Lecture 16: The Lordship of Christ
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The resurrection and ascension of Jesus demonstrated that Jesus is Lord. Philippians 2:6-11 and Colossians 1:15-20 are passages that teach that Jesus is both fully man and fully God. Justification means that God declares the wicked to be righteous. God provides salvation as a free gift so He is exalted because of what He has done.
Course: Biblical Theology
Lecture: The Lordship of Christ
I. The Person of Jesus
Paul teaches that we acknowledge the Lordship of Christ only by the Holy Spirit. It is not something that we can accomplish in our own strength. Jesus was always Lord, but at the resurrection experienced a new phase in His Lordship, because He is now the exalted Lord and Christ at His resurrection. We see that in Philippians 2:5-11, Romans 1:3-4, Romans 10:9, Ephesians 1:20-23. He is now enthroned as Lord. I think it would be helpful, when we think of who Jesus is, to consider two passages: Philippians 2:6-11 and Colossians 1:15-20.
a. Philippians 2:6-11
Philippians 2:6-11 is in a context in which believers are encouraged to imitate Christ who humbled Himself and therefore was exalted. He becomes the pattern for believers. We read in verse 6 that He was in the form of God. I think form of God is another way of saying that Jesus is fully God. What is helpful is to see in verse 6 that form of God is also defined as equality with God. Form of God and equality of God are two ways of saying the same thing. Jesus was fully God. He was equal with God. But He did not think that his equality with God was something to be exploited or taken advantage of. He did not use His equality with God to advance Himself.
Instead He emptied Himself, as verse 7 says. When it says Jesus emptied Himself, it does not mean that He gave up His divinity. Jesus remained fully God, one hundred percent God, when He came to earth. Emptying Himself does not mean that He gave up His divinity. It means that He took on humanity. He made himself nothing. How? By taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. He emptied Himself by taking on humanity. He did not empty Himself by subtracting divinity from Himself, by removing divinity from Himself. He emptied Himself by adding on humanity and living as a human being. So the emptying consists really of an adding, not a subtracting. So that is very important to see, because when Jesus was on earth he was a hundred percent God and a hundred percent man.
Of course, He did not exercise the rights of His divinity in every case. He did not access all the power of His divinity, since we know that Jesus did not know everything as a man. But He did not give up his divinity. He remained fully divine, but He did not take advantage of His equality with God. He emptied himself. How? He emptied himself by becoming a human being.
When Jesus came to earth as a man – when the second person of the Trinity assumed humanity – He could have come to earth, of course, as a human being and demanded worship, honor and praise. He could have been crowned as a king. He could have avoided death, because He did not deserve to die since He was sinless. He could have lived an incredibly comfortable life and been served as royalty.
Not only did He empty Himself by becoming human, but secondly He humbled Himself as a human by becoming obedient to the point of the death, even death on a cross. So, not only did He become human but, verse 8, He also humbled Himself to such an extent that as a human being He did not receive praise, honor and glory initially. But instead He suffered and He was willing to undergo death for our sake and our salvation. Not only did he consent to die but He underwent the most horrible form of death known in the Greco-Roman world (the most shameful form of death). He was put to death on a cross. He was executed as a common criminal.
So Jesus did not come to earth to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many. Therefore, since Jesus humbled himself in such a way, therefore God has highly exalted Him and bestowed on Him the name that is above every name. As a result of His self-humbling, Jesus has been exalted by God and is now crowned as Lord above all. At the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in heaven and on earth and under the earth and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. So, we see here that as a result of Jesus' humbling, He is now exalted as Lord. Every knee bows. Every tongue will confess that He is Lord.
We ought to look at the Isaiah 45 background here, because that will cast light on this passage in Philippians. It says in Isaiah 45:20, which functions as the background for this Philippians passage: "Assemble yourselves and come; draw near together, you survivors of the nations. They have no knowledge who carry about their wooden idols and keep on praying to a god that cannot save. Those who rely on idols or on any other god have no knowledge. Declare and present your case and let them take counsel together." This is verse 21: "Who told this long ago? Who declared it of old? Was it not I the Lord?" So the Lord manifests Himself as the one true God in that He predicts the future. He sees beforehand all that will take place and predicts it. "And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and Savior. There is none besides Me." There is only one God. There are not two gods or three gods or four gods. There is one God. There is no other God and this God is a righteous God and a Savior.
