Friday, July 12, 2019

What Is A Biblical Christian?by Pastor Albert N. Martin

 

There  are many matters concerning which total ignorance and complete indifference are neither tragic nor fatal. I believe many of you are probably totally ignorant of Einstein's theory of relativity, and if you were pressed to explain it to someone you would really be in difficulty. Not only are you ignorant of Einstein's
theory of relativity, you are probably quite indifferent, and that ignorance and indifference is neither fatal nor tragic. I am sure there are few of us who can explain all the processes by which a brown cow eats green grass and gives white milk. It  does  not  keep  you  from  enjoying  the  milk. But there are some things 
concerning which ignorance  and  indifference  are  both  tragic  and  fatal,  and  one 
such thing is the Bible's answer to the question I am about to set before you.

'What is a biblical Christian?' In other words, when does a man or woman, a boy or girl, have the right to take to himself or herself the name Christian, according to the Scriptures?

We do not want to make the assumption lightly that you are true Christians.
I want to set before you four strands of the Bible's answer to that question.

1.ACCORDING TO THE BIBLE A CHRISTIAN  IS A PERSON WHO HAS
FACED REALISTICALLY THE PROBLEM OF HIS OWN PERSONAL SIN

Now one of the many unique things about the Christian faith is this — unlike most of the religions of the world, Christianity is essentially and fundamentally a sinner's religion. When the angel announced to Joseph he approaching birth of  Jesus Christ, he did so in these words, 'Thou  halt  call  his  name  Jesus,  for he shall save his people from their sins' [Matt  1.21]. The apostle Paul wrote in I  Timothy 1.15, 'This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners'. He came into the world to save sinners. The Lord Jesus Christ himself says in Luke5.31-32, 'Those that are  healthy do not need a doctor but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance'. And the Christian is one who has faced 
realistically this problem of his own personal sin.

When we turn to the Scripture and seek to take in the whole of its teaching on the subject of sin, right down to its irreducible minimum, we find that the Scripture tells us that each one of us has a two-fold personal problem in relation to sin. On the one hand, we have the problem of a bad record and, on the other, the problem of a bad heart. If we start in Genesis 3 and read that tragic account of man's rebellion against God and his fall into sin, then trace the biblical doctrine of sin all the way through the Old Testament, and on into the New, right through to
the Book of Revelation, we shall see that it is not over-simplification to say that everything  that  the  Bible  teaches  about  the  doctrine  of  sin  can  be  reduced  to  those two fundamental categories - the problem of a bad record and the problem of a bad heart.

What do I mean by 'the problem of a bad record'? I am using that terminology to describe what the Scripture sets before us as the doctrine of human guilt  because of sin. The Scripture tells us plainly that we obtained a bad record long before we had any personal existence here upon the earth: 'Wherefore, as by  one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned' [Rom 5.12]. When did the 'all' sin? We all sinned in Adam. He was appointed by God to represent all of the human race and when he sinned we sinned in him and fell with him in his first transgression. That is why
the apostle writes in 1 Corinthians 15.22, 'As in Adam all die'. We passed our age of accountability in the Garden of Eden and from the moment Adam sinned we were charged with guilt. We fell in him in his first transgression and we are part of the race that is under condemnation. Furthermore, the Scripture says, after we come into being at our own conception and subsequent birth additional guilt  accrues to us for our own personal, individual transgressions. The Word of God teaches that there is not a just man upon the face of the earth who does good
and does not sin [Eccles  7.20], and every single sin incurs additional guilt.

 Our record in heaven is a marred record. Almighty God measures the totality of our human experience from the moment of our birth by a standard which is absolutely inflexible; a standard that touches not only our external deeds but also our thoughts and the very motions and intentions of our heart; so much so, that the Lord Jesus said that the stirring of unjust anger is the very essence  of murder, the look with intention to lust as adultery. And God is keeping 'a detailed record'. That record is among 'the books' which will be opened in the day of
judgment [Rev 20.12]. And there in those books is recorded every thought, every motive, every intention, every deed, every dimension of human experience that is contrary to the standard of God's holy law, either failing to measure up to its  standard or transgressing it. We have the problem of a bad record - a record in which we are charged with guilt; real guilt for real sin committed against the true and the living God. That is why the Scripture tells us that the entire human race stands guilty before Almighty God [Rom 3.19].

Has the problem of your own bad record ever  become a burning, pressing  personal concern to you? Have you faced the truth that Almighty God judged you guilty when our first father sinned, and holds you guilty for every single word you have spoken contrary to perfect holiness and justice and purity and righteousness? He knows every object you have touched and taken contrary to the sanctity of property and every word spoken contrary to perfect, absolute truth.
Has this ever broken in upon you, so that you awakened to the fact that Almighty God has every right to summon you into his presence and to require you to give an account of every single deed contrary to His law, which has brought guilt upon your soul?

Certainly we have the problem of a bad record but we have an additional problem - the problem of a bad heart. We not only are pronounced guilty in the court of heaven for what we have done. The Scripture teaches that the problem of our sin is one that arises not only from what we have done, but from what we are. When Adam sinned he not only became guilty before God, but defiled and polluted  in his own nature. The Scripture describes it in Jeremiah 17.9, 'The heart is  deceitful above all things and desperately wicked; who can know it?' Jesus  describes it in Mark 7.21, 'From within, out of the heart of man, proceed...'and 
then He names all the various sins that can be seen in any newspaper on any day — blasphemies, pride, adulteries, murder. Jesus said that these things rise out of this artesian well of pollution, the human heart. Notice carefully that he did
not say,'For from without, by the pressure of society and its negative influences, come forth murder and adultery and pride and thievery'. That is what our so-called sociological experts tell us. It is 'the condition of society' that produces  crime and rebellion. Jesus says it is the condition of the human heart. For from  within,  out of the heart, proceed these things — lies, selfishness, self-centredness, total pre-occupation with my feelings and my desires and my plans and my perspectives.

We have hearts that the Scripture describes as 'desperately wicked' - the 
fountain of all forms of iniquity. To change the biblical imagery, Romans 8.7  reads, 'The carnal mind is enmity against God, for it is not subject to the law of  God, neither indeed can it be'. Paul says that the carnal mind, that is, the mind  that has never been regenerated by God, is not reflective of some enmity; he  calls it enmity itself. 'The carnal mind is enmity against God'. The disposition of  every human heart by nature can be visually pictured as a clenched fist raised  against the living God. This is the inward problem of a bad heart - a heart that  loves sin, a heart that is lie fountain of sin, a heart that is at enmity with God. And
such is the problem that every one of us has by nature.

Has the problem of your bad heart ever become a pressing personal concern to you? I am not asking whether you believe in human sinfulness in theory. Oh,  there is such a thing as a sinful nature and a sinful heart. My question is: Have  your bad record and your bad heart ever become a matter of deep, inward,  personal, pressing concern to you? Have you known anything of real, personal,  inward  consciousness  of  the  awfulness  of  your  guilt  in  the  presence of a holy  God? - the horribleness of a heart that is 'deceitful above all things and
desperately wicked'?

A Bible Christian  is a person who has in all seriousness taken to heart us own personal problem of sin.

Now the degree to which we may feel the awful weight of sin differs from one person to another. The length of time over which a person is brought to the  consciousness of his bad record and his bad heart differs. There are many  variables, but Jesus Christ as the Great Physician never brought his healing  virtue to any who did not know themselves to be sinners. He said, 'I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance' [Matt  9.13]. Are you a Bible 


Christian, one who has taken seriously your personal problem of sin?

2.A BIBLE CHRISTIAN IS ONE WHO HAS SERIOUSLY CONSIDERED 
THE ONE DIVINE REMEDY FOR SIN

In the Bible we are told again and again that Almighty God has taken the initiative in doing something for man the sinner. The verses some of us learned in our  infancy underscore divine initiative in providing a remedy or sinful man: 'God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son . . .'; 'Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent us Son to be the propitiation for our sins'; 'But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us. . .' [John 3.16;  1 John  10;  Eph 2.41. You see, the unique feature  of the Christian faith is that it not a kind of religious self-help where you patch yourself up with the
aid of God. Just as surely as it is a unique tenet of the Christian faith that Christ is a Saviour for sinners, so it is also a unique tenet of the Christian faith that all of our true help comes down  from  above  and  meets us where we are. We cannot  pull ourselves up by our own boot-strings. God in mercy breaks in upon the  human  situation  and  does  something  which we could never do for ourselves.
 Now when we turn to the Scriptures we find that that divine remedy has at least three simple but profoundly wonderful focal points:

(a) First of all, that divine remedy is bound up in a Person. Anyone who begins to take seriously the divine remedy for human sin will notice in the Scriptures that  the remedy is not in a set of ideas, as though it were just another philosophy, nor is it found in an institution, it is bound up in a Person. 'God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son'. 'Thou shalt call his name Jesus for he shall save. .  .' He, himself, said, 'I am the way, the truth and the life; no man comes to the  Father but by me' [John 14.6]. That one divine remedy is bound  up  in  a  Person  and that Person is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ - the eternal Word who
became man, uniting to his Godhead a true human nature. Here is God's 
provision for man with his bad record and his bad heart, a Saviour who is both  God and man, the two natures joined in the one Person for ever. And your  personal problem of sin, and mine, if it is ever to be remedied in a biblical way will be remedied only as we have personal  dealings with that Person. Such is the  unique strand  of the Christian faith - the sinner in all his need united to the  Saviour in all the plenitude of his grace, the sinner in his naked need and  the  Saviour in his almighty power, brought directly together in the Gospel. That is the glory of the Gospel!


(b)It is centred in the cross upon which that Person died. A cross that leads to an empty tomb, yes! And a cross preceded by a life of perfect obedience, yes! And when we turn to the Scriptures we find that the divine remedy in a unique way is centred in the cross of Jesus Christ. When he is formally announced by John the Baptist, John points to him and says,'Behold the Lamb of God who is bearing  away the sin of the world' [John 1.29].Jesus himself said, 'I did not come to be
ministered unto, but to minister and to give my life a ransom for many' [Matt  20.28],  and  true  preaching  of  the  Gospel  is  so  much  centred in the cross  that Paul says it is the word, or the message of the cross.The preaching of the cross is 'to them who are perishing foolishness, but unto us who are being  saved it is  the power of God' [1 Cor 1.18], and this same apostle went on to say that when
he came to Corinth - that bastion of intellectualism and pagan Greek philosophy with its set patterns of rhetorical expertise - 'I  came  amongst you determined to  know nothing save Jesus Christ and him as crucified' [1 Cor 2.2].

You see, God's gracious remedy for sin is not only bound up in a Person, it is  centred in the cross of that Person - not the cross as an abstract idea, nor as a religious symbol, but the cross in terms of what God declares it to mean. The  cross was the place where God heaped upon his Son, by imputation, the sins of his people. On that cross there was substitutionary curse-bearing. In the   language of Galatians 3.13, 'God made him to be a curse for us'; 'God made him to be sin for us' [2 Cor 5.2] - the one who knew no sin. It is not the cross as some nebulous, indefinable symbol of self-giving love, it is the cross as the  
monumental display of how God can be just and still pardon guilty sinners; the  cross where God, having impted the sins of his people  to Christ, pronounces  judgment upon his Son as the representative of his people.There  on the cross  God pours out the vials of his wrath, unmixed with mercy, until his Son cries out, 'My God, my God, why have you abandoned  me? why  have you forsaken  me?' 
[Psa 22.1; Matt 27.46]. There in the visible world at Calvary, God, as it were, was demonstrating what was happening in the invisible spiritual world. He shrouds the heavens in total darkness to let all mankind know that he is plunging his Son into the outer darkness of the hell which your sins and my sins deserved. Jesus  hangs on the cross  in the place  of an undefended guilty criminal; he is in the  posture  of  one  for  whom  society has but one option, 'Away  with  him', 'Crucify  him', 'Hand him over to death', and God does not intervene. There in the theatre
of what men can see, God is demonstrating what he is doing in the realm where we cannot see. He is treating his Son as a criminal, he is causing him to feel in the  depths of  his own soul all of the fury of the wrath that should have been vented upon us.

