J E S U S O U R
S A LVAT I O N
An Examination of the Person of Jesus Christ in the
Salvation of our Souls
F. Wayne Mac Leod
Light To My Path Book Distribution
Copyright © 2022 F. Wayne Mac Leod
All rights reserved.
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CONTENTS
Title Page
Copyright
Preface
1 – The Idea of Salvation
2 – Christ Our Payment
3 – Christ Our Forgiveness
4 – Jesus the Way
5 – Jesus the Truth
6 – Jesus our Life
7 – Christ Our Righteousness
8 – Christ Our Strength
9 – Final Word
About The Author
W
PREFACE
e often speak of our salvation as an event in our lives. Some
believers can even pinpoint the time and circumstances of the
day their lives were changed. As wonderful as that event may
have been, I propose that salvation is more about a person than an
experience. I would go as far as to say that the Lord Jesus does not just give
us salvation; He is our salvation.
To be sure, there were changes in your life. You remember the words
spoken by a preacher that day. You can describe the circumstances that led
up to the transformation. All too often, however, these events hide what
really took place –you met the Lord Jesus.
Without the Lord Jesus, our salvation would not be possible. Remove the
person of Christ at any point in this process, and we would be lost without
hope. He is the payment for our sin. He is our right standing with the
Father. Our strength to live the Christian life is in Him. When we speak of
salvation, we refer to the person of the Lord Jesus.
In this study, I want to take the time to consider Jesus Christ as our
salvation. My goal is to demonstrate that every aspect of our salvation is
found in Him alone.
I trust that what the Lord has been showing me in this matter will be a
blessing to each reader.
F. Wayne Mac Leod
L
1 – THE IDEA OF
SALVATION
et me begin with the point I want to make in this chapter. The idea
of salvation originates in the person of God. Before I was born,
God had a plan for my forgiveness and redemption. Listen to the
words of the apostle Paul to the Ephesians:
(3) Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the
heavenly places, (4) even as he chose us in him before the
foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless
before him. In love (5) he predestined us for adoption to himself
as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his
will, (6) to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has
blessed us in the Beloved. (7) In him we have redemption
through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according
to the riches of his grace, (8) which he lavished upon us, in all
wisdom and insight (9) making known to us the mystery of his
will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ (10)
as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him,
things in heaven and things on earth. - Ephesians 1:3-10 ESV
I understand that these verses have caused great theological controversy
over the years. Consider what the apostle Paul is telling the Ephesians here.
God Has Blessed Us In Christ With Every
Spiritual Blessing (Verse 4)
Notice here that every spiritual blessing is found in Christ. In other words,
there is no spiritual blessing apart from the person of Jesus. The Father has
determined that we will only experience the benefits of the Christian life in
His Son Jesus.
The Plan To Bless Us In Christ Was Conceived
Before The Foundation Of The World (Verse 4)
Notice second that the plan of God to bless us with every spiritual blessing
was set out before the foundation of the world. Before the creation of the
first man and woman, it was the purpose of God that they would be "holy
and blameless before Him" (Ephesians 1:4). He determined that we would
be "adopted to himself as sons through Jesus Christ" (verse 5).
From before the foundation of the world, God decided that Jesus Christ
would be our connection with Him. He would adopt us "through His blood"
(verse 6). Paul reminded the Ephesians that while this was the plan of God
from before the foundation of the world, He would reveal this plan in "the
fullness of time" (verse 10). The apostle Paul considered it a great privilege
to have lived in the days when that plan was revealed through the person of
Jesus Christ.
The apostle Peter says something very similar when he writes:
(18) knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways
inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such
as silver or gold, (19) but with the precious blood of Christ, like
that of a lamb without blemish or spot. (20) He was foreknown
before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the
last times for the sake of you - 1 Peter 1:18-20 ESV
Peter told his readers that the Lord Jesus was foreknown as a "lamb without
blemish or spot,” "before the foundation of the world" (verses 19, 20). In
other words, even before we were created, God set His Son aside to be a
sacrificial lamb for our redemption and forgiveness. All of this took place
before the foundations of the earth were laid.
Now let's move ahead in time to Genesis 3. Here we meet Adam, Eve and
the serpent who tempted them to eat the forbidden fruit. As we read the
story, we watch Satan deceive Eve, causing her to eat from the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil. The results were devastating not only for her
and her husband but also for their descendants. Sin and death like ugly
cancer ravaged the earth. The apostle Paul put it this way:
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man,
and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because
all sinned— 18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation
for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification
and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man's disobedience
the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the
many will be made righteous. - Romans 5:12, 18-19 ESV
Sin came into the world through Adam. Because of his rebellion, every
descendant from that point forward would be born with a sinful nature. Sin,
like a deadly disease, bought both spiritual and physical death. It separated
us from our Creator and placed us under His judgement.
Notice, however, the words of God to Satan in Genesis 3 just after Adam
and Eve fell to the devil's temptation:
15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between
your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and
you shall bruise his heel." -Genesis 3:15 ESV
God told Satan of the plan set up in eternity past to redeem the world
through the death of His Son Jesus. In the "fullness of time" (Ephesians
1:10), the "lamb without spot or blemish" (1 Peter 1:19) would lay down
His life to pay for the sins of His people.
Consider how the apostle John describes Jesus in his gospel:
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3
All things were made through him, and without him was not any
thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was
the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the
darkness has not overcome it. - John 1:1,3-5 ESV
John tells us that Jesus was the Word who existed from the beginning. This
Word was the life and the light of men even before the world as we know it
was founded. At the right time, He would shine in the darkness of sin,
bringing light and life to all who believed in Him.
From the very beginning of time, the purpose of God was that Jesus, His
Son, be the source of light and life for His people. He would rescue them
from the darkness and death imposed by sin. Way before sin entered the
world, Jesus was the solution.
Writing to Timothy, the apostle Paul makes it very clear that the work of
salvation was given to Christ Jesus "before the ages began."
