The Eternal Security of The True Believer in Jesus Christ

“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:11–14)

Before us today is the doctrine of the eternal security of the true believer in Jesus Christ. This doctrine is much maligned, because it is either misunderstood or misused. It is the desire of this writer to present this doctrine in such a way as to clear up misunderstandings and glorify the God who saves us from our sins. In studying this doctrine we will consider the following: the new birth is unto eternal life, the Spirit indwells us and is our security, we are saved by grace and kept by grace, Jesus’ death is sufficient to cleanse us from all of our sins forever, Jesus conquered sin by rising from the dead, there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ, Christ promises to raise believers from the dead, Romans 8:29-30 assures us that we are secure in Christ, and we are kept by God’s power until Jesus returns to change us in the resurrection.

The New Birth

When a person trusts Jesus, he is born again (John 3:1-16). The Bible speaks of this new life as being eternal life. Why? Because we are born of God, who is eternal, and because we are begotten again by the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:21-25). The life that we receive is the life of God. It is life from the Word, and that Word is eternal. If God can die, then we can lose eternal life. If God’s Word can perish (Matthew 24:35), then God’s children can perish. We know, however, that God cannot die, and neither can His Word perish. We can conclude from this that God’s children shall never perish either (John 3:16).

 

The Indwelling Spirit

Our text tells us that we are indwelt by the Spirit of God when we trust Jesus. Jesus’ promise to His disciples is that His Spirit will dwell with us and in us forever (John 14:15-18). Not only so, but this text tells us that the Spirit is the Spirit of promise. The Spirit gives us promises because He is the earnest of our inheritance. An earnest is partial payment that is given as assurance that full payment will be forthcoming. The Spirit is a portion of our inheritance, which assures us that we will receive the full inheritance (Note: 1 Peter 1:1-5 teaches that the nature of our inheritance is eternal also.). Should a child of God be able to lose his salvation, this text would not and could not be true. The Spirit indwells us, however, promising us redemption in the resurrection (Romans 8:9-11,23). This indwelling is said to be the seal that shows we are genuinely God’s, and that the Spirit will be the earnest of our inheritance until we receive the fulness of our inheritance. This means that between now and the resurrection, the Spirit will remain with us and will not be leaving us.

We Are Under Grace

Scripture tells us that the believer is no longer under the dominion and power of sin, but under grace (Romans 6:9-14). We have been born again, given a new life, indwelt by the Spirit, promised an inheritance, and sin’s power to destroy us has been broken. Why? Because Jesus died for our sins and arose from the dead, thus conquering and breaking the power of sin (Romans 6:9-10;Colossians 2:13-15). Sin can no longer overcome us, because Christ has justified us. Notice the triumphant exclamation of the apostle in Romans 8:31-32, where he declares that no one can condemn us, because Christ has died, risen, and ascended to the Father.

Sin once reigned in the life of the believer and dominated him; but grace reigns through righteousness, and we have eternal life through Jesus Christ (Romans 5:20-21). We are told that Jesus’ righteousness becomes ours when we trust Him, and that we enter into grace and have our standing in grace (Romans 4:1-6;5:1-2). We are no longer dead in sins, but alive unto God. We are no longer slaves to sin but are free and have become the servants of righteousness (Romans 6:17). Where sin was abundant, grace is now super abundant (Romans 5:20-21). Where sin reigned unto death, grace now reigns unto eternal life. Where sin once dominated us and ruled in our passions (Romans 8:5-7;Ephesians 2:1-3), now we are in the Spirit and under grace’s power; and we are graciously led by the Spirit of God (Romans 8:12-15;Galatians 4:1-6;5:13-26). We have been removed from the power of Satan and have become citizens of the kingdom of God’s beloved Son (John 3:1-16;Colossians 1:13-14).

Scripture tells us that God is the God of all grace (1 Peter 5:10), and that grace and truth were brought to us by Christ Jesus (John 1:14-17). Grace is favor that is given to those who deserve wrath (Ephesians 2:1-9). Grace is not deserved and cannot be earned (Romans 4:1-6;11:5-6;Ephesians 2:8-9). When we believe Jesus, we enter into a standing in grace (Romans 5:1-2). If we do nothing to earn our salvation, surely we can do nothing to earn the ability to keep it. God’s grace is what rules, not our good works. God’s grace is what reigns, and not sin. The believer is saved by grace and kept by grace, because his standing is in grace.

The Eternal Sufficiency of Christ’s Sacrifice

The death of Jesus Christ is eternally sufficient for the sins of every man, and eternally redeems those who trust Jesus. Jesus promised eternal life to those who believe on Him, because God gave His Son for and to them (John 3:16-18). Jesus stated that He was sent so that believers would not perish, but have everlasting life. The giving of the Son is the giving of life (John 1:1-4;3:16-18;5:21-29), and that comes because Jesus died and rose again (Romans 8:32-34).

Scripture teaches that Jesus by Himself purges our sins (Hebrews 1:1-3), and that through death He destroyed Satan (Hebrews 2:14-15), thus breaking the power of sin over us. While the sacrifices made in the temple could never take away sins, Jesus came and offered one sacrifice for sins forever (Hebrews 10:11-14), and forever sanctifies His people by this sacrifice. Though man is appointed to die and be condemned, Christ died in our place (Hebrews 9:27-28), and He will come back for His people and deliver them from this earth and our sinful bodies (Philippians 3:20-21;Titus 2:11-15).

Hebrews 6:1-9 teaches us that there are those who profess Christ and walk away from their profession. It does not say that they were actually ever truly converted. In fact, we find that this apostasy is a terrible thing; because if one could truly lose his salvation, the text says he could never again be saved, since Jesus would need to die again to redeem him, and this would put Jesus to shame. Jesus will not honor anything that disrespects or devalues the value of His death for our sins. This terrible apostasy is spoken of as despising the Spirit of grace, counting the blood of Jesus as unholy, and walking over Jesus (Hebrews 10:24-31). We must recognize and respect the eternal value of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

The Power of The Resurrection of Christ

When Jesus died, it seemed that hope was gone; but Peter declares that we are born again unto a living hope by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead (1 Peter 1:3-5). Jesus died unto sin, and as a sin offering (2 Corinthians 5:17-21); but He arose and lives unto God, and the power of sin and death were broken (Romans 6:9-10).

God promised that the seed of the woman would come and bruise the head of the serpent. John said that Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil (1 John 3:7-10). This is exactly what happened when Jesus rose from the dead. He overcame Satan’s power by breaking the power of death, which is sin (Hebrews 2:14-15;1 Corinthians 15:50-58). Because of this we have access into the very presence of God, are given full assurance through faith, and rest in the faithfulness of God and His promises (Hebrews 10:19-23).

The resurrection and ascension of Christ assure the believer of his security in Christ. Paul states that no one is able to bring charges or condemn those who are in Christ, because He died, arose, and ascended (Romans 8:32-34). Jesus, having risen from the dead, now lives forever and is able to save us to the uttermost (Hebrews 7:25).

No Condemnation

Though appointed to die and then be condemned, Christ was offered for us that we might be forgiven and taken into His presence forever (Hebrews 9:27-28). Jesus stated that He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world; and those who believe in Jesus are not condemned (John 3:16-18).

Jesus, having the power of life and death and the power to execute judgment, declared that those who believe are given eternal life and will never come into condemnation (John 5:24).

Paul also declared that Jesus fulfilled the law and was punished in our place, and that those who are in Christ are not condemned; because we are set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-4).

These passages give the believer great assurance that his salvation is secure in the Lord Jesus Christ, because there is no condemnation that will ever come to the true believer.

The Promise of The Resurrection

As we saw earlier, the Spirit within us is the assurance of eternal life, because He is with us until the resurrection (Ephesians 1:13-14). Jesus promised that He would not lose any of His children, but would raise us up at the last day (John 6:37-44). We are promised that the Spirit of God which is in us shall give life to these mortal bodies (Romans 8:9-11). We are assured that we are kept by God’s power until we receive our eternal, imperishable inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-5). Jesus declared that He is the resurrection, and that those who believe in Him shall live again (John 11:25). This is the blessed hope of the saints of God (Titus 2:11-14).

