Revelation 8:1-6, The Sound of Silence.

1] When he opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour.  2]  And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets.  3] Then another angel, having a golden censer, came and stood at the altar.  He was given much incense, that he should offer it with the prayers of all the saints upon the golden altar which is before the throne.  4] And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, ascended before God from the angel’s hand.  5] The the angel took the censer, filled it with fire from the altar, and threw it to the earth.  And there were noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

6] So the seven angels who had the seven trumpets prepared themselves to sound.  (NKJV)

This title has nothing to do with the song originally put out by Simon and Garfunkel in the 60’s, which I remember, and later versions, which I do not know or remember.  I’d forgotten about the song when I decided on the title for the post.

So, why this title?

How can “silence” have “sound”?  Isn’t silence the absence of sound?

Let me tell you a story.  I had a friend in Bible College whose family I would visit every so often.  One time in particular I remember.  The room they put me up in had the air conditioner in the window.  It gets hot in Tennessee.  Anyway, this one time it was running, very noisily.  As morning drew near, someone turned it off.  That was what woke me up, that sudden, deafening, silence.

As we come to our text in Revelation, remember the scene John has set:  chorus after chorus, anthem after anthem, shout after shout, of praise, adoration and worship continually being voiced by the multitudes gathered around the throne.  Then, suddenly,

there was silence in heaven….

Perhaps for the first time ever.

The sound of silence….

No “background music” to set the scene.

Just utter, complete silence.

Then…

Seven angels are given trumpets.

Another angel holding a golden censer approaches the golden altar in front of the throne.  He’s given “much incense” to offer “with the prayers of all the saints” on the altar.    Then he takes the censer, fills it with fire from the altar and hurls it to the earth, which results in noises, thunderings, lightnings, and an earthquake.

The seven angels prepare to sound their trumpets.

We don’t often think of heaven as having an altar or censers, but Hebrews tells us that the OT tabernacle was modeled on things in heaven, Hebrews 9:24.

It’s interesting that the prayers of the saints are mentioned twice.  And by “prayers,” I don’t think John meant those repetitive, formal prayers recited during church services or repeated during quiet times.  To be sure, they can be heart-felt and fervent, but I’m afraid that too often our mouths are saying one thing and our mind is thinking of something else.

When the Lord wanted to convince Ananias that it was safe to go find Saul of Tarsus, He said, [B]ehold, he is praying,”  Acts 9:11.  Now, Saul had been a zealous Pharisee before his conversion and, no doubt, like that Pharisee mentioned in Luke 18:11, had often “stood and prayed…with himself,” telling God what a great guy he, Saul, was.

What was the difference?  Before, he had simply “said” prayers.  Now, he was “praying.”  He wasn’t just going through the motions; he had literally been stopped in his tracks.

“The prayers of the saints.”  Those prayers themselves are described as “incense” in Revelation 5:8.

Without getting into the typology of the Tabernacle and offerings, the incense offered with the prayers of the saints refers to the merit of the Lord Jesus.  It is He who makes them presentable to a holy, righteous and just God.  That’s why, in Colossians 3:17, we’re told, Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

John brings up a subject we don’t really think about, don’t even like to think about, apparently.  Paul mentioned it in Romans 11:22:  consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness.  Otherwise you also will be cut off.

Our society and culture is all over the idea of “the goodness of God.”  “God is love” is apparently all the theology many people have.  And we are thankful that “God is love,” else we’d all be in trouble.

There is more to God than “love.”  That same book that mentioned the love of God also said of God, This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all, 1 John 1:5.  “This is the message” – not that “God is love,” but that “God is light,” that is, that He is holy, righteous and just.  That is the God with whom we have to do, not this sentimental, grandfatherly type that we seem to have today that chuckles over the foibles and folly of His children.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, we ARE NOT His children, in spite of what is commonly believed today.  We are His subjects, He is our God and King, against whom we are traitorous rebels who are doing everything we can to dethrone Him.  We are the subjects of His wrath.  There is coming a time when that will be plain to all, when the inhabitants of the earth will have to acknowledge that wrath, Revelation 6:17.

The truth is, apart from the Lord Jesus there is nothing but wrath and condemnation for the unbeliever:  He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. … He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him, John 3:18, 36, emphases added.

That’s true of nations, as well.  Psalm 9:17 says, The wicked shall be turned into hell, and all the nations that forget God.  History is littered with the ruins of nations that have come and gone.  This country will not be exempt.  I’m encouraged by recent events that perhaps God has given us a breather, so to speak, but still, there is abundant evidence that the voice of the enemy has not been silenced, only muted a little.  Indeed, those same events may stir the enemy up.

Heaven may seem to be silent for the time being.  Life goes on.  But there is coming a time, sooner or later, when it will speak loudly and clearly, and finally, to the inhabitants of this world.

We do not rejoice in the idea of judgment.  God Himself has no pleasure in judgment.  Ezekiel 33:11 says, “Say to them: ‘As I live,’ says the Lord God, ‘I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live.’  And Isaiah 28:21 calls judgment, His unusual work.

Indeed, God has gone to great lengths to make a way of escape from the judgment rightfully due us.

Seeing a mankind that would universally reject Him, He chose from among these rebels a vast number to be saved.  For those who object to such an idea, for Him to have chosen only one to be saved would be more than any of us deserve, let alone the countless multitudes that He has chosen.

Having chosen these otherwise condemned sinners to be saved, God sent His Son to take their place under His wrath.  The Lord Jesus suffered what we should suffer, who are by nature children of wrath, just as the others, Ephesians 2:3.  Because He suffered, there is no more wrath for us, those for whom He died, Romans 5:9.

