Righteous

“And its twenty pillars and their twenty sockets shall be bronze.  The hooks of the pillars and their bands shall be silver,” Exodus 27:10.
“All the pillars around the court shall have bands of silver; their hooks shall be of silver and their sockets of bronze, Exodus 27:17.  (NKJV)

In our last post, we considered the linen fence that enclosed the tabernacle courtyard.  The items in these two verses were the things which held the fence together and kept it from falling over.

At the foot of all this were the foundations, the sockets of bronze.  Together these three items made a sturdy and cohesive unit.  Remember, the children of Israel weren’t just out for a Sunday stroll.  They were traveling through rugged wilderness, where there were probably fierce winds as part of the weather out in the middle of nowhere.  The tabernacle, though entirely portable, had to be able to withstand all that, as well as to stand firmly in one place when put together.

The bronze footings were the foundations for the fence.  Buried in the sand, they provided a firm basis for the posts.  Without this footing, the posts and the linen would have sagged miserably and probably fallen in a heap.

As we look at the symbolism of this foundation, the bronze reminds us of the justice of God.  We’re so used to hearing of the love of God or the grace of God that we forget that it is really His justice that is the basis for who He is.

The Scriptures are filled with reference to God’s justice, to His being just.  On Deuteronomy 32:4, Moses is filled with praise to the God of Israel,

“He is the Rock; His work is perfect;
For all His ways are justice,

A God of truth and without injustice;
Righteous and upright is He.”

In Job 32:23, after listening to Job’s three friends pretty well miss the boat as they try to diagnose the whys and wherefores of Job’s suffering, his younger friend Elihu bursts in.  Part of his defense of God is this,

“As for the Almighty, we cannot find Him;
He is excellent in power,

In judgment and abundant justice;
He does not oppress.”

Lest anyone say, “Well, that’s just the stern God of the Old Testament.  The God of the New Testament is a God of love,” Paul has an answer in Romans 3:23-26:

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God sent forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His  forebearance He had passed over the sins previously committed [that is, in the Old Testament], to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This is Paul’s answer:  God is just, as well as the One who declares those who believe in Jesus to be righteous themselves.  Not just innocent, as if they’d never done anything wrong, not just “not guilty,” as if there’s no or not enough evidence to establish guilt, but righteous, as if they’d always done everything right!  That, to my way of thinking, is something far greater.  And this not because of ourselves, but because of the Lord Jesus.

If the bronze represents God’s justice, then what do the silver rods represent?  (The silver was also used for footings for the tabernacle itself.)

This is easy.

The silver rods represent His grace.

In Exodus 30:11-16, God told Moses to count the children of Israel, and while he was doing that, each man of military age was to give a ransom for himself, a half-shekel, or about 30 cents,  roughly speaking.  It was called “ransom” money, though Moses gave no reason why he called it that, perhaps to remind Israel of their origins, namely, they had been a slave people in Egypt.  God had redeemed them for Himself at no cost to themselves.  I think it might also remind them that they were nothing “special;” God hadn’t chosen them because they were extraordinary.  Quite the contrary, as Moses tells them:

Deuteronomy 4:7, “The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples.”

In Deuteronomy 9:4-6, referring to the Canaanites who were in the land Israel was about to inhabit, Moses says,

“Do not think in your heart, after the LORD your God has cast them out before you, saying, ‘Because of my righteousness the LORD has brought me in to possess this land’; but it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out before you.  It is not because of your righteousness or of  the uprightness of your heart that you go in to possess their land, but because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you, and that He may fulfill the word which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  Therefore understand that the LORD your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.”

It wasn’t because of their greater numbers or their superior righteousness that God was giving them the land.  He mentions this latter three times in three verses.  When they left Egypt, they’d been only a handful of people, and their record during the wilderness journey was one of nothing but complaint and rebellion.  There was absolutely nothing in them for the reason God chose them.  In fact, there was plenty of reason for Him to reject them!  It was His own good pleasure to be gracious to them.

It is His own good pleasure for us, as well, Ephesians 1:3-14.

We’ve already mentioned that Moses used the word “ransom” in describing this offering, but he also calls it “atonement money” in v. 16.  This brings us back to Romans 3.  Paul explains that Jews are as guilty of sin as Gentiles in that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, v. 23.  God gave the law so that men might see their spiritual state, and their sin clearly, and not just the fuzzy generalizations the Gentiles might have had through their vague understandings of right and wrong, as in Romans 2:14-16.

So, the whole world, Jew and Gentile alike, is guilty in the sight of God, Romans 3:19.

How then can God be just, yet declare men to be righteous who in themselves are anything but that?  How can anyone escape the judgment due their sin?

Now it is true, there was a righteousness available through the Law, Deuteronomy 6:25.  In exhorting a new generation of Israelites to obey the commands God gave him on Sinai, Moses said, “Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”

Earlier, in Leviticus 18, God admonished Moses,

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: ‘I am the LORD your God. According to the doings of the land of Egypt, where you dwelt, you shall not do; and according to the doings of the land of Canaan, you shall not do; nor shall you walk in their ordinances.  You shall observe My judgments and keep My ordinances, to walk in them:  I am the LORD your God.  You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, which if a man does, he shall live by them:  I am the LORD,” vs. 1-5.

