Colossians 3:9-10 & Genesis

Colossians 3

1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.

2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.

3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.

4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory.

5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth: fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness which is idolatry.

6 Because of these, the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience,

7 in which ye also once walked, when ye lived in them.

8 But now ye also put off all these: anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.

9 Do not lie one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds,

10 and have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him,

Because of our identification with Christ (cmp. 3:1-4;”Risen w/ Christ” … “Ye are dead” … “Life is hid w/ Christ in God” … “When Christ, who is our life,”) Paul leverages a “therefore” in vs. 5 and so exhorts the Colossian believers to live in light of the fact that they are living in the Established New Creation (cmp. 1:13f). They are to be distinct from those who are not living in the new Creation. The labor of Col. 3:5 – 4:6 is to tease out that contrast.

In Col. 3:9-10 St. Paul uses the phraseology of “put on the new man.” The imagery here is of having put on a different set of clothing. The allusion of putting on new clothing may hearken back to Genesis 3:7. There we find that Adam and Eve sought to clothe themselves apart from God, perhaps to hide from God and from each other. What happens though is that God clothes them with clothing He provides thus suggesting that a Restoration of Adam and Eve has begun (Gen. 3:21). What we have here then is that their old clothes were taken off and they put on the new clothes provided by God. Hence, should we see that there is a relationship between who they were as constituted by the fall and as seen by their autonomous clothing they self provided and their restoration to God begun as signified by God’s clothing of them we may see in Col. 3:10 with it’s “put off the old man with his deeds and put on the new man” language a reference back to God’s restoration after the fall.

G. K. Beale puts it this way,

“The clear implication is that their first suit of clothes was taken off and replaced by divinely made clothing, indicating that the self made clothing was associated with their alienated condition and sinful shame (Gen. 3:7 – 11) and was an insufficient covering for those who have begun to be reconciled to God.”

So … this putting off … putting on language is indicative that we are no longer related to Adam (who is the consummate old man) and are now related to Christ (who is the consummate new man). It is important to note this Federal – Covenantal language. It is not that we have gone from one subjective state to another subjective state, as if we were once nasty people but now we are nice people. Rather, it is language that is speaking about covenantal realities. This language is talking about covenantal positioning. Once in Adam … now in Christ. In this putting on of Christ (the new man) we are now restored and will go from restoration unto restoration until the fullness of the present NOW will be Consummated in Christ.

Here we find the anti-thesis introduced again by St. Paul, for one is either part of the Dead humanity that is identified with Adam or one is united to the living community that is found in union with Christ Jesus.

Early Christian tradition took this quite seriously for in their Baptism services their would be a clear change of clothing given to the baptized after their baptism.

Now, as those who have been returned to the image of God (see vs. 10) we are now what Adam and Eve were intended to be in the Garden (cmp. Gen. 1:26-28). We are the re-creation of humanity, created, to rule, subdue, and to be fruitful and multiply. In Col. 1:15 He is the image of the invisible God, and in Col. 3:9-10 we, the brethren of Christ are, because of being united to Him, the image of God. We are called to do then, what Adam failed to do. The idea that we are to be a ruling people is hinted at in 3:1.

Because we are now these renewed image bearers who are identified with Christ, and so are part of the New Creational existence, where we rule, subdue, and have dominion under King Christ, our High Priest mediator, our calling is to disassociate from who were were in Adam, and reflect who we are in Christ.

Now a word about St. Paul’s phrase, “renewed unto the knowledge of Him.” Adam and Eve failed at this Godly knowledge in as much as they failed to remember God’s word. Being renewed unto a knowledge of the image of God will guarantee that the Colossian believers won’t make the mistake of the 1st Adam who was “deluded with persuasive argument,” (2:4) and “taken captive through … empty deceit” (Col. 2:8).

Ephesians 2:10

10 “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

1.) The word “workmanship” is from the Greek word where we get our word “poetry.” We (the Church) are God’s poetry. We are His craftsmanship. We are his workmanship.

