Three Powerful Words in the Christian Vocabulary

If we are to get Beyond a Mere Christianity we must know the language. In 2016, an article titled Three Obstacles to Spiritual Growth listed Words as the main obstacle, followed by Feelings and Influences. I did not realize, until I reviewed that article, that we mentioned the three words we write about here.

I will begin by saying that the majority of those who are professing believers in Christ are not familiar with or use these three words; yet they are significant in what we believe and how we live. Are these words used in normal conversation? No, but, it is necessary for a Christian to know and understand them. We cannot just say, “I love Jesus.” These powerful words give true meaning as to why and how we love Him. If understanding these three words is too much for one reading, you may want to save the article in your files and come back to it as you have time.

Propitiation, justification and sanctification originate with the Father, the Son and The Holy Spirit. Since these are not man’s words but God’s Words, we need to review them often and meditate on them with the Biblical references. I write this article with the same need as others through every generation to understand:
1. what God planned for His people,
2. how he established His plan through His Son
3. how He executes His plan by the power of His Holy Spirit

All three words end in the suffix “ation” meaning “action or process.”

 PROPITIATION G2434
Propitiation in Greek is hilasmós – properly, propitiation; an offering to appease (satisfy) an angryoffended party.

It is used in 1 John 4 and in Romans 5, both times of Christ’s atoning blood that appeases God’s wrath, on all confessed sin.
By the sacrifice of Himself, Jesus Christ provided the ultimate hilasmós (“propitiation”). (biblehub.com)

Before the foundation of the world, in planning a kingdom and a family for Himself, God our heavenly Father made a covenant of redemption with His Son, Jesus Christ (2 Timothy 1:9). This covenant would provide the work and conditions of His grace, whereby He would reveal His love for His people and by His Holy Spirit, draw them to Himself. Just as His work of Creation, the action and the process of Redemption would be His and His alone.

Why and how does a Christian love Jesus?

“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:10

God shows us His love in all generations through the sacrifice of His Son for us 2000 years ago. He planned to give up His own Son to appease His wrath against us. (Who can understand this love?) He gave His Son to give us life, so that we would live eternally with Him. Someone’s blood has to appease His anger against sin. It will be His or ours. Someone has to pay ~ either us or His Son.  He was the perfect “Lamb that was slain.” Only God could provide such a sacrifice for us.

I remember the word “propitiation” by syllables. The prefix “pro” indicates a professional who is able to perform. The center of the word is “pit” where Jesus finds us. “I” am between the “pit” and “ation” whereby His is the action and process of bringing me out of the “pit.” O, what love that gives all that He is and has. He could give all for us through His death; through His resurrection and ascension He would gain His own life again and give life to all who are drawn to Him in faith and repentance.

There is a connection between PROPITIATION and JUSTIFICATION through the righteousness of Jesus.  Romans 3:24-26 incorporates “propitiation” and “justification” through the sinless life of Jesus Christ that qualifies Him for propitiation that leads to our justification.

”Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;
To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”

JUSTIFICATION G1347
Dikaíōsis(dik-ah’-yo-sis) fromG1344 aquittal (for Christ’s sake
The act of God declaring men free from guilt and acceptable to him.

 Whereas God planned for the blood of Christ to appease His anger for our sins, He planned through Christ to justify His own actions in pronouncing us “Not guilty” for our sins. It is a forensic term as if applied in a court of law.

Notice in the following references the terms “offences” “judgment” and “condemnation.”

“Who was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification.”Romans 4:25

“And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto justification.”Romans 5:16

“Justification is the judicial act of God, by which he pardons all the sins of those who believe in Christ. It proceeds on the imputing or crediting to the believer by God himself of the perfect righteousness, active and passive, of his Representative and Surety, Jesus Christ ( Romans 10:3-9 ). Justification is not the forgiveness of a man without righteousness, but a declaration that he possesses a righteousness which perfectly and for ever satisfies the law, namely, Christ’s righteousness ( 2 Corinthians 5:21 ;  Romans 4:6-8 ).” Bible Study Tools

