Let us suppose that you have been saved, but live a careless life and bear a poor testimony before the world. Would water baptism change this? What would it be worth?
But suppose you have been saved and live a godly, consistent life before the world. Is a water-confession necessary? How much is it worth? Don’t be afraid to answer this question honestly. How many “baptized converts” there are who cannot even give a word of testimony for their Lord among the lost!
In a sense, however, the baptism of believers by water in this age is a testimony — a bad testimony. When the Galatian believers submitted to circumcision it was a bad testimony (Gal.5:2,3). Circumcision, while a part of Peter’s “gospel of the circumcision” had no place in “the gospel of the uncircumcision” committed to Paul (Gal.2:7). And just as circumcision was connected with “the gospel of the circumcision” so water baptism was con-nected with “the gospel of the kingdom” (See Matthew 3:2,6; 10:5-7; cf. John 1:31; Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Luke 24:47; Acts 2:36-38; Acts 3:19-21).
We solemnly declare that the present day practice of water baptism is a reflection on the grace of God and a confession of a lack of appreciation of the finished work of Christ, and the believer’s completeness in Him (See Ephesians 1:6; Colossians 2:10). Furthermore, it betrays a poor understanding of the heavenly character and position of the Church of this age (See Ephesians 2:6; 1:3; Colossians 3:1-3).
Be a Berean. Search the Scriptures and see whether these things are so.
We know that God forgives the sins of His people, but does He forget them? It would seem so. Our text suggests that He “will not remember” the sins committed against Him by His children (Isa. 43:25). Believers have always found a great deal of comfort in this blessed thought.
But then God calls upon us to likewise forgive others “even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). Doesn’t this suggest that we too should forgive and forget?Perhaps you are thinking, “But Pastor, you don’t know what they did to me!” True, but was it more than what was done to God when men crucified His Son?
Remember, God’s vow to forgive and forget the sins of His people includes even the brutal murder of His only begotten Son. We are tempted to think, “Well, it’s easy for God to forget,” but such is not the case. God says of the sins of unbelievers that He “will NEVER forget ANY of their works” (Amos 8:7). How then can this God of “total recall” forget our sins? Does His memory have a convenient “on/off ” switch that makes it easy for Him to forgive and forget? If so, then we who do not have such a switch would have an excuse for forgiving but not forgetting. But if God has such a switch, would He not also have to erase His memory of Calvary, or else forever wonder why His Son had to die? But it cannot be that God could forget the Cross, for Revelation 5:6 joins John 20:27 to reveal that the Lord’s resurrection body will forever bear the scars of the Cross, making it impossible for God—or us—to ever forget His sacrifice for our sins.
What then is the answer to our question? Can God forget our sins? Perhaps the reader has noticed that we never read that God will forget the sins of His people, but rather that He “will not remember” them. By a deliberate act of His “will” He chooses to act toward us AS IF He has forgotten our sins, on the basis of the blood of the Cross. That’s how fully and completely He has forgiven our sins. And if we are to forgive others “as” God forgave us, then we too must choose to act toward others as if we have so fully forgiven their transgressions against us that we have forgotten them--also on the basis of Christ’s shed blood. This and this alone is complete forgiveness of others, and it is high spiritual ground indeed.
May God help us to live with a slate wiped clean of “all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking… with all malice” (Eph. 4:31).
Did you hear about the 911 operator who one day answered a call from a frantic-sounding man who said, “My wife is in labor and her contractions are only a minute apart!” When the operator asked, “Is this her first child?” the man replied, “No, you idiot, this is her husband!” A clear case of mistaken identity!
We often see another case of mistaken identity when men read Paul’s words in I Timothy 3:16:
Most commentaries insist that Paul is speaking about the Lord Jesus, and it’s true He wasGod “manifest” in the flesh (Jo.1:14). But it wasn’t a “mystery” that God would be manifest in the flesh of the Lord Jesus, it had been prophesied (Isa. 7:14 cf. Mt. 1:23). Paul is actually talking about “the church, which is His Body” (Eph. 1:22,23). Today God is manifest in our flesh (II Cor. 4:10,11). This was “a great mystery” (Eph. 5:32), hence “great is the mystery of godliness!” The word “godly” means God-like, and Christ wasn’t like God, He was God! We’re the ones who are supposed to be godly! This understanding fits the context better too, for Paul had been talking about the church (I Tim. 3:1-14), not the earthly life of Christ.
