How wonderful to see the gospel of the grace of God do its work! Paul had never even seen the Colossians. He had only sent missionaries to them from Ephesus with the good news of the grace of God, but this had produced amazing results.
Wherever the gospel of the grace of God is preached in its purity it produces results. No one hearing that message can go away the same. Either he will consider it utter foolishness and be hardened by it, or he will see its vital importance and be softened by it. Ultimately he will either be eternally condemned, or eternally saved and justified by his response to that message.
Mark well: it is “the gospel of the grace of God,” the “preaching of the cross,” that produces such results. The law of Moses never did, “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,” God sent His Son to accomplish for us (Rom. 8:3,4). This is why Paul proclaimed, at Antioch of Pisidia:
God’s message to us is a message of love, proclaiming to even the vilest sinner that he may be “justified freely by [God’s] grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24)
The simple answer to this question is no.
The erroneous teaching goes like this: After His crucifixion, the Lord's body was placed in a tomb, and His spirit went to hell. There He suffered all the torments of hell that we would have suffered. But Satan, death, and hell could not hold Him. Acts 2:24-27 is used to support this position: "Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that He should be holden of it. For David speaketh concerning Him...Therefore did My heart rejoice, and My tongue was glad...Because Thou wilt not leave My soul in hell, neither wilt Thou suffer Thine Holy One to see corruption." It is taught that because Christ was not Himself deserving of punishment, the Lord was resurrected from hell and the grave by the power of God. Some will even go so far as to say that you have to believe that Christ suffered in hell to be saved.
This is a dangerous doctrine. It is actually an attack against the Cross of Christ. The word "hell" in Acts 2:27 is translated from the Greek word hades. Hades is in the center of the earth. At the time of Christ's death, it had two compartments: Abraham's bosom and torment. We see this in the account of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31. After they died, Lazarus was in paradise in Abraham's bosom (v. 22). The rich man was "in hell [hades]...in torments" (v. 23).
Christ fully faced the judgment of God against our sins upon His Cross during the three hours of worldwide darkness (Luke 23:44). As He did, Christ experienced the realities of hell at the Cross: separation from the Father, darkness, torment, thirst, and the fire of God's wrath against sin. He was our blessed Substitute at the Cross; He paid sin's penalty for us and took God's wrath in our place. When Christ cried out, "It is finished" (John 19:30), He meant that the payment for sin was complete and paid in full. To say that Christ also needed to suffer the penalty for sin in hell for three days and three nights is to teach otherwise.
For three days and three nights our Lord was in the center of the earth (Matt. 12:40). We learn where His soul went after He died when He told the believing thief on the cross beside Him, "Verily I say unto thee, To day shalt thou be with Me in paradise" (Luke 23:43). He did not go to hell when He died. He did not suffer in torment in hades. His spirit descended into the paradise section of hades where the spirit of the penitent thief went also. Three days later, He rose again from the dead, triumphant over sin and death!
We believe the Scriptures teach there are three heavens.
The first heaven is our atmosphere where we live and serve the Lord. It is where the Psalmist says, "the fowls of the heaven have their habitation, which sing among the branches" (Psa. 104:12).
The second heaven is the solar system that consists of the sun, moon, stars, and planets (Gen. 1:14-18). Prior to the written revelation of God, the Lord used this realm as a teaching tool. Once again, in the words of the Psalmist, "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament [expanse] sheweth His handiwork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge" (Psa. 19:1,2). While Satan currently dwells in the second heaven, he will be cast out of heaven to the earth in the middle of the Tribulation period (Rev. 12:7-12). Throughout eternity, the members of the Body of Christ will occupy this realm and its various seats of authority (Eph. 2:6).
The third heaven is the abode of God often referred to in the Scriptures as the heaven of heavens. It is also where an innumerable host of angels worship and serve the Lord. This is confirmed by Nehemiah, "Thou, even thou, art Lord alone; thou hast made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth, and all things that are therein" (Neh. 9:6).
Paul reveals that he was caught up to the "third heaven" where he received a further revelation from the Lord regarding the Mystery (II Cor. 12:1-4; Eph. 3:2,3). The apostle also calls this realm Paradise. Today, we have a heavenly hope according to Colossians 1:5; therefore, when we come face to face with death, we look forward with great expectation to be absent from the body "and to be present with the Lord" (II Cor. 5:6-9), Who dwells in the heaven of heavens
To Paul was committed the greatest revelation of all time. He was divinely commissioned to proclaim the glorious all-sufficiency of Christ’s redemptive work, God’s offer of salvation by free grace to all who trust in Christ and their heavenly position, blessings and prospect.
