9. Sin Purifier

Meditations in Hebrews 1: 9.  Sin Purifier

Heb 1:3b  After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

We will only consider the first half of this sentence here and leave the second part until the next study. It is a slightly strange description of Jesus’ work on the Cross, because that is what it is, the only reference to his work of redemption in this short-hand or potted description of Jesus. It is strange because it has a completely different emphasis to it. Let’s see its usual use in presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The angel speaking to Joseph in a dream said of his future son, you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21) At the Last Supper Jesus himself said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Mt 26:28). Speaking of John the Baptist, Mark records, “John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mk 1:4) His father, Zechariah in his prophetic prayer, spoke of his son, “you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” (Lk 1:76,77) On the road to Emmaus, Jesus taught the two disciples that, “The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” (Lk 24:46,47) On the Day of Pentecost at the end of his first sermon, Peter declared, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:38)

And so we could carry on. The big emphasis in every single one of those verses about the work of Jesus, is on forgiveness. That is the main New Testament thrust, which is slightly different from the Old Testament thrust. Speaking of the work of the high priest Moses writes, “on this day atonement will be made for you, to cleanse you. Then, before the LORD, you will be clean from all your sins,” (Lev 16:30) which accords with what we now have here in Hebrews, After he had provided purification for sins……”

Let’s see how some other versions put it:After he finished the sacrifice for sins.” (Message version). “He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin” (Living Bible). Understandably the Easy to Read version of the Bible puts it most simply: “The Son made people clean from their sins.” Yes they each place this emphasis rightly on us being ‘cleansed’ from our sins. So why did I suggest that this is an Old Testament emphasis. I suggest there are three things to say.

Well, first, because the Old Testament Law was all about behaviour, how to live righteously as the people of God and so when it came to the Day of Atonement it was all about having sins washed away so that the individual could continue to carry on being one of God’s people free from their past sin so they could walk anew and free from its guilt and, even more, its practice, tomorrow. It was all about behaviour.

Second, by contrast, the New Testament salvation is all about relationship with God. It is all about now being free from guilt and shame to live Spirit-empowered and Spirit-directed lives, as adopted children of God, that are pleasing to our Father in heaven. To be able to do that, we must first know that we are FORGIVEN.  That is why all those verses above put the emphasis on forgiveness.

But there is a third thing. The writer to the Hebrews is writing to Jews and Jews would know their history and that included about the Day of Atonement and would know the thrust there was on cleansing. Moreover, as he goes through his ‘book’ he is going to explain the work of Jesus in terms of the High Priest. It will all be Old Testament language and concepts and the big thrust there, as we have said several times, is on being cleansed from our sins.

Now interestingly the apostle John in his first letter brings these two things together: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9) or as the old RSV that I grew up with put it, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”  To emphasis it, let’s check a couple of the other versions: “He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing.” (Message) and “he forgives our sins and makes us thoroughly clean from all that is evil.” (JBP)

So there it is. Today we have this double emphasis of the work of Christ on the Cross. When we receive his work, we are forgiven (so we can live at peace with God) AND we are cleansed (so that we can live new righteous lives). Do you see the fruit from that work?  First it is peace with God and second, it is newness of life.  Hallelujah!

14. Jesus, the Ultimate Gem

Meditating on the Gems of the Bible:  14. Jesus the ultimate gem

Mat 1:20,21  “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

The name Jesus or Jeshua was fairly common and is akin to Joshua of the Old Testament and it means deliverer. The thing about this particular baby, this particular Jesus, was that he would not deliver people in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense. The claim of the angel speaking to Joseph in a dream was that this Jesus would come and do something that no other person on earth could do, he would deliver people from their sins. Now when we think about that we realise that it must mean that he will deliver them from the guilt and punishment that their sins deserve AND he will deliver them from the actual sins, from continuing to do them. That is what salvation through Christ does, and just in case you have never seen it like that before, let’s repeat it: he delivers form the guilt and punishment of sins AND from the ongoing having to continue to sin. The first is what puts us right with God and the second is the life we live out subsequently with Him. This, as briefly as possible, is what Jesus has come to achieve, and he has done it for millions and millions of people.

How, again as briefly as possible, did he go on to do it, this? There were two parts to his ministry. First of all, for three years he lived out a period of ministry from about the age of thirty, revealing his Heavenly Father’s nature. In the words of the apostle Peter on the Day of Pentecost, he was revealed as a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him,” (Acts 2:22)  Later on, to Cornelius and his Gentile family and friends Peter declared, “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)  Jesus himself had declared to John’s disciples, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.” (Mt 11:4,5) In the things he did he revealed Himself as a unique being.