2.) The fact that we are created in Christ Jesus indicates to us that the workmanship (poetry) that we are is in relation to Redemption. As such the “created” that is being referred to here is not the created, as in being born, but the created as being re-born. The Church has been placed in the realm of the new creation. (Indeed, we are so part of the re-creation that St. Paul will soon say that God’s workmanship is already sharing in Christ’s ascension as we are now seated in the Heavenly places.) The thrust here is, because of God’s work in Christ, that the Church is now living in the already inaugurated “age to come.” That is the age of which we are now His workmanship.

3.) As now living in this “age to come” reality we now walk in a “age to come” fashion. The works that are produced in us and that we thus produce are consistent with the “age to come” we are living in.

4.) We were re-created for the end of good works. A Christian who has been re-created, who has been placed into the age to come, who has been seated in the heavenlies with Christ, can no more not produce good works then an apple orchard can not produce apples.

5.) Of course when St. Paul talks about our living in this current age of renewal he fixes Christ front and center. Christ, being the firstborn from among the dead, is the one in whom the age to come finds its existence. So, if we are in this age to come it is only because we are first in Christ Jesus, who is Himself the “age to come.” The King is tightly associated with His Land and His Rule.

6.) Note the tie between God’s eternal decrees (“Which God hath before ordained”), the completed work of Christ as being the instrument of the “new creation,, in which we now reside (“In Christ Jesus”), and our existential every day walk as Christians (“that we should walk in them”). There is a seamless web spun here by the inspired Apostle between Redemption planned, Redemption Accomplished, and Redemption applied.

All this to say that the idea of a Church that is conformed to this world is one of the greatest grotesqueries that could ever be conceived. Such a worldly church is the very opposite of what Paul is screaming at us in this passage. Having been united to Christ we are now living in a new age, with a new disposition and a new ethic. God ordained for us our Christ, our re-creation, and our walk.

Some Musings On Romans 1

18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

In Romans 1 the essential nature of idolatry is explained to be,

1.) Exchanging the glory of the incorruptible God for an image (23)

2.) Exchanging the truth of God for a lie (25a)

3.) Worshiping and serving the creature rather than the Creator (25b)

As Idolatry results in becoming what you worship (Psalm 115, 135) the fitting punishment (lex talionis) for dysfunction in the relationship between the Creator and creature is dysfunction in the relationship between the creature and the creature and so malfunction in worshiping God results in malfunction in other relationships. This malfunction is then put on display in sodomy, lesbianism, disobedience to parents, and all kind of kinds of other relational grotesqueries (Romans 1:24-32).

In vs. 21 the failure is “not honoring God,” and the punishment that fits the crime is their dishonoring of their bodies via perversion (vs. 24). Those who will not honor God will not honor either themselves or others. Note also the close relationship between a rejection of God and the embrace of sexual perversion. Wrong thinking about God leads to wrong thinking (and acting) about sexuality.

In vs. 21 it is said that they became futile in their thinking because they did not honor God and as a consequence (judgment) in vs. 28 God gives them over to a debased mind. They will not think right about God and as punishment from God they are debased in their thinking about others.

All in all a rupture in the vertical relationship makes for a rupture in horizontal relationships.

It is interesting that the inspired Apostle draws the tightest relationship between men who will not love God and those same men who are dominated by their sexual lusts. It is as if somehow the image of God is wrapped up tightly with our sexuality so that if men will not bow to God they will attack God by striking out at Him by seeking to extricate the Imago Dei in attacking their sexuality. This suggests that perversion is primarily theological before it is anthropological. This tight relationship between men who will not love God and the practice of sexual perversion is seen also in the OT. Take for example Numbers 25 where the Israelites abandon God and end up going all orgiastic with the women of Moab.

