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Thought it not Robbery

Posted Dec 07, 2012 by Adrian Ebens in Everlasting Gospel
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What is the all absorbing message that is to be proclaimed to the world in these last days?

 In a special sense Seventh-day Adventists have been set in the world as watchmen and light bearers. To them has been entrusted the last warning for a perishing world. On them is shining wonderful light from the word of God. They have been given a work of the most solemn import--the proclamation of the first, second, and third angels' messages. There is no other work of so great importance. They are to allow nothing else to absorb their attention. 9T 19

And what is the central theme of the Three Angel’s messages?

Several have written to me, inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, "It is the third angel's message, in verity."-- The Review and Herald, April 1, 1890.

Who delivered this message and what was it about?

The Lord in His great mercy sent a most precious message to His people through Elders Waggoner and Jones. This message was to bring more prominently before the world the uplifted Saviour, the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world. It presented justification through faith in the Surety; it invited the people to receive the righteousness of Christ, which is made manifest in obedience to all the commandments of God. Many had lost sight of Jesus. They needed to have their eyes directed to His divine person, His merits, and His changeless love for the human family. All power is given into His hands, that He may dispense rich gifts unto men, imparting the priceless gift of His own righteousness to the helpless human agent. This is the message that God commanded to be given to the world. It is the third angel's message, which is to be proclaimed with a loud voice, and attended with the outpouring of His Spirit in a large measure. TM 91,92

How is the subject of the only Begotten Son related to the message of justification through faith? Notice the introduction to E.J Waggoner’s book Christ and His Righteousness

In the first verse of the third chapter of Hebrews we have an exhortation which comprehends all the injunctions given to the Christian. It is this: "Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus." To do this as the Bible enjoins, to consider Christ continually and intelligently, just as He is, will transform one into a perfect Christian, for "by beholding we become changed." Christ and His Righteousness Page 5.

A.T Jones brings this principle of beholding Christ into sharper focus for us. The opening chapter of his book Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection begins with calling us to examine the “Such” in Paul’s statement “Such a High Priest” Heb 8:1 Notice what he says:

The condescension of Christ, the position of Christ, and the nature of Christ as He was in the flesh in the world are given in the second chapter of Hebrews more fully than in any other one place in the Scriptures. But this is in the second chapter. The first chapter precedes it. Therefore the truth and the thought presented in the first chapter are essentially precedent to the second chapter. The first chapter must be fully understood in order to be able to follow the thought and understand the truth in the second chapter.  In the first chapter of Hebrews, the exaltation, the position, and the nature of Christ as He was in heaven before He came to the world are more fully given than in any other single portion of the Scriptures. Therefore it is certain that an understanding of the position and nature of Christ as He was in heaven is essential to a proper understanding of His position and nature as He was on earth. Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection Page 11,12

Essentially what Jones and Waggoner are telling us is that when we behold Christ “Just as He is” revealed in Scripture and especially in Hebrews one and two, we will be transformed into the same image and receive that righteousness that will produce a keeping of all the commandments in the life.

Therefore if we would know the Son of God “Just as He is,” if we would know His true position and nature as He was in Heaven then it follows that it is essential to know who exactly the Son of God is. We must know whether He is begotten or unbegotten; we must know whether He is a Son by Inheritance or a Son by title only. If we would know Jesus “Just as He is” then it is vital to know the truth about the Son of God. If we do not know then we will not be able to be transformed into the likeness of Christ and worse still if we assume an incorrect view we will surely be transformed into the image of Satan, the father of all false Christs and idols of the imagination.

Therefore a correct knowledge of the Son of God is the very heart of understanding righteousness by faith. How is this the case? How do we make that connection? Consider this passage:

Php 2:5-6  Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  (6)  Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

The Bible clearly tells us that Christ did not think it robbery to be equal with God. The vital question we must ask here is upon what basis did Christ think it was not robbery to be equal with God? Where did His confidence rest? Let A.T Jones lay the matter out:

What, then, is the thought concerning Christ in the first chapter of Hebrews?

First of all there is introduced "God"--God the Father--as the speaker to men, who "in time past spake unto the fathers by the prophets" and who "hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son."

Thus is introduced Christ the Son of God. Then of Him and the Father it is written: "Whom He [the Father] hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He [the Father] made the worlds." Thus, as preliminary to His introduction and our consideration of Him as High Priest, Christ the Son of God is introduced as being with God as Creator and as being the active, vivifying Word in the creation--"by whom also He [God] made the worlds."

