Separating believers from unbelievers

Separating believers from unbelievers

© 2022 C. O. Bishop

John 6:60-66 (context; verses 52-59); John 5:24; John 10:27, 28

Introduction:

We have come to a “crisis,” in John chapter 6: Jesus had just taught that His flesh and blood were necessary for people to have eternal life. Earlier, we explored why this was such a hard thing for the Jews to accept. But there are different options in how we respond to hard teaching. Knowing that a teaching is either true, or partly true, or false, we have to decide how to respond. We can compare against God’s Word to see if it is true. That is what the Berean believers did in Acts 17:11. But, even after we know it is absolutely true, we have to decide how to respond.

Balking at Hard Teaching

60 Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? 61 When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you? 62 What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before? 63 It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life. 64 But there are some of you that believe not. For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were that believed not, and who should betray him. 65 And he said, Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father. 66 From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.

We already read the context for this passage: the verses immediately before: That was a hard passage to understand. But, for two reasons, this is also rather hard to grasp, even for believers today: The first reason is the sadness we feel, as we read that many of Jesus’s disciples abandoned their devotion to Him. They walked no more with Him! Yes, that is sad…and it still happens today! The other thing that makes it a hard passage, is that we tend to equate salvation with discipleship, and the two are not the same.

Salvation and discipleship are not the same

This is a hard concept, but let’s consider Judas: he was a disciple, but was not a believer! Jesus pointed this out in John 13:10, 11, when He said “ye are not all clean.” And after Judas left, in John 15:3, He said to the remaining eleven “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.” All twelve had heard the same words…the difference was that Judas had not believed in Jesus as his Savior.

There are others in scripture who were believers, but who were not disciples. Lot was a saved man, but did not walk with God: he did not “follow Jesus” (that is what a disciple is…a follower.) And there were many others. Why might someone fall into that category?

Other Biblical Examples

Are there Biblical examples of real believers “balking at hard teaching?” Are there Biblical examples of real believers who “ran away from God?” Sure, there are!

  • John the Baptist initially refused to baptize Jesus, saying that he himself needed to be baptized by Jesus. But he changed his mind, and he went ahead and obeyed.
  • Peter initially refused to have Jesus wash his feet…but he changed his mind and obeyed.
  • Jonah initially refused to go to Nineveh, but (with some convincing) eventually he changed his mind and went…(still in a bad frame of mind, but he went and he obeyed.)

Do you see a pattern there? These were genuine believers who stumbled over the command of God, but they repented. (That is what “repentance” is…changing your mind: turning around, going back, and doing what you should have done.)

Believers or Unbelievers?

So, as we read John 6:60-66, are we reading about believers or unbelievers? Notice that it says they were disciples. Remember that the word “disciples” only means “followers.” They were following Jesus, but their reasons for following varied wildly. He had just taught that his flesh and blood were necessary for their eternal life. That specific teaching was difficult enough that people still struggle with it, today.  But they had a choice to make:

  • They could accept it (and accept the fact that they couldn’t fully grasp His meaning),
  • They could argue about it, trying to force it to “make sense” to human minds, or
  • They could flatly reject it as unthinkable.

Some argued, and complained that it was a hard saying; difficult to grasp. But Jesus knew their hearts: He knew who believed and who did not. He also knew who would eventually betray him. If we sneak a peek at the verses ahead, we see that Judas was there, as one of the Twelve: He stayed with Jesus when others left! But he still was not a believer. So that is not necessarily the dividing line. So how did Jesus respond to their complaint that this was “a hard saying?”

Jesus had just told them that His flesh and blood (as pictured in the Passover Lamb) were absolutely necessary to their salvation, and that faith in Him was the only entrance into eternal life. They had a hard time with that statement. There are many, still today, who struggle with the concept that Jesus is the only way God offers for Salvation. They argue against it, saying “all the billions of people who do not believe in Him cannot all be wrong: they could not all be lost!”

Is there anything “wrong” with Jesus being the only way of salvation?

This is an emotionally attractive, but completely illogical reply: As far as we know there is only one “cure” for many deadly diseases. What shall we say of all the millions who have died from malaria, the plague, polio, or any other deadly disease? “Well, it just isn’t fair: there must be another way!” No, the hard truth is: they either get the medicine to save their life, or they die.

There is a new treatment available that can cure Hepatitis C: it is effective on a high percentage of people, but it is extremely expensive, so it simply will not be available to all those who suffer from that disease. (Lesser treatments can hold it at bay, but cannot cure it. But this cure is financially out of reach for most people…The Gospel is free, to all!)

Today, there is a single, “collective antivenin” which is effective for about 85 of the 140 different species of venomous creatures in Australia. The government has tried to make it as widely available as possible, so people who are bitten have a chance to get it and save their lives: but if they can’t get to where it is, or, if they refuse to accept it, they will surely die! There is no other way! That is just reality! Romans 5:12 may not sound “fair,” either, but it is a fact: “Sin came into the world through one man, and death by sin, thus death passed upon all, for all have sinned.”

The Blood of Jesus was shed, once for all, as God’s only solution for the lost state of the Human race. The Church has tried, over the years, to make that Salvation available worldwide. There are only two barriers: our reticence to share it with others, and their unwillingness to believe in it. And that’s the teaching they stumbled over, in John 6:31-51.

Jesus Tested the Character of their Faith

Jesus asked, “You think that was hard? What will you think when you see Me physically ascendback into Heaven where I came from?” Why is that a test? They already balked at the “hard teaching” that “faith in His blood is our only hope for salvation.” Now He pointed out why He was their only hope: He is God in the flesh! He was the Deity they claimed to worship.

You see, so long as we see Jesus as “strictly human,” no matter what else we may attribute to Him, we will struggle with His authority, we will question His unique, exalted position, and we will resent the fact that other people are actually worshipping the Person we see as a man. I once had a pastor tell me, “I don’t want people praying to Jesus!” (Why did he say that? Evidently he did not believe Jesus was the true God, in human form.)

Can a true believer deny the deity of Christ?

Is it possible to be a believer and not know that Jesus is God in the flesh? Yes, it is, and there are many who do struggle with that concept, but it requires that one be seriously ignorant of God’s Word, to miss that point.

On the other hand, some do see that truth in Scripture: but they struggle with it, and eventually rebel against it, denying His Deity. In their case, I question the reality of their faith in Him as the Savior, since they reject the fact of His Person; the fact that He is truly God in the Flesh. Is it possible that they are really believers, and just badly deceived? Yes…I believe it is possible. But I would be very concerned about how they arrived at that point.

The Jews, who heard Him, actually should not have had a struggle with that idea: They had the prophecy from Isaiah 9:6 saying that “the Son” who was promised to them, would be called “The everlasting Father!” Give that some thought! I cannot “explain” how the Son should be called the “Everlasting Father!” But there is no argument: It is simply stated as a fact, and it is to be simply accepted! (Or…you can reject it, and walk away. And that is what many of them did.)

The Question of the Deity of Christ

The fact that Jesus truly is God is a core teaching of the Bible. (John 1:1, 3, 14, 18)

  • He was the Creator God who made all things material or immaterial. (John 1:3)
  • He was the Speaking God who walked in the Garden in the cool of the day, and spoke with Adam and Eve. (John 1:18)
  • He was the Promising God who ate Abraham’s food, and talked with him face to face.
  • He was the Judging God who destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. (Genesis 18, 19)
  • He was the Miracle-working God who judged Egypt and rescued the children of Israel.
  • He was the Creator of all things, the Eternal Judge of all things, and the Promised Savior. (John 1:3; 1:14; 5:22; 5:24; 10:27, 28)

Either this is all true, or the Bible is not true. Either this is all true, or Jesus is not the Savior. That is a simple fact. There are no “degrees” of truth here.

Why reject this doctrine?

All of the cults speak highly of Jesus, calling Him a Mighty Spirit Being, a Great Teacher, a Prophet, even a “lesser god,” in some cases, but they can never admit that He is literally the Sovereign, Almighty God!

You see, if they admit that Jesus is truly God, then they also have to admit that they, themselves, are not the servants of God. And they have to face the facts: they, themselves, are under His Judgment. Jesus hinted at that, by stating that they were going to see Him ascend back into heaven. And they decided that was just too much! So, they quit!

How can I know I am saved?

I have known people who apparently were genuine believers, but who abandoned their faith. Their lives reflected that loss. They were sad wrecks of what once had been a glorious reflection of God’s Grace. Are they still saved? How can we know for sure, in our own life?

If there has ever been a time in your life when you placed your hope in Jesus’s blood as your only hope for salvation, trusting in Him alone for forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, then you are saved, and you cannot be lost. (John 5:24 says If you have believed in Him, then you have eternal life, and you shall not come unto condemnation, but have crossed over from death unto life”)

1st John 5:11-13 clearly teaches that God wants you to KNOW that you have eternal life.

What happens if I don’t follow Jesus?

Even if I truly am “one of His sheep,” if I do not walk with the Shepherd, I am in constant danger of attack by my enemies and I cannot avail myself of His protection. I am “enlisted in His army,” but I am refusing to wear the armor He commanded me to put on!

Jesus said, “My Sheep hear my voice, and they follow me, and I know them, and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.”

“Following the Shepherd” is the normal walk for a believer. Failing to follow Him does not negate His promise of eternal life, but it does “void the warranty” on his guidance and protection.

There are consequences!

If I fail to follow Jesus, then the very least I can expect is unfruitfulness. The next thing I can expect is the absence of Joy and Peace. You see, even though I am a believer, if I am no longer walking with Jesus, then I am not benefitting from the relationship “in the here and now.”

That is what happened, here in John 6:60-66. Some of those disciples may have been true believers…but some were not. Jesus knew which were which. We do not. But we can examine our own hearts and see where we stand with God…and decide where we ought to be, and what we need to change, to get there.

Lord Jesus, open our eyes to our own condition as believers and encourage our hearts to change, to repent, to go back and follow you.

He that cometh unto Me

He that cometh unto Me (Security of the Believer)

© 2022 by C. O. Bishop

John 6:37-47; John 10:27-29; 1st John 5:11-13; [Matthew 20:16, 22:14]; Romans 8:28-33; Ephesians 1:4; John 12:32

Introduction

We spoke some time ago about the Bread of Life, as compared to the physical food of this world. We saw that the folks Jesus miraculously fed with the loaves and fishes had followed Him to His next stop, hoping to get more of the same. But Jesus challenged their thinking, and so they began to argue with Him, in John 6:30, asking for yet another sign. We will spend some more time on that passage later, but there is a specific passage, here, which we will address this morning:

John 6:37-47

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. 38 For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. 39 And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. 40 And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.

 41 The Jews then murmured at him, because he said, I am the bread which came down from heaven. 42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?

43 Jesus therefore answered and said unto them, Murmur not among yourselves. 44 No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God. Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto me. 46 Not that any man hath seen the Father, save he which is of God, he hath seen the Father. 47 Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.

He that cometh unto Me (v. 37)

37 All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.

Jesus added no qualifiers to this promise: In fact, He eliminated the possibility of any qualifiers: He said, “…I will in no wise cast out.” Under no circumstances will He cast out one who comes to Him in faith. Some may argue that “You can’t know that you are one of the “chosen” whom the Father has given to Jesus, the Son.” Then, perhaps, that is where we need to begin:

It is true that Jesus said, “…many are called but few are chosen.” He said it in two separate places: Matthew 20:16, and Matthew 22:14. In both cases, he was warning the unbelieving Jews that the call has gone out to the whole world, including the Jews and the Gentiles. The fact that the Jews were the “chosen people” did not mean that each of them was guaranteed a place with God in eternity. Nor, (in the Matthew 20 account,) did it the privilege of service with Him. In both cases, he pointed out the possibility of the “chosen people” losing out, even though they had seen themselves as being “privileged” and as already being “accepted with God” as a nation.

But, here, Jesus made an unqualified, unconditional promise, that “whoever comes to Him would never be cast out.” He seems to redefine who are “the chosen.” Whether in terms of salvation or service, it is possible to be “chosen”…or not chosen! In Matthew 20, the context is service, not salvation: Everyone in that passage was called for service, and they all served. But some were chosen for special treatment. God has the authority to make that choice.

So…Who are “the chosen” in terms of Salvation?

I had a young man at work—a believer—tell me, in very somber terms, that “We can accept the call of Jesus by faith. But we can’t know whether we are ‘one of the chosen’ until we die.” What a sad falsehood to teach in a church! I tried to allay his fears, by showing him from scripture how he could know today that he was “One of the Chosen.” But I’m not at all sure he accepted it.

We can see that, in Matthew 22, the question does apply to eternal life: the one “cast out” was doomed to eternal darkness, weeping, and gnashing of teeth! That would definitely contradict Jesus’s promise, if that person had ever been a believer. But he evidently was not: What we see in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, is that a person who approaches God in faith—believing that God’s promise is good, and that God’s chosen Sacrifice is sufficient to secure a full pardon from God—is completely safe in Him. (Remember that the sacrifices of the Old Testament were prophetic, looking forward to the sacrifice of the Messiah, at the Cross)

The example of Abraham

Abraham believed God, in Genesis 15:6, and God says that his faith was counted to him as righteousness. God calls this “Justification.” and confirms it, in Romans 4:1-4. We have had the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, by Grace, through Faith. We are eternally clothed in His righteousness.

The example of Lot

In contrast, we see Lot’s faith very dimly in Genesis 19, where he made his only known stand for righteousness, flawed and feeble though it was. And the last things we see of him are very bad indeed.  However: in 2nd Peter 2:6-8, we see that God saved Lot out of Sodom and Gomorrah, as a righteous man, whose righteous soul had been vexed daily by the filth around him! (How could Lot be called righteous? The last thing we saw him physically do was (in a drunken stupor) to impregnate both his daughters, bringing into existence two nations, the Moabites and the Ammonites. Those people are bitter enemies of Israel still today!)  According to God, the only way a person can please God is through faith. (Hebrews 11:6) Evidently Lot had that faith, though it surely was not easy to see.

The teaching of the New Testament

In Ephesians 1:1-14 Paul addressed the Ephesian believers. But all the truths listed there are true of every believer in Christ, regardless of their condition as a believer. They are all positional truths, having nothing to do with “how I am doing” in terms of faithfulness, obedience, piety, holy living, etc. They are unconditional truths. And: verse 4 says that we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. But…who was called? And, How were we chosen?

Who are “The Called?” And, among them, Who are the Chosen?

In John 6:44, Jesus said, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day.”

Jesus later said, in John 12:32, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.” Jesus stands as God’s invitation to an eternal relationship with God. Many (the whole world) are called. Those who respond in faith are comparatively few…Jesus said so. (Matthew 7:13, 14 says, 13 Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: 14 Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. But those few are the chosen in Christ.

