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Archive for Salvation

Propitiation

One could easily make the case that the most important word in the Bible is the word propitiation (pro-pi-she-a-shun).  The immeasurable value of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross is made known through this word. It is the Greek word hilesterion, which is found five times in the Bible. Four times it is translated propitiation and once it is translated mercy seat (Rom. 3:25–26; 1 John 2:2, 4:10; Heb. 2:17, 9:5). God has opened to us truth that no human eyes have seen, no human ears have never heard, truth that has never before entered the human mind. Paul said that what is visible is temporary. It will pass away and only God’s invisible truth will remain. God opens to the eyes of our heart this incredible truth through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:9-10; 2 Cor. 4:16-18).

 

One such truth is made known through the word propitiation. In order to receive the full impact of this word we must go back into Old Testament times. The animals died; the blood flowed, yet not a single sacrifice ever fully satisfied God. If that had been the case, the sacrificial system would have been abolished (Heb. 10:1–5). The entire Old Testament sacrificial system provided merely a shadow or mirror image of what God required to forever pay for sin. A glimpse was made known to the Jewish people through an elaborate ceremony performed once every year. The high priest entered into a small room in the tabernacle called the most holy place. What happened in this room was private, it could not be seen by the people.

 

The priest would sprinkle blood on the mercy seat, a small gold plate covering the ark of the covenant. This act was to make atonement for the sins of the priests and the people. Atonement is the Hebrew word kippur meaning covering (Ex. 25:21-22; Heb. 9:6-14). This happened once every year on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement). This day was the Jews’ high holy day, a day filled with a combination of anxiety, fear, awe, and mystery. On this day, the great and awesome “I Am,” the sovereign, eternal king of the universe, visited with His chosen people, the Jews.  But not without the blood offering. Because this was to happen once a year, the people realized that the blood of animals (this ceremony) never permanently removed their guilt or the penalty of their sin. The guilt always returned.  The action of the high priest was so important that the people tied a rope around his ankles so that if he died in the process, he could be quickly pulled out and replaced.

 

Centuries later, God became a member of the human race in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. He did so to become the real High Priest who would make the final and forever offering for sin. On a hill called Calvary, God’s special Priest made the sacrifice that would end all sacrifices. While Christ’s body was hanging on a cross, His spirit was extremely active. Just before He died, He spoke the Greek word tetelestai, it is finished. At that moment, unobserved by human eyes, Christ entered a greater and more perfect tabernacle that was not made with human hands. He did not take with Him the blood of an animal; He took His own blood. With His blood He made the final payment for sin. He entered this tabernacle once, and once was enough. The earthly tabernacle made with human hands was just a shadow of a real heavenly temple where God the Father dwells. Jesus Christ carried His blood into the heavenly temple, into the very presence of God. He forever put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Heb. 9:25–26).

 

In the quietness of heaven, far from the searching eyes of humanity, the real High Priest stood before God the Father in a private meeting. There He provided the final and forever blood offering for sin. This is the sacrifice to which all of these symbols pointed—God’s clothing of Adam and Eve with animal skins; Abel’s sacrifice; the altars of Noah, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the brazen altar; the altar of incense; and the mercy seat. It was God alone who demanded to be satisfied, and it was Christ alone who achieved satisfaction.

 

God the Father finally, fully, and forever accepted the one sacrifice of God the Son for sin.  The incredible benefit of this sacrifice is being offered today to all that hear and believe the gospel. Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in his blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness because in the forbearance of God He passed over sins previously committed (Rom. 3:24–27).  Jesus Christ did not make a down payment for sin and then ask us to pick up the rest of the tab. God’s work of salvation in Christ Jesus happened long before we were here. Are we to suppose that we could possibly do something today to persuade God to be just a little more gracious to us than He has been in Jesus Christ? What more could we do that could in any way cause God to love us more than He loves us in Christ? God paid the debt we could not pay, and the payment He made was enough. God is fully and forever satisfied. Blessings!

 

Has Salvation Come to Your House?

Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth! (Psalm 46:10). These words have always been there quietly shouting to us, but the barrenness of busyness has taken its toll on the family of God. We have become too busy to listen – really listen. I think every reader would agree that God has given to us the perfect time to be still and meditate on the things of God.

Remember our last post. The Living Word (the Lord Jesus Christ) like a laser beam was walking along the road toward Jericho. Zacchaeus, a tax collector, had heard that He was coming through. Zac had climbed a sycamore tree so he could just get a glimpse of Jesus. But Jesus stopped, looked up at him, called him by name and asked him to come down. Jesus said that He must stay at his house that night. Everything that happened was obviously in the plan of God. Nothing happened by chance. The Living Word added that salvation had come to his house because (note the reason) Zac was a son of Abraham. The Living Word already knew him personally. The Living Word’s mission had been earlier explained. “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24).  

In a very similar situation, the Living Word, speaking as the Good Shepherd, said to other lost sheep of the house of Israel (other sons of Abraham), “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me” (John 10:27).  In this context of John’s gospel, Jesus had earlier spoken to a group of Jews who were still questioning His identity. The Jews had surrounded Him, saying to Him, “How long do keep us in doubt. Tell us plainly! Are you the Christ?” (John 10:24).

The Living Word said that He had already told them, and they did not believe. He said that He had given them evidence. The works that He had done in His Father’s name had given witness to His identity (John 10:25). But that was not the real reason that they had not come. The Living Word said to this crowd, “But.” Once again it is the small words that scream at us. “But you do not believe because you are not my sheep.” The Living Word never misspoke, not one time. He did not say that He always knew that they were not going to be His sheep so that is why they did not come. Many add these words to the text but not the Living Word.

So, when did these Jewish sheep become His sheep? Did they become His sheep only after He called them? Or were they His sheep before He called them.  Did they become His sheep only because He knew that they would be, so then He called them? Or did He always know them personally, like He knew Zac. Said plainly, were His sheep His sheep, even before they heard His voice. He said, “My sheep hear my voice.” In my mind they were already His sheep.

Did Zac become a son of Abraham only after the Living Word called him out of the tree? He was already a son of Abraham and this is the reason that Jesus said that salvation had come to his house. As I pondered this, my mind quickly hit the recalculate button and I thought to myself, well in both cases both Zac – a son of Abraham – and the lost sheep were speaking of the lost sheep of the house of Israel. But Jesus had earlier added, And other sheep I have which are not of this fold (His Jewish fold) them also I must bring (the Gentile fold) and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd” (John 10:16).  Two sheep folds, some Jew and some Gentiles, blended together as one flock. Then add one Good Shepherd and it equals the Church. Wow!

Speaking of His sheep (Jew and Gentile), Jesus said, “And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand” (John 10:28). This is the salvation that had come to Zac’s house and the salvation that can come to your house whatever side of this fence you are on (Jew or Gentile, John 3:16).  Carefully follow the final steps and listen to every word of the Living Word as He left Zac’s house. He was on His way like a laser beam to the Via Delarosa (the path of suffering) and ultimately to the cross.  His words were the words of the dying Lamb of God. He knew that His death was near – very near. His final words will be life changing for those who will be still and know that God is God. Stay safe and stay tuned.

