The Scheme of Redemption in Type
by Bryan Vinson
via The Preceptor, Vol. 1, No. 7, May 1952.
In recent articles consideration has been given with respect to the purpose and province of prophecy in the plan of salvation. In this we wish to proceed to the study of the character and design of type in this great and glorious system of redemption. It may well be observed that, essentially, type is a species of prophecy. The distinctive design of prophecy is to impart information to instruct or teach with the added characteristics often times of thus informing those taught relative to matters then future. Typical persons and institutions afforded graphic and sensible means of imparting needful lessons to those who were to be taught, constituting a form of visual education. The development through the centuries of the remedial system was preeminently an educative process; and in those dim and distant times Jehovah adapted the methods and means employed to the spiritual immaturity of a sin-cursed world. Persons, institutions and events enacted parts in this grand drama that may well be likened to a dress rehearsal before the real performance is given.
A familiar bill-board sign a few years ago heralded the slogan: "Coming events cast their shadows before them" and we are told that the law having a shadow of good things to come can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. They were shadows, not the very image. Hence to the Colossians Paul wrote that, since Christ had nailed the law to the cross, they should "let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days. Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ" (Colossians 2:16,17). It is interesting to note, this primary fact: shadows derive their form from the substance of which they are the shadow; and unless there is a fixed and definite form characterizing the substance there can be no trustworthy shadow relating thereto.
For the adumbrative values of the past to be of any meritorious significance the gospel system and the church of our Lord must be recognized as complete and fixed. While the sciences, arts and literature of men are in a state of flux, religion is stereotyped and is not susceptible to the modifications and alterations of men. This is true because it is the product of divine revelation free from the inventions and discoveries of fallible men. The doctrine of continuous revelation is a severe and sinful reflection on the infinite integrity and wisdom of God and constitutes an invalidation of the Word of Christ. The gospel of Christ as set forth in the New Testament purports to be the full and final expression of the divine Will and to believe otherwise requires the repudiation of its claims. If the inspired record is to be believed in any instance it must be accepted in its entirety; and to avow faith in it while reposing confidence in other alleged revelations is such a glaring contradiction as to render such a position altogether untenable.
Moses as a Type of Christ
Christ as a prophet was announced long before His advent, and in the announcement He was described to be like unto Moses. For one person to serve as the type of another there must be those points of similarity, strikingly impressive, between the two with respect to either the character, relations, office or mission of these. There may well be interesting correspondences in all these particulars, but not necessarily so. The quality of meekness has been associated with the character of Moses, and certainly this attribute found in Jesus its most perfect and admirable exemplification. In Moses there is observed the gracious disposition of ever interceding for mercy in behalf of others, even those who had ill treated him. Such is instanced in the case of Aaron and Miriam as well as those occasions when he interceded for Israel when God's wrath was kindled against them.
But in the office of prophet is the most salient feature of this typology suggested. We all recall the premature effort of Moses in seeking to establish by self-appointment his leadership of the enslaved Israelites in order to effect their deliverance form the bondage of Pharaoh. This effort proved abortive and forty years as a sheepherder intervened between this attempt and the time God called him to lead this helpless and distraught people from serfdom to freedom. God selected the time and man and sent him to the people to be delivered.
It is noteworthy that the decision as to both the time and person chosen were reserved by Jehovah to be exercised by Himself. Corresponding thereto we read that when the fullness of time was come God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law to redeem them that were under the law that we might receive the adoption of sons.
In thus commissioning Moses God empowered him to demonstrate to the people in bondage His divine legation, thus assuring them that this leader was one of divine selection and worthy of following. A fruitful source for reflection is afforded in the series of plagues visited by God through Moses upon the Egyptians by way of demonstrating the superior power of the Almighty over the artifices and tricks of magic. In thus contrasting the two displays of power the infinite superiority of God is manifested. Even so were the mighty works of Jesus transcendently grand in comparison with all the vain and pretentious claims of others affecting supernatural endowments.
