Saturday, April 26, 2014

From Glory to Glory

Apostle Paul:  But whenever anyone turns to the Lord from his sins, then the veil is taken away. The Lord is the Spirit who gives them life, and where He is there is freedom [from trying to be saved by keeping the laws of God]. But we Christians have no veil over our faces; we can be mirrors that brightly reflect the glory of the Lord. And as the Spirit of the Lord works within us, we become more and more like Him. 2 Corinthians 3:16-18 (TLB)

When anyone wholeheartedly turns to God, God graciously removes a veil from their hearts and that person comes face to face with God (2 Corinthians 3:16). Then, that same person will suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence (a living Spirit) and not a piece of chiseled stone (2 Corinthians 3:17). For the Lord is Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is life, freedom, and liberty (2 Corinthians 3:6, 17; see also Isaiah 61:1-2; John 8:32-36; Galatians 5:1). The life the Spirit gives is eternal and without defect.

Come to Me (God) with your ears wide open. Listen, and you will find life. I will make an everlasting covenant with you. I will give you all the unfailing love I promised to David. See how I used him to display My power among the peoples. I made him a leader among the nations. You also will command nations you do not know, and peoples unknown to you will come running to obey, because I, the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, have made you glorious. Seek the Lord while you can find Him. Call on Him now while He is near. Let the wicked change their ways and banish the very thought of doing wrong. Let them turn to the Lord that He may have mercy on them. Yes, turn to our God, for He will forgive generously. Isaiah 55:3-7 (NLT)

As we wholeheartedly turn to God, God makes us glorious (2 Corinthians 3:18). This glorious transformation takes place by the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit transforms believing Christians from the inside out into the same image of God from glory to glory. In other words, we are being constantly transfigured into Jesus Christ’s very own image in ever increasing splendor and from glory to glory - progressive sanctification or glorification. The Holy Spirit gradually changes our lives and makes us brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18). Jesus Christ is the glory of God in the fullness of God’s radiance (John 1:14; Hebrews 1:2-3). His glory is the eternal and unfading glory, which He had with God the Father “before the world began” (John 17:5). The Holy Spirit changes us from sinful habits and transforms us into Christ-like affections, deeds, and qualities (see Romans 8:13; Romans 12:1-2; 1 Corinthians 6:11, 19-20; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Ephesians 4:22-24).

The Holy Scriptures clearly state we are accepted by God through faith in Jesus Christ and nothing more (Ephesians 2:8-9; see also Genesis 15:6; Habakkuk 2:2-4; Romans 1:16-17). The fullness of God and God’s glory has been revealed in Jesus Christ (John 1:14; Colossians 2:9; Hebrews 1:2-3). God generously gives His glory to anyone who believes and accepts His Son Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:16-18; 2 Corinthians 4:4-6; 2 Corinthians 5:17). Only by trusting Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:16) can the condemnation and the sentence of death can be cancelled and replaced by the free life-giving Spirit (Romans 8:1-4). Whenever we turn to God in repentance and believe the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross, God strips or removes a veil from our hearts and minds and God’s Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives by God’s grace. This process of transformation simply comes by trusting Jesus Christ and allowing God’s Holy Spirit to work from the inside out – an internal transformation of the heart. The Holy Spirit is God’s internal power that changes our hearts and gives us the power from within to obey God (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). In other words, the Holy Spirit is God. “Now the Lord is that Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:3, 17). Only the Spirit of God can bring about our spiritual transformation – from glory to glory – into a life of liberty. In essence, this process brings our life, freedom, and liberty from the bondage of sin and shame!

