Monday, September 5, 2016

Setting aside

R. A. Huebner says

There is a fact to be observed with attention in the book of Genesis the special blessing is not given to the firstborn son. This setting begins with Cain and is seen in every case where there is sufficient information given so that this phenomenon in Genesis may be observed. We should see in this a foreshadow that God’s purpose is to set aside the firstborn. (God’s Sovereignty and Glory in the Election and Salvation of Lost Men, p. 31, downloaded 2016-09-05)
Galatians 4:21–24 supports his view that there is an allegorical truth here.

1 Corinthians 15:42–49 give two descriptions of Christ in contrast to Adam: there is the "last Adam" (v. 45) and the "second man" (v. 47). The "last Adam" carries the idea that Christ is the end of Adam's race, the "second man" carries the idea that Christ is the start of something new.

We see the same pattern in Matthew 27:15–23. Pilate presents Barabbas and Jesus in that order. Of course the crowd chose the first man over the second Man.

Their choice of the first over the second carries on the pattern from Genesis. When Joseph saw that Israel's right hand was on Ephraim's head, it was "evil in his eyes" (Genesis 48:17). Joseph wanted his older son to get the older son's blessing (quite naturally!). Jacob chose the second over the first (v. 20)

When God told Abraham that He would give him a second son (Genesis 17:15–21), Abraham's response was "Oh that Ishmael would live before You" (v. 18). This is remarkable: God is telling Abraham that He would provide the "son of promise" (Galatians 4:28), but Abraham wants the "son according to flesh" (Galatians 4:23) to please God. God certainly promised to bless Ishmael, but He insisted it was Isaac with whom He would establish a permanent covenant (vv. 20–21).

Let's pause and say that it was good and right for Abraham to long for Ishmael to please God. And we don't want to downplay the blessing of God on Ishmael. But we want to see the truth of Galatians 4 here: these things have an allegorical sense, and the Spirit of God is teaching us something in this story.

By the time we come to Genesis 22:2, we have God referring to Isaac as Abraham's "only son". God is no longer acknowledging the first man, only the second.

I fall into the trap of Abraham again and again, as I suspect most of us do. I long to see the "first man" walk with God. What I fail to see is that God is no longer acknowledging that man: He only acknowledges the "second Man." I, like Abraham, have to see that God is now dealing with the son of promise, not the son of flesh.

If you look at Facebook, or listen to so much so-called Christian ministry, you'll see people say things like, "we have two natures within us, the one we feed is the one that grows." I suppose there's a grain of truth there, but it's not at all what Scripture actually teaches. Scripture teaches that in God's sight, there is only the second Man. When we start down the path of thinking we have a choice between "two natures", we leave the teaching of Scripture behind. We aren't to choose between two natures, we are to consider ourselves to have died (Romans 6:11), and to be entirely new creatures (2 Corinthians 5:17). Of course I'm not denying that we have "the flesh" in us, but we are to consider that as a dead thing (Galatians 5:24). To think of ourselves as some sort of umpire between two warring sides is to give a place to "the flesh" that Scripture doesn't give it. J. N. Darby wrote,

Other differences have disappeared: there remains but the old man, which we only acknowledge as dead, and the new man. [emphasis added] (J. N. Darby, Synopsis of the Books of the Bible, Volume 5, last checked 2016-09-05)

So this is a challenge to me: don't fall into the trap of Genesis 17:18. Don't think the "first man" will walk before God. He won't. Don't think God will acknowledge anyone except the "second Man". God has found in Christ what He was looking for, and He's stopped looking. My only place before God is "in Christ", which means I've given up on myself (Philippians 3:9), and – by extension – on Adam's race.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful truth!.....but how slow we are in reaching it

Robert Thomson said...

Thank you for the link to R. A. Huebner's book. In the UK, we have a rise of corporate election teaching. At first it was promoted as an alternative view; now it is insisted upon by some as a test of orthodoxy. It is simply the first man seeking status before God. Worse than that, it makes God's choice dependent on man's choice and turns the universe on its head!

clumsy ox said...

The older I get, the more central I see this whole issue. Donald Grey Barnhouse is said to have declared, "Nothing provokes the flesh like the doctrine of election."

Anonymous said...

Robert, here in Northern Ireland, the new doctrine of corporate election is being pushed by some of the most able, respectable ad conservative men among the 'tight' gospel halls, and most obviously through a new publishing outfit they have begun. They have published a statement of this view in 'God's way of electing souls' by a mysterious author known as MSB - who seems to have been a 19th century Anglican. It is telling that they cannot publish 19th century 'brethren' on the same issue. The same goes with their recent republication of two books on the atonement by a 19th century Scottish presbyterian minister. I'm really concerned that very few people seem to realise that this is new or are concerned by its implications e.g. for the doctrine of God.

Anonymous said...

Concerning election, would you guys say that both open ad closed Brethren went downhill from Darby and the early founders in that most of them adhere to the notion that God's sovereignty and man's "free will" are both true...."a wonderful paradox"?

clumsy ox said...

To be blunt, I think the "wonderful paradox" would be an improvement over the current trend of blatant anti-"Calvinism". Is Calvinism the whole counsel of God? Of course not! But the current trend seems to be to rabidly attack anything vaguely reminiscent of "Calvinism", regardless of what scripture actually says.

My ultimate concern is not that people are misrepresenting the [biblical] doctrine of election, though. That's bad, but my concern is deeper: I have come to believe that the attacks on "Calvinism" are actually a symptom of a desire to improve the flesh.

Not that I'm trying to accuse anyone, but as I've listened to the sermons over and over (some of them well over a dozen times), I've come to believe there is a hidden agenda of attempting to give Adam a place before God.

I've sadly concluded Miles Stanford was largely correct when he accused "brethren" of teaching meeting formats and church order as a means of spiritual growth. I used to think that accusation baseless, now I think it perceptive. Ultimately, gathering "correctly" is something we can DO, so it appeals to a desire not to see self displaced.

The truth that Darby et al, saw was that only the Second Man has a place before God, and we only in Him. I fear that truth was lost a long time ago as far as a majority of "brethren" are concerned.

Robert Thomson said...

All of the comments above resonate with me. I used to wonder why the men who came to Ephesus claimed they were apostles and not teachers Rev 2. I now see that a man claiming to be an apostle can introduce 'new light' to the saints. The men mentioned in N.I. would never claim apostleship, although some are almost treated as such, but their teaching is new light and on that ground alone should be resisted by every sober minded believer. They have reconstructed every verse in the bible that teaches individual election and now have had to revise their view on atonement to match. All who resist are swept aside as Calvinists and denied opportunity to speak. It is all very sad and very serious. CH Spurgeon once said that if men found it objectionable that God could elect an individual, how is it possible for them to accept that God can elect a nation or a church? Does corporate election not magnify the 'mistake' of God electing men?

To my mind many of the problems of our day come from the 'clean sheet', 'year zero' approach to theology that dismisses the past 20 centuries of scholarship and hard study. I think that Miles Stanford once said that the brethren threw the baby out with the bath water when they started to dismiss the teaching of JND, Kelly etc. I personally believe that Stem Publishing is the most valuable teaching resource that we have today.

On a day that began with an audience of 5,000 men and ended with 11 by His side, the Son of God said: No man can come to Me unless the Father who hath sent Me draw him; and I will raise him up at the Last Day. John 6:44 It is not a matter of what a man wills to do, it is what he cannot do, what he is unable to do, what his nature prevents him from doing - that's the sorry state of the first man.