Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The works of redemption by Our Lord

Today, I am going to touch on a somewhat sensitive topic, but yet, a very significant one, which, I believe, more recently, the Holy Spirit has impressed upon me. More directly, it concerns a dimension of redemption which has not been properly emphasized as such, and indirectly de-emphasized by erroneous “overly grace” teachings.

Spiritual redemption
Many are of the view the redemption of our Lord, Jesus Christ, is simply a singular spiritual dimension, the giving of eternal life to our spirited soul (For understanding of why I used spirited soul instead of spirit or soul, read my separate article, Man is body, soul and spirit {Tripartite}). In other words, Jesus died on the Cross that we may have eternal life. Indeed, this is the common belief that is shared by all “legitimate” Christians.

Physical redemption
In addition to that spiritual dimension (of eternal life for our spirited soul), some believe the work of redemption included a redemption of the physical. In other words, in addition, there is also the redemption of the body. While at one extreme, there are those who believe not, any physical redemption; the other extreme is occupied by those who believe physical redemption is both immediately full and effectual. Such are also most likely to regard redemption of the spirited soul as being both immediately full and effectual. It is NOT the intention of this article to look at the issue of the redemption of the spirited soul being both immediately full and effectual or “already in possession”. It is however, my intention to cover the issue of whether or not physical redemption of the body is necessarily both immediately full and effectual. This, of course, is hinting that, there is a third class of believers who believe while there is physical redemption, i.e. redemption of the body, upon entering into salvation, such physical redemption is only partial, for the time being. This, I will expound further, after I have introduced the third dimension of the redemptive works of Jesus, which is the other purpose of this article.

Works redemption
So far, we have mentioned, firstly, spiritual redemption, redemption of the spirited soul, and secondly, physical redemption, redemption of the body of a person. The third dimension, though, is not uncommon to have been taught in “balanced” churches, but NOT so much as a dimension of the redemptive work of Jesus, is works redemption! Because of the over-emphasis by “overly grace” teachings, “works” has been de-emphasized by many. The over use of the saying, “We are not saved by works.” is partly responsible for the incorrect perspective we hold on the subject of works. I strongly believe that redemption should be taught to include works redemption, for it is only in this way, works is given the proper position that it should take, in the walk of a Christian.

Direct word on works redemption
Frankly, it is NOT that the Word of God had not been direct about this issue; I believe it has been that we have chosen to construe the word of God deferring to our desire to be free from accountability. As a direct word, God gave us Eph 2:10 -

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph 2:10, KJV).

Below is my own private commentary on the above verse of Eph 2:10:

“Because of its constant use, Christians tend to remember the preceding two verses (vv 8 & 9), or its appealing part – the “by grace” part; whereas verse 10 is so conveniently ignored because it is not appealing, because it calls for sacrifice on our part or it encroaches into our lives. Verse 10 implies that we are to see {“For” here, means “seeing that; pointing to another truth, often greater truth”; or means “more importantly”; “For” in v8, on the other hand, means “since”} or to understand that we are created by God for good works; works which He had prepared in advance for us to do. So, when you and I are saved, we are to step into our destiny and that redeemed destiny included doing good works. Many of us, also park away this verse because we choose to believe we do not know what the good works are.”

Let me expand on this: Verses 8-10 are on the issue of redemption by our Lord, not just verses 8 & 9; it is error on our part to read verses 8 & 9 as having to do with redemption, and NOT verse 10. If you think, that is the only isolated verse (on good works), then look at this verse from the Book of Titus:

Who gave himself for us, that he {Jesus} might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works (Titus 2:14. KJV).

What does “redeem” mean?
When Scripture said that we are “redeemed” by the Lord, what does the word mean? It means to get back, or to regain, or to recover, and in the case of us, by the Lord, was with a payment which was termed as ransom; the Greek word used is lytroŇć (G3084). In other words, “redeem” implied there was a previous state or station, but that state or station had changed, and redemption would result in the state or station be changed back to the original state. For example, we read of this, in Lev 25:29, “And if a man sell a dwelling house in a walled city, then he may redeem it within a whole year after it is sold; within a full year may he redeem it.” What it simply meant was that if the owner of the house sold his house, his state of being the owner of the house ceased, but when he redeemed the house back, he would once again be the owner of the house. Therefore, redeem ALWAYS talks about a reversion to the previous.

