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The Gospel of God – Part 45

Sin and its consequences.God’s provision in Christ.
Being under the judgement of God.Justification and forgiveness.
Being separated from God.Reconciliation.
Being spiritually dead.Regeneration.
Being enslaved.Redemption.
Being unclean.Sanctification.
Being powerless.The Holy Spirit.
Being in the Old Covenant.The New Covenant.

Through the ages God’s dealings with man(kind) have always been by a covenant relationship. Examples would include the covenants with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David.

This is not the place where we can study this theme more fully. Suffice it to say that the law given by Moses includes those covenants already mentioned and viewed in the light of the New Testament as being “Old”.

The book of Hebrews is the most helpful when we want to have a fuller discussion of this great theme.

The writer – many think it would be Paul – says this;

“In that He says, “A new covenant” He has made the old obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away”. Hebrews 8:13.

This is in the light of majestic prophecies from the Old Testament that have now been applied to Christ who has fulfilled them. The clearest comes from Jeremiah.

“Because finding fault with them, He says: Behold, the days coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah –

not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall by My people.

“None of them shall teach his neighbour, and none his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.

For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more”. Hebrews 8:8-12.

The key thing to see is that what was originally an external covenant and one that required keeping from both sides was impossible for the people to do.  That is why the very first words we read regarding Jeremiah’s great prophecy was that he laid squarely at the door of the people the reason why the covenant was continually being broken – He found fault with them. Hebrews 8:8.

God fulfilled both sides of the covenant agreement so we can be in the agreement as we are in Him.

The New Covenant is where we read and see the power of God to change us inwardly.

This is well described in the other marvellous prophecy of the Old Testament.

“Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

“I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgements and do them”. Ezekiel 36:25-27.

This wonderfully declares that the Lord will give us a new heart as we believe Him.  This will enable us to walk in Him. He will cause us to walk. This is no longer our efforts to live as we should but is dependent on the activity of the Holy Spirit in our new hearts, as we believe Him.

What was once external – the external law and commandments – is now internal, the law written on our hearts and in our minds.

God the Holy Spirit fills the life of the believer so that He is indwelt by Him. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon a few and a limited number of people for a particular task or purpose. In the New Covenant the Holy Spirit lives within us. This is an amazing truth and revelation!

Jesus was teaching His disciples this the night before He was arrested and taken from them. He was explaining about the unique work of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, our Advocate.

“Jesus answered and said to him, (Judas, not the disciple who would betray Jesus) “If anyone loves Me, he will keep my word; and My Father will love him., and We will come to him and make Our home with him” John 14:23.

Jesus, along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit – We – will make Our home with him!

When Jesus was teaching them, He was describing a different order of relationship.

“The Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him, but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you”. John 14:17.

Jesus by the Spirit is certainly with us, He leads us, guides us, comforts us etc, but the greater truth is that He is in us!

This is the marvel of the gospel in its culmination.

We who were sinners, born in sin and in slavery to the devil, have been redeemed and reconciled to God by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and He now lives within us!

“I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene and wonder how He could love Me, a sinner condemned, unclean!

How marvellous, how wonderful and this my song shall ever be, How marvellous, how wonderful is my Saviours love for me!”


The Gospel of God – Part 44

Sin and its consequences.God’s provision in Christ.
Being under the judgement of God.Justification and forgiveness.
Being separated from God.Reconciliation.
Being spiritually dead.Regeneration.
Being enslaved.Redemption.
Being unclean.Sanctification.
Being powerless.The Holy Spirit.

After Jesus had been raised from the dead He appeared to many groups and individuals of his disciples as we have seen in a previous part of our study. After ten days He ascended to heaven where He received the Holy Spirit from His Father and whom He poured out upon His waiting people.

Jesus had promised them this, that they would know power to live.

“You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth”. Acts 1:8.  

The Greek word for “power” is the word “dynamis” from which we get our English words like dynamite, dynamo, etc.

The power that the disciples needed was a power to live. This promise must not be taken to mean that it refers specifically to the receiving of certain supernatural gifts, like speaking in foreign languages, languages otherwise unknown to the speaker. These are amazing gifts and the New Testament gives several lists of such gifts. This is not primarily what is in view here however.

The power that the disciples needed was supernatural power to live by the life of the Holy Spirit that they had received.