In the relation of a mediator between God and the people to be delivered is to be seen a striking parallel and typical significance attaching to Moses. He was sent by God to them and from Jehovah the law was given to Moses to be delivered to and enjoined upon the people. They were unable to stand in the immediate presence of the Almighty, and entreated Moses to speak to them and they would hear "but let not God speak with us lest we die.' The law was given by the disposition of angels and ordained by them in the hands of a mediator. This mediator was Moses and in consequence of this the law is identified as not only the law of God but also the law of Moses. By reason of this he is renowned as the lawgiver for that great people that made a glorious history for themselves with the aid of divine providence. Great though Moses was as a lawgiver in binding on the nation of Israel the greatest moral and religious code of the ancient world, this greatness recedes as both he and it in grandeur diminish and in glory pale alongside the exalted Christ and the exceeding glory of His law. We are told that however glorious the first covenant was it has no glory by reason of the glory that excels as displayed in the new covenant.
In the personal character of Moses, as reflected in his refusing to be called the son of Pharaoh's daughter and thereby esteeming the reproaches of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, we discern in miniature the choice of the Word in emptying Himself of His eternal glory and taking on Himself the nature of man; of becoming poor that we through His poverty might be made rich; and Who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross and despised the shame identified therewith. Impelled by faith and in the spirit of a noble altruism Moses made him a degree of immortal renown in the ranks of the greatest of earth born creatures. In relation to the people of God his leadership was indispensable to their emancipation from slavery, and to the creation establishment and maintenance of their separate and national existence. In following Moses the children of Israel were led across the Red Sea and secured the deliverance sought; in following Christ, and only by so doing, are we today able to secure and enjoy deliverance from the bondage of sin.
It is interesting to note the professed veneration of the Pharisees for Moses as suggested in John 9:28,29 in talking to the man to whom had been given sight by the Savior. "And they reviled him and said, Thou art His disciple but we are the disciples of Moses, but as for this Man we know not whence He is." Notwithstanding this clear and strong avowal of faith in and regard for the authority of Moses they had by their traditions made the commandments issued by him of no effect. Equally true is it today that many profess to be devoted to and governed by the Christ whose law they invalidate by their traditions -- the doctrines and commandments of men.
Melchizedek as a Type of Christ
There is not much to be learned about this person because of the paucity of material in the sacred record regarding him. The Old Testament record contains but two references to him and these, with the mention given by the writer of the Hebrew letter, exhaust the sources of information. Psalm 110:4 says: "The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek." This reference stands midway, chronologically speaking, between the time of Melchizedek and the one here prophesied to be a priest after his order, thus constituting a significant link between the type and anti-type and tying them together in this relation to one another. This prophecy announced by David not only foretells the high character of the priesthood of Christ, but identifies with it and him the Lordship of Sovereignty that dually would accompany the occupancy of the priesthood. On Pentecost Peter quotes this Psalm and applies its fulfillment to Christ. Too, Jesus in Matthew 22 notes this statement of David, refers it to himself and poses an embarrassing question to the Jews based on it.
The fact that Jesus in His exaltation was to be, and is, both king and priest is suggested in the typical character of this little known person. His name denotes "king of righteousness", and certainly the reign of Christ is supremely and sublimely one of righteousness. His gospel is appraised as the power of God unto salvation because it reveals the righteousness of God; doing righteousness is requisite to being born of Go, and this birth brings one into the kingdom of our Lord. The kingdom of Christ is one of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Melchizedek is described as King of Salem, and the term no only means peace, but most likely as to place refers to Jerusalem.