But there was still something that needed to be done.  Because we were dead in trespasses and sins, Ephesians 2:1, because we once were alienated from the life of God, Ephesians 4:18, and were alienated and enemies of God, Colossians 1:21, God sent the Holy Spirit:  God has revealed them to us through his Spirit, 1 Corinthians 2:10.

Our Lord referred to this work of the Spirit in John 3 as the new birth, a birth not of flesh and blood, but of or by the Holy Spirit.  Without this birth, we are unable either to see or to enter into the things of God, John 3:3, 5.  Without His work, there is no understanding at all of spiritual truth.  Religion, yes, spiritual truth, no.

Oh, there is so much more we could say about this.  It’s enough for now to say that judgment is coming.

Only those who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ will be spared that judgment.

Have you believed on Him?

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“The Kindness of God.” Part 8: “…those who are called.”

IV. Called by Grace.

So far, we’ve looked at the role of the Father in planning salvation; we’ve looked at the Son and His securing of it.  In this post, we want to look at the role of the Holy Spirit in one aspect of our salvation, namely, our entering into it.

There are whole movements which focus entirely on the Spirit, but our Lord said that the Spirit’s work isn’t to emphasize the Spirit or to give believers something to be proud of because they have a particular gift.  It’s to emphasize and glorify the Lord Jesus, John 16:4, and it’s emphatic, “Me [the Lord Jesus], He shall glorify….”  

There are some who focus almost entirely on the work of the Father.  Every message must be about or at least include a reference to the sovereignty of God.  Even in the midst of appeals for people to believe on Christ, they will have to insert, “if you’re one of the elect, you will be saved.”  I’ve had this happen.  That may be doctrinally true, but no lost person in Scripture was ever told that.  Jesus didn’t tell Nicodemus that he had to be one of the elect.

Without doubt, the Father and the Spirit are important to our salvation.  Indeed, they are essential to it!  Without them, there would be no salvation!  However, the focus of our faith is to be on the Person and Work of the Lord Jesus:  Who He was and what He did.  The Philippian jailer was told to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

We’re told the same thing.

At the same time, we’ll never do that without the work of the Spirit.  There are more than 75 references to “calling” in Scripture.  Not all of these, of course, refer to the Spirit, but verses like John 6:44; 2 Timothy 1:9, 10; Titus 3:5, etc., are clear that “calling” is a work of the Spirit which infallibly brings an elect and redeemed sinner [the work of the Father and Son] to faith in Christ.

Another word used to describe the Spirit’s work is “efficacious.”  It is “effective,” that is, it gets the job done.

The word most commonly used is “irresistible,” because it fits the particular acronym which inadequately summarizes these doctrines,  This word is usually rejected as being something coercive:  God saving people against their will.  However, even in daily life, there are many instances of people being saved against their will.  People who are drowning sometimes struggle against their rescuers and have to be subdued before they can be rescued.  People trying to commit suicide are sometimes prevented from doing this, and some of them might never “forgive” their rescuers.  Still, such people are looked on as heroes.  It is only God, Who rescues from a far greater danger than anything this world knows about, Who is told that He can’t do that.  We must be “willing,” or He is helpless.

There is, however, another way of defining the word, “irresistible.”  It is food to someone who is starving.  It is water to someone who is dying of thirst,  Our Lord used both of these figures in His own teaching:  “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Matthew 5:6.  See also John 4:10-14; 6:35, 48.  That’s the Spirit’s work – to make us hungry and thirsty.

In this post, we want to look at two men who experienced God’s call:  Nicodemus and Saul of Tarsus.  Two words broadly summarize our topic:  regeneration and reconciliation.  Nicodemus gives us great insight into the first and Saul into the second.

A.  Nicodemus:  You must be born again, John 3:7.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why Nicodemus?”  Why not the woman at the well, or any of the other people Jesus dealt with?  Why is Nicodemus the only one given that message?  It’s never mentioned in the Book of Acts, either.  If Jesus and the Apostles had been like some modern preachers, it would have been in every message.

1.  The man, Nicodemus.

Who was Nicodemus?  In the first place, he was a Jew, and as such already identified with the people of God.  This brought him and them great advantage:  Romans 3:1, 3; 9:4, 5.  Second, he himself was a leader of those people:  the teacher of Israel, John 3:10, perhaps signifying a unique place among his people.  This would have brought him great prestige, honor and wealth.  Third, he was a Pharisee, a bad thing in our day because of those who abused their position, but something highly respected in his own day.  Fourth, simply as a Jew, he would have believed that righteousness before God was something which he could accomplish himself.

Scripture seems to support that idea.  In Deuteronomy 6:25, Moses told Israel, “Then it shall be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.”  However, even Moses himself, and God, as well, recognized that Israel would never do that.  There isn’t a single verse in the Old Testament to indicate that they would actually be obedient, even though they twice agreed to do all that the Lord commanded.  Moses wasn’t even down from Sinai before the people had violated the first and seventh commandments in a wild orgy in front of the golden calf.

So, Nicodemus thought it was up to him.  As far as he knew, he was already “in”.  Our Lord’s message, as it were, blindsided him.

What was the message?

2.  The message to Nicodemus.

a.  He needed something he didn’t have.