Three times his Father testified to the wonder of who he was. First at his own baptism, “As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Mt 3:16,17)  The second was on the Mount of Transfiguration: “Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” (Mk 9:7) The third time appears to have been on Palm Sunday, as recorded by John, “Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him.” (Jn 12:28,29)

The second part of his ministry was dying on the Cross to take the punishment for our sins. Jesus knew exactly what he was doing when he allowed this to happen: “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) Also “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 20:18,19) He spelled out the purpose of this at the Last Supper: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:28) The apostle Peter also spelled this out: “The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead–whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” (Acts 5:30,31) God raised Jesus from the dead and then took him back to heaven with him, confirming who he was and his purpose.

This is the unique ministry of Jesus Christ, the revealed Son of God. After he ascended and returned to sit next to his Father in heaven, ruling at His side, we find there are three people who saw him there. First there was Stephen just before he was stoned to death as the first Christian martyr (see Acts 7:56). The second was Saul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6) and the third was the apostle John in his revelation on the isle of Patmos. In the first part of the vision he saw Jesus as the one holding the seven churches of Asia Minor in his hands – the Lord of the Church (Rev 1:12-18). In the next part of the vision he saw him before the throne of heaven, as the Lamb of God, the Saviour of the world (Rev 5:5-10).  In the latter part of Revelation he saw him as the returning conquering king (Rev 19:11-16).

So when Joseph gets this message from the angel in a dream, we have all this wrapped up in a short description. The wonder of the New Testament is that being opened up and revealed to us in much greater detail. Of all of the gems we might find in the Bible, this surely has to shine the brightest.

30. The Lamb in Context

Short Meditations in John 1:  30.  The Lamb in Context

Jn 1:30    This is the one I meant when I said, `A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’

It is difficult to believe that John understands what he is now saying because it is such an amazing revelation – but he is a prophet!  He has just declared Jesus to be the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and now he explains how that is possible – because of who Jesus actually is.

When Joseph had seen an angel in a dream he was told about Mary and Jesus, She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21) At the Last Supper Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Mt 26:28) On the road to Emmaus, Jesus taught the two disciples, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” (Lk 24:46,47) Forgiveness of sins is the primary cause that Jesus came and died.

Now back in verse 15, John the writer had testified about John the Baptist, “John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” And we said then John the Baptist, the prophet seeing in the new kingdom, had the revelation beforehand, that this cousin of his was in fact one who had existed in heaven before coming to earth.

Many of us don’t see how crucial it is that these two things go together – Jesus coming to forgive sins and Jesus being the Son of God who had existed from the beginning in heaven.  As we have commented before, only God Himself is ‘big enough’ to be able to pay the penalty for the sins of every single person. An ordinary human being can step in the place of another, to take their punishment (as Dickens shows in the Tale of Two Cities) but that could every only be on a one-for-one basis. To cover ever single sin in every single person, it has to be an eternal being, God Himself. No one less could do it – and He has done it in the form of His Son, Jesus, who died con the Cross.

Thus again John is hinting that Jesus is not on the same level as John because he is the Son of God and so, so much greater and this, we see, is why he could die for our sins.

43. Twofold Command

Meditations in 1 John : 43 : The Twofold Command

1 John  3:23   And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us.

Remember our comments about context: they are here again. In the previous verses John wrote, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him.” (v.21,22). Thus now he writes, “And this is his command” just in case any reader or listener might ask, so what commands is he talking about? Well the answer to that is really for us now, all the commands of the New Testament but for them then, before the New Testament had come into being, John gives us this shorthand answer, and it is in two parts.

The first part is “to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ.”  This is THE fundamental heart of Christianity and without it, it is impossible to become and be a Christian. It’s all about Jesus. It is about believing that he came as a little baby, that he grew up as a human being, and yet was God! He showed this by the life he lived and his three year ministry, mostly in the area ofGalilee, but his teaching, by his claims, by his miracles and by his healings.

On the day of Pentecost the apostle Peter preached, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him.” (Acts 2:22) and then, “God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:36)  Jesus summed up his own ministry: “The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor,” (Mt 11:5) and later said, “Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, `I am God’s Son’? Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” (Jn 10:36-38) The works of Jesus’ ministry declared to all who had eyes to see, that he was God’s Son.

But then he was arrested, falsely tried and was crucified and died – and then three days later was alive again. That was the crucial message that came again and again in the early preaching in Acts: “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.” (Acts 2:23,24) and “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact.” (Acts 2:32) and then later, “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (Acts 3:15) and then to the Gentiles, “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.” (Acts 10:39,40) These are the foundational facts about what happened to Jesus.