Up until this time they were still struggling to understand Jesus and certainly did not understand the power released in the resurrection. The contrast between the days when Jesus was appearing to them, and the immediate days after Pentecost is immense. By the coming of the Holy Spirit they had been transformed from a group of fearful men and women, locked up in the upper room, doubting, confused, afraid, and riddled with guilt and shame, to an altogether different group. Now they were filled with the Holy Spirit and were boldly preaching Him in the very place, and among many of the same people, who, only a few days ago, were crucifying Him. Those who had deserted Him and had run away at the scenes of the cross, were now fearlessly declaring His claim on their lives, and His power to transform all who would receive Him.

Nearly all of the disciples – or apostles as they were later named – experienced martyrdom for their faith. The only rational explanation of this remarkable transformation is that God had given them divine power to live.

They had been regenerated by the power of God. They went on to preach the gospel and share their faith all over the then-known world as Jesus prophesied that they would.

When Jesus was crucified the Bible teaches that we were crucified with Him. Not only did He die for us, in our place, as our substitute, He also died as us, for our freedom and deliverance, from self and sin.

“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which 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.

“Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord”. Romans 6:11.

“There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death”. Romans 8:1.

“The normal Christian life” is not just the title of a very helpful book written by Watchman Nee; it is an expression that should describe the experience of every believer.

Are we all living the quality of life described in the New Testament, or have we settled for something “safer”. There is provision for all of us to be in something new and radical and that is only possible by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us?


The Gospel of God – Part 43

Redemption, we have seen, is about Christ’s great work in delivering mankind from the power of the enemy and from our own sins, and setting us free to belong to Him. He has paid the price to buy us back to God.

There is however another aspect in the Bible about our redemption and that is concerning our inheritance. Through Christ’s work we can know that in Him we have an inheritance. This is most beautifully seen in the small book of Ruth in the Old Testament.

Naomi was a Jew married to Elimelech, they had two sons and they lived in Bethlehem. When famine hit the land, already struggling under the rule of various judges, the family moved to Moab for food.

Soon tragedy struck. Elimelech died leaving Naomi a widow. Her two sons took wives from the Moabite women but incredibly then her two sons in law both died leaving Naomi with her two daughters in law, Orpah and Ruth.

Hearing reports that there was food back in Bethlehem Naomi decided to return encouraging her daughters in law to remain and re-marry. Orpah did but Ruth clung to Naomi.

This is a wonderfully moving piece of prose:

“Entreat me not to leave you, or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. The Lord do so to me and more also, if anything but death parts you and me”. Ruth 1:16,17.

This was an amazing response from a heathen woman to her mother in law’s faith.  

So eventually both Naomi and Ruth return and the Lord gives them wonderful favour back in Israel. Cutting a long story short Ruth falls into the hands of a kind landowner whom she falls in love with. Little did she realise but Boaz was a close relative of her.

In ancient Israelite society the following well defined legal obligations fell to the next of kin, known as the (goel), or kinsman-redeemer.

Family lands could not be sold out of family possession. A destitute relative could sell inheritance land to pay debtors, but landless people were effectively reduced to servitude. It fell to the goel to redeem lands, and family members by payment of outstanding debts. Where no goel existed, the land could be sold outside the family, eventually reverting back in the Jubilee year.

Remarkably Ruth had been led to Boaz, who was unbeknown to her at first as her goel, kinsman redeemer. Once he had clarified his leg position Boaz wasted no time in taking Ruth as his wife. In so doing he established her inheritance.

Boaz says, “Moreover, Ruth the Moabitess, the widow of Mahlon, I have acquired as my wife, to perpetuate the name of the dead through his inheritance, that the name of the dead may not be cut off from among his brethren and from his position at the gate. You are witnesses this day”. Ruth 4:10.

Ruth’s faithfulness at a time of unfaithfulness results in God giving her a son, Obed, and she has a privileged position in the lineage of David and Christ (she is the great-grandmother of David). Ruth 4:13-17.

Christ is our goel!

He has become one of us, and has taken us up for himself by spiritually marrying us. He has cleared our debts, and given us an inheritance in Him.

He is our kinsman- redeemer.