Those who believe Paul is speaking about Christ here say that God was “justified in the Spirit” in Matthew 3:16. But the Lord’s baptism didn’t justify God, it identified Christ!(Jo.1:31-34). But God was justified in us. You see, for thousands of years men thought God was unjust in saving adulterers and murderers like David. But our apostle Paul explained how God could be “Just, and the Justifier of him which believeth” when He explained how Christ paid for our sins by becoming our “propitiation” (Rom. 3:26).
It’s true that Christ was “seen of angels” (Mt.4:11; Lu.22:43; Acts 1:9,10) but this was no mystery either (Ps. 91:11 cf. Mt. 4:6,7). It was a mystery, however, that the Body of Christ would even exist (Eph. 3:1-9) let alone be seen of angels (v. 10). In addition, God was definitely not “preached unto the Gentiles” when Christ was here on earth (Mt. 10:5,6; 15:24; Rom. 15:8). But He was preached to the Gentiles by Paul (Rom. 15:16; Eph. 3:8 etc.), and by members of the Body of Christ ever since.
Finally, God wasn’t “believed on in the world” when Christ preached Him, but He was believed on in the world through Paul (Col. 1:6). And while God was “received up into glory” in Christ (Mark 16:19), the Lord’s ascension was no mystery (Ps. 68:18). But it is a mystery that we’ll be received up into glory (I Cor. 15:51,52). I know Paul says God “was” received up into glory, and we haven’t yet been raptured, but Paul was a prophet, and the prophets saw future things so clearly they often spoke of them in the past tense (cf. Isa. 53:5-12).
There are plenty of verses that teach the deity of Christ (Isa. 9:6; John 1:14; 10:30; Col. 2:9), so don’t try to force that precious doctrine on this verse! Instead, remember that in the dispensation of grace, if God is not manifest in your flesh, He is not manifest in anyone’s flesh. So live your life in such a way that others will question their disbelief in God
Some people think, “You can’t tell someone they are under grace, because they’ll live however they want to!” But Paul shows here that grace is to change our “want-to”! Grace makes us “want to” live a life pleasing to the One Who saved us by His grace. God’s grace changes hearts and lives. It transforms how we think, act, and speak. It changes our motivation and desires, from living for only self and temporal pleasures to living for the glory of Christ and for the eternal. The grace of God through the Cross should forever change us.
Pastor Bill White wrote this: “Recently I witnessed an unusual accountability partnership at my church. In an effort to break his habit of using profanity, Paul started meeting with another guy from church, and they set up an aggressive plan for holiness. Each Sunday, Paul would report to William how many times he cussed during the week, and he’d put $5 in the offering plate for each incident. The first week cost Paul $100. Although following weeks improved somewhat, he wasn’t having the success he wanted and was losing a lot of hard-earned cash.
“After the fourth week, William told Paul he had totally changed the deal for the coming week, but he wouldn’t tell Paul how. Paul wanted to know, but all William would say was, ‘Trust me. It will cost you both less and more.’ The following Sunday before worship, Paul was looking a bit down, obviously having failed again. William put a hand on his shoulder and said, ‘Paul, this will cost you both less and more. It’s called grace.’ With that he took out a check made out to the church, dated and signed by William. Only the amount was blank. ‘Your sin still costs, but for you it’s free. Just fill in the numbers. And next week there will be more grace.’ That first week of grace cost William $55, but the second only cost him $20. The third week cost him nothing. It cost Paul too much to fill in those checks, so he quit swearing.” 1
God’s Word shows us that grace does not give us license to sin, but instead, as we think of our Savior and His sacrificial payment for our sins at the Cross, that grace should discipline, motivate, and soften our hearts to obey Him and turn from sin. Grace gives liberty to practice grace and power to live a life free from the bondage of sin. It’s the grace of God and the love of Christ that are to motivate us to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:4) and live a life pleasing to Him.
Some time ago I read the fascinating autobiography of Governor William Bradford, who courageously led the Pilgrims to the New World in 1620. The Governor documents how their quest for “religious freedom” brought them face to face with many perils. He describes how, en route to what we now know as Cape Cod, they nearly went to a watery grave when the supporting beam of the Mayflower’s mainmast snapped. By the providence of God, one of the families on board had brought a jack, which was used to reinforce the beam.
But this was only the beginning of sorrows. The arrival of the Pilgrims on the shores of liberty was also filled with many hazards, as nearly one-half of their number perished the first year due to disease. Nevertheless, their faith in our Lord remained unmoveable. Throughout it all, they found much for which to be thankful that “first” Thanksgiving. And so do we, for our “freedom of worship” was originally conceived in their sacrifice.