We are taught that Jesus will return and receive His people unto Himself (John 14:1-6). And we are given comfort and assurance that the living saints will see their departed loved ones who are in Christ, when the Lord returns to raise us all and take us to ever be with Him (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). This is why Jesus died, that we would be raised up and live with Him, because we are not appointed unto wrath, but unto salvation (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10). The promise of the resurrection is given to us by God, and is a great comfort and assurance that the believer is truly saved forever in Christ.

The Golden Chain of Redemption

Romans 8:28-31 is often called the golden chain of redemption. It speaks to us of election in predestination to be made like Jesus (See Ephesians 1:11-14;Philippians 3:20-21), calling, justification, and glorification. Each step of the process is assured to the believer. If you know yourself to have been called of God, have believed the gospel and are justified, you are also assured that God will glorify you and make you like Jesus. Between justification and glorification there are none lost: “whom He justified, them He also glorified.” This gives us great assurance, because we know that God’s plan cannot be stopped (Deuteronomy 32:39-40;Isaiah 43:13;Daniel 4:34-37). Again, there is security for the believer in Christ.

Kept by The Power of God

Jesus stated that He gives eternal life to His sheep, and that they shall never perish. Not only does He promise that we shall never perish, but He also said that no one will remove us from His hand. No one can take us away from Christ. Jesus then said that we are also in the hand of the Father, and that no one is able to take us out of the Father’s hand. Then, to further strengthen our assurance, He said, “I and my Father are one.” (John 10:27-30) There is nothing and no one able to separate us from Christ. This is Paul’s triumphant declaration concerning the saints in Romans 8:35-39.

We also can read with great confidence God’s promise in 1 Peter 1:3-5, which tells us that we have an eternal inheritance reserved for us, and that we are kept by God’s power until He gives us this salvation in the last times. This salvation is when our bodies are changed to be perfected like Jesus (Romans 8:9-11,19-23;Philippians 3:20-21;1 John 3:1-3).

Can anyone overcome God’s power? No. Can anyone take Christ’s own away from Him? No. Can Satan lead us so far from Jesus that we lose our salvation? No. We are promised that the Spirit which is within us is greater than Satan. “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” (1 John 4:4)

I Never Knew You

“But!” objects the one who refuses to believe in the eternal security of the believer, “a person cannot be saved and live in sin!” I agree, and so does God. Let us examine a few texts that tell us this same thing.

We read in James 2:14-26 that faith without works is dead. Does this mean that a person can believe and yet be lost? No. It tells us that the faith that does not work is not saving faith (James 2:14-17). This is the same sort of faith that the demons have: they believe God exists, and they tremble (James 2:19), but they are not saved. Scripture tells us that we are saved when we believe Jesus (John 3:16), and that faith works by love (Galatians 5:6). Notice this: faith works. Thus it is that we read of Abraham’s faith and Rahab’s faith being true, saving faith, because it produced works (James 2:21-25). The faith that produces no change and no works is not saving faith, but is dead (James 2:26). This is why, when we read about apostasy in Hebrews 6:1-9, that we find the apostle stating he expected from them the things which accompany salvation. When one believes he becomes a new creature (2 Corinthians 5:17), has the law of God and the Spirit of God within him (Romans 8:8-11;Ephesians 1:13-14;Colossians 3:9-10;Hebrews 8:10), and will produce the fruit of the Spirit to the glory of God (Ephesians 5:9;Galatians 5:22-26). The issue is not whether one can lose His salvation: he cannot. The issue is whether one truly believed in the first place.

We read in 1 John 3:7-10 that those who live righteously are righteous, even as Christ is righteous, while those who live in sin are of the devil. Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil. This is why we can distinguish those who are God’s children from those who are not: those who live in continual sin are the children of the devil, and those who seek to continually live righteously are the children of God. God’s children sin, yet we have an advocate with the Father (1 John 2:1-2), and our sins are forgiven so that they do not cut us off from God. God’s children are characterized by walking in the light and confessing their sins (1 John 1:7,9). Why is this so? It is because we have the seed, or nature of God within us because of the new birth (1 John 3:9). Far from a person being born again and then losing his salvation, the true child of God lives his life in obedience to God.

Finally, notice that there are some who are rejected by God in the judgment (Matthew 7:21-23). There are people who are religious people who will be cast away from God forever. Jesus said that these people would even argue with Him, declaring that they had done many great things for Him; yet they will be rejected. Why are they rejected? Because, despite their religious works, they did not obey God. They did not serve Him. Religious works do not save a person. Professing Christ does not save a person. These people are people who never came to know the Lord Jesus, and it is seen in that He will say to them, “I never knew you.” Jesus did not know them and then reject them. Jesus did not save them and then lose them. Jesus never knew them in the first place. True saving faith results in obedience, as Jesus taught in Matthew 7:24-27. Had people obeyed the Lord by believing Jesus (Romans 10:1-4,16-17), they would have been saved and would have obeyed Him; but they never did, and this is why they will finally be rejected by God and cast from His presence forever. True believers never lose their salvation, but those with a false faith (See John 2:23-24, where many believed in a fashion, but Jesus did not believe them.) will ultimately be rejected of God. To which group do you belong?

 

The Doctrine Of Redemption Part 1

redemption

 

Redemption In The Old Testament

Any attempt to study the doctrine of redemption would fall woefully short of giving an understanding of this great truth if that study did not take into account the Old Testament data.  As a matter of fact, this doctrine has its beginning in the Old Testament and the New Testament simply fulfills the Old Testament types; without which types we could not understand fully what is meant by redemption in the New Testament.

The first time that redemption is mentioned was when Jacob blessed the sons of Joseph.  Jacob said, “ The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”  (Gen 48:16) KJV  This particular text does not give us an extremely large amount of insight into the meaning of redemption, but it does inform us that one’s redemption is usually from some unpleasant situation.  Jacob declared that he was delivered from all evil.  It is most likely that the patriarch was referring to the fact that he was delivered the various dangers and problems of life that could have destroyed him as well as his own inherent wickedness and the consequences thereof.

Many years later the children of Israel would be enslaved by the Egyptians and would need to be delivered.  It was at this time that the LORD sent Moses to bring them out of Egypt saying, “Say unto the children of Israel, I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will rid you out of their bondage, and I will redeem you with a stretched out arm, and with great judgments:  And I will take you to me for a people, and I will be to you a God: and ye shall know that I am the Lord your God, which bringeth you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.   And I will bring you in unto the land, concerning the which I did swear to give it to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob; and I will give it you for an heritage: I am the Lord.”  (Ex 6:6-8) KJV  It is very informative to note that not only does redemption bring one (or a group) out of bondage, but it also takes them into the blessings of the promises of God.  

As Israel was given the law they were also given a civil code to direct them in their day-by-day existence as a nation.  In this civil code was a provision for those who found themselves in a difficult financial position.  That provision was that they could give their land as a payment for their debt.  As a general rule the land would return to them at the end of a specified fifty year period, but not before.  There was one way in which the land could be returned to the original owner before the fifty year period was expired.  It could return by means of redemption.  This simply means that, should the original owner or a family member of his be able to pay the debt, the land would be redeemed and the original owner could take possession of it once again.  “If thy brother be waxen poor, and hath sold away some of his possession, and if any of his kin come to redeem it, then shall he redeem that which his brother sold.   And if the man have none to redeem it, and himself be able to redeem it;  Then let him count the years of the sale thereof, and restore the overplus unto the man to whom he sold it; that he may return unto his possession.”  (Lev 25:25-27) KJV  This same principle applies to one who sold himself into servitude to pay his debts.  “If a sojourner or stranger wax rich by thee, and thy brother that dwelleth by him wax poor, and sell himself unto the stranger or sojourner by thee, or to the stock of the stranger’s family:  After that he is sold he may be redeemed again; one of his brethren may redeem him:  Either his uncle, or his uncle’s son, may redeem him, or any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him; or if he be able, he may redeem himself.”  (Lev 25:47-49) KJV  One thing that is necessary to note is the fact that the redeemer must have a kinship to the one being redeemed.  This fact will be relevant later in our study.

