REDEFINING THE WORK OF CHRIST: XIII
In solving problems, Paul looked for answers and ended up redefining the work of Christ and the work of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s theology evolved out of his psychology and it is spread over all his writings. Paul did not develop a systematic and an organized theology, but he developed a practical day by day theology, by which a person had to live by. Paul did not separate theory from practice because they were one and the same. For instance, Paul did not separate grace from work! Paul’s interpreters did! The interpreters made salvation easy and more convenient. To Paul, “works” were the evidence that grace was at work. Paul’s entire practical theology was based on “cause and effect,” as it occurred in the history of the Jewish people. Paul’s practical theology is build into the concept of predestination and the foreknowledge of God.
Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruptions to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:7-10).
Long before Paul, Joshua, the successor to Moses, challenged his people, and the people responded affirmatively:
Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if you be unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods of your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell; but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
Then the people answered, “Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD, to serve other gods; for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage, and who did those great signs in our sight, and preserved us in all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the LORD drove out before us all the people, the Amorites who lived in the land; therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.”
But Joshua said to the people, “You cannot serve the LORD; for he is a holy God; he is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions for your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, the he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.”
And the people said to Joshua, “Nay; but we will serve the LORD.” Then Joshua said to the people, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.” And they said, “We are witnesses.” He said, “Then put away the foreign gods which are among you, and incline your heart to the LORD, the God of Israel.” And the people said to Joshua, “The LORD our God we will serve, and his voice we will obey.” So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem. And Joshua wrote these words in the book of the law of God; and he oak a great stone, and set it up there under the oak in the sanctuary of the LORD. And Joshua said to all the people, “Behold, this stone shall be a witness against us; for it has heard all the words of the LORD which he spoke to us; therefore it shall be a witness against you, let you deal falsely with your God” (Joshua 24:14-27).
And long before Joshua’s time, Adam was given a choice and a warning:
Then the Lord took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die” (Genesis 2:15-17).
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate (Genesis 3:6-7).
Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he put forth his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever”—therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man; and as the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life (Genesis 3:22-24).
Man was not predestined to fail! If man does fail — then, it is by his own choice. Man was predestined to succeed! And so was the seed of Abraham, and so are the Christians. It is by what a person does, which determines what that person becomes, and where he or she ends up. God, in His foreknowledge and grace, knew that man would make bad choices. Therefore, God put Christ in the way of total disaster (that means, without Christ the whole world would have gone to hell) before the world and man was created. This is where Paul’s theology began! And Paul’s theology continues until the end of time.
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace which he lavished upon us. For he has made known to us in all wisdom and insight the mystery of his will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fulness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth (Ephesians 1:3-10).
Predestination is not a mystery as some interpreters have tried. And they still do make predestination a mystery. God knew, before He made man with the ability to choose, that man would become disobedient. God, simply, could not let disobedience perpetuate — and therefore God determined that man must die. At the same time, God loved man, whom he made in “His image and His likeness,” and God was not willing to let man perish. Therefore, God ordained His Son to defeat death, so that man can live with God in eternity. God’s love consists of grace, which gives man a second chance in Christ to be obedient to God’s love and to God’s grace. Love and grace cannot exist by itself. Love and grace has to be replenished or reciprocated. God wants to be loved back through the love man can show and do something for his fellowmen. It is a commandment by God and by His Son to be obedience to God’s Commandments and reciprocate on love:
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37-40).
“He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?” Jesus answered him, “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me (John 14:21-24).
There is confusion and misunderstanding, as to what death means or what death consists off? All men and physical things must die to allow reproduction in order to sustain life on earth. There is another death — and it is not in this life, but in the hereafter. Flesh and blood do not inherit the kingdom of heaven, but it is in this earthly body that man must prepare for membership in the kingdom of heaven. It is here on earth, where and when man must qualify by allowing God’s Spirit to turn man into a child of God. The death that Christ conquered is the wall that separated the “unredeemed soul” or “spirit of man” from eternity. Adam did not just lose physically, but also spiritually. The concern is over the second death, which will forever separate man from God. Man is predestined to be judged on “Resurrection Day.”
Then I saw a great white throne and him who sat upon it; from his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead in them, and all were judged by what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire; and is any one’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:11-15).
So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh—for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him (Romans 8:12-17).
But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. “For God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All thing are put in subjection under him,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things under him, that God may be everything to everyone (I Corinthians 15:20-28).
Lo! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed (die physically), in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable nature must put on the imperishable, and this mortal nature must put on immortality. Then the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:
“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
“O death, where is thy victory?
O death, where is thy sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain (I Corinthians 15:51-58).
God depends on man to carry out his purpose. “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). Even among the few who are chosen by God and by Christ, like Adam or Judas did go their separate ways. On the other hand, Abraham obeyed the call and so did the Apostle Paul. These men fulfilled God’s predestined plan and God’s purpose, and so should every person who has been blessed with Christ’s gift of grace and love. They do not labor in vain and will not face the second death. Returning and sharing in God’s love and grace justifies man. Forgiveness is an act of grace and love. The chosen are predestined to love and to forgive. When the chosen Jews failed, God used the Babylonians and the Romans to accomplish His purpose. Christ did not die in vain.
We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified (Romans 8:28-30).
And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God—not because of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:1-10).
Paul did not take grace or salvation for granted. Paul did not have his feet or his head in heaven. He was not saved to sit down and let God do the work and keep him saved. Paul believed that every believer in Christ was in the race to the finish. And every Christian had to be equipped with the right armor. And it was Paul’s responsibility to arm them and the future Christians while on earth. Paul’s life was filled with hardships imposed on him by enemies and friends and nature.
For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law—though not being myself under the law—that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law—not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ—that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all me, that I might by all means save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified (I Corinthians 9:19-27).
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places. Therefore take the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the gospel of peace; above all taking the shield of faith, with which you can quench all the flaming darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication to that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, and also for me, that utterance may be given me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak (Ephesians 6:10-20).
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one — I am talking like a madman — with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beating, and often near death. Five times I have received at the hand of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many sleepless night in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of my anxiety for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant (II Corinthians 11:23-29)?
For I am already on the point of being sacrificed; the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day, and not only to me but also to all who loved his appearing (II Timothy 4:6-8).
How many of us can say that? What have we got to show for being Christians?