Next, of the Son of God Himself we read: "Who being the brightness of His [God's] glory, and the express image of His [God's] person ["the very impress of His substance," margin R.V.], and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high."

This tells us that in heaven the nature of Christ was the nature of God, that He in His person, in His substance, is the very impress, the very character, of the substance of God. That is to say that in heaven as He was before He came to the world the nature of Christ was in very substance the nature of God.

Therefore it is further written of Him that He was "made so much better than the angels, as He hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they." This more excellent name is the name "God," which, in the eighth verse, is given by the Father to the Son: "Unto the Son He [God] saith, Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever."

Thus, He is "so much" better than the angels as God is better than the angels. And it is because of this that He has that more excellent name --the name expressing only what He is in His very nature.

And this name "He hath by inheritance." It is not a name that was bestowed but a name that is inherited.

Now it lies in the nature of things, as an everlasting truth, that the only name any person can possibly inherit is his father's name. This name, then, of Christ's, which is more excellent than that of the angels, is the name of His Father, and His Father's name is God. The Son's name, therefore, which He has by inheritance, is God.  Consecrated Way to Christian Perfection Page 13,14

Hebrews chapter one explained by A.T Jones leaves us in absolutely no doubt about why Christ did not think it was robbery to be equal with God. Yet more than this it also leaves us in no doubt as to the basis of why Christ did not think it robbery to be equal with God. The power, the position, the standing of Christ was all given to Him by the Father and the Son holds all these things by Faith in His Father’s Word. When the Father said to the Son:

Heb 1:5  For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son?

And again

Heb 1:6  And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him.

And again

Heb 1:8  But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

The Son accepted the words of the Father by faith. How So? To receive an inheritance requires an act of faith towards the giver. When the Father appointed Christ to be heir of all things, the Son accepted this appointment by faith. Again why did Christ accept these things by faith? We answer because they were given to Him by the Father.

Now we come to the crux of the issue of why Christ did not think it robbery to be equal with God and to be heir of all things, to hold the title of God and to be worshipped by all the angels? His thinking was an act of faith. It was the faith that lives by every word of God. This is the eternal faith of Jesus – a faith that allowed Him believe what the Father said of Him which was to consider Himself equal with God and to be worshipped as God and to possess all the fullness of the Father’s Divinity. Jesus our mighty Prince chose by faith to accept all that the Father had said and did for Him. As Jesus sits upon the throne of the universe we read of Him:

Heb 1:8  But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.

And how did Christ possess this sceptre of righteousness? It was by faith in the Father’s Word to Him. The Son of God is righteous by faith. The Son of God is the heart and soul, the kernel, the cornerstone of righteousness by faith because this is exactly how He has lived, does live and will live forever and ever. This is why He is the everlasting father of all those who live by the faith of Jesus in the Word of the Father.

As we Behold the Son in this clear light we are transformed into the image of His faith. His faith in His Father’s Word dwells in us by the Spirit so we also believe the Father’s Word concerning us. As we behold Christ “just as He is” we are transformed into the same image even as by the glory of the Lord.

In contrast to this picture of Jesus as holding the sceptre of righteousness by faith, we see another Christ, a Barabbas who enthrones himself in all the creeds of Christendom. Why does this robber not think it robbery to be equal with God? In what does this deceiver trust that causes him not to think it is robbery? Why he looks to himself and he points to his own power, his own knowledge, his own eternal age. He does not hold these things by faith but by his own eternal glory. He does not rest upon the Father’s Word but rather upon himself. When called upon to declare his confidence, he arises and reveals His pedigree of godhood not by faith but in self-confidence. He sits in the temple of God proclaiming himself God, for he coveted to ascend into the sides of the north and be like the Most High.

What then is the effect of beholding such a being, this second person of the trinity? He is the perfect image of self-confidence and self-possession. But still further to this, this cunning deceiver places upon himself the mask of a dependent Jesus during his incarnation. He masks his self-confidence with a trusting submissive son. He blends the true and the false in order that he might hide his true self-confidence from visibility. He projects an image of trusting submission from his eternal resources of self-confidence. We ask again what is the result of beholding this self-confident second person of the Trinity? Why self-confidence of course! By beholding we are changed into the same image. If we perceive Jesus to be God from his own resources then we will become man from our own resources. But, if we believe that Jesus is God by faith in the Father’s Word then we will become men of faith in the Father’s Word, formed in the same image.     

Beloved believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Many shall come in the name of Christ claiming to be Him and they will yet deceive many.

We are righteous by faith when we behold Jesus just as He is – Righteousness by faith.