31. Essentials (1) Sin & Guilt

Reaching into Redemption Meditations: 31. Essentials (1): Sin & Guilt

2 Sam 12:5 “As surely as the Lord lives, the man who did this must die

2 Sam 12:7 “You are the man!

Significance: It may be that if you have been following this series, or you’ve just come to it and scanned the number of studies that are here, you might ask the question, why are you continuing this, why are you going over the same ground again?  The answer to that is that ‘Redemption’,  first of all, is something that so often we consign to ‘spiritual facts’ about what happened back when I became a Christian but, second, because the whole emphasis that I have felt from the outset of this series is that it is also a description of the ongoing work of God to keep us on track, being changed into the likeness of Christ and a being an active citizen of the kingdom of God and, third, all of that despite the fact that we are failures and get it wrong.

It is the combination of these last two things, that God is continually working on us sinners to bring about change, that is so significant, and it is significant because of its part in enabling us to triumph in spiritual warfare. It is when Satan whispers to us, “You are rubbish, no one loves you, you are insignificant, you are achieving nothing meaningful in life, give up,” that these things come into play as we respond, “Yes, all you say is right, but God still loves me and is still working on my life to change me so that in Christ I am somebody and in Christ I do have a purpose and in Christ I am going somewhere – so go away!!”

Why Sin? But why, you may ask, do we need to go back and eyeball ‘sin’ again, why do we need to focus on sin and guilt as our heading says? Well, again there are at least two reasons. The first is the reality of sin and the second is that when we face that reality it makes us more aware of the wonder of this whole thing about God’s redemption. Yes, we have seen some of these things previously, and we have certainly seen them in the lives of individuals and in the life of Israel, but now we need to bring this aspect right out into the open and shine the spotlight on it in order to a) understand its reality and then b) appreciate even more the wonder of God’s redemption.

Sin’s Reality: We don’t like talking about ‘sin’ because it is depressing, and it raises the spectre of judgmentalist condemnation, which the Pharisees of Jesus day were good at. It can be depressing because it is always there, lurking in the background. As God said to Cain, that we saw in an earlier study, “if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.” (Gen 4:7) What that implies is that we have to be constantly alert and make positive acts of will to overcome the temptation to give way to self-centred, godlessness that leads to unrighteous acts or words. There have often been arguments in theological circles whether it is an inherent predisposition within each of us that we have inherited, or whether it is simply the moral choice we are so often confronted with when faced with people or circumstances who provoke us or present us with moral options.

The option to do our own thing, contrary almost certainly to God’s design for us and the world, is ‘sin’. It is as the Bible says, ‘lawlessness’ (1 Jn 3:4) Lawless simply means operating outside or contrary to the Law and ‘the law’ in this general context simply means the way God has designed this world to work properly. The Bible uses the word ‘folly’ a number of times, a noun that means foolishness, and any act of sin is ‘folly’ or foolish because it always has a detrimental effect, a negative outworking in our lives. David lusting after Bathsheba was folly in itself AND because it led on to other sins – trying to cover up what had happened by having her husband killed. In the New Testament Paul made that all- encompassing statement, “The wages of sin is death,” (Rom 6:23) i.e. the outworking of sin always results in spiritual death or the separation from the life that is God.

Call a spade a spade: We have this phrase or expression, meaning to call a thing what it is, and so we must from the outset eyeball our stupid acts of self-centred godlessness what they are – sin and, yes they are, stupid!  David, when Nathan told his little parable, rightly responded with anger, as our first verse above shows. It was right to be angry at the injustice in the parable and the perpetrator deserved to die. It was then Nathan spoke those terrible words, “You are the man,” and instantly, David, the man after God’s own heart, was convicted: “I have sinned against the Lord.” (2 Sam 12:13). It was the same language Jesus inserted in his parable of the prodigal son: Father, I have sinned against heaven and you, and am not worthy of being called your son.” (Lk 15:21) Wrongs against people are also wrongs against God.

If you steal from another person, vandalize their property, speak wrongly against them, entice their partner away, all of these things are offences against that person AND against God. They are against God because they run contrary to His design for us that we live in peace and harmony with one another, and it is like we say, “God, I don’t care about your will, your ways in the world, your design, I’ll do my own thing,” and the trouble is all such things bring repercussions, there always will be negative outworkings, the ultimate one being the accountability that God demands at the end of our lives, “Why did you act as less than the child I designed you to be, why did you act as a godless, self-centred sinner?”