Lest he should become puffed up by the glory of these great truths, God gave him what he calls “a thorn in the flesh”, an aggravating physical infirmity of some sort. “For this thing,” he says, “I besought the Lord thrice [three times], that it might depart from me” (IICor.12:8). But the Lord knew better than Paul what was best for him:
How right God was! Every Christian knows that with brimming health and “good fortune” comes the tendency to forget our need of Him, while infirmity causes us to lean harder and to pray more and this is where our spiritual power lies. Every believer should acknowledge this and say with Paul:
Infirmities of the flesh are common even to God’s choicest saints. What satisfaction there is, then, in just believing God’s Word: “My grace is sufficient for thee, for My strength is made perfect in weakness”.
I wonder what finally became of Molotov? Most of us know only that he was expelled from the Communist Party and was later recalled to Moscow to answer for what Kruschev, of all people, called “barbarous crimes”! Molotov, “the hammer,” was active in the Communist Revolution since 15 years of age. A close friend of Stalin, he served Soviet Russia variously as Secretary of the Central Committee, Premier of USSR, its Foreign Minister and its Representative to the UN.
But in 1957 Kruschev, jealous of Stalin’s popularity, dismissed Molotov from the Presidium and sent him away as ambassador to ‘Outer Mongolia’. Now disgraced along with his old friend Stalin, this once popular hero of the Soviets was discarded by the system he championed. Pathetic, but he deserved it.
Contrast this with the Apostle Paul. He had been great, prospering in his religion above many of his equals, being “more exceedingly zealous” of the traditions of his fathers (Gal. 1:14). But he gave all this up and counted it loss for “the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.” Serving Christ amid unceasing persecution, he said:
Yes, and in his last recorded words before Nero beheaded him, Paul said:
What a triumphant way to go! And you, my friend, can go that way too — if you can say with Paul, “I am ready.”
Here we go again! Another contradiction in the Word of God. One of the many incongruities in Scripture that make us wonder how to serve God when His Word gives conflicting instructions. Its easy to understand why we should pray without ceasing, but why did God instruct Jeremiah to "pray not" for His people?
To answer, a quick look at the preceding verse will reveal that in Jeremiah's day God's people "loved to wander" from Him, and had "not refrained their feet" (v. 10) from so doing. Little wonder their Father deemed them unworthy of the prayers of His prophet!
But aren't God's people today just as prone to wander? Don't we sing that old hymn, "Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love"? Why then does God tell us to pray without ceasing?
The answer lies, as it so often does, in "rightly dividing the Word of truth" (II Tim. 2:15). You see, God's people in Jeremiah's day had a contract with Him, a covenant called the Law of Moses. Under that Law, if His people walked contrary to Him, He vowed to walk contrary to them (Lev. 26:23,24; 27,28). And in Jeremiah's day, God's people had not refrained their feet from wandering and walking away from Him. They left God no choice but to walk contrary to them, and no amount of praying on the part of His prophet could change what He was contractually obligated by His covenant to do (Jer. 15:1).
How different things are for God's people today! We are not under the Law, we are under grace! (Rom. 6:15). In "the dispensation of the grace of God" (Eph. 3:2), God is not obligated by the old covenant of the Law to walk away from His people when they walk away from Him, He is obligated by the new covenant of His grace "to dwell in them, and walk in them" and "be their God" no matter what (II Cor. 6:16 cf. Jer. 31:33).
So there you have it! Yet another contradiction in the Word of God explained, another puzzle solved, by rightly dividing the Word of truth.
But don't just sit there reveling in the riches of God's grace. Now that you know that God will hear your prayers for His people, pray! When you see your brother stumble in his walk, pray! When you find that you yourself have wandered from God, pray! God will never walk contrary to us, so pray that His people will respond to such amazing grace by choosing to "walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing" (Col. 1:10).
You’ve probably heard the old saying, “Don’t criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes.” I once heard a comedian add, “That way when you do criticize him, you’re a mile away, and you’ve got his shoes!”
While this addition makes that a humorous saying, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” is a faithful saying. That means if you’re a sinner needing a Savior, you can depend on the fact that Christ came to save you, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.
