THE DIVINE ARCH OF HUMAN REDEMPTION (14)
ON THE WAY TO EMMAUS
When Jesus was betrayed by Judas Iscariot, taken by the leaders of the Jews, condemned to death after the travesty of a trial, led as a lamb to the slaughter, mocked, scourged and finally crucified, his immediate disciples all forsook him and fled. They were devastated by what had happened. Simon Peter decided to return to his original occupation of fishing, as did six others, so disillusioned were they. Then on the third day following their Master’s ignominious death, two other disciples left the scene of the event in great sadness and walked to Emmaus, a village some seven or eight miles distant, a journey taking perhaps two hours. On the way they talked together of the death of Jesus and the circumstances surrounding it. It was paramount in their minds. As they journeyed, a seeming stranger joined himself to them, listened to their conversation and then questioned them about the tragic events. Their replies are revealing to us as to their understanding of the work of Jesus at his first appearing, the more so, as not knowing the identity of the stranger (their eyes being holden), they were quite uninhibited in their answers. They were asked, What things are you talking about? To which they replied: “concerning Jesus of Nazareth who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people; and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel (Luke 24:19/21).
It is clear from these words that these disciples regarded Jesus as the Messiah – the one who would be their Redeemer. But the Savour and Redeemer from what? They quite evidently were not only blind at that time to the identity of Jesus, but blind too of his sacrificial work and its necessity, with all its tremendous consequences. They and the other disciples had their eyes too close to the canvas. They witnessed the miracles he performed, they made note of the power he commanded, they were moved by and felt the force of the gracious words he spoke, they observed the manner of the man, his love and compassion, his hatred of all things foreign to the teaching of the Scriptures – and yet they missed the reality and its meaning. They looked for him to redeem them, to break and remove the power of Rome over the nations, to restore again the Kingdom to Israel, give back to the nation their former glory and in the process, reward them with positions of rulership for their faith and loyalty to him.
A WRONG PERSPECTIVE
But they got their perspective in the Divine scheme of things out of focus and in so doing, overlooked the most vital thing of all. They had not considered that before their cherished desires could be realised (and they were not wrong in possessing them), there had to be a removal of that which fundamentally lay at the root not only of Israel’s problems, but those of all mankind. That which came between the purpose of God with the earth and its consummation – the fulfilment of His exceedingly great and precious promise with the Fathers of Israel – had not only to be identified, but its power overcome and itself destroyed. Jesus was concerned with the establishment of eternal things. There could be no solution in any lasting sense to the troubles and sorrows of the world then, or at any time without a removal first of that which is the cause of them all, including death itself. That cause is Sin. Remove that, the way is then clear to get rid of it’s effects and for God to bring the fullness of His blessings upon mankind. But how could this be done? Sin is endemic in all things human. Because of it, humanity is under the sentence of death – all of it. God has so decreed and we ourselves are among the dying witnesses to that truth. How then could life and immortality be brought to light in such a seemingly impossible situation? It is clear that man of himself could not bring redemption. He is powerless. That being so, any solution must be of God, and therefore, an outworking of His Mind. So, the Atonement is first and foremost God Manifestation, an exhibition to the world of the wonder and greatness of His character; for all his attributes, his love and mercy, his justice and righteousness in their perfection and harmonious interplay are revealed.
OPENING THE EYES OF UNDERSTANDING
With these basic truths in our minds, we are able to appreciate the words of Jesus to those two disciples on the way to Emmaus: “ought not Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into his glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded to them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:26-27).
Having returned to Jerusalem some time later in the evening of that same day, these two disciples were met with the other disciples and some friends, and were joyfully relating to them their experiences when Jesus appeared in their midst: “and he said unto them, these are the words which I spake unto you while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the law of Moses and in the prophets and in the Psalms concerning me. Then opened he their understanding that they might understand the Scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written and thus it behoved Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among the nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:33-47).
Here, in these pregnant words, Jesus focussed their and our minds upon the purpose and the ‘raison d’ê’ of it all. He was the Word made flesh, He was the one around whom revolved the whole plan of God in the salvation of men. He was the only begotten of the Father expressly raised up for the purpose. In the volume of the book it is written of him.
In all the preceding articles of this series, we have directly or by implication, shown the marvellous exactness of the statement. We have as it were, traversed that road to Emmaus with the Master at our side. We have in effect, heard his voice. The words are on record, and we have quoted many of them, taken from Genesis to Malachi. But it is necessary to remember that it is not just the words that matter, it is not even the way they so marvellously build up beforehand a replica of the life of our Lord in all its details – thereby powerfully testifying to Divine inspiration. The matter that is crucial is a right understanding of the reason for it all – the why’s and wherefore’s which the disciples for so long failed to grasp.
THE EFFECT OF UNDERSTANDING
In recounting the prime features, even the details of his life, his sufferings and his ignominious death using Scripture as his narrative, Jesus expounded why it was all so essential. And the revelation of the Truth transformed them – “they said one to another, did not our heart burn within us while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures” (Luke 24:32). In point of fact, their hearts thereafter never ceased to burn; their minds aflame, their enthusiasm fired as never before to respond to such love as was demonstrated in the sacrifice of Christ and all that was consequent upon it.
