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Executive Action and The Coming of Christ

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This past week the President of the United States signed an executive order which delayed the deportation of many undocumented residents living in our country without legal status. This has brought about a firestorm of protests, but it is not my intention to take sides in this piece. I would rather like to use this as a means of communicating the wonder of the salvation that God accomplished in the person and work of the Lord Jesus, through what we might call “executive action.”

Regardless of what position you might take on the President’s action, I believe that at least three questions have been raised as a result.

  • Question one pertains to the legitimacy of the action: Was the President’s action legitimate? If not, it may very well be nullified, and he will not be honored for acting in this manner.
  • Question two pertains to the efficacy of the action: Will this action really be effective to solve the problem the President set out the address?
  • Question three pertains to the long-term impact this action will have on the President’s legacy: Will history look upon this action with favor, concluding that it was both legitimate and effective?

I do not intend to answer these questions, or to debate these issues. My purpose is to call attention to these questions because I believe that they provide an appropriate vantage point from which to reflect on the saving work of Jesus.

This morning we observed communion in church, as we do each week. As we did, I thought about the “executive action” (if you could call it that) which our Lord took to bring about our salvation. We, as sinners, have no rightful place in God’s kingdom. If we could get to heaven as we are, apart from Christ, we would be expelled as undocumented aliens (our names are not in the Book of Life).

The contrast between the events of this past week and the work of Christ 2,000 years ago is striking. Consider the saving work of Christ in terms of these three questions:

  • Was it legitimate?
  • Was it efficacious (did it work)?
  • What is His legacy, having now accomplished this work?

The Legitimacy of Christ’s Saving Work

It would not have been legitimate for God to simply declare sinful men to be beyond prosecution for their transgressions. Because we are sinners, we rightly deserve God’s eternal wrath. God would not be righteous if He merely brushed aside our sin and His pronouncement of judgment upon that sin. In order for His saving work to be legitimate, it was necessary for God to become man, to add perfect humanity to His undiminished deity. It was as a man that Jesus kept the whole law. Likewise, it was as a man that Jesus died for our sins, bearing our punishment. The incarnation (the taking on of humanity) is what we will shortly celebrate at Christmas. It is the basis for the legitimacy of the saving work of Jesus. God was not only faithful; He was righteous in the way He chose to save us.

9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9, NET)1.

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. 24 But they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God publicly displayed him at his death as the mercy seat accessible through faith. This was to demonstrate his righteousness, because God in his forbearance had passed over the sins previously committed. 26 This was also to demonstrate his righteousness in the present time, so that he would be just and the justifier of the one who lives because of Jesus’ faithfulness (Romans 3:23-26, emphasis mine).

I have little doubt that the debate about the legitimacy of the President’s action will be ongoing. But there is no debate as to whether the Son of God overreached proper boundaries in bringing salvation to lost sinners. The wonder of it all (and the fuel for eternal our worship) is that Christ humbled Himself in taking on human flesh, and in bearing the sins and condemnation of lost sinners. He voluntarily set aside that which was His as King of Kings and became One that men did not recognize, One that was despised and rejected (Philippians 2:3-8).

The Efficacy of Christ’s Saving Work

How effective was the saving work of Christ? Did it accomplish what He intended? Because salvation is the work of Christ alone, and not a joint effort (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:4-7), and because He is the sinless, perfect Son of God, the saving work of Christ did work. Jesus said as much in His dying words on the cross: “It is finished!” (John 19:30). His one intervention into human history produced eternal salvation for all who would believe.

10 By his will we have been made holy through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 11 And every priest stands day after day serving and offering the same sacrifices again and again — sacrifices that can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 where he is now waiting until his enemies are made a footstool for his feet (Hebrews 10:10-13, emphasis mine).

The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead was the Father’s seal of approval, an indication that He was pleased with His saving work, and that salvation was indeed accomplished.

38 Then some of the experts in the law along with some Pharisees answered him, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish for three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights” (Matthew 12:38-40).

24 But God raised him up, having released him from the pains of death, because it was not possible for him to be held in its power. 25 For David says about him, ‘I saw the Lord always in front of me, for he is at my right hand so that I will not be shaken. 26 Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue rejoiced; my body also will live in hope, 27 because you will not leave my soul in Hades, nor permit your Holy One to experience decay. 28 You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of joy with your presence’ (Acts 2:24-28).

4 who was appointed the Son-of-God-in-power according to the Holy Spirit by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 1:4).

55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! 58 So then, dear brothers and sisters, be firm. Do not be moved! Always be outstanding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord (1 Corinthians 15:55-58).

The Legacy of Christ’s Work

What then shall we say about the legacy of our Lord’s Saving work? He is not only constantly remembered for His saving work by the saints in this life; He will be worshipped for this work for all eternity.

23 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night in which he was betrayed took bread, 24 and after he had given thanks he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, he also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, every time you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For every time you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

8 He humbled himself, by becoming obedient to the point of death — even death on a cross! 9 As a result God exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow — in heaven and on earth and under the earth — 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:8-11).

9 They were singing a new song: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals because you were killed, and at the cost of your own blood you have purchased for God persons from every tribe, language, people, and nation. 10 You have appointed them as a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” 11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels in a circle around the throne, as well as the living creatures and the elders. Their number was ten thousand times ten thousand — thousands times thousands — 12 all of whom were singing in a loud voice: “Worthy is the lamb who was killed to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature — in heaven, on earth, under the earth, in the sea, and all that is in them — singing: “To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb be praise, honor, glory, and ruling power forever and ever!” 14 And the four living creatures were saying “Amen,” and the elders threw themselves to the ground and worshiped (Revelation 5:9-14).

Christ has made us citizens of His kingdom, through the saving work of Jesus. His work of deliverance was legitimate. It was efficacious. It will serve as His eternal legacy. He transformed us from strangers to citizens of His eternal kingdom.

11 Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh — who are called “uncircumcision” by the so-called “circumcision” that is performed on the body by human hands — 12 that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, 15 when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, 16 and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed (Ephesians 2:11-16, emphasis mine).

1 Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the NET Bible.

Related Topics: Christology, Cultural Issues, Soteriology (Salvation)

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