God created man.
Man sinned against God.
Sin carried the penalty of death.
God gave his Son to die and save us from sin and death & reconcile us to life with Him.
God created man
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen.1.1). He created plants, beasts, birds, fish, and finally, man and woman. Looking at his creation, God saw that “it was very good” (Gen.1.31).
Reflect on that statement please. Looking at this earth, with man and woman placed upon it, God saw that the creation was “very good” in the beginning.
Reflect again upon the status on earth today. As God sees into the very hearts and thoughts of men, into the midst of our crowded cities, and into the lives of men and women across the globe, does he still see a creation to be described as “very good”?
Man sinned against God
When Adam was placed in the garden, he was given great blessings and a notable prohibition. He was not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good or evil, or he would die. In Gen. 3, the serpent tempted Eve to violate God’s command. His message was twofold: exalt yourself and do not fear God. Tempted by the fruit’s appeal to her eyes, to her flesh, and to her vanity, Eve chose to rebel, and Adam joined her in rebellion. The same basic rebellion occurs in our own lives when we have failed to respect God and his will, and exalted our own will and desire above His. “All we like sheep have gone astray, we have turned each of us to his own way” (Isa. 53.6). “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3.23).
Sin carried the curse of death
The warning to Adam had been that in the day he violated the command, he would surely die (Gen.2.17). “The soul that sinneth, it shall die,” Ezek. 18:20. “For the wages of sin are death” (Rom.6.23). There are two aspects of death in the Bible; spiritual death and physical death. Both forms of death are described as separations. In physical death, the spirit is separated from the body (James 2.26; cf. Gen.35.18; Lk.23.46). In spiritual death, the soul is separated from the Creator; “ye were dead through your trespasses and sins … ye were at that time separate from Christ…without God in the world” (Eph. 2.1,12). It is not that the Lord cannot hear you or reach you, says Isaiah. The problem, he says to the Israelites, is that “your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you” (Isa. 59.1-2).
God gave his Son to die and save us from sin and death, and reconcile us to life with Him.
Death was the penalty for sin, and Jesus took that penalty for us, to save us. Concerning his upcoming birth, Joseph was told “it is he that will save his people from their sins,” (Mt.1.21). The night before his death, Jesus said “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto the remission of sins” (Mt.26.28). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us; for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone that hangeth upon a tree.” (Gal. 3.13; Dt.21.23).
He also faced down the old tempter (Mark 1.13), but without sin (Heb.4.15), and through his death, he brings to nothing the “him that had the power of death, the devil” (Heb.2.14). At the cross, Jesus shed his blood for remission of sins (Mt.26.28), redeeming us from spiritual death; and in the resurrection he conquered the grave, the first fruits of those to be redeemed from physical death (Rom.8.11,23).
Think back to the garden and consider the curse placed on the serpent: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” (Gen.3.15). In Genesis, we are not told who the serpent is. Rev. 12.9, however, identifies Satan as “the old serpent.” The same chapter describes his attempt to destroy the Son, and his failure to do so (12.1ff). Then consider that in the OT usage of children, “seed” is regularly used of the seed of man (Gen.17.19; 19.32). Yet here we have reference to “her seed,” the seed of the woman. Does this call to mind he who was “born of woman” (Gal.4.4), without the seed of man (Mt.1.18)? Has the serpent tried to inflict damage upon the Son, but the Son will ultimately defeat the serpent? Paul calls up this image at the end of Romans: “the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly” (Rom.16.20).
Sin & Sacrifice
Under the law of Moses, sin incurred the death of sacrificial animals without blemish. These sacrifices were offered by imperfect priests (7.27), and were offered continually year by year (10.3). But the blood of bulls and goats would not ultimately take away sin (Heb.10.4). Jeremiah 31 had spoken of the days of a new covenant wherein sins would be remembered no more (Heb.8 & 10). Other prophecies pointed to a better priest, that would rule forever at the right hand of God (Ps. 110.1ff, Heb. 7); to a better cleansing (Zech. 13); and to a servant without guile, on whom the iniquities of the people are laid, and who is cut off from the earth for the sins of others (Isa. 53).
When Jesus comes to John, John says: “Behold, the lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world!” (Jn. 1.21,29). God so loved the world, that he gave his own Son, that whosoever believes on him should not perish, but have eternal life (Jn. 3.16). Jesus, hanging on the tree, took the curse (Gal.3), took our iniquities upon him (Isa. 53), and gave his blood for the remission of our sins (Matt.26.28).
