Monday, October 17, 2016

A Study on the Two Evangels (Part 5)

The Evangel of the Uncircumcision (Continued) 

Shortly after the creation of the first generation of human beings, it was made clear that death is the God-ordained penalty of sin. In Genesis 2:16-17, God declared the following to Adam: “From every tree of the garden you may eat, yea eat. But from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you must not eat from it; for on the day you eat from it, to die, you shall be dying. In accordance with this stated consequence for Adam’s disobedience, we read that, on the very day that Adam sinned, the death sentence was passed upon him (Gen. 3:19). And as a result of this sentence, both Adam and his wife Eve - and well as all of their future posterity - were banished from the garden of Eden and denied access to the tree of life (vv. 22-24). Humanity was, in other word, excluded from the only means by which we could’ve lived indefinitely on the earth without the inevitability of death. 

From this single episode in mankind’s history, we learn that all mankind was condemned to die because of Adam’s sin. Because of Adam’s sin, every descendant of Adam and Eve comes into existence under the power and “reign” of death. Paul makes this fact clear in Romans 5:12-14: 
“Therefore, even as through one man sin entered into the world, and through sin death, and thus death passed through into all mankind, on which all sinned -- for until law sin was in the world, yet sin is not being taken into account when there is no law; nevertheless death reigns from Adam unto Moses, over those also who do not sin in the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him Who is about to be.”

But it is not only because of Adam’s sin that death “reigns” over mankind. Although Adam’s sin affected the entire human race (which can be understood as demonstrating Adam's representative relationship to the rest of mankind), what we read concerning Adam’s sin and condemnation reveals the consequence of sin for all of his sinning descendants, as well. This is evident from Romans 1:32, where, after listing a number of sins (among which most human beings could find at least one of which they’re guilty of committing), Paul declared that “those committing such things are deserving of death.

Similarly, in Romans 6:22 Paul wrote that the “consummation” of the things that people do as “slaves of sin” is “death”; in the next verse, Paul (personifying sin as if it were a human slave master) adds that “the ration of Sin is death” – i.e., it is the “fixed portion” that Adam’s sinning descendants can expect to receive, as the ultimate consequence of their own sins. Thus, when those who are deserving of death because of their sins actually die, their death is not only because of Adam’s sin. It is because of their own, personal sins as well (which are just as "condemning" as was Adam's sin).

Significantly, the idea of death as being the penalty of our sins is found in the very chapter in which Paul reminded the saints in Corinth of the evangel he’d brought to them. After referring to the miraculous change that both the dead and the living saints in the body of Christ will undergo at the time of the snatching away (1 Cor. 15:50-53), Paul declared, “Now, whenever this corruptible should be putting on incorruption and this mortal should be putting on immortality, then shall come to pass the word which is written, Swallowed up was Death by Victory. Where, O Death, is your victory? Where, O Death, is your sting?” (vv. 54-55)

Paul is quoting from Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14 here. What is of some relevance to this study is the fact that, immediately before the part of Hosea 13:14 quoted by Paul, we find God promising to “ransom” his rebellious people “from the grip of the unseen” (i.e., Hades, the state of death), and to “redeem” them from death. As this particular promise was made to unfaithful Israel, it’s not surprising that Paul wouldn’t quote this part of Hosea 13:14 when writing to those in the body of Christ. Nonetheless, we can conclude that, based on this verse (as well as others),[1] Paul would’ve been familiar with the idea of death as being something from which mankind was in need of being “ransomed” by God.

After quoting from Isaiah 25:8 and Hosea 13:14, Paul went on to write: “Now the sting of Death is sin, yet the power of sin is the law. Now thanks be to God, Who is giving us the victory, through our Lord Jesus Christ” (vv. 56-57). What did Paul mean by, “Now the sting of death is sin?” The word translated “sting” denotes a pointed instrument used to injure and inflict pain (cf. Acts 26:14; Rev. 9:10). Paul was essentially saying that sin is what gives death the power to injure us. Apart from sin, death would have no power over us. Sin is the cause, and death is the effect. It is, in fact, the ultimate consequence of sin that is common to all people.

In 1 Corinthians 15:17-19 Paul wrote, “Now if Christ has not been roused, vain is your faith – you are still in your sins! Consequently those also, who are put to repose in Christ, perished. If we are having an expectation in Christ in this life only, more forlorn than all men are we.” The word translated “perished” in v. 18 here does not simply mean “died,” for those whom Paul had in view were already dead at the time he was writing. Since, in the context, the contrast is between “perishing” and being resurrected (or, more specifically, “vivified”), Paul meant that, if Christ had not been roused, these dead saints would never be given life beyond the power and reach of death (with the implication being that the same state of affairs awaited those to whom he wrote as well - and, of course, all of mankind). Thus, if Christ was not roused from among the dead, it would mean that perpetual death – or being perpetually doomed to die - is the state that awaits all mankind. Christ’s resurrection was, therefore, just as essential to the salvation of mankind from death as was his death for our sins. It is the guarantee that all mankind will ultimately be delivered from the condemnation of death.

