Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fesko's "Last Things First" 9

In addition to the regenerative work of the Spirit to which both circumcision and baptism allude, both sacraments also are connected to Christ’s death. The bloody sacrament of circumcision foreshadowed the propitiatory death of the coming Messiah who would fulfill or secure the conditions of salvation for those who will believe, by which one could know whether or not he adhered to the Abrahamic covenant in which God promised Abraham to bless all nations through him. Because Christ lived, died, and was resurrected as the innocent God-man, however, the that to which circumcision actually points has been fulfilled. To continue to require circumcision as a rite of introduction to the covenant community, then, would be another form of law salvation, as it would at least imply circumcision did not receive its teleological end in Christ. Bloodless baptism is the new covenant’s analogous sacrament, but it pictures the way in which an elect individual becomes united to Christ’s resurrection as well as His death; in the same way Christ was buried and resurrected, so too God buries the old man by regenerative work of the Spirit and resurrects His elect – as He did with Christ – as new creations made alive in Christ by faith (Colossians 2:11-13). God’s promise to Abraham is reality in the new covenant, and this reality is depicted by baptism, not circumcision (Galatians 3:27-28).

The goal of the covenant of works, the realization of the dominion mandate, did not change with the coming of the covenant of grace. The means, not the goal itself, have changed, insofar as it is no longer mankind as such who bring to pass the stipulations of the dominion mandate in perfection. Jesus is the second Adam, not the church. Just as the requirements of God’s original covenant with man – unwavering obedience to His law – did not change, so too Christ must, in order to be the successful second Adam, bring about the multiplication of the divine image throughout the whole earth, subdue and exercise dominion over the inhabitants of the earth itself, and do so with a helpmate. By His death and resurrection, not our deeds, Christ indeed continues to do this. Philippians 2:5-11 has already been mentioned as a passage which links Christ’s humble obedience as God-man, His procreation of the divine image by conformity to His image, and the Father’s exaltation of His name such that all will acknowledge Him as King. The second half of Fesko’s fifth chapter draws out more explicitly how the goals are achieved by Christ.

1 Corinthians 15:20-49, like Romans 5:12-19, is pregnant with protological meaning. Just as all men in Adam die, all men in Christ live (15:22). Of course, in order for believers to live, Christ must have been raised first, as it is to His image men are to conform (15:23, cf. Exodus 23:19). It is a certainty that all will live in Christ, however, since He has by His sacrifice accomplished all necessary conditions which need to be met for His people to be saved (Romans 8:32). As this grace which He has procured is more and more applied throughout the world at times of God’s eternal appointment, Christ is accomplishing the command to multiply the earth with men in the [renewed] divine image (Romans 8:29, Philippians 2:20-21). This renewal is regeneration (15:42-45, cf. 1 Peter 1:23-25), and having already shown that the Spirit’s regenerative work as the beginning of the grace by which one is conformed to the heavenly image (15:47-49) is intrinsically annexed to baptism and recreation, it should come as no surprise that both are found in context (15:29-30, 36-41). It seems Genesis 1-2 is implicitly found in every verse. Furthermore, just as Adam was to subdue all things such that he would be the immediate authority under God, Paul writes that Christ is the eschatological fulfillment of Psalm 8:6 (15:27). He will wipe out every power which opposes His Father, including death, and He will have thereby merited the position of King of Kings (15:24-26, cf. Psalm 2, Daniel 7, cf. Revelation 13-14). In fact, He has already defeated these enemies Himself – even death – by His resurrection, a vindication of His righteousness and capacity to be the eschatological Adam.

Of course, for the Christ to be the true second Adam, He must have a true bride with which to generate children in His image, and here Fesko ties in ecclesiology to Christology, protology, and eschatology, for he notes that Paul regards the church as Christ’s antitypical helpmate in Ephesians 5:21-33. It sounds obvious when one thinks about it, yet the implications are profound. It was no more good that Christ should bring about the goals of the dominion mandate – goals which His work alone could effect – than it was for the first Adam to attempt to do so. The church is woman in Genesis 1-2 (Isaiah 54:5-8, John 3:29), yet a woman who will no longer be seduced by Satan’s temptations (Revelation 21:2, cf. Ezekiel 16, Hosea). Paul’s revelation of the relationship between Christ and the church functions as an explanation of the ways in which they interact: Christ as head, church as body; Christ as authoritative, church as submissive. Believers are not to be static after salvation – in fact, it is not a stretch to suppose co-working with Christ is a means of conformity to His image, as such would reflect what would seem to be an appropriate inter-connectedness of biblical theology. Regardless, Jesus made it clear in the Great Commission that the church was to spread His name throughout all nations (cf. Romans 10:14-15), and the reason He did not do this on His own should by now be evident: because the assistance of the church is necessary in the same way woman was necessary for Adam to have protologically fulfilled the dominion mandate (compare Genesis 22:18 to Matthew 28:19). The church is God’s chosen means of effecting His predestined, merited goals. She spreads the gospel which, when the Father sends His Spirit to regenerate an individual unto the image of Christ, adopts the newborn believer into God’s family so that he or she can further propagate God’s word, literally extending the temples of God in which the Holy Spirit dwells and which we are, as a royal priesthood, to treat with care. The primary point is that the dominion mandate is fulfilled spiritually, not physically (John 1:12-13), which is why Paul – who didn’t marry – could call Timothy and his other disciples his own children (1 Corinthians 7:8, Titus 1:4, &c.).

In the final section of this chapter, Fesko considers John’s Revelation, which describes the eschatological completion of Christ’s work, the goal of God’s covenants with men. All prophetic writings point toward a savior who will fulfill the dominion mandate (e.g. Psalm 72:8), not only for Israel, but for all nations (e.g. Isaiah 49:6). Not only does Revelation 5:9-12 confirm this, it is paralleled to 4:11 – each passage entails songs of glory for God’s creation and redemption, synthesizing the two acts of God once again (cf. 7:9-12). Because the temple-paradise will have been typologically extended to all nations in His elect, God will be able to once again dwell among the church, Christ’s bride (21:1-3). Genesis 1-2 is interwoven to every face of the eschatological city: its position on a mountain (21:10), the precious metals which form the city (21:18-20), the flowing rivers (22:1), and the tree of life itself (22:2) around which all fruit-bearing believers reside. Apocalyptic literature, however, foretells that this new, enormous Eden will be even more glorious than the first: it will be lighted by God Himself (21:23, cf. Isaiah 60:19, Ezekiel 43:2-5) and His dwelling among the community of those in the image of the new Adam will be immanent, not mediated (21:22, cf. Ephesians 2:19-22, Hebrews 3:6, 1 Peter 2:5); there will, then, be no night, for He is always with us (21:25, 22:5). Glorified believers will be able to serve Him face-to-face (22:4) uninhibited by the prospect of sin (21:26-27, 22:3), clothed by Christ’s righteousness (19:8) and praising the Triune God (4:8). That is the way things are meant to be.

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