THE WORK OF CHRIST – HIS FIRST COMING

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THE WORK OF CHRIST—HIS FIRST COMING

Jesus Christ is unique in many ways. In our previous lecture we looked at His uniqueness as a person and that He is both fully God and fully man at the same time and forever. Next we will be looking at the uniqueness of Christ in His work, both at His first coming and at His second coming.Tonight I will be covering the work of Christ at His first coming. As we consider the uniqueness of Christ, I pray that we will be overwhelmed by the grace and mercy bestowed upon us as His children and that we will grow in our knowledge of Him and in our intimacy with Him. We thus continue with our trend and ask: What does the Bible teach about the work of Christ at His first coming and how does this affect us?

When Jesus Christ came to the world in human form, He came in the fullness of time and in order to fulfil the redemptive plan of God. Here are just a few of the most important aspects to the work of Christ at His first coming:

  1. The Atonement;
  2. The Resurrection;
  3. The Ascension;
  4. Regeneration;
  5. Conversion;
  6. Justification;
  7. Adoption; and
  8. Sanctification.

    1. The Atonement

What was the ultimate cause, the reason for Christ’s coming? It can best be understood by considering something in the very character of God Himself. The Bible clearly teaches that God is both a God of love and a God of justice.

John 3:16
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.

At the same time, however, the justice of a Holy God also required that somehow a way needed to be found to pay the ultimate penalty for our sin.

Romans 3:25-26
“whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

(Propitiation=”hilasterion”= an atoning victim)

Both the love and Justice of God demanded the Atonement of Christ. Some people object to the atoning work of Christ on the basis of what they call “Cosmic child abuse”, so it is necessary to ask the question,

Was it necessary for Christ to die?

Before we attempt to answer this question from the Word of God, it is very important to realise that God was under no obligation to save any people at all. In fact we read in 2 Peter 2:4 that God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell, so why should He spare humans who had sinned against Him? God was under no obligation to send Jesus, but He chose to do so and because He chose to do so, the Atonement became essential to fulfill both His love and His justice. In fact, the necessity of the atonement is apparent from the words of Jesus Himself in at least two portions of scripture. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prays:

Matthew 26:39
“And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

After His resurrection, Jesus said the following to the two disciples he was talking to on the way to Emmaus:

Luke 24:25-26
“25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

There simply was no other way for God to save us than for Christ to die in our place. In essence the Atonement is the work Christ did in both His life and His death to purchase our salvation.

In summary, the work of Christ known as the Atonement shows how the life and death of Christ met the four basic needs we have as sinners:

      • Because we deserved to die as the penalty for our sins, Jesus died as a sacrifice for us. Hebrews 9:26
        “26 … But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
      • Because we deserved to bear God’s wrath against sin, Jesus took the wrath of God upon Himself. This is called “propitiation”.

1 John 4:10
“10  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”

      • Because we were separated from God by our sins, we needed Christ as our reconciler to bring us back into fellowship with God.

2 Corinthians 5:18
“All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”

      • Because we were in bondage we needed Christ to redeem or buy us back from that bondage.

Mark 10:45
“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”(
See also Hebrews 2:15)

      1. The Resurrection

The next work of Christ that has significant implications for us is His resurrection. The fact of His resurrection is a basic foundation of our faith as Christians and there is an abundance of testimony of His resurrection in Matthew 28:1-20, Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-53; John 20:1-21:25 as well as in the book of Acts and in several of the other books and letters of the New Testament.

In order to understand the full implication of His resurrection, we first need to understand the nature of His resurrection because this was not simply a coming back from the dead, like for example happened to Lazarus in John 11. Rather, when Jesus rose from the dead He became the “first fruits” from the dead according to 1 Corinthians 15:20, 23, setting the tone for a new kind of human life, a life where his body was made perfect, no longer subject to sin, weakness, aging or death , but able to live forever.

There are at least ten pieces of evidence in the New Testament that Jesus had a physical, human body after His resurrection. (See Matthew 28:9; Luke 24:15-18, 28-29;Luke 24:30;John 20:20, 27; John 21:12-13;Luke 24:39; and Acts 10:41)

Here are some of the most significant implications of Christ’s resurrection for us:

      • His resurrection ensures our regeneration.

1 Peter 1:3
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”

      • His resurrection ensures the reality of living a victorious Christian life.

Romans 6:12-14
“12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

      • His resurrection ensures our justification.

Romans 4:25
“25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.”

      • His resurrection is our guarantee of one day also receiving perfect and glorified bodies.

2 Corinthians 4:14
“14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence.”

      1. The Ascension

Because Jesus Christ had a glorified human body it is important to understand that when He ascended to heaven, He went to a real place called heaven. He did not simply disappear into nowhere.

Acts 1:9-11
“9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11  and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

When Jesus ascended into heaven, He received glory and honour and authority according to the overall plan of God.

Acts 2:33
“33 Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God”

Philippians 2:9
“9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,”

Here are some of the most significant implications of Christ’s ascendance for us.