8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our
Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the
gospel by the power of God, 9 who saved us and called us to a
holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own
purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the
ages began, 10 and which now has been manifested through
the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death
and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, -
2 Timothy 1:8-10 ESV
The apostle told Timothy that we were saved because of the purpose the
Father "gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began" (verse 9).
Way before you or I were born, God had a plan for our salvation. Ages
before Satan tempted Eve in the garden, God had a solution. The Lord Jesus
was the life and light of the world from the beginning. Even before He
created man and woman on the earth, Jesus Christ had been chosen to be
the means of our redemption.
It is in this context that the Lord Jesus declared:
16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you
that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should
abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may
give it to you. - John 15:16 ESV
The words Jesus speaks here to His disciples apply equally to us all. Our
salvation has more to do with Christ's choice than ours. Before I even knew
the light of day, God had a plan in place. That plan was revealed in heaven
before sin became a reality on earth. Sin did not take God by surprise. Satan
has never had the upper hand.
The point I am making in this first chapter is that salvation originates in the
mind of God. It was His idea from before the creation of the earth. This
salvation would be accomplished through the death of His Son Jesus Christ
for us.
There is an incredible mystery to this reality, but there is no denying its
truth as taught in the Scriptures. I do not pretend to understand why God
placed the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden or why He
did not prevent Eve from picking its fruit. I can't give you an answer as to
why God allowed Satan into the garden to tempt Adam and Eve. I could
speak about free will and choice, but the reality of sin and death remains.
What gives me comfort is that God prepared the solution before the
problem even existed. God's plan from eternity past has now become my
reality.
For Prayer:
Father God, we sometimes read the first few chapters of Genesis as if they
were the beginning, but way before the creation of the earth as we know it,
You had a plan. Before Eve picked the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of
good and evil, You already had a solution in place. Satan did not defeat You
in the garden. Jesus, the Lamb of God, had already been set apart to restore
Your children to Yourself. From the beginning, Jesus the Word was the life
and light that would defeat the death and darkness of sin. Salvation was a
choice you made before the foundation of the earth was laid. Thank you,
Father, for deciding to redeem us from the fall. Thank you, Lord Jesus, for
your decision from eternity past to lay down Your life for me. Thank you,
Holy Spirit, for choosing to open my eyes to my need and for giving me life
in Christ Jesus.
I
2 – CHRIST OUR
PAYMENT
n the first chapter, we saw that salvation originated in the heart of
Jesus before the foundation of the earth was laid. Let's move on now
to speak about the penalty for sin and rebellion against God. Consider
what God told Adam as recorded in Genesis 2:16-17:
16 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."- Genesis 2:16-17 ESV
The Lord told Adam that he would die if he ate from the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil. To some, death might seem to be too steep a
penalty. Recognize, however, that the Lord God gave this first couple their
life and blessed them with every good thing. Every beat of their hearts came
from Him. Every breath they took was a privilege He gave. The fruit they
ate, and every enjoyment they had, was a gift from His hand. They had
nothing without Him. They would perish if He did not sustain them. Should
He turn His back, even for a moment, their life would cease.
The God who blessed them was a perfect and holy God who would not
tolerate sin and evil. For life and blessing, all God asked was obedience. He
warned Adam and Eve that they would die if they chose a path of rebellion.
True justice demands punishment in proportion to the crime. What sentence
is worthy of the crime of rebelling against Him who gives life and every
blessing? What punishment is fair for those who reject the One who
sustains and provides their every breath? Is it unjust for God to turn His
back on those who refuse to honour Him?
Scripture is very clear about the penalty for sin. Writing to the Romans, the
apostle Paul said:
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is
eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. - Romans 6:23 ESV
Jeremiah the prophet reminded the people of his day about the danger of
rebellion against God when he said:
30 But everyone shall die for his iniquity. Each man who eats
sour grapes, his teeth shall be set on edge. - Jeremiah 31:30
ESV
Both Old and New Testaments agree. The penalty for sin is death. We need
to understand here that rebellion and the rejection of God is the worst
possible sin a person could ever commit. In an age of spiritual apathy, we
have often lost sight of this. Scripture reminds us, however, that eternal
punishment without hope awaits all who reject the Lord God and His
purpose in Christ.
The Lamb Of God
In the Old Testament, the Lord established a system of substitutionary
sacrifices. When an individual sinned against God, they could bring an
animal to the tabernacle and kill it on their behalf. Countless animals died
for the sins of God's people. The problem with this system was that while
the penalty was paid for each sin, the sinner's heart remained unchanged.
God determined that He would provide a perfect solution to this problem.
Listen to the words of John the Baptist about the Lord Jesus in John 1:
29 The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,
"Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
- John 1:29 ESV
John refers to Jesus as the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the
world." The Lord Jesus would become a substitutionary sacrifice for the
"sin of the world." He would die as a sacrificial lamb. Like the Old
Testament animal sacrifices, Jesus would take my place and pay my
penalty. The God who required the sentence of death for sin now lays His
own life on the altar to pay my debt in full
Christ's Sacrifice
The Lord Jesus willingly laid down His life to pay the penalty for our sin.
The writer to the Hebrews tells us that this single sacrifice of Jesus Christ
would never need to be repeated. It was sufficient to cover the sins of all
time (past, present and future):
12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice
for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God - Hebrews 10:12
ESV
Unlike the Old Testament sacrifices that covered only the individual sins of
those who offered them, the death of Jesus was also sufficient for the sin of
the whole world. Anyone who came to Jesus for forgiveness could find
forgiveness:
2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but
also for the sins of the whole world. - 1 John 2:2 ESV
Notice also that Jesus' sacrifice will cleanse and make us "holy and
blameless and above reproach" before God:
22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in
order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach
before him, - Colossians 1:22 ESV
This was something that Old Testament sacrifices could never do. Though
repeated millions of times, the blood of bulls and goats could not change
the human heart. Paul told the Colossians, however, that the death of Christ
had as its goal to present them holy and blameless before God.
