Posts Tagged ‘eternal life’

How Does the Resurrection Affect the Church?

How Does the Resurrection Affect the Church?

© C. O. Bishop 2018

In the Context of John 14:3That, where I am, there ye may be also

Ephesians 1:13, 14; 2:6; 1st Corinthians 12:13; 15:3, 4; 15:22, 15:16-19;
Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 3:1-4

Introduction:

We often hear (or write) Easter messages that completely immerse us in either the horror of the Cross, (hence, the enormity of our guilt and sin that necessitated the Cross), or the mystery of the burial and resurrection, the fulfilled prophecies, and refuting the various false myths that have sprung up from those who reject the validity of the scriptures…or even immersing us in the joy of the resurrection itself; the effect that it had upon Mary Magdalene, the other disciples—Peter in particular—and on the newborn Church, at Pentecost. Those are all good things.

All of these approaches are valid; all have appropriate results in the hearers, and all have reasonably good grounding in the scriptures themselves, as a rule. (Some may wander a bit, but most are pretty solidly grounded in the Word of God.)

But: What about today? What effect should the Resurrection have upon believers, today?

The Promises of Jesus the Messiah:

Jesus made an important promise in John 5:24: He said that whoever hears his word (regarding himself, and God’s redemptive plan), and believes on Him who sent Him (Places their trust in His redemptive work at the Cross), has everlasting life (present tense) and shall not (future tense) come into condemnation, but has passed over (past perfect tense) from death into life.

He also stated (John 14:3) that he was leaving Earth, to prepare a place for his followers, that where He was they should also be. He also stated (John 14:16) that the Holy Spirit, whom He was sending in place of Himself, would be with His disciples forever.                                                                  

In the light of these explicit promises, let’s examine the historical facts:

The Historical Facts:

1st Corinthians 15:3, 4;

Paul stated the bare facts of the Gospel here, but prefaced the facts with a reference to their result. He stated the results of faith, first (we have received the Gospel, and believed it, and our standing with God is dependent upon its truth.) Then he simply stated the facts, as follows:

  1. Christ died for our sins, according to (in keeping with…in fulfillment of) the scriptures.
  2. He was buried (also fulfilling prophecies), and that
  3. He rose again the third day, also in keeping with Biblical prophecies.

None of these things were “just happenstance.” All were called out, far in advance, by prophecy; some of them by a multitude of prophecies. The fact of the “three days and three nights in the tomb”, for example, was in fulfillment of two very explicit prophecies, and perhaps others not so plain. The facts of the crucifixion and resurrection, however, were in fulfillment of scores of clear prophecies and more or less clear Old Testament figures…pictures of the coming Christ.

1st Corinthians 12:13;

This one—the fact of the “baptism of the Holy Spirit”; the Act of the Holy Spirit, placing each believer (us) into our respective places in the Body of Christ— is only dependent upon us being believers: When any sinner sees his own need for the Savior, and trusts in Jesus’s finished work at the Cross—Jesus’s shed blood—being full payment for his sins, the Holy Spirit immediately places him permanently into the Body of Christ. We remain there forever. Jesus said that, of all the souls given to Him he will lose not one, but shall raise them up at the last day (John 6:39).

Ephesians 1:13, 14;

This one, too, is only dependent upon a person’s one time choice, to believe in Jesus as their only Savior and only Hope. It says that those who heard the Word of truth, the Gospel of our salvation (and who trusted in it), after they trusted in Him, were immediately sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit of Promise who is the Earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession. Several important points are made, here, for us to cling to.

  • This promise reiterates the promise of Jesus: that those who heard the Gospel and believed, have eternal life now: (Not waiting to see if they were “among the chosen.”)
  • Another is that we are “…sealed in Christ”: It says “in Whom, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of Promise”
  • Finally, it says that we are sealed in Him “until the redemption of the purchased possession to the Praise of His Glory.” We will not be lost. We have been sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit…how long? Until the redemption of the purchased possession (the Church) unto the praise of His Glory. We are secure in Him.

This is a stated fact: not just a promise of things to come. All of it is stated as a “done deal”—past tense fact—not dependent upon events still to come. Nothing is hanging in the balance.

Ephesians 2:6

Here’s another “historical fact” which we can’t see, but which God says is already a done deal, as well: Paul says, here, that the believers have already been raised up (resurrected) together with Christ, and have already ascended with Him, and are already seated with Him in Heaven! (This is absolutely beyond my comprehension, but it is clearly stated as a “past-tense fact.

The Personal, Current Facts: (On the basis of the historical facts)

Romans 6:2-5; Three things:

  1. We are Dead with Him. (v. 2, 3)
  2. We are Risen with Him. (v. 4, 5)
  3. We are Ascended with Him. (implied, in v.4; stated in Ephesians 2:6)

We have been baptized (not by water baptism, but by the real baptism; the Holy Spirit having placed us into the body of Christ); we have been baptized into his death and his resurrection, and (Ephesians 2:6) we are currently seated with Him in the heavenlies. These are each stated as being current realities, not future possibilities.

I am not exhorted to “Die to sin;” I am stated to already be dead to sin.
I am not encouraged to “be risen with Christ” I am informed that I have already risen with Him.
I am not commanded to “seat myself in the heavenlies,” but I am told that I am already there.

What astonishing statements! How can God say that I am “already dead with Christ?” Well…the fact is, it is true! In the Scriptures, Death always has to do with separation of some sort: Adam was separated from fellowship with God, the moment he ate the forbidden fruit. He was spiritually dead. He died physically, 930 years later, when his spirit and soul were separated from His body. A person who is still separated from God, spiritually, never having been reconciled to Him, and who dies physically, is then permanently separated from God. (God refers to this as the “second death”, in Revelation 20:14.)

So how am I “dead to sin?” My old sin nature (the only nature I had before re-birth) was and is entirely committed to self; to sin. God says that it cannot be repaired, cleansed or redeemed. It cannot become subject to God’s righteousness. (Romans 8:7; Ephesians 4:22)

So, all God could do to save me was to give me a new nature; one that was in harmony with Him. Ephesians 4:24 says that my new nature is created, after God (in His likeness) in righteousness and true holiness. That, too, is a “done deal!” I have been separated from my old sin nature to the extent that I am no longer enslaved to it, and I have a choice: I can obey God, with a clean heart, because I have a new nature. God does not propose to “fix” my old nature: as far as He is concerned it is dead…it is irretrievably corrupt. And, he sees Me as separated from that old sin nature. He says I am dead to it. I do not have to submit to its desires any more.

In keeping with that fact, He says that we are also risen with Christ: His death, burial and resurrection became ours. God sees us, eternally, only in the person of Christ. Over in Ephesians, we saw that His ascension is also ours. We are already safely at home with Him, in God’s eyes: all we are doing, here, in our earthly lives, is living out that reality, and, both by word and deed, demonstrating to the lost world around us, the truth of the Good News of Christ.

How should those facts affect the way we think?

Since these things are true, and if we are willing to accept them as fact (the Gospel and all that God says about it); how should it affect our thinking and our response to the people and circumstances with which we live?

Can I genuinely exhibit the Love of Christ, because He lives in me, and not be offended by the petty offenses people or circumstances may bring? They truly are petty, in comparison with the absolutely criminal abuse that was heaped upon Jesus, by the Human Race. (And, yes, all of us are guilty: our sins made it necessary for Him to go there.) Considering the abuse that he endured, both on the way to the Cross, and in the Crucifixion itself, is there anything in our experience that can be considered worth losing sight of the Promises and Peace of the Savior?

Can’t I see my tormentors as precious souls, for whom Jesus died? Can’t I grieve for their lostness, and pray for their salvation? Can’t I choose to be a blessing to them, in hopes of turning them away from eternal condemnation? Or must I secretly feel satisfaction that “Well, they will surely pay for that!” What an incredibly selfish response! I am equally guilty before God, and His Grace was extended to me, a completely lost sinner: Can’t I extend my feeble grace and forgiveness, as an act of Worship to the God who first loved me?

How should those facts affect the way we live?

Can I stop acting as if everything revolves around “how I feel about things?” Can I literally put others first, as Jesus did? Or will I continue to concern myself primarily with my own comfort, my own safety and my own future security?

God calls us to offer our bodies a living sacrifice to Him, so that our lives will be lived out in a manner that honors Him. He calls this our “reasonable service” of worship. (Romans 12:1) That offer has to be renewed often: the problem with “living sacrifices” is that we keep crawling off the altar! We don’t just “die, and get it over with.”

We are called to “die to self:” to “take up your cross, daily, and follow” Him. Notice that we are not called to “die to sin”…that has already been accomplished. We are called to continually renew the conscious setting aside of sin, and to live in the newness of life:

  • To live out the resurrected Life of Christ, not just continue in our own self-centered way.
  • To become the living “Love of Christ” in the unloving world around us:
  • To become the living “Light of Christ”, in this dark world in which we live.
  • To become a clean source of the Living Water, to any soul who is thirsty.
  • To become a clean source of the Bread of Life, to any soul who is hungry.

Colossians 3:1-4 calls us, as those risen from the dead, to set our affections on things above: We are to change our priorities. He says that, since we are seated with Him above, we should see things from his perspective, and count his priorities to be our own. He reiterates that we are dead, and that our lives are “hid in Christ.” God only sees us there, in Christ. He concludes that, when Christ Himself appears, we shall appear with him, in Glory. It will be worth it all, when we see Jesus!

We are Ambassadors of the Risen Christ. That is the confidence that we have in Him: it is the assignment that we have in Him, and it is the direct result of the Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for the clear news of your death, and burial and, especially, your resurrection. Please use these truths to shape us into your likeness, and to transform our lives into your own image. Make us profitable servants of God.


Why Don’t I “Give an Invitation?”

Why Don’t I “Give an Invitation?”

© C. O. Bishop 1/20/2018 Cornell Estates 1/21/2018

John 5:24; 1st John 5:11-13; Romans 3:23; Isaiah 55:1; Revelation 22:17

Introduction:

A month or so ago, I was asked, privately, “Why don’t you give invitations at the end of your sermons?” Well…that’s a good question, and, after some thought, I have decided that it should be answered publicly.

There have been times during the last 40-odd years, when I have asked a person how they became a Christian. They replied with one of the following: “I went forward in church; I raised my hand in a youth-group meeting, I prayed with a missionary who visited our church; I was baptized…” or something along those lines. Notice that every one of those statements began with “I (did something).” Isn’t it perhaps more important that God did something? Were they depending on their prayer, their public confession of sins, or some other action on their own part? I can’t tell. Were they even saved? I have no idea! I can’t see into their heart! I can’t examine the witness of their soul before God. The Holy Spirit is just as invisible to me as He is to everyone else! The real question we all need to answer is “How does God save people? How can we be certain that we have eternal life?”

How can we be saved?

The Philippian Jailer asked this very question in Acts 16:30. He asked Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” You see, he had the same idea: There must be something God wants us to do in order to earn eternal life! But they answered “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved!” (Believe….)

The people in John chapter five, whom Jesus fed with bread and fish, confronted him in chapter six (John 6:28) asking “What should we do that we might work the works of God?” Jesus answered in verse 29: “This is the Work of God; that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”

I don’t know how the people in John 6 were responding, but the fellow in Philippi was about to commit suicide, if you remember the story: his life had effectively just ended, had Paul not called out and assured him that all the prisoners were still present. So Paul really could have told him anything, and the man was ready to do it. But instead, Paul and Silas told Him that all God was asking him to do was to believe the Gospel: to place his trust in Jesus as his Savior. He was evidently willing to do, or attempt to do, all the works any person could do. But all he was asked to do was to believe! That is very odd, isn’t it? Why did Paul not “lay on him all the demands of God?” Why did he not quote the Ten Commandments? Or tell him he had to be baptized, at least? (By the way, he and his family actually were baptized after they believed, but that is not what was required of them.)

It seems that believing is at least the “key” response that God is looking for. The Pharisees had lots of good works, but didn’t believe in Jesus as their Messiah. We Gentiles look like total heathens to any orthodox Jew (that’s actually what “Gentile” means!), but God isn’t judging us by our works. He is offering His Grace, on the basis of Faith (believing.) And that is the only way he has ever saved sinners, throughout all history. But what was the second question?

Can I Know that I Have Eternal Life?

I have also been emphatically told, many times, over the years, that “It is impossible to know that you have eternal life.” That, you have to “wait until you die to find out whether you were good enough:” …to find out whether you “made the team.” Or, simply, to find out whether you are “One of the Chosen.” I can’t understand how anyone would be comfortable with that idea, personally.

So, what’s wrong with that idea? Is that really what God says? Does he offer us no more secure hope than that? Let’s see what God actually says about that particular issue. (Remember that Jesus is “God in the flesh.”) So, in John 5:24, Jesus (God in the Flesh) made a very important promise:

Verily, verily (truly…it’s a promise), I say unto you, he that heareth my words, and believeth on Him who sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.

