The Guilty Clothed
Genesis 3:20&21 Ã¢â‚¬Å“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed themÃ¢â‚¬Â
Genesis chapter 3 is a crucially important part of the word of God; it answers the greatest of all questions which is this; if God is all-powerful as well as being a good and loving God without any evil whatsoever, and if he alone created the entire cosmos then why is there unspeakable cruelty and monstrous wickedness all around us – as there has been throughout the history of man? Human sinfulness seems to necessitate denying either the goodness or the power of the Creator. So we meet a common argument, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t believe in God when there is so much suffering in the world.Ã¢â‚¬Â
It is Genesis chapter three which answers this problem with the massive truth of the fall of man. It describes the end of the time of the probationary period in which our first parents lived; they rebelled and fell. So sin and death has come upon mankind, not because of any deficiency in God, that he is evil or that he was impotent to prevent things becoming so wretched, but because of a mind set which our father Adam displayed in defying God. All the members of the human race were represented by Adam in the time of testing in the garden of Eden. As our representative and federal head, Adam said no and rebelled, and God has counted us all guilty as well as Adam. The New England Primer for Children began,
In AdamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s fall
We sinned all.
God reckons AdamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s guilt as belonging to us as well. God has rightly imputed AdamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s guilt to me and to all of you. Is that fair? We werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the ones who actually decided to sin were we? Then how can we be counted guilty? Is it just for God to act this way? Men and women, hear me! We all recognize that a fatherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s evil crime and resultant imprisonment brings shame and a definite kind of punishment on all his family. That is unavoidable. None of us is an island unto himself. What we do for good or ill affects those near and dear to us. A fatherÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s glorious sacrifice and achievement brings honour to his whole family. When Hitler ordered the invasion of Poland and the Netherlands and sought to systematically to destroy all the Jews then he brought condemnation on the whole German nation which fell into wickedness with their Feuhrer. Adam, the first man, set in paradise, was our father and our head. Dr. Wayne Grudem gives three helpful responses to the accusation that imputing AdamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sin to us is unfair and I am adapting them here;
(1) Some have argued, Ã¢â‚¬Å“If any one of us were in AdamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s place, we also would have sinned as he did, and our subsequent rebellion against God demonstrates that.Ã¢â‚¬Â I think this is probably true, but that doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to be a conclusive argument, for it assumes too much about what would or would not happen. I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know if that argument lessens your sense of unfairness.
(2) Everyone of you who protests that the imputation of AdamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sin to us is unfair Ã¢â‚¬” havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you chosen to commit many actual sins? And wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the holy God call you to account for these? His judgment will focus on these sins on the last day, for God Ã¢â‚¬Å“will render to every man according to his worksÃ¢â‚¬Â (Rom. 2:6), and Ã¢â‚¬Å“the wrongdoer will be paid back for the wrong he has doneÃ¢â‚¬Â (Col. 3:25).
(3) However, the most persuasive answer to the objection is to point out that if you think it was unfair for you to be represented by Adam, then do you think it was unfair for you to be represented by Christ, for him to live your life and die your death. Do you think it fair that his righteousness was imputed to you by a just and holy God? IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢m saying that the procedure that God used was just the same in both cases, in condemnation as well as in justification. That is exactly PaulÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s precise parallelism in Romans 5:12Ã¢â‚¬”21: Ã¢â‚¬Å“As by one manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s obedience many will be made righteousÃ¢â‚¬Â (Rom. 5:19). Adam, our first representative sinned – and God counted us guilty. But Christ, the representative of all who believe in him, obeyed God perfectly – and God counted us righteous. That is simply the way in which God deals with the human race, by Adam and by Christ. Those are the channels by which judgment and grace come to us, and you may protest, but it is so! God regards the human race as an organic whole, a unity, represented by Adam as its head. And God also thinks of the alternative constituency of Christians, those who are redeemed by God the Son, as an organic whole, a unity represented by Christ as head of his people (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, IVP, 1994, p. 495).
