Tag Archives: Christ

The Exclusivity of Christ

The history of Christianity has held without apology to the exclusivity of Christ, namely that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, being God Himself is the only, i.e. exclusive, path to God. In short, familiar language it might be phrased, “Jesus is the only way to heaven.” To see this, we needn’t immediately jump to the New Testament, though we could. Instead, we may turn to the beginning, of creation that is, to see Jesus, the Promised seed of God as the only hope for mankind to be redeemed from their sin and have their relationship with God restored.

Many people today have given themselves over to the view that “All paths lead to God” arguing that you’re ok and I’m ok as long as we do good and live right. But this assumes a variety of errant thoughts not the least of which is a denial of the authority and truthfulness of Scripture. It is here we must turn if we are rightly to understand the exclusivity of Christ.

In Genesis 3 we read of the familiar account of Adam and Eve in the garden.

1Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 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 who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[c] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?” 10 And he said, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked, and I hid myself.” 11 He said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree of which I commanded you not to eat?” 12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.” 13 Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this that you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.”

14 The Lord God said to the serpent,

“Because you have done this,
cursed are you above all livestock
and above all beasts of the field;
on your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:1-15

Immediately, it is important to come to terms with the truthfulness that Scripture establishes concerning the historical reality of Adam and Eve. It’s clear that they were actual people whom God created and that all mankind can trace their lineage back to them. This is the elementary truth that secularism tries to destroy in the name of science in order to avoid accountability for sin and the judgment of God, but it simply cannot be denied. The historicity of Adam can be readily found in the numerous genealogies of Scripture (which is why they are there, to establish the validity of the line of Messiah); see Genesis 5; 1 Chronicles 1-9; Luke 3:23-38.

Additionally, the prophet Hosea through the divine inspiration of the Spirit, draws a relationship between Adam’s disobedience and the disobedience of Israel and Judah, “But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.” Hosea 6:7 If Adam is not real, then one has to arrive at a different origin for the entire nation of Israel and has to then make sense of the correlation made between Adam’s covenant unfaithfulness in the garden and Israel’s covenant unfaithfulness as a nation. In similar fashion, Romans 5 provides yet another example of the historicity of Adam and again shows a parallel relationship with Adam’s sin though this time the counterpoint is Christ

12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Here we see that because of Adam’s sin, condemnation came to all men and this is an inclusive term to include all mankind. That means every single individual person who has ever lived, because of their relationship to Adam, are condemned. Though alive, are spiritually dead, alienated from God and under His wrath of God. All people, regardless of the religion with which they identify or the race/origin/color/sex that they claim, all. All are condemned in Adam. Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Secularists, Atheists, Agnostics, Nominal (in-name only) Christians, Villagers on a remote island. All. In Adam. Condemned.

With this in mind, we now return to our original passage from Genesis 3 and can better feel the weight of the actions committed by Adam and Eve in the garden. Literally billions of people condemned because of a single act of rebellion against a holy God. Let that sink in the next time you think God doesn’t take the “smallest” of sins seriously. He is infinitely holy and the slightest of sins is enough to condemn the entirety of mankind.

Certainly God knew the outcome, that so many would be born condemned because of this treasonous act. Certainly God would have been just to simply destroy creation at the fall, never to allow sin’s progression or its guilt and condemnation to advance beyond the Garden. But this was not the plan of God. As He justly delivers the sentence to the serpent and Adam and Eve, we read the following verse:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.”

As has been noted before, here in Genesis 3:15 is the “first Gospel”, the first message of good news. It is hope in the midst of despair because God 1) Lets Adam and Eve know they will have offspring, not suffering immediate physical death and 2) Lets them know that there will be retribution and redemption that comes through the offspring of the woman. This is precisely what we read about in Romans 5 above and precisely what we likewise see in 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 21 For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

The only hope for all of mankind is the seed of the woman, namely the Lord Jesus Christ. The only hope to overcome the condemnation that came to man through Adam, is by way of the second Adam, the Messiah who perfectly obeyed the commands of God, suffered death on the cross under the wrath of God for sinners, and overcame death through His resurrection, now ascended into heaven and seated with power and glory at the right hand of the Father. The hope is exclusively His. All authority has been granted unto Him and He alone commands the way to God “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes unto the Father but by me” John 14:6

There is simply no other way. Not through Islam, nor Buddhism, nor Judaism, nor Atheism, nor Secularism, nor any other works based religious system, but exclusively through Christ by faith in Him alone. This message is offensive because it assaults the independency of man and his innate desire to earn his own righteousness. It is offensive because we live in an age of tolerance and “Coexist” stickers that wants to see everyone make it to “heaven” through whatever path they choose, ultimately not for their own good but spun out of a self-preservation mentality that takes comfort in saying “my way is ok, so yours must be too.” Either that is a lie or the Son of God is lying when He claims exclusivity. Perish the thought. It is in Christ alone that salvation comes through repentance of sin and faith in Him. There is only one path to God and it is entered into by the narrow gate of Christ. This path is narrow, difficult, and blazed by Christ Himself. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36

Solus Christus!