Every word, there, is important: We can see, back in verse 19, that Jesus is the one talking, even if we don’t have a red-letter edition Bible. So the first thing Jesus does, is to assure us that this is really true: That He is making a promise! He says, “Verily, Verily, I say unto you…” It is a personal promise from Jesus! And it has two conditions:

The Conditions

He that heareth and believeth…” This is a “Whosever will”-type “invitation.” An invitation to what? To “go forward in church”, or to “sign a tract”, or to “make a commitment to Christ?” No! This is an invitation to hear the Gospel, and believe it: to place your personal trust in Jesus as your Savior! Nothing more or less! If I have heard that God is Holy…that I am a sinner…and that Jesus paid the price of my sins at the Cross, I have fulfilled the first of the two conditions. The day I placed my trust in His shed blood for my salvation, and began looking forward to His coming again, I fulfilled the second condition. And, on the basis of those two conditions, Jesus laid out a three-clause promise:

The Clauses

  1. If the two conditions have been met, what does Jesus say is the immediate (not eventual) result? “He that heareth my Word, and believeth on Him that sent me…what?” Does it say they “will have” eternal life? No! It says that this individual, on the basis of having heard the Gospel of Christ and believed, has everlasting life now! This isn’t my opinion: this is the promise of Jesus! The moment I saw the truth; that I was a lost sinner, and that Jesus’ blood at the Cross was God’s only offering for my sin, and I believed; trusting God’s promise for my salvation, then, from that moment on, I have had eternal life! How long is eternal? Silly question, right? But Eternal means everlasting…forever!
  2. What else did Jesus promise? We saw that the first clause of the promise was present tense; but what about the second clause? “…and shall not come into condemnation…” What tense would that be? That’s right! It is future tense! It means I can look into my future as far as forever, and know that God will never condemn me for my sins again! In fact, clear back in Psalm 103:12, He says that he has removed our iniquities from us “as far as the East is from the West”. I think it is great that he said “east from west”, rather than north from south: You can start at the North Pole and go south only until you get to the South Pole. But you can start anywhere, and go East or West forever, and never “get there!” My sins have been eternally removed from my ledger before God, and He will never judge me for my sins. I shall not come unto condemnation. My future is secure.
  3. And the final clause? “…but is passed from death into life.” Some Bibles translate this “…but has crossed over from death into life.” …which is also fine. But the best the English language will give us on this verse is that it is “past tense.” The fact, however, is that the Greek verb is in perfect tense: “a completed action which occurred at some point in the past, with permanent results for the future…” Do you see how important that idea is? It means, “This is a done deal!” It means “You have been born again, and you cannot be un-born again.” It doesn’t lend itself very well to translation in English, unfortunately, but that is the intent.

So…that was Jesus’s promise to anyone willing to hear Him and believe Him. He covered their past, present and future, with a single promise. Do you believe it? On the basis of His promise, then, do you have eternal life?

I could pose a second question: Does God want you to know that you have eternal life? (Notice I am underscoring the word “know”, here…) If He did, wouldn’t He tell us how to know it? Let’s see what He says:

A Parallel Promise

1st John 5:11-13
11And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son.
12 He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.
13 These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.

So, let’s break this one down as we did the previous promise:

  1. The record (God’s Word) states that God has given (past tense) eternal life to us, and
  2. This eternal life is in the Person of His Son, Jesus Christ.
  3. If you have the Son (have received Him by faith), you have eternal life.
  4. If you do not have the Son (have not believed—have not received Him by faith), you do not have eternal life.
  5. The purpose of this being written is that you who believe (trust in) the name of the Son of God (Jesus), may Know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe on the name of the Son of God! That is the purpose-clause of this portion of this document! God wants you to know (now) that you have eternal life!

So, the question we posed a few minutes ago, was “Can I know that I have Eternal life?” According to the two faithful promises we just read, I would have to emphatically state that not only we can know that we have eternal life, but that God wants us to know so! He is not interested in a “hope-so” relationship. This wedding ring on my finger does not mean “I hope I got married 36 years ago, to a wonderful woman who is my best friend today:” It means I KNOW that we were married, and I am not going to forget it!

God gave us his written Word for assurance, so that we have it in writing. He also comes to live in the bodies of believers, on an individual basis, at the moment of salvation: whether I knew it or not, he came to indwell me, in the person of the Holy Spirit, the moment I believed. I may have only learned about it later, but He keeps His Word, and that is also part of His promise. So, with all that background as the foundation, why would I hesitate to give an altar call…to give invitations to “come forward in church,” or anything similar?

Why I Hesitate

When people tell me “I went forward in church when I was twelve,” I begin to ask questions, to find out whether they actually believed the Gospel. I may say, “So, that is when you saw yourself as a lost sinner, needing a Savior?” That doesn’t always go over well! As it happens, some have never seen themselves as a “lost sinner, needing a Savior!” In fact, the idea is repulsive to them: I recently had a young woman adamantly tell me “I am not a bad person!!” OK! As people go, I would say that was a fair assessment. But—does it come up to God’s standard? Let’s see: Romans 3:23 says, “For ALL have sinned and come short of the Glory of God;” (Hmm…)

Sometimes I approach it a different way: I say, “If you were to die today, and God were to ask you ‘Why should I let you into Heaven?’ what would you say?” I have had answers such as “I have done my best,” “I haven’t done anything really bad,” or, “…maybe I could just squeeze in the door?”  Bu the fact is, the rules were laid down in God’s Word: all are sinners; Jesus paid for all our sins; all those who have received the Son have life; and all those who haven’t do not! If my answer to God is not “Because Jesus died for my sins! He is my only hope!”, then according to God’s Word, I have zero chance of being accepted with God. But if he is my Savior, then, according to His Word, I am already accepted with God. I didn’t make those rules; but quite honestly, they seem more than fair, to me!

So, if I ask someone to come forward and “pray for salvation”, and they do so, they may go away thinking they have “done something” to get eternal life…when the truth is that there is nothing we can do to get eternal life! Jesus did it all at the cross! If they actually came because they believe that Jesus is the full payment for their sins, then the prayer didn’t hurt anything, of course. But if they came because they thought they could win merit thereby, they go away inoculated against the true Gospel. They say “I already did that!” And, sadly, I have had many people tell me just that. But when I ask questions, I find that they have never believed the Gospel! They do not believe that they are a lost sinner. They do not believe that Jesus’s Blood was full payment for their sins personally. And they are resting their hope for eternity on something they did, instead of what Jesus completed at the Cross.

Having seen this so often, and being aware that there is not a single example of an “altar call” or an “invitation”, beyond the “Whosoever will may come…!”, I am hesitant to give people a false hope based on their own actions, when the only true hope is the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ. But is there an invitation? Yes!

The Invitation of God

So! Having said all that, here is the invitation:

In John 3:16, Jesus said that he came “…that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” That is an invitation to you! How can I say that? Because He said “whosoever!” Had he actually called you by name, here in the Bible, there may be someone else by that same name, and He could have meant them, not you! But He said “Whosoever!” That means He is inviting you to believe, and be saved! Right where you sit, He is asking you to believe in Him, and trust in Him alone for your eternal salvation.

Clear back in the Old Testament, in Isaiah 55:1, the principle was laid down: He said, “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price!” That must have boggled the minds of those who read it! But He reiterates it in the very last chapter of the Bible. In Revelation 22:17 he says, “And the Spirit and the Bride (the Church) say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life, freely.”

So—the invitation given by the Holy Spirit, is to come to Jesus, the eternal source of living water…the Author of eternal life!

The invitation given by the Church is the same. He says those who hear (That’s us, folks!) should echo that same invitation to those around us: “Come to Jesus. Own Him as your personal Savior! Take the Eternal life that is freely offered to you!” The invitation says “…anyone who is thirsty is to come!” and finally, “Anyone who is willing is to come!” You do have to be willing!

You don’t need me, or a church, or a religious experience of any kind. You need to trust Jesus as your Savior, and learn to walk with Him. This invitation has been there in the Scripture for thousands of years; but each of us are limited, in terms of time. Don’t wait! If you know you need a Savior, then believe in Him, and have eternal life, today.

That is the invitation—it is from God, not me. Answer it as you choose. You alone can choose!

Lord Jesus, help us to see ourselves clearly, so that we can receive your promise, believe your promise, and learn to walk with you. Teach us to extend the invitation to those around us, too.


Jesus, the Ruler and Savior

Jesus, the Ruler and Savior 

(And the Head of the New Human Race.)

© C. O. Bishop 2/1/2017

Hebrews 2:4-18

Introduction:

We’ve been working our way through the book of Hebrews. The first four verses of chapter two were a warning to those who are teetering on the edge of faith, but still uncommitted. The Writer drops that subject, as it (like all the other warnings in the Epistle to the Hebrews) was parenthetical in nature. He had been talking about the angelic host in the end of chapter one. He briefly warned the uncommitted professing believers that, if the message brought by angels had been authoritative, so much more authoritative is the message brought by the Son, and worthy of obedience by faith. Then he goes back to the subject of the Angels, and the comparison between Jesus and the whole Angelic Army.

He says that the Angels have never been placed in authority over the coming (new) world; and He quotes Psalm 8.

 

Where do the Angels fit in, with regard to Humans?

For unto the angels hath he not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak.

But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitest him?

Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honour, and didst set him over the works of thy hands:

This was originally given in regard to the human race—but, here it is shown to have a secondary reference to the Person of Christ. Verses 6, 7 and the first clause of verse 8 are all a direct quote from Psalm 8. But, in the original context, it is clear that he is speaking of the human race, placed in dominion over the earth. Some commentators feel that this dominion may have originally extended to the whole creation, not just lesser life, had Adam not botched the gift through sin. I can’t see that here, because he specifically named animals as what was under the dominion of Man, in Genesis and Psalm 8. But the writer of Hebrews evidently says that those commentators may be correct. He takes the first clause in verse 8 to mean “ALL things”, not just animals.

Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.

 So, Jesus is the subject of Psalm 8!

 

Prophetic Psalms

There are a whole bunch of Messianic Psalms. Some are easy to see. Psalm 22 pretty clearly describes the crucifixion, and, it obviously describes things that were never the experience of the writer, King David. So that one is pretty easy. But Psalm 8 really sounds as though it is simply describing the state of the human race.

However, Hebrews 2:9 states that it is really about Jesus. Apart from this passage, I could never have known that fact. And, because the original passage (combined with the Genesis account) says those things about Man as a whole, in the person of Adam, I can see that it is entirely possible that those commentators were right on the mark: that Adam may have originally been endowed with the authority to “run” this world, being in command of the elements as well as simply being able to rule the animal life. (That is absolutely astounding, if it is true…and it all was lost because of Sin.) So why is it about Jesus? Why is that important?

 

Jesus Was Born to Die

Hebrews explains that the purpose of Jesus being temporarily “demoted” to human status, lower than the angels, was for the suffering of death.

As God, Jesus was immortal. As an Angel, he would have been immortal, too, had he chosen to become one. But, in order to be our Redeemer, he had to be specifically related to us: he had to be human. That was one of the rules of the “kinsman redeemer”. This was a provision God made in Israel’s law, so that a person sold into slavery, because of a crushing debt, could be bought out of that slavery and set free. We see a great example of those rules in the story of Ruth. Through the death of all the men in their family, Ruth and Naomi had become poverty-stricken, and landless. They were in real trouble, as destitute women in a patriarchal society. They desperately needed someone to step in and help.

Boaz could be Ruth’s kinsman-redeemer for four reasons:

  1. He was a close relative, who could marry her and raise children in her dead husband’s name.
  2. He was free, himself…not in debt, and not a slave.
  3. He had the price of redemption—the money to buy her land, and
  4. He was willing to pay that price and marry her.

Remember, though,  that there was another man who was a closer relative to Ruth than Boaz. He had the first right of redemption. But he wasn’t willing to marry Ruth. So he was disqualified!

So, to complete that picture, compare it to Christ:

  1. Only a human could redeem a human.
  2. Only a non-sinner (no sin-debt) could redeem a sinner.
  3. Only a living, sinless human could offer the price of redemption; a sinless, perfect blood-sacrifice,
  4. And only one who was willing could do so.

Jesus was that One. And it says that Jesus tasted death for all. (The word translated “every man”, in the Greek, is actually “pantos”, meaning simply “everyone”, in any context where people are involved. In other contexts, it is translated “everything.” The word “man” is not in the original.) The fact is, His death paid for the sins of the entire human race, including all the billions who would ultimately reject Him. We are uncomfortable with that fact, because it is not what we might do, but he states this very specifically, in several passages. 1st John 2:2 is the most specific: “…not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”

 

What is the Result?

10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.