Apostle Paul:  So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. . . . Therefore, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you live by its dictates (sin), you will die. But if through the power of the Spirit you put to death the deeds of your sinful nature, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when He adopted you as His own children. Now we call Him, “Abba, Father.” For His Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. And since we are His children, we are His heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. Romans 8:1-2, 12-17 (NLT)

There is more Good News! The new covenant initiated by Jesus Christ is not a list of rules and regulations – “do this!” or “don't do that!” (2 Corinthians 3:7-18; see also Matthew 26:28; Luke 22:7–23; Hebrews 8:8). Before Jesus Christ’s new covenant, many Jews were trying to be saved by keeping the Old Testament law and were soon tied up in rules, rituals, and ceremonies. This does not imply that the Old Testament law was evil. On the contrary, the Apostle Paul describes this law was holy, righteous, spiritual, and good (Romans 7:12, 14). Yet, this law craved on stone tablets could not purge away evil from people hearts. But now, through the life-giving Holy Spirit, God had provided freedom from these rules, ritual and ceremonies. When we trust Jesus Christ to save us, God removes our heavy burden of trying to please Him through faith in His Son’s finish work (life, death, and resurrection). By trusting in Jesus Christ’s finished work, we are loved, accepted, forgiven, and freed to live for God and become like mirrors reflecting God's glory (2 Corinthians 3:16-18).

When we accept by faith the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God’s Holy Spirit uses the Word of God and writes the Word on our human hearts (see Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26; see also Hebrews 8 – 10). The Ten Commandments were originally written on two stone tablets (see Exodus 24:12; Exodus 31:18). However, the Holy Spirit who “gives life” writes the same law inwardly “on tablets of human hearts” as foretold by the prophets (2 Corinthians 3:3; see also Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 11:19; Ezekiel 36:26). Thus, the Holy Spirit provides believing Christians with love for God’s law, which previously they had hated, and with the power to keep it, which previously they had not possessed. When we study God's Word, the Holy Spirit transforms us! The Holy Spirit enlightens us to see and understand the truth about Jesus Christ. This enlightenment transforms or changes us morally as we read, understand, and applies God’s truths to our lives. In essence, we become more like Jesus Christ as we grow “from glory to glory.” This complete process depends on our confidence (trust) in God and not our own adequacy (flesh).

The means for new covenant ministry is the Holy Spirit using the Word of God (the Holy Scriptures). Since the Holy Spirit wrote the Holy Scriptures, He can teach us the truths of God’s Word (2 Timothy 3:16; see also John 14:17, 26). Even more, because the Holy Spirit lives in us, He empowers us to obey the Word from within our hearts. This is not legal obedience, born of fear, but devoted obedience born of love. God wants His people to obey and love Him, not because of an external code, ritual, or rules, but because of their internal character (the heart) (John 14:15, 23). The Spirit of God writes the Word of God on our hearts, and we obey our God because of the new life He has given us within. We do not become believing Christians by following some manual or using some technique. Our conversion is a result of God's embedding His Holy Spirit in our hearts, giving us new power to live for Him. “The Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6).

Apostle Paul:  So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the Law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to His cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Galatians 5:16-25 (NLT)

King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988.
Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
The Amplified Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987.
The Message Bible. Colorado Springs, CO:  NavPress, 2002.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary – New Testament. Victor Books, 1989.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

The Resurrection

The Apostle Paul:  This Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message . . . . Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, He was seen by more than 500 of His followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw Him. . . . Since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead? For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless. . . . and you are still guilty of your sins. . . . But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died. So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another Man (Jesus Christ). Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when He comes back. After that the end will come, when He will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power. For Christ must reign until He humbles all His enemies beneath His feet. And the last enemy to be destroyed is death. . . . The Scriptures tell us, “The first man, Adam, became a living person.” But the last Adam—that is, Christ—is a life-giving Spirit. What comes first is the natural body, then the spiritual body comes later. Adam, the first man, was made from the dust of the earth, while Christ, the second Man, came from heaven. Earthly people are like the earthly man, and heavenly people are like the heavenly man. Just as we are now like the earthly man, we will someday be like the heavenly Man. . . . But thank God! He gives us victory over sin and death through our Lord Jesus Christ. So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless. 1 Corinthians 15: 2-8, 12-14, 17, 20-26, 45-49, 57-58 (NLT)

The resurrection!  The day of Easter celebrates annually and every Sunday celebrates weekly the resurrection of Jesus Christ from complete death by God the Father through His Holy Spirit. Thus, the resurrection involves all of God – God the Father, God the Son (Jesus Christ), and God the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:30-35; Romans 1:4). The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the center of the Christian faith. In fact, the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 gives the heart of the Good News that all humans must believe to receive salvation:  that Jesus Christ died for our sins (not for His own sins), that He was buried (really dead), and that He rose from complete death (1 Corinthians 15:3-8). Jesus Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23) and was “raised from the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:20) is the only hope for sinful humanity to “inherit the Kingdom” of God (1 Corinthians 15:50, 53-57). Because of Jesus Christ’s life, sacrificial death and resurrection, He is indeed Lord and Son of the living God (Mark 15:39; Romans 1:4). “Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:11, NLT).

Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection are so important, that all four Gospels and most of the New Testament speak repeatedly of this important and world-changing event. Without the wonderful death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, there would be no hope for sinful humanity (1 Corinthians 15:17-19). Yet, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ was real and eye-witnessed by many people (see 1 Corinthians 15:5-8). The Apostle Paul assures us that many people saw Jesus Christ after His resurrection:  Peter; His disciples; more than 500 believing Christian (most of whom were still alive when Paul wrote); James (Jesus' brother); all the apostles; and finally Paul himself. 

Through our faith and trust in Jesus Christ’s life, death and resurrection, we have hope – hope of salvation, eternal life, forgiveness, righteousness, and reconciliation with God (Romans 4:24-25; 1 Corinthians 15:17; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10, 17-22). In fact, we are made alive – to live forever – and delivered from sin through faith (Ephesians 2:1-7). Because Jesus Christ rose from complete death, He is our life-giving Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). In other words, Jesus Christ's resurrection is the source of our new spiritual life as He is Life (John 14:6; see also Acts 3:15). Jesus Christ is not only Life but He gives life to all who believe so that death will never triumph over them (John 1:4). 

Everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. . . . There is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when He comes back. 1 Corinthians 15:22-23 (NLT)

Believing Christians know there is life beyond the grave and that our life on earth is only a preparation for our life that will never end. Because Jesus Christ’s resurrection, we also will live (John 14:19). Jesus Christ’s resurrection conquered all evil, including sin, sickness, and death (Acts 2:24; 1 Corinthians 15:24-28, 54-57; Colossians 2:12-15; Hebrews 2:14-15; see also Revelation 20:11-15). When Jesus Christ returns again, He will present God the Father with a perfect new world (1 Corinthians 15:24). Indeed, Jesus Christ’s resurrection is VICTORY to all who believe!

Jesus Christ:  I am the Resurrection and the Life. Anyone who believes (trusts) in Me will live, even after dying. Everyone who lives in Me and believes (trusts) in Me will never ever die. John 11:25-26 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Repent and Believe

Apostle Paul:  I preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things (deeds) they do. Some Jews arrested me in the Temple for preaching this, and they tried to kill me. But God has protected me right up to this present time so I can testify to everyone, from the least to the greatest. I teach nothing except what the prophets and Moses said would happen— that the Messiah would suffer and be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light to Jews and Gentiles alike. Acts 26:20-23 (NLT)

The Apostle Paul of Tarsus was a strong and obedient believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. In fact, no other person, apart from Jesus Christ Himself, has shaped the Christian faith like the Apostle Paul. The Apostle Paul was truly “a servant of Christ Jesus” (Romans 1:1, NIV).  Sadly, many times Paul suffered greatly for his belief and defense of Jesus Christ. He was often stoned, whipped, and severely beaten for his faith in Jesus Christ (e.g. see Acts 16:16-40; Acts 21:27-36).

Prior to his conversation to Christianity, the Apostle Paul was an expert on all Jewish customs and laws (Acts 26:3). He was born a Jew in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia (Acts 21:39). Paul was brought up and educated in Jerusalem under Gamaliel, a well-respected rabbi in the first century (Acts 22:3; Acts 26:4; see also Acts 5:34-40). As Gamaliel’s student, Paul was carefully trained in the Jewish laws and customs and became very zealous for the Jewish heritage and beliefs (Acts 22:3; see also Philippians 3:4-14). In fact, the Apostle Paul was previously a member of the Pharisees, the strictest sect of Jewish religion (Acts 26:5) and well-trained in the Old Testament law (Acts 22:3).