The resurrection is spoken of as redemption, too.  Job spoke of it saying, “Oh that my words were now written! oh that they were printed in a book!   That they were graven with an iron pen and lead in the rock for ever!   For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth:  And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:   Whom I shall see for myself, and mine eyes shall behold, and not another; though my reins be consumed within me.”  (Job 19:23-27) KJV  What makes this passage interesting is the fact that there are those who think there is no reference to a bodily resurrection in the Old Testament.  Job (Who is probably a grandson of Jacob Gen 46:13 cp Gen 36:1-11) was confident that, though his body would be consumed by the worms, he would see his Redeemer face to face.  Although he was in a great trial, Job was confident that he would not be caused to remain under that hardship, but would be redeemed; if not in the present, in the future when the Redeemer came to the earth.  The Psalmist also spoke of the resurrection: “God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me.”  (Ps 49:15) KJV  Hosea , too, had confidence that there was a redemption that would overcome death, and spoke in the name of the LORD saying, “ I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.”  (Hos 13:14) KJV  

The Old Testament also acknowledges that when one’s sins are forgiven they are redeemed.  Isaiah spoke in the name of the LORD saying, “I have blotted out, as a thick cloud, thy transgressions, and, as a cloud, thy sins: return unto me; for I have redeemed thee.   Sing, O ye heavens; for the Lord hath done it: shout, ye lower parts of the earth: break forth into singing, ye mountains, O forest, and every tree therein: for the Lord hath redeemed Jacob, and glorified himself in Israel.”  (Isa 44:22,23) KJV  We shall find that this aspect of the doctrine will be revealed and developed much more fully in the New Testament.

Finally, the Old Testament speaks to us of God’s redeeming His people at the time of the end.  Although we have already seen the truth of the resurrection, we must also see that redemption does not simply bring us out of the grave, but also into the eternal blessings of God.  “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.   It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the Lord, and the excellency of our God.   Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.   Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompence; he will come and save you.   Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.   Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.   And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.   And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.   No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:  And the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”  (Isa 35:1-10) KJV  This is spoken of again when Isaiah said, “The Lord shall comfort Zion: he will comfort all her waste places; and he will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the Lord; joy and gladness shall be found therein, thanksgiving, and the voice of melody.  Therefore the redeemed of the Lord shall return, and come with singing unto Zion; and everlasting joy shall be upon their head: they shall obtain gladness and joy; and sorrow and mourning shall flee away.”  (Isa 51:3,11) KJV  “So shall they fear the name of the Lord from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.   And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the Lord.   As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the Lord; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the Lord, from henceforth and for ever.”  (Isa 59:19-21) KJV  These passages demonstrate to us that the Lord shall return and deliver His people from oppression and their own sins and give them eternal joy according to His promise.  That will be a glorious redemption indeed.

Redemption In Christ

In New Testament times one of the first times that redemption was mentioned was when Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth bore him a son whom he named John.  This child John (John the Baptist) was to be the one who went before the LORD in the spirit of Elijah (See Luke 1: ).  When John was born, this knowledge caused Zacharias to rejoice saying, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people,  And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;  As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:  That we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us;  To perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant;  The oath which he sware to our father Abraham,  That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear,  In holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”  (Luke 1:68-75) KJV  Zacharias knew that Jesus would soon be born, and so he rejoiced that God was coming as our redeemer.  While (as was typical of the time) Zacharias viewed redemption in a somewhat nationalistic way (because he was expecting deliverance from their enemies and those who hated them), yet he also believed that redemption did have a spiritual element, too.  Being redeemed we shall be able to serve God without fear of man and can do so in righteousness all the days of our lives.  Thus redemption can be seen as our being delivered from bondage to be ever able to serve the Lord.  Anna, too, recognized that the child, Jesus, was our redeemer.  The Scriptures say that “She coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.”  (Luke 2:38) KJV 

What is the redemption that is in Christ?  Redemption is forgiveness of sins.  “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.”  (Eph 1:7) KJV  “In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:14) KJV  

During His ministry Jesus stated that his life would be the redemption price for us.  “The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.”  (Matt 20:28) KJV  For man to be set free from sin a price did indeed have to be paid.  The Scriptures set the penalty for sin: “The soul that sinneth, it shall die.”  (Ezek 18:4) KJV  “The wages of sin is death.”  (Rom 6:23) KJV  “Without shedding of blood is no remission.”  (Heb 9:22) KJV  That is the price that Jesus paid for us: His blood, which means that He gave His life.  

Some Thoughts On The Christian And The Law

Christianity And The Law

(Christ And The Law)

    What sort of attitude did Jesus have toward the law of God?  This is the question we must ask of ourselves as we study the law of God and its relevance to mankind today.  If Jesus disregarded God’s law, we can do the same.  If Jesus abolished God’s law, we can consider it to be irrelevant.  On the other hand, if Jesus respected, fulfilled, and established God’s law, we must honor and obey God’s law.   Let us see what the Biblical record will show us.

Christ Established The Law

    As Christ preached His Sermon on The Mount, He stated to the people, “ Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.   For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.   Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.   For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:17-20)  What did Jesus mean by this statement?  Did Jesus mean that, when He fulfilled the law, it would be forever useless and irrelevant, or did Jesus mean to say that His fulfilling of the law caused its authority to stand firmly?  First of all, we must found our understanding of this issue upon Jesus’ first phrase in this passage.  The reason we must found our understanding of this issue upon this first phrase of Jesus is because, in this passage, Jesus is plainly stating what people should not think about His attitude and actions toward the law of God.  We must not think that Jesus came to destroy, demolish, or dissolve the law of God.  He explicitly stated to us that we should not think that.  Jesus did not come for this purpose.  Anything else that is said about the validity of the law of God must be based upon this plain statement by Jesus.  This being so, we can at least see that Jesus intends for the law to stand as it did for many years before His earthly ministry.

    Jesus’ words concerning the law were very simple and very plain.  After He told us that He had no intentions of destroying the law, He stated that He had come for the purpose of fulfilling the law.  To fulfill the law meant more than simple obedience to all of God’s commands.  To fulfill means to consummate, render perfect, ratify, or carry through to completion.  This definition informs us that Jesus had a very high view of God’s law.  In fact, since in the Old Testament the moral law of God was considered to be absolute, we can safely affirm that Jesus held the same view.  If the reader will notice, however, there is one thing that Jesus stated that cannot be said by any other man.  Jesus stated that He would fulfill the law.  No other man could ever make that statement, no matter how good he might be.  Why?  Because no human has the authority to make or establish laws for all mankind for all ages.  The only one who could carry the law to its intended end, perfect and ratify it would be the one who was the lawgiver – God.   Jesus was stating that there was more work for the law to accomplish, and He would be the one to cause that work to be finished.  Christ affirmed that the law would not go away, but would be upheld and perfected by Him.

    Next Jesus affirmed the absolute authority of the law of God.  That is, the law of God will continue to be authoritative with no reduction or change to that authority until it has served its purpose.  “Verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” (Matt 5:18)  When we read of “jots and tittles” we are being given a description of the most minute parts of the alphabetical and grammatical structure of the Hebrew language.  It would be roughly equivalent to saying that an “i” and a “.” would not pass away from the word of God.  In other words, even in the smallest of particulars, the law of God would not be dissolved.  Not one thing that would affect the meaning , understanding, and authority of God’s law would be allowed to pass away until the law was fulfilled.  It seems that Jesus believed that the law of God was fully inspired and would be preserved by God, not only in the meaning, but in the writings/manuscripts as well.  That is not to say that we have the original manuscripts with us today, but it is to say that God has preserved His word as He promised.  In fact, Jesus told us that “it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fail.” (Luke 16:17)

    Jesus believed that the law was of absolute moral authority.  He stated, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:19)  While Jesus taught that not one of God’s moral commandments would cease to be authoritative (see also John 10:35b), He knew that there would always be those who deemed themselves of sufficient wisdom, etc. to determine that certain commands were no longer in force.  He plainly told us that those who would seek to lessen the authority of the law of God in the lives of men would be considered of very little importance in the kingdom of Heaven.  On the contrary, those who would uphold the absolute authority of God’s law for themselves and others would be counted great in the kingdom of Heaven.  Why is this so?  Simply because God honors those who honor Him, and those who despise Him will be lightly esteemed (See 1Sam 2:30).  One may ask how the honor of God is relevant to the law.  It is relevant because God is the absolute authority who authorized the law.  To obey the word of God is to obey God Himself.