The word translated “Captain”, here, is the same word translated “Author”, over in Hebrews 12:1. Jesus is the author and finisher of our faith, and the captain of our salvation. He is the Master.

And the word “perfect”, here, is in reference to the fact that Jesus’ ministry as savior and redeemer was completed in His sufferings. There are passages where “perfect” means sinless perfection. But this is not one of them. Jesus was already sinless, thus perfect. But Jesus didn’t just show up, march to the cross, and die. He completed the picture, living a fully human life, in privation and hard times, showing that it is possible for a human to live by faith, in full subjection to a holy God, and fulfil the Righteousness of God…providing that he was not born contaminated with “Original Sin”. Adam, supposedly, could have done the same…but once he fell into sin, taking us all with him, neither he nor any of his progeny could ever do so.

So a special case had to be set up—one who was fully human, but without a sin nature. Evidently the sin nature is passed through the father, as God promised that a deliverer would come, but that He would be the “Seed of the Woman”. (Genesis 3:15) Out all the billions in Earth’s history, only Jesus was truly the “Seed of Woman”, with no human father. And he fulfilled not only that one obscure passage, but all the other prophecies, whether plain or obscure: whether complex or simple. His ministry, and life and death and resurrection fulfilled all the prophecies about him, and completed the promises of God regarding the Savior.

In this way, a new human race was begun—those born of faith: born of the Spirit. Ephesians 2:15 states that Jesus created “one new Man” of two separated peoples (Jews and Gentiles.) A human who has been reborn, by God’s Grace, through faith, has the ability, once again, to serve in holiness. We are no longer slaves to sin. We have been declared righteous in Him, and made Holy in Him. The word “justified” means “declared righteous”: “Sanctified” means “made holy.”

11 For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren,

12 Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee.

This is a direct quote from Psalm 22:22. The “church”, in verse 12, was the “congregation” of Israel. I remember meeting a man, some 40 years ago with whom I was attempting to share the Gospel. He told me he was “already saved” because he was part of the “great Congregation” It turns out that Psalm 22:25 is where he got that phrase, “the great congregation”…but he was wrong about his being part of it. He thought that simply because he was born a Jew, he was part of this fellowship of God. My words made no impression upon him at all, because, to him, I was just a young fool. But he was missing the necessity of being covered with the blood of that One sacrifice. He thought that being born a Jew was sufficient. John the Baptist made it clear that the Pharisees, the “cream of the crop” of Israel, were in imminent danger of Hell. Obviously, being born Jewish does not save you. In fact, all he had to do is read the history of Israel, and see how many were condemned for unbelief, and executed for idolatry. They were Jews, too! What was the difference between them, and those God saved? The difference was the saved Jews’ faith in the living God.

But what about the fact that he refers to us as his “brethren?” He himself is God the Son, the only begotten son…the crown prince! But he has “begotten us again” through the Holy Spirit, when we trusted in Him, and now, yes; he call us brothers, as well as his “little children.” What does that say about the idea of the Universal Fatherhood of God, and the Universal Brotherhood of Man? I haven’t heard this doctrine preached for quite a while, but the idea is still out there: the notion that God considers ALL humans his children, and loves them all equally.

In the first place, Jesus debunked that, personally, in John 8:44, by telling the Jews that they were not the children of God, but rather, the children of their father, the devil. (Odd…they took that rather badly.)

 

How does one become a child of God?

John 1:12 says that those who received Him by faith were given the authority to become children of God…again pointing out that they had not been His children before that point. Ephesians 2:11, 12 says that we were once strangers and foreigners, without God and without hope, in the World.

There is no hint of a universal Fatherhood or universal brotherhood taught in the Bible. By the way, those terms, “Father” and “brother” are exclusive by nature. They are meant to confer special status upon the individual to whom they are applied. Familial terms are all “inner circle” words. If one tries to expand them to cover everyone, then they lose their intended meaning. The same is true for nearly any word—if one tries to expand the meaning of any given word to cover too much, then it loses all significance.

 

It is not only significant that Jesus refers to us as his “brothers”, as well as the children of God: it is part of our security in Him. Unlike the royal families throughout secular human history, in many different countries, who simply murdered all their brothers and/or sisters, in order to secure the throne, Jesus values his brothers and sisters, his children, his joint-heirs, and He protects us against all enemies. He is our security. He has no need to secure his throne, because it cannot be taken from Him. But of us, he says (John 6:39) that he shall lose none of us, but raise us up at the last day. In fact, He says that we shall be with him for eternity, and that the Holy Spirit will indwell us until His return for us, and that we cannot be taken from him by any means…even by our own effort or failure. (Romans 8:39) we are truly secure as His children, and as His family. We can never again be lost.

13 And again, I will put my trust in him. And again, Behold I and the children which God hath given me.

The first half of this verse is a quote from Isaiah 8:17, from the Septuagint, a very important early Greek translation of the Old Testament; it does not read the same in the Hebrew version. (By the way, every single time Jesus quotes the Old Testament, He is quoting the Septuagint.) The second half is from the next verse, Isaiah 8:18. But, in both cases, I never would have known that the verses were prophetic concerning Jesus. I would have seen only the primary interpretation, concerning the prophet Isaiah, his faith, and his sons…who were named in Isaiah 7:3 and 8:3 (Shear-Jashub—“the remnant shall return”, and Maher-shalal-hashbaz—“hastening to the booty; speeding to the prey”.) I never could have seen the final fulfillment in the person of Christ and his church. But God did! That is why we compare scripture with scripture, and let God speak. Otherwise we frequently miss the point.

 

Jesus joined us, so that we can Join Him!

14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;

Again, by joining us in our low estate, specifically in death, he carried out the judgment that had been pronounced upon sin, and freed the human race from that judgment. In doing so, he dealt a mortal wound to our ancient enemy, Satan. This is actually the fulfillment of the very earliest prophecy concerning Jesus, the “Seed of the Woman”…who would crush the serpent’s head. That is where it happened: at the Cross!

15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

Thus, He delivered us from the death we fear throughout life. We no longer fall headlong into a pit called death, but literally “walk through the valley of the shadow of death.” The substance of Death has been taken away for us, leaving only the shadow. And the pit has become an open-ended rite of passage, not a final defeat. We no longer have to be in bondage to fear.

16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.

Jesus chose to become a man…not an angel. And he chose the Jews, out of all the world’s peoples, to whom to join himself. Why? I really can’t say. There was literally one person in that group when He made his choice—it was Abraham. And the choice has been sub-divided several times: narrowed in some areas (the land and the priesthood, etc.), so as to exclude many who were physically born to Abraham; but broadened in others, to include all who trust in God’s plan of salvation.

17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.

Jesus lived as a poor, underprivileged Jew, in a nation that was a slave-state to Rome, an evil regime predicted by Daniel. The word “tempted,” here, is the Greek word “peirazomos”, and it can be used to mean a trial—a test—or it can be used in the same manner we do, as in being lured to some bad choice. But it is made clear in James 1:13, 14 that God does not lure people to do wrong, as He is not lured in that manner, and does not lure others in that manner—but that we ourselves, having a sin-nature, as evidenced by our evil desires, are lured away by our own evil desires. However, the testing that we all endure is definitely by design—God says that He will not allow us to be tested beyond our ability to bear it, and always makes a way of escape, so that we will be able to walk with him, and not fall into sin. We do not have to sin. We now have a choice. We can walk in obedience to God.

18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Jesus did undergo the same kinds of testing that we do, but he was not drawn to sin: He avoided it entirely, and approached the cross undefiled. He became our sinless sacrifice. In this manner he proved He would be a helper to those of us who believe in Him; we who are still in the struggles and the trials of life.

We enter into an eternal relationship with Him by faith…believing that He alone is our Savior: that He alone has paid the full price for our redemption…and that He is our only hope for eternal life.

In the years since I became a believer, I have more and more intensely understood the grievous fact of my sins. I have more and more painfully seen the fact of my sin nature, and that, apart from Christ, I literally have no hope. So: more and more earnestly, I turn my eyes to Him, and look for His guidance and depend upon His supply. I have no other hope; no one else to whom I could turn. He is the living Savior, the Messiah.

 

The Results are Eternal

I had a fellow angrily tell me “Chet, I’m talking about real life!” when I had tried to share some particular truth from the Bible. He wanted me to shut up, and so I did…but I thought about it and realized the total irony of someone calling the very temporary experience of humanity on Earth “real” life, when what God is offering is absolute permanence. Which one is more “real?” The one that lasts 70-120 years, tops, or the one that, after ten thousand years, has just barely begun?

We each have decisions to make, in regard to life: do we want the REAL life that God offers, or only the shadow of life that we now experience? Jesus said “This is eternal life; that they may know thee, the one true God, and Jesus Christ whom thou hast sent.” (John 17:3) Even as a believer, I have to choose to walk with God…or not. Every day can be an eternal treasure, or a total waste of time. The choice is ours.

Lord Jesus, help us to understand your Word, and to apply it in such a way as to make good choices, with eternally good results. Teach us to walk with you, day by day, and moment by moment, so as to make the most of life.


How Important is the Resurrection?

How Important Is the Resurrection?

© 3/26/2016 C. O. Bishop

1st Corinthians 15:13-19

Introduction:

Frequently we avoid an argument by “agreeing to disagree”, and there is perhaps nothing wrong with that practice, in principle. But we have been trained to avoid conflict, and to compromise, hoping for a peaceful resolution of any difference, to the extent that we don’t know where the limits are. We don’t know where to draw a line and say, “Here I stand; I can do no other!”

The Apostle Paul was savagely beaten on many occasions, left for dead after being stoned, imprisoned several times and finally executed for his faith. We fidget uncomfortably, and say, “Well, yes, that is wonderful, how he lived for Christ, preached his faith, and died for it, but we live in a safer world today, don’t we?” Well, I wonder: do we?

We have the same three enemies today: the World, the Flesh, and the Devil: Which of those three do you imagine to have changed? Satan certainly has not changed in the least. The Bible tells me that the flesh also has not changed—and in fact, if anything, it can only get worse. Has the World changed for the better? While it is true that for the first three centuries the Church existed, the Roman government viciously persecuted it, mercilessly torturing and murdering those who clung to the Name of Jesus, there are many nations today in which it is either illegal to be a Christian, or illegal to talk about it, or both. And in several of those nations it is quite common for a Christian to be either murdered for his or her faith or persecuted by the governments of those countries to the extent of confiscation of property, imprisonment, torture and even execution. We have been lulled to sleep by the relative peace and safety that we have enjoyed in this country for the last 200 years, so that when someone says something like “All religions serve the same God, and it doesn’t really matter what you call Him, or what you believe about Him”, we are only a little uncomfortable, because we have been taught that “Our way isn’t necessarily the only way…how can a billion Muslims all be wrong? Or, how can a billion Buddhists all be wrong?”

How Do We Know Our Way is Right? Isn’t that “Narrow-minded?”

In the first place, it isn’t “our way.” We are just following the instructions given and responding to the invitation given by Jesus Himself. Part of the answer to the implied question was given by Jesus, when he taught in Matthew 7:13, 14— He said, “Enter ye in at the narrow gate, for wide is the gate and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be that go in thereat: Because narrow is the gate, and narrow the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it.”  If there seem to be relatively few who respond to the invitation of Christ, and believe His Words, it actually proves Him correct. He told us ahead of time that this would be the case.

In the second place, the way is not “narrow” because of the caprice of an angry God, or bigoted people, but because of the simple fact that, throughout History (beginning before the Creation) God has provided only one means by which sinners may approach a Holy God without fear of condemnation. We see the first promise in Genesis 3:15, the first book of the Bible, and can trace both the promises and the growing clarity of doctrine regarding the death and burial and resurrection of Christ all the way through the Old Testament. We finally see the fulfillment of all those promises, prophecies, and teachings, in the person of Jesus Christ, in the Gospels. But in the Book of the Revelation, the last book of the Bible, (Revelation 13:8) we find that Jesus is referred to as the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the Earth.”  So we see that the provision for our salvation was actually made before the first human was even created.

This “Way” that has been alternately blessed and cursed by humans for the entire history of the Human race, is, in fact, the Way laid down by God before the creation. Jesus identified Himself as being that “Way”: In John 14:6, Jesus stated, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” (That sounds narrow!) As modern Christians we are uncomfortable with things that are “narrow”. We are afraid of public opinion that labels us as “narrow-minded.” We are taught to think that the number of our choices dictates the quality of our life. And yet, I cannot remember ever hearing anyone complain about the “narrow” choices afforded by the reality of our dependence upon oxygen.

No one rebels against reality and declares himself free from the tyranny of breathing, unless he intends suicide. Why? Because it is simply a fact of life that mammals all have lungs and breathe air, while fish all have gills of one sort or another, and get their oxygen through water. We accept that fact, and no one says how “unfair” it is that we cannot choose to live in a pure nitrogen atmosphere, or to breathe water, as do the fish. We embrace the reality of our dependence upon oxygen, and no one complains about it. Why? Because it does not require conscious submission to an external authority. We are built to crave air, and cannot do otherwise. But we do rebel against the fact that we need a Savior!