We have advanced in our understanding of the connection between PROTITIATION and JUSTIFICATIONNow we are brought to see the connection between JUSTIFICATION and SANCTIFICATION~ the work and power of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

“The act of faith which thus secures our justification secures also at the same time our sanctification (q.v.); and thus the doctrine of justification by faith does not lead to licentiousness ( Romans 6:2-7 ). Good works, while not the ground, are the certain consequence of justification 6:14 ;  7:6 ).” Bible Study Tools

SANTIFICATION
Sanctification is not a word found in the Old Testament, but references are made to the things God sanctified, things that were set apart, consecrated as holy for Him; the seventh day, places of worship, priests, etc.
New Testament G37
hagiozo; to make holy, consecrate, to regard as special (sacred) sanctify.

The word carries somewhat of a different meaning in the New Testament as it refers to a personal ongoing action or process on His part for His people. While propitiation and justification are one-time actions and already accomplished for all His people, sanctification is an ongoing action and process in making us holy; to live a consecrated life to Him as He is preparing us for eternity with Him.

As stated earlier: To show His love for us, God, the Father, planned, and in His timing sent His Son to be a propitiation for our sins. Jesus fulfilled the covenant of redemption (the covenant of grace) living a perfect life in obedience to the will of the Father. He was offered as a sacrifice for us, appeasing God’s wrath against us; was buried, and resurrected, securing our justification.That being finished, He ascended to the right hand of the Father as our High Priest to intercede for us. He sent the Holy Spirit to continue His work of sanctification in each generation until Christ comes again.

Let’s follow the process from Christ’s work on the cross to the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and lives.

“Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;
That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,
That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.” Ephesians 5:25-27

“But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.1 Corinthians 1:30

Paul explains sancitifcation of the Spirit in 2 Thessalonians 2:13

“God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:”

Simon Peter uses the same terms in 1 Peter 1:2,

“Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ:

 Propitiation leads to justification, and justification through the power of His Spirit in our sanctification brings us in obedience to Christ, the perfect plan of salvation before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:9).

Gracious and holy Father in heaven, how can we understand such a holy love and the power of your love, except as you send your Holy Spirit to do this great and mighty work in us. We praise you for your plans and ask that you continue working in our hearts and lives all that you desire for us ~ all to your glory and our joy. In Jesus’ name we thank you and praise you. Amen.
Fran

Related Article: What are Justification and Sanctification?

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Three Obstacles to Spiritual Growth

I would rather write than eat; pray than sleep; read His word than play, because the one about whom I write, and the one to whom I pray, is the one who gives me life, and the one for whom I live.

This has all been through a process of growing and bearing the fruit of the Lord’s work in me. Though I sometimes wonder in my thoughts and my actions, He always brings me back to the path and continues His guidance.    (Galatians 5:22-23)galatians5v22-23-700x329

Spiritual growth is from the seed of new birth, rooting, the buds, flower, and fruit, all the work of the gracious and powerful God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ ~the vine dresser, the giver of life.

By the supernatural working of His Holy Spirit He births and brings to maturity those who are His children. (John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:1-3)

None of the life of faith is without some struggle through the wilderness in which we live, but it is where God chose and placed us to bring us to Himself.

This growth is described in Psalm 1:3. A man who turns from walking in the counsel of the ungodly, from standing in the path of sinners, and sitting in the seat of the scornful, to delighting in God’s Word, is like a tree that bears its fruit in its season. Its leaf also shall not wither and whatever he does shall prosper.

Why do some Christians not grow and bear fruit?

Let’s compare this to a child born to a family. Consider how this child matures to adulthood as we look at these obstacles.

  1. Words: As a child grows baby talk is put aside and new words are used to describe how we live. The family leads the child to discover new things, new tastes, and new adventures. New words are explained so that they can understand how to relate to others, new surroundings, etc.

As a new Christian we grow through the training of God’s Word. When we find words that we do not understand, we stop and take the time to find the meanings and how they apply to our new life in Christ. Words like “propitiation,”  “justification“  and “sanctification” need to be understood, along with other words that are in the Christian’s vocabulary. With the study and discovery of these spiritual things, we will experience the new tastes and the new adventures that enable us to grow.