Since there is only one God, there is only one way of salvation. We see that in verse 22: "Turn to Me and be saved all the ends of the earth. For I am God and there is no other." Since there is only one God and there is no other god, there is only one way to be saved and that is by turning to God. Now we see in verse 23 the allusion to Philippians. "By Myself I have sworn; from My mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return." So here is the swearing: :To Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance." Now, of course, in the Old Testament, every knee shall bow to Yahweh, the God, the one true God. And every tongue shall swear allegiance. This is in a context, as we have already noticed, where Isaiah emphasizes emphatically that there is only one God. And yet Paul applies this to Jesus.
So we see that when it comes to the definition of the one God, according to Paul, the definition of the one God includes Jesus. Jesus is not excluded from the one God. Early Christians do not deny that there is only one God. But what they argue is that there is complexity in the person of God. God cannot be exhausted simply by one person. But, as we see in the Trinitarian formulation, there is one God in three persons: Father, Son and Spirit. We see, from a text like this, how this has come about. Isaiah emphasizes so strongly that there is one God. Paul is calling on that passage and yet he emphasizes that Jesus is the one and true only God. This is a very valuable passage that speaks against cults and other groups that deny that Jesus is fully God. It is very clear here that Paul takes a passage that speaks about Yahweh and he applies this to Jesus the Messiah – saying that He is fully God.
Isaiah 45:24 now. "Only in the Lord, it shall be said of Me, are righteousness and strength. To Him shall come and be ashamed all who are incensed at Him. And then in the Lord, all the offspring of Israel shall be justified and show glory." Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, but some of those who bow (as we see in Isaiah) will be those who are angry at Him and they will be ashamed. They will be compelled to bow. They will bow, but not gladly. They will bow, but not in saving faith. Some of those who will bow on the final day are not saved because, as we see in Isaiah 45, some of those who bow will be ashamed.
On the other hand, some who bow will be justified and show glory. All the offspring of Israel, those who are the true people of God, will bow in faith and show glory and be justified. Remember here, according to Paul, all the offspring of Israel are all the children of Abraham: those who are the true circumcision; those who are the true family of Abraham. They are the offspring, so they will bow in faith. So some will bow before Jesus gladly and some will bow because they are compelled to bow.
b. Colossians 1:15-20
Now Colossians 1:15-20 on the person of Christ. Jesus is the image of the invisible God. We already saw that. He is the representation of God to us. He fully partakes in the nature of who God is. He is not merely a pictorial representation of God, but He is Himself fully God. He participates in all the attributes of the divine nature, fully expressing who God is.
He is the firstborn of all creation. That verse does not mean that Jesus is a creature – that He was the first creature that was made. If the verse meant that, then Jesus would not be fully God, but He Himself would be a creature. That is the Arian heresy. The Arian heresy says there was a time when Jesus was not. In other words Jesus is not eternal; that is the Arian heresy. But Paul is not teaching that here. When he says Jesus is the firstborn of all creation, he is emphasizing that Jesus is the sovereign over all creation. He is the ruler over all creation.
He draws here on Psalm 89:27 where God promises David: "I will appoint you as the firstborn, as the highest of the kings of the earth. David was not the firstborn in his family. He was the youngest, as we know from 1 Samuel 16. Nor was David the first king. That was Saul. So when it says that I will appoint David as the firstborn, the firstborn is not used literally here. But means the sovereign one. In fact, it is defined by the next phrase in Psalm 89:27 – "He will be the highest of the kings of the earth." David is the highest of the kings. He is the firstborn. He is sovereign.
