Understanding the Cross – now available as eBook

Understanding_the_Cross_coverThe expanded version of our series “Understanding the Cross of Christ” is now available at Amazon.com in Kindle format at this link, in ePub format at Kobo, and for Nook at  BarnesandNobel.com!

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.

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Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 6 (Christ Arose!)

This is the conclusion of a series begun in Part One as a search for a more meaningful answer to an aspiring young Christian’s question: “Why did God send His only son to die?”  In part 2, we looked at what sin is, why it matters so much to God, and why it should matter to us.  In part 3, we delved into God’s response to sin.  In all of that discussion, we have made great mention of the fact that God has a plan for our salvation.  In part 4, we looked at how Jesus really fits into that plan.  In part 5, we examined what was expected of the Messiah, and why His death on the cross was necessary.

What Did the Cross Accomplish?

The Very Real Suffering of “The Suffering Servant”

The Mount of Olives, looking from Jerusalem, with Gethsemane on the left and the Basilica of the Agony (also called the Church of All Nations) at the right. It is the third in a succession of churches that have been built on the site where it is believed that Jesus prayed to the Father in the hours before his crucifixion.

The Mount of Olives, looking from Jerusalem, with Gethsemane on the left and the Basilica of the Agony (also called the Church of All Nations) at the right. It is the third in a succession of churches that have been built on the site where it is believed that Jesus prayed to the Father in the hours before his crucifixion.

It is all too easy for us to get into a mindset, knowing that Jesus was the Son of God, of (at least somewhere in the back of our minds) thinking that all of this was easy for Him.  Or if not exactly easy, at least not as bad as it would be for a “regular”person.  We must never forget that although Jesus was (is) the Lord, he had made himself a man.  He had human emotions.  He felt compassion for the hungry (Matthew 15:32), love for the sick and the suffering (Matthew 14:14).  He cried real human tears for Lazarus’ death before he raised him from the dead (John 11:32-35).  Even more telling as He knew what was coming, His agony, dread, and pleas as He prayed to the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane before His arrest clearly show his humanity (Matthew 26:36-46, Luke 22:39-46).  There was nothing “easy” about preparing Himself to be crucified, any more than it was “easy” to be beaten and slowly killed on that cross.  So what exactly did His loving sacrifice and

resurrection accomplish?

Release From the “Curse of the Law”

The culmination of God’s plan to redeem mankind came at such a high price to Him, but it accomplished so much for us.  This supreme sacrifice by Jesus redeemed us from what Paul calls “the curse of the law” in Galatians 3:10-13.  Quoting Deuteronomy 27:26 (“Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them”), Paul points out that none of us could ever be justified under that criteria because we all have sin in our lives.  And so the sacrifices and offerings made under the old law simply put off God’s judgment.

Gethsemane, Rock of Agony, where tradition says Jesus prayed

Gethsemane, Rock of Agony, where tradition says Jesus prayed

By the blood of His sacrifice, God put Jesus forward as a propitiation (an appeasement or satisfaction) for our sins (Romans 3:25, 1 John 2:2, 1 John 4:10).   Hebrews 9, speaking of the way things were before Christ, goes into some detail about the earthly “Most Holy Place” of the Tabernacle (into which only the High Priest could enter with blood to offer).  The word used for the “mercy seat” In Hebrews 9:5 (which was the lid on top of the ark) is the same as is used for “propitiation,” which is to say that it was a covering – a concealment – for the judgment of the law contained therein.

This earthly Holy Place and the Holy things it contained, the Hebrew writer refers to as mere “copies of the heavenly things” which are in Heaven.  By His death and resurrection, Jesus became a new High Priest of a better covenant (Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 7:22).  And Hebrews 9:11-12 explained that by His own blood, He entered once and for all into THE Holy Place, securing an eternal redemption for us.  Thus, Paul says in Romans 7:6, “…now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.”