Before his conversion to Christianity, the Paul was a leading persecutor of the early Christians. He breathed out murderous threats against Christians – followers of Jesus Christ – arrested many followers of the Way (Acts 9:1-2, 13-14, 21; Acts 22:4). The readers were first introduced to Paul at the stoning of Stephen, an early believing Christian (Acts 7:58). Paul stood by and kept the coats of the people who stoned Stephen (Acts 22:20). The Apostle Paul (formerly called Saul) was so passionate for his Jewish beliefs and against Christians that he began a persecution campaign against anyone (men and women) who believed in Jesus Christ. He viciously pursued believers to their death and threw some in prison (Acts 22:4). Yet, Paul’s life changed when he encountered the risen Jesus Christ – the hope in the fulfillment of God’s promise made to the Jews (Acts 26:6-8).

One day, Paul was on a mission trip to Damascus when about noon a light from heaven brighter than the sun shone down on him (Acts 26:12-13; see also Acts 9:3, Acts 22:6). The Apostle Paul met the resurrected and living Jesus Christ face to face (Acts 26:16; see also 1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8) and his life was never again the same. He fell face down and heard a voice saying “why are you persecuting Me” (Acts 26:14; see also Acts 9:4).  Jesus Christ informed Paul

I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting. Now get to your feet! For I have appeared to you to appoint you as My servant and witness. You are to tell the world what you have seen and what I will show you in the future. And I will rescue you from both your own people and the Gentiles. Yes, I am sending you to the Gentiles (non-Jews) to open their eyes, so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will receive forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in Me. Acts 26:15-18 (NLT).

After this wonderful encounter with the living Jesus Christ, Paul was blinded by the intense light and had to be led by the hand to Damascus by his companions (Acts 22:11). Once in Damascus, a godly man named Ananias came and helped Paul to regain his sight (Acts 22:12-13). Then, Ananias told Paul

The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know His will and to see the Righteous One and hear Him speak. For you are to be His witness, telling everyone what you have seen and heard. What are you waiting for? Get up and be baptized. Have your sins washed away by calling on the Name of the Lord. Acts 22:14-16 (NLT)

The Apostle Paul obeyed Jesus Christ’s instructions from heaven (Acts 26:19). He immediately began boldly preaching about Jesus Christ in the synagogues, saying “He is indeed the Son of God” (Acts 9:20). Paul’s message was a declaration of what he had become convinced of on the Damascus road:  Jesus is the risen Messiah. The Apostle Paul dedicated the rest of his life proclaiming Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord throughout the Mediterranean world. The Apostle Paul’s vision brought him to the realization that Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection brings salvation, righteousness and life-transforming power to all who wholehearted believe in Jesus Christ as God and Savior (Romans 1:17; Romans 3:21-26; Romans 4:1-8; see also Ephesians 2:8-9).

Paul preached first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that all must repent of their sins and turn to God—and prove they have changed by the good things they do (Acts 26:20; see also Acts 16:29-34). “Everyone who believes in Him (Jesus Christ) will have their sins forgiven through His Name” (Acts 10:43, NLT). “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, along with everyone in your household” (Acts 16:31, NLT).

The message of the Good News (Gospel) is simple: turn from your sins, believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (God) with your whole heart, and be committed to obey Him (John 13:34-35; Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Ephesians 2:8-9; Philippians 2:11). The Apostle Paul repeatedly proclaimed that Jesus Christ’s sinless life, sacrificial death on the Cross, and resurrection from complete death assures our salvation and new life (e.g., Romans 3:23-26; Romans 5:6-11; 2 Corinthians 5:14-21). God freely gives all people forgiveness of their sins and eternal life as a gift of God's grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8-9).  

All who believe in Him (Jesus Christ) are made right with God. . . .If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved. . . . Everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord will be saved. Romans 10:4, 9, 13 (NLT)

Many Jews harassed and persecuted Paul for preaching this Good News, and they even tried to kill him (Acts 26:20; see also Acts 9:23-24). But God protected Paul as he taught a message that the Jews should have embraced (Acts 26:22-23). The Apostle Paul preached from the least to the greatest what the prophets and Moses said would happen (see also Acts 9:15-16). He preached that Jesus Christ (Messiah) would suffer,  be the first to rise from the dead, and in this way announce God’s light and inheritance to all people – Jews and Gentiles alike (Acts 26:22-23; see also 1 Corinthians 15:1-8). This inheritance is the promise and blessings God made to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3; Romans 4:1-8).