That is the emphasis here as well in Colossians. Jesus is sovereign over all creation. He rules over all creation. The reason He rules over all creation is because "by Him all things were created (verse 16). Here is another piece of evidence that Jesus Himself is not a creature, because the text says "by Him all things were created." But if Jesus himself is a creature who was created, then He could not be the Creator of all things. But this text says He is the Creator of all things. Therefore, Jesus is not a creature who was created. He is the sovereign over all creation. He is the sovereign over all creation because He is the agent of all creation. Everything in creation was created by Him whether in heaven or on earth. So there are no exceptions when it says all things were created by Jesus. It means all things. Nothing is outside the circle of his creative power.
All things were created by him in heaven and on earth and then, in case we do not get it, he says: "Whether it is visible or invisible." Jesus created all things, whether you can see those things or whether they are not visible to the eye. Then he emphasizes that Jesus created all angelic powers. Here is the focus on the invisible. Jesus created thrones, dominions, rulers and authorities. Those are all descriptions of angels. It is not possible from those descriptions to have a good sense of different ranks among the angels or to get very much specific information about what angels did. We have to be content with the rather general description of the angels. But what is clear is that all angelic powers were created by Jesus. Jesus is superior to the angels. No angel should be worshipped. Only Jesus should be worshipped, since Jesus is the Creator of all angelic powers.
All things were created through Jesus. He is the agent of creation. And "for Jesus": He is the goal of creation. Now surely as the agent of creation and the goal of creation, this text is saying that Jesus is fully God. All things were created for Him. Therefore, He is the goal of creation. But that could only be said about a divine person.
And Jesus is before all things. He is eternal. He has existed forever as the Son of God. He is the sovereign over all things and in Him all things hold together. He holds together the natural world. The created world is held together by Jesus Christ himself. So ultimately Jesus rules over the weather. Jesus rules over all things. Of course there are mysteries here we do not fully understand, but nothing happens apart from Jesus' will. He rules. He holds the physical world together. He is the sovereign. He is the ruler. He is fully God.
Not only is He the Lord of creation, but He is also the Lord of the church. He is the head, the ruler of his body, which is the church of Jesus Christ, of the people of God. He is the Lord of the church. He is the beginning. He is the ruler of the church. He is the firstborn from the dead. He is raised from the dead. He is the one sovereign over death. He is the first one to conquer death and have a resurrection body that is part of the new age. Remember, those whom Jesus raised from the dead during his earthly ministry, all those people died again. But Jesus' resurrection is a triumph over death that will never end.
So God's purpose in having Jesus as the head of the church – the beginning; the ruler of the church; the firstborn – was that in everything He might be preeminent. God's purpose is that Jesus might rule over all: that He might have the supremacy; that He might be worshipped above all.
And remember that is what we said is the center of Pauline theology: the centrality of Jesus; magnifying God in Christ. For in Jesus all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell. Just as God dwelt in the temple in the Old Testament, now He fully dwells in Jesus. Therefore Jesus is fully God. We see this again in Colossians 2:9 – "For in Jesus, the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily." All of whom God is dwells in Jesus and therefore Jesus is fully God.
All the fullness of God was in Him and therefore through Him comes the reconciliation of all things, whether things in heaven or things on earth, making peace by the blood of His cross. This reconciliation brought salvation to those who believe. But it is also a reconciliation that pacifies and conquers those who resist Jesus. Those who resist him in such a way will be conquered and destroyed and put in their proper place. They will not ultimately triumph. Jesus triumphs over all as the one who is fully God.
I think Jesus is also called God specifically in Romans 9:5 and Titus 2:13. So we see that Paul can speak of Jesus as God.
II. The Work of Jesus
But we also see not only who Jesus is, but what Jesus has done for His people. The good news of redemption and salvation has come about through Jesus Christ. Of course, the great salvation that has been accomplished in Jesus Christ is expressed in a number of different ways in Pauline theology.
a. Righteousness and Justification
I am going to begin with righteousness or justification, since that is so central to Paul's teaching. I want to argue here that righteousness in Paul is a forensic righteousness. It is a law-court righteousness. God does not make anybody righteous or make anybody wicked. He declares the wicked to be righteous by His grace. That is what the word justify means. Justify means to declare something to be the case. When a judge passes a verdict in the courtroom, he declares the righteous to be righteous and he declares the wicked to be wicked. He does not make the wicked wicked or the righteous righteous.
