Christianity 201

April 16, 2017

Why Good Friday is Good?

by Russell Young

This being Easter weekend, I was compelled, like most, to consider the events that took place more than two millennia ago. The immense importance of the passion of Christ can never be taken for granted, but perhaps the exact events, those hidden from view, can escape our appreciation. I have discovered that reflecting on the sacrificial offering of Christ has given clarity to other biblical teachings.

Accepting that Christ died for my sins is humbling and awe-inspiring. Appreciating the unseen dynamics is enlightening. For instance, how did his death “destroy the work of Satan”? The Lord’s death was not a simple trade of his life for mine.

Christ came “to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 Jn 3:8 NIV) Trading lives would not have accomplished the destruction of Satan’s power. His power rested in his ability to make people sin, bringing about their death and ultimately defeating God’s plan to have a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. The defeat of Satan’s work could only be accomplished by eradicating sin and the death that accompanied it. It is transgression of the law that comprises sin-the law of Moses. Paul wrote, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Cor 15:56 NIV) And, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” (Rom 4:15 NIV) The law had to be satisfied and terminated. That is what Christ accomplished.

It is true that I deserved death for sin just as do all of humankind. I had been caught in Satan’s deceits and those practices that were offensive to my creator and sovereign. Had justice been served neither I nor anyone else would have survived. Satan would have won. There would not have been a single person suitable for God’s presence. Had Christ died for my sins and for those of all of humanity, the devil’s work would still not have been completed since sin would have reared its ugly head again during the remaining part of my life.

Some teach that all sin was forgiven at the cross but this is not so. According to Hebrews 9:15, “[Christ] died as a ransom to set [believers] free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” If at confession of faith, only my past sins had been forgiven, I would have still been at the mercy of the devil since my evil nature would have compelled me to continue in sin.

Christ not only provided my pardon, he defeated sin by destroying the law that defined it. Christ brought to an end the Old Covenant, the covenant of the law of Moses, the covenant that kills. (2 Cor 3:6) There can be no more sin under its jurisdiction. (see again Rom 4:15) This is Christ’s great victory over the devil. He robbed Satan of his power. Again, the writer of Hebrews stated, “For this reason (to cleanse our moral consciences from acts that lead to death) Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:15 NIV) The writer also stated, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first obsolete.” (Heb 8:13 NIV) Believer’s are no longer under the righteous requirements of the Old Covenant and the evil one can no longer use its laws to cause sin and to bring about death.

That is not the end of the matter, however. John wrote of The Lord’s victory and of his proclamation: “I am the first and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Rev 1:18 NIV) The one who holds the keys has the power to control their use. That is, Christ has the power to determine who will die, who will be sentenced to Hades, and who will find eternal life. These are his determination!

The sacrificial death of Christ, in itself, does not fully meet the need of believers. The Lord holds the keys, and the matter of righteousness has not been concluded as some suppose. God still has requirements for those who are to dwell with him throughout eternity and the issue remains a “law” issue, not the law of Moses but the law of the Spirit. (Rom 8:2) “For the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”(NIV) The issue remains one of obedience, and God’s righteous requirements still exist; Christ is the means of accomplishing them, however. Paul wrote: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so, he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3─4 NIV) The New Covenant is a covenant of the Spirit. The Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18) and he must be obeyed. (Heb 5:9) Fortunately for me and for all who claim the name of Christ, the law of the Spirit is embodied in the Spirit and he gives the power to accomplish his law and to achieve victory over Satan for the believer. (2 Pet 1:3) I have been freed from the death I deserved and from the weakness of my sinful nature. I walk cleansed and in the power and authority of the Spirit of Christ. Greater is he that is in [me] than he that is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4 NIV) I have a better hope of victory because I have Christ and his presence in me. (Col 1:27)

In the end those who have claimed belief will face Christ at judgment to determine their reward or judgment in compliance to his rule. Freedom from judgment comes from allowing the Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower the believer so that he or she does not commit practices that are offensive to God. Believers are compelled to walk in the light-in obedience to the Spirit-or as Christ walked. (1 Jn 2:6)

The great work of the cross was the destruction of Satan’s power by instituting a new and better covenant empowered by Christ, and the cleansing of believers from the sin that they carried while under the Old Covenant.

July 17, 2016

Who are the children of God?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:29 pm
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Children of God•••by Russell Young

Many esteem themselves to be children of God.  Being such allows a person right to all of the privileges that belong to a son, including the inheritance that God has provided for his children.  Paul wrote: “You are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed (put on as sinking into a garment) yourself with Christ.” (Gal 3:26-27, NIV) This passage identifies that “marking” by the Spirit of the one who has made a confession of faith.  Since they have been baptized through confession and through water, they have been clothed with Christ through his Spirit. The redeemed person must remain clothed with Christ, however. (Jn 15:4, 5, 7, 10)

John has identified a son in a different way. “This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are:  Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother.” (1 Jn 3:10, NIV) John has made a distinction between those who are children of God and those who are children of the devil.  This distinction is presented as being based upon a person’s doing.  According to John the person who is a child of God must do what is right.  Many make the claim that they are a child of God because of a confession that they had once made.  The distinction between ‘doing right’ and ‘confessing faith’ needs to be made clear.

The believer becomes a child of God through faith-persuasion that God exists and is able to reward those who diligently seek him-but his faith may not last.  The Lord requires faith expressed through obedience to him (Heb 5:9) to the end (Mt 10:22), and stated that the Father would cut out those who do not bear fruit. (John 15:1) A son does the will of the Father and is obedient to Christ throughout his lifetime.

The Lord taught, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:34-35, NIV) The son does not sin.  He will honour the Father’s provision to gain victory over it through obedience to the Spirit.  In another place Paul, who had recorded that sonship was achieved by faith, stated, “For if you live according to the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:13-14, NIV)

The sonship achieved through the marking of the Spirit must be proven through the believer’s walk if his or her state is to become permanent and if he or she is to be adopted as his child, a position for which they are waiting (Rom 8:23).  Paul has recognized the distress that God’s children (and all of creation) feel in this world as they wait for their adoption to be realized.

A person’s walk in the Spirit identifies him or her as a child of God. They have learned to walk as Jesus did (1 Jn 2:6), and they have been conformed to his likeness (Rom 8:29).  They have the characteristics of the parent, the Father. Paul has written, “For of this you can be sure:  No immoral, impure or greedy person-such a man is an idolater-has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Further, he has listed that neither fornicators, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, the covetous, etc. will inherit the kingdom. ” (1 Cor 6:9-10) Those who practice such are not sons but are slaves to sin because he has provided all that is necessary to avoid it; their place in the family will not be permanent. “We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin.” (1 Jn 5:18, NIV)

In his revelation the Lord said, “He who overcomes will inherit all of this (the New Jerusalem), and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7, NIV) It is the one who prevails over sin or who gets the victory who will be a child of God.

Who are the children of God?  They are the ones who have humbled themselves before God and have accepted the lordship of Christ in their lives.  They have obeyed him and have overcome the world and the evil one, and have been conformed to the likeness of Christ.  Their practice has been to live righteously and to defeat evil through the power of the Spirit.  Their old self has had to be put to death so that Christ has become their life.

The believer is not to be cavalier about the honour of sonship offered him or her but must be prepared to work it out with fear and trembling. The plan of God is to have a royal priesthood, a holy kingdom, children who have become a fit sacrifice for his presence (Rom 15:16).    Those who have given in to the sinful nature will not be adopted as his children and will be separated from him forever. (Mt 13:41)