Eternal Life

Paul reminds us in Romans 5:12 that when man first sinned in Genesis 3, death also entered the world (“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”).  Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:10 that Jesus “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”

By His resurrection, Jesus was victorious over death; and He brought to us the promise that when He returns, all those who have “fallen asleep” will also be raised, and will come to meet with Him (as well as those who are still alive) (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17).  And then, 1 Corinthians 15:22-26 tells us, “The last enemy to be destroyed is death.”  The Hebrew writer said in Hebrews 2:14-15:

“…he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

How Does One Earn Salvation – This Eternal Life?

The answer, of course, is that one does not earn salvation.  The bad news is that everyone has sinned, and however “small” one may consider his sins to be, God counts no difference between those sins and those we may consider to be the most despicable or callous.  The good news is that Jesus already paid the price for our sins with His death.  It is our faith in Jesus that justifies us through His grace, as told by Paul in Romans 5:1-2:

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

baptismBut the fact that this salvation is freely given to us, does not mean we have no responsibility in the matter.  We must obey His commandments, among which is as Acts 2:38 says: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins…”  Jesus said in Mark 16:16 “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”  Peter said in 1 Peter 3:21: “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.”

Paul gives the best explanation in Romans 6:3-5: “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

Staying the Course

If baptism were the end-all of the Christian’s commitment, how easy that would be.  But how easy is it to remain righteous in a world that seems to become more and more wicked?  Well, to be sure, Christians today (especially young people) face new and different challenges in that regard.  But there really is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  We know that is true from reading the Scriptures about the time before the flood (Genesis 6:5-8), about Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-19:29), about God’s patience with the depraved wickedness of the Canaanites (Genesis 15:15-21) – and events all throughout history.  But as Peter tells us as God’s children, Christians “are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light” (1 Peter 2:9).

Paul proclaimed the great promise in Romans 2:6-8: “…to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”  The Apostle aptly described our course in Romans 12:2:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 5 (The Anointed One and His Sacrifice)

This series began in Part One as a search for a more meaningful answer to an aspiring young Christian’s question: “Why did God send His only son to die?”  The short answer “to save us from our sins,” while correct, really only serves to raise more questions.  In part 2, we looked at what sin is, why it matters so much to God, and why it should matter to us.  In part 3, we delved into God’s response to sin.  In all of that discussion, we have made great mention of the fact that God has a plan for our salvation.  In part 4, we looked at how Jesus really fits into that plan.  But what were God’s people looking for in a Messiah?  And why did God plan such a horrible death for Him?

The “Missed” Messiah

John 1:29-41

John the Baptist told his disciples that Jesus was the Lamb of God, the Messiah, God’s Son, who would give his life for his followers — John 1:29-41

The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah to come for thousands of years.  But what kind of Messiah were they expecting – especially during the time that Jesus actually did come?  By and large, what many of them were hungry for in a Messiah was one that would lead Israel to greatness as a power in the world.  After all, he was to be the son of David.  They wanted him to be a great military leader that would first defeat the Romans who ruled and oppressed them.

But for people at that time,  getting them out from under the thumb of Roman rule was just the beginning.  They wanted a king that would eventually lead them to be the kind of power in the world that Israel enjoyed being during the reign of David – mighty and feared – possibly even to replace the Romans as the great power of the world.

In Matthew 2:1-5, when Herod learned of the birth of the Christ, the chief priests and scribes quoted Micah 5:2 in Matthew 2:6, saying:

“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.”

So Herod feared for his position, because he too assumed this Messiah would be a king of an earthly kingdom.  In John 6:15, when Jesus was at the height of his popularity with the people, the multitudes were ready to make that kingship a reality in their own way:

“Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.”

And in Acts 1:6, just before Jesus ascended to heaven, the apostles (not yet having received the Holy Spirit) demonstrated that they still didn’t “get it” either: (“So when they had come together, they asked him, ‘Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’”).  So focused were so many of the people of that time on an earthly kingship for the Messiah, that they overlooked completely prophecies such as that of the “Suffering Servant” in Isaiah 53 or others such as Psalm 16:8-11 (“you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption”) that clearly predicted a different course for God’s anointed.

