Coming to Bring Salvation

Hebrews 9:28

So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

Our verse today brings an interesting perspective on the Second Coming of Christ and His purpose.  Here in the Book of Hebrews we find some weighty theology that should perk our attention, so let’s put our verse into additional context:

Hebrews 9:23-28 (NIV)

23 It was necessary, then, for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with human hands that was only a copy of the true one; He entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God’s presence. 25 Nor did He enter heaven to offer Himself again and again, the way the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood that is not his own. 26 Otherwise Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But He has appeared once for all at the culmination of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, 28 so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and He will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.

What we find here is a comparison and explanation of the Old Testament sacrificial system to the New Testament reality in Jesus Christ.  The writer brings theological emphasis that Jesus gave Himself “once” – in as much as people are destined to die once (Christ died once as well), and after that to face judgment – so we find in Jesus, by the sacrifice of Himself, a superior sacrifice that does not need to be nor will it ever be repeated.  We can reference Hebrews 1:3-4 in this regard: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So He became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs.”

When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (The First Advent of Jesus), He was sent by God the Father to be a sacrificial lamb – the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. (Cf. John 1:29).  “So Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many” is probably an allusion to Isaiah 53:12 (Cf. 1 Peter 2:24); however, the most prominent issue of this verse for me now is that “He will appear a second time!”  The Writer indicates that the purpose of this “second” coming is not to bear the sins of the world, but to bring salvation (eternal life) to those who are “eagerly” awaiting His return…. One commentator felt this may be another allusion to the ceremony of the Day of Atonement, where the Israelites eagerly waited for the High Priest to come out of the Holy of Holies alive, which symbolized YHWH’s acceptance of his intercessory ministry. But I believe for us, in this context, it probably refers to the return of Christ to gather His own.

John 14:1-6 (NIV)

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I amYou know the way to the place where I am going.”Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me

I pray each of us find comfort and joy in the hope of His soon return.  He is coming! He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus.  The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.  Amen. (Cf. Revelation 22:20-21

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Saved From Condemnation

John 3:17

For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.

Our verse today came as John 3:17 … but it is proceeded by the “universal” verse known so well and quoted so often – John 3:16. But verse John 3:18 following has an equally important message that should be placed in context; so I have decided to reprint the entire passage together for your reference.

John 3:16-19 (NIV)

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him.18 Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. 19 This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

Observe that God gave His Son to save us.  Our salvation is a gift! We cannot earn it.  As Paul expounded in Ephesians 2:8-9: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not of works, so that no one can boast.  And “through faith” means that you believe in His Son – Jesus Christ.  Through placing your complete faith in Christ and His finished work, His sacrificial blood for atonement, and His resurrection from the dead, you are no longer condemned but have passed from death to life. (Cf. 1 John 3:14) Yet, notice how Verse 18 continues to admonish: “Whoever does NOT believe stands condemned already.”  Why? Because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son – Jesus.  In Verse 19, the Apostle John goes on to explain why people do not believe: “People love darkness instead of light.”  In essence, people love their sin more than they love God….

The Prophet Ezekiel spoke some difficult words … under the Old Covenant … which we would be wise to contemplate:

Ezekiel 33:12 (NIV)

“Therefore, son of man, say to your people, ‘If someone who is righteous disobeys, that person’s former righteousness will count for nothing. And if someone who is wicked repents, that person’s former wickedness will not bring condemnation. The righteous person who sins will not be allowed to live even though they were formerly righteous.’

However, in the New Testament, you will find a more expansive theology shared by the Apostle Peter to consider:

2 Peter 1:3-11 (NIV)

His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness. Through these He has given us His very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But whoever does not have them (these qualities in increasing measure) is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 10 Therefore, my brothers and sisters, make every effort to confirm your calling and election. For if you do these things (additions to faith), you will never stumble, 11 and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

There are several key themes we can find in this apostolic instruction from Peter. First of all, everything we need to live a godly life comes from His divine power – namely the Holy Spirit.  Second, the glory and goodness of Christ avails us of His very great and precious promises (i.e. wisdom, knowledge, gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc.) which allow us to participate (take part in) the divine nature.  As such, knowledge of His Word and gifts of His Spirit, equip us to mature in our faith – to bear the fruit of the Spirit in and through our lives. (Cf. Galatians 5:22-23) So Peter encourages us to move forward in maturity of faith in order to confirm the calling and election of God upon our lives!  Maturity through a growing faith will keep us from stumbling; and it promises great reward in the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ….

