Ordo Salutis VII: Christ’s Sufficient Work, We Are Clean

This is the magnificence of the True God.

The God of the Old Testament who called down judgment on the wicked and the departed. The same God who expressed His faithfulness to His people who were faithless. The God whose steadfast love never ceased to those whom he promised would make things all things right. The infinitely powerful God who was able to always woo and pursue the hearts of his children and bring them out of death and destruction back into life everlasting. The holy God who did not destroy our original parents when they choose themselves over him. The righteous God who redeems and restores. The Lord who resets his mercies every morning. The gracious God pours his heart out like a mighty river.

What have we done? Fought against God. War against God. Blaspheme against His holy name. Sought out the destruction of all living things. We tend to think of ourselves above everything. Shall we receive this glory! Shall we behold all the praises due because of all the good works we have done, the brilliant thoughts we have thought up and how we have pushed ourselves to improve over the generation before us? How good are we! How we need to be exalted! How no harm, no foul, no evil, no bad thing should ever happen against us! If anything bad happens to us, the God is not a just god, not a good god, not a great god, not a powerful god and not a loving god. Therefore, there is no god and we chose to declare war against him as everything in this universe descends in utter chaos and our undoing.

In whatever we do and all we have done, He is mournful, sorrowful and grieved but he is not phased and he is not moved. His will still carries on from the beginning of time and he is determined, nay, absolute that His people will be with him to enjoy him for his glory alone forevermore.

This is the God who does not quit.

This is the God who does not relent.

This is the God who does not forget.

This is the God who saves.

This is the God who loves

This is the God who bled.

This is the God who died.

This is the God who gave his life up for me.

Jesus Christ stood before his blasphemous people—people who cried and rejoiced with their lips, “Hosanna in the highest!” just days before—now are ready to cry out in a murderous rage to crucify the Son of God who is God. Jesus Christ, the glorious Lord stood side-by-side a convicted murderer, Barabbas as the governor audaciously asked the people, “Who would you rather have living with you in your neighborhoods, shopping in your shops, doing business with, passing by you on the streets? Who do you want: God or a murderer?”

The rational answer is clear. Yet our sinful hearts pick the comforts of sin every time.

In the Old Testament, Aaron stood before the people of Israel and they looked up this live goat. Aaron runs through all of their sins, all of their follies, all of their iniquities and all of their transgressions. With that massive, terrible list, Aaron touches the head of the goat and pushes it through the crowds and directs the goat into the vastness of the wilderness, always lost, always running in freedom and never to be seen again. (Leviticus 16:21-22)

Barabbas was presented as the culmination of the best that humanity has to offer as our depravity and wickedness stared us straight in the face. We don’t want better. We don’t want perfection. We want more of our wicked hearts desires. We want not His holiness, His forgiveness, and His love. We want more of what this world can offer.

We pick the goat with all of our sins. We are the ones who picked Barabbas. Yet, just like the goat into the wilderness, Barabbas is forgotten from ancient history, never to be heard from again.

The only thing we have done right is sin. However, by faith alone, we can place those sins on the one who would bear it all for those who have and will come to trust in him. The only thing we have done is allowed the Son of God to be crucified. The only right thing we have said, “Crucify Him!”.

In his beatings, his whippings, his crowning of thorns, in the nails stabbing through his hands and the spear through his heart were all needed to drain our Savior of his life-giving blood. He had his people to save and He must do it perfectly:

Indeed, under the law, almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins. 1

This is the only way it could be done: violently, excruciatingly, vomit-inducing, and sickly because that is what sin is to our Holy God.

He had to save his people.

He had to change his people.

He had to cleanse his people so that they can know Him:

And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 2

He will not be angry at his people forever because He loves them too much. He does not bestow his righteous and just wrath upon his people because his people cannot bear it, to lest they are destroyed and be apart from him forever. His love is as high and as great as the distance between heaven and earth, so too is the same distance our sins, wickedness, and atrocities our removed from us.

Our God is One of compassion. 3

This all culminates into His Son who died on the cross, who pour out all of his blood just like a lamb to the slaughter.

We must admit the exceeding sinfulness of our sin. We must be desperate for to someone greater than us to save us.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 4

We call upon him. We look towards him. We reach out and cry, “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.” God, who is merciful, gives us His Son because He is the God who actually saves.