As Paul’s preaching became more and more powerful, the Jews in Damascus could not disprove his proofs that Jesus Christ was indeed the Messiah (Acts 9:22). In fact, the Apostle Paul preached boldly in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ and encouraged the people to live their lives for good and God’s glory, not evil lives any longer (1 Corinthians 10:31; see also Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 7:15-23). He encouraged believing Christians to live a life of love and truth that is fully submitted to Jesus Christ (Romans 13:8-14; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:6, 14; Ephesians 5:1-2). Our good deeds and good works do not bring our salvation either before or after acceptance of Jesus Christ, but they are a sign to the world of our true repentance (Acts 26:20).

The conversion of Apostle Paul was very important to the early church. In fact, the author of Acts (Luke) recounts Paul’s conversion story three times (Acts 9:1-31; Acts 22:1-21; Acts 26:1-29). The Apostle Paul’s experience with the risen Jesus Christ convinced him of the truth of the Gospel (Good News) and that became the foundation of his theology. On this fact, Paul based his qualification to be an apostle (1 Corinthians 9:1; 1 Corinthians 15:8). Even more, Paul’s conversion reveal God’s power to reach, redeem, and use anyone for His holy purposes—no matter our background (Luke 1:37).

Apostle Paul:  Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. . . . It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you. . . . I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and He was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, He was seen by more than 500 of His followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then He was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw Him. For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I am not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. But whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on me—and not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by His grace. 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

God’s Love and the Wonderful Cross

Apostle John:  Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love. God showed how much He loved us by sending His one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through Him. This is real love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and His love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:7-12 (NLT)

The New Testament frequently connects Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross with God’s love and our salvation (e.g., John 3:16; Romans 3:25; Romans 5:9; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:11-28; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 1:5). In fact, the Cross of Jesus Christ has become the symbol of Christian faith and God’s love for the world (John 3:16; see also 1 John 4:7-12). The Cross is absolutely central to Christian salvation from sin and eternal death. Other religions have their martyrs and rules, but Jesus Christ’s sacrificial life and death was of a Savior to save humans (Matthew 1:21). Jesus Christ’s death saves all people from their sins through belief and acceptance of His life, teaching, and death on the Cross.

Apostle Paul:  Christ redeemed us from that self-defeating, cursed life by absorbing it (sin) completely into Himself. Do you remember the Scripture that says, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"? That is what happened when Jesus was nailed to the Cross: He became a curse, and at the same time dissolved the curse. And now, because of that, the air is cleared and we can see that Abraham's blessing is present and available for non-Jews (Gentiles), too. We are all able to receive God's life, His Spirit, in and with us by believing—just the way Abraham received it. Galatians 3:13-14 (MSG)

God is a loving (1 John 4:7-21) but He is also a holy God of justice (Deuteronomy 32:4). The Holy Scriptures are clear that God cannot forgive sins without a sacrifice to pay the full penalty for sins. The Apostle Paul explains that is why a loving God sent His Son Jesus Christ to die and become the final sacrifice (“propitiation”) to save human sins (Matthew 1:21). Jesus Christ voluntarily took the full penalty due for our sins, God’s wrath, and died for our sins (Romans 3:25-26; see also John 19:30; Hebrews 2:17). In other words, Jesus Christ bore the sinful weight of millions upon millions of people on Cross and took on God’s wrath and fury for our sins. Therefore, there are no more penalties for sin left to pay.

And He did not enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, like the high priest here on earth who enters the Most Holy Place year after year with the blood of an animal. If that had been necessary, Christ would have had to die again and again, ever since the world began. But now, once for all time, He has appeared at the end of the age to remove sin by His own death as a sacrifice. And just as each person is destined to die once and after that comes judgment, so also Christ died once for all time as a sacrifice to take away the sins of many people. He will come again, not to deal with our sins, but to bring salvation to all who are eagerly waiting for Him. Hebrews 9:25-28 (NLT)

As the final sacrifice for human sins, Jesus Christ's death brings our eternal redemption, salvation, rescue, and restoration (Romans 8:1-4; Ephesians 5:2; 1 Peter 1:18-19). In other words, Jesus Christ’s death on the Cross became our rescue by ransom because His death paid the price to free and deliver us from sin, death, and condemnation (Romans 3:24; Galatians 4:4-5; Colossians 1:14). Even more, Jesus Christ's death was God's way of reuniting and reconciling us humans to Himself and overcoming His own anger and hostility towards us that our previous sins had caused (Romans 5:10; 2 Corinthians 5:18-19; Colossians 1:20-22).