Paul’s Evangel Illuminates “Life and Incorruption”

That Paul’s evangel essentially involves the glorious truth that all mankind is to be saved from their sins – and thus ransomed from death, the “sting of sin” - is further confirmed in Paul’s second letter to Timothy: “Christ Jesus…abolishes death, yet illuminates life and incorruption through the evangel of which I was appointed a herald and an apostle and a teacher of the nations” (2 Tim. 1:11). Concerning the tense of the word translated “abolishes” in this verse, A.E. Knoch notes in his commentary, “The abolition of death is put in the indefinite or aorist tense, as He [Christ] has done it in His own case and will do it for all in the future.” Death and “life and incorruption” are, of course, mutually exclusive states of affairs; the latter is the state of affairs that will exist when the former has been abolished.

Since the abolishment of death means “life and incorruption” for all mankind, that which is illuminated through Paul’s evangel is the final destiny that awaits all mankind when death, the last enemy, is abolished. In 1 Cor. 15:20-22, Paul wrote: “Yet now Christ has been roused from among the dead, the Firstfruit of those who are reposing. For since, in fact, through a man came death, through a Man, also, comes the resurrection of the dead. For even as, in Adam, all are dying, thus also, in Christ, shall all be vivified.When all who are dying in Adam are vivified in Christ, death will be no more. “Life and incorruption” will be universal, characterizing the existence of all mankind. The fact that life and incorruption is said to be “illuminated” through Paul’s evangel tells us that the truth of the salvation of all mankind from death is inherent in Paul’s evangel, and implied by what we read in 1 Cor. 15:3-5 and 1 Tim. 2:6.

That Christ’s death secured the salvation of all humanity from sin and death is further confirmed by what Paul went on to write in Romans 5:18-19: “Consequently, then, as it was through one offense for all mankind for condemnation, thus also it is through one just award for all mankind for life's justifying. For even as, through the disobedience of the one man, the many were constituted sinners, thus also, through the obedience of the One, the many shall be constituted just.”

From these verses it is evident that, by sending Christ to die for our sins as a “correspondent Ransom for all,” God rectified the problem brought about by both Adam’s sin and the sins of his condemned descendants. The “one offense” of which Paul wrote is Adam’s sin, which resulted in all mankind being condemned. The condemnation in view is death (see verses 12-14). The “one just award” is the just ruling, or verdict, of God concerning the “obedience of the One” (the death of Christ for our sins, which was an act of obedience to God). “Life’s justifying” (or “justification of life”) is the outcome secured by Christ’s death for mankind, and is the opposite of the “condemnation” of death that is the result of sin. And all who will enjoy this outcome secured by Christ’s death will, necessarily, be “constituted just” (since they will, at this time, have been saved from their sins and will thus have ceased to be deserving of death).

Moreover, in Romans 4:25, Paul wrote that Christ was “given up because of our offenses, and was roused because of our justifying.” Christ’s resurrection is, therefore, confirmation that the justification of all mankind was secured by Christ when he died. Thus, to believe that “Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, and that he was entombed, and that he has been roused the third day according to the scriptures” is to believe that, because of Christ’s death and resurrection, all mankind will ultimately be justified, or “constituted just.” Does this mean that all mankind have already been justified? No. Only those who are “in Christ” by faith in Paul’s evangel – those in the body of Christ - are justified now, and are free from all condemnation (Rom. 8:1; cf. 8:33-34). But Christ’s death for sins and subsequent resurrection means that the justification of all mankind was secured, and thus must happen. All mankind – the “many” for whom “the One” died - “shall be constituted just” (Rom. 5:19).[2]

Therefore, the meaning of the words “Christ died for our sins” as found in 1 Cor. 15:3 is that Christ died to save all mankind from sin and sin’s penalty, death. Christ’s death for our sins – and his subsequent resurrection - means that all mankind is, ultimately, going to receive the same glorious destiny into which Christ was introduced when God roused him from among the dead: a sinless and indestructible life that is beyond the power of death.