For all that he had, he didn’t have the one thing necessary:  life.  That’s what “birth” is all about:  life.  Without getting into the abortion debate, birth is the evidence of life, not its beginning.  A “dead birth” is a contradiction in terms.  (If you, or someone you know, have suffered a “stillbirth,” I’m so sorry.  I don’t mean to add to or make light of that loss and grief.)

b.  He needed something he couldn’t do.

John 3 is the story of one very likely who thought that his heritage, his position, his keeping of the Law – who he was and what he did – were more than enough for him to “enter the kingdom”.  After all, he was a member of the family of Israel, God’s chosen nation.  However, our Lord said to him, “Nicodemus, that’s not enough.  You must be born into God’s family.”

In addition, Nicodemus was and had done this and this and this.  Yet the Lord in effect said, “Nicodemus, that’s 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 that the flesh can produce is ‘flesh’.  You need something the flesh can’t do; you need a spiritual birth, a birth produced only and solely by the Spirit of God,”

Boiled down to one sentence, Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he, Nicodemus, needed God to do something for him that he himself couldn’t do.  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 started by “the flesh”.

Modern error has turned that exactly around.  Now we’re told that God needs us to do something for Him that He Himself cannot do:  “God’s done all He can do, and now it’s up to you.”

That is not what the Lord told Nicodemus.

So many folks today are just like him, trusting in what they are or have done. They are quite content with their religion or church, or lack thereof, thank you. They have walked an aisle, prayed a prayer, had a few drops of water on their foreheads when they were infants.  Their father or mother or grandmother was a Christian.  They have been baptized.  Confirmed.  Seen a vision.  Do their best,  Pay their bills.  Take care of their family.  And on and on.

They are secure in their belief that God will welcome them into “a better place,” but have no understanding that they are under His condemnation because their sins have never been dealt with, and they have no righteousness He will accept.  They are dead in trespasses and sin, Ephesians 2:1, and need a life they can neither generate nor initiate.

The Lord rebuked Nicodemus because, as “the teacher in Israel,” he should have known the OT references to “a clean heart,” “circumcision of the heart,” etc., found in verses like Psalm 51:10; Jeremiah 4:4; Ezekiel 18:31; 36:36.  The promises made to Israel in the New Covenant go far beyond anything human nature or effort can produce.  Yet Nicodemus, like the rest of us apart from the grace of God, missed the message.  We “must be born again.”

Without regeneration, or the new birth, you and I are “in the flesh,” that is, we’re just ordinary human beings with a sinful nature and the corrupted faculties – mind, emotions, will – that go along with it.  Those who are the flesh cannot please God, Romans 8:8.  Repentance and faith in Christ are surely pleasing to God; yet things which are pleasing to God are impossible for the flesh to produce.  “Flesh” cannot produce “spirit,” nor can fleshly efforts have spiritual results.  One can “make his decision,” or do any of a multitude of other things men say will save them, every day for the rest of one’s life and not be saved, because that which is born of – that which comes from – the flesh is flesh.

The new birth is as impossible to mankind as the Virgin birth; both must be of God.

B.  Saul, called…out of darkness into His marvelous light, 1 Peter 2:9.

In 1 Timothy 1:16, Paul wrote, …for this cause I obtained mercy, that in my first Jesus Christ might show forth all long-suffering, for a pattern to them who should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting (KJV).

Paul wrote that he was a “pattern,” a “schematic” for believers.  This doesn’t mean that we’re to travel our world starting churches, though some are called to do that.  Nor does it mean that we receive and write down new revelations from God.  Some have claimed that, some still claim that, and they are all wrong.  God calls no one to deliver further revelation – of any kind – from Him.

What Paul meant was that in himself we can see how God works in every believer, not exactly, of course, because we’re all different, but generally.  There are many ways we could develop this.

1.  The surprise of his conversion.

The last thing on Saul’s mind on the morning of that fateful trip to Damascus would have been that before he got there, he would be a disciple of the very One he was determined to destroy!

In John 6:44, 45, the Lord Jesus gave a capsule summary of the problem we all have. It is that not one of us, on our own, has the ability to come to God.  He must “draw” us before we will or even can come to Him.  Some make a great deal out of the fact that the word the Lord used in John 6 for “draw” is the same word used to describe Paul being “dragged” out of the city and left for dead in Acts 14:19.  They just simply cannot conceive of the idea that God would or could, for that matter, “drag” people into the kingdom.

However, in reading the Book of Acts, it seems to me that Paul was indeed “dragged” kicking and screaming to the very edge of salvation.  This leads us to  our second thought for this post.

2.  The “stages” of his conversion.

It seems to me that Paul passed through four stages, the first two not necessarily consecutive, in his journey from darkness to light.

a.  resistance, Acts 6:10 (KJV).  Though not specifically mentioned, we believe that Paul could well have been one of those from Cilicia, cf. Acts 22:3; 23:34, unable to resist the witness of Stephen, yet unwilling to receive it.  Cf. Acts 9:5; 26:14.

b. rebellion, cf. acts 26:9.  Paul was certainly present at the stoning of Stephen, Acts 7:58.  From that time, Paul did all he could do to stamp out what he considered blasphemous heresy, and at the same time drown out the conviction coming from the testimony of those whom he was persecuting, Acts 9:5 (KJV); 26:14.  Cf. Romans 1:18, of those who suppress the truth. 

He was breathing out threats and murder against Christians.  He wasn’t asking God to show him the right way; he thought he had it.  He was convinced that he was serving God.  Cf. John 16:2.  Jesus didn’t come to him and ask him if he’d like to be saved. The Holy Spirit didn’t try to “woo” him or in some way “cooperate” with Saul’s will, as is so often taught today that He must do with our wills.  Saul’s will was to kill Christians! That was his “decision.”

