Sunday, May 01, 2022

Representative Men

The Bible consists of 66 books. Thousands of years lie between the first human author and the last, but the way its history, its prophecies, its songs and its teachings blend into a cohesive story implies the oversight of one person. He must have existed throughout the years of its production! The Bible claims for itself that it is “God-breathed” or inspired.

What is its story all about? Serious students of its pages have made various suggestions as to its overall purpose and plan depending on which of its themes interested them. Every valid idea put forward is like a thread woven into the overall fabric of scripture. It becomes possible to trace these themes throughout its pages like the colored strands in a tapestry. The topics of the glory of God, the sinful condition of mankind, the need for a sufficient sacrifice, etc., all contribute to the total impression left on the mind of the thoughtful reader.

And each strand of truth that begins in the first book has its counterpart, contrast and climax in the last.

Representative Men

One way scripture must be viewed is as the story of two men. All humans relate to these men because they are representatives, standing for all who are their descendants. Scripture states we are ‘in’ one or the other. In the case of the first man we are affected by what was done by him without personal involvement on our part. In the case of the other we must make a choice to benefit from what he did, does and will yet do. Of course we are speaking of Adam and Christ. To some extent the conduct of all individuals can be explained in the terms of their relationship to the one or the other of these two, sometimes referred to as the two ‘federal heads’ of the human race.

The term “in Adam” indicates mankind’s citizenship by birth, since Adam was the head of the old creation and in him all sinned, fall short of the glory of God and will die. This is our natural statehood or citizenship that gives rise to a condition in which we habitually sin, and much more than we are aware, “For if our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things.” We may illustrate the difference between our legal standing by birth (in Adam), and the sinful conduct that results, by thinking of how our accent betrays where we were born.

David did not use the term “in Adam” when confessing his sin to God but spoke of what is true of all: “In sin did my mother conceive me.” He wasn’t shifting the blame for his own sins upon his immediate parents, but confessing how deep rooted was the sinful nature that influenced him to act the way he did. So though he did not use that term, his experience had taught him that he had, by reason of his birth into the human family, inherited a sinful nature.*

The same is true of us all. That is what scripture means when it says we are “in Adam”.

The New Creation

Traces of the old life still remain after we have placed our faith in the Lord Jesus, but our standing before God is on an entirely different basis. He no longer sees us as being in Adam but in Christ. This means he not only cares for us during our earthly pilgrimage in his roles as our advocate and great high priest, but that we have become part of the new creation of which Christ is the federal head. By the new birth you, perhaps unknowingly, became an added witness to that unseen reality and soon-to-be-manifested glory.

I believe this is what Paul argues for in 2 Corinthians 5:17. You may be familiar with the words as they appear in the King James Version and may have applied them to yourself or a newly saved friend: “If any man be in Christ he is a new creature.” That is true, but perhaps a more limited understanding on our part than the Holy Spirit had in mind. Greek scholars tell us that the word “creature” may be read as “creation”. And words in italics in our Bibles are those supplied by translators; so “he is” in our text could also be read as “there is”. That being the case we may understand the verse as saying, “For anyone [not just you or your friend] to be in Christ [means] there is a new creation.”

A new Christian may be enthusiastic but his current experience is not the only thing that should bring him joy since with our fluctuating feelings and moods we may not always be that happy. No, the real cause for rejoicing is not only the change in a person’s behavior, but also (and more so!) the change in their standing before God. Their name is written in heaven and they are no longer in Adam but “in Christ”, giving evidence of there being a new creation and that he/she is already a part of it. “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice.”

Two Titles

The two men we have thought about are alike in this way only; they each represent those who follow. In all else they stand in contrast to each other. This is made clear in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. The first of these chapters views these differences mainly in the light of Christ’s first advent and death, while the latter focuses on his resurrection, return and the coming glory — a glory for him and all “in him”. In this chapter, the “Lord from heaven” is titled the “second man”. We might wonder at that when we think of the many generations that preceded his arrival on planet earth. But Old Testament prophets had portrayed God as seeking for “a man among them who would ... stand in the gap before me ... he saw there was no man ... his own arm brought salvation for him.” No one who came before Christ was qualified to be such a mediator.

For a similar reason he is titled “the last Adam”, for there has been and never will be need for some successor or another representative man to appear.

— Colin Anderson, “Two Men and You”, March 2013

* God foresaw his plight and that of all who believed God in Old Testament times. God’s deep love is commended toward us in the death of his Son (“While we were still sinners Christ died for us”), thus taking care of all sins through faith in him whether those sins were committed before or after the Savior’s death, burial and resurrection.

No comments :

Post a Comment