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.
Many religious people take the Lord Jesus Christ as their pattern in life. They call Him “The Great Example”. When problems arise, they ask themselves: “What would Jesus do?” They seek salvation by “walking in His steps”.
While our Lord’s moral and spiritual virtues are indeed worthy of emulation, there were many details in His conduct which we should not imitate. For example, none of us would be in a position to pronounce upon the religious hypocrites of our day the bitter woes which our Lord pronounced upon the Pharisees of His day — simply because we all have so much of the Pharisee in us.
Certainly we cannot be saved by “following Christ,” or striving to live as He did. His perfect holiness would only emphasize our unrighteousness and condemn us. He came to save us, not by His life, but by His death. “CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS” (ICor.15:3), and sinners are “reconciled to God by the deathof His Son” (Rom.5:10).
But God has given us a pattern for salvation. It is none other than the Apostle Paul, the chief of sinners saved by grace. Hear what he says by divine inspiration:
Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, remember, had led his nation and the world in rebellion against God and His Christ. He was “exceedingly mad” against the disciples of Christ and “breathed threatening and slaughter” against them. Why then, did God save him? He goes on to tell us in the next verse:
The moral: Take your stand with Paul. Admit you are a sinner and his Saviour will save you too.
There are three misconceptions that most people entertain about the law of God and its Ten Commandments:
It is true that the law, while given to Israel, also shows the Gentile that he is a sinner. This is why Romans 3:19 says:
But most important of all: Few people realize that the Lord Jesus Christ died for our sins to deliver us from the just condemnation of the law. This is taught in the following Scriptures:
We believe that the King James Version of the Scriptures best conveys the sense of the original language. The modern versions change the phrase “faith of Christ” to “faith in Christ” throughout, which overwhelms the passage with redundancy. Paul never intended the emphasis to be upon what man has achieved, but instead what the Savior has accomplished on his behalf. The apostle here is clearly contrasting these two phrases.
We are not justified by keeping the law, rather we are declared eternally righteous by the faith of Christ. It was Christ’s faithfulness that is the basis of our justification. He faithfully carried out the will of the Father to provide redemption through His finished work at Calvary (Heb. 10:5-10). While salvation is a free gift given to all who place their “faith in” what Christ has done, He being the object of our faith, it was at great cost. The payment to rescue us from the eternal consequences of sin is the precious blood of Christ. Only those, however, who place their faith in Him have the forgiveness of their sins (Eph. 1:7).
“From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation, through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (II Tim. 3:15).
Timothy was a fortunate young man. His father was not a believer in Christ, but his godly mother made up for this lack as, day after day, from his earliest childhood, she taught him the Word of God. As a result he came to know Christ at an early age and later became St. Paul’s faithful co-worker and close associate in making known the wonderful “good news of the grace of God.”
In his very last letter the great Apostle Paul recalls Timothy’s “unfeigned faith… which dwelt first in thy grandmother Lois, and thy mother Eunice”(II Tim. 1:5).
If only we had more such mothers and grandmothers today, with husbands to help them! If only our American children were not set adrift on a restless sea of human speculation, but were taught the eternal truths of God’s Word, the Bible!
We all need to “know the Holy Scriptures,” not only because they teach reverence for God and build moral character, but most of all because they “are able to make [us] wise unto salvation through faith… in Christ Jesus.”
The theme of the Bible, the Old Testament as well as New, is the Lord Jesus Christ, the riches of whose saving grace are unfolded to us in the Epistles of Paul, the chief of sinners saved by grace. It was to Paul that God committed the preaching of the cross of Christ. He it is who tells us about the riches that flow from Calvary. He it is who tells us, by divine inspiration that:
“…WE HAVE REDEMPTION THROUGH [CHRIST’S] BLOOD, THE FORGIVENESS OF SINS ACCORDING TO THE RICHES OF HIS GRACE” (Eph. 1:7).
“THAT IN THE AGES TO COME HE MIGHT SHOW THE EXCEEDING RICHES OF HIS GRACE IN HIS KINDNESS TOWARD US THROUGH CHRIST JESUS” (Eph. 2:7).
“I have set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it” (Rev. 3:8).
This prophecy concerning the church at Philadelphia doubtless looks forward to a future day, but who can deny that it contains a lesson for our day?