The Gospel of God – Part 42

Listen to King David’s words when the ark had been brought back to Jerusalem and he was alone with God:

“And who is like Your people, like Israel, the one nation on the earth whom God went to redeem for Himself as a people, to make for Himself a name – and to do for Yourself great and awesome deeds for Your land- before Your people whom You redeemed for Yourself from Egypt, the nation, and their gods?” For You have made Your people Israel Your very own people forever; and You, Lord, have become their God”. 2 Samuel 7:23,23.

The word “redeem” or “redemption” is the word used when one would buy out a slave to grant him his freedom. The release would be in response to a price being paid. The death of Christ is stated as the means of our redemption.

“In Him (Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”. Ephesians 1:7.

 “Knowing you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”. 1Peter 1:18,19.

“Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus”. Romans 3:24.

 “Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good work

s”. Titus 2:14

“Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption”. Hebrews 9:11,12.

Note the refences to the blood that was shed to redeem us. We are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, who offered Himself as a sacrifice for all. He has taken us out of the hand of the enemy, set us free from bondage, and made us His very own.

Like many Biblical truths there is an immediate relevance of these great things but also a future fulfilment when the Lord Jesus will return and set up His kingdom.

This is the time when we will receive a new body with which to live in the new earth that God will make.

“In whom (Christ) also, having believed you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory”. Ephesians 1:13,14.

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption”. Ephesians 4:30.

“And not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body”. Romans 8:23.


The Gospel of God – Part 41

Sin and its consequences.God’s provision in Christ.
Being under the judgement of God.Justification and forgiveness.
Being separated from God.Reconciliation.
Being spiritually dead.Regeneration.
Being enslaved.Redemption.

There are several feasts in the life of the Lord’s ancient people representing different events in their history. Some were celebrations of the seasons and of God’s faithful provision for the nation. None of them however carry the significance that the Passover does. Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, combining pastoral and agricultural elements, were observed together, to commemorate Israel’s departure from Egypt. The observance began on the fourteenth day of the first month and lasted for a week. These events are recorded for us in Exodus 12:1-20; 23:15.

So why are these Feast so important and so faithfully commemorated each year, even today by practising Jews?

They point back to the terribly dark years of their history when the nation was subjugated under a tyrannical despot, Pharaoh, in Egypt. For four hundred years they were a nation of slaves, having no national identity.

How they were delivered is truly remarkable.

Through a series of ten plagues God sent judgement on Pharaoh, culminating in the death of the first born in every family and house. Israel too would have suffered the same fate unless they had obeyed God’s instruction. They were to stay in their houses but were to paint the two door posts and the lintel with the blood of a lamb that each family had acquired in preparation. It had to be cooked in a special way and the whole family were required to eat it together, all dressed to leave at a moment’s notice. When the Angel of Death passed over the land any living in the houses with the blood-stained doors were safe and would not die.

When the cries of despair were heard from the Egyptian homes all the people of God began to move out. God had miraculously delivered them. They were en route to the promised land.

However, it was not too long before Pharaoh relented and ordered his army to pursue the escaping Israelites. At this point Israel’s progress was halted by the Red Sea. Trapped in the wilderness with the Sea in front of them and Pharaoh’s army behind them, they once again faced impossibility. Then God told Moses to lift up his rod and in doing so the waters stopped flowing, they rose up on either side, and revealed a path through the sea. All of the Israelites passed over on to dry land. Lifting up his rod again Moses and the people then watched as Pharaoh’s chasing army were all drowned in the Sea.

A likely two to three million people were delivered from Egypt to begin a new life as a nation, with their own identity, laws, authorities, culture, worship etc. This event has been known as the Exodus. Its story lies deep in the psyche of the ancient people of God.

He had redeemed them. They had been redeemed by the blood of the lamb, upon which they also fed. Their enemies were defeated and destroyed before them. The power of the oppressor had been broken. “A nation had been born in a day”.

The whole story can be read in Exodus chapters 3-15.


The Gospel of God – Part 40

We must now turn our attention to John’s writings.

John’s word collection includes references to birth, love, family, children, Fatherhood, life, love and so on.

It is interesting to note that the early chapters in John’s gospel are thought to be placed very early in the public ministry of Jesus. Perhaps the call of the disciples was first but then the early chapters in John’s gospel come next.

In the first chapter John says, “He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, not of the will of the flesh, not of the will of man, but of God”. John 1:11-13.