The rest of Leviticus 18 gives us an idea of “the doings of the land of Canaan.”  Folks are always so worried about “the poor Canaanites,” but they were a terrible, wicked people.

The trouble is, Israel never kept God’s statues and judgments.  They weren’t really any better than the people they dispossessed.  They never attained any kind of righteousness on their own, except maybe that external and superficial righteousness of the Pharisees our Lord encountered and rejected, Matthew 5:20.  They never obeyed.

Neither do we.

Paul gives us the remedy:  God declares righteous the one who has faith in Jesus, Romans 3:28.

What does that mean?  Elsewhere, Paul explains.  In 2 Corinthians 5:21, he wrote, For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

In the cross, the Lord Jesus didn’t die just so we could have pretty jewelry to wear or as ornaments for our house.  He didn’t die by mistake, or as a martyr, or as an example.

He died because we couldn’t.

Our deaths could never pay for even one of our sins, let alone the many, many of which we are guilty.  Our sufferings, our church membership, our good works, our time in purgatory, if there were such a thing, could never provide even one stitch in that robe of righteousness God gives His people because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ.  Indeed, as Spurgeon once remarked, “If there is one stitch in the robe of righteousness we’re required to put in, then we are lost.”

The Jew can never be saved by “keeping the Law.”  Neither can the Gentile.  Nor, for that matter, can a church member.  Only in the Lord Jesus Christ and the ransom paid by His blood on the behalf of sinners is salvation to be had.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.”

 

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“The Kindness of God.” Part 6: “…having obtained eternal redemption.”

In our last post, we began to look at the special responsibilities the Lord Jesus undertook on behalf of believers, or the elect.  We noted that He was their Representative and as such became their Substitute.  As their Substitute, satisfying all the requirements of God’s Law and justice by living a sinless life, and dying on a Roman cross, He also became their Redeemer.  We stopped last week after seeing that He satisfied the requirements for redemption

In this post, we want to look at the second aspect of His becoming Redeemer.

b.  He secured the reality of redemption.

I use the word “reality” deliberately.  Most Christians believe that He only secured the “possibility” of redemption, and that it’s up to us to make it “real”. It’s usually taught that Jesus only died to make men “salvable,” that is, able to be saved, but His death doesn’t actually “save” anyone until and unless they “accept” Him.  While we in no way deny man’s obligation to “repent and believe the Gospel,” the Scriptures teach that Jesus did far more on the Cross than the vague generalizations most people have of His death.

1).  Hebrews 1:3 says, …when he had by Himself purged our sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high….  Hebrews 10:12 repeats this:  …this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sin forever, sat down at the right hand of God….

“Purge” means “to cleanse.”  He sat down to demonstrate that redemption had been accomplished, not just “attempted.”  This is significant.  No Old Testament priest could ever sit down because his work was never done.

For years I heard it said, and believed it myself, that there was no seat in the tabernacle.  This isn’t strictly true.  What did the High Priest do when he went that one day a year into the Holy of Holies?  He sprinkled blood on the Mercy Seat.  He would never have dared to sit on that seat because he had no right to it.  His work wasn’t done.  However, the Lord completed the work of redemption. Nothing could be added to it, and nothing needed to be added to it.  I won’t be dogmatic about it, but I believe that when He sat down in Heaven, in the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man, Hebrews 8:2, He sat down on the Mercy Set.  Not only was there blood on the Mercy Seat, but the One whose blood it was is there, as well.  Sin has been cleansed, and the One who did it sits on the Mercy Seat as proof.

2).  Hebrews 9:12, not with blood of bulls and goats, but with His own blood, He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption.

Hebrews says that He obtained eternal redemption, He didn’t just make it “possible” for us to obtain.  Throughout the book, the writer demonstrates the superiority of the Lord Jesus in the areas of revelation and redemption over several OT persons or ceremonies, in that He fulfilled or finished the things which they themselves did or typified.

The Law had a shadow of good things to come, but the Lord Jesus came as the High Priest of those things, Hebrews 9:11.  The OT sacrifices could never take away sin, Hebrews 10:11: He has…put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26.  Because He died, sin has been paid for and “put away.”  The word translated “put away” means “to set aside,” “to annul,” “to reject.”  By His death, the Lord Jesus “set aside,” “rendered null and void,” “rejected” the sins of those for whom He died.  By “rejected” is meant that He got rid of them.  And in the words of Hebrews 1:3, He did this “by Himself.”  His payment for sin doesn’t require the “acceptance” of those for whom He died in order for it to be “effective.”  He…put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 

3). Romans 8:28-30, And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He did foreknow, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His son,…Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, them He also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30 has been called, “The Golden Chain of Redemption.”  There used to be a TV show called, “The Weakest Link.”  There are no “weak links” in this chain.  It was planned in eternity past in the wisdom and purpose of God the Father; it was forged in the fires of Calvary by the grace and suffering of God the Son; it stretches from eternity past to eternity future , if we can refer to eternity like that, through the activity and power of God the Holy Spirit.  We’ve already looked at those who think that all this was simply the result of what God “foresaw” that we would do.  In contrast, the Bible talks about what God will do.