(c) A remedy that is adequate for and offered to all without discrimination. Before we have any felt consciousness of our sin, about the easiest thing in the world is to think that God can forgive sinners. But when you and I begin to have any idea at all of what sin is — we, little worms of the dust, we creatures whose very life and breath is held in the hands of the God in whom 'we live and move and have our being' [Acts  17.28] — when we begin, I say, to take seriously that we have  dared to defy Almighty God who holds our breath in his hands,the God who,  when angels rebelled against him, did not wait to show mercy but consigned  them to everlasting chains of darkness with no way of mercy ever planned  or 
revealed to them, then our thoughts are changed. Once we take seriously the  truth that it is this holy God  who sees the effusions of the foul, corrupt human  hearts which are yours and mine, then we say, 'O God, how can you be anything other than just; and if you give me what my sins deserve, there is nothing for me but wrath and judgment! How can you forgive me and still be just? How can you be a righteous God and do anything other than consign me to everlasting 
punishment with those angels  that  rebelled'. When  you  begin  to  take  your  sin  seriously, forgiveness becomes the most knotty problem  with  which  your  mind  has ever wrestled. It is then that we need to know that God has provided  in  a  Person, and that Person crucified, a remedy that is adequate for and offered  to  all without discrimination. When God begins to make us feel the reality of our sin, if  there  were  any  conditions  placed on the availability of Christ we  would  say, 
'Surely I don't meet the conditions, surely I don't qualify', but the wonder of God's provision is that it comes in these unfettered terms: 'Ho, everyone who  thirsts,  come to the  waters; he who has no money, come, buy wine and milk without  money and  without price. Wherefore do you  labour for that which  does  not  satisfy' [Isa 55.1 -2]. 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Him that comes unto me I will in no wise cast out' [Matt 11.28; John 6.37].

Oh, the beauty of the unfettered offers of mercy in Jesus Christ! We do not need to have God step out of heaven and tell us that we, by name, are  warranted to  come; we have the unfettered offers of mercy in the words of his own Son, 'Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest'.

3. A BIBLE CHRISTIAN IS ONE WHO  HAS  WHOLEHEARTEDLY  COMPLIED 
WITH THE DIVINE TERMS FOR APPROPRIATING THE DIVINE PROVISION

The divine terms are two - repent and believe. That is what Jesus preached, 'At that time Jesus came preaching, Repent and believe the gospel' [Mark 1.15, 16].
It  is  what  Paul  preached.  He  says,  'I  testified  to  Jews  and  Greeks  wherever  I  went,  repentance  toward  God,  faith  toward  our  Lord  Jesus  Christ'  [Acts  20.21]. 
This is the Gospel that Jesus told his own to preach [Luke 24.45, 46]. He opened their minds to understand the Scripture and told them it was necessary for Christ to die, and to be raised again from the dead the third day, that repentance unto remission  of  sins  should  be  preached  in  his  name  among  all  the  nations,  beginning at Jerusalem.

What are the divine terms for obtaining the divine provision? We must repent, we must  believe.  Now  because  we  have  to  speak  in  terms  of  one  word  following  another,  or  preceding  another,  we  must  not  think  that  this  repentance  is  ever  divorced from faith or that this faith is ever divorced from repentance. True faith is permeated with repentance, true repentance is permeated with faith. They inter-
penetrate  one  another  so  that,  whenever  there  is  a  true  appropriation  of  the  divine  provision,  there  you  will  find  a  believing  penitent  and  a  penitent  believer. 
The one will never be divorced from the other.

What is repentance? The definition of the Shorter Catechism is an excellent one: 'Repentance unto life is a saving grace, whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin, and apprehension of (that is, a laying hold of) the mercy of God in Christ, does  with  grief  and  hatred  of  his  sin,  turn  from  it  unto  God,  with  full  purpose  of,  and endeavour after, new obedience'.

Repentance is the prodigal down in the far country coming to his senses. He left his father's home because he could not stand his father's government. Everything about his father's will and ways irritated him. It was a constant block to following the  desires of  his  own  foul,  wretched,  sin-loving  heart.  The  day  came  when  he  said he wanted what was due to him. He went into the far country. When he left
he  had  a  notion  of  his  father,  of  his  government  and  of  his  ways,  which  was  entirely negative, but the Scripture tells us in Luke 15 that down in the far country he came to himself: 'And when he came to himself he said, I will arise and go to my  father  and  will  say  unto  him,  Father,  I  have  sinned  against  heaven,  and  before  you,  and  am  no  more  worthy  to  be  called  your  son.  Make  me  as  one  of  your  hired  servants'.  And  then  the  Scripture  says  he  did  not  sit  there  and  think  about it, and write poetry about it and send telegrams home to his Dad. It says, 'He  rose  up  and  came  to  his  father'.  He  left  all  those  companions  who  were  his  friends in sin; he loathed and abominated and abhorred everything that belonged
to that life-style. He turned his back on it. And what was it that drew him home? 

It was  the  confidence  that  there  was  a  gracious  father  with  a  large  heart  and  with  the righteous rule for his happy, loving home. And he said, 'I will arise and go to my  father'.  He  did  not  send  a  telegram  saying,  'Dad,  things  are  getting  rough  down  here;  my  conscience  is  giving  me  fits  at  night;  won't  you  send  me  some 
money to help me out and come and pay me a visit and make me feel good?' Not at all! He did not need just to feel good, he needed to become good. And he left the far country. It is a beautiful stroke in our Lord's picture when he says, 'While he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran, and threw  his  arms  around  him  and  kissed  him'.  The  prodigal  did  not  come  strutting  up to his father, talking about making a decision to come home. There is a notion
that people can come strutting into enquiry rooms and pray their little prayer and so  do  God  a  favour  by  making  their  decision.  This  has  no  more  to  do  with  conversion  than  my  name  is  'Abraham  Lincoln'.  True  repentance  involves  recognizing  that  I  have  sinned  against  the  God  of  heaven,  who  is  great  and  gracious, holy and loving, and that I am not worthy to be called his son. And yet,
when I am prepared to leave my sin, to turn my back upon it and to come back haltingly,  wondering  if  indeed  there  can  be  mercy  for  me,  then  —  wonder  of  wonders!  —  the  Father  meets  me,  and  throws  the  arms  of  reconciling  love  and  mercy  about  me.  I  say  it,  not  in a  sentimental  way  but  in  all  truth,  he  smothers  repenting sinners in forgiving and redemptive love.

But note, the father did not throw his arms around the Prodigal when he was still in the hogpens and in the arms of harlots. Do I speak to some whose hearts are wedded to the world, who love the world's ways? Perhaps in your personal life, or in relationship to your parents, or in your social life where you take so lightly the sanctity of the body, you show what you are. Maybe some of you are involved in fornication,  in  heavy  petting,  involved  in  looking  at  the  kind  of  stuff  on  television 
and in the cinema that feeds your lust, and yet you name the name of Christ. You live in the hog pens and then go to a house of God on Sunday. Shame on you! Leave  your  hog  pens,  your  haunts  of  sin.  Leave  your  patterns  and  practices  of  fleshly and carnal indulgence. Repentance is being sorry enough to quit your sin.
You will never know the forgiving mercy of God while you are still wedded to your sins.

Repentance is the soul's divorce from sin but it will always be joined to faith.  What is faith? Faith is the casting of the soul upon Christ as he is offered to us in the Gospel. Forsaking All I Take Him. That is faith! 'As many as received him, to them gave he the right to become the sons of God, even to them that believe in his name' [John 1.12]. Faith is likened to drinking of Christ. In my soul-thirst I  drink of him. Faith is likened to looking to Christ. Faith is likened to following  Christ, fleeing to Christ. The Bible uses many analogies and the sum of all of  them is this, that in the nakedness of my need I cast myself upon the Saviour,  trusting him to be to me all that he has promised to be to needy sinners.

Faith brings nothing to Christ but an empty hand by which it takes Christ and all that is in him. And what is in him? Full pardon for all my sins! His perfect  obedience is put to my account. His death is counted as mine. And the gift of the Spirit is in him. Adoption, sanctification and ultimately glorification are all in him, and faith, in taking Christ, receives all that is in him. 'But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, whom God has made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and   sanctification and redemption' [1 Cor 1.30].

What is a biblical  Christian?  A  biblical  Christian  is  a  person  who  has   wholeheartedly complied with the divine terms for obtaining the divine provision  for sin. Those terms are repentance and faith. I like to think of them as the hinge on which the door of salvation turns. The hinge has two plates. One  that  is  screwed to the door and the other screwed to the door jam. They are held  together by a pin and on that hinge the door turns. Christ is that door, but none enter through him who do not repent and believe,  and  there  is  no  true  hinge 
made up only of repentance. A repentance that is not joined to faith is a legal  repentance. It terminates on yourself and on your sin.

A professed faith that is not joined to repentance is a spurious faith, for faith Is  faith in  Christ to save  me, not in but  from my sin. Repentance and  faith are  inseparable and except you repent you will perish.He that believeth not shall be damned.

4.A TRUE CHRISTIAN IS A PERSON WHO MANIFESTS IN HIS LIFE THAT  HIS CLAIMS TO REPENTANCE AND FAITH ARE REAL

Paul said that he preached that men should repent and turn to God and do works meet for, answering to, consistent with, repentance [Acts26.20]. 'By grace are  you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of  works,lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God before ordained that we should walk in them' [Eph2.8-101. Paul says in Galatians chapter 5, that faith works by love.  Wherever there is true faith in Christ there will always be implanted genuine love
to Christ and where there is love to Christ there will be obedience to Christ. True faith always works by love, and what does it work? A life of obedience! 'He that  has my commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me. He that loves me not, keeps not my sayings' [John14.21-24]. We are not saved by loving  Christ,  we are saved by trusting Christ, but a trust that produces no love is not real. True
faith works by love, and that which love works is not the ability to  sit  out  on  a  beautiful starlight night writing poetry about how exciting it is to be a Christian. It works by causing you to go back into that home and to obey your father and your mother as the Bible tells you to do, or back to that university campus to take a  stand for truth and righteousness against all the pressure of your peers. True  faith makes you willing and prepared to be counted a fool and crazy, willing to be
considered anachronistic, because you believe that  there are  eternal,  
unchangeable, moral and ethical standards. You are willing to believe in the  sanctity of human life, and to take your stand against pre-marital sex and the  murdering of babies in mothers' wombs. For Jesus said, 'Whoever shall  be  ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels' [Mark 8.38]. What is a Bible Christian? Not merely one who says,
'Oh, yes, I know I am a sinner, with a bad record and a bad heart. I know  that  God's provision for sinners is in Christ and in his cross, adequate, freely offered to all, and I know it comes to all who repent and believe'. That is not enough. Do you profess to repent and believe? Then can you make that profession stick, not by a life of perfection but by a life of purposeful obedience to Jesus Christ? 'Not
everyone who says unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter  the  kingdom  of  heaven', 
Jesus  said, 'but he who is doing the will of my Father who is in heaven'
 [Matt 7.21]. In Hebrews 5.8 we read, 'He became the author of eternal salvation to all
who obey him' I John 2.4,  'He that says, I know him, and keeps not  his 
commandments is a liar and the truth is not in him.'

Can you make your claim to be a Christian stick from the  Bible? Does your life  manifest the fruits of repentance and faith? Do you possess a life of attachment to  Christ, of obedience to Christ  and  confession of Christ? Is your behaviour  marked by adherence to the  ways of Christ? Not perfectly  - No!  every  day  you  must pray, 'Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who trespass against us'. But you can also say, 'For me to live is Christ', or

Jesus I my cross have taken, All to leave and follow thee.

The world behind me, the cross before me, I have decided to follow Jesus. That is what a true Christian is. How many of us are real Christians? I leave  you  to  answer in  the deep chambers of  your own  mind and heart. But, remember,  answer with an answer that you will be prepared  to  live with for eternity. Be  content with no answer but that which will find you comfortable in death and safe in the Day of Judgment

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Sinners in the hands of an angry God, by Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) Enfield, Connecticut July 8, 1741

 Their foot shall slide in due time Deut. 32:35 





Deuteronomy 32:35 The Holy Bible (Authorised Version).


35 To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.


In this verse is threatened the vengeance of God on the wicked unbelieving Israelites, who were God's visible people, and who lived under the means of grace; but who, notwithstanding all God's wonderful works towards them, remained (as in verse 28) void of counsel, having no understanding in them. Under all the cultivations of heaven, they brought forth bitter and poisonous fruit; as in the two verses next preceding the text. The expression I have chosen for my text, Their foot shall slide in due time, seems to imply the following things, relating to the punishment and destruction to which these wicked Israelites were exposed.

1.  That they were always exposed to destruction; as one that stands or
 Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards walks in slippery places is always exposed to fall. This is implied in the manner of their destruction coming upon them, being represented by their foot sliding. The same is expressed, Psalm 73:18. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction."

2.  It implies, that they were always exposed to sudden unexpected destruction. As he that walks in slippery places is every moment liable to fall, he cannot foresee one moment whether he shall stand or fall the next; and when he does fall, he falls at once without warning: Which is also expressed in Psalm 73:18, 19. "Surely thou didst set them in slippery places; thou castedst them down into destruction: How are they brought into desolation as in a moment!" 

3.  Another thing implied is, that they are liable to fall of themselves, without being thrown down by the hand of another; as he that stands or walks on slippery ground needs nothing but his own weight to throw him down.