When, in our walk through life, God sets before us open doors of opportunity, He clearly intends us to enter them. The only way to avoid entering an open door set before us would be to deliberately sidestep the opportunity. Alas, how prone we are to do this! Indeed, we often pray God for open doors when He has already set them before us and all about us.
Examine the record of Paul’s ministry and see how he thanked God for open doors (Acts 14:27; I Cor. 16:9), grasping such opportunities as God set before him on every hand. He did not pull strings or ask his friends to use their influence to gain more comfortable or better-paying positions. He faithfully entered whatever doors God set before him. His best known requests for prayer for open doors came from Rome, where a prison door had closed behind him. Should not this put us to shame!
May God convict us of the inconsistency of praying for open doors while failing to enter the many open doors He has set before us! May He forgive us for ever being selective about working for Him! May He give us the grace to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves to us, “buying up the time because the days are evil.”
When parents are blessed with both a daughter and a son, there are obvious differences. Each has his or her own distinct looks, clothing, goals, and requirements. Both are recognized for their God-given differences, and loved separately, yet equally. Even after they have children of their own, this continues to be true. In a similar way, God established two distinctly different programs and peoples in the Bible. One is the children of Israel, who were given the Mosaic Law as their instructions and to whom nearly two thirds of the Bible was written, and the other is the sons and daughters of God in the Body of Christ, who are under Grace.
The Nation of Israel
There are several specific reasons why God made the nation of Israel His “special people” (Deut. 7:6). It begins with the persistent rebellion of man very early in history. We learn from Romans 1:21-32 that even “when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God.” Mankind plunged so deeply into idolatry and immorality that they sank to the level where “they did not like to retain God in their knowledge.” Since man was created as a free moral agent with choice, God did not force man to have a relationship with Him. However, He was not willing to stand idly by and allow the entire human race to foolishly run down a course leading to the eternal Lake of Fire, so He intervened by establishing the nation of Israel.
When Abram was called to become the father of Israel, God promised him three things: “I will make of thee a great nation… and make thy name great… and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:2-3). The first two promises amount to using the nation of Israel as an undeniable witness of God to an unbelieving world. Repeatedly, the Scripture tell us this was one of the primary purposes for Israel as a nation and all she encountered in history. Solomon’s prayer was “that all people of the earth may know thy name…” (I Kings 8:43). Hezekiah prayed that the Lord would deliver them from enemies “that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that thou art the Lord God, even thou only” (II Kings 19:19). Ezekiel was told to predict a future when enemies will “come up against my people of Israel…that the heathen may know me” (Ezek. 38:16). Likewise, Isaiah predicts a day when “all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob” (Isa. 49:26). Even those who do not want to retain the knowledge of God have heard of the Lord parting the Red Sea and providing a host of miracles for Israel. Israel has been God’s witness to the world.
The third promise to Abram was to bless all the families of the earth through him and his seed. Ultimately, this was fulfilled in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, coming as the Son of Man and Son of God to pay the ransom for the sins of all mankind. Salvation is now available to all because God used Israel to produce a needed Savior.
The Mosaic Law of Israel
It is imperative that we understand to whom the Law of Moses was given, what it involved, and why it was given. The Lord told Moses, “I will give thee tables of stone, and a law, and commandments…that thou mayest teach them [to Israel]” (Ex. 24:12). These laws were given only to the nation of Israel. They were not given to, nor intended for, Gentiles of the past or present. Moreover, many further misunderstand the scope of the Law of Moses. It was far more than the Ten Commandments; it included volumes of strict requirements governing the social, civil, dietary, and worship life of Israel. It was an entire package to be obeyed. No one was allowed to pick and choose certain requirements and ignore others.
God had several important purposes for giving these laws. They were to be a testimony to all who “hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people…who hath God so nigh unto them” (Deut. 4:5-8). It was intended to draw lost souls back to God, but it was never intended as a way to merit eternal life. Paul taught, “Ye could not be justified [from sin] by the law of Moses” because it was given that “all the world may become guilty before God… for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:19,20). The law was a beautiful system for Israel, but even Peter acknowledged that it was a heavy “yoke…which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (Acts 15:10). God’s ultimate purpose for the law was to prove man’s guilt, to prove his inability to be righteous through good works, and to become “our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). It is absolutely not intended for the practice of believers today.