God’s Remedy: The death of His Son on the Cross outside Jerusalem, two thousand years ago in time-space history, was deemed by heaven to satisfy justice, was deemed to be sufficient to act as the judgment on every individual sin ever committed. The only thing is that it needed to be appropriated by us and we do that when we a) acknowledge, confess and repent of our sin(s) and b) accept the truth that Jesus died in our place to redeem us.  It can’t work unless these two things are there in place. When we are convicted of our sin, the recognition that we are helpless and hopeless and need God’s help, God’s forgiveness, God’s transformation, it is both devastating and dynamic. It is devastating to be truly honest about yourself – I am lost! It is dynamic in that it opens the floodgates of God’s love, mercy and grace that is poured out to us and which we are then able to receive.

Individual Sins: When we blow it – and yes, we are still a Christian who loves the Lord – the short way back is as we have described above, acknowledge, confess and repent, but the lessons we have observed through the studies earlier in this series, tell us that so often there are repercussions or consequences that have to be faced. So often, life doesn’t just go on, and so to see that in detail, we’ll need to wait until the next study.   You have sinned? It is not the end, but you are required to follow the Biblical pattern – acknowledge, confess and repent – and then receive forgiveness and cleansing and a fresh start – but it must begin with honesty, I’ve blown it! That is the beginning of the next step.

11. Two Stages?

Short Meditations for Easter on the Cross: 11. Two Stages?

Acts 5:30 The God of our ancestors raised Jesus from the dead—whom you killed by hanging him on a cross.

There is a danger, as we view the last days of Jesus on the earth, that we compartmentalise each part of Jesus’ ‘experience’ on earth – born, growth, ministry, death, resurrection, ascension and, indeed, this is often helpful but it can detract from a key fact – every phase is linked and every phase is part of the overall plan that we have previously considered, the plan formulated by the Godhead before Creation.

Yet when we come to accounts of preaching in Acts, death and resurrection go hand in hand. The above quote is Peter before the Sanhedrin, and earlier on the day of Pentecost he spoke of Jesus’ death (Acts 2:23) and then immediately about the resurrection (v.24). Later after healing the cripple as he speaks to the crowd, he closely links the two: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead.” (Acts 3:15) Still later, when speaking to the household of Cornelius, he again linked them closely: “They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen.” (Acts 10:39,40)

In a different series recently, it crossed my mind that there could not be (and in our case cannot be) resurrection without a death. Now I don’t want in any way to diminish the work of Christ on the Cross, but I do want to pick up on what comes through in these verses, that the cross was stage one of a three stage exultation of Jesus: cross – resurrection – ascension. The latter two are dependent on the first.

Those closing words in verse 40 immediately above are important, “and caused him to be seen”. If you read the apostle Paul’s testimony about the number of people who saw the risen Christ (in 1 Cor 15:5-8) the word ‘appeared’ is used four times. It was important that Christ was seen after he rose from the dead. This may sound obvious but think about it. As God he could have quietly risen from the dead and ascended back to heaven without anyone seeing him, but the fact is he was seen, again and again by well over five hundred people and they bore testimony (and we’ll come to this in the next study) and thus Christ was vindicated, he showed that he was who he had said he was, the glorious Son of God.

Thus these two interlinked parts are vital and need to be held together: Jesus died for our sins, for our justification, but he rose from the dead – as he said he would (Mt 16:21, 17:9,23, 20:19, 26:32) – to be seen to confirm, justify and vindicate all he said he would do and thus confirm all the teaching that would follow of ‘the work of the Cross’. The resurrection confirms the purpose of the life AND the death.

26. Life

Short Meditations in John 5:  26. Life

Jn 5:26  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son to have life in himself

Sometimes in scripture the most simple of verses have the most profound of meanings. “As the Father has life in himself.”  We live every day without much thought about the wonder of it. We even take it casually when we hear that Mr. John Smith has died at the age of 52. It is more shocking, and it pulls us up when a child dies or someone dies in an accident but mostly we take it for granted that one day will follow another. I am at an age that, fifty years ago would have been considered old, but I anticipate not dying tomorrow. On today’s standards I could live for another twenty-five years. The truth is that we take ‘life’ for granted but people do die and life comes to an end. For us it is fragile. If I stay out unprotected in freezing conditions, I will die. If I fall into the sea and can no longer swim, I will die.  I could have a heart attack and suddenly life is not here.