As Jer.31 had spoken of the day of a new and better covenant, Jesus came to serve as the better priest of a better covenant (Heb.7-8), offering a better sacrifice (Heb.9-10). Jesus died for the sins of all, once and for all; “this he did once for all, when he offered up himself” (Heb.7.27); “having been once offered to bear the sins of many” (Heb.9.28); “he offered one sacrifice of sins forever” (10.12). In doing so, he died not only for the sins of those who lived in his day, and for those who would come in the future (Acts. 2.28-39), but also for those who had died before, and under the old covenant.
Note Heb.9.15; “He is the mediator of a new covenant, that a death having taken place for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first covenant,” and Rom. 3.23; “all have sinned … being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: who God set forth to be a propitiation, through faith, in his blood, to show his righteousness because of the passing over of sins done aforetime, in the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3.23-25).
So though God, in forbearance, has passed over the sins of those who trusted in Him, the true redemption of their sins was not provided until the cross. In offering full atonement for those sins, as well as ours, God remained just, while at the same time offering justification to us (v.26), through the redemption of he who died for us.
So where is the room for boasting in salvation by our efforts? It is excluded (Rom.3.27). We are spiritual charity cases. Someone else has paid our way. By grace have we been saved, and our hope and trust must be in Jesus Christ and him crucified.
Responding to the offer of salvation
FAITH – the basis of our response to Christ
God gave his Son for whosoever will believe on Him (Jn. 3.16). Except we believe, we will die in our sins (Jn.8.24). By grace we are saved, through faith (Eph.2.8). Man is justified through faith in Jesus Christ (Gal.3.16). The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all those that believe (Rom.1.16).
Belief (ie.; faith), is a matter of trust. Luke 18.9 speaks of those who mistakenly “trusted in themselves that they were righteous,” yet they remained unjustified before God. Trusting in our merit is empty. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Our trust (our faith) must be in the only one who can save us (Acts 4.12).
Question: What type of faith is required? Faith “alone”? Or faith that is faithful?
What is often misunderstood is whether or not the Lord requires nothing but “faith alone /only,” or whether he not only desires, but requires, a faithful faith. Based on texts such as those above from John, Romans, Galatians and Ephesians, many declare adamantly that salvation is in faith “only.” Read farther into each of those texts, however, and it becomes clear that God not only desires more than belief “alone,” he requires more than belief alone. In John: Some of the rulers believed on him, but would not confess, for they loved the glory of men more than the glory of God (Jn.12.42). Is that salvation? (see Rm.10.9; Mk.8.38).
In John 15.1-6, Jesus said “I am the vine, the Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that bears not fruit, he taketh it away,” and it it is cast out and burned.
In Romans: In Romans 3 Paul established why we are justified through faith, in his blood, not through our works (our works do not redeem, they condemn; it is the blood of Christ that redeems). In Romans 6, Paul clarifies that salvation by grace does not remove the demand for obedience. Continue in sin, that grace may abound? Not at all (6.1ff). We were baptized into Christ, and into his death (v.3). As Christ died, and rose from the dead, our old man is put to death (v.6), buried with him (v.4), and raised to “walk in newness of life” (v.4). We must not then let sin reign in us (12). Shall we sin, because we are not under law but under grace? Not at all: “Know ye not, that to whom ye present yourselves as servants unto obedience, his servants ye are whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness” (6.15-16).
In Ephesians Salvation is by grace, through faith, not by our works (2.8). But good works is what we are created for (2.10). What of one who chooses to continue in immorality? Should he presume that a faith without repentance and obedience is going to be acceptable? Read on: “But fornication, and all uncleanness, let it not even be named among you, as becometh saints … For this ye know of a surety, that no fornicator, nor unclean person … hath any inheritance in the kingdom of God. Let no man deceive you with empty words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the sons of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them; for ye were once darkness, but ye are no light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Eph. 5.3-8).
In Galatians Very similar to the point above, after establishing that salvation is in Christ, he demands that they walk by the Spirit, not by the flesh. After enumerating various acts of disobedience such as fornication, drunkenness, etc., he says; “of which I forewarn you, even as I did forewarn you, that they who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Note also in Galatians how Paul associates faith and baptism together: “For ye are all sons of God, through faith, in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ, did put on Christ.” (Gal. 3.26-27).