So man fell and we see immediately all the traits of a fallen sinner on display – Adam transfers the blame for what he did to someone else, to the woman and also to God for giving him a woman, and she to the serpent. And immediately GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s judgment is pronounced on the serpent and his seed, the woman and the man, but then a divine promise is also made of the coming of the Seed of the woman who will one day crush the serpentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s head.
1. Adam Puts His Trust In God.
We are told, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the livingÃ¢â‚¬Â (v.20). What remarkable words they are, especially in their juxtaposition with the words that precede them. See the previous judgment of God; Ã¢â‚¬Å“By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will returnÃ¢â‚¬Â (v.19). Then see what Adam does calling his wife Ã¢â‚¬ËœEve.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ The Hebrew word for Ã¢â‚¬ËœEveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ means Ã¢â‚¬ËœlifeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœlife-giverÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœliving.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ To our first parents God has spoken the death sentence, Ã¢â‚¬Å“You will die,Ã¢â‚¬Â but then, right on the heels of those words, Adam turns to his weak and foolish wife and says to her, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Eve!Ã¢â‚¬Â that is, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Life!Ã¢â‚¬Â
Dr Joel Beeke speaking in 2003 at the Aberystwyth Conference said, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Have you ever had the experience of teaching clearly certain people who seemed to accept what you said, but after you had finished speaking to them, they turned away and said exactly the opposite? You thought, Ã¢â‚¬ËœI guess they werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t listening at all.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse once watched his children switching on the radio and searching for something interesting to listen to. They would turn the dial going from one station to another. On one such occasion, they had tuned into a station where some royalty were getting married and a Prince was being asked, Ã¢â‚¬ËœDo you hereby take so-and-so to be your lawful wedded wife?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ BarnhouseÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s children were bored with this and flicked to another station where they heard immediately a boxing referee saying these words, Ã¢â‚¬ËœNow go to your corners and come out fighting!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Dr. Barnhouse said that that was just like Genesis 3:19 and 20! The contrast is staggering; God says, Ã¢â‚¬ËœYou will dieÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, but Adam doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t seem to have heard him. Adam turns to his wife and says, Ã¢â‚¬ËœLife!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ He hears GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s death sentence but he pronounces life. What is still more astonishing is that God raises no objection protesting, Ã¢â‚¬ËœSteady on! Wait a minute Adam, didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you hear me?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ There is no divine reprimand and no correction to Adam for his words of hope.
Yes sin and death abound but grace and life much more abound. Adam has filled his mind with the promise of verse 15. This parleying with incarnate wickedness on the part of Eve is going to end. Henceforth there will be warfare, enmity between the serpent and the woman and between the serpentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seed and the womanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seed. God promises it shall be so. Ã¢â‚¬Å“That means your wife, Adam! A godly seed is going to come from your wife.Ã¢â‚¬Â So Adam looks at her and says, Ã¢â‚¬Å“She is Eve! She is life!Ã¢â‚¬Â Adam is no longer pinning the blame on Eve; he is seeing her as a source of life not death. God has spoken, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Her seed will crush the serpentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s head,Ã¢â‚¬Â and Adam is begotten again to a living hope by the promise. The voice that rolls the stars along speaks all the promises. Ã¢â‚¬Å“She is Eve! She is life!Ã¢â‚¬Â says Adam. Though God speaks of his death because of his own sin Adam focuses his hopes in this life sentence of God through the seed of the woman. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Your name shall be Eve, life-giver, for from your womb – how, I donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know – God will bring forth a Messiah.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Has a word of promise from God come to you with such power that you have been assured of life even in the midst of our civilization of death? It is by trusting in the promise of GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s word that we enter his saving orbit. I have been reading the reminiscences of a old lady from Barton-le-clay, Bedfordshire, named Mercy Sturgess which she wrote at the end of 1969 when she was in her 80s. She wrote on one occasion, Ã¢â‚¬Å“I tried to plead with the Lord before going to chapel on the Thursday evening that the Lord would speak to me that night through his servant, our pastor. His text was Acts 13:38&39, Ã¢â‚¬ÂTherefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses.Ã¢â‚¬Â It was a wonderful sermon to me, as he spoke on how I had felt, what a sinner I had been, which he put it into words. He then spoke of forgiveness and justification. I felt much helped.Ã¢â‚¬Â The word of God had come with power to Mrs. Mercy Sturgess. It came to Adam as he heard God speak of the womanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seed crushing the serpentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s head, and though Adam deserved to die, knowing that he, sinful dust, was going to return to dust again, there was yet this promise of the coming one, he who delivers sinners from the bondage of the serpent. Adam by GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s grace believed it, reposed in it, clasped it and grasped it. Have you done that as Adam did, confessing, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Eve, there is life in Jesus ChristÃ¢â‚¬Â?