4.  That the reason why they are not fallen already, and do not fall now, is only that God's appointed time is not come. For it is said, that when that due time, or appointed time comes, their foot shall slide. Then they shall be left to fall, as they are inclined by their own weight. God will not hold them up in these slippery places any longer, but will let them go; and then at that very instant, they shall fall into destruction; as he that stands on such slippery declining ground, on the edge of a pit, he cannot stand alone, when he is let go he immediately falls and is lost.

The observation from the words that I would now insist upon is this. "There is nothing that keeps wicked men at any one moment out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God." By the mere pleasure of God, I mean his sovereign pleasure, his arbitrary will, restrained by no obligation, hindered by no manner of difficulty, any more than if nothing else but God's mere will had in the least degree, or in any respect whatsoever, any hand in the preservation of wicked men one moment.
The truth of this observation may appear by the following considerations
.
1.  There is no want of power in God to cast wicked men into hell at any moment. Men's hands cannot be strong when God rises up. The strongest have no power to resist him, nor can any deliver out of his Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards hands.-He is not only able to cast wicked men into hell, but he can most easily do it. Sometimes an earthly prince meets with a great deal of difficulty to subdue a rebel, who has found means to fortify himself, and has made himself strong by the numbers of his followers. But it is not so with God. There is no fortress that is any defense from the power of God. Though hand join in hand, and vast multitudes of God's enemies combine and associate themselves, they are easily broken in pieces. They are as great heaps of light chaff before the whirlwind; or large quantities of dry stubble before devouring flames. We find it easy to tread on and crush a worm that we see crawling on the earth; so it is easy for us to cut or singe a slender thread that any thing hangs by: thus easy is it for God, when he pleases, to cast his enemies down to hell. What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?

2.  They deserve to be cast into hell; so that divine justice never stands in the way, it makes no objection against God's using his power at any moment to destroy them. Yea, on the contrary, justice calls aloud for an infinite punishment of their sins. Divine justice says of the tree that brings forth such grapes of Sodom, "...cut it down, why cumbereth it the ground?" Luke 13:7. The sword of divine justice is every moment brandished over their heads, and it is nothing but the hand of arbitrary mercy, and God's mere will, that holds it back. 

3.  They are already under a sentence of condemnation to hell. They do not only justly deserve to be cast down thither, but the sentence of the law of God, that eternal and immutable rule of righteousness that God has fixed between him and mankind, is gone out against them, and stands against them; so that they are bound over already to hell. John 3:18: "He that believeth not is condemned already." So that every unconverted man properly belongs to hell; that is his place; from thence he is, John 8:23: "Ye are from beneath." And thither he is bound; it is the place that justice, and God's word, and the sentence of his unchangeable law assign to him.

4.  They are now the objects of that very same anger and wrath of God, that is expressed in the torments of hell. And the reason why they do not go down to hell at each moment, is not because God, in whose power they are, is not then very angry with them; as he is with many miserable creatures now tormented in hell, who there feel and bear the fierceness of his wrath. Yea, God is a great deal more angry with great numbers that are now on earth: yea, doubtless, with Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards
many that are now in this congregation, who it may be are at ease, than he is with many of those who are now in the flames of hell.

So that it is not because God is unmindful of their wickedness, and does not resent it, that he does not let loose his hand and cut them off. God is not altogether such an one as themselves, though they may imagine him to be so. The wrath of God burns against them, their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared, the fire is made ready, the furnace is now hot, ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet, and held over them, and the pit hath opened its mouth under them.

5.  The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. The scripture represents them as his goods, Luke 11:21. The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.

6.  There are in the souls of wicked men those hellish principles reigning, that would presently kindle and flame out into hell fire, if it were not for God's restraints. There is laid in the very nature of carnal men, a foundation for the torments of hell. There are those corrupt principles, in reigning power in them, and in full possession of them, that are seeds of hell fire. These principles are active and powerful, exceeding violent in their nature, and if it were not for the restraining hand of God upon them, they would soon break out, they would flame out after the same manner as the same corruptions, the same enmity does in the hearts of damned souls, and would beget the same torments as they do in them. The souls of the wicked are in scripture compared to the troubled sea (Isaiah 57:20). For the present, God restrains their wickedness by his mighty power, as he does the raging waves of the troubled sea, saying, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;" but if God should withdraw that restraining power, it would soon carry all before it. Sin is the ruin and misery of the soul; it is destructive in its nature; and if God should leave it without restraint, there would need nothing else to make the Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards soul perfectly miserable. The corruption of the heart of man is immoderate and boundless in its fury; and while wicked men live here, it is like fire pent up by God's restraints, whereas if it were let loose, it would set on fire the course of nature; and as the heart is now a sink of sin, so if sin was not restrained, it would immediately turn the soul into a fiery oven, or a furnace of fire and brimstone.

7.  It is no security to wicked men for one moment, that there are no visible means of death at hand. It is no security to a natural man, that he is now in health, and that he does not see which way he should now immediately go out of the world by any accident, and that there is no visible danger in any respect in his circumstances. The manifold and continual experience of the world in all ages, shows this is no evidence, that a man is not on the very brink of eternity, and that the next step will not be into another world. The unseen, unthought-of ways and means of persons going suddenly out of the world are innumerable and inconceivable. Unconverted men walk over the pit of hell on a rotten covering, and there are innumerable places in this covering so weak that they will not bear their weight, and these places are not seen. The arrows of death fly unseen at noon-day; the sharpest sight cannot discern them. God has so many different unsearchable ways of taking wicked men out of the world and sending them to hell, that there is nothing to make it appear, that God had need to be at the expense of a miracle, or go out of the ordinary course of his providence, to destroy any wicked man, at any moment. All the means that there are of sinners going out of the world, are so in God's hands, and so universally and absolutely subject to his power and determination, that it does not depend at all the less on the mere will of God, whether sinners shall at any moment go to hell, than if means were never made use of, or at all concerned in the case.

8.  Natural men's prudence and care to preserve their own lives, or the care of others to preserve them, do not secure them a moment. To this, divine providence and universal experience do also bear testimony. There is this clear evidence that men's own wisdom is no security to them from death; that if it were otherwise we should see some difference between the wise and politic men of the world, and others, with regard to their liableness to early and unexpected death: but how is it in fact? Ecclesiastes 2:16: "How dieth the wise man? even as the fool."

9.  All wicked men's pains and contrivance which they use to escape Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards hell, while they continue to reject Christ, and so remain wicked men, do not secure them from hell one moment. Almost every natural man that hears of hell, flatters himself that he shall escape it; he depends upon himself for his own security; he flatters himself in what he has done, in what he is now doing, or what he intends to do. Every one lays out matters in his own mind how he shall avoid damnation, and flatters himself that he contrives well for himself, and that his schemes will not fail. They hear indeed that there are but few saved, and that the greater part of men that have died heretofore are gone to hell; but each one imagines that he lays out matters better for his own escape than others have done. He does not intend to come to that place of torment; he says within himself, that he intends to take effectual care, and to order matters so for himself as not to fail.

But the foolish children of men miserably delude themselves in their own schemes, and in confidence in their own strength and wisdom; they trust to nothing but a shadow. The greater part of those who heretofore have lived under the same means of grace, and are now dead, are undoubtedly gone to hell; and it was not because they were not as wise as those who are now alive: it was not because they did not lay out matters as well for themselves to secure their own escape. If we could speak with them, and inquire of them, one by one, whether they expected, when alive, and when they used to hear about hell ever to be the subjects of that misery: we doubtless, should hear one and another reply, "No, I never intended to come here: I had laid out matters otherwise in my mind; I thought I should contrive well for myself: I thought my scheme good. I intended to take effectual care; but it came upon me unexpected; I did not look for it at that time, and in that manner; it came as a thief: Death outwitted me: God's wrath was too quick for me. Oh, my cursed foolishness! I was flattering myself, and pleasing myself with vain dreams of what I would do hereafter; and when I was saying, Peace and safety, then suddenly destruction came upon me.

10.  God has laid himself under no obligation, by any promise to keep any natural man out of hell one moment. God certainly has made no promises either of eternal life, or of any deliverance or preservation from eternal death, but what are contained in the covenant of grace, the promises that are given in Christ, in whom all the promises are yea and amen. But surely they have no interest in the promises of the covenant of grace who are not the children of the covenant, who do not believe in any of the promises, and have no interest in the Mediator of the covenant.

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards
So that, whatever some have imagined and pretended about promises made to natural men's earnest seeking and knocking, it is plain and manifest, that whatever pains a natural man takes in religion, whatever prayers he makes, till he believes in Christ, God is under no manner of obligation to keep him a moment from eternal destruction.
So that, thus it is that natural men are held in the hand of God, over the pit of hell; they have deserved the fiery pit, and are already sentenced to it; and God is dreadfully provoked, his anger is as great towards them as to those that are actually suffering the executions of the fierceness of his wrath in hell, and they have done nothing in the least to appease or abate that anger, neither is God in the least bound by any promise to hold them up one moment; the devil is waiting for them, hell is gaping for them, the flames gather and flash about them, and would fain lay hold on them, and swallow them up; the fire pent up in their own hearts is struggling to break out: and they have no interest in any Mediator, there are no means within reach that can be any security to them. In short, they have no refuge, nothing to take hold of, all that preserves them every moment is the mere arbitrary will, and uncovenanted, unobliged forbearance of an incensed God.

APPLICATION
The use of this awful subject may be for awakening unconverted persons in this congregation. This that you have heard is the case of every one of you that are out of Christ.-That world of misery, that lake of burning brimstone, is extended abroad under you. There is the dreadful pit of the glowing flames of the wrath of God; there is hell's wide gaping mouth open; and you have nothing to stand upon, nor any thing to take hold of, there is nothing between you and hell but the air; it is only the power and mere pleasure of God that holds you up.
You probably are not sensible of this; you find you are kept out of hell, but do not see the hand of God in it; but look at other things, as the good state of your bodily constitution, your care of your own life, and the means you use for your own preservation. But indeed these things are nothing; if God should withdraw his hand, they would avail no more to keep you from falling, than the thin air to hold up a person that is suspended in it.

Your wickedness makes you as it were heavy as lead, and to tend downwards with great weight and pressure towards hell; and if God should Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards let you go, you would immediately sink and swiftly descend and plunge into the bottomless gulf, and your healthy constitution, and your own care and prudence, and best contrivance, and all your righteousness, would have no more influence to uphold you and keep you out of hell, than a spider's web would have to stop a falling rock. Were it not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment; for you are a burden to it; the creation groans with you; the creature is made subject to the bondage of your corruption, not willingly; the sun does not willingly shine upon you to give you light to serve sin and Satan; the earth does not willingly yield her increase to satisfy your lusts; nor is it willingly a stage for your wickedness to be acted upon; the air does not willingly serve you for breath to maintain the flame of life in your vitals, while you spend your life in the service of God's enemies. God's creatures are good, and were made for men to serve God with, and do not willingly subserve to any other purpose, and groan when they are abused to purposes so directly contrary to their nature and end. And the world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of him who hath subjected it in hope. There are black clouds of God's wrath now hanging directly over your heads, full of the dreadful storm, and big with thunder; and were it not for the restraining hand of God, it would immediately burst forth upon you. The sovereign pleasure of God, for the present, stays his rough wind; otherwise it would come with fury, and your destruction would come like a whirlwind, and you would be like the chaff of the summer threshing floor.

The wrath of God is like great waters that are dammed for the present; they increase more and more, and rise higher and higher, till an outlet is given; and the longer the stream is stopped, the more rapid and mighty is its course, when once it is let loose. It is true, that judgment against your evil works has not been executed hitherto; the floods of God's vengeance have been withheld; but your guilt in the mean time is constantly increasing, and you are every day treasuring up more wrath; the waters are constantly rising, and waxing more and more mighty; and there is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, that holds the waters back, that are unwilling to be stopped, and press hard to go forward. If God should only withdraw his hand from the flood-gate, it would immediately fly open, and the fiery floods of the fierceness and wrath of God, would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.

The bow of God's wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood. Thus all you that never passed under a great change of heart, by the mighty power of the Spirit of God upon your souls; all you that were never born again, and made new creatures, and raised from being dead in sin, to a state of new, and before altogether unexperienced light and life, are in the hands of an angry God. However you may have reformed your life in many things, and may have had religious affections, and may keep up a form of religion in your families and closets, and in the house of God, it is nothing but his mere pleasure that keeps you from being this moment swallowed up in everlasting destruction. However unconvinced you may now be of the truth of what you hear, by and by you will be fully convinced of it. Those that are gone from being in the like circumstances with you, see that it was so with them; for destruction came suddenly upon most of them; when they expected nothing of it, and while they were saying, Peace and safety: now they see, that those things on which they depended for peace and safety, were nothing but thin air and empty shadows.