Exodus 23:7, God says: "I will not justify the wicked." In Deuteronomy 25:1, judges are to justify the righteous (declare them to be in the right) and condemn the wicked. That is what the word righteousness typically means. In Romans 2:13, when it says the doers of the law will be justified, it means those who do the law will be declared to be in the right by God. God passes a final verdict on those who are in the wrong and those who are in the right. And we already saw no one will be justified by the works of the law. No one will be declared to be in the right before God. No one will be vindicated on the last day by doing what the law says, since all sin.
So, what we see in the gospel is something really quite extraordinary and that is: God will justify freely by His grace those who are sinners. One cannot be justified by the law. Here is a most extraordinary thing. Who is it that is declared to be in the right? Who is declared to be righteous? It is sinners. They are forgiven of their sins. They are counted to be righteous in Christ. And that is a very important word for Paul: the word counted. The Greek word there is logizomai. It is used in Romans 3:28; 4:3, 4, 5, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11, 22, 23, 24; 9:8 and Galatians 3:6. Something is counted to us which is righteousness. This does not belong to us by nature. Something is given to us.
The forensic character of justification (the law-court nature of justification) is clear by Romans 8:33 – "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies." No one will bring a charge against God's chosen on the last day, because God is the one who declares us to be in the right on the basis of Christ's death and resurrection. God declares us to be right in His law-court. So we see the law-court character of justification. God, the divine judge, declares us to be in the right before Him. We do not have our own righteousness from the law (Phil.3:9), but a righteousness that comes through faith in Christ. It is a gift of righteousness. The righteousness we receive is an alien righteousness. That means it is not our own. It is not a righteousness that belongs to us by nature. It is a righteousness given to us by another. It is a gift that is given.
We cannot prepare ourselves to receive it. We cannot do any works to merit it or earn it or deserve it. It is truly and fully a gift that God has given to His people in Christ Jesus. And that gift is given to those who are trusting in Christ's atonement. It is given to those who trust that Christ took the penalty of sin upon Himself that we deserved, and took the punishment we deserved, so that we could go free in the divine law-court.
That is called the doctrine of penal substitution. Jesus was our substitute. He died in our place and He took the penalty that we deserved. And He died in our place. Christ became a curse for us. Christ redeemed us (Gal.3:13) from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. "For it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'." So the curse that we deserved Christ took upon Himself.
And we see the same teaching in Romans 3:21-26. Jesus was our propitiation, which means that Jesus satisfied God's anger. He appeased God's anger. He satisfied God's wrath. God, in His love, because He loved us so much, sent His Son who voluntarily came to die for us and our salvation. He did this so that His righteousness (His holiness) would be satisfied. Thus, He would be just, as Romans 3:21-26 says. So that God would be just and the justifier of the one who trusts in Jesus. God's justice is satisfied, because Jesus took our punishment upon Himself. The punishment we deserved, He took upon Himself and we therefore are free.
The punishment we deserved is laid upon Him and then we also receive His righteousness (His perfect life). So we are counted righteous in Christ. We are counted as in the right before Him, because Jesus took that punishment upon Himself and that righteousness is ours by faith, not by works. We receive that righteousness (Romans 3, Galatians 2 and 3, Ephesians 3), not by doing but by believing – by trusting in what God has done for us in Christ; by putting our faith in Jesus Christ; by depending solely and totally upon Him. So you can see here all the glory goes to Christ for our righteousness, since He took our punishment totally upon Him. We see another example, don't we, of the glory of God in Jesus Christ?
Of course another way of speaking of what God has done for us is to say that we are forgiven of our sins. It is to say that the slate has been wiped clean. We see this in Romans 4:6-8, Colossians 2:12, Colossians 1:14, Ephesians 1:7. Maybe it would be helpful to read Colossians 2:13 – "and you were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh. God made you alive, together with Him, having forgiven us all our trespasses.' So, there it is, forgiven.