Don’t you wish all old sayings were that dependable? They say, “You get what you pay for,” but I don’t have to tell you that sometimes you don’t. But even under God’s kingdom program for Israel, the Lord declared,
I’m barely old enough to remember when doctors made house calls, and my doctor once came to our home to treat my asthma. Of course, he wouldn’t have come if I hadn’t needed medical attention. Similarly, Christ wouldn’t have come into the world to save sinners if men didn’t need salvation.
But if you’re not saved, and are unwilling to admit you’re a sinner, you’re in trouble, for that would mean that Christ didn’t come to save you! If you’re willing to acknowledge that “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), but you think yourself to be pretty godly overall, you’re still in trouble, for “Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6). If that forces you to concede you are an ungodly sinner, but you think you and God are still on good terms, you are still in trouble, for you must admit to being among His “enemies” if you want to be “reconciled to God by the death of His Son…” (Rom. 5:10).
But don’t be discouraged, all of this is actually good news! What if Paul had said, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save tall people,” and you are “vertically challenged.” You can’t admit to being tall, but you can admit to being a sinner. Why not admit it right now, and believe that Christ died to pay for your sins, and rose again (I Corinthians 15:3,4). If you’re saved, why not repeat this old saying to someone today! “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” is not a saying that should go without saying!
The question is sometimes asked: If God’s will and purpose are unalterable, why pray? The answer is simply: Because the divine purpose, which any answer to prayer must represent, includes the prayer itself. It is enough that He “who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph. 1:11) invites and exhorts His people to “come boldly unto the throne of grace” to “let [their] requests be made known unto God” (Heb. 4:16; Phil. 4:6).
But prayer is not merely petition, as many suppose. It is one aspect of active communion with God (meditation on the Word being the other) and includes adoration, thanksgiving and confession, as well as supplication. Hyde, in God’s Education of Alan, Pp. 154,155, says: “Prayer is the communion of two wills, in which the finite comes into connection with the Infinite, and, like the trolley, appropriates its purpose and power.”
We have an example of this in the record of our Lord’s prayer in the garden, for, while He is not to be classed with finite men, yet He laid aside His glory, became “a servant” (Phil. 2:7) and “learned obedience” (Heb. 5:8; Phil. 2:8). In this place of subjection He made definite and earnest requests of His Father, but closed His prayer with the words: “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine, be done” (Luke 22:42) with the result that He was “strengthened” for the ordeal He had to face (Ver. 43).
Thus prayer is not merely a means of “getting things from God” but a God-appointed means of fellowship with Him, and all acceptable prayer will include the supplication — as sincerely desired as the rest: “Nevertheless, not My will, but Thine, be done.”
The great winepress of God is the area around the holy city of God. It extends from north northwest to south southeast of Jerusalem, from Mt. Megiddo, known as Armageddon (Rev. 16:16), to Bozrah (Isa. 63:1-4). Tactically, the Scriptures seem to suggest that the Antichrist will launch an attack simultaneously from both the north and the south. The center of the battlefield will be the narrow Kidron Valley, called the Valley of Jehoshaphat, located just east of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. According to the Spirit of God, the area of the battlefield is said to be “a thousand and six hundred furlongs,” a distance of exactly two hundred miles.
Christ will crush the Antichrist’s forces of evil with merely a spoken word and the brightness of His coming. When He tramples His enemies in His almighty power, their blood will stain His garments (Isa. 63:2-4; Rev. 19:13). The blood from this innumerable host of godless unbelievers and their horses will run high to the horses’ bridles, according to the Apostle John, writing in the Spirit. Many commentators shrink from taking a literal interpretation here, saying it is utterly preposterous. We feel, however, more comfortable taking God at His Word. On average, an adult male has about five quarts of blood. Millions upon ten millions of men would bleed a deep river of blood. Interestingly, the Spirit emphasizes that the winepress is “trodden without [outside] the city” of Jerusalem in direct connection with the blood rising to the horses’ bridle. In all likelihood, the blood will probably run the deepest in the valley of Jehoshaphat (Kidron Valley), which is a rocky, mountainous ravine that’s about 20 miles in length.
Responsibility: Only the believer in Christ can fully understand the seriousness of the coming wrath of God. Many of the unsaved are clueless, and Satan would like nothing better than to keep it that way. We must therefore bear in mind that, if an unbeliever refuses to receive God’s gracious offer of reconciliation and foolishly rejects Christ as his personal Savior, he must be warned about the bloodbath that lies ahead.
