The Words of Salvation

A lady once asked me why there were so many words used in talking about salvation.  I told her that salvation was like a diamond, with many facets.  The different words used about salvation simply describe one of these various facets.

The following is adapted from a tract I’ve had for a long time.  It briefly describes several, though not all, of these words.  It was written by a man named C. D. Cole (1885-1968), a well known pastor and writer of an earlier generation.  I’ve done some editing, as indicated by [ ].

Sin has wrought awful havoc with the human race.  It has ruined every man and every part of man.  The consequences of sin are manifold, and there is an aspect of salvation for every aspect of sin.  If the sinner be viewed as in a state of [spiritual] death, then regeneration is the Bible word to  denote the impartation of [spiritual] life.  If the sinner is considered as a child of the devil, then adoption is the term which expressed the judicial act of God.  If we think of the sinner from the standpoint of his body, being mortal and having in it the germs of death by which it will be turned into a dustheap, then  glorification is that aspect of salvation in which the body will be fashioned like unto the glorious body of Christ.  If the lost person be regarded as in a state of depravity or moral defilement, sanctification is the work making him holy and pure before God.

If we think of the sinner as in a state of spiritual darkness unable to understand the gospel, then [illumination] is the Bible term describing the act of God giving light [to the soul] by which the sinner can see or understand that Christ crucified is the wisdom and power of God in the plan of salvation.  [If we think of the sinner as in a state of rebellion and defiance, then calling is the act of God by which the Holy Spirit effectually draws that sinner from the power and influence of Satan into the kingdom and authority of God’s Son.]  If the sinner be thought of as in a position of condemnation – cursed by God’s law he has violated – then justification speaks of his perfect standing before the throne of God.  [It is the other side of sanctification.  The Bible says believers are God’s handiwork, Ephesians 2:10.  Sanctification is simply the Holy Spirit making sure we look like it.]  If salvation be approached from the standpoint of the eternal purpose of God, according to which He graciously saves sinners, then election and predestination are the Bible terms which denote the choice and destiny of God’s people.

Advertisements

The Daughters of Zelophehad: Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah and Tirzah.

“Who?  What?  What in the world!?”

“Who is Zepho- Zelod- whatever it is?”

I wonder how many of you have heard of these six people before?  They actually are important in Old Testament history, or at least the daughters are – and have importance even in the New Testament, as we’ll see shortly.

I decided Friday afternoon, instead of sitting down and watching Netflix for a while before I went to work, that I would read some more in the Bible.  Always so much better than Dr. Phil or Katie, or even what we actually prefer to watch on Netflix.  My reading was in Numbers, so I started where I had left off that morning with ch. 26, but I only got as far as 27:33:  Now Zelophehad the son of Hepher had no sons, but daughters; and the names of the daughters are Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 

This is part of the second census taken in Israel, a census designed to ensure that those who had rebelled 38 years earlier and refused to enter the land, even after favorable reports from Joshua and Caleb, had all died as a judgment on their rebellion, Numbers 26:63-65.  Their rebellion had caused the rest of Israel to wander in the desert for an extra 38 years.  The girls are mentioned in three other places in the  OT:  Numbers 27:1; 36:11 and Joshua 17:3, always together and always in the same order.  Zelophehad is mentioned one additional time, in 1 Chronicles 7:15, as having no sons, but only daughters.  They aren’t named there.

A second reason for this census is that it forms the basis for the future division of the land.  This was to be done according to the size of each tribe as determined by this census, Numbers 26:52-56.

I’d noticed before that all the girls’ names ended in -ah, and had wondered if it was some form of JAH, the name of God.  This is often the case.  I decided to find out.   I was disappointed.  It wasn’t.

As I looked at the meanings of the girls’ names, I wondered what story there might be behind them.  Names often carry significant meaning in the OT.

I had to wonder, though.  Mahlah means “sickness”.  Who names their daughter, “Sickness”?  Noah means “movement.”  This, by the way, isn’t the same name as the Noah who built the Ark to escape the Flood.  Even though it seems that way in our translations, the Hebrew words, though very similar, are different.  The Noah of Genesis 6, his name means “rest.”  Hoglah is thought to mean “a partridge.”  It’s uncertain.  Milcah means “Queen” or “Counsel.”  And, finally, Tirzah means “delight” or “delightful.”

So, nothing about God.  And I have no idea, if it were even possible, how to weave any kind of “story” from these very different names.

However, it isn’t the names or their meanings that make these young women important.