Notes:

  1. Hebrews 9:22
  2. Jeremiah 31:34
  3. Psalm 103:6-14
  4. 1 John 1:9

Mark 9:30-32 God Alone is Over Death

Mark 9:30-32 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. And he did not want anyone to know, for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him.

  1. Did the disciples knew what Christ was actually talking about? Why or why not?
  2. What did Christ mean by “delivered into the hands of men”?
  3. Could Christ be randomly killed by anybody?
  4. What was the death of Christ going to do?

Now Sings My Soul: Psalm 23:1a The Lord Is My Shepherd

You are my Good Shepherd.

You fled the ninety-nine in order to come rescue me,
when I could not possibly rescue myself.

You saved me from certain damnation,
you’ve rescued me from the slaughter.

You’ve taken all of my sin,
and you let the wrath of Father fall upon your heart
You bled out for me,
so that I might live forever.

Lord, keep me in your care,
I pray that you keep good shepherds to care and feed me.
none that will run away at the first sight of danger
none that will be swayed to and fro by every wind of doctrine
but stay the course because you are their strength and resolve.

I praise your holy name ever.

Here is Love: Why Did God Save Us? – Romans 8:29d

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

This entire series has been trying to pit the world’s definition of love versus God’s definition of love. And perhaps up until this moment, we have never taken that to actual task. What I mean by that is that comparatively speaking, if I speak of God’s love, we can still find something like that in on earth.

For example, the laughter of a tiny infant to their parents’ goo-goo and gah-gah sounds. Some would say that would be joy, innocence, and love. But not much more that. Or when we challenge oppressors in hopes to give liberty to the oppressed, that might be out of justice and love, but what else could that included.

We could come up good lists of what different loves look like but none would be as complete as the love of God. I contend that the reason why is because while we do things out of love, God does something even greater than that—He does everything out of his glory.

Think for a moment and try to come up with a definition for the word ‘glory’. Consider Webster’s:

  1. high renown or honor won by notable achievements.
  2. magnificence or great beauty.
  3. praise, worship, and thanksgiving offered to a deity.
  4. luminous ring or halo, especially as depicted around the head of Jesus Christ or a saint.
  5. take great pride or pleasure in.

But according to the Bible, it speaks of God’s glory as each of his attributes to the maximum infinite degree. I say both maximum and infinite because to suggest maximum might suggest a limit somewhere. To say infinite says there is unlimited potential, but we can fall short of that.  In who God is—whether it be love, mercy, justice, holiness, righteousness, presence, strength, knowledge, or grace—God is maximum unlimited.

So when we say “God saved us out of love”, that is true but is far much more than that. I can say that with utmost certainty because you see, God is perfect and was never was or will be in sin and thus, everything that he does is never out of good intentions or in hope of but completed perfectly to the end. Consider our born state and the world we live in: many times, while we might do our best to do things out of love, we either fallen short with good intentions or do so with selfish gain.

Take any book of the Bible, look for the mention of the glory of God and see what I am saying. For instance, in Luke we see that:

God’s glory in the mere ability of God becoming man, Jesus – Luke 2:8-21 And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

God’s glory in His all-knowledge and all-wisdom Luke 4:15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.

God’s glory again in His all-power over brokenness Luke 5:25-26 And immediately he rose up before them and picked up what he had been lying on and went home, glorifying God. And amazement seized them all, and they glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen extraordinary things today.”

God’s glory in his all-power over death Luke 7:16 Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”

God’s glory in all-justice Luke 9:26-27 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.” (See Revelation 19:11–21)

God’s glory in His command of time Luke 9:32 Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.

God’s even in the death of Jesus Christ upon the cross Luke 24:26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Why did God save? Because he loves us but more so than that, because He is glorious!

Consider this: if God was not for his glory, then he would cease to be God. Remember, until we see our Savior completely face to face, we will never know perfection on this side of heaven. (Some pastors say you can obtain perfection while on earth and I am here to tell you that they are wrong). But what if we were without sin? That is so impossible to imagine but that is what God is. And in his absolute perfection, He operates within the maxed out of his attributes. He operates in glory.

