Having considered several ways in which the truth of the antithesis is brought under attack, we were left to consider our own lives in relationship to that antithesis established by God from the beginning.
While there are many attacks upon the antithesis, coming from many different angles, we must not be misled into thinking that so long as we remain free from the influence of Roman Catholicism and common grace, we are free from error in this matter. The fact is, our own sinful flesh brings us into conflict constantly with the truth of the antithesis.
You and I have constantly to say “yes” to God, while at the same time saying “no” to all that to which God says “no.” We must say “no” to our own flesh, and to the sin and temptations we face not only around us, but within ourselves. We must learn to live antithetically.
A Spiritual Antithesis
This antithesis, it must be remembered, is a spiritual antithesis.
The life of the Christian, the life of the antithesis, is not to be found in world-flight. While it is true that sometimes and to some degree the spiritual separation required of us also involves physical separation, we would make a grievous error were we to view the antithesis as a mere matter of physically separating from the world.
When we live under the daily attacks and temptations of the world, not only in our homes but also in the work place, there can be something appealing about the separate little communities established by the Amish. There can be something appealing about the life of a communal existence—at least as we perceive that life from the outside.
But that is not how God would have us live.
The life of separation required of the Christian is not physical separation from the world, but a spiritual separation unto holiness.
That is clear from the words of the apostle in I Corinthians 5. In writing about the practical consequences of Christian discipline, Paul says (vv. 9-11): “I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators. Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother (my emphasis, SK) be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.”
When the inspired apostle tells the church not to company with fornicators and idolaters and those who pay no regard to God’s law, he recognizes that our life in the world is going to require that many of us have daily contact with such people. Many of you rub shoulders with such men and women in the work place. They are your neighbors. You buy from them. You sell to them. You say hello to them and are friendly toward them. The point of the apostle is not that we separate ourselves entirely from the world. Although we are not to have fellowship with the world, with all that the term fellowship denotes, we are to live among them. Paul points rather to the impenitent man or woman within the church, who walks ungodly and refuses to heed the Word of God. And from such Paul commands the church to separate.
The antithesis, therefore, is not that the child of God turns his back on the world and refuses to drive an automobile or use electricity.
The antithesis is not carried out by refusing to marry or by living in a monastery or convent.
After all, whose world is this creation?
Even though the creation bears evidence of God’s curse, and even though the world is filled with those who are sinners and even ungodly, this world remains God’s world. This world is so much God’s world, that He provides for the beasts of the fields and the flowers of the valley. Every sparrow is watched by our heavenly Father. Every single thing and activity is governed by our God who is all powerful and everywhere present. That truth we considered at length just recently.
But we may also say something else about this world. As God’s world, this present creation is the stage upon which God gathers His church and performs His wonder work of grace in our salvation. This present world is the stage on which the antithesis is manifested. God made this world the stage for the antithesis of sin and grace. We may not turn our backs on this world, to live in physical separation.
To separate from the world is not the solution to accomplish our antithetical calling anyway. Martin Luther discovered that. We simply carry the sin with us, in our own sinful flesh.
The antithesis, therefore, is spiritual.
An Urgent Calling
It is our calling, while living on the stage of this present world, to manifest ourselves as being of the party of the living God, members of Christ’s body.
That means that as those who are redeemed, we express our gratitude to God by living a life of obedience to His Word. We live antithetically by walking in the way of His Word.
This requires an unwavering commitment to the Scriptures as the authoritative truth of God. To live antithetically requires antithetical mind-sets. We must think in terms of truth over against the lie. Where Scripture speaks, it speaks definitively. It speaks with authority. It calls for absolute conviction. The conviction of the psalmist in Psalm 119:111, 112 must be our own conviction and song: “Thy testimonies have I taken as an heritage for ever: for they are the rejoicing of my heart. I have inclined mine heart to perform thy statutes alway, even unto the end.”
This is the way of blessing, as the psalmist proclaims in Psalm 1:1, 2: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful. But his delight is in the law of the Lord; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.”