Today, however, this freedom is being threatened on every hand, both here and abroad. Perhaps the greatest threat is Islam! Christians around the world are being persecuted for sharing Christ with those who are living in darkness. Islam, of course, is a religion of hate, which is clearly seen in the riots and recent murders of innocent Americans in Muslim countries. The hallmark of Christianity, on the other hand, is love.
As we gather with family and friends this Thanksgiving, may we be mindful of the great price that was paid to secure our liberty.
May we be mindful that Christ also died for Muslims; only He can deliver them from the brutality of their religion and set them free from a life of oppression.
May we be mindful of our troops overseas who are the guardians of our nation, preserving our freedom to worship here in America without fear of persecution. Many of these defenders of our values will be sitting in a bunker this Thanksgiving in some faraway country. There was a popular saying at the time of our country’s founding which is as true now as it was then: “Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”
May we all give thanks for the salvation that we enjoy in Christ, even the forgiveness of our dreadful sins that would have condemned us. “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good: for His mercy endureth forever” (Psa. 107:1). AMEN!
This should be self-evident to us all. If blessing is gained by the works of the Law, it is earned. This is why Gal. 3:18 says: “If the inheritance be of the law it is no more of promise, but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”
The Apostle Paul, God’s great apostle of grace, declares in Rom. 4:4,5:
But let’s go back to that phrase: “the law worketh wrath.” Many people somehow do not see this. Even some clergymen tell us that the Law was given to help us to be good. But God Himself says, “the law worketh wrath.” Every criminal knows this, and every sinner should know it. God certainly places strong emphasis upon it:
If we come to God expecting eternal life because of our good works, are we not offering Him our terms, which He can never accept? He will never sell salvation at any price, and certainly not for a few paltry “good” works, when our lives are filled with failure and sin.
Our only hope? God has promised to give eternal life to those who trust in His Son (John 3:35,36; Acts 16:31; etc.).
Probably the most commonly asked question of a seven year old is, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” Usually the little one is so frozen with fear that the one inquiring must resort to a form of interrogation: “a doctor, lawyer, policeman; I know, a fireman!” These are noble professions indeed, but why are children almost never encouraged to pursue the ministry? Is the Lord’s work any less meaningful? Are the callings of pastor, evangelist, missionary and Christian counselor unworthy of our childrens’ consideration? Parents do well to remember that there is no higher calling in life than the Lord’s service.
Sadly, our young people are so preconditioned to aspire to worldly professions that the ministry is not even a viable option. Timothy’s mother had no way of knowing whether or not God would call her son into full-time service. But to her credit, she trained Timothy from a small child in the Scriptures to prepare him for the things of the Lord. Shortly after his conversion to Christ, he was called into the ministry where he delivered many from a Christless eternity (II Tim. 1:6).
During those formative years we need to encourage our young to seek the face of the Lord as to what area of Christian service the Lord might use them. Perhaps you have a quiver full of teenagers who don’t know what vocation to pursue. What better place to search for an answer than to have them attend the Berean Bible Institute here in Milwaukee.
Whether the occasion is a holiday, a birthday celebration, or a graduation, it is customary to give a gift. While some gifts are given out of necessity, for the most part, a gift is an expression of our love. We normally bestow these tokens of our affection on those whom we feel deserve the honor. But God’s ways are not our ways. He gave the gift of His beloved Son to His enemies. That’s a true love story! Oh, the wonder of His grace that God sent His only begotten Son, the Son of His love, to save sinners like you and me while we were fleeing from the glory of His presence. Little wonder the Apostle Paul says, “Thanks be unto God for His unspeakable gift” (II Cor. 9:15).
The word “unspeakable” here has the idea of “indescribable.” The gifts I’ve received through the years were all describable. Some may have been a little harder to describe than others, but describable nonetheless! But the gift of God’s dear Son is indescribable. Who can explain the incarnation, how the eternal Son of God left heaven’s glory and took upon Himself the form of human flesh, yet was not tainted with our sin. Who can explain how Christ was wholly God and wholly human in one person? These wonders can only be received through the eye of faith.
The manger and the Cross stand at the two extremes of our Lord’s life, but they are connected by the tapestry of redemption. Hence, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.” A love story that ends with a death is tragic; in contrast, the death of Christ is the greatest demonstration of love this world has ever seen. How much does God love you? He gave His only begotten Son to die on your behalf. You see, Christ wasn’t dying for His sin, He knew no sin; He was dying for your sins and my sins at Calvary. He was made sin for us that we might receive the righteousness of God in Him. Have you trusted Him?