Christ Died for Our Sins

I am going through the entire passage found in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. Verses 3-4 say: For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” We have covered the first part of Paul’s declaration of the gospel, “the Christ.” Today we look at the second part, “died for our sins according to the Scriptures.” My absolute go-to passage on this truth is 2 Corinthians 5:21: “He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) to become sin for us (on the cross He became my substitute) in order that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.”
The sin of Adam’s rebellion was placed on Christ at the moment He cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me.” At that moment, God the Father separated Himself from God the Son for the first time (Matthew 27:45-46). Jesus first died spiritually, and then He died physically (Matthew 27:50; John 19:30). At that very instant Jesus Christ became a type of the first Adam, by becoming the last Adam (Romans 5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49). As the first Adam died because he sinned, the last Adam died as a substitute to pay for his sin. The first Adam started the fire of sin burning, and the last Adam put the flames out by the washing of His blood (Roman 5:19). Jesus Christ died for our sins. He did not die as a martyr to teach us how to give our lives for Him – He died on the cross for sins. He did not die simply to show us how much He loved us – He died on the cross for our sins. Well this begs the question, for how many sins did He die? The answer is quite clear. He died once for all (Hebrews 10:10-14). He died for all sin – past, present, and future. He died for the sins that we have already committed, and for the sins that we will commit today, and for all of our future sins. How many does that leave the sinner to pay for? The obvious answer is none. Jesus paid it all, all to Him I owe. Sin has left a crimson stain, He washed it white as snow.
This gospel is often presented today in a way that leaves the sinner confused. The gospel is presented in a clear way – that the God/man came into the world, lived a perfect life, died on the cross to pay the entire debt of sin, and then….. human works are tied on at the end of the presentation, leaving the sinner confused. It leaves one believing that Christ’s cross work was not really finished. It will not be finished and sufficient until I add my human work to it – such a walking an aisle of a church building, such as turning from all my sins, or joining a particular church, or being baptized, or reforming my life. As I said in an earlier post, all these things are good to do but only after one comes to Christ by faith and is born again.
To add human works to the finished work of Christ just confuses the gospel – it clutters the gospel. Does the reader truly understand this? If one could do anything – anything – to add to Christ’s work on the cross, no matter how sincere or well-intended, that would really imply that Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on the cross really did not do enough to save me by faith alone, in Him alone. What is often subtly suggested by sincere people is that Jesus paid for all our sin, and He said that it was finished – but it really was not paid for in full and it really was not finished – until I pay it off and finish it myself.
Presenting the gospel on God’s terms and then making it available on man’s terms is not biblical and will not save. Paul then proves this by saying “according to the Scriptures.” I think he means the Old Testament Scriptures – like “we have all like sheep gone astray and have turned everyone to his own way but the Lord has laid on Him to iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). Isaiah further writes, “He has born our griefs, and carried our sorrows, He was wounded for our transgressions. . .For the transgression of my people He was stricken (Isaiah 53:6-10). Psalm 22 is a clear prophecy of the crucifixion in detail. The Lord Jesus died for our sins is a crucial second part of the gospel. Halleluiah! Stay safe and stay tuned!

How Did Paul Receive the Gospel?

Paul is clearly explaining the gospel in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. Yesterday we looked at the value of preserving the clarity of the gospel at all cost. We live in a nation that has not done this. We have blurred the lines of the true gospel. We have not valued the truth of the gospel, nor have we taught our children to love it. This is why we find ourselves as a nation in the spiritual cesspool of God’s judgment (Roman 1:18-32).

Today we look at Paul’s words, “Unless you have believed in vain.” Another way of expressing this is “unless your faith is empty of any real content.” This can be taken different ways. Paul may be saying “unless you have placed your faith in a false gospel” – an empty, twisted gospel that has been adulterated (mixed) with the addition of human works – a gospel that has no power to save – and obviously many have. Or on the other hand, Paul may mean that unless God really did not become a Man nor did He die on a cross for sin, nor did He really rise from the dead, nor is He alive today and coming back to establish His kingdom. The result would be the same. There would be no saving power in the gospel either way. I personally think that by saying “unless you believed in vain” Paul meant the latter.

Let’s continue. Paul said, “I delivered to you that which I received.” This begs a question.  How did Paul receive His message of the gospel? This is truly amazing. When Paul was saved on the way to Damascus, he did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, meaning he did not go back to Jerusalem to meet with the apostles (Galatians 1:15-16). He did not get his message from them.

Paul went immediately into the desert of Arabia alone – but He was not alone. He went to meet with someone. Get ready now for some strong meat – an amazing glimpse. He met with Jesus Christ once again – face-to-face. Wow!  He said thatthe gospel which he proclaimed did not come from flesh and blood. Now I quote verbatim, “but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12). Jesus Christ unveiled himself once again, and He gave the gospel message to Paul, who had been called from his mother’s womb to preach this message to the Gentiles (Galatians 1:15-16).