Christ, The Mediator of the New Covenant Part 2

In a long overdue post on the New Covenant I’d like to look at Hebrews 9:15 and see if it helps round out what has been discussed here in previous posts.

Hebrews 9:15 “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”

In the last post we looked at the relationship between Christ’s mediatorial work through His death on the cross and the inauguration of the New Covenant (see also Hebrews 8:6-13) and we again see that in the first part of this passage, “Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant”.  Recall that in the last post on Christ as Mediator we also concluded that membership in the New Covenant was limited to those who have been born again or regenerated by the Holy Spirit.  The evidence of their regeneration is repentance and faith, outwardly displayed in baptism, and continuing with their participation in the Lord’s Supper.  However, we made mention of a particular view that some within the Reformed Baptist tradition hold, namely the inclusion of all the elect in the New Covenant.  Others in this tradition, such as myself, hold to a more narrow view of those included in the New Covenant, i.e. what we’ve previously defined as the regenerate.  But this brings up a couple questions 1) How does God’s election unto salvation relate to the New Covenant benefits given to the regenerate? 2) If Christ’s death inaugurates the New Covenant, on what basis did the OT saints receive eternal life?

First, the question of election and its relation to the New Covenant.  As pointed out above, some have concluded that all the elect are in the New Covenant, but really this confuses the issue and as we’ve seen expressed clearly in Scripture, the New Covenant benefits are reserved for those who have been born again by the Holy Spirit and have shown evidence of this new birth, or regeneration, by the fruits of repentance and faith.  However, note in the passage above the author of Hebrews states that Jesus is “the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance”.  The language of calling here is significant.  This calling, the Greek word kaleo, is familiar in the New Testament.  We see a form of it in 1 Thess. 5:24 as God is the one who calls, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”  Also in 1 Timothy 1:9, “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.” And again in 1 Peter 5:10 “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”  God’s calling is not general, but rather  an effectual call that accomplishes all that it intends, namely the salvation of sinners.  With this understanding of God as the “Caller” our foundation is set to look briefly at another use of calling found in Paul’s letter to the Romans,

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 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 brothers. 30 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

Again, the emphasis is on God who calls “according to his purpose”, but here we read of some preceding events that must come prior to God’s calling, namely God’s “foreknowledge” and “predestination”, two words which have distinct meaning, but each of which reference God’s election according to grace.  Foreknowledge implies that God in His omniscience knows all things that are to come, literally knowing the beginning from the end (Isaiah 46:8-11); while predestination implies that not only does God possess knowledge of future events, but that He has ordained all things that will come through the counsel of His own will (Ephesians 1:11).  In practical terms they refer to the plan of God that was made before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3-14) and is unfolded in the calling of sinners to salvation.

Why all of this background on a passage from Hebrews discussing the mediatorial work of Christ?  Because, while the view that sees the elect as members of the New Covenant may lead to some confusion, it’s no less true that there is a relationship between God’s electing purposes and Christ’s inauguration of the New Covenant through His death.  Some theologians have sought to reconcile this confusion by describing the electing plan of God, established in Christ before the foundation of the world, as a Covenant of Redemption (see John 6:39, 17:2, 9, 24).  In this way, ALL those who the Father has given the Son, defined in the Covenant of Redemption and called the elect in Scripture, will be called and will be regenerated and will be partakers of the New Covenant, “so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.”  In his commentary on Hebrews, John Owen writes, “Where there is not some degree of saving knowledge, there no interest in the New Covenant can be pretended.” This distinction sets clear the boundaries of New Covenant membership and maintains the integrity of this covenant with those whom have expressed evidence of their relationship to Christ through repentance of their sins and faith in Him.

Which brings us to our second question, of whether the OT saints even go to heaven and if so, then on what basis?  If you’ve followed along up to this point, then a likely question might be what became of those saints of the Old Testament who were under the Old Covenant (Abrahamic, Davidic, and Mosaic) ?  For this answer, we can also look to our passage from Hebrews above where we will find, “since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.”  Christ’s work as Mediator of the New Covenant is not limited to only those who have believed on Him subsequent to His death.  The Old Testament saints had a forward looking faith (see Hebrews 11) in the coming of the Messiah to fulfill the promises, types, and shadows that God had expressed under the Old Covenant.

In Romans 4, we read of Abraham’s faith and the righteousness of Christ that  was imputed to him because of that faith, “Abraham believed God and it was counted [imputed – KJV] to him as righteousness” (Romans 4:3).  This isn’t strictly a New Testament concept because the passage that Romans 4 refers to can be found in Genesis 15:6, where we are told that “he believed the Lord” and God “counted [imputed] it to him as righteousness.”  This righteousness credited, accounted, or better imputed to Abraham was not one that he earned, nor one that was inherent to his nature.  Instead it was, as Martin Luther states, an alien righteousness.  In other words, in the life of Abraham 2000 years before even the birth of Christ, Abraham was imputed with the righteousness of Christ.  Because the death of Christ was the culmination of God’s plan for redemption, there was no uncertainty as to its accomplishment.  Therefore when we read in Hebrews 9:15 that the death of Christ redeemed those who lived under the Old Covenant we can rest assured that it was not through obedience to the law that they received eternal life, but through the precious blood of the Lamb.  Abraham, and those saints who believed, were not redeemed by way of the Old Covenant, but through the New Covenant promised in Genesis 3:15 and reaffirmed throughout the pages of the Old Testament until the inauguration of the New Covenant was made at the specified time (Gal. 4:4) through the death of Christ.  “This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forebearance he had passed over former sins.” Rom. 3:25

