The UK Bible Students Website
Christian Biblical Studies
By A. Prentice
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation
(2 Corinthians 5: 17)
All Scripture citations are to the British text of the New International Version (NIV-UK),
unless indicated otherwise. If a text is not quoted, click on its hyperlink to read it.
GOD MADE MAN toward the end of the sixth ‘day’ of the creation ‘week’ (Genesis 1: 27, 31). On the seventh, He ‘rested’, the term apparently indicating a cessation of the creative project. The human species may, therefore, be seen as the termination point of the overall process whereby the Creator instigated and established life on earth. However, Man was not the incidental by-product of graduated development. He was always the end in view (Isaiah 45: 18):
For this is what the LORD says – he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited – he says: I am the LORD, and there is no other.
The production of animal life on earth perhaps was accomplished through (limited) evolution and a natural adaptation to the ever-changing environment of the creative ‘week’ – a nominal period made up of increments of unspecified fixed or varying lengths, referred to in the narrative as ‘days’.
This subject of the creative week is fraught with disagreement among students of the Bible – rightly so, considering the vital importance of understanding the nature and fall of the human race, and mankind’s ultimate redemption. A failure to acknowledge this Biblical theme is a barrier to understanding the plan of salvation as a whole. The Genesis account of creation cannot be set aside as metaphor or fable, if one wishes to comprehend the working of God in human history.
A Week of Days
Interpretations of the six days of Genesis vary. Some contend for the literal – that is, 24 hours x 6 creative days + 1 x 24-hour ‘rest’ day – and must, therefore, disallow any degree of evolution, the length of time involved being too short (quite apart from their intention to reinforce the Scriptural teaching that Man is a unique creation). Others argue for a much longer fixed-length ‘day’, based on the determination, for example, that the seventh ‘day’ which followed the creation of Man is 7,000 years long, a span arrived at from a comparison of Biblical chronology, secular history, and prophetic outcomes. According to this particular calculation, the six creative days, being of similar length, would total 42,000 years. This dispensational approach undoubtedly has merit, though it still seems to allot too short a period for species-wide evolution to occur, if we assume that animal life did not appear until the beginning of the fifth ‘day’ (Genesis 1: 20-23).
Regardless of the method employed by the Creator in populating Earth with air, marine, and land creatures, Man himself was not merely a biological result of it. Though endowed with the principle of life, in common with land animals, subject to the same atmosphere which sustains them, to the same force of gravity and atmospheric pressure as they, and inhaling the same air as other living beings, Man is nonetheless separate from the general creation. (For a discussion on the similarities of the human being to other creatures – homologues – see ‘In the Beginning’ on our Website here.)
A New Way
When Man (Adam) sinned, he was condemned to death by God. Eventually, his life expired in the same way as animals die. Humanity was thus launched on a downward trend, physically, morally, and mentally. Although a generalised longing for Eden probably remained in the collective memory (‘the good old days’ syndrome), it was not possible for mankind to return to that state of perfection. Burdened with the hardship of maintaining their existence in a hostile, dysfunctional environment, and having to cope with a host of sufferings, the human family now faced an uncertain future, bereft of fellowship with God. A general sense of fear and dread took the place of assurance. From this state of things has flowed personal and social disharmony – the general sense of doom manifesting itself even in today’s prosperous world, for example, in a foreboding over the consequences of climate change, nuclear war, genetic manipulation, and other terrors. The spirit of fear is the legacy of the condemnation which is upon the race.
Of course, there have been bright spots over the thousands of years of Man’s history, and hope and optimism have flourished, leading to great strides in social and technological innovation. But the end result of these upward surges, expressed through a myriad of philosophies and political and religious movements, has generally been incomplete or unsatisfactory. Even the nation of ancient Israel, a people blessed by the theocratic governance of Jehovah, failed to live up to the standard of the Law, its measure of perfection being above their capacity to achieve. Not that the Law was futile or a cruel deception foisted on the people by God. It served, says the Apostle Paul, as an instructive lesson, a guide to inform the attentive Jews of the coming Messiah (Galatians 3: 24).
When Jesus did come, He offered to those Jews and Gentiles who accepted Him salvation to eternal life based, not on deeds, but through faith. He revealed a new way to life and immortality (2 Timothy 1: 10). Salvation, then, would not be won by works or compliance with the Law, but attained only through the exercise of a saving faith. This promise, dimly understood, had been made by God to Abraham, centuries before (Galatians 3: 8).