Dr Joel Beeke said here in Aberystwyth, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Many years ago in Franklin, New Jersey, I preached a sermon on Genesis 3:20. There was an old caretaker in that church who was about seventy years old, and for over twenty years he had struggled to come to liberty in the gospel. That morning he found that his hearing aid was not working. He tried the hearing set of the church but could not get that to work either. So he could not hear a word I was saying. All through the preliminaries and the prayers and the singing he heard nothing. I got to my sermon and announced my text – he heard nothing. But he kept on fiddling around with his hearing aid, and suddenly it came on. The first words he heard me say were these: Ã¢â‚¬ËœEve! There is life in the second Adam, Jesus Christ, for sinners who are on the way to death and hell.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ And the Spirit used that one statement to penetrate that manÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s heart. He broke down and left the church, but he came to see me on Monday and said, Ã¢â‚¬ËœThere is life for me in the Lord Jesus through the promised seed.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Well, one way or another, perhaps not so dramatically, perhaps more gradually, every believer surely knows the simplicity of this faith, learning simply and sincerely to trust God in his life-giving Messiah.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“My dad was nearing his death. He was to have surgery for an aneurysm, and before the surgery he gathered the family around his bed to say farewell in case the Lord took him. He spoke to each one of us, and I will never forget what he said to me: Ã¢â‚¬ËœSon, please preach the simplicity of the gospel. It is so simple. Adam had one promise, faint though it be, and he believed God, and God counted it to him for righteousness.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ We have thousands of promises. Do we believe God? He gives promises for sinners, for sinners exactly like you and me. The gospel fits each one of us the way a glove fits a hand. It is exactly suited to what you need. Ã¢â‚¬ËœEveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢- have you ever cried out that there is life in Jesus Christ? There is life in the promises, life abundantÃ¢â‚¬Â (Dr. Joel Beeke, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Portraits of FaithÃ¢â‚¬Â, Bryntirion Press, 2004, pp. 19&20).
How offensive to every unbeliever is the Christian message of conversion through faith in the cross of Jesus Christ. It was in the early 20th century that Arnold Bennett wrote his autobiographical novel, Clayhanger, which was set in the Potteries. Edwin Clayhanger, the main character (which is basically Bennett) was going through a fashionable atheistic phase in his life and one afternoon he and Hilda Lessways entered the crowded St. LukeÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Square in the middle of Stoke. There were hundreds of people listening to the gospel being preached and a Salvation Army band was accompanying the singing, which was with much earnestness. The congregation sang,
Ã¢â‚¬Å“When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.Ã¢â‚¬Â
(Isaac Watts, 1674-1748)
Looking at this scene of religious fervour Edwin Clayhanger was contemptuous, and he turned to Hilda Lessways and said to her, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The salvationist drums are as primitive as tom-toms.Ã¢â‚¬Â She turned with barely restrained anger on him and rebuked him, Ã¢â‚¬Å“ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s the most splendid religious verse ever written.Ã¢â‚¬Â Now thatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s your choice, you can pour contempt on the cross or you can pour contempt on all your pride but you have to choose. You either boast in yourself or in the death of the Lamb of God.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast
Save in the cross of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His bloodÃ¢â‚¬Â
(Isaac Watts, 1674-1548)
Here is a man and woman, Edwin Clayhanger and Hilda Lessways, with some affection for one another but now discovering estrangement concerning the Messiah. For whom is each one going to live? If she will say, Ã¢â‚¬Å“For to me to live is Christ,Ã¢â‚¬Â then what will he say? Ã¢â‚¬Å“For to me to live is culture, or science, or politics, or my own enjoymentÃ¢â‚¬Â? Which vision is going to triumph? Can two walk together unless they be agreed? So too there were things in disrepair between Adam and Eve. He was blaming her for his own fall, and if they continued in this way then Adam and Eve were going to be divorced. The first marriage is breaking up, until the intervention of God. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Another one is coming and through him you will be united. Your intimacy and affection will be restored.Ã¢â‚¬Â God repairs what Adam destroys. God perforates this emerging friendship between Adam and the serpent. God turns everything round by making this promise to Adam of the triumphing Seed of the woman and Adam begins to build out of the ruins by calling his wife Eve. Ã¢â‚¬Å“We will yet enjoy life, though we have forfeited every entitlement to it by our sin. God promises life.Ã¢â‚¬Â
