Parent Category (Food for Thought [David Vine])

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.

The Gospel of God – Part 35

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

Job asks these great questions. “What is man, that he should be clean? and he which is born of a woman, that he should be righteous?” Job 15:14.

How can a man be made righteous?

How can he stand as a guilty sinner before the Triune, thrice holy God?

You may remember, many parts ago now, how Adam’s nakedness as a consequence of his sin, was covered. The Lord God made coats from the skins of animals to clothe them. This is the first indication in the Bible that a sacrificial blood offering had to be made, and it was God who provided such.

Further on in Genesis we read of the great man, Abraham.

You will remember from our studies that Abraham was called out of his heathen culture to walk with the true and living God, the God of glory. God had given Abraham many promises, all of which were dependent on him having an heir. This was a problem as he had no children; both he and Sarah were infertile.

One evening when Abraham was talking with God about this matter, the Lord took him outside and this is what we read took place.

“Then He (the Lord) brought him outside and said, “Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.” And he said to him, “So shall your descendants be”.

And he believed in the Lord and He accounted it to him for righteousness, Genesis 15:5,6”.

Abraham received righteousness because he believed God. He received it as a gift from God that had come to him by way of his faith in God.

This shows both Abraham’s greatness as well as God’s greatness!

Abraham did not earn this gift of righteousness; he put his faith in God by means of His word to him. It was unmerited and totally of grace.

Paul takes up this central theme of our salvation in the New Testament. There we read “We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we who have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified, Galatians 2:15,16”.

The words are quoted again in Galatians; “Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? – just as Abraham “believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness”, Galatians 3:5,6”.

He goes on to clearly state that this righteousness was not merely for the Jews but also for the Gentiles in the purposes of God; “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying , “In you all the nations shall be blessed”

So then those who are of faith are blessed with believing Abraham, Galatians 3:8.9”.

“Abraham did not waver at the promise of God through unbelief, but was strengthened in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully convinced that what He had promised He was also able to perform.

And therefore it was accounted to him for righteousness””. Romans 4:20-22.

The Gospel of God – Part 34

We need to stand back now and return to the subject of sin and man’s alienation from God for which the gospel is God’s provision.

Do you remember these columns we wrote about previously in Part 30?

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.

We will now consider the manner in which God has provided for man’s full restoration and recovery, using the words above.

The left-hand column lists many of the key ways in which sin has had its terrible consequences. This is not an exhaustive list but it does cover the more serious ones.

The right-hand column lists words that are the corresponding Biblical ones, so one can see how full, wonderful and complete has been God’s provision in the gospel.

One of our friends, Ron Bailey, has said many times that Bible words don’t have definitions, they have histories.

We will need to examine the histories around these Bible – gospel – words.

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

We have seen God’s judgement of Adam and Eve when we were considering their place in the Biblical narrative. We also saw the awful condition of men’s hearts at the time of Noah when God destroyed them all in the flood.

Man is still under the judgement of God. This is clearly written in the book of Romans, which is Paul’s great statement of the gospel.

“We know that the judgement of God is according to truth…” Romans 1:2.

“You are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God”. 2:5.

“In the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ”. 2:16.

“Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God”. 3:19.

This is an aspect of the gospel that is unpopular to the modern man’s mind. One seldom hears these days of God’s judgement. But without the knowledge of sin and judgement there can be little understanding of the grace and mercy of God in His provision in the gospel.

In using the words in the right-hand column it is not my intention to suggest that each word represents a different experience that we must know and enter into. Rather the variety of words used illustrate to us differing aspects of what God has done for us in Christ. This richness in the Biblical record increases our understanding and appreciation of Him and His work.

The different words may have a “family” of ideas related to them as they are drawn from different fields of life.

So, for example, there might be words that come from biological or family concepts; words with a legal emphasis that would be heard in the courtroom; another set of words might have had a religious or ceremonial application.

Now we will consider each of them in turn.

The Gospel of God – Part 33

At the end of the forty days on earth Jesus ascended back into heaven out of the disciples’ sight.  There Jesus received the Holy Spirit from the Father, pouring Him out upon His waiting disciples.

“This Jesus God raised up, of which we are all witnesses.

Therefore, being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear. Acts 2”32,33”.