New birth is seen by John as a foundational experience for men and women to know. New birth follows believing faith. Man’s responsibility is to turn to Christ in faith, believe in His name and receive Him deep into his heart. God responds by giving new birth. He alone is able to impart the life and power of God into a soul. It does not lie in the power of man, nor his will to make new birth happen. God Himself births a man in God as he believes and receives by faith.

A wedding is the context of His first miracle, after which comes the account of Jesus meeting Nicodemus at night. This is most instructive. Nicodemus was the teacher in Israel and was the authority in the knowledge of Scripture and the law etc.

It is too long to discuss the whole conversation in this article. Suffice it to say Jesus focussed down on the need Nicodemus had to be born again. He did not engage in a theological discussion with him. He ignored Nicodemus’s responses and came straight to the point, Nicodemus needed to have a new birth, a birth from above. Without such an experience, Jesus says, a man will not see the kingdom of God. It is that fundamental in His plan.

The other significant section of the New Testament that we should briefly explore is John’s epistles, especially his first.

At the time of writing John is an old man and is probably sending a circular letter as a pastor concerned for a number of churches. They have been infiltrated, it would seem, by Gnosticism, a common heresy of the day. He is trying to give the churches ways of recognising true believers and true teaching from false brethren and erroneous teaching.

He basically gives a series of tests by which people could evaluate and discern between the true and the false.

The things he mentions all spring out of the new birth. He suggests six evidences or indications that a person has been born again.

  1. The practice of righteousness. Chapter 2:29.
  2. The power not to sin. Chapter 3:9.
  3. Love and the knowledge of God. Chapter 4:7.
  4. Believing that Jesus is the Christ. Chapter 5:1.
  5. Overcoming the world. Chapter 5:4.
  6. Victory over the enemy. Chapter 5:18.

These evidences, as it were, show us just how radical and powerful the new birth from above really is. We must be sure that we have allowed God to work His mighty works in us. If we find we have not, then we must believe into Him with all that we have, receive His word and God will give us new birth.


The Gospel of God – Part 39

Sin and its consequences.God’s provision in Christ.
Being under the judgement of God.Justification and forgiveness.
Being separated from God.Reconciliation.
Being spiritually dead.Regeneration.

We have seen in our previous studies that man is dead. That is not physically dead, at least not yet! But the words of God in the garden come back to us now – “dying you will die”.

Spiritual death occurred instantly that the original couple disobeyed the word of God. That death resulted in corruption so that ultimately, they died physically too, albeit about nine hundred years later.

They died initially as far as their relationship with God was concerned.

Paul says “you were dead in trespasses and sins”.  Ephesians 2:1.

So, the provision that God made in His mercy and love was to give life again, for mankind to have a new beginning, a new birth. Receiving a new life from God is called regeneration.

The rest of Ephesians 2:1 reads, “And you He made alive, who were dead!”

One early reference to the word regeneration occurs in Matthew 19:28. Peter is anxious to know what will be his reward in the hereafter as a result of what he had given up to follow Jesus on earth.

“So, Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel””.

In other words, the regeneration is going to be the final chapter of God’s great plan to restore everything. All will be new. That is not to say new in the sense that it has never been there before. Rather, that it is new in the sense that everything has been renewed. All that had been lost will be regained. Man’s restoration will be complete. “There will be no more death”. Revelation 21:4.

All that was so beautiful in the original garden will now be seen in its fullest expression in the city of God, new Jerusalem. What a prospect! What glory awaits the believing soul!

When we are born again, we enter into that great process of continual transformation, into God’s great and eternal renewal and restoration of all things.

Paul uses the word regeneration once in his writings in Titus 3:4-7. “But when the kindness and the love of God our saviour toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which he have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life”.

This is Paul’s sole use of the word regeneration or similarly connected word. Yet remarkably it links all the main aspects of our salvation; God’s love and grace, justification by His grace, washing and cleansing of new birth and the important reference to the work of the Holy Spirit.

He also says as well, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation”, or more accurately expressed perhaps, “in Christ, new creation”!  2 Corinthians 5:17.

Another writer of the New Testament is Peter and he has two references to new birth in the first chapter of his first letter to the scattered pilgrims.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith to salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”. 1 Peter 1:3-5.

We have been born again through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus to be kept now for the fulness of our inheritance in Christ later.

“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever?” ! Peter 1:22,23.

