Ordo Salutis IX: Our New Inheritance – Spirit’s Witness in Our Adoption

We have fully established that we are not fully alive despite being biologically alive. Throughout the Bible, starting in Genesis 2, God states that sin separates the soul of man from the spirit of God. And without God, we are dead.

And just being dead is not enough:

Ephesians 2:1–3 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.

And just when we think that Paul is being too critical or even too harsh, look at what the Apostle John has to say 1:

John 3:36 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.

So you see, by being born and apart from God, we are doubly both dead in our trespasses and by nature children of the wrath of God.

Paul explains this in the best way by way of comparing our original father, Adam, and the second Adam, Jesus Christ:

Romans 5:12–21 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned—  for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law.  Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. 

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.  And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification.  For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. 

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.  Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Now I know that is a long passage, but let me put together a pros and cons list to help better see Paul’s point:

Adam

Christ

Sin came into the world through him

Righteousness came into the world through him

Death came into the world through sin

Life came into the world through him

Death spread to all men because all men have sin

Life given for many because Christ was sinless

Sin was the trespass of Adam

Grace is the free gift of Christ

Many died

Many live

Judgment brought condemnation because of trespass

Free gift brought justification despite many trespasses

Death reigned through Adam

Life reigns through Jesus Christ

Adam’s one trespass led to condemnation for all men

Christ’s one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men

Adam’s disobedience the many were made sinners

Christ’s obedience the many will be made righteous

the law came in to increase the trespass

where sin increased, grace abounded all the more

sin reigned in death because of Adam

grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ

So why so much focus on the distinction between the unbeliever and the believer?

The easy answer is because God makes that distinction quite clear in his word.

But the difficult answer lies with the beliefs of many Christians today.


A couple of years ago, I was put to the task of debating classic Calvinist Non-Calvinist views of Scripture after dinner with a friend. The debate was thoroughly enjoyable and quite full of passion.

My friend and I started shaking the word of God down to its core teachings (doctrines). I did not want to start off with hard-hitting verses on faith and regeneration (the question of which came first) until we established the what we did have in common: namely, the goodness and loveliness of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To make a long story, short, I contended that we must first have a new heart in order to choose God, have faith in Christ, and obey His commands by the power of the Holy Spirit. I argued, without God, we cannot choose God. I pointed to this verse (backed by John 1:12-13)

1 John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

In other words:

  • If you believe in Christ, you must be born of God
  • If you love the Father, you must be born of God

So my friend said, “Exactly”. Colored me confused.

She contended that every person ever been born (which God calls “born of man”) is born of God. We ended our debate there.

God makes the clear distinction between unbelievers and believers. Calls them goats and sheep 2. Chaff and wheat 3. Weeds and wheat 4. Many of those who are on the wide road of destruction versus those who go through the narrow door of salvation 5. Those who set their mind on the flesh versus those who set their mind on the Spirit. 6

A life lived by absolutes is wholly not recommended. It is only where God makes clear distinctions between one way and the next is where we can be sure that there is no in-between.

So what can we say to all of this?

If we are saved by God, then God is our Father.

Romans 8:12–15 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.  For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

And if God is our Father, God absolutely promises we will look like His Son (and God does not break promises).

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.

Hebrews 12:3–11 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.  In your struggle against sin you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him.  For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.”  It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

And if God is our Father, we will not stand before Him in our own defense as though we could do so in our own self-righteousness. No! God himself bears witness with our witness that we belong to Him.

Matthew 7:21–23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Romans 8:16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

And then God is our Father, and the Holy Spirit of adoption is our witness, then it stands to reason that Christ is our Eldest Brother. If that being the case, we are then co-heirs with He whom is heir to all things.

Romans 8:17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Hebrews 1:1–2 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.

And to that end, you believe and trust in God, then the Father of Christ is your Father. We are His sons forevermore because a Perfect Father never loses his kids.

John 10:28–30 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

In some states, when a child is adopted, the law ensures that the adopted child is given an inheritance no matter what (assuming there is an inheritance to be left to the child) even if the natural born children are left out of the will. But even still, sometimes adoptive kids can feel like second-class family members in their own home; nevermind the reality of not being with your original parents.

But here’s why adoption has to be rightfully seen according to the Bible. By birth, we are children of wrath. All of us are born very much related to Adam in every conceivable way and that is terrible news. By Adam’s blood, we are born into sin and destined to die.

Christ takes it even a step further:

John 8:39–47 They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would be doing the works Abraham did, but now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. This is not what Abraham did. You are doing the works your father did.” They said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God.” Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

There is no neutral ground. Christ himself was perfectly clear. If God was our Father, we would love Christ and we would do his will. Otherwise, the devil is our father and we only do his will.