The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked: his wrath towards you burns like fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the fire; he is of purer eyes than to bear to have you in his sight; you are ten thousand times more abominable in his eyes, than the most hateful venomous serpent is in ours. You have offended him infinitely more than ever a stubborn rebel did his prince; and yet it is nothing but his hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment. It is to be ascribed to nothing else, that you did not go to hell the last night; that you was suffered to awake again in this world, after you closed your eyes to sleep. And there is no other reason to be given, why you have not dropped into hell since you arose in the morning, but that God's hand has held you up. There is no other reason to be given why you have not gone to hell, since you have sat here in the house of God, provoking his pure eyes by your sinful wicked manner of attending his solemn worship. Yea, there is nothing else that is to be given as a reason why you do not this very moment drop down into hell.

O sinner! Consider the fearful danger you are in: it is a great furnace of wrath, a wide and bottomless pit, full of the fire of wrath, that you are held over in the hand of that God, whose wrath is provoked and incensed as much against you, as against many of the damned in hell. You hang by a slender thread, with the flames of divine wrath flashing about it, and ready every moment to singe it, and burn it asunder; and you have no interest in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards any Mediator, and nothing to lay hold of to save yourself, nothing to keep off the flames of wrath, nothing of your own, nothing that you ever have done, nothing that you can do, to induce God to spare you one moment. And consider here more particularly,

1.  Whose wrath it is: it is the wrath of the infinite God. If it were only the wrath of man, though it were of the most potent prince, it would be comparatively little to be regarded. The wrath of kings is very much dreaded, especially of absolute monarchs, who have the possessions and lives of their subjects wholly in their power, to be disposed of at their mere will. Proverbs 20:2: "The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: Whoso provoketh him to anger, sinneth against his own soul." The subject that very much enrages an arbitrary prince, is liable to suffer the most extreme torments that human art can invent, or human power can inflict. But the greatest earthly potentates in their greatest majesty and strength, and when clothed in their greatest terrors, are but feeble, despicable worms of the dust, in comparison of the great and almighty Creator and King of heaven and earth. It is but little that they can do, when most enraged, and when they have exerted the utmost of their fury. All the kings of the earth, before God, are as grasshoppers; they are nothing, and less than nothing: both their love and their hatred is to be despised. The wrath of the great King of kings, is as much more terrible than theirs, as his majesty is greater. Luke 12:4-5: "And I say unto you, my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that, have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: fear him, which after he hath killed, hath power to cast into hell: yea, I say unto you, Fear him." 

2.  It is the fierceness of his wrath that you are exposed to. We often read of the fury of God; as in Isaiah 59:18: "According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay fury to his adversaries." So Isaiah 66:15: "For behold, the Lord will come with fire, and with his chariots like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire." And in many other places. So, Revelation 19:15, where we read of "the wine press of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." The words are exceeding terrible. If it had only been said, "the wrath of God," the words would have implied that which is infinitely dreadful: but it is "the fierceness and wrath of God." The fury of God! the fierceness of Jehovah! Oh, how dreadful must that be! Who can utter or conceive what such expressions carry in them! But it is also "the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." As though there would be a very great manifestation of his almighty power in Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards what the fierceness of his wrath should inflict, as though omnipotence should be as it were enraged, and exerted, as men are wont to exert their strength in the fierceness of their wrath. Oh! then, what will be the consequence! What will become of the poor worms that shall suffer it! Whose hands can be strong? And whose heart can endure? To what a dreadful, inexpressible, inconceivable depth of misery must the poor creature be sunk who shall be the subject of this!

Consider this, you that are here present, that yet remain in an unregenerate state. That God will execute the fierceness of his anger, implies, that he will inflict wrath without any pity. When God beholds the ineffable extremity of your case, and sees your torment to be so vastly disproportioned to your strength, and sees how your poor soul is crushed, and sinks down, as it were, into an infinite gloom; he will have no compassion upon you, he will not forbear the executions of his wrath, or in the least lighten his hand; there shall be no moderation or mercy, nor will God then at all stay his rough wind; he will have no regard to your welfare, nor be at all careful lest you should suffer too much in any other sense, than only that you shall not suffer beyond what strict justice requires. Nothing shall be withheld, because it is so hard for you to bear. Ezekiel 8:18: "Therefore will I also deal in fury: mine eye shall not spare, neither will I have pity; and though they cry in mine ears with a loud voice, yet will I not hear them." Now God stands ready to pity you; this is a day of mercy; you may cry now with some encouragement of obtaining mercy. But when once the day of mercy is past, your most lamentable and dolorous cries and shrieks will be in vain; you will be wholly lost and thrown away of God, as to any regard to your welfare. God will have no other use to put you to, but to suffer misery; you shall be continued in being to no other end; for you will be a vessel of wrath fitted to destruction; and there will be no other use of this vessel, but to be filled full of wrath. God will be so far from pitying you when you cry to him, that it is said he will only "laugh and mock" (Proverbs 1:25, 26 & etc.).

How awful are those words in Isaiah 63:3, which are the words of the great God: "I will tread them in mine anger, and will trample them in my fury, and their blood shall be sprinkled upon my garments, and I will stain all my raiment." It is perhaps impossible to conceive of words that carry in them greater manifestations of these three things, vis. contempt, and hatred, and fierceness of indignation.

If you cry to God to pity you, he will be so far from pitying you in your Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards doleful case, or showing you the least regard or favour, that instead of that, he will only tread you under foot. And though he will know that you cannot bear the weight of omnipotence treading upon you, yet he will not regard that, but he will crush you under his feet without mercy; he will crush out your blood, and make it fly, and it shall be sprinkled on his garments, so as to stain all his raiment. He will not only hate you, but he will have you, in the utmost contempt: no place shall be thought fit for you, but under his feet to be trodden down as the mire of the streets.

3.  The misery you are exposed to is that which God will inflict to that end, that he might show what that wrath of Jehovah is. God hath had it on his heart to show to angels and men, both how excellent his love is, and also how terrible his wrath is. Sometimes earthly kings have a mind to show how terrible their wrath is, by the extreme punishments they would execute on those that would provoke them. Nebuchadnezzar, that mighty and haughty monarch of the Chaldean empire, was willing to show his wrath when enraged with Shadrach, Meshech, and Abednego; and accordingly gave orders that the burning fiery furnace should be heated seven times hotter than it was before; doubtless, it was raised to the utmost degree of fierceness that human art could raise it. But the great God is also willing to show his wrath, and magnify his awful majesty and mighty power in the extreme sufferings of his enemies. Romans 9:22: "What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endure with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction?" And seeing this is his design, and what he has determined, even to show how terrible the unrestrained wrath, the fury and fierceness of Jehovah is, he will do it to effect. There will be something accomplished and brought to pass that will be dreadful with a witness. When the great and angry God hath risen up and executed his awful vengeance on the poor sinner, and the wretch is actually suffering the infinite weight and power of his indignation, then will God call upon the whole universe to behold that awful majesty and mighty power that is to be seen in it. Isaiah 33:12-14: "And the people shall be as the burnings of lime, as thorns cut up shall they be burnt in the fire. Hear ye that are far off, what I have done; and ye that are near, acknowledge my might. The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites."

Thus it will be with you that are in an unconverted state, if you continue in it; the infinite might, and majesty, and terribleness of the omnipotent God shall be magnified upon you, in the ineffable Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards strength of your torments. You shall be tormented in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb; and when you shall be in this state of suffering, the glorious inhabitants of heaven shall go forth and look on the awful spectacle, that they may see what the wrath and fierceness of the Almighty is; and when they have seen it, they will fall down and adore that great power and majesty. Isaiah 66:23, 24: "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith the Lord. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." 

4.  It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite. Oh, who can express what the state of a soul in such circumstances is! All that we can possibly say about it, gives but a very feeble, faint representation of it; it is inexpressible and inconceivable: For "who knows the power of God's anger?"

How dreadful is the state of those that are daily and hourly in the danger of this great wrath and infinite misery! But this is the dismal case of every soul in this congregation that has not been born again, however moral and strict, sober and religious, they may otherwise be. Oh that you would consider it, whether you be young or old! There is reason to think, that there are many in this congregation now hearing this discourse, that will actually be the subjects of this very misery to all eternity. We know not who they are, or in what seats they sit, or what thoughts they now have. It may be they are now at ease, and hear all these things without much disturbance, and are now flattering themselves that they are not the persons, promising themselves that they shall escape. If we knew that there was one person, and but one, in the whole congregation, that was to be the subject of this misery, what an awful thing would it be to think of!

If Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards we knew who it was, what an awful sight would it be to see such a person! How might all the rest of the congregation lift up a lamentable and bitter cry over him! But, alas! instead of one, how many is it likely will remember this discourse in hell? And it would be a wonder, if some that are now present should not be in hell in a very short time, even before this year is out. And it would be no wonder if some persons, that now sit here, in some seats of this meeting-house, in health, quiet and secure, should be there before to-morrow morning. Those of you that finally continue in a natural condition, that shall keep out of hell longest will be there in a little time! your damnation does not slumber; it will come swiftly, and, in all probability, very suddenly upon many of you. You have reason to wonder that you are not already in hell. It is doubtless the case of some whom you have seen and known, that never deserved hell more than you, and that heretofore appeared as likely to have been now alive as you. Their case is past all hope; they are crying in extreme misery and perfect despair; but here you are in the land of the living and in the house of God, and have an opportunity to obtain salvation. What would not those poor damned hopeless souls give for one day's opportunity such as you now enjoy!

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has thrown the door of mercy wide open, and stands in calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God. Many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are now in a happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him who has loved them, and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God. How awful is it to be left behind at such a day! To see so many others feasting, while you are pining and perishing! To see so many rejoicing and singing for joy of heart, while you have cause to mourn for sorrow of heart, and howl for vexation of spirit! How can you rest one moment in such a condition? Are not your souls as precious as the souls of the people at Suffield, where they are flocking from day to day to Christ?
Are there not many here who have lived long in the world, and are not to this day born again? and so are aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and have done nothing ever since they have lived, but treasure up wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, sirs, your case, in an especial manner, is extremely dangerous. Your guilt and hardness of heart is extremely great. Do you not see how generally persons of your years are passed over and left, in the present remarkable and wonderful dispensation of God's mercy? You had need to consider yourselves, and awake thoroughly out of sleep. You cannot bear the fierceness and wrath of the infinite God.-And

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards you, young men, and young women, will you neglect this precious season which you now enjoy, when so many others of your age are renouncing all youthful vanities, and flocking to Christ? You especially have now an extraordinary opportunity; but if you neglect it, it will soon be with you as with those persons who spent all the precious days of youth in sin, and are now come to such a dreadful pass in blindness and hardness. And you, children, who are unconverted, do not you know that you are going down to hell, to bear the dreadful wrath of that God, who is now angry with you every day and every night? Will you be content to be the children of the devil, when so many other children in the land are converted, and are become the holy and happy children of the King of kings?

And let every one that is yet out of Christ, and hanging over the pit of hell, whether they be old men and women, or middle aged, or young people, or little children, now harken to the loud calls of God's word and providence. This acceptable year of the Lord, a day of such great favours to some, will doubtless be a day of as remarkable vengeance to others. Men's hearts harden, and their guilt increases apace at such a day as this, if they neglect their souls; and never was there so great danger of such persons being given up to hardness of heart and blindness of mind. God seems now to be hastily gathering in his elect in all parts of the land; and probably the greater part of adult persons that ever shall be saved, will be brought in now in a little time, and that it will be as it was on the great outpouring of the Spirit upon the Jews in the apostles' days; the election will obtain, and the rest will be blinded. If this should be the case with you, you will eternally curse this day, and will curse the day that ever you was born, to see such a season of the pouring out of God's Spirit, and will wish that you had died and gone to hell before you had seen it. Now undoubtedly it is, as it was in the days of John the Baptist, the axe is in an extraordinary manner laid at the root of the trees, that every tree which brings not forth good fruit, may be hewn down and cast into the fire.

Therefore, let every one that is out of Christ, now awake and fly from the wrath to come. The wrath of Almighty God is now undoubtedly hanging over a great part of this congregation: Let every one fly out of Sodom: "Haste and escape for your lives, look not behind you, escape to the mountain, lest you be consumed."

Monday, May 13, 2019

Who is Jesus Christ? By Dr. Steven J. Lawson



         


    We come now to the time to look together into the word of God. I invite you to take your Bibles and turn with me to the book of Colossians, Colossians 1, and before we step back into our ongoing series on the Gospel of Mark, I want to follow-up last week's message in which we talked about is the Bible just another book, which was a very basic, elementary, foundational, entry level type of message. I want to follow that up and I want to bring a message to you this morning that also is very foundational, very essential for our Christian faith at the most basic point. I want to speak to you this morning on who is Jesus Christ. Colossians 1, I want to begin reading in verse 15.



15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. 17 He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. 18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything. 19 For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, 20 and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.