It is in the office of priest and the right of acquirement, possession and disposal that we find the principal point of correspondence between Melchizedek and Christ. The Levitical priesthood was one in which those privileged to occupy it had to acquire this position solely on the basis of family relation. The possession of a high moral character and genuine spiritual devotion were not requisites thereof. The son received this office from the fact he was his father's son, and not because he merited it either on the basis of ability or character. The common priests were of the tribe of Levi, and the high priests came of the family of Aaron. While this is well known, nevertheless it is needful to bear this in mind as the study of the priesthood of Christ is considered in relation to the similarity it bears to that of Melchizedek. The comparative position of the Levitical and Melchizedek priesthoods is set forth by the writer of Hebrews in referring to the incident of Abraham paying tithes to Melchizedek on returning from battle with spoils thereof. In that connection Abraham received blessings from this priest and "without any dispute the less is blessed of the better." Now Levi, being in the loins of his father Abraham, is regarded as paying tithes representatively to Melchizedek. Hence the conclusion follows from these premises that Levi was inferior to Melchizedek to whom he paid tithes and from whom he received blessings in the person of Abraham. This being true the argument is successfully made and sustained that the Levitical order is inferior to that of Melchizedek, and Christ being a priest after this order it follows that His priesthood is superior and consequently distinct from the Levitical. All of this argumentation is made for the purpose of establishing the proposition that the law of Moses is inferior to and has been supplanted by the new covenant, since the priesthood being changed there is of necessity a change in the law.
We are informed, with respect to the priesthood of Christ being like that of Melchizedek, that the latter was without father or mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life; hence he abideth a priest continually. Herein lies the distinguishing typical significance attaching to this ancient personage. He neither received the priestly office by lineal heritage nor transmitted it to his progeny. In this sense is to be perceived the import of the statement relative to having neither father nor mother nor genealogy, not that actually he had no earthly parents, but rather the office he occupied was not genealogically identifiable. Also it is not to be understood in reading this description of this ancient priest that he is yet living. The meaning is to be arrived at in viewing this as a contrasting description to the circumstances connected with the tenure of the Levitical office.
In the antitype, Christ, we find Him to be described prophetically as a priest on His throne (Zechariah 6:13). Under Judaism the sacerdotal and kingly offices were separate and the occupants came from different tribes. Our Lord came from the tribe of Judah -- where the scepter resided -- concerning which tribe Moses spake nothing respecting the priestly office. The combining of the two grand functions in the august power and resplendent glory of the person of our gracious Redeemer is the most thrilling spectacle viewed by angels and contemplated by men. While ruling us under the benign reign of His universal Lordship, He ever lives to make intercession for us as our high priest; and having been reconciled by His death we shall be saved by His life, as He lives and serves our interest in propitiating God by faithfully interceding for us on the merits of His shed blood.
The correspondence existing between a type and its antitype should be so clear and pronounced as to enable one readily to perceive the likeness of the latter to the former. For this likeness to be discernible the elements of form, character, relation and design should be sharply drawn in each. This is necessary in order that those valuable lessons which the type purports to teach may be learned by all who study, and that the profit there from may be accessible to all. There are grave dangers associated with an endeavor to treat as a type that which, at best, is questionable of being a type. It is evidently true that a person, or thing, may possess a typological value in a given particular feature and be without any typical significance in other aspects of his or its character, relation or design. Too, to seize upon this single feature and then take recourse to the storehouse of one's imagination to supply that which is otherwise lacking to make out a full-bodied adumbration is to act rashly and recklessly.
With such observations I am most anxious to proceed cautiously and
conservatively in the presentation of this subject, as well as all others which have to do with the truth of God, and which so deeply affects the destinies eternally of men. Having formerly given some attention to Moses and Melchizedek as being types of the Messiah as a prophet and priest, respectively, I wish to consider some events and institutions which afford an enlightening source of study when viewed as typifying the plan of salvation realized in the church of Christ. In thus considering these we should be fervently anxious to be governed in our survey with the question, "is this true?", rather than desiring to discover something connected therewith that is new. Truth divine and eternal needs not the aid of vain imagination to supplement, furbish or adorn it; all it requires is to be studied, believed and obeyed to render happy those who are the objects of its benediction.