Jesus Taught The Law As Being Spiritual in Nature

    While Jesus upheld the authority of the law, He also reminded men that the law is spiritual in nature.  Notice His statement concerning the Pharisees and the law: “ I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.” (Matt 5:20)  What did Jesus mean by this statement?  To understand this statement, we must know the nature of Pharisaical righteousness.  The Pharisee’s righteousness was external only.  “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.   Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.   Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess.   Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.   Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.   Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matt 23:23-28)  The whole focus of Pharisaic living was to appear righteous.  So long as they had the outward form of the law upheld in their lives, they felt themselves to be very righteous.  Jesus stated, in opposition to this fallacious notion, that one’s righteousness must exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees.  Righteousness is much more than external forms.  In fact, while rebuking the Pharisees, Jesus told them that the weighter things of the law were things of the heart; things such as judgment, mercy, and faith.  He also told the Pharisees that they should first have the inside – their hearts – cleaned before they could truly clean up and have external righteousness.  Why is this so?  Because the law is spiritual and ministers primarily to the heart of man.

    One day a man who was very learned in the law of God asked Jesus which was the great commandment in the law.  We know that the questioning person was testing Christ and hoping to cause Him trouble.  Perhaps the scribe thought that Jesus would prefer one specific command above another and the scribe could accuse Him of either being too harsh on one issue, or being to soft on another issue.  Whatever the case may have been, Jesus upset the proverbial apple cart by saying: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.   This is the first and great commandment.   And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.   On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt 22:37-40)  In other words, the issue with the law was not an issue of external commands, and some being of greater importance.  The heart of the law is spiritual in that the law calls for us to love God with all that is within us and with all that we are.  We are then to spread that love for God by loving our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Love is not a material thing.  Love is spiritual, and the law leads us to love.  To obey the law is to love God and to love our neighbor.  That is indeed spiritual.

Jesus Fulfilled The Law

    While Jesus established the law by upholding its authority, He also fulfilled the law by meeting its every righteous demand.  “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.   For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.   For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Rom 8:1-4)  It takes little observation to notice, however, that the law, though morally perfect, was not complete.  Something was lacking.  The law could not be God’s final word to man because the law could not save.  The law ministered condemnation to men by causing them to realize their sinful condition.  Jesus, the Word of God, however, ministered salvation to men by fulfilling the law even by suffering the judgment of the law in His own body as a substitute for us.  “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)  Jesus brought grace and truth to a world full of sinners who were condemned by the law.  It is any wonder, then, that He told the Jews, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39)  The law that the Jews felt gave them life was actually testifying to them that Jesus was going to come to bring salvation, thus fulfilling the law.

Since the law could not be God’s final word to man, we must view Jesus and His Word as God’s final word to man. Why? Because the law was absolute morally. Jesus fulfills the law by saving us. What more can God say to us? We have the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (See Jude 1:3). What need have we for additional revelation? None, after all, when we consider that Jesus declared the Father to us (see John 1:18), we have the fullness of revelation. This means that Jesus’ fulfilling the law, and giving us the truth He promised (John 15:26;16:12-15) finalizes God’s Word to mankind. For this we have much to be thankful, because we know where God’s Word is found, and are stable and secure due to the knowledge that we do not have to search for God’s Words, nor keep having to learn more and more due to an influx of additional words from God.

“Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.” (2 Cor 9:15)

Notes On Communion And Washing The Saints’ Feet

Communion

1 Corinthians 11:17-26

:17-22 The setting and context: Corinth’s divisions manifest in their common meal

Jude :12

In the pl., agápai, love feasts, public banquets of a frugal kind instituted by the early Christian church and connected with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. The provisions were contributed by the more wealthy individuals and were made common to all Christians, whether rich or poor, who chose to partake. Portions were also sent to the sick and absent members. These love feasts were intended as an exhibition of that mutual love which is required by the Christian faith, but as they became subject to abuses, they were discontinued.

        These here seem to be the Agapæ, or love-feasts, of the primitive Christians; the design of which was to maintain and promote brotherly love, from whence they took their name; and to refresh the poor saints, that they might have a full and comfortable meal now and then: their manner of keeping them was this; they began and ended them with prayer and singing; and they observed them with great temperance and frugality; and they were attended with much joy and gladness, and simplicity of heart: but were quickly abused, by judaizing Christians, as observing them in imitation of the passover; and by intemperance in eating and drinking; and by excluding the poor, for whose benefit they were chiefly designed; and by setting up separate meetings for them, and by admitting unfit persons unto them; such as here are said to be spots in them, blemishes, which brought great reproach and scandal upon them, being persons of infamous characters and conversations.

 John Gill, An Exposition of the New Testament <https://ref.ly/logosres/gillexpnt?ref=Bible.Jud12&off=123&ctx=a+feast+of+faith%EF%BB%BFb.+~These+here+seem+to+b>, vol. 3, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1809), 676.

The Last Supper was a full Passover meal, and the early church had continued the tradition of celebrating a meal (“the Lord’s Supper”) of which bread and wine were only a part. Communion as a full meal was also called a “love feast.”

 Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament <https://ref.ly/logosres/bbackcom?ref=Bible.Jud12&off=4&ctx=wish+tradition.%0a12.+~The+Last+Supper+was+> (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Jud 12.

:23-26 The meaning of communion

cf 1 Corinthians 10:16-17 communion-sharing

Note that we have elements of cup and bread, which represent the blood and body of our Lord. They show His death.

The problem of the mass and transubstantiation. 1. John 6:51-63 Jesus was speaking in spiritual terms. He was not being literal. These words are a figure. It is not the flesh, but the spirit, that gives life. 2. The mass is re-enactment of the crucifixion in which it is believed that Jesus is crucified before the eyes of the beholder and His flesh eaten by those who partake. Thus it is that the priest holds up the chalice/cup and proclaims, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!” He truly believes that Jesus is present in the form of the wine and wafer. The reality is that Jesus will not be crucified a second time, nor any more than the one time which He died. Hebrews 10:7-18 That one offering is sufficient forever.

:26 The Lord’s Supper shows His death. It is a sign and a symbol that testifies to the reality that we all share through faith in Christ.

“till He come.” Luke 22:14-18 This presents to us the remembrance of Christ’s resurrection, the promise of His coming, and the glorious hope of communing with Him forever in His eternal kingdom.

Feetwashing

John 13:1-17

First of all, let us understand that footwashing is an ordinance, yet it is not a separate ordinance from the communion service. It is a part of the communion service.

Washing feet

Washing the feet of guests was the job of the lowest of servants. It seems that there was no servant at hand to wash their feet, and they did not even wash their own feet. Now Jesus washes their feet to teach them a lesson.

 Jesus taught the disciples to be servants, as He was a servant Matthew 20:28. It is quite possible that Jesus taught this because of the disciple’s arrogant squabbling Luke 22:24-30, which seems to have taken part during the Last Supper. 

Washing with water

John 13:8 If Jesus does not wash us, we have no share in Him, no communion, and no fellowship.  Cf Hebrews 12:7-8

John 13:10 He who is washed is totally clean, except for his feet. Feet walk and, in daily life, feet get dirty and need washing. This symbolizes our need for daily cleansing.

Ephesians 5:25-28

John 15:1-3 clean through the Word

Washing one another

Galatians 6:1-3 help the fallen brother

James 5:19-20 convert the erring brother

1 John 5:16-17 pray for the sinning brother

    accept washing

    Some people won’t do the literal washing of feet, not because they don’t want to wash, but because they don’t want people seeing their feet. Likewise we often fail to willingly accept the help from those who wish to help us. Hebrews 13:17,22 We must remember Galatians 6:3 and recognize that we will need to accept washing from others. To refuse is to arrogantly assume that we are something though we are nothing.

Why call this a part of the communion service?

  1. Because it is part of the symbolism of salvation. There is the broken body and shed blood of Jesus, and then there is the cleansing Jesus gives by His Word. If we have no part with Him without the cleansing, it seems it is only right that it be signified in the communion service.
  2. Because Jesus said that we ought to do it. John 13:17

What Is The Church?

What Is The Church?

            Over the years many people all around the world have asked the question, “What is the church?” It is the aim of this post to answer that question from the most relevant and authoritative of places, the Bible.