   I want to begin by asking you the two most important questions I could possibly ever ask you. Question 1 is who is Jesus Christ? And question 2 is do you know him? Upon these two questions hang your eternal destiny. You cannot be wrong about these two questions and be right with God. There is no middle ground. It is all or nothing regarding Christ. Either you know who Jesus Christ is or you do not, and either you have a personal relationship with him or you do not. Upon these two questions hangs everything, everything about salvation, everything about abundant life, everything about the forgiveness of sin, everything about where you will spend eternity. The heart of Christianity is Jesus Christ. Christianity is Christ but to know Jesus, we must understand two great things about him. Theologians refer to it as the person and work of Christ. We must understand who he is and what he has done if we are to know about him properly and to know him personally.


   Now people give all kinds of answers regarding who is Jesus Christ. There is no lack of answers and some people answer that Jesus is who their sentimentalities make him out to be, the Jesus of their childhood fantasies, the Jesus of their youthful imaginations. Other people say that Jesus is who some shallow, sappy Christian song makes him out to be, the Jesus of the contemporary music industry, some pretty boy Jesus. Still others answer that Jesus is who some religious huckster makes him to be, the Jesus who wants you to have your best life now; the Jesus who wants you to be healthy and prosperous and successful in everything; the Jesus who would spare you anything that is not what the world would say is the best. Still others say that Jesus is who some new age spiritualist says he is, the Jesus of the positive force of the universe; the Jesus who is full of moral platitudes, who wants to become your life coach and give you some pep talk in life to put a plus on your A to help you get through the day, it even rhymes. Then, of course, there is the Jesus who is presented by the cults and by the religious elite of the world religions, the Jesus who is good but he is not God; the Jesus who is a role model but not a redeemer nor a reconciler. There are all kinds of opinions floating around out there but the problem is if you believe in the wrong Jesus, you don't know him and it is critically important for us that we have an accurate understanding of who Christ is.



   As Paul writes these words in Colossians 1:15, they were so familiar in the early church that these very verses are referred to as the Colossian Hymn. It's the first recorded, really, hymn that we have in the early church that was more than just singing the Psalms. A hymn is a compact collection of deeply theological truths that are set in a poetic-like structure; very concentrated. It's not the repetition of one truth over and over and over but it is a rich multifaceted display of theological truth that is succinctly stated. That's what we have here, we believe, beginning in verse 15, was an early hymn that Paul takes and probably enlarges upon a little bit and sets it right here, this is the true Jesus.



 Now in the church at Colossae, there was floating some wrong teaching, some bad teaching. Wherever the church gathers, it is always having to buttress her walls against the encroaching of false teaching that inevitably wants to come. Wherever there is light, there is always bugs and wherever there is the light of the truth, there will always seek to be an invasion of error. Every New Testament epistle was written to counter some false teaching that was already beginning to make inroads into the church and the church at Colossae was no exception. There was what was called the Colossian Heresy and it mixed together Jewish legalism and Greek philosophy and Eastern mysticism and asceticism with some Christian vocabulary, and in the mix of that you have the Colossian Heresy. Chapter 2 addresses all of that, but the fountain source of it all was the distortion of the Lord Jesus Christ and in this Colossian Heresy which was an early form of Gnosticism, it was believed that God is in heaven and we're here on the earth and in order to connect with God, there was a series of imminations that descended down from God like steps on a ladder and there was a created order of angelic beings that came down from God to man to connect with man and this would be our stair-step up to God. We would climb these rungs, so they said, and in the course of that, they were involved in angel worship because these stair-steps they saw as angelic beings, orders of angelic beings, and it led to a gross preoccupation with angels, and they saw Jesus as the greatest of the angels; they saw Jesus as the greatest of the angelic created beings. He was one more step on the ladder.


   So when Paul caught word of this, Paul is in Rome at this time, he is in his Roman imprisonment, and when he receives word about this, he sits down and he dictates this letter and front-loaded before he even gets into sifting out all of these other corruptions of what the Christian life is about with its mysticism and asceticism and legalism and philosophy and all of that stuff, he drops anchor right here in verse 15 as if to say, "We've got to get one thing straight. We must understand who Jesus Christ is because everything hinges with knowing who Christ is and being a follower of him." Isn't that truly the way it is with every cult and with every false religion? They miss it with the person and work of Christ. So what we're going to look at right here is absolutely essential because this is what separates us from every cult, every world religion, every religious movement that has gone astray. You miss it at this point, your ship is astray in the vast ocean of religiosity far away from the port of grace, but to be anchored in at this point, is to be anchored in at the cornerstone, at the very most important place.



   Now this is not the only place in the Bible, obviously, that the person and work of Christ is laid out for us but this is perhaps when you consider layer upon layer upon layer of phrases upon phrases upon phrases, this may be the most tightly worded, condensed statement that answers the question who is Jesus Christ. Now to answer that, we just want to dig into what Paul has written here and I want to give you five words, five words that will succinctly summarize the theological depths and profundity of what these verses are saying who is Jesus Christ? Every one of them is essential in our understanding of who the real Jesus is.



1.     God. Did you get that? Jesus Christ is God. The Apostle Paul begins in verse 15 at the most high level. He first declares the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. So he begins in verse 15 "He is the image of the invisible God." Now there's no question as to what "He" refers to. The antecedent is in verse 13, "His beloved Son," and verse 14, "in whom." That is the "He." It is God's beloved Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, and Paul states it in unmistakable terms that Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God.



   Now this word "image" is the Greek word "ikon." It's carried over into the English language and pronounced the same although spelled differently. An icon means "likeness or copy," sometimes it meant an imprint on a coin or a reflection in a mirror, and this is saying that Jesus is the perfect image and the exact likeness of God.





Now God is invisible, right? No one has ever seen God. John 1:18, "no one has seen God at any time." John 6:46, "not that anyone has seen the Father." 1 John 4:12, "no one has seen God at any time." So the question is what does God look like? What does God sound like? And little children are always asking, "Mom, dad, what does God look like?" And there is a very simple answer: we point them to the Lord Jesus Christ who has come to be the revelation and the representation of God to us because he is God in human flesh. Did you get that? He is God in human flesh. He is fully God and fully man. He is the God-man. John 1:14 says, "The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." And in no way did he diminish any in his deity. He did not give up any of his deity, he assumed humanity such that Jesus is the image of the invisible God.



   Now a couple of other verses tighten this and make this abundantly clear. Hebrews 1:3 says Jesus is "the radiance" of God's glory and "the exact representation of His nature." Did you get that? The exact, the precise, the accurate representation of his nature. Now we are made in the image of God, are we not? Genesis 1:26-28. But we are a train-wreck of the image of God. Sin has defiled and corrupted the image of God in us and Jesus Christ was born of a virgin and lived a sinless and perfect life, he was without a sin nature, and he became the exact likeness and the perfect representation of the image of God. Even before Adam fell, it was but a partial representation of God, but Jesus Christ is the exact representation of his nature.



   You remember in John 14:8, Philip said, "Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us." So which direction do you think Jesus pointed when he said, "Yeah, I'll show you the Father." And there's only one person who could ever make this response, Jesus said, "Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father." C. S. Lewis is famous for saying there is only one of three possibilities: either Jesus Christ is a liar or a lunatic or Lord, there are no other categories. And we believe because of the evidence that has been presented to us in the Scripture by the power of the Spirit that Jesus is exactly who he claimed to be, God in human flesh.

   Let me just drive this home just a little bit more. Look at verse 19 in Colossians 1. I just want you to see that this is not something we're forcing on the text, that this just leaps out of pages of Scripture. "For it was the Father's good pleasure," that means this was God's design, this was God's purpose, and it brought great pleasure to the heart of God. Now note this, "for all the fullness to dwell in Him." That word "fullness, pleroo," was a word that the Gnostics batted around in their teaching that spoke of deity and they said that deity was spread out among the various angelic orders and the various angelic beings, and the different angels had a little bit of deity and man has a little spark of divinity in him, and all of this is in this stair-step effect of degrees of deity in angels and in man and Paul says, "Rubbish." Paul says, "Anathema." He says in verse 19, "all," a-l-l, "all the fullness to dwell in Him," meaning all the fullness of deity; all the holiness of the Father is in the Son; all the sovereignty of the Father is in the Son; all of the truth, all of the power, all of the immutability, all of the grace, all of the mercy that is in the Father is in the Son. Jesus as the image of the invisible God, he is co-equal and co-eternal with the Father.



   Now look at chapter 2, verse 9. This states it yet even tighter. There is no wiggle room in this statement. In Colossians 2:9, "For in Him," we know who the "Him" is, the antecedent is the last word of verse 8, "Christ." "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form." We sing a hymn that he lay aside the robes of his deity to become man, or he lay aside it all except for love, something sappy like that. He lay aside nothing. He came to this earth fully God and took upon himself the limitations of

Humanity by becoming a member of this race yet without sin. All of the fullness of deity in bodily form.



   Now what do you think the implications of this are? Well, number 1, whatever he did at the cross has extraordinary value, something that only God could do at the cross; something way beyond a mere prophet or an apostle or the best of men. That was God upon the cross dying in our place, suffering, bearing our sins, making an atonement that only God can make upon Calvary's cross. And this speaks volumes, does it not, of what should be our response to him, that when he speaks, he speaks with the authority of God to us and when he provides for us, he provides out of the abundance of what belongs to God.





   This is where this begins. Jesus Christ is God. Look at the end of verse 15, "the firstborn of all creation." Now that does not mean that Jesus is the first created being. That's where the cults take a wrong turn and they see this and they go, "Wow, Jesus was created." No. Verse 16 says Jesus has created everything, that it is all by him, from him, through him, and to him. He did not create himself. Now what this is saying, "the firstborn of all creation," is he has all of the rights and all of the prerogatives that belong to a firstborn child. It speaks not of being chronologically born first. For example, Israel is called the firstborn nation but it was not the first nation to be created on the earth. There were other nations long before God sired Israel. No, it meant that his covenants would come through Israel; the Messiah would come through Israel; the truths of Scripture would come through Israel. Firstborn of all creation means Psalm 89:27, "I shall make him My firstborn, The highest of the kings of the earth." Jesus Christ, in other words, has all authority in heaven and earth as a firstborn child would receive and inherit from his father. God has given to God. God the Father has given to the Son all authority in heaven and earth.



   That's where this begins. 1. God. And if we miss it here, every other step goes astray. If we miss it here, anything else that we have to say about Jesus Christ is corrupted and defiled but if we're right here, we're now ready to add the other key words and the second key word is "Creator." 1. God. 2. Creator. And in verse 16 Paul sets forth the creative power of the Lord Jesus Christ and he says that all that there is in the universe is by him and through him and for him. It sounds very much like Romans 11:36, "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things." There is nothing outside of verse 16. The entire universe is self-contained within verse 16. There is not one molecule of the created order that is outside of verse 16.



   Now when he says by him, verse 16, "For by Him all things were created," literally the word "by" is "in." For in him, meaning the sphere in which the work of creation takes place. In other words, he didn't sub it out to another firm to do the work of creation. It was all done within his hands and within his spoken power. The preposition "in" is really, I think, more forceful and descriptive than even the preposition "by." It's an interpreters or translators decision. So creation was not out-sourced, it was all done within the confines of Christ's creative word. He was the one in Genesis 1 who said, "Let there be light," and there was light.

"For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth." Now when he says "the heavens," he's referring to the vastness of outer space, the planets, the suns, the stars, the galaxies, as well as the angelic realm, both elect and fallen angelic beings. Then when he says "on earth," he's referring to this planet of the oceans, the continents, the seas, the mountains, the trees, all plant life, animal life, human life, and the human race. Everything has been made by Christ. Sometimes when we buy a product it will say, "Made in China. Made in Taiwan. Made in Texas." All the foreign countries. But ultimately there has only been one who has made everything out of nothing and that is Jesus Christ.



   He says "visible and invisible." Visible refers to the physical world, invisible refers to the spiritual world. Then when he says, "whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities," these are subcategories of the angelic order and these are levels in the hierarchy of angelic beings.

Ephesians 1:21, Ephesians 3:10, and Ephesians 6:12, all three of those Ephesian passages kind of give different nuances to these strata of angelic beings.



   Now this is why Paul is be laboring this point and why we need to hear this. The Colossians were being drawn into idolatry in this sense, they were beginning to become preoccupied with angels and were even dabbling in angel worship, and what Paul is doing here is he is reasoning with him, one, stating the truth of who Jesus is, but secondly, reasoning with him, "Why would you worship a created being when you ought to be worshiping the Creator? Why would you worship what he has made when you should be worshiping him who spoke everything into being out of nothing?" That's the point here.



   Then he says, "all things have been created through Him." That is to say he is the agency, he is the mediator by which this creation has taken place and it has all come through him. Then notice, "and for Him." That means everything that has been made has been made for his own glory, for his own pleasure, for his own purposes. It's all about him, we would say in the vernacular. The one who makes it has designed it for his own purposes and that speaks volumes to our own lives, does it not? We didn't make ourselves. We're not the product of society or the culture. We here in the South region haven't arisen out of the sands of the South. We have been made by Jesus Christ in the womb at the moment of conception and we are fearfully and we are wonderfully made, and all abortion is rising up and attacking the very masterpiece of the design of the Lord Jesus Christ.