Apostle John:  I am telling you this so that you will stay away from sin. But if you sin, there is someone to plead for you before the Father. His Name is Jesus Christ, the One who is all that is good and who pleases God completely. He is the One who took God’s wrath against our sins upon Himself and brought us into fellowship with God; and He is the forgiveness for our sins, and not only ours but all the world’s. 1 John 2:1-2 (TLB)

The Cross propitiated (or satisfied) God’s anger and wrath against human sins by atoning (expiating) our sins and so removing them from God’s sight (see Romans 3:25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2 and 1 John 4:10). God’s holiness and righteousness demands punishment for human sin. Therefore out of love, God sent His one and only Son into the world to make a substitutionary atonement for human sin for all who believe (1 John 4:10; John 3:16). In His sacrificial suffering, Jesus Christ assumed or absorbed our sinful identity and endured our just punishment for sin (Galatians 3:13). In other words, Jesus Christ became our sin and took our punishment from God for our sins (Colossians 2:14; cf. Matthew 27:37; Isaiah 53:4-6; Luke 22:37). God placed our sins and shame on Jesus Christ while He was on Calvary’s Cross (see Isaiah 53:6, 12; 1 Peter 2:24). In this way, God the Father’s wrath against sin was satisfied because His wrath against our sins has been turned away and directed to His own Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 3:25). There was no other way for our loving God to save humans than for Jesus Christ to die in our place on Calvary’s Cross. Here, we see the amazing love of both God the Father and Jesus Christ in redemption of human beings. Therefore, God’s love and justice are equally revealed in the atonement – Jesus Christ’s life and sacrificial death.

Apostle Paul:  When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners. Now, most people would not be willing to die for an upright person, though someone might perhaps be willing to die for a person who is especially good. But God showed His great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, He will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of His Son while we were still His enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of His Son. So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God. Romans 5:6-11 (NLT)

Through FAITH and acceptance in Jesus Christ’s life and sacrificial death, God becomes favorably disposed toward us and we are declared righteous and holy by God (1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21; Philippians 3:9). Because the penalty for our sins has been entirely paid by Jesus Christ on the Cross, we have no remaining fear of condemnation or punishment (Romans 8:1-4). This transaction is often called “the great exchange” or “marvelous exchange” – our sin for Jesus Christ’s righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21 see also Romans 5:19; Galatians 2:16). Our sins were poured into Jesus Christ at His sacrificial death and His righteousness is poured into us at our acceptance of His life and death for our sins.

And He took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He (Jesus) gave it to them (disciples) and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is My blood, which confirms the covenant between God and His people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Matthew 26:27-28 (NLT)

Most important, Jesus Christ's atoning death confirmed the beginning of a new covenant (relationship) between God and His people. Under this new covenant, we humans now have full access to God under all circumstances as guaranteed by Jesus Christ's final sacrifice that covers all our sins – past, present, and future (Matthew 26:27-28; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 9:14-15, 26; Hebrews 10:12-18; 1 John 4:10). In other words, we humans can approach God directly through faith because Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice and death has made us righteous, holy, and acceptable in God's eyes (Romans 3:21-24; see also Romans 5:18; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 1 Peter 2:24).