We were born in a sin state. But by God’s grace alone, we are born again. Because we were of a different family other than God’s, God adopts us into His own family. Furthermore, He saves us to himself forever. He promises that our being will look like His own Son because His own Son gives us his own robes of righteousness, and seals us with His Spirit. And because we are His children, we are given the world in order to go and proclaim the gospel of peace to every person and baptizing them in the name of our Father, our Savior the Son, and our Holy Spirit.

Notes:

  1. I do not completely ascribe the red letters as being absolutely the spoke words of Christ, even though all words are from Christ. So I take precaution to automatically crediting red words to Christ unless the author specifically said, “Jesus said”
  2. Matthew 23:33
  3. Matt 3:12
  4. Matthew 13:24-30
  5. Matthew 7:13-14
  6. Romans 8:4-8

Here is Love: Romans 8:30b Called

And here is love: Romans 8:30b And those whom he predestined he also called…

So if there was nothing in us to attract, sway, or convinced God to love us and save us, what did God see in us before He saved us?

There is a war in our world to determine the value of a human’s life. Life today is no longer precious. Consider the life of a newborn or the life of a refugee. What are they to the world as a whole but lambs up for a slaughter.

But even biologically speaking, life of a human is determined by lungs breathing air, heart pumping blood. We could take it one step further that a life being lived to it’s capacity is one that is functioning on a brain or muscle capacity. And even further still, one that contributes to society.

But I am here to tell you that without the mark of the Spirit of God upon our lives as sons and daughters of God the Father, we are not fully made alive.

All humans born, or as the Bible puts it as all those born of Adam, do breath air and hearts pump blood.  But to be born is to be born under the curse of our original father. That is, to be born is to be born into sin.

And there is no escaping that. It is impossible for any baby to be born without the sperm of a male to be joined to the egg of the female. It would take a miracle of God to be borned of a woman alone and thus, not to inherit the curse of Adam’s first sin.

Now, because we are born into sin, we are born to die. Consider Paul in Ephesians:

“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.” 1

or this in Titus:

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. 2

Because of sin, we are dead. We are nothing more than spirit-less corpses toiling around until we fully expire. But the world wants to convince us all that there is actually life apart from God. And not only the world, but we ourselves as believers are strongly tempted to sin and stray outside the grace of God.

We are not fully alive until we are saved by God, given a new heart, and His Spirit within us.

So how does God go about that?

First, salvation by God starts with God’s sovereign choice. But salvation certainly doesn’t end there.

All throughout the Bible, there is a certain thing that God does over and over again—constant and perfect—prior to someone experience God’s salvation. While we would never know God’s choice in all matters but we can see the effects of some of his choices. And none quicker and clearer than the powerful and effectual calling of God.

Now, we see this in Genesis 12 when God called Abram to trust and obey him. We see the calling of God upon the birth and life of Isaac. Onward with Jacob, Joseph, Noah, Moses, and on it goes.

But we only see where it was 100% effective. Does God ever call on someone and they don’t follow him? Jonah tried but was made to be convinced otherwise.

The Bible never lists those who don’t follow God upon his calling because God’s almighty word never returns void. In other words, His word does not return back to him without fulfilling what God wants to do. 3 Consider this parable from Jesus:

Matthew 13:1–9; 18-23 That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea.  And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach.  And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow.  And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them.  Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil,  but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away.  Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them.  Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear.”

“Hear then the parable of the sower:  When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path.  As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy,  yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.  As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.  As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”

Christ said to himself that many will hear the word of the kingdom and yet, only a few where that word takes root, grows, and thrives. But we cannot confused the blanket preaching of the gospel to everybody to the ends of the earth (which we can joyfully participate in) along with the effectual calling of God.

For all that God intended to save, God will actually saved. So where we see when God calls individuals, God actually saves individuals. And now, we who possess His Holy Spirit now take the fullness and the power of gospel to everyone and everywhere, proclaim it forth and it is God who still saves.

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor.  For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building. 4

So God predestines. From there, God calls. When He actually calls, He actually saves. Salvation includes and new heart that springs forth new desires for God and His Spirit dwells within us.

If God charged a prophet to a call out to the valley of dry bones and they live, how much more powerful is the calling of God on those who are far from Him.

Consider the ultimate calling of God from death unto life.

Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.” 5

We know Jesus has raised those who were extremely ill to the point of being thought of as death. But Jesus quickly corrects with, “She’s just asleep”. But Lazarus was someone who was dead for four days. His body was wrapped and laid in the tomb.

This is the first time we’ve seen Christ step before not just His friend’s dead body but at Death itself. Through the deepest and darkest grief and pain of losing his friend, even for a moment, Christ looked upon His Father and with tears running down his cheeks, he simply prays, “Father, I thank you that you hear me and have heard me. I knew that you always heard me but I want everybody around here to know that as well so that they believe in me.”