4). Romans 8:33, Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?  It is God who justifies.

The words, “it is,” have been supplies by the translators.  I believe the verse could be framed as a question:  who shall bring a charge against God’s elect?  God who justifies [them]?  This verse ties together God’s election of some to be saved, as we saw in the last post, and Christ’s redemption of them in accordance with God’s will.  According to Paul, in His purpose, God has already “justified” His elect, Romans 8:30, but what does “justified” mean?  Basically, it means “to declare righteous.”  Sometimes a play on the word is used to say that it means, “just as if I’d never sinned.”  This is true as far as it goes, but there is so much more to it than that.  What it really means is, “just as if I’d always obeyed,” which to my mind is something far greater!  Since God has already, in His purpose, cleared us of wrong-doing, and credits us only with “right-doing,” who is successfully going to charge us with anything?  God has already accepted us as His righteous children in Christ.  Who is going to be able to nullify or question that decision?

5). Romans 8:34, Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us.

Again, translators have supplied words.  We could read the verse, Who is he who condemns?  Christ who died…?  In John 5:22, 27, Jesus said, “the Father judges no man, but has committed all judgment to the Son, …and has given Him authority to execute judgment also….”

Paul’s question is, “Will Jesus condemn ones for whom He died?”  Most modern Christians would say, “Yes, because they didn’t accept Him as their Savior.”  We’ll have more to say about the importance of faith in a later post.  For now, let’s just say that such an answer would have been the farthest thing from Paul’s mind.  Christ didn’t just “die.”  Listen as Paul piles evidence upon evidence that those for whom Christ died cannot and will not be condemned:  Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us (emphases added).  Paul says four things about what Christ did and is doing for sinners.

a).  He died.  He did indeed die, but His death wasn’t random, or an accident or mistake, as some blasphemously assert.  It was a sacrifice, given as a ransom for many, Mark 10:35.  The idea of “ransom” implies a particular, personal transaction.  A “general ransom” is a contradiction in terms.

b).  He rose again.  Jesus was delivered up because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification, Romans 4:25.

Jesus made certain claims while He was alive, most of which were rejected or ignored.   The Resurrection was God’s “Amen” to His Son.  It was also, if you will, the receipt for the payment Christ made on the Cross.  If He had not risen from the dead, we would have no way of knowing if His death did any good.  The Resurrection is our assurance that it did.

c.)  He was exalted.  Him God has exalted to His right hand to be a Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins, Acts 5:31.

Leaving aside the implications of the phrase, “to Israel,” note that the exaltation of Christ declared Him to be the Savior, Who gives repentance…and forgiveness of sins.  His death not only purchased the salvation of all for whom He died, but also the means of that salvation, namely, repentance and faith.

d).  He intercedes for us.

The only time in His earthly life that Jesus said, “I will,” to the Father was in regard to this very thing.  In John 17:24, He said, Father, I will that they, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am…[KJV].  It’s true that the NKJV and the ESV translate it, “I desire,” but it doesn’t matter.  Will the Father not give the Son the one thing He ever said He wanted?

Jesus finished His request by saying, “for you loved Me before the foundation of the world.”  The Father loved us “before the foundation of the world,” as well, gave us to His Son and sent Him to be our Redeemer and Savior.  That’s what He came to do, and that’s what He did.

Furthermore, in this very prayer, our Lord said, “I pray for them.  I do not pray for the world, but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours,” John 17:9.  It’s strange that He would die for “the world,” as some insist, but He wouldn’t pray for it.  If it be argued that He was praying for His disciples, vs. 6-8, that’s true, but in v. 20, He said, “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word.”   In v. 21, He clearly distinguishes between those for whom He is praying, and “the world.”

Someone might object, “Now, wait!  What about those verses which speak of Christ’s death for the world?”  Lord willing, we’ll look at them next time, and then finish up with a look at Christ and the individual.

Further references:  Matthew 1:21;  John 10:10, 11, 15-16: Acts 20:28; Romans 4:7, 8; 8:31-32; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Ephesians 1:3-14; 2:19, 20; 5:2, 25-27; Philippians 1:6, 29; Titus 1:2, 2:13, 14; Hebrews 2:17; 9:15; 10:10; 13:12.

Questions

1.  What is the first aspect of Christ as Redeemer?

2.  What is the second aspect of Christ as Redeemer?

3.  What is the significance of the phrase, “He sat down”?

4.  What kind of redemption did Jesus obtain by His death?

5.  What did Jesus do with sin?

6.  Does His death require the agreement of those for whom He died to be effective?

7.  What does “justification” mean?

8.  Can those for whom Christ died ultimately be condemned for their sin?

9.  What four things did Jesus do, or is He doing, for sinners?

10. Write out one of the verses in “further references.”  What does it say about the death of the Lord Jesus?

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.