Listen again to what Dr. Beeke preached; Ã¢â‚¬Å“Adam does not see the Messiah, but simply, with childlike trust, he believes the promise. He says: Ã¢â‚¬ËœI see that in you, Eve, the divine promise will be realized. Life will proceed from your womb. God will carry out his purpose through our seed, and that seed will include a Deliverer who will fatally bruise the head of the serpent. And so I see in you, my dear wife, the pledge of divine forgiveness and divine salvation and divine love and the life of heaven. Your name is Eve.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Now what amazes me most of all about AdamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s simple faith is that he does not offer God any Ã¢â‚¬ËœifsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ or Ã¢â‚¬ËœandsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ or Ã¢â‚¬ËœbutsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ or Ã¢â‚¬ËœhowsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. I say, to my shame, that I am always doing that with God. At times I have sat at my study desk and have actually pounded my fist on the table in anger against myself and said, Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhy donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t I trust you, Lord? Why these Ã¢â‚¬ËœifsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœandsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœbutsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢? Why not a simple childlike faithÃ¢â‚¬â„¢? HavenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you said that all things work together for good to those that love you? Why canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t I believe it?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Are you Christians who also struggle like that?
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Adam has heard the word; he has believed what God has promised. He does not even ask for a sign – he is not a Gideon. He just believes. That is the character of faith. That is what saving faith is all about. Saving faith believes in God. Saving faith surrenders into the evangel, into the arms of God in the gospel, reposing in Christ, clasping Christ, trusting in Christ. Luther put it this way: Ã¢â‚¬ËœFaith is the ring that clasps Jesus Christ, who is the diamond.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Faith draws no attention to itself, does it? An engaged woman shows her diamond to all and sundry. That is what faith does. Adam believed the promise of the Messiah; he gazes upon the diamond of GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s promises. When he sees the lustre of the diamond Ã¢â‚¬” Ã¢â‚¬ËœChrist will come and bruise the serpentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s headÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Ã¢â‚¬” Adam loses his Ã¢â‚¬ËœifsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœhowsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ and Ã¢â‚¬ËœbutsÃ¢â‚¬â„¢, just as when the bride-to-be looks at her diamond, she says, Ã¢â‚¬ËœYes I know my fiancÃƒÂ© loves me, because this diamond seals his love.Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Jesus Christ is GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s seal of love. What faith Adam had. One promise (and a vague one at that) about the coming Deliverer; so little information, and we can flood it with the person and work of Christ the Son of God and trust in him, and yet Adam himself responds with Ã¢â‚¬ËœEve! There is life!Ã¢â‚¬â„¢
Ã¢â‚¬Å“Is anyone thinking, Ã¢â‚¬ËœBut can God look upon me? That was Adam, but what about me? Can God ever look upon me? Such a sinner! You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know the sins I have hidden in my closet! You donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t know how old I am in sin, how hard I am in sin, how severely IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve sinned, how IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve cast away the gospel invitation countless times, surely God wonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have mercy on me?Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ You are wrong, my friend. Paul says, Ã¢â‚¬ÂThis is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinnersÃ¢â‚¬Â (1 Timothy 1:15). And he adds, Ã¢â‚¬Ëœof whom I am chiefÃ¢â‚¬â„¢. Can you get beyond the word Ã¢â‚¬ËœchiefÃ¢â‚¬â„¢? No! So there is room for you. For everyone there is room. No one is excluded, and if you think that you are so unworthy that God could never have mercy on you, remember Adam. Adam was even more unworthy. In some ways Adam was the greatest sinner who ever lived. He plunged the whole human race into chaos and sin and division and destruction. To this day, all the sin you see in the world around you is the guilt of Adam. Yet Adam believed with simple faith in the single promise of God. Does not this give you a warrant also for believing? Why arenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t you believing? I find it hard to understand why everyone here is not believing in Jesus the Messiah who came, and rejoicing in victory over your great enemy the serpent. Nothing but Jesus will do for you. Your sin is too crimson; the dye in the wool is too great; you need the one God has sent to be the Saviour of the worldÃ¢â‚¬Â (op cit, pp. 23-26, extracted).