It led them to give their lives in service in the preaching of the gospel in all its saving efficacy. Repentance and remission of sins!!
CHRIST FORESHADOWED IN THE LAW
Nothing like that had ever been preached before and the good news was to go out to all nations. For the disciples as Jews to realise and accept as they did such a radical message, involved more than ordinary conviction. Here was a teaching of a doctrine which superseded the Law of Moses. The very idea was anathema to the thought processes in which they and their nation had been nurtured.
The Law had been given by God – it was exclusive to Israel. They were God’s chosen people, to them were committed the Oracles of God and they were very conscious and proud of the fact, but they failed not only to keep it, but to realise that it was but the shadow and not the substance of a great work of divine salvation and reconciliation. It was a ‘schoolmaster to bring them unto Christ’. The Law made nothing perfect – an ideal, the accomplishment of which lies at the heart of God’s purpose. It is evident therefore that sin which stood in the way had to be removed, not just covered; but how?
“For the law having a shadow of good things to come and not the very image of the things can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect, for then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. Then said I, Lo I come, in the volume of the book it is written of me, to do thy will, O God”(Heb 10:1-7).
We have been through the “volume of the book” and traced the references to Christ’s redeeming work in prospect. That being done, we must now endeavour to show how the taking away of sin was accomplished, for it was that which was particularly referred to in the doing of God’s will, seeing that all else of His purpose was predicated upon it’s removal.
THE EVENTS IN EDEN
To do this we, must firstly go over some of the ground already covered especially that which we touched upon in the first two articles in this series. Indeed it would be useful if students would at this point read again what is there stated, for it forms the back-cloth against which the sacrifice of Jesus is seen in relief.
We made note of the fact that our first parents were originally created different from what they afterwards became. Instead of remaining “very good”, they were sentenced to death by God, expelled from paradise and made subject to a new and evil constitution of things where pain, sorrow and mortality were endemic. This so radical a change, was brought about by sin – which in its primary meaning, as we stated, is transgression of divine law. They ate of the fruit of the tree of which their Creator had said, “Thou shalt not eat of it, for in the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die” (Gen 2:17). They disobeyed God.
A MATTER OF CAUSE AND EFFECT
It is essential however, to understand that their act of transgression was an effect and we must search out the cause, for, as we shall see, the Scriptures include that cause in the definition of sin.
Adam and Eve were not created with the cause of transgression instilled within them. It was in the beginning extraneous to them. It originated in the mind of the serpent as a process of thought, and they allowed it to be transferred to themselves by their own conscious and responsible choice. It was a process at enmity with the mind of God, and they brought it into the realm of morality. For that was the distinguishing feature of our first parents – they were moral creatures. Moreover, because this diabolic thinking was absorbed and its power translated into action, its force remained with them. They had given priority to it to the exclusion to the mind of God, and it became a principle which, by the law of heredity was passed on to all their progeny. We have no need to emphasise the fact for we are all living – or rather dying – witnesses to that truth. Its innate power we know only too well, for we fight against it constantly. It is so strong that at times it overwhelms us, and we succumb to its power and transgress.
THE ORIGIN OF SIN AND DEATH
So, as by one man sin entered into the world and death by sin, so death has passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. (Rom 5:12). Here is cause and effect stated. The children of Adam and Eve and their children and the countless generations of men down to our day – including ourselves as their living extensions, inherit from them something which has the power of death in it. Indeed, it is because of this that man is mortal. Human nature dies because of itself – because of that within it which causes men and women to transgress Divine Law.
We have to bear in mind that God is not arbitrary in his acts. He is Righteous and Just as well as Merciful and Kind. If we ask why is it that all the descendants of Adam and Eve die – why should they? – the direct, simple answer would be because, as the scriptures declare, there is not a man that liveth that sinneth not (2Chron 6:36), and as the wages of sin is death, so all men die.
That answer seems quite logical and conclusive. But it is not all the answer. Consider for a moment. Babies and children who have not personally transgressed Divine law, they die also. Thousands of them die every year. They too were evidently under the sentence of death, as are we all even before we transgressed. The question then arises, Why? Where is the justice and righteousness of God in that? It is not sufficient to say that we inherit mortality. Mortality is death – and you cannot have death in so far as human beings are concerned without sin, for the one is cause, and the other effect. Moreover, it must relate to each individual. If then, we have death without personal transgression, where and what is the sin? Can it be identified?
RETURNING TO GENESIS
To answer that question, we need to go back to the book of Genesis, and the beginning of things. In the second article of this series, we looked at the events which led up to the transgression of our first parents in the garden of Eden. The words of the serpent at variance with the mind of God, found lodgement in the mind of Eve. Having imbibed the subtle and powerful words, with them rankling in her mind, she saw that the forbidden fruit was “good for food and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise” (Gen 3:6).
The serpent mind stimulated latent propensities in Eve to such a degree that they overruled all other considerations, so that transgression followed, for “she did eat, and gave also to her husband with her, and he did eat”. Immediately there followed a transformation: “and the eyes of them both were opened and they knew that they were naked and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons and they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden (Gen 3:7-8).