And then here is a nice picture of it. By canceling out the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands, He, so to speak, erased the debt. Our sins here are pictured as money we owe, so to speak, to God. We owe God everything because of our sins. But He cancelled that debt. He forgave us of our sins. The legal demands that stood against us, He set those aside. He nailed them to the cross. The forgiveness of sins means that our sins are no longer held against us. Our slate is wiped clean. Our sins are erased. Our sins are nailed to the cross. We are free. We are no longer guilty before God.
Justification and forgiveness come from the legal sphere. Another term used to describe our salvation is sanctification. Sanctification comes from the cultic sphere, the language of sacrifice and purity. We know that this language is used of us as believers. Believers are called saints in a number of passages. We are God's holy ones. We are God's temple. We are set apart for God. We are pure and holy. That is what sanctification means. Sanctification means that we are in the realm of the holy. Jesus is our holiness. Jesus is our purity. 1 Corinthians 1:30 – "Christ Jesus became to us wisdom from God. He is our righteousness, our sanctification and our redemption."
So, righteousness, there is the law-court term. And now, here is sanctification as the cultic term. We stand in a holy place before God, pure because of Christ. It is really saying the same thing as justification, just in different terms here: that we are holy before God. We see in 1 Corinthians 6:11 – "but you were washed, but you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ in the Spirit of our God." And all three of these are referring to our salvation. You were washed; your sins were washed away in baptism. You were sanctified; you were put in the realm of the holy. And you were justified; you were declared to be in the right in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God. So here, he is speaking of that definitive, positional sanctification that is ours in Jesus Christ. He is not speaking here of our progress in the Christian life, but of the fact that, because of Christ's death, we are holy before God now. We are new people. We stand in the right before God. We are holy before Him because of what Christ has done for us.
Other passages do speak of the word holiness or sanctification in terms of our progress in the Christian life. 1 Thessalonians 4:3 says: "the will of God is your sanctification", which is your increasing holiness. But that is not what we are focusing on here. We are focusing on here the fact that because of Christ's death on the cross – because of His atoning work – we are now sanctified. We are now holy before God. Not on the basis of our works are we holy before God. It is not on the basis of anything that we have done. We are holy before God solely because of what Christ has accomplished for us.
We have the legal sphere of righteousness and the cultic sphere (the purity sphere) of sanctification. And then God's saving work in Christ is described in terms of reconciliation. When we think of reconciliation, we need to remember what the meaning of this term is. Reconciliation means that there is enmity between us and God: that the relationship between us has been severed; that God is angry with us because of our sin and we also are angry with God because we do not love him and we have forsaken him and we have worshipped other gods.
The language of reconciliation is used in 1 Corinthians 7:11 of a husband and wife. And here husbands and wives (especially wives, but it is true of husbands as well) are urged to be reconciled to one another. If they are fighting or they divorce or separate, they are to reconcile to one another. They are to return to being married and to loving one another again. In Matthew 5:24, a brother who is angry is to be reconciled to his other brother. He is to make peace and the relationship is to be restored.
When we speak of our salvation, that peace with God (that reconciliation; that friendship with God) is the work of Jesus Christ. We have peace and reconciliation because of what Christ has done for us. Romans 5:1 says we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Romans 5:10 – maybe we should read verse 9 as well because we could see both justification language and reconciliation language. Romans 5:9 – "Since therefore we have now been justified by His blood [so there is the language of justification: that we are declared to be in the right by God as the judge], much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God." And then verse 10: "For if while we were enemies we are reconciled to God by the death of His Son ..." So here is the language of reconciliation: of being enemies with God and now, through the death of Jesus, those who were formally enemies are now friends. "Much more now that we are reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." So God, in Christ, has reconciled us to Himself, because of His death.