How Can Jesus Be the Only Savior?

Interestingly, the book of Job was evidently written before the books of Moses, the Pentateuch. And, in his book, in the middle of a frustrating, tangled, verbose argument with his three friends, Job made a fascinating statement: (Job 19:25-27). He stated that his redeemer already lived (give that some thought!), and that he (the Redeemer) would stand upon the earth at the latter day. He definitely declared the eternality of the Messiah, and that he is coming…but the following statement is really astonishing: he says, “…though, after my skin, worms destroy this body, yet, in my flesh, shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another”. Job predicted his own resurrection, based on the Eternal life of His Redeemer. And, in so doing, he established which “coming of Christ” he was addressing. It was not the earthly ministry of Jesus, but the second coming: Job’s resurrection is still yet to come, but: when Jesus stands upon the Earth at the latter day, Job will be in his resurrected body, and his prophecy will be literally fulfilled. He will see God, face to face, with his own eyes.

Jesus was the Redeemer for whom Job was waiting, and he was the promised Seed of Woman in whom Adam trusted. He was the Judge of all the Earth with whom Abraham pleaded for the life of Lot. He was the literal Rock of Ages that was Cleft to bring forth the water for the two and one half million Children of Israel, and all their livestock in the desert. He was the Passover Lamb, under whose blood those same children of Israel had huddled, to escape the judgment on Egypt. He is the only Savior because He has always existed as the Savior of the human race.

How Important Is the Resurrection in the Bible?

The fact is; if Jesus was not resurrected, then He was not any of those things. The person in whom Job trusted had to die. Isaiah 53 predicts the suffering of the Savior, and clearly states that it is for our sins that He was killed. Psalm 22 describes the crucifixion in stark terms and it is clearly a prophecy of the Christ, as nothing even remotely similar ever had happened to David, the human writer of that psalm. But Isaiah 53 also claims that this suffering savior would not remain dead, because it says that after his death; after he “made his soul an offering for sin”, he would see his offspring (us!) and prolong his days.

Psalm 16:10 is also prophetic of the Messiah: Peter alludes to it in Acts 2:27 and points out that it is definitely not regarding David, the human writer of that psalm. You see, it stated that the person involved, though he would die, would not be allowed to decompose, and that his soul would not be left in Sheol, the place of the Dead. David died, and had been in the grave for over one thousand years when Peter was preaching there in Jerusalem. His body was thoroughly decomposed, and mummified, and his soul was still in Sheol, to that day. Peter declared that this psalm was specifically in reference to the resurrection of the Messiah, and testified that he and the other (hundreds of) disciples were all eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. He concluded that this was final proof that Jesus was indeed the long-awaited Redeemer.

Paul wrote, in Romans 1:4, that Jesus was “declared to be the Son of God, with Power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the Resurrection from the dead.” The Resurrection was God’s stamp of approval, showing that Jesus was really who He claimed to be. Without it, he was just another one of the victims of the Jewish leaders, and the iron fist of the Roman law. He would have just been a poor, deluded, poverty-stricken, pathetic Jewish carpenter who had overstepped the bounds of the society in which he lived, and it had cost him his life.

You see, those are the choices: either he was who he said he was, or he wasn’t. There is no real middle ground. If he was not the Messiah, then he was either crazy enough to think he was, or he was an incredible liar who ensnared millions of people with his false teachings, and who died the death a false prophet can expect, and his followers have simply duplicated his folly. But, there are a couple of problems with both of those scenarios:

In the first place, he didn’t act like or talk like a crazy man. He used very clear logic, analogy, and the authority of God’s Word to teach the people. And even His enemies recognized the power of His words. He was by no means incoherent, or illogical, nor did he teach anything that was in conflict with the existing scripture. He did teach things that contradicted the traditions of the Jews, and that is partly what caused the trouble. They hated Him for that.

In the second place, false teachers virtually always have an agenda: They are the “hallelujah hijackers”, and religious charlatans of history, who made grandiose claims and seized honor and/or wealth for themselves, availing themselves of privilege by one means or another. They usually eventually showed their true colors by vile immorality or treachery and violence, too, though there have been exceptions.

Jesus did none of these things: He sought no audience with the kings of the earth, nor with the rulers of the temple. He taught the poor, and healed the sick. When he worked miracles, both his friends and his enemies were conspicuously present. He seldom, if ever, did things in secret.

When he raised the dead (John 11, 12), proving his authority over death and His authority to give life, his enemies were there, as well…and they plotted to kill both Jesus and the man he had raised from the dead. (What insanity! If someone has proven his ability to raise the dead, wouldn’t you want him on your side?)

Jesus simply didn’t act like either a false teacher or a pathological liar. Even his enemies, well-versed in scripture though they were, could not refute his teachings. They could make no real accusation against Him, though they desperately wanted to do so. The Roman Governor, Pilate, could find no fault in Jesus, and said so, publicly. He eventually agreed to have him put to death only because he was afraid of yet another Jewish revolt, for which he could be held responsible.

How Important Was the Resurrection to the Disciples?

Remember that the eleven apostles had all been hiding in a locked upstairs room when Jesus appeared to them, entering the locked room and appearing in their midst. They were terrified that the Jewish leaders and Roman soldiers might not be satisfied to have murdered Jesus: they could decide to mop up His followers as well. That seems a reasonable response, to me. Since their leader claimed to be the Messiah, and they had fixed their hopes on Him, it follows that, when he failed to deliver the kingdom they thought he was to usher in, and was taken without a fight, given a mock trial, a savage beating and a criminal’s execution, they would feel completely devastated and hopeless, besides (possibly) feeling that they had been cruelly duped. They would certainly not feel like “telling people about Jesus”, if they were sure he was dead…and they were sure of that, because they saw it happen, though from a distance.

After He appeared to them (and continued to meet with them and the other 120 disciples and an extended group of 500 followers), they were filled with joy and relief, but were still pretty confused about what Jesus wanted them to do. They actually went back to their old jobs as commercial fishermen, and had to be called away from that error. They were completely convinced of his having been raised from the dead, but…how could they be used by God, as the timid, fearful men they had become?

Jesus’s last words before He ascended into Heaven were that they would be given power (“dunamis”, not “exousia”: ability, not just authority) when they received the Holy Spirit, and that they would be witnesses for him throughout Israel, and to the uttermost parts of the world. And that is just what happened.

Ten days later, at the feast of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples in Jerusalem, and the Church was born. The disciples were no longer in hiding. They were openly preaching, and willingly risked death to complete their assignment, the Great Commission. They had been transformed instantly from a terrified group of very confused men to bold, fearless apostles, whose thoughts were supernaturally clear, to the extent that their enemies were amazed that uneducated men could have such insight and wisdom. Apart from their being absolutely convinced, as eyewitnesses, that their Master was alive forever, and, of course apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit, the transformation simply could not have happened.

How Important Is the Resurrection to Us?

Paul makes this one absolutely clear for us in 1st Corinthians 15:13-19

13But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.”

To summarize: If Jesus is not risen from the dead, then,

  1. All Christian preaching is futile and wrong.
  2. All Christian witnesses are found to be false
  3. All Christian faith is misplaced and hopelessly wrong.
  4. All of us are still condemned in our sins
  5. All the millions who have died in faith, trusting in Jesus as the Christ, are utterly lost.

Paul concludes that, if in this life only we have hope in Christ (and not in an eternally living Messiah), then we are of all humans most pitiable…most wretchedly misled, and most miserably lost. And all of that is completely true IF Jesus is not risen from the Dead.

But we have the authority of God’s Word, as well as the historical testimony of transformed lives, and that of all those who have joyfully faced death, knowing their resurrected Lord. We are witnesses of that fact, as well, because He has also changed our lives. With the prophet Job, we can confidently say, “I know that My Redeemer Lives!”

Those who believe in Him are simply embracing the reality that God has provided one way by which we can have eternal life with Him.

Jesus said, (John 5:24) “He that hears my words and believes on Him who sent me has everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation, but has passed from Death unto Life.” We believe His promise, and are secure in Him.

Because…the truth is:

He Is Risen!


“Federal Headship” Results

Federal Headship: The Result

© C. O. Bishop 11/5/15 THCF 11/15/15

Romans 6:1-10

Introduction:

We talked briefly about the doctrine of Federal Headship in the past, but since this passage is so heavily involved with that particular doctrine, it seemed good to spend more time with it today. If you remember anything of the previous teaching, you will remember that when Adam sinned, we sinned with him…in him. His fall into sin was accounted as our fall into sin. We have very consistently proven the truth of that historical fact, in that all of us continue in sin, to varying degrees. Adam exercised his authority to make a decision on behalf of the whole human race. He became the head of the entire fallen race of Man. We had no real choice, though it is evident that we would have made exactly the same choice as Adam did.

But the other side of the Federal Headship concept is that of Jesus being the head of a new Man. Jesus exercised His authority to make a decision for all of humanity as well. But in this particular case we are given a choice: we can stay in Adam, where we were born, or we can be transferred into Christ via a new birth. Today, the text is speaking to those who have already made the conscious choice to trust in Jesus’ blood sacrifice, and who have been born again as a member of that new Man of whom Jesus is the Head.

We are conscious, too, that Grace came to answer Man’s sin. Paul first poses the question,

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?
God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?

Should we sin more, to get more grace? Absolutely not! It is unfitting for us to remain in sin, as that is no longer where we live! We are dead to sin. This is the opening statement of fact, and upon its truth and exactitude hangs all the rest of the argument.

How can Paul say that we are dead to sin? I certainly don’t feel dead! On the other hand, I don’t think I would have said that I felt “dead to God” before I was a believer. I felt pretty alive, and wouldn’t have even understood the concept of being “dead to God.”

Think back, though: when Adam fell into sin, he died spiritually the moment he ate the fruit of the tree he had been warned against eating. He was separated from fellowship with God. Of course, 930 years later, his spirit was separated from his body, as well, which we call physical death. But right that moment, his spirit was separated from God. Had God not intervened with Grace, and restored fellowship, Adam would have been lost… permanently separated from God. In the same manner, as an unregenerate man, I was separated from God…dead to God. Had I died in that state I would have been lost. That is the simple truth.

But now, being joined to God through Jesus’ sacrifice and by God’s Grace, I am “separated” from sin as a principle…In God’s sight, I have been separated from my old sin nature, as He gave me a new nature in the new birth. It is possible for God to fellowship with me, and it is possible for me to love Him…because I have a new nature.

As far as God is concerned, the old sin-nature is dead. He does not propose to patch it up, correct all its ills, or restore fellowship to it. If we look ahead to Romans 8:7, we can see that the old sin nature is antagonistic toward God, and cannot be made subject to Him…. God says it can’t be done. So, the only way he can redeem a fallen human is to offer them a new birth. The old sin nature had to be set aside. I have not lost my old sin nature, but I am “separate” from it. God wants fellowship with the new me; He does not seek to change the old me; but rather to let it starve as He feeds the new me.

So, how did I die to sin, then?

Baptized into Death

Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?

The baptism to which Paul refers, here, is not water baptism. There is no water in this passage. Water baptism is only an object lesson—a picture, or a demonstration— of something real that has already happened. Water baptism (in the New Testament) is reserved for believers, because it is meant to announce that the baptism of the Holy Spirit has already occurred…that the believer has been placed into the Body of Christ by the Holy Spirit. (1st Corinthians 12:13)

So, Water Baptism announces what has already happened: I have been separated from my old sin nature, because Jesus’ death is reckoned as my death: I died with him, just as I died in Adam, and was lost, I have been crucified with Christ, and my sins have been dealt with at the Cross. I am separated from my old sin nature through that death. When did it happen? The moment I trusted His completed work at the Cross as being sufficient payment for my sins; at that moment, the Holy Spirit placed me into the Body of Christ, though I was completely unaware of it.

But there is more! Paul says that death with Christ is not the only thing I gained there. I also gained eternal life!

Baptized into Life.

Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:

Just as I was fully identified with Adam in his sin and his spiritual death, and, in fact, was born that way, I am now fully identified with Jesus in his death, burial and resurrection, to the extent that God expects me to start living in that reality….because I have been re-born that way. In short, He says that because I have already been re-born a literal child of God, I am to begin acting that way. And his reasoning is very clear: he says that I am dead to sin—separated from it. I have a moment by moment choice to make as to which nature (old or new) will be manifest and prominent in my daily life. I am to “walk in the newness of life.” As I mature in my Christian life, that walk will become more consistent.