The Apostle Paul uses three wonderful phrases in Romans One: “I am debtor” (Ver.14), “I am ready” (Ver.15), and “I am not ashamed” (Ver.16).
As God’s appointed Apostle to the Gentiles, Paul declared: “I am debtor both to the Greeks and to the barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise”.
The gospel now was no longer to be confined to Israel, but was to go to all nations, and Paul felt himself a debtor to proclaim it, first because God had appointed him to do so, and second, because he held in his hands that which would save the lost. He was morallyobligated — and so are Christians today.
Notice: the Apostle did not say, “I am debtor, but” and then begin to give a thousand excuses, as so many Christians do. He said: “I am debtor…SO…” and his fidelity to his call is seen as he adds: “So, as much as in me is,I am ready to preach the gospel” (Rom.1:15).
Oh, that the millions of Christians today would join Paul and say: “I AM READY to preach the gospel with all that is in me”.
But in Verse 16, the Apostle explains why he was ready to put his all into proclaiming the gospel to the Gentiles:
Many thousands of Jews had already come to trust Christ as Saviour, but the good news of Christ’s finished work of redemption was — and is — “the power of God unto salvation to EVERY ONE that believeth”.
Surely there is no other way. None of the pagan religions can give the assurance of salvation. They all represent efforts to find or earn salvation. Only the gospel, the good news of our Lord’s payment for sin can give us the knowledge, the assurance and the joy of salvation from sin.
In the various accounts of our Lord’s earthly ministry we find three occasions when He declined to answer those who appealed to Him or questioned Him.
First there is the Gentile woman of Matt. 15:21-28. Her daughter was possessed of a demon and in her trouble she appealed to the Lord to help her, “but He answered her not a word.” Finally, in His grace He did help her, but not until He had taught her the lesson that as a Gentile she had no claim on Him. As Romans 1:28 tells us, the Gentiles had been “given up” because “they did not wish to retain God in their knowledge.” In this connection we Gentiles should read carefully Eph. 2:11,12 and see how utterly without hope we are apart from the grace of God.
Next there was a Jewess, in trouble of a different kind. She had been caught in adultery and was brought to Him for judgment (John 8:1-11). Unlike the Gentile woman, she belonged to the chosen race and possessed God’s holy Law, a distinct advantage — unless you are a lawbreaker. Our Lord, in grace, also helped her, but not until He had demonstrated that the Law is the great leveler of mankind, bringing all in guilty before God (Rom. 3:19).
But finally we find how it was that our Lord could show grace — and do it justly — to sinners, both Jewish and Gentile, for in the third instance we find the Lord Himself in trouble. On trial for His life before the representatives of Hebrew and Roman law, He is accused of all sorts of wicked crimes. But on this occasion too, He declines to answer.
First Caiaphas, the High Priest, asked Him: “Answerest Thou nothing? What is it which these witness against Thee? But Jesus held His peace…” (Matt. 26:62,63).
Next Pilate, the Gentile judge, said: “Hearest Thou not how many things they witness against Thee? And He answered him to never a word; insomuch that the governor marvelled greatly” (Matt. 27:12-14).
Why did our Lord decline to answer and defend Himself? Because He had come into the world especially to die for man’s sins. Had the sinners of all ages been there to accuse Him of their sins, He would still have remained speechless, for He stood there as man’s representative, so that we sinners might be “justified freely by God’s grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24).
Inconsistencies are the way of man. Politicians are inconsistent; they often promise one thing and do another, depending on how the political winds are blowing. The testimony of a murderer is often inconsistent with the evidence that is presented. Even medical science is inconsistent with its own declarations. The conventional wisdom years ago was to stay in bed for two weeks after major surgery to heal properly. Today, most patients are required to be up and around the same day.
I recall the time I was speaking to a young dispensationalist who was convinced that the “two…in the field; the one…taken, and the other left” was clearly the Rapture. I graciously shared with him that he was anticipating revelation. That is, he was taking something he had learned from Paul’s writings and was superimposing it on the Lord’s teaching about His Second Coming. I pointed out to him that his view was inconsistent with the context of Matthew 24. When I inquired who was removed from the earth in the days of Noah, the believer or the unbeliever, he was speechless.