We need reconciliation, of course, because of our sin: because we have violated the standards of the Holy God and we have not gloried and honored him the way we should. Here we should read 2 Corinthians 5:18 – "All this [this saving work] is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to Himself." And there we see it again, the ministry of being reconciled to God came through Christ. "And Christ gave us [the apostles] the ministry of reconciliation." So that is a ministry we all have as Christians, is it not? Paul had it especially, but we have a ministry of spreading the good news and the gospel to others – the ministry of being reconciled to God through Christ.
And what does this reconciliation consist in? We see in 2 Corinthians 5:19, it is that "in Christ God was reconciling the world to Himself." So there the reconciling work is the work of God and it is the work God has accomplished in Christ. "Not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation." So, reconciliation. We need it because of our trespasses, because of our sins. And God reconciles us when He does not count our trespasses against us and forgives us of our sins.
Notice, in verse 20, Paul implores the Corinthians to be reconciled to God. He says in verse 21, now we get the basis of reconciliation: "For our sake, He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that we, in Him, might become the righteousness of God." So, God made Jesus to be sin on our behalf – the One who was sinless – so that in Him we might receive God's righteousness. We might receive the perfect righteousness of Christ. Our sins were laid on Christ and Christ's righteousness is given to us. So here we see the doctrine of imputation of Christ's righteousness. Christ's righteousness is given us and our sins are put on Christ. And therefore, we receive the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ and at the same time that is the basis of our reconciliation. That is the basis of our being friends with God once again, because our sins were laid on Him and He suffered on our behalf and for our salvation.
This language of reconciliation is also used in Ephesians. It is especially used of the union and reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles in Christ. These were previously alienated one from another, but now they are one in Christ and united in Him. Paul says in 2:13 – "But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. That is speaking of the Gentiles, who were once far from God and who are now brought near. "And Jesus is our peace. He made us both one and broke down, in His flesh, the dividing wall of hostility. He reconciled us both to God [verse 16] in one body to the cross and thereby killed the hostility. And He came and preached peace to you who are far off and peace to those who are near. For through Him, we both have access in one Spirit to the Father." So now we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ and His saving work on the cross. And Jew and Gentile are together in Christ reconciled to God through Jesus' death.
Another term that is used to describe God's work for us in Christ is salvation. Salvation refers to escaping, or being preserved from, in Scripture, God's judgment on the last day. Of course you can be saved from disease. You can escape from disease. But in Pauline theology, it is especially used to refer to the escape from judgment that will come to us on the last day, unless we trust in Christ.
So we see, Paul often uses this word salvation of the end-time salvation that we will receive on the Day of Judgment. Romans 5:9, we just read that verse a moment ago: "We have now been justified by Jesus' blood, much more shall we be saved by Him from the wrath of God." Since we are now right with God by the blood of Jesus, since we stand in the right before Him, we will certainly be saved. Notice the future tense. We shall be saved by Him from the wrath of God on the last day. The justification we have now gives us assurance that we will be delivered on the last day from God's anger. We will not face it, because we have already been justified. So there, salvation refers to escaping God's wrath.
We see the same thing in 1 Thessalonians 5:9 – "For God has not destined us for wrath [for His anger] on the last day, but He has destined us to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, there again, salvation is that future deliverance from the wrath of God on that final day. Romans 5:10 says we shall be saved by His life. His life will rescue us. His resurrection will rescue us.
That future dimension of salvation is clear in 1 Thessalonians 1:10, which, by the way, this verse is a beautiful description of conversion. "They themselves report [this verse 9] concerning us of the kind of reception we had among you and how you turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God." That is what it means to be saved. It means to turn away from idols and to give one's life entirely to the living and true God. "And then we wait for His Son from heaven [we wait for the second coming], whom he raises from dead, [and here is the part on salvation] Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come. That deliverance comes from Jesus, that future deliverance that is ours.
Romans 13 also speaks of that future salvation, as is so typical in Paul. "Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep, for salvation is nearer to us now, than when we first believed." So salvation is nearer to us. It is not totally accomplished, but it will be totally accomplished, and it is nearer to us. It is coming and it will be fully ours when Jesus comes again.
