Monthly Archives: August 2016

Now is the Day of Salvation

Experts tell us that Paul wrote 4 letters to the Corinthians of which we have two.  In the fifth chapter of II Corinthians he is talking about the reasonable expectation that we can look for new bodies immediately upon death.  I think that sometimes we think we are in kind of a Jehovah Witness state of coma waiting for our bodies, but I think that Paul indicates otherwise in II Corinthians 5.  In the seventeenth verse he says that “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creature, the old has passed away, behold the new has come.”  Paul goes on to say, keep in mind that he didn’t have chapters and verses when he wrote this, in Chapter 6 verse 2, “Now is the day of salvation.”

I suppose most of you think that this will be an evangelistic post.  And that text, “Now is the day of salvation” has often been used for that purpose.  Although I doubt it, I may have used that verse myself in that context, to call people to repentance.  But that is not what Paul is saying here. He doesn’t say, “This is the day of repentance, this is the day to become converted, this is the day to make your peace with God.”  No, he says, “this is the day of salvation” which is something else.  He is writing to Christians.  In fact, the whole Bible is written to Christians. We are to be living epistles who bring people to conversion and then they read the scriptures to be food for their souls.

Like many Christians, the Christians in Corinth were “half-saved” if I may use that expression.  They were carnal, which doesn’t mean that some of them were bad, although some of them likely were or did bad things.  They weren’t wicked; he calls them “saints”. But they were fleshly.  And if that doesn’t make much sense, they were kids, immature, half-grown Christians.  That’s what a child is after all, very fleshly.  It sleeps, eats, does things that we wouldn’t tolerate in a grown up.  And it is perfectly natural in child, but we as Christians need to get beyond that childhood level.  I’m not scolding or trying to wall anybody out, but it is a simple fact that the majority of Christians are carnal.  Now if you think that that is a little strong, keep in mind that what makes a child a child is that he doesn’t know who he is.  Doesn’t know whether he is a boy or a girl, his name, who is parents are or if he is an American.  He or she doesn’t know who they are.  And that characterizes most of Christians.  They don’t know who they are.  Now that sounds strong, but I hope to demonstrate the truth of that in the course of this post.

We talk about being filled with the Spirit and the Bible tells us to be filled with the Spirit, but are you aware that you are?  If we are born again, we are.  But many people don’t realize it, call upon that Spirit of God within them, make use of it, enjoy it.  And that, fellow pilgrims, brothers and sisters, is why many denominations are not growing.  We are not happy, we don’t have assurance.  The perseverance of the saints is one of the 5 points of Calvinism, but our subculture [the church] is often characterized by more depression and self-guilt, fear and phobia than the national average, because we don’t know who we are.

And we don’t have a gospel.  Jesus said “that if I am lifted up I will draw all men unto myself.”  Jesus says, “I want you to have life, and more abundant life,” and “I want your joy and that your joy should be full.” “I want you to have peace, and it should be my peace, my confidence, my serenity.”  Jesus was never shook up, he was never worried. He didn’t have false guilt.  I realize that he was perfect, but my point is is that we are too, in Him.  My big point is that NOW is the day of salvation.  We should enjoy it, use it today, enter into our inheritance.  You may have heard of people that carry so much life insurance that they deprive themselves of food or don’t go on trips or deprive their kids of inheritance.  They are always looking towards the day when their IRA comes due, they have great annuities.  Even if they lived to enjoy that, which a lot of them do not, what a way to mortgage the present in favor of an unknown, uncertain future.  And that describes the Christianity of a lot of us.  It’s “pie in the sky when you die, by and by.”  That is their salvation.

If I were to ask what it means to be saved, many would say, “To have your sins forgiven.”  That’s what people say when they make profession of faith, and you can forgive young people that answer because they are young; that is my point.  They have some growing to do.  But it is all wrong when we as adults say that what it means to be a Christian is that we “go to heaven.”  What did Jesus do to save you?  “Died on the cross.” That’s about it.  That’s the whole sum and substance of our faith, “He died on the cross.”  But that is just the beginning.  Communion too just commemorates his death rather than ingest His life!  And commemorates His death in me, that I died with Him.  The Lord’s Supper shouldn’t be a wake, a funeral meal. It’s a homecoming, a Thanksgiving Dinner, a wedding feast.  You wouldn’t think so by the songs that we sometimes sing at it, but that is what it is.  What does it mean to be saved?  That Christ lives in you, not that he died for you.

