Saturday, December 2, 2017

171203 The Promise Given to Believers

Galatians 3:15-18 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. 16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. 17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. 18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.
The first-century church did not celebrate the birth of Christ. However, it was very clear that Christ’s birth was important! He had to be born a man in order to become a curse for us so that we might receive the blessing of Abraham — the promised Spirit. Paul’s concern for the Galatian believers caused him to enlarge their understanding of the promise.
In order to understand this passage, we need to go back the first part of this chapter in Galatians. The Galatian Christians having begun by the spirit are now turning to legalism to live out the Christian life. The law was never intended to provide salvation! In a few weeks, we will come back to this concept. For now, we need to recognize the value of the promise given to believers.
It is important to see that those who rely on the work of the law are under a curse! The law did not give salvation — indeed it cannot give salvation! In order to free us from the curse, Jesus was nailed to the cross! Since he bore the curse for us we can come to God by faith and receive the promised Spirit.
We go on to the human example of Abraham. Abraham did not have a law to guide him instead he had a living relationship with the living God. Abraham had a promise that came from God and Jesus made that promise available to all of us. In the promise given to Abraham…
God promised to multiply his descendants. Let’s look at Genesis 12:1-3. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
We do not know how the Lord spoke to Abram. We only know that he did! He had been born in Ur of the Chaldeans. During his developmental years his father, Terah took his entire family on a trek towards Canaan. During the trek, they settled in a place called Haran. From there God called Abram and directed him to go to a place that God would show him. He had no maps or GPS. He didn’t need them. He had God! God’s purpose in taking this man to Canaan was to begin the process of bringing salvation through him. As Abram was traveling he must’ve been thinking about the fact that he was older than the average father and his wife had long since stopped being able to bear children. But God’s promise was sure. God promised to make of him a great nation. But the most important part of the promise is expanded in the statement that in him…
All the families of the earth would be blessed. Let’s look at Genesis 22:17-18.  I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”
This restatement of the promise came at a significant time in the life Abraham. God began the promise sequence in Genesis 12, he restated it in Genesis 15 where he promised Abram a son. Then in Genesis 17, God made it very clear that Sarah, who was ninety years old, would bear a child, fathered by Abraham.
That child, who would be named Isaac, was born when Abraham was 100 years old! His birth should have absolutely proved that God keeps his promises.
Now in Genesis chapter 22 we find God giving Abraham a test. That test definitely grew out of the promise. Even though he had another son it would be in Isaac that the promises would be fulfilled.
Abraham was instructed by God to take his son, his only son Isaac, the child of his love, to a hill in Moriah and there he was to sacrifice his son as a burnt offering. So Abraham, along with Isaac and some servants, went to Moriah. Now, remember, God had said that Abraham’s descendants would come through Isaac. So, Abraham took along wood and fire in a container but no animal to sacrifice. When they came to the foot of the hill they left the servants behind and went to the top of the hill — just Abraham and Isaac! At that point, Isaac asked, “where is the Lamb?” Abraham replied, “God will provide…” And then he gathered stones into an altar and laid the wood on the altar, tied up Isaac, and placed him on the altar. When Abraham raised his knife to take the boy’s life God stopped him and they heard a ram bleating in the bush nearby. That goat was sacrificed in place of Isaac.
As a consequence, God commended Abraham and reiterated the promise. In this human example, Paul demonstrated for us that…
The law could not cancel the promise. Let’s look at Romans 4:13-15. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. 14 For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. 15 For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression.
The promise to Abraham and his descendants came 430 years before there was any written law. God’s plan was clearly established. The people of God would live by faith and not by legalism. The law of Moses does serve a purpose and we will get to that next month. The law never was intended to bring salvation. What the law does is show us how wrong we are in our day-to-day life. The problem with the law is that it cannot bring life…
Instead, the law brings sin to life. Let’s look at Romans 5:20-21. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
The law did not come to make men righteous. It came to make us see the bondage of sin. The law came to prove how exceedingly sinful we are and open the way for grace. God’s way of relating to his people has always been by grace through faith. That is the way Abraham, and all of his faith descendants were justified. Time will not allow a clear explanation just now. We will certainly get that later. Suffice it to say that God’s grace is greater than our sin.