Of course, the New Testament can also speak of salvation as, not only a future event, but also as a past event. The future, so to speak, is now ours in Christ. So the New Testament can also speak of us as being saved now. Ephesians 2:8 – "For by grace you have been saved through faith." So not only will we be saved, but we have been saved even now. Ephesians 2:5 – "By grace you have been saved." That is already a present reality for those of us who are in Christ. That end-time gift of salvation is already now ours. Colossians 1:3 – "Jesus has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son." We are already delivered. We are already rescued. So salvation in one sense is future, but in another sense it is already ours in Christ because we belong to Him. The future gift is ours in advance.
We will see the full manifestation of it on that final day. 2 Timothy 1:9 can say: "He saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works, but because of His own purpose and grace which He gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began." So, He has already saved us. We are already delivered. Titus 3:5 says the same thing: "He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit." So, salvation is already ours in Christ. The future is ours.
And he can speak of being saved as a process going on in the present too. 1 Corinthians 1:18 says: "For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." So we will be saved, but we already have been saved, and we are being saved. And that is because Jesus Christ is the Savior. He is the One who has saved us.
We have seen justification, sanctification and salvation and we looked at reconciliation. But another way of describing our salvation is redemption. We have been redeemed. This is the language used in the Old Testament of the exodus, where Israel was freed from Egypt. They were liberated. That is what the word redemption means. It means to be freed and liberated. It was used in the Greco-Roman world in Paul's day of the freeing of slaves who are being liberated.
And so this language is picked up in the New Testament of what Christ has done for us. Romans 3:24 – He has redeemed us. He has liberated us. That liberation, that redemption, in Ephesians 1:7 and Colossians 1:14 is tied to the forgiveness of our sins. We are redeemed. We are liberated. What is it that held us in chains? What is it that held us in bondage? It was fundamentally the sins that we had committed. Those sins have been forgiven and, in that sense, we are redeemed. We are liberated. We are freed from our sins.
And we are liberated and freed from our sins by Jesus' blood on the cross. The liberating work that Jesus has accomplished for us was accomplished by His work on the cross. He redeemed us from the curse of the law (Gal.3:13), a verse I quoted earlier. This is a very important verse in Paul. Christ redeemed us. He freed us. He liberated us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us: "for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree'." So, the redemption, our freedom, comes by Jesus taking our sins upon Himself. He paid the price that we owed and freed us from the power of sin. So in Romans 6:15-23, Paul can say now in Christ Jesus we are free for righteousness. We are liberated. We are redeemed from all lawlessness (Tit.2:14).
Just as we saw with salvation, there is a future dimension to redemption as well. We are already redeemed, and yet we will be redeemed. This is what is often called the "already and not yet" in Paul's theology. We already enjoy the gifts of the end time. The last days have dawned in Jesus Christ. The gift of the last days is now ours. The last days have begun, but they have not yet been completed. They have been inaugurated, but they have not been consummated. They have not yet reached their full fruit.
So we see in Romans 8:23, that not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for the adoption of sons, the redemption of our bodies. And that is the fullness of God's saving work for us as when our bodies are redeemed, when we receive our resurrection bodies. God's saving work will not be completed until we have died and been raised from the dead (or perhaps Jesus will come first before we die) and then our bodies will be transformed and we will receive a fully resurrected body. But that is not yet our portion. So we await that day of full redemption (Eph.1:13-14). We await the change of our bodies – the guarantee of our final salvation in which our bodies will be transformed and we will be new creatures and redeemed in every sense of the word.
g. Triumph over Evil Powers
Jesus also triumphed over evil powers. He triumphed over the devil and demons. This goes back to the Old Testament. where Yahweh was a warrior. Yahweh defeated those who opposed him in Exodus 15:3. We think back to the prophets in Isaiah 13 and Joel 2 and Amos 5 and Obadiah 15 and Zephaniah 1 and Malachi 4:5. They speak of that great day of the Lord when the Lord would conquer all His enemies and vanquish them.