It is Jesus Christ—the lord ruling over heaven, earth, and hell; the upcoming victor over Satan and his demons—faced death and with His own voice cut through Death’s power and call his friend back to himself: “Lazarus, come out!”

This was the first time Christ faced death and won. But wasn’t the last.

As Christ broken, hunged, and blood drained upon that cross, through excurciating and tortorous pain and grieve as he had taken all of all the sin of all believers of all time everywhere and as He was absorbing the wrath of God for us, He called upon His Father and declared, “It is finished”, and gave up His Spirit and died.

We might think that Satan, demons, hell, and especially Death absolutely believe that God was defeated and Christ was dead and by what they have seen, all of mankind would perish forever.

But no! It was when Christ died and gave up his life as ransom for many is the precise moment that Satan was crushed, demons were lorded over, hell was controlled, our sins abolished, and Death defeated once and for all.

That is a love that is simply unfathomable but that is exactly the fullest of God’s love for us.

Notes:

  1. Ephesians 2:1-3
  2. Titus 3:3
  3. Isaiah 55:10-11
  4. 1 Corinthians 3:5–9
  5. John 11:38-44

Ordo Salutis XIII: Our New Heart – Spirit’s Power in Regeneration

When God saved us from eternity past, His saving work was not finished when Christ lived, died, buried, and rose again, as though there is nothing for him for his people.

You see, every single person born of man since Adam and Eve were born inherently not in connection with God but being apart from God both infinitely and eternally. That separation is because we have no spirit of God because our hearts were not born of God.

Sin has devastating, tearing, ripping-in-half effects. Adam and Eve felt that to a large degree but I don’t think they could possibly fathom what it would be like for their children and their children’s children and for all of the world.

But we see the state of the world today and exponentially more than our forefathers because we have every kind of information at our fingertips.

School shootings, mass genocide, abortions in the thousands per day: there seems to be no end in depravity. And just when think that our way of life on its own is a little better, we found out that our way of life and privilege is most often at the expense of someone else’s well being. You just have to open your eyes and see.

And even seeing it all has gotten to be too much for most of us. Too much sin, death, disease, depravity, and tragedy for us to handle on top of our own lives.

That is the inheritance of Adam. That is what we are cursed with.

But can we for sure say “all humans” are born this way? Surely there are some who are born good? There has got to be some hope?

Back in the Old Testament, from the time of Adam, the wickedness of humankind spread throughout the earth.

Genesis 6:5-7 The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, “I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.”

When God spoke of Man, what did he declared? They were greatly wicked and the thoughts of their hearts were only producing evil. And God regretted ever creating mankind, the very image-bearers of Himself.

Before we continue, was Noah a man? So would he have been evil or born good apart from these wicked people?

But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD. 1

Does the Bible say, “But Noah was a good dude so God decided to spare him.” No, Noah was wicked just like everyone else. But the favor and grace came upon Noah for no other reason because God is good.

You might say, “But what about the next verse?” Let’s read that:

Genesis 6:9 These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation. Noah walked with God.

Now put verses 5 through 9 all together. Look at the order in relation to Noah. Noah was wicked. The thoughts of Noah’s heart produced evil continuously. God regretted ever creating Noah. But Noah found favor in the eyes of the Lord.

Because God gave him grace, it was then and only then Noah was declared righteous and blameless in his generation. We know it’s not that Noah was born righteous or even living a righteous life apart from God because Paul quotes a psalm of David in Romans 3:

Romans 3:9–31

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
“Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood;
in their paths are ruin and misery,
and the way of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

But then some would argue that God gave us laws in order for us to be holy. But that is not the purpose of the law. The law of God was simply put in place to get you to see all of your sin and wickedness in the presence of holy and just God. Paul goes on to declare that the law was weak. In other words, the law of God is a mirror for your soul and heart but that’s all it could do. The law of God was powerless and feeble to save your soul.

You know what the real kicker is: with our hearts far from him, we are not actually obeying the laws of God. I know because it is impossible for us to obey God’s law if our hearts are far from him.

Romans 8:7–8 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Isaiah 64:6 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.

Because of our wicked hearts, whatever “righteous” deeds we think we are doing are just dirty rags thrown before the feet of God thinking that will be good enough to be saved by Him.

Look at what Jesus says:

Matthew 7:21–23 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’  And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Wait a minute here. These people were doing what Christ told us to do: prophesy, cast out demons, and do mighty works in his name. Christ would go on to say for us not to rejoice because we can do mighty works and the spirits are subject to us but rejoice that your names are written in heaven. 2

Don’t you see? We cannot know nor love God without taking this wicked heart out and replacing it with heart from God. Nothing good comes out of a heart that was born into sin and has been sinning continuously.

