Thursday, December 18, 2008

Atonement and the Cross of Christ: “United to Christ”

“Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made. He saith not, and to seeds, as of many; but as of one, and to thy Seed, which is Christ. And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise ... And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:16-18, 29; emphasis added in this and the following texts).

“Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Peter 1:4).

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature [lit., act of creation]: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:1-7).

“For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5).


Christ, as creator, was representative of the human race. Adam, as the first created and father of the human race (for we were all in him when he was created; Gen. 25:23), was also representative of the human race. When Adam sinned, he took upon him fallen sinful human flesh and a fallen sinful human mind (a change of flesh and a change of mind from the sinless flesh and sinless mind that he had before he sinned) and passed those changes to his posterity. These changes, particularly the change of flesh, being relatively permanent, caused the human race to take on a new and different form from what it was as created, therefore Christ could no longer represent it; and Adam, having sold out to Satan, handed the race over to Satan, thus disqualifying himself as representative. This left Satan as the apparent representative of the human race—as conqueror. Consequently, if the race was ever going to be saved, a new representative had to come forward immediately. As creator, Jesus was responsible for what happened; thus it fell upon His shoulders to fix it. And so He did, through the promise in Genesis 3:15.

For Jesus to continue to represent the human race, He had to become one of, and one with, those He wanted to represent (Hebrews 2), and then gain sufficient support (Job 1). These things He did by taking upon Himself fallen sinful human flesh, the very same as we have, and by wooing us, encouraging us to receive His sinless mind (Phil. 2:5) that had conquered, and does conquer, all the cravings of fallen sinful human flesh. Christ partook of our fallen sinful human flesh that we might partake of His divine nature, thus becoming one with Christ, having been in Him from before the foundation of the world.

Christ, having sinless mind and sinless body, took upon Himself fallen sinful human flesh, retaining His sinless mind. We, having fallen sinful human flesh and a fallen sinful human mind, can choose to take upon ourselves the sinless mind of Christ, retaining our fallen sinful human flesh until Jesus comes the second time. Jesus differs from us in only one respect; He was born with His sinless mind intact (which still could sin as Adam’s sinless mind did sin). We, having been born with fallen sinful human mind, receive Christ’s sinless mind when we believe. Thus we become a new creation.

Baptism is a public acknowledgement of a union with Christ previously forged (Acts 8:26-38), acknowledging that we have died with Him, been resurrected with Him, and now believe His promise to give us the experience of His perfect life in us (Rom. 6:3, 4). Galatians 3:27 does not imply that the baptismal candidate had not put on Christ before he was baptized, only that if he were baptized he had put on Christ (at some time). The inheritance of righteousness (right doing) was given to Abraham and to his Seed by promise. As long as we are in the Seed and believe in Him, we also receive the dispensing of that promise in our experience. When we believe the promises of God we become partakers of the divine nature.

As we, by so believing, remain in Christ, we become a new creation—yes the original word translated “creature” in 2 Corinthians 5:17 really means “creation” (as is so stated in the NIV), in that God has re-created us into followers of Him, controlled by a new mind—something we were not before. This slight difference in translation takes us one step further away from the possible articulation of holy flesh, as the idea of “creature” might imply, for the only thing that changes in us at conversion is our mind; our flesh stays the same. Rather than being a permanent change, as the concept of holy flesh might lead us to believe, we can change our mind at any moment according to our own whim. If we are to hold a steady course within God’s plan for us, we need to claim His promise to hold us with a hand that will never let go (Isa. 41:13; 42:6). We are the only ones who can take ourselves out of Christ and thus throw away our birthright, as Esau did. Having placed us in Christ before the foundation of the world, God, by so doing, predestined us to believe (unless, of course, we choose not to, for God will not force us against our will), for being adopted as children (and taking God’s name as “Christians”) is what happens when we believe. Then it is time to be baptized and join the church—a physical acknowledgement of what has already happened. The choice is yours. Will you believe?

Craig Barnes

Supplemental Quotations to Help in Your Study

“[Christ] was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, not in the likeness of sinful mind. Do not drag His mind into it. His flesh was our flesh, but the mind was “the mind of Christ Jesus.” Therefore it is written: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” ... But what kind of mind is ours? O, it is corrupted with sin. ...” (A. T. Jones, 1893General Conference Bulletin, 1893, Sermon 17).

“By His obedience to all the commandments of God, Christ wrought out a redemption for men. This was not done by going out of Himself to another, but by taking humanity into Himself. Thus Christ gave to humanity an existence [flowing] out of Himself. To bring humanity into Christ, to bring the fallen race into oneness with divinity, is the work of redemption. Christ took human nature that men might be one with Him as He is one with the Father, that God may love man as He loves His only-begotten Son, that men may be partakers of the divine nature, and be complete in Him” Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 250, 251).

“There has come into the church at Battle Creek a spirit that has no part in Christ. It is not a zeal for the truth, not a love for the will of God as revealed in His word. It is a self-righteous spirit. It leads you to exalt self above Jesus and to regard your own opinions and ideas as more important than union with Christ and union with one another. You are sadly lacking in brotherly love. You are a backslidden church. To know the truth, to claim union with Christ, and yet not to bring forth fruit, not to live in the exercise of constant faith--this hardens the heart in disobedience and self-confidence. Our growth in grace, our joy, our usefulness, all depend on our union with Christ and the degree of faith we exercise in Him. Here is the source of our power in the world.

“Many of you are seeking honor of one another. But what is the honor or the approval of man to one who regards himself as a son of God, a joint heir with Christ? What are the pleasures of this world to him who is daily a sharer in the love of Christ which passes knowledge? What are the contempt and opposition of man to him whom God accepts through Jesus Christ? Selfishness can no more live in the heart that is exercising faith in Christ than light and darkness can exist together. Spiritual coldness, sloth, pride, and cowardice alike shrink from the presence of faith. Can those who are as closely united with Christ as the branch to the vine, talk of and to everyone but Jesus?

“Are you in Christ? Not if you do not acknowledge yourselves erring, helpless, condemned sinners. Not if you are exalting and glorifying self. If there is any good in you, it is wholly attributable to the mercy of a compassionate Saviour. Your birth, your reputation, your wealth, your talents, your virtues, your piety, your philanthropy, or anything else in you or connected with you, will not form a bond of union between your soul and Christ. Your connection with the church, the manner in which your brethren regard you, will be of no avail unless you believe in Christ. It is not enough to believe about Him; you must believe in Him. You must rely wholly upon His saving grace” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 48, 49).