  1. Feelings: When children exhibit their feelings and the family gives in to them, they learn to manipulate, and these keep them childish. They will never grow to a positive and joyful adulthood if they never learn to get past their feelings.

Feelings are usually a normal reaction of the flesh to whatever is happening, either in our imaginations, our conversations, or our relationships to others.

As Christians, we do no live by feelings. They most often keep us stunted in our growth, keeping us dependent on how we feel about our circumstances and others. Instead, God’s Word brings us into the fellowship of His Spirit and grace to examine our feelings in comparison to how we should think, speak and act in our circumstances. We grow when feelings are put aside and we minister to and serve others.

  1. Influences: Everything around us is an influence either for our spiritual growth or against it. Responsible adults guard their children from the influences that would harm them. We see the results in our society of children who are exposed to violence, drugs, etc. They are planted in the middle of the darkness and chaos of this world and bear the fruit of it.

God’s children no longer enjoy such an environment. Their new hearts are fertile soil in which He plants His seed, the seed of His Son, Jesus Christ. By His Spirit He waters, and by His Word He continues to nurture His plants to full maturity, so that we are compatible for an eternity with Him.

The importance of relationships with other strong but humble and fruitful Christians cannot be understated. The fellowship of a local church that studies, applies and lives according to His Word, along with personal Bible study and prayer, are the means of watering and nurturing, so that there is no question that we are God’s children. He bears the fruit of His Word and Spirit in us ~ to His own glory, and our joy.

Dear Father, Thank you for the new heart, and the seed of the Life of your Son that you have planted in us. By your Holy Spirit, draw us to your Word, assure and nurture us, grow us in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Bear the fruit of the Spirit of Life in Christ through us, so that the world sees true life in the middle of the darkness and decay. In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

(To learn more how God works to grow us, check out our book The Garden of GOD’S WORD ~ The Purpose and Delight of BIBLE STUDY. Profits from all our books are designated for missions.)

The Best of God’s Grace

It has been said that a common grace is extended to all of God’s creatures ~ “In Him we live, and breathe, and have our being.” (Acts 17:28) This is seen in that He allows us to accomplish all that we can do in this life apart from Him. Even in the daily rebellion and unbelief He holds back His omnipotent hand from a total destruction of all that defies His authority. The best of God’s grace is hidden from the world in the treasury of His written Word, the Bible. It is discovered in the life and work of His Son, His living Word as He reveals Him through the written Word. He draws us to His Word, written and living, by His Holy Spirit. It is the Amazing Grace that John Newton wrote about ~ “that saved a wretch like me.” How many times did I sing this hymn before I knew what it meant?

“I once was lost, but now am found; was blind, but now I see.”

 By this revelation of His grace for our justification God produces the new heart and spirit that brings us to repentance and faith in Christ. This grace adopts us into His family. It is continually poured out for our sanctification, so that we, in a new state of being, love Him and desire to daily obey and please Him. A growing grace within us, like an ever-flowing stream, carries us through this life and death into His eternal glory. It is an abundant grace, an abiding grace, a sufficient grace, a marvelous grace that all who receive it can testify. 00015IDear Father, pour out your grace upon us.  Make us to know your presence and power carrying us through this day in obedience, honor, and glory to you.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen

Related Article: Jehovah Rophi

Radical Mercy

What is a reasonable response to the pouring out of God’s mercy upon this human race? The apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans brings us through eleven chapters and shows us how God, by His own grace, evokes a sacrifice from us. We have learned that the power of the gospel is able to effectually bring about the obedience of faith in those whom God reveals Himself and His Word, those whom He has chosen.31118_000_011_08

Just as Abraham, by believing God’s word, in obedience offered his only son as a sacrifice, so, we, sought by His mercy, cannot resist; but willingly offer our own bodies as living sacrifices. This is the power of the gospel that he mentioned in chapter one ~ God’s own power, through His Word and Spirit ~ to save a people for Himself and His eternal kingdom that is being prepared for those of His household of faith.

