Monthly Archives: March 2021

IN THE NICK OF TIME!

IN THE NICK OF TIME!

“You see, just at the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will one die for a righteous person, though for a good person one might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him.” Romans 5:6-9.

Can one person die for another? Of course! On many occasions all over the world, people have given their lives to save another.

So what was Paul saying? Was Jesus’ death any different? In what way did He give His life to save others? There was no emergency or crisis where He intervened to put His life on the line to rescue someone in danger.

There is a much greater parallel between one human being giving his life to save another and Jesus laying down His life to save us. It is one thing to rescue someone from physical death and quite another to save the whole human race from spiritual death. No human being can do that, but Jesus could because He was a sinless offering in the place of sinners.

Jesus’ death was the greatest demonstration of God’s love that He could ever have given. It’s one thing to say, “I love you,” and another to show it by giving the life of the dearest person in all the world to you. And even more powerful is that gift when it is given to rescue those who have spat in your face, waved their fist at you and shouted, “Leave me alone! I hate you and I want nothing to do with you!”

“For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him by the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:10, 11.

Jesus’ death achieved much, much more than just the forgiveness of our sins and a place in heaven when we die. This was just the beginning. We were God’s enemies! Imagine being an enemy of God! What hope do we have against Him when He has all the power, all the resources and all the armies of heaven at His disposal to defeat and destroy us? What chance do we have to escape His righteous anger when we have defied Him and broken His holy law?

God saw our pitiful plight and sent His Son to take our place under His judgment so that He could reconcile us to Himself. Forgiveness…reconciliation…two of the many results of what the Jewish leaders and the Romans did to Jesus that day!

But there is more! We have been forgiven and reconciled while we were still God’s enemies. Paul put it this way: “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Jesus.” Ephesians 2:13.

God has changed our status from enemies to sons. “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” 1 John 3:1a.

And there’s more! Not only have we been saved from God’s wrath by His death, we have also been saved to a new life by His life. Since Jesus is alive, His life has made it possible for us to live a new kind of life – not the old way of rebellion and disobedience, but a new way of life lived in submission and obedience to our heavenly Father under the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.

But why should we? What was wrong with our old way of life? Rebellion against God and disobedience to His way brings the disintegration of our lives, both physical and spiritual, the wasting of our potential and the inevitable result of living worthlessly – the rubbish heap! Jesus saved us from that and set our feet on a path back to restoration – the restoration of what God created us to be, sons and daughters made in His image to live for His glory.

And who would not want to brag on God about that!

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

FORGIVEN AND JUSTIFIED

FORGIVEN AND JUSTIFIED

“The words, “it was credited to him” were not written for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness – for us who believe in Him who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead.

“He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” Romans 4:23-25.

How did the Apostle Paul know what the death of Jesus Christ meant? After all, He could have been any poor criminal who died at the hands of Roman cruelty. Why did they have to execute wrongdoers in such a barbaric way? Why put them through such inhumane suffering? Was it really a deterrent to others who chose to commit crimes?

How could Paul write these words with such conviction and confidence, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification?”

If Jesus was to die as a perfect Passover lamb, He had to fulfil the requirements of God for that lamb in order to be an acceptable sacrifice.

Firstly, the Passover lamb had to be chosen from the flock on 10th day of Nisan and scrutinised for three days for any blemish or defect. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey on 10th of Nisan, a clear bid to be king of the Jews. He was welcomed by an excited crowd who accepted Him as the one who came in the name of the Lord. For three days He was questioned by the religious leaders who were finally silenced because they could find no fault in Him.

Secondly, the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed on the 14th day of Nisan. Jesus was crucified on 14th Nisan and He died at the exact hour when the first Passover lamb was slaughtered in the temple. He did not die as a victim of the Jews or the Romans. Those who were sent to arrest Him could not lay a finger on Him until He handed Himself over because of the power of His name. He willingly laid down His life. No one took it from Him.

Thirdly, the Passover lamb was sacrificed to protect the people of Israel from the angel of death who took the lives of the firstborn sons of the Egyptians; a lamb for the firstborn. In Adam, they were all firstborn and deserved to die but they were redeemed by the blood of the lamb. Jesus was God’s firstborn Son. He gave His life to redeem us who, in Adam, are the firstborn and deserve death because of our sin.

Fourthly, because Jesus was without sin, His death was acceptable in our place. He was our substitute and God accepted His offering as an atoning sacrifice for our sin.