Some theologians teach that faith to believe in God comes from some tiny little deposit of good that was given to all human beings. Well, I would accept that explanation a hundred times over than we are all basically good and can believe and trust in God out of our own strength. Because the latter is simply not happening. Whatever you may think, that faith produces a new heart or it’s a new heart that produces faith, something absolutely good has to start the process of faith because faith (inherently good) does not come from a wicked and depraved heart. The Bible makes that clear.

Choosing God is not like what you choose for breakfast, whom you have chosen to marry or whom you voted for in the last election. For you to believe, trust, love, and choose God, something supernatural has to occur and this is by the work of the Spirit alone by giving us a brand new heart from the Father all made possible by the life, death, and resurrection of Christ alone.  It is only then can we look upon Him with clear eyes, hear him with functioning ears, even taste him with new taste buds to know that he is good or even smell the aroma of Christ on each of us who are made fully alive by God.

When we have a new heart and His Spirit within us, it is then we can truthfully and fully be obedient to God. First, Christ fulfilled the law for each of us who believe and trust in him. Now, it’s not that we have to obey the laws of God, it is that we get to obey Him.

Don’t believe obedience requires a new heart? See what God says about it.

Ezekiel 36:24–28 I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.  You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.

It is only then that God removes us from death and despair; takes the blood of Christ and washes us clean from all unrighteousness 3; give us a brand new soften heart and a new spirit that causes you to walk in His statutes and being careful to obey His rules.

Because of what He has done, we now get to dwell in the house of the Lord forever 4 because we are His people and He is our God!

Notes:

  1. Genesis 6:8
  2. Luke 10:20
  3. Titus 3:3-7; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  4. Psalm 23:6

Romans 8:30a Predestined

And here is love: Romans 8:30a And those whom he predestined …

We have now established that God loved us not just for the sake of love by itself. It is a warm and sentiment notion to be sure but when it comes to God, it is not just simply His love as though he can be reduced to one feeling. Likewise, while his love remains supreme, it isn’t all that he is. When we speak of God and receive God and take him as our own, we get everything about him. And God is love but God is also holy, righteous, just, merciful, kind, gracious, patient, all-knowing (omniscient), present everywhere (omnipresent), and almighty (omnipotent) just to name a few. Not only that, God is unlike any other being ever in that he is one hundred percent of everything that he is. Furthermore, he doesn’t have to give up one part of himself in order to be the fullest in another. He is maxed-out love, righteousness, holiness, and merciful.

That is the glory of God.

And we know that God saved us because He is glorious. In other words, He didn’t have to give up something about what makes Him fully Him. It’s like getting into a relationship but giving up a part of your personality, a part of who you are, in order to be with someone you have affections for. “I like this dude but he only like quiet, mousy girls so I am going to suppress my boldness when I’m around him.” “Oh I really like this girl but she doesn’t like guys who are really into God so I am going to give that up.” It’s like a terrible romantic comedy. You laugh but it happens in real life more than I want.

God saved us because He simply saw us and He chose us to be with Him forever.

Ephesians 1:3-10 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

Take a look at this passage: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world…” Paul is exhorting us that God is blessed and God has definitely blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places. However, for our sake and our thinking is contained within the element of time (while God is not), those blessings did not start with us, within the family we were born, the place in the world where we grew up, nor the people we know although we do know God purposely chooses all of that for us so that we “should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him.” 1.  And with the essence of time, it doesn’t necessarily even start with the cross of Christ—although all of God’s glorious aforementioned attributes definitely are on the fullest display at that cross. 2 It started before the foundations of the earth were laid and even before time and space were spoken into existence. It started before Genesis 1:1.

There is no doubt we grow up in a world that certainly celebrates self-accomplishments especially when you have come from nothing. We love the pull-up-from-our-bootstraps stories. Just be born, work hard, and surely good things will come your way. We sometimes think that God loves and adores us not because of everything He has done for us but rather what we have done for him lately. And that is how most of us understand our salvation in Christ. It has to be because of what I did first. Why else would he love me?

Or flip it the other way: I have done so well all of my life. I did the right things. I voted the right way. I am fighting for social justice. I am on the right side of history. See me! See that I am good. God loves me, saves me, and will bless me because I do good! Despite the fact that Romans 4 adamantly declares that we do not put God into our debt.

The argument of “From eternity past, God saw me and saw that I choose him.” We know that Romans 5:8 says otherwise.

Jesus said it distinctly, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.” 3

We are saved for His glory. And this started with Him choosing us from a long, long time ago. Not because He predestined us to lest we believe that we are saved by election alone.

From eternity past, God saw me in my wickedness, my shame, my sin, and trespasses and just simply declared that I want him in my family. And I am willing to send my Son and my Spirit in order to get him.