More than 100 years ago, Julia Johnston wrote a beautiful hymn about it. The first verse goes like this:
Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt, yonder on Calvary's mount out-poured, there where the blood of the Lamb was spilt.
I love the old hymns, especially those that restate biblical truth. The second verse adds to our understanding.
Dark is the stain that we cannot hide, what can avail to wash it away! Look! there is flowing a crimson tide; whiter than snow you may be today.
The grace of God is shown to us in the cross of Christ. The love of God is clearly shown to us through his magnificent grace. The law condemned us and placed us in bondage.
We are born condemned because we are born sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. When they sinned all their unborn children died — including us. Adam’s and Eve’s genetic makeup contained the entire human race. In Adam we are condemned! However, we must remember that…

Christ came to remove the condemnation of the law. Let’s look at Romans 8:1-2. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.
There are spiritual laws at work here. Perhaps we can understand them better if we compare them to physical laws.
All of us live under obligation to the law of gravity. Gravity is that force that holds us on the earth and makes things seem heavy. There are laws that overcome the law of gravity. Weight comes from gravity pulling on objects. The Boeing 747 has a gross weight of 875,000 pounds. In order to overcome such a massive weight, there are other factors to take into consideration. Airplanes are designed with wings that provide lift and engines that provide forward thrust. These factors, along with some others, cause the airplane to be able to fly.
We are born subject to the laws of sin and death. In the letter to the Ephesians, we are told that we “were dead in trespasses and sins in which we once walked”. (Ephesians 2:1-2) The law of the Spirit of life, in Christ Jesus, sets us free from the law of sin and death. Because, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) The death of Christ, for our sins, on the cross, overrode the law of sin and death. So that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Our confession of faith in Christ breaks the power of the law of sin and death because the law of grace through faith was ordained by our Heavenly Father. God’s plan of salvation, beginning in the Garden of Eden, has always involved grace through faith that is a gift of God! God did what the law could not do providing salvation…
Through the promised offspring. Let’s look at John 3:16-17. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
God never intended that man would find salvation through works of righteousness or through keeping the rules. If a law could have been written that would cause salvation then Christ died for nothing! God loved the inhabitants of the world so much that he gave his only Son to die on the cross for our sins since he had none of his own. And he did this so that everyone who believes will not perish but instead will have eternal life. Jesus took our condemnation and paid the price for our sin! And we should rejoice in the fact that…
Nothing can take us back to death. Let’s look at Romans 8:35-39. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What a magnificent passage of Scripture! The question is asked, “who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” The question is followed by a long list of things that we encounter in life. Can tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, poverty, or danger cause us to be separated from him? Absolutely not! In him, we are more than conquerors because of his great love. None of these things can take us back to death! Or take away our salvation! Neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
How can we be assured of salvation? We need to ask ourselves, “Do I today have trust in Christ to forgive my sins and take me to heaven forever? Do I have confidence in my heart that he has saved me? Have I seen in my own life evidence of the work of God’s Spirit? Do I, or others, recognize the fruit of the Spirit in me? So far as I know how, am I obedient to God’s commands? Have I placed my faith and trust in him?” He promises he will never leave us nor forsake us.
The Galatian believers were being brought into bondage to legalism. Throughout history, the church of Jesus Christ has been plagued by legalists. If we are not careful any of us can be brought under the condemnation of the law. We must always remember that without faith it is impossible to please God. If a law had been given that could give life then Jesus died for nothing. When he prayed, “Father, let this cup pass from me!” God would have sent legions of angels to stop what was about to happen if there was any other way! The Scripture imprisons everything under sin so that the promise of faith could be given to those who believe. Have you placed your faith in Him? If not, today is the day of salvation! Be reconciled to God while there is still an opportunity.
