) Simply reply, 'because we're commanded to! Jesus told the seventy to go. Even though the so-called 'Great Commission' ( Matthew 28:19 ) was fulfilled in the first century ( Matthew 10:23 ), I believe that we, as Christians, and 'healing leaves', are bound by God to 'Go' still, not necessarily to the farthest reaches of planet earth, but to our neighbors, those who come within the sphere of our influence.

Now for the final question, which I've really answered already; 'what now?'

Is 'the healing of the nations' ( Revelation 22:2 ) all up to us now? Has God given to us, frail, faulty humans that we are, the task of fulfilling what His Son had begun? In the greatest sense, yes! However, as every Christian knows; we are not alone, these tasks do not rest solely upon our feeble shoulders ( thank God! ); Jesus, speaking in His capacity of Almighty God, tells His disciples, 'I will never leave you or forsake you' ( Hebrews 13:5 ( Deuteronomy 31: 6-8, Joshua 1:5 ) John 14:18 & 19 ) In John 14:12, Jesus tells His disciples, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father'. I wrote above that we have been redeemed, and sanctified ( Romans 8:29 & 30 ) that we might be, as music artist Jewel puts it, 'God's Hands', His tools for, and means of, physical transformation. Having said that; I do not mean to say even now that it is all up to us; we each have a choice to make, and while, more often than not, it may seem like many make the wrong choice, it is that persons choice, and he must make it and take the responsibility for it, for good or evil. Whether we feel like we're up to it or not; we are those 'healing leaves', having been appointed so by God; and having the fullness of the Presence of Almighty God Himself forevermore with us, we have the strength, and authority, to do what He has bidden us! I have been asked, as I'm sure many believers in fulfilled eschatology have, 'if all Scripture is fulfilled; is there anything left? Is it still authoritative for all walks of life, or do we have reason and license to move beyond, especially since we now have the presence of 'Immanuel' ( Matthew 1:23 )' I answer 'Yes!' We have been purified, our consciences cleansed by the once for all sacrifice of God's Son, and I believe that, along with God's Word, revealed through that Son, along with the consciences that He has cleansed and claimed as His own; we can live our lives doing right and what is good, and because of that, or through this sacrifice, which is acceptable to God ( Romans 12:1 ), acting as 'God's Hands'!

May God continue to bless us all as we strive to live up to what He has dne, and to do our part, to be 'the leaves of the tree' that are 'for the healing of the nations'!

In His Service and for His Kingdom,
Charles Shank

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