THE SERPENT MIND
Here we see that by transgression was produced a state which was out of harmony both with their Creator and their environment. Their awakened conscience, their nakedness, their fear of and hiding from God, all give clear evidence of the changes which transgression brought about. These things are however, effects, the cause of which was a mind dominated by a serpent reasoning at enmity with the mind of God.
It was a mind which had come of their own choice and in their pristine state it became imprinted upon them. When men, knowing the will of God, choose to act contrary to it, they bring upon themselves the operation of God’s displeasure in ways which are seen to rebound their own evil upon themselves. The principle is illustrated throughout the Scriptures.
So God, in His indictment upon the serpent passed judgement “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed, it shall bruise thy head and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). We have only to ask who are the seed of the serpent to conclude that it is generically they who exhibit the mind of the serpent; who have it’s characteristics. In other words it is men and women the world over from the fall of man until now – including ourselves.
THE CARNAL MIND
From birth we have implanted in our minds a natural hostility to all things Divine. Men do not have of themselves an affinity with the mind of God – just the opposite. The whole history of the human race state quite plainly, “the carnal mind is enmity against God for it is not subject to the law of God neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God” (Rom 8:7-8). The impact of these words is quite simple and unambiguous. Men may protest as much and as strongly as they will, but their very protest in whatever form of sophistry it may take, be it humanist or libertarian, only serves to prove the veracity of it.
For the most part, the human race is ignorant of God’s laws, willingly or otherwise. They just do not want to know. Even where they are professed, they have been so transformed by the reasonings of men as to be but a caricature. Right from the time that Adam and Eve listened to the voice of the serpent, imbibed its words, accepted its reasoning, succumbed to its influence, so their progeny have been under the same hypnotic evil power. It is suffused through all the world that they themselves have created with hideous and indeed frightening results.
THE REAL CAUSE OF EVIL
In their more pensive moments, men admit the evil, its intensity and scope, and search for its cause. Many attribute it to a fiendish fallen angel who, upon being ejected from Heaven for his opposition to God, wreaks his vengeance by exercising his power upon the human race to evil ends. This fiend has, according to their surmisings, manifested himself during their history in various forms and names, but generally is called the Devil, or Satan. It is remarkable that men, from the beginning have had a penchant for attributing blame to others for evils for which they are themselves responsible. In reality, the Scriptures reveal they are, naturally speaking, both individually and collectively satanic. That they refuse to accept such a divine assessment only serves to confirm its truth.
The apostle James asks the question, “from whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence even of your lusts that war in your members, ye lust and have not, ye kill and desire to have and cannot obtain, ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not, yet ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss that ye may consume it upon your lusts. Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God. Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, the spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy? But he giveth more grace, wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God, resist the devil and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:1-7).
Here, the apostle in telling phrases sums up the reality of the situation going back to the beginning of things. Notice the terms used and their correlation – lusts in our members; enmity against God, the spirit that dwelleth in us, the devil, all descriptive of the natural, carnal mind in its individual and corporate operation, whose thinking pervades the world at large.
THE INFLUENCE OF THE CARNAL MIND
Its influence began in Eden and was made evident in Cain, the firstborn of a fallen race, found universal manifestation in the days of Noah when God “saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen 6:5). It was a world fit only for destruction, for it was beyond remedy. Since the flood, the same evil characteristics have been paramount. The whole history of mankind is a running commentary on the words of James, diversified only in degrees, not kind, from Sodom and Gomorrah, down through the centuries, to our own day, when we have again reached a depth of depravity which parallels those times and which is ripe for destruction.
In laying emphasis, to the point of repetition upon these features of mankind, we are left with no illustrations as to either their origin, pervasion or power. Their manifestations are not confined to any particular nation, tongue or people, although there may be minor differences in degree. All men are involved. Nor is their lack of appreciation of these truths, any mitigation of their culpability, for God has not only made plain the facts, but has in his great love, mercy and condescension, provided the means of deliverance. The tragedy is, that people for the most part, prefer to believe the philosophisings of men rather than the word of God.
THE INTERNAL WARFARE
The apostle Paul, writing of his own personal daily battle against the Carnal mind with all its intrinsic power, said this:
“I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing, for to will is present with me but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil that I would not, that I do – now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. I find a law then that when I would do good, evil is present with me, for I delight in the law of God after the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin in my members – O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank od through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:18-25).
From this testimony, supported as it is from what we have read from the epistle of James, we have confirmation of a truth, vital in a correct understanding of the subject of the Atonement. That truth is that men are under a sentence of death upon two counts, namely:
¬ Being possessed of a body and mind, for you cannot have one without the other – which in conscious natural thought in the regulating of its life brings it into a relationship of hostility, of enmity to God. In its outworking, it is the motivating power which is the cause of:
Personal transgression. Both are described quite properly as Sin in the Scriptures, for the one is but the cause and extension of the other.
It is surely evident from all the foregoing teaching that for any effective, lasting solution to the problem of sin, it is not sufficient for just its effects to be overcome. The victory can only be complete when sin is destroyed. Next month, if the Lord Will, we will endeavour to work out how this was wonderfully accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.