Chapter # 5 Paragraph # 2 Study # 10
Thesis: Every divine demand for righteous behavior from fallen man can be taken in one of two ways: either the commands can be taken as expressions of what God requires of man in order for him to live; or the commands can be taken as a two-fold question -- "Do you see what you are?" "Would you like to be something different?"
Introduction: In our studies of Romans 5:12-21 we have seen Paul argue that we are what we are by virtue of whence we have come. If we have come from Adam, we are sinners by nature. If we have come from Christ, we are saints by nature. If we are sinners by nature, all that we can hope to produce is sin. If we are saints by nature, all we can expect to produce is righteousness. It would seem, therefore, that the only really necessary issue would be for God to alter our nature -- and, in one sense, that is all that is necessary. However, as with all others things, the alteration of our nature has a "required process" that is very much involved in the transformation of the grub into the butterfly. Thus, having presented the "bottom line" as the identity issue [whether we are of Adam or of Christ], Paul takes one further step and addresses the divine purpose for the addition/inclusion of the Law.
The question before us this evening is this: Why did God insert the Law into the process? The Law was given more than 1300 years before Christ came. By anyone's standard of measure, that is a long time. The question, therefore, does really exist: what was God seeking to do by putting the seed of Abraham under a covenant relationship to Himself?
July 4, 2006
- I. A Prejudicial Analogy.
- A. "Coming from" Adam involves an extended process.
- 1. This process has four stages.
- a. First, there is the "gestation" stage.
- 1) In this stage, the union of Adam's seed with Eve's egg takes place and the initial development begins.
- 2) When the initial development period reaches its conclusion, the child is thrust from Eve's womb into this world.
- b. Second, there is the "pre-puberty" stage.
- 1) In this stage, the child cannot reproduce itself so that it cannot pass on its heritage to the next generation.
- 2) In this stage, there is a learning process that encompasses a myriad of skill development issues that is attended by the "nature" that the union of Adam's seed with Eve's egg produced.
- c. Third, there is the "reproductive" stage.
- 1) In this stage, there is sufficient "maturity" to "reproduce".
- 2) By this "reproduction" the process begins to repeat itself.
- d. Fourth, the repetition of the process takes off in terms of "generations" so that you and I are somewhere downline, multiple generations later, but of the same "stuff".
- 2. This process has two critical aspects.
- a. It is incremental, not instantaneous, passing through four distinct stages.
- b. It is "uniform" in what it produces over-all, though there is a myriad of variations in the details.
- B. "Coming from" Christ also involves a process that invokes some similar terminology.
- 1. The "gestation" stage involves what Paul, in Galatians 4:19, called "Christ being formed in you."
- a. In this text, Paul uses "travail" (a term typically signifying "enduring the birth pains associated with bringing a person into this world" -- used only in Galatians 4:19; 4:27; and Revelation 12:2).
- b. The greater context of Galatians strongly implies that the issue of Christ being formed in you is the issue of coming to grips with the doctrine of salvation by grace without works.
- c. This period parallels the 13-1500 year era of "Law" (which was imposed for the purpose of clearly establishing one major truth: man is in a kind of bondage to Sin that he cannot break) and the 2000 year era of "Grace" (which was extended for the purpose of clearly establishing one major truth: Jesus is the Bondage-Breaker).
- 1) Interestingly, the Great Tribulation period of prophecy is likened unto "birth pangs" in Matthew 24:8; Mark 13:8; and 1 Thessalonians 5:3...making the coming of the Kingdom of God parallel to the "thrusting of the now-formed baby into this world".
- 2) Thus, we see that there is a deliberate parallelism between the work of God in history to bring about the Kingdom on earth and the work of God in an individual's history to bring him into Kingdom participation on the earth.
- 2. On the basis of the fact that the "birth" event is tied by Psalm 2:7 and Acts 13:33 to the resurrection from the dead, we see that the analogy compels us to understand that, in a sense, our entire life in this world is our "gestation" period...a time when all of the details of our ability to live in the world of God's Kingdom are being developed with a view to "birth" as a sin-free human being who, being "in Christ", is incapable of sin and "naturally" capable of living in true holiness.
- a. Romans 8:22-23 puts this "travailing" motif into "this present time" that will not be finished until "the redemption of the body" (which is directly linked to our resurrection).
- b. What this signifies seems to be this: until the process of bringing us to a completeness in Christ has been accomplished, our current experience will be that of "developing".
- 1) This "gestation" stage involves what 2 Timothy 3:17 calls becoming "adequate, equipped for every good work."
- a) Since the New Testament tells us pointedly that all good that is produced by us in this present lifetime is of the Holy Spirit, we are not, technically, "adequate" in this lifetime.
- b) This makes our experience as believers, while in this world, a "gestation" reality: developing, but not yet able to function in "Kingdom style".
- 2) Just as there is activity in the womb by the developing child, there is activity by the believer in this "womb-like" world that is preparing the person for "birth", but the activity is only barely similar to the "life to come".
- 3. The "pre-puberty" stage, historically, will apparently be the earthly Kingdom of Christ when there is a large measure of "life", but things are not yet like they need to be -- as evidenced by the rebellion at the end of that 1,000 year period.
- 4. The "reproductive" stage involves the "final redemption" when the nature of Christ is the only nature we possess.
- a. This is the post-resurrection era.
- b. The "reproduction" is of the motives and actions of the nature that is of Christ.
- C. There are problems with our understanding of this analogy because, as in the "gestation of the child" there is a pretty full development of individual parts of the body before the whole child is complete, so also in the "gestation of the Body of Christ" there is a pretty full development of individuals in that body before the whole Body is complete.
- 1. Perhaps it will help if we see our lives in this present world as over-all gestational, but in the details, "pre-puberty".
- a. Paul teaches that as we are able to live by "faith" in our "resurrection with Christ", we are able to live a kind of "pre-puberty" life outside of the womb.
- b. But, the process of learning to live by resurrection power is complex, so we find ourselves in some areas quite fully developed and in others having a great deal of development yet needed.
- 2. In any case, the analogy helps us to understand Paul's concept of the purpose of God in imposing the Law.
- II. Paul's Explanation of God's Addition of the Law.
- A. Paul's "unity of humanity in Adam" thesis creates a reality of God's dealings with humanity as though it was one human being.
- B. In this divine treatment of humanity as a single human being, the insertion of the Law by God was a very lengthy "teaching session" that, according to Paul's focus in Galatians, involved the issue of "forming Christ in man".
- 1. This issue was the basic issue of bringing the seed of God into union with the soul of man.
- 2. That could only happen if man was willing to permit God to enter into his life and "regenerate" him.
- 3. The Law, according to Romans 5:20, was inserted into the picture to "create" this willingness on man's part.
- a. How does this play out?
- b. First, the Law causes sin to "abound".
- 1) This means, on one hand, that it came in to begin to identify man's actions as evil.
- a) By the Law is the knowledge of sin (Romans 3:20).
- b) I had not known sin but by the Law (Romans 7:7).
- 2) This also means, on the other hand, that it came to actually instigate man's evil actions.
- a) The strength of sin is the Law (1 Corinthians 15:56).
- b) Sin took occasion by the Law to kill me (Romans 7:11).
- 3) Thus, the true nature of fallen man is unmasked: he is only evil continually (Genesis 6:5; and Romans 3:12; and Mark 10:18).
- c. The Law also brings the clear announcement of wrath (Romans 3:19-20 and 4:15).
- d. So that man finds himself under wrath and without any capacity to change his own nature.
- e. Thus, in some, the willingness to seek salvation develops by reason of the schoolmaster (Galatians 3:24).