Unlike man, the Word of God is never inconsistent with itself, even though it may appear to be at times. God is omniscient; therefore, His Word is like a finely woven tapestry from beginning to end. A friend in Christ once wrote to me about an observation he had made from the gospel according to Matthew:
He’s right! A few years ago he would have had me over a barrel on this one. But recently, I did some research on this portion and discovered the solution to the problem staring me in the face. Normally, the Gospel writers state, “As it is written…,” such as we have in the case of John the Baptist (Compare Luke 3:4,5 & Isa. 40:3,4). However, Matthew does not say that which was fulfilled was written. Instead, Jeremiah is said to have spoken these words, which the Spirit of God revealed to the apostle by a special revelation. This is another thread of inspiration that is carefully interwoven throughout the Scriptures (II Tim. 3:16; II Pet. 1:21). Indeed, the Book you hold in your hand is the Word of God!
This passage is one of many in our English translation of the Scriptures where it is necessary to consult the original language to ensure we have the proper sense of what the apostle was seeking to convey. When we do so, we find that the Greek word katallage or “reconciliation” is used. It is understandable that the KJV translators used the term atonement because in their day the term meant “agreement, concord, or reconciliation after enmity or controversy.”
For the sake of clarification, in contemporary language the word atonement obscures the meaning of the passage. The emphasis of Paul’s special revelation here is on reconciliation, not atonement, as confirmed by the Greek text. The Hebrew word kaphar, translated “atonement” in the Old Testament meant “to cover.” Hence, the blood of bulls and goats merely covered the sins of those in Old Testament times; it didn’t have the efficacy to remove them.
Through the forbearance of God those sins that were atoned for in time past are now removed on the basis of the shed blood of Christ (Rom. 3:25). Today, Paul teaches us that we are freely justified and forgiven by the blood of Christ: “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Rom. 5:9). In other words, the blood of Christ doesn’t atone for our sins, it actually cleanses them forevermore.
In the context of the above passage, the apostle was instructing the Romans that it is a source of joy to know that we are at peace with God (Rom. 5:1), seeing that we have accepted His gracious offer of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:18). The subject of Romans 5:11 is reconciliation, not atonement.
Twice in the Book of Romans, once in Romans 3:22,23, and once in Romans 10:12,13, God uses the phrase, “There is no difference.”
First it is used in con-nection with the guilt of man. Religious Jews, as well as godless Gentiles; cultured moralist, as well as degraded savages, are proved guilty before God.
In the first three chapters, their privileges and responsibilities are fully discussed, and their arguments are carefully considered. Then comes the awful verdict:
Must we not all bow our heads in shame and admit that the indictment is true? Must we not acknowledge that our condemnation is just? There may, indeed, be differences as to the nature or the degree of our sins, but in this there is no difference: that we all have sinned. And a just and holy God must condemn sin.
It is refreshing, however, to find the phrase used a second time in connection with salvation. Again religious Jews as well as godless Gentiles are included, but this time, how gracious the declaration!
In the matter of sin, God cannot be partial. He cannot be lenient with certain classes or groups whose advantages have been greater. All have sinned, and all must stand condemned.
But neither does He show partiality in the matter of salvation. The rich or cultured or religious are not preferred before others. The illiterate or immoral are not excluded. The Law condemns all, but Christ died to save all, that we might be “justified freely by His grace.”
Friend, are you saved? Are you right with God? You can never hope to be accepted if you approach Him in your own merits, but if you come in the merits of Him who bore your sins, you cannot be turned away. “FOR THE SAME LORD OVER ALL IS RICH UNTO ALL THAT CALL UPON HIM, FOR WHOSOEVER SHALL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.”
It is strange but true that most people — even the great majority of religious people — do not know what a church is. Ask the average man what a church is, and he’s apt to reply: “Well, anybody knows that! A church is a building where people go to worship God.” But this is not correct. The word translated church, in our Bibles, simply means assembly. A church is not a building, but the assembly that meets in the building. Technically, a church is not even a religious gathering, for the same word is used in Acts 19:32 of a riotous mob which had assembled at Ephesus, and this verse says that this assembly was confused and that “the greater part knew not wherefore they were come together.” Perhaps this could apply to many a church today, but the point is that a church is not a building but an assembly of people.
The church of which the Bible has most to say is “the Church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood” (Acts 20:28), and St. Paul calls the church of this present dispensation, “the Body of Christ,” or “the Church which is His Body” (I Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:22,23).