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

171119 Redeemed from the Curse

Galatians 3:10-14 For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” 11 Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” 12 But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
The Apostle wants us to understand his relationship to the gospel. First, Paul affirms that he received his message from Christ himself. He was not subject to any other man or any organization only to Christ. He also wanted us to grasp the concept that the gospel was not just a New Testament thing. The gospel came long before the law. His moving away from the Mosaic law was a valid spiritual step. Paul needed to remind the Galatians that their turning back to the rules of Moses was completely invalid. In fact, the gospel has set us free from the bondage to sin and gives us victory over the flesh.
The entire letter to the Galatians is an exhortation to come back to the gospel. Since the Galatian church had begun to return to the law of Moses…
Paul saw the Galatians as “foolish”! Look back to Galatians 3:1. O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.
I realize that Jesus instructed us not to call a person a fool. However, even people who are protected from being called a fool sometimes do foolish things. No one is exempt from having taken the foolish route at some point in their life. The problem was that the Galatians, in their foolishness, were moving away from the simple gospel that had been presented to them.
Even though they would not have been present when Jesus was crucified Paul reminds them that, in his preaching, they had seen the banner spread before their eyes that said, “Jesus came into the world, lived a perfect life, and took our sins to the cross”. That is the simple truth of the gospel. Jesus, born of a virgin, lived without sin, took our punishment, died in our place, defeated death and came back to life to give us life. The Galatians needed to respond to the question…
How did they begin their faith life? Let’s read in Galatians 3:2. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith?
How were they born again? Was it by obeying the law of Moses or by believing in Jesus Christ God’s son and our Savior! When we believed — leading to confessing with our mouth that Jesus is Lord — the Holy Spirit came to give us life! In fact, that was the very reason that Jesus came into the world. Satan came to steal, kill and destroy everything spiritually good in us while Jesus came to give us life abundantly! When the Galatians, or anyone else, came to salvation in Christ they/we received that spiritual life by hearing the word of God and believing the truth.
You see, faith is not a leap in the dark! It is not believing against all reasonable truth. Faith is trusting in God and depending on God because we believe what he has said in his word.
When a person is converted they turn from sin to Christ. This is done because we have come to believe what God says about sin. Saving faith is more than mere knowledge. It is necessary we have some knowledge of who Christ is and what he has done. But knowledge of the facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection for us is not enough. People can know facts but rebel against them or even dislike them. Many people know God’s laws but rebel against them. Even the demons believe that God exists but they remain demons. Saving faith is not believing about Christ but instead, it is depending on Christ for my spiritual life. Saving faith is trust in Jesus Christ as a living person for forgiveness of sins and eternal life with God!
This is not just a New Testament concept along with Paul…
We look back to Abraham. Let’s turn to Genesis 12:1-3. Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
As you read this amazing statement by God we need to realize several things. First, Abram — who would later be called Abraham — did not have any written Bible that we know of. Second, he did not grow up in a family that worshiped Yahweh. Third, he had spent much of his life (so far as we know) without an awareness of Yahweh. But when the right time came God spoke to him and directed him to repent, turning away from his past, and respond to God’s directions for him. And God promised that he would bless Abraham and make his name great. God promised that Abraham would be a blessing. God promised that he would bless those who blessed Abraham! And he also promised that he would curse those who dishonored Abraham.