Sadly, many of those who longed most for the coming of the Messiah completely missed Him, when he was right under their very noses.

Why Death on a Cross?

Although the crucifixion of Jesus is the most famous of all time, it was not an uncommon means of execution from about 500 BC until the 4th century AD – one that was used by the Romans, certain Greek-Macedonian states, and the Carthaginian empire, to name a few.  The Jews of Jesus’ time would have been very familiar with this means of execution.  This brutal and very public display of execution was usually reserved for those who committed the most heinous of crimes.  It was abolished by Emperor Constantine I in about 337 AD.

English: The Crucifixion, Genoa Svenska: "...

English: The Crucifixion, Genoa Svenska: “Korsfästelsen”. Chiesa del Gesù, Genua. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So with respect to fulfilling the Scriptures concerning the suffering that the Messiah would have to endure, crucifixion fit into that plan perfectly, as only an execution inflicted with torture could.  A quick death by some other means (such as beheading in the case of the apostle James (Acts 12:1-5) ), while certainly painful, would not serve to accomplish the intense suffering prophesied in such passages as in Isaiah 53, nor the wounding predicted in that same passage and others such as Zechariah 12:10.  Accompanied by the beatings and scourging (Matthew 27:25-26, John 19:1), it also fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 52:13-14 of the Messiah being so disfigured from them that He was hardly recognizable.  Moreover, being “lifted up” on the cross was the fate Jesus prophesied for Himself (John 3:14-15, Matthew 20:17-19, John 8:28), as well as that prophesied in Isaiah 52:13.

What Did the Death of Jesus Really Cost?

It is important to understand how much love was involved in the sacrifice of Jesus on that cross.  Almost everyone in our society has at least heard John 3:16 quoted (“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”).  But how often is that verse quoted without much thought behind it?   After all, He was the Son of God, right?  It is easy to forget how much He gave up, and how human He became for us.  To be sure, God reveals to us what we need to know, but He does not reveal everything there is to know about many things; and that includes His relationship as the Father to Jesus as the Son.

Jesus clearly speaks of himself and God as separate entities (John 5:30).  God also does the same in such verses as Matthew 3:16-17 (“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”).   Yet John 1:1 makes it clear that Jesus (“the Word”) was God.  Peter (2 Peter 1:1) and Paul (Titus 2:11-13) both tell us that Jesus is “God and Savior.”  Philippians 2:5-6 speaks of Jesus having been in the form of God and having equality with God.  Even Thomas, having his doubt removed after the resurrection, recognized this as he exclaimed in John 20:28“My Lord and my God!”   So the answer, in our limited ability to understand such things, is that Jesus was both God and a separate being – the Son.

The relevance of all of this to the willing sacrifice of Jesus is that God’s love for us prompted Him to have His only Son – and in a very real sense (the depths of which we cannot fully understand) a part of Himself – to come into this world as a physical man, to live and love as a man, to feel pain and sorrow just as we do, and to suffer and die a cruel and tortuous death at the hands of the very people He was trying to save.

In Part 6, we will conclude this series with a look at more of what Jesus’ death and resurrection accomplished, as well as what is required of us to gain our salvation.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 4 – (God’s Plan)

This series began in Part One as a search for a more meaningful answer to an aspiring young Christian’s question: “Why did God send His only son to die?”  The short answer “to save us from our sins,” while correct, really only serves to raise more questions.  In part 2, we looked at what sin is, why it matters so much to God, and why it should matter to us.  In part 3, we delved into God’s response to sin.  In all of that discussion, we have made great mention of the fact that God has a plan for our salvation.  Now, in part 4, let us look at how Jesus really fits into that plan.

So how does Jesus fit into this plan of God’s?

If you were to say that Jesus, in fact, is God’s plan for our salvation, you would be correct.  God first promised this savior in Genesis 3:15, when sin first entered the world.  The verse reads in the ESV:

I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and her offspring;
he shall bruise your head,
and you shall bruise his heel.