God chose before the Creation to make Jesus the Sacrificial Lamb; His only Plan of Salvation. (In Revelation 13:8, Jesus is called the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth.”) He invites us (calls us) to respond in Faith: we can choose either life or death. If we choose to receive Him as our Savior, placing our faith in Him (just as the Thief on the Cross did; just as Abraham did, just as every saved person since the beginning of time has done,) then we have chosen life, and we permanently belong to Him. 1st Corinthians 12:13 says that the Holy Spirit places us into the Body of Christ, and, from that moment we are permanently in Christ. And so, collectively, we have been chosen, in Christ.

Our Daily Choice: Faith is a choice.

As believers, then, (moment by moment) we can choose either faithful service and obedience, or unbelief and disobedience… failure to serve. And the resultant rewards (or lack of rewards) will be justice…we will have reaped what we have sown. This is the Law of the Harvest. We reap what we sow. But Salvation is not a reward: it is a gift. We cannot earn it.

Jesus did all the work, there at the Cross, and we cannot add to it. He completely satisfied God’s Holiness and Righteousness through His death at the Cross. His Blood completely took away the sins of the World. But, as sinners, we can partake in His salvation only by simply believing in what HE has done as being complete and effective. Having made that choice, Romans 1:6 says we are the called according to His purpose. Ephesians 1:4 says we were chosen in Him, before the foundation of the World, that we should be Holy and without blame before Him in Love.

Jesus concluded His statements (John 6:47) saying “ Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” Notice the tense: He did not say, “He that believes on me will have everlasting life:” He said you have it now, just as He promised back in John 5:24.

But: maybe you think His promises are only “good” so long as you keep believing: You need to ask yourself, “How long is everlasting?” Jesus says that the moment you believed, you received an eternal gift: “everlasting life!” And, in John 14:16, He said that the Holy Spirit will be with you forever. Finally, over in John 10:27, 28, He said “I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish.” Those are pretty solid promises! There really is no way around them!

So, Who will You Believe?

You have to decide, personally, whether to believe Jesus or to believe the arguments of the World. Whether to believe Jesus, who gave you an unconditional promise of Eternal Life, or to believe your Flesh, the old sin nature, arguing, “That can’t be right! You haven’t earned it!” (True! It can’t be earned!) Ultimately: will you believe Jesus, or will you believe the whispering voice of that ancient enemy of your soul who desires to destroy your faith, quench your love, and crush your Joy, so as to make your life fruitless in Christ?

You have to choose, day by day, and moment by moment, who you will believe.

This is why Ephesians 6:10-18 commands us to “put on the full armor of God,” so that:

  • Our loins are girded about with the Truth of God’s Word…we are secure in His Word.
  • Our feet are shod with the preparation of the good news that God will never again view us as His enemies: we are permanently at Peace with God.
  • Our hearts are protected by the Breastplate of the Righteousness of Christ which was imputed to us the moment we believed His promise.
  • Our minds are protected by the Helmet of Salvation: the secure knowledge that we are already saved for eternity.
  • And, when our Enemy attacks us with the doubts and lies and accusations that are his primary weapons, we can use the Shield of Faith to quench those “flaming darts” of guilt and fear. We choose to Believe Jesus!
  • Now we are arming ourselves daily with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and
  • We are empowered inPrayer: We enjoy the privilege of entering into the Holy place and bringing our praises and our petitions to the Eternal, Almighty God who loves us, who accepted us in the Beloved, and who chose us in Him before the creation of the Earth.

You can Know that You have Eternal Life!

This is how you can know you are “one of the Chosen:” If you have believed the promise of Jesus, then you are in Christ, by faith! And Jesus keeps His promises! If you believe His promise, then:

  • He promised that you have eternal life now.
  • He promised that you will never again be condemned by God.
  • He promised that you have permanently crossed over from death into life.
  • He promised that the Holy Spirit would be with you forever.
  • He promised that under no circumstances will He ever cast you out!
  • He promised that His sheep (those to whom He gave eternal life) shall never perish.

God says He wants you to KNOW that you have eternal life: 1st John 5:11-13 says so!

You just need to decide who to believe.

Lord Jesus, raise us up as men and women of God who trust in you day by day, and step by step as we walk with you and serve you as lights in a dark world. Teach us to believe You in all things and to obey You as a result of our faith in you. Make us to be Your hands and Your feet, and Your voice in this dying world.

False Teachers

What does God say about False Teachers?

© 2021 C. O. Bishop

2nd Peter 2:3-22

Introduction:

We left off, last week, with God’s warning about false teachers, and we discussed briefly what is and is not a false teacher. There are several questions to be addressed in this chapter: God points out a key idea; that the false teachers are “denying the Lord that bought them.” (v. 1) But that raises a question in many people’s minds, thinking, “they must be believers, otherwise how could it say he ‘bought’ them?” That sounds like a reasonable question, so, let’s answer that first:

Who did Jesus purchase with His Blood?

How many sins did Jesus die for at the Cross? 1st John 2:2 states that Jesus paid for the sins of the whole world. It is not just “hinted at,” or “indicated;” this is not a “matter of interpretation:” God flatly says, he died “…not for our sins only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (There is nothing “ambiguous” about it!) Jesus said the reason he came was that the World might be saved through Him. He also said that those who believe in Him “have eternal life,” and “are not condemned.” They who do not believe are “already condemned” and “shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on them.” (John 5:24, John 3:17, 18, and 36)

So, a false teacher is not a “believer” because the Lord “bought them:” they are human sinners, (just like us) because the Lord bought them. (He did not die for the sins of the angels who rebelled.) And, by the end of this chapter, we will see that the false teachers definitely are not believers. God draws sharp distinction between sinners who are believers and sinners who are not believers. But the next verse raises another question:

What about Hell?

For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment;

Here is another confusing passage. The word translated “hell,” here, is not the common Greek word “hades” meaning “the place of the dead:” it is the word “Tartarus”, meaning the abyss, or the “bottomless pit.” In fact, the word Tartarus is only used this one time in scripture, and the Greek word “abussos” (describing the same place) is only used nine times, and in all but one, the meaning is clearly not the place of the dead, but the “abyss;” the “bottomless pit” which is evidently reserved for angelic prisoners, not humans. (see Luke 8:31; Revelation 9:1, 2, 11; also Revelation 11:7; 17:8, and 20:1, 3)

People have somehow gotten the idea that Satan “rules in Hell.” That is simply not so. Right now, he is tromping around, right here on earth! (Job 1:7) Hell (hades, or, in the Old Testament, sheol) always simply refers to the “place of the dead.” Sheol/hades was divided into two compartments…the place of the righteous dead, and the place of the unrighteous dead. But the place for angelic prisoners is a completely different location, called the abyss.

People have also somehow gotten the idea that Jesus “went to hell for our sins.” This also is not true! When Jesus made His final declaration of victory, from the Cross, the word He cried out, in Greek, was “Tetelestai!” It meant “Paid in full” It is translated “It is finished,” but that can have a variety of English connotations. I like the way it reads in the Spanish Bible: “Consumado es!” (“It is consummated! It is completed! The work I was sent to do is utterly finished!”) There was nothing left to pay for!

He had told the Jews that He would be spending three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. And he told the thief on the Cross: “Today thou shalt be with me in Paradise!” (Not hell!) There were two “holding places” for the dead: the righteous dead waited in a place sometimes called “Abraham’s bosom,” as in Luke 16:19-31, or Paradise. In either case, it was the place of the righteous dead: the “waiting-room” for those who would eventually be admitted into Heaven, as a group. (When?) After the resurrection of Christ, at His ascension.

(Why the delay?) Until Jesus died, the way into God’s presence was closed, as pictured by the thick, floor-to-ceiling veil in the temple. When He died, that veil was torn from top to bottom, showing that the way was now open. When Jesus ascended, Paradise was literally transferred into Heaven. This explains why, years later, Paul described being caught up to “the third heaven” (remember, sky, outer space and God’s abode are all called by the same word in both Greek and Hebrew)  He said he was caught up to Paradise: up, into God’s presence, not down, into the heart of the earth, where Jesus said He was going to be for three days and three nights.

So, these angels who were cast into the abyss were not in the same place where the unrighteous human dead are still awaiting the final judgment, in Revelation 20:11-15. This is also how we know that “hell,” translated from the Greek word hades, is not the “final” judgment: Revelation 20:14 says that death and hell are to be cast into the Lake of Fire. That is final! Hades is only the “waiting room” for the Lake of Fire, where the whole mass of humanity who rejected the Lord during their lifetimes will be cast, all at one time.

Saved Sinners

Who does God save, then? God saves believing sinners.

 5 And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

Noah was a saved sinner: how do I know? Because Genesis 6:8 says “Noah found Grace in the eyes of the LORD.” Grace means “unmerited favor: un-earned favor.” Only sinners need Grace! Noah was saved by Grace through faith, just the same as you and I are. But those around him, whether good or bad (from human perspective,) gentle or violent, young or old, educated or ignorant, sick or healthy, weak or strong, were all unbelieving sinners. God categorized them with one phrase: “the ungodly.” And, because they did not believe the warning, when the flood came, they were all destroyed.

And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making them an ensample unto those that after should live ungodly; And delivered just Lot, vexed with the filthy conversation of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds;)

Lot was a saved sinner! How do I know? Because God calls him “just:” righteous! I would never have considered Lot a righteous man from the Genesis account. He seemed to just be a sinner, all the way around. But evidently he believed in the God who blessed Abraham, because God calls him a righteous man. I had no doubt that the Sodomites were wicked: they proved it. But I had just assumed that God rescued Lot for Abraham’s sake. I didn’t see Lot as a righteous man: but God says that he was! And the only way to be called “righteous” by God is by faith.

What is a Saint?

How does God define His saints? The word “saint” means “holy one;” those whom God has set aside for His service. But where is the dividing line? Turn to Psalm 50:5 “Gather my saints together unto me; those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.” Those who had “made a covenant with him by sacrifice” are those He calls his “saints.”  He has set them apart for His purpose, His exclusive use, and as His exclusive property!

The next question has to be: “What Sacrifice?” There were hundreds of them! In the Old Testament, many people brought sacrifices, but not all of them were making a covenant with God. Some were just “going through the motions.” They brought the “correct” sacrifice, because they were required to do so, but they had no heart for God. He was not deceived by their outward behavior: He saw their hearts, and He openly rejected such sacrifices. (Isaiah 1:11-13)

In Romans 3:25, we see that God has set forth Jesus to be a propitiation (a satisfying sacrifice) through faith in His Blood!” So, today, those who have “made a covenant with God by sacrifice” are those who have placed their faith in Jesus’s blood at the Cross as full payment for their sins. And God says, that makes them His saints: His property; his children, and His ambassadors. If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, then all of that is eternally true of you!

That is the same basis upon which Noah, and Abraham, (yes, and Lot) were declared to be righteous. “Abraham believed God, and God declared him to be righteous on the basis of his faith.” (Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3)

Saints often Suffer

The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:

Remember: in Job’s life, he had done no evil (God says so!) but much evil befell him. In his case, it was so that we could learn the righteousness and authority of God, and learn from the faith and endurance of Job. But, Naboth was faithful, too, and refused to sell the inheritance of his ancestors. Queen Jezebel had him framed for blasphemy, and stoned to death, so she could illegally take the land for King Ahab! Yes, God is faithful, but remember that He is also God: He allows his saints to suffer, for His glory and their eventual reward. Job was blessed and rewarded in his lifetime. Naboth’s reward will obviously have to be in eternity…but Ahab and Jezebel both died very ugly deaths for their wickedness…and eternal judgment still awaits them! And our reward is also not necessarily in this life!

What about those false teachers, then?

The rest of this chapter describes only the false teachers. I have underscored the pronouns in the passage. They are all third-person plural. The only exceptions are the pronouns regarding those with whom they interact. When they deceive believers, the believers are addressed as “you.”

10 But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. Presumptuous are they, selfwilled, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities.

11 Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord.

They speak bold, defiant words against all authority, slandering those in authority, when even angelic beings speak more circumspectly, not making wild accusations. And God says they will bring upon themselves the destruction they deserve.

12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption; 13 And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, as they that count it pleasure to riot in the day time. Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you;

Notice how they relate to real Christians: they deceive us! They think it’s fun (that’s what “sporting themselves” means) to “infiltrate” the local assemblies, take communion as if they were a believer, come to potlucks, sing the songs, pray the prayers, and fool us all! And we are pretty easily deceived: we want to believe the best of people, so it is hard for us to see through their deceit. But usually, there will be discrepancies that arise, because they also want the pleasures of the flesh. Eventually, their behavior and their words will show their real heart.

They are Not God’s Children!

14 Having eyes full of adultery, and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls: an heart they have exercised with covetous practices; cursed children:

I’ve often heard people say, “we are all children of God!” The Jews tried that with Jesus, and He told them that they were not children of God: rather, they were of their father, the Devil! (John 8:44) Yes, they were “cursed children!” But many assume that it means these had been children of God, and were now cursed. No: they had never been believers, had never entered into a covenant with God by sacrifice, and had never been reborn as children of God.

That is why they “cannot cease from sin!” Even believers can’t “eradicate their sin nature” and permanently cease from sin: But an unbeliever only has the one nature: They literally cannot cease from sin, (and “covetous practices”) because even when they do “good things,” they do so with wrong motives, trying to declare themselves righteous. Their relationship with Christ is based on knowledge alone; not faith (consider Judas as an example: he knew everything the other disciples knew: but he had never placed his faith in Jesus.) These false teachers knew the right way, and evidently made an outward attempt to conform (just like Judas), but then abandoned it, scorning it. (Keep in mind that Jesus confirmed that Judas was never born again…he was never cleansed. John 13:10,11)

15 Which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; 16 But was rebuked for his iniquity: the dumb ass speaking with man’s voice forbad the madness of the prophet. 17 These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever.

They are doing as Balaam did (following his way), choosing money, power, and position over a relationship with God. (Balaam was a genuine prophet…a real believer: but he “sold out” and he was killed with the enemies of God.) The false teachers don’t even have that final saving grace: they are phonies; only pretending to believe, just like Judas. “Waterless wells,”  have nothing of eternal value to offer…nothing to quench the thirst of a soul desiring hope, and peace with God.

18 For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error.

19 While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.

We can be deceived!

It is entirely possible for a false teacher to draw away real believers after themselves: when Paul spoke to the Ephesian elders, in Acts 20:30, he warned that the false teachers would do just that! Believers can be drawn away into cults: they cannot be lost, but they can be rendered utterly ineffective, and unfulfilled. (When the holy vessels of God’s Temple were stolen by the Babylonians and used for the worship of false Gods, did those vessels become the “property” of those false Gods? No! They were still God’s Property, and He brought them back!) When Jim Jones led his followers into the jungle of Guyana and murdered them all, some of those had been members of evangelical Christian churches in the past, and very likely were real believers! But he was a persuasive speaker, speaking “great swelling words” as we just read in verse 18, and they were deceived! The result was a gruesome death for over 900 people.