The apostle Paul told the Romans that Jesus' death justified and gave them
right standing with the Father. It saved them from His wrath and restored
them to fellowship with God:
8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still
sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now
been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by
him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies
we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more,
now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. -
Romans 5:8-10 ESV
Consider what we have seen here. The penalty for sin and rebellion against
God is death. God, however, made a provision for this from the beginning
of time. The Lord Jesus Christ would die on my behalf to pay the penalty
for my sin and restore me to fellowship. When God told Adam and Eve that
death would be the penalty for sin and rebellion, He knew that He would
send His Son to take that penalty on Himself.
Here is the point I want to make. When we needed payment for our sin,
Jesus did not pull out His cheque book and pay out of the infinite resources
of heaven –He was the payment. It is one thing for a millionaire to pay a
bill for someone when he has more than enough to do so. It is quite another
to sacrifice his life for that person.
Jesus did not just pay our penalty; He was the payment. He did not waive
our punishment because He had the right to do so; He "bore our sins in his
body:"
(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. - 1 Peter 2:24 ESV
Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would suffer for our sin when he wrote:
(4) Surely, he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet
we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. (5)
But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for
our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us
peace, and with his wounds we are healed. - Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV
Sin has been the cause of much grief, sorrow, and affliction in this world.
Though Jesus did not sin, He experienced its effects in His body. While we
long for the day we will be set free from these afflictions, Jesus willingly
took them on so that we could be healed. He did not just have compassion
on us; He took on our suffering and pain.
Paul went as far as to say that Jesus was actually "made to be sin:"
(20) Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his
appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be
reconciled to God. (21) For our sake he made him to be sin
who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the
righteousness of God. - 2 Corinthians 5:20-21 ESV
Our sin was poured out on Him. He took on those sins and carried them to
the cross. The shame of our quilt was placed on His shoulders, and He was
lifted up for all to see.
Christ experienced our weaknesses and was tempted in every way just as
we are:
(15) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to
sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect
has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. - Hebrews 4:15
ESV
The full weight of our suffering, temptations, weakness and grief was piled
on Jesus, and the full penalty was declared for Him. He took this on for you
and me.
There is a subtle difference between Jesus paying our debt and Jesus being
the payment for our debt, but this is a distinction we need to make. Jesus
did not just pay for our sins He was the payment. My debt was not settled
by a cheque written on the bank of heaven. Sin required more than a
withdrawal from heaven's account. It required nothing less than the death of
the Son of God Himself. Jesus paid what no heavenly treasure could. His
life alone could pay the debt in full. While the wages of sin is death, the
payment for our pardon was nothing less than Jesus Himself. He is the
payment for the penalty of sin.
For Prayer:
Lord God, we recognize that You are the source of all life and blessing.
Without You, we would surely perish. We confess that though we owe You
our obedience and allegiance, we have fallen short. Thank You, Lord Jesus,
that You became the sacrificial lamb. You suffered the effects of sin in your
body. Though You never sinned, You were the payment for our sin. Thank
you for taking the full weight of sin upon Yourself and laying down your
life for me. Thank you for being the payment for our sin.
W
3 – CHRIST OUR
FORGIVENESS
e come now to the question of forgiveness and how it relates
to the person of Jesus Christ. The point I want to make is that
forgiveness is primarily about knowing the Lord Jesus, for
apart from knowing Him, there is no true forgiveness. You cannot separate
forgiveness from the person of Jesus.
Let me be clear as we begin. As believers, we have all offended a brother or
sister and need their pardon. The Lord Jesus commands us to forgive those
who offend us (see Matthew 18:21, 22; Luke 17:3). As important as this is,
the forgiveness I speak about in this chapter is much greater than this. We
may forgive each other for offences done, but how can we receive the
forgiveness of God when we cannot even approach Him as sinners?
The forgiveness Jesus offers is exactly this –forgiveness from God. It sets
us free from the judgement to come and places us in good standing with the
Father. Jesus hinted at this at the celebration of the Passover in Matthew 26
when He said:
27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it
to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you, 28 for this is my blood
of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the
forgiveness of sins. - Matthew 26:27-28 ESV
Forgiveness Through The Blood Of Jesus
Notice how Jesus speaks about the blood of the covenant that brought
forgiveness of sins. The writer to the Hebrews teaches that forgiveness was
only possible through the shedding of blood:
(22) Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with
blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness
of sins. - Hebrews 9:22 ESV
This immediately separates the type of forgiveness Jesus offers from what
we offer a brother or sister. None of us had to die to be forgiven.
Jesus told His disciples in Matthew 26:28 that it was His blood that would
bring the required pardon. Only the blood of the sinless Lamb of God could
set us free from the penalty of sin and restore us to a right standing with
God. Forgiveness, therefore, is through the shed blood of the Lord Jesus
Christ on the cross.
The apostle Paul understood when he wrote:
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness
of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace -
Ephesians 1:7 ESV
According to Paul, redemption and forgiveness of trespasses are through the
blood of Jesus Christ shed for us on the cross of Calvary. His death brings
us forgiveness, for it pays the penalty for our sins in full. The only blood
that can bring this kind of forgiveness is the untainted blood of the spotless
Lamb of God. No other blood would do. True forgiveness is through the
blood of Jesus alone.