When I started Bible school, one of the staff members had two children living there in the school, who I assumed were much older than they really were. The older girl seemed to be in her early twenties, but occasionally acted like a 16-year-old. Her younger brother seemed to be perhaps ten or twelve, but occasionally acted like a five-year-old. I found this very irritating and off-putting until I found that she actually was 16 and he actually was five, but just very large for his age, and both usually seemed fairly mature. But both kids occasionally just acted their age!

Sometimes Christians are under the control of the Holy Spirit, and we are very impressed with the grace in their lives. Occasionally they “act their age”, so to speak, and are behaving like “natural” men. That does not make them a hypocrite—it proves that they have two natures, just like you! We need the constant control and guiding of the Holy Spirit in our lives to have any sort of consistent walk with Him.

The next phrase (verse 5) assures me that since I have been buried with him (in him—this is what Federal Headship implies), then I shall be (future tense) also in the likeness of His resurrection.  From the moment I was born again…from the moment I believed the Gospel, and received Christ as my savior, I have been guaranteed a resurrection, to be with him and like Him forever!

In fact, over in Ephesians 2:6, he states that God has already “raised us up together and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ.” There’s that location clause again. This is positional truth. The only conditions are the ones laid down by Jesus himself: (John 5:24) “He that heareth my words and believeth on Him who sent me…” Those who have heard the Gospel and believed it—placed their full trust in the completed work of Jesus at the Cross, are placed in Christ, and they are safe in Him forever. The identification is so complete that God views it as already done. He will never again see me as a lost sinner, because my old self is separated from me—dead—and the new person (created at the new birth, whether I knew it or not) is free forever from the curse of the Law. What an amazing change!  My old position, in Adam, left me absolutely doomed. My new position, in Christ, leaves me absolutely blessed, and fully accepted by God.

What should the Result be?

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
For he that is dead is freed from sin.

If I know that I am dead to sin, and dead to the Law, what should the result be? I should begin to place my trust in that fact, and not give in to the desires of sin any more. This is not just self-control; it’s recognition that those desires are no longer “mine”—they are the desires of my old sin nature, and, though it still exists within me, it is an “enemy within the gates”, so to speak. I have to be conscious that it is there, recognize its movements and leanings, and defend my heart against them. Fortunately, I am not alone in this battle. I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and He is faithful to warn me, and guide me, so that I can see what to avoid.

Is it easy? Absolutely not…in fact, without the constant empowering and enabling of the Holy Spirit, it is utterly impossible. Unbelievers, through self-control, can appear to be good persons, and do good things, and avoid bad things, etc., but their actions are still controlled by their old sin nature (which, as an unbeliever, is the only one they have.) So, the scripture says, even their “righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6); and so are mine, if I try to “do good things” in my own fleshly power and motives. This is true of the whole human race. I have nothing to offer God except my new nature, and the work the Holy Spirit can do through me. As an unbeliever, even my thoughts and prayers were corrupted by who I was as a sinner. The only prayer of an unbeliever that God commits Himself to answer is the one that confesses Him as Savior, and places faith in His Grace.

Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him:
Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10 For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God.

God has given us a guarantee that we will live with Him eternally; He asks us to start living in that reality today—now. He says that since Jesus can never die again, and can never be tested again, and has once-for-all paid the price for sin, we should take heart from that fact and step forward into the liberty he offers us as well. We can be free from the ravages of sin in our lives!

We do not have to be torn apart by fear, jealousy, pride, anger, and lust. We can be free from the destructive, conflicting desires of our old nature, because we are part of a new creation…we have been separated from our old nature to the extent that we no longer have to obey it. I can freely tell you that though this is completely true, I certainly have not mastered this concept.

Next time we will discuss how that is supposed to work.

Father, lead us into the truth of your Word. Enable us to walk in the newness of life!


What Do We Know About Death?

What Do We Know About Death?

© C. O. Bishop 10/13/15 THCF 10/18/15

Romans 5:12.
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned:

Introduction:

We have already seen our old condition and our old position as lost sinners, separated from God; and we have seen how God saved us. We already have seen that we were once enemies of God by nature: But how did we get that way? How did the world get to be such a mess?

We can see the beauty of the creation in the world around us, but there is a cruel reality hidden in all that beauty: virtually every living thing depends on the death of some other living thing, in order to survive. In fact, with the exception of green plants, which are capable of photosynthesis, thus making food from sunlight and water and mineral nutrients, all living things are utterly dependent upon the death of others to survive; in fact, even those green plants grow better with some dead things under their roots. And there are even carnivorous plants, which, though they can carry out photosynthesis, still consume insects as part of their diet.

Death is simply a stark reality for every living thing. Everything dies. We try to avoid death as long as possible, clinging to life, calling it self-preservation: in fact, every living thing strives for self-preservation, some more vitally than others. There are some plants, which, if cut off, both the root and the upper plant will die—neither can survive without the other, and neither can regenerate the lost part. Others may spring up from the roots, but the upper part, once severed, will die. Still others will aggressively seek to create roots, if they can reach the ground.

Years ago, I was given some willow logs, with which to make violin blocks and linings. A large limb had fallen during a storm, and the homeowners were happy to have me take it away. I didn’t have time to process it immediately, so I cut it into sections a few feet long, and tossed it on the ground, near my shop, expecting to get back to it soon. This was not a pile of green twigs; it was heavy sections of log, perhaps 10-12” in diameter, with rough, thick bark. But a few weeks later I noticed that it looked as though grass was growing all over those logs, so I went to see what it was. Every square inch of the upper half of each log, exposed to air and sun, had sprouted tiny willow leaves, processing sunlight and water. And when I turned the log sections over, the whole underside of each was covered with white roots, reaching for the soil. That is real vitality! The plant was doing its best to survive the twin catastrophes of the storm and my chainsaw.

But, if life is so precious, and if every living thing strives to stay alive, how did death come into the world? And why? Perhaps we need to answer some general questions concerning death, before addressing the specifics:

What is Death?

 

What is Death? (And what is it not?)

We have seen earlier, that spiritual death is the separation of the human spirit from God, and that physical death is the separation of the human spirit from the body. That is a nice, clinical definition, but it doesn’t really answer all the questions surrounding death. Besides, there is a third kind of Death, called “the second death”: it is eternal separation from God in eternal judgment, in the Lake of Fire. We don’t like talking about that, or even thinking about it, but that is separation, too…of the permanent sort. Now, let’s consider what Death is not:

  1. Death is not “cessation of existence.” We tend to see death as the “cessation of life”…and in some sense, that is true…but in reality, the human spirit does not cease to live, any more than the angelic spirits cease to live. They, like we, are created beings, and, like them, we have a beginning point somewhere in time, but no real end…just a destination in eternity. We have a choice about that destination…they did, too. Some chose to rebel, and are eternally separated from God. Everything that was good in them withered away, leaving only the sin. We call them fallen angels, evil spirits, or demons. They were not offered the grace of God, because they sinned while knowing God face to face. We sin ignorantly, never having seen God, and knowing virtually nothing about Him. That does not relieve us from responsibility; it only makes us eligible for God’s Grace, if we choose to accept it. Grace is a gift from God. It cannot be earned, and is never “deserved”. But it can be actively sought, and willingly received.

 

  1. Death is also not “natural”. It was not God’s original intent, nor was it a necessary part of the “cycle of life”, as the popular saying is today. We were created to be with God and like God throughout eternity, in fellowship with Him. Our real nature is eternal…and we can choose to be eternally with God, transformed into His likeness; or we can choose to flee from God, deny His existence, or even to actively, deliberately rebel against Him, maintaining our separation at all cost: and that can become our eternal state—separated from God.

 

  1. Death is not a “friend”. 1st Corinthians 15:26 says Death is the last enemy that God will destroy. But, for us, Death is a powerless enemy: God says “Death has lost its sting.” For believers, Death is “graduation day”…we leave our body and go directly to be with Him. The Grave has no victory over the believer’s life. We do not go down to “dusty death”, as Shakespeare wrote. Death, for us, is a shadow, at worst. Psalm 23 speaks of “walking through the valley of the shadow of death”…Notice: walking (not “falling”) through (not “into”) the valley (not “the pit”) of the shadow (not the “harsh reality”) of death. Death is not a friend, nor is it comfortable, but it has lost its ability to harm the believer.

So: How did Death Begin?

Romans 5:12 is a critical doctrine because it clears up several errors in human thinking:

For one thing, there are folk who believe that there was an earlier creation in scripture, before the one detailed in chapters one and two of Genesis, and that it was destroyed by God. They claim that to be the origin of all the fossils. They use this notion to try to reconcile what they think is scientific evidence with what seems to be scripturally obscure truths. They are saying that there was once a whole world of animals and people that all died before Adam was created, and that world was destroyed, so that the Creation we read about in Genesis 1:1-3 is a “start-over” rather than a real “Beginning”. But, if that were so, then Romans 5:12 is not true. Do you see why?

Romans 5:12 states unequivocally that Death came into the world through the sin of one man…Adam. That one man, a created individual (with no parents, just a Creator), was given the authority to make a decision, in Genesis 2:17—he was told that he must not eat the fruit of a certain tree, and that if he did so, then he would die on that day. He did eat, and he died spiritually that very moment—fellowship between God and Man was broken…Man was spiritually separated from God. Later, his spirit was separated from his body, as well, which is what we call physical death.

I am reasonably certain that he did not understand (nor do we) the incredibly diverse and horrible results that would spring from his decision to disobey. The whole human race was plunged into sin, and Death entered the world, as a part of the curse. Prior to the curse, there was evidently no necessity for death at all.

But, how could all the death that supposedly happened in the destruction of the earlier creation have occurred, if there was no death in the world until Adam’s sin? The two ideas cannot be reconciled. There either was death before Adam, or there was not. There cannot be a world full of dead things, and the fossils of dead things, etc., and never have been any death.

But: if the “old world” that was overthrown in 2nd Peter 2:5 was specifically, and simply, the world before the flood (which is exactly what it says it was), then it all makes sense—and the fossils everywhere are the result of that cataclysm, not a separate, much older creation.

As a race, we are far too anxious to try to “reconcile the Bible” to modern science. Why should we do so at all? Why not do the reverse? Recognize that God is true and every man a liar by nature, then try to reconcile the science to the Bible. The people who study geology and paleontology with that idea in mind consistently discover that the Genesis Flood answers the questions of the Geologic Clock very satisfactorily. People who go with the reverse in mind have already decided the Bible is not true, and are looking for “proof”, so of course, they will find it.

There will always be those who reject the account of the Genesis flood out of hand, but, as a rule, those same individuals consistently reject ALL Biblical truth as fable. Unfortunately, the fact is that a “natural, random-chance, evolutionary, Mother Nature and Father Time” world-view and the Biblical Creation view, with a sovereign God and a fallen Creation are mutually exclusive. They cannot both be true…they could both be false, or the first could be true and the second fable or the first a lie and the second the truth. But they cannot both be true. You have to choose.  It has never been a case of the “geologic clock” lying…it has only been a case of people consistently (and/or deliberately) misreading the “clock.”

Why did Death happen?

One thing we find out in Ephesians 3:10, 11 is that God had a purpose when he began the creation…actually, probably several purposes; but one thing we are told is that the entire “human experiment”, for lack of better term, is specifically intended to demonstrate the manifold Wisdom of God to the angelic hosts, for all eternity, and (Ephesians 2:7), throughout eternity,  to show the riches of God’s Grace to all created beings, in his kindness toward us through Christ.

Perhaps to some folk that won’t mean much, but it did, to me. Knowing that God is using my life to demonstrate His own Wisdom to the angelic beings all over the universe makes all my inept muddlings seem a little more worthwhile. It seems to somehow add some eternal purpose to life.

We see the tragedies in life, and they are very difficult to reconcile with what we know as the Goodness of God. But we are less than toddlers, in terms of comprehension: we have no idea what is really going on in life. The harder things get on this Earth, the more important it becomes to know the God who holds the future, and to not lean to our own understanding, desperately hoping that we can somehow stave off disaster.  God clearly says that disaster is coming. For example, we are commanded to “pray for the peace of Jerusalem”, and yet we are told that at the end, when Jesus returns, Jerusalem will be under siege as never before, and ready to be destroyed, overrun by its enemies.

We are commanded to spread the Good News of the death and burial and resurrection of Christ—the Gospel of salvation through His blood…but we are also told that few will believe it, and that the majority will choose to ignore the message or attack the messengers.

We can see, both scripturally and experientially, that the World, as a whole, is an Enemy of the God who created it. We can see that things have not improved over the ages—that the crucifixion would be just as likely today as it was 2000 years ago.