Forgive the conjuncture but I always imagined it this way:

Father: I love you

Son: I love you

Spirit: I love you so much

Father: You know who else I love so much.

Son: Joseph

Spirit: I was just about to say that.

Father: Oh I see him now. Yikes, Joseph sins a lot. I mean. Look at him: he’s working in pornography while being married with a kid.

Son: I know. But I still want him with us.

Father: You know what it will take?

Son: Of course.

Father: You ready?

Son: Always. Spirit, you ready?

Spirit: exhales slowly I am ready!

Father: Let’s do this.

Son: Father, I love you.

Father: Son, I love you. Spirit, I love you.

Spirit: I know. I love you.

Father: Let’s do it.

BOOM!

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

And you know the rest of the story.

You might ask me, “How do we know that we are chosen? How do we know we are elected or predestined.” Old, white dead guys will tell you to knock it off! Stop trying to get a hold of salvation at the wrong end. Election, much like all of salvation, belongs to God alone for He alone is mighty to save.

I recall a conversation where this lady boldly declared, “I have two sons. And no matter what they do in this life, if one is predestined and the other is not, then only the one who is predestined will go to heaven.” Again, salvation is not because of predestination.

Recall the cry of the tax collector who cried out to God, “Have mercy on me, a sinner!”, whom Christ declared justified.

Lady, if both of your kids know and love God, if both of your kids walk with Him in their days and keep his commandments not because they are super trying hard but by the power and grace of His Almighty Spirit through the broken and blood drained body of the Son of God, then my friends, I can almost assure you that both of your kids are saved to God.

God’s maxed out love is so tremendous and wonderful that sin, death, hell, Satan, nor his demons would be able to stop Him from rescuing his people. That is the very best love.

Notes:

  1. Acts 17:26-28
  2. Psalm 85:10
  3. John 15:16

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

Here is Love: To Whom Are We Saved? – Romans 8:29e

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 carefully walked through verse 29 of Romans 8, we saw that there was more than a few questions that rose to the top, namely:

What did God saw in us?  We now know that he didn’t see anything good, righteousness or lovely. What he saw was my traitorous sin and depraved wickedness. But in His power, goodness, and love, He saved me. Not by my own will, mind, or righteousness, but in his grace alone.

How did God save us? We now see that it was by the perfect life, sacrificial death, Spirit-powered resurrection, and glorious ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Father where He alone rules and reigns over heaven and earth is actually how we are saved.

By whom we are saved?  Again, from the sovereign grace of the Father, through the blood-drained and broken body of Christ upon the cross, by the power and might of the Spirit. In other words, God.

Why did God save us? Again, it was not because we were good or made the right decision or merely born into the right family, but for the glory of God which is the fullest, maximum infinite display of everything that God is—holiness, love, righteousness, just, mercy, and grace, just to name a few.

So by the term “firstborn among many brothers”, we can then ask this question:

To whom are we saved?

Not to Sunday School this and end it quickly, but the immediate and correct guess would be Jesus Christ. If God is our Father, Christ is His Son, and we are adopted by him into his family, that would no doubt make Christ, what older, dead white guys would rightfully call, our Elder brother.

Remember Romans 8:14–17 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”  The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,  and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

And just so we are clear: the term firstborn might be a weird adjective to describe the Word of God who has always been from eternally past. But remember that Christ is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End 1—the creator, founder, begetter, and perfector of our faith.

And since he proceeds everything, in a strange, “outside-of-time” way, it is the firstborn, founder and perfector of all the faith of the saints, both in the New and in the Old Testament. 2

So, we see He is first and preeminent. But God did not just merely save us in order to be first. Let’s take a look at the promises of God:

More than just merely saved from Hell and sin but to the presence of God himself: Psalm 16:9–11 Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure.  For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence, there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

That we won’t simply die in sin, or stay the same but we will look like Him: Psalm 17:15 As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with your likeness.

That once belong to Him, no one can take us away from him: John 10:28–30 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.  My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.  I and the Father are one.”

Forever, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ 3 and no separation for those who are in Christ 4.

We are saved to God forever and ever. Amen.

But here is the real kicker: not only are we saved to Him, the one who is firstborn, forever but also to one another i.e. the brethren.

In a strange sense, the salvation plan of God was two-fold: to himself forever and to each other forever.

Now, if you grew up in church, you have heard this verse thrown out just in mere passing that is sometimes used as some sort of heavy-handed law of God. “Don’t you dare miss church OR ELSE!” And I am going to repeat it here just to get it out of the way but not in mere passing but within context. Let us look at the entire passage.