We’ve mentioned that this second census was in part about the division of the Land of Promise, or the inheritance, the heritage, of each family as it would be passed from generation to generation.  Each of the three other appearances of these girls has something to do with “inheritance.”

In Numbers 27:1-11, the daughters come to Moses and the leaders Israel and tell them that their father, Zelophehad, had not died with those who died in Korah’s rebellion, Numbers 16, but had simply died naturally, leaving no sons behind.  Why, therefore, they ask, should his name disappear from Israel?

This question resulted in the LORD commanding that the inheritance of one who died without sons should pass, first of all, to daughters.  If no daughters, then the LORD commanded other arrangements to be followed.

In Numbers 36, another problem arises with their inheritance.  The leaders of the families of the children of Gilead, one of the daughters’ ancestors, came to Moses and the leaders of Israel and mentioned that if the daughters married outside their tribe (Manasseh), then the inheritance would move from Manasseh to whatever tribe they married into.  The heritage of Manasseh would be diminished.

This wasn’t just a matter of greed.  Inheritance and heritage were considered almost sacred in Israel.  After all, the original land division had been made by lot.  This doesn’t mean that they simply “rolled the dice,” but rather that the boundaries of each part of the land had been determined by the Lord.  Solomon later put it like this, The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD, Proverbs 16:33.  This doesn’t give us license to decide things that way – the flip of a coin, etc.  It’s just how the LORD told them to do it.  He hasn’t said that to us.

As one example of the importance Israelites attached to their heritage, consider the following.  Several centuries later, after the division of the kingdom into Israel and Judah, a man named Naboth owned a vineyard in Samaria, a vineyard which was located next to the palace of Ahab, a wicked king of Israel, 1 Kings 21.  Ahab wanted this vineyard so he could plant a vegetable garden.  He offered to buy this plot of land or trade Naboth for a better one.  Hear Naboth’s response:  “The LORD forbid that I should give the inheritance of my fathers to you!” 1 Kings 21:3.

The leaders’ concern was legitimate.

The daughters last appear in Joshua 17:3-5, where they claim that which was given to them by the LORD.

There is something else in this portion.  Apparently the daughters were the only ones among some of the tribes who “got it right.”  As Israel was preparing to enter the Promised Land, they had to face opposition even before they got there.  On the east side of Jordan were two kingdoms which came out against them in war:  Sihon, king of Heshbon and Og, king of Bashan.  The LORD enabled Israel to be victorious, carefully note Deuteronomy 2:26-3:11.

The land of these two kingdoms was excellent grazing land.  Some tribal leaders came to Moses and requested this land because they had a lot of livestock.  After some discussion, Moses agreed.  So the tribes of Reuben, Gad and “the half-tribe of Manasseh” received their allotment of land on the east side of the Jordan, though the Promised Land lay west of the river.  This division caused trouble in the not-too-distant future, to say nothing of later on.  See Joshua 22.

“The half-tribe of Manasseh”???

Yes.  We read in Joshua 17:5-6 that ten shares fell to Manasseh, besides the land of Gilead and Bashan, which were on the other side of the Jordan, BECAUSE the daughters of Manasseh received an inheritance among his sons, and the rest of Manasseh’s sons had the land of Gilead (emphasis added).  Apparently, for the purpose of the division of the land, the daughters were considered the children of Manasseh.  They were of that tribe.

So, except for the concern of these daughters for their father, Manasseh would have had no land in the Promised Land itself.  This, however, isn’t their only, or even perhaps the more important, contribution to the nation of Israel.

From this point, the daughters disappear from Scripture.  Their influence, however, lives on.

How so?

As we come to the NT, we see something curious.  There are two genealogies given for the Lord Jesus, one in Matthew and one in Luke.  Critics and skeptics have noted the differences between them and exclaimed, “Aha!  You see!  There are contradictions in the Bible!”  These, of course, aren’t the only places they claim that.  The skeptics never stop to consider that there might be a reason or an explanation, especially in the genealogies, for “the differences.”

 What is the reason?

After the summary statement that Jesus was the son [descendant] of David and of Abraham, Matthew follows Abraham’s line through Isaac, Jacob and Joseph down through David and the sons who followed him as kings of Israel and then sons who went into captivity, ending with Jacob, who  begot Joseph the husband of Mary. We’ve dealt with Mary and the birth of our Lord in an earlier post on Matthew’s genealogy.