But then there is the meaning behind them: “you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Mt 1:21) and “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! (Jn 1:29) and “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Acts 2:28)  and “God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel.” (Acts 5:31) and “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:43) and “I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you.” (Acts 13:38) and “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins.” (Eph 1:7) and “he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Col 1:13,14).

The fact that we have been forgiven our sins because of the work of Jesus on the Cross, now means that we can be reconciled to God, restored to a relationship with 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! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” (Rom 5:10,11) and “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Cor 5:18-21). There it all is: we are reconciled to God because our sins have been forgiven because Christ who had no sin, took all our sin on himself on the Cross.

This is what John means when he says, “And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ”.  It is all there in the New Testament, and this is the Gospel we are called upon to believe. Amen?

5. Redemption

Ephesians Meditations No.5

5. Redemption

Eph 1:7,8 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.

The trouble with Scripture is that it sometimes uses words with which we are not familiar today. Add to this the problem that many Christians would prefer to make no effort in studying the Bible and we have a situation where the wonderful truths of God remain a foreign language to many. For example the word ‘redemption’ or its associated word, ‘redeem’ are not words that are commonly used today. It is most known for its use in connection with a pawnbroker, where someone would take a possession to the pawnbroker and he would loan them a sum of money on the basis of it, while he held it. Within some specified time they would return to the pawnbroker and pay the money back together with a fee. That act of paying the money back to recover the article is referred to as ‘redeeming’ the article and the money paid is the ‘redemption money’.

Now when we apply this concept to sin and salvation we see something amazing. When God created the word, there was no division between Him and the man and woman He made. However when they turned away from Him (Gen 3) there became a division between them and Him caused by sin. In fact, as the New Testament writers show us, we left God’s kingdom and entered a dominion of darkness (Col 1:13), and this is ruled over by Satan (1 Jn 5:19). While we give ourselves over to sin and reject God, we are, in reality, in the hands of the ‘pawnbroker’ who doesn’t own us but has possession of us. While we choose the life of sin and reject God, we remain in His hands. In fact the Bible reveals that God uses Satan to discipline and even judge mankind. Justice demands that we be punished for our sins. Justice demands that someone pay for our sins, and while we reject God, we alone have to take the punishment.

But then one day someone entered the ‘pawnbroker’s shop’ and said, “I’ve paid the price for them.” Imagine the scene. So the pawnbroker (Satan) says to Jesus, “But they deserve punishment and the law demands that I have them to bring that on them.” But the redeemer (Jesus) replies, “But I have paid the price. I took the punishment due to them. Every sin has been paid for. Every punishment owing has paid for.” So the pawnbroker says, “So who does this apply to?” to which the redeemer replies, “Whoever believes me and asks for it.”

That is what redemption is all about. Jesus has redeemed us out of the power of Sin, out of the hands of Satan. Jesus has done it all. All we can do is believe it, ask for it, and receive it.

If you are still uncertain, look again at Paul’s words, In him we have redemption through his blood.” It is “in him”, in Jesus, our salvation (redemption) is found, and it is because he shed his blood and died on the Cross in our place, that we can have it. And the result of it is that we have, “the forgiveness of sins” because Jesus has paid for them by his death.

Paul describes what has happened, saying that it is “in accordance with the riches of God’s grace”. It is all because of God’s wonderful provision for us. That is what grace is; it is God’s wonderful provision for us. In this specific instance it describes all that God has done to bring about our redemption. The fact that it is grace means that it entirely free and not something earned by us or deserved by us. It is completely a free gift of God. In our earlier years, before we heard the Gospel, we had no idea that before the foundation of the world God had planned this, and we had no idea that two thousand years ago the trinity executed this plan and Jesus had died in our place. No, it was all done before we even heard about it. Our actions did nothing to add to it. All we could do is believe it, ask for it and receive it.

See the strength of the language that Paul uses: “that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.” Lavished means poured out without restraint, poured out in abundance. God didn’t hold back. The work of Jesus on the Cross was complete and achieved EVERYTHING that was necessary to redeem us. There is nothing left outstanding of the debt we owed justice because of our sins and our allegiance to Satan. No, everything has been dealt with. It came with God’s wisdom and God knows everything and how everything should work and does work. Wisdom is about knowing ‘how to’ and God knew exactly how to satisfy justice and take the sting out of Satan’s accusations. God understood everything there is to know about our plight and about justice and about how we could be redeemed. You cannot fault this plan; it is perfect. It totally and utterly deals with our sin and our plight so that when we cry, “I believe, please save me,” Satan has no grounds to hold on to us, and God releases His own Holy Spirit to us and we start to receive all the goodness that He has in store for us that He wants us to receive. How wonderful, how marvellous is my Saviour’s love for me!