The Justice of God and The Mystery

by Mike Tiry

There is a question that should eventually come to mind to the serious Bible student. That is “How can God put an innocent third party to death for my sins?” The Lord Jesus Christ was “…holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners…” (Heb. 7:26). He lived 33 years on this earth and yet could honestly dare to ask “Which of you convinceth me of sin?” (John 8:46) Yet God the Father “…hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” (II Cor. 5:21) But justice demands that the guilty party pay the penalty. Obviously, God would execute perfect justice. The gospel (i.e. that Christ died for our sins, and was buried, and rose again the third day) must accommodate God’s perfect justice as Paul states “To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness, that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” (Rom. 3:26)

In order for justice to be served, Jesus Christ had to become guilty of our sins. But how can this be? The answer is simple: The moment a person believes the gospel today, the Holy Spirit baptized that person into Jesus Christ.

“Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death…” (Rom. 6:3-4)
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Gal. 3:28)

The Holy Spirit does this baptizing work as He forms the church which is Christ’s body.

“For as the body is one, and hath many members and all the members of that one body, being many are one body: so also is Christ. For by one spirit are we all baptized into one body whether we are Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (I Cor. 12:11-14)

There is a living, vital union that is formed between each believer and Jesus Christ and also between each believer and every other believer. That union is the very special relationship that Paul the apostle of the Gentiles calls “The preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery”. In this union Jesus Christ is the head of the church, which is his body, and He also is the Savior of the body. This relationship is much like a properly functioning marriage relationship:

“For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the Savior of the body”. (Eph. 5:23)

In marriage, the wife changes her name to take the name of her husband, to become one with him and entrusts herself to his provision and protection. It is much the same in salvation whereby the believer is joined to Christ be under His protection, provision and salvation. This new union of believers with Jesus Christ forms what Paul calls the “one new man” (Eph. 2:15). This new relationship is what he refers to as “…the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery” (Rom. 16:25)

What the believer brings to that union is sin and guilt. In this new and special relationship, Jesus Christ gets the believer along with the believer’s guilt at the instant the believer made his/her decision to trust Jesus Christ as Savior. The redeeming work of the Lord Jesus is then applied to the believer because sin’s debt was paid in full on Calvary. What our Lord Jesus brings to that union is the righteousness of God. The believer then gets the righteousness of God credited to his/her spiritual bank account the very instant of conversion. This is the process that the Bible calls Justification. Jesus Christ became guilty of the believers sins when He received the believer to himself as the Holy Spirit baptized the believer into Christ. He paid the debt and the believer is, from that time forward, viewed by the God the Father as just as fit for heaven as His Son Jesus Christ is.

So, when we came to Paul’s epistles we know Jesus Christ differently than the lost sheep of the house of Israel knew Him in the Books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. They knew Him “after the flesh”–i.e. as the Man of Galilee who was to be Israel’s Messiah and who would reign over an earthly kingdom. Today though, in order to truly understand the Christian life, we must not look at our Lord as they did during His earthly ministry to Israel. Rather, we must know Him as the Head of the Church, which is His Body–as the head of the One New Man. Thus Paul says “wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet no we henceforth know we him no more [i.e. we no longer know of Him as He was presented during His earthly ministry].

“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; be hold all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imparting their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the world of reconciliation.” (II Cor. 5:17-19).

For us today, who are being saved under the Dispensation of Grace of God through the program God calls The Mystery, Jesus Christ got our sin and guilt by means of the work of the Holy Spirit when He baptized us into Christ upon our act of believing. His payment of redemption is then applied to the believer [See endnote 1). For an Israelite, that transfer of sin and guilt is accomplished by a different mode of baptism i.e. that of water. In Isaiah 53:12 we read of Israel’s Messiah “…he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” John the Baptist was sent to Israel to get Israel ready for her Messiah. John was “…”the voice of one crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Mat. 3:3). To do this, John practiced the baptism of repentance of Numbers 19. “John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out into him all the Land of Judea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of Him in the River of Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Mark 1:3-5). But, to John’s surprise Our Lord Jesus came to be baptized. “Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John to be baptized of him. But John forbade him saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me? Then Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him. ” (Matt. 3:13-15) As the Messiah of Israel and her rightful and righteous king; Jesus Christ identified himself with Israel and with Israel’s transgressors so that Isaiah 53:8 might be fulfilled “He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.” Thus, water baptism was the mode whereby an Israelite under the Gospel of the Circumcision could be identified with the Savior while the baptizing work of the Holy Spirit became the mode whereby the Jew or Gentile is identified with the Savior today under the Gospel of the Uncircumcision committed unto Paul the Apostle of the Gentiles.

Endnote: God had His plan for the redemption of lost man in mind before He created the world. Note carefully the words of 2Tim 1:9-11: “[God] who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel: Whereunto I [Paul] am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” The redemption of man was planned by God before the world began, was accomplished for man when Jesus Christ paid sin’s debt in full for every man, and it is applied to believers at the moment they each believe the gospel. Though we creatures of God are locked into our space-matter-time contium, God is not. He can and does take the sin and guilt of a person saved in 2001 back through time to the cross just as surely as he could bring the sin of fallen Adam forward through time to the cross. God has a plan and a purpose that involves man. This plan centers in the work of redemption that was accomplished by Jesus Christ.

“According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith [as in faithfulness] of him.” (Eph.3:11&12)


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