Thursday, November 29, 2012

Standing on the promises

Good protein in 2 Cor!
     So we‘re off to a great start in 2 Corinthians: 3 meaty posts on just one verse! At that rate, with 261 verses in 2 Cor, that leaves 780 posts to go! No, I may be a chatty Cathy (so my wife says), but even I‘m not that verbose; but seriously, in switching from Leviticus to 2 Cor, I‘ve found there is quite a difference between studying the Old and New Testaments; in the Old, you‘re digging and searching for New Covenant truth in every nook and cranny, tracking down connections, themes, and patterns. In the New, all that just jumps out at you! So all that to say we‘ll be moving a little quicker in 2 Cor.
      The next verse that got me thinking was 1:20: “For all the promises of God in Him are ‘yes‘ and in Him ‘Amen‘ unto the glory of God by us.“ So which promises exactly? I know it says “all“, but is that really an all-inclusive, 1-to-1 transfer of O.T. promises to Christians today? Arminians might say “all means all, and that‘s all all means!“; a better approach would be to remember the first 3 rules of bible interpretation: context, context, and context. And it just so happens that there is one other usage of “promises“ in 2 Cor in 7:1: “Having therefore these promises...“. And rewinding to define “these“ brings us to 6:16-18:
What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, "I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Therefore go out from their midst, and be separate from them, says the Lord, and touch no unclean thing; then I will welcome you, and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty."
      It‘s reasonable to assume that since “all“ promises are fulfilled in Jesus, these are among them; what‘s more, I believe Paul uses this composite reference to sum up the essence of our inheritance in Christ in 1:20 (toward the purpose of godly separation). So briefly, what are these promises about?
      The foundational occurrence of this bedrock union is in Lev 26:12; it is an important passage forming the official terms of Israel‘s covenant relationship with God. It is not unlike the word given to Adam... in essence, if you obey, you will be blessed; if you disobey, you will be cursed. Specifically, we find our first promise at the end of the blessing section; it‘s not hard to see that Moses is saving the best for last, saying in essence: “Atop all these physical, transitory gifts and graces, the ultimate place of permanent, holistic blessedness is reserved for those who know and are known by God. That will be you!“ This concept of belonging to God as His people is peppered throughout the O.T., specifically addressed to Israel (Ex 6:7, Jer 7:23, 11:4, 30:22, 31:33, 32:38, Zech 13:9, and many more!), so when Paul uses it to express our relationship with God, what‘s he saying? How could the Church be related to God the way Israel was?
      First, it‘s evident that God relates to humanity through covenants; however you see the relationship between Israel and the Church, the manifold instances of the structure of the covenant are impossible to escape. Second, I believe the key is understanding the double imputation that's at the heart of our salvation. Yes, Christ took our sin upon Him on the Cross, and satisfied the demands of God's justice; but He also grants us the positive righteousness necessary to be acceptable in God's presence. 
God's righteousness with a bow!
Where did Jesus get this righteousness... was it His inherent divine purity/sinlessness? Or was it the practical obedience He showed as a man for 33 years, obeying God's Law in spirit and in truth? If it's the former, Jesus could've granted it to us without getting His hands dirty in a fallen world; but if it's the latter, it makes perfect sense why He would deserve to be blessed: He fulfilled the covenant Israel had with God, and so God is obligated to reward Him with all the blessings promised to His human forefathers.  
So in our union with Christ, God looks at us not as law-breakers, but law-keepers, and is fully justified in showering us with the good gifts a father would give to his children. We'll explore the connection between Christ and Israel as a nation next time.

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