            What is the church?  That is what we must determine before we delve into the composition and manifestation of the church.  The most basic meaning of the Greek word ekklesia which is translated “church” in the New Testament is “called out.”  This was a common term for a congregation or an assembly.  It speaks of those who are called out for a specific purpose and was specifically used in this manner when Luke spoke of the Ephesian assembly (which was a tumultuous mob) in Acts 19:32&39 where it is translated “assembly.”  With this in mind we can conclude that the church is a group of people called out by God for His own purpose.  In fact, Peter presents this fact to us very plainly saying, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.”  (1 Peter 2:9)  

The Old Testament Church

            Though very little is said about the nation of Israel being part of God’s church, the Bible does plainly present this fact to us.  Stephen, speaking of Moses, said, “This is he, that was in the church in the wilderness with the angel which spake to him in the mount Sina, and with our fathers: who received the lively oracles to give unto us.”  (Acts 7:38)  Now, there are those who would wish to deny that this is indeed a reference to Israel as being a part of God’s church.  They would like to tell us that this is simply an assembly of people, and that is all that ekklesia is meant to convey to us in this context.  The fact remains, however, that the word ekklesia occurs more than 100 times in the New Testament, and only in Acts 19:32&39 is it translated “assembly.”  In every other instance it is translated “church” or “churches.”  The only time it is used to speak of an assembly other than the Lord’s church is in Acts 19:32&39.  The typical usage of ekklesia in the New Testament is in reference to a called out group of people.  That is precisely what the nation of Israel was.  “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”  (Hosea 11:1) Thus, we can be assured that, though it did not function in the same manner as a New Testament church, there was indeed a church in the Old Testament.

The New Testament Church

            What about New Testament days?  How do we see the church in the New Testament?  First of all, the local church is certainly seen in the New Testament.  The church is there with her leaders, discipline, and ordinances.  At the same time the church is also seen as a larger body that is composed of all who know Jesus.  It is this manifestation of the church that we want to consider.

            When Jesus first mentions the church, He made a special promise to the church that actually demonstrates to us that the church is more than a local body alone.  Jesus said: “upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”  (Mt 16:18) KJV  Why say that this applies to more than the local church?  Because many local churches have died.  This promise must pertain to some form of church other than the local church.  Local church only proponents may say that this applies to the church in general.  To do so, however, is to concede that there is some form of church beyond the local church.  There is a church that shall never die, according to the promise of Jesus.  What church is it?

            The apostle Paul was one who understood the church to be general in nature and manifesting itself in local assemblies.  It was he who told us “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)  Entrance into the body of Christ comes by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (See Galatians 3:26-29).  The question then arises, into what body is one baptized?  Historically, Baptists have required water baptism for local church membership.  I think that is the right thing to do.  If this is so, into what one body is the believer baptized into when baptized with the Holy Spirit?

            Paul’s language again shows us the general nature of the church when he said “God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues.” (1 Corinthians 12:28)  Having just told the Corinthian church that their local assembly was the body of Christ, he proceeds to tell them about the gifts that are given to the church.  The first gift mentioned was apostles.  Were the apostles given to the Corinthian church, or the church general which is composed of Holy Spirit baptized believers?

            There’s hardly another passage in which the church general can be seen more clearly than the following: “He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;  Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;  And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:  And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.   For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.   Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;  And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;  In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:  In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”   (Ephesians 2:14-22)  Paul states that the Jew and the Gentile have been made one.  By the cross the Jews and Gentiles are reconciled into one body.  There is no Gentile church or Jewish church.  There is only the Christian church.  There is no longer Israel as the only chosen of God.  Gentiles are fellow heirs with believing Israel.  We are of the same household as the believing Jew. Together the believing Jew and the believing Gentile are built into God’s holy temple.  By being reconciled to God, we are made into one body, this text tells us. God dwells in this church by the Holy Spirit.  One thing that local church only advocates miss is the fact that the body of Christ is present in this passage, but water baptism is not.  Neither will it serve any purpose to insist that it is implied.  What is expressly stated is that the cross is what brings people into this one body.  The body here is a body composed of the redeemed.

            The church as the body of the redeemed is seen again in Paul’s writings to the church at Ephesus.  “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;  That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,  That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.  So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.   For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:  For we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.   For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.    This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.   Nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husband.”  (Ephesians 5:25-33)  How does the church become the church?  By the cross of Christ.  This same Paul said, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.”  (Acts 20:28) For whom did Jesus die?  He died for the church.  Who is the church?  Those who have been redeemed: the ones purchased by the blood of Christ.  Local church only advocates must notice that water baptism, as important as it is, is never mentioned in these two texts.  What is mentioned is redemption through the cross of Christ.  The church general is composed of blood bought Christians.

            Finally, the having seen the church as the bride of Christ, we must ask the question of the composition of the bride of Christ.  Who is in the bride?            

The Bride of Christ Composed of All Saints, Both Old Testament And New Testament Saints

            First of all, we must go to the Revelation to see the bride of Christ.  “I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.   Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.   And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.”  (Revelation 19:6-8) Many of those who advocate the local church only position state that  the white robes come from the righteous deeds of the saints.  In other words, the ones who are in the bride of Christ are the saints who live up to a certain standard of righteousness and holiness.  This standard has never been fully defined, to my knowledge.  It is supposed to begin with water baptism into the local church, however. 

            Does the Scripture uphold this view of the robes of righteousness being righteous works?  It is this writer’s contention that the Scriptures do not support that position.  Isaiah rejoiced in God’s grace saying, “I will greatly rejoice in the LORD, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.”  (Isaiah 61:10) Isaiah ascribed the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness as being a gratuitous gift from God, not as something done by the saint[1].  Jesus alludes to this in one of His parables:  “When the king came in to see the guests, he saw there a man which had not on a wedding garment:  And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless.   Then said the king to the servants, Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.   For many are called, but few are chosen.”  (Matthew 22:11-14) In Jesus’ day it was common for great men to invite many people to celebrate when family members were married.  We are told by some scholars that often the host would freely provide garments for his guests.  It was a great show of disrespect to one’s host to not wear the provided garments.  Jesus is telling us that we cannot partake of the joy of His kingdom if we do not accept the garments that He gives us.  What is the wedding garment, or the fine linen in which the bride shall be clothed in the day of her marriage to the Lamb?  It is the robe of righteousness.  It is the imputed righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 3:19-28;5:1-3).  Thus it is that the bride who has prepared herself and to whom it has been given to be arrayed in fine linen clean and white is none other than all those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God.  The bride of Christ is composed of those who are justified by faith in Jesus.

            We also see the bride of Christ portrayed in the book of the Revelation as the city New Jerusalem.  “There came unto me one of the seven angels which had the seven vials full of the seven last plagues, and talked with me, saying, Come hither, I will shew thee the bride, the Lamb’s wife.   And he carried me away in the spirit to a great and high mountain, and shewed me that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God.”   (Revelation 21:9-10) One statement especially about this city leads this writer to believe that all of the redeemed of all ages will be a part of the bride of Christ.  That statement is as follows: “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.   For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.” (Revelation 22:14-15) The reader will quickly notice that the only ones who are without the city are those who are not redeemed.  By this we readily see that the city is populated with the redeemed.  That being so, and the city being the bride, the bride of Christ is composed of all of the redeemed of all ages.  In fact, we find that Abraham and other Old Testament saints anticipated entrance into the New Jerusalem.  “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.    For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.   And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.   But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.”  (Hebrews 11:13-16) This writer knows of no city for which they could have been looking other than the New Jerusalem, and God has prepared this city for them.  This being so, we can safely conclude that the church is the redeemed of all the ages.

The Local Church

            While considering these things, it is imperative that we recognize that the church generally is seen and experienced as the local church. What we mean by the local church is the church as it is established and ministers in a certain area. In many places within the New Testament, the church is referred to as being within a particular location. It is for this reason that Paul wrote to the churches of Galatia, rather than to the state church of Galatia, composed of all of the Galatian churches. The New Testament knows nothing of a national or state church, but teaches us much about the local church composed of those baptized believers in a particular area. This is readily seen in the book of Acts. “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.” (Acts 2:41–47) The Jerusalem church was comprised of those believers who were baptized and were joined together in teaching, worship and communion. 

