MESSAGE FOR OCTOBER 25, 1998 FROM ROMANS 5:14

 

          This week, we continue our study of the second half of the fifth chapter of Romans.  Last week, we saw that Paul narrows the issue of salvation history down to its two central figures, Adam and Jesus Christ.  This week, we want to continue to look at the relationship between these two.  Last week, we said that Adam brought death into the world when he introduced sin and this death came even before sin could be labeled and energized by the law which came through Moses.  Sin brings the death sentence, pure and simple.  Lord willing, next week we will look at Christ’s solution to the sin of Adam which Paul treats in the rest of the chapter.

       One of the central requirements or prerequisites for Christ-like living is have a biblical answer to this question, “Why did God put me here?”  Or, to put it another way, “What is the broad, over arching purpose of my life?”  Since we know that God doesn’t ever change His mind, (Malachi 3:6 says, "I the Lord do not change....”) we can find the broad purpose of our lives by finding out what God’s original intention for humanity was.  That has never changed.  Adam hindered that purpose from being realized for a season (in human terms) but God has, through Christ restored what Adam lost.  It hasn’t all been brought into this world yet, but it has all been secured through Christ’s death.  The question which points to our purpose for living is this:  What did Adam lose in the Fall that Christ retrieved through the cross?  When we get the answer to that we will know the reason God created humanity and that will tell us His purpose for us as well.

This week, let’s look at this crucial issue which is addressed in that very small phrase at the end of verse 14 where says, “Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.” 

          Some versions translate this verse more literally as “Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.”  What is meant by “pattern” or “type?”  This is important because the Bible is full of these patterns or types.  A type is basically a thing, person or event in history which God uses to point to or foreshadow a greater thing, person or event.  The Old Testament is loaded with types which foreshadow or point to something about Christ.  Abraham, when he was asked to sacrifice his promised son, Isaac serves as a type of  God the Father who would one day give up His Son as the ultimate sacrifice.  Moses, as the first High Priest serves as a type of Christ as the ultimate High Priest.  The sacrificial lamb within Jewish worship served as a type of Christ as the ultimate sacrificial Lamb of God.  David, as the godly king, serves as a type of the ultimate King of Kings, Christ.  Jonah’s three day experience in the belly of the fish served as a type of Christ’s experience three days in the belly of the earth.  Those are examples of types and Paul says here that Adam is a “type” of Christ.  He was an early representation of what Christ would totally fulfill.   He pointed to Christ in some way.

          The question is; how is Adam a type of Christ?  And the answer is simply; Adam foreshadowed what humanity was supposed to be and Christ fulfilled that as the ultimate human being who perfectly showed what God intended humanity to be when He created Adam.  The basic truth under which everything else falls is this:  Christ, in showing forth God’s ideal for humanity succeeded where Adam failed.  A key text which tells us what God’s intention for humanity is Genesis 1:27 “God created man [Adam] in his own image, in the image of God he created him...”   Theologians argue among one another about what it means specifically to be created in God’s image, but what it broadly means is simply; God created man to be like God.  He did not create Adam to be God--that is heresy.  Adam was not like God in essence, but he was like God in character.   God created Adam to express His qualities in a finite way.  Adam was to be like God or “God-like,” a word we have shortened to “godly” but its the same idea.  A godly person, literally speaking, is a person who in some way shows others what God is like.  Before the Fall, Adam and Eve glorified God which means that they revealed God in their persons because they were like God in character.  To be fully human is to be like God in character.

          This is confusing to some because when some people sin in some way, they often explain their sin by saying something like, “Well, that’s just my humanness, or humanity coming out.”  Or, when they want to defend their limitations, they may say something like, “What do you expect, I’m only human?!”  That use of the word “human” is quite wrong.  That is bad theology.  When someone sins its not because they are human, its because they are a fallen, sinful human.  When someone says, “I’m only human” what they mean theologically is “I’m only a sinful human.”  To be human as Adam was before the Fall is to be good, not evil.  God created man and said it was “good.”  That is high praise from the One who uses that same word to describe himself.  To be “good” in God’s sight is to be magnificent in some sense.  God created Adam and Eve to fully express humanity in its goodness and godlike-ness.

