Paul and the Work of Christ

Foremost in the thought of Paul was the fact that Jesus Christ brought to men a knowledge of God which without Him they could never have possessed or entered into (John 14:9)

For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (2 Corinthians 4:6).

To the Colossians, Paul writes to combat a heresy which held that Jesus was certainly great, but that He was only one stage on the way to the knowledge of God. Paul says He is the full revelation of God, He did not come to bring the revelation of God.

  1. For it was the [Father’s] good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, (Colossians 1:19)
  2. In whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians 2:3)
  3. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, (Colossians 2:9)

It would not be enough to simply show men what God was like. Paul saw that Jesus Christ came to open the way to God for men, to give men access to God.

  1. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:13)
  2. For through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. (Ephesians 2:18)
  3. In whom we have boldness and confident access through faith in Him. (Ephesians 3:12)
  4. The word prosagoge means bringing men to God: “Then you shall bring Aaron and his sons to the doorway of the tent of meeting, and wash them with water. (Exodus 29:4)

Behind the truth of Jesus as the introducer into the presence of God there were two thoughts: 1) Men by their sin had erected a barrier. 2) Jesus came to show men the truth about what God is like. Jesus’ service and death gave a new idea. Apart from Jesus they would not know God’s love.

Paul uses six great metaphors to describe the work of Christ:

1) Justification – from the law – an ethical religion always has sanctions.

  1. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of God. (Romans 14:10)
  2. So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:12). Therefore justification comes in.
  3. Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Romans 5:1)
  4. Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (Romans 3:24)
  5. For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law. (Romans 3:28)
  6. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, (Romans 4:5)
  7. Justification usually means to produce reasons why a person is right, to prove why he did something. In the NT, the word is dikaioun. In Greek –oun does not mean to make a person something; but to treat, reckon, account a man as being something. So instead of punishing the sinner, God treats the sinner as if he had been a good man. The shock for the Jews was that a judge to treat a bad man as if he was good was the ultimate of injustice and wickedness.
  8. He who justifies the wicked, and he who condemns the righteous, Both of them alike are an abomination to the LORD. (Proverbs 17:15)
  9. “Keep far from a false charge, and do not kill the innocent or the righteous, for I will not acquit the guilty. (Exodus 23:7) – but Paul says it’s a paradox…
  10. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, (Romans 4:5)
  11. The perfect picture of justification is the story of the prodigal son. The father welcomes him back before the son has the chance to request servant status.
  12. Sanctification – This must follow justification. The sinner freely received back must clothe himself in holiness, and God will treat him as if he never rebelled.
  13. Justification by faith – We can only know that Jesus told us so. We must put our faith in the assumption that Jesus was right when He told us what God was like.
  14. Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” (Galatians 3:11)
  15. Nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

2) Reconciliation – from friendship – we are all enemies of God, being reconciled by the death of His son.

  1. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:10)
  2. Now all [these] things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, (2 Corinthians 5:18)
  3. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20)
  4. And might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. (Ephesians 2:16)
  5. And through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, [I say], whether things on earth or things in heaven. And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, [engaged] in evil deeds, (Colossians 1:20-21)

3) Redemption / purchase price – from slavery.

The Hebrew background – comes from the emancipation from Egypt:

  1. “Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. (Exodus 6:6)
  2. “In Thy lovingkindness Thou hast led the people whom Thou hast redeemed; In Thy strength Thou hast guided [them] to Thy holy habitation. (Exodus 15:13)
  3. But because the LORD loved you and kept the oath which He swore to your forefathers, the LORD brought you out by a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt. (Deuteronomy 7:8)
  4. “And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. (Deuteronomy 15:15, 16:12)

The Greek background – slave earning enough to buy his own freedom – owner taking the slave to the temple, the slave pays the money, and the slave then becomes the property of the god and free from all men.

  1. Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (Romans 3:24)
  2. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, (1 Corinthians 1:30)
  3. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace, (Ephesians 1:7)
  4. In whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:14)

4) Propitiationhilasterion – from sacrifice, that which restore the broken relationship. Not the sacrifice itself, but the penitence of which the sacrifice was a symbol. The Greek word never means the sacrifice itself, that is Jesus would be the sacrifice. -erion means the place where something is done which is the mercy-seat. So this is the place where man and God meet.

  1. “And you shall make a mercy seat of pure gold, two and a half cubits long and one and a half cubits wide. (Exodus 25:17)
  2. And above it [were] the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail. (Hebrews 9:5)

The High Priest represented the people:

  1. “And there I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel. (Exodus 25:22)
  2. And the LORD said to Moses, “Tell your brother Aaron that he shall not enter at any time into the holy place inside the veil, before the mercy seat which is on the ark, lest he die; for I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. (Lev 16:2)

The Day of Atonement:

  1. “Moreover, he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle [it] with his finger on the mercy seat on the east [side]; also in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times. “Then he shall slaughter the goat of the sin offering which is for the people, and bring its blood inside the veil, and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, and sprinkle it on the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. (Leviticus 16:14-15)
  2. For it is on this day that atonement shall be made for you to cleanse you; you shall be clean from all your sins before the LORD. (Leviticus 16:30)
  3. This is the place where His love and His justice meet. Jesus is the only person in the universe that can bring men back to God.
  4. Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. [This was] to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; (Romans 3:25)

5) Adoption – from family.

  1. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8:15)
  2. And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for [our] adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. (Romans 8:23)
  3. Who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the [temple] service and the promises, (Romans 9:4)
  4. In order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. (Galatians 4:5)
  5. He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, (Ephesians 1:5)
  6. Adoption for three reasons: continue family name, to pass an inheritance, and to insure the worship of ancestral gods would not be interrupted. The adopted person would receive all rights of the blood family, in Greek society.
  7. Paul had the Roman idea in mind as he wrote. The father had absolute power over the children. As long as the father was alive, the son never came of age. The adopted person lost all ties to the former life, even debts, he was a new person entering into a new life.

6) Reckon or Impute – from accounting.

  1. For what does the Scripture say? “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” (Romans 4:3)
  2. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing upon the man to whom God reckons righteousness apart from works: (Romans 4:5-6)
  3. “BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.” Is this blessing then upon the circumcised, or upon the uncircumcised also? For we say, “FAITH WAS RECKONED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” How then was it reckoned? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be reckoned to them, (Romans 4:8-11)

There is not a man in the whole world who has not a vast debit balance in his account with God. He is in debt and can never repay. But God in His mercy cancels the debt and the merits of Jesus are credited to him.

This material is from William Barclay, the Mind of St. Paul, 1975.

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