The thing about ‘life’ is that we have little control over it. We know that if we don’t do the normal things expected of a human being – eat, drink, take exercise, we will die, for we are not immortal and so something could happen that means we no longer have life. But this is not true of God. There are a number of things that make Him substantially different from us, but this is perhaps the main one. He IS immortal, He needs nothing to sustain Him.

I wonder if this particular characteristic (apart from Him being so big) is what makes Him scary and makes people fall down before Him. In His real presence does a person suddenly realise that here is someone utterly different from ‘me’? This someone has life but not as we know it for His is not reliant upon anything else – oxygen, food, drink – this being just exists.

But even more, this being has the ability to impart ‘life’, the ability to make something live and become someone, a living sentient being. Why do we struggle with the thoughts of Adam and Eve when we realise these things? But now Jesus has been taking us into the spiritual realm and has been speaking about spiritual life, life that means interacting with The Divine Being and, similarly, this Being is the One who has the capability of imparting that.

But wait a minute, that is what Jesus is now claiming, that he too has life in himself that is reliant upon no one and nothing and, even more we have already seen, he can impart that life – physical and spiritual – to whoever comes to him for it. Now this puts him on a par with the Father – he is God! We have said previously that he makes subtle inferences in respect of his divinity, but this is not so subtle!

46. Death Fact

Focus on Christ Meditations: 46.  Death Fact

Mt 27:1  Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death

Mt 27:24,26  When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!” …. Then he released Barabbas to them. But he had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.

In our studies on the Christ, the death of the Christ is of paramount importance. In the previous study we considered the warnings – or the absence thereof – of the death of Christ that were given by Christ, but were limited in the prophets, and in the next study we will go on to see the reasons why the death came about, from both a human standpoint and from God’s standpoint. But now, however, we pause to consider the reality of this death, because there are those, especially of one of the other major world faiths, who suggest that actually Christ never died and some alternative fanciful ideas are put forward.

My original intent was to go through the Gospels and itemise the various verses that take up so much of the back quarter or even third of these four books, but it is a big task and in some ways a dispiriting task and so I simply invite you to read the accounts for yourself for they are full and comprehensive.

Instead, what I want to do is approach the whole subject in a different way. What is clear is that, as our first verse above shows, it was the clear intention of the religious elite to have Jesus put to death and we’ll come back to that in a moment and look at it in more detail tomorrow. It is also clear that they pressurised the weak Roman governor into ordering Christ’s execution; that at least is how they saw it. In reality, observing the details, one might suggest it was pure outright premeditated murder carried out in the name of the state.

But my sense is that we are not to wade through the details but we are to look calmly and logically at what was going on and then ask, in the light of the basic facts laid out before us, is there any space to suggest that Christ did NOT die?

To answer that question I want us to consider the opposition that was mounted against Christ by what I have called the religious elite. It is Mark who leads the charge on this: Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.” (Mk 3:6). Then, “The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.” (Mk 11;18) And then, “Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him.” (Mk 14:1) Add to that our first verse above and you have a very strong picture: “Early in the morning, all the chief priests and the elders of the people came to the decision to put Jesus to death.” (Mt 27:1)

Look at that list: Pharisees, Herodians, teachers of the law, chief priests, elders of the people. We’ll see tomorrow why they felt this strongly but there is no doubt about their intentions – it is to kill Christ. Now in case we have any doubt about this, see what happened AFTER Christ’s death and he had been buried: The next day, the one after Preparation Day, the chief priests and the Pharisees went to Pilate. “Sir,” they said, “we remember that while he was still alive that deceiver said, `After three days I will rise again.’ So give the order for the tomb to be made secure until the third day. Otherwise, his disciples may come and steal the body and tell the people that he has been raised from the dead. This last deception will be worse than the first.” “Take a guard,” Pilate answered. “Go, make the tomb as secure as you know how.” So they went and made the tomb secure by putting a seal on the stone and posting the guard.” (Mt 27:62-66) At that point they have NO doubts that they have a dead body in a tomb with a large stone over it which they sealed, and that the body must stay there to counter any plots for propaganda claims of a resurrection. At that point there are no signs that Jesus is anything other than dead.

To strengthen this point we need to remind ourselves that on the Cross the Roman soldiers, with hearts calloused by daily deaths, had looked at the body hanging there, decided that he was dead, and just to make sure, stuck a spear in his side so that liquid poured out and carried on pouring out. If we consider this alongside what we know of modern medicine, then even if there is a glimmer of life left in this body – and these expert executioners (and their lives depend on it!) are sure there isn’t – the only attention the body is given is to be rapidly wrapped in cloths before being put into the tomb-cave. There he is left over Friday night, all day Saturday, and into the later hours of Sunday morning, in the cold; technically three days, possibly 36 hours.