          We see this purpose of Adam and Eve to be like God in at least two ways.  We see this first in Adam and Eve’s mission.  Genesis 1:28 says the first couple was to “...fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”  As creatures created to be like God in character, part of their responsibility in keeping with their character was to subdue and rule.  That’s what God does and it is only fitting that those who are created to be like God would do that as well.  They were human--like God in their mission to subdue and rule.  We know this is part of God’s plan for humanity because the book of the Revelation says in at least four places that redeemed humans will reign with Christ in the millennium and beyond.  Redeemed humanity will fulfill the purpose of ruling originally initiated and then forfeited by Adam.

          Another way we see Adam and Eve’s purpose in glorifying God by expressing their godly humanity is seen in Genesis 2:15.  the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.”  Some recent Hebrew scholarship in the person of John Sailhammer of Trinity Seminary has shown that this mission contained in the phrase “to work it and take care of it” is actually better translated “to worship and obey” God.  That’s a huge difference and some of the reasons for preferring that translation are complicated, dealing with Hebrew grammar and syntax, but I think his arguments are compelling.  Here we have Adam and Eve created for the priestly function of worshipping and obeying God to go along with the kingly function of ruling and reigning.  The primary work of the priest has always been, first and foremost, to worship and obey the Lord.  That is what God created humanity to do and Adam was charged to do just that.

          A second way we can see Adam’s mission to glorify God by revealing Him in His humanity is in Adam’s spiritual life.  In other words, how did Adam relate to God before the Fall?  We know from Genesis 3:8 that Adam had intense and intimate communion with God because God walked with Him in the cool of the day.  The way we could characterize Adam’s spiritual life before the fall which Christ would fulfill is this--total and humble dependence upon God.  This is the way humanity was created to relate to God and we see this dependent relationship upon God totally fulfilled in the earthly life of Christ.  Many Christians are shocked to discover that when Jesus was on earth, even though He was fully God, He did not utilize His own divine power to do anything.  Christ never drew on one ounce of His divine power to do one single thing.

          Jesus testifies to His total dependence upon God many times during His earthly ministry.  In John 5:19 he says, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself [NO self reliance!]; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”  Again in verse 30 of this same chapter he reiterates this truth, “By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.”  In John 8:28 Jesus says, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know...that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.”  In describing what He does without the Father’s direct guidance and intervention, Jesus repeatedly uses the word “nothing.” 

          Jesus did not make one independent initiative--did not do one thing without the Father’s telling Him to in 33 years of ministry.  If we don’t believe that, then we have gutted the word “nothing” of its meaning.  John 14:10, “Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and that the Father is in me?  The words I say to you are not just my own.  Rather, it is the Father living in me, who is doing His work.”  Jesus calls the work He is doing “His” (the Father’s) work. There are many other texts which show that Jesus operated in complete, humble dependence upon the Father. We all would agree that because Jesus was fully God and omnipotent--all powerful IN HIMSELF, He could have easily lived a perfect life and died a perfect death without the enabling of His Father.  A valid question at this point is “Why did Jesus, being fully God, choose to intentionally limit himself to depending fully upon the Father?”  The first reason has to do with part of His purpose.  We know that Christ came to redeem fallen humanity, but part of his purpose as the fulfillment of the type of Adam was to do what Adam failed to do.  That is, to glorify God as a fully human person by living as humans were created to live--in full dependence upon God.  Christ, as the second Adam was commissioned to live out a human life as God intended it to be lived--in full dependence upon God.  Jesus was fully God, but He was also fully human, more human than anyone has ever been.  He is our example of what it is to be a human being which means to be fully dependent upon God.  To be fully human is to be fully dependent upon God--that’s what God created humanity to be and do.