      • Because he ascended to Heaven, we too will one day ascend and be with Him.

1 Thessalonians 4:17
“17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

(See also Hebrews 12:1-2)

There is a significant encouragement for us in the knowledge that Jesus went to a place called heaven. This gives His words in the following passage real significance.

John 14:1-3

 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

      • Because of His ascension we have a newfound authority in and with Him.

Ephesians 2:6
“6  and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,”

      • His ascension holds the promise for us that we will rule with Him one day. Revelation 2:26-27
        “26 The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, 27  and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father.”

(See also 1 Corinthians 6:3 and Revelation 3:21)

      1. Regeneration (Being born again)

Regeneration is a mysterious work of God in which He imparts new spiritual life to us. It’s the same as being born again according to John 3:3-8. Unlike some of the other aspects of the work of Christ such as conversion and sanctification, regeneration is totally a work of God alone.

The sovereign act of regeneration was foretold by Ezekiel in Ezekiel 36:26-27
“26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

In the New Testament, John talks about those to whom Christ gave power to become children of God.

John 1:13
“13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

That regeneration is a sovereign work of God is apparent from us being referred to as being “born again”.

1 Peter 1:3
“3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,”

(See also James 1:18 and John 3:3-8)

From various scriptures we learn that God the Father, Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit are all in some way responsible for the sovereign act of regeneration.

(See John 3:8; Ephesians 2:5;James 1:17-18;1 Peter 1:3)

Regeneration is a mystery to us. We know that once we were spiritually dead (Ephesians 2:1) and that we have been “made alive” to God or “born again”.(John 3:3; Colossians 2:13). We do not understand how this happens or exactly how God does this, which is why Jesus says:

John 3:8
“8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

It is important to understand that the sovereign act of regeneration comes before conversion and saving faith. When Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, He said:

John 3:5
5 … “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

John 6:44
“44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.”

(See also John 6:65 and Acts 16:14)

Ephesians 2:4-5
“4  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5  even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—“

Because regeneration is a sovereign work of God, God is the One responsible for initiating it. Consider the following scriptures:

1 Peter 2:9
“9  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”

1 Corinthians 1:9
“9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.”

1 Thessalonians 2:12
“12 we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.”

God calls us into His own kingdom and glory by way of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God uses the call of the Gospel message to start the process of regeneration.

Romans 10:14
“14 How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

Our regeneration is initiated by God in response to an effective Gospel call. No wonder preaching and proclamation of the gospel message is such an essential part of our lives and testimony. In essence the preached Gospel of Jesus Christ is firstly that all people have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).

Secondly that the penalty for our sin is death (Rom 6:23). Thirdly that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins (Rom 5: 8) No wonder we can stand firmly with Paul in living and proclaiming the glorious Gospel message.

Romans 1:16
“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

God uses the effective call of the Gospel message to initiate genuine sovereign regeneration which results in complete transformation.

1 John 3:9
“9  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.”

1 John 4:7
“7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.”

Galatians 5:22-23
“22  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”.

      1. Conversion (Faith and Repentance)

Conversion is our willing response to the Gospel call, in which we sincerely repent of sins and place our trust in Christ for salvation. The word conversion means “turning”, a spiritual turning away from sin and towards Christ. The turning away from sin is called repentance and the turning towards Christ is called faith. Let’s examine faith and repentance separately.

5.1 Faith (Saving faith)

Knowledge of the Gospel alone is not enough. One might hear and thus know about the facts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, but still not believe and in fact rebel against the Gospel.

Romans 1:32
“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.”

Also, we have the example of demons who know Who God and Jesus are, yet are not saved.

James 2:19
“19 You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder!”

Knowledge and agreement/approval of the Gospel are also not enough. Consider the example of Nicodemus, a Jewish leader who knew that Jesus had been sent by God.

John 3:2
“2 This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.”

Yet even this mere knowledge did not mean that Nicodemus had faith to believe in Jesus for his salvation. Consider also the example of King Agrippa. When Paul appeared on trial before to Agrippa, it appears that Agrippa knew and approved of the Jewish Scriptures.

Acts 26:27
“27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.”
However, this did not mean that Agrippa had saving faith in Christ, for he said to Paul in response:

 Acts 26:28
“28 And Agrippa said to Paul, “In a short time would you persuade me to be a Christian?”

Saving faith is a personal trust in Jesus Christ for forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God.

John 1:12
“12  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God”

John 3:16
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

With regard to saving faith, mere knowledge of the Gospel or even agreement with or approval of the Gospel message are not enough. Saving faith is nothing less than believing that Jesus Christ is my only way to salvation and that He alone has paid the penalty for my sins and that I accept Him as my personal Lord and Saviour.

5.2  Repentance

Repentance is a heartfelt sorrow for sin, a renouncing of sin, an active turning from sin, a sincere commitment to forsake sin and to walk in obedience to Christ. It is important to realise that mere sorrow or regret for one’s sins are not enough, if not accompanied by a sincere decision and changed behaviour to depart from sin and live for God.