   J. Vernon McGee has a very pointed note, he says, "Friends, this is God's universe and so you're going to have to do things God's way. You may think you have a better way but you don't have your own universe in which to do it." McGee goes on to say, "Then just go and create your own universe and come up with your own rules and run it the way that you want to, but until then you're in God's universe; you're on God's planet; you're breathing God's air; you're drinking God's water." And we all have to function according to what the Creator has designed. Is that not basic?



   Jesus Christ is God. He is the God-man. Jesus Christ is Creator. Notice verse 17, in verse 17 he is sustainer. All that he creates, he sustains and maintains. In other words, he didn't just create it and then walk away from it. All that he has created has never left his hand and he upholds it by the power of his word. Look at verse 17, "He is before all things." Now what that says is that he has existed before the creation of all things. He is pre-existent. He is the eternal God, the eternal Creator who is before all things. Isaiah 9:6 calls him the eternal Father, meaning the Father of eternities. Micah 5:2 says his goings forth are from long ago from the days of eternity. In other words, he stepped out of eternity into time when he was born in Bethlehem. John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word," which means before time began Christ was already in existence. John 17:5, "Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory which I had with You before the world was." So this is an important statement. Paul is driving home yet again that Jesus is not a created being, he is the Creator, because he has existed before all things. He can't be created if you exist before all things or you would just be one more of the things that have been created.



   Then he says at the end of verse 17, "and in Him all things hold together." Do you know what's keeping the universe from exploding? Do you know what's keeping the earth in its rotation? Do you know what's keeping the earth on its axle? Do you know what's keeping the laws of gravity and the laws of first and second thermodynamics, the laws of inertia? Do you know what's keeping all of these physical laws going? It's the Creator God who is sustaining all things, the Lord Jesus Christ. He has the whole world in his hands. That's a mind-boggling statement. 


   He's also sustaining and maintaining your life. Now do you think he's qualified to keep up with your life? Do you think he might know what's best? Do you think he knows tomorrow? Do you think he can make the right calls? He's got the whole universe in his hands. He is upholding, sustaining, maintaining everything. The nations are but a drop in the bucket. What must we be? There is no prayer that we can ever bring before his throne of grace but that he is so abundantly able to do exceedingly beyond all that we would ask or think. With us things are impossible, with him nothing is impossible. With him all things are possible. He is the sustainer of all.



   There is a fourth key word that I want you to see and this really continues to strike at the heart of who Christ is. If I were to tell you who Christ is and I left this one out, this would be an incomplete study. 4. He is Lord. He is Lord. Now in verse 18 and it's hard to know where to stop it, I think it goes all the way through verse 20, he is setting forth the absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ. Now you will not find the word "Lord" per se, "kyrios," in this passage but the truth of Lordship is in every line and in every phrase. This is the Lordship of Christ and he has already spoken that Jesus Christ is Lord.



   Notice he says, verse 18, "He is the head of the body, the church." Now it's all good for us to know our place, is it not? And we are the body of Christ and some of us have been placed sovereignly by Christ into his body as an elbow, some a hand, some a foot, some a hip. We all have different places that we are assigned by the Lord and given different gifts and we are placed into different opportunities and it is all by God's design and none of us are a self-contained package and we all need one another. The hand needs the foot and the foot needs the elbow etc., but there's only one head and head here communicates the brains, and it communicates the direction and the decisions, and it conveys coming from the head and all that medically is implied in that. The entirety of life is coming from the head, the headship of Christ. This is to say he is the Lord of the church. He is the Lord of our lives. He controls every part of the church and every part of our individuals lives. There is no part of our lives that are not under the Lordship of Christ: our personal life, our church life, our family life, our work life, our recreational life. Hear me say it again: every component part of our lives is under his Lordship. And as our head, he gives grace, he gives direction, he gives power, he gives wisdom, all that we need is flowing from the headship of Christ.

   It says, "He is the beginning," the beginning of what? Well, he is the beginning of the body, he is the beginning of the church, and this really goes back to eternity past and it speaks of the fact that we are chosen in Christ; we are predestined in Christ; that our names were written in the Lamb's book of life from before the foundation of the world. He is the beginning of it all and this word "beginning" also speaks of primacy, "arche," that he has the highest rank and the chief position. How do you explain the unity in our church? Marvelous unity the Lord has given his church. We are a people at peace with one another and we are a people at peace with God. How do you explain that? Is it the colour of the carpet? Is it the palm trees? It is that we all find ourselves under the headship of Christ and we all submit and yield to him, and if there would ever be any dissension of any division in our church, it would be because someone or some group is no longer under the headship of Christ. And he mediates his Lordship through his word, by his Spirit, through his elders who are supported by deacons and it flows from top to bottom down to the congregation. Jesus is Lord.



   He goes on to say in verse 18 he is "he firstborn from the dead." The same word, "firstborn," that was used in verse 15 and again it carries the same meaning, and this makes the point even more clear. This is not saying, can't be saying that Jesus is the first born ever raised from the dead. There were people raised from the dead in the Old Testament, I would remind us all. This has nothing to do with chronological sequence. It has everything to do with prominence and pre-eminence and this is saying that of all of those who have ever been raised from the dead, Jesus Christ is the preeminent one.



   He says at the end of verse 18, "so that He Himself will come to have first place in everything." Did you get that, in everything? He must have first place in our families, first place in our marriages, first place in our professions, first place in matters of intellect, first place in time, first place in love, first place in conversation, first place in pleasures, first place in eating, first place in play, first place in athletics, first place in what we watch, first place in music, first place in worship, first place in art, first place in missions, first place in ministry. He must have first place in everything.





   Verse 19, again, just supports this and he uses the word I used earlier to buttress this point, "For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him." Therefore who else could possibly be the head of the church but the one who possesses all the fullness of deity in himself? So do you know what? Here today at Christ Fellowship, we're not free to do church however we want to. We're not free to reinvent church. We're not free to invent a new way of doing church for this generation. That's not our prerogative. The head of the church, who died for the church, who is God, has told us in his word how his body is to function.



    Now verse 20, I believe he's still elaborating on the Lordship of Christ and you'll note that the sentence even continues in verse 20 in the New American Standard, there's not supplied period at the end of verse 19 and now the start of a new sentence, the word "and" indicates, I think it's the same flow of thought that really began in verse 18, we're still talking about the Lordship of Christ. "And through Him," we know who the "Him" is, that's the one who's the head of the church, Christ, now watch this, "to reconcile all things to Himself." Now the word "reconcile" means "to change the status of something; to bring about a dramatic change of condition," and for the most part it has meant two parties that are at enmity with one another and they are reconciled together, but at this point I think it's still general, it will become specific in verse 21 and 22, but in verse 10, it is to reconcile all things to himself.



   Now what are the "all things"? Well, I think the "all things" in context, look at verse 16, "by Him all things were created both in the heavens and on earth." Verse 16, "all things have been created through Him." Verse 17, "He is before all things, and in Him all things." That's four times "all things" has been mentioned in verse 16 and 17, and then verse 18, the alternate statement, "everything." So he has just said, "All things, all things, all things, all things, everything." He comes to verse 20 and says, "to reconcile all things to Himself." I think the "all things" are all things. Now this is not teaching Universalism, that everybody in the world ends up saved and some people, theologians, even little sects have said even the devil is saved at the end.


    Now what is he saying in verse 20? This is a critical point that through his humble obedience unto death, God has therefore highly exalted him and given him a name that is above every name; that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow and every tongue will confess whether in heaven or on earth – get this – or under the earth, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. What this is saying, don't miss this, this may be bigger than what you realized, that through the obedience of Christ unto death at Calvary's cross whereby he purchased the salvation of all of his people, it is by that final act of obedience unto death that God has exalted him to the heights of heaven and given him the name above every name and that at the end, all things will be reconciled to him in the sense that everything will be brought into submission to Christ and everyone and everything will rise up and say Jesus Christ is Lord. Not unto salvation, for many unto damnation, but every knee will bow. There will be no atheists in that day. There will be no agnostics in that day. There will be no liberals in that day. There will be no ecumenical people out there in that day. There will only be orthodox statements in that day.



   Jesus Christ is Lord. Every one of us here today will bow the knee to Christ. Has that thought ever registered in your head? It's just a matter of when. Either in this life you will bow the knee to Christ confessing your sins and surrendering your life to his Lordship and receiving his saving grace, or on that final day you will bow your knee to Christ and you will declare his Lordship and he will damn you and he will consign you to the pit of hell forever and you will descend into the abyss, into the bowels of hell saying, "Jesus Christ is Lord. Jesus Christ is Lord.



    "Verse 20 is one of the most extraordinary statements of the Lordship of Jesus Christ, that he will "reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven." Verse 20 puts its arms around the entire universe, not just around the elect, not just around those who are the redeemed salvifically, that's verse 22, but verse 20 is an enormous statement of the unrestrained parameters, the unlimited, infinite borders of the sovereign Lordship of Jesus Christ that the entire universe has been reconciled – listen – into a position of accountability to Christ; has been reconciled into a place of submission to Christ. This is Philippians 2:9-11 that I just quoted, that Jesus Christ will preside and is presiding and will forever preside over the entire created order. All that he created in verse 16 will be reconciled to him in verse 20 and it will be under his feet in a position of subjugation to Christ.



   Next Lord's Day, we will look at verses 21 to 23 and I will give you the final word and we will step into the ocean of saving grace and the mercy and forgiveness that has flowed to us through this one who is God, Creator, Sustainer and Lord. Only now are we ready to talk about Jesus as Savior.



   As we bring this service, this message to a close, I want to say to you that there is salvation in no other name; that there is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved. There is nothing in your head that can match what you just heard. There is no thought in your mind that can rise above what I just told you. There is nothing that you have that can displace what has just been presented to you. This is the Alpha, the Omega. This is the sum and the substance. This is the beginning and the end. This is the height and depth and breadth and length of truth and reality and there is not one drop of saving grace outside of the Lord Jesus Christ. I call you to confess your sin today. I call you to humble yourself beneath his mighty right hand. I call you to call upon the name of the Lord and if you have never done so, this very moment, this very second, throw yourselves upon his loving arms and he will receive you. He's come to seek and to save that which is lost. He has come not to be served but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. Come and give yourself to Christ and be one of those many for whom the Saviour will receive with arms of forgiveness and grace.



    How could you live for anything else? How could you live for anyone else? How could you live contrary to the very purpose and reason for which you were made? It is incongruent, illogical and irrational to live for anyone else other than Jesus Christ. It is moral insanity, it's intellectual suicide for you to live for anyone else or anything else than the pre-eminence of Christ, that he would have first place in your life and in every area of your life. "What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world yet lose his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his own soul? For me to live is Christ and to dies I gain." Live for Christ. Believe upon Christ. Give your life to Christ. Adore him. Serve him. Worship him. Obey him. May your whole life be like an arrow that is pointed at the target of Christ. May you hit that target. May God by his grace direct your life to him. 



   As we come together to look into the word of God, we want to survey the cross and we want to delve more deeply into the death of Christ on our behalf. I invite you to take God's word and turn with me to the book of Colossians 1 and we want to bring to completion a message that we began last week out of this chapter entitled "Who is Jesus Christ?" Last time together, we looked at verses 15-20 and this Lord's Day we want to look at verses 21-23 and it's just a short, little, two-part message and today is the second part. Again, the title of this message is "Who is Jesus Christ?" This is part 2 and I want to begin by reading verse 21 and we will look through verse 23 today, and I don't know that there's really a more important subject matter that we could be looking at today than this focus upon the Lord Jesus Christ. If you find yourself visiting with us today or this is your first time to be here, this is a red letter day to be at Christ's fellowship as our whole focus in this exposition is upon the person and work of Jesus Christ.


   The word of God reads beginning in verse 21,
21 And although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach-- 23 if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel that you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister.