Did you know that the Bible talks more about the present than the future?   Even the book of Revelation.  It talks more about money than “the hereafter”.  Whenever you read in the Bible “the Kingdom of Heaven” you can pretty much understand that to be something here on earth.  Jesus says “the Kingdom is within you.”  We are citizens of the kingdom here and now.  Ephesians says that we are “reigning with Christ!”  Eternal life begins the moment one is converted.  And that means we don’t have to die, this thing that we fear.  All our lifetimes, says Hebrews, we are subject to bondage of the fear of death.  All of our phobias are reducible to the fear of death.   Whether it is lack of a job, sickness, accident, they are all reducible to the fear of death, which is why we are subject to bondage.  And now Jesus has rescued us from that basic fear.  We never have to die.  Oh, we call it death, from our side, just like a person who has fallen asleep.  We can talk to them (while they are sleeping) and they don’t hear us, they are “dead to the world.”  But they are very much alive.  So by that same token, someone who is lying in a casket we call dead but they didn’t die.  If they were to come back and we’d ask, “How did it feel?”, they’d  say, “How did what feel?” Death is a painless thing, like walking through a door.  Jesus said, “Whoever believes in me shall never die.”

If we were honest, most of us would have to admit that we read Bible out of sense of duty, that’s our requirement as Christians, our quiet time.  And by that we mean  we have to find out “the will of God for our lives.”  Well that word “will” is a beautiful word.  It is a synonym for legacy, or testament.  And if a will was probated and you found out that you were in it, you would probably look over it carefully, with all its latin words and legalisms.  And that’s the way we should read the Bible, because it is God’s will for you.  His promises, what He has for you, not what he is telling you to do.

So, how do you realize all this, that you could live a perfect life, if you wanted to?  It is just our will.  People will to be about just as happy as they want to be and as wicked as they want to be.  Just remember that you are in Christ. 150 times it says in the Bible that we are in Christ and Christ is in us.  The old person that your mother birthed, that is not you, not truly you.  The Bible has lots of illustrations of this…vine and branches, etc.  But the best one is husband and wife, how a woman takes on her husbands last name.  She is no longer whatever her maiden name was, she is a new person, a new legal entity.  And she “forsakes” her father and her mother to set up a home of her own.  She “leaves and cleaves.”  She is identified with him.  And so, we become new creatures in Christ. He is, as the Bible say, “our husband.”  We have to be who we are, know who we are.  “For me to live is Christ.”   Then you’ll have peace.  You’ll have that security that we are always talking about now days.  We seek it in all forms, be it in marriage, money, job or citizenship, country.  That will give you that “peace which passes all understanding.”  It will give us evangelism, it will give us a gospel.  We beat our brains for new methods and suggestions, we try this and we try that.  But if we knew who we are, the world would take knowledge of us that we were in Jesus.  “I am the way, without me there is no going.  I am the truth, without me there is no knowing.”  By being Christians we can have the very mind of Christ.  This is life, union life, the more abundant life.  “To know him more clearly, to love him more dearly, to be him more nearly.”

Galatians

Grace, faith and law.  Law is mentioned 29 times, faith 21 times, and grace 7 times.  Grace and law are not complete opposites; God has always been gracious and there will be “law” in heaven.

What is the “Law”? a. Narrowest meaning:  Ten Commandments (the “2 tables” were duplicates, not 2 parts of Decalog).  b. The Pentateuch:  Five books of Moses.  c. The entire Old Testament (Prophets “laid down the law” as well as predicted).  d. ALL law; the Torah.  e. “Natural Law”; conscience.  Moral function of the soul.  The mind “knows” right from wrong; misdoer has a “feeling” of guilt.  f. A principle, or rule, either good or bad.