In his testimony before Agrippa, Acts 26:11, 12, he says that it was while he was thus occupied in persecuting and killing Christians, being exceedingly enraged against them(!), that the Lord appeared to Him.  Paul didn’t even know who this One was Whose brightness he saw.  This leads to our third point.

c.  realization.  Paul must have been shocked beyond belief to hear a voice from the brightness saying, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”  He thought he had been persecuting blasphemers and heretics, thus being obedient to the OT teaching about such things – and thus to God.  Now, this “voice” from what must have been the Shekinah glory accuses him of persecuting its owner!  in effect, of persecuting God! The fourth point follows closely.

d.  reception.  We mentioned earlier that we believe Paul was indeed “dragged” kicking and screaming to the very edge of salvation.  However, when he found out what was involved, and who “Jesus of Nazareth” really is, he willingly walked over the border, as it were.  He asked, “What do you want me to do?” and then he went out and did it.
___________

We’ll deal more with this in our final post, Lord willing, but for now, there are multitudes of people just like Paul – and Nicodemus, firmly convinced of their standing before God. They’re members of the church, perhaps even active in it or leaders in it.  They’ve gone through the proper ceremonies or rituals, sprinkled as unknowing infants or walking an aisle or praying a prayer.  Why, they’re not heathen, they believe in God! They have their “docs” (doctrines) all in a row and can recite the Catechism from start to finish.  They’re thoroughly orthodox, and thoroughly lost, because they’ve never come to the point where they ask the Lord what He wants them to do.

For far too many others, “faith” is about God doing what they want Him to do.

Where are you in this progression?  Resistant to the truths of the Word, though perhaps you’ve heard them all your life?  Rebellious against them, wanting nothing to do with Christ, even though perhaps you come to church?  Realizing that you do need something only Christ can provide?  You’re a sinner justly under the condemnation of God and you know that only Christ can do something about it, having died for sinners.  Don’t stop there.  You must go through the last step:  receiving.  Coming to Him as your Lord and Savior, trusting Him to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. Believing on Him, resting in Him, relying of Him in every area of life.  Following His leadership.

There is another possibility.  Paul grew up with his beliefs.  So did Nicodemus. Perhaps this is the first time you’ve ever heard, or read, these things.  What will you do with them?  Now that you’ve heard them, where will you start on this progression?

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved…, Acts 16:31.

Questions

1.  What does “efficacious grace” mean?

2.  What is another way of looking at the term “irresistible” beside “coercive”?

3.  Why is Nicodemus the only recorded person told about the new birth?

4.  What four things did Nicodemus have “going” for him?  Can you think of any others?

5.  What was the meaning of the message he was given?

6.  What was God’s purpose in saving Saul of Tarsus?

7.  Would Saul have “accepted” Jesus?  Why or why not?

8.  What is the significance of the first two “stages” of his conversion?

9.  What is the significance of the final two stages of his conversion?

10. At which stage are you?  You don’t have to write, just something to think about.

“The Kindness of God.” Part 7: “…the sin of the world.”

In the last two posts, we’ve looked at the death of Christ from the standpoint that it was a definite action, in agreement with the Father’s choice of some to be saved, a choice, just to emphasize what we wrote earlier, without which no one would be saved.  Christ died to pay for their sins, and theirs alone.  He died for “His sheep,” not for “goats.”

However, in spite of all we have said about the death of Christ and its particular, definite and successful purpose, there are those who will exclaim, “Well, I believe John 3:16!!”

We do, too.  In this post, therefore, we want to look at verses which refer to “the world,” “all,” and “every,” verses which are often used against what we’ve taught so far.  These verses are the reason many people who agree with what we’ve written otherwise simply cannot or will not agree with us on the death of Christ.  Do these verses contradict our view?  What does the Scripture say? 

C.  The Death of Christ with Reference to the World.

 1.  John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 

Those who use this verse often put a heavy emphasis on “the world,” and define it as “every single person who ever lived, is living, or will live.”  Christ died for all of them, without exception.

In order to understand this verse Biblically, we need to look at to whom Jesus was talking.  Nicodemus was a Jew, a Pharisee, a member of a group which believed that it was responsible to keep Israel  from being corrupted by outside influences, and to keep Israel faithful in following the Mosaic Law.  To this end, they believed that when Messiah came, He would destroy all Gentiles, no matter how “good,” and He would save all Jews, no matter how “bad.”  All that was necessary was to be a descendant of Abraham, cf. John 8:39-41.

Our Lord was correcting this too-narrow view:  “Nicodemus, you’ve got it all wrong.  God’s love and grace extend far beyond Israel.  Whoever believes in Me will not perish.”  He had already told Nicodemus that physical birth and lineage didn’t count for anything.   One needed to be “born again,” that is, from above.  Men and women need something Mom and Dad can’t give them; something they can’t do for themselves; something only God can give them and do for them.

On the other side, there are those who claim that “the world” in John 3:16 is really only “the world of the elect.”  I think they make the same mistake Nicodemus did, only in a different sense.  Nicodemus limited God’s love nationally, that is, He loves only Jews.  Those who believe God only loves the elect limit His love spiritually.

