With apologies to Pastor Eddy Johnson for the delayed publication, we present the second part of Pastor Johnson’s article “A Different View of Revival.” Part I appeared this last January.
Part 1 made it clear that sinful nature cannot have access into eternal life. To that must be added the inescapable fact that the sinful life cannot be changed. It must die and be replaced with a new life. How does this happen?
Paul refers to Christ as the second Adam. What does that mean? In what way is Christ the new Adam? In one way only. Adam had in him the collective life of the whole human race. Act 17:26 states that every nation of man came from the one man Adam. It is in that same sense that Christ is the second Adam. By the mysterious phenomenon of incarnation, which means taking on the human nature and flesh, Christ gathered into himself the entire human race past present and future. Theology identifies Christ as the new federal head of the human race. A long-standing debate about the humanity of Christ has opposed two factions. Did Christ have Adam’s pre-fall nature or post-fall nature? This article is not the place to engage in the debate. It is sufficient to say that Christ’s nature could not be that of pre-fall Adam because the Apostle Paul writes that God sent His Son in the “likeness of sinful flesh.” Was Adam created in the likeness of sinful flesh? Certainly not but he became sinful after the fall. Therefore Christ’s humanity was closer to Adam’s fallen nature than to his pre-fall one no matter how far one wishes to expand the meaning of sinful flesh. Paul gives three reasons for God’s action in the incarnation. One is theological, the second is forensic/legal and the third is practical. (1) The only way for Christ to put corporate humanity’s sinful nature to death was for him to assume the same. His death was the death of the sinful nature. When he died and was buried the whole race died and was buried in him. (2) His sinless victorious life over his assumed ‘likeness of sinful flesh’ gave God the legal right to resurrect him and mankind along with him. (3) Christ can be our example in the way he battled and overcame the downward pull of his assumed nature, which was similar to ours.
Baptism is the incorporation into Christ’s death to sin (acknowledgement that the sinful nature no longer reigns) and resurrection to a new life (partaking of the divine nature overcomes sinfulness). Paul is emphatic when writing to the believers in Rome, he says:
“ We were therefore buried with him (Christ) through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.
Now if we died with Christ we believe that we will also live with him. For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again, death has no longer mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all, but the life he lives, he lives to God.
In the same way, count yourself dead to sin but alive in Christ Jesus. Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires… You have been set free from sin and have become slaves of righteousness… Now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness and the result is eternal life” (Romans 6: 4-6; 8-12; 18; 22, NIV).
I wonder if we fully understand the scope of Paul’s statements. It is indeed mindboggling. It boldly says that in spite of our sinful nature, the glory of God dwells in us and will give us full victory over every besetting weakness. Peter suggests the same when he writes that we are called to be partakers of the divine nature, which provides escape from the corruption in the world caused by evil desires (2 Peter 1:4). A vision of this stupendous miracle was given to Ezekiel as he stood in the middle of the valley of dry bones. The Lord asked a question: “Son of man, can these bones live?” The French translation of the Hebrew text reads “Can these bones be revived?” Then followed the revivification of the sun- parched skeletons. The breath (Spirit) of the Lord entered the long dead corpses and revival took place. Paul describes the same process using more powerful language.
“For in Christ all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ who is the head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:9, 10, NIV).
Modern translations do not really do justice to the strength of the Greek. Paul used the word ‘pleroma’ which was the strongest word in the language to define completeness/absoluteness. What the Apostle is saying is that Christ, in a body like ours, had the absolute character and power of God present in him and, that SAME absolute presence also dwells in anyone who is in Christ. This is why Christ could to tell the disciples that they would be able to do greater things that he had done himself. And what if the greater things include complete victory over every besetting weakness? I find this incredibly attractive and encouraging. Imagine a church made up of revived people filled with God’s fullness (pleroma) going out to witness to what God can do. Then, the world in darkness would be lit with light from above and through the church the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 3:10) which has been God’s intent from everlasting. The entire universe is on tiptoe waiting and watching what God can do for, through, and with sinful human beings who surrender to Him. Oswald Chambers wrote that the Christian does not have to seek God’s will because like Jesus he/she is God’s will made visible.
Whereas human beings had no choice about being in Adam, they can and they have to choose to accept i.e. make theirs what God has achieved for them in Christ. The choice will show in their lives as an on going recurrence. A choice always follows the evaluation of possible options. In this case two: eternal death or death and resurrection in Christ. The options have been there since the entrance of sin and were outlined by Moses (See Deuteronomy 30:15-20). Israel may not have had the theology of Paul but the sacrificial system rightly understood gave a glimpse of the forthcoming reality in Christ. In Romans 6:11 Paul says “Count yourself…” He expands this thought in Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you brothers (and sisters) in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – which is your spiritual act of worship…be transformed by the RENEWING of your mind”. Counting oneself dead to sin and alive to God in Jesus Christ is an act of the will after the mind understands and the heart is touched by the beauty of Calvary.
Do we teach and believe this tremendous good news? This is what revival is about, death to the old ME followed by MY resurrection in Christ to a new life. All the prescriptions in the shape of spiritual exercises and practices will not bring revival (resurrection in Christ) about but the deep understanding of baptism by immersion and of the Holy Spirit fully experienced will. The prescriptions, on the other hand, will nurture and strengthen the new ME.
We cannot be revived unless we first choose to die. Have we?
Image: Piero della Francesca, Resurrection, 1463-1465.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4637