But Jesus would not simply patch up the old garment (Luke 5: 36). Earth-bound and dying, the human race was then and is now incapable of restoring itself to perfection, no matter how determined the effort. Though not completely corrupt, human nature is saturated with sin, affecting all the faculties, and in this sense Man is ‘totally depraved’, counted by God as dead – hence the words of Jesus to the man who expressed a desire to follow Him (Luke 9: 60):
“Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
The Permission of Evil and the Days of Genesis
In pronouncing the death penalty on Man and cutting him off from Divine friendship, God has by no means repealed His good intentions toward humanity. Far from it. The thousands of years during which mankind has suffered is a period permitted by Divine love for mankind’s eternal benefit. As the Mosaic law, with its complicated strictures and sanctions, served as a teacher for the Jews, to bring them to their Messiah, so will the permission of evil accomplish the same thing for mankind as a whole. To put it another way, God’s grace is demonstrated by the manner in which He deals with the human family, regardless of how the secular or atheistic mind regards it.
Just as evolution could not have produced the first Man, the fallen world of mankind could not have produced the Saviour. Jesus was the direct and deliberate expression of God’s creative power and love toward mankind. According to the Scriptures, Jesus is the counterpart of Adam (1 Corinthians 15: 45-47):
45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit.
46 The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual.
47 The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven.
The following texts drive home the parallels (emphasised by italics):
Hebrews 2: 6-9
6 But there is a place where someone has testified: “What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him?
7 You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honour
8 and put everything under his feet.” In putting everything under him, God left nothing that is not subject to him. Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him.
9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.
1 Corinthians 15: 21, 22
21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.
22 For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
Romans 5: 12-21
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
15 But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many!
16 Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification.
17 For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men.
19 For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,
21 so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Begettal and Birth
At His baptism Jesus was anointed with the holy spirit, and so became a ‘new creature’ (Matthew 3: 13-17). Had He died on the cross and remained dead, the world’s hope for forgiveness of sin and salvation to eternal life would have ended there. But Jesus was raised, not as a Man, but as a Divine spirit being. Having been begotten as a ‘new creature’ at Jordan, He was born into the spirit nature.
The conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, recorded in John 3: 1-8 is instructive in this regard. The translation used here is the King James Version (KJV):
1 There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews:
2 The same came to Jesus by night, and said unto him, Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles that thou doest, except God be with him.
3 Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
4 Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born?
5 Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.
6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
7 Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again.
8 The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.
The distinction between conception and birth is often lost in the standard translations of these verses, as it is here. The Greek word, gennao, rendered ‘born’ throughout these verses, can also carry the meaning of ‘begotten’. It is so translated in the KJV renderings of Philemon 10 (where Paul refers to his evangelising of Onesimus as a begettal); 1 Corinthians 4: 15; 1 John 5: 1 (where gennao is rendered ‘born’, ‘begat’, and ‘begotten’ in the same verse).
As the context of our Lord’s conversation with Nicodemus suggests, Jesus draws His analogy from the process of conception and birth of a child. As applied to Jesus, so it was with the Church: each member was begotten by the holy spirit at consecration, and born, not in this life, but in the resurrection. Thus, the popular misnomer, ‘born again’ (or, in some Bible translations, ‘born from above’, or ‘born anew’) should be restricted to spirit-begettal (that is, ‘begotten again’); whereas ‘born of the spirit’ should be restricted to the culmination of the process, the resurrection-birth. [Note: For the sake of accuracy, the resurrection-birth should be regarded as the real ‘born again’, but it is not used this way in evangelical circles.]
Christ and the Church: Head and Body
Those who laid down their lives for Jesus during the Gospel Age were begotten of the holy spirit and at death raised to a new plane of existence and immortality, to live and reign with their Lord (John 14: 3). With Him, they comprise ‘The Christ’. This wholly new Creation was developed not by the secular philosophies of the world, or through the cumulative accidents of time and place, but through the handiwork of God – the promises and teachings of His Word, and sanctifying experiences under His supervision. The Christ (Head and Body) will in the coming Kingdom shepherd the human family toward physical and mental perfection and eternal life in an Edenic earth – a righteous society, a new world.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. He who was seated on the throne said, I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
p; Revelation 21: 3-5
Genesis 1: 27, 31
27 So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.
31 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning— the sixth day.
Genesis 1: 20-23
20 And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.” 21 So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living and moving thing with which the water teems, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. 22 God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.” 23 And there was evening, and there was morning – the fifth day.’
Galatians 3: 24
[NIV-UK] So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.
[KJV] Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.
2Timothy 1: 10
[B]ut it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.
Galatians 3: 8
The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”
Luke 5: 36
He told them this parable: “No-one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.”
Matthew 3: 13-17
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptised by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptised by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptised, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”
[KJV] I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: . . .
1 Corinthians 4: 15
[KJV] For though ye have ten thousand instructers in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.
1 John 5: 1
[KJV] Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of him.
John 14: 3
“. . . And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”
Copyright June 2010 ukbiblestudents.co.uk
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