The Salvation of Noah
Following the advent of sin in the world, by its introduction in the deception and consequent transgression of Eve, it rapidly multiplied as the race of man increased. The offensiveness to God became so intolerably aggravated as to lead Him to resolve the destruction of sin in destroying the world and all life therein. Anticipatory thereto Jehovah tendered to man His intention of bringing a flood of sufficient proportions to effect such a destruction, a flood of water that would produce a universal inundation and thereby render extinct all life. Since all vegetable and animal life had been created for the well-being and sustenance of man, there could be no relevancy in destroying man and leaving other and lower forms of life on the earth. Equally sensible would be the provision to preserve animal life for propagative purposes contingent to a remnant of the human race being saved from the impending destruction. Hence, in a study of the significance of the Noahic salvation, it is well to bear in mind that the salvation or preservation of such animals as were taken into the ark were not thus preserved save as they were vital to the earthly live of man and sacrificial ends. Their destruction or preservation was determined not on the basis of any merit or demerit attaching to them, for they were, and are, destitute of both; the presence of sin modified not at all the character or purpose of their existence directly. The Provident Father wisely provided for all that was and is for our good both originally and continuously.
With the Mosaic account of God's announced purpose to destroy man we note the thrilling statement that gave hope in the hour of despair: "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord" (Genesis 6:8). There follows a description of Noah which affords an explanation of, and a justification for, his being the recipient of Divine favor. He was a just man, perfect in his generation and he walked with God. It would be difficult to compress within such limits of expression a more expansive and intensive compliment than here found relative to Noah. The intolerable wickedness of the generality of mankind rendered justifiable the doom of destruction designed by God, and, but for the character of this person, the extermination of mankind evidently would have been wrought. There springs from the heart of a grateful acknowledgement of our indebtedness to Noah as we appreciate the fateful crisis which existed in that hour, and the acute contingency suspended on the character of this individual. To all who are inclined to regard their own concern it should be profitable for them to reflect on the fact that the behavior and consequent character of Noah was of supreme concern to the race of mankind, as well as of great interest to heaven. The preservation of the human race turned on the fact that one man found favor in the sight of God, and this favor secured by virtue of his character. The perfection ascribed to him was, of course, a relative one evaluated in comparison with the degeneracy of his contemporaries.
The Typical Character of Noah's Salvation
The salvation of Noah was a physical salvation from a physical destruction. Our salvation today is a spiritual salvation from a spiritual destruction. The type is, therefore, to be regarded as inferior in worth to the antitype, and such a characteristically true of the relation existing between the type and antitype. Also, Noah's salvation being physical in nature it was temporal in duration; whereas, our salvation being spiritual it is to be, it should be, eternal inasmuch as the spirit of man is eternal. In giving thought to the analogy existing between these two salvations we should note the following points:
- the condition and fate of the world;
- the relation of the party to the world;
- the means employed to effect a deliverance from the world; and
- the state and condition of man subsequent to the deliverance.
First, then, let us notice the condition of the world which rendered desirable the deliverance of Noah from it. So far as we can ascertain, it was a desirable place to live in physically and materially considered. It had its seasons and produced its fruit; it was climatically and scenically adapted to the physical desires of men, and offered every attraction to the fleshly minded element of human society. Why should one desire to be translated to a new world? Being attracted by, exclusively interested in and devoted to the then present world was responsible for their disregard for God and the consequent corruption wrought by their ever increasing sinfulness. "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). "And as were the days of Noah, so shall be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days which were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day Noah entered into the ark, and they knew not until the flood came and took them all away; so shall be the coming of the Son of Man" (Matthew 24:37-39). From this be it observed that the censure is not directed against the legitimate use of food and drink, neither the proper interest in and observance of the marriage institution; but the description here given is one of licentiousness, that of giving paramount, if not exclusive, attention and interest to the fleshly and worldly attractions rather than restraining such appetites to their proper place, and giving preferred and supreme attention to godliness. This licentious and corrupt state of society occasioned the Divine resolution to destroy the world; and yet, with all the wickedness then prevailing God exercised a measure of longsuffering marvelous in its graciousness. This term simply denotes that Jehovah allowed or tolerated for a long time the condition to continue in order; to afford an opportunity abundantly sufficient for them to reform and escape the condemnation threatened. The antediluvian world was thus cursed and contaminated by sin, and God designed its purification by destruction -- a purification to be attained by means of the flood of waters, and affected by the destruction of the evil that had corrupted it.