2 Corinthians 7:9-10
“9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10  For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.”

Conversion is a single action involving two things at the same time: Turning from sin in true repentance and turning to Christ in faith. In true conversion, one cannot have the one without the other.

 Isaiah 55:6-7
6 “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call upon him while he is near; 7  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have compassion on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon”.

      1. Justification

Up to now we have looked at regeneration as a sovereign work of God, at conversion, which consists of saving faith and repentance. The next work of Jesus that follows is known as justification. Justification is an instantaneous legal act of God in which He declares our sins forgiven, declares that the right standing of Jesus Christ now belongs(Is “imputed”) to us and declares that we are now righteous in His sight.

Romans 5:1
“1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Galatians 2:16
“16  yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.”            

Here are some of the essential elements of Justification;

      • Justification is a legal declaration similar to what is done in a court of law.

Romans 8:30
“30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Romans 8:33-34
“33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

In God’s legal declaration of our justification, He specifically declares that we are just in His sight. This means firstly that we have no penalty to pay for past, present or future sins.

Romans 8:1
“1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

(See also Rom 8:33-34)

      • Secondly, it means that God clothes us in the righteousness of Christ.

Isaiah 61:10
“10  I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.”

Romans 5:19
“19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”

Which then leads to a very important question: How can God declare that we have no penalty to pay for our sins and that we have the robe of righteousness when in fact we were guilty sinners? This is where the third aspect of justification is so important. God can declare us to be righteous only because He imputes Christ’s righteousness to us. When Adam sinned, his guilt was imputed to all mankind. When Christ died on the Cross for our sins, our sins were imputed on Him. Now, as part of the act of justification, Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us and therefore God thinks of it as belonging to us.

Philippians 3:9
“9  and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—“

      • Lastly, justification comes by the grace of God alone and not by our works or earning. It comes as a free gift when we have faith in the completed work of Christ on our behalf.

Ephesians 2:8-9
“8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

Galatians 2:16
“16  yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified
.”

      1. Adoption

Adoption is an act of God whereby He makes us members of His family.

John 1:12
“12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,”

Galatians 3:24-26
“24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26  for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.”

      1. Sanctification

Sanctification is a progressive work of God and man that makes us more and more free from sin and more like Christ in our lives.

Philippians 2:12-13
“12  Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13  for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”

Sanctification is a progressive work and consists of three stages:

      • It has a definite beginning at regeneration.

Titus 3:5
“5  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,”

The commencement of the process of sanctification represents a definite break from the habit and pattern of sin.

Romans 6:11, 14
“11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
 
14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.”

      • Sanctification increases/progresses throughout life.

Philippians 3:13-14
“13 Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

2 Corinthians 3:18
“18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

      • Sanctification is never completed in this life, but is completed at death and when the Lord returns. Corinthians 7:1
        “1  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

1 John 1:8
“8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

Matthew 5:48
“48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”

2 Corinthians 7:1
“1  Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.”

Over and above the fact that sanctification is a progressive work, it is also vital to understand that it is a combined work of both God and man.

      • God’s role in sanctification. Sanctification is primarily a work of God.

1 Thessalonians 5:23
“23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

While God the Father and Jesus the Son have a role to play in the process of sanctification(See Hebrews 13:20-21), it is primarily the Holy Spirit that leads us on the path of sanctification or holiness.

1 Peter 1:2
“2 according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you.”

2 Thessalonians 2:13
13  But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.

      • Our role in sanctification. Our role in sanctification is both passive and active. It is passive in the sense that we trust or yield or surrender to the work of the Holy Spirit in us.

Romans 6:13
“13  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.”

Romans 12:1
“1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

“Let go and let God” is only one part of our role in the sanctification process. Our active role is indicated in scriptures like the following:

 Philippians 2:12-13
“12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good
pleasure.”

Romans 8:13
13  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

There are many scriptures where we are urged or encouraged to live holy lives. See for example Hebrews 12:14; 1 John 3:3; 2 Peter 1:5; Ephesians 4:17-6:20; Colossians 3:5-4:6.

Primarily our active role in sanctification is done by the old fashioned and yet timeless habits of Bible reading, study and meditation. See for example Psalm 1:2; Matthew 4:4; John 17:17. We are also active in sanctification through prayer( Ephesians 6:18; Philippians 4:6), through worship(Ephesians 5:18-20), through Christian fellowship(Hebrews 10:24-25) and through self-discipline or self-control(Galatians 5:23; Titus 1:8).

Romans 14:17
“17 For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 3:18
“18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

2 Corinthians 4:6
“6 For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

The work of Christ—His first coming

      1. The Atonement;
      2. The Resurrection;
      3. The Ascension;
      4. Regeneration;
      5. Conversion;
      6. Justification;
      7. Adoption; and
      8. Sanctification.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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