Surely you would never think of paying for a gift; why, the giver would be highly offended — how much more so with God. The payment for your sins has already been furnished by the Giver; simply receive Him as a gift from God. If you have, then why not thank Him today for His unspeakable gift? After all, this is the Gift that includes all others!
Prayer to God manifestly must hold great importance to those who would be truly spiritual. While God’s Word to us is always to have first place in our lives, prayer must certainly have second place; indeed, we must even study God’s Word with prayer for understanding and willingness to obey.
The Scriptures everywhere exhort God’s people to pray, and in the Epistles of Paul we find greater cause, greater reason and greater incentive than ever to pray — to pray “always,” “in everything,” “without ceasing.” The example of our Lord and of His apostles — particularly Paul — is a call to prayer. Every need, every anxiety, every heartache is a call to prayer. Every temptation, every defeat — yes, and every victory is a call to prayer.
Yet, merely praying, or even spending much time in prayer, is not in itself evidence of true spirituality. Many carnal Christians, still “babes in Christ,” and even many unsaved people, spend much time in prayer. But the truly spiritual believer will join the Apostle Paul in saying: “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also” (I Cor. 14:15). “With the spirit”: earnestly, fervently, pouring out to God my adoration, my supplications and my thanks. And “with the understanding also”: intelligently, with a clear grasp of what the Scriptures, rightly divided, say about God’s will and His provisions for my prayer life in this present dispensation of grace.
When you sigh for heaven, remember:
Too readily we forget that Christ loves us infinitely more than we love Him; that He paid the penalty for our sins on cruel Calvary and shed His life’s blood that one day He might have us for Himself to share His glory with Him forever.
Surely, then, He would rather have us at His side in heaven than here in this scene of sin and sorrow, and sickness and death. We should bear this in mind when we long that we might leave this world and go to be with Him.
But there is more: The Saviour, who was exiled from this earth, and is, even now, rejected by men, has not yet rejected them. Rather, He has left us here as His ambassadors on hostile territory, to plead with his enemies, praying them “in His stead” to be reconciled to God, assuring them that He has done all that is necessary to effect a reconciliation (IICor.5: 20,21).
And this is His attitude toward mankind now, though the prophetic Scriptures declare so emphatically that man’s rejection of Christ was to be — and will be — visited with the severest judgment (Psa.2:4-9; Acts 2:16-20).
But not yet! Though man had declared war on Christ (Acts 4:26,27), He did not yet make a counter-declaration, but interrupted the prophetic program to save Saul of Tarsus, the leader of the rebellion and sent him forth to usher in the present “dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph.3:1-3).
This is why, in His love and compassion, He leaves us here still to plead with His enemies: “Be ye reconciled to God”. And what about His special love for us? Entirely apart from rewards earned by service or suffering for Him, God will richly reward us (II Cor.4:17) just for being here as “ambassadors for Christ”.
Contrary to common belief, the Bible does not teach that all men are the children of God. Our Lord said to the religious leaders of His day: “Ye are of your father the devil” (John 8:44), but to the Christian believers at Galatia St. Paul wrote: “Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:26).
As the children of Adam, it is not strange that we should have to bear suffering; for sorrow, sickness and death entered the world through sin (Rom. 5:12). But some people wonder why God’s children, whose greatest desire is to please Him, should have to suffer along with others.
There are several reasons for this. In the case of Job, God allowed His servant to suffer to prove to Satan that Job did not live a godly life for personal gain — and Job was richly rewarded later for all he had borne.
Further, God’s people could not be of much spiritual help to others if they were exempt from the sufferings which others have to bear. In such a case the unsaved would say: “Yes, you can talk! You don’t know what it is to suffer disappointments, sickness and pain, as we do.”
Then too, it must be remembered that even the most godly saint is not perfect and must at times be disciplined, “for whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Heb. 12:6). This is done for our good, to keep us from sin and its consequences.
Finally, suffering and adversity tend to make God’s children pray more and lean harder on Him, and herein lies their spiritual strength and blessing. St. Paul said: “I take pleasure in infirmities… for when I am weak, then am I strong” (II Cor. 12:10).
But there is a great twofold advantage which the suffering Christian has over others. First, his sufferings are only temporary and, second, they earn eternal glory for him.