            Many people contend that the belief in the general church constitutes a denial of belief in the local church. This simply is not true, and is an uncharitable statement to make. In fact, the denial of the local church does not logically follow the belief in the larger body of Christ composed of all of the redeemed. Paul told the Corinthians that we are all baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:13) We know that this is true, because the Spirit that we all receive is the Spirit which was promised (See Ephesians 1:13-14 cf Isaiah 32:12-20;Joel 2:28-32;Acts 2:14-21). Every believer is baptized in/by the Spirit into the body of Christ. In the same chapter, however, Paul explicity tells the Corinthians that they, the local church, were the body of Christ: “Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:27) It is impossible to both believe the Bible and reject the truth of the local church. In fact it is no more biblical to deny the local church than it is to deny the church general, composed of all of the redeemed. Scripture teaches us both. 

            We also read Jesus saying, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:18–19) Here Jesus tells us that there is a church that is unfailing in her existence. At the same time, this church has certain functions it exercises. This church has authority to bind and loose. That is, she can either declare            something lawful or unlawful, right or wrong, as she has been entrusted with the truth of God and is the “pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15). This points further to the exercise of discipline within the body of Christ in which the church has the authority to receive people into the membership and to loose them from their membership by means of excommunication, and to receive them again by means of forgiveness (See Romans 16:17;1 Corinthians 5;2 Thessalonians 3:5-16;Titus 3:10;2 Corinthians 2:1-11). This is worked out within the local body of the church. While it is true that we see in this text the larger body of Christ composed of the redeemed, it also points us to this body being experienced and showing herself in the activities of each local church. This also leads us to understand that each local church is a distinct body, which is autonomous under Christ: no other body has authority over the local church, because Christ and His Word is the authority.

            As Paul taught Timothy concerning the ministry, he wrote to him as one who was laboring in a local church. He told him the qualifications of those who would serve the local body, and told him that he was writing for a purpose: “These things write I unto thee, hoping to come unto thee shortly: but if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (1 Timothy 3:14–15) Paul’s counsel for Timothy was for the purpose of instructing him in how he should conduct himself in the church where he was laboring and leading. The same could be said concerning Paul’s letter to Titus.

            When Jesus gave us instructions concerning relationships, he did so with the understanding that the local church had authority in these matters. “But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican. Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:16–20) Not only does the local church have authority in matters of relationships and discipline, but Christ Jesus dwells in the local church. This is why He said that He would be in the middle of the gathering of two or there who get together in His name. When God’s people determine to do God’s work in God’s way, Christ is present with them. Considering the fact that these things always occur in a locality, we can certainly understand that this refers to the actions of a local body.

            Finally, as we consider the gifts and ministries that are given by the Spirit of God, we find that they are found being used within the local body. Paul taught the Roman church about this (Romans 12:1-8). He also went into great detail with the Corinthians concerning this: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it. Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular.” (1 Corinthians 12:13–27) Though there is reference to the general body of Christ, we also find that the gifts of the Spirit have their residence and benefit within the local church. Paul informed Corinth that their local body was the very body of Christ. Each local church is a complete body of Christ, established to carry out the commandments of God in her area.


[1] It is interesting to note that clothes cover, and that the meaning of atonement is covering. There is good reason to think that the robes of righteousness represent both atonement and justification through Christ Jesus our Savior.

Assurance

Assurance

Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ: Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord. According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust: and beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see far off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins. Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:1–11)

 

            This is the beginning of a series on “Christian Necessities.” There are some things necessary in the Christian life, if we are to grow and prosper to the glory of God and the joy of our hearts.

First on the list of Christian necessities is that of assurance. Our text above tells us that we are to make our calling and election sure: that is, we are to seek in every way to be certain that we belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.

First of all, we should notice that assurance of salvation is something that is available to us. I’m so glad that we can know that we are saved! It would be a horrible thing to have to live with uncertainty about the most important of all things. Thank God, we can know. Paul stated with great certainty that knowledge is ours (2 Corinthians 5:1-8), that the Holy Spirit within us is there to testify to us that we are God’s (Romans 8:16;Ephesians 1:13-14); and then he expresses great, jubilant faith by saying, “I know whom I have believed, and I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day.” (2 Timothy 1:12) And it is there that we must start, with faith.

Notice that Peter writes that we are to add to our faith. Faith is our starting point. We know that those who believe Jesus are saved. He assures us of that (See John 3:16;1 John 5:6-13). Having heard the Word of God, and believing it, we are saved and can know that we are saved (Romans 10:17). Faith is simply trusting God instead of ourselves (Romans 4:1-6), and this faith in Christ’s work is where our confidence and assurance are found.

Then we are to add virtue to our faith. This is not a matter of self effort or good works that are done on our own. God the Holy Spirit has come to dwell within the believer, and has written the law of God on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10-12;10:15-18). This means that good now dwells within us. God’s love is poured out in our hearts by the gift of the Holy Ghost (Romans 5:5), which means we can now love God and love as God loves. Adding virtue then means that moral excellence should become a part of our lives. We are no longer in darkness, but in the light, and we are to walk as the children of light (Ephesians 5:8-11). We are also told, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.” (1 John 2:4–6)

The next thing to do is to add knowledge. The initial knowledge of God in salvation is sufficient to save; but we need to grow in knowledge if we are to be holy. We need to know God better if we are to enjoy the blessing of true assurance. Jesus’ call to us is as follows: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 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.” (Matthew 11:28–30) Those who are disciples are those who are learners: they are growing in knowledge. We are taught to crave the Word as a baby cries out for good, pure milk (1 Peter 2:1-3). Those who do not learn of the Lord will have little to no assurance of salvation.

Following knowledge is temperance. While temperance is self-control, in this context, it is the self-control which applies God’s Word to our lives. We are responsible to learn God’s Word for the purpose of believing and obeying it. Temperance is the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), therefore we will have the power of the Spirit at work in us to help us grow in this area. By God’s grace we can become doers of the work which is commanded us in the Word (James 1:21-17). Knowing and trusting God’s Word brings great assurance, because we learn God’s promises, and we are changed to be more like Jesus in so doing.

Patience is also necessary, as we will certainly be tried by the world, our flesh, and the devil. It is those who are patient in faith who will inherit the promises (Hebrews 6:12). Jesus spoke of true believers as those who bring forth fruit with patience: “But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.” (Luke 8:15) We will find that our faith will be tried, but adding patience, which is endurance, will help our assurance by demonstrating that our faith in Christ is a real faith (See also Romans 5:1-5).

Godliness is the next virtue, or attribute, that we are to add. Godliness is not focused primarily on the external appearance, but upon the heart: godliness is about worshiping God well. We are told that there is one God, and that we are to worship Him alone (Matthew 4:10). Worship is described as refusing to trust self, being from within, in the spirit, and rejoicing in Christ. In short, we are to worship God by growing in our faith in Christ, and thereby finding our joy in Him alone. As our faith is tried and our patience increases, God will give us abundant reason to worship Him, because we will have found that He is ever faithful and gracious in every circumstance of life. Let us notice that worship is essential to Christianity, Christian living, and Christian assurance: where there is no worship of God in Christ, there is no Christianity.

How will godliness make itself manifest: in brotherly kindness. This is because those who are born of God will have the nature to love the family of God (1 John 5:1-2). We are taught to be kindly affectioned toward one another in brotherly love (Romans 12:10). Seeing that this shows the nature of Christ within us, it increases our assurance that we are His. “We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.” (1 John 3:14)

Finally, we come to charity, which is love. Charity is not simply brotherly love, but it is the love that is most Christ-like, because we show love to those who may even be our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48): it is a sacrificial love (John 3:16;Romans 5:5-8;Titus 3:1-7) that gives itself for the sake of the one loved (Romans 15:1-3). Love is essential in our Christian lives, because, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not, knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:7–8) Where love is present, assurance of eternal life is also present, because God is love.

God’s Word tells us that the presence and abundance of these things in our lives will cause us to be fruitful in the knowledge of God (:8), which gives us all that pertains to life and godliness, and gives to us God’s great promises, which purify us and bring about godly character (:3-4). This, then, gives us assurance. These are the things that we must add if we are to have assurance. What a wonderful blessing it is to know that we are saved, and to have a way by which we can steadily grow in that assurance, because we can observe God’s transforming work in our lives!