Indirect picture
This brings me to talk about the indirect pictures portrayed in Scripture concerning original state or station of Man. What was the early state of Man, before the Fall of Man, like? He was with a body, and although he was already a soul, a life principal, yet he was made living forever by God’s giving to him, a spirit. Was that all? No, we are to understand that he was righteous, for God said that what He had created was good, and God freely fellowshipped with Man, in the early days. Was that all? No, we are told that Man was to do the bidding of God, in other words, Man was with works, and the works, then, was to tend the Garden of Eden.

It should be easy to appreciate the word, “good” here, has the meaning of being agreeable or being right, with God. That is why it is not unreasonable to say, when God said what He created was good or what He saw was good, He was saying the “object” was agreeable or being right with Him, or righteous. Therefore, to translate “good and evil” as in the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil as “…. tree of knowledge of being righteous and evil is NOT incorrect. Similarly, “good works” can be rendered as righteous works; both phrases we do encounter, in the New Testament (NT). Any works which is agreeable or right in God’s eyes is good works. In other words, works which God would like us to do is good works. The tending of the Garden of Eden was good works, so is the works of the Great Commission; and many more things can come under good works (including the worshiping of God).

Spiritual redemption explained
Now, when Jesus redeems us, what is He redeeming? As expounded by my separate article referred to above, on the Tripartite nature of Man, we know the spirited soul of Man lives forever (eternal life enabled), yet by The Fall, the spirited soul was cursed to live separate from God in Hell (eternal life “disabled”). Indeed, there was a change of state or station when Man first fell, for there was a law, NOT the Law of Moses, but a prohibitive law given by God to the first man, “You shall not eat of the …..” The breaking of a law is a curse (Gal 3:10, 3:13), and when Man broke that law, the curse, “You shall surely die.” kicked in. The death, here, must be understood NOT as the physical death, but death of the spirited soul as in its separation from God, although unless there is a physical death, final “death” of the spirited soul CANNOT be entered into. This understanding that physical death must precede final “death” of the spirited soul is significant, and we will return to it, in a little while. So, the very first redemption dimension is to revert Man back to eternal life enabled; in simple terms, we say we have once again eternal life (spiritual redemption), just as first Man, Adam, was originally with eternal life.

Physical redemption explained
Concerning redemption of the body, is there or is there not, redemption? To answer this, we need to have understanding of whether or not there was a change with regard to the body, when Man first fell. There are a few aspects to consider in addressing this issue of the body:

First, let me pose you a question; do you think Adam ever had (ate) the fruit from the Tree of Life? When I posed this question to Christians, most, if not all, were stunned; the reason being they were under the impression that Adam did not; and no one should have asked such a question, for to them, as far as they were taught, the only relevant question was whether or not, Adam ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Yes; the scriptures below, said that God stopped Adam from eating from the Tree of Life:

22And the LORD God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever: 23Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken (Gen 3:22-23, KJV).

But, people forgot that God had earlier, when He placed Adam in the Garden, said this:

16And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: 17But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die (Gen 2:16-17, KJV)

Therefore, it is NOT unreasonable to deduce that, at the beginning, Man was eating the fruits from the Tree of Life. I believe, that was indeed the case, that Adam and Eve had the fruits from the Tree of Life as one of their diet! In Gen 3:22-23, it was stated God stopped that, and put Man out of the Garden; the reason being, to prevent Man from living forever. Have you wondered why Adam and Eve were prevented from living forever? I can think of 2 reasons: one, Man was NOT created with the capacity to handle the knowledge of good and evil independently, without further input from God, and two, Man must NOT be allowed to live forever physically, because if it were the case, it would negate God’s punishment, for God had said Adam and Eve shall surely die if they ate the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

Had Adam and Eve continued to eat the fruit from the Tree of Life, they would NOT die physically, and without physical death, they would NOT be able to enter into the 2nd death, which was to be “death” for the spirited soul. Those who insisted the death in Gen 2:16-17 was referring to 1st death or physical death is mistaken, for Adam and Eve did not die on the Fall; in fact, they lived on to procreate Abel, Cain and Seth, before Adam finally died at the age of 930 years old.

Without eating the fruit from the Tree of Life, Adam and Eve, and any man, for that matter, would die. Perhaps, with earlier consumption of the potent fruit, early men were able to live a very substantially longer life, but over time, with no more residual effect of the fruit left to pass down Man’s lineage, and with the fallen world’s effects, physical life on earth invariably became shorter and shorter. According to Scripture, we know the average age has settled to around 70 to 80 years (Ps 90:10).