As we read through the genealogy this time, though, we run into a problem,  We go through all the “begots,” which simply means that A was the father of B, until we get to verse 11, which reads Josiah begot Jeconiah and his brothers about the time they were carried away to Babylon.

Jeconiah.

Also known as Coniah and Jehoiachin, he was not one of the good kings of Judah.  In fact, he did evil in the sight of the LORD, according to all his father had done, 2 Kings 24:9.  You can read about his father and the great sin he committed in Jeremiah 36.  Coniah reigned just three months before Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah and took him prisoner.

Jeremiah gives us more about him, as well as the problem he brings with him to the genealogy in Matthew.  In Jeremiah 22:24, God says, “As I live,” says the LORD, “though Coniah the son of Jehoaikim, king of Judah, were the signet on My right hand, yet would I pluck you off; and I will give you into the hand…of Nebuchadnezzar.”  In v. 30, Jeremiah wrote, Thus says the LORD, “Write this man down as childless, a man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, sitting on the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.” 

Here is another verse skeptics misread.  They look at the word “childless” and point to 1 Chronicles 3:17 and even Matthew 1:12, where Coniah does indeed have sons and shake their heads:  “Contradictions, contradictions.”  If they would actually read the text, they would discover that it refers to the throne of David.  Coniah would be “childless” as far as any of his descendants ever sitting on that throne.

None of Coniah’s descendants ever sat on David’s throne.  None of them ever can.  When Nebuchadnezzar deposed Coniah, he put Mattaniah, Coniah’s uncle, on the throne and changed his name to Zedekiah, 2 Kings 24:17.  Coniah went into captivity.  Zedekiah was the last king to sit on David’s throne.  No one has sat there since.

So?

Joseph is a descendant of David through Coniah.

If Joseph’s were the only genealogy we have of Jesus, then Jesus would be prevented from ever sitting on the throne of David because of the curse on Coniah.

Luke, however, gives us a second genealogy, Luke 3, in which he runs David’s line through another of David’s sons:  Nathan, v. 31.  Matthew ran it through Solomon.  Though she’s never mentioned, Luke’s has to be Mary’s genealogy.  Because of the daughters of Zelophedad, Jesus inherits the throne of David through Mary, not through Joseph.  The promise that Gabriel gave to Mary in this regard is interesting.  Telling her that she would bear a Son, he continued, He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever,…,”  Luke 1:32, 33a.  He didn’t say a word about the throne to Joseph.

So, you see.  Do right, and you never know how the Lord will use it.  These five daughters were only concerned about their father.  They had no idea at all that, generations later, this concern would directly affect the Messiah.

He Maketh No Mistake

My Father’s way may twist and turn,
My heart may throb and ache,
But in my soul I’m glad I know,
He maketh no mistake.

My cherished plans may go astray,
My hopes may fade away,
But still I’ll trust my Lord to lead
For He doth know the way.

Tho’ night be dark and it may seem
That day will never break;
I’ll pin my faith, my all in Him,
He maketh no mistake.

There’s so much now I cannot see,
My eyesight’s far too dim;
But come what may, I’ll simply trust
And leave it all to Him.

For by and by the mist will lift
And plain it all He’ll make,
Through all the way, tho’ dark to me,
He made not one mistake.

–A. M. Overton

I’m doing some research for another post and decided to look in my Grandmother’s Teacher’s Edition Smith’s Bible Dictionary (copyright 1884!)  How many books in other fields that old are still relevant!?

As I opened the book, it fell open at a whole bunch of clippings and notes in my Grandmother’s writing.  There was a picture of a friend of hers, whom I remember from long ago, celebrating her 91st birthday.  On the back of this clipping is part of an article titled “Servicemen Reminded of Social Security Law Amendments.”  There’s not enough of the article to know what it’s about, but I guess some things even in this world never change.  (Though, of course, they do.)

There’s a verse in the Old Testament that I can’t remember the reference and can’t find it in my Strong’s Concordance.  Probably I don’t remember it quite right.  It goes something like this:  God is talking to Israel about their future and tells them that there’s coming a time when they will understand that there was a cause [reason] for everything He did to and with them.  They will understand that “He made no mistake.”

May these verses bless you in reading as they blessed me in typing.

Nicodemus

Jesus answered and said to [Nicodemus], “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old?  Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”  Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.  Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘you must be born again.’  The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes.  So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?” John 3:3-9 (NKJV).

That question is as applicable now as it was for Nicodemus.

To answer it completely might take a book.  A rather long post will have to do.