To put this in another way, God does not have to lessen something that he is his in order to do what he wants. He doesn’t suppress his righteousness and holiness in order to love us. He doesn’t have to suppress his love in order to be fully holy. No, not at all! But sometimes we want him to let off his righteousness and holiness? Don’t we? Like “Lord, thank you for eradicating all of my sins but how about don’t work on this little sin deep in the recesses of my heart. How about leave that alone? I need my pride, my lust, my fear, my vanity because that is who I am!” How crazy is the notion that we would want God to grade on a curve or overlook this one little sin in our hearts? Don’t you want to be with the God who has ZERO SIN in and around him which automatically equates to perfect peace, fullness of joy and blissful pleasures forevermore? If God allowed sin in his presence—yes, even our “itty bitty little” sin— then we would still have sickness, disease, despair, death, broken hearts, some joy, some love, and mediocre pleasures in a short amount of time. Doesn’t that already sound a bit familiar? (Hint: look around you.)

But because God is glorious—in other words, because God is fully, perfectly, one-hundred percent-ly all the things that the Bible says he is, then it is because His glory that we are saved.

Isaiah 48:9–11

“For my name’s sake I defer my anger;
for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you,
that I may not cut you off.

Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver;
I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it,
for how should my name be profaned?
My glory I will not give to another.

And yet from this one prophet, consider how he was saved:

Isaiah 6:1-7 In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one called to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
the whole earth is full of his glory!”

And the foundations of the thresholds shook at the voice of him who called, and the house was filled with smoke. And I said: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!”

Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: “Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.”

How do we know this to be the glory of God? Jesus said so:

John 12:41 Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

Praise God for his perfection and glory.

Praise God for his ability, willingness, and actually completed his salvation of His people.

Praise God for his absolutely amazing love!

Series: Intrigued by the postmodern oft-used answer of “God is love”, by just by digging a little deeper, what I have learned is that people usually mean, “Love is God”. So we then have to ask, what is love? This series is my attempt to answer that question as theologically and biblically as possible.

Ordo Salutis VI: Christ’s Perfect Work, We Are Justified

Many people tried to say that the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are completely two different gods. Have you heard this argument? Why was God so angry? Why is Jesus so loving and kind? Was God in the Old Testament was the Father and then his Son took over in the New? I don’t understand a god that would punish people. I can only understand a god that loves.

Interesting is that the Holy Spirit took killed a husband and his wife for lying to God about the selling land and the giving of proceeds from that sale. 1

It is even more interesting to note that the Apostle John wrote in his Gospel in chapter 3 “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” 2, did not finish that statement without further claiming and clarifying, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him”. 3

So quite simply by seeing the wrath of God in both Testaments, that we know that God is eternally God past, present, and future.

But what about His love, mercy, and grace? What about His gospel which Paul utterly declares to be “… the power of God in salvation for those who believe, to the Jew first and also the Greek4, to which he was not ashamed of?

To try to speak of God’s grace upon constant grace, His daily renewed mercies, and His steadfast love throughout the Bible, I believe we have to also look at his righteousness throughout the Bible.

But what is righteousness? Webster defines it as “the quality of being morally right or justifiable.” When God defines it, he takes it to that next proverbial level: “To stand upright in the presence of God.” That is to say: to be without sin, to be perfect.

Here’s the reality: we don’t know a time or place ever in our lives or in our souls that was without the effects and consequences of sin. We cannot fathom what it really means to be perfect. Can we really? Even saying something like “That dress is perfect!” or “This gift is so perfect” really doesn’t mean the same thing.

And yet, the Creator God of the universe requires us to be perfect in order to never to perish and more so than that, to be with Him forever. To be with God now and forever requires you to be free from sin—never known sin, committed any sin or never failed to do the thing you were supposed to do.

God requires you to be perfect. And in my experience, when people realize that, there are usually three reactions.

One, hubris. “Well, I guess I better roll up my sleeves and get to work. I know I can do this if I remain perfect control of myself but more so, controlling those people around me and the world around me. If everyone acts right, I can be right and my life will be perfect.”

Two, despair. “Oh my God! This is impossible. I will be crushed under this weight!”

Three, apathy. “Why even bother? This impossible. Screw God, his people and his made up laws. They are not real and made up anyways.”

And all three leads not to joy and pleasures but to destruction and death.