One thing for sure, The Fall meant that Man would NOT have (or if you believe like I do, “no longer have”) the access to the fruit from the Tree of Life, and therefore, the body would NOT be able to live forever. For this aspect, does the redemption by our Lord take care of it? The short answer is “Yes”, but the picture is NOT sufficiently explained with just a “Yes” answer. Why?

This is why:

1. Jesus did not say that we would not die, physically.
2. Jesus talked about the incorruptible body for a believer as that which would be given after physical death or when we are raptured at End Time.
3. The fruit from the Tree of Life would be available for consumption for the believers, NOT in this earthly life (Rev 2:7, Rev 22:1-2).
4. The Tree of Life or the Garden of Eden just could NOT be found, no matter how hard men tried.
5. In reality, men die the physical death. According to Wikipedia (probably from the start of tracking), the CURRENT oldest “verified person” ever was a French woman, who died at the age of 122 years 164 days. Others died much younger.

From Scripture, our undisputable understanding is that the incorruptible body is given after our physical life has expired, and the fruit from the Tree of Life, also, can only be had, after our physical life has expired. While there are scriptures showing possible grant of full life span and long life by God, none, pointed to any hint of our physical body NOT giving way eventually or we would NOT die the physical death, at the hand of sicknesses or simply old age.

We should also note that punishments for Man {for the serpent, there are separate punishments}, for the Fall of Man, were of 2 sets, one, contained in Gen 2:16-17, and another, in Gen 3:16-19. The first set, I termed it as the primary or the spiritual punishment, as it pertains to the spirited soul, the second, the secondary or physical punishments, as they were meted out by God when by His grace, He allowed Man to live on physically, out from Garden of Eden. Those wanting a full understanding of The Fall of Man could read my series of articles on “The Fall of Man”. From my understanding of Scripture, the secondary punishments, exacted more, on the body of Men, were NOT bored by Jesus, meaning we cannot say Jesus has taken the fall for us, that we, for the man {gender}, he no longer need to toil for his food, and for the woman, she no longer have any childbearing pain, or her desire will no longer be for her husband or that her husband no longer to rule over her.

The correct understanding, I believe, is this: That Man was allowed to live physically (for Adam and Eve were NOT put to death upon their fall), was already mercy and grace granted on the part of God; secondary punishments, and as well as the lack of protection of the body of Man against eventual giving away (no longer the body was able to continue forever, as was initially possible for Adam and Eve, before the Fall), were NOT what Jesus had come to do away with. Yes, there will be the full redemption of the body, soul and spirit of Man, eventually, but there is NOT the UNCONDITIONAL promise of perpetual physical life or earthly life. The possibility of earthly life or physical life in itself was and is already a mercy and grace of God at work.

We read from Scripture, God did not just abandon Adam and Eve, on discovery of their fall, and even after that. Scripture revealed that, out of love, mercy, grace and compassion, God still cared for Man; God made covering for the naked Man, from animal skin, replacing the flimsy covering Man made out of leaves; God was pictured in Scripture to have been continuing his close fellowship with the first family (Adam and Eve, and their children, Abel, Cain and Seth). God’s love, mercy, grace and compassion continued on with the chosen people of God, then, the Israelites; and then, when Jesus came (his 1st coming), He continued to demonstrate the Father God’s love, mercy, grace and compassion to those living in His time, and through His disciples, began to make available salvation to even the Gentiles, extending the people of God to include any and everyone, who would believe in the Gospel. Jesus’ own manifesto included the declaration of the era {year; more than just a year, it is an era} of favor of God (Luke 4:19). So, even though Jesus had NOT come to do away with the secondary punishments on Man nor to grant eternality to our current physical body, while He has become the propitiation for sins for all men, He has also demonstratively announced through His workings of signs and wonders and miracles, including healings and deliverances, that God does care about the earthly living of His people, including if they are in afflictions, whether in sicknesses or otherwise. Scripture is clear, as believers, we are no longer of this world, although we are still in this world, therefore, physical life and health would continue to be transient or temporal. Any interpretation of any scriptures contrary to this truth is NOT of God.

This brings me to conclude for physical redemption, that while our body can be well for a season, FULL redemption of the body will NOT manifest in this earthly life. While we can ask for God to bless our body and heal our sicknesses, God has NOT made any UNCONDITIONAL promises ensuring our good health and long life. Perhaps, we should ask what we are doing with our life, before we ask how long we can live in good health and die not, yet.