He has spoken of justification, through the only just one, who is the justifier. In chapter eleven He ends His presentation of God’s work through Jesus Christ, His Son, and the Holy Spirit’s working through His mercy.

Being that it is all of His mercy, and none of our own work we come to chapter twelve to find what obedience of faith looks like. From beginning to end this was his purpose for writing; to show that it is God’s work of mercy and grace that effectually brings the power of obedience in the life of His people. (Romans 11:30-31)

Radical Response
Now that His mercy is revealed we are called to respond. The command is two-fold ~ a negative and a positive. Where there is a negative it is so He will be revealed as working the positive.

“Do not be conformed to this world.” This is what we were being naturally. The negative is what we normally do. From the time of birth into this world, we are being conformed to it. Here, then is where we see the difference that His power of the gospel makes.

 “But, be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” He does not command something that is not possible. His commands are promises of what He will do.

By His mercy we are brought from being conformed to the world naturally, to being transformed supernaturally, by the renewing of our minds. How? Through the same power of His Word and Spirit as He saves us in faith, and calls us to obedience in Christ. The gospel that justifies us is the same gospel that sanctifies us and is preparing us for His glory ~ the same power that will bring us to glorification.

As the power of the gospel has worked to justify us, this is our only reasonable worship in response to His great mercy. This is the work of His Spirit in our hearts, through the power of His Word and Spirit. imagesIt corresponds to the work in every heart that is turned to Christ. To offer our bodies as living sacrifices is the offset of His sacrifice for us. He died for us that we may live for Him.

Just reading the effects of the gospel in the heart and life we see the description of a true believer. The people of faith have a radical change take place, so radical that to read the characteristics makes one know that such a new life is beyond our own doing. (Romans 12:9-21)

Each of us, with whatever measure of grace He gives, brings it together with all others, as one body of Christ, so that we are offering what He has separated unto Himself, in obedience and sanctification, willfully becoming that noble vessel for His use. We lose ourselves and become one with His people wherever He calls us to serve and worship Him. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is totally different than any other religion on earth. Unlike other religions who take other lives and die in the process; Christ enables us to live victoriously and to seek to save others.

Mercy begets mercy.

Father, we are not our own. You have bought us with the price of your precious Son, Jesus Christ.  Enable us to daily offer to you what you have sanctified for yourself, so that you may reveal the power of the gospel to others.  In Jesus’ name I pray.  Amen.

Related Article:  The Glorious Gospel

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Faith that Rejoices

Romans 5 is packed with the glorious treasure
imagesof the good news of the Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul continues to describe the effectual working of the gospel in the life of the believer. In chapter one and chapter sixteen he expresses his purpose in writing this letter to the first church in Rome; “to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,” (1:6; 16:26) He keeps building upon the precepts of God’s grace, showing the power and authority that is in His word, to His own glory.

From the pit of degradation described in chapter one we are brought to chapter five to see the glory of the saint that is saved by the power of the gospel that was given to Paul. (Some of what I am saying is redundant, but well worth repeating.)
From the word, “Guilty, guilty, guilty,” God brings us to, “Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice.”
From the wrath of God, because of our disobedience, we are brought, through His own promise, to obedience. And what a glorious promise it is that brings us to this faith. It is the faith by which we are justified. No longer is God angry with us, because He has brought us to Himself through the death and resurrection of His own Son ~ what greater love than this! What would be the natural fruit of that justification, but rejoicing in hope of this promise? This “great salvation” (Hebrews 2:1-4) through Jesus Christ is the greatest news on earth and in heaven. The angels rejoice when one sinner is brought to Christ. (Luke 15;10)

We remember that the gospel is the word of God given for revelation and salvation. Christ is the living word of God, sent to save His people. (Matthew 1:21) He still speaks today through the written word, even as He lives and reigns at the right hand of God the Father in heaven. The power is in His Holy Spirit to finish the work of salvation that was promised, planned from the beginning, and which Christ came to fulfill.

