Wednesday, January 07, 2004

What Say Ye

“… without shedding of blood is no remission.” Hebrews 9:22

In the garden, before the fall, Adam was told that the day he ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil on that day he would surely die (Gen. 2:17). But in fact when Adam sinned he did not die immediately, at least not in a physical sense. On that day God killed animals and clothed Adam and Eve with their skins. Blood was shed, but it was not the blood of Adam and Eve, who had transgressed God’s Law/Word, but the blood of what must have been “clean” animals.

God spared Adam. He was gracious and did not kill him as he had promised to do. Animals died instead, and God made their skins to be a covering for our first parents. Before they sinned there was no need for a covering, but because of their sin they were now in need of a something to cover their nakedness. Their own attempt at clothing was not acceptable and God provided an acceptable covering for them. This is true for all of us. We are in need of a covering. They needed an outward and an inward covering. God provides the needed covering in both cases. Animals were substituted for Adam and eve. The animals died instead of them and Christ died as a substitute for all who are saved from spiritual death. We are told in Galatians 3:27 “For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ.” Just as Adam and Eve were physically clothed by God, all who are saved are clothed by Christ.

Before God clothed them in animal skins he pronounced judgement upon all involved in the fall. The important “curse” for us here is the one pronounced on the serpent. The Lord says:

And 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)

This is the proto-evangelium or the first promise of the Saviour to come. God makes this pronouncement to the serpent in the presents of Adam and Eve. It is after this promise of a future Saviour that God then kills animals in place of (so I believe) Adam and Eve and cloths them.

All persons from this point on who are to be saved look forward to the promised Seed of the woman for their redemption. The whole human race fell in Adam because of his sin. Adam was the federal or covenant head of the whole human race. When he sinned we all fell into sin with him.

Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned… (Rom. 5:12)

For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. (I Cor. 15:22)

We all die in Adam because we are all fallen in Adam. Because of the sin of this one man all of us are heirs to sin and death. Adam’s sin corrupted not simply his nature, but the nature of all his natural descendants and this sinful corrupted state doesn’t manifest itself in us after we reach a so-called “age of accountability” but we are sinners before God from the very point of conception.

Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Ps. 51:5)

Psalm 51 is a prayer of repentance written by King David. David is confessing his sin and in verse five he speaks of his being defiled with sin even from his conception in his mother’s womb. What David says of himself is true of all natural sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. No one since Adam has, at birth, possessed original righteousness. We have all been tainted with sin from conception. This is our inheritance from the first Adam. He is the federal head of the human race and in him we all sin and in him we all die.

In our modern individualistic world this doctrine is not liked by many people. They will say “Hey it was Adam who sinned not me, so why should I suffer for his sin?” This is a good question and I will attempt to answer it.

When God “covenanted” with Adam, Adam stood as the federal head of all his posterity. When he fell, we all fell. The idea of someone being a covenant or “federal” head is a common feature found throughout the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments.

And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying, And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; (Gen. 9:8,9)

Here we learn why God has not and will not destroy the earth by flood again. God covenanted with Noah and his “seed” after him. We are all Noah’s seed. God made this covenant with Noah and us more then four thousand years ago. Yet it is still valid today, because while Noah was the original person with whom God made this Covenant he made it with us under Noah’s covenant or federal headship. God’s promises are, and His curses are, generational and not simply with individuals.

Let’s look at some other examples.

But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear him, and his righteousness unto children's children; To such as keep his covenant, and to those that remember his commandments to do them. (Ps.103: 17, 18)

God’s blessing is here promised to be generational (we see that it goes as far as to grandchildren), but there is a condition. Each subsequent generation must likewise keep God’s covenant. I believe this is the constant pattern set in Scripture in both the Old and New Covenants. God promised blessings to those that follow him and keep His Covenant. He makes this promise with an individual, a nation or a generation in time, but it is always extended to future generations as well.

He will bless them that fear the LORD, both small and great. The LORD shall increase you more and more, you and your children. (Ps.115:13, 14)

Here in Ps. 115 we see another example of God’s generational promise to His people. In Isaiah 59: 21 we read “As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed's seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.”

Again, here in Isaiah, God’s promise and covenant are not just to those with whom it is made, but with future generations as well. This is a constant refrain of Scripture. But in the verse below we find something different. In Exodus 20 when God gives the Ten Commandments He speaks negatively along generational lines.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; (Exodus 20:5)

Those that rejected God, their descendents were (are?) somehow affected, because of the sins of the fathers, for up to at least four generations (great, great grandchildren). This should, for the sake of our posterity, make us strive to serve the Lord righteously (yet we must not forget that our salvation is by grace and not works, but as Paul says in Gal. 2:10 it is “unto good works”).

This generational promise is a constant refrain throughout the Old Covenant and I believe it is repeated in the New Covenant. If this is true then much of the modern American Christian’s individualistic understanding of God’s Word will have to be re-examined and re-worked in order to incorporate the covenant or federal concept of how the Lord deals with His people.

This idea may seem new to many, but it is as old as the church itself (Old and New) and has been (up until modern times) the generally held view of things. I am not writing something new. If one studies historic Christian thought he/she will see that it is the modern individualistic (baptistic) idea, which is the new kid on the block (theologically speaking).

So far we have looked at the spiritual aspects and consequences of Adams fall. In him we all fell, and have no original righteousness. We are therefore in subjection to sin and death, both physically and spiritually. But there are even more “earthy” aspects of the fall that effect all of us.

The earth at creation was very good, and man was given a job to perform in the garden. He was to “to dress it and to keep it, that is he was to work.” Before the fall his labours were not arduous, but because of Adam’s sin God cursed the earth itself.

And unto Adam he said, “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Gen. 3:17-19)

This is again something we have inherited from Adam, because of his sin. We are born into a world that that demands burdensome work on our part so that we can provide our daily needs. Is this fair? For thousands of years people have had to struggle to survive in a world corrupted because of someone else’s actions. Millions have died of hunger and thirst partly because the covenant head of our race, Adam, sinned against God.

So in Adam we see that God’s covenant with him was not to him alone, but to him and his posterity. The repercussion of Adam’s sin has caused dramatic consequences for all of us, both physically and spiritually. This is because he stood as covenant head for the whole race of man. The consequence will be felt even by the very last person born just before the end of history at the Second Advent of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Noah also is covenant head over all men. God determined to destroy most of the race, but to save Noah. Noah was a “just man” who “walked with God” (Gen. 6:9). In Gen. 7:1 we read “And the LORD said unto Noah, Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation.” Notice we learn nothing of the spiritual condition of Noah’s wife, his sons or his daughter-in-laws. God’s covenant is with Noah, but all those mentioned above benefit, because he is their federal/covenant head. God blesses and saves Noah’s household because of Noah’s righteousness.

Covenant headship is an important biblical concept lost by much of modern evangelical Christians today and I believe that it is a doctrinal view that we desperately need to recover. Covenant headship is found in the New Testament as well. God’s promises here follow the Old Covenant pattern. One place where we see this is in Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. Here peter repeats the same covenant promise that was so familiar to his Jewish audience. We read, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.” (Acts 2:38,39)

God always has dealt with people both covenantally and generationally, and he still does today.

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