With the blood loss, the beatings and the spear in the side, there is no way any rational person can suggest a) this body is not dead and b) if there was an ounce of life in him he could undress himself and walk out of the cave and find clothes and get dressed. In modern parlance, he was on death’s edge at the best, but in reality almost one hundred per cent certainly, dead.

We have already touched on it above, but not only did the religious authorities want Jesus dead, but it was also in Pilate’s interest to keep the peace, to make sure Jesus was dead. If Jesus had come back after the crucifixion experience, in Pilate’s mind surely, this was the stuff that revolutions are made of, and we can’t have that. To suggest that the disciples got in and provided medical aid for Jesus, flies in the face of the evidence: they fled and were afraid of being arrested and suffering a similar fate. No, it was only the women who acted without that thought and they didn’t turn up until Sunday morning. (Note they didn’t come with medicine to revive, but spices etc. to make the death more acceptable).

Observing realistically the religious and civil authorities’ fears of Jesus as a potential leader of an uprising, and noting the intensity of that opposition (and the absence of Jesus’ followers), it is a foolish person, or an ignorant person who has never considered these things in detail, who can deny the claims of the Gospels which are clearly there – that Jesus Christ, was executed and was dead and buried. Having observed all this, it is now time to look at the reasons why Christ died.

45. Death Forewarned

PART SIX: Death,  Resurrection & Ascension

Focus on Christ Meditations: 45.  Death Forewarned

Acts 2:23  This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.

And so we must move on and leave the activities of Jesus during his three years of ministry, to go  to the closing days and hours of his life and then what followed. Throughout this series, and I know I have emphasised it more than once, I have sought to counter the familiarity with which many of us live. In this day of, not only regular Sunday services but so much TV preaching being available, I believe this can almost make us over-familiar with God’s word and so we take it for granted and lose the sense of wonder and awe that a new believer so often has when approaching it for the first time.  For this reason I am going to take time over the death, resurrection and ascension of the Christ and ask you to read the accounts afresh as if reading for the first time.

Accepting that Jesus did die on the Cross, the fact of which we will consider in another study, the question I want to ask us is, contrary to our familiarity, what evidence is there, if any, that the death of the Messiah or Christ was expected?

If I may start on the easy part, what did Jesus himself say about his death?  We have seen it before but it does bear repeating. Three times Matthew records Jesus warning his disciples that it was going to happen: first, From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” (Mt 16:21) Note two thing about this. First with the explicit detail given, there can be no mistake whatsoever about the clarity of Jesus’ understanding of what was going to happen – go to Jerusalem, suffering, killed and then raised on the third day. It’s all there. Second, note Jesus uses the word ‘killed’ and not ‘executed’. This is not going to be a legitimate or even legal execution, we will go on to see.

Then a second time: “When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” (Mt 17:22,23) The previous account had been Matthew’s record but this one now includes Jesus’ own words and within these is the idea that he is going to be ‘betrayed’, which is a word with strong emotional undertones and speaks of disloyalty and even deception. These are the ingredients that will lead up to Jesus death at the hands of the religious and then civil authorities.

Finally, a third time: “Now as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside and said to them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will turn him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified. On the third day he will be raised to life!” (Mt 20:17-19) This again is in Jesus’ own words and, combining the previous two, adds even more detail: Jerusalem, betrayal, in the hands of the religious authorities who will condemn him to the Gentile overlords, the Romans, who will first mock and flog him and then crucify him. When we come to observe the resurrection we will note in these same verses the clear claim that he will rise from the dead, but that is for later on.

Mark and Luke have only one of these instances and John, presumably because he feels Matthew had covered it well, does not give any direct references such as these but we do see Jesus giving indication that his time with his disciples was almost up. In Jn 13:1 it is John who states that he knew what Jesus was thinking: “It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father.” The washing the disciples feet is also put in that context (see 13:2,3,11,18,21,27) then specifically he declares, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. You will look for me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come.” (13:33, also 14:2,3, 28-31, 16:5,7,10,16,19,20,28)  Thus many times in that last discourse he alludes to the fact of his leaving them, though not the how or why.

Now these have all been warnings during the time of Jesus’ ministry and it is fair to ask, what about in the prophecies in the Old Testament, were there the same indications there, should the Jews (and thus, disciples) have been expecting this?