But God, from the moment sin was introduced into this perfect world, gave us the first tidbit of the good news as he promises Satan his own death in front of his two dying kids:

Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

That monster, Satan, came to kill, steal, and destroy. And Satan successfully came and did that. Think about this: Adam and Eve had it all. Not because they had all their needs met, and even more than never knowing sin, they had it all because they had God. But in original parents’ fatal mistake, God doesn’t respond with instant judgment. Instead, God lovingly and calmly comes into our world evident by simply strolling through the coolness of the garden looking for his two lost kids.

God calls out, “Adam, where are you? Why are you wearing those ridiculous things? Who said you were naked?”

In other words, “What’s wrong? Tell me, son. Tell me, daughter. What is wrong?”

God doesn’t respond out of by judgment alone although he alone rightfully judges. He doesn’t respond out of only his holiness by shunning his kids instantly away because we know that His holiness does not tolerate sin in his presence. God doesn’t just respond out of righteousness. No, God responds fully and truly out of everything he is–perfectly and fully.

It is out of the perfection and fullness of God’s love, desires, affections, mercy, grace, justice, righteousness, patience, peace, holiness, aseity, omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence, we can fully see in God’s response.

God doesn’t chastise or even condemn. (Bare with me. I will get to that in a moment.)  Instead, God responds with, “Satan, I will send Someone to make this right. You might think you have hurt him but he will crush your skull underneath his barefoot once and for all.” 5

God promises the monster that he will be destroyed and God makes this threat in front of his half-naked, scared, frightened, sin-filled kids. With Adam and Eve as his first witnesses, God promises He alone will fix what they did. Step number one was sending someone to be born of a woman, step two was for this savior to be hurt in some way and step three was that this person would smash Satan’s head to smithereens.

And when God turns to Adam and Eve, I believe that God doesn’t just instantly judge them. Why would I say this? Because after this encounter, they are still standing around on the earth. What I see is that God is simply laying out the consequences of sin in their lives and in the world.

But do not miss this next part. When you teach a Sunday school lesson, preach the word or simply reading from the Bible on this passage, pay special attention to this verse:

Genesis 3:21 And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Now, if you had only read the Bible for the first time in your life and chapter 3 verse 21 was the first time you have ever heard of that, that might not mean anything to you.  I mean, it’s nice that God covered their naked bodies. But as the days and lives continue on after this moment, God continues to interact, guide, speak to, and continues to reveal His glory to his people, we can go back and see what was God really doing in that instance. It is only when I read through the law and the gospels that I can reread that verse in actual truth.

That Adam and Eve sinned and they tried covering up their sins with their own self-righteousness which are as dirty garments before God. But, God responds by preaching the Gospel of his Son. Adam and Eve respond by believing the gospel. And because they believed God, God takes away their sin and self-righteousness and clothes them with His own righteousness.

Don’t believe me?

Consider the following:

Luke 15:17–24 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!  I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.  I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.” ’  And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.  And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’  But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet.  And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate.  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.

What did the father do? He quickly covered his son’s own mess, shame, and guilt with the best robe; ordained his son with his own seal, and covered his kids’ dirt and poop-covered feet with peace. And then ordered for the fattened calf to be barbequed because his own son was now saved.

The father in the parable had all the means to restore his son to his own family. But how much more is the Good Father in heaven able to restore and bring the very worst and vile sinners into his own family.

God knows everything about you. He determines when you were born and where you would live 6. On top of that, He knows when you were far from him, running away from him and commiting treason against Him. He sees all of that. He knows all of that. God also knows when you appear to do good things but your heart is not in the right place. Namely, your heart is not about God. But when God saw you in your unrighteousness, he decided not to instantly judge you to instant condemnation. But even before the creation of the world, God decided to save you 7.

Just as God slew an animal to clothe his kids, the slaying of that animal did save them. Just as God proclaims his law to His people, that law could not and did not save them—it was too weak to do so. Even when God laid out the instructions to spill the blood of perfect, spotless animals in order to show his people what God must do in order to  save them, not even the animals’ dried blood that completely stain the bronze altar would not save his people 8!