Forgiveness part 1

Exodus 34:1-8

The Grace of Forgiveness

 

The context of our text is one in which there is both great sin and great grace on display. Israel, though having experienced an amazing and awe inspiring revelation of God, has chosen to commit the sin of idolatry. While doing so, they fell into gross immorality along with it. God’s wrath was kindled, Moses’ wrath was kindled, the people experienced much death and plague that day, and yet God forgave them. As Moses pled for the LORD’s continued presence with Israel, and the performance of His promise to lead them into the land of promise, he also asks for God to show him His glory. God responded that He would do so, and that He would be gracious to whom He would, and show mercy on whom He would (Exodus 33:17-20). It is soon after this that Moses ascends again into the mount sees the visual glory of God, hears the proclamation of His most excellent name, and learns that God’s glory is seen in His mercy, grace, forgiveness, goodness, truth, holiness, and judgment (Exodus 34:1-8). It is my desire to direct our focus to God’s glory in His forgiving grace.

First of all, let us always remember the nature of grace; because the nature of grace is essential to our understanding of the grace and nature of forgiveness. Grace is free and unmerited favor to those who deserve the wrath of God (See Ephesians 2:1-9). Grace will always be free, and it will never be earned or deserved (Romans 11:6). Furthermore, grace is never given to those who are dependent upon self (Romans 4:1-6) or the arrogant (James 4:6;1 Peter 5:6).

Forgiveness is a gift of grace: “in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7) Forgiveness, being a gfit of grace, is by nature free. It is not given to those who forgiveness, or else it would not be forgiveness. Forgiveness is the free gift of God, and He is Lord of forgiveness, both in to whom He gives it and in the manner in which He gives it (Exodus 33:19). Note that forgiveness is through the blood of Christ (Ephesians 1:7;Colossians 1:14; Revelation 1:5), which is the price paid once and for all for our sins (Hebrews 1:1-3;9:22-28;10:11-14). If we are ever to be forgiven of our sins, it will be through the merits of the eternal righteousness of Jesus who died for our sins and rose for our justification. This forgiveness is given freely to all who repent and trust Jesus (Mark 1:13-15;Luke 24:47;Acts 13:38-39;Romans 5:1-11).

Forgiveness is also the Divine prerogative, and God forgives that He might be glorified. Notice that Jesus recognized that it is only God who can truly forgive sins against Himself (Mark 2:1-12). We often hear people say, “Only God can judge me!” The reality is that God is the supreme judge and savior. Only God can save you! Only God can forgive and have mercy upon you. “There is one lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another?” (James 4:12) Apart from the God who gives mercy and forgiveness, mercy and forgiveness would never exist. Thankfully God does forgive. That is His glory, as we see in our text.

Notice that our text also closely relates forgiveness to mercy. Mercy is when judgment is averted. “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13) David also praises God for His mercy in delivering Him from hell (Psalm 86:12-13). One of the most emotional proclamations of forgiveness and mercy is seen in the Lamentations of Jeremiah: “It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22–23) Rather than utterly destroying Israel, God was merciful to them. How wonderful it is to know that we are the recipients of the free mercies and forgiving grace of God!

Let us recall once more that forgiveness comes because of the intervention of a mediator. Moses prayed for Israel and God forgave them. Jesus is the one who mediates for us that we might be forgiven. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Timothy 2:5–6) Jesus, when He shed His blood, paid the price for our sins forever. “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; from henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.” (Hebrews 10:11–18) Notice that forgiveness comes because a payment is made for sins, Jesus died to secure forgiveness, and God accepted that sacrifice as being worthy of His forgiving us forever. There is no remission of sins without the shedding of blood, which is the giving of the life of a substitute (Hebrews 9:22). Thankfully Jesus stood as that substitute for us that we might be forgiven.

As we consider all of the above truths, we have yet to truly define forgiveness. The word literally means, to take away. This is why John introduced Jesus as follows: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (John 1:29) We again read, “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: but this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10:11–12) Forgiveness is the taking away of sin.

How is sin taken away? We still live with sin. We are told, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8–10) In this life we shall always be plagued with sin, it seems. Paul stated that sin was ever present with him (Romans 7:21), and that our bodies are dead because of sin despite our being saved by God’s grace (Romans 8:10). Sin is not literally taken away in this life as if we will never have to deal with it again. Sin is taken away in the sense of it never being held against us in the judgment. This is why we read, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:1) And remember, “mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13)

We also read of sins being forgotten. Micah rejoiced in this (Micah 7:18-20), Jeremiah prophesied of it (Jeremiah 31:31-34), and the writer to the Hebrews spoke of it also (Hebrews 8:12;10:17-18). What does this mean? Does God literally forget our sins as if they are no longer in His memory at all? That would be impossible, for God is omniscient, knowing all things. In fact, the idea of God acting as if sins never happened at all minimizes sin and shows disrespect to the grace and glory of God. What is meant, then, by sins being forgotten? Sins are forgotten in that they will never be held against us in judgment: we will never be punished for them, nor pay for them by suffering God’s wrath. Notice how David speaks of forgiveness: “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no guile.” (Psalm 32:1–2) The sin is not literally removed or forgotten, but it is covered: God does not see it on our record. God does not impute iniquity to us. That is, He does not keep the sin on our account as though we are still chargeable for it. The forgiveness of sin and the forgetting of it are judicial things. Our slate is clean before God. We have no sins on our account. They are forgotten. Paul spoke of this when he wrote, “And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (Colossians 2:13–14) The account of my sins has been blotted out because Jesus paid the debt in full. This is what is meant by sins being forgotten.

Considering the truth that forgiveness is God’s prerogative, and freely given that we might glorify Him, there are two important things to keep in mind. First, the forgiveness of sins is not given to the proud, arrogant, self-righteous person who demands it.  God resists the proud (James 4:6;1 Peter 5:6). He will not forgive those who will not confess and truly repent. It is the broken-hearted one who repents of his sins whom God will forgive (2 Corinthians 7:7-10). “For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: Thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (Psalm 51:16–17) Forgiveness can never be earned nor demanded. We must with a broken heart plead with God, trusting Him to give it to us. Finally, forgiveness is for God’s glory. “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” (1 John 2:12) He forgives us for the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1:1-14), so we should worship Him because of being forgiven by Him. Moses worshiped the LORD when he saw and heard His glory. So, too, must we. Let us never forget our own sinfulness, and let us humbly seek to exalt Him in our lives because of His great forgiveness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sharing Grace

Sharing Grace

Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, to speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.” (Titus 3:1–8)

 

The text here presents us with a picture of ourselves. We were by no means good people. We were foolish. We were rebels. We believed the devil’s lies. We were slaves to the passions of the heart and of the flesh. We lived in envy and treated people in evil ways. We were hateful and hated others. That is by no means a good picture of us. It is not into our goodness that God’s grace appeared, but into our wickedness. We did not deserve our salvation, but He saved us, washed us from our sins, poured out the Holy Spirit upon/within us, gave us new life, and has counted us righteous in His sight. God freely saves us despite ourselves.

With this in mind, we are told that grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts (Titus 2:11-15), and to maintain good works (Titus 3:8). We are taught that we are saved so that we might give glory to God (Hebrews 2:10) and for the purpose of good works (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Among the most important of good works that can be done is that of showing grace to others. Our text tells us that we should be obedient and submissive to those who are in authority to us. Grace will teach us that we should pray for our rulers and all who are in authority (1 Timothy 2:1-5-6), and that we are to obey those in authority over us (Romans 13:1-7). Often this is an act of grace, because we are not submitting and obeying because we agree with those in authority, but despite the fact that we do not agree. Considering that Paul wrote of submission and obedience to rulers when Nero, the enemy of all that is holy, was Caesar, we know that such must come from the grace of God.