Fifthly, because He was without sin, death could not hold Him. Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the Feast of Firstfuits by the power of the Holy Spirit as proof that His sacrifice was acceptable to God. He became the firstfuits of the resurrection, guaranteeing that all who believe in Him will also be raised to everlasting life in an incorruptible body like His.

Jesus satisfied the demands of the law, lived in perfect obedience to His Father, died as a lawbreaker in our place, was raised from the dead by the power of God and is alive forever to stand as mediator between us and God. He presents His blood as an atoning sacrifice for our sin. He is the guarantee that we have been justified by His death, declared “not guilty” because our debt has been paid.

Yes, Paul, you are absolutely correct when you said, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  Jesus was condemned by both Jew and Roman. He died for the sins of the whole world. All who believe in Him are justified and can say with assurance that they have been made righteous by His blood and have been given the gift of eternal life.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

THE PICTURE ON THE B0X

THE PICTURE ON THE BOX 

“Against hope, Abraham in hope believed, and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’ Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and that Sarah’s womb was also dead.

“Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised. That is why “it was credited to him as righteousness.” Romans 4:18-22.

Faith, hope, love – three words that are often linked together in the Bible. Paul has already defined faith – “calling into being things that are not.” Love is not clearly defined in Scripture, but could be something like this – “meeting the needs of others at our own expense.” But hope?

According to Paul, faith and hope are closely linked together. It is because of our hope that we believe what God has promised. Biblical “hope” is very different from worldly hope which expresses both desire and uncertainty; desire because it is what we want to happen, but uncertainty because we have no solid ground for hoping that it will happen.

Biblical hope, on the other hand is based on what God has promised – sort of like the picture on the box. If you enjoy doing jigsaw puzzles, you’ll understand what I mean. You buy the puzzle because you like the picture. Then you find a suitable place to build it, spread out the pieces and begin to put them together. From time to time you study the picture to make sure that you are following it correctly because you want the end result will look exactly like the picture on the box.

That is the idea of hope. God has made a promise; you keep that promise in mind as you begin to pray, trust God and thank Him for the fulfilment of His Word. Hope is the picture in your imagination of what God has said He will do. Then you watch as God begins to put the pieces together to build the “puzzle”. At first it doesn’t look anything like the completed picture, but faith keeps seeing the picture and trusting God for the outcome.

Hope does not focus on the impossibility of present circumstances. Abraham was fully aware of his and Sarah’s age and the unassailable reality that it was impossible, humanly speaking, for them to have a child. Fact is fact! Sarah was long past menopause, No amount of wishing or willing could change that! Even though people lived much longer in their day, both Abraham and Sarah were past the age of childbearing. That was it!

Abraham could have given up hope on that fact alone. Instead, he set his mind on what God had said rather than what was. That is hope.

From a hymn of Charles Wesley (1707-1789) came these words:

“Faith, mighty faith the promise sees,

And looks to that alone;

Laughs at impossibilities,

And cries, “It shall be done.”

Hope sees, not circumstances but the ability and reliability of the one who has promised. If a human being had made the same promise to Abraham as God had made, he would have laughed at him. Of course, that person had no power to follow through on his promise. But God? The crux of the matter?

“…being fully persuaded that God had the power to do what He had promised.”

Why was Abraham “fully persuaded”? Because his faith had grown through believing and obeying God in the process of time. How does faith grow? By following the Lord one step at a time and watching Him work in response to our obedience. Faith grows when it is anchored to our hope as we keep the picture of the puzzle firmly in our imagination.

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

IT’S ALL GRACE!

IT’S ALL GRACE!

“It was not through the law that Abraham and his offspring received the promise that he would be heir of the world, but through the righteousness that comes by faith. For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law, there is no transgression.” Romans 4:13-15.

Paul was dealing with two mutually exclusive principles: law and works versus faith and righteousness. Works brings wrath because it is impossible for fallen humans to obey the law perfectly; faith brings righteousness because it comes through God’s promise and is a gift of God apart from the law. The one cancels out the other. Since Abraham received God’s gift of righteousness before the law was given, he could not have been declared righteousness through his obedience to the law.

Paul concludes with a declaration of victory – if faith that brings righteousness cancels out the law, then there is no longer any wrath because it is the law that brings wrath. No one can break a law that isn’t there! It’s all God!

“Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham’s offspring – not only to those who are of the law but also to those who have the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. As it is written: “I have made you the father of many nations.” He is our father in the sight of God in whom he believed – the God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.” Romans 4:16, 17.

It is faith that levels the ground for both Jew and Gentile. Since possession of the law, though it is holy in itself, becomes the reason for condemnation, Jews have no advantage over Gentiles. What should have been a blessing for them only brought them under God’s judgment because it brought their sinfulness into sharp focus.

Since the forefather they so revered was accepted by God because he trusted in His promise, and not on an effort on his part to satisfy God’s holy demands, all those who follow his example are his spiritual offspring – and equally acceptable to God, be they Jew of Gentile.

What was the promise that Abraham believed?

“And Abram said, ‘You have given me no children; so a servant in my household will be my heir.’ Then the word of the Lord came to him: ‘This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.’ He took him outside and said, ‘Look up at the sky and count the stars – if indeed you can count them.’ Then He said to him, ‘So shall your offspring be.’

“Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.” Genesis 15:3-6.

It was Abraham’s confidence in the trustworthiness of God’s promise that activated God’s power to make it happen. That’s how God works. Apart from natural circumstances, possible or impossible, He had a plan in place, but it could only become effective in the earthly realm when Abraham spoke the amen to God’s promise.

“For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so, through Him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.” 2 Corinthians 1:20.

What is God’s promise to us that we must activate by faith, upon which all His other promises are based? “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile – the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him, for, ‘everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.'” Romans 10:13.

It’s as simple as that. Paul has stripped away all the small print inserted by uncomprehending humans. It’s all God and all grace, and we can add nothing to what He has done. It’s up to us to accept it and become heirs of all the blessings He has promised.

Hallelujah!

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

GRACE IS FOR ALL

GRACE IS FOR ALL

“Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after but before! And he received circumcision as a sign, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe, but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. And he is then also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but also follow in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.” Romans 4:9-12.

What blessedness? The blessedness David experienced of knowing that his sins were forgiven! On what did David base his confidence? On the daily sacrifices that were offered by the priests on his behalf?

This is how David prayed when his sins were uncovered: “Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love, according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. Wash away my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin…You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.” Psalm 51: 1, 2; 16.

What was David saying? He did not base his plea on what he could do but on the mercy and compassion of God, and God could have mercy on him because He saw, not the blood of animal sacrifices but the blood of His own Son as an offering for David’s sin.

And what of Abraham? We know that Abraham was the father of the Jewish nation, but did Abraham have to be a Jew first before he could be accepted by God? Paul swept that notion away by pointing out that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness long before he was given the sign of circumcision.

Why did Paul take such pains to clarify this to his Roman readers? He wanted to bolster them up against the false teachers who were insisting on circumcision as a prerequisite for faith in Jesus. To Paul, this was unthinkable because there is nothing any human being can add to what Jesus did for us to make His forgiveness and all that flows from it more effective. When Jesus cried, “It is finished!” He satisfied every demand of a holy God and cancelled every debt we owe Him for a broken law.

Unfortunately, this pernicious teaching recurs in many subtle forms today – Christ plus baptism; Christ plus good works; Christ plus church attendance or communion or giving to the poor or serving Him in some “full time” capacity. All of these things are good and necessary but not to make more effective what Jesus did for us. They are the outflow of faith, not the reason for confidence.

The thief on the cross had no opportunity to add anything to his dying plea, “Lord, remember me…” It was enough to hear Jesus’ words of reassurance, “Today you will be with me in paradise.”

The tragedy for those who feel that they must earn their salvation by some addition to faith in Jesus, is that they will never know the blessedness of sins forgiven of which David spoke because they will never know when they have done enough to satisfy God’s holy law.

But far worse is the truth that any effort on our part to add to Jesus’ finished work actually cancels God’s grace. The moment we put our trust in something we have done we make everything Jesus did useless for us.

“Mark my words! I, Paul tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.” Galatians 5:2. 

What reassurance for the Gentiles who were wrestling with this problem! Paul’s watertight argument must have settled the question for them. The answer to their dilemma came, not from human reason but from God’s Word and Paul used it with effect to reassure them that their faith in Jesus had opened the door to God’s grace. Circumcised or not, they were acceptable to God because God’s mercy came to them, not because of what they did, but because of what Jesus did for them.

And for us!

Acknowledgement

THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.