Romans 1 also teaches that man’s problem is not an intellectual problem but a moral problem. Man does not bow to God because he does not have enough facts. Man does not bow to God because in having all the facts he needs he insists, despites those facts, to engod himself at God’s expense.

A slightly different nuance is to see how orthodoxy and orthopraxy walk together in Romans 1. Wrong thinking about God is always reflected by unseemly orthopraxy. Reversed proper orthodoxy, always yields God honoring orthopraxy. If someone doesn’t practice orthopraxy then their orthodoxy is askew. A expert in theology who does not love his neighbor is no expert in theology.

Romans 1, consistent with the rest of Scripture, teaches us that Idolatry is the fountainhead of all sin. Sinful acts, when understood, can always be traced to a prioritizing of some Idol over the God of the Bible.

Tolkien & Predestination

J.R.R. Tolkien was a Roman Catholic who, like G.K. Chesterton, had no love lost for Protestants or for the Reformation. Yet, despite his Roman Catholicism there is a strong strain of Reformed Predestinarian thought in his Trilogy. There are several places where this explicitly reveals itself,

I.) In the “Fellowship of the Ring,” Frodo inquires of Gandalf how it is the ring came into Frodo’s possession. Gandalf’s response reveals a hint of high Reformed decretal predestinarian theology,

“Behind that there was something else at work, beyond any design of the Ring-maker. I can put it no plainer than by saying that Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought.” (1.2.116)

II.) In the second explicit instance of predestination peeking through the works of Tolkien, we find Elrond recognizing that some reality higher than himself has summoned those who were in attendance at Elrond’s War Council

“The Ring! What shall we do with the Ring, the least of rings, the trifle that Sauron fancies? That is the doom that we must deem. That is the purpose for which you are called hither. Called I say, though I have not called you to me, strangers from distant lands. You have come and are here met, in this very nick of time, by chance as it may seem. Yet it is not so. Believe rather that it is so ordered that we, who sit here, and none others, must now find council for the peril of the world.”

III.) The third explicit reference is woven all through the Trilogy and indeed forms one of the major themes of the Tolkien’s literary labors. This work of predestination has to do with the role Gollum (Smeagol) plays in the destruction of the ring. Several times throughout the novels (including the Hobbit) the death of Gollum is toyed with. Bilbo stays his hands in the Hobbit. Samwise resisted the urge to strike down Gollum. The sparing of Gollum’s life becomes part of a significant dialogue between Frodo and Gandalf,

“It’s a pity Bilbo didn’t kill him when he had the chance.”

“Pity? It was pity that stayed Bilbo’s hand. Many that live deserve death. Some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them, Frodo? Do not be too eager to deal out death in judgment. Even the very wise cannot see all ends. My heart tells me that Gollum has some part to play yet, for good or ill before this is over. The pity of Bilbo may rule the fate of many.”

Likewise the predestined end of Gollum is hinted at Elrond’s War Council at Rivendell. Upon learning that Gollum has been freed from the captivity of the Wood Elves Gandalf says,

“Well, well, he is gone. We have no time to seek for him again. He must do what he will. But he may play a part yet that neither he nor Sauron has foreseen.”

Indeed, someone who is Reformed who reads the Trilogy has the sense that the story is one long series of predestined happenstance. The Ring comes to Bilbo who passes it to Frodo. Frodo leaves just in the nick of time before the Ringwraiths arrive making inquiry into his whereabouts. Merry falls prey to the Barrow-wights only to lay claim to one of the few weapons that could be used to eventually injure the chief of the Nine — an injury that sets him up for a death blow from a woman who should not be on the Battlefield. The different parties find themselves in Elrond at just the right time though no one has “arranged” the Council. Boromir tries to take the ring which puts Frodo on the path that had to be taken in order to destroy the Ring. Merry and Pippin are captured by orcs in an event that will eventually trigger great movements in the story line.