I once held the second view, but, with further thought, it seems to me from Scripture that God does have a redemptive love for mankind, considered as a whole, as a race, that is, humanity in general.   The Scripture clearly says that God desires all men to be saved, 1 Timothy 2:4.  While this verse doesn’t teach what those who believe Christ died for everyone say it teaches, (that is, that God is doing all He can to save everyone, but they won’t let Him,) it is in agreement with Ezekiel 33:11, which says that God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his evil way, and live.  Had He not loved the race, He would never have chosen any of its members to be saved.  Had He not intervened in this way, we would all have certainly perished because we would never come to Him on our own.  As a result, the race would have perished.

However, let us be clear.  Even though we believe there is in God a great redemptive love for mankind, a love which moved Him to do incredible things to save it, individually we only experience that love through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, 1 Timothy 1:14; Romans 8:38, 39.  Otherwise, there is only “wrath,” John 3:17, 18.  This is why the apostolic church never preached “the love of God,” as we saw in an earlier post.  Apart from the Lord Jesus, it will not and cannot be experienced.

2.  1 John 2:2, And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

As with John 3:16, emphasis is placed on the whole world.  And again, “world” is defined as every single person.

However, even John twice used the phrase elsewhere in his writings in such a way that it can’t mean “every single person.”  In 1 John 5:19b, he wrote, the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one.  That is, it’s under his control and subject to him. cf. Ephesians 2:2.  In the first part of v. 19, John wrote, we know we are of God.  There is a comparison between believers, who are of God, and unbelievers, who lie under the sway of the wicked one.  I believe the word “and” which separates the two clauses could be translated, “but,” to show the distinction even more clearly.

Then, in Revelation 12:9, John refers to that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world.  Though a different word is used of “world,” the thought is the same.  The Devil is the god of this world, 2 Corinthians 4:4, and the whole world lies under his sway.

Since believers have been delivered out of the power of darkness and conveyed into the kingdom of the Son of His love, Colossians 1:13, the term “the whole world,” doesn’t and can’t automatically mean “every single person,” and we don’t believe that it does in 1 John 2:2.

In order to Biblically understand what John is saying, I think the word “propitiation” is key.  He didn’t use a word meaning, “redemption,” or “salvation.”  The word means, “appeasement.”  A poor example might be the bouquet of flowers a husband brings home to soothe an offended wife.  The death of Christ was an appeasement to the offended justice and wrath of God.

We believe that it’s the death of Christ that is the basis for the Great Commission.  His death appeased that wrath of God which had withdrawn grace in general from mankind, Romans 1:18-32, and had channeled it through one man, Abraham.  Even though Israel was to be a witness to the nations, Isaiah 43:10-12 (which has nothing to do with that group calling themselves “Jehovah’s Witnesses”), still there was no “Great Commission” in the OT.  Only in the NT after the death of Christ do we find such a thing.

3.  2 Peter 2:1, …there will be false teachers among you, …even denying the Lord that bought them.

This verse is often used  to teach that there are some whom the Lord “bought,” who will “deny” Him.

In the last verse of ch. 1, Peter wrote that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, and continues in 2:1, BUT there were also false prophets among the people, EVEN AS there will be false teachers AMONG YOU….(emphasis added).  Peter is simply comparing the situation in OT Israel with the situation among the believers he’s writing.  There will be those who truly speak for God, but there will ALSO be false teachers present.  This is why John wrote in 1 John 4:1, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into this world.

John wrote that the test of false prophets would be what they taught about the Person of Christ, who He was.  Peter’s emphasis is on the work of Christ, what He did.  Both are important.  If He isn’t God manifest in the flesh, then what He did on the Cross is of no benefit.

These “false teachers” are known as Christians.  Nevertheless, in teaching false doctrine, they deny Him, all the while professing to believe in Him.

4.  2 Corinthians 5:14, 19, …One died for all….  God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their sins to them.

Actually, the whole section from v. 9-21 should be carefully read.  It seems to me that these verses present more “problems” to those who believe that Christ died for everyone than they do for those who don’t.

For example. some place heavy emphasis on the word, “all.”  However, consider what Paul says in the verse, …if One died for all, then all died.  In other words, the “all” for whom Christ died, also died.  Whatever effect His death had on those for whom He died, that effect happened when He died, not at some later time, like when they “accept” Him.

As to v. 19, pay close attention to what Paul wrote:  God was in Christ, reconciling the world to Himself.  Can it really be said of every single person that their sins aren’t imputed to them?  Leaving aside the question of whether hell actually exists or what it is, will an unbeliever who dies suffer in Hell for his sins?  If they’re not imputed to him, having been imputed to the Lord Jesus, how can he be condemned for them?  Why is he in Hell?

It won’t do to say that he’s in Hell for his sins because he didn’t “accept the Lord.”  Are his sins paid for, or not?  Were they “purged” on the Cross, Hebrews 1:3, or not?   We occasionally hear a story about a certain man who was pardoned for some crime or other, but refused to accept it.  The court ruled that he couldn’t be forced to accept it.  So, it is said, we can refuse the death of Christ, and there’s nothing God can do about it.  However, we’re not talking about American jurisprudence or what some human court has decreed.

We’re talking about the justice of God having been satisfied in full.  If God punished Jesus for a person’s sins, on what basis can He also punish the sinner for those sins?  Unless we’re willing to say that Jesus didn’t actually pay for salvation on the Cross, thus denying the Scriptures which say that He did, then the only alternative is to say that God demands payment twice for the same sin, once from the Lord Jesus and once from the sinner, something even true human justice wouldn’t do.  God’s justice under that view is really injustice.