When we turn from the description we have of the world -- the age -- then existing to the present antitypical world we must be deeply influenced by the correspondence observable. As already noted the Savior drew an impossible parallel, frightening even, between the two "as it was in the days of Noah -- So shall it be". The apostle John confidently tells us that "We know that we are of God, and the whole world lieth in the evil one". Too, Peter concludes his second letter with a gripping description of the fate of the world -- "Knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? for from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the Word of God; by which means the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished; but the heavens that now are, and the earth, by the same Word have been stored up for fire, being reserved against the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men" (II Peter 3:3-7). He further avers that when this time comes "the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall be dissolved with fervent heat, and the earth and the works that are therein shall be burned up."
John appeals to Christians to "love not the world, neither the things of the world; and that if any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof; but he that doeth the Will of God abideth forever" (I John 2:15-17).
With this cursory notice of the parallelism of the antediluvian and present worlds, let us give some thought to the next point; namely, the relation that Noah sustained to the world that then was, and the antitypical suggestiveness related thereto.
Noah was in the world, physically attached to it and a part of it. From it he had to be delivered if he escaped the destruction than impending. For him to have relied exclusively on his superior moral and spiritual character to have secured his safety, while disregarding preparation divinely prescribed, would obviously resulted in his destruction. The threatened ruin being a physical one he had to be physically delivered from it. Consistent with his character and expressive of his faith he employed approximately a hundred years in making the preparation required along with preaching through the Spirit to those in the imprisonment of sin a message of doom and a way of escape. His faith in the warning of God produced a salutary effect on him; it created an awareness of the danger then present and threatening. He was not enamored with the then present world as to be indifferent to those interests of a contrary and higher kind. Even today the basic need is for men to be convicted of sin and its fearful consequences, and in conjunction with such a conviction be filled with an awareness of the present insecurity contrasted with the blessings of that kingdom which cannot be moved. To the Ephesians, Paul wrote: "And you hath He quickened who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the sons of disobedience." These were, therefore, formerly in and of the world, and, consequently, until delivered or made alive were dead in sins and under condemnation. In his salutation to the Galatians, Paul invokes the grace and peace upon them from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ "who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world." Christ, as our Savior, is our Deliverer; and in delivering us from this present world He thereby saves us from sins.
A question of paramount merit to us is how this salvation is accomplished and by what means it is wrought? The salvation of Noah is expressly avowed to be a type of our salvation by the apostle Peter. To his statement we shall take recourse in seeking an answer to this point. "For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit; by which also He went and preached unto the spirits in prison, which sometime were disobedient when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few that is, eight souls were saved by water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God) but the resurrection of Jesus Christ; Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto Him" (I Peter 3:18-22). Both with respect to Noah and ourselves salvation is the object secured: salvation from the destroying flood on the part of Noah, and salvation from sin sought and secured by us today. In either instance the salvation is that of being saved from, and, hence, involves a separation or deliverance from. Noah wasn't saved in the flood, but rather from it. Even so, are we saved not in our sins but from them.
By faith Noah, being warned of god of things not seen as of yet moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house. And thus did Noah according to all that God commanded him, so did he. Directed by faith and impelled by godly fear Noah moved -- he didn't sit still and depend on faith alone to effect his salvation. It merits notice that God spoke and Noah believed; he believed, and that belief produced fear, and the fear moved him. Whether fear or hope, or both, are the resultant forces of faith depends on WHAT is believed. They are equally legitimate issues of faith and are proper motivations when arising from a faith created by a "thus saith the Lord." False fears and false hopes rest on a false faith; and a false faith is the product of false testimony. The point of likeness stated by Peter is the SAVED BY WATER in the case of Noah and the fact asserted that BAPTISM DOTH ALSO NOW SAVE US. While none deny that he was saved by water, many, unfortunately, vehemently deny that baptism saves us. Even some gospel preachers, apparently in an effort to make the gospel more palatable, have been known to say that baptism doesn't save us, but that the blood of Christ saves us. As a matter of fact the Word of God ascribes salvation to a number of causes and conditions among them both the blood of Christ and baptism in this language before us. Peter doesn't say that the ark was a type of the church, but he expressly affirms that the salvation by water of Noah is the type of our salvation by baptism. How, then, does correspondence obtain? Water effected the separation, hence the deliverance, of Noah from the world that then was and the destruction which engulfed it. Likewise baptism, in washing away our sins, effects our separation from, or deliverance from, those sins attaching to our souls thereby freeing us from all the guilt and consequences of all the evil we may have ever done. Glorious thought and comforting the assurance thus afforded those who have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine delivered unto them, having thereby been made free from sin.