Forgiveness In The Name Of Jesus
Not only is forgiveness through the blood of Jesus, but It is extended to us
in His name. Listen to what Peter proclaimed in Jerusalem during
Pentecost:
38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one
of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your
sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. - Acts 2:38
ESV
Peter challenged those who listened to him to seek forgiveness in the name
of the Lord Jesus Christ. When asked to defend this teaching before the
rulers, Peter boldly proclaimed that there was salvation in no other name:
12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other
name under heaven given among men by which we must be
saved."- Acts 4:12 ESV
The Lord Jesus reminded His disciples that they were to proclaim
forgiveness of sin to the nations in His name alone:
(46) and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should
suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, (47) and that
repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in
his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. - Luke
24:46-47 ESV
According to Peter in Acts 10:43, the Old Testament prophets proclaimed
that forgiveness would come through the name of this coming Messiah:
43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who
believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."-
Acts 10:43 ESV
Isaiah prophesied that God would lay a precious and tested cornerstone in
Zion as a sure foundation. The prophet went on to say that those who
believed in that stone would "not be in haste." The picture here is one of an
enemy's sudden attack. When the alarm sounded, the people of the city
would hurriedly gather their belongings and flee. Those who believed in the
stone laid in Zion, however, would have no fear. Isaiah went on to say that
their "covenant with death would be annulled," and their agreement with
Sheol, the grave, would not stand. Those who trusted this Rock in Zion
would not be overwhelmed (Isaiah 28:16-18):
(16) therefore thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold, I am the one
who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a tested stone, a
precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 'Whoever believes
will not be in haste.' (17) And I will make justice the line, and
righteousness the plumb line; and hail will sweep away the
refuge of lies, and waters will overwhelm the shelter." (18)
Then your covenant with death will be annulled, and your
agreement with Sheol will not stand; when the overwhelming
scourge passes through, you will be beaten down by it. - Isaiah
28:16-18 ESV
The stone in Zion was the Lord Jesus. He would extend forgiveness and
pardon to all who believed in Him. When the judgement came, those who
believed in Him would not be put to shame. These words were proclaimed
many years before the Lord Jesus came to this earth.
The psalmist used a similar illustration in Psalm 118 when he said:
(21) I thank you that you have answered me and have become
my salvation. (22) The stone that the builders rejected has
become the cornerstone. - Psalms 118:21-22 ESV
The psalmist speaks about how Jesus the stone was rejected but saved of all
who trusted in Him. In the psalmist's mind, salvation and forgiveness of sin
were found only in the Rock of Zion. Old Testament believers looked
forward to the Messiah who would come to offer forgiveness through His
name. Scripture makes it quite clear that there is only forgiveness in the
name of Jesus. That is to say, in the person of Jesus Christ alone can we
experience pardon and right standing with God.
The Authority To Forgive
In Mark 2, we have the story of the healing of a man with paralysis. The
scribes were present that day when Jesus healed him. A disagreement began
when Jesus made the following declaration:
(5) And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,
"Son, your sins are forgiven." - Mark 2:5 ESV
Upon hearing these words, the scribes accused Jesus of blasphemy, stating
that only God could forgive sin:
(6) Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in
their hearts, (7) "Why does this man speak like that? He is
blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" - Mark
2:6-7 ESV
Jesus knew their thoughts and declared:
(8) "Why do you question these things in your hearts? (9)
Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,'
or to say, 'Rise, take up your bed and walk'? (10) But that you
may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive
sins"—he said to the paralytic— (11) "I say to you, rise, pick up
your bed, and go home." - Mark 2:8-11 ESV
The paralytic immediately picked up his bed and walked (Mark 2:12). Note
the words of Jesus in verse 9: "But that you may know that the Son of Man
has authority on earth to forgive sins." The paralytic was healed to prove
this point. The father has given the power of forgiveness to His Son, Jesus
Christ. This is also the clear teaching of Peter in Acts 5:31 where, speaking
of Jesus, he said:
31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to
give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. - Acts 5:31
ESV
The Father has exalted Jesus and given Jesus the power to give repentance
and forgiveness. No one else has this authority. If you want to be forgiven,
there is only one person who has the authority to forgive you the Lord
Jesus. Every one of us must come to Him if we want this pardon. There is
no forgiveness apart from Him. According to Jesus, the Father has passed
all judgement to Him:
(22) For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment
to the Son, - John 5:22 ESV
The wonderful news is that we have the promise of Jesus, the sole
administrator of forgiveness, that if we confess our sins, He will forgive us:
9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our
sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9
ESV
What does all this teach us? To know forgiveness, we must know Jesus.
Forgiveness is through His blood and in His name alone. He is the only one
who has the authority of the Father to proclaim our pardon and forgiveness.
All who want to know this pardon must stand before Him. We cannot
separate forgiveness from the person of Jesus Christ –He is our forgiveness.
His blood brings our forgiveness, and He alone has been given the right to
declare our pardon. Only in His name and by his authority can any true
forgiveness be offered.
Forgiveness is not just something that happens to us. It is so connected with
the person of Jesus Cheiar that ultimately, He is our forgiveness. Without
Jesus, there is no forgiveness. Apart from His blood, there is no pardon. His
declaration alone will set us free from guilt. Our complete and total pardon
rests in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ, what He has done and what he
declares to us personally. If you want to be forgiven, you need to know
Jesus.
For Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you that there is forgiveness through your work on the
cross of Calvary. I confess that there is no other way for me to have peace
with the Father but through You. I recognize that there is no other name by
which I can be saved but Yours. I believe that You alone have been given
the authority to pardon sin. If I am to be forgiven, I must stand before You
alone. All judgement has been given to You. I stand before You now and
ask for pardon and forgiveness of sin. I confess that I am unworthy of this
but know You to be a God of grace and mercy. I confess You to be my only
guarantee and assurance of forgiveness. My pardon is so tied up in You and
Your work that You are my pardon –I trust in nothing but You and rest
confident in Your promise alone.
H
4 – JESUS THE WAY
ow would you respond if I asked you: "What is the way to your
house?" You would likely give me a set of directions. You would
tell me what street to follow, where to turn, and your house
number. What if I asked you: "What is the way to heaven?" How would you
respond? I suppose some would tell me that I needed to be good to my
neighbours, go to church every Sunday and live a certain way. But how
would Jesus answer this question? Listen to His response in John 14:6:
6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6
ESV
You can't get into a spaceship and travel to a place called heaven by
following a certain set of coordinates. You can't even get there by following
a certain set of rules or by living an especially good life. Jesus tells us that
He is the way and that no one can come to the Father apart from Him. The
way to heaven is a person –the Lord Jesus. Apart from Jesus, there is no
way we can get there.
