Saturday, September 01, 2012
Importance of Being in Christ - Part 2
In the previous article we observed that a person who has truly trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ has been placed into Christ and is said to be “In Him”. This brings us to one of the most important concepts from the New Testament that we need to understand and that is the meaning and importance of Federal Headship. Adam and Christ are each the head and representative of a people. Adam is the representative of those who are in him and Jesus Christ is the representative of those who are in him.
In the book of Hebrews, the writer relates a story from Genesis 18. This story involves Abraham and a priest named Melchizedek. Here's the short version of the story. Melchizedek blesses Abraham and Abraham gives Melchizedek ten percent of all he owns. It's important for you to know one other piece of information and that is that one of Abraham's great grand-sons, Levi, was designated as a priest for Israel. He and his children after him were to serve in that role. Now here's the important detail that will help us understand the way Federal Headship works. In Hebrews 7:4-10 the writer tells us that Levi paid tithes to Melchizedek because he was in Abraham when Abraham paid the tithes. In other words, Abraham paid tithes on behalf of Levi because Levi was in him even though he had not yet been born.
So the basic idea is that it is possible for a head or representative to make a decision or take an action that is then attributed to those who are “in him”.
This is exactly what happened when Adam sinned. Look at Romans 5:12 – 21
Verse 13: Before the law, sin was in the world, but it was not imputed when there is no law.
What does not imputed mean? It means that sin was not counted against people when there is no law. And at that time there was no law in force. For example, there was no law against lying, but people still lied.
Verse 14: Nevertheless – Even though sin was not imputed, death reigned.
This tells us that somehow sin's penalty was still on these people, even though sin was not imputed. People were telling lies, but those sins did not count against them and yet they died. Why?
The answer is that Adam's sin counted for the people who are in him. Romans 5:18 tells us that through one man's offense, death came to all men.
So we can say it this way: Truth #1 – Adam's sin was imputed to him and all of his descendents who were in him. Because all of us were in Adam at the time he sinned, his sin was counted against all of us. So even when there was no law for those early people, they were still guilty of sinning because Adam had voted as their representative to sin against God.
That doesn't seem just or fair, but here's where it starts to get interesting. In verse 14 we learn that Adam was a type of him who was to come. Who is that? Jesus Christ. Adam was a type or a picture or an example of Jesus Christ. Just as Adam was the representative or head of a group of people, Jesus Christ is the representative or head of a group of people – but not all the same people.
Let's go on. Verses 15 and 16 tell us that the free gift is not like the offense and it is not like the results Adam had. Notice the difference. The offense of Adam brought death and condemnation to many. On the other hand, grace and the gift that came from grace brought justification to many. Through the righteousness of one man, Jesus Christ justification of life came to all men. He summarizes it all in verse 19 of Romans 5, “For by one man's disobedience, many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience, many were made righteous.” Paul writes about the same topic in 1 Corinthians 15:22 where he says that in Adam all die, but in Christ all shall be made alive. That means that all those who are in Adam are condemned because of Adam's sin, but all of those who are in Christ will live because of Jesus' righteousness.
Truth #2 – Christ's righteousness is imputed to all who are in him. In the same way that everyone who is in Adam had his sin imputed to him, so also everyone who is in Christ has His righteousness imputed to Him. Notice that neither one of these acts of imputation by our head has anything to do with our actual behavior either righteous or unrighteous.
So we see that what is going on here is more profound that what we usually think. We usually think about our sins as the cause of God's judgment against us, and that is true. But it is a deeper problem than that. Adam brought the whole human race under the judgment and condemnation of God. He represented us in that decision and consequently we all face judgment.
But the good news is that in that same way, Jesus came and lived a perfect life in a human body and died on the cross as punishment for our sins. And so it is not simply a matter of being forgiven. What has happened is that if we have trusted in Christ, we have been placed into Christ. Since we are in Christ, his perfect obedience to God counts as our perfect obedience. His righteousness counts as our righteousness. And so even if we think of ourselves as always falling short and not measuring up, God does not see it that way. He sees us as perfectly righteous because of what our head and representative has done.
To see more of this series, look for Importance of Being in Christ in the title or put that phrase into the search box on the blog.