Paul reminds those who believe of this same truth: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1) But there is more in the following verses to put this into context and congruence with what Peter articulated in his epistle. I have reprinted it below for you:

Romans 8:1-11 (NIV)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set us free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh (our sinful nature), God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God.

You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives lifebecause of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who lives in you.

It is clear that to believe in Jesus Christ goes beyond just a mental assent as to His Deity.  We are called to “participate in the divine nature” which God equips us to do through His divine power … the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  Paul asserted if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Him.  As the Apostle John wrote: “This is how we know that we live in Him and He in us: He has given us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13) A life IN Jesus Christ is a Spirit-filled life.  There can be no other possible conclusion.  And a Spirit-filled life will produce the fruit in the life of a believer “in increasing measure” so that he/she will be effective and productive in His Kingdom. The Apostles are quite consistent with what Jesus Himself taught:  “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit.  Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (Cf. John 3:5-6)

So the good news is that fallen, sinful man does not have to remain condemned to separation from our Holy Father … the God of all Creation.  God sent His one and only Son to save us … to reconcile us and restore us to Himself … as He determined and ordained before the foundation of the world.  All a person needs to do believe in Jesus Christ and begin to follow Him into the discipleship of a Spirit-filled life of Kingdom service.  His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and goodness.  He invites us participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires, and to walk in the Light of His glory and goodness….

I pray each of us with grow in knowledge and go on to maturity in the Spirit … to confirm our calling and election … to live lives worthy of the Lord Jesus … to please Him in every way … bearing fruit in every good work … growing in the knowledge of God…and strengthened with all power according to His glorious might. (Cf. Colossians 1:9-11) I ask that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give us the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that we may know Him better. I pray that the eyes of our hearts will be enlightened in order that we may know the hope to which God has called us, the riches of His glorious inheritance in His holy people,and His incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength God exerted when He raised Jesus Christ from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms…. (Cf. Ephesians 1:17-20) Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Great Intercessor

Hebrews 7:25

Therefore He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him, because He always lives to intercede for them.

The writer of the Book of Hebrews presents a great theological “pillar” for us to examine.  His view is that the Messiah (Christ Jesus) serves as a priest … that He ministers as an intercessor before God on a continual basis for those who believe in Him (come to God through Him).  The rationale, within the context of Hebrews Chapter 7, is that the eternal nature (endless life) of Jesus affords a “permanent priesthood” for the purposes of our atonement, salvation, and ongoing intercessory prayer needs. (Cf. Verse 24) And so the conclusion, based on this premise, is that Jesus is able to save completely (or forever) those who come to God through Him … because He always lives to intercede for them.  His intercession is undoubtedly prayer (Cf. Luke 22:32; John 17:9, 15, 20), but Jesus also serves as our Advocate (our lawyer) against the Adversary or Accuser (Satan) before the throne (court) of God. (Cf. Revelation 12:10)

The writer affirms this role was prophesied by King David in Psalm 110:4 where he declares, “The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind: “You are a priest forever,   in the order of Melchizedek.” So, who was this Melchizedek … this forerunner or archetype of the priestly role the Messiah would assume for us?  Well, you can read about him in Genesis 14; but the connection or prophetic association with the Messiah is explained in further detail in Hebrews Chapter 7.  I encourage you to study these sections at your leisure to get a fuller picture of this application.

So why is this of any importance to our relationship and walk with our Lord Jesus?  Well, part of what intrigues me is the language used.  “He is able to save completely!”  The blood Jesus shed was more than sufficient to save us “completely”.  Nothing was partial. Nothing was missed.  There are no conditional requirements.  There is nothing for us to add to His work upon the cross or His resurrection or ascension to the right hand of the throne of God. (Cf. Hebrews 8:1) His priestly intercession is eternally permanent. Your life and I are secure in Him.  And this truth should be a great comfort to believers … especially those who might think that our salvation is conditional upon themselves or their performance … that if we sin after it somehow causes us to lose their salvation … or that God requires us to be perfect once a profession of faith in Jesus has been made.  God demonstrated His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) If we had been or were now able to not sin … there would have been no need for a Savior.  There would not be a need for a permanent priesthood or continual intercession.  But we find both in Scripture!  And the Apostle John affirms, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

Such mercy … such grace … such love in the midst of our weaknesses!  How can be not be humbled and always strive to live worthy of the Lord Jesus … and please Him in every way … bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God? (Cf. Colossians 1:10) And I feel we need to be reminded what the Apostle Paul preached in this regard:

Romans 6:1-7 (NIV)

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. For if we have been united with Him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with Him in a resurrection like His. For we know that our old self was crucified with Him so that the body ruled by sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.