About ten minutes from where I live is a passenger ferry that takes cars and
trucks to an island province about six hours away. If you were to ask me the
way to this province, I would tell you that the ferry is the way. If you want
to go there, you need to drive your car onto that boat and let it take you all
the way. Jesus told His listeners something similar when He told them that
He was the way to the Father. If they were going to get to heaven, they
needed to trust Him to do it for them. He was the only one who could get
them there. To know Jesus is to know the way.
If I get lost while travelling, I might stop a person on the street and ask for
directions. However, this is not what Jesus is telling us when He teaches
that He is the way. He is not telling us that He knows the way, and if we
come to Him, He can show us how to get there on our own. Jesus is very
clear when He says: "I am the way."
If I want to find heaven, I must first find Jesus. The Father will only allow
those who know His Son to enter. This is the clear teaching of Jesus in the
passage quoted above:
No one comes to the Father except through me. - John 14:6
ESV
In John 10, the Lord Jesus told a parable about a sheepfold where He
describes Himself as the only entrance:
[7] So Jesus again said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am
the door of the sheep. [8] All who came before me are thieves
and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. [9] I am the
door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in
and out and find pasture. – John 10:7-9 ESV
There is only one doorway into heaven, and Jesus tells us that He is that
doorway. If you want to go to heaven, you must pass through Him.
As a sinner, I cannot enter until the penalty for sin has been paid. Where do
I go to have this addressed? I must go to Jesus. As one who has offended
God, I must first be made right with Him to be with Him forever. How can I
be made right with God? I need forgiveness and pardon. This, too, comes
from Jesus. Everything we need for heaven is found in the person of the
Lord Jesus and nobody else. His death paid my penalty. His declaration sets
me free from guilt and condemnation.
One sacrifice after another was made for sin throughout the Old Testament,
but the wall between God and human beings remained. This was pictured
most graphically in the tabernacle where a curtain separated the people of
God from the Most Holy Place, where God revealed His presence. No
matter how many sacrifices were made, that curtain of separation remained.
Writing about this, the author of Hebrews says:
8 By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the holy
places is not yet opened as long as the first section is still
standing ... 11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of
the good things that have come, then through the greater and
more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this
creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by
means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own
blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. - Hebrews 9:8,11-
12 ESV
"When Christ appeared as a high priest," everything changed He secured
"an eternal redemption." In other words, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ opened
the door for us to enter the presence of the Father. Listen to t what happened
when Jesus died on the cross:
(50) And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up
his spirit. (51) And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in
two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks
were split. (52) The tombs also were opened. And many bodies
of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, (53) and
coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the
holy city and appeared to many. - Matthew 27:50-53 ESV
Every barrier to fellowship with the Father was broken when the Lord Jesus
died. He became the bridge between sinful human beings and God. We now
have access to the Father through Him:
18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the
Father. - Ephesians 2:18 ESV
The writer to the Hebrews tells us that we can now enter the Most Holy
place into the presence of the Father with confidence because of Christ's
blood shed for us:
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the
holy places by the blood of Jesus, - Hebrews 10:19 ESV
The apostle Paul repeated the same thought when he told the Ephesians that
in Christ, we have boldness and confidence to access that Father:
12 in whom we have boldness and access with confidence
through our faith in him. - Ephesians 3:12 ESV
We have already examined the words of Jesus in John 10 when He said:
7 "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep… 9 I am
the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in
and out and find pasture. - John 10:7, 9 ESV
In New Testament times, a shepherd would gather his sheep into a fold and
then stand at the entrance guarding them. Nothing could come in or out of
the single opening unless it passed through the shepherd. He became the
door to the sheepfold. Jesus tells us that you need to find Him to enter the
fold. In fact, He is the door into the fold. This was the teaching of the
apostle Paul when he wrote to the Romans in chapter 5 of his epistle:
1 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have
peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him
we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which
we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. - Romans
5:1-2 ESV
According to Paul, we have access through the Lord Jesus as the doorway
to forgiveness and eternal life. Jesus doesn't just know the way; He is the
way. The way to heaven and eternal life is a person. It is not a set of
directions to follow or a way of living. The way to God is Jesus. If you
want heaven, you need Jesus. If you want access to the Father, you must go
through Jesus the door.
Salvation is not a set of directions we follow to find heaven. Nor is it a
lifestyle we choose to gain the approval of God. The way to God is a
person. We do injustice to the person of Jesus Christ when we reduce
salvation to a set of doctrines or practices. The way to God is firmly rooted
in the person of His Son. Doctrines or religious practices will not save us;
only the person of Jesus can do that. To know the way to God, you must
know the person of Jesus.
For Prayer:
Lord God, forgive us for reducing salvation to a set of doctrines and
lifestyles. We confess that our beliefs will never save us, nor will our good
life. We recognize that Satan believes in Jesus, but he will be condemned
forever. Help us keep our focus on the person of the Lord Jesus, who alone
is the way to God. He is the door through which we must pass. He is the
one upon whom we must rely to access the Father. To know salvation, we
must know the person of Jesus.
I
5 – JESUS THE TRUTH
n John 18, we have the record of a conversation between the Lord
Jesus and Pilate. Pilate asked Jesus whether he was a king. Jesus told
him He was, but His kingdom was not of this world. He went on to
tell Pilate that He had come to bear witness to the truth. Pilate responded
with words that have echoed throughout the generations: "What is truth?" -
John 18:38, ESV.
In our day, truth is subjective. My truth is not someone else's. In a post-truth
era, we make up our reality. Biological facts no longer matter when it
comes to determining the sex of an individual. There is a rebellion against
any authority determining right or wrong behaviour. Law enforcement
officers are seen as enemies. Opinion-based news reports have taken the
place of objective reporting. Truth is what I want it to be; facts get in the
way.
For those of us seeking to find the answer, the question remains: what is
truth? How did the Lord Jesus answer this question? He leaves no doubt
about what He believed and taught when He said:
(6) "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to
the Father except through me. - John 14:6 ESV
Jesus made a bold declaration. He told all who would listen to Him that He
was the truth. The truth Jesus speaks about here relates to the meaning and
purpose of life. Jesus is the reason to live. He is also its goal and purpose.