The application of the principle here is very broad. To live as those who are wholly consecrated to God means that we walk in a “straight and narrow way” that leads to heaven. Our life is a life that requires great care and fervent dedication to God’s precepts. The life of the antithesis is a life that recognizes “there is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Prov. 14:12; Prov. 16:25). It is a life that heeds God’s call constantly to turn from our evil ways, and to be holy, as He is holy.
This has powerful implications when it comes to our earthly relationships and perspective.
The antithesis, put to practice in our lives, means that our fellowship is with those who are godly. Notice, I do not say merely that our fellowship is to be found with those who call themselves Christian or even Protestant Reformed. There are those who call themselves Christian, and there are those within the church, who do not walk antithetically, who do not live in obedience to God’s precepts. There are those, even within the church, whom the devil would use to lead us astray! Our fellowship is not to be found with such!
We must teach these things to our children. Our children must seek fellowship and establish friendships with those who are godly, who know what it means to live antithetically as the redeemed people of God. Our fellowship is to be found with those who are one with us in the faith, who have the same hope, the same love for the Word, the same fellowship with God.
The antithesis, put to practice in our lives, means that there are many activities, wholly acceptable to the world, which we as the friends of God are not comfortable with. In fact, insofar as we live in the consciousness of our fellowship with the Holy One, we abhor many things that the world counts pleasure. As the friends of God, we find many worldly activities offensive to our calling to holiness. Indeed, many of the activities of this world are nothing less than expressions of the world’s depravity and hatred of God.
Living in this consciousness affects our perspective concerning the use of television, for example. It causes us to reject many of the world’s amusements—their dancing which inflames the lusts, their party-life and abuse of alcohol, their love of pleasure, their worship of sports.
But this truth also points to the fact that the antithesis hits very close to home.
The antithesis also operates within us. We have daily to fight a tremendous battle against our own sinful flesh. Read Romans 7. Was it not the warfare of the flesh against the Spirit that compelled the apostle to cry out, “Oh wretched man that I am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” You and I must live the antithesis by fighting the battle of faith against that great enemy within—the old man of sin.
But let it also be emphasized: “In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.”
The antithesis, after all, has been realized in Christ.
Realized in Christ
What a tremendous blessing was that tree of life in the midst of the paradise of God, as revealed to Adam and Eve. That tree pointed to Christ.
The tree of life for Adam and Eve signified everlasting life. After their fall into sin, the way to that tree was banished from them, in order that the last Adam might come and make for us a way to life everlasting. Our salvation is only in Christ Jesus. There is no other way.
If it were so that salvation is only to be attained in the way of our obedience, there would be for us no salvation. For you and I have often failed to walk in obedience to our antithetical calling.
That salvation is only in the Messiah was revealed to Adam and Eve too, in their banishment from the inner sanctuary of God’s garden, and the tree of life. We find in the last part of Genesis 3 that the way to the tree of life was absolutely barred from them.
Because if Adam would have had continued access to that tree of life, he would have continued to sustain his earthly existence apart from God. Then there would be no redemption for him!
Adam must lose that life. He must lose his earthly life, in order to receive life in Christ Jesus.
And as it was with Adam, so it is with you and me. We too must lose our life, our natural, carnal life without God in the world. We must lose this earthly life in the fellowship of the ungodly, in order to have the favor and fellowship of God.
The tabernacle of God with man is no longer to be found in something earthly, not even as magnificent as was that original tree of life.
God purposed to build His tabernacle with His people in Christ Jesus. He would do it through the shedding of blood on the cross of Calvary.
And so the tree of life is seen in its full significance.
The tree of life says to you and to me, “You must die for your sin. But there is hope. For with this earthly tree of life you are pointed to Him in whom God comes to us and pays the price for our sins.” The tree of life finds its fulfillment in Christ the Savior. And so in Revelation 22 it signifies the perfected life of heavenly fellowship with God for all who believe and who confess the name of Christ.
The time is coming when we shall enjoy perfectly that life of fellowship with God.
In that hope we live.
With that promise we walk antithetically in the midst of this world.
We are pilgrims and strangers here, having no abiding place. Our home is with Christ in heaven.
That is how we live. That is what we teach our children. That is the way in which we walk together as children of the living God, our Savior.