In the new world, redeemed and renovated by the purging waters of the flood, Noah worshipped his God and offered on a newly built altar burnt offerings of every clean fowl and beast which had been preserved for sacrificial purposes. His was a new life in a new world, freed from the contaminating influences of the old. We who are Christians are new creatures in Christ, having been translated from the power of darkness into the kingdom of God's dear Son, in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins. We, having been raised up to walk in newness of life are dead to sin, and are to live no longer therein. And seeing that all these things are to be dissolved, while living in the world here, we are to look for a new heaven and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness. Having been risen we are to set our affections on things above and not on the things of the earth, which things are to pass away eventually and everlastingly.
In the long course of human history many nations, magnificent in power, grandeur and glory have arisen, but none of them can match the history of the nation of Israel. It stands out in all the course of time as a sui generis, as being particularly one of its kind, hence, unique, peculiar and distinct. That which gave this nation the particular and peculiar character it possessed, and history it wrought, was the especial interest invested in it by Almighty God. For this reason a knowledge of the rise, progress and destiny of this people is merited and should be sought and secured by all thoughtful persons. However, in the study of the scheme of redemption is to be discovered the most significant value attaching to an understanding of their history. There are three points of prominence I wish to mention as requiring our most appreciative and reverent respect:
- They were constituted a separate and peculiar people in order that they might sustain a close and blessed relation to God. This would have been impossible of attainment and enjoyment by an amalgamation with the sinful and idolatrous nations of the earth.
- The lineage of Jesus, for it to accord with the purpose of God and fulfill the prophets, had to be providentially protected. This required the guarding of genealogy, which could only be done by maintaining a separateness such as was enjoined. With the coming of Jesus, and His enthronement the necessity of maintaining genealogical records ceased, and today it would be impossible for any pretender to the Messiahship to establish his descent, as was the case with Jesus whom none denied to be the Son of David.
- The typical significance of this nation's eventful history affords an interesting and highly enriching source of study for all who aspire to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints. In this present discussion we shall reserve our thoughts and confine our study to the limits of this third and last point.
In this we wish to point out several correspondences which identify unmistakably the typical character of this nation of fleshly Israel.
Israel Was a Nation
The increase of the human species was marked by the transition from a family form of society to one of tribal proportions, and thence, in the course of time, to state and national extensions. The crystallizing of large segments of society into such compacts involved the prominent factors of racial identity, geography, climate and vocation. All forms of life are subject to, and dependent on. law for their continued existence. Man, in common with all creatures of earth, is subject to natural law; and, in addition thereto, he is rightfully subject to the laws of society established on the principles of equity. He is preeminently a social being, and this made necessary the formation of those political and social compacts that gave body and form as well as utility to the interrelations of men. In all these human governments the wisdom of men was employed with all the fallacies thereof, and, consequently, the errancies of form and injustices of administration were numerous and serious. However, in giving existence, form, character and function to this nation of Israel God possessed and exercised exclusive prerogative. He was the Author of the constitution and the Legislator of the statutes that were to give, respectively, existence to on the one hand and direction of on the other.
Prior to their being constituted a nation they were in a state of bondage and helpless servitude; and God did not deliver them until, experimentally, they learned the grievousness and helplessness of their state. Only by such a recognition could the attain that state of mind wherein could be exercised that full and unqualified dependency on God their Deliverer. Equally true today can one only become a citizen of spiritual Israel in first realizing their miserable lot in the bondage of sin and Satan.