Oh, we need a Savior!  We need an Intercessor!  We need Jesus! 26 Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, He does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people. Jesus sacrificed for our sins once for all when He offered Himself.  (Hebrews 7:26-27) Yes, Jesus was ordained by God to be our High Priest forever!  There is no need for an earthly priesthood at all anymore.  Jesus came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. (Cf. Ephesians 2:17-18) So I pray we will trust Jesus at His Word.  I pray we will completely trust in His finished work to redeem us and bring us to God the Father.  He is all sufficient to give you and I eternal life….

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

I AM REDEEMED

1 Peter 1:18-19

For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.

We have been redeemed! But not with physical, perishable things of monetary value such as silver or gold.  No. Peter proclaims, our redemption from a sinful nature (the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors) was purchased with something of far greater value … the highest possible value … the imperishable life of God! In Christ Jesus, the Lamb of God, God shed His own blood as the “purchase” price required for the payment of our sin debt.  That such an extreme price was necessary to redeem us indicates just how fatal sin of any form or magnitude should be view and understood. The only price acceptable (propitiation) was for God Himself to die on our behalf!  What greater price could there ever be? That is how God views sin….  That is how we should view sin….  As Paul explained:  

Romans 7:5-14 (NKJV)

For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. 12 Therefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy and just and good. 13 Has then what is good become death to me? 14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

Perhaps Paul drew his inspiration and understanding in this regard from the Prophet Isaiah:

Isaiah 50:1-3 (NIV)

This is what the Lord says: “Where is your mother’s certificate of divorce with which I sent her away? Or to which of my creditors did I sell you? Because of your sins you were sold; because of your transgressions your mother was sent away. When I came, why was there no one? When I called, why was there no one to answer? Was my arm too short to deliver you? Do I lack the strength to rescue you? By a mere rebuke I dry up the sea, I turn rivers into a desert; their fish rot for lack of water and die of thirst. I clothe the heavens with darkness and make sackcloth its covering.”

We were sold under sin!  And through the commandments of God, we have discovered the exceedingly sinful nature of our beings.  Iniquity has been found in each one of us. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23) And it is clear that God determined the price of redemption … the price to reclaim us from the death of sin … was exceedingly beyond the capacity of any human to afford.  It cost Jesus His life to pay the required price.  Yes, sin is that costly!  Jeff Bezos is worth over $100 Billion and that would represent the most microscopic Nano-fraction of what had to be paid.  Jesus asked: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? (Matthew 16:26) We simply cannot underestimate or dismiss the fatal cost of sin over our lives.

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV)

19 Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.

Not only do we need to realize the infinite cost of our redemption … purchased by the Son of God … we need to understand that is was the mercy and grace of the Father that afforded this salvation to us.  This is the epitome of kindness displayed by a Holy God toward His unholy creatures.  Father God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,  even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ Jesus. And His incomprehensible kindness toward us is intended to lead us to repentance. (Cf. Romans 2:4) This is the heart of the Gospel! “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He died to redeem us from the empty way of life handed down to us from our ancestors.  And through His resurrection, we are raised together with Him into new lives! As Paul affirmed in Colossians 1:13-14, “For He has delivered us from the power of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.”

Ephesians 2:1-9 (NKJV)

And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. 

Redemption … Salvation … Eternal Life.  These are gifts from God our Father.  We have received them through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ … who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Galatians 1:4-5) May we never take His great love or grace for granted … and may we always strive for holiness in our lives as an act of worship for the redemption we have received.  As Paul admonished: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” (Cf. Romans 12:1)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

The Simple Gospel

1 Corinthians 15:1-5

Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,and that He appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.

Here we have the “Story of Easter” (the Gospel message) in a very succinct format.  I love how Paul phrases his emphasis: “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance.”  So what is the primary message of the Gospel?  Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures.  Jesus was buried. That means He had a physical body that was placed in a tomb. And Jesus was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.  Paul repeats that these events happened according to the prophetic Scriptures.  This is of “first importance” for anyone to understand.  Jesus was sent by the Father.  His life and salvific ministry to us was not happenstance.  Jesus had told His disciples, “I must preach the Kingdom of God to the other cities also, because for this purpose I have been sent.” (Cf. Luke 4:43) And on the night He was betrayed, Jesus prayed, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” (Cf. John 12:27)

So why is sharing the Gospel so important?  Well, for believers Paul states, “I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.” Sharing the Gospel is important to faith building.  When believers were under trial and persecution, the truth of the Gospel was an important reminder of standing firm in the message of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ.  The other reason is that we are called to share “what we have received as of first importance.” The eternal life we have received in Christ Jesus is worth talking about with others who do not know Him or placed their faith in Him…. There is a sense of urgency inherent in the Gospel message. Why the urgency? Because life is short.  As the Apostle James observed, “What is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.” (Cf. James 4:14) We do not know what will happen tomorrow … or before our next breath for that matter. “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him, He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.” (Cf. Hebrews 9:27-28) Yes, our sin must be judged.  God is just! And since a person cannot call upon the name of the Lord and be saved after their death, that is why the Gospel is so important … so urgent.  Jesus came to bear the penalty of our sin through His death on the cross!  And as we noted last time:  

Romans 5:8-10 (NKJV)

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 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….