Sometimes the “law” of Moses is divided into Ceremonial, Civil, and Moral.  This is a convenient distinction, but the 3 are inseparable.  Paul meant all three when he said we are not “under” law (5:19).  We disobey Second Commandment (images), 4th (Sabbath Day,  6, 7 (transgressors were stoned).  Civil laws (hygiene) were enforced by priests.

What was the purpose of the Law?  1. Theoretically, if a person kept it perfectly (which was an absolute impossibility) he would “live”.  Christ did, under “impossible” conditions (compare His temptation to Adam’s trial).  It is important to note that Christ lived and died “under the Law”; the Old Testament lasted until Pentecost! 2. To codify right from wrong. While all men have a conscience, it can be hardened so that almost nothing is “wrong”.  Abraham was polygamous.  Israelites took 2 eyes for 1, and abandoned wives without divorcing. (Rms 7:13)  3. As a restraint upon sin, for people lacking the inner motivation of the Holy Spirit, who did not indwell men until Pentecost.  (Gal 3:23-25)  In the case of the Israelites, these rules reached right down to items of diet, personal cleanliness, sensible farming.  Much of this makes good sense today; some is obsolete because of refrigeration, modern medicine, etc.  4. As a pattern by which believers could demonstrate their faith.  This was especially true of the ceremonial laws, which pictured Christ and salvation.  It was also true, say , of Sabbath-observance; this was a good “civil” law (rest) but it was also a sign of being God’s people.  (Eek 20:12) We obey God’s laws today not to show our faith, but as an automatic result of having faith.  Nobody, even the most righteous, came anywhere near perfection; but it was the attitude, spirit, effort, “heart” that God looked at.  David – “man after God’s own heart.”  (I Kings 14:8 – “kept my commandments”.)  John 17:6 “…they have obeyed your word.”  All failed badly, but were facing right direction.  Not a matter of degree, but basic attitude.

Punishment of sin in the Old Testament.  The penalties were severe because of Point 3 (see above), and disobedience was treason (a capital offense today).  The disobedient “cut themselves off”, willfully.  Death kept them from adding crimes.  Physical death did not imply spiritual (we all die).  Christ had not atoned for the “sin of the world”.  The fewness of the faithful required stern measures, much like rules regulating a nursery, or laws regarding “endangered species”.

How are we “free” from the Law?   1. Obviously, the “ceremonial” elements are obsolete; why bother with pictures when you have the real thing?  (There is nothing wrong with keeping some pictures; Paul circumcised Timothy.  We use many “pictures” in the New Testament, but they easily become images!) Error comes when ceremonies become compulsory, even Sabbath-keeping.  2. In the New Testament, God’s law is written on the heart (Hebs 8:8-12).  A Christian KNOWS God’s will, wants to do it, and is ABLE (through Christ) to keep it.  Christ did not keep law perfectly for us, finished. Continues to do so (“Active obedience”); the new man does so perfectly.  The soul has right attitude, despite faults. (see point 4 above)  3. The Old Testament laws have no application, per se, to the Christian.  The whole Old Testament was inspired (in some ways “more” than the New Testament); it is valuable for example (I Cor 10:11) and for illumination (for example, Jesus as the “Lamb of God”).  Caution:  The Old Testament really begins with Exodus; Genesis is introduced like Gospels are to the New.  So, capital punishment (Gen 9:6) is in force today! Not abrogated. 4 Unbelievers are still under law (I Tim 1:8-10); have it written on their conscience (Rms 2); will be judged by their failure to keep it. 5. The Law is a poor teacher of sin, by itself.  It only aggravates sin and the sinner (Rms 7:7-13)  The “pedagog” in Gal 3:24 did not do any teaching.  The Christian knows sin better and hates it more than any non-Christian (I Tim 1:15).  6. Insistence on keeping the Old Testament law leads to self-righteousness (think of the rich young ruler).  The Old Testament law is simple compared to the expectations of the New.  (Read Matt 5-7; Gal 5:13-6:10; Eph 4:17-6:20; Col 2:20-4:6)