As a nation they had their government from God, and only so long as they were content with His administration, executed according to His arrangements, did things go well with them. When they, prompted by a desire to be like the nations around them, voiced the desire for a king God acceded to their wish. Though permitting them to have a king God, nevertheless, regarded their action as constituting a rejection of Him. He gave them a king in His anger and took him away in His wrath.
The people of God now are described as a nation. "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light" (I Peter 2:9).
As a nation we are a people with a government; and the government is upon His, Christ's shoulders, for He is the King of the kingdom, the Head of the church which is His body. And effort to divert any authority from Him, or those to whom He has seen fit to delegate it, constitutes a rejection of the Lord. As a nation we are a holy nation; that is, a separate people set apart fro a sacred purpose that we should show forth the praises of Him that hath called us out of darkness into His marvelous light. To reject the authority of Christ in any respect, and to modify the design of our separateness will inevitably destroy that separateness and disfigure that peculiarity that is to characterize the people of God.
As a nation Israel was subject to the law of Moses, their leader and lawgiver -- selected by God as such. Spiritual Israel, as a nation is subject to the law of Christ, the law of the spirit of life, the law of liberty, the law of faith. It is the law of Christ because He is the Lawgiver; the law of liberty because it procures liberty for those who are responsive to its directions, be delivering them from the bondage of sin; the law of life, revealed by the Spirit, as it inducts the obedient into a state of spiritual life; and, also, the law of faith as faith is the great directing and controlling principle by which we walk and by which we are to live.
Israel As a Church
In Acts 7 Stephen delivered a great sermon which was substantially a historical resume of God's dealings with men through the previous centuries. It was climaxed by his being stoned to death for the severe, but just, castigation of them for their unfaithfulness to God. In this sermon he rehearsed the events of time identified with Israel, and referred to them as "the church in the wilderness."
From this it is apparent they did properly constitute a church. They were such by reason of having been "called out," and the question of whose church they were turns on the point of who called them out. They were called out of Egypt, across the Red Sea, and into the wilderness, hence, styled the church"in the wilderness." Presumably, if they had acted on their own initiative and effected this change they would have been their own church. And, for instance, if they had responded to the self-appointed leadership of Moses forty years before, and had been thus lead out they could have been well regarded as the church of Moses. Likewise today the determination of whose church any particular religious body may be can be clearly ascertained by learning whose call was responded to in becoming a church. Many of the prominent religious bodies of our time are identified by the name of those who were initially responsible for their existence, and such an identification is altogether proper. Even so should the church of Christ be so regarded, because, along with a number of considerations, is the fact that He called those who are its members out of the province of darkness and constituted them His "called out," and called to be saints.
As the church in the wilderness these people sustained a relation to their surroundings as pilgrims and strangers. They were sustained by those resources from above, and independent of the wilderness land in which they sojourned.
The manna from heaven and the abundance of quail providentially made available, as well as the enduring and sustained wearing of their clothes and shoes for forty years evidenced most clearly their dependence on God and independence of that which immediately surrounded them. It does seem to me that we should be able profitably to reflect on these matters as they suggest a striking correspondence between their situation physically and ours spiritually. Today we need to realize with becoming appreciation that the Lord has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The great need of our hour is a strong and dauntless faith that inspires and supports as confidence fully reposed in the Lord and His wisdom. We are those who are to worship God in the spirit and have no confidence in the flesh. Having been called out of the world, though physically yet it it, we are strangers and pilgrims; and as such we are to abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.