How Long Did the Mosaic Law Last?
The Lord Jesus clearly said, “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 15:24). He told His disciples, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles…but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5-6). In the early chapters of Acts, it is clear that Israel was still the exclusive focus of ministry (Acts 2:5,22,36; 3:12,25; 7:2,51,52; 11:19,20). Moreover, these Jewish believers were still operating under the law. The Lord Jesus taught, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: all therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do” (Matt. 23:1,2). They were still to keep the law because Christ said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law… but to fulfil” (Matt. 5:17).
For many present-day Christians, much confusion exists because they incorrectly attempt to apply instructions or promises that were given exclusively to Israel under the law. Only Israel was to “take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat…or drink…but seek ye first the Kingdom of God and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:25-33). Only Israel was promised, “And these signs shall follow them that believe… In my name shall they cast out devils… speak with new tongues… they shall lay hands on the sick” (Mark 16:17,18). Only Israel was promised, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it”(John 14:13,14; 16:23; Matt. 18:19). When we read the Old Testament, the Gospel accounts, and the early chapters of Acts, we are not to claim promises or instruction intended exclusively for Israel. These books were included as part of our present-day Bible because God intended them “for our learning” (Rom. 15:4). Let’s learn the lessons God intended without claiming Israel’s promises.
The Body of Christ
Believers today are not part of the nation of Israel. In the early part of the Book of Acts, God set Israel aside from her favored and exalted position due to repeated waywardness (Rom. 11:11,12). Today, “There is neither Jew nor Greek…for ye are all one in Christ” (Gal. 3:28). Those who trust in the Lord Jesus Christ today are placed into a new group of believers called “the church, which is His Body” or the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23). This is a brand new group of believers that began with the Apostle Paul. Dr. C. I. Scofield said it well in his reference Bible when he wrote: “In his [Paul’s] writings alone we find the doctrine, position, walk, and destiny of the Church.” 1
The Apostle Paul teaches us, “Ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). God saves us by His grace (Eph. 2:8,9), keeps us Growing in God’s Grace secure because grace “reign[s]” (Rom. 5:21), and grace provides a lasting daily peace “wherein we stand” (Rom. 5:1,2). Finally, “…the grace of God [is]… teaching us that, denying ungodliness… we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world” (Titus 2:11-13). As we live in this current Age of Grace, we are to depend on grace in every area of our lives, and look consistently for our promises and instructions in the letters of the Apostle Paul.
Israel (under the law), and the Body of Christ (under grace), are like a brother and sister. God is the Father of both, yet each is distinctly different. These differences are not intended to be diluted until they are indistinguishable. We are to recognize, respect, and maintain these distinctions. This is a key to understanding our Bible.
No, Sunday is not the Sabbath. The Sabbath was a distinctive part of Israel’s program that God gave the chosen nation at Mt. Sinai.
The Lord instituted the Sabbath as a gift for Israel. The word Sabbath means “rest.” God gave His people Israel a day of rest each week to rejuvenate their bodies and minds. It was to be a time of rest, feasting, and enjoying family. More importantly, He gave it in order to break the day-in, day-out cycle of life, so that Israel would not forget their God and would worship and give thanks to Him on that day.
According to Exodus 20:11, the Hebrews were to cease all work because the Creator “rested” after the sixth day of creation on “the seventh day.” So Israel was to follow the Creator’s example for their week, making the Sabbath a day to commemorate the Lord’s creation of the world and to celebrate His provision.
The Sabbath was a sign, a distinguishing mark, of God’s chosen people. It was “a sign between [God] and…Israel.” The Sabbath was for Israel, and it was given to Israel under the Law.
Today, we are not under the Law, we are under Grace (Rom. 6:14). We are not Israel; we are the Body of Christ (Eph. 1:22,23). The Sabbath is not to be observed under Grace. Paul gives no instruction for the Body of Christ to observe the Sabbath. Instead, he speaks of the Church gathering “upon the first day of the week” (I Cor. 16:2). Sunday is not the Sabbath and should never be called the Sabbath. Doing so confuses what “the first day of the week” signifies under Grace, and what “the seventh day” signified under the Law.
The Sabbath speaks of rest after work and relates to the Law and the work required by those under the Law in Law-keeping, with the works, observation of feasts, and sacrifices that Israel was commanded to do continually by faith. The Sabbath foreshadows the rest that Israel will enjoy in her end times, in her millennial rest within the earthly kingdom.
Sunday worship on the first day of the week speaks to a rest that takes place before work and relates to Grace and the rest we, the Body of Christ, have in Christ and His finished work right up front. Having trusted that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again (I Cor. 15:3,4), we are “complete in [Christ]” (Col. 2:10). Salvation is a “gift” that we receive the moment we believe; it is “not of works” (Eph. 2:8,9). For most working people, our work week follows after the first day of the week. And under Grace, because we are saved, “works” follow after out of joy and gratitude for our accomplished salvation in Christ (Eph. 2:10).
The Sabbath commemorated the Lord’s creation of the world, while our Sunday worship commemorates the Lord’s resurrection each week, who rose again on “the first day of the week” (Luke 24:1). Thus as we meet on Sundays each new week, we do so in worship of our living, risen Savior, and the newness of life we have in Him (Rom. 6:4).
In a way the Christian life is a stand; in another it is a walk, and in still another a race.
In I Cor. 15:1 the Apostle Paul writes of “the gospel… wherein ye stand” and in Rom. 5:2 of “this grace wherein we stand,” while in Gal. 5:1 he bids us: “Stand fast… in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.” Perhaps all this is well summed up in his appeal to his beloved Philippians:
But the Christian life is more than a stand — it is a walk (which in Scripture refers to conduct). Once, says Paul, we walked “in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1,2) but having been saved by grace, through faith in Christ, we are now to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Thus the Apostle bids us to “walk worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10), to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil” (Eph. 5:15-16).
But the Christian life is even more than a walk; it is a race. Sad to say, many Christians whose “walk” is consistent and commendable, have never come to look upon the Christian life as a race. These never put enough into it so that it might be said of them that they are running. Yet the same great Apostle wrote, by divine inspiration:
The word “patience” in this passage points up the fact that the Christian life is not a short “hundred-yard dash”; it requires much endurance. Thus we should put into it all that we have. “They which run in a race,” says the Apostle, “run all,” but they do not all receive the prize. Hence the admonition: “So run that ye may obtain” (I Cor. 9:24).
Those who have not trusted Christ as Savior have not even begun to stand, or walk, much less to run a race for Him. These might as well forget rewards until they first accept “the gift of God… eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
The most important hour of all history was the hour when the Lord Jesus Christ died on Calvary’s cross for the sins of mankind. Often, in Scripture, the hour of our Lord’s death is called simply “the hour ,” “My hour ,” or “His hour.”
To fulfill prophecy He could not have died one hour ear- lier, or one later: Until that hour arrived His enemies were somehow restrained from doing Him bodily harm, so that we read in John 7:30:
This hour was to be for Him a time of unspeakable agony and shame. Referring to this, He said to Andrew and Philip:
He had come to die for the sins of the world and would not now turn away from the sufferings involved. But this hour of suffering and shame was also an hour of glory, for there the Son of God paid a debt which would have sunk a world to hell. This is why, at this same time, in the very shadow of the cross, He said:
Little wonder we read in John 3:35,36:
When the Babylonian multitudes prostrated themselves in worship before the golden god which Nebuchadnezzar had erected, three young Hebrews refused to bow and remained standing, erect and alone.
When called before Nebuchadnezzar to answer for their impudence and threatened with death in a fiery furnace, they answered:
This is the stand every believer should take for God and His truth. He is able to deliver us from persecution if we stand true, but even if He does not see fit to do this we should still stand alone, if necessary, for the light He has given us from His Word.
Many have suffered temporary loss for standing for their convictions. Hebrews 11 lists among the heroes of faith some who were “tortured, not accepting deliverance,” and others who suffered “trial of cruel mockings and scourgings …bonds and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword; they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented” (Heb. 11:35-37).
But we read that these all “obtained a good report” before God and looked forward to “a better resurrection” (Vers. 35,39).
As the apostasy rises all about us and those who stand for God’s truth are often ridiculed and despised, may God give us the grace to stand true regardless of the cost, remembering that any sufferings for Christ are only temporary while the rewards will be eternal.