But verses 20-22 are about the false teachers themselves, not believers: Notice, it says:

20 For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning.

Notice that there is no mention of “saving faith,” or any faith: We are not saved by knowledge; we are saved “by Grace, through faith.” The demons “know” Jesus! They recognized Him and called Him by name, when He was casting them out of the humans they had possessed. They knew Him as “the” savior, but not as their Savior. That “knowledge” could not save them. But how do we know these people were not believers?

21 For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. 22 But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.

Again, there is no mention of faith. That alone is important, but not necessarily conclusive. However, see what it also does not say: It does not say, “The sheep has turned back into a dog, and has gone back to eating vomit,” or “The sheep has turned back into a pig, and gone home to the hog-wallow!” No: God identifies these people, like Judas, as those who had never been cleansed…never been transformed, never been born again!

So, the false teachers in this chapter are unbelievers who masquerade as believers. Jesus warned (Matthew 7:15) against the false prophets, saying that “they come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” Paul warned against the same people, in Acts 20:29, saying that “grievous wolves” would arise, even from among the flock, and draw away disciples after themselves.

Conclusion: We have been warned!

And the only safety we have is found in God’s Word and His indwelling Holy Spirit. We are told to “Be sober! Be vigilant, for your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour!” You cannot be lost, but you can be deceived. Study God’s Word, and arm yourself against the trickery of the enemy, who desires to damage your walk with God. We will continue to work to equip the believers in this assembly to stand fast against that enemy.

Lord Jesus, continue to draw us into a deeper relationship with you through your written Word, by the Holy Spirit, and through fellowship with God and the people of God. Make us strong, and teach us to do your work.

Security of the Believer (Pt. 1)

Introduction to Peter’s Epistles:

Security of the Believer (Part 1)

© 2020 C. O. Bishop

1st Peter 1:1-5

Introduction:

We never want to forget that the Author of any portion of Scripture is God, but I think it is important to remember the identity of the writers as well: The writer, in this case is the Apostle Peter, and it was written probably about A.D. 60. But let’s give some thought to Peter: This is Peter, the companion of Jesus, the commercial fisherman, the one who openly struggled with his humanity, and truly desired to overcome it and walk with Jesus. This is the Commercial fisherman who absolutely knew the danger of going overboard in a storm but was willing to deliberately step out of the boat, to “go for a walk on the water” with Jesus.

This is the same Peter who was sternly rebuked by Jesus for trying to prevent Jesus’s journey to the Cross; the same who swore he would be true to the death, but a few days later, denied he even knew the Lord. The same Peter who ran to the gravesite, and barged right into the empty tomb, seeing for himself the empty grave-clothes, and the folded face covering. This is the same Peter who loved Jesus with all his heart, as a human, and knew his own shortcoming: he couldn’t profess a greater love. The same Peter, who tradition holds was crucified upside down, by his own request, as he didn’t feel he was worthy to die just as Jesus did. We don’t know the manner of his death in detail, and I can’t prove the traditional tale true or false. But all the other notes are directly from scripture.

Remembering who Peter was, as a human, leaves me a little surprised at his understanding of “heavy doctrines,” which may explain why it astonished the Jews of the time as well. What you and I need to remember is that it was a supernaturally-supplied understanding. In the first place, his personal tutor was God the Son! In the second place, when he began his preaching ministry in the book of Acts, he was not only indwelt by, but also “full of” (under the influence of) God the Holy Spirit. The Jews were amazed (Acts 4:8-12), and said, “How could an uneducated man learn these things?” Let us not make the mistake of judging the authorship by what we know of the writer: Peter was just “the guy carrying the bucket!” The one who filled it was God. God is the Author of this epistle, just as He is the Author of the rest of the Bible.

This epistle was to a large group of scattered individuals, not to an individual, nor to a specific assembly in a given town. But the way he describes them in the first five verses allows us to realize that we are also included. Like the other epistles, this is to You.

Security of the Believer

Chapter One

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to the strangers scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2 Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, 5 Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

Key Words and Ideas in the first five verses of this epistle:

I have underscored about 30 words or phrases in these first five verses. If we can grasp the significance of these few words and phrases, we will be well on our way to studying the whole epistle:

Peter (Greek ‘petros’): This is not just “the man’s name:” it is the new name given to Simon Bar-Jonas, by Jesus, and it means “a rock”…a stone, such as one might pick up and move, to be used for some purpose. This is not to be confused with ‘Petra’ which meant an unmovable bedrock: the kind a building is founded upon, not to be moved. Peter is not the “rock” upon which Jesus was to build His church. The Truth about Jesus is! (Matthew 16:18)

Apostle: The word simply means a “sent one.” There is a gift called “apostle,” and that gift is a person. Peter was one of those gifts to the Church (Ephesians 4:11-16). Are there others beside the original 12? Well, there at least were others: Paul was one, for sure. Some think he was the only other one, but in Acts 14:14 both Barnabas and Paul were identified as Apostles. There is some evidence that Apollos was recognized as an apostle. It is possible that the number even included Priscilla and Aquila, but all it says is that they were “of note among the apostles.” At any rate, that is what the word means, and as far as I can see, their primary task was to plant the churches. There are people who argue that they also had to write scriptures. The problem with that idea is that there are only eight writers of the New Testament, and only four of them were called apostles. Mark was not an apostle. Neither was Luke. The “James” who wrote the epistle of James is almost certainly not James the son of Zebedee, and brother of John, but rather one of the brothers of the Lord, who was not even a believer during the Lord’s earthly ministry. And Jude did not claim apostleship, but only said he was James’ brother. Just something to consider.

Jesus: this is a Greek rendering of the Hebrew name we pronounce “Joshua.” It means “The LORD (YHWH) Saves;” which is especially significant because the angel Gabriel announced that his name should be called Jesus because He would save his people from their sins. This is the name before which it is said “every knee shall bow, to the glory of God the Father.” This is the name of which it is said “…there is none other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.” This is His personal name, as the Savior, and not just during his earthly ministry. It is his chosen name forever, regardless of into what languages it is translated. Not the pronunciation of it, but the name itself: the “content” of the name.

Christ: This is a Greek word, too, meaning, “the anointed one,” which is what the Hebrew term “Messiah” means.  That is His “office”, as being “chosen and sent by God”…it is not his “last name.” When we refer to Jesus Christ, we are referring to Jesus as the “anointed one” from God, who was sent as our one and only Blood Sacrifice by which the sins of the entire Human race were to be washed away. It means, Jesus the Messiah: Jesus, the Anointed One. The world uses it as a curse, when, in fact, it is a point of worship. He is “The Anointed One!” There is no other!

Strangers: This epistle was especially addressed to the “dispersion:” the Jews who had been scattered among the nations, but specifically the Messianic Jews—the believers among the dispersion (perhaps specifically those who had been scattered after the persecution in Jerusalem)…not just any foreign-born Jew. Remember that the scattered tribes had been gathered in Jerusalem at the day of Pentecost, for the feast of tabernacles. Those who became believers in Jesus stayed in Jerusalem because of the Gospel. When persecution arose, they were scattered again (Acts 8:1) and possibly began drifting back to their homes among the nations. But we are told that wherever they went, the Gospel went. They shared their faith! These are the original recipients of this epistle. But we are to be that sort of person as well.

Elect: This word means “chosen.” A lot of controversy comes over the understanding of this word, so we will address it later, except to point out that it does not always have anything to do with salvation. Aaron’s rod was called “elect,” too, as were the vessels in the temple. It simply means “Chosen.” Rather than spending a lot of time on the subject right now, I would like to point out that the whole Gospel is addressed to “Whosoever Will.” (Revelation 22:17) We see the invitation on the outside of the “gate” or “door,” so to speak, saying, “Whosoever Will May Come! “ Then, by Grace, through faith, we step across that threshold, entering into a permanent relationship with the Creator, through Jesus’ Blood at the Cross. But later on, we begin to learn more, and we look around; finally turning to look back and ask “How did I get in here?” And, on the inside of that same door, we see the sign, “Chosen in Him before the foundation of the Earth!” God chose in Eternity Past, to save all those “In Christ.” Those who respond in faith are automatically part of that group. There is nothing in the scripture to indicate that God deliberately chose the majority of the Human Race to end up in eternal punishment. We choose that ourselves.

Foreknowledge: This goes right along with “election:” we have no doubt about the absolute foreknowledge of God. That’s the way He presents His “Credentials” in Isaiah 46:10. He “declares the end from the beginning.”  We will address both of these ideas more thoroughly, later in this study. Yes, God knew from Eternity Past who would choose to believe Him, and who would not. But He also chose to go to the Cross and die for the sins of even those who rejected Him. You will never meet a person for whom Jesus didn’t die; a person whose sins were not under His Blood. 1st John 2:2 specifies that Jesus did not die “…for our sins only but also for the sins of the whole world.” God knows in advance who will come, but the offer and the promise is genuine.

God: The Greek word is “Theos.” It is His “office”…” it is what He is.” This is not His name. The name he offered to Moses, to give to Israel, was ‘I AM.” The name by which Abraham knew Him was what we call the “Tetragrammaton:” the “YHWH” four-letter “puzzle,” which no one seems to know how to pronounce. (I think Acts 4:12 is a good answer to that puzzle, by the way.) But this passage specifically refers to God the Father.

At this point we are beginning to touch upon the doctrine of the Trinity. In Isaiah 9:6, 7, we are told that “the Son”, the long-awaited Child, of whom we sing at Christmas, “…shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father!” So, at that point I gave up. Jesus confirmed that the Father is greater than He, but this scripture says Jesus is the Father. And, in Acts 5 and in Acts 13, we see the Holy Spirit identified as God, as well. So…I will drop it right there. I think the Trinity is a true “mystery,” and I seriously doubt that it is decipherable by human intellect.

Sanctification: the word means “being set apart for a special purpose.” Like the word “elect,” it can be used for inanimate objects, not just humans. But in the case of humans: saved individuals have become the Lord’s personal property, and are for His use and His honor only. We have been declared holy! Give that some thought, as to how it may apply to your own life. When the vessels from the temple, which were declared Holy, were defiled by enemies who stole them and used them in idolatrous feasts, did they lose their “holy” status? No! They had to be cleansed, and restored to proper use, but they were still God’s personal Property. So are we! So, when we have sinned, and are out of fellowship with God, we are no less holy, positionally, but we are defiled, in terms of condition. We need to be cleansed and restored! That is what 1st John 1:9 is all about: the restoration of a sinning believer.

The Spirit: This is in reference to the Holy Spirit: there is not as much information about the third member of the Godhead as we might like there to be. There is enough, however. He chooses to not speak of Himself, but of Jesus. The bookstores are loaded with extrabiblical books about the third member of the Godhead which are largely false. But there is sufficient information in the scriptures for our use, and Jesus specifically said that the Holy Spirit would not glorify Himself, but only Jesus. We need to keep that in mind, when we are trying to gain “greater spiritual experiences.” Does it really glorify Jesus, or do we simply want a thrill?

Obedience: The Greek word here, is “hupakoe”, meaning to “hearken submissively” or, along with that idea, to “set in order below”…in other words, deliberately choosing for ourselves the “lower rank,” where Jesus is concerned, and taking His Word as authoritative. Interesting concept, isn’t it? Notice that both the word “Obedience” and the following phrase, “the sprinkling of Blood,” are both in reference to the Lord Jesus.

Sprinkling of Blood: This refers back to the Old Testament sacrificial system, under which an object was declared holy through the sprinkling of the blood of a holy sacrifice: a priest or other believer was declared holy (as well as cleansed) by the same sort of sprinkling. This was completely fulfilled in the Person of Jesus Christ, whose Blood did not just “cover” our sin (which is what happened at the day of Atonement, each year) but “takes away the sin of the World,” according to the statement made by John the Baptist, in John 1:29. These Jewish Christians were quite familiar with the Old Testament teachings regarding Blood. They had no trouble understanding what Peter meant. He stated it fully, though: “…Obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”…so this is not some generic requirement of obedience, nor of any “other” blood. Both are about Jesus. And all of these people had heard Jesus, and had “hearkened submissively.” This is the “obedience to the faith,” called out in Romans 1:5. Paul made it more clear a few verses later, in Romans 1:16, where he stated that the Gospel, being believed in, is the power of God to save those who believe. This is Obedience to the faith. Does it result in more “physical” obedience? Surely it does, yes, but the initial choice to place one’s dependence on the shed blood of Jesus at the Cross for salvation, is the “obedience of faith” that resulted in the “Sprinkling of Blood” upon that believer’s soul, and which cleanses him or her before God, forever!

Conclusion: (Yes it means You!)

If you have heard the Gospel, the “good news” that Jesus’s blood was the full payment for your sins: If you have believed that news, and placed your trust in His shed blood for your salvation, then according to Jesus’s personal promise in John 5:24, all of the things we have been talking about are true of you!

You have been “Chosen in Him before the foundation of the earth!” You have been declared Holy, by the “sprinkling of His blood” and You are His personal Property, forever!

Yes, you entered in because you saw or heard the invitation, “Whosoever Will may Come!” But you can now look back and see that you were chosen in Him, specifically because you were “one who would respond in faith.” So, now, when you read the first chapter of Ephesians, and see all the amazing “positional truths” laid out there, you can know for sure that all those things are true of You, not just some “theoretical person.”

Next week we will continue in 1st Peter, and see the remaining concepts concerning our eternal position in Christ.

Lord Jesus, please secure our hearts against the fear that the Enemy sows in us. Let us rest in your Promise, not in our own wisdom or reasoning. Help us to obey out of Love and confidence, not fear, as we rest in your promise and your Love.

Finding Jesus in Genesis: Lesson 11

Finding Jesus in Genesis: Lesson 11

The Son of the Promise

© C. O. Bishop 2012; revised 2018

Genesis 20-22

Introduction:

We have been studying through Genesis, the “book of beginnings,” specifically looking for prefigurings of the person of Christ. In Luke 24:25-27, Jesus taught the disciples to see him in passages throughout the Old Testament. We are attempting to do the same thing, here.

Since we are looking to “see Jesus in Genesis,” I am tempted to just skip chapter 20; it doesn’t really deal with the imagery of the Messiah. It deals more with Abraham’s failure, and unbelief, which we have seen before, when he deceived Pharaoh, about Sarai, and again, in the conception and birth of Ishmael, by exploiting the slave-woman, Hagar. But I don’t like to leave out any part of God’s Word, so we will at least have a quick look at Genesis 20.