The enmity that God refers to here is opposition to Satan through the offspring born of the woman.  Clearly, the “he” in the verse that will “bruise your head” is that offspring.  What is meant by bruising the head is the complete victory over the evil one that had the power over death, as told to us in Hebrews 2:14-15.  As for how the Crucifixion can be classified as  the bruising of the heel, consider that Jesus overcame death itself, and that the ultimate fate of Satan is his utter destruction (Revelation 20:10).

There are a great many prophecies throughout the Bible that promise the coming of this Messiah  – many more than we can include in this outline.  But the most important of these is arguably that which is written in 2 Samuel 7, where God makes a covenant with David which promises a kingdom from his offspring that will endure forever.  He would be the son of God (Psalm 2:7).  It is through this offspring of David that the one promised in Genesis 3 will come.  He would be sacrificed for our transgressions (Isaiah 53:5-12).  And most importantly, he would be risen from the dead (Psalm 16:10, Psalm 49:15).

Who was Jesus really, and where did He come from?

Let us begin with his name.  Most people know of Him as Jesus Christ.  He has been known this way for so long that many people actually assume that His last name – His surname – was Christ.  But that is, of course, not the case.  Over the years the reference to Him as Jesus the Christ has simply been shortened.  The Hebrew for Messiah and the Greek for Christ (Khristos) both mean anointed or “anointed one.”

Most people know that He was born in Bethlehem of a virgin, and many have wondered what the point is of the long genealogy written in Matthew 1:1-17.   This was to document the fact that Jesus’ birth came forth through the line of King David.  The names of many of those in that genealogical record are found in books of the Bible (the Old Testament) written in the inspired word of God over many hundreds of years.

But though Jesus was born of a woman, just as had been prophesied, that is not the entire significance of His origin.  In John 1:1-18, we are told that before He came to live as a man, Jesus was with God since the beginning of time:

“He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

Some say that Jesus never claimed to be deity, but that is certainly not true.  In John 10:30, he told the Jewish leaders at the temple “I and the Father are one.”  And in John 8:58, he told them “before Abraham was, I am,” which was clearly a reference to the way God identified Himself to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

Paul, in his letter to the Philippians in Philippians 2:5-8, summed up how much Jesus gave up to come to Earth, to become a man, and to suffer a cruel death:

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

As we near the conclusion of this series, we will  examine how Jesus measures up with what the people were expecting from the Messiah that had been anticipated for well over a thousand years, what His death meant then and, more importantly, what it means to us now.

/Bob’s boy

___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 3 (God’s Response To Sin)

cross03In part 1 of this series, we began looking for a more informative answer to my young friend’s question (“Why would God send His only son to die?”).  The answer is of course that it was God’s plan for our salvation all along.  But a better explanation would really be aided by a better understanding of sin, atonement, and ultimately, propitiation.  In part 2, we looked at what sin is, why it matters so much to God, and why it should matter to us.  And now we turn to God’s response to sin – which, come to that, is also one of the reasons that it matters to us.

What are the consequences of sin?

Adam and Eve expelled

When Adam and Eve obeyed Satan instead of God, God sent them from the Garden of Eden and posted an angelic being at the doorway of Eden to prevent them from entering it again (Genesis 3).

Of course, God’s first response to sin was to Adam and Eve after the fall of man, but He has given man many other earthly responses to sin.  God was so grieved by man’s wickedness that He “struck down every living creature” (that wasn’t on the ark) in a global flood in Genesis 6-8. God promised His judgment on the Canaanites in Genesis 15:13-21 and again in Deuteronomy 9:4-5 , well in advance of the Israelites’ entry into the promised land in Joshua 3.  And just as he warned them 1,000 years earlier in Deuteronomy 28:49-63, God had His people removed and taken captive for their continued disobedience, and their cherished holy city was burned (2 Kings 17, 2 Kings 24, 2 Chronicles 36:17-21).  Of course, all of these, and many other earthly judgments God has brought to pass, pale in comparison to God’s promise of eternal separation from Him and the punishment that awaits the sinful in the end – in contrast to the reward that awaits the faithful (Matthew 8:11-12, Matthew 25:45-46).