The Possibility of Apostasy
There is not portrayed any lesson
in the history of the children of Israel possessing a greater significance than that which teaches the possibility of apostasy. Graphically portrayed and tragically delineated is the story of the
bleached bones scattered on the wilderness sands, the scene
of their wanderings. Under a divine commission Moses led them to the Red Sea
where they were baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea. Jehovah that
day, and by this means, saved Israel from the pursuing Egyptians who, assaying to follow, were drowned in the sea as the waters came together to engulf them. Hence the salvation from the bondage to which they had been subjected was ended at the Red Sea, and their security from the enemy was effectually gained. Notwithstanding this they failed to enter the promised land. This failure was not, and could not, be attributed to a lack of reality with respect to this deliverance. The oft-heard alibi that should one professing to be a Christian fall away, such would be conclusive evidence he was never saved finds no support of correspondence in this typical situation. These Israelites in the wilderness fell under condemnation after they were saved from the Egyptians because of their sins subsequent to being saved. This condemnation found expression in being unable because of unbelief to enter into the promised land. They wandered forty years in the wilderness and died there -- they murmured and complained that they had been brought out there to die, and such actually occurred. But this was not the design of God in delivering them, for He had promised them the land of Canaan as an inheritance. They were to possess houses they never built, wells they had not dug and vineyards they had not planted. To the Hebrews who were saints it was written "So then we see they entered not in because of unbelief," and were warned lest there should arise among them an evil heart of unbelief in turning away from the living God. Now we read that "by faith they (Israelites) passed through the Red Sea as by dry land" (Hebrews 11:29). Therefore they were saved by faith and later lost because of an absence of faith.
Equally true is it today that we can, and must, be saved by faith; and equally true may we after thus saved cease to have and exercise that faith that will preserve our souls. When saved by the blood of Christ from our sins we can never again be lost by virtue of those particular sins, since sins forgiven cease to be as though they never were. To reason there from, however, that when this freed we may never fall and be lost because of other sins subsequently done is to reason falsely. Just as in the instance of the Israelites they were never in bondage to those destroyed by the waters of the Red Sea, so are we never condemned by those sins which are washed away in baptism.
Also when they passed through the sea they were not in the promised land, and likewise we are not in possession of eternal life from the moment we are saved from our past sins. They had the land in promise only and never possessed it in actuality because they fell in the wilderness; and we have eternal life now in promise only. In I John 5:11 we read that God gave unto us eternal life and in verse 13 we read that John has written what he did that "ye may know that ye have eternal life." But in the same letter chapter 2, and verse 25 we read "And this is the promise which He promised us even the life eternal." There is a gross incongruity of expression in speaking of people in time actually being invested with eternal life; we cannot compress eternity within the confines of time. Eternal is not definitive of kind but only denotes duration, and the life we now enjoy in Christ if nurtured and preserved shall become eternal when time ceases and eternity shall be.
Paul in I Corinthians 10 devotes substantial attention to the example of Israel in the wilderness as being a worthy warning against an overweening confidence of security. With many of them, we are told, God was not well pleased and they were overthrown in the wilderness. In lusting after evil things, committing fornication, longing for the flesh pots of Egypt, murmuring against God and committing idolatry they rendered it impossible for God to be well pleased with them. All their outward acts of disloyalty and disobedience sprang from an evil heart of unbelief; a lack of confidence in and reverence for the Almighty Who had so recently intervened to save them. It does look like they would have been so effected by His Beneficence, holding in grateful memory their signal recovery, that they would have restrained those evil impulses which they gave rein to. From where we view their history we are appalled at their behavior, but it is to be feared we do little, if any, better in the midst of our blessings. Of frightful proportions is the number of those who return to the weak and beggarly elements of the world. Their last state is worse than the condition of condemnation from which they had been delivered, and they are likened to the dog returning to its vomit and the sow, freshly washed, returned to wallowing in the mire.
The promise land which God had provided them and assured them concerning was recognized as a goodly land and altogether desirable. Ten of the twelve spies acknowledged if such to be, but were lacking of that faith in God to go up and take it. Today many, so many, feel that the heavenly Canaan is much to be desired but the journey from here to there is too long and the road too hare to travel. They say they cannot live the life, maintain the character and perform the service required to reach it. Delusive is the hope of reaching it by the course of least resistance, and in the spirit of indifference that fills the hearts of many Christians today. On the other hand, however, God does not require the impossible of us, nor doe He permit us to be tempted above that we are able to overcome or escape from. We must look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith who, for the joy set before Him, endured the cross despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of the Majesty in the heavens.