But of greatest importance to us, God promised Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed because of Abraham’s faith. Notice that it was not because of obedience to some kind of laws but it was a matter of faith. After faith came Abraham made many positive decisions in obedience to God. But those decisions he made did not save him! His faith was counted to him as righteousness. We might assume that there were others all over the world who came to faith in God in the same manner. For example, Melchizedek was the king of Salem and priest of the Most High God. This great King appeared in a single incident in Abraham’s life. Later, Moses would become the son-in-law of Jethro, the priest of Midian. We cannot be positive that Jethro worshiped the Yahweh as Moses did but there was no rejection of the idea that he could provide advice to Moses as he led the people of Israel through the wilderness. Now let’s look back to Galatians to see that…
Abraham received the gospel. Let’s read Galatians 3:8-9. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
The gospel, Paul tells us, was preached to Abraham. Now, what exactly does that mean? Modern man tends to think that the “gospel” must include all the elements: all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and yet God demonstrates his love for us by sending his son to die on the cross (Romans 5:8), and, if we will confess with our mouth, “Jesus is Lord” and believe in our heart that God raised him from the dead we will be saved (Romans 10:9-10). Such a comprehensive explanation would have been an amazing idea to Abraham.
Instead, the gospel preached to Abraham was simply, “In you shall all the nations be blessed” (Genesis 12:3). That gospel was all that was needed and in fact, is still all that is needed! The blessing that came for all people everywhere is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself! He came as a result of the promise. While Abraham walked on this earth having in his genetic makeup the human body of Isaac, Jacob, Judah, David, and after multiple generations, Jesus was born of Mary and descended from David the king. The blessing is given through Abraham’s faith counteracted…
The curse on humanity. Let’s look back to Genesis 2:16-17. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
Adam walked and talked with God on a daily basis and yet when tempted by Satan he ate of the tree that had been denied to him.  When Adam rebelled against God, becoming the first sinner, as our representative God counted us guilty along with him. Adam’s guilt belongs to us because God imputed Adam’s guilt to us. We may not like being represented by Adam. But we should never hesitate to be represented by Jesus! Our first representative sinned and God counted us guilty. Christ, the representative of all who believe in him, obeyed God perfectly and God counted us righteous. That is the way God set up the human race to work. Let’s look ahead to Romans 6:23. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Granted that we have all sinned, we recognize that sin’s pay is death! Just as none can escape sin as part of our lifestyle so we cannot escape death as its consequence! Adam and Eve did not immediately die in the garden but they certainly began to die. God had said that they would surely die and they surely did! However, “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We must be eternally grateful that…
Jesus redeemed us. Let’s return to Galatians 3:13. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” The curse of the law is death — physical and spiritual. Jesus became a curse for us. Or, as we see in 2 Corinthians 5:21, God made Christ to be sin for us so that in him we might become the righteousness of God! Peter supported this same concept. We are all under the curse! But Jesus took the curse for us. Let’s see what Peter had to say in 1 Peter 2:24. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.
The blood of bulls and goats that had been the payment for sin in the Old Testament really did not bring forgiveness. All of those acts look forward to Jesus and his obedience to the Father. Jesus died to sin once for all and when we place our faith in him the guilt, bequeathed by Adam, is removed from the human race. We cannot free ourselves from the curse. No matter how good we are we remain Adam’s heirs! But Jesus act of righteousness enables us to die to sin and live to righteousness.
It is a very cheap thing to attempt to appropriate Jesus’ death on the cross only for physical healing. There was a much greater blessing that came to the human race through Jesus’ obedience. By his death on the cross, we receive much more than most people imagine. Jesus died and rose again…
In order that we might receive the blessing. Let’s read in Galatians 3:14. So that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.
Becoming the righteousness of God, in Jesus, enables us to receive all the blessings in Scripture. By faith in Christ we are able to be united to Abraham the man of faith.
With grateful hearts, we should come to Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. We should rejoice that he took our sins to the cross and nailed them there. He took our sin to the grave and left it there. He was raised from the dead in order to set us free. The writer of Hebrews tells us that it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Jesus came into the world to do the will of the Father! In the garden of Gethsemane, he gave up his rights to himself for us. Jesus prayed for the Father to take the cup of suffering from him. Nevertheless, he would do the Father’s will and die in our place. Have you accepted him as your Lord? Does your faith tell you to believe that God raised him from the dead? They can be your day of salvation!
All scriptures quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.