And what we read in the New Treatment is that this vanquishing has been accomplished in the cross of Jesus Christ. He has conquered these evil powers. So, in Christ (Col.2:11ff), we have received true circumcision. We have been raised with Christ (verse 12). We have had our sins forgive (verses 13-14). But then, in verse 15, Jesus disarmed the rulers and authorities. He removed their power from them. He put them to open shame. He triumphed over them in Christ. He has shown that they have no power over us. We have no fear of demons afflicting us when we are in Christ, because we belong to the Lord.
Ephesians 6. He has conquered all demonic powers. We need not fear them. We do not need to try to appease them in any way or worry about them because their power has been vanquished at the cross. Ephesians 1:20 – Jesus, as the one who sits at God's right hand, reigns over all evil powers. He is their head. So, we need not concern ourselves with them, but give ourselves entirely to Christ and trust Him for everything.
What a great salvation we have in Christ, because our sins are fully forgiven. We do not look to ourselves, We look to what God has done for us in Christ. We do not trust ourselves and our good works. We trust the justification we have in Jesus Christ. We look to Christ, because He has saved us and will save us on the last day. We look to Christ, because He has liberated and freed us and redeemed us. And He will complete that work by giving us resurrection bodies on the last day. He has vanquished all evil powers. His wrath has been propitiated (Rom.3:25). His wrath has been satisfied. God's wrath has been satisfied in the death of Jesus. We have no fear of guilt. Our sins have been forgiven. We stand in the realm of the holy. We are perfect in God's sight.
And all of this is because of the work of Jesus Christ on the cross. All of this is because He has forgiven us of our sins. We need to remember that this is the very heart of the gospel. The heart of the gospel is that salvation is of the Lord. Salvation is what God has accomplished for us. Salvation is not what we do for God. Fundamentally, it is what He has done for us. We participate or enjoy that salvation when we believe. Our role is not to earn salvation or merit it, but to receive what God has done for us in Christ. And what Paul emphasizes in his theology is that we fundamentally look to the cross of Christ and the resurrection of Christ where this great salvation has been accomplished, instead of looking to ourselves.
I hope you see how looking to the cross fits with the major theme of these lectures and that is: salvation is totally of the Lord. We believe. We trust. We rest on Him. If salvation is totally of the Lord, then all the glory and the honor belongs to Him. Faith gives God the honor and the glory, because faith views Him as the Strong One. Faith looks to God in Christ as the one who saves. God is the one who justifies, remember. Who will condemn? God is the one who reconciles, and therefore who can be our enemy?
I think it is probably good (we will talk about election in our next lecture) to end with Romans 8:28 and following. "We know that for those who love God [all those who are Christians] all things work together for good." Not all things are good by definition. But "all things work together for good for those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son in order that He might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom He predestined, He also called. And those whom He called, He also justified. And those whom He justified, He also glorified." We have a great confidence that God will complete His saving work in us.
"What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?" Well, many can be against us, can't they? We can think of the devil being against us, our own consciences being as against us, our friends being against us. But if God is for us, they will not successfully triumph over us. "He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things?" We have all things we need in Christ and so we need not fear. We can be confident that God will give us everything we need.
"Who shall bring any charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies." No one can bring a charge against us since God justifies us. No one can condemn because "Christ Jesus is the one who died, more than that who was raised, who is the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us." So, God will not condemn those of us who are in Christ, because He died for our sins through Christ. Christ is raised and He is interceding on the basis of His blood at the right hand of God. So we need not fear that we will ultimately be condemned.
"Will anything ever separate us from the love of Christ? We may go through tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger or sword." We may not have enough to eat or clothing. We may be put to death for the faith. "As it is written, 'For Your sake we are being killed all the day long. We are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.' But in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." We can be confident that we will conquer through His grace. "For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."
This great salvation we have gives us great assurance and security that we will triumph by God's grace and that nothing will separate us from God's love. We belong to Him. It is His work. God calls upon us to trust Him and believe in Him and to rest upon Him.
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