The apostle John introduced Jesus in his gospel with the following words:
(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with God.
(3) All things were made through him, and without him was not
any thing made that was made. (4) In him was life, and the life
was the light of men. (5) The light shines in the darkness, and
the darkness has not overcome it. (6) There was a man sent
from God, whose name was John (7) He came as a witness, to
bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.
(8) He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the
light. (9) The true light, which gives light to everyone, was
coming into the world. - John 1:1-9 ESV
John tells us that Jesus, as the Word, was in the beginning with God (verses
1-2). That Word made all things (verse 3). In Him was the "light of men"
(verse 4). The light in Him was "the true light" that gives light to everyone
coming into the world (verse 9).
Consider the title given to Jesus here. He is the Word. The term does not
refer to the sound coming from the mouth but the wisdom and intellect of
God. In other words, Jesus was the expression of the truth of God. He
perfectly demonstrated the truth in His life, actions and teaching. If you
want to know the truth about God and His purpose, you need to look to
Jesus. He is the ultimate demonstration and expression of that truth.
John goes on in verse 14 to say more about this Word:
(14) And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we
have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father,
full of grace and truth. - John 1:14 ESV
Jesus the Word became flesh. The intellect and wisdom of God were
demonstrated in the person of Jesus, who became a man. John tells us that
the man Jesus was "full of grace and truth." To know the truth, we must
look to Him. The apostle made it clear that the truth of God and His
purpose come to us in the person of the Lord Jesus:
(17) For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth
came through Jesus Christ. - John 1:17 ESV
Jesus is the source of all truth about God and His purpose for us in this
world. His life not only demonstrates the truth of God, He is the truth.
Consider also the words of Jesus to the Jews in John 8:31:
(31) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, "If you
abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, (32) and you will
know the truth, and the truth will set you free." - John 8:31-32
ESV
Jesus speaks here to Jews who believed in Him. He told them that if they
remained in His word, they would know the truth, and that truth would set
them free. Consider this for a moment. What is the truth that sets us free? I
have met people who believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but they have not
experienced the salvation that sets them free from judgement. The truth
spoken of here is not just a set of doctrines to believe. It is much deeper
than this. Jesus is the truth. It is Him who sets us free. You can understand
all the Bible says about Jesus, but if you do not come to Him, You will
never experience freedom. Jesus is the truth that sets us free. John explains
this more fully when he says:
(3) And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true
God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. - John 17:3 ESV
To experience eternal life, we must know the true God and His Son Jesus
Christ.
Listen to the words of John about Jesus in his first epistle:
(20) And we know that the Son of God has come and has given
us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we
are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true
God and eternal life. - 1 John 5:20 ESV
John describes Jesus as the true God who has come to give us
understanding. In other words, Jesus came so we could know the true God
and His plan for eternal life.
In Revelation 3:14, Jesus describes Himself as the "faithful and true
witness, the beginning of God's creation:"
(14) "And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: 'The
words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning
of God's creation. - Revelation 3:14 ESV
His life is a perfect demonstration of the truth of God for us. He embodies
the purpose and will of God for His creation.
Consider the words of John as recorded in Revelation 19:11:
(11) Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The
one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in
righteousness he judges and makes war. (12) His eyes are like
a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a
name written that no one knows but himself. (13) He is clothed
in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is
The Word of God. - Revelation 19:11-13 ESV
In his vision, the apostle John saw a rider on a white horse. The name of
this rider was Faithful and True. He came to exercise judgement on the
earth and was clothed in a robe dipped in blood. John identifies him as "The
Word of God" in verse 13. The Lord Jesus, as the Word of God, bears the
name Faithful and True. This was not just a name but a reflection of His
person. He was the Faithful and True witness of Revelation 3:14.
It is easy to see truth as a set of beliefs and doctrines. Truth is more than
this, however. It is embodied in the person of Jesus Christ. It is so rooted in
Him that you must first know Jesus to know the truth. You cannot separate
Jesus from the truth, nor can you find truth apart from Jesus. To know Jesus
is to see the truth.
For Prayer:
Lord Jesus, we recognize that You are the truth of God, perfectly
demonstrated in human form. You came as the Word to give us
understanding and knowledge of the purpose of the Father. Thank you that
You opened our eyes to see You as the truth. Forgive us for how we have so
often separated truth from the person of Jesus and reduced it to a set of
doctrines. We confess that until we find You, these doctrines and beliefs
will never save us. Give us the passion of Paul, who said: "For I decided to
know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified" (1
Corinthians 2:2 ESV). We know that to know Christ is to know the truth.
I
6 – JESUS OUR LIFE
n the last chapter, we examined the words of Jesus, who said:
(6) "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to
the Father except through me. - John 14:6 ESV
We have already seen how Jesus is the way and the truth. Let's take a
moment here to examine the final claim of Jesus in this verse.
I want to begin with John 1:1-4:
(1) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with
God, and the Word was God. (2) He was in the beginning with
God. (3) All things were made through him, and without him
was not any thing made that was made. (4) In him was life,
and the life was the light of men. - John 1:1-4 ESV
John begins his gospel by introducing Jesus as the Word. We considered
this in the last chapter. Notice what John tells us about Jesus the Word. He
was with God in the beginning, and all things were made through Him.
Jesus was one with the Father and the Spirit in creating the world. We owe
our existence to the Lord Jesus as our Creator. Our life comes from Him.
Notice also in verse 4 that John tells us that in Jesus was life and that this
life was our light. In other words, we only see the light of life because of
the grace of God through Jesus. We must understand here that while Jesus
was involved in creation with the Father and the Spirit, this physical life is
not the only life we have because of Jesus. Consider the words of the
apostle Paul to the Ephesians:
(4) But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with
which he loved us, (5) even when we were dead in our
trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you
have been saved— - Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV
Paul told the Ephesians that they were spiritually dead and had no
relationship with God because of sin. In His infinite mercy, the Lord God
made them "alive together with Christ." In other words, through the work of
His Son, the Lord God gave spiritual life to those who were separated from
Him.
