Part 2 - The Sanctifying Work of Christ
Consecration and Provision
The theme through the first four days of the creation week is separation. This now changes to a theme of consecration as God puts life and purpose into His creation. Although only two days are left in the six day account, these two days take up about one half of the whole account. As a model of Christ's sanctifying work, half the creation account typifies separation and half typifies consecration.
Four aspects of consecration are modeled in days five and six that bring purpose to the four aspects of separation that are modeled in days one through four. A symmetry exists in the creation account that balances the points of separation with corresponding points of consecration. Together, they model the sanctifying work of Christ and form a basis for resting in Christ.
Consecrated to life in the Spirit
Rest in Christ is a life of living in the Spirit. This is leaving self-effort and entering into a dependency on God. Embedded in the work of Christ is the consecration of the believer to God's purposes and the provision of the Holy Spirit to carry them out. The ascension of Jesus to the Father made possible the giving of the Holy Spirit to the believer. Sanctification not only involves separation and consecration, but also provision. This is the provision of God Himself, the Holy Spirit, coming into the life of the believer. This provision covers all realms of the believer's consecration: that to the lost, that to God, and that to the church and to Christ.
Life in the Holy Spirit is modeled in days five and six of creation by the living creatures that inhabit every realm. Three characteristics are stated about these creatures:
- They are living.
- They are good.
- They are made by God according to their kind.
This parallels three spiritual principles about life in the Spirit:
- Life is only of God.
- Good is only from God.
- That which is good produces good; that which is evil produces evil.
The first principle, life is of God, concerns spiritual life. Paul the Apostle wrote, "For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law" (Gal. 3:21). Jesus said, "It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing" (John 6:63). To those in Christ has God provided the Holy Spirit that the life of God would be manifested. John says, "He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:12).
The second principle is that good is of God. Paul says concerning the struggle to do good by one's own effort: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice" (Rom. 7:18-19). Contrary to this is life in the Spirit: "for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth" (Eph. 5:9). Good in one's life only comes through the indwelling Spirit of God.
The third principle of life in the Spirit is that life and good are exclusive to God: that which is good produces good, but that which is evil produces evil. These are after their kind. Jesus illustrated this in Matthew 7:16-20: "You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them." Spiritual life and good fruit only proceed from God. Jesus said "without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). His presence is the source of life and good, "that, as it is written, 'He who glories, let him glory in the Lord' " (1 Cor. 1:31).
The living creatures created by God were made according to their kind. They were made to fill the sea, the firmament, and the land. God then called his creation good. With days five and six of creation forming a model of the consecration aspect of sanctification, these creatures represent the purpose Christ has given in all realms being fulfilled by life in the Spirit.
A New Testament example
An example of these living creatures representing life in the Spirit occurs in the book of Acts. Chapters ten and eleven of Acts present an account involving a Roman centurion named Cornelius, his household and friends, and the Apostle Peter. Cornelius was not a Jew, yet he was devout and feared God. Because he sought after God, an angel was sent to him and he was told to send for Peter. He immediately sent some servants to Joppa to ask for Peter.
Meanwhile Peter, who was in prayer, was given a vision. The book of Acts records: "Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, 'Rise, Peter; kill and eat.' But Peter said, 'Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.' And a voice spoke to him again the second time, 'What God has cleansed you must not call common.' This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again" (Acts 10:10-16). Now Peter objected so strongly about eating unclean creatures because of the dietary laws in the scriptures.
Chapter eleven of Leviticus describes which animals are clean and unclean. The summary is this: "This is the law of the animals and the birds and every living creature that moves in the waters, and of every creature that creeps on the earth, to distinguish between the unclean and the clean, and between the animal that may be eaten and the animal that may not be eaten" (Lev. 11:46-47). The primary purpose of these laws was to protect the Israelites physically. But as in so many other areas, God used this to teach them something about their relationship to Him. God said concerning these laws: "For I am the Lord your God. You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy. Neither shall you defile yourselves with any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. For I am the Lord who brings you up out of the land of Egypt, to be your God. You shall therefore be holy, for I am holy" (Lev. 11:44-45).