2. God Provides a Covering For Both Adam and Eve
So Adam believes the promise of God. Have you done what Adam did? He made profession of trust in GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s promise of a great Deliverer? More! He took the covering that God provided. Have you found it? Do you know the words from the hymn Ã¢â‚¬ËœRock of Ages,Ã¢â‚¬â„¢ Ã¢â‚¬Å“Naked come to Thee for dress; Helpless look to Thee for graceÃ¢â‚¬Â? Have you gone to God for that? There is such provision for see, here we are told, Ã¢â‚¬Å“The LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed themÃ¢â‚¬Â (v.21). A man like Boaz would spread a garment over a woman like Ruth as a symbol of his pledge to marry her. So God clothes both Adam and Eve, joining them together in holy wedlock despite their recent alienation, accepting them as his covenant children.
Consider their case (and let me draw to a close applying this point as one helped by old Henry Law and his Gospel in Genesis [Banner of Truth] which touched me first almost fifty years ago). They were conscious of their shame; they blushed to meet the light of day. In their guilt they sought some concealment and so they contrived to make little aprons. How flimsy, how tattered they were. Fig leaves! What a cover up! IsnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the greatest worry for many people being discovered for what they are or what theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve done? The motto of a shameless minority is, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Loud and ProudÃ¢â‚¬Â – people who donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t care what anyone thinks of them. Most of us are not like that; we will seek any cosmetic assistance to hide what weÃ¢â‚¬â„¢re really like. People live their lives through self-delusion. As T.S. Eliot pointed out people canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t bear very much reality.
The God who knows everything, in his love comes not to expose sinners but relieve them. God supplied all their needs and exceeding abundantly above all they could ask or dream of. What did he do? He made Ã¢â‚¬Å“garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.Ã¢â‚¬Â Perhaps youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve havenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t thought much of these clothes. They were for modesty and warmth and protection from the burning sun, youÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ve judged. True enough, but I assure you that the meaning was far grander. Firstly it was a sign of their investiture as the children of God. Paul tells us when Christ returns that we will all receive a resurrection body which will be a clothing of our old perishable bodies with imperishable glorified resurrection bodies. We have borne the image of the man of dust, but we will also bear the image of the man of heaven. They had sought self-investiture with fig-leaves. Meant to resemble God they put on leaves and looked like bushes in the fall! Having idolized their own opinions they now resemble the trees from which idols are carved. Then God acts and insists on taking the investiture ceremony himself. He honours them with a new status, like the father of the prodigal puts a robe on his son. He will not send them naked out of the Garden. He gives them a token of a future glorious inheritance. They will yet one day enjoy a great investiture. They are, as a fallen couple, walking shadows of what theyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢d been but through this act of God there was some hope of a coming more glorious investiture, and it would come from a very different tree than the Tree of Life.
