Thursday, July 11, 2019

Exploring Two-Adam theology in the New Testament letters

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Romans 5:19-21 "For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. 20 The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."


How does the first man created by God - Adam - help shed light on the role and identity of Jesus Christ? The New Testament answers this question. Today's post wants to briefly consider how the New Testament letters of Paul and others utilize "Two-Adam theology". When I say "Two-Adam theology", I refer to the comparison between the historic Adam (i.e. "First Adam") and Jesus (i.e. "Second Adam"). 

Where does Paul refer to Jesus as the "New Adam" or "Second Adam"

Various locations in the New Testament bring out explicit comparison between the historic Adam or "first Adam" and Jesus Christ - i.e - the "Second Adam" (sometimes called "Last Adam") -  Romans 5:12-21 and portions within 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 1 Corinthians 15:45-48 are the key texts in Paul's letter. In the Romans text, Adam is referred to as a "type" or a pre-figured, prophetic imagery of Jesus in Romans 5:14. When we arrive in 1 Corinthians 15, Jesus is referred to as the "last Adam" in 15:45 and "second man" or "second Adam" in 15:47. 

How "Two-Adam" theology  highlights core Christian truths

Paul's point in comparing Jesus and Adam is to also highlight two core Christian doctrines - justification by faith, Christ's resurrection and the Christian life. 

1. The doctrine of justification by faith and the "two-Adam" theology

The doctrine of "justification by faith" is concerned with how Christ's accomplished work in the cross and from His resurrection are credited to the sinner at saving faith. Such "crediting" is described by Paul in Romans 4 and Galatians 3-4 as "imputation". When we speak about "imputation", we refer to the work of another credited to my account. The means by which Christ's life, death and resurrection are "credited" or "imputed" is by "faith". In saving faith, the sinner responds to God's gracious calling and receives all that Jesus worked on their behalf. Romans 5:1-11 summarizes all of the blessings flowing from justification by faith - peace with God, access to God, hope in God and love from God. 

When we consider how Adam's sin is passed down from one generation to the next, we find his sin, his shame and his transgression "credited" or "imputed" to all humanity. The disobedience, guilt and failure of Adam was "imputed" to all of his posterity (see Genesis 3:16-19; Job 31:33; Romans 5:12-21). Many older writers refer to how Christ, in effect, "undid" what the first Adam had done. 

2. Christ's resurrection and "two-Adam" theology

Concerning the second major doctrine illustrated by the Adam and Jesus comparison, we find that 1 Corinthians 15:20-23 and 15:45-48 emphasize the resurrection. Perhaps the one verse that brings home the power of this comparison between Adam and Christ, the "first Adam" and "the last or second Adam", is 1 Corinthians 15:22 - 

"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive." 

The first Adam's choice - disobedience and breaking of God's original covenant with him - resulted in God's divine curse, universal death and humanity's separation from God. The second Adam's choices - perfect obedience and completion of that first covenant of obedience and inauguration of the New Covenant of grace in His blood - results in blessing, life and reconciliation. Death flows from the spring of the first Adam's bloodline. Resurrected life issues forth from the Second Adam. 

3. How the Christian life is illustrated by this "two-Adam" comparison
As one dives into this pool of Divine revelation on "the First Adam" and "Second Adam", we quickly find ourselves swimming from the shallow end to the ever deepening side. The central doctrines of justification by faith and resurrection are chief among Christian truths highlighted by this "two-Adam" theology. However, other truths connected to the practical, everyday, Christian life find illumination as well. We will list two of them: believer's baptism and the Christian's growth in sanctification.

A. The meaning of believer's baptism

Once a person has trusted in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, the first major step of Christian obedience involves following through in believer's baptism or immersion into water as replaying the events of Christ's death, burial and resurrection. This important act has as its backdrop the Old Adam/New Adam or Second Adam theology. Romans 6:4-6 states for example: 

"Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin." 

The "old-self" refers to who I once was "in Adam". The "new-self" describes who I am in Christ - the second Adam. 