The present trend in American moral conduct is downward. Increasing thousands all about us are throwing restraint to the winds “to enjoy the pleasures of sin”.
We struggle with the problem of juvenile delinquency, but tempt the young in a hundred ways to immorality and violence. We are shocked at the deeds of sex-mad criminals who make it unsafe for women to walk the streets at night, but our women continue to pay less and less heed to the principles of modesty and decency that would contribute so greatly to their own safety.
Most of all, we have disregarded the Word of God. No longer does the Bible hold the first place in our homes. It rather lies gathering dust while our moral and spiritual strength is dissipated by pursuing pleasures that fail to bring true happiness or satisfaction. Yes, we have “a form of godliness” but our conduct “denies the power thereof”.
Sin may be “fun” to many. They may joke about drunkenness, indecency and immorality, but God declares that it is no joke to Him. He says: “Fools make a mock at sin”(Prov.14:9); for, not only does sin in its very nature break down, rather than build up; but, as responsible creatures, sinners will one day have to give an account of their conduct to the God who created them.
To look at the brighter side, we may all rejoice in another indication that sin is no joke to God. St. Paul points it out in I Corinthians 15:3, where he says: “Christ died for our sins”. Christ knew the horrible results of sin and the dreadful penalty which justice must visit upon it. Yes, and He also knew that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God”(Rom.3:23), and in infinite love He left the glories of heaven and stooped to bear the disgrace and penalty for sin Himself! “Christ… hath once suffered for sins, the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God” (IPet.3:18), and those who come to know God through faith in Christ experience peace and joy which this world can never afford.
A Person is our Savior and our salvation. A Person is our Life-giver and our life. A Person is our Redeemer and redemption. A Person is our righteousness and holiness. A Person is our peace and our hope. That Person is the Lord Jesus Christ, “the Man Christ Jesus,” the “one Mediator between God and men.” By His blood we have been brought nigh to God.
We need nothing more than Christ; nothing less will suffice or avail. To add any religion whatsoever to Christ Himself is to displease God. In Christ dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. In Christ are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. The believer is in Christ. The believer is accepted in Christ; complete in Christ; without condemnation in Christ; the righteousness of God in Christ. The believer is blessed with all spiritual blessings in Christ. Christ is the superlative need of the world. He is all that you need, but you do need Him. You must have Him, or be lost forever.
This place where men must go after death to purge their sins is an invention of religion. The word purgatory comes from the word purge, and the Bible says that Christ “by Himselfpurged our sins” without any help from us (Heb. 1:3).
The Lord told the dying thief, “To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). This is significant, since the inspired Word of God calls this man a thief, and it was his own testimony to the other thief that “we receive the due reward of our deeds” (v. 41). That is, he was admitting he had not been framed or misjudged, but had indeed committed crimes worthy of the death penalty. If there was a Purgatory, this man would have gone there, yet we have the Lord’s word on it that he did not.
If anyone needed to go to Purgatory, it was the carnal Corinthians! Yet Paul told even these sinful believers that they could be “confident” that “to be absent from the body” is “to be present with the Lord” (II Cor. 5:8).
Since the entrance of sin into the world, the way of man has been anything but easy. Job seemed to have his finger on the pulse of the matter when he wrote, “… man is born unto trouble, as the sparks fly upward.” It is interesting though, that when calamity strikes, men are quick to blame God, or to ask why He allows such occurrences in their lives. But shall we blame God for what man has brought upon himself? God forbid! Man is a product of his own folly.
Some claim that if they had been back in the garden everything would have been different. I certainly have no reason to doubt them. In all probability, they would have pushed Adam aside to reach the forbidden fruit before he did! You see, God saw the entire human race in Adam, as only He could do. So when Adam stretched forth his hand to partake of the forbidden fruit, each of us were reaching for it as well — we are his posterity, thus we share in his guilt. God could have condemned the whole human race to the Lake of Fire and have been perfectly justified in so doing. Thankfully, we did not receive what we justly deserved, for “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and plenteous in mercy” (Psa. 103:8).
HOW GOD COMFORTS US
Here, of course, the Apostle refers to believers. Our heavenly Father knows that we are frail creatures of dust, overwhelmed with sorrow, sickness and even death; not to mention the spiritual upheavals that come our way. Always sympathetic to our plight, He walks with us every step of life’s journey comforting us in all our tribulations. The tribulation cited here by the Apostle Paul is not a reference to the Tribulation Period known as The Time of Jacob’s Trouble. Paul is speaking of the personal tribulations he had encountered due to spiritual conflicts and poor health. Personal trials come in all forms: criticism, rejection, financial setbacks, sickness, bereavement, etc.