Again, consider what these garments were made of, not wool, or silk, or cotton; not leaves joined together, or woven bark, or plaited reeds. The God who instantly made the world and all its contents could in the twinkling of an eye have made garments for Adam and Eve, but he did not do it that way. Their clothes were made from the skins of animals. In other words death had already come into the Garden! But how did it creep up on its first victims? Had they died of old age? No, this was the morning of existence. Time was in its infancy. Had they contracted some disease like foot and mouth or sheep rot? No, it was too soon for disease to spread amongst the animals. Some violent action had taken their lives away. Suddenly death had come to them by an act of God. Did the flaming sword given to the cherubim to guard the way to the Tree of Life have bloodstains on it? The throats of some animals had been cut, they had then been disemboweled and their skins removed from them and rapidly cured. God did this to the animals to whom he had given life; from these blameless spotless animals he took their lives away.
Why this death? Not to supply Adam with meat to eat. Before the flood, herbs alone were sufficient for nourishment. Noah was the first who heard GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s word, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything,Ã¢â‚¬Â (Genesis 9:3). If the beasts werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t killed for food then it was for some other purpose, and it couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t have been an unholy purpose – mere divine caprice, or some delight in inflicting pain, or the sheer joy of the hunt. Then there remains just this conclusion, that these animals were sacrifices.
Have you heard in the New Testament about the Lamb of God? Have you heard at the very end of it that he is the Lamb Ã¢â‚¬Å“foreordained before the foundation of the worldÃ¢â‚¬Â? What do we see here? In Eden victims bled. Yes, the first drops of blood which stained the earth were proclaiming, Ã¢â‚¬Å“the wages of sin is death;Ã¢â‚¬Â and Ã¢â‚¬Å“without shedding of blood is no remission.Ã¢â‚¬Â God killing these animals and clothing our first parents with these skins speaks to us of the covering of nakedness by God through the death of one who was innocent of wrongdoing. These skins point to the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. Yes, in embryo form of course, but we must flood this act of God with all God tells us of his dear Son, the one who made atonement once and for all by the sacrifice of himself, because the blood of bulls and goats cannot cleanse the wickedness of sinful men. There must be a sacrifice of richer blood and nobler name than the mere animals on which GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s sword fell.
What a picture, so admirable and simple, but what a glorious truth, the very key of heaven. Until you understand it you are only at the threshold of the Gospel. Hear me! Draw near in faith! Listen carefully! One thing is sure about every one of you, that when you die you want to go to heaven. But heaven is a place of righteousness.
Ã¢â‚¬Å“There is a city bright,Closed are its gates to sin.Naught that defilethCan ever enter inÃ¢â‚¬Â (Mary Anne S. Deck, 1813-1902)
To be in heaven is to be with God. All in heaven have the beauty of holiness. All shine in purity. All are spotlessly white in their perfection. The eye of God rests on each of them with delight. He finds no blemish in one of them. They are robed in white and are as holy as the angels? How so? It was by nothing they did. They tell us themselves; Ã¢â‚¬Å“We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.Ã¢â‚¬Â Who then dressed them, that they are found worthy?
The answer is found in the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. This righteousness has been provided for us in the Saviour Jesus. The righteousness we needed, is applied to repentant sinners by God; it is the righteousness of ChristÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s obedience. He does for us what we could never have done ourselves. In him we become what we never could have been without Him. In his life on earth the man Christ Jesus has worked out an infinite perfection, and so he is called Ã¢â‚¬Å“The Lord our Righteousness.Ã¢â‚¬Â His life was holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. He did no sin; no guile was in his mouth.
Hear me now, for this is the gospel. In the good news of Jesus, and in that gospel alone, the righteousness of God is revealed to all who believe. A real Man, bone of our bone, made of a woman, has passed through human life from birth to death without once straying from the path of God. The earth has seen a man as pure as God is pure, as holy as God is holy, perfect as God is perfect, sinless as God is sinless. He lived under the commandments of God each day of his life; he went round the circumference of the law, moral, ceremonial and civil, without one deviating step. With his strong wings outstretched he soared to the lawÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s utmost height, never pausing for a moment. The searching eye of God always upon him, but it couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t find once in Jesus the absence of heavenly love in any thought, or word, or deed. He had daily trials, but no faults, many temptations, but no sin. The ground was often slippery, but he never fell. He was assaulted on all sides, but was never overcome. So the man Christ Jesus at the end stood before God, possessing a full and unbroken obedience, accomplished, perfected and completed to the minutest letter – and it was all for us. He wrought that righteousness, that he might give that righteousness to all who believe in him; and so he does give it to every naked sinner who hears the promise of the Saviour and trusts in him.