5.  Romans 5:19, For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience shall many be made righteous. 

The whole section of vs. 12-21 should be carefully studied to see Paul’s judicious and inspired use of “all” and “many.”  This section is about “the federal headship of Adam,” that is, that when he fell, he represented his descendants, that is, the whole human race, as well.  Paul teaches that the Lord Jesus was also a representative, as we’ve studied, but of a redeemed race – believers, or the elect.

Many people lean heavily on the word “all,” but don’t pay any attention to “many,” believing that it, too, refers to “all.”  However, this section isn’t about mere numbers, it’s about effect.  The “effect” of being in Christ, “being made righteous,” is as certain as the “effect” of being in Adam, “being made sinners.”  If, as many insist, they both do refer to “all,” as in every single person, then, according to Paul, those who believe in universal salvation are right.

6.  Hebrews 2:9,  that He by the grace of God should taste death for everyone.

The KJV translates this as “every man,” however, there is no word for “man” in the original.  So, for every “who” or “what” did Christ taste death?  V. 10 refers to many sons.  V.11 mentions brethren.  V. 13 says, “Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.”  So we are justified in saying that Christ tasted death for every “son,” for every “brother,” for every “child,” not haphazardly, but in accord with the will and purpose of the Father.

7.  John 12:47, “…for I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.”

We’ve already noted the Jews’ belief about the Messiah:  that He would destroy all Gentiles, or “the world.”  Jesus is refuting that belief.  Make no mistake, He said, there is coming a time of judgment, but now is the acceptable year of the Lord, Luke 4:19, or, as Paul put it, now is the day of salvation, 2 Corinthians 6:2.  Here, as well as in other places, Jesus emphasized that His mission extends to “the world,” that is, to men and women out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, Revelation 5:9.  This is the “world” for whom the Lord died.  See also John 4:42 and 6:63.

8.  John 1:29,  “…Behold!  The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

This was John’s exclamation at the approach of Jesus after His baptism and testing in the wilderness.  Even he recognized the wider scope of the Lord’s ministry, something the Jews and the early church had difficulty accepting.

The question is, who is “the world”?  Is it every single person, as many believe?  Well, what is said of this world?  It is said that the Lord bears away their sin.   Can that be said of every single person?  That their sin has been taken away?  No, that can’t be said Scripturally, though many do say it.

Thus, a brief view of some of the verses used in contradiction to our view.  However, Scripture is never given merely to be academic or to defend one “school of thought” or another, so this brings us to our last section.

D.  Christ and the Individual.

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will in no wise cast out,” John 6:37.

Actually, John 6:37-40 is a precious mingling of the truths of divine sovereignty and human responsibility.  The Lord never sought to “reconcile” these two truths, which to so many are irreconcilable, or to “explain” how they work together.  He just said they were both true.

Examples in multiplied instances of the divine will affecting and effecting the human will, the sovereignty of God in everything including salvation, and the activity of man in making and following his own thoughts and decisions, may be found in almost every book of the Bible without thought of contradiction, embarrassment or explanation.

As we said above, it’s never the intent of Scripture merely to be academic or to promote one school of thought over another.

Nor is Scripture preaching about the extent of the atonement, it’s always about the intent.  We’ve already seen that NT preachers never told people to believe on Jesus because He had died for them.  Our Lord Himself put it like this, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance,” Matthew 9:13; Mark 2:17; Luke 5:32.  NT preachers preached repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ, Acts 20:21.  Never a word did they breath about God’s love.

On the other hand, there’s not a word about election in their preaching, either.  Some men can’t hardly preach without getting their doctrine in there, whether their text warrants it or not.

No, no.  NT preaching is about sin and a Savior of sinners.  After all, that’s how the elect become known – not because they believe the right doctrine, but because, by the grace of God they understand that, apart from the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned before God, and Jesus is the only One who can do anything about it.  They understand that they need to be saved from their sin and themselves.  They come to Christ, trust Christ, believe on Christ, to do this.  And to believe ON Christ is not the same thing as believing ABOUT Him.

When it comes right down to it, salvation is all about works.  Yours won’t get the job done and His can’t fail.

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, Acts 16:31.

QUESTIONS

1.  Does the Scripture contradict itself?

2.  What was Jesus’ message to Nicodemus?

3.  What was Jesus’ message to the Jewish nation?

4.  Does “world” automatically or necessarily mean every single person?

5.  What is “propitiation”?

6.  Just because people belong to “church,” does that mean that Christ died for them?

7.  Did the death of Christ affect those for whom He died – at the time of His death?

8.  Can or will God punish the same sin twice, once in Christ and once in the sinner?

9.  What is the “effect” of being “in Adam”?  “…in Christ”?

10. What does the Lord Jesus mean to you?

“The Kindness of God.” Part 5: “Christ Died for the Ungodly.”

In these next three posts, we’re going to look at the death of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Scripture has a great deal to say about it, yet I venture to say that what it says is hardly ever really looked at and taught.  I asked a fellow what the Lord did on the Cross, and beyond the fact that He died, the fellow had no idea what that death really involved.

III.  The Costliness of Grace.

Don’t mistake the title of this section.  It doesn’t mean that the grace of God is for sale!  In Matthew 16:26, our Lord asked, “What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?”  Even the Old Testament recognized this.  The Psalmist declared, Those who trust in their wealth and boast in the multitude of their riches, none of them by any means can redeem his brother, nor give God a ransom for him – for the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever – that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit, Psalm 49:6-9.

The Bible teaches that salvation is free, and yet the Psalmist says that redemption is costly.  There is no contradiction.  Grace is free, but it is not “cheap”!