When sorrow overwhelms us like an ocean tide the Lord in His goodness is always present to comfort us in our time of need. But exactly how does God comfort us in the dispensation of Grace? We know for instance that the heavens are silent and that neither the Lord nor any of His angelic host visibly appear to minister to the saints today. During the administration of Grace the Lord, first of all, comforts us through His Word.
For example, some years ago death took my great-grandmother. She always held a very special place in my heart and even to this day I get choked up sometimes when I think of her. My sense of loss would be difficult to bear except for the consolation I have received from the Word of God. The Lord has shown me that I need not sorrow as others who have no hope. Some day soon the trump will sound and the dead in Christ will be raised. Then we will be caught up together with all those departed loved ones who were saved, and so shall we ever be with the Lord! Little wonder Paul says, “Wherefore comfort one another with these words.”
Another way the Lord comforts us is by bringing someone into our lives at just the right moment to encourage us in those times of despair. Surely we have a precedent for this in the life of Paul himself. The intensity of the spiritual warfare at Ephesus and Macedonia had taken its toll on the Apostle, both physically and spiritually. “Nevertheless God, that comforteth those that are cast down, comforted us by the coming of Titus” (II Cor. 7:5-7). The arrival of Titus was a direct result of Divine intervention to not only encourage Paul, but also that he might lend assistance in the work.
Finally, God does not comfort us to make us comfortable, but rather that we might comfort others. It has been given to us to carry on a ministry of encouragement to those who are in any trouble. Think of it, having already been the recipients of God’s consolation, He uses us to put our arm around that dear Christian friend who is perhaps facing his first surgery and tell him, “we too had this same surgery a few years ago and the Lord saw us through it.” With hope we can face any thing. That’s why God has revealed to us the Blessed Hope that one day soon we shall be with Him. Truly He is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. AMEN!
Have you ever considered carefully the opening words of the Bible? “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” Why doesn’t it simply say that God created the Universe? Why the heaven and the earth?
As we go on reading we find the answer to this question, for the Bible clearly teaches that God has a two-fold purpose; one having to do with the earth and the other with heaven. The former is the subject of prophecy, while the latter is the subject of the “mystery”, or secret, revealed to and through St. Paul. (See Acts 3:21; and cf. Romans 16:25). The former concerns Israel and the nations; the latter “the Body of Christ”, the Church of the heavenly calling.
Some people are surprised to learn that there is not one promise in the whole Old Testament about going to heaven. There the whole outlook is earthly, with Messiah reigning as King (Jer.23:5; et al). When our Lord appeared in the flesh the angels cried: “Peace on earth” (Luke 2:14). He Himself said that “the meek” shall “inherit the earth” (Matt.5:5). He taught His disciples to pray: “Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt.6:10).
Even at Pentecost Peter declared that after “the restitution of all things” God would send Jesus back to earth and the times of refreshing would “come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19-21).
Not until the raising up of Paul do we learn that now all believers in Christ are “baptized into one body” (ICor.12:13), and Colossians 1:5 and many other Pauline passages, speak of“the hope which is laid up for you IN HEAVEN”. Indeed, before God, believers are already given a position “in heavenly places” and are “blessed with all spiritual blessings IN [THE] HEAVENLIES in Christ” (Eph.1:3; 2:4-7).
The prophecies regarding the Kingdom, however, will still be fulfilled and Christ will reign on earth and bring the promised “times of refreshing”. Thank God, this world will not forever be a place of war and bloodshed, sickness and death, misery and woe. Indeed, at that time, heaven and earth will be opened to each other, and thus will be fulfilled God’s two-fold purpose: “That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ…” (Eph.1:10).
How little most people know about the Law, the Ten Commandments!
First, most people have a hazy idea that the Law was given to Adam; that it existed as long as the history of man. This, of course, is wrong, for in John 1:17 we read: “The law was given by Moses.” Moses lived some 2,500 years after Adam, about 1,500 years before Christ. So for about 2,500 years mankind lived without the Ten Commandments.
Second, most people suppose that the Law was given to mankind in general, while the fact is that it was given to Israel alone. It was a covenant made between God and Israel. Before giving it God said: “Now therefore, if ye will obey My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto Me above all people” (Ex. 19:5). This is not to say that the Law does not affect all men, for, as the divine standard of righteousness it affects us all.