God relates these dietary laws to His sanctification of Israel in delivering them out of Egypt and making them His special people. God is holy, separate from all evil and wickedness. Those who are called to be joined with a holy God are also called to be separated from that which is unholy. They are called to be consecrated to God's purposes. The eating of only clean animals and the separation from the unclean ones taught the Israelites that they were now walking with a holy God; they were to stay away from that which was unholy. God said, "You shall therefore consecrate yourselves, and you shall be holy; for I am holy."
Peter therefore was shocked when God told him to eat of that which he thought was unclean. "Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean," replied Peter. But the answer was, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." After this vision, the scriptures record: "Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon's house, and stood before the gate" (Acts 10:17).
What God has cleansed
God prepared Peter through the vision to receive these Gentiles and to go to Cornelius. He went and told them, "You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean" (Acts 10:28). Peter was told previously, "What God has cleansed you must not call common." This was relating to the creatures. Now Peter says, "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." Peter applies the lesson to men. "What God has cleansed" he is not to call unclean.
This cleansing is what happened next. Peter preached the gospel to Cornelius and his friends and household, finishing with the words "whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins." They believed and were saved. The account continues: "While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit fell upon all those who heard the word. And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also" (Acts 10:44-45).
"What God has cleansed" related to the forgiveness of sins toward Cornelius and those with him. They were now part of God's people, along with the believing Jews. The saving work of Christ was applied to the believing Gentiles. Being cleansed, they were also filled with the Holy Spirit. The Jews were astonished because "the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also." Peter then said, "Can anyone forbid water, that these should not be baptized who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?" (Acts 10:47). When the church in Jerusalem heard about this, they glorified God, saying, "Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life" (Acts 11:18).
As Israel was a holy people separated unto God, so is the church. It is separated in Christ and consecrated by Him to God's purposes. The provision Jesus gives for this consecration is the Holy Spirit. Those cleansed by the blood of Christ are indwelt with the Spirit, God Himself. This is the seal and indication that one is in Christ. In giving the illustration of eating clean and unclean creatures to represent those saved versus those who are not, the scriptures show that the presence of the Holy Spirit is the distinguishing factor. This is the mark of those who are clean. Peter said concerning the creatures, "God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean." That is, "God has shown me that I should not call any man" cleansed by the blood of Christ and indwelt with the Holy Spirit "common or unclean." What God has made clean he was not to call common.
Jews and Gentiles called out together
The dietary laws in the Book of Leviticus typified the separation that God wrought in separating the Jews out of Egypt and making them His special people. But these point to Christ. Paul the Apostle says to the Colossians, "So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ" (Col. 2:16-17). Not only is the Sabbath a shadow of Christ, but food is also. The dietary laws illustrated what was holy and unholy, and what was clean and unclean. "Food" as used in the Colossians verse refers to these Mosaic laws regarding which animals could be eaten. This is a "shadow of things to come," with the body that casts the shadow being Christ. The separateness that Israel had in Yahweh, illustrated in the dietary laws, ultimately points to the separateness that the heavenly people of God have in Christ.
"What God has cleansed you must not call common" is not just referring to the creatures of the sea, air, and land, but people cleansed by Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Together with the believing Jews, the Gentiles who are saved make up a new body of people, the church. Together as one the church is separate and holy in Christ. Because of this change, the joining of both Jews and Gentiles as one in Christ, the Old Testament type is being changed also. Other creatures, representing the Gentiles, are being added to that which can be eaten in Peter's vision.
Paul the Apostle writes of this fundamental change in his letter to the Ephesians: "Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh ... that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father" (Eph. 2:11-18) (emphasis added).
A new life in the Spirit
The sanctification of Israel was the reason for the Sabbath Day. It was given that they would know that it is "the Lord who sanctifies you." The Sabbath Day was based upon the work of creation. The creation week that the Sabbath is based upon is a model of the work of Christ. The creatures placed in the sea, the firmament, and the land in the creation week are the same ones used by the scriptures to illustrate a new life in the Spirit which is the work of Christ: "And those of the circumcision who believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out on the Gentiles also" (Acts 10:45).
Days five and six of creation
are next examined as a model of the consecration and provision aspects of
sanctification in Christ. Life in the Spirit is an essential element in each
area of consecration.