[Added: 16/09/2011 - As to whether or NOT, what were accomplished by the 1st coming of Jesus, complete with His earthly ministry, and culminating in His sufferings, crucifixion and resurrection, included healing for such things as physical, emotional, psychological and demonic conditions/ailments, it must be said that, although it is NOT in the form of an unconditional promise, the authority and powers of divine healing have provided for, as a relief and temporal solution to Man's fallen body, pending the incorruptible body.  But this relief is continuation of the same God's grace, mercy, compassion and love of God for men while they lived, which could be seen even from immediately after the Fall.  However, it is right for us to believe that, through the coming of Jesus, there has been a heightening of this favor of God, for in Isaiah 61, as well as in Luke 4:18-19, of the "manifesto" of Jesus, the latter was tasked by God to declare the era {year here equates era} of favor of the LORD.

It is something that God had planned in, and it can also be seen in Isaiah 53:4, which, through the interpretation given by the Apostle Matthew (Matt 8:16-17), it was NOT necessarily to have been directly attributed to the suffering ON the body of Jesus, although it can (be linked to His bodily, emotional and pyschological sufferings), for one of the main reasons for His having to suffer those sufferings was because He did what He did, performing healings and miracles, in compassion and in the love of God.]

Works redemption explained
Now, I will expound further on the last dimension of redemption, works redemption. I have explained redemption implied a reversion to the previous state or station, and Man was with works from the LORD. Adam and Eve were to tend the Garden of Eden; that was their good works or righteous works for God. Upon the Fall of Man, Man lost the works, for God had to put Man out of the Garden of Eden. Therefore, it is NOT unreasonable to expect, in God’s redemption, this aspect is also redeemed. Of course, it is NOT that we must now find the Garden of Eden and tend that garden, rather we are to do the works God has intentioned that we do (Eph 2:10, Titus 2:14).

God did NOT create Man to do nothing except to bask in grace; He also did not create angels to do nothing. Doing God’s bidding or His works is fundamental in God’s creation of spirited beings, be it, Man or angels or any other heavenly creatures. It is amazing that so many believe in GENERAL predestination of PERSONAL salvation (which I do NOT subscribe to), yet people do NOT believe that Man is pre-destined to do good works when verses such as Eph 2:10 clearly pointed to that. When there is pre-destination of works, necessarily in redemption, there is a redemption in this aspect.

Not really a digression, I would like to point out that Satan, previously known as Lucifer (bearer or bringer of light), the once guardian angel of God, was created with works assignment, and his assignments possibly included leading worship in Heaven (Eze 28:13-14, Isaiah 14:11-12), but when he fell, he lost his works assignments, and became known as Satan, the adversary, deceiver or accuser. When Lucifer fell, he lost his works assignments; when Man fell, he too, lost his works assignment. Satan has NOT the chance to be redeemed, but we have, and are redeemed (for believers, that is), and so, don’t just do your own thing or just bask in grace!

The redemption of Man does not just involve a restoration or re-establishment of eternal life, eternal body, NOT on current body, though, but also works, even though, we may yet be fully assigned in our current life. It is NOT without reason, Jesus spoke about a number of parables on works and fruitfulness using the metaphors of trees or plants {Vine and the branches (John 15:1-6), The barren fig tree (Luke 13:6-9), and The sower and the seeds (Luke 8:5-15)} and gave the narrative in Matt 25 on the Sheep and the Goats (Matt 25:31-46). Works (good works or righteous works) is part of redemption, and when we look at works in its proper perspective, we can then begin to sort out what we must do to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phi 2:12).

There are connections between the 3 dimensions of redemption discussed here, but for this article, I shan’t go into it in details except to say 2 more things: one, to underscore that, indeed, works is an integral part of redemption, may I encourage you to read my separate article, “Who are the sheep, and who are the goats?”; two, does it NOT make sense God will have an interest in your good health and length of life, if you are doing His works, even if in truth, both good health and physical life have to be transient or temporal? What are we doing with our body or earthly life; do we do his works?

Anthony Chia, high.expressions 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Cor 13:11-2). Lord, I cannot refuse to grow in your redemption of me, and I cannot say since the Kingdom of Heaven is NOT fully manifest in earthly living, I shall NOT walk out the redemption that you have ransomed with your own life. May I work out my salvation with fear and trembling, including be warned that I should NOT be found as goats, but as your sheep. Lord, may you bless me in good health and long life as I do (some of) the works you have intended me to do, in my earthly life. Forgive me, Lord, for where I fall short. Lead me by your Spirit that I may truly grow in your redemption of me. In the name of Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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