          This was God’s intention for Adam, but he failed.  He chose to exercise His own independent judgment and eat from the tree of wisdom and knowledge at Eve’s prompting.  For some mystifying reason, he did not want to be dependent upon God for wisdom and knowledge, he wanted his own, independent source of it.  He was created to be like God in character, but he wanted to be like Him in God’s independence.  God is not dependent upon anyone and Adam, who was like God in so many other respects wanted to be like God in that respect.  I believe that was the essence of the temptation--the lie given by the Serpent when he told Adam he would be like God if he ate that fruit.  They would be independent--not needing God, and the fruit of the tree would give them that freedom.  The insurmountable problem for Adam with this proposition, which Satan fully knew was this; humanity, like the angels before them, were created and designed to be dependent beings.  They were finite, limited and were created to glorify God by needing God, by fully depending upon God.  Satan was tempting Adam to be something he was not created to be, independent of God.  DEpendent is the way God created humanity and we see this in so many texts.

        The best known is Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart

and lean not on your own understanding; 6in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”  Do you hear the call for dependence which permeates that text?  We aren’t called to figure out independent of God how to live our lives and how to solve our problems.  Every time we try that, we are going back and nibbling on the forbidden fruit.  Jesus says in John 15:5  Apart from me you can do nothing.”  Now just what does “nothing” mean?  It means “nothing--no thing!”  Humans weren’t designed to do anything independent of God .  Adam brought humanity into sin and death when he violated that principle.   And on the contrary, Christ lived out that dependence upon God to the letter as the most fully human being ever to draw breath.  Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:5 “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves but our adequacy comes from God.” 

          A second reason why Christ was called to live in total dependency upon God is because his atoning death would not have been effective if He had not lived as a fully human person.  We know that Christ came to die for humans--to be a substitute sacrifice for those who, because of their sin, deserved eternal death in hell.   In order for Christ to be a substitute, He had to be fully human.  And how were humans designed and created to live?  They were designed and created to live in full dependence upon God.  If Jesus does not live his life in total and humble dependence upon God, then He is not acting as a human being, but Christ HAD to act as a human being because HE WAS a fully human being.  When Christ took on the mantle of humanity, he was volunteering to live a life in total dependence upon God. 

          Paul says of Jesus in Philippians 2, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”  God created Adam after his own likeness to show the created order what He was like in a unique way.  In order to retrieve fallen humanity, God the Son had to be made in the likeness of man in order to show what God and godly humanity was like in a unique way.  He became a servant--totally dependent on His master--One who could do NOTHING without permission.  He did this so that we could once again live out our lives as God created us to live--in complete dependence upon Him.  Adam rebelled in self-willed independence.  He rejected who he was as a dependent being.  Christ won back our place to be totally dependent upon God by himself becoming totally dependent upon the Father.  That’s beautiful, isn’t it!?

          Now, what does this mean to us?  This is not intended just to be a lecture in theology.  Theology is radically relevant to our lives.  If it isn’t, something is drastically wrong with either the way it is presented our with the way we understand it.  Let me tell you something, if these truths were to be lived out by the church, the church would be unspeakably different and would look much more like Christ.  Let me give just two broad applications to this truth which we see in Adam’s purpose as a human--a type of Christ-displaying total God-dependence.  The first point of application speaks to how we view ourselves and the Christian life.

          Do we consciously walk around with this cemented-in understanding that we were put here to glorify God by showing forth what He is like in character?  Do we wake up in the morning and walk through our days with that consciousness?  That is why Adam was put here and that is why we were put here.  We are not here for ourselves, we are here to image God by the power of the Holy Spirit and that is done as we humbly depend upon Jesus Christ to live in and through us.  That is done as we “trust in the Lord with all our heart and lean NOT on our own understanding...as we “acknowledge Him in ALL ways.”   This runs so contrary to our culture and frankly it runs contrary to much of the practice of the church.  There is a popular understanding of the Christian life which runs like this:  We have been given the mind of Christ.  When we have to make a decision or a move--we should pray about it, but when all is said and done, we should do what we want to do in that situation because we have the mind of Christ.  Do you hear how contrary that is to this total, humble dependence upon God?

