Our Second Bible Study Revisited

Ark of the Covenant

In case you missed the study, below is a transcript.

Part I

I often hear it said that we have to live incarnationally, be the gospel, and to redeem all things.  I have to admit that these statements make no sense to me.  How can I live incarnationally, when I am not the second member of the Trinity?  How can I be the gospel, when I never bore any sins perfectly on the cross?  Finally, how can I redeem a world that is “presently passing away?” (1Cor 7:31).  Has the fall affected everything so that we need to redeem all things like those of us redeemed from our guilt and corruption?  For instance, take my local plumbing company, does it need to be redeemed.  If so, what would Christian plumbing look like; do the standards of plumbing change when a Christian does them as opposed to an unbeliever?

There is an older Christian position that looks at culture and the things of this world a little more positively yet with reserve.  This present culture is good, temporary, provisional, and passing away.  God the Creator presently preserves this world in his providence, “upholding all things as with his hand.”  God the Redeemer presently redeems those whom He “chose before the foundation of the earth” (Eph 1:4).

The old Christian theologian believes in a distinction between holy things and common things.  For instance wine, is it holy or common?  Well it is both.  Wine is a common drink God gave “to gladden the heart of man” (Ps 104:15), but also the Lord sanctifies this common drink in the holy Supper.

In addition, the Bible is clear that there is in this world common grace and special grace.  By common grace, the Lord preserves his creation even with good gifts, wine being one of those gifts.  Special grace is just that—special—God’s favor toward his elect in which we find ourselves redeemed and blessed in Christ.

What about the unbeliever and their wicked deeds, is there more to the story than common and holy?  Yes, there is antithesis between the believer and unbeliever.  In Genesis 3:15 we are told that God has “put enmity between” the offspring of Satan and the offspring of “the woman.”  God announces in the early parts of the Bible this antithesis.  Able is marked as the child of the serpent, who does not seek God’s glory as opposed to Able the child of the women, who seeks God’s glory.  The murder of Able by Cain begins a history that has unfolded this antithesis in the persecution and martyrdom of the church.

Even with this antithesis, there remains commonality between these two offspring.  So much so, that Cain became the great, great, grandfather of those who developed the arts and commerce in the beginning of civilization (4:20–21).  In this commonality, unbelievers even surpass believers in cultural progress.  There are good non-Christian plumbers.

Should Christians therefore abandon society for the Christian ghetto like the Amish?  Can Christian’s continue in the pursuit of cultural progress?  Genesis continues to give us the answer to these questions.  In Genesis 6, the spiritual antithesis reaches an all time high and God destroys the world by flood only preserving Noah and his family.  Afterwards the Noahic covenant is made with all of creation.  This non-redemptive covenant, promises that the Lord will not destroy the earth again by flood.  In this covenant, the cultural progress continues, “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (9:1).  Dominion over creation continues for it has all creation has been delivered into the hand of man (9:2).  In addition, mankind will exercise justice through natural law, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed.”  Romans 13 follows, showing that the state is “God’s servant” for our good (v. 4).  All men now live together under the promise that God will not destroy the earth again by flood, and with the principles of natural law, they will continue the cultural progress beside one another in harmony with the laws of the state.  This is the common kingdom.

In Genesis 12 another kingdom emerges with Abraham.  Established by blood this is a redemptive kingdom.  In this kingdom, God’s Word is the law of the land and so “Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as righteousness.”  Abraham and his family were set apart from the world as God’s peculiar people.  However, Abraham was still a part of the Noahic covenant and it’s common kingdom.  Abraham traded with the people of the common kingdom and went to war with their kings.  However, he was set apart in his worship and devotion to God.

Today the church lives as Abraham in both kingdoms.  We live in this world and enjoy its many blessings, even though we find ourselves uncomfortable at times.  When it comes to devotion, we separate from the common kingdom in our worship.

We do not redeem this world.  Redemption is the work of the two Adams, and so our fate and the fate of the world are in their hands.  The first Adam sinned, and in his fall we sinned all, and so creation groans.  In the second Adam, however, a gift of perfect obedience is rendered to us.  In Christ all our sins have been pardoned, we are perfectly accepted in God’s sight because of the righteousness of Jesus Christ given to us and received by faith.   The world now eagerly waits for the final redemption of God’s elect (Rom 8:23).

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