Genesis 20—Abraham with Abimelech.

Abimelech is a title, similar to Pharaoh. He was king in Gerar (a Philistine city). I have no idea why this whole thing happened…Abraham went into the land of Gerar, and again played the “she’s my sister” game, regarding Sarah. It just seems strange to me that when it came to Lot, Abraham went off to battle, whipped the enemies and brought him back, along with everyone else. Now, with (evidently) more servants and riches, etc., he is afraid to even admit Sarah is his wife, and he’s obviously willing to allow her to be taken from him. He has already seen that God will protect him: why not simply state the truth, and let the chips fall? I can’t answer that.

I don’t see anywhere in scripture where lying is approved by God. He points out that some of His people lied, and in some cases He makes no comment, beyond the fact that they lied. He does condemn lying, of course, in the Mosaic Law; and Jesus said that Satan was a liar and the Father of Lies (John 8:44.) Paul ordered the believers of Ephesus to “put away lying and speak every man truth with his neighbor.” (Ephesians 4:25) I’d have to conclude that God “hates a lying tongue!” In fact, in Proverbs 6:16, 17, He says so, in those exact words.

The fact that Abraham got richer, in the bargain, does not change the fact that he dishonored God in the process. Pharaoh and Abimelech were not “drawn to the Grace of God” by Abraham’s deception—they were offended and angry that he had very nearly gotten them into trouble with God by his lie. That sort of thing does not make for good relations with one’s neighbors. Paul (in Romans 2:24) rebuked the Jewish professing believers, saying “You have made the Name of God to be blasphemed among the Gentiles.” I’m sure it didn’t impress Sarah very much either: even though Abraham admitted that he had asked her to say he was her brother, for his safety’s sake, she was the one reproved by Abimelech. (“See, I have given your “brother” a thousand pieces of silver…”)

The only thing that might have changed how the Philistines felt is that Abimelech’s little kingdom had a “baby boom” right after the incident with Abraham. Evidently the whole chain of events must have taken quite some time; long enough that they knew that the women had all become barren, and that they had afterward all been restored to fertility. Maybe that made them happier. I couldn’t say for sure. It seems to have been a bad deal all the way around, in terms of testimony, though. Physical payoffs can’t fix everything…there will still be consequences.

In a way, this is an example of Abraham being a picture of believers, across the board. His position in Christ is perfect, and God is on his side—he will be blessed forever, and God no longer sees him as a sinner: these were all true of him, just as they are of us. The Bible gives examples of people who had a good ministry, and through whom God was doing great things; but who fell into sin, and it cost them dearly. Abraham’s sin cost him something, too. We will see what it cost him, and the grief he suffered, and the terrible results for the future of Israel. His position, like ours, was perfect; his behavior was not: though his behavior was perhaps better than ours, he was still “only a sinner, saved by Grace.” Remember too, that Abraham had a pretty important spot in history: so, the consequences for his sin lasted for thousands of years.

Genesis 21—Sarah has a son; Abraham loses one.

Sarah finally had her son, as God promised. She named him Isaac, as God predicted. The name “Isaac” means “he laughs”, and Sarah said it was because God had made her to laugh in her old age. But God ordered that name, because both Abraham and Sarah had laughed at the very idea they could have a son. And, as we will see, Isaac stands as a figure of Christ in several ways.

The problems began almost immediately: Ishmael was naturally resentful at the attention his new baby brother was getting, especially as he (probably) had been hearing, already, that this was the promised son…so that he himself was not. All we know for sure, is that when Isaac was weaned, Ishmael was seen mocking him. Sarah was furious, and wanted him and his mother cast out.
Abraham was heart-sick over it, because he really loved his son Ishmael. But God told him that in this case, just as he had listened to Sarah in the matter of taking Hagar as his concubine, he was to also listen to her in the matter of kicking her out. It’s a pretty ugly story. God promised that he would make a nation of Ishmael, too—and he did—but that nation has been an enemy to the people of God ever since. We call them the Arab nations. They all claim Ishmael as their patriarch, and they bitterly despise Israel, the true people of the Promise.

We can see a bit of the long-term relational result of Abraham’s earlier deceit, too; King Abimelech, and his top soldier, Phicol, came to Abraham to request an oath of him that he would not deal falsely with them. (Remember; Abraham had “dealt falsely” with them before.) They could see that God was blessing him, and that he was getting richer and more powerful, and they were beginning to be afraid of him. (That’s not surprising, given the circumstances.) It is interesting, too, to see that, at this point, the Philistines saw the God of Israel as the true God. Actually, Israel didn’t even exist yet…Abimelech simply spoke of “God,” with no qualifier: he was referring to Abraham’s God. He had earlier talked with God when God rebuked him in a dream, regarding Sarah, and he had protested that his was a “righteous nation”…and God evidently had agreed with him. Later in their history, they became idolaters.

But at this point, the Philistines had become afraid of Abraham, and there had also been friction between their herdsmen and those of Abraham (though Abimelech evidently had not known about it.) Politics were not stable, between Abimelech’s people and the people of Abraham; there was definite tension. It is easy to see why…Abraham had already “dealt falsely” with them once, and now he was gaining power in a way that made them very nervous, so they hoped to bind him with an oath before his God and theirs; and, Abraham readily agreed. There had been a dispute between herdsmen over a well that Abraham’s herdsmen had dug. It was eventually agreed that it belonged to Abraham, and it was named “Beer-Sheba”: the “well of the oath.” Beer-Sheba is an important city of over 200,000 people, in Israel, still today.

Genesis 22—Abraham’s Test

Please take note of the first sentence of this chapter: it was a test. God was not advocating human sacrifice. He never did and never will, except in the specific case of Jesus Christ. We are all sinners: none of us ever could be an acceptable sacrifice for another person. Jesus was not a sinner, so He could be…but no one else could.

Remember: back in Genesis 3, we saw the first example of a substitutionary sacrifice: one animal for one human, when God clothed Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2, the first Law had been given: “Don’t eat that tree; in the day you eat it you shall surely die.” That wasn’t a threat, it was a fact. They did die, spiritually: they were separated from God. Death always involves some sort of separation. In the case of Adam and Eve, they were separated from fellowship with God the moment Adam ate the forbidden fruit. Nothing happened when the woman ate, but when Adam ate, the eyes of both people were opened, and they saw that they were naked.

Next, they hid their nakedness with their own works, by covering themselves with leaves, sewn together as aprons. But when God showed up, walking in the garden in the cool of the day, they fled, and hid themselves. Fellowship was broken, and their own works (the leaves, in this case) did nothing to cover their sins. They were still naked! We can “cover our sins” in relationships between humans; but, between God and man, our works have no covering effect at all.

They were spiritually separated from God; so they were spiritually dead. Had they died physically, at that same time (their spirits and souls being separated from their physical bodies) they would have been eternally separated from God. Instead, God introduced a deeper law—the Law of the Substitute. God provided the Redeemer from the beginning of time. Jesus is called the “Lamb slain from the foundation of the earth.” (Revelation 13:8) In fact, we are told that he was “the Lamb slain,” before there were Humans to need a savior! All those sacrifices that covered the sins of all those believers, were so closely linked to Christ that they represented Him. I do not mean that Jesus “became a lamb, and died millions of deaths over the centuries”—that would be blasphemous. I do mean that all those sacrificial lambs pointed forward to the True Lamb of God, so that, when John the Baptist cried “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the World!” everyone knew exactly what he meant…some rejoiced in it; some rejected it. But, they all knew what he meant.

I suspect that Abraham did not know that this was “just a test.” What we do know is that he knew Isaac was the Son of the Promise. He knew that Isaac, and not another, was the son who would eventually produce the Messiah. Hebrews 11:17-19 says Abraham not only knew this, but he believed that God would raise him from the dead. (Wow! That is real faith!) But, what I would like to know, is: what did Isaac think? And, how did he pre-figure Christ?

Isaac and Jesus

Picture this situation: Abraham has a bad dream… a really bad dream. God says “Take your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and take him up on this mountain and offer him there as a burnt offering.” Abraham did not “dicker with God” as he had done in Genesis 18, begging for the life of Lot; he got up early and started splitting wood. Then he called Isaac, and two young servant men, and went off toward the mountains where God had sent him. Three days out, Abraham looked up and saw the place where he was to offer Isaac. He told the young men, “You stay here with the donkey, and I and the lad will go yonder, and worship, and return unto you.” Abraham gave his word that both would return. That supports Hebrews 11!

How old was Isaac? I don’t know, but he was big enough to carry a donkey-load of wood; enough for a burnt offering. He was not a “little child”—he was a big, strapping youth. But he was in complete fellowship with his father. And this is where we begin to see Isaac as the picture of Christ: “the Promised Son, in perfect fellowship with The Father:”

He was the Son of the Promise: he was born according to the promise of God; born by fulfilled prophecy to a woman who by all standards was far too old to bear children: in short, he was born by a miraculous birth. (So was Jesus…but even more so: He was born of a virgin!)

Isaac walked in complete obedience to his father, even unto death. (So did Jesus! Jesus said, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me.”) They walked together. Isaac said, “My father?” Abraham answered, “Here I am, my son.” Isaac asked a very logical question: “Where is the Lamb? I see the fire, the wood, and the knife—but where is the lamb?” Abraham answered, “My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering.” And they walked on, together.

Remember, now: however old Isaac was, Abraham was 100 years older. When they got to the place, Isaac evidently rested while Abraham built the altar and laid the wood on it. That makes sense—he had just completed a hard hike with that load of wood on his back. (Remember Jesus, initially bearing the wood of His sacrifice.) But then Abraham tied Isaac up! (What? A strong young teenager can’t escape a 118-year-old man? Or fight back…or just run away?) There is no record of any doubt on Isaac’s part, beyond the initial question he had asked on the way up the hill. Isaac was in complete fellowship with his father, and he made no resistance.

Abraham laid his big, strong son on the firewood, and picked up the knife. Evidently he actually lifted up the knife to kill his son…probably to cut his throat, just as he would have killed a sacrificial lamb. And, at that point God stopped him. Apparently God wanted Abraham’s attention right then, as he called twice, quickly (“Abraham, Abraham!”), whereas when he called him in verse one, he only called once. God said, “Don’t touch your son: don’t do anything to him at all! Now I know the extent of your obedience and trust. You didn’t hold back.”

Then it says that Abraham lifted up his eyes and behind him, he saw a ram, caught in the thicket by his horns. How did it get there? It must have been there all the time: but as Abraham had been moving around the location, gathering stones to build the altar, lifting his son, etc., he certainly had to have faced that direction before. But now, the altar was in front of him, as he prepared to kill Isaac, and any other direction was behind him, while he was facing the altar. Apparently the Ram (a prefiguring of Christ) was there all the time, but was hidden from his eyes until the proper time. (Incidentally, a ram’s horns are very hard and strong—the horns are the only way a ram could be securely caught in a thicket and not be damaged at all, so as to still be a perfect sacrifice.) And, what about the sacrifice of Christ? It, too, was “at the proper time.” Romans 5:6 says, “in due time” Christ died for the ungodly. Galatians 4:4, 5 says, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.”

It was announced by prophecy: the time was set by God. All the prophecies were fulfilled, and still the unbelievers missed it. In fact, the believers missed it, too, until God pointed it out: The disciples on the road to Emmaus certainly were not catching on, and Jesus reproached them for being “…fools, and slow to believe….” (Luke 24:25)

Then, God reiterated the promise he had made in Genesis 15, saying that the whole world would be blessed through Abraham’s seed…not just the elect—the whole world. Even unbelievers have been blessed through the Jews, and, more specifically, through Christ.

Think too, about the substitute: The ram was given as a substitute for Isaac, who was seen as a “figure of Christ” (in fact, some scholars believe that it was on the exact same place where Isaac was offered, that Jesus ultimately was crucified…I have no idea whether that is really true, but it would certainly fit, and it was, at least, in the right general area.) God provided a substitute for Adam and Eve. Abel brought a substitute for himself, as did every believer up until Abraham; but what about Jesus? Was there a substitute for Him? Only the offering for the firstborn—two doves were offered for him: but as a sin offering? No. There is no substitute for Jesus. That is an important point. He could bring no sin offering for himself, because he was without sin. But he could offer himself for us, for the exact same reason. There was no “ram caught in the thicket” to “bail him out” at Gethsemane, nor at Calvary. The cup did not “pass from him”…he had to drink it. All the prophecies had to be fulfilled. There is no substitute for Jesus!

How did Jesus feel about it? We can see one side of how He felt, in his prayer at Gethsemane. (Matthew 26:39O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”) There was definitely a human dread of his imminent torture and death!

We see the other side of how He felt, in Hebrews 12:2: “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith: who, for the joy that was set before him endured the Cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Jesus had the foresight to see the joy beyond the cross. He endured well, because he could see the joy that awaits those who obey the Father. We can share that joy, if we are willing.

Conclusion

And, in closing, God says that “Abraham called the place Jehovah-jireh (The LORD will supply), saying ‘in the mountain of the LORD it shall be seen.’”
I think that there are several things we can learn, here:

  1. Faith, and the righteousness bestowed through faith, does not mean “sinless perfection:” It means “believing God, and walking with Him.” Neither Abraham nor Isaac were perfect: both had human failings, but both stood righteous before God, in spite of those failings. If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, then, in spite of your failings, you stand righteous before God, in Christ!
  2. Jesus is our substitute in death, and as we have received Him in that capacity, we also have joined Him, in His righteous life, His death, His resurrection, His ascension, and His glorification. He is our substitute, in every way, and there is no substitute for Him.
  3. God is the provider, in every case: He is the Creator of all things. He literally created all things from nothing. He says that He is our sustainer: we are to look to Him in all things.

We are called to look away from our own devices, and to look to God. The Children of Israel, when bitten by vipers, in Numbers 21, were called to look away to God’s plan of salvation: the bronze serpent on a pole. Jesus compared that figure to himself, saying that “…as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:14, 15) Did they still have the “snake-bite holes” in their flesh? Probably, yes! But they did not die!

We still have our sin, resident in our flesh, as we were “bitten” by that “old serpent” in the Garden of Eden: but we are alive with Christ, and will not be judged for our sin. We have “crossed over from Death into Life,” and God will supply our needs as we walk with Him.

Lord Jesus, help us to understand your truth, and to apply it to our daily lives in such a way that we will honor you in all that we do. Allow us to serve as your ambassadors, and offer the gift of eternal life to all those with whom we have contact.

Finding Jesus in Genesis: Lesson 3

Finding Jesus in Genesis: Lesson 3

The Coming Redeemer

© C. O. Bishop 2012, (revisited and revised 2018)

Genesis 3-9

Introduction:

The Bible is not “the history of God.” The “history of God” would be impossible to encapsulate in a book, or even millions of books, as He is Eternal.