  
We live in a world that presently has a population of some six billion people. Every day on this planet there are over 70,000 people who are born into this world and every month there are 2 million people born on this planet, every year there are another 25 million people who enter the human race. It has been estimated that in the history of the world from the beginning to this present hour, there have been a total of 60 billion people on this planet most of whom have lived very obscure lives. A few have made a small ripple effect upon the world scene and a very very few have been known in the annals of human history, but of all the people who have ever lived, of all the some sixty billion people who have ever entered the human race, there can only be one who is the greatest who has ever lived. No other human being in history other than this one has attracted more attention, has garnered more devotion, has been subject to more opposition and criticism, nor has become the object
of more worship than this one who is the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
  
   He lived 2,000 years ago in a small little nation in a sliver of land known as Israel. He was born of relatively unknown parents and lived a life of very mundane and common existence, yet no one has affected the human race like this one individual, Jesus Christ. No one knows the exact date of his birth and yet the entire human history is divided by his time of entrance into this planet. He never wrote a book and yet more books have been written about him than anyone who has ever lived, no one else is even close. He never raised an army and yet millions have marched in his army and have given their lives for him. Except for one brief period of his childhood, his travels were limited to an area the size of Dallas/Fort Worth and yet today his influence is global and reaches around the world. He never spoke to more than a few thousand people at any time and yet this words have been translated into over 1,000 languages and are made available to some 2,000 people groups. He had no formal education yet today there are thousands of schools and colleges and major universities and seminaries that are founded upon his name. He never painted a picture, he never composed a song or poem, and yet today he is the subject of more paintings and the subject of more songs than any man who has ever entered the human race. It is absolutely impossible to overestimate the influence and the impact of this one solitary life that was lived by Jesus Christ.

None of us here today can afford to be even one or two degrees off on precisely who he is. It would be to live in ignorance. It would be to live in the shadows of darkness. For us to know precisely exactly who he is and our entire eternal destiny hinges upon our relationship to Jesus Christ. It's really not important that we know hardly anyone else or even anyone else if we do not know Jesus Christ. The entire Christian life is a growth in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Eternal life is to know him.

   As we have read these verses in Colossians 1, Paul is writing for a specific purpose and that purpose is as he is in jail in Rome, word has been brought to him that there has been false teaching that has come into the church at Colossae regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ. You cannot recover from that. If you're wrong with the person and work of Christ, then everything else is wrong in your life in time and eternity. So in the first chapter on the very front doorstep of this book, Paul be labors the point of the person and work of Christ and are we not glad that he has because this is a treasure for us, this is such sacred ground for us to look at these verses and have spelled out for us in great detail who Jesus Christ is.

   We normally don't have such a concentrated section of Scripture where line upon line and layer upon layer and precept upon precept, it is jammed in together so tightly worded. In fact, I told you that it is believed that these are actually the words of an early hymn in the early church as they are singing their theology about Christ. There are hardly any verbs, there are prepositional phrases, there are nouns, there are clauses, and there is no wasted motion in this regarding who is Jesus Christ. If some Jehovah's Witness, some Mormon, some Christian Science person comes and knocks on your door or engages you in conversation, this is one of the choicest plots of Scripture to go to stake out our claim regarding who is the true Jesus Christ.

   Last time together, we looked at verses 15-20 and just to remind you, we noted four designations of Christ. Today's message will be the fifth and final designation of Christ that I want to just remind you, I want to make sure you got this, I want to make sure that you've written it down. If you wrote it on a piece of paper last time and that piece of paper is someplace, write it in the margin of your Bible. Why not?

   Now we noted four designations of Christ and what we will look at today will really stand on the shoulders of these first four. We saw, first, in verse 15, that he is God, "He is the image of the invisible God." Now there are so many passages that we could turn to that just point blank state that Jesus Christ is God. You could go to John 20:28, you could go to Titus 2:13, you could go to Romans 9:4-5, just straightforward, point blank Jesus Christ is God. Period. Paragraph. Here it is couched in these terms that, "He is the image of the invisible God." When you look at Jesus, you see everything that God is. That can only be said of one who is fully perfectly God. I would refer you to last week's message and the recording of that for all of the exposition and the exegesis of that.

   Second, he is Creator, verse 16. This is a staggering statement, "For by Him all things were created," and at the end of the verse, "all things have been created through Him and for Him." Everything in the universe has been spoken out of his mouth, all things exist by his will. He is the mighty God who has created everything out of nothing.

   Then, third, we saw in verse 17, he is sustainer, all that he has created, he maintains and upholds and oversees and governs and directs, and he is the great power of providence as he sustains and moves all that he has made to its appointed end. We see in verse 17 that, "in Him all things hold together." Were it not for the Lord Jesus Christ everything would just fall apart, everything would disintegrate, everything would unravel, everything would come apart, nothing would hold together. All the physical laws of first and second thermodynamics and gravity and inertia etc. etc., all of those laws, we would just be spinning in outer space in what would appear to be just random disorder and all of our lives, there would be no purpose, there be no aim, there be no intentionality. We would be reduced to living in a world of luck and chance and random occurrence and all of that, but Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father who has all authority in heaven and earth, he does continually moment by moment every day, he is upholding all things. He's got the whole world in his hands. He's got the whole universe in his hands.

   Then, fourth, we saw last time, he is Lord. In verses 18 through 20, he is the head of the body, the church; the beginning; the firstborn from the dead. All of these are statements of Lordship, supreme authority, sovereign authority, that through his death we read in verse 20, that he has reconciled all things to himself. That does not mean that he has savingly reconciled all things to himself, we'll get to that in verses 21 and 23 today, but inverse 20 it is saying that he has reconciled all things into a position of accountability before him; that every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. He has – listen to this – he has brought all things into submission under his feet. That is what verse 20 is saying. Or if we take it in a redemptive way, then we're left with Universalism and he has reconciled everyone, even the devil, to himself. Verse 20 does not speak of that, it speaks of bringing all the created order into subjection and subjugation under his feet.

   So we have said he is God, verse 15; he is Creator, verse 16; he is sustainer, verse 17; he is Lord, verse 18-20. Now it is on the basis of this we come now to verses 21-23 and the fifth designation, Jesus Christ is Savior, or if you like, reconciler. This final designation is really the result of the four previous titles. No one can be Savior who is not God, who is not Creator, who is not sustainer, who is not Lord. Any other supposed Savior is only a wannabe impostor. The only one who can be Savior of sinners is one who is God, who has created all, who maintains all, and who is Lord over all. That one alone is qualified to bring about the reconciliation of sinners to a holy God.

   So as we look at verses 21-23, I'm going to give you three subheadings here. I want you to note in verse 21 our past alienation. Our past alienation and we read in verse 21, "And although you were formerly," stop right there. The "you" refers to believers in the church. Now this is true not only of believers in the church, it's true of everyone out in the world as well. For everyone out in the world it's present tense and past tense, for us it's only past tense. These are what we would call our BC days, Before Christ. Everyone's life here today could be written in two volumes, BC, Before Christ, and AC, After Christ, and this is true of everyone's life before they came to a saving knowledge of Christ.

   Now look at this triad. Alienated, that refers to our status before God. Hostile in mind, that refers to our attitude towards God. And engaged in evil deeds, that refers to our actions before God. Here's the total package right here. Everything tucks neatly into the set three headings. This was our status. This was our attitude. And these were our actions before God. And all of this is to underscore how desperately we needed to be reconciled to God in a salvific way.

    So let's look at each one of these very quickly. Alienated, and of course, this is a set-up for reconciliation. Alienation is the antithesis or the antonym of reconciliation. The only people who need to be reconciled are those who are alienated and alienated means to be estranged from; to be separated from; to be cut off from. And the object here is, from God. Everyone born into this world is not born into some covenantal relationship with God. Everyone born into this world is born alienated from God, cut off and detached and removed from God. That's why everyone needs to be born again because your first birth, you were alienated from God. Ephesians 2:12 says "you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world; you formerly were far off." This is a picture of Luke 15 and the prodigal son who went to a faraway country. That was us,far away from God, a long way from God. Even when we were sitting in church, even when we were sitting under the word of God, even when we had Christian parents, in our heart and in our soul we were alienated from God. And it speaks that God is a holy God and we are sinful creatures and there is an enormous gap that separates holy God from sinful creatures. Alienated.

   Then our attitude, notice, "hostile in mind." At the very core of our being, as a man thinks in his heart so is he. In the very depths of our soul, notice we weren't neutral, we weren't one foot in, one foot out, we were hostile in mind, every Christian for the entirety of their existence before they became a Christian. All unbelievers, let me just tell you this, hate God. You say, "No, they don't. They love Christmas. They love Easter." I'm going to tell you again: they hate God. They hate any moral restraint that is placed upon their lives. For further input on that, read Psalm 2 when you get home.

   So "hostile in mind." John 3:20, "everyone who does evil," alright, that covers the field of sinners, "everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed." So that's the state of every lost person and all of this is the black velvet backdrop to set up what he will tell us in the next verse. We didn't need just a plus on our A in order to get into heaven. We were alienated, we were hostile in mind towards God, and then finally, "engaged in evil deeds." No one had to teach us to be sinners. No one had to teach us how to be engaged in evil deeds. We were birthed into this world with a radically corrupt sin nature and there was a bent and an inclination and a propensity towards doing evil deeds and we did it to the full. That's what he's saying here, that evil deeds flow out of a hostile mind. This summarizes our past alienation.

   Now let me tell you, it's not just that we were at enmity with God, let me tell you something even worse than that. You may think, "What could possibly be worse than that I was at enmity with God?" God was at enmity with you. God is a holy God and God cannot look upon evil with approval and God is not some doting grandfather in heaven passing out birthday gifts to everybody. God is a holy God and God hates sin and God hates sinners who are outside of Christ. God even hates the elect before they come to faith in Christ. Psalm 5:5 says, "You hate all who do iniquity." Psalm 5:6 says, "The LORD abhors the man," not just the deed, not just the act but the man, the person, the individual, "of bloodshed and deceit." Psalm 11:5, "the one who loves violence [God's] soul hates." Romans 1:18, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men."

   I was in a Q & A session at the Ligonier conference this past week and I was on the platform with R. C. Sproul and Al Moehler and Michael Horton and a pretty sharp group of people and I was trying to hide at the end, and sure enough, the first question and I hear R. C. saying, "This one is for Steve. How do you reconcile Psalm 5 and John 3:16?" You see, this was to get me prepared for you today. How do you reconcile, "God hates sinners," and, "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son"? I said, "Well, there's a lot for us to talk about here. First of all, Romans 9:13, 'Jacob I loved and Esau I hated.' Eternally, redemptively, salvifically there is a discrimination in the saving love of God and the love of God is demonstrated only towards his elect." You say, "I don't understand how God could hate the non-elect." Listen, I don't understand how God could love the elect. That's the hard sell for me. But even within the elect who have been loved with an everlasting love, while they are in a pre-conversion state before they have even come to faith in Christ, don't think that God is in heaven with a smile on his face towards them. The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all unrighteousness and all P
ungodliness of men whether elect or non-elect, and before the elect become experientially the object of God's love, they are under the shadow of God's fury. That's how bad you, sir, you, ma'am, needed to be reconciled to God even though you are numbered among the elect of God, before you came to Christ, God hated your sin and God had holy pure hatred of your contaminated and defiled life. The love of God is found exclusively in Christ. There is no love of God redemptively outside of Christ. That's why we’re were chosen in Christ and predestined in Christ because that is the only way that our election could have even come to pass, it was that we were chosen in Christ.

   So not only did we need to be reconciled to God, but God if he is to enter into relationship with us, there must be reconciliation from his side as well. Now leads, second, to our present reconciliation. We've seen in verse 21 our past alienation, second I want you to see our present reconciliation. Verse 22, this speaks of the great change that has come about in our lives and as I look at verse 22, I want to break it apart this way, I want to use those familiar adverbs: who, what, where, how, why. I want that to be the headings for verse 22: who, what, where, how, why.

   We begin with the "who." "Yet He has now reconciled you." Christ is the "He." Christ is the reconciler. We cannot reconcile ourselves. We cannot meet God halfway. We cannot contribute anything to our reconciliation. The "who" is Jesus Christ. He is the great reconciler. Holy God, sinful man, enormous chasm that separates us and there is only one way that sinful man can be reconciled to holy God and that is by the person and work of Jesus Christ. There is no other reconciler. There is no other way to be reconciled. There is one God and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, and a reconciler is a mediator who brings two parties together.

   Now this leads, second, to the "what." "Yet He," now here's the "what," "has now reconciled you." This word "reconciled," let's pause just for a moment and consider what this word means. Literally it means to change. It's in the intensive form which means to bring about an enormous change. It means to change the status of the relationship of two parties that are estranged and have suffered a falling out, and their backs are turned toward each other, and to be reconciled means that there is the removal of this estrangement; there is the removal of this alienation. Reconciliation means the removal of the enmity between God and the sinner and the establishment of a new relationship of peace and acceptance and friendship between them, and it is all on the basis of the reconciler. Those once in dispute with God are brought into harmonious relationship with God. They have been changed from hating God to being sons and daughters who love God.


   Now, I want you to think of this illustration, I want you to think of a triangle. Watch me here. A triangle and at the top apex of the triangle is God, and over here on the left corner of the triangle is Christ, and on the right corner is the sinner. God, Christ and the sinner and they are connected by straight lines that form the triangle. Now our salvation is so multifaceted that no one word encompasses the whole of the miracle of salvation. I'm going to give you a couple of words. Propitiation. That goes on the line between God and Christ. Christ through his death has propitiated God, that means, has appeased the Page 6 of 11
righteous anger of God toward us. Christ by his blood atonement has satisfied the righteous anger of God. He has placated the wrath of God. That is why there is now therefore no condemnation for them who are in Christ Jesus.