The coming Judgment is completely just and righteous…as a race, we deserve the coming destruction. As a race, we have emulated the sin of Adam, and followed in the steps of Cain, Esau, and Balaam. And, true to form, sin never affects only the sinner—there are always those who suffer the consequences of our sins, who were not the perpetrators…collateral damage, if you want to call them that. Our children, though guilty of their own sins, will also suffer the results of ours. A drunk driver doesn’t destroy only himself, but people in other cars, or pedestrians, or his own children, who are in his car and are destroyed with him. This is an eternal principle: while no one is punished for someone else’s sin, we are all affected by it.

The fact of the matter is that, spiritually speaking, the whole race was “in Adam” when he chose to sin. We all sinned with him. We didn’t just inherit his sin nature; we fell into sin with him, and have proven it on an individual basis, ever since. “Death passed upon all for that all have sinned.”  Notice that the sentence is past tense: “…for all have sinned….” It does not say (present tense) “for all sin…”, though that is also true. The fact is, we sinned with him. But, what else can we learn from this passage? (There is a good side to this story:)

It was Adam, not Eve!

The other (less important in some ways, but still common and destructive) doctrine unseated by Romans 5:12 is the idea that Eve brought sin into the world: She absolutely did not. Was she involved? She absolutely was. But did she have the authority to make a decision for the whole human race? No! Only Adam had that authority. This passage, along with others, states clearly that Adam’s sin, not Eve’s, brought the destruction we see around us. (So don’t blame women!)

In fact, if we go back and read the record in Genesis 3:1-7, we see that nothing at all happened until Adam ate the fruit. It does not say that Eve sinned, and ran off to cover her nakedness with leaves, and then Adam followed her example. It says that after Adam ate, “then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they saw that they were naked”…etc. Why is this important?

Two Races of Man: “In Adam”, and “In Christ”

Perhaps it is a small point, to some, but Adam became the father of a fallen race—the whole human race. It was strictly his doing that brought about the fall. The theological term for this idea is called the doctrine of “Federal Headship.” Adam is the “Federal Head” of our fallen race. Jesus eventually headed up a new Man. The old Man is fallen: the New Man is not. So those who are born again through Christ are part of that “new Man”. And the new man did not come through the old man, but through the Woman.

The woman was physically separated from man before the fall…and, though she was affected by the fall, and involved in the fall, the “Seed of Woman” (from Genesis 3:15) was to be the Savior of the World. I don’t know whether that connection is theologically important, but it is there, and it seems worth pointing out. Jesus, as the only human without a human father—truly virgin-born—is the “Seed of Woman”, in the fullest sense.

In 1st Corinthians 15:22, the distinction between the two races is made clear: “all in Adam died…all in Christ shall be made alive.” The issue of position—location—is before us again. There are two possible positions for a human: to be still “in Adam”, where they were born, or, having been born again (also called “born from above”), to be “in Christ”. If they are in Adam, they are still dead in their sins, and separated from God: if they have been born again as a child of God, they are “in Christ” and alive forever. That is a pretty sharp separation, there! It is literally the difference between life and death.

What about You?

If you have chosen Jesus as the blood-sacrifice for your personal sin, and placed your faith in His finished work at the Cross, then you are “in Christ”. The facts of Romans 5:12, though completely true in you, have also been set aside forever. God has imputed to you the righteousness of Christ, you are sealed in Him, and you will spend eternity with Him.

If you have doubts about where you stand with God, please speak to anyone here in the church. The Scripture is abundantly clear: you do not have to wait until you die to find out whether you have eternal life: You can know today.

Jesus said, “He that hears my Word, and Believes on Him who sent me, HAS everlasting life!” You can choose to place your trust in His blood this moment, and know that you have eternal life, because He promises that it is so.

Please choose life!

Lord Jesus, give us Your Grace for salvation; Your Grace for living; and Your Grace for day by day Service: for the sake of your Glory. Amen


The Power of the Gospel

The Power of the Gospel

© C. O. Bishop 7/23/15 THCF 7/26/15

Romans 1:16, 17

Introduction:

When I meditate on the two verses of Scripture we are about to read, and consider their meaning, I try to think them through one word at a time: I …am not…I am not ashamed. I am not ashamed of the Gospel. I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ…and so forth. Every word needs to be considered:

In the very first words, I have to ask: is this true of me? Or is it just a letter from Paul? Can I say this with Paul? I count on the rest of the passage as being true for me; how about the first phrase?

Ultimately, these two verses introduce the topic and theme of the entire book. This Gospel of Christ is precisely what (and who) the letter to the Romans is about. In verse 16, Paul begins to lay out the facts about the Gospel. He first states that he is not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, because it is the Power of God unto Salvation to everyone who believes it, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile.

Let’s break that into bite-size chunks:

  1. I am not ashamed
  2. Of the Gospel of Christ,
  3. Because it is :
    1. The Power of God unto Salvation
      1. To those who believe it
        1. Jews first
        2. Also the Gentiles.

Am I Ashamed?

Perhaps I should save the “personal questions” for last, but Paul addressed it up front, so I think I need to do so, as well: Am I ashamed of the Gospel? Does it embarrass me to tell another person about Jesus? Do I really believe it is what God wants? And, is it important enough to me, personally, that I will take the implicit risk, and at least give others the opportunity to personally reject the Lord, instead of just going along with a whole society that mocks Him? Better yet, am I anxious to give them a chance to change direction before it is too late?

If the truth is that I am uneasy about explaining to a friend or acquaintance how they can have eternal life, perhaps I need to ask myself why: Do I really understand the Gospel myself? And, do I really believe it, myself? Do I really understand and believe that I was on death row for years, with nothing to look forward to except eternal judgment, and not even the sense to know it was coming? Do I really believe that the Holy God whose Law I deliberately broke, deliberately took my deserved judgment on himself, being executed in my place, by people just like me? Do I really believe that the God who created the people who sinned, and the tree of which the cross was made, and the iron from which the nails were forged…allowed those sinners to nail him to the cross specifically to provide salvation for the very sinners who called for His death? If I really understand that and believe it, then I need to see how vitally important it is that they hear that message. And that He has entrusted that job to me. Why was Paul not ashamed? Because of all that we just mentioned and one more thing: It is the Power of God unto salvation.

The Gospel …of Christ

Paul doesn’t give much detail here—he feeds us the facts in order, and in bite-sized pieces. But the first thing of which we should take note is that it is not just any “Gospel” or “good news”, but specifically the Gospel of Christ: the good news about Jesus.

I am going to jump over to another passage, to compare references: 1st Corinthians 15:3, 4 tells me the bare-bones facts of that good news. There, Paul said “I delivered unto you as of first importance what was delivered to me:

  1. That Christ died for our sins in agreement with the Scriptures (fulfilling Prophecy)
  2. He was buried (also according to the prophecy)
  3. And that he was raised again the third day (still fulfilling prophecy).

Why am I underscoring the fact that Jesus fulfilled prophecy at every step of the way? Because the fact that God can accurately tell the future, (he who tells the end from the beginning) is the pedigree of God’s word and His authority and His reliability.

That little outline Paul gave is the core of the Gospel: it assumes the bad news is understood—we need a savior because…we are lost sinners. Paul is about to give us all the bad news we can stand…and more, probably; but he is stating the good news first: Jesus saves! And the Gospel is how He does it!

On several occasions I have heard a preacher say that he was going to “really give them the Gospel!”, and then I listened very carefully, and was dismayed to find that they not only failed to “really give ‘em the Gospel”, but they did not even mention any portion of it.

  • No mention of the Holiness of God,
  • No personal guilt for sin,
  • No coming judgment,
  • No need for a personal Savior,
  • No Cross,
  • No Grave,
  • No Resurrection!

What Gospel? It was certainly not the Gospel of Christ!

When I share with someone, I try to remember to explain all three points of the good news, as well as at least the core of the bad news…We need a Savior because we are Lost! And, quite honestly, sometimes I look back and realize that I left out one or more points of the Good News, and maybe all the “Bad News.”

I need to bear in mind that the message we are called to carry is specifically the Gospel of Christ; not “an enhanced life”, “great inner peace”, or any of the other social gospel “motivators” we try to share with others. If I am not telling people the bad news of coming judgment for personal sin, and the specific points of God’s power to save through Christ, then I am not “giving them the Gospel”. And I may even be causing such confusion that they will be driven away from Christ. It is a very simple message: I need to learn it, memorize it, and simply recite it if necessary…explain it if I am allowed to do so.

The Power of God:

Why would Paul say that the Gospel is the “Power of God unto Salvation”?  How can that be? Why can’t He just “reach out and save people”? In Genesis 18:14, God even poses the rhetorical question “Is anything too hard for Me? (The implied answer being “No!”)

So what is the limiting factor, here? Is it our sin? Nope! There is no sin too bad for God to overcome and forgive, and heal. The limiting factor is the Righteousness of God, himself, which demands Judgment for sin; and the Holiness of God which says that God cannot compromise Himself. He cannot “wink” and look the other way. He is Holy! He cannot have partnership—fellowship—with Sin at any level. So, how can the Gospel give Him the power to reach past His own Holiness and Righteousness, and save a lost Sinner? Why is it called “the Power of God unto Salvation?”

The Greek word here is dunamis—it is the “can-do” power of God: God’s ability to accomplish a task. We use that word as the root-word for “dynamic”, “dynamo”, and other words regarding “power to accomplish something.” But there is another word, too, that is also frequently translated “power”; it is the Greek word exousia. Exousia is the authority to do something. When Jesus said “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth…”, He used the word “exousia”—all authority is given unto him in heaven and earth. (Matthew 28:18-20) So what did he say on the basis of that authority? “Bow down and worship me? Bring me all your money? Go attack my enemies?”

Nope, He said “Go ye therefore (because I have all authority in Heaven and in Earth) and teach all nations…” He used his infinite authority to tell us to take his “ability to save” (the Gospel) to the whole human race. Did you know that the Gospel of Christ is the only thing described in the Bible as being “the power of God to save” those who believe it? That is what Paul says, right here. He does not say it is “a” power of God, but the Power of God. This is it! This is Plan A, and… there is no Plan B.

To Save Those Who Believe:

It is interesting, too, that God did not direct his offer to those who could do something for Him, or who would swear loyalty to his cause, or who were specially deserving, or some such thing: He offered it to anyone who would take his offer…those who will take Him at His Word. When people asked Jesus (John 6:28, 29) “what must we do to work the work of God?” he said “this is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” Again, this is it! This is Plan A—and there is no Plan B!

So what does that plan entail? Jesus promised (John 5:24)”He that hears My Word, and believes on Him that sent me, has everlasting life (Now! Not “someday when you die!”), and shall not come into condemnation (Ever!) but has passed over (Permanently!) from death into Life!” No works are involved. In another passage (Ephesians 2:8, 9) He says we are saved by Grace, through Faith. Grace means it cannot be earned…at all. If you think you have earned it, it isn’t Grace and it isn’t from God.

“Faith” means being persuaded… believing… trusting. When you make the decision to believe the “Good News” regarding Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection, and you trust His blood as full payment for your sins, then according to His promise, you are eternally saved from that moment forward. That is the Power of God to Save! And it is only effective for those who believe.

To the Jews First?

Well, what’s that about? I thought we were all equal in Christ! Well, we are… but, in fairness to those who had already waited for 1500 years to receive the promise of the Messiah, it was offered to the Jews first, wherever Paul went. He first located the local Synagogue, and he sat down with the elders, sharing with them from the Old Testament the prophecies they already knew, then showing how Jesus completely fulfilled all of them, including the death and burial and resurrection, as promised in the Prophets and writings. When they rejected the fulfilled promise (as they did for the most part), Paul immediately moved to the Gentiles and shared the same message with them.

As a rule, though, some of the Jews responded in faith, and some Gentiles did as well, collectively forming the nucleus of the infant local church. He spent as much time as he could with them, teaching and preaching. In some cases the local resistance was so violent that he had to leave before his presence became dangerous to the believers. (Thessalonica is a prime example—Acts 17:1-10) But that is how the local churches were founded, in virtually every case: Jews first, then Gentiles. It was the only fair way to approach the issue, at the time. And as a matter of practicality, the Jews who believed had already mastered the scriptures to some extent, and could rapidly grow, as believers, to a level of maturity enabling them to function as leaders and shepherds to the poor, ignorant Gentile believers. This was an ideal “soil” into which to plant the “seed” of the Gospel. To be sure, most of the Jews were hardened against the truth. But those who actually believed, and received the truth, immediately took hold and began to grow. So the Good News came “to the Jew First, and also to the Greeks.” He wasn’t holding out on the Gentiles. He was only doing things in proper order.

The Righteousness of God Revealed “From faith to faith

Further, Paul states that the Righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel. Our understanding of his righteousness begins as we place our faith in his character, but our understanding continues to grow as our faith grows. He says that the righteousness of God is revealed in the Gospel from faith to faith…as our faith increases, so will our recognition of and our understanding of His righteousness.