Why does God require a price to be paid for sin?

Abraham covenant-01

The Lord spoke personally with Abraham, entering into a lasting covenant with him (Genesis 17).

It is a fact that it is no accident that the Creator of life demands discipline, and that the blueprints He gives us for living our lives result in the best that life has to offer for us.  Godly living in the long and short-term always has born out that constant truth – His ways are best for us.  And it is His will for all of us to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4) So why does God demand a price for sin?  As we noted in part 2, God is too pure to tolerate sin (Habakkuk 1:13).  But just as importantly, He is a fair and just God (Psalm 25:8-14, 2 Thessalonians 1:6-10, Deuteronomy 32:4).  He has promised to reward us for our righteousness, just as He has promised to punish sin. He is faithful and true to all of His promises.  If it were not so – if He simply turned a blind eye to sin – how could we count on Him to keep the other promises He has made to us?

How was sin dealt with in the Old Testament?

Sacrifices and offerings to God were made by presenting them to a Levitical priest (a descendant of Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob).  Non-priests could not make an approach to God.  The different types of offerings are described in Leviticus 1-7.  Only the High Priest – from Aaron through the end of Eleazor’s line – approached God in the innermost part of the Tabernacle (the Most Holy place), as they did to make offering on the Day of Atonement.  This occurrence simply put off the judgment of the Lord for their sins in the past year (Leviticus 16:34).  These sacrifices and the old law were merely a shadow of the promise of what was to come (Hebrews 10:1-4).

Levitical_priesthood_diagram-01

The Levitical Priesthood

God had set apart the Levites (Numbers 3:12) and established the priesthood for His people through the lines of the three sons of Levi – all with special duties.  These were the Gershonites (Numbers 4:24-26; 7:7-8), Kohathites (Numbers 3:29-32, 1 Chron 15:1-15), and the Merarites (Numbers 3:36-37; 4:29-33).  Moses and Aaron were sons of Kohath; and it was through Aaron’s line that the priesthood continued until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., by way of his sons Eleazor, Ithamar, and Nadab and Abihu. The latter two met their end (and that of their lines) in Leviticus 10.  Ithamar’s line ended  in 2 Kings 2:26-27 with Abiathar.  Eleazor’s line lived on until the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.

All through these ages, the promise loomed ahead of something better.  A promise that was made first in Genesis 3:15-17, and would be repeated and expounded throughout the Old Testament.  We will look closer at that promise as this series continues in part 4, taking a look at how Jesus fits into God’s plan for our salvation.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Understanding the Cross of Christ – Part 2 (What is Sin?)

This series began in Part One as a search for a more meaningful answer to an aspiring young Christian’s question: “Why did God send His only son to die?”  The short answer “to save us from our sins,” while correct, really only serves to raise more questions.  Whether the question comes from a young person or someone older, I should be able to do better.  Hopefully I will be more prepared to answer that question by the end of this series.

A real understanding of the answer to this question naturally begins with understanding some things about sin.  So as we turn to that subject, the first set of questions we brought up in part one center around just what the problem is with sin.

What is sin anyway?

English: Man's Sin, and God's Promise; as in G...

English: Man’s Sin, and God’s Promise; as in Genesis 3:1-6, 13-15; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Simply put, sin is that which is contrary to God’s will, His commandments, even that which is against His very nature.  Sin came into the world in what we know as “the fall” way back in Genesis 3.  At that time, man had a practical paradise on earth, as well the blessing of being really close to God.  But despite clear warning, he threw it all away in rebellion against the Lord, and nothing has been the same since that time.  God’s first reference to sin as a word in the scripture appears in Genesis 4, when Cain had become angry.  God had warned him that sin was “crouching at his door,” after which he in fact murdered his own brother.  Since that time, many specific acts that are sinful have been named in the Bible.  Some of those are named by Paul as “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-20.  The fact that this is not a complete list of all sins is obvious, and made clear by the words “and things like these” at the end of the passage.