   Now on the line that connects Christ and the sinner is the word "redemption," and Christ has redeemed us. He propitiated the Father and he redeemed us, meaning he purchased us, he bought us out of the slave market of sin at a great price. We have been redeemed not by corruptible things such as silver or gold but by the precious blood of a lamb. That is Christ towards us.

   Then on the third line between God and the sinner, on that line write the word "reconciliation." By the death of Christ, he has reconciled God to the sinner and the sinner to God. He has reconciled holy God and foul, offensive sinner and have brought them together in sweet reconciliation.

    Third, "where." That was "what." He has changed the status of our relationship, no longer alienated, now reconciled, now brought into right relationship with God. Now, third, "where." Where did this reconciliation take place. Look at the next four words, "in His fleshly body." That is where this reconciliation took place. Now there is a reason why he does not say the cross, that he says, "in His fleshly body," and it's unique to the false teachers at Colossae, they were the early seeds that were growing of Gnosticism and there was a form of Gnosticism called Docetic Gnosticism which comes from a Greek word that means "seems" or "appears," and what Docetic Gnosticism was teaching is that Jesus – well, behind it was there is this dualism in the universe between matter and spiritual things that are not physical matter, and Gnosticism said everything that is physical is evil and only what is spiritual is good. So therefore when applied to Christ, there was a total denial of the Incarnation. God could never become a man. God could never take upon himself a human body because all that is physical is evil in this dualistic Gnostic system. Now, they denied the full deity of Christ, they therefore denied the full humanity of Christ and you're left with a mere spirit-being, small "s," or a mere ghost of a person and Paul is wanting to stamp that out with a vengeance and you're in big trouble if you deny the Incarnation, if you deny the physical body of Christ because the wages of sin is, what? Death. Well, if Jesus is to die for our sins, God cannot die, he must become a man in order to die. No Incarnation, no crucifixion. No crucifixion, no reconciliation.

   So the "where" is, "in His fleshly body." As Jesus was lifted up upon that cross, Jesus was the reconciler and as he was lifted up upon that cross, nailed to that cross – listen to me – our sins were transferred to Christ and the Father's wrath fell upon Christ and upon that cross it was as if he took holy God with one hand and sinful man with the other and he has reconciled us and has brought us together by removing the enmity between us, and in that death placating the righteous anger of God towards us, there is now no wrath towards us. Christ has appeased it infinitely, perfectly, eternally, and he has bought us out of the sin market of sin and through his shed blood, he has now also reconciled us to God in his fleshly body. That is the "where." It wasn't enough that he shed his blood in Gethsemane, it was there upon the cross.

   Now, fourth, "how." The next two words, "through death." Death is the key word here and I really almost got a little bit ahead of myself. It wasn't enough that Jesus came, that doesn't save us. It wasn't enough that he lived here. It wasn't enough that he performed miracles. It wasn't enough that he raised the dead. It wasn't enough that he gave sight to the blind or healed the sick. It wasn't enough that he spoke as no man has ever spoken. It wasn't enough, it was not enough for my salvation that he reveal God to us. If I am to be reconciled to God, he must die. The wages of sin is death. The day that you eat of this fruit, you shall surely die. The soul that sins, it shall surely die. If Jesus is to stand in my place, he must die because the death penalty has been rendered upon my head by God in heaven, and do you know what? The death penalty is upon your head because the soul that sins, it shall surely die. Do you think God means that?

   So for Jesus to reconcile me to God, he had to die because without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. 1 Peter 3:18, "Christ died for [our] sins, the just for the unjust." 1 Corinthians 15:3, "Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and He was buried." Why the emphasis on burial? Because he really did die. He didn't just go to sleep. He didn't go into a state of swooning. He didn't just go unconscious. No, he actually died and the reason we know that he actually died is because they buried him. Romans 5:6, "Christ died for the ungodly." Romans 5:8, "Christ died for us." Again and again and again this emphasis upon the death of Christ in our place.

   Think of the finality of that death. He cried out, "It is finished!" meaning the reconciliation has been accomplished. Think of the sufficiency of it. There is nothing yet for us to do to add to this to bring about the reconciliation. Think of the exclusivity of it, that there is no other reconciliation by which I can be made right with holy God. Think of the eternality of it, that once reconciled I will never again be in a place of alienation from him. Think of the sovereignty of it, all for whom he died upon the cross, he reconciles to God.

   Here's the "why." Look in the middle of verse 22. Here's the "why." Why did Jesus die? Now theologically there are 10 answers to this. Here's one of those, "in order to," here is the intent of the death of Christ, here is the reason why he died, "in order to present you before Him." The "Him" refers to God the Father and the presentation has to do on the time of our arrival in heaven whether by death or by the Second Coming. It refers to an official presentation before the Father and all of us will be presented before the Father. None of us when we die will be able to crawl up into the grave and pull the dirt up over us and nail down the coffin and hide from God. There will be a presentation of every one of us to God before him on his throne.

   Now here is the glory of the Gospel. Here is the good news of the Gospel. This is as good as it gets. It can't be any better than this. We once who were alienated, hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, solely because of the work of Christ upon the cross dying in our place, he will now present foul, unclean sinners like you and me, he will present us to the Father, notice these three words, this is the total antithesis of what we just read in verse 21, alienated, hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, look at these three, you talk about a change, "holy and blameless and beyond reproach." Do you think there's power in the blood of Christ? Do you think there is power in the death of Christ for us? You can't have a bigger change than this. Impossible.

   Holy means to be cleansed from all defilement; to be cleansed from all impurities and to be clothed in the righteousness of Christ. Now without this, when we're presented before the Father, we would be rejected. We would be turned away. We would be condemned. We would be sentenced to destruction were it not for Christ, the reconciler, presenting us holy before God, pure, spotless, undefiled because of the blood of Christ. Listen, this is a true reconciliation. The next word blameless means without moral blemish. Beyond reproach. Faultless. No liabilities in my debit side of the T square. Blameless. Then beyond reproach. Do you know what that means? No one can bring a charge against us in heaven and let me tell you, the devil is accusing us every day in heaven day and night of our sin. We don't know the half of it. Romans 8:33, "Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns?" We are cleared of all charges. We are freed from all accusations. God says, "Come, let us reason together says the Lord. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world."

   Now this work of reconciliation took place when we were enemies of God and hostile towards God. Christ by the power of his death at the cross has radically changed our status before God and it is all by our faith in Christ, by our trusting in Christ. Now some here today maybe are feeling a little uncomfortable and feeling like I'm going over the top, I'm going overboard on this thing. "I didn't come here today to hear about alienation, hostile. I want you to spray perfume on me. I want to hear something good. I want to hear something sweet." Fine, go to hell because this is the status of every one of us upon our entrance into the world and it becomes absolutely glorious to hear of a reconciler who has made us holy and without blemish and faultless before the Lord, and it means absolutely less than anything if were not alienated and hostile in mind and engaged in evil deeds. If you want someone to tickle your ears, be gone. We've not come here to play games and play church today. We've gathered for God to speak through his word. There was this past alienation, there is now this present reconciliation and it has been brought about by the God-man, the Lord Jesus Christ.
   Now our final verse, verse 23, our personal assurance. We all need to know this real in our lives, do we not? We can't just have our toes up to the narrow gate but never go through it. We can't just see others saved but not me, myself, being saved. I can't be deluded about this. I can't be self-deceived about this. I need to know that it is real in my life, don't you? So verse 23 speaks of our personal assurance.

   Now this answers the question, "How can I know if this reconciliation with God has taken place in my life? How can I know that my faith is saving faith? That it is real?" So Paul tells us in verse 23. He is doing the work of an evangelist as well as the work of a pastor so he says in verse 23, "if." Now that word "if" should capture our attention. You have been reconciled if... You are no longer in alienation if... This has been made real in your life and were you to die today, you would be presented holy and blameless and faultless before God if... If your faith in Christ is genuine, is authentic, is real. There is a counterfeit faith. There is a faith that falls short of true saving faith. There is a faith that is merely an intellectual acknowledgment and maybe even an emotional warm feeling, but if there is not the volitional commitment, it's not a true saving faith. James 2:19 says that the demons believe and they shudder.

   So what is the mark of true saving faith? There are many marks. We could turn to 1 John and find 11 marks that accompany true saving faith but here is one key component of what designates true saving faith as that which rightly connects me to Christ: if indeed you continue in the faith. Now "the faith" here refers not to our faith, it refers to the Christian faith; it refers to the Christian doctrine; it refers to the truth of the Gospel; it refers to the truth about Christ. It is objective faith, not subjective faith. To continue in the faith speaks of perseverance and endurance in the objective Christian faith, meaning if you are pulled away from the truth about the person and work of Christ and you become hoodwinked by this Docetic Gnostic teaching about Christ, it is clear evidence that you've never been saved to begin with and your faith was a self-imposed faith. It did not come down from above. It was not sired in you by the Holy Spirit because if you have true saving faith, you would continue in the faith in spite of the proliferation of false teachers around you. 1 John 2:19 says, "They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us." I told you before the faith that fizzles before the finish, you can finish this, has a flaw from the first. It goes up like a rocket and comes down like a rock. It's not real. It's not how you start the race from the outward human perspective, it's how you finish the race and if you don't finish the race, in fact you never began the race.

   So he says, "if indeed you continue in the faith." Perseverance, the bottom line, becomes the ultimate validation. MacArthur says truth and time go hand-in-hand. Over the long haul, continuing in Christian truth and pursuing that in personal holiness, then he says, "firmly established and steadfast." Firmly established means to be grounded like a building on a firm foundation in the Christian truth. That's why it's necessary for us to preach the faith, the truth, so that the true elect and those who truly know the Lord have a firm foundation for their faith. That's why we're not preaching how to have a happy vacation. That's why we're not preaching how to have your best life now. That's not the faith. It's too easy for you to give the appearance of being religious but you don't have the faith.

   Then he says, "and not moved away from the hope of the gospel," meaning not lured away to other strange teachings about Christ. "That you have heard, which was proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, was made a minister." The Gospel is for preaching. The Gospel is for proclamation. Oh, it can be passed on in a book, it can be read in the Bible, it can be passed on in a one-on-one witnessing, of course, parent to child and co-worker to co-worker, but ultimately it's a message to be proclaimed, to be heralded, to be announced, to be taught, and Paul acknowledges that and he says, "Listen, you are really saved if you have actually heard this message and you are anchored into the Lord by sovereign grace," and Paul says, "I was made a minister of this.

   "Reconciliation is the work of the Savior. He is God. He alone can save us from God, for God. He is Creator. He has made us for himself. He alone can make us a new creation. He is sustainer. He is Lord. He alone can reconcile us to the Father and present us holy and blameless before him.

   In the 1860's the US Government embarked upon a very monumental task. Their task was to connect the Atlantic coast with the Pacific coast by way of a train; no longer to have to sail around the lower straits of South America; no longer to have to sail down into Panama and to crawl across with the cargo and then come up to California. Now at last in1862, there was an Act passed by Congress to give millions upon millions of dollars to hire thousands upon thousands of people, most of them immigrants, to build this track and they began in Omaha, Nebraska and they started in Sacramento, California and there was a race to see who would win, and they met in Utah and there was a huge ceremony as the last spike was driven into the track and when they drove that last spike in, there was the news, "It is finished!" And it was telegraphed around the country that the two sides were now one. That is precisely what happened at the cross yet it was all the work from heaven. There was no race to meet in the middle. We were running away from God, we were at enmity with God, we were engaged in evil deeds, and yet God from heaven did all of the work and through his Son Christ at the cross, he has reconciled us to the Father. It is finished and there is no other way for the two to become one except through his death in his fleshly body.

   Our great Saviour, our great Saviour, our glorious Saviour, has undertaken the cause all by himself and through the shedding of his blood and as those spikes and nails were driven into his hands and the spear was thrust into his side, it was through that death in his fleshly body he was taking holy God and sinful man and reconciling us together and by faith in Christ, we who once were enemies, are now sons and daughters and friends of God through Christ. May you truly believe upon Christ and may you call upon him, and if you don't, all other ground is sinking sand.

Let us pray. Father, we are in amazement and astonishment that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, while we were alienated, you had already accomplished the work of reconciliation, when we were hostile and engaged in evil deeds, you had already built the bridge to yourself through the cross of Christ. May those here today who have never believed upon Christ, may they do so this hour, this moment, this second, and may those of us who have believed upon Christ, give us a new astonishment, a new amazement, a new bewilderment. Do not allow us to be untouched, unmoved by this. Do not allow us to be so commonplace with this that it does not stir our hearts and put excitement into our soul for through the death of Christ in his fleshly body we have been reconciled to you. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen.