The Impact of God’s Grace: Grace Changes Everything
In the previous article, we learned that sin ruins everything. Because of Adam’s sin, humanity stands condemned in the eyes of God, in bondage to sin, and lives in a fallen world that can never satisfy our souls. We are now in a position to have a much stronger grasp and appreciation for how God’s grace impacts our lives.
The Promise of a Conqueror
Why didn’t God put Adam and Eve to death and destroy the world as soon as they sinned by eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil? After all, He did say, “In that day you eat of it, you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17b). God did not strike down Adam and Eve because, before the foundation of the world, the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit covenanted together to save sinners (2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 1:2, Ephesians 1:9). This covenant, the Covenant of Redemption, is the reason why Romans 3:25 says, “This was to show His righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins.” Michael Horton calls the Covenant of Redemption “The opening act of the drama of redemption.” He was patient and passed over Adam and Eve’s sin because He would send Jesus Christ to save them from their sins and “to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Even before God hands down a single curse to Adam and Eve, God curses the serpent by saying, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15). The only words they heard from God’s mouth before this were the demands of His Law and the curse of breaking His Law. This promise, however, is the protoevangelium, or the “first Gospel.” This first Gospel proclamation promises that the offspring from the woman alone will come and conquer Satan, destroy his works, and attain the eternal rest that Adam did not. Here, God reveals the Covenant of Grace, which we will explore in this article, to Adam and Eve. Through Eve’s offspring would come Jesus Christ, the Last Adam, who would accomplish the task that the first Adam failed and redeem the elect from Adam’s sin.
The Incarnation, Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ
How precisely does Christ accomplish the task that Adam failed? First, Christ must assume the same human nature Adam had when He was created. Just as Adam was made in the image of God, so Christ’s human nature must be made in God’s image. Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, having been conceived by the Holy Spirit, so He is without Original Sin. If He had Original Sin, He would have been condemned and corrupted just like the rest of us and could not have represented and saved those who believe. He was in the same position as Adam. Just as God required Adam’s perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience to attain eternal rest, He also required it of Christ. Jesus never once failed to obey God, even when tempted by Satan. Where Adam succumbed to Satan’s temptations, Jesus conquered Satan and God’s Law (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus is the only man ever to love God with all of His heart, soul, mind, and strength, and neighbor as Himself (Luke 10:25-28, Hebrews 4:15).
To remedy our condemnation before God and to reconcile His people back into His presence, Jesus died on the cross, bearing the sin and guilt on behalf of sinners. Jesus acts as our federal head by going before us to bear the curse we deserved. Galatians 3:13 states, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” The curses of the Mosaic Covenant pointed the earthly Israel back to what was already true of Adam and the rest of humanity. Jesus died the death that people “from every tribe and language and people and nation” deserved to die, His own people Isreal (the Church) being among those undeserving of salvation. Where Adam blamed his bride, Eve, for his sin, Jesus takes the blame for His bride’s sin, the Church’s sin (Ephesians 5:25-32).
After God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden-Temple, where His presence dwelled, He placed cherubim at the east of the Garden of Eden to bar them from eating from the tree of life (Genesis 3:24). Jesus entered Jerusalem from the east (Matthew 21:1) and once He died on the cross, the veil that separated the Most Holy Place, where the presence of God dwelt, from everything else was torn (Matthew 27:51). This indicates that by His death, Jesus reconciled unholy sinners back into the presence of God (Romans 5:10). The sacrifice that He offered up as our High Priest makes us worthy to be in God’s presence (Hebrews 9:11-12). Another aspect of the cross is that Christ conquered Satan and all the powers of darkness (Colossians 3:15). Christ as Priest keeps the temple holy by covering His naked people with His blood and righteousness, and interceding on their behalf in Heaven when He ascended (Hebrews 4:14). Christ as King takes dominion over creation by conquering Satan through His righteous life and death.