The Gospel is often summarized as “the death, burial and resurrection” of Christ.  This is true, yet, according to 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4, this summary is incomplete.  You see, the Gospel is indeed good news, but it isn’t simply good news about “history”:  the mere facts of our Lord’s death and resurrection.  It is about Christ’s death for our sins, and it is about Christ’s death for our sins according to the Scriptures.

In these posts, therefore, we want to see what the Bible has to say about that death.  What it says involves four things.

1.  The death of Christ with reference to the Father.
2.  The death of Christ with reference to believers, whom Scripture also calls” the elect”.
3.  The death of Christ with reference to the world.
4.  The death of Christ with reference to the individual.

A.  The Death of Christ With Reference to the Father.

In the New Testament, there are at least 30 references to the Father in connection with the ministry of the Son.  Most of these occur in the Gospel of John.  We’ll look at only two things about this “connection”:

1.  The will of the Father for the Son.
2.  The work that the Father gave to the Son.

1.  The will of the Father for the Son.

In John 4:34, Jesus said, My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me, and to finish His work.”

There are more references to this part of the study than to the other three areas combined.  These clearly show that the Lord Jesus wasn’t just merely acting on His own or acting in an impromptu manner.  He didn’t “improvise” as He went along.  Ephesians 3:11 refers to the eternal purpose that the Father accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. Even that terrible hour of which it was said that Pilate delivered Jesus to their will, Luke 23:25, was included.  Our Lord said to Pilate, “You could have no power [“jurisdiction”] at all against Me unless it were given you from above,” John 19:11.  The no is emphatic, underlining the rest of the sentence that God was as involved in the events of the Crucifixion as any of the others in that whole grim episode.  The Lord Jesus came to do His Father’s will.

Further references:  Matthew 20:23; Luke 4:43; John 5:30; 6:38, 39, 44; 7:28, 29, 33; 8:16, 18, 28-29, 42; 10:18, 36; 11:42; 12:44, 45; 14:31; 16:5; 17:8, 18-21, 25; 18:11; 20:21; 2 Corinthians 5:19; Galatians 1:4; 2 Timothy 1:9; Hebrews 3:2; 13:20; 1 Peter 1:20; 1 John 4:9-10; Revelation 13:8.

2.  The work that the Father gave to the Son.

In John 4:34, the Lord said, “My food is to do the will of Him Who sent Me, and to finish His work.”  In John 17:4, Jesus told the Father, “I have finished the work You gave Me to do.”

Throughout His life, our Lord was conscious of His Father.  Even as a mere lad of twelve, He must be about His Father’s business, Luke 2:49.  His mission included at least two things:

a.  John 1:18 says, No one has seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, Who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.  The word translated “declared” is the word we get our word “exegesis” from.  An “exegesis” is a detailed explanation of a passage of Scripture.  The Greek word means, “to make known.”  So the Lord came to make God known, to “flesh out,” as it were, the God of the Bible, to reveal Him as a real Person, not just as some nebulous something or other floating “out there” somewhere.

This, however, isn’t the main reason our Lord came.

b.  In John 4:34, the Lord said that He had come to finish, that is, complete what the Father had begun when He chose sinners to be saved.  That “work” is the work of redemption.

For decades, “the love of God” has been so distorted in the churches that we have almost completely lost sight of what Paul called the severity of God in Romans 11:22.  A Bible class was studying the attributes of God.  Someone mentioned His “immeasurable love.”  The teacher wrote that down.  Someone else mentioned His “inflexible justice,” and the teacher immediately said, “Ooh, I don’t like that!”  He would only write “”justice” on the board.  In that teacher’s mind, who claimed to believe the doctrines in these posts, God’s justice is less severe than His love is great. The Scripture teaches otherwise.

In Numbers 15:32-36, we have the story of the man executed for picking up some sticks of the Sabbath.  Some find this unnecessarily harsh, forgetting that breaking even the least of God’s laws makes us guilty of breaking the whole thing, James 2:10.  God cannot and will not “overlook” sin.  After all, wasn’t it a relatively “minor” sin, as the world looks at it, that was committed in the Garden of Eden?  Sin must be, and will be, punished.

Further references:  Luke 4:43; John 4:34; 5:36; 6:39; 8:29; 9:4; 20:25, 37.

B.  The Death of Christ with Reference to Believers, or The Elect.

 A mother-daughter duet once sang a song in church to the effect that “when He died, He didn’t even know my name.” It was very lovely and well-sung. Beautiful harmony.  And absolutely wrong.  It may seem very wonderful and emotional that Jesus would die for people without knowing anything about them, but it isn’t Scriptural.  Cf Isaiah 53:11; John 18:4; 19:28.  If we’re ever privileged to join the blood-washed multitude of the redeemed in praise to Him Who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever, Revelation 5:11, 12, it won’t be because He died for us without knowing our names.  It will be because He knows EVERYTHING about us…, and He died for us, anyway.

The last post mentioned that the Lord Jesus undertook special responsibility for His sheep.  Though it will take eternity for God to explain it, Ephesians 2:7, what He did may be summarized in two statements.

1.  He was their REPRESENTATIVE, Isaiah 53:11, 12; John 10:15; Romans 5:8; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:7.

The preposition translated “for” in the NT verses above doesn’t mean “for the benefit of,” but “instead of.”  The Just suffered “instead of” the unjust.  All the verses at the beginning of this section refer to blessings given to or actions done on behalf of believers, hereafter simply called “the elect.”  Though it’s common for preachers to preach these things to a mixed assembly of believers and nonbelievers, or to apply to unbelievers verses which were written to believers, there is no Scriptural support for it.  For example, no unbeliever was ever told that Christ had died for him, paid the penalty for his sins, or that God loved him, or her.  We’ll have more to say about this, later.