We must note here the work of God is dependent on the word of God being received as a seed into a believer’s heart. This is able to keep him for ever. We also note the link with purity of heart which is a theme we will return to.


The Gospel of God – Part 38

Sin and its consequences.God’s provision in Christ.
Being under the judgement of God.Justification and forgiveness.
Being separated from God.Reconciliation.

Let us now look at another significant word describing God’s provision in the gospel.

When our fore parents sinned, they died. In that moment they were aware that their relationship with God had changed; there was now a great gulf between them. It was a gulf that only God could span. It was too massive for man to find a way across. God in His grace took the initiative to make a way.

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” 1 Timothy 2:5,6.

“He deigns in flesh to appear

Widest extremes to join

To bring our vileness near, and make us all Divine;

And we the life of God shall know

For God is manifest below.”

Charles Wesley in number 60 of Hymns of Eternal Truth.

Here is the revelation of the coming of the God Man – Christ Jesus. He is fully Man and fully God. As both holy God and perfect Man He alone is able to give Himself a ransom for all. He spans the gap, He bridges the gulf. His sacrifice alone is sufficient to bring together holy God and sinful man.

Ephesians 2:13-18 tells us “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordnances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who are near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father”.

Not only was there a great gulf fixed between God and man but also the New testament describes a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles. The Jews had been the people of God with all the benefits and privileges associated with that status, but the Gentiles – the non- Jewish world – were considered in comparison to be “afar off”, not “near”.

In the death of Christ, He has brought both together those afar off, and those near, and created one new Man. In this new Man all distinctions are rendered none and void. 

For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fulness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross”.

And you, who once were alienated and enemies in our mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight”.  Colossians 1:19,22.

By His grace we have received the reconciliation. Not only that we should be brought near to God again by the work of His cross but also that He has entrusted us to share this great ministry. We have received the reconciliation.

“For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Romans 5:10,11.

“Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us; we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him”. 2 Corinthians 5:18-21.

Believers have received the reconciliation and are now called to act here on earth as ambassadors for Him. They implore and plead for others on behalf of Christ.

The church must exhibit the life of the one new man. In Christ there is only one man.

“Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all”. Colossians 3:9-11.


The Gospel of God – Part 37

Justification by grace alone through faith alone was the key truth that started the Reformation in the early sixteenth century. The main name that stands out is Martin Luther.

Other people were significant but Luther and his actions started the whole movement going. 

In those days the religious life of the nation was completely different to what we would understand today.

There was great darkness over Europe. People were afraid of demons, hobgoblins, and the like. People were ruled by the Catholic Church from Rome, and local priests were to be feared. The people of the day had no means of learning as they had no access to books, or even a mindset to discover and investigate new ideas. They were told what they were required to believe.

There was a practice going around at that time known as indulgences. This was an edict from the Pope himself. He authorised the production of letters of authority from priests to sell indulgences to the people. The people were told that if they gave money buying these indulgences, they would keep a loved one out of purgatory.

Martin Luther was stirred by the wickedness of the religious powers and what they were practising. He went to the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany, on 31st October 1517 and posted up his Ninety-five Theses on the door of the castle. This would be equivalent to posting a lecture on the town notice board. He was soon summoned to the religious authorities in their council and asked to recant – i.e. to say he had acted erroneously. He asked to sleep on the matter overnight and give his reply in the morning.

He returned in the morning to make his famous statement: “I cannot and will not recant anything, for to go against my conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, I can do no other, so help me God. Amen”.

Luther’s stand against the power of the Papacy had an incredible consequence. His stand triggered a great move of God through many nations in Europe.

The resulting move coincided with the emergence of the printing press, his words and preaching rapidly being communicated to the masses. For the first time for generations men and women had the opportunity of discovering God for themselves. This came in part from people having access to the Bible for the first time, through men like Tyndale and others. Tyndale’s Bible was written in English, not Latin. The Bible then was available for anyone who could read and not seen as a book only for the priests.

A result of Luther’s understand was his teaching on the sanctity of marriage, love in the family and Biblical instruction for all in the household.

The Reformation also saw the beginnings of science, moving away from fanciful ideas to assessments on fact and truth.

The emergence of art is another cultural consequence of the Reformation as men began to understand that we have all been created in the image of God and art is one way of expressing that value.