Or again, Colossians 2:13-14 - 

"When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross." 

Jesus as the "New Adam" grants to the believer a new identity. Baptism pictures the reality of having been transferred from what we were in the first Adam to who we are called to be in Jesus Christ. All of this, of course, can only occur by grace alone through faith alone, with baptism being a subsequent, post-conversion act of obedience by the Christian convert. 

B. The Christian's need to put off the "old man" and put on the "new man" in the daily exercise of sanctification

Colossians 3 really speaks to the necessity of every Christian to "put off" and "put on". Christians are to forsake "the old, former way of life" from which they were saved and embrace their new found identity in Jesus by way of "putting on the new man". Colossians 3:9-10 - 

"Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him." The parallel of these thoughts is found in Ephesians 4:20-24 - 

"But you did not learn Christ in this way, 21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus, 22 that, in reference to your former manner of life, you lay aside the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit, 23 and that you be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth."

The Apostle Peter, I would argue, hints at this comparison of Jesus as the second Adam in one of his letters. For example, Peter writes in 1 Peter 1:17-21 - 

"knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, 19 but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. 20 For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you 21 who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God." 

Peter's ongoing discussion then of how "all flesh is grass" (quoting from Isaiah 40:6ff) echoes the fact that original Adam was a man created from the dust of the ground (see Genesis 2:7). 

Closing thoughts

Today's post was designed to explore the "two-Adam" theology of the New Testament letters of Paul and others. By reading Paul's comparisons of Jesus and Adam in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15, we come to understand four major truths pertinent to Christian identity.

1. Justification by Faith 

2. Christ's resurrection

These first two truths are fundamental to the whole of the Christian faith. The next two truths, illuminated by the "two-Adams" theology, have to do with the fundamentals of Christian living....

3. Believer's Baptism

4. Continuing growth in sanctification 

Monday, July 1, 2019

God's general revelation, special revelation and the fate of the unevangelized

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Psalm 19:1 “The Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows forth His handiwork.

Psalm 19:7 “The Law of the Lord is perfect converting the soul”

John 1:18 “….He has explained Him”.

Colossians 1:16-17 "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

Introduction: I've got a secret to tell you

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Have you ever had a conversation with someone that divulges a secret they have kept hidden for a long time? Prior to their disclosure, you are unaware of what is on their mind. However, upon their telling you the whole secret, you now have access to that which was previously hidden. Sometimes people will use the term "revelation" to describe the full disclosure of secrets.

When we speak about how God has made Himself or His will known to human beings, we refer to such an act as "revelation". Revelation, in its simplest meaning, refers to an "unveiling". For instance, the final book in the New Testament is called by the mysterious sounding title - "The Apocalypse". The term "apocalypse" derives from the same-sounding Greek noun which indicates the unveiling of something previously hidden. Such ideas convey the broad definition of God's revelation of Himself. 

The infinite God, creator of Heaven and Earth, has made available and accessible certain information about Himself in creation and conscience, which Bible teachers call "general revelation". This same God, who being the Creator, is also the Redeemer, and has disclosed specifics about His will and saving intentions in the Old and New Testament scriptures, which Bible teachers refer to as "special revelation". 

What God does through general and special revelation

One of my favorite designations for the Bible is “God’s Book”. The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 begins its first article with these words: 

“The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man.” 

The remainder of the article emphasizes how God is the central character and focal point of sacred scripture. The BFM 2000 describes God as the Bible’s “Author”. 

Further reading yields that by the principles of the Bible, God “judges” men’s hearts. Finally, all scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of Divine revelation. In as much as the Bible is “God’s Book”, we need to also know the “God of the Book”. The above verses tell us three main truths about this God: 

1. His existence is revealed in the external world and the moral realm
(i.e. "general revelation").

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2. He expresses Himself in scripture 
(i.e. "special revelation").

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3. He is explained through Jesus Christ. (i.e. "fullness of revelation through God's special revelation").