However, Jesus did not stay dead. Through His resurrection from the dead, Jesus was judged worthy of eternal life. Romans 2:13 says that it is “the doers of the Law who will be justified.” Jesus Himself, having completed perfect, personal, and perpetual obedience to the Law, was a doer of the Law and was “declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by His resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). Elsewhere, Scripture teaches that Jesus was “vindicated” or more literally, “justified,” by the Spirit (1 Timothy 3:16). Adam was “the son of God” (Luke 3:38), but died because of His sin and failed to attain rest in the world to come. But Jesus paid for the sins of His people and remained perfectly obedient, which is why He was declared to be the Son of God. He attained the rest promised to Adam. He currently sits at the right hand of His Father in His glorified body that is no longer subject to death.
The Covenant of Grace: Justification and Sanctification
One may wonder, “When is he going to talk about the Covenant of Grace?” I already have, because, as J.V. Fesko writes, “The substance of the Covenant of Grace is the work of Christ, His life, death, and resurrection, which fulfills the broken Covenant of Works for those who look to Him by faith.” Jesus is the Covenant of Grace. All those who are united to Him by faith partake in His covenant. The Covenant of Grace delivers to the believer two benefits (among others): justification and sanctification. Byron Yawn writes, “In the sin of Adam, man lost his position of innocence, and the corruption of his flesh immediately followed. In Christ, by faith, our status is restored (justification), and our disposition begins its realignment (sanctification).
Paul writes in Romans 5:19, “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.” Adam’s sin was imputed, or counted, to all of humanity, but Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the one who believes. Remember, Jesus came to be our federal head. He perfectly obeyed and bore our sins as our representative. When God looks at us, He doesn’t look at our obedience, but to the obedience of our representative. We’re justified, or declared righteous in God’s sight, for Christ’s righteousness (Romans 5:18), even though we do not have what is required to attain eternal life. We do not have to run and hide from God as Adam and Eve did. Jesus has clothed our nakedness with His righteous robes so that “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame” (Romans 10:11). Indeed, on the last day, we will not be awaiting condemnation because we were already justified through the death and resurrection of Christ. If, as Paul says, Christ was “raised for our justification” (Romans 4:25). The final verdict on the last day has been handed down in the present to all those He represents. All of our sins have been pardoned, and we have been counted righteous solely because of the work of Christ on our behalf. We can rest in the One who has earned rest for His people (Hebrews 4:9-10).
Through our union with Christ, we are freed from the bondage of sin and made slaves of righteousness (Romans 6:18). Christ’s death saves us from the power of sin over our lives as our old self was crucified with Him (Romans 6:6). Christ’s resurrection raises the new self that desires God’s Law (Romans 6:4). We are not saved by these good works but saved to do good works as Paul says we were created in Christ Jesus for good works (Ephesians 2:10). It is good news that we are not saved by our works, even our sanctified ones. As sinners, we could never offer up anything pleasing to God if we were not sure of His promise of eternal life merited by Jesus Christ. “But now we are released from the Law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Romans 7:6). Fear-driven, slavish obedience does not please God. We serve in the new way of the Spirit by looking to Christ by faith and performing good works out of gratitude for what He has done for us.
When Christ comes again, we will receive a resurrected, glorified body like His. Paul writes, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ” (1 Corinthians 15:21-23). This is where the dominion mandate is fulfilled. J.V. Fesko writes, “The last Adam accomplishes the dominion mandate by extending the temple, which is the people of God, to the ends of the earth.” This is how Jesus was fruitful and multiplied: not by having children according to natural descent, but by redeeming His elect from their body of death to His own glorified body (1 Corinthians 15:45). All of God’s enemies will be vanquished forever and the whole earth shall have people who no longer bear the image of Adam, but the image of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:49).
This is a cause for us not to put our identity in success here on earth. The people of God throughout redemptive history look forward to a heavenly country, one whose designer and builder is God (Hebrews 11:10, 16). We’re free to pursue cultural tasks, not as trying to fulfill the cultural mandate in Genesis 1:26, but as ones who know this world will come to an end (1 Corinthians 7:29-31). We have hope when we face death because our Lord Jesus has conquered death Himself and will wipe away every tear from our eyes and abolish sin from our entire existence.