It is not the history of Man, as it leaves out the vast majority of human history. It is historical, but in a very limited sense. In Genesis we can see one aspect of the beginning of earth’s history: specifically, it is the history of God’s redemptive work toward the fallen human race. It tells us how we began, how we became sinners, and what God has chosen to do about it. We will discover, as we read the Old Testament, that Jesus is “Plan A”, and there is no “Plan B”. We can see God’s wisdom and his saving Grace, from the very beginning.

The Fall and the Promise

When Man fell into sin, in Genesis, chapter three, we see the first prediction of the Person who would be the Savior. In this passage he is referred to as the “Seed of Woman”. The masculine gender is applied, and the singular personal pronoun is applied—it is not a group of people that are called the Seed of Woman, but one male Child. And only one such child in history could accurately claim that title, because all the rest had a human father—they were NOT the Seed of Woman, but the seed of a man and a woman. This is the first Prophecy of the Christ, and it predicted the destruction of Satan, and the reinstatement of fallen man. The prophecy was given as part of the curse on the Serpent (and Satan), but God continued on, to lay out the consequences of sin for both the Man and the Woman, as well. The only Good News in this passage is the Seed of the Woman. And Adam believed that “Good News” (the Gospel, in its earliest form.)

The Sacrifice and the Safeguard

Adam placed his trust in that promise (Genesis 3:20, 21), in that he named his wife “Eve”, which means “mother of all the living”…and, on the basis of that Faith, God clothed him and his wife in the skins of slain animals: this was the first blood sacrifice, and it signified the covering of sin by means of that sacrifice. God’s chosen sacrifice for sin in the Old Testament was invariably blood, and it resulted in the “atonement” (Heb. “Kophar”, or covering) for sins. Every single one of the God ordained blood sacrifices in the Old Testament looked forward, by faith, to the one sacrifice that would be offered at the Cross. Revelation 13:8 refers to Jesus as the “Lamb slain from the Foundation of the world…and, indeed, the Apostle saw him on the throne (Revelation 5:6) as a Lamb, having been slain. We look back to that one sacrifice, when we take communion. We are not asking that he die again, nor does that wine become blood. His sacrifice was once for all time, to take away sin, but his death was pre-figured, or pictured, countless times throughout the Old Testament, in animal sacrifices that could only cover sin.

Finally, God moved Adam and Eve out of the Garden…not as punishment, or banishment, but as protection, so that they would not eat of the tree of life, and gain eternal life in their fallen state, thus becoming like the demons; unsalvageable, and lost forever, soaked in evil. This was Mercy, pure and simple. It was a safeguard for the human race.

Consider this, as well: Who was it that came walking in the Garden, in the cool of the day (Genesis 3:8)? Who was the judge that listened quietly to the plea of each of his guilty human subjects, then dispensed Justice and Mercy and Grace? Who is the “Judge of all the earth?” These are just some things to consider. I hope we will find answers as we move through Genesis.

In Genesis 4, we see that Abel brought “of the firstlings of his flock”…a blood sacrifice, and he was accepted by God. How did he know to do that? Possibly Adam told him…possibly God told him, because we see that God himself reasoned with Cain regarding his rejected sacrifice, saying “if you do right, you will also be accepted.” Evidently Cain knew what was required, and refused to comply. Hebrews 11:4 recalls this passage, and specifies that it was the sacrifice that was the issue, not just the heart-attitude. Cain brought a vegetable offering, which would have been fine as a worship offering, after the sin issue had been dealt with. But God called for a blood sacrifice for sin, before worship could be accepted. Psalm 66:18 says, “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me.” We can’t approach God in our sins. Abel brought a sin-offering. Cain did not.

Throughout the Bible, we see faith being demonstrated as “an obedient response to a revealed truth”. Faith is not a feeling, or a power, or a gift, in general, (though there does seem to be a special gift of faith.) Faith is simply taking God at His Word. Faith believes God enough to do something about it. Sometimes that “something” is just to believe God. (John 6:28, 29) Sometimes it requires some real shoe-leather. In Cain’s case it simply meant that he had to recognize himself as a guilty sinner, and accept GOD’S remedy for sin…not his own. God’s remedy involves the shedding of blood, whether we like it or not. And Cain rebelled. He “had his own religion”. That is a common problem today, isn’t it? We think our way is better than God’s way, and we can’t understand why it isn’t.

The Flood

In the following chapters we read about the decline of the human race into violence and wickedness—we aren’t told much about the specifics, only that the whole human race was corrupt. (Whoa! That’s news, huh!? We must have a good dose of that left around today!)

In Genesis 6:8, God says that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” It does not say that he was not a sinner—in fact, the use of the word Grace necessitates that he was a sinner. Grace is unmerited favor—unearned favor. And, sure enough, after the flood, Noah proved he was a sinner, by getting drunk.

But, what about the flood? Was that a picture of Christ, too? No, it was a demonstration of God’s judgment on all sin…and the Ark was the picture of Christ—God’s grace to mankind; God’s power to save those who believe him. (Read Genesis 6:5-22)

Please remember that Jesus treated this as history, not legend: this is fact, not fiction. In the account of Noah’s Ark we see that, ultimately, there are only two places one can be in relation to God; in the ark or outside it. One can be in Christ, or in Adam. (1st Corinthians 15:22)

Similarities between Jesus and the Ark:

  1. Everyone started off outside the Ark…including Noah and his family. (We all start off in Adam…outside Christ…we are born that way.)
  2. Only Noah and his family looked forward to the completion of the Ark. (Only believers looked forward to the coming Messiah)
  3. Only Noah and his family saw the Ark as God’s means of deliverance. (Only believers see Jesus as their hope for salvation.)
  4. Only Noah and his family responded to the call to repentance. (Only believers respond to the Gospel call.)
  5. Only Noah and his family responded to the call to enter the Ark. (Only believers heed the call to enter into Christ.)
  6. Noah and his family entered by faith—God revealed that they were to get on board, and they believed, and entered by faith. (We do too!)
  7. I think it is interesting that (in KJV) God said “Come into the Ark”, not “Go into the Ark”.
    1. We see that God was there among them! His hand guided that craft, as it had no sails, no oars, no rudder…He controlled its destiny from beginning to end. (This is also, even more, true for the believer. Jesus said “Come unto me”, and God controls our destiny in Christ—and, beyond our imagination, we are already seated with Him in the Heavenlies.)
  8. Everyone who was aboard the Ark was safe with God. All outside were lost without him. (All in Christ have been made alive…all still in Adam are lost…though in our case, the door is still open for them to enter.)
  9. The Ark was sufficient to save all who trusted in it. (Jesus saves all who call upon His name.)
  10. The Ark was built according to the Word of God. (Jesus came in full accord with the Prophecies, fulfilling them all to the letter.)
  11. The Ark took the brunt of the judgment that fell on the earth (the water of the Flood) but rose above it. (At the Cross, Jesus took upon himself the full weight of the wrath of God for the sin of the World, but He rose from the dead, in triumph over the grave.
  12. The Ark was coated with pitch, outside, to make it immune to the judgment without, and coated with pitch inside, to make it immune to the contamination within. (Well? What would you expect to happen in a 450-foot floating barn full of animals, on a year-long cruise, with no way to clean the stalls?) (Jesus’ righteousness made him ultimately immune to the judgment for sin, and makes Him completely immune to our continuing sin as well…we cannot “torpedo the Ark” through our unworthiness… we were unworthy before He saved us, and guess what? We still are! Our sins were all paid for in full at the Cross…the fact that ALL of them were still in the future when he died should tell us something about the completeness of his redemption.)
  13. The one window of the Ark, possibly for ventilation, either looked upward, or was positioned in such a way that Noah could not really see out—he could not see the destruction that was all around him, nor could he tell when it was time to get back out onto the land. He could only look up and wait on God. (Does that sound familiar? “Look up, and wait on God.”)
  14. All those aboard the Ark were there for the duration. Nobody got off before the Ark was safely aground and the earth was dry enough to be safe and habitable. (No one gets out of Christ, either.) In some ways this could seem to be a parallel to the Tribulation as well, though not a very tight parallel…Only Noah and his family survived the flood, but there will be many who survive the Tribulation, who are saved during the Tribulation, and live through its horror. BUT—it does seem to me that the Church, having been taken away for the duration of the Tribulation, will come back to a cleansed world, just as Noah and his family emerged from the Ark to enter a cleansed world.
  15. Finally, after the only ones left alive were Noah and his family, God said “the imagination of Man’s heart is evil from his youth”. (Don’t get the idea that Christians are not sinners. We are sinners, who admit it and want to do something about it. Christians are saved sinners. We are beggars, who have been fed, and who have been reborn as children of the King. We are the recipients of Grace, and Grace cannot be earned.)
  16. Grace was the thing that saved Noah—and it is what has saved every person who was ever saved in the history of this planet. God offers Grace—we respond by faith. From Genesis to Revelation, that is the message. Notice, too, that when Noah was on dry land again, he offered that seventh animal of every clean variety, as a sacrifice. God’s chosen sacrifice is always blood, for a sin offering. We come by the Blood of Jesus. In reality, so did Noah, Abel and Adam.
  17. To stretch things, just a bit: when God gave the rainbow as a sign, it was a promise that He would not again destroy the world by flood. We look back to the Cross as God’s promise that he will no longer condemn us for our sins. Romans 8 states that “there is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” And it is because of the Cross. I do not think the rainbow is a picture of the cross, but I do think the promise is a picture of the security of the believer today.
  18. One final note: The Ark was God’s only provision for the salvation of the human race from destruction in the Flood. Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” Jesus is God’s only provision for the salvation of the human race from eternal damnation.

Lessons from the Ark

We should also remember that the experience of the Ark was not a “pleasant cruise on a calm sea.” It was a violent ride on tumultuous seas, with swells and breakers, raging uncontrolled, over the surface of the whole earth. The Christian life is not easy, for most believers. It is a tumultuous ride through a World that is violently opposed to the message of the Cross, and the raging surges of human sin that cover the whole earth. There is no “safe haven,” except in the person of Christ.

The Ark was the only safe place, but it was not comfortable. There was the overwhelming smell of thousands of animals, unless God miraculously cleared the air (which He may have done.) There was the darkness of an entirely enclosed wooden ship, or barge, unless God supernaturally provided light (which He may have done.)  There was the rolling and pitching, and the groaning of the ships timbers, as the storm raged. They were in that Ark for a year and seventeen days; seven days before the flood began, and a year and ten days from the beginning of the flood until they disembarked.

Sometimes we may feel that we are enduring hard times, and we are doubtful about our future. How doubtful must Noah and his family have felt, during that experience? But consider this: if they were doubtful, did it take them out of the Ark? If they were afraid? If they were angry, and resentful? If they were seasick, and despairing of ever seeing the light of day again? No, the fact is, regardless of their condition, their position was perfect! They were safe in the Ark. In fact, the only thing that made a difference between those inside, who may have been uncomfortable and frightened, and those outside, who were dead, and eternally lost, was their position inside the Ark.

I am not necessarily a better person than any particular unbeliever. In fact, I suspect that the reverse is likely true. The only thing that makes me different than those in the World, is the person of Christ, and my position in Him: and He is the only Hope we have, to offer to the World.

We offer the only provision God has ever made for the salvation of sinners: If they are hungry, we offer the Bread of Life. If they are thirsty, we offer the Living Water. If they see that they are in darkness, we offer the Light of the World. If they are open at all to the Person of Christ, then He is all those things to them. We hold out Jesus, the Living Word of God, to those around us.

We need to live in such a way as to not diminish the light of the Gospel. God needs clean vessels through which to pour His Grace. He asks that we present our bodies, daily, as living sacrifices, so that He can offer His Grace to the World around us. Each of us has that responsibility before God, and He points out that it is our “reasonable service.” And it really is, isn’t it? After what He has done for us, how can we offer less?

Lord Jesus, teach us to see your face in the scriptures, as well as in the world around us. Help us to see the people of this world as precious souls for whom you died, and to count them as priceless in our eyes. Enable us to reach them with the good news of eternal life.

Don’t Miss Out on God’s Rest

Don’t Miss Out on God’s Rest

© C. O. Bishop 3/10/17 THCF 3/12/17

Hebrews 3:1-13

Introduction:

1Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus;

Perhaps the first thing we need to do is look at the significance of some of the words used, here: It is interesting to me that the writer addresses his audience as “Holy Brethren”.  “Holy” means set apart for God’s purpose. We are no longer slaves to sin, but neither are we our own masters: we are not free agents but, rather, we are ambassadors for a Holy God. We have a job to do: we are to be about His business.

What about the word “brethren?” It just means brothers, of course…The writer was a Jew, and he spoke to other Jews, so, it is possible that he used the word “brethren” only in that regard, but it seems doubtful. They were familiar with that use, of course, but this goes a little deeper. All those who have placed their trust in Jesus as their savior have become brothers in Christ. I think that meaning more closely follows the intent of the book. Furthermore, it supports the concept that this book is to all believers, even though the primary audience was the Jewish believers of the first century church (pre-AD 70.)

He says that we have been made partakers of the “Heavenly Calling”. Give that one some thought: in what way are you a partaker of the heavenly calling? Is that a reality in your life? In Romans 8:29, 30 Paul makes it clear that every single believer is called to God’s service…how are you responding to that heavenly call? Perhaps this will require some soul-searching…. In my own case, I have to ask, do I spend more time concerned with the things of God, or am I primarily interested in my own things…my own needs and interests? Something to think about.

Apostle” means “sent one”. Jesus was sent by God to do a specific job—to offer himself to God as full payment for the sins of humanity. He completely fulfilled all the prophecies concerning himself, some over which he would have zero control if he were not God incarnate, though some people have argued that he artificially engineered the “fulfillments.” Many were utterly outside his control as a human. He was God in the flesh, fulfilling His OWN Word. He could literally pick his place of birth, his parentage, etc. He was sent to do the will of God, the Father and he fed on that reality. He said “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.” (John 4:34)

The “High Priest” was the only one who could enter the holy of holies, with a sacrifice for the nation, and approach the throne of God. And he could only do so once a year. Jesus is the High Priest upon whom our lives depend. Either his sacrifice, presented before that Holy God, is sufficient, or we are forever lost. The writer is telling us to give this some thought…consider who we are dealing with. Jesus carried out his ministry with absolutely flawless faithfulness. Then the writer compared the person of Christ to Moses, who was also faithful:

Jesus is better than Moses

Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house.

Moses was also called faithful. But he was part of the creation, while Jesus was the creator, thus worthy of greater honor.

For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house.

For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. 