Third, most people think that the Law was given to help us to be good. Even some clergymen teach this, though the Bible itself states again and again that the Law was given to show us that we are guilty sinners and need a Savior. Note the following Scripture passages.
Thus the Law can only condemn the sinner. But thank God, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13).
The Persians kept the records of the executive orders issued by their kings “in the king’s treasure house” (Ezra 5:17), right alongside their riches of silver and gold (Ezra 7:20). Obviously, they considered the commandments of their king to be of equal value as their jewels and other treasures.
At the risk of sounding like a Capital One commercial, what’s in the treasure house of yourheart? Can you say with the psalmist, “I have rejoiced in the way of Thy testimonies, as much as in all riches?” (Psa. 119:14)? Or have you matured in the faith to where you can honestly stand before God and say to Him, “I love Thy commandments above fine gold” (Psa. 119:127), “more to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold” (Psa. 19:10). If not, it might be time for a prayerful reevaluation of the spiritual portfolio of your soul.
We have shown in a previous article that God is for sinners and desires their good. We have shown how He proved this by paying for their sins Himself as God the Son at Calvary. But if this is true, how much more must it be so with regard to His own children who have trusted Christ as their Savior?
How often — and how significantly — the Apostle Paul uses the words “for us” in this connection!
In Eph. 5:2 we read that “Christ… loved us, and hath given Himself for us.” In Rom. 5:8 we are told that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” In II Cor. 5:21: “[God] hath made Him to be sin for us.” And in Gal. 3:13 we read: “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.”
And the love that brought Him down from heaven to die in shame and disgrace for our sins is not affected by our many failures as Christians now. In Heb. 9:24 we read that our Lord has ascended to heaven “now to appear in the presence of God for us.” In Rom. 8:34 we learn that He is “at the right hand of God” to “make intercession for us.” And in Heb. 7:25 we read that He is able to save us “to the uttermost” because “He ever lives to make intercession for us.”
Our failures now, after having trusted Christ as Savior, may — and should — trouble our consciences and thus hinder our fellowship with God, but this does not change the fact that we are God’s dear children through faith in Christ, who died for all our sins. Unworthy though we still may be, therefore, God would have us come into His presence to be spiritually renewed.
There have been individuals who thought the doctrine of the believer’s eternal security in Christ to be a dangerous heresy. They countered every Scripture on the subject with another to refute it. But in each of these cases it was this great truth, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ”, that finally persuaded them.
It is significant that the Apostle Paul never tells us about his love for Christ, but he is always telling us about Christ’s love for him and for others! The Law commands: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God”, but grace puts it the other way, telling us how deeply God loves us — and this begets love in return. The Apostle experienced discouragements that would have caused him to give up the work of the Lord a thousand times, but he could not. Why? He says, “the love of Christ constraineth us?”(II Cor. 5:14); it bore him along like a strong tide. No doubt he had this very thing in mind when he continued writing in Romans 8.
And therefore defeated? Far from it!
Not only do we win the battle; we are “more than conquerors”, for these adversities serve to draw us into still closer fellowship with Him, thus enriching our Christian experience.
When people or nations engage in battle, generally no one wins; both lose. But Paul’s personal experience serves as the foremost example that in the Christian life, “tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril [and] sword”bring us more than victory when borne for Him who loved us.
Thus this great chapter opens with “no condemnation” and closes with “no separation”, and the Apostle, gathering all the forces of creation together, whether they be time, space, or matter, declares that none of them can separate us from “the love of God, which is [manifested] in Christ Jesus” (Vers.38,39). Whether it be death or life, heavenly principalities, things present or things to come, height or depth or any other created thing — none of them, nor all together — can threaten our security or separate us from the love of God, which He has manifested to us in Christ Jesus.
In Verse 18, Paul says, “God… hath reconciled us to Himself… and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation.” Here we see that the people who have been given the ministry of reconciliation are the same people who have been reconciled to God. This cannot be limited to Paul and other leaders; it must include all believers, for we have all been reconciled.
Paul then defines the ministry of reconciliation as that which takes place when “ambassadors” say to the lost, “be ye reconciled to God” (v. 20). This means that the ambassadors proclaiming reconciliation in Verse 20 must consist of all the reconciled people who were given the ministry of reconciliation in Verse 18.
This also points out that, while “the world” has been reconciled to God (v. 19), the unsaved have not been reconciled in the same sense as believers, or else they would also be Christ’s ambassadors. The reconciling of the world is that which God gave Jews and Gentiles corporately, once the Jews had been cast away (Rom. 11:15), just as the Gentiles had been at the Tower of Babel.