Hebrews 10:19–25 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,  by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God,  let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

We are to meet together not to throw guilt, shame, and condemnation at one another but to build up each other in encouragement. (Sounds familiar? That’s why we have the gifts of the Spirit, particular with the gifts of encouragement and prophecy. 5)

Let us not neglect the meeting of the saints so that we can encourage and lift up one another and we do so not just by sincere encouragement, and prophesy that is tested by the word of God but primarily by the exposing of our sin by the law of God and the ocean of grace and love that awaits for us within the gospel of His blessed Son, Jesus Christ.

On the flipside of that: when the church fails to do that, in other words, when it fails to be a safe place for the saints, what are we to do? Then neglect meeting with one another.

Listen, we are the Bride. You are saved to the family of believers. You are not alone. I totally understand that if you need to depart and take it easy for a time but don’t totally close yourself off. Keep in touch. Let people know if you need help. Reach out. Allow those who you feel are safe to reach out and help and continue to encourage you.

I have seen too many people who just depart without saying a word to leaders or even to one another. And then they end up all alone. A sheep that stands alone in the world is the easiest prey for the wolves. They will come and devour you.

Maybe leaders are not safe either. God acknowledges this. In John 10, Jesus calls shepherds who turn and run at the first sight of danger not actual shepherds but just mere hired hands. But in Jeremiah 23, the Good Shepherd looks after his sheep and if those in charge of the sheep fail to do their job, he will remove them and set up new shepherds. I know that it seems as though those in power always remain in power and seem to be untouchable. But not in His church. And what we are witnessing in America with the cleaning out the house, we are seeing that in His church as well.

Ephesians 3:7–13 Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.  To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things,  so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.  So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

Paul will elaborate on the church as a mystery that is similar to marriage with Christ and His Bride later on in chapter 5 starting at verse 20.

This all falls back on what Christ proclaimed to be the greatest and second greatest commandment:

Matthew 22:36–40 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Jesus Christ will one day return. Until then, He sits on the throne at the right hand of God. He didn’t leave us as orphans but sent His Spirit, who is God, to come dwell in our hearts forever in an unbreakable love.

But we are saved just to stand in this world cold and alone. God is so good and so loving to save us to one another. Sometimes, the church is not perfect. Sometimes, it incredibly messy and painful. I have seen terrible pain and abuse in the church. But only by God’s grace, I cannot quit His Bride. For me to leave Her would be like me giving up on her. And I cannot. She is the bride of Christ, who, and as crazy as this might seem, will be adorned in splendor, beauty, and perfection for Her Bridegroom.

We are saved to Him and to each other. That is all-incredible 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.

Notes:

  1. Revelation 21:6
  2. Hebrew 11:1-12:2 cf. Romans 3:21-26
  3. Romans 8:1
  4. Romans 8:38-39
  5. 1 Corinthians 14:3-4

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

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 VIII: Christ’s Finished Work, We Are Protected

This has been one of the most difficult chapters to write because there is so much to be packed into the doctrine of propitiation. The only way I could approach this is to start at the beginning and start at the high altitude and work our way down. To understand propitiation, we must understand God, his law, his love and his holiness.

What can incite the wrath of God? It is when we decide that we don’t need his way but we insist on own our way. Parents recognize this in their own kids. But what about our own lives. We are not talking about wanting cookies for breakfast and not getting them. We are talking about dismissing God’s words for life entirely and try to save ourselves. In that vein, the world thinks that surely because God is love, then he can simply overlook such details and give us a free pass, perhaps even grade on a curve.

You might laugh but some Christians actually think that.

Have you ever heard, perhaps in a church, bible study or even a Christian conference, “Are you saved?” to which someone has responded, “Man, I sure hope so.” Brothers and sisters, don’t be surprised! I overheard that exchange not 10 feet away and waited with bated breath to hear the punchline. But there was none. He was serious.

That exchange happened at a Pastor’s conference.

This is why we must understand His holiness. Yes, the holiness of God can big and scary but if by the Spirit alone, we can grasp and understand it, we can rest assured of His goodness and salvation.

In the beginning, in Genesis 2:15-17, God gives us just one law. Follow this one simple rule and I can take care of the rest. Let see how that unfolds:

Genesis 3:1-7 Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the LORD God had made.

He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.

In other words, this is what I think Eve was thinking “Hmm, I want my way. Man, it sure does feel like God is holding out on me. If I do this thing, sure I will get what God has been keeping from me.”

What did God say would happen?

Genesis 2:15-17 The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Forthwith, the wages of sin is death. 1

Did God kill them right away? No. But what cannot be denied, evident by the entire history of mankind, is that when sin came into this universe, all of the cosmos shattered and broke into a million pieces.

Because of sin, God’s wrath and judgment fall in three ways: eventual death, sudden death and a giving over to what we want. All three ways lead to separation from God.

Genesis 3:15–24
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.”

To the woman he said,
“I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing;
in pain you shall bring forth children.
Your desire shall be contrary to your husband,
but he shall rule over you.”