A further point is made, that, relationally, Moses was still a servant. Jesus is the only begotten Son: the heir of all things, as well as the creator of all things. He is literally “God in the flesh”.

And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after;

But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.

 So, as sons of God, and joint-heirs with Jesus, we are encouraged to not lose sight of who we are in Christ: part of the household of God. And, he exhorts those who are dabblers, still uncommitted, to make a decision before it is too late. For every opportunity, there is a closing date: a “pull-date”—a time after which the offer is no longer valid. And, to all who play games with the Gospel, claiming faith, but never committing themselves, he warns that the result can be eternal loss. He uses Israel as an example, saying that unbelief is why the first generation, who left Egypt with Moses, failed to enter into the land. (Notice, here, that the land was not a picture of salvation. It was a picture of the rest-relationship with God. They had already been under the blood of the Passover, by faith; and they had already been through the Red Sea, again by faith. But when they balked at entering the land, he said, “Fine, then: you can’t go in.” So, in spite of the fact that they were saved by faith, they lost their opportunity to enter into the joy of that relationship, because of unbelief.)

The Second Warning: “Harden Not your Hearts”

Wherefore (as the Holy Ghost saith, To day if ye will hear his voice,

Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness:

When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years.

There seem to be fairly harsh warnings throughout the book of Hebrews…and while some might be simple warnings against failing to enter into the rest relationship, others are clearly warning against eternal perdition…being lost forever. Since that has already been ruled out for the child of God, one must read more carefully, and then we can see that some of those who originally received this epistle had never committed themselves to the sacrifice of Christ, but were simply “along for the ride”, thinking that, “if it doesn’t work out, I can always return to the Mosaic Law, the Levitical priesthood, and the sacrifices thereof.”  But, since the real sacrifice now has been made, the earlier ones which were only pictures of the coming Lamb of God, no longer have any validity. There is nothing left, to which they could go back…it is just an empty shell, now.

While we, as believers should take to heart the warnings of this book, we need to see that the sternest warnings, here, are to those who have failed to place their full trust in the blood of Jesus at the Cross. There is no threat of a believer losing his or her salvation. We are secure in Him. But those who pretend faith are not only not secure, they are in special danger as having “neglected so great a salvation”, and having “hardened their hearts” (the first two warnings.)

10 Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.

11 So I sware in my wrath, They shall not enter into my rest.)

Notice that is says “they have not known my ways”…not that they once knew them and simply slid back into their old ways. This is a critical difference. To those who are lost at the Judgment of the Living Nations (Matthew 25:31, ff ), Jesus says. “…I never knew you.” It is possible for a believer to continually live in the flesh and never learn the “ways of God”. But it is not possible for God to address a true believer and say, “I never knew you.”

Seven Rests from the Word of God:

(So, what is the “Rest” offered here?)

There are at least seven “rests” mentioned in scripture:

  1. The rest of God himself after the Creation,
  2. The rest offered to Israel in the land of Canaan,
    • The rest given to the next generation of Israel in the land of Canaan,
  3. The rest demanded for the Land
  4. The rest offered to Ruth in the book of Ruth,
  5. The rest Jesus offered to unbelievers, “Come unto me and I will give you rest,
  6. The rest Jesus offered to believers, “Ye shall find rest unto your soul…”
    • The rest God offers for the believer in Christ’s labor and rest, today.
  7. Eternal rest in Heaven.

Some of these are very similar, and I will not try to “surgically” separate them, but some are very different, and God says so. Those I will attempt to explain:

  1. When God rested after completing the creation, it was not because he was tired. The word used is “Shabbat”…from which we get the transliterated word, “Sabbath”. It means to cease from our usual labor, or from labor in general. It means “rest”, in the sense that we mean when we say “give it a rest!” (Stop doing that, now…)
  1. God offered rest to his people in the land of Canaan: They were already believers, having trusted in the blood of the Passover, and having passed through the Red Sea under the cloud of God’s presence. But they were offered “rest” in Canaan. Rest (in the sense of “relief”) from persecution, rest from poverty, rest from the desert. It was a picture of the Rest in Christ, to which the New Testament believer is invited. As demonstrated in their lives, it is entirely possible for a believer to miss out on that rest. The next generation entered into Canaan, but we see in subsequent passages (Psalm 95) that there still remained a “rest” for believers to embrace—Canaan itself was not the promised rest…it was only a picture of the promised “rest.”
  1. God demanded “rest” for the land. The land was to be left fallow every seventh year, and allowed time to regenerate. Israel did not follow this command, and, after 490 years of disobedience in this regard, were cast out of the land for 70 years, to make up for the 70 missed “Sabbaths” of the land. Interesting fact.
  1. Ruth was offered “rest” by Naomi. Ruth was working to support herself and Naomi, by gleaning in the fields. She had no security, as a stranger to Israel, and there were no “social services” offered. A widow, especially a foreign-born widow, did not have much hope in that society. (Their “welfare system” was limited to the gleaner’s rights.) But, she had placed her trust in the God of Israel (Boaz said so, supplementing her own statement of “Thy God shall be my God.”), and Naomi asked whether she might seek “rest” for Ruth, in the form of marriage, so that she had some security. The remainder of that story is as fine a holy romance as one can read. That was “rest,” in the form of security and blessing.
  1. Jesus offered two “rests”, in Matthew 11:28-30. The first was offered to those who labored and were heavily laden (unbelievers). He said “Come unto me, all ye who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” This is the rest that is conferred upon us in salvation: it is a free gift.
  1. The second is different: He said “Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls, for my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. This “rest” is not a free gift; it is a product of an obedient relationship with the Savior. It comes as a result of walking with Jesus. “Ye shall find rest unto your souls.” It is only available to saved people, but not all saved people experience it. This is the primary “rest” discussed in Hebrews 3:7—4:11, although the “rest” involved in salvation is also alluded to. (In similar fashion, peace with God is a reality for all believers (Romans 5:1), but the Peace of God is offered on the conditions of faith and obedience. (Philippians 4:6,7)
  1. The final rest offered in the eternal state is described in numerous places in scripture, but notably in Revelation 22:1-3. “…no more curse”. We yearn for that final rest, and it is guaranteed to us: but we can experience God’s Rest in this life as well.

Departing from the Living God.

12 Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God.

Is it possible for a believer to “depart from the living God?” In the same sense that the Prodigal Son left his father, yes, it is possible. But it is important to remember that all the time the Son was on the road, going or coming, he was a son. All the time he was feeding those pigs, and wishing he could eat their food, he was a son. And had he died there, he would have been a dead son: not a dead pig! His human father did not know where he was, so, from his perspective, he was dead…they were separated. (Death always is a separation of some sort, in scripture.)

But when he woke up and realized his own folly, he headed back to his father’s house. His Father saw him coming, and without hesitation, ran to meet him. He confessed his folly, and fellowship was instantly restored. The consequences of his sin remained…he was penniless. The remainder of the father’s fortune was still going to the elder son.

But his position as a son had never changed. Only his condition had changed. We see similar results in a Church-age believer’s life, in 1st Corinthians 3:10-15. There are those whose life-work will be lost, because it is entirely of a temporal nature (having no eternal value), but who will still be saved, themselves, though as one escaping through flames.

13 But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.

On the other hand, let’s consider the alternative: were there people who lived in Egypt, and saw the plagues, who were impressed enough to obey Moses, and sacrifice a lamb? And who ate of that lamb, and followed Moses out of Egypt? Even followed him through the Red Sea? And, were terrified at Sinai, hearing the trumpets and voices, and seeing the smoke? And ate of the manna, daily, but somehow still never placed their trust in the living God? I have no way to know for sure, but my experience with churches today tells me it is entirely possible that there were people at that time, as well, who went through all the motions, but never knew, nor desired to know the living God as their savior and God. How can we know this?

During the Earthly ministry of Christ, there was one for sure (Judas), and likely others, who saw all the miracles, heard all the teaching, and ate the loaves and fishes, etc., but who never believed. (Definitely true of Judas!) And, during the Church age there have been many who attended church all their lives, sang the songs, prayed the prayers, took communion, listened to the preaching, and in many cases, went into the ministry themselves, but never believed the Gospel. I have met some of them. Peter warned against them (2nd Peter 2).

I have known some believers whose spoken testimony confirmed that for years they “played along”, living like a believer, but knowing, all the time, that they were living a lie. At some point they realized the deadly danger they were in and repented: they changed their mind about the pretense they were maintaining. From that point on, their perspective had changed.

There are others who pressed on with their smug self-will, certain that they were leaders of the blind, and that all these “sheep” were simply misguided fools. I have known pastors who outwardly seemed model Christians, but who eventually confessed that they did not believe the Bible. I cannot explain that, but it is true…and, from testimonies I have heard, it is not even all that uncommon.

The Deceitfulness of Sin:

Notice it says that their hearts were hardened “through the deceitfulness of sin”. Why is the sin called deceitful, rather than the sinner, in this passage? Because the sinner is being deceived by their own sin nature. Jeremiah 17:9 states that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked”. The blood-circulating pump that is the physical heart is not the issue. That one either pumps blood or it doesn’t. The deceitful “heart” in Jeremiah is the old sin nature of the New Testament. This is the “evil heart of unbelief” warned against in verse 12.

God seldom uses the word “heart” to refer to the pump—he uses the word to denote the seat of emotions and intellect—the soulish part of the human trichotomy. We are a three-part being: body, soul and spirit. And the human psyche or soul, is contaminated with sin. (The Greek word is “psuche”…that is where we get our word “psyche.”)

Your old nature doesn’t “go away” when you become a believer. In fact, it is frequently referred to as “the flesh”, just as the soul is sometimes referred to as the heart. But you were given a new nature. That is why Jesus called it being “born again”. You have a new nature. That new nature is completely holy, just as this passage suggests, and it is truly “made in the image of God” in righteousness, as well as true holiness. (Ephesians 4:24) That is one reason I can say with assurance, that, if you have been born again, this passage is to you! The book of Hebrews is for you, as a believer. The seven warnings are to a specific group spelled out in the book: those who have not been born again, but who are pretending faith. But, to the believers, he addresses you as “Holy Brethren!”

However, because you are a believer, you need to especially be aware that your old nature is still extremely deceitful. You have had all your life to practice “listening to your heart”, as we are so often told to do. We have to deliberately practice listening to God instead of our hearts. People say “Your heart won’t lead you wrong!” But, in fact, the opposite is true. We have to constantly soak ourselves in God’s Word, so that we are less likely to be drawn away by our old sin nature.

Conclusion:

There are four things we should be able to “take away with us,” here:

  1. If you have been born again, God counts you as holy, and righteous, and as His child.
  2. If you have been born again, you have a job to do…a heavenly calling: you are God’s ambassador.
  3. If you have been born again, there is a rest you are invited to enjoy, and warned not to miss out on.
  4. If you have been born again, you have two natures, and one of them (the old one) is very deceitful. There is a war going on, and the enemy’s best weapon against us is that old sin nature…our deceitful hearts.

So…what do we do about it? We choose daily to walk with God, and saturate ourselves with His Word, so as to minimize the effect of our old nature. We pray, we worship, we fellowship with other believers around the person of Christ. We pray for and look for opportunities to do our jobs as ambassadors of God. We study to equip ourselves for that work, and keep our testimony clean so as not to be disqualified for service. All this we do under God’s Grace and under the guidance of His Holy Spirit, who indwells us and keeps us through all our lives.

Lord Jesus give us the Grace to continually walk with you and not to miss out on your daily blessings through sin and inattention to our jobs. Teach us to live in such a way as to draw others to you, not drive them away. Teach us to rest in you. Amen

Hebrews Chapter 2: First Warning

Hebrews Chapter Two: the first of Seven Warnings

© C. O. Bishop 1/22/17; THCF 1/29/17

Hebrews 2:1-4; Genesis 6:14-22

Introduction:

As we mentioned in the past weeks, along with the many exhortations to genuine believers, and the seven comparisons that are made to demonstrate that “Jesus is Better”, there are seven warnings given throughout the epistle to the Hebrews, which are directed specifically to those who are “along for the ride”, but have not received the Messiah as their savior. They aren’t sure, perhaps, or at least, are not committed.

There are many teachers who attempt to make this a warning to believers against losing the eternal life they now possess. The obvious problem with that is that if that “Eternal Life” is really eternal, then it cannot cease; so the only person who can “lose” eternal life, is one who never possessed it to begin with.

I hope to demonstrate what the warning really is, and to whom it really applies. Interpretation has to precede application; so, before we can rightly apply God’s Word to our lives, we need to understand what it actually says. In chapter two, here, we see the first of the seven warnings to the uncommitted; to the “dabblers”.

Don’t let the Message “Slip” Away from You

Hebrews 2:

1Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.

Given our exalted position in Christ, (provided we have actually crossed over into His life… John 5:24 says that we have crossed over from death into life) and, given the fact that Jesus really is superior in every way to the messengers who were sent to the patriarchs, it behooves us to give special attention to His Word. That is true for all believers…but the “warning” included here is not to believers. This is the beginning of the first warning in the book of Hebrews.

All of the Epistle is to the Hebrew “professing believers” of the Apostolic Age, but among them were evidently (as today) people who, while they professed faith, had never actually placed their faith in Christ as their only hope. They still were “half-in, and half-out”, feeling that they still had the option to go back to Judaism “if things don’t work out”, or if they changed their mind.  (The intended audience becomes increasingly apparent, as the warnings intensify.)

This sort of thing is common today among Gentiles, as well, because people “go along” with a church; perhaps, just to “see how things go”.

There are several problems with that approach:

  1. Ultimately, a person who is “half-in” is not in at all.
  2. An unsigned contract is completely invalid. A signed contract is completely binding.
  3. If you put on a uniform, it does not make you part of the armed forces…and if you take it off it does not get you out. In the same way, acting like a believer does not make you a child of God, nor does failing to act like one take you out of God’s family.
  4. The unseen danger is that when one “acts like a Christian”, one can convince oneself that he or she is “just as good as any other person”, and conclude that they are in a secure position because of their works. No one is saved by works. Saving faith produces works, but the works do not produce the relationship vital to salvation.

So, the warnings in the book of Hebrews are specifically to those who have known the truth, but have neglected to do anything about it: they are “dabblers”—dilettantes—those flirting with God, so to speak, but not realizing their own lostness. They are repeatedly warned to not fall short of saving faith.

I have “direct-deposit” for most of my pay, at work; a void “pay-check” is still given to me, every payday, including all the appropriate information regarding taxes, other withholdings, and employer contributions, etc., but it is non-negotiable—the money is already in my checking account, so the paper is only a notification. On the occasions, however, when a bonus is paid (which is not part of our hourly wages), it is not done by direct deposit: the check they give me is a live, valid paycheck, and I have to go deposit it myself. I have to take special care that I don’t lose that check. If I don’t get it endorsed and deposited, it will be worthless to me, though the payment was made to me in good faith. If I let the check “slip” into a drawer, or out of my pocket into the trash, I have lost a large sum of money that would have had real worth to my wife and to me.