We know that those things in Paul’s letter to the Galatians are wrong.  We even know that such things as lying and murder are wrong.  But if there is no clearly exhaustive list of sins in the Bible to which we can refer, how should one know what else may be sinful?   The answer is by studying God’s word – the Scriptures.  The more we learn by reading and hearing God’s word, the more we know about what is right, what is wrong, and what is abhorrent to God (Proverbs 6:16-19, for example).   But we usually have to look no further than our own hearts.  God gave us a conscience; and if we truly examine ourselves with honesty, our internal conflict will betray our true knowledge of what God really expects from us (Romans 2:14-16).

English: The Story of Cain and Abel; as in Gen...

English: The Story of Cain and Abel; as in Genesis 4:3-15; illustration from a Bible card published by the Providence Lithograph Company (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So why does sin matter so much to God?

God has revealed Himself in many ways to us.  One of those of those ways is by His word. One could write a dissertation on that very subject, but we should know that the Bible declares (among other things) that God is the very definition of goodness and faithfulness, and that He has enduring and steadfast love (Psalm 100:5) – indeed that He is love (1 John 4:8)!  And from His word, we know that He is truth and holiness (Leviticus 19:2) – that He is light, and in Him is no darkness (1 John 1:5).  There is no evil in His character, and He is too pure to tolerate sin or evil (Habakkuk 1:13).

Why should sin matter to us?

We will have more to say about this in Part Three of this series.  But sin is important to us first and foremost because it separates us from God.  That separation is absolutely the worst thing that has ever happened to mankind.  It separated man from God after “the fall” of Genesis 3, and God has been at work to restore that relationship with Him ever since then.  The good news is that He has a plan to do just that very thing; and that hope for us has always pointed to the Cross.

On a Sunday within the next few short weeks, we will present part three of this series with a look at God’s response to sin. as we begin to examine His plan for our salvation and hope for being with Him forever.

/Bob’s boy
___________________
image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.

Understanding the Cross of Christ (Part 1)

cross-004Recently, a young person asked me why God sent His only son to die – why was it necessary? Not a real unusual question for someone learning about Christianity to ask. And as someone who was “raised in the church,” it seemed so basic to our Christianity that I remember thinking that it should be a relatively easy question for me to answer. But to my surprise, I found that the spontaneous explanation I was able to come up with in an admittedly brief time seemed wholly inadequate to me – and I vowed to prepare myself to do a better job. What question could be more important for us as Christians to answer? So, as I begin to study and prepare for that “better answer,” I am beginning this series on “Understanding the Cross,” which will be featured on selected Sundays for the next few weeks.

To be sure, the first thing that popped into my head (“to save us from our sins”) was absolutely the correct answer. But it was also one that my young student in his own limited study of God’s word, already knew. After all, the words are in practically every prayer he has ever heard. But standing by itself, it really isn’t much of an answer, is it?

Admittedly, a real study of this question could be made into countless individual lessons, articles, and discussions. It is, after all, what the entire Bible from the Genesis to Revelation is all about, right? So let’s begin in part one of this series, with a brief outline and some more questions; and see if we can provide a meaningful answer to my young friend’s question that is not too difficult to call up to memory when needed. Let’s start by separating the questions into four categories:

What is the problem with sin?

  • What is sin, and how does it affect us?
  • Why does sin matter so much to God?
  • What is its importance to us?

What is God’s response to sin?

  • What are the consequences to us?
  • How was sin dealt with in the Old Testament?
  • Why does God demand a price to be paid for our sin?

How does Jesus fit into God’s plan?

  • Where did Jesus come from?
  • Was He all that everyone expected the Messiah to be?
  • What did his death on the cross accomplish?

What must we do to be saved?

  • What \ Who is a sinner?
  • What can a sinner do to earn salvation?
  • What is the importance of baptism?

Be watching for part 2 of this series, where we will examine the first category of questions above: “What is the problem with sin?”

/Bob’s boy
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image © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers

Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog.  All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility.  When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.  For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.