Baptism is not an unnecessary work of merit. Baptism itself is an act of faith in which Christ is put on.
Those who have erroneously claimed that God requires nothing from us than faith “only” would do well to read farther and more carefully into these very texts. The Bible does not teach salvation by “faith only.” As James also wrote: “What doth it profit my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but have not works? Can that faith save him?… faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself …faith apart from works is barren …. man is justified not by faith only … faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2.14-26).
REPENTANCE – the decision and commitment of faith
The Lord does not merely desire repentance. He requires repentance. “Except you repent, you shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13.3). “Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out” (Acts 3.19). The Lord is longsuffering, not wishing that any should perish, but that all would come to repentance” (2 Peter. 3.9). To repent is to change one’s mind. In coming to Christ, we resolve to change from seeking to serve self, to serving the Lord; “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me” (Lk.9.23). Godly sorrow of sin leads to repentance (2 Cor.7.10). Repentance in turn, is to lead to the bearing of fruits of repentance (Mt.3.8). Those who come to Christ choose to deny self, and in following him they will bear fruits of that commitment. If they are not commited to following through, they are like a man who started building a tower but was never able to finish. Jesus warns in Luke 14.25-35 that we must understand what full commitment is. Those who serve other things or persons above him “cannot be my disciple” (v.26, 27,33).
Confession – a statement of faith
Rom.10.9; “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” This is not a silent, secret confession of sin, with “every head bowed, and every eye closed,” so that “no one will see,” as is popular in some circles. This is a confession of Jesus Christ the Lord. Compare 1 Tim.6.12; “Fight the good fight of the faith, lay hold on the life eternal, whereunto thou was called, and didst confess the good confession in the sight of many witnesses.”
Nor should confession stop at conversion. In our continued walk in Him, we are to be people that confess Him. “For whosoever shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of man also shall be ashamed of him, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.” (Mk.8.38). “Everyone therefore who shall confess me before men, him will I also confess before my Father who is in heaven” (Mt.10.32).
Baptism – an act of faith
The great commission states in Mt.28.19: “Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you.”
On the day of Pentecost, when the people were cut to heart of discovering their sin, they asked Peter, “what shall we do?” Peter replied: “Repent ye, and be baptized, everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins.”
When the Eunuch asked Philip who the slain lamb was in Isaiah, “Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from the scripture, preached unto him Jesus. And as they went on the way, they came to a certain water; and the eunuch saith, Behold, here is water, what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8.35-36).
Three days after the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damacus, what did Saul of Tarsus still have on his soul? “And now why tarriest thou? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” (Acts 22.16).
Where does baptism put us? (see Gal.3.27 and Romans 6.3).
What is accomplished at baptism? (1Peter 3.21).
Biblical baptism is unto the remission of sins (Ac.2.38); is for the washing away of sin, through Jesus Christ (Ac.22.16); is for salvation (1 Peter 3.21); and it puts us into Christ.
For those who object that baptism cannot be necessary for salvation, lest it be by our “works” rather than the grace of God, and disdain the concept as mere “water salvation,” we close with the following questions.
Please read the account of Naaman in 2 Kings 5. Note what the prophet told Naaman to do.
Note his initial response, and ultimate submission and cleansing. Note when his leprosy was removed.
QUESTIONS: Was Naaman’s healing the power of his own works? Or was it by the power and grace of God? Was the power inherent in the river? Or in the promise and command of God?
Please read the account of the blind man in John 9. What did Jesus tell him to do? What did the blind man do?
QUESTIONS: Was the blind man healed by his own works? Or by the grace and power of God?
Questions: If someone had told Naaman and the blind man, that they did not need to dip, should they have listened to such advice? If someone told them to instead, say a silent prayer accepting the Lord as their personal healer, would that have been a more spiritual, more obedient, or more effective option? lf someone told them they shouldn’t trust in “water healing,” and dismissed the importance of the instructions given to them by the prophet or by the Lord, should they have listened?
Likewise, today, we surely ought not trade the word of God for the words of those who would lead us away from what we are told to do.
God created man.
Man sinned against God.
Sin carried the penalty of death.
God gave his Son to die and save us from sin and death & reconcile us to life with Him.
If we wish to honor him as both Lord and Savior, we need to come to him understanding that only he can save us, and obey him, knowing that he is Lord (Matt. 7.21).