Yes, the resurrection of Jesus that we celebrate at Easter is how we KNOW reconciliation with God the Father has occurred; and it is how we KNOW that salvation and eternal life is found in Jesus Christ alone.  For there is no other name under heaven given among me by which we must be saved. (Cf. Acts 4:12) So I pray that each of us will take this reminder today of what is important and pass it along to others while there is still time to do so. There is a wonderful and powerful story to tell!  Let’s get the Word out so people can have an authentic encounter with Jesus … so lives can be changed by Him … so lives can be saved by Him!  Amen.

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Boasting in God

Romans 5:10

For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life!

After reading this verse, I had to read the whole chapter. How incredible to contemplate the immense depth of love God truly has for us! Here the Apostle Paul poses an important rhetorical question, but the theological implication is quite powerful for us!  Paul had just affirmed in Verse 8 how God demonstrates His own love for us in this: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  It was the helpless, powerless, condition of our sinful human nature … our rebellious inclination … that God redeemed through His Son.  And so Paul goes on to share the implications of this love for us in Verses 9-10. I will reprint the larger passage for you to see the context and to embrace the incredible mercy we have received from God:

Romans 5:6-11 (NIV)

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to Him through the death of His Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through His life11 Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

I love Verse 11 where Paul goes on to assert: “Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”  This boasting Paul speaks of must be sincere praise and worship – filled with the overwhelming joy of this knowledge!  If you and I cannot feel excited about the mercies of God granted to us through our Lord Jesus Christ, I’m not sure what would excite our souls!  This is the true meaning of Easter!  We celebrate His resurrection because of what Jesus accomplished – reconciliation, forgiveness, fellowship, abiding love, and eternal life with Him.  I pray we will all raise a shout of Glory! Hallelujah! Amen! Yes, let us join Paul and “boast” in God for His indescribable gift! (Cf. 2 Corinthians 9:15)

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!

Rock of Ages – Stumbling Stone

Acts 4:10-12

then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone. Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

Our Verse of the Day captures a portion of Acts 4; however, I think it best to go ahead and include a little more of the context so that you get a better sense of the declaration that Peter made to the people.  I encourage you to read the entire chapter today, though.  It’s good stuff!

Acts 4:5-12 (NIV)

The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?” Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is “‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ SEE NOTE  12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

NOTE: Here, the Apostle Peter (filled with the Holy Spirit) is boldly quoting Old Testament Scriptures which the Jewish rulers and elders would have been familiar.  We can find the references to this spiritual metaphor in Psalm 118:22-23 and Isaiah 28:16. And it is prophesied in Zechariah 10:4 that the “cornerstone” would be a descendant of Judah.  Even Jesus quoted this passage; and this is recorded in the three Synoptic Gospels at Matthew 21:42-43; Mark 12:10-11; and Luke 20:16-18.  And Peter later quotes and discusses in his first epistle as shared below:

1 Peter 2:4-10 (NIV)

As you come to Him (Jesus), the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to Him— you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion,  a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.” (Cf. Isaiah 28:16) Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,” (Cf. Psalm 118:22) and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” (Cf. Isaiah 8:14) They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

The theological significance of Psalm 118:22-23 and what Peter is sharing cannot be underestimated.  References to God as a “Rock” or a “Stone” abound in the Old Testament.  The metaphor speaks to the power of God; His steadfastness; His unchangeable character; the secure, unmovable nature of His love; a place of spiritual refuge; and His salvation.  This metaphor is first used of God in Genesis 49:24 as Jacob blesses Joseph before his death. Moses uses this imagery of God in Deuteronomy 32:4 affirming,God is the Rock, His works are perfect, and all His ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is He.” This theological construct is developed further in the remainder of Chapter 32, and I advise you to read it beyond the excerpt I share below. 1 Samuel 2:2 states: “There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God. 2 Samuel 22 captures a Song of Praise written by King David that begins, “The Lord is my Rock, my fortress, and my Deliverer; my God is my Rock, in whom I take refuge….”  And many of the Psalms make similar references to the Lord as “my Rock” and is it paired with the Lord my Savior or Redeemer.