Grace is also to be manifest in our treatment of our fellow men. We are told that we are to do good to all men, especially those who are our fellow brothers in the faith (Galatians 6:10). Not only so, but we are to not be brawlers, or contentious and strife filled people. Strife only occurs where pride is (Proverbs 13:10), and we know that pride and grace do not co-exist well at all (James 4:5-6). We are to humble ourselves to have good relationships with others rather than habitually striving with them. Furthermore, we are told to be gentle, or reasonable. That reasonableness is mentioned by Paul as moderation (Philippians 4:5). Our text also speaks of meekness, or gentleness. God’s people are not to be harsh, but loving and kind. Too many people act as if they have the right to show anger and wrath to those with whom they disagree. Such people know so very little about the grace of God. Had they known the grace of God, they would realize that God has not treated them as their sins deserve (Psalm 103:8-17), but has graciously forgives sinners who deserve His wrath. Grace teaches us to love even those who are our enemies (Matthew 5:44-45).

When Jesus would teach us about how to treat others, He reminds us of how much He cares for even the smallest of the lost sheep (Matthew 18:1-14), and sternly warns us that we dare not be an occasion of stumbling for anyone. He warns us that we would be better off dead than to be a stumbling block. He continues from there and calls us to seek reconciliation with our brothers when division arises (Matthew 18:15-18). Following up on that, Jesus gives a parable regarding forgiveness that demonstrates that those who truly know the forgiving mercy and grace of God will show the same to others (Matthew 18:21-35). We are commanded to forgive, or show grace, as we have been forgiven and shown grace (Ephesians 4:32). If we do not do so, we are warned about how judgment will be for us: “For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.” (James 2:13) The one who refuses to show mercy and grace gives evidence of not having known or experienced mercy and grace, and will receive neither in the day of judgment. Where grace is present in the soul, it will manifest itself in the way we treat other people.

This cannot be emphasized enough, because we are called to an unworldly godliness. We are called to show Christ in our behavior. Far too often we show bitterness, anger, wrath, and impatience, even to those we call our brothers and sisters in Christ! I will be quick to admit that I have failed in many ways in this respect. Sadly these things have not been taught among us as they should have been. That will be no excuse for us, however, when we stand before God. God’s grace is transforming grace. He will not leave us as we were before we trusted Him. God, in His grace, has shown us love, mercy, forgiveness, justification, sanctification, and much kindness, despite our sinfulness. If we are not careful, we will treat others as if they must earn our goodwill, and will tend toward a harshness with those who disagree with us or wrong us. This is not the way of grace. Grace will cause us to treat others with the same kindness as God treats us. God’s grace will not leave us hateful and hating one another, therefore let us yield to the authority and transforming power of His grace in order to show kindness and love to all with whom we come in contact.

God’s Grace To Abraham

God’s Grace To Abraham

What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:1–5)

Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,” (Romans 4:16)

 

We tend to think of our Biblical heroes as being bigger than life, and often above sin; but Scripture presents us men and women who needed and received God’s grace. Abraham is no exception. Note that our text tells us that Abraham was justified by faith so that his righteousness would be by grace. Abraham was not a righteous man who earned God’s favor: Abraham was a sinner who trusted God’s grace.

Let’s first consider Abraham’s sins, not for the sake of condemning him, but to demonstrate that he could have earned nothing from God.

 

Abraham’s Sins

Joshua 24:2 idol worshiper

 

 

Genesis 12:1-5 (11:31-32)only partially obedient, thus disobedient

 

 

Genesis 12:10-20 lied, saying Sarah was his sister

 

 

Genesis 16:1-4 bigamist

 

 

Genesis 20:1-18 lied saying Sarah was his sister

 

Abraham Received Grace

Our text tells us that those who work would have God in their debt (Romans 4:4), but God will never need anything from anyone, or be indebted to anyone (See Romans 11:34-36). Abraham believed that God would justify the ungodly, of whom he was one (Romans 4:4-5). Why is this so? Verse sixteen tells us that it would be of grace.

Grace gives God the glory. If we were to work, we could boast (Ephesians 2:8-9;Romans 4:1-3), but grace makes no room for works: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” (Romans 11:6) Grace and faith also leave no room for boasting (Romans 3:27). Why? Grace is to the glory of God (Ephesians 1:3-6) Far too many people spend their time boasting of who they are, what they have done, all of their accomplishments, etc. This is actually a sign of apostasy rather than an indicator of spirituality (2 Timothy 3:1-5). God has told us that He will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8), and commands us to rejoice because we know Him (Jeremiah 9:23-24). God is jealous for His glory and forgives our sins for His name’s sake (Isaiah43:25 ;1 John 2:12). Grace is about taking honor out of our hands and God getting all of the glory and praise, which is His due.

Abraham had nothing in himself that was worthy of his boasting (Romans 4:1-3), and neither do we. We hear Paul saying, “For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7) God’s Word explicitly tells us that we cannot brag about the gifts of grace as if we had accomplished them ourselves. Abraham received grace when he believed God and was justified. It is the same with us (Titus 3:1-7). Pride causes so many troubles (Proverbs 13:10;Galatians 5:22-26) that we could avoid if we simply realized that we are the undeserving recipients of grace who are commanded to show grace one to another (Galatians 6:1-10;Ephesians 4:31-5:2). Brothers, instead of boasting, we are called to humble ourselves (James 4:1-10). Only when we recognize our sinfulness and God’s grace will we humble ourselves before Him.

Because of God’s grace to believing Abraham, he was called the friend of God (James 2:14-26). We, too, are called to live our lives to the glory of God by trusting His grace (Romans 5:20-6:1;Ephesians 2:8-10). Let us remember that Paul lived his life rejoicing in and trusting in the grace of God (Galatians 2:20-21). He was humbled by grace, and attributed all of his blessings and achievements to God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). What a blessing it will be to us all if we will accept God’s grace, rejoice in that grace, and live our life boasting only in God’s grace. “But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature.” (Galatians 6:14–15)

 

 

 

 

Noah Found Grace

Noah Found Grace

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose. And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years. There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown. And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.” (Genesis 6:1–8)

 

“Noah found grace,” we read; but what is grace? Grace is the favor or pleasure of God that is shown to those who are undeserving. This should be our basic definition of grace as we study the Scriptures. We shall find, as we study the grace of God that this definition will be affirmed many times over in the Scriptures.

 

We often think of Noah as a great person, and in many senses he was; but Noah was also a recipient of grace. Scripture describes man in Noah’s day as being corrupt, violent, and meditating always upon evil. The whole of humanity was sinful, and Noah was included in that wicked number.

 

It was in the midst of all of this sin, wickedness, apostasy, and violence that God spoke declaring that He was going to judge mankind for their sins.

 

Only after God spoke of sin and judgment do we find that Noah found grace. Henry Morris said, “Grace is found, not earned.” This is true. Noah, because of sin, had earned wrath and judgment just as the rest of mankind. Yet Noah found grace.

 

Scripture tells us that Noah was justified by faith. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” (Hebrews 11:7) Noah was not righteous because of his good life. Noah was declared righteous because he believed God. Faith and grace go hand-in-hand and cannot be separated (See Romans 4:1-16;Titus 3:1-7). Some time in his life, Noah heard that God was gracious and forgiving and trusted Him. Having found God’s grace, he was saved.

 

Wonderful parallels exist between our text and Ephesians 2:1-8. In both we find sin, judgment, and saving grace. It is most certain that there is no difference between Noah and us, as we are all sinners under condemnation, and need the grace of God to save us. Thankfully, just as Noah was promised and given a new earth to live on (Genesis 8 &9), we are promised the same (Ephesians 2:4-7;Revelation 21).

 

As we consider this, we should also think about that long period of time that Noah and his family were in the ark: what a difficulty that must have been in many ways! Can you imagine being cooped up with your in-laws and thousands of stinking animals (Did I just repeat myself?) for months on end? How did Noah and his family survive without either killing one another or losing their sanity? Again, it was all God’s grace. Grace conquers sin and gives life and righteousness (Romans 5:20-21). As it was then, so it is now: all is of grace.

 

This is only the beginning of a series of articles on the grace of God, but it is important that we learn from the very beginning that grace is free. Let us look at Noah, the sin in his day, ourselves, the sin in our day, and consider the fact that Noah was not delivered because he was good: he was delivered because God is good. In like manner, we must realize that we cannot and will not earn anything from God: all is of grace. Sure, we shall find that grace produces change within us that will produce obedience to God; but we shall never find that we merit anything from Him. Let us rejoice in this grace by trusting God more each day.