 “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1

Our justification is proven by His love for us (vs. 6-111 John 4:9). Jesus Christ is the heart and love of God given for sinners. We could not know or imagine such a God or His plans for our justification. We are but dead in our trespasses and sin, until He quickens us through His word to new life and faith. This is the power of the gospel that brings us to peace with God.

 “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 5:2

This grace that has saved us is the grace in which we stand; the grace in which we live, and are being prepared to share His glory ~ the same glory that Jesus has with God the Father. The work of justification is the beginning of the work of sanctification for our glorification. The Holy Spirit carries on the work within each believer so that we rejoice in hope for what He has promised for the future ~ sharing the glory of God.

“Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing……………………………….

 The power of the gospel in the believer, the grace in which we stand enables us to rejoice not only in the good times but also in adversity. There is intelligence in the gospel, knowledge of its power to build upon our faith (for obedience) and to create the image that God has planned for those who will share His glory. It is His grace, His image, for His own glory. (See also Colossians 1:11; James 1:2-3)

The experience of faith is that of knowing what His grace does in and through us.

knowing that suffering produces endurance,
and endurance produces character,
and character produces hope,
and hope does not put us to shame,

Water-pitcher-pouring
because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.  
Romans 5:3-6

It is this love, by which He accomplishes all that He planned in Christ before the foundation of the world. (Ephesians 1:3; 2 Timothy 1:9)

It is through His own will, His plans, His way, His power, that He is creating a people for Himself, conforming us to the image of His Son. (Romans 8:29)

This world and the suffering that has come through the power of sin no longer have a stronghold on God’s people. This is our deliverance in Christ; that we live, enduring the cross that we must bear for His sake. This endurance produces the character of Christ in us, which adds more fuel to our hope, with the understanding and reality of God’s love being continually poured into our hearts.

This is what the gospel does when it brings us by faith to embrace Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

It is not something we wait for after this life. Because Christ died for us while we were yet in our sin, dead and unable to respond, we are now reconciled and have begun eternal life in Him. By His death we are reconciled. By His life (His resurrection) we live, now and eternally in Him. If we hear and believe what Paul is saying it sounds as if we are already there. Yes, but not yet. This is the power of the gospel; that we live in hope and light of the promise that is ours in Jesus Christ.  All of true life is Christ; all is centered in Him.

“We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:11 

“And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly;
and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Dear Father, thank you again, and again, for your love poured into our hearts that brings us to yourself and spreads throughout our lives.  Thank you that we know this love as Christ, your Son given for us, for our justification, our sanctification and our glorification.  Let us live today knowing your mercy and grace, your love, joy, and peace, your presence and your power within; to love you with all our heart, soul, strength and mind, and our neighbor as ourself.  Make Christ evident ~ faith that is the evidence of things not seen, the assurance, the substance of our hope ~ in our lives today.  In Jesus’ name I pray and praise you.  Amen.

The Purpose of Paul’s Letter to the Romans

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Abraham and Paul ~ Heirs of Promise

How exciting is our God!
The Lord God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ continues to amaze me as I sit under the preaching of His word.
It is a joy to have my heart and mind opened to the truths that are expounded through the messengers that He has chosen. Such is the case as I am experiencing the preaching of Paul’s letter to the Romans. I have read it many times and studied it; but never before heard and seen what I am seeing now. So had Martin Luther, and God changed his understanding, his life, and the church.

In Romans 4 there is a remarkable revelationimages of how well the apostle Paul knew Abraham. Should it not be so, since Abraham was his father ~ twice born?
Jews throughout history have claimed him as their father. But, Paul gives us a backward view of who has a true claim to this relationship.

God, the Father, chose Abram to be the father of many nations, not just a nation called Israelites. He made an everlasting covenant through him for all nations and changed his name to Abraham. He chose Abraham, made a covenant with him and gave him a promise to bless people from all nations through his obedience of faith.  This is how he became the “father of faith” to all nations.

Let’s look back in time to this covenant blessing upon Abraham that is our blessing, too. We cannot skim over this, but we need to take the time to see the truths here.