The apostle shared this thought with the Colossians when he wrote:
(13) And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the
uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with
him, having forgiven us all our trespasses - Colossians 2:13
ESV
Those who were dead to God, and separated eternally from Him, were
made alive "together" with Christ through the forgiveness of sin.
Notice how the apostle uses "together with Christ" and "together with Him"
in these two verses. The word together is important. It implies that the
spiritual life we have is intimately connected to Christ and that we would
not have life apart from Him. You cannot separate the person of Jesus
Christ from this new life. Jesus tells us in John 14:6, quoted above that He
is the life we receive.
Listen to what Jesus told those who questioned His authority in John 5:
(21) For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so
also the Son gives life to whom he will - John 5:21 ESV
Jesus has the power of life in Himself. He is the source of both physical and
spiritual life. Not only is Jesus the source of life, but he also sustains this
life as we trust in Him. He declares Himself to be the Bread of Life in John
6:35:
(35) Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes
to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never
thirst. - John 6:35 ESV
If we don't eat, we will perish. We need food to sustain our lives. Jesus tells
us here that not only does he give life, but as the Bread of life, He also
maintains it. This is true for both our physical and spiritual lives.
The focus of this study relates to Jesus our salvation. Through the work of
the Lord Jesus on the cross of Calvary, we are not only pardoned but
received new life. Writing to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul said:
(17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The
old has passed away; behold, the new has come. - 2
Corinthians 5:17 ESV
What is this new life we receive? Jesus answers this for us in John 11:25
when He said:
(25) Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life.
Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, - John
11:25 ESV
Speaking to Martha that day, Jesus told her that He was the life and that
whoever believed in Him would not die. The new life we experience is
Jesus in us.
In John 6:57, Jesus told His listeners that if they wanted to know life, they
needed to feed on Him:
(57) As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the
Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me.
- John 6:57 ESV
If we want life, there is only one place we can go to find it –the person of
the Lord Jesus. We must draw this life from Him and depend on Him for it.
Peter boldly told the Jews of his day that they killed the author of life when
they crucified the Lord Jesus:
(15) and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from
the dead. To this we are witnesses. - Acts 3:15 ESV
What is important for us to understand is that Jesus is much more than the
author of life for us. He is our life. We cannot separate the life we have in
Christ from the person of Christ. Writing to the Colossians, the apostle Paul
said:
(4) When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will
appear with him in glory. - Colossians 3:4 ESV
Do you see what the apostle said here? Christ is our life. He does not tell us
that Christ gave us life, although that is also true. Paul specifically tells us
that the life in us is Christ. The new life we know is the very presence of the
Lord Jesus in us.
The apostle puts it in another way when he wrote to the Galatians:
(20) I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I
live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself
for me. - Galatians 2:20 ESV
The very spirit of Christ dwelled in the person of the apostle Paul. The life
he experienced was the life of Christ being manifested in Him. The life Paul
experienced was not some impersonal force but the reL presence of Jesus.
Writing to Timothy, the apostle said:
(1) Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God
according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus. - 2
Timothy 1:1 ESV
The life Paul experienced was in the person of Christ Jesus. This was what
the apostle John told his readers in 1 John 5:11-12:
(11) And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and
this life is in his Son. (12) Whoever has the Son has life;
whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. - 1
John 5:11-12 ESV
If you have Jesus, you have life. Jesus is the life in us. His presence in us is
our life.
The apostle Paul was very much aware of this presence of the Lord Jesus in
him as he walked in his calling. In fact, he was so aware of Christ's
presence in him that he refused to take credit for what Christ had
accomplished in Him.
(18) For I will not venture to speak of anything except what
Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to
obedience—by word and deed, - Romans 15:18 ESV
Paul reminded the Corinthians that God had shone the light of the glory of
Christ in their hearts as well:
(6) For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," has
shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the
glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6
ESV
Those who know the Lord Jesus have His light shining in their heart. This
light is not separate from Christ but the very light of His presence in them.
Paul compared himself to a simple jar of clay holding a priceless treasure
the glory of Christ:
(7) But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the
surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 2
Corinthians 4:7 ESV
The surpassing power of Christ dwelt in Paul. As a result, He did what was
impossible in his human strength. Those who saw his works knew that the
power in Him was the very power of Christ. The apostle went on to
describe the life of the believer when he said:
(10) always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the
life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. (11) For we
who live are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake,
so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal
flesh. - 2 Corinthians 4:6-7,10-11 ESV
Notice how Paul told the Corinthians that the life of Jesus was manifested
in his mortal flesh. The life Paul experienced was the life of Jesus in him. It
was the power of Jesus that enabled him. It was the glory of Christ that
shone from his heart.
It is easy for us to believe that Jesus gives us life as an impersonal force.
This was not how Paul saw the life He received. The life Jesus gives is His
own. He gave this life on the cross, and He gives Himself to all who
believe. Jesus is the life and power you experience. He does not leave you
to yourself but chooses to live and work in You.
When I see the life in me as the person of Christ, I surrender to Him and
His leading. I find myself overwhelmed by the reality of His presence. I
step out boldly in obedience and experience the power of His Spirit. I
realize that when great things happen, it is not my strength that
accomplished it but the very person of Christ through me and in this, I bow
in praise and thanksgiving.
For Prayer:
Lord Jesus, thank you for my physical life. I recognize that it has come
from You. I acknowledge that you have sustained and protected me from
my birth. Thank you that I know Your presence in my mortal flesh. Thank
you for the evidence I see of this in my life as you change me day by day
into Your image. I praise You for the power that You have made available to
me through Your presence in my life –power to overcome and power to
serve. I recognize that you dwell in a fragile "jar of clay," but I pray that I
demonstrate Your presence in me to the world. May Your presence and
power be evident for all to see, and may I willingly take a back seat so that
all will see You.