Conclusion

Paul sums up the concept by stating that “The just shall live by faith.” This is actually a quote from Habakkuk 2:4, in the context of judgment coming on Israel, and stating that the righteous people would “live” (that is, survive) on the basis of faith. And, in truth, that is an eternal reality. Habakkuk was facing the physical destruction of Jerusalem and Judah. Those who believed God (and were thereby declared “just” or “righteous” by God) would physically survive (though not necessarily thrive…it was rough all the way around!)

Throughout the history of the Human race, it has been the same: the whole human race having died with Adam, those who believed God, survived the Fall of Man, and rejoined fellowship with God. Those who did not, since they were already dead in Adam, simply passed into a Christless Eternity and were lost. And that is what happens today as well.

Before I was a believer, I was already dead in Adam…already condemned, because I had not believed in Jesus. I was on “death row”, awaiting execution. Jesus had already taken my punishment at the Cross, but I was 18 years old before I placed my trust in His finished Work. Now I am safe in Him. I no longer face God’s Judgment. I already have eternal life. So I now have something truly precious to share with others, and a responsibility to do so.

If they refuse to hear, I am not accountable for their rejection, unless I caused it by my sin. But I am truly a debtor to all around me. I owe them the Gospel, and I owe it to Jesus to pay that debt.

There is no other way…this is plan A, and there is no plan B. And God says He will save all those who believe. We have to try, folks! This is all we can do.

God help us to be the faithful witnesses you have called us to be, praying for the lost, loving one another, loving the lost, and sharing with them in the power of the Holy Spirit!

Amen!


Curse, or Promise?

The Curse of the Law, or the Promise of the Spirit?

© C. O. Bishop 1/22/15 THCF 2/1/15

Galatians 3:10-14; John 14:16, Ephesians 1:13, 14, etc.

Introduction:

We recently saw how Paul challenged the thinking of the Galatian believers: he asked them if what had been begun by the Holy Spirit, through faith, was now to be improved upon by human effort. His conclusion was that faith alone was the response God wanted to his Grace, and that by faith alone He had saved everyone in history who had ever been redeemed.

He used Abraham as the prime example, partly because Abraham was the ultimate patriarch of the Jews, to whom they all referred as their forefather; and partly because he is also the one regarding whom God said, “Abraham believed God and God counted it to him as righteousness.”

Paul concluded that if you want to be received on the same basis as Abraham, and truly be “his children”, then you need to respond to God as Abraham did: by faith. He demonstrates that this is how God’s promise to Abraham of an uncountable progeny would be fulfilled…through people of every nation believing the Gospel. Now he is ready to actively, sharply contrast law and faith, and thus, also, to contrast Law and Grace.

The Curse of the Law

10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

Wow! That is a pretty harsh thing to say! Virtually every reference to the Law in the Old Testament tells how wonderful it is! Psalm 119 spends 176 verses extolling the virtues of God’s Law, his Word, his Statutes, his precepts, his commandments, etc. How can Paul say that it is a curse?

Why would he say such a thing? Because it is the simple truth! The passage he quotes is Deuteronomy 27:26, and is the culmination of a dozen consecutive verses of specific curses on those who fail to obey God’s Law. The fact is that God’s Law is perfect, and has the capacity to cleanse the hearts of those who willingly subject themselves to it, but only when God has already purged their sins by way of His chosen blood sacrifice. The Law does not cleanse by obedience, but via the blood sacrifice for disobedience!

The reason Abel was accepted by God was because he recognized his own unacceptability and brought a blood sacrifice as a substitute for his own life. God accepted him on the basis of that blood sacrifice. He rejected Cain’s non-blood sacrifice, because a non-blood sacrifice demonstrates that the giver is already purged from the guilt of sin, and is free to worship. Cain chose to bypass that blood, and bring worship without atonement.

Abel could (and undoubtedly would) later have brought other offerings as worship offerings…but he first brought the blood as required by God. We are not told what he did later, beyond the fact that he was accepted by God, and later murdered by his elder brother.

In Hebrews 9:22 we see that “without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” So the way people were saved under the Law was to recognize their own condemned state, and, by faith, to bring the required blood sacrifice. We do the same thing: we hear of God’s righteous judgment, and are convinced of our own guilt. We throw ourselves on the mercy of God, through the shed blood of Jesus, and depend on that blood sacrifice as our only hope for salvation. God receives us as he did Abel, and we are declared righteous through faith, as was Abraham. Then we are free to come to Him in worship.

11 But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

Here we go again: the verse he is quoting is Habakkuk 2:4…and, by the way, he was not using that phrase lightly, as we sometimes do, saying, “Oh, they’ll just live by faith”. In Habakkuk, the idea was that the righteous ones would survive by their faith. He was predicting the destruction of the nation of Judah, under Babylon. He clearly stated that the righteous would “live”—as opposed to dying in the siege—“by his faith”. God knows our hearts—he knows who believes His Word. And their faith was the deciding factor as to whether they would live or die.

12 And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

The Law was strictly obedience: the sacrifices were Grace, by which God saved the disobedient sinners who confessed that they could not fully obey: That sacrificial animal died as a substitute for the guilty sinner. If a person wants to live by the Law, he/she must hear what Paul is saying: Law requires 100%, flawless, unfailing obedience. And no one but Jesus ever came close. So, without the Grace of God, the Law is strictly a curse.

The various cults who teach people to obey various segments of Law as a means to Godliness are ignoring this fundamental principal: if you choose Law over Grace, you are a debtor to obey the whole law—not just the parts that appeal to you. Sabbath and diet are not the whole law…sorry. And even those who think they keep the Ten Commandments are usually ignoring the last one—a matter of the heart. Covetousness is not something we do with our bodies but with our minds.

By the way, the two greatest commandments, according to Jesus(Mark 12:29-31), are not even in the Ten Commandments: He says that “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thy heart and soul and mind”, and “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” are most important. The first one has to do with being committed to God above all things, and the second has to do with being as committed to your neighbor’s well-being as much as you are your own. Those two concepts don’t even come up on the horizon of people advocating salvation by works. Their concerns are primarily outward…God’s concerns are primarily inward!

Redeemed!

13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us (who is “us”?): for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we (who is “we”?) might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Redeemed means “bought back”: we have been bought back out of the marketplace of sin, for the purpose of being set free. Remember that the Gentiles had never been under the Mosaic Law (just as Abraham was never under the Law.) So the “us”, here, is primarily in reference to the Jews. The Law came after the promise, and confined the Jews to certain behavior. It showed them that, apart from God’s grace, they were lost. They brought the blood sacrifices; daily in some cases, and many times per year, at best. They could not be done with sacrifices for sin, because they kept on sinning. And, if Gentiles wanted to approach God through the temple in Jerusalem (remember, Abraham never saw the temple), then they had to subject themselves to that same Law. And, effectively, they were then under the same curse.

Jesus’ sacrifice made a complete and permanent solution to sin, and made it possible for Gentiles to approach the throne of Grace apart from the Law. Prior to that, though all through the Old Testament there were examples of Gentiles being saved by faith, if a Gentile wanted to enter into the covenant of Israel, he had to become a Jew, ritually, and by adherence to the Law. But remember: he could never become genetically Jewish!

A child of God can rightly claim God as his/her real father. The Apostle John states (1st John 3:9) that “his seed remains in you”. You are not just placed into his family, you are born into it. That’s what Jesus meant when He said “You must be born again.” Nicodemus, whom he addressed, was the consummate Jew—a child of Abraham by physical birth; a zealous, diligent adherent to the Law. But he had to be born again as a child of God, just like you and me.

Notice, here, that Paul has again pointed out the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death: He became a curse for us. He died in our place. 2nd Corinthians 5:21 states that “he became sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” He, who knew no sin, did not become a sinner—he became sin for us. He became a curse, and had the righteous wrath of God—all of it—poured out upon himself.

The passage Paul quotes is from Deuteronomy 21:22, 23; if a criminal was executed by stoning, and his body was hung up on a tree (or “timber, wood, or gallows” as the Hebrew word “ets” can be translated), as a lesson, a warning against further evildoing; then they were to take his body down before dark…hanging up the body was a statement that the man had been cursed by God. It had to be taken down by dark, so that the land would not be defiled. I don’t know if this was the physical defilement of a rotting corpse, or some sort of spiritual defilement. Either way, in Hebrew history, the executions were typically by stoning. The hanging up on a tree was a statement of their national rejection of sin. In Jesus’ case, he was executed by the Romans, at the urging of the Jewish priesthood. They were not allowed to execute criminals, under Roman law, so they incited the Romans to do their work for them. Crucifixion was a Roman invention.

That We might receive the Promise of the Spirit

The first-person plural “we” as used in these few verses seems to be primarily in reference to the Jews, who had been in bondage to the Law, and who were now set free by faith. The “we” in verse 14, the last half, includes all believers. All believers receive the promise of the Spirit through Faith alone. The Jews had known of the Promise of the Spirit for many years…say, 500 years at least. They had waited to receive the Promise, but they only connected it with the coming kingdom, and did not imagine that they themselves would be the recipients, in their lifetime. Further, though they knew that the Gentiles were promised to be “the inheritance” of the Messiah, and that God’s blessing would eventually come upon the Gentiles, they had not imagined it would come now, by faith alone; not by the Law.

The promise that Paul and Peter both mentioned is in Joel 2:28, 29, and refers to a time after the Lord’s physical return, and His restoration of Israel. The Jews knew this was coming. That promise is still awaiting the Messiah’s reign on Earth: it is a gift to the national and ethnic Jews. The whole nation of Israel, after the return of Christ, during the Kingdom age, will be indwelt by the Holy Spirit. There will be no need for evangelism anywhere on earth, because God says that “the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.”

But for right now; the promise of God during the Church Age is that believers, whether Jew or Gentile, will be permanently indwelt by the Holy Spirit. In fact, in Romans 8:9, Paul states that if you do not have the Spirit, you are not saved. That is pretty strong stuff!

Here in chapter three, Paul has pointed out that as they had received the Spirit by faith, it made no sense to hope to “improve” God’s work by human efforts.

So, how can we avoid Legalism? And how can we appropriate the promise of the Spirit?

When anything or anyone says, “Do this, or else!” I look carefully at the commands associated with it: Are they, in fact, directed at the church? Not every command in the Bible is to the church, proper, and not all of them are applicable under all circumstances. I like to use the rather ridiculous rhetorical question: “When Jesus said, ‘What thou doest, do quickly’ does it mean I should always be in a hurry?” Of course, we realize that he only said that to Judas Iscariot, telling him, “Now that you have made your decision to betray me, get moving! Do it!” It has no bearing at all on anything I do, but it was a command from Jesus. It just wasn’t directed to me. So, since the heart of the scripture says that I have been justified (declared righteous) by Grace through Faith, and that God is at peace with me, and that I should have no further fear of condemnation, I should be very suspicious when someone says “If you do not conform to this norm, you cannot know God!”

Review in your mind how Jesus said you could be saved: “He that hears my words, and believes on Him who sent me has everlasting life…” He didn’t add anything to those two conditions. Neither did any of the Apostles. But: Is obedience necessary to a life of fellowship?

Ah! That is another matter! (1st John 1:7, 9) God says “If we walk in the Light (that’s obedience) as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another; and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.” If we sin, he says confess it to restore fellowship—then obey and maintain fellowship. And, the commands he says to obey are to love; “Love God; Love one another”…pretty basic stuff.  Even the Old Testament (Micah 6:8) says “He has shown thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee but to do justice, to love Mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”  That is fairly simple. It is difficult to consistently do, but, as a concept, it is simple.

In Galatians 5:16 a promise is made: “If you walk in the Spirit, you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh.” There is a lot of explanatory material offered, as well, which we will explore another day. We know that God’s Word tells us how God sees things: what His perspective is. He just wants us to see things His way, and walk with Him. Amos 3:3 poses the question, “Can two walk together except they be agreed?” It is a rhetorical question, with the implied answer being, “No!” That is why 1st John 1:7 says, “Walk in the light as He is in the Light”.

Learn to see the World, Righteousness and Sin from God’s point of view, by studying His Word, by prayer, and by meditation on his Word. Learn to literally walk with Him. It is just “day-by-day plodding along”—it is faithfulness—nothing flashy about it, nothing “glorious” from the World’s point of view. But God is building something glorious. We need to trust Him, and walk with Him, and allow him to continue his work.

Let’s learn to walk by faith, embracing the Promise of the Spirit, and avoiding the Curse of legalism. Let us not try to apply Law to ourselves nor to one another, but embrace the Grace of God as a principle for living. Apply His Grace to those around you: especially to those you find irritating, frustrating, or unpleasant: they need it the most. Apply it to yourself: believe God’s promise: the Holy Spirit will stay with you, guarding your heart until the day He comes for you.

Lord Jesus; fill us with your Love, and allow us to learn your Grace. Help us to avoid the trap of legalism, either as applied to ourselves or as applied to our brothers and sisters. Teach us to walk with you by faith. Amen!