We can do the same with the message of salvation. Jesus has “written a check”, so to speak, in the amount of “Eternal Life”, and signed it with His own blood, at the Cross. It is made out to “Whosoever Believeth in Him.” Each recipient is required to “endorse” that check by Faith. God then “deposits” Eternal life and, in addition, the righteousness of Christ, to the believer’s account. (In the Scriptures, this is called imputation. Abraham believed God, and God “imputed” righteousness to Abraham. We studied about this in Romans chapter four.)

When we say, “Well, I’ll think about that,” or “I’m just not ready for that, yet,” then we acknowledge that we heard the message, but that, at least temporarily, we are choosing to reject both the message and the gift…and, consequently, the Giver. The check remains un-endorsed, and the transaction is incomplete. The writer warns to not let that happen.

Don’t Neglect the Gift

For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward;

How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him;

The issue here is not about “neglecting” a plant, so that it finally withers and dies, but neglecting a message—neglecting to respond to that message. In any human organization, there will be people who are “along for the ride,” but not committed to the cause, so to speak. The military calls them “weekend warriors.” In any local assembly, it is possible for people to fool one another, and there will always be those who secretly feel that “I’ve always been a Christian! I’m certainly just as good as anyone else here!” They are fooling themselves and others, but not God.

That sort of thing is possible at a local level, and a horizontal level: human to human. We can fool people. In the Body of Christ at large, however, only God is keeping the records, and it is impossible to fool God; He knows each heart. He warns against such duplicity, and lets those people know that they can wait too long…that, if they are not “on the Ark when the door closes”, they will be lost, along with the world. He warns them to not miss out.

Don’t Miss the Boat!

In Genesis 6:14-22 we see a very peculiar foreshadowing of Jesus the Messiah. (Read it.) That Ark, which Noah built, parallels the person and work of Jesus in several ways:

  1. The Ark was built according to God’s instructions
    1. (Jesus fulfilled God’s prophecies to the letter.)
  2. The Ark was built to endure. (Those animals and people were in there for over a year!)
    1. (Jesus’s ministry and work is permanent.)
  3. The Ark was big enough to accommodate all that would be in it.
    1. (Jesus shed his blood for all.)
  4. God knew who was going to be in the Ark …but they entered by choice.
    1. Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, and invites all to come to Him, but he knows from eternity past the ones who will respond in faith.
  5. The Ark withstood the flood of judgment and rose above the judgment.
    1. (Jesus bore the judgment for our sins at the Cross and rose from the dead.)
  6. The Ark had only one window, looking up. Noah could not see where he was going.
    1. (Our only information regarding our future is with God. We can only look up.)
  7. The Ark was coated inside and out, so as to be impervious to both the water outside and the filth inside. (What do you think those animals were doing during that year?)
    1. (Jesus was impervious to the Judgment and also is not affected by our unrighteousness. Our sin cannot sabotage God’s Grace.)
  8. The Ark had no sail, oars, nor rudder. Noah was utterly dependent upon God as to the outcome.
    1. (We have no means by which to control our eternal destiny. We have to trust God.)
  9. The Ark had only one door; only one way in or out…and God closed and opened the door. Noah couldn’t close it, and Noah couldn’t open it. God closed and opened it.
    1. (We have only one entrance into God’s Grace, by faith, and He says He will never lose us, nor leave us.)
  10. Everyone inside the Ark was safe…not necessarily comfortable, but definitely safe. Everyone outside the Ark was lost: regardless of age, health, intelligence, or even morals: they were lost because they were outside the Ark.
    1. All in Christ are safe…regardless of works or any other issues. All outside Christ are lost, because they have not believed in Jesus. (John 3:18)

When we read all that the scriptures have to say about Noah, we find that he spent 120 years building the Ark…and that he was a preacher of righteousness. We assume, then, that those around him had heard the warnings. They knew the purpose of the Ark, and the reason for the coming judgment.

They may have believed that he was just a smelly old man with odd ideas about life, and may have thought, “Well, I’m obviously a better man than you are, buddy! If God is in the business of “saving people”, He’d choose me over you!” Or, it is possible that they actually heard and considered the call Noah made, but ultimately put it off too long. One way or another, we are told that Noah had no control over the door. Only God could close it, and only God could open it.

The only choice Noah and his family really had was whether to get aboard. They did, and the rest is history. Once God closed the door, the only comparison that mattered was the location of the individuals being compared: they were either inside or outside the Ark. That is true today, as well. There are unquestionably people who are better humans than I am, who reject the Grace of God, because they are convinced they don’t need it. They think it is a “crutch”, or something.

But God’s Grace is far more than just a crutch. It is the only antidote to the lostness of the human race. As a race we are lost in sin. Turn to 1st Corinthians 15:22. There are two positions, or “locations” listed here: Everyone is either “in Adam”, where, it says, “all die,” or they are “in Christ”, where, it says, “all shall be made alive.” My position “in Christ” is the only thing that makes me acceptable to God. That position is perfect, though my condition may vary all over the scale. Do you suppose Noah and his family may have been afraid or seasick, or claustrophobic, aboard the Ark? Very possibly they were. But did it affect their position? Absolutely not! All the other issues are irrelevant to the question of eternal life. My position is secure: I am in Christ. I am part of the Body of Christ. So, how did I get there?

Where’s the Door? How do I get in?

Jesus promised that the “way in” was to place my faith in Him. In John 10:7, He said that He is the door…the “way in”.  In John 3:16, he said “…that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.”

The way to become part of the body of Christ, according to 1st Corinthians 12:13, is to be placed there by the Holy Spirit—baptized by the Holy Spirit, into the Body of Christ. This happens (whether one knows it or not) at the moment of salvation… at the moment one chooses to believe the Gospel, and place his/her faith in Jesus’ shed blood as full payment for sin.

While it is entirely possible to “fake it” on earth, and fool Christians, it is absolutely impossible to fool God. There are no false brethren in the Body of Christ at large. But there can be, in a local assembly.

I have a friend who will tell you very plainly that he faked his faith for 15 years, until it suddenly dawned on him that he was in deep trouble. He was lost. He repented, and placed his faith in Jesus as the blood-sacrifice for his salvation, and has been serving faithfully for the last 40 years or so. There is no question that such things happen. The problem is that we can’t tell for sure who is who, and they can even be fooling themselves, and be convinced that they are Christians, for a variety of reasons. The seven warnings in this epistle are to that sort of person.

God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?

The writer continues to point out how much more harsh the consequences may be for those who knew the Gospel, and had heard the apostolic teaching, in person, and had seen the miracles of that age, if they ultimately failed to heed those warnings. Jesus had issued very similar warnings to the Jews in Jerusalem, and Judea and Galilee. (Matthew 12:21-24; 23:29-39)

A person who hears, understands, and rejects God’ plan for the redemption of lost humanity is in deeper trouble than one who simply never heard it, or who heard such a garbled version of it that they never understood. And, a person who pretends faith, through a self-made piety, is in deeper trouble still.

Think about it this way: a person who is not in the service (say, the US Navy), and who walks aboard one of the warships that come to this area for special occasions, is there as a guest. He or she is treated completely politely and cordially. But when the ship leaves the harbor, and the visiting opportunity is over, it is expected that they will have already gone ashore. If they were to stow away, and were later discovered, they would be taken off the ship, probably by a Coast-Guard vessel, or, if they were still in inland waters, possibly a sheriff’s patrol boat, and they would be charged with trespass. I don’t know how serious the results might be.

But… if they had also dressed themselves in the uniform of a first-class seaman, and claimed to be a member of the US Navy, there would be a much deeper investigation, and probably far more serious charges. They would at least be charged with impersonating a member of the Armed Forces, and possibly with espionage.

So the writer is putting forward his first warning that some of the professing believers among that first generation of Jewish Christians might want to stop and think about the nature of their real relationship with the Messiah. He is warning them not to “neglect the message”, but to step all the way into that relationship by faith.

What about those already “in Christ?”

As a believer, who truly has placed his/her faith in Jesus’s blood sacrifice as full satisfaction of God’s Law, you need not fear that God will ultimately reject you: Your position in Christ is completely secure. Jesus promised that of all those whom God has given him, he will not lose a single one.

These warnings are not directed at you. But! The exhortations in this book are to you! There are encouragements, teachings and promises, here, that are specifically to those who already belong to Christ. As we study together, we will try to learn how to apply them to make them applicable to our lives, both individually and collectively.

 

Lord Jesus, help us to rightly divide the Word of Truth. Help us to correctly understand your Written Word, and correctly apply it to our lives. Make us the Men and Women of God that you have called us to be.

Amen!

What is Sin Without Law?

What is Sin without the Law?

© C. O. Bishop 10/26/15 THCF 11/1/15

Romans 5:13-21

Introduction:

We have already addressed how sin came into the world, but, as we are about to see, there is a slight theological issue there: Since the Mosaic Law was not given for another 2500 years or more, what are we identifying as sin? How can we say something is sin, if there is no law to break?

In fact, perhaps we should briefly address the question of “What is Sin?” In the first place, the Greek verb “to sin” (hamartano—the noun is hamartia) means to “miss the mark”. The New Testament offers four clear definitions of sin, which, collectively, cover every type of sin:

  1. Sin is the transgression of the Law. (1st John 3:4)
  2. All unrighteousness is sin. (1st John 5:17)
  3. If a man knoweth to do right and doeth it not, to him it is sin. (James 4:17)
  4. Whatsoever is not of faith is sin. (Romans 14:23)

We are not given a list of “seven deadly sins”, or “nine nasty no-no’s” to avoid: we are given principles to live by and principles by which to recognize sin. We need to learn those principles and, on the basis of that learning, avoid sin because we want to walk with God. This is only possible for those who have been born again; born from above; born of God.

When I had only one nature, I could not please God, because the only thing I had to offer was already fully contaminated. I had already broken God’s Law and could not “un-break” it. I had fulfilled all four of the above definitions. What little I knew of God’s Law I had openly broken. I had wallowed in unrighteousness, and schemed to commit more. Things I knew were right, I had failed to do. And I certainly did nothing out of faith. I was a sinner, plain and simple.

But, in this passage, Paul speaks specifically of the Law, and is pointing out that “the Law” the Jews considered to be the “end all” (the Mosaic Law) did not even exist at the time of Adam. So, then, what was the problem? How could people be in sin?

What Law?

13 (For until the law sin was in the world: but sin is not imputed when there is no law.
14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.

The Law spoken of here, in verses 13-21, is the Mosaic Law. But Law, as a principle, existed before the world began. The Law, as given to Man, existed from day one of Man’s existence—but in very limited form: Genesis 2:17 “…but of the tree that is in the midst of the Garden, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil thou shalt NOT eat, for in the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.”

That is the principle of Law, sometimes called the Law of Sin and Death. But Paul is presenting a narrower scope, here: he is talking about the law of Moses, given by God at Sinai, and inscribed in the rock, literally by the finger of God.

There were things in that law, given through Moses, which had never before been addressed. Some of those things actually became capital offenses, whereas before that day they were non-issues. We need to keep that in mind as we read.

Death reigned from Adam to Moses, because of sin…but not sin as the Jews thought of it (transgression of the Mosaic Law). That Law had not been given. Death reigned, first, because of sin inherited from Adam, and second, because it was rampant in the life of every human, to one degree or another. We can read the Old Testament account and see individual examples, to ascertain that evil was abundantly present.

Paul is not suggesting that the Law initiated man’s slide into sin. It only highlighted it, and made it abundantly clear that something is terribly wrong with the Human Race. (A radar trap does not make you speed, nor do traffic cameras make you run a red light. They only reveal that you were speeding and/or that you did not stop at a light.)

Why does Adam’s Decision affect Me?

15 But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many.

There is a contrast and a similarity drawn here: The similarity is that in each case one individual made a choice as a representative of a huge group of individuals. We might not like that fact, but it is true. It can be true is a positive sense or a negative sense, even today. When a man or woman chooses to emigrate from the place of their birth, to find a better place to live, their children and grandchildren in generations to come will reap the benefit of that decision, good or bad, regardless of whether they were aware of the decision. But other decisions have lasting effects, too:

I know a man who was the youngest of eighteen kids by one Hispanic couple. The couple was in their sixties by the time he and his next older brother were born, and, at a very young age, the two boys were left with a much older brother to raise, while Mom and Dad travelled, for their remaining years. The two toddlers had no choice in that matter. Another thing about which they had no real choice, is the fact that their older brother had, along with his wife, made the decision to speak only English in their home. So, by the time they were grown, my friend and his next older brother were the only ones of the original eighteen siblings who did not speak Spanish, and they were fairly bitter about it, as it meant they could not even converse freely with their own mother and father, who were in their nineties by that time. The choices we make affect others. That is simply a fact.

When General Lee surrendered to General Grant, it affected every single individual in the United States, for better or worse. Some members of the Confederacy may have insisted upon continuing the war after Lee’s surrender, but the fact is; the war was over—whether they believed it or not—and if they kept fighting they simply became murderers. They had no choice in the matter. There are many such tragedies in history, but it all began with Adam.

The choice Adam made affected all of his progeny, including you and me, whether we like it or not. You had no choice in that one. But concerning the choice Jesus made, to go to the cross as the representative of the whole Human race, and to satisfy the righteous demand of the holiness and justice of God, you actually do have a choice. You can choose to join him there, by faith, to eternally be found in Christ: or you can reject the opportunity, and stay where you are: in Adam.

And, as the choice of Adam brought death to all his progeny, the choice of Christ brings life to all His progeny—all those who are born again by faith in His shed blood.

Further Contrasts

Paul further explains the contrast, showing another difference between the choice of Adam and the choice of Christ.
16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.
17 For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.)

Adam’s one sin brought sin and death to the entire human race, who were not even born yet. He made that decision ignorantly, not having any understanding of the results, nor of the personal God against whom he had rebelled. Jesus knew from eternity past ALL of the sins of ALL of the human race, and ALL of the monstrous evil that would occur because of sin…and chose, before he created the world to become the sacrificial lamb that would erase that sin, and heal the world.

The result of the offense of Adam was universal, even in the lives of people who never heard of him…they are lost sinners. The result of the gift of Christ is only universal in the sense that every single person who receives him as Savior will definitely be saved. But not everyone receives him when they hear the good news…and not everyone even gets to hear it. Jesus did make it clear in John 5:24 that whoever does hear it, and believes it, HAS everlasting life. Eternal life is immediately and irrevocably given to them. They are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and He, the Holy Spirit, immediately begins housecleaning and renovations.

