I have read Jerry Bridges’ books all out of order, undoubtedly not the best way to read an author’s works. However, doing this has shown me something I find interesting: Throughout his writing career, he has remained on a single trajectory and has emphasized and re-emphasized only a few themes. In reading The Discipline of Grace I see the seeds of what would become his later books. What he writes about here in just a few words or a few pages, he would later develop into entire books.
But I digress. This morning I want to share just a couple of thoughts about chapter four of The Discipline of Grace, a chapter that deals with the tricky subject of how the Christian has died to sin.
Before we can talk about dying to sin, we must understand how we came to be sinners. Bridges offers a helpful illustration of the biblical concept of federal headship.
Federal headship or representative capacity is somewhat illustrated by the concept of power of attorney. A friend of mine wanted to refinance the mortgage on his house to take advantage of lower interest rates. When the date for the closing was finally set, he realized that he and his wife would be out of the country at that time. He asked if I would represent them at the closing, and I agreed, so he and his wife executed a power of attorney authorizing me to act on their behalf.
I went to the closing and, as my friends’ legal representative, signed all kinds of papers. When I signed those documents it was just as if they had signed them. When I signed the promissory note to pay a certain amount each month, that act was as legally binding on them as if they had signed the note, because I was acting as their legal representative. In like manner, Adam was our legal representative in the garden, and when he sinned, his action was as binding on us as if we had sinned personally.
We may object that we did not appoint Adam as our representative in the garden. To do so is futile, however, for in our objection we are actually complaining against God. It should be enough for us to know that God, the Sovereign Creator of the universe and the One in whom we live, and move, and have our being, appointed him.
Of course the ultimately good news about federal headship is that Adam is not the only federal representative; God has appointed that Jesus Christ would be the second one and that just as Adam’s sin would bring condemnation to his race, Christ’s atonement would bring reconciliation to all who would trust in him.