          If that is such a great way to live the Christian life, why didn’t Jesus live His life that way?  If anyone had the mind of Christ, it was Jesus Christ!!  He says He does “only what He sees His Father doing.”  The believer needs to be in continual touch with the Spirit.  Paul says in Galatians 5:18 we are to be “led by the Spirit.”  J.I. Packer’s phrase “keep in step with the Spirit” hits it on the head.  Check what the Holy Spirit is doing and get in step with Him. That is humble, total dependence upon God.  That is the way we were designed and created for us to live.  That is the way the greatest human of all, Jesus Christ lived and He is our model.  Any devotional book which doesn’t cause you to be more dependent upon God isn’t worth reading.  Throw it away and look for one which drives you to your knees in radical dependence upon God.

          A second application to this truth speaks to how we should view the problems and the impossible circumstances in our lives.  We must remember that a central purpose of God for us is to make us the people He created us to be--humble, dependent humans who look to Him for everything so that we can reveal what He is like to others.  If that dependence upon God is His over-arching goal in our lives, how do you suppose He is going to work in our lives?  How is He going to train us to be dependent upon Him?  By giving us lives that are easily managed and fit into small, bite size pieces we can swallow on our own?  NO!!!  He trains His children to depend upon Him by repeatedly, daily putting them in circumstances where they are being asked to do that which is impossible for them.  If your life isn’t just chocked full of things that you know and believe are utterly impossible for you, then something is drastically wrong.  The reason for this is because that kind of life is the life God uses to accomplish His purpose in us--to teach us to depend upon Him.

          If living the Christian life for you is simply being a nice person and staying out of trouble, then you will never learn this dependence because most pagan can do that without God.  This world is full to the brim of very nice people who stay out of trouble and they are no more depending upon God than they are flying to the moon.  But if the Christian life for you is being like Jesus Christ in thought, word and deed and you take that seriously, then your life will be filled with impossibilities that you will need to learn to depend upon God for because He’s the only one who can manifest Christ in you by the Holy Spirit. 

          Finally, many people who claim to be Christians, when crises occur in their life--a job loss, a sickness, a relationship collapse, etc... the first question they ask God, sometimes with a clenched fist is, “WHY ARE YOU ALLOWING THIS TO HAPPEN TO ME?”  Look at it this way:  1. The purpose of redeemed humanity is to grow to be totally dependent upon God.  2. Something comes into our life that to us, is totally impossible. 3. With God nothing is impossible and He can do this impossible thing through you as you trust in Him.  Doesn’t it make perfect sense that God would regularly allow us to experience impossible circumstances that, apart from HIS divine intervention would end up in disaster in order to teach us to depend upon Him?  God can do the impossible.  We can’t do the impossible.  If God is trying to get us to depend upon Him, aren’t impossible, pain-in-the-neck things absolutely inevitable?   These things are not cosmic mistakes.  They are simply part of God’s training course in making redeemed human beings who live the way He designed humanity to exist in the first place--as those who are totally dependent upon Him.

          Another example is this:  God tells someone to do something totally outlandish on a human scale--go to Malaysia in six weeks with your entire family.  If God were to tell someone that, the church would rise up in almost absolute unity and tell that person that God would never tell them to do that because it would take a series of miracles for that to take place.  That kind of thing doesn’t happen every day, but in light of God’s purpose for humanity to totally depend upon Him and His miracle working power, it doesn’t sound all that outlandish does it?  May God give us the grace to live as He created us--for His glory as we reveal His character through lives which are radically dependent upon Him.

      

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