Notice too, a small change in wording. The result of Adam’s sin was that Death, as a principal, “reigned” on planet Earth. The result of Jesus’ choice was not that Life reigns on planet earth (it still does not), but that His people reign in Life. The word translated “reign”, here is the Greek verb “basileuo”. When we get into the next chapter, we will see that we no longer have to sin. We are told to not allow sin to “reign” in our lives (same word), but we are to rule over sin.

In Genesis 4:7 we can see where that same offer was made to Cain, but he rejected it. God said “sin lies at the door, and its desire is for you (to control you), but you shall rule over it.” You are to reign in life. We will address that again at a later time, as it is also mentioned in Revelation 5: 10, as well as in other passages.

18 Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.

Verse 18 makes it clear that the gift was given “to” the whole human race. But verse 17 makes it clear that not everyone actually receives it.

19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous.

Finally the contrast is completed in verses 19-21: the one act of rebellion brought death and destruction as all humans became sinners: in contrast, the one act of obedience brought Eternal life and grace and righteousness, as righteousness was imputed to (“placed upon the accounts of”) all who believe in Him.

Choose your Ruler: Sin or Grace

20 Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:

Verse 20
could be misunderstood to say that “more sin brings more grace”. I have read of people in our age that actually teach this. They claim that the way to experience the fullness of God’s Grace is to deliberately wallow in Sin. (Remember Romans 3:8? Paul had already been accused of teaching just that…he said that their “damnation was just.”) People who teach that perverse doctrine are in deep trouble with God. It would be similar to suggesting that if you want to really appreciate how good it feels to be healthy, try getting as sick as possible—become a drug addict. Then you will see how good it is to be healthy. That is an abominable idea.

Honestly, when you see the human wreckage that is the result of such folly, you can be glad that they have “done your homework for you”. You do NOT have to experiment with that foolishness to see the results. You can learn from the mistakes of others, and stay healthy. The same is true for a rebellious spirit. If you see the result of sin in other’s lives (especially those in the Word of God, where someone is clearly telling you that “this is the sin, and this is the result”, you can choose to learn from their example and escape the judgment under which they fell. At work, or in society at large, we can see people who rebel against God, against the Law, and against any other authority. And, in general, it results in some sort of bad consequences. One can see people losing jobs through foolish rebellion, or immorality, or drug abuse, etc. If it continues, they can lose their freedom for all those same reasons. And, left unchecked, it will cost them their lives.

But what verse 20 actually says is that God was not caught short: He did not have to “go scrape up some more Grace” because of the magnitude of human sin. He knew it all from the beginning, and His Grace reached out to remove all the wreckage of our failings.

Paul concludes the idea of the transition from Adam to Christ, from Death to Life, asd from Sin to Grace, in the last verse of chapter 5:

21 That as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.

Notice it does not say that “Satan has reigned”, but that “Sin has reigned, unto death”. The Earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the Psalmist says…and that has always been true. But the people have been enslaved to Sin. At the Cross, Sin was deposed from the throne of the believer’s life, and Grace was put in its place, through the righteousness of Christ.

Sin is no longer to be allowed to rule in the life of the believer—Grace is the new master, by the authority of Jesus Christ. And, yet, this is something about which we are expected to make a choice, every moment of every day.

Are you willing to allow God’s Grace to rule in your life? Then you need to start looking at the scripture to find out what that means. If you want to read ahead, you can begin looking at Romans 6 to see how that concept works. We’ll discuss it more next time.

Lord Jesus, we thank you for the work you accomplished at the Cross, and we desire to walk more deeply into the river of your Grace and Love. Teach us to live by your Grace.

Justified by Faith

Justified by Faith—What Then?

© C. O. Bishop 9/27/15 THCF 10/4/15

Romans 5:1-11

Introduction:

We have been studying the book of Romans, and have just completed chapter four, where we examined the question of “What saved Abraham?” We were able to determine that it was definitely faith that saved Abraham; that God definitely accounted him righteous based strictly upon faith. We saw that we are saved by the same means. When we placed our trust in Jesus as our savior, we became children of God, and were permanently counted righteous by the Holy God who had once condemned us as lost sinners. The righteousness of Christ was posted to our individual accounts as we trusted in Him.

That is our foundation: the righteousness of Christ. The rest of the epistle to the Romans is building on that foundation-stone, the Person of Christ in the individual’s life. So, the first thing Paul addresses is that particular aspect of our new life in Christ.

We ARE Justified, and we HAVE Peace with God

5

1Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:

Therefore (on the basis of all that we read in chapter four) being justified (declared righteous) by faith (not works), we have (present tense) peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Now there is an awful lot in that verse alone! Notice this is peace with God. Peace between us and Him; He is no longer condemning us as lost sinners, as in Romans chapter three. We are no longer at war with one another. (Did you know that you were an enemy of God, by birth? Take a peek at verse ten, down below! It says that “when we were enemies” he died for us!) But now, we have peace with God through our Lord (Greek; “kurios” — master) Jesus Christ. Later on we will look at a different kind of Peace—the Peace of God. But this Peace is peace with God.

This is a positional truth: my position has changed: my location has changed, so, as a result, my standing has changed. I am now in Christ, so my standing has been changed from “dead in sins” to “alive in Christ”. I went from being condemned by God as a lost sinner to being declared righteous by that same Holy God, on the basis of faith in the blood of Jesus. I went from being an enemy of God by natural birth, to being a child of God by spiritual re-birth. I have peace with God, and it cannot be lost. Romans chapter four states that God will never again impute sin to me. He sees me as permanently righteous. Where? How? In Christ, through Christ, by means of Christ. (By the way, in case anyone is wondering, “Christ” is just the Greek form of “Messiah”— the anointed one.)

Consider, then: my standing has been permanently changed to being “In Christ”. But what about my “state?” My condition? My condition can change from day to day, or even from moment to moment. In fact, the Peace of God, that we mentioned a moment ago is completely conditional. It depends upon my “state”, not my “standing”. My standing is permanently perfect in Christ. My state varies wildly, like Oregon weather. But, in reality, my “state” or condition only has two possibilities, as well. I am either in fellowship, or out of fellowship. There is no “in-between.”

We will address the issue of fellowship more fully as we read more.

We HAVE Access to God

By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

In Hebrews 10:19-22, (turn there) we see that we are invited to “draw near” to God “through the veil, that is to say, His flesh”.  Remember the tapestry they called the “veil” in the temple? It was a thick opaque fabric that hung from floor to ceiling (60 feet tall), between the Holy of Holies and the rest of the Holy Place. Only the high priest could enter there, and that only once a year. There was no other approach to the Ark of the Covenant; the Mercy Seat—the throne of God. And the priest had to go under the veil to enter.

When Jesus died on the cross, the veil in the temple was torn from top to bottom. The way was opened for any believer to enter. We are told in Hebrews 10 that the veil represented the body of the Messiah. When he died, the veil was torn; and the way to God is open. We are to enter through that veil: through his broken flesh at the Cross. There is no other access to God. The access we have, initially, at salvation, is by faith in Jesus and his shed blood. The continuing access we have as believers is by the same means. The reason we can speak in prayer, and know that God hears us, is because we have access to him via the Lord Jesus Christ. We enter His presence in the sure knowledge of his sacrifice giving us access to the Father. This is why Jesus said (John 14:6) “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” He meant it quite literally.

This is both a positional and a conditional truth. Because I am in Christ, positionally, I have access to God, and He will never condemn me. He is literally my Father, now; whereas, before I was in Christ, He was only my creator. He is available to me regardless of my condition. But, if I am not in fellowship with Him, then I still cannot approach Him in prayer without confessing my sins. Psalm 66:18 says “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the LORD will not hear me.” It is not that He cannot hear me; it is that He will not listen, if I am in sin.

1st John 1:5-7 states three things:

  1. God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all
  2. If I say that I have fellowship with Him, but I walk in darkness, I am lying. I can’t have fellowship with God when I am in sin…when there is unconfessed sin in my life.
  3. If I walk in the light as He is in the light, I can have fellowship with him (and with other believers.)

There are two uses of the noun “light”, in scripture. One is in regard to natural light—photons—physical light. The other has to do with spiritual light; moral light—the continuing knowledge of God. Jesus is the Light of the world in the second sense, and will someday be the light of the world in the physical sense as well. I think the scripture makes it clear in Genesis that He was originally the physical light of the world, but gave that function to the heavenly luminaries on the fourth day of creation. They will not be needed after the New Heaven and New Earth are in place. The Lamb will once again be the light.

So: for the moment, the light in which we are to “walk” is the light of God’s Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit. We are told that if we do not walk in the light, we cannot have fellowship with God. (By the way, this is an eternal truth. There has never been a time when a person could be in sin and have fellowship with God. Amos 3:3 indicates that two cannot “walk together, except they be agreed”.)

We have access to God by faith. We come to him, knowing that we are saved, but still sinners. We approach through confession (1st John 1:9) believing that he will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Then we can bring our worship and praise and thanksgiving, or make our petition, praying for others or ourselves.

It helps me to remember the proper order of things when I think of the admonition that we are to “cast” our cares upon Him. (1st Peter 5:7) Using the letters of the word “CAST” in an acrostic:

  • C (Confession)
  • A (Adoration—worship, praise, etc.)
  • S (Supplication…intercessory prayer, prayer for mercy, blessing, specific needs, etc.)
  • T (Thanksgiving)

Now: does my prayer have to take this exact form? Of course not. But if I am hiding sin in my heart, I need to be aware that God does not obligate himself to listen to other issues. The sin issue must be dealt with first. After that, we are free to bring our thoughts and concerns to Him. By the way, this is how we receive the Peace of God. (Philippians 4:6, 7) “Be careful for nothing, but in every thing, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God, and the Peace of God which passes all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Do you see how that is a conditional Peace?

He gave a command: “Be anxious for nothing, but in every thing, by Prayer…”  Do you see how, if you do NOT obey the command, you will not receive the Peace? So, the condition was obedience…obedience to a specific command.

Before we move on, let’s compare the two ideas; position and condition: When we say that salvation is “positional, not conditional” do we mean that there are no conditions to be met in order to be saved from our sins? No—there were two conditions: Jesus said “He that hears my words” (there’s the first condition) “and believes on Him who sent me” (there’s the second condition) “HAS everlasting life.” There’s the promise. But the fact is, after having met those two conditions (hearing the Gospel and believing in it), there are no more conditions. The transaction is permanent. And our standing in Him is secure forever, because it is unconditional. My state is another matter, entirely, and depends on how I am responding to Him right now.

But our future is secure, and we hope in the Glory of God

We Hope in the Glory of God

We know that the Glory of God is what sustained the nation of Israel during their flight from Egypt; in a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. His glory stood between them and the pursuing army the night before they crossed the Red Sea. His glory filled the tabernacle, so that none could enter, on the first day is was completed, and His Glory shone from Sinai, filling the sky and air with thunder and dark clouds. Later, that same burning glory shone from the newly completed Temple that Solomon had built.

The disciples were witnesses of his personal glory: God the Son, in His glorified body, on the mount of transfiguration. We will be transformed to be like him, in our new bodies. And, today, the hope of his glory now sustains us, as we live in a life that is not particularly glorious, and is sometimes filled with grief and pain, disease, and death. We know how life got that way, and are looking forward to seeing the end of the story, as we have already been told how it ends.

We Glory in our Hard Times

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
And patience, experience; and experience, hope:

And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.

Meanwhile, knowing the glory of God, in the dimmest sense, we ourselves can, and should glory in tribulations, knowing that the hard times we now endure will have wonderful results; increasing our patience, building experience, and deepening hope. The hope we have in Christ affects us in a positive way, not negative. Even if we hope for things we do not live long enough to see, we are not made ashamed, because it results in the Love of God flowing through us by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Consider how many millions of God’s saints have lived their whole lives in hope of His coming, knowing it would happen, but not knowing when…just like you and I. In fact, even the Old Testament believers were looking for the coming Messiah. Job said “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand upon the earth in the latter day…” Job lived about 2000 years B.C.! And he was living in hope, waiting for a coming Redeemer. The effect upon his life was that he trusted God in the hardest of times. His testimony was good, and he has eternal reward.

But where did we start out?

Remember Where We Started

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Paul briefly reminds us that it is specifically through Jesus’ death that we have access to God. He says that we had nothing to offer—we were without strength. And, as a final reminder of our real (former) position outside of Christ, he reminds us that we were not “innocent bystanders”, but decidedly ungodly. We were not “nice little misguided waifs”, but hell-bound sinners!

We would find it a hard decision to deliberately give our life for someone else. All our training and nature says “preserve self at all cost”. Even if we could see that the person involved is a valuable, righteous person, and a good man, to boot, it would be hard. Military personnel receive rigorous enough training that they might do so. A parent might do so, for a child; or a spouse for his or her partner. These are all examples of responding to the need of friends, family, etc. But Jesus did not die for “good people”, or for his friends—he died for bad people, his enemies: us.

What is the Result?

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.

So (Paul’s logic continues), since Jesus deliberately died for us when we were lost, rebellious, hell-bound sinners, how much more, now, as the children of God, will we not be kept by Him? He did the hard part of the work to save us when we truly were of very questionable value. Now, since we are the literal children of God, He sees us as being of unquestionable worth… not because of anything we have done, but because of the new creation He has made in us. He will not lose us under any conditions. Paul says that as we were reconciled (permanently) with God through his death, we shall (continually) be saved by his life. As a result, we rejoice in God, through Christ, because we now have that reconciliation. He has declared us righteous, and we are already reconciled to God…whether we feel that way or not.

Jesus spoke briefly on this subject, too: He said that He knows His sheep, and they hear His voice, and they follow Him, and He gives them eternal life, and they shall never perish.

Do you see why this is a critically important doctrine to a believer? Paul is making a point of letting us know the logic of and the security of the believer’s standing with God. He is arming us against the creeping, whispering fear that comes to the believer and suggests, “Well, now you’ve done it! God will never forgive you now! You promised Him you would never do that again, and here you are again, wallowing in sin! You may as well just give up!” (From whom do you think that attack is coming? God is giving you the defense against that attack!)

If you understand that Jesus died for you when you were an enemy of God, and utterly lost, and that as a re-born child of God, you are infinitely more precious to God now than ever before, then you should be able to see that He will never allow you to be lost. He will continue to keep you in Christ, and will continue to shape your life into His own likeness, rebuilding you to be to His Glory.

Let’s daily learn to trust Him more, and allow him to shape us in that way.

Lord Jesus, give us the Grace to trust in your mercy, and in your Love. Teach us to walk with you by faith, and to be a blessing to those around us as a result. Help us to grow to be the men and women of God that you have called us to be.