By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous

Pathe Freres, Napoleon, RPPC film still, 1904

“By the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.”
–Romans 5:19

MANY years ago, after a day of fierce fighting at Marengo…

Napoleon Bonaparte had placed his sentinels at different points of the camp. They were charged on pain of death to keep awake, and guard against being surprised by the enemy. About midnight Napoleon rose, and walking round, found one of the sentinels asleep, his gun lying beside him. The soldier, no doubt, had been worn out by the terrible fatigue of the preceding day; but then the law must be obeyed, discipline must be kept up, the sentinel’s duty must be done, or else he must die.

What did the emperor do? Softly and silently he took up the gun, put it on his own shoulder, and acted as sentinel till the dawn of day. When the soldier awoke, he was filled with alarm at having left his duty undone, concluding that he was a lost man. But Napoleon (who had done this generous act from love to him as a soldier) simply handed back to him his gun, and bade him be more awake in future. “By the obedience of that one,” the law was kept to the letter.

My dear friend, do you realize that you are that one lone soldier? And though you try as hard as you might, you can never fulfill your duty to God… not now, not ever? But Jesus has fulfilled it for you, and he has done this in two separate and distinctive ways.

The first way that we all talk about this is how He, Jesus, died on the cross to take away our sins. Yes, this is so important to the child of God; for Jesus’ vicarious death and resurrection saves us from the penalty of sin, and from God’s eternal wrath. We as Christians call this imputed righteousness. But there is another form that this imputed righteousness also occurs and takes shape, and that is in our reconciliation to God. This important aspect is one that is little talked about, or even understood by many Christians. Because Jesus died, after he lived a perfect life and likewise kept the law perfectly, his perfect law keeping was imputed to us as our continued righteousness as well, and it also provides our continued, and daily reconciliation with God, even when we lapse and fall into sin.

Because many people, and even churches do not understand this, there are many who believe that they must somehow “keep the law” in order to maintain their right standing before God. But as Jesus is our perfect sacrifice, He has already made provision for this continued reconciliation, so that not only our justification but also our ongoing walk in the Spirit, as imperfect as that may be, is also covered by the life (law-keeping), and the death of Christ.

Does the Bible speak directly to this? Yes, and we shall look at the many New Testament references at some future time, but right now I would like to give one Old Testament indication that speaks quite clearly to this point, and that is the purification of a young mother after she has given birth to a child. For it is interesting, that a young mother had to in fact, offer up two separate offerings after she gave birth. You may read further about this in, Leviticus 12.

You see, in Israel, when the young woman (mother) was purified from childbirth, two sin-offerings had to be offered on her behalf. It was in all cases with the first sacrifice, that a turtle-dove or a young pigeon was offered for her defilement, which was symbolically attached to the bleeding that occurred in the begetting of life. God wanted to point out to the Israelites two things, with this sacrifice. First was how much he abhors the shedding of blood, and second that it would only be the shedding of innocent blood (Jesus’ blood) that would forgive the most heinous crimes and sins; and only by that innocent blood alone, would and could atonement be made for the appeasement of God’s wrath.

But there was a second offering.

A second burnt-offering was also required and offered, and this sacrifice marked the restoration of the young mother’s communion with God. This burnt-offering was typically a lamb, but the poor might substitute it for another turtle-dove, or a young pigeon. This Sin offering was for an expiation of sin.

Now, expiation, is also used to mean atonement, and, as I said earlier, while people do not talk about it much, the Bible certainly does. In this instance, the first offering, as listed above, was used as a Propitiation. (Propitiation is the word Christians commonly use in describing how Jesus satisfied the wrath of the Father against sin.) But in this second sacrifice, this sacrifice was Expiationary in nature, that is, this sacrifice was for the removal of sin from his people.

Therefore, this burnt offering represented in the Old Testament, the restoration of the Hebrew mother back to God, including her restoration to God in an ongoing sense. But in the New Testament, both of these sacrifices were accomplished in Christ Jesus.

To sum all of this up, God has given to his children, a way of escape. This way of escape is, and has always been God-given, and comes through Jesus the Christ. For Jesus has not only died for us, to appease God’s wrath, but he has lived the law perfectly for us, so that we might be restored in an ongoing relationship to the Father.

But please understand this, for the Bible makes this very clear; man’s way of escape (salvation) neither originates with man, nor is maintained in any way by man, but in all cases, man’s way of escape originates and is maintained by God. This means that the strength of your relationship (as a child of God), depends not upon how hard you hold upon God, but upon the strength of the sacrifice by which God holds onto you! Isn’t that a relief?

For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. –Hebrews 10:14

Grace and peace

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