“When Abram was ninety-nine years old the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless,
that I may make my covenant between me and you, and may multiply you greatly.”
Then Abram fell on his face. And God said to him,
“Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations.
No longer shall your name be called Abram, but your name shall be Abraham, for I have made you the father of a multitude of nations.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make you into nations, and kings shall come from you.
And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. Genesis 17:1-7

The Lord appeared to a mere man on this earth, gave him a promise that through his physical seed a new nation of people would be born; a covenant that God, Himself would fulfill ~ an everlasting covenant ~ not just to the nation of Israel; and not just for a certain time, but a promise and covenant forever to all who believe in His promise.  God is a God of covenant; a faithful God to His people who accept His word as truth.

How would this covenant be established except through Abraham’s physical offspring, a son that God promised to Abraham? Through him would come the Messiah promised by God since the beginning (Genesis 3:15). But do we see the catch ~ Abram was ninety-nine years old and had no offspring. There was yet no son through whom a people would be born.

But God promised. And Abraham believed what God promised, though it was physically impossible. His faith was counted as his righteousness before God.  As difficult as it was for him to believe is it impossible for us to believe through our own insight.  We are each in our own country, our own little worlds until God speaks through the power of the gospel to us.  By human thinking we cannot see the incarnation, the righteous life of Jesus Christ, his death, resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father in heaven.  It is by His grace, and His light in our hearts (2 Corinthians 4:6) that reveals Christ to us and gives us the new birth by His Spirit, so that we see and believe. (John 3:3; 6:44-45)

The essence of Romans 4 is that Abraham’s faith preceded his action of circumcision. It was his faith in what God promised that made him righteous, not his works. His obedience to God’s command for circumcision was a result of His believing God’s promise.

(Remember the purpose for Paul’s letter was to bring a people from all nations to the obedience of faith. His preaching the gospel was not to tickle the ears, but to lead people to faith in the gospel and therefore to proof of salvation and righteousness by obedience to God’s word.)

How well Paul relates to his father Abraham; and how well he knew his own people who trusted in their circumcision and the law for their righteousness before God.
The Lord had chosen Saul, appeared to him, changed his name to Paul, and sent Him, first to his own people. They tried to kill him, because they did not like the good news of faith in Jesus Christ. They proved themselves not to be true offspring of Abraham, because they did not believe that God had sent His Son for their salvation.

And so, Paul was sent with the gospel to the Gentiles; and all who believe God are the heirs of the promise; joint-heirs with Christ, Abraham and Paul.

 “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.
But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also.
It will be counted to us who believe in him
who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord,
who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
Romans 3:4, 24,25

 Gracious heavenly Father, thank you for calling Abraham out of his own country to establish a new country, a new people of faith and obedience to your word. Thank you for stopping Saul from persecuting your people, that he might become your servant to all nations with the good news of our salvation. Thank you for giving us your word and your promises through others of faith. Thank you calling pastors to preach the gospel in our time. Thank you for calling each of us as your people, by your Spirit and through your word, that others may see and know who are your children; though there are those who will reject your promise and persecute us who live in obedience of faith.  Today make us to know who you are, that we may know whose we are ~ heirs of promise. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Obligated and Eager  Romans 1

The Foot of the Cross ~ Ground Zero

Scan 142190000As Jesus was crucified the Jewish leaders looked up and ridiculed Him. He looked down and said, “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing.” By His death He was proving how desperate was man’s condition, with no means of escaping His Father’s wrath, except by a sacrifice given on their part. The purpose was that through Him a pardon would be provided, and eternal life given to those who would believe the “good news” (the gospel) and accept Him as their Lord and Savior.

Even as the Jews were in that day thinking they were privileged just by being a Jew, there are people, Jew and Gentile alike, who do not believe; who are blinded to their own sin. Jews, then and now, still hold to their own traditions, thinking that they have the advantage over other nations without the need of a Savior. There are even those in the church, having grown up with Christian parents or with an infant baptism, who are lacking the righteousness by faith that is required for salvation.