Men cannot join this Church by water baptism or any other religious rite, but only by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. With regard to believers in Christ St. Paul declares: “By one Spirit are we all baptized into one Body” (I Cor. 12:13). And in Rom. 12:5 the Apostle says that “ye, being many, are one body in Christ.”
Many sincere people have had their names on local church rolls for many years before learning this great truth — that the true Church of God is not a building, but the assembly of those who trust in Christ as their Savior. Doubtless, people in and out of many of the religious organizations we call churches belong to this one great Bible Church, while others, with all their religious profession, do not. The question is: Have we sincerely trusted in Christ as the Savior who died for our sins?
Concerning the conflict continually going on between the old and new natures in the believer, St. Paul says:
Regarding this conflict in his own personal experience, he writes:
It has been taught by some that we need not experience this continual strife between the old nature and the new. They say: “Get out of the 7th of Romans into the 8th.”
We would remind such that the Apostle Paul wrote Romans 7 and Romans 8 at the same sitting; that in the original language the letter goes right on without interruption — without even a chapter division.
Thus the same apostle who exclaims: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1) refers in the same letter, only a few sentences before, and in the present tense, to “the law of sin which is in my members,” and freely acknowledges the present operation of that law in his members, as we have seen above.
How then shall we get out of the 7th of Romans into the 8th? Paul experienced both at the same time, and so do we, for while we are free from the condemnation of sin, sin itself nevertheless continues to work within us, and we must constantly “mortify the deeds of the body” (Rom. 8:13).
Many years ago, I worked at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh. When I entered the building, I had to pass by the dinosaur exhibit, which never ceased to amaze me. One of the largest ones on display at the time was a brontosaurus. This particular dinosaur made the Tyrannosaurus rex beside it look small and insignificant. After the lights were dimmed in the evening, the exhibit was unnerving to consider crossing paths with one of these monsters, back when they roamed the earth. If you have ever wondered if men and dinosaurs coexisted, the answer is a definite yes!
The behemoth in these passages is the Hebrew word for “great beast.” Notice that this beast has all the same characteristics of a brontosaurus, which we know to have been a vegetarian. Its strength is said to be in its loins—large and powerful! The tail was like the mighty cedars of Lebanon. Huge! And the bones of the behemoth were like bars of iron, crushing everything in its path. It also had an insatiable thirst and it could not be snared. He was the chief of God’s ways!
St. Paul opens his Epistle to the Romans by declaring that he has been “separated unto the gospel [good news] of God” (1:1). This agrees with Galatians 1:15,16, where he says:
The last book of the Bible tells of the coming “revelation of Jesus Christ” in glory, to judge the world and reign on earth, but here in Galatians we have “the revelation of Jesus Christ” in Paul, the chief of sinners, saved by grace. The salvation of Paul, the one-time leader of the world’s rebellion against Christ, indicated God’s willingness, yes His desire, to save sinners. Thus it was appropriate that God should choose him as the apostle of His grace, making the good news known “to all nations for the obedience of faith.”
Let us not suppose, however, that Paul’s gospel concerned only himself or God’s grace to him. Apart from Christ’s payment for sin at Calvary God could not justly have saved Paul — or any of us. Thus the Apostle goes on, in Romans 1, to explain that this good news which God has sent him to proclaim is “concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (1:3).
All through Paul’s epistles he proclaims salvation by grace, on the basis of Christ’s finished work of redemption:
So the message of salvation by grace is essentially good news about Christ and what He has wrought to purchase our redemption.
According to doctors at the Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona, rattlesnakes thought to be dead can still strike, bite, and kill you. Doctors in Phoenix said they have a large number of patients admitted each year suffering from bites from rattlers thought to be dead. Sometimes the snakes were shot and their heads cutoff; but, the snake head retains a reflex action. In fact, one study showed that snake heads could still make striking-type motions up to sixty minutes after decapitation.
Satan, that old Serpent, was defeated at Calvary—his head was cut off. Hebrews Chapter 2 says that our Savior, by His death, destroyed him who holds the power of death. But for a season Satan can still strike and wound us. He can still hurt us and poison our relationships and spread his deadly venom into our homes and lives.