Later Paul told the Ephesian believers that he had actually become a prisoner of Jesus Christ for them. The only way Ephesian believers could understand what Paul meant would be for them to have heard and understood of the dispensation of the grace of that was given to him – by Jesus Christ when He made known the gospel to him. A dispensation is a stewardship, a window of opportunity. In Arabia Jesus Christ had made known to Paul not only the gospel, but also the result of the gospel.

The gospel is the truth that not only saves but will immediately result in the baptism of the Spirit – real baptism.  This baptism joins both Jew and Gentile into one body – the church.  This amazing truth had been hidden in God for ages.  This mystery was not made known to the Old Testament prophets – anywhere. If it had been, then they would have no doubt proclaimed it again and again. They did not! (Ephesians 3:1-12). Spirit baptism occurs instantly upon hearing and believing the gospel. The believer is instantly baptized into one body – Jew and Gentile – in Christ. Paul was the first to make this mystery known. 

Now through the church preaching the gospel and many believing and being saved and also being instantly immersed into Christ, the principalities and powers in heavenly places can finally know this truth. This is why the angels are looking onto it (1 Peter 1:12).  Through the gospel God is raising a new generation of people – made up people from every tribe and tongue – Jew and Gentile – made lower than the angels but in Christ, raised far above them.  This new generation will ultimately reign with Christ over a renewed earth for a thousand years (Revelation 20:1-6) and then reign with Him for eternity in a new heaven and a new earth forever (Revelation 22:3-5). Remember, it was in the angelic realm and in the old heaven where the first rebellion – Satan’s rebellion against God – occurred (Ezekiel 28:11-15; Isaiah 14:12-14).  This is amazing is it not? This is God’s eternal purpose revealed. This is the reason for the gospel. Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

The Gospel is Not the Gospel When Works Are Added

Paul said, “I declare to you the gospel” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). It seems reasonable to assume that what follows from his pen is the gospel – the good news. Yesterday we looked at the little phrase “by which you are saved.” Today we move a little further in the passage. “If you hold fast that word which I preached to you” (1 Corinthians 15:2).

This “if” word brings the possibility that some of the Corinthian believers may not have been holding firm to the true gospel. Galatians believers found themselves in this same category. They became deceived by false teachers who were perverting the true gospel so much, that it became a different gospel – a gospel that could not save (Galatians 1:6).

How were these deceivers twisting the gospel? They were adding human works to the finished work of Christ, teaching that unless the Galatians were circumcised and keeping the law, they could not be saved (Galatians 5:2). They were saying that God who took on flesh – “God” who took on flesh – and died on the cross, did not do enough to save all who trust in Him by faith alone. That Jesus Christ really did not finish the work that His Father sent Him to do. . . but the Bible says He did (John 19:30). That His cross work really did not satisfy forever the Father’s demand of death for sin. . .but the Bible says it did (Romans 3:24-26).

At the moment that we add any human work – however small – to the finished work of Christ, we no longer have grace. Paul says that if being saved is truly by grace, then it is no longer of works, otherwise, grace is no more grace (Romans 11:6). That is crystal clear. Salvation must be all of grace or it is not grace at all.

So many times the gospel is presented, and then human works of every kind are tagged on at the end in order to receive its benefits. Additions like turning from sin, getting baptized, joining the church, giving money, walking an aisle, the list goes on and on – all good things to do, but after one is saved – not before. Before salvation comes, one does not have the power to do anything for God – I mean anything. These additions are the subtle work of Satan destroying the saving power of the gospel.  He does so by fueling the pride of those who make these changes, adding the works of man to the finished work of God. 

Through the gospel dead people are made alive (Ephesians 2:1-6). How can a dead person be asked to change before life comes? Satan blinds people to the truth of the gospel (2 Corinthians 4:3-4). How can a blind person be asked to see before the scales of blindness are removed? Jesus Christ did enough on the cross to save us and to keep us saved. “I once was lost but now I’m found, ‘twas blind but now I see.” I truly love these words, don’t you? Stay safe and stay tuned.