Over and over again the story line in the Trilogy is merely the unfolding of a predestinarian sequence. This is so true that even the tragic events are incorporated to move the story along to a predestined end. Denethor goes mad thus removing the Steward from Gondor so that the King can now reclaim his throne. Gollum leads Frodo and Samwise to Shelob’s lair where Frodo is brought low by Shelob’s fang and yet in the doing of this evil Frodo and Samwise find a path into the dark land.

Tolkien’s use of predestination does not negate though the free will of his characters. They do what they cannot help but do and yet they do so because their free will moves them to that end. Boromir freely practices his treachery and yet that treachery is caught up in a larger predestined plan to move to a predestined end that is both anticipated and unanticipated at the same time.

There is something refreshing in reflecting on how Tolkien mutes the role of predestination in his Trilogy while at the same time having that predestination as being central to the novel’s movement. Tolkien’s predestination comes in the context of characters who emphasize repeatedly the necessity to be faithful to the task they are called to regardless of how dark the situation is. This predestination of Tolkien’s does not negate the peril of the situation but it does provide the sense that regardless of what outcome is ordained the role of Men, Hobbits, and Elves is to be faithful to the task at hand. None can see the definitive end of what the predestined plan is (even if their is a nebulous sense of the reality of a ordained plan) but all must understand that they must play the part assigned to them regardless of the opposition or the incredible odds against success.

I would submit that Tolkien’s trilogy gives a pretty fair reading of the concrete impact of the Reformed truth of Predestination is to have upon those who embrace the Reformed faith.

“All” in Romans 5:18

Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

Now were we to take this as some would we would have to embrace a Universalist doctrine. We would be forced to say that as the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life therefore all men are justified. This of course proves too much. Orthodox Christians understand that other Scriptures clearly don’t allow for Universalism and therefore by comparing Scripture with Scripture we don’t believe this text is teaching universalism although some might think that is the face value of the text.

Neither can we get a Hypothetical universalism out of this text. There is nothing in Romans 5:12-21 that would indicate to us that Jesus only made Justification hypothetical or only possible. For example vs. 16 says the free gift resulted in justification. Vs. 16 does not say that the free gift resulted in possible justification. What Christ accomplished on the Cross was justification for His people, not a hypothetical justification for a hypothetical people.

We would note that Rm. 5:18-19 is a conclusionary statement summing up what the Apostle has set out in vs. 12-17. That which the Apostle has set out in those verses is the relationship between Adam as a Federal Head and all those in Him and the relationship between Christ as a Federal head and all those in Him.

Note vs. 16 — Judgment from one offense resulted in condemnation. To whom does this Condemnation apply? Well to all who are Federally united to the First Adam (cmp. vs. 12) Meanwhile the Free gift results in Justification. To whom does this Justification apply? Well for all who were and are Federally united to the Second Adam.

Now we turn to the word “all” in Romans 5:18

Therefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation;

I would say given the way the Apostle’s argument has developed in 12f that the first “all” is inclusive of all those who ever were Federally united to Adam. (Which means everybody since, “In Adam’s fall we sinned all”)

continuing in Romans 5:18

“even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.”

Similarly I would say given the way the Apostles argument has developed in 12f that this second “all” is an all that is just as inclusive as the first all, with the understanding that it is referring to the “all” that are Federally united to the Second Adam.

So, the word “all” is the first instance is referring to the all who have been united to the First Adam. While the second all is speaking of a different all, to wit, all those united to the Second Adam.

So, the word all here does not apply to the same grouping of people but still is appropriate given that it applies to the total that is related to each Federal Head (Adam and Christ respectively). All of this is supported by the main thrust of the Apostle’s analogy. To wit, that there is a parallel between Adam and Christ in that condemnation and justification are the direct fruit of their disobedience and obedience. To say that all bore the fruit of condemnation from their Federal relation to Adam and that all might only possibly bear the fruit of justification by their possible relation to the Second Adam completely deconstructs the Apostles analogy. Being Federally united to Christ had consequences that were never merely possible just as being in Adam had consequences that were never merely possible.