Christ our Federal Head

Christ our Federal Head

Most people believe that humans are basically good people who do bad things now and then. And these bad things occur because of family or societal influences. This view of one’s own inherent righteousness is often revealed in statements like, “I’m not as bad as others”. Or “at least I haven’t done such and such”. We like to think of ourselves as relatively good in comparison to others. However, the Bible sees us through a different lens. The Apostle Paul states that the only good person is Jesus Christ and all the rest are “under sin” (Rom 3:9).  What does it mean to be under sin? It means being unrighteous, guilty and worthy of eternal death. That is certainly a different picture than many of us have of ourselves. Let’s consider why the Bible describes us this way and how a picture of derision becomes a picture of delight.

Firstly, when Adam sinned as our federal head, he sinned for all. Here in Australia, we live under a democracy where there is representative government. As citizens we appoint people by vote to be our representatives. Ministers of Parliament represent us at a local level. The Premier represents us on a state level. And the Prime Minister represents us on a national level. We elect these people to serve our interests and to represent our values and beliefs. Sometimes they represent us well, and we flourish, while at other times they represent us poorly, and we flounder. When this occurs, we eagerly anticipate the next election where we take our chances by voting for a different representative.

In a similar manner, but with far more dire and lasting consequences, Adam was our representative in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3). When Adam sinned, all of Adam’s descendants “died through one man’s trespass” (Rom 5:15). Let’s be clear. God made Adam every human being’s representative. If Adam obeyed, all would get the benefit. Since Adam disobeyed, all disobeyed in Adam and died with Adam. All are under condemnation (John 3:18). Before you cry “unfair!”, be sure that you would have done just the same, if not worse. What is needed is another representative, we need a saviour.

This brings us to the second important point: we need a representative or saviour who is not born of Adam and so carries the sin of Adam. We need a righteous man to be our representative. Paul said that Adam “was a type of the one who was to come” (Rom 5:14), namely Jesus Christ, the second and last Adam. For Jesus to qualify He was born of a virgin with no human father, thereby mitigating the plague of sin. He was neither a sinner by nature nor a sinner by choice, for He was God incarnate.

Now, let’s consider the far-reaching ramifications of this. When Christ actively obeyed every command of His Father He obeyed on behalf of His people. But more than this, when Christ died on the cross as an atonement for sin He acted as a substitute for His people. On the cross, Jesus took upon Himself all His people’s sin and in exchange gives them His perfect righteousness. Paul says,

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” 2 Cor 5:21

The one who is in Adam disobeyed with Adam and dies with Adam. But the one who is in Christ, under the federal headship of Christ, is counted as having perfectly obeyed with Christ and is therefore declared righteous (Rom 5:19). Easter reminds us that our only hope for salvation is to come under the headship of Christ by faith: “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor 15:22).

The implications of this are many, but here are three. Firstly, since we are now in Christ, Paul tells us that we are a new creation and are to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to Christ (Rom 6:11-14). Let us put to death that which lingers in Adam’s stead and cry out with Charles Wesley, from his carol Hark the Herald Angels Sing, “Adam’s likeness now efface, stamp thine image in its place”.

Secondly, realise that your identity is Christ, and that identity is perfect. Knowing this frees us from the need to curry favour with God. God’s children cannot receive any more favour than they already have. Your federal head stands in your place as your perfect, righteous representative.

Lastly, Adam died and remains in the grave, but Christ died and conquered the grave. As your federal head He was raised from the grave incorruptible and so has secured the resurrection of our bodies. With Christ “death is swallowed up in victory” and death’s sting is gone (1 Cor 15:54-55).

This Easter don’t go placing your hope in any other representative. You have the one and only representative you need. Under His rule you have purpose in this life and a secure place in the next.

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” 1 Cor 15:58

Pastor Craig Baxter


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