Another word for this is “substitute.”  Christ came to be the substitute for the elect.  This was taught even in the OT sacrifices.  When an Israelite brought an animal to the priest, he would lay his hand on the head of that animal, Leviticus 1:4, and it shall be accepted in behalf of him.  It became his substitute.  The animal died so that the Israelite could continue to live.  In the NT, however, it is God who brought the sacrifice, not the individual sinner.  This in spite of what a noted NT scholar claimed:  [Jesus] “was the lamb without blemish which humanity had chosen to offer to God.” (George M. Lamsa, “Gospel Light,” p. 313.)  Lamsa was known for his knowledge of Aramaic, the language of NT times.  In this, though, he was dead wrong.  As we saw in previous posts, humanity had nothing to do with it!  Wanted nothing to do with it.  Rejected the Lamb when He came.  Had God not intervened, we would have had no hope, no Savior and no salvation, as much as sinful men would like to believe otherwise.

I’ve already referred to the fellow who had no idea what Christ did on the Cross.  This brings us to our next section:  what DID Jesus do on the Cross?

2.  He was their REDEEMER.

a.  He satisfied the requirements for redemption.

 We’ve already seen that the elect are by nature the children of wrath, Ephesians 2:3. Therefore, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us, Galatians 3:13.  For Him to do this, three things were necessary.

1).  He obeyed the precepts of the Law.

He is the only one who could ever truly say, “I always do those things which please Him” [the Father], John  8:29.  Most people only seem to be aware of the “thou shalt nots” of the Law.  However, there are positive commands in there, as well.  It isn’t enough not to do the “nots,” we must also “do” the “does.”  We must not murder, for example, but we must also love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength, Deuteronomy 6:5.  Only the Lord Jesus ever did that.

But, why was it necessary for Jesus to keep the Law?  Three reasons, at least.

a.)  According to Galatians 4:4, He was born of a woman, born under the Law.  That is, He was human, and He was a Jew.  On both counts, He Himself was accountable to God.  When the Scripture says that Jesus was tempted [or tested] in all points like we are, one area of testing was obedience.  In Heaven, He was equal with the Father; on earth, He laid aside that equality and came in the form of a bondservant, Philippians 2:7, a servant who was submissive to the will of the Father.

Hebrews 5:8 says, …though He were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  Just in passing, if the Word, John 1:1, were only a created being, as certain cults claim, wouldn’t He have “learned obedience” before His incarnation?

b).  He must obey the Law so He wouldn’t incur its penalty and come under the wrath of God Himself.  Scripture is plain:  the soul that sins shall die, Ezekiel 18:20; the wages of sin is death, Romans 6:23.

c.)  He must obey the Law so as to secure its righteousness.

What does this mean?  First of all, what is “righteousness”?  Simply put, it’s a right standing before God.   To “secure” means to “obtain, to get.”

Israel never kept the Law so as to do this, Romans 10:2, 3; Deuteronomy 6:25.  Now, they thought they had.  Like Paul before his conversion, they thought that concerning the law, they were blameless, Philippians 3:6.  After his conversion, Paul considered all such efforts as detestable and worthless, v. 8.  Paul had learned that the only righteousness God will accept is one that he couldn’t work out or earn and didn’t deserve, and it was only to be obtained by faith in the One whose righteousness it is.  It’s noteworthy that our Lord is called Jesus Christ the righteous in 1 John 2:2.  That’s because we have no righteousness of our own.  Only with His righteousness imputed to us by faith will we ever stand before God uncondemned.

In keeping the Law, Jesus “secured” a righteousness He didn’t need because He already was, and is, holy, harmless, undefiled [and] separate from sinners, Hebrews 7:26.  So it became “available” for others to use.  Multitudes look to the supposed “merits” of man-made saints to help them get to Heaven.  Beloved, there is only one Person who ever had any “merit” to begin with, let alone have some “left over” for others!

2).  He suffered the punishment due to breaking the Law.

Though sinless Himself, He was numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12.  He put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26.  Though innocent, He was treated as guilty – even by the Father.  Though some question how Jesus could suffer an eternity of punishment in just a few hours, the truth is that He did.  The sufficiency of His death doesn’t depend on long [in time] He suffered, or even how many He died for.  The sufficiency of His death comes from the fact that HE died – God manifest in the flesh!  Everything about His death depended on that one fact – that God manifested in the flesh died on a Roman cross.  And He did die.  The soldiers, the centurion, even Pilate, gave witness to that fact.  He didn’t just “swoon” or some other Devil’s lie from hell.  Though fully God, He laid aside His power, position and prerogative as God and, though still God, He became fully human, apart from sin (which is not an essential to being human), and lived and died as every human being must.

However, unlike every other human death, His death actually took care of the reason why men all die:  all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Questions

1.  Write out Psalm 49:6-9.

2.  What does this Psalm say about the “costliness” of redemption?

3.  What did the Father have to do with what the Son did?

4.  What was Jesus’ “exegesis” of the Father?

5.  Is God’s love greater than His justice?

6.  Did Jesus know for whom He was dying?

7.  How, or why?

8.  What was Jesus’ first responsibility as far as His sheep were concerned?

9.  What does the preposition, “for,” mean?

10. What did Jesus do to satisfy God’s Law?

11. Can anyone else do that?  Why, or why not?