And to Adam he said,
“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.”

The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living. And the LORD God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.

Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.

In other words, life is going to be hard and at the end, you are going to die.

But let us take a quick look at the sudden execution of God’s judgment:

Genesis 13:13 Now the men of Sodom were wicked, great sinners against the LORD.

Genesis 18:20-21 Then the LORD said, “Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great and their sin is very grave, I will go down to see whether they have done altogether according to the outcry that has come to me. And if not, I will know.”

So based on Genesis 2 and Romans 6:23, what do you think is going to happen to the Sodom and Gomorrah? The judgment here is obvious, “Well, that is easy, they were wicked and they deserve to die.”

Let’s go to other places where it is not so obvious.

God commands. Pharaoh disobeys. Pharaoh pretends to confess his sins but as soon as the current plague disappears, he sins and hardens his heart. 2

God warned Pharoah of his judgment and wrath 3. God’s own people believed. 4

But Pharaoh did not believe. Genesis 12:29-32 At midnight the LORD struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharaoh who sat on his throne to the firstborn of the captive who was in the dungeon, and all the firstborn of the livestock. And Pharaoh rose up in the night, he and all his servants and all the Egyptians. And there was a great cry in Egypt, for there was not a house where someone was not dead. Then he summoned Moses and Aaron by night and said, “Up, go out from among my people, both you and the people of Israel; and go, serve the LORD, as you have said. Take your flocks and your herds, as you have said, and be gone, and bless me also!”

Judgment of the family within camp 5

Judgment of idol worshippers 6

The judgment of nations that surrounded Israel 7

Judgment of entire nations 8

I am not going to sugar coat this at all. Sometimes, the women and the children were judged. Upon hearing that, our minds instantly click and thinks, “Those are women and children, they are innocent. They have done nothing wrong. They have been not been tried and judged.”

Perhaps they were innocent in the laws of their land. But did they sin against God? Strike that—did we not all sin against God?

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God 9

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned 10

For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. 11

If this is your first time hearing this or this is your millionth time hearing this, it is not easy to hear. This is not soft chew candy. This is tough, gristly meat cooked burnt to a well-done crisp that you have to chew on for days and even then, it’s painful to swallow.

Let’s hammer this point and let us see how you, me, my kids, my future little babies, your babies, even my sainted grandma all were born into:

Ephesians 2:1-3 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.

We were all born by nature children of the wrath of God. To simply put it, we were born dead.

John 3:36 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.

Finally, beyond sudden judgment and eventual judgment, there is a wrath that is not so obvious but it is where God simply gives us over to what we want. We keep suppressing His truth and we keep doing what we want. God simply goes, “You think your way is better, fine, go. Have it your way.”

That should scare the living daylights out of you.

So what then?

Here is the greatest news that the world has ever known or will ever know:

For those who would believe in the Son of God then all the wrath, hatred and judgment that was rightfully meant for those same sinners fall then upon the Son of God, Jesus Christ our Lord. His perfect obedient life, called out to us by the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit, as he gives his life over, nails himself to the cross and takes on the full wrath of the Father and the forsaking of the Spirit so for that those who believe in Him would never experience that.

God loves you so much. Before the creation of the world, he loved you. He looks upon all eternity and declares, “I must have you in my family. You are my son. You are my precious daughter. Yet you are running from me and you are so far from me. I cannot count on you to come back to me. You have no power to do so. Yet, I have all the power. I will send my Son and he will close that gap with his own life.” God the Father loved you so much that it pleased Him to send His Son to the cross 12. Father’s joy. Likewise, Christ loved you so much that for His glory, he saved you to Himself 13 and he did it with all humility and joy 14. How do we know this? The evidence of the Spirit of God within us who produces His fruit 15, leads us, guides us, bears witness with our spirit that we are His children 16, comforts us, reminds of us everything that God has taught 17, convicts us of sin when we do not believe but reminds us of our righteousness because of everything that God has done in us 18.

From the Lord’s furious righteous anger against sin is meant to make all things right. All things right is joy, love, and happiness forever and ever.

Jesus Christ being our sacrificial lamb (propitiation) and scapegoat (expiation) is that singular righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled. 19 In a nutshell, the law required in order for you and me to be in the presence of God, you will have to sacrifice a spotless lamb and take all the sins of the people, place them on a goat and release the goat into the wilderness never to return back again. Those rituals in the Old Testament was a foreshadow to whom Jesus Christ is and what he does. But those were just that: foreshadows. Never the real thing. The real thing is that man must shed his blood to atone for his sins. Herein lies the problem: Man is not perfect. Man cannot atone for his sin. 20

There is only One who is not only willing to save and able to save but he is the only one who has the power to save.