Because Christ was roused by God on the third day after his death, we can have confidence that sin will ultimately be eliminated and death will ultimately be abolished. Paul reveals that death is, in fact, the “last enemy,” and will be abolished by Christ (through the “vivification” of all) just before Christ’s reign ends and he delivers the kingdom to God, so that God may be “all in all” (1 Cor. 15:23-28). God is truly the “Savior of all mankind, especially of believers” (1 Tim. 4:9-11), for all mankind will eventually be saved from sin and death. Yet believers will be saved before this time, to enjoy “eonian life” during the eons of Christ’s reign.

The Word of the Conciliation

In 2 Corinthians 5:18-21, we read:

"Yet all is of God, Who conciliates us to Himself through Christ, and is giving us the dispensation of the conciliation, how that God was in Christ, conciliating the world to Himself, not reckoning their offenses to them, and placing in us the word of the conciliation. For Christ, then, are we ambassadors, as of God entreating through us. We are beseeching for Christ's sake, “Be conciliated to God!” For the One not knowing sin, He makes to be a sin offering for our sakes that we may be becoming God's righteousness in Him."

When Paul referred to “the word of the conciliation,” I don’t think he had in mind something distinct from “the word of the cross” referred to in his previous letter to the believers in Corinth. These are simply two different ways of referring to the same evangel. For Paul, justification and conciliation were two ways of referring to a single condition and reality (Rom. 5:6-11). Those who have been justified are no longer under the condemnation that sin brings (Rom. 8:1), and those who have been conciliated to God are those whose offenses are no longer being reckoned to them (2 Cor. 5:19). Thus, in view of what was secured through Christ’s death, Paul could write that God “was in Christ, conciliating the world to himself, not reckoning their offenses to them” (significantly, Paul used the words translated “sin” and “offense” interchangeably throughout Romans 5:12-21, immediately after speaking of the “justification” and “conciliation” that had been secured by Christ’s death, in Romans 5:9-11).

But how can it be said that God was in Christ (past tense) “conciliating the world to himself,” and “not reckoning their offenses to them?” Does this mean that, strictly speaking, all people have already been conciliated to God? No. Again, for Paul, one cannot be “conciliated to God” without it also being the case that one’s offenses are not being reckoned to them by God. But this is only the case for those who are “in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1), and all people do not yet enjoy this status (although they will, at the consummation referred to by Paul in 1 Cor. 15:24-28). 

I believe the problem is resolved when we understand Paul to have been using a figure of speech known as “prolepsis” here. According to this figure of speech, something that is future is spoken of as though it has already taken place (or as if it were already present) in order to emphasize the certainty of its taking place.
[3] At this present time, the world is not conciliated to God (for all mankind has not yet been constituted just). Most people remain under condemnation, and are (as all believers once were) "estranged [from God] and enemies in comprehension, by wicked acts" (Col. 1:21). What was accomplished prospectively through Christ’s death for our sins has not yet been fully realized and applied to all mankind. But it shall be, and that is what makes Paul’s evangel good news for all.

Realizing the Grace of God in Truth

In Colossians 1:5-7, Paul wrote,

“We are thanking the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, always praying concerning you, on hearing of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints, because of the expectation reserved for you in the heavens, which you hear before in the word of truth of the evangel, which, being present with you, according as in the entire world also, is bearing fruit and growing, according as it is among you also, from the day on which you hear and realized the grace of God in truth, according as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow slave, who is a faithful dispenser of Christ for us…”

Notice the above words, “…from the day on which you hear and realized the grace of God in truth…” These words imply that Paul’s evangel makes known God’s grace (Paul even referred to his evangel as “the evangel of the grace of God” in Acts 20:24). After hearing Paul’s evangel, one’s coming to a realization of “the grace of God in truth” is absolutely necessary to one’s being able to believe the message. A failure to realize “the grace of God in truth” when hearing Paul’s evangel is just as much an obstacle to one’s believing it as having never heard the evangel at all.

Notice also what Paul said his readers had heard “before in the word of truth of the evangel”: “the expectation reserved for you in the heavens.” Based on what we read in 1 Cor. 15:42-49, 2 Cor. 5:1-5 and 2 Tim. 1:11, we can infer that this “expectation in the heavens” is simply the “life and incorruption” that we’ll enjoy after we’ve been “vivified in Christ” and clothed with our immortal, incorruptible body. Those who have “realized the grace of God in truth” and come to believe that Christ, by his death and resurrection, secured this expectation for all mankind, will enjoy this expectation before the rest of mankind – i.e., during the coming eons of Christ’s reign. But as believers, we must never forget that this special salvation - this eonian life which all of the saints who believe Paul’s evangel will enjoy prior to the consummation - has its basis in the fact that Christ died for the sins of all mankind, securing our salvation from sin and death. Believers will simply be the first to benefit from what Christ accomplished on behalf of all.