R
7 – CHRIST OUR
RIGHTEOUSNESS
ighteousness has to do with being in right standing with God. The
enemy to righteousness is sin. Sin separates us from a holy God
and places us under His judgement. As a just God, He must
punish us. As a holy God, He must separate Himself from the sinner. The
problem is that we all fall short of God's standard. Quoting from Psalm 14,
the apostle Paul says:
(10) as it is written: "None is righteous, no, not one; (11) no
one understands; no one seeks for God. (12) All have turned
aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good,
not even one." - Romans 3:10-12 ESV
Romans 6:23 tells us that the "wages of sin is death." This death is physical
and spiritual in nature and implies an eternal separation from God. How is
right standing with God possible when we are sinners by nature? The
answer comes in the person of Jesus Christ. Listen once again to the words
of the apostle Paul in Romans 5:
(6) For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died
for the ungodly. (7) For one will scarcely die for a righteous
person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare
even to die— (8) but God shows his love for us in that while we
were still sinners, Christ died for us. (9) Since, therefore, we
have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be
saved by him from the wrath of God. (10) For if while we were
enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son,
much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by
his life. (11) More than that, we also rejoice in God through our
Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received
reconciliation. - Romans 5:6-11 ESV
The Lord Jesus took sin's penalty and "died for us" (verse 8). His death paid
our sentence in full and reconciled us to God. With our debt paid, we can
now be in a right relationship with God.
While we acknowledge that the Lord Jesus paid for our sin on the cross, the
problem is that we still sin. In Matthew 5:20, the Lord Jesus, speaking
about the scribes and the Pharisees, said:
(20) For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of
the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of
heaven. - Matthew 5:20 ESV
There were none so religious as the scribes and Pharisees in Israel. They
were careful to observe the law of Moses in every detail. People looked up
to them as an example of what it meant to be righteous. Jesus, however, told
His listeners that the righteousness God expected was greater than that
which the Pharisees and scribes demonstrated. Jesus went on in that same
discussion to say:
(48) You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is
perfect. - Matthew 5:48 ESV
God's standard of righteousness is perfection. Anything less than this is
unacceptable to Him. Only perfection can enter His presence –such is the
absolute holiness of God. The problem is that while the Lord Jesus has
forgiven us, we are far from perfect and still fall short of His standard in our
actions, thoughts and attitudes. How can we be right with God when we still
sin?
Consider the words of Paul in Romans 1:
(17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for
faith, as it is written, "The righteous shall live by faith." -
Romans 1:17 ESV
The apostle spoke about righteousness from God revealed and lived out in
faith. Notice two details here. First, the righteousness Paul talks about is not
our righteousness but the "righteousness of God." Second, those who
experience this right standing with God do so by faith.
Paul explains what he means more fully in Romans 3 when he says:
(21) But now the righteousness of God has been manifested
apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear
witness to it— (22) the righteousness of God through faith in
Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: -
Romans 3:21-22 ESV
The righteousness Paul speaks about here is "apart from the law." In other
words, it is not based on our ability to obey God's law. For thousands of
years, the people of God attempted to follow this law but failed. No one
could meet its standard. According to Paul, however, God now reveals a
righteousness that has nothing to do with how well we can live the Christian
life. This righteousness, the apostle tells us, comes through faith in the Lord
Jesus.
Paul describes this righteousness as a "free gift" in Romans 5:
(17) For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned
through that one man, much more will those who receive the
abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in
life through the one man Jesus Christ. (18) Therefore, as one
trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of
righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. -
Romans 5:17-18 ESV
Paul tells us about a righteous right standing with God that comes to us as a
"free gift." This gift of righteousness does not depend on how good we are.
It is based solely on the work of the "one man Jesus Christ" and His "one
act of righteousness." That act of righteousness was His death on the cross
that paid our sins in full.
To understand this more fully, consider what Paul tells us in Romans 8:6-
11:
(8) Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (9) You,
however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit
of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of
Christ does not belong to him. (10) But if Christ is in you,
although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life
because of righteousness. (11) If the Spirit of him who raised
Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus
from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through
his Spirit who dwells in you.- Romans 8:8-11 ESV
The apostle told the Romans that "the flesh cannot please God." This body
with its natural impulses must die. It will not enter the presence of God, nor
can it because it is sinful. Paul tells us, however, that we "are not in the
flesh but in the Spirit." Those who know the Lord Jesus have been born
again. Jesus told Nicodemus that unless he experienced this new birth, he
would not see the kingdom of God:
(3) Jesus answered him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is
born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." - John 3:3 ESV
Paul considered his fleshly nature dead. While in his earthly body, the
apostle still experienced its lusts and sinful desires, but he did not identify
with them. He spoke of this in Romans 7 when he said:
(21) So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil
lies close at hand. (22) For I delight in the law of God, in my
inner being, (23) but I see in my members another law waging
war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the
law of sin that dwells in my members. (24) Wretched man that I
am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? (25) Thanks
be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself
serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the
law of sin. - Romans 7:21-25 ESV
Do you see the struggle here? Paul delighted in the law of God, but his flesh
and sinful mind waged war against that law. He lived with what he called a
body of death. That body of death was his sinful flesh that had been
condemned to die. He carried this around like a dead horse on his back, but
it was not who he was anymore. He longed to be free of this body so He
could walk in deep and intimate fellowship with God.
It is important to understand that the apostle did not define himself by his
flesh but by the new life He had received from Christ. Notice what he said
in verse 22: "I delight in the law of God, in my inner being." Paul received
this inner being when he was born again. There was a day when he placed
that old fleshly nature on the cross and died to it. Paul became a new person
that day. He spoke of this to the Corinthians when he said:
(17) Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The
old has passed away; behold, the new has come. - 2
Corinthians 5:17 ESV
Paul considered his old fleshly nature dead. He chose to live now in the new
life He had received from God through faith in the work of Jesus Christ.
Notice what Paul told the Galatians about this new life:
(20) I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live,
but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I
live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself
for me. (21) I do not nullify the grace of God, for if