God came down from heaven, His Son, the Word of God and became flesh and entered into our jacked up, messed up, broken world as God but yet as a son, stepson, citizen, missionary, priest, and king. And by the word ‘king’, He did so not appear as an all-powerful warrior-king figure. He did so, humbly and mildly, as a tiny infant. He didn’t come into a wealthy family with all resources at his fingertips. He is born into a poor working-class family of an out-of-wedlock pregnant junior girl and with a stepdad. He didn’t live in a big huge metropolis where he could easily gain fame. No, he begins his life in a little rural small town and he begins his life on the run, like a fugitive, because the ruler of that time wanted him dead.

He faced the same temptations that we did, yet he did not sin.

He faced the same brokenness, heartache, sadness, loneliness, poverty, loved ones being sick, loved ones with terminal diseases, loved ones dying. He faced betrayal, distrust, fair-weather friends and faced people who would cheer for him one moment only turn around and want to murder him the next. Just like any of us but he did not sin.

He lived the life that we should have lived.

In doing so, he was the only one qualified to die the death that we should have died.

He was then taken to be stripped naked and then severely beaten, flogged and whipped to within an inch of His life. His body was so shredded to a point that you could see bones and muscle and guts underneath where there was skin as His body was covered in blood. A crown of thorns shoved upon His head, His beard yanked off His face. He was spat upon, slapped and mocked. His clothes and belongings were seized by the soldiers and bid upon in a game of craps. To top of all that, He was made to carry a wooden cross up a hill. There, upon that same, He would be nailed to that cross with spikes about 12 inches long through both wrists and one through both of his feet. They raised the cross up into a hole in the ground.

Jesus Christ is then crucified.

His body drained out of his own blood, sweat, tears, urine, and feces that gathered into a pool at the bottom of His cross. He faced the scorching heat of the day and the freezing coldness of the night. His bones never broken but just to be sure that Jesus was surely dead, a soldier stuck a spear through his ribcage straight into His heart where blood and water poured out.

It was at that moment, Jesus became every single sin ever committed by anyone who has put their faith and trust in God alone. Since the moment Adam and Eve disobeyed God to every sin that is being committed today to every sin that will ever be committed to the end of time by those God calls His people. In essence, He became a murderer, a rapist, a child molester, a thief, a hacker, a liar, pornstar, extreme fundamentalist and tax evader. He became religious, bitterness, deception, gluttony, lust, laziness, idolatry and pride. Not only did He bore the weight of all of the sins for all of His people but He bore all the sins ever committed against His people.

It was in that same moment, that His only begotten Son was indeed the only True Perfect Sacrifice and that His Son had become all of our sins, God the Father unleashed His wrath upon His Son and killing Him. That wrath was meant for you and me. We were meant to die that way. But because God loves us so much, Jesus Christ stood in our place and took the full force of God’s wrath that was meant for His people. It was in the moment, God the Father and God the Spirit turned their backs and forsook God the Son because Christ was the only one who could bear the weight of the sins of His people, of those who would believe and trust Him for eternal life.

Hebrews 2:17 Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

1 John 2:2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

God made Jesus to be the bearer of all the wrath that was in store for us. Listen, if you think that the wrath of God is simply contained to fire out of the heavens that take our temporal life on earth, think less of that and think about being separated from the love of God forever. That is called hell.

But with God’s will, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ knew us so intimately and loved us so dearly, gives his life up and faces the wrath of the Father and the forsaking of Triune God, and allows his body to break so that we would be with Him forever.

This work was done once. Only once. We don’t need to crucify Christ again.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit 21

For those who are in Christ, God is not out to get you. God is not out to pour his wrath on you. Will God discipline you if you try to go astray? That is to be sure. That is because He is your Father in heaven who loves you and would only do what any good Father would do but do so without shame, condemnation, abuse, torment, affliction. He would do so in perfect love, gentleness, kindness, never leaving you nor forsaking you forever. 22

But Christ, with his life and his love, protects and saves His people so that God can make all things right-standing with Himself.

Matthew 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Notes:

  1. Romans 6:23a
  2. Exodus 9:34-35, 10:16-20
  3. Exodus 11:1-10
  4. Exodus 12:1-28
  5. Numbers 11:1
  6. Leviticus 26:27-30
  7. read Ezekiel chapters 12-35
  8. Deuteronomy 29:24
  9. Romans 3:23
  10. Romans 5:12
  11. James 2:10
  12. Isaiah 53
  13. Isaiah 48:8-11
  14. Philippians 2:1-11; Hebrews 12:2
  15. Galatians 5:22-23
  16. Romans 8:14-17
  17. John 14:15-31
  18. John 16:4-15; 2 Corinthians 5:21
  19. Romans 8:1-4
  20. Hebrews 9:15-28
  21. 1 Peter 3:18
  22. Hebrews 12:6

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