[1] Other examples from the Hebrew Scriptures in which the word translated “ransom” in Hosea 13:14 (padah) refers to the ransoming of a person’s life from dying/death are Leviticus 27:29, 1 Samuel 14:45, Job 5:20, Job 33:28 and Psalm 49:15.

[2] The expression “the many” in Romans 5:19 is being used by Paul to more effectively contrast Adam and Christ with the rest of mankind. Both Adam and Christ are referred to as “the one,” and it was their actions which affected the rest of mankind (“the many”), of whom they acted as representatives.

That “the many” is synonymous with “all mankind” can be seen by comparing verses 15 and 19 with verses 12 and 18. In v. 12, we read that Adam’s sin introduced death into the world, and that death spread to “all mankind.” Then in v. 15 we’re told that “the many died” through Adam’s offense. And in v. 18, we’re told that one trespass (or the trespass of one) led to “condemnation for all mankind.” What is this “condemnation” if not the “death” referred to back in verses 12 and 15, which Paul says “the many” died through the trespass of “the one man,” Adam?

“For if many died through one man’s trespass...” (v. 15)

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all mankind...” (v. 18)

Adam is “the one” whose act of disobedience negatively affected those whom he represented (“the many”). This category of persons is also referred to as “all mankind” in v. 18. In contrast to Adam, Christ is “the one” whose act of obedience positively affects the same “many” who were negatively affected by Adam’s sin. These are also referred to as “all mankind” in v. 18. 


[3] Other examples of this figure of speech can be found in Matt 18:17; John 14:16-17 (cf. 16:7); John 17:11 (cf. 16:28); John 17:24 (cf. v. 5); Rom 4:17; 2 Cor. 5:1; Eph. 1:22; 1 Thess. 2:16 (cf. 2 Thess. 1:5-9); 2 Tim. 1:10; 2 Tim. 4:6; and Heb. 2:8. In each of these verses, future realities are spoken of as if they had already taken place because of the certainty of their ultimately occurring.

1 comment:

  1. Aaron, this is Bart form Poland. I'm in contact with Martin Zender and just wanted to drop you a line ! Bro this analysis left me at a loss for words ! It's so vitally important to disntinguish the two evangels because their mixutre I believe is what humanity has knows as christianity or the christian religion which blends both evangels and cherry-picks whatever suits its agenda ! Not only this but it has pagan beliefs mixed in also like immortality of the soul, free will, life after death - Satan's main lie about the reality of the consequences of Sin !, trinity - denying Christ indentity, etc. I had to pause several times to contemplate the depth, the lenght, the height and the width of the wisdom of our Father and what our Lord has accomplished ! There are no words to express this glorious truth and to describe accordingly the goodness and love of our God and Father and our Lord presented in the crucifixion of the only-begotten Son of God (NOT GOD THE SON !!!). Our evangel, the evangel of the Uncircumcision is so glorious that Paul just could not shut up about it, it's so good ! No wonder Paul gave his all and some to proclaim it ! Thank you for continuing his work ! I do not discriminate the evangel of our Circumcision brothers, I just want to underline how unpopular yet glorious the Uncircumcison evangel is. How sad, when I see Christians not only discriminating Jewish believers who are followers of Christ, who believe that Jesus is the Christ the Son of the living God yet who do not accept the lies of Christianity ! These same Chrisiants claim the name of Jesus and claim to be the children of God yet they condemn the rest of humanity to eternal tormnet in hell and proclaim "their" good news in a manner like "Yeah YUHU I won't go to hell after death but I will go to heaven and if you others want to be with me than better believe now because if you won't, well, you're in trouble then". How hypocritical and preposterous of them ! How evil ! To scare people into fictional, non-existent place, and make them believe that despite their pains in this life, the death state will be even worse life than now ! How darkened are their hearts ! And this message I heard being proclaimed by an ex-murderer who was released out of prison after his sentence ended ! A man who took life of others and in his mind "condemned" them to enternal hell was no happily proclaming "the good news" of christianity and scaring other peaceful people ! I do not now about you Aaron but I almost puke when I think of it ! Thank God, our Father, for the likes of you who present us the purity of the two legitimate evangels and their essence in contrast to the illegitimate evangel, which is not another, which is a distortion of the true evangels and is condemned to destruction ! Surely Paul was right when he spoke about our evangel being covered in those who are perishing for the eon ! May God have mercy on Christians because judgement awaits them for what they do as their apprehensions are blinded by the god of this eon !
    Peace and love from above dear brother
    Bart

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