Friday, October 24, 2008

The New Creation

I hope by now it is very clear to us that we are in the new creation. We have in some way been inaugurated into the last days where the Lord Jesus is reigning until all His enemies are subdued beneath His feet. Of course, we do not yet see all things in subjection to Him, so we are going about the work of the kingdom until every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. It also seems clear that this kingdom work will not be done until the last of the last days when the Lord comes again to make the new heavens and the new earth perfect in the resurrection, revealing His bride without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

Adam was in the garden and failed in his responsibility to adequately care for God’s creation. This had ramifications for all of us. One of the premiere and immediately recognizable ramifications was strife in the brotherhood. It began with Adam and Eve, themselves, as they began to make excuses before God, laying blame on others, pointing fingers. It was her, it was the snake.

And then it passed on to Adam’s children, Cain killing Abel, because he was envious of his brother. So, in due time, when God chose a people for His own, it was necessary for God to mark them out, to put a sign on them that they belonged to Him. And we see this in the days of Abraham, in the sign of circumcision.

Some argue that now we should not give the covenant sign to small children because they have not chosen to be God’s disciples in Christ. But was it ever so? Yes, for strangers. They could join themselves to the people of God through circumcision. But for the people of God, the sign was applied to all their infant boys at eight days old. They did not get to choose to be included in the people of God.

Furthermore, what was going on from the beginning, in the garden? Can we imagine what might have happened if Adam and Eve had not sinned? Would it have been necessary for God to mark out His own through circumcision? Likely not. All the children born of Adam and Eve would have walked in faith before the Father. All children would have been His and it would have been unnecessary to mark them in the foreskin of their flesh. This becomes clearer in the New Testament, when the requirement of circumcision is dropped and subsumed in the requirement of water baptism.

We should also keep in mind the normative pattern that was established in the creation and picked up in the covenant with Abraham and made explicitly clear in the New Covenant. We are children of our Father and this places obligations of faith and obedience upon us.

In the unfallen creation, Adam and Eve’s children would have grown up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. They would not have rebelled, nor had a reason to be kept from the trees of life. They would have had direct access to God, just as their unfallen parents did. Since they fell, the line of faithful children became suspect, mankind was in rebellion, and God had to step in to re-establish His covenant with man and delineate between who was His and who was not His. Once again, He created through water, separating the waters from the waters and revealing a new humanity in Noah and his family. Eventually, an earthly family that is to rule the world is revealed and promised in Abraham. That promise remained unfulfilled until the Lord Jesus was resurrected to rule the world with His innumerable host, the family of God, the Church.

Since God created the world through water, it is fitting that we are recreated through water, as well. The normative pattern is still working. Adam was to raise his children in the Lord. Abraham was to raise his children in the Lord and we are to raise our children in the Lord. In fact, in the Lord Jesus, the reversal of the fall makes this point all the more emphatic. As Adam’s unrebellious children would have perfectly followed God, so we would expect that the children of the new Adam would perfectly follow God. In an unfallen world, we would expect a one hundred percent success ratio in child rearing. All the children would love the Lord.

Christ is our second Adam, renewing, restoring and revealing the Kingdom of God on the earth. Jesus is the new Adam, the perfect Adam, the unfallen Adam. Remember that Adam, A-dam, means man, mankind. Jesus is the New Adam, the new mankind. He is remaking all that fell apart when Adam sinned. He is recreating mankind. He is restoring all things to the creation order. But He does this little by little, just as He revealed in the Scriptures. It is not accomplished all at once. So, it should not be problematic for us to see, for instance, that all the children of believers do not love the Lord. There are some exceptions. Some children fall away because the world is still a world in which sin dwells. Until the final resurrection, we will struggle with sin and the wars of our members. This will also be revealed in our children. But we should also expect God to be reshaping the world and the way that we think about and live in the world. The normative pattern of raising up our children in the Lord that was in the creation, lost in Adam, restored in Abraham and solidified forever in Jesus Christ, ought to be the way that we think about the world.

But I can anticipate an objection to this. If Christ is restoring that which Adam lost, someone might come to the conclusion that water baptism of babies and even of professing adults is unnecessary. Or perhaps simply unnecessary to the children of believers. They may come to this conclusion since we have no clear covenant sign between God and Adam. We do have a covenant meal with Adam but no clear covenant initiation rite.

Two possible initial covenant signs are the fact that man was birthed from the waters as the Spirit hovered over the face of the waters. And all children born from Eve and her children would subsequently be born through the waters of the womb. The second possibility is that man was formed from the dust of the earth. Man’s very nature as human, as dust men, may have been enough to covenant them to God. The third sign was the breath of man, having come from the breath of God. But all of these signs were normative signs, they were inherent in created living man, without the need for an additional external sign. Man was righteous in the beginning from the inside out. This image bearing nature was marred in the fall and restored in Jesus Christ. And now it is necessary for man to be renewed in his whole nature, so it is fitting that we can see this from the outward sign, circumcision or now baptism, and inwardly as the Spirit fills the man, making him a new creature in Christ.

But regardless of whether there was a clear covenant sign on Adam in the beginning, we have explicit language of the need of the covenant sign in the New Covenant. In fact, even when the Spirit falls upon believers in the New Testament, the response is not what modern evangelicals sometimes argue. Modern evangelicals might argue, “Why baptize them with water when they are already baptized with the Holy Spirit.” But in the Bible, the argument is “Who can refuse water the waters of baptism to such as the Spirit has chosen to fall upon?” Water baptism is necessary to mark the sons of the living God and the normative pattern in the Scriptures of both the creation and the covenant is that the children partake of it.

Thus, we gladly receive those that God has chosen and their children and we join hands with the Lord Jesus as He inaugurates a new humanity in the earth, bringing the little ones to Jesus that He might lay His hands upon them and bless them.

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