Abraham, the Law and Circumcision
In Romans 3 Paul continues to drive home the point that all stand condemned as sinners under the wrath of God. He has stressed the depravity of all mankind; the power of this depravity in oppression and sin, to the extent of denying that which is natural to all mankind. Now Paul addresses the Jews in particular who suppose that their advantage of being children of Abraham, having the law and circumcision, exempts them from the need of faith.   Although Abraham was their “father,” the “father of faith” to whom the promises of the everlasting covenant for all nations was given ~ who came before the law and circumcision ~ they are relying on their position as Jews for their status before God. They are depending on their own righteousness; yet they proved that none could keep the law.

Paul is saying, “No, having the law and circumcision will not save you from your sins, and the wrath of God.” “There is none righteous before God.” “All have sinned” and fallen short of the expectations of God; none can keep His law and live up to His righteousness and glory. Only one has done that; and in so doing able to give His life a ransom; dying so as to be a propitiation for our sins; appeasing the wrath of God, and so taking away the death penalty that we justly deserve.

He is continuing to build upon the necessity for faith in the gospel; the good news is to be believed. God’s word is to be accepted as true. Jesus’ life, His sacrifice, His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father are all His work on our part. No matter how hard we try we can never keep the whole law; but He did it on our behalf. Faith in Jesus Christ and His work on our part is our means of laying hold of His righteousness, our justification and our eternal salvation.

The law is meant to show how far we are from the kingdom of God. The rules of His kingdom are more than anyone here on this earth is able to keep. The law convicts us of our sin, which Paul said was meant to be our schoolmaster until Christ came.

imagesimagesThe Law and the Gospel Now we have the law and the gospel, the bad news and the good news. (My notes on the Book of Romans as our pastor is preaching through it are meant to help me to sort out the gospel of my Lord Jesus Christ; what it means to me; and how I can document what I am still learning of the phenomena of the Christian faith; a phenomena that requires the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit, and none of my own.)

The work of God’s Spirit is to use the law to convict us of our sin. Had we been there in Jesus’ day we would have been part of the multitude that shouted, “Crucify him.” As a Jew we would have probably mocked Him and spit on Him. But, now we also have the gospel, which the Holy Spirit uses to convict us of the forgiveness and righteousness that is ours in Jesus Christ.

imagesThe Cross ~ The Ladder
The power of the gospel brings us to the foot of the cross, the place where man is stripped away of all pretension, pride and unbelief. In Christ we see the righteousness of God given to us, “justified by His grace as a gift; through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:24-26

In Luke 12:49 Jesus is recorded as saying, “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?” On the cross He said, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) Jesus’ work on the cross brought to shambles every idea that man has concerning his own righteousness before God. Our good works become ashes at His feet.

Jesus told Nathaniel that because he believed he would see the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. (John 1:51) The first rung of that ladder for us is faith. In response to His revelation and regeneration (new birth), with a new heart we come in repentance to the cross of Jesus Christ believing the good news of our righteousness in Him. There is where His blood, His life, covered all the sins of those who believe in Him.

There, when we realize what took place, we will as “all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle” leave the ashes of our own ideas and works. We will in humility, as they “returned home beating their breasts” live in the reality of what our sins cost our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

We will not, as some, throw out the law; but, by His grace, we “establish the law” as God’s first means of our understanding the need for the gospel. We see it as God’s rule for life, the standard of His kingdom, which He is building within each of us as He is conforming us to the image of His dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ ~ that image, that standard, will be complete and perfect when He brings us into His final glory. Now, it is a lamp to our feet, and a light to our path as we continue in obedience of faith toward our final goal in Christ.

Gracious heavenly Father, thank you for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We praise you for your law on which we meditate day and night, seeking your kingdom and your righteousness that is in Christ, by faith in Him alone.  Thank you for the authority of your word commanded in us by the power of your Holy Spirit, shining that light into our hearts, convicting us of our sin and the salvation that by grace is given to us.  Thank you that it does not depend on anything we can do, but that all has been done in Christ for us. Open our hearts to Him, today.  Let us see Him; enable us in humility and faith to follow and obey.  In Jesus’ name I pray and praise you.  Amen

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