Wednesday, June 9

Purpose of Christ's Death, No 13

In this installment of this series of posts looking at the explicit purpose statements for Christ's death that are found in scripture, I am looking at Galatians 1:3-5:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for our sins so that He might rescue us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom {be} the glory forevermore. Amen. (NASB)
These verses tell us that the purpose for Christ's giving of Himself for us is "so that He might rescue us from this present evil age." I've been putting off dealing with this text, because although it appears to be a simple little statement, I found Paul's usage of the word "age" (or aeon) to be a difficult one for me to figure out, so I have been stewing over it for a few days. Obviously, he is not using it to mean a period of time exactly, but is getting at another idea, and this other idea is what I've been having a hard time latching on to.

So I went to Herman Ridderbos and Paul: An Outline of His Theology for a bit of help. If you've ever ventured into Ridderbos, you know he can be hard to understand, but I do think I understood enough to be a bit closer to grasping what "age" means in this statement from Galatians. (If you want to help me out here, by letting me know what your understanding of the word is, feel free. I'd appreciate it.) I am borrowing liberally from the ideas in this book for the next two paragraphs.

Paul seems to use the word to speak of a whole way of life, the way of life outside of Christ. This would make it sort of equivalent to the way Paul uses the word "world", too. In Ephesians 2, he uses the two words, "aeon" (age) and "kosmos" (world) together:
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. (NASB)
The word translated "course" here is aeon, just like the word "age" in the verses from Galatians that we are looking at. So Paul is, in effect, saying that we "once walked according to the age of this world", and you can see from the context that this refers to the former life of believers--the life they once had that was characterized by the rule of Satan. He uses the the word "flesh" in this sort of way as well--to mean more than just the physical body, but to refer to the whole realm of the life of sin.

These ideas of world, age, and flesh--the mode of existence of those who are not in Christ, who live a life ruled by sin--are set over against the life the comes with union with Christ--a new age, a new creation, a life in the Spirit. The realm of the old life is contrasted with life in the realm of Christ's kingdom.

And one of the purposes of Christ's death is to rescue us from this evil age or dominion. Christ's redemption transfers us from the realm of Satan's kingdom to the realm of Christ's kingdom:
For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son...(Colossians 1:13 NASB)
We are freed from our bondage to our old way of life through Christ's death for us, and brought into the new creation that is the life governed by the Spirit, and this deliverance from the evil age of bondage to sin is one of the purposes of Christ's death on our behalf.