To start with, have you ever wondered why it was Nicodemus and not the woman at the well in the next chapter, for instance, to whom Jesus gave this message?  There is no Gospel account of Jesus telling this to anyone else.  Furthermore, even though the NT is filled with allusions that can only be about the new birth, no preachers in the Book of Acts mentioned it.  If our Lord and the early church has followed some of our modern “evangelistic” methods, they would have mentioned it every time.

So.

Why Nicodemus, and no one else?

Consider the man.

Who was Nicodemus?  In the first place, he was a Jew, and so already shared with other Jews identity as the people of God, with the advantages that brought to them, Romans 3:1, 2 and 9:4, 5.  Further, among the Jews, he was a leader: a Pharisee and and a teacher, John 3:1, 10, and even a ruler of the Jews, 3:1.  To us, the word “Pharisee” has a bad connotation, but in their day, the Pharisees were looked on as examples of holiness and zeal.  No doubt, there were some, perhaps many, like the proud Pharisee in the parable of the Pharisee and publican in Luke 18:9-14, who were thankful that they were not like others, but I would rather believe he was a good man, one of those the Bible depicts as righteous before the Lord, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless, as the NT describes the parents of John the Baptist, Luke 1:6.  Still, even in our view, it was a “good” man to whom the Lord gave this message, and not some notorious sinner.

Even as a Jew, leaving aside all his accomplishments and his position, he would have believed that righteousness was something to be obtained by his keeping the Law.  His whole heritage would be centered around obedience to the divine commands.   Everything he desired and expected to receive was based on this obedience.  It was up to him.  True, he lived under a covenant – the Mosaic Covenant – in which obedience was required and disobedience was severely punished.  The whole history of his people was graphic evidence of this.  He lived in a society where almost the entire focus was on the individual and what he did.  Because of this, the Lord’s message astonished and confused him.

There is still a lot of confusion about it.

Consider the message. 

There are many things that could be said about this, but we’ll limit it to two.

1. Nicodemus needed something he didn’t have.

We’ve already seen many things that Nicodemus had:  he was a member of God’s OT covenant community, in which he was a leader and teacher, knowledgeable in the Scriptures, a man of importance, influence and, no doubt, wealth.  Yet he was without the one necessary thing.  What was it?  Think for a moment….

You’ve probably figured it out, but just in case, what is birth?  It is the beginning of life.  More accurately, and without getting into the abortion debate, about which there should be no debate, it is the evidence of life.  “Birth” does not happen without “life.”  “Birth” implies “life.”  A “dead birth” is a contradiction in terms.

What the Lord was telling Nicodemus was that he needed “life,” life begotten, not by human parents, but by the Spirit.

Have you ever heard preachers say, “If you miss salvation, you miss one of the great things in life?”  That’s not true.  Salvation isn’t just one of a number of “great things in life.”  It IS life!

2. Nicodemus needed something he couldn’t do.

Here is the important lesson and here is where the most misunderstanding and confusion are.  Nicodemus himself had it.  His first question was, “How can I do that?” or words to that effect.  The answer to the opening question of this post is found here:  “Why Nicodemus?”

No doubt, Nicodemus thought he was already headed for the kingdom.  He was already among the people of God and, we believe, like Simeon before him, he was waiting for the Consolation of Israel, Luke 2:25.  Among all the recorded encounters of our Lord, Nicodemus was one of the ones most likely to believe that his heritage, his position, his righteousness from the Law, what he did and who he was, was enough for him to “enter the kingdom.”  In this, he is probably representative of Pharisees in general.

Very likely, he was confident of his acceptance before God.  After all, he was a member of the family of Israel.  Our Lord said, “Nicodemus, that’s not enough.  You must be born into the family of God.”  Nicodemus was, and had done, this and this and this.  Yet the Lord in effect said, “Nicodemus, all that is not enough.  You need something you can’t do.  Even if you could return to your mother’s womb, it would do no good.  All the flesh can bring forth is ‘flesh’.  You need something the flesh cannot do.  You need to be born spiritually, to be born of the Spirit.”

Nicodemus was so astonished and confused about this because he had no idea of any such thing as a “new birth,” or that he needed it himself.

How many there are today, just like him, trusting in what they have or are or have done.  They are content with their religion or church.  They have walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, had a drop or two of water on their forehead when they were infants.  They’re not like so-and-so, they pay their bills, love their spouse, their children, their neighbors.  Their father or mother or grandmother was a Christian.  They have been baptized.  Confirmed.  Seen a vision.  Belong to the church.  They believe God will take care of it when they stand before Him on their way to that “better place.”