No! God demanded the Perfect Sacrifice and that sacrifice had to be Man. But here’s the dilemma: no one ever born of man is perfect. No one! All who were born of Adam inherited Adam’s wicked and depraved heart. No one is righteous. No, not one. All of us have fallen way short of the glory of God. But under the law of God, the shedding of blood purified everything and without the shedding of blood, there is no removal of sin. Man has fallen into sin, committed sin even when they thought they were obeying the law of God (they were not) and only Man can atone for sin. You cannot atone for sin when you are filled with sin. God has a perfect requirement to atone for sin: it is a perfect man who lives perfectly and this same man would not ever know sin. This man could even be tempted as we are but still freed from sin. From the moment I was made in my mother’s womb, I was automatically disqualified from atoning for my own sin. My very birth was into sin and my continuous disobedience condemns me before the righteous and just God. And don’t get hung up on the word ‘continuous’ as thought I could somehow stop sinning on my own. If I had broken one of the laws of God, I have broken all of the laws of God 9.

With every single verse, chapter, and book in the Old Testament, God continuously, lovingly, and graciously preached His gospel to his people, both Jew and Gentile: “I know you are messed up. I have these laws that you need to perfectly obey in order to be with me forever. They are but the standard of which to live with me forever. Oh, I know you were going to fail. All of you will fail. And your sins will have consequences—sometimes even dire and mortal. But trust in me. No matter how many times you fail, just trust me. Maybe not in your lifetime or your kids’ lifetime or your kids’ kids lifetime but I promise you that one day I will fix everything that you have broken.

That fix was His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. God the Father sent God the Son to born as a little baby to perfect live his life perfectly obeying every single law that God gave his people. His Son was tempted but never falling short of the glory of God. But in perfect obedience to His Father by the power of His Spirit, the God and man, Jesus Christ, made a beeline to the cross in perfect obedience and with joy and gladness because what Christ was about to do is save His people from their sins. It was upon the last step on that hill of the skull where Jesus Christ would gladly give up his perfect life once and for all so that we would have the perfect life once and for all.

2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Notes:

  1. Acts 5:1-11
  2. John 3:16
  3. John 3:36
  4. Romans 1:16
  5. Genesis 3:15
  6. Acts 17:24-28
  7. Romans 5:8; Ephesians 1:3-10
  8. Hebrews 9:11–22; Hebrews 10:3-7
  9. James 2:10

Mark 9:14-29 God Alone is Over Life

Mark 9:14–29 And when they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and scribes arguing with them. And immediately all the crowd, when they saw him, were greatly amazed and ran up to him and greeted him. And he asked them, “What are you arguing about with them?” And someone from the crowd answered him, “Teacher, I brought my son to you, for he has a spirit that makes him mute. And whenever it seizes him, it throws him down, and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.” And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” And they brought the boy to him. And when the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!” And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, “You mute and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.” And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, “He is dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose. And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, “Why could we not cast it out?” And he said to them, “This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer.”

  1. What is prayer?
  2. How important is prayer according to Jesus?
  3. How many times did Jesus go away to be with the Father?
  4. How can I believe and needed help with my unbelief? Have you ever felt like that?
  5. What did Jesus have for the father that the scribes and maybe even the disciples did not have?
  6. Keeping that in mind, how should we pray? How should we go to God?

Now Sings My Soul: Psalm 22:25-31

My Worthy Lord,

Let my words and my songs be a sweetness to your ears.

For I know that you sit on the throne of our praises because you are the God who alone saves.

I know that not only are you willing and able to save, you and you alone are the only one who is mighty to save.

So I praise you with all of my breath and strength and life.

And you have commissioned me to go tell everyone everywhere of everything that you have done. That if they turn to you, you will save them, even in their deepest, darkest despair.

So I preach of you and your great gospel.

Until every knee bows and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer forever.

Here is Love: By Whom We Are Saved – Romans 8:29c

Romans 8:29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.

When we speak of Romans 8, most Christians rightfully cling to the verse 1: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. But Romans 8:1 is not the very first line of this epistle from Paul to the church in Rome. What I am getting to is that idea didn’t just come out of nowhere. What was Paul responding to? Perhaps we can look at the verses right before:

Romans 7:24–25 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh, I serve the law of sin.

Seem familiar? Don’t we hear the same desperation in anyone, who by the grace of God, see their own sins as an affront and treason against holy and loving God? It is the great cry of the tax collector, “… standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” 1

Even more than that, it seems to be the same question Isaiah asked:

Isaiah 64:5–6
     You meet him who joyfully works righteousness,
     those who remember you in your ways.
     Behold, you were angry, and we sinned;
     in our sins we have been a long time, and shall we be saved?
     We have all become like one who is unclean,       
     and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.
     We all fade like a leaf,
     and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Isaiah the great prophet, to whom Christ unraveled his glory before him and Christ then sent an angel to touch Isaiah’s lips with a hot coal and cleansed his soul from all unrighteousness even asked, “Shall we be saved?”