Introduction to the Galatian Epistle

An Introduction to the Galatian Epistle

© C. O. Bishop 2014 (THCF 8/31/14)

Galatians 1:1-5

Introduction:

The letter to the Galatians is dated around 60 AD, and was possibly written from Rome (according to the Greek end-note text which may or may not actually be part of the Scripture). There seems to be a good deal of disagreement amongst scholars about where Paul was when he wrote this epistle. Some say Corinth, some Ephesus, and some Antioch. In a way, I really don’t think it matters where he was: the recipients knew it was from Paul, and they undoubtedly knew where he was at the time. One thing special about this epistle is that he personally wrote it, as opposed to having another person act as his scribe, which was his usual practice. (We will see the evidence for that in the last chapter.)

Another thing unusual about this epistle is that it was to several churches as a group; it was not addressed to a single church and then to be passed around. The recipients were the believers across the region of Galatia, a portion of what we now call Asia Minor.  They were distinguished not only by where they lived but from whence their ancestors had come. (Schofield points out that they were relatively recent immigrants from Gaul.) Also, it was a political domain; a region determined by the Roman Empire, to which all the Mediterranean area belonged. So: unlike some of the epistles which were to one church in a particular city, this was to all the churches in the region, or province, of Galatia.

Paul had heard that these believers had been targeted by false teachers who were rapidly convincing them that unless they kept the Mosaic Law, they could not be saved. This doctrine actually had begun almost immediately; as soon as the true doctrine of Grace had been preached, the legalizers were right behind it, trying to negate the work of Grace. We saw that in the Book of Acts, but people are still doing this today. Perhaps such people think they are doing something for God, but the results are terrible. The tendency of the human heart is to desire to believe that “I can save myself!” or at least, that “I can do something to earn God’s favor”. And the result is that we invariably replace Grace with works. Why? Because Grace is specifically “un-earned favor”—unmerited favor: if it is earned, it is no longer Grace: the two concepts are mutually exclusive.

Consider, too, that false teachers, whether they know it or not, are partnering with the Enemy, in trying to prevent the salvation of souls. Some may genuinely think they are helping the cause of God, but Paul makes it clear that they are definitely not helping, but rather thwarting God’s plan.

One of our deacons was present when his (then) employer (a now-deceased member of this church) graciously attempted to share the Grace of God through Christ with a client (just what Galatians teaches). The client was quite wealthy, and a member of a religious sect that favors legalism over grace. When offered God’s Grace, the client answered “I don’t need that!” He pointed to a beautiful church building in the distance: “Do you see that church? I built it! My name is on it! I don’t need a savior: my position with God is secured by my works!” He was completely serious in what he was saying. It is especially sad to hear such a thing, as that man has since died, and met his maker: Did he meet his savior, or his judge? I suppose that it is possible that he had changed his mind before he died, but my guess would be that he had not. From human perspective, he may have seemed a good man: but from God’s perspective he was a lost and guilty sinner, trying to bribe the Judge. (How does that work out in our courts?)

So the temptation of legalism is not really that it adds to Grace, but that it supplants it. There are always some who hedge a little, and maintain, “Well, we are saved by Grace, but we are kept (and sanctified) by works!” This doctrine still sets aside God’s Grace, in that the Holy Spirit, indwelling the believer, is the only one who makes us holy before God (that’s sanctification), and the one who keeps us, actually sealing us in Christ until He, himself, comes to retrieve us.

The simple fact remains that if at any point my salvation or my sanctification is dependent upon my works, then ultimately both are entirely dependent upon my works, as the works are unquestionably the “weak link” in that chain.

These are the two errors Paul was writing to correct, but he had other things to teach the churches, as well. He revealed things, here, about his personal testimony that we do not find elsewhere. He let us know how he himself received the Gospel. He gave the believers instructions as to how to walk with God.

Galatians Chapter 1, verses 1-5

1 Paul, an apostle, (not of men, neither by man, but by Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead;)

Paul clearly states his credentials in the opening verse, and then goes on to substantiate them later on. To begin with, he says that he is an apostle. The word “apostle” means “sent one”…a person sent as an ambassador, a representative, and a messenger. So he is sent by someone and is representing someone…not even necessarily the same one. An ambassador is usually appointed, not elected, so that ambassador may be representing a nation, none of whose citizens ever personally approved his appointment, or possibly even have heard of him. (Who is the United States ambassador to Peru right now? Or to France? The fact is, they are representing your government, but you don’t know who they are, let alone having elected them, chosen them or sent them.)

But Paul said that he is not an apostle of men…not representing any humans, as an ambassador. He also says that he is not sent by man. No human sent him. He says that he was sent by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him (Jesus) from the dead. He is an ambassador of Christ. He has stated his credentials—he is divinely chosen, divinely appointed, and divinely sent. He will tell us more later on.

2 And all the brethren which are with me, unto the churches of Galatia:

Paul continues his formal greeting in the same general format he always uses (“Paul [and whoever else] to [whomever is receiving the letter]”). This was a pretty standard salutation in letter-writing at that time, though it may seem odd to us. We have other examples of letters in the Bible, written at about the same time and in similar location, and they all follow a similar style.

Paul has already listed himself as the speaker, and now he lumps the rest of the people with him into one group greeting the recipients: “all the brethren which are with me”.  We don’t know the names of the brethren who were with Paul at that time. Paul was not being personal here; he was being polite. But who is the letter to? This epistle is slightly unusual as it is clearly directed to all the churches in a general area, rather than a single church. We will also notice that in the closing, in chapter six; rather than passing along greetings to individuals as he frequently did, it is entirely impersonal, beyond the fact that he addresses them all as his “brethren”, thus recognizing that they are born-again individuals.

It may or may not be important to remember that the churches were each autonomous…self-supporting and self governing: he did not address himself to the “Abbot of Galatia”, or the “Archbishop of Galatia”, but to the Churches, plural. There was no central authority over a group of churches. Jesus is the head of the Church, period! And the Church universal is made up of all the believers from all the local assemblies in history.

Furthermore, we discover in other passages that when he gave the assignment to Timothy and Titus to “build up” the churches and “set things in order”, he said to “ordain elders (plural) in every church (singular)”. So all the churches to which Paul was writing had multiple leaders, and he did not address this letter to any of them. He addressed it to the churches: the assembled believers. The elders and deacons were simply part of those churches. There was no special hierarchy whereby the leaders got special attention from apostles. To put it bluntly; if you are a born-again believer, today, then this letter is to YOU. Take it personally!

Grace and Peace

3 Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ,

Even though, in every case, the people he was writing to were already believers, Paul always listed these blessings in this same order… in every case it is Grace, then Peace. That is the order in which we receive those two. In Salvation, we receive God’s Grace (which was extended to us in the person of Christ) through faith, and, as a result, we are permanently at peace with God. (Romans 5:1, Ephesians 2:8, 9) This is a positional truth: Once you have placed your faith in him for salvation, the Grace of God is permanently and unconditionally applied to your life, and you have Peace with God, forever. Believe it!

As believers, we place our trust in Christ daily for wisdom, guidance and sustenance…or we don’t. He sustains us daily by His Grace, and we have the peace of God…or we don’t: the choice, daily, moment by moment, is our own. (Philippians 4:6-9) Those two are intertwined, but the order is always “Grace then Faith, resulting in Peace”. In the believer’s daily life, they are always conditional upon continuing faith and obedience. The Peace of God is Conditional.

We will soon focus on the second aspect of Grace, but it may be good to remember at this point that, while the Law came through Moses (John 1:17), Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. And Peace always follows Grace. So how would the recipients of the Law have found Peace? They could only find Peace through Grace, even in the time of Moses. Noah, roughly 1500 years before Moses, found Grace in the eyes of God. That is where his peace came from. The Law had not been given…but Grace had preceded the Law. And it has been the only path to God ever since the Fall of Man.

Adam lived long before either Noah or Moses was born: long before the giving of the Mosaic Law. The only Law he had known was the one command not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (“In the day that thou eat it, thou shalt surely die.”) He broke that one command, and plunged himself and all his progeny into ruin. Spiritually, he died on the spot. God says in Revelation 13:8 that the preparation had already been made for the salvation of the Human Race: Jesus is the Lamb slain from the Foundation of the Earth…not from the Fall of Man.  So how was Adam saved?

Genesis 3:7-20 God responded to the Sin of the human race with the Curse—it affected the snake, proper (no more legs, no more nice food; permanent enmity between snakes and people…as a rule) it affected Satan the “Old Serpent” in a way a little harder to see, but you will notice that the Promise of the “Seed of Woman”, coming to crush the Serpent’s head, is not directed to the offspring of the snake, but to the Serpent, proper. (“He will crush YOUR head!”) It affected the woman, causing pain in childbirth AND an ongoing struggle between the woman and the man…the “desire” mentioned here is not an affectionate or a passionate desire, but a desire to control…and it has had a permanent affect on history. The Curse affected the Ground, for Adam’s sake; it would no longer easily bear fruit for the human race. And, finally, it affected Adam along with the whole creation; death had come, and all things were now destined to die.

Adam could have just collapsed in the glare of God’s wrath, and died without hope…but he saw hope in the wording of the Curse, and he believed God. He named his wife “Eve” (mother of all the living) because he believed in the Coming Savior—the Seed of Woman! That is faith! In fact, it was specifically saving faith. God recognized it and covered their sins with a blood sacrifice. He killed animals in place of the humans, and clothed them with the skins of the dead sacrifice.

Abel understood the family history correctly, and he brought a blood sacrifice. So have all the believers in history. Those of the Old Testament were all looking forward to a coming Savior, ultimately looking forward to the Cross, though probably (mostly) they did not really understand what was to come. We believers in the New Testament era are looking back to the Cross, and our blood sacrifice, like theirs, is the Person of Christ. My opinion is that we probably don’t completely understand what happened at the Cross, either—but we believe God, and trust in the shed Blood of the Savior. He extended His Grace through the Cross—and that is the only way He has ever done it. We humans have always been saved by Grace, through Faith, plus nothing.

So what about Jesus’ death at the Cross?

What really did happen there? What was accomplished? What was the intent?

4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

We know that He died for our sins, and we frequently act as though it was just to save us from the eternal consequences of our sins…but here he says that he died for us that he might deliver us from this present evil world (or age)…and that this, in fact, is the will of God, our Heavenly Father. If that is so, then in order to fulfill God’s will in our lives we should see the grip of this World loosening its hold upon us; and our lives more and more reflecting the Person of Christ.

If all Jesus has managed to do in your life is to save you from Hell, then God’s Will is not being carried out in your life. I’m not being critical…this is what God says about the crucifixion.

Have you been born again? If so, are you also being delivered from the grip of the World on your life, your thoughts, and your morals? There are three aspects of salvation:

  1. The first aspect, we already mentioned…we have been saved (past tense) from the eternal penalty of sin. God will never again seek to administer judgment for our sins, as His justice was fully poured out at the Cross.
  2. The second aspect doesn’t get talked about as much, but it is just as real, and here, remember, he clearly states that it is the will of God, who has already saved us and made us his children: He wants us to be saved (present tense) from the power of sin in our lives—to be delivered from the present effect of Satan, the World, and our old sin natures. That is why we need constant direction from the Holy Spirit, constant feeding on God’s Word, and constant shepherding by Christ himself.
  3. The third is the one we are all looking forward to: He will eventually (future tense) save us from the presence of sin, so that we are no longer tormented, and will finally live in the full reality of the holiness that he has placed upon us.

Conclusion:

I can see all three tenses of salvation listed in John 5:24 “Whoever hears my words and believes in Him who sent me has (present tense) eternal life, and shall not (future tense) come into condemnation, but has crossed over (past tense…perfect tense, specifically) from death into life.”  (Perfect tense implies a completed action at a past point in time, having permanent results for the future.)

If I have believed in Jesus’ shed blood as full payment for my sin, then I have eternally been saved from the penalty of sin. I have crossed over from death into life. The result for my future is that I will never be condemned by God. Please notice carefully that there are no “qualifiers” listed here: nothing that says “unless, or except”, or anything of the kind. I have eternal life, and God expects me to be living as one resurrected from the dead. He says this “is the will of God and our Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen”

5 To whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

You know, given the facts he has just alluded to, and which we have discussed a little more directly, it seems impossible that anyone would not want to give Glory to God for the things he has done. He has poured out his Grace, unearned, and undeserved, upon us. Though we continually rebel against His Grace and His righteousness, He continues to Keep us, and cleanse us, and use us for His Glory. We can either honor Him with our lives, day by day, or fail to do so.

Keep that in mind when you sing hymns of Praise…He is worthy of every bit we can offer, and far, far more. (Amen!)

Father, change our lives into the likeness of Christ and cause us to live for your Glory. Amen!