Jesus’s exaltation was the final act of His great work upon earth.

“Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of the God the Father, Philippians 2:10,11”.

He was incarnated in the womb of the virgin Mary. He lived a perfect life as both God and man. He was crucified at the hands of wicked men. He was raised to life again by the power of the Father. He was exalted to the right hand of God, to the position of greatest honour. He received the promise of the Holy Spirit which He poured out.

Death, resurrection, ascension, exaltation and the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. These are the great elements of the work of Christ.

All the writers of the New Testament refer to this great work of Christ. He is the central theme of all. At any one time there might be one theme in view, but each aspect is dependent on, or flows out from, the other. Christ’s work would have been impossible without the virgin birth for example. Christ’s death would have been powerless without the subsequent resurrection. The gift of the Holy Spirit is clearly linked to Christ’s exaltation.

“But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive, for the Holy Spirit was not yet given because Jesus was not yet glorified, John 7:39”.

All go together forming one great whole; not just as the record of Scripture, but in reality, truth and power.

Finally, in this part, we need to mention briefly the significance of the wonderful third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is the Executor of the Godhead. He works out in humanity all that the Son has made possible, and all that the Father has desired. The Father is the Source of everything; the Son fulfils all the Father’s will; the Holy Spirit indwells believers to make everything real on the earth.

We will return to the subject of the Holy Spirit in a later part of our study.

The Gospel of God – Part 32

Jesus lived a perfect life in thought, word and deed.

The gospel records show the wonders of His life.

His life however, culminated in a betrayal by one of His closest friends, and all the others of His friends ran away and abandoned Him. One of them cursed and swore that he had never known Jesus!

The religious leaders of the day stirred up hatred among the people and brought false witnesses against Him. They put Him on trial at night and repeated it in the day time, in a flagrant misuse of authority.

Even though Pilot could find nothing wrong with Jesus, he still allowed Him to be “examined” – beaten and whipped, even though innocent of any wrong doing.

Finally, they took him out of the city, stripped Him and nailed Him to a wooden cross, before raising it up and dropping it into the ground. There He died in agony, refusing anything such as myrrh to deaden the pain.

He was crucified between two villains and was there only because the authorities had released a notorious terrorist in His place.

Never a word of denial, anger, hatred, or bitterness came from His mouth. The only words were of forgiveness to His torturers and prayers for His executioners.

The Roman centurion in change of the spectacle exclaimed that “Certainly this was a righteous Man!” (Luke 23:47). No doubt he had witnessed many similar scenes as those unfolding before his eyes, but nothing had compared to this!

Remarkably they did not have to break the legs of Jesus because He was already dead.

John 19:33, 34 tells us that “one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out!”

However, His moment of death was marked by a great cry, “It is finished!” as recorded for us in John 19:30, following which “He bowed His head, and gave up His spirit”.

Jesus had fulfilled what He said He would do.

He said “I am the good Shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own.

As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.

And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.

Therefore, My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.

No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay if down, and I have power to take if again. This commandment I have received from My Father.  John 10:14-18”.

Jesus conquered our ultimate and greatest enemy, death itself! Death did not defeat Him, He defeated death. He laid down His own life, no one took it from Him!

He demonstrated this before His bewildered disciples, by rising from the dead three days later. He appeared to them, individually, as well as in both small and large groups, over a total period of forty days.

We can read amazing accounts of conversations He had with individuals like Mary, Peter, who He had to re-commission after his failure, Thomas, who missed out on the first occasion Jesus came into their locked room! There were others also!

Paul writes later; “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received; that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once….. 1 Corinthians 15:3-6”.

Jesus used the forty days no doubt to prepare His disciples that He was going to go away again, not for a few days or even weeks, but for ever. He had told them of these things in the days immediately before His crucifixion, but they had failed to understand, or even, remember them.

He had said the that “it was expedient – necessary – to your advantage – that I go away; for if I do not go away the Helper – Comforter – the Holy Spirit, will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. John 16:7”.

So, the death and resurrection of Christ was required so that the Holy Spirit could be given.

And for that we need Part 33!

The Gospel of God – Part 31

The word “gospel” means good news, glad tidings, the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Christ.

The first words of Mark’s gospel are “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God”, Mark 1:1.