They have no idea at all that they have no idea at all.  They are secure in their belief that God will welcome them into heaven, but have no understanding that they are under His condemnation because their sins have never been dealt with and they have no righteousness that God will accept.  They are dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1, and need a life they can neither generate nor originate.

The Lord rebuked Nicodemus because he, especially, as a “teacher in Israel,” should have known Old Testament references to “a clean heart,” “circumcision of the heart,” “a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone,” in verses like Psalm 51:10; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 18:31 and 36:36.  He should have recognized that the blessings promised to the nation of Israel in the prophecies of the New Covenant go far beyond anything sinful human nature is capable of.  Yet he had overlooked or missed the meaning of these Scriptures.  His whole focus was on himself, or at least on “man.”  It’s up to him.  In most preaching today, the focus is still on “man:”  “God has done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”  Or another one:  “If it’s to be, then it’s up to me.”

Birth isn’t the only figure the Bible uses to describe salvation.  It is a new creation, 2 Corinthians 5:17; it is a “resurrection:” life from the dead, Romans 11:15; Ephesians 2:5-8.  These are not just figures of speech; they are realities we cannot overlook.

Birth.  How did you effect or contribute to your own birth?    You received life from your parents, not as an active participant, but passively, like a cup receives coffee or tea.  Resurrection.  What part will you play in your own eventual resurrection from the dead?  You will be dead.  In the same way, the lost person is dead in trespasses and sins.  Creation.  How did creation in Genesis 1 and 2 “cooperate” in its coming into existence?

These truths, taught to Nicodemus, are almost completely ignored in the “do-it-yourself,” self-help Christianity of today.  You must take the first step toward God before He can take a step toward you.  Even when “grace” is mentioned, it’s usually with the idea that salvation is a “cooperative” affair between God’s will and man’s will.

The problem with all this man-centered thinking is that it doesn’t have a Scriptural basis.  It takes more than just some sort of “wooing” by the Holy Spirit; it takes more than appealing to man’s desire to escape the consequences of his sin – “you don’t want to go to hell, do you?” – to get sinful men and women to drop the weapons of their rebellion against God and yield to Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior.

Man-centered evangelism fails to take into account that, even though they wouldn’t put it this way, and don’t understand that this is what they are choosing, most people would rather go to hell than submit to the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, Romans 10:3, 4.  They would rather be divorced from their spouse than their sin.  They think Christianity is simply some round of religious duties, joyless and thankless, or that their own religion, or lack of it, is quite good enough, thank you.  They think they would have to give up too much, that the devil is a better paymaster than the Lord Jesus.  Perhaps they are offended at the idea that they are not good enough for God, or that God can and does require more of them than they can do.  They scoff at the idea of blood sacrifice and sneer at the teaching of imputed righteousness.  Too many are like the lady who said in a conversation with me about some spiritual matter that if God didn’t like it, that was too bad.  Or like the lady who wrote to the editor of the now-defunct Rocky Mountain News in Denver that she would rather spend eternity in hell than with the God of the Bible.  Alas, she is likely to get her wish.

Boiled down to one sentence, the Lord was telling Nicodemus that he, Nicodemus, needed God to do something for him that he could not do himself.  Whatever Nicodemus was or had done or could do, was not enough.  It would never be, could never be, enough.  He needed to be “born again.”  He needed a second birth, a spiritual birth, something that was not and could never be the result of anything he could do.  He needed something that could not be done or initiated by “the flesh.”

Modern error has turned this exactly around.  Now it is commonly taught that God needs us to do something for Him that He cannot do Himself.  Take that first step.  Open your heart’s door.  Make your “decision.”

But, doesn’t the Scripture – even the later part of John 3 – tell us to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ to be saved?  Yes, it does.  There is no contradiction, as we have written about in “God’s Will, My Will, Whose Will?”  It isn’t necessary, as a brother preached, to say, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, but you can’t do that unless God enables you to do that.”  Or as another brother preached, “If you are elect, then you will be saved.”  He even inserted this in a proposed tract which was trying to get people to see the importance of being saved.  Both of those statements are doctrinally true, but the Scripture never approaches it that way.

It simply tells us that whoever believes in Him [the Lord Jesus] should not perish but have everlasting life, John 3:16.  Don’t mistake the word “should.”  It doesn’t speak of possibility, but of certainty:  “whoever believes in Him” will not “perish….”