Any discussion on the afterlife of OT saints often leads to additional questions, but it should be clear on the basis of Romans 3 and 4 that through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness and His death on the cross, both aspects of Christ’s work as Mediator of the New Covenant, the OT believers are partakers of the same covenant benefits as those of us who believe in Christ today.

The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 8: Christ the Mediator

In keeping with our discussion of the new covenant, as we take a parenthetical break from our study of end times, I included the following chapter from the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith on the mediation of Christ over the New Covenant, which He inaugurated with His blood (Matt. 26:28).  I hope to follow up with a post discussing this further, particularly several passages from Hebrews.

 

CHAPTER 8

OF CHRIST THE MEDIATOR

Paragraph 1. It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man;1 the prophet,2 priest,3 and king;4 head and savior of the church,5 the heir of all things,6 and judge of the world;7 unto whom He did from all eternity give a people to be His seed and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.8 1 Isa. 42:1; 1 Pet. 1:19,20 2 Acts 3:22 3 Heb. 5:5,6 4 Ps. 2:6; Luke 1:33 5 Eph. 1:22,23 6 Heb. 1:2 7 Acts 17:31 8 Isa. 53:10; John 17:6; Rom. 8:30

Paragraph 2. The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with Him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things He has made, did, when the fullness of time was complete, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities of it,9 yet without sin;10 being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures;11 so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.12 9 John 1:14; Gal. 4;4 10 Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14,16,17, 4:15 11 Matt. 1:22, 23 12 Luke 1:27,31,35; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 2:5

Paragraph 3. The Lord Jesus, in His human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure,13 having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;14 in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell,15 to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled,16 and full of grace and truth,17 He might be throughly furnished to execute the office of mediator and surety;18 which office He took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by His Father;19 who also put all power and judgement in His hand, and gave Him commandment to execute the same.20 13 Ps. 45:7; Acts 10:38; John 3:34 14 Col. 2:3 15 Col. 1:19 16 Heb. 7:26 17 John 1:14 18 Heb. 7:22 19 Heb. 5:5 20 John 5:22,27; Matt. 28:18; Acts 2;36

Paragraph 4. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake,21 which that He might discharge He was made under the law,22 and did perfectly fulfill it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have born and suffered,23 being made sin and a curse for us;24 enduring most grievous sorrows in His soul, and most painful sufferings in His body;25 was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption:26 on the third day He arose from the dead27 with the same body in which He suffered,28 with which He also ascended into heaven,29 and there sits at the right hand of His Father making intercession,30 and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.31 21 Ps. 40:7,8; Heb. 10:5-10; John 10:18 22 Gal 4:4; Matt. 3:15 23 Gal. 3:13; Isa. 53:6; 1 Pet. 3:18 24 2 Cor. 5:21 25 Matt. 26:37,38; Luke 22:44; Matt. 27:46 26 Acts 13:37 27 1 Cor. 15:3,4 28 John 20:25,27 29 Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11 30 Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24 31 Acts 10:42; Rom. 14:9,10; Acts 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:4

Paragraph 5. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God,32 procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto Him.33 32 Heb. 9:14, 10:14; Rom. 3:25,26 33 John 17:2; Heb. 9:15

Paragraph 6. Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ until after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein He was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent’s head;34 and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,35 being the same yesterday, and today and for ever.36 34 1 Cor. 4:10; Heb. 4:2; 1 Pet. 1:10, 11 35 Rev. 13:8 36 Heb. 13:8

Paragraph 7. Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.37 37 John 3:13; Acts 20:28

Paragraph 8. To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them;38 uniting them to Himself by His Spirit, revealing to them, in and by His Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey,39 governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit,40 and overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom,41 in such manner and ways as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it.42 38 John 6:37, 10:15,16, 17:9; Rom. 5:10 39 John 17:6; Eph. 1:9; 1 John 5:20 40 Rom. 8:9,14 41 Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25,26 42 John 3:8; Eph. 1:8

Paragraph 9. This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from Him to any other.43 43 Tim. 2:5

Paragraph 10. This number and order of offices is necessary; for in respect of our ignorance, we stand in need of His prophetical office;44 and in respect of our alienation from God, and imperfection of the best of our services, we need His priestly office to reconcile us and present us acceptable unto God;45 and in respect to our averseness and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and security from our spiritual adversaries, we need His kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us to His heavenly kingdom.46 44 John 1:18 45 Col. 1:21; Gal. 5:17 46 John 16:8; Ps. 110:3; Luke 1:74,75