Later he goes on to record this; “Now after John (Baptist) was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, Repent, and believe in the gospel”, Mark 1:14,15.

After His great time of temptation in the wilderness, following which He returned in the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus went into the synagogue at Nazareth where he had been brought up. There he read a portion of the scroll that was telling of the coming Messiah. When he finished reading, remarkably He sat down as an indication of His authority and right to speak and applied the text to Himself!

“When He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written: the Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

The He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing”. So, all bore witness to Him, and marvelled at the gracious words which proceded out of His mouth, Luke 4:17-22”.

The time was fulfilled. “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son …Galatians 4:4”.

This would have included all the time of the prophets right up to John, whom Jesus would describe as the greatest of the prophets. Every Old Testament prophecy had been or was about to be fulfilled. Everything in the then known world was ready, politically, economically, etc. The Roman Empire with their great roads and civilisation were all available to ultimately aid in the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The fulness of the time had come!

One perspective is to see Jesus on earth as a man announcing, and moving in, the power of the kingdom of God. Another perspective is to understand that Jesus was not merely another human being however wonderful. He was, as Mark told us, the eternal Son of God.

The incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ is the most amazing miracle! He left the unsullied glories of heaven and intimacy of love with the Father and the Spirit, to come to our sin sick, broken world, to save us!

Here is one of the most wonderful sections of Scripture describing the glories of Christ in His Sonship.

“Christ is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation, for by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the the dead, that in all things He may have the pre-eminence. 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. Colossians 1:15-20.”

Here is the clearest statement of Scripture concerning his incarnation and His self-emptying.

“Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant , and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance  as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross, Philippines 2:6-8”.

The sentence, “made Himself of no reputation”, is often translated “He emptied Himself.”

It is important for us to note at this point that Jesus did not cease to be God when He came to earth as a man. He emptied Himself, not to divest Himself of His sonship as some erroneously teach, but to choose not to act in that manner.

“In the incarnation Jesus did not (and could not) become “less God” in the incarnation. No deity was subtracted (though He did renounce some of the rights of deity); rather humanity was added to His nature.” David Guzic in the BLB”.

“His condescension was free, and unconstrained with the consent of His Father…the Son of the Highest can, at His own pleasure, show or eclipse His own glorious brightness, abate or let out His fulness, exalt or abase Himself in respect of us (Poole)”.

God was on the earth breathing, living, walking and working in the person of Jesus Christ!

God’s gospel had come!

The gospel is essentially the person of Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of God – Part 30

Let us try to summarise where we are at this stage of our study. We will attempt to see sin and its consequences on one hand and God’s great provision on the other.

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.

Let’s begin with the immediate build up to the appearance of the Lord Jesus Christ.

At the beginning of the New Testament we are introduced to a strange, charismatic, preacher called John; as he baptised his converts, he was referred to as John Baptist, or John the Baptist. He described himself as the voice preparing the way for the coming and long-expected Messiah.

His baptism was a baptism of repentance. He ruthlessly exposed sin, especially of the religious leaders of the day. He castigated them for their hypocrisy.

His message was a dual one:

Firstly, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” in Matthew 3:2, with a prophetic word that the ax was laid to the root of the trees in Luke 3:9 and Matthew 3:10.

Secondly, the promise that the One coming of whom he spoke would not baptise his followers in water, but he would baptise them with the Holy Spirit, Matthew 3:11, Mark 1:8, Luke 3:16, John 1:33 and Acts 1:5. This reference to Spirit baptism in the beginning of all three synoptic gospels and quoted in the early verses of the Acts of the Apostles is highly significant. We plan to explore this great subject of the baptism with the Holy Spirit at a later date in Food for Thought.

So, the picture of the ax resting against a tree is an image of the work that Christ would do to slay the principle and power of sin in everyone who repents, and submits themselves to the baptism with the Spirit that was to come. There are also other images depicted of the same powerful work of grace, like fire, and a winnowing fan, that burns up sin, and cleanses the heart.

In addition, we read in John1:29-34 two wonderful promises of the work of Christ as told by John Baptist. He says “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!….this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit”.

Here is established at the very beginning of the gospel the link between the sacrificial lamb, the taking away of sin and the baptism with the Holy Spirit. This was John’s great calling to be Christ’s forerunner announcing the greater ministry that was to come.