Apostle Paul:  For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for He was looking ahead and including them in what He would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate His righteousness, for He Himself is fair and just, and He declares sinners to be right in His sight when they believe in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26 (NLT)

Forgiveness through Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice is not limited to one particular group only. God’s forgiveness has worldwide applications (John 1:29). Jesus Christ was our sinless and spotless Passover Lamb of the world (Isaiah 53:7; Hebrews 9:28) offered for the sins of ALL people (John 1:29; Revelation 5:6-14). To receive God’s forgiveness, all we have to do is turn from our sins, receive Jesus Christ's forgiveness, and wholeheartedly commit our lives to Him (John 3:16; 1 John 1:9; 1 John 2:4-10). Through faith and acceptance of Jesus Christ’s atoning work, we have “received reconciliation” (Romans 5:11) with God and become “the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21). In Jesus Christ, we are now forgiven, cleansed, and declared righteous. Because of Jesus Christ’s selfless, sacrificial death, He is SUPREME above all!

Apostle Paul:  Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, for through Him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we cannot see— such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through Him and for Him. He existed before anything else, and He holds all creation together. Christ is also the head of the church, which is His body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So He is first in everything. For God in all His fullness was pleased to live in Christ, and through Him God reconciled everything to Himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the Cross. This includes you who were once far away from God. You were His enemies, separated from Him by your evil thoughts and actions. Yet now He has reconciled you to Himself through the death of Christ in His physical body. As a result, He has brought you into His own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before Him without a single fault. But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Do not drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News. The Good News has been preached all over the world, and I, Paul, have been appointed as God’s servant to proclaim it. Colossians 1:15-23 (NLT)

The sacrificial blood of Jesus Christ has so many benefits. First, faith in Jesus Christ’s blood removes our guilt and shame before a loving and holy God. Also by the blood of Jesus Christ, we are cleansed and purified (Hebrews 9:14). “The blood of Christ cleans up our whole lives, inside and out” (Hebrews 9:14, MSG). Moreover, we gain full access to God in worship and prayer through Jesus Christ’s sacrificial blood (Hebrews 10:19). Finally through Jesus Christ’s blood, we are increasingly cleansed from remaining sin (1 John 1:7; see also Revelation 1:5); we are able to defeat evil (Revelation 12:10-11); and we are saved from our sinful way of life (1 Peter 1:18-19).

Apostle Peter: For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in His steps. He never sinned, nor ever deceived anyone. He did not retaliate when He was insulted, nor threaten revenge when He suffered. He left His case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly. He personally carried our sins in His body on the Cross so that we can be dead to sin and live for what is right. By His wounds you are healed. 1 Peter 2:21-24 (NLT)

Jesus Christ’s sacrificial life and death was part of God's loving plan (Matthew 16:21-23; Luke 24:25-27, 44-47) and was purposed to save humans (Matthew 20:28; 26:28). God replaced all the Old Testament ritual requirements for sacrifice by Jesus Christ’s final sacrifice on the Calvary’s Cross, which wipes away our sins (Colossians 2:14; Hebrews 10:14-18). The only sacrifices now required of believing Christian are those of praise and thanksgiving, which take the form of worship in spirit and in truth and obedience to Jesus Christ’s teaching (Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 13:15-16; 1 Peter 2:5). In essence, God calls us to demonstrate our thankfulness for Jesus Christ’s self-sacrifice by leading lives of love, goodness, holiness, truth, and mercy – just like Jesus Christ!

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Not Guilty!

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to Him, the power of the life-giving (Holy) Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. The Law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the Law could not do. He sent His own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving His Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the Law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the (Holy) Spirit. Romans 8:1-4 (NLT)

Jesus Christ is our “sacrifice of atonement” (Romans 3:25, NLT). In other words, Jesus Christ died in our place, for our sins. All people are sinners – Jews and Gentiles (non-Jews) (see Romans 1:18-3:20). We all have disobeyed and offended a holy God by our sin (Romans 3:23). No acceptance by or fellowship with God can be expected unless atonement is made. Even more, our best efforts or good actions to establish our fellowship with God is ruinous foolishness and simply cannot be humanly done (see Job 15:14-16; Romans 10:2-4).

However, God has graciously and mercifully provided everyone a path to righteousness and a return to a state of glory through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:23; see also Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8:4-8; Ephesians 2:4; Hebrews 2:5-9). God kindly declared Jesus Christ's death on Calvary’s Cross to be the appropriate atonement for all human sin. In other words, Jesus Christ’s selfless death became God’s designated sacrifice and ransom for all human sin as He paid the penalty of death for ALL our sins (past, present, and future). This atoning work of Jesus Christ is an act by which God Himself through Jesus Christ restored a right relationship of fellowship and unity between Himself and sinful humanity (2 Corinthians 5:14-21). This amazing grace is the focal point of New Testament faith, hope, worship, ethics, and spiritual life.