Do you seek confirmation that this truth is what the Scripture teaches? There is much confirmation. Listen to GodÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s words: Ã¢â‚¬Å“The righteousness of God, which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe,Ã¢â‚¬Â Rom. 3. 22. Fully trust those words, and all peace will be yours. It is Ã¢â‚¬Å“unto all who trust in him,Ã¢â‚¬Â just as the payment placed to your own credit is there in your bankÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s monthly statement. So when God has dealings with the believer, and measures your life by his law, and asks whether you have loved God with all your heart, and loved your neighbour as yourself, then see, there appears on your behalf, wrought by the hand of Christ himself. Ã¢â‚¬Å“Yes, I have obeyed in Christ my God,Ã¢â‚¬Â you say boldly. Such perfect obedience fulfils all that God demands. The blessed robe of the righteousness of Christ covers all your filthy stains. God neither desires nor can receive any more, and this perfection through the saving work of Christ is Ã¢â‚¬Å“upon all who believe.Ã¢â‚¬Â So, when the believer stands at heavenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s gate, he is prepared and ready for glory, dressed in heavenly robes, the righteousness of Christ is upon him. What more can be required? This righteousness is as bright and glorious as God himself.
Are you satisfied with this? Hear again what God says; Ã¢â‚¬Å“God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him,Ã¢â‚¬Â 2 Cor. v. 21. Blessed are you if these words are rooted in your soul! They are precious beyond ten thousand times ten thousand worlds. ArenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t they saying that we, even we who are utterly vile by the fall of our father Adam and our own sin, if only we are one with Christ by faith, then we are made the righteousness of God? Hear again of Jesus Christ, Ã¢â‚¬Å“who of God is made unto us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemptionÃ¢â‚¬Â (1 Cor. 1:30).
O believe it and speak of it and rejoice before God in it. I still remember the cold day in January 1959 in a student conference on the Gower peninsula when Elwyn Davies taught me this truth of justification by faith. I had been justified for over four years, but I hadnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t understood what was entailed in that gracious divine act until that day. It was like another conversion. That truth made my heart burn within me. What a time, to understand ChristÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s imputed righteousness. God had clothed me with the garments of the Lamb of God! I was safe in Christ for ever and ever. I deserved eternal death because of my sin, but because of the obedience of Christ real pardon and a divine righteousness was mine.
I have spoken to you of how gloriously perfect were Adam and Eve before they fell, but all that righteousness was human. Not so this robe. It is Divine. The God-man, Jesus, is its Author. It is infinite, eternal and unchangeable. AdamÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s robe was soon soiled and lost; Satan touched it, and it crumbled into nothingness. It was as substantial as a cobweb. This righteousness of Christ, your very own righteousness, the gift of God, is in the midst of the throne of God and is kept there in the height of heaven; the destroyer cannot reach it. These skins which God brought to Adam would soon grow old, and perish, but this is an Ã¢â‚¬Å“everlasting Righteousness,Ã¢â‚¬Â (Dan. 9: 24). Age rolling on after age will affect it in no way. It will know no modification and no decay. No moth will destroy it; no thieves breaking through will steal it; its bright and perfect newness will be unfading. What are the most glorious coronation robes or wedding garments of the richest and most famous on earth beside this garment of ChristÃ¢â‚¬â„¢
Four Meditations from John Owen September 26, 2023
This is a reprint of an article that was first published in the Banner of Truth magazine, July – August 1968. His words remain searching and pertinent today. * * * The Value of the Gospel No men in the world want help like them that want the Gospel. A man may want liberty, and […]
Peacocks and Rutterkins: Calvin the Colloquial Communicator August 31, 2023
John Calvin is thought of, principally, as a theologian. Of course, he was that. But, as Andrew W. Blackwood once told me, in his day he was first of all considered a preacher. Too few of his sermons have been preserved.1 English translations are mainly in 16th century English!2 Nevertheless, the more I read them, […]