Perhaps, as a starting point, there is the reference, “The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone.” (Psa 118:22) which Jesus himself referred to (e.g. Mt 21:42) and which Peter referred to both when he was preaching (Acts 4:11) and in his first letter (1 Pet 2:7), though I wonder how many of the scribes associated that reference with the Coming One, the Messiah?

But then that might be true of other verses from the psalms, for example the cries of Psa 22: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (v.1) Many of the verses that follow can, after the event, be directly linked to the Cross and all Jesus went through, but when it was first written I wonder how many dared link it to the Messiah?

Then in Isaiah in the Servant Song of Ch.52,53 we find those mysterious words, “Just as there were many who were appalled at him– his appearance was so disfigured beyond that of any man and his form marred beyond human likeness.” (Isa 52:14) followed a bit later by, “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” (Isa 53:5), words that we so easily attribute to what happened to Jesus but which, at the time, I suggest were utterly mysterious to the listeners to Isaiah.

A while later Zechariah uttered one or two things in this direction, which must have left his hearers somewhat mystified: “They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.” (Zech 12;10) and the even more mysterious words, “Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who is close to me!” declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered,” (Zech 13:7) which was quoted by Jesus on the night of his arrest (Mt 26:31)

Although there are many prophecies we today call descriptions of the Coming Messiah, many of them just hung there as stars in the sky but leaving the listeners wondering and without much understanding. This, I suggest, takes  us right back to our earliest studies in this series where we referred to ‘the mystery of Christ’. The curse in the Garden of Eden is usually taken to refer to Jesus versus Satan: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15) Satan will be crushed while he injures, but not fatally, the seed of the woman – the Coming Messiah. Hints but no more. That is really all the Lord gave them. Little wonder they struggled when Jesus sought to tell them what was coming.

10. The Word of Truth

Meditations in Colossians: 10. The Word of Truth

Col 1:4-6   we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all the saints– the faith and love that spring from the hope that is stored up for you in heaven and that you have already heard about in the word of truth, the gospel that has come to you.

We are familiar with understanding the word ‘Gospel’ to mean Good News but here Paul also calls it “the word of truth” and it is worth pondering on the meaning of that. In prophetic circles we speak of someone receiving “a word”. We don’t mean that they have received a single word but that they have received a collection of words – from  a sentence to a whole collection of say ten paragraphs – that form a message from God. But note also that when Paul describes this word he calls it “the word”. It is not just a word which would make it just one among many but it is a single unique message from God and there is no other message like it. But more than that, it is the message of truth which implies that it is a unique message that somehow encapsulates all that is vital in and for life.

Truth? That which conforms to reality, which is exactly true and does not in any way deviate from that which is. So here, says Paul, we have this unique message from God that conveys or sums up the will of God, the reality of the plans and purposes of God. You want to know if there is a God? Ponder on the Gospel message, Could this just be the planning of human beings or has it got an origin that goes beyond us?  What sort of God is there if there is one?  Ponder on the Gospel and see a God of infinite compassion, a God of love and mercy who plans from before the beginning of time to redeem mankind that has abused its free will and got into slavery to this thing called Sin, this inescapable propensity of godless self-centredness.  You wonder if there is any escape from this self-centred godlessness that seems to lead to unrighteousness and self-destructive thinking and behaviour?  After you realise that our state is helpless and thus hopeless, we hear the Gospel and grasp for it like a drowning person.

This word tells the truth? Listen to Paul elsewhere: Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved……  For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:1-4) There was the Gospel encapsulated.

It is all about Christ who the Gospels reveal is the unique Son of God who came to earth from heaven. Here he lived, growing from a baby to an adult and then at about the age of thirty started three years of the most remarkable ministry that the word has ever seen. The apostle Peter described him in his first sermon to the Jews on the Day of Pentecost, first in human terms: “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know.” (Acts 2:22) Later he said the same thing to the Gentiles in the house of Cornelius: “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him.” (Acts 10:38).