To a young Christian who kept bemoaning his failures and lack of spiritual growth, and wondering how God could love him, a more mature believer responded substantially as follows:
“When I leave here and return to my home I will pick up my little baby girl and put her on my knee. Tired as I am, I will dandle her on my knee and, somehow, looking into that darling face and those pretty blue eyes, I will soon feel rested and refreshed.
“This is strange, in a way, for she does not love me. She doesn’t even know what love is.
“She doesn’t appreciate my problems and has no sympathy for me. My heart can be burdened with grief or filled with anxiety, and my mind vexed with difficult problems, but she doesn’t even know or care. She just keeps gurgling and giggling at the attention I lavish upon her.
“She doesn’t contribute one cent toward the needs of our family; indeed, she costs me a great deal of money and will for years to come. Yet I love that child more than I can say. There is no sacrifice I would not make for her; no good thing I would not gladly give her.”
Such is the grace of God toward us, His children. It does not depend upon our faithfulness to Him or our appreciation of His love to us. He loves us with an unspeakable love and keeps lavishing upon us “the riches of His grace” simply because we are His children in Christ, the Beloved One. And strangely, is it not precisely this fact that proves to be our greatest incentive to give ourselves to Him in loving service and sacrifice as we grow in grace?
Twice in Paul’s epistles he refers to “dead works”. In Hebrews 6:1 he writes about “repentance from dead works”, while in Hebrews 9:14 he declares that the blood of Christ avails to “purge the conscience from dead works to serve the living God”.
Mark well, these references are not to wicked works but to dead works. These “dead works” are the so-called “good works” (whether moral or ceremonial) which men did — and still do — to make themselves acceptable to God. They are “dead” because they are not the product of regeneration or spiritual life, but the mere attempt on the part of unregenerate sinners to justify themselves before God.
Paul himself, once zealously religious, but wholly unsaved, had to repudiate his “dead works” and count them “loss” to find salvation in Christ, through whom alone he could produce good works which God could accept.
(See Philippians 3:4-9).
This is why he later declared by divine inspiration:
“Dead works” are not only unacceptable to God, but an evil substitute for the faith He desires, “for without faith it is impossible to please God” (Heb.11:6). But “he that believeth on the Son of God hath life” and this life is bound to bear fruit— the good works with which God is truly pleased.
The difference between the “good works” of the unregenerate man and the “good works” of a true believer, then, is that the former are “dead works” while the latter are the precious fruit of life possessed.
No man can please God while he denies the truth of His Word or rejects His Son, so graciously given to die on the cross as our Saviour. To try to win His favor by “good works” while rejecting Christ is like sending a gift to a man whose beloved son you spurn and despise.
The careful student of the Epistles of Paul soon observes that the Apostle makes many specific statements as to the distinctiveness of his ministry and message. Even apart from this, however, and considering his phraseology alone, we often wonder how anyone could possibly deny that his message was distinct from that which the twelve had proclaimed. Note the following examples:
Add to this the Apostle’s explicit claims as to the distinctive character of his ministry and message and you have irrefutable proof of the fact.
It is not enough to use the Bible as a grand book of wonderful sayings from which we may choose what we wish for our inspiration, nor will one who truly realizes that “God hath spoken” ever hold so shallow an opinion of the sacred Scriptures.
“The Word of truth” must be “rightly divided”; for while it is all given for our spiritual profit, it was not all addressed to us, or written about us. Thus one who truly desires to understand and obey God’s Word will seek first to determine what Scriptures are particularly related to him and will study all the rest in the light of these.
Sad to say, however, there are many who fail to give the Book of God the respect and reverence it deserves. They flip it open at random, let a finger light upon the open page and then read the verse indicated to see if perchance they may find leading from the Lord in that way. And if it doesn’t “work” the first time they try it again and again until it does “work.” They use “promise boxes” in the same way, on the basis that “every promise in the Book is mine.” They take passages out of their contexts, “spiritualize” them, and give them “private interpretations.” Finding “precious passages” anywhere at all, no matter to whom addressed or when or why, they place their own constructions upon them and claim them as promises of God to them! To take isolated statements from the writings of men and use them in such a manner would be considered dishonest, but even Bible teachers do it with the Word of God!
The Word, rightly divided, is of supreme importance to the Church at large as well as to the individual believer, and it is because this fact has not yet been sufficiently recognized that we have not experienced the true, heaven-sent revival that the Church so sorely needs.