Paul admonished the Corinthians to take great care in this area, “Lest Satan should get an advantage of us: for we are not ignorant of his devices” (II Cor. 2:11). Although this may have been true in the apostle’s day, we are not sure it is the case today. It seems to us that many believers are unaware they are under attack. Satan can be very subtle and his devices are well planned. While his devices take on many forms there is one in particular that he uses quite effectively— worry! If the enemy can keep you off balance in this area he can successfully hinder your service for the Lord.
Do you worry? I didn’t think so, but there are some who struggle with this problem. Paul says, “Be careful for nothing.” In our modern day language we would say, “Don’t worry about anything.” The Greek word behind the term “careful” here is merimnao, which means to pull in different directions, to distract. This is exactly what worry will do to you—it willtear you apart both emotionally and physically. It can be one of the leading causes of ulcers, which is something else to worry about!
Worry always dwells on the future in regard to what may or may not happen. It mulls over every worst-case scenario imaginabl
Man, by nature, is afraid of God. When Adam first sinned, he should have gone immediately to God to beg for mercy and forgiveness. Instead he did just what millions are doing today: he ran and hid from God so that God had to come and look for Him, as it were, calling: “Adam… where art thou?” (Gen. 3:9).
Many people who consider themselves as good, morally, as those about them, or even better, nevertheless feel utterly ill-at-ease in a place of worship, where believers pray and praise God together. This is because in their heart of hearts they know that they have “sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23).
Such, however, may come to know, love and enjoy God through faith in Christ. He was Himself God manifested in the flesh, come to earth in love to pay for our sins on Calvary’s cross, so that we might have “redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).
Concerning those who respond in grateful faith and trust in the crucified, risen, glorified Lord for salvation, the Apostle Paul says:
Peace with God, and the fellowship which naturally results from this is the most precious treasure the human heart can contain. Yet our fellowship with Him here on earth is but the beginning. Read carefully Ephesians 5:25-27 and see how He took upon Him human form, and died, that He might have us for Himself forever:
Recently, the news of the death of South Africa’s Nelson Mandela dominated all newscasts. He was heralded as one of the greatest men of our day. People equated him to Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, and Mother Teresa, “all rolled into one.” His acclaim originated over his stand against racial injustices and inequalities in a country predominately ruled by whites. He spent 27 years in prison for his protests and alleged crimes, even refusing a release that was offered to him on the condition of renouncing his calls to revolution. Once released, he did not seek any revenge against those who had him incarcerated. Instead he preached forgiveness and healing. Eventually, Nelson Mandela rose to the highest office in his country, and at his funeral presidents, kings, prime ministers, and celebrities from all around the world came to honor him at a memorial service.
While witnessing all this worldwide news coverage for days, and hearing the constant acclaim for this man, this writer could not help thinking: “I know a far greater man who gave forgiveness to many and preached the good news of forgiveness.” Do you know this man? It was the God-man, God in the flesh, the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Savior came to Israel with the offer of the Gospel of the Kingdom, therein offering the forgiveness of sins. He taught His followers to pray to the Father for forgiveness (on the condition they must forgive others [Matt. 6:12-15]). When He healed a man sick with palsy he stated: “Son…thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matt. 9:2), and He taught Peter the necessity to forgive one who came asking forgiveness and to do so as many times as the one asking was sincere (Matt. 18:21-35).
Actually, the Lord Jesus Christ came offering divine forgiveness to all of Israel. Peter told his fellow Jews that Christ was now exalted to the right hand of God the Father in heaven “to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31). This was the message of our Lord throughout His earthly ministry. He told His disciples He had come “to seek and to save them that are lost.”
Once Israel was set aside and the Apostle Paul was raised up by the Lord to minister to Gentiles, the message of forgiveness remained the focal point. The risen Savior explained Paul’s mission was to go to all the world, “to open their (sinners) eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they might receive the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 26:18). This would be done by pointing Jew and Gentile, man and woman, young and old, to personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as their only hope for eternal life.
The Savior was the greatest example of forgiveness. Even after His enemies had Him falsely imprisoned, beaten, and crucified, He asked His Heavenly Father from the cross to “…forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). We know He could have called ten thousand angels to command His release from prison or the cross, but He refused, that He might pay the sin debt of the world so that you and I could be forgiven. Colossians 2:13 tells us that every believer has forgiveness so complete that He has “forgiven you ALL trespasses.” This God-man, our Savior, is one most worthy of our love, respect, and dedication. Rejoice in Him. Exalt His name!
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.