Because of Adam and Eve’s sin (Romans 5:18; 1 Corinthians 15:22) and our own personal sins (Colossians 1:21), no human is worthy of relationship with God (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23). In fact, all humans helplessly stand as condemned or guilty sinners before a holy and righteous God (Romans 3:9-18). Yet, our loving and gracious God responded to our helplessness by sending His one and only Son, Jesus Christ as a ransom to free us from our sin and condemnation (Romans 8:1-4). Jesus Christ bridged the gap between a holy God and sinful humans by making salvation and righteousness available to all people that believe in Him (1 Timothy 2:6-7). The Holy Bible teaches that Jesus Christ willingly gave Himself as a sacrifice (“a sin offering”) and a ransom on Calvary’s Cross to free us from human sins (Matthew 20:28).

For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. Hebrews 10:10 (NLT)

When God brought Israel out of Egypt, He established a system of atonement for the Israelites’ sin. This system involved the shedding and offering of the blood of unflawed animals “to make atonement” for sin (Leviticus 17:11). The blood of animal sacrifices was continually offered at the Temple as a substitute for human sin and death (Ezekiel 18:20). The human sinner deserved: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls” (Leviticus 17:11). However, those repeated sacrifices could never permanently remove human sins (Hebrews 10:4) as they were only temporary (Hebrews 10:1).

And she (Mary) will have a Son, and you are to name Him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins. Matthew 1:21 (NLT)

God sent Jesus Christ to pay the final ransom price and became the final sacrifice to permanently save us from our sins (Matthew 1:21). The name Jesus means "the LORD saves." Thus, God sent His one and only Son Jesus into the world to save humanity because we could not save ourselves from sin and sin’s consequences (John 3:16). Jesus was God in the flesh; thus God was literally among us, "with us" (Matthew 1:23).

Atonement was possible because “God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin” (Romans 3:25, NLT). God’s justice against our sins was served in the death of Jesus Christ as a substitute: “Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:12) and declared us humans “not guilty” (or justified). Even more amazing, Jesus Christ willingly gave His life as a ransom for our sins (Mark 10:45; 1 Timothy 2:6). Though God laid on Jesus Christ the sins of us all (Isaiah 53:6; also 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13), Jesus Christ “has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2), so that those who believe in Him (Romans 3:22) might receive atonement and “be saved from [God’s] wrath” (Romans 5:9) through “the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter. 1:19). Through Jesus Christ, God will present us “faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy” (Jude 24). Jesus Christ has purchased our freedom from sin and the purchase price was His holy life (Romans 3:24).

Through faith in Jesus Christ’s atonement, we are declared not guilty and innocent by God regardless of our background, previous sins, and past failures as if we had never sinned. God removes all the charges from our record and we are given a fresh start (a new beginning) (2 Corinthians 5:17). No matter how good we are or try to be, we humans cannot eliminate our sinful nature. ONLY faith and acceptance in the atoning work of Jesus Christ can remove human sin — the permanent, powerful, sin-destroying forgiveness (Romans 3:21-25). Even more, God send us His Holy Spirit to give us a new life or rebirth – we are born again or redeem by God – through faith and acceptance in Jesus Christ’s atoning life and amazing work on Calvary’s Cross (see John 1:12-13; John 3:3, 6-7; Colossians 2:6-7). The Holy Spirit gives believing Christians the power needed to live holy and righteous lives like God (see John 3:6; Acts 1:3-5). Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ is present every day in the lives of believing Christians (Matthew 1:23).

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, with undeserved kindness, declares that we are righteous. He did this through Christ Jesus when He freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed His life, shedding His blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when He held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past. Romans 3:23-25 (NLT)

Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005.
Zondervan NIV Study Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2008.
Packer, J.I. Concise Theology: A Guide to Historic Christian Beliefs. Carol Stream, IL:  Tyndale House Pub., 1993.
Youngblood, Ronald F. Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Dictionary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Pub., 1995