THE stumbling blocks of unbelief - revisited

BASF – CLAUSE 6

“VI- That God, in His kindness, conceived a plan of restoration which, without setting aside His just and necessary law of sin and death, should ultimately rescue the race from destruction, and people the earth with sinless immortals. Rev 21:4; Jno 3:16; 2Tim 1:10; 1Jno 2:25; 2Tim 1:1; Tit 1:2; Rom 3:26; Jno 1:29”

In our previous studies of the Statement of Faith, we examined in some detail the circumstances surrounding the Fall of man from a position of favour with his Creator. Having received the sentence of death in himself (2Cor 1:9; a sentence which, together with the propensity of sin, passed to all his progeny as “the law of sin and death”), Adam became subject to decay – and so dying he did surely die. But death is no respecter of persons; all, whether kings and princes, or babes in the womb (Job 3:13-16) will ultimately succumb to the inherent law of their being, and be brought down to the dust from whence they came. And in this regard, unenlightened man is no better than brute beasts, as Solomon spake: “that which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts; even one thing befalleth them: as the one dieth, so dieth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast: for all is vanity. All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again” (Eccl 3:19,20).

As brute beasts (Jude 10), being innately unable to rise any higher than their grovelling instincts allow, men do not naturally seek to give glory to their Maker. On the contrary, having received the wisdom of an animal – the serpent in Eden – Man developed within himself a mode of thought entirely contrary to his Creator’s will, styled apostolically, “the minding of the flesh” which is “enmity against God” (Rom 8:7). And from this time onwards, the natural inclination of all Adam’s progeny has been to satisfy their bestial instincts – they are naturally unaware of any other way: “for what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1Cor 2:11), revealed in our case, through the written word. All who possess the spirit, or the natural disposition of a man, have no inherent understanding beyond what their animal instinct determines. But for those who open their ears to the things of the Spirit of God – they become enlightened to things Divine, and begin to think and behave, in a manner more pleasing to their Maker.

THE SENTENCE OF DEATH

This arrangement of things, is indeed needful for the ultimate fulfilment of the Creator’s Purpose and is a striking illustration of the ways of Divine Wisdom. The Law established in Eden requires that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 7:23) – and quite rightly so, for the alternative would permit the population of the earth with undying sinners, rather than sinless immortals. To contemplate such a scene would truly be to contemplate a picture of “hell on earth”, to use the colloquial language of our day. It would be a scene of terror, misery and endless suffering. Imagine the consequences if such barbaric characters as Stalin, Hitler, and their sort were to be given endless existence upon earth. With murderers, robbers, adulterers, fornicators, backbiters, deceivers, and so on maintaining an endless existence in society – the consequences are too terrible to contemplate. So it is, that Death, whilst being the ultimate punishment for iniquity, is also the Divinely appointed means for the removal of the wicked from the face of the earth. It is through death, that Sin is condemned to destruction, and that ultimately the most evil of all human kind are utterly taken away, so that only the fading memory of them continues.

But even the most righteous of men also descend into the pit. Scripture is filled with innumerable examples of men and women of faith, courage and obedience to the Divine way – yet the lives of all these were extinguished in death also, to join the ungodly and the sinner in the dust: “there is one event to the righteous, and to the wicked; to the good and to the clean, and to the unclean; to him that sacrificeth, and to him that sacrificeth not: as is the good, so is the sinner …” (Eccl 9:2). In this regard, death brings an equality to all – whether good or bad, rich or poor, the eventual end of all is the same, that is, utter extinction in the grave.

THE INHERITANCE OF “THE LAW OF SIN”

And righteously so too, for in this also we perceive the depths of Divine Wisdom. All human kind have innately a law of their being, which leads them to transgress. This is invariably styled, the diabolos (Heb 2:14), “the law of sin” (Rom 7:25), or “sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3); so called because the flesh of the human constitution is the arena of it’s operation – particularly upon the brain-flesh, from which emanates the thoughts and desires of a man. And it is Divine Justice that sin in the flesh must be put to death in all it’s possessors – in the case of His Son also, in whom it was overcome through obedience as he achieved the victory over it. In all other cases – even among the most righteous of men, sin has victory over them. All have transgressed to some degree, for all are yet “without strength” (Rom 5:6) to successfully contend against the devil inside them – and so all earn an entitlement to death as their wages. No man can keep alive his own soul (Ps 22:29), and no man can redeem another from the snare of the death (Ps 49:7). All have sinned, all have fallen short of Divine Glory (Rom 3:23). All have succumbed – and therefore all are pronounced worthy of death.

THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF “THE LAW OF SIN AND DEATH”

If it were otherwise – if man were strong enough to fully overcome the diabolos, then potentially, he could save himself without Divine Intervention. If there were no fixed “law of sin” powerfully directing man’s thoughts and inclinations away from the things of the Spirit, which he just could not overcome; a man might possibly go through life, never having transgressed, always doing right. He would therefore be unworthy of death, never having earned it as wages – and therefore worthy of resurrection. In this scenario, the Human Race having rebelled, could have redeemed itself! Man could then boast of having achieved his own salvation by works! But such was not the Divine Purpose, for once rebellion had taken place, there were vital principles to be taught – and learned. Having rebelled against his Maker, Man must learn reliance upon Him for all things – he must be taught to humble himself He must be taught to recognise the Almighty’s righteousness in condemning sin – both in cause and effect – and therefore to yield obedience only to Him, relying upon His merciful kindness. It was therefore just that man should be both condemned to the grave and that the bestial disposition of thought he had willingly received from the Serpent should become a fixed law of his being. Only then could he be taught his utter helplessness without God.

In the imposition of “the law of sin and death” upon man therefore, vital principles were being taught, namely that Man is righteously pronounced worthy to die because of rebelliousness; that of himself he is powerless to save – and that therefore he is utterly reliant upon the grace of his Maker in extending an arm of salvation, if it so Pleases Him, to life man out of his helpless plight. And indeed it does Please Him so to do – but without compromising any of His Principles – rather being dependent upon a declaration and acceptance of His Righteousness which was denied at the Fall. So it is, that as our Statement of Faith has it, without setting aside His just and necessary law of sin and death, the Almighty has intervened out of His kindness and love to man, in providing His Only begotten son for the remission of our sins.

The Lord Jesus, as the Creator’s Son meets all the requirements of the case. In him, by virtue of his Divine Paternity was vested the strength to overcome (Ps 80:17) the “law of sin” inherited which he from his mother. In him, the diabolos was overcome throughout a life of mortal travail, when rather than to display the baser qualities of man’s wickedness, he perfectly reflected his Father’s likeness. And in willingly yielding himself to death upon the cross, he condemned the diabolos to destruction in death. In laying down his life, the Lord declared God’s righteous requirement that the very root of iniquity itself must be overcome, and destroyed. Indeed, these are the fundamental principles of redemption outlined by the Spirit through Paul: “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Where is boasting then? It is excluded …” (Rom 3:23-27).

The Lord Jesus declared God’s righteousness, as the basis of forgiveness. He succeeded where all others failed, and so it is by aligning themselves with his victory through faith, baptism (a union with the principles involved with his sacrifice), and the thankful recognition of the Father’s mercy, that others might be granted salvation. And this, without compromising in any way God’s “just and necessary law of sin and death” which is still permitted to operate: “that he might be just, and the justifier …” The way of salvation through the Lord Jesus provides a means for the Father to forgive – and yet be Just in so doing, for the very declaration of His Justness, or Righteousness in Christ forms the basis for us also being justified through faith.

So it is, that by this means, God has ordained a means whereby He should “rescue the race from destruction”, as the BASF has it – but also, and more importantly, a means whereby the earth might ultimately be peopled with sinless immortals. Death is the Divinely appointed means of removing sinners from His Presence, but it is also through the death of His Son that the diabolos, or sin in the flesh also might be removed. The ungodly and the sinner shall pass away as the chaff in the summer threshing floor – even the very memory of them shall be eventually forgotten. And, following the Millenial age of glory – the transitional stage between the flesh and the spirit – all shall be Spirit, and the earth truly shall be filled with the Glory of Yahweh, for He shall then be “all and in all”. During the Millennial Age, the Law of sin and death shall still be operative for the mortals who remain, that those who refuse to submit might be removed, and those who hearken might depend on the grace of their God. But then cometh the end, when death, the last enemy itself shall cease, for it will no longer be necessary. The remaining sinners and ungodly having been removed at the final judgement (Rev 20:13), the Law of Sin and Death will no longer be required to operate, for all who remain will be glorious, immortal, and sinless. That will be the final consummation of all things – when the Kingdom will be handed over to God Himself, and He shall reign supreme, there being no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither any more pain, for all these things shall have passed away (Rev 21:4), being replaced by an endless Olahm of Joy and gladness, righteousness and peace – when true union and fellowship shall subsist between the Creator and His Creation at last.

Christopher Maddocks