It bears repeating however that all these secondary consequences of the Reformation draw their origins from the great Biblical truth, foundational to our Christian experience – justification by grace alone, through faith alone.

Many years later John Wesley was very low in spirits. He had tried to evangelise, unsuccessfully, and had had his experience of God questioned as he witnessed the lives of some Moravian believers travelling with him, all of them passing through a tremendous storm. The Moravians exhibited all the peace, faith and security in God that he lacked.

Let him describe in his own words his experience of what happened to him on the 24th May 1738:

“In the evening I went very unwillingly to a society in Aldersgate Street, where one was reading Luther’s preface to the Epistle to the Romans. About a quarter before nine, while he was describing the change which God works in the heart through faith in Christ, I felt my heart strangely warmed. I felt I did trust in Christ, Christ alone, for salvation: and an assurance was given me that he had taken away my sins, even mine, and saved me from the law of sin and death.

I began to pray with all my might for those who had in a more especial manner despitefully used me and persecuted me. I then testified openly to all there what I now first felt in my heart. But it was not long before the enemy suggested, “This cannot be faith; for where is thy joy?” Then was I taught that peace and victory over sin are essential to faith in the Captain of our salvation; but that, as to the transports of joy that usually attend the beginning of it, especially in  those who have mourned deeply, God sometimes giveth, sometimes withholdeth, them according to the counsels of His own will.”

Justification by grace alone through faith alone was one of the foundational truths that John Wesley preached.


The Gospel of God – Part 36

The next verses to consider in Romans relate righteousness to Christ’s work on the cross and the shedding of His blood.

“But now the righteousness of God apart for the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26”.

Sin could not be overlooked. God is holy and cannot tolerate sin. Righteousness demanded judgment on sin. God must be just.

We have just read that God put forth Jesus as a propitiation for our sin. The word “propitiation” means a substitute sacrifice. It only occurs here and in 1 John 4:10 “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins”.

God’s love was the great motivation for Him to become our substitute sacrifice. He became the sacrifice for sin that was due to be ours. He took our place.

It is important to note the words used above – “freely“ and “grace”. It was a sacrifice freely made and given by Christ. (Do you remember the use of the word “freely” in the Genesis account, when God said they could “freely” eat of all the trees in the garden?)

Here the word is describing the extravagant gift of God in justification. It was freely given by God and is an expression of His great grace to us. Grace is underserved favour from God. This is wholly a work of God and has nothing to do with us at all.

God is just and the justifier.

The only other place where the word “propitiation” is used in the New Testament is in Hebrews 9:5 where the Greek word is used in the Septuagint for the mercy seat, the lid covering the Ark of the Covenant, upon which sacrificial blood was sprinkled as an atonement for sin. While it might be said that this passage means “Jesus is our mercy seat” it probably has the more straightforward idea of propitiation -a substitute sacrifice”.

“At the same time, the “mercy seat” idea should not be neglected as an illustration of propitiation. Inside the Ark of the Covenant was the evidence of man’s great sin: the tablets of the law, the manna received ungratefully, the budded rod of Aaron, showing man’s rejection of God’s leadership. Up over the Ark of the Covenant were the symbols of the holy presence of the enthroned God in the beautiful gold cherubim. In between the two stood the mercy seat, and as sacrificial blood was sprinkled on the mercy seat on the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 16) God’s wrath was averted because a substitute had been slain on behalf of sinners coming by faith. We really can say that Jesus is our “mercy seat”, standing between guilty sinners and the holiness of God”. David Guzic, in the Blue Letter Bible.

Justification clears us from the accusation brought against us by the law; we have transgressed the law of God, and thereby deserve damnation of hell. God does not inflict on those who are justified the punishment which they had deserved.

Justification means we are pardoned; we receive the forgiveness of our sins. Our sins are put away from us; they are not only forgiven, they are forgotten and remitted – put away from us.

God will not inflict on the sinner what he deserved to suffer, because Jesus has suffered for him.

When we receive justification through an act of faith it is “just as if I had never sinned”. This is a word that has its roots in the legal world. No condemnation – not guilty – is the cry of the great Judge! The not guilty verdict has been given, there is no more condemnation! When the enemy comes to accuse us, we stand on our legal ground by faith. What Christ has done for us has provided a rock-solid place of standing where the enemy has no longer any rights over us.

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God”. Romans 5:11,2.