That is all implied in Paul’s summary and is a prerequisite to the fundamentals of why Christ came: “Christ died for our sins.” Peter spelled it out again and again: “This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him,” (Acts 2:23,24 to the Jews at Pentecost) and “Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead….. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:10,12 before the religious leaders) and “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen….. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:39,40,43 to the Gentiles)

But the outworking brought so much more. We have seen the facts (the truth) of what happened – Jesus came, revealed the Father, was crucified and rose from the dead, all, we are told, the means to bring about the forgiveness of our sins. That is what HE did but then there is OUR response and then what HE does as a response to us! Our response, to the conviction by His Holy Spirit, is to surrender to Him, believe in Jesus (an early act of faith) and receive what he then imparts – forgiveness, cleansing, adoption and the impartation of what becomes the indwelling Holy Spirit in our lives. Thus we are ‘born again’, made new, and He reveals a plan and purpose for our lives that we live out in our remaining years here on earth.  But it doesn’t stop there. We have received eternal life and the guarantee of a glorious future with Him in heaven after life on this earth. This is the package that we call the Gospel. This is what has happened to Jesus (it is true!) and this is what has happened to us (it is true!)  This is the word of truth.. Hallelujah!

10. Ongoing Salvation

Meditations in Romans : 10:  Ongoing Salvation

Rom 5:9,10   Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Note again the order of what Paul has been saying in this chapter. First of all he spoke of what I have called the fruit of justification – peace with God and access to His grace (v.1-2) which enables us to rejoice in who we are and even in trying circumstances (v.2,3) which build perseverance, character and hope in us (v.4,5). But then, just to make sure we don’t get carried away with any ideas of self-effort or pride, he reminds us that we were powerless, ungodly sinners when God loved us and sent Jesus to die for us (v.6-8)

Now he seeks to reassure us about the ongoing nature of our salvation. The starting point was our justification when we came to Christ. At that moment we were born again and changed, and it was all because of Christ’s blood, because of what he had achieved on the Cross. We do need to come back to that basic truth again and again, that we are what we are because of what Jesus has achieved on the Cross. It is entirely because of what HE has done that we are justified.

So look, says Paul, if at the moment of conversion we have been justified by what HE has done, doesn’t that mean even more that we will be saved from God’s wrath that is due to sinners, as we go on in this new Christian life? The whole point of Him justifying us is so that we no longer have to come under God’s judgment because our sin and its guilt have been dealt with. Justice has been appeased and no longer cries out for the things we have done or will do, to be judged, because Jesus has completely dealt with all that. The future, as God’s children, is judgment free!

Then to make the point even more forcibly, it’s as if he goes on, look, stop and think about this a bit more. We saw just now (and agreed) that we were powerless, ungodly sinners when Christ died for us.  In other words we were still clearly his enemies when he died for us. We had nothing to commend us, nothing beyond HIS love to warrant him doing what he did. So if he died for us when we were still his enemies, how much more will he think and feel about us now that we have been reconciled to him and brought into relationship with him and made His sons?

Christ’s death was the thing that enabled us to be reconciled to God – and that has now happened. Because his love for us was so obvious by his going to the Cross for us, how much more must he feel now we have been made part of his family, children of God? If it was good before we came to know him, how much more wonderful must it be not that we have come to know him. Remember, we didn’t contribute to any of that; it was all the free gift of God. We didn’t earn it then and we can’t earn His blessing now.

This is a very simple and straight forward argument and it is simply Paul reassuring us about our future. Some of the Jews in Rome might have been wondering about God’s feelings towards them and, indeed, some of us might wonder similarly thinking, “Oh my goodness, what have I done? What is God going to demand of me know? Have I just opened the door to receive God’s ongoing corrective anger?”

No, the truth is that when we were justified, God dealt with all of His anger against sin, because our sin and guilt had been transferred to Jesus so there was nothing left for Him to be angry about. And if He loved us while He was making that provision, how much more will He express His love towards us now that all that sin and guilt have been taken away and we’ve been made His sons.

Imagine a modern prodigal son type of picture. A son goes away and ends up in the mud of the pigsty, a total mess. In this story the loving Father comes along and says, “Do you want me to help you?” The Son replies, “Yes,” and so the Father hauls him out of the pigsty, hoses him down and then takes him to a spa clinic where he is further washed and cleansed and treated with oils. Now that is the equivalent of our being justified.  Do you think the son in this story is worrying about what is yet to come? Maybe, in our thinking at least, he worries that he is going to get a thorough telling off for having got himself in such a predicament and be put through harsh training to ensure he never goes back to the pigsty. But if he wondered that, he is ignoring the wonder of what his Father has just done. If the Father has so graciously saved him, washed and cleansed him, he’s not going to beat up on him now. No, every sign in what has happened says his Father is just very glad his son has been able to be rescued and the future can now be spent in just entering into being a proper son again and enjoying all the benefits of being part of this family. This is what Paul is saying in these verses. Rejoice, for God has saved us for good days ahead! Hallelujah!