A Biblical-Theological Review of Michael Allen’s Sanctification: Part 6: Chapter 5: Incarnation

|

The first Adam both fell and failed, committing sins of commission and omission, and thus broke the covenant of creation. The second Adam “fulfills the two-fold need of those who have broken the covenant of works”: cleanness and holiness. He accomplishes not only “the work of purification but also the task of sacralization” (140). Allen identifies the exegetical roots of this Christological tenent in Leviticus and its fulfillment in the gospel of Matthew. The dogmatic components of Christ’s work include distinguishing the active and passive obedience of Christ which takes the form of humiliation and exaltation. Christ’s humiliation redeems nature, and His exaltation glorifies it.

Affirmation

Allen’s reading of Leviticus is marvelous (118-123). He puts together cleanliness and holiness beautifully. For example, “Leviticus portrays a world whereby one must be actively set apart by consecration even after one has avoided impurity or had one’s impurities purged by atonement” (120). He concludes that we can infer from Leviticus that

“Purity and sacrality matter greatly for life with God. … Notably, Leviticus does not declare these laws to be accomplished apart from divine grace. Leviticus functions as a part of the covenant of grace. … While there are limits to the grace of Leviticus, we must first appreciate that the cultic and moral parameters of the text are gracious, that is, they are a divine gift. God provides for atonement, God instructs for making sacred, and God makes his presence known and near” (121).

I couldn’t agree more heartily with Allen’s assertation that the New Testament’s testimony to greater grace “may never be a denunciation of the Old Testament epoch as nomistic or devoid of grace” (121).

“We must interpret Paul’s contrasts of law and grace in a more nuanced manner then either sheer equality of law and incarnate Lord … or sheer juxtaposition, which has characterized new covenant hermeneutical approaches in baptistic tradition as well as some Lutheran hermeneutics. … Paul discerns not only divine expectations and demand, but also the proleptic declaration of divine provision in the Pentateuch itself” (122).

Critique

Although Allen captures the need and provision for cleansing and consecration well, he appears to overlook that Leviticus connects holiness to love for others (Lev. 19 passim; esp. 19:18, 34). Cleansing and consecration have as their end goal not just fellowship with the Holy One of Israel. Grace-powered loving service to fellow, faulty pilgrims marks those who are holy as Yahweh is holy (Lev. 19:2). Christ perfectly enacts and models this others-centered love that does nothing from strife or empty conceit but considers others more important than oneself, sacrificing his life for the well-being of his friends (Phil. 2). In the language of James 2:22, the double grace of cleansing and consecration is “perfected” by faith-filled, Spirit-led, loving service to other image bearers (cf. Gal. 5:13).

Extension

Allen introduces this chapter with the question, “What does it mean to say that Jesus is holy?” (115). I was disappointed not to find a satisfactory answer provided. Rather, by p. 118, the focal question changed to “How it is that Jesus fulfills the covenant and in what way he resolves our covenantal conundrums that mark human life this side of Eden.” Johannine texts that the Father sanctified the Son (John 10:36), who is the Holy One of God (Luke 4:34; John 6:69), who also sanctified himself that we may be sanctified in truth (John 17:19) offer opportunities for more extended reflection on the pre-incarnate, incarnate, and post-resurrection holiness of Jesus. Surely such reflection has gospel implications!

 


 

Originally published at Exegetical Thoughts and Biblical Theology.

Philip Brown
Philip Brownhttp://apbrown2.net
Dr. Philip Brown is Graduate Program Director and Professor at God's Bible School & College. He holds a PhD in Old Testament Interpretation from Bob Jones University and is the author of A Reader's Hebrew Bible (Zondervan Academic, 2008).