I know that Paul answers all the cries of all the saints who clearly see their own sin before a glorious God, “THERE IS THEREFORE NOW NO CONDEMNATION FOR THOSE WHO ARE IN CHRIST JESUS!”

Let that be one of the many banners over our souls and hearts: “THERE IS NO CONDEMNATION BECAUSE I AM IN CHRIST AND HE IS IN ME FOREVER!”

But this is not some standalone “theory” that we have to do doctrinal gymnastics in order to arrive at this point. The world wants to make the Bible more difficult than it needs to be. By either claiming to be nonsense, or it is a book filled with fantasy, or that God is an angry god or there are just too many contradictions. To such counters I will say two things: One, you cannot understand any gift of God without the Holy Spirit of God 2. Two, once you have the Holy Spirit and by his will, power and wisdom alone, you can now begin to grasp the Bible for it really is—the word of God.  All of a sudden, when we read passages like Luke 24 when Jesus taught his disciples about all the Scriptures, we realize that the Bible is really all about Him.

If the Bible is all about Jesus, then logic and reason dictate that salvation comes through Christ alone.

Let’s see what the rest of the Bible says:

Acts 4:12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

John 1:12–13 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

Romans 5:9-10 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

1 Corinthians 15:1–11 Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed.

Ephesians 2:1–10  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Titus 3:3–7  For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

And the Old Testament says nothing less about it even despite our “Age of Information” brains who can only search by keywords. Go back and start at the beginning.

Genesis – beginning of the promise of Jesus Christ

Exodus – Jesus will save his people from their sins

Leviticus – the weight of the holy law upon the shoulders of Christ

Numbers – the progressive sanctification of his people or to put it into other words, being conformed to the image of His Son.

But how do we know that Christ was the Savior of those in the Old Testament when they didn’t even know His name? Paul says that in Romans 3 that God put Jesus Christ forward as a propitiation with Christ’s own blood to be received by faith. Not only with us the New Testament saints but the Old Testaments as well. God was passing over their sins in divine forbearance because those saints believed in Christ Jesus. 3

Saints of old and saints of new were all perfectly saved by Christ alone.

We know that those old saints were under the burden of the law with sacrifices and shedding of blood. But the shedding of the blood of ox and goats or even following the law perfect never intended to save God’s people 4.

Jesus Christ was born, lived, died, rose again, and ascended to the right hand of the Father to rule and reign over everyone, everywhere, and everything.

And Christ rules, reigns and saved his people because He went to the cross in humility and joy.

Jesus Christ is the literal crux where God’s steadfast love and God’s faithfulness meet and He is where His righteousness and His perfect peace kiss each other. 5

Because of all that he has done and because of what he is doing now and will do, there will be one fine day that I will stand in the presence of my Savior, just as Joshua did before the Commander of the Most High or as the adulteress caught red-handed and thrown before this King of Kings. I saw my Savior’s beautiful face but can I approach him? I can say nothing. But I fall to the ground in worship and in true awe before the one who saved me.

But then, the Holy Spirit bears witness with my spirit, “Father of Lights, this is your precious son!”

And I can imagine Christ turning to his Father and the Father’s voice booms the heavens, “THIS IS MY SON IN WHOM I AM WELL-PLEASED!”

And upon that declarative state, Christ descends from his rightful throne, lifts me up to stand with him and finishes the holy judgment before angels, elders, and the other saints:

NO CONDEMNATION! Come and enter in the joy of your master.

It is then and only then that I will have a chance to hold my lovely Saviour’s face, look deeply into his eyes and kiss him a thousand kisses all because of what He has done for me.

Series: Intrigued by the postmodern oft-used answer of “God is love”, by just by digging a little deeper, what I have learned is that people usually mean, “Love is God”. So we then have to ask, what is love? This series is my attempt to answer that question as theologically and biblically as possible.

Notes:

  1. Luke 18:13
  2. 1 Corinthians 2:12
  3. see Romans 3:21-26
  4. Hebrews 9:1-28 Cf. Romans 8:1-4
  5. Psalm 85.10