So I believe it is safe to say that when Jesus quoted Psalm 118; the Jewish rulers and leaders understood its theological implications. (Cf. Luke 20:19) Likewise, when Peter quoted the same Scripture to the Jewish rulers and leaders, the focus was on their “rejection” of the Stone or Rock … their crucifixion of the Messiah … Jesus the Son of God. As the Apostle John wrote: “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him.” (Cf. John 1:10-11) Yet, rebellion against the revealed will of God is nothing new for man in general … or Israel in particular.  And what is amazing is how much indifference we find in people – even ourselves – after we have experienced first-hand the supernatural power of God in our lives.  You will find the same historical “hardness of heart” recorded centuries before in Deuteronomy 32:

Deuteronomy 32:15-20 (NIV)

They abandoned the God who made them and rejected the Rock their Savior. 16 They made Him jealous with their foreign gods and angered Him with their detestable idols. 17 They sacrificed to false gods, which are not God— gods they had not known, gods that recently appeared, gods your ancestors did not fear. 18 You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth. 19 The Lord saw this and rejected them because He was angered by His sons and daughters. 20 “I will hide my face from them,” He said, “and see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation, children who are unfaithful.

Surely the Pharisees knew the references … and the application should be a forewarning to us!  As Peter declared: “Jesus IS ‘the stone you builders rejected, which has become the cornerstone.’ Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  What is Peter saying here? When you reject the Rock, you reject God! The Jews and unbelievers today have not only rejected the “Living Stone”, the “Rock of Salvation”, and the “Rock of Refuge” … they have refused to accept that Jesus is the “chief cornerstone”!  Everything is built upon Him! There can be no other plausible conclusion.  When Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?” Simon Peter professed, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And how did Jesus respond? 

Matthew 16:13-18 (NIV)

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” 14 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” 15 “But what about you?” He asked. “Who do you say I am?” 16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” 17 Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. 18 And I tell you that you are Peter, (the Greek word for Peter means rock) and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

You see, “rock” represents something solid … something you can depend on to not fall or fail when weight or pressure is exerted upon it.  In this context it represents a trustworthy, pillar of truth upon which to build our lives.  Christ Jesus has been building His Church on this foundation of all Truth: He is the Messiah – the Son of the Living God!  He is the cornerstone on which the rest of the building … His Body – the Church is set … square and plumb … true and level.  Jesus is the head of the Church, His Body, of which He is the Savior. (Cf. Ephesians 1:22; 5:23; Colossians 1:18; 2:19) So we need to understand this is the ultimate question every human ever born or to ever be born MUST answer regarding Jesus.  Jesus testified, “I am the Way and the Truth and the Life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) So now, each of us has to answer Jesus when He asks us: “Who do YOU say I am?”  And the answer people give determines if Father God embraces them as His own … or if God hides His face from them as unfaithful children.  And it is this question to which we have been called to urge everyone to embrace Jesus as Lord and Savior.  For Jesus IS the stone that causes people to stumble and fall if they do not obey the message and come to Him to receive salvation and eternal life….

Father God, I pray even now, that each of us would let this bold sermon from Peter penetrate our hearts and minds.  Convict our hearts, Father God, and any who are not fully persuaded that You are the Rock … the chief cornerstone … the foundation of ALL light and truth! Bring us into submission and the obedience of faith – for you have appointed Jesus as the head over every power and authority in heaven and on earth.  Keep us within you … and abide in us … that we might be faithful children to declare your praises because you have called us out of darkness into the wonderful light of your Son.  Thank you, Father God, for your everlasting mercies … and may the mercies of your love and salvation be the rock upon which we continue to build our lives! May we always be living stones … laid upon the sure foundation of your Son.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ! (1 Corinthians 3:11) Amen.

Well, I think that I will stop here….  I feel a bit carried away at the moment because I believe so strongly that we need to hear and share this message!  Jesus is the stone the builders rejected … but to those who believe – who have come to faith in His Name … Jesus is the only name under heaven by which we must be saved!  No one comes to the Father except through Jesus.  We need to reach out to those who “stumble and fall” through unbelief in the message.  Remember, faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ. (Romans 10:17) This is the rock-solid truth upon which the Kingdom of God has been forged! Jesus IS the Messiah – the Son of the Living God!  Upon this rock the Church – a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession – is built and the gates of Hell will not prevail against it!

So Now You Know….

Have a Blessed Day!