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All three of the above points consider how God as Creator is revealed by the general revelation of creation and the conscience; special revelation in the Bible and the fullness of revelation in Jesus Christ. 

Unpacking general revelation

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What kind of God is this God? Undoubtedly we have the special revelation of scripture and the fullness of revelation in Jesus Christ to tell us the specifics about God. However, we also understand that God has expressed Himself in a general, non-redemptive form of revelation that Bible teachers call "general revelation". Why is this term "general revelation" used? The specific knowledge about God (His power, nature and goodness) is accessible to anyone, everywhere who has a heart open to truth. Such revelation about God is discerned through the external physical world and the internal moral intuitions of the human conscience.  

With the increasing tides of secularism and spiritualism, the God of the Bible needs to be explained for what and Who He truly is, the One All-Good, All powerful God. The exercise of discerning God's nature and characteristics from His general revelation in the external world and the moral realm is called "natural theology". 

Prophets of the Old Testament like David in Psalm 8 and 19 and the New Testament Apostles like Paul in Acts 14 and 17 argued for the existence and nature of the true God from observations gleaned from general revelation. Their strategy was to engage their audiences with information they already had about God. Romans 1:18-20 and 2:14 state that all men born into this world have an inherent knowledge of God's  power and moral character. Thus, the pattern of beginning with God's general revelation and the insights of natural theology is one that is advocated by the Bible.

How God can use general revelation to prepare humbled hearts to respond positively to the Gospel

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General revelation, though a non-redemptive form of God's revelation, can nevertheless prepare the human heart for reception of the "brighter-light" of God's special revelation, the Bible, and the fullness of His revelation disclosed through the Bible - Jesus Christ. Passages such as Romans 1:18-31 tell us that none can complain before God on judgment day that they didn't have a chance to know Him, since general moral and eternal qualities of God were revealed to them from general revelation. If such persons were to respond positively to the "lesser-light" of general revelation, then God would already have a Christ-follower ready to meet them with the redemptive special revelation of the Gospel. 

Acts 10 is a wonderful example of how God uses general revelation to prepare the human heart for the time they will hear more fully God's redemptive purposes toward them. The man in question is named "Cornelius". Acts 10:1-16 indicates that Cornelius was a "God-fearer", indicating that, at bare-minimum, He had responded positively to God's general revelation. What follows in the remainder of Acts 10 is the arrival of the Apostle Peter to bring to Cornelius and his household the specific, redemptive revelation of God from the scriptures, as well as the fullness of revelation revealed by the death and resurrection of Christ. 

The Holy Spirit brought conviction through Peter's message and the majority of his listeners were gloriously converted. If Cornelius had turned away from the lesser-light of God's general revelation, then he would had demonstrated his lack of willingness and readiness for God's special revelation. Salvation is all of God, and the rejection of the Gospel is all of man. 

Closing thoughts

Today we looked at the concept of God's revelation of Himself and how He makes Himself known through what is termed: "general revelation". We also touched briefly on two other terms: "special revelation", which is God's identity and redemptive-will through the scriptures and the full-revelation of Himself in Jesus shining forth from the Biblical text. By keeping in mind such distinctions, we can begin to explain how God deals with people who may have never heard of Jesus' name. No one can ever say they were dealt with unfairly by God (Romans 2:4-16). All those who respond to the Gospel call of salvation can only say they were dealt with graciously by God (Acts 16:14; Ephesians 2:8-9; James 1:18). All people who persist in their rejection of the Gospel can never charge God as unmerciful, since they had enough information from general revelation to elicit a forward direction toward Him (Romans 1:18-31). Only the Holy Spirit can open the heart, unstop the ears, take the blinders off the eyes and raise from spiritual death the sinner's will so moved to see, hear and sense the Savior calling them to Himself (John 1:12-13; 16:8-12). The Savior who was moving in the shadows of life in the course of seeing God's general revelation desires to dispel those shadows so that they can run toward Him, the focus of God's special revelation (John 1:9; Titus 2:11-12).