A Greater Ladder

February 25, 2019 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Biblical Greats, John | Leave a comment
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Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.

John 1:50-51

Jesus referred to the incident which we often call “Jacob’s ladder” from Genesis 28:12. Jesus is the only one Who can connect Heaven and Earth – in Whom sinful man can come into peaceful relationship with holy God. Jesus did not identify Himself as the fulfillment of what the Angels typified, but as the fulfillment of what the ladder itself typified. This motif – that Jesus would be the longed-for Mediator (daysman, interpreter) between God and man – appears in other Old Testament passages as well.

For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him, and we should come together in judgment. Neither is there any daysman betwixt us, that might lay his hand upon us both.

Job 9:32-33

Yea, his soul draweth near unto the grave, and his life to the destroyers. If there be a messenger with him, an interpreter, one among a thousand, to shew unto man his uprightness: Then he is gracious unto him, and saith, Deliver him from going down to the pit: I have found a ransom.

Job 33:22-24

The identification of Jesus with the fulfillment of Jacob’s ladder is also a statement of exclusivity. Aside from Christ, there are no other “ladders” or “stairways” to Heaven, no other ordained salvific connections between God and men. Faith in Jesus is the means to accessing this ladder, but no one really has faith in a ladder until he steps on with his full weight and starts the climb up.

The Meaning, Majesty, Ministry, and Maintenance of the Mediator

February 3, 2016 at 4:24 pm | Posted in Hebrews | 7 Comments
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Jesus, the Great High Priest, ministers in a better sanctuary than the Levitical priests of the Old Testament.

Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens;

Hebrews 8:1

Jesus sits on the throne of God at the Father’s right hand, but He is not seated because He doesn’t care about us. He is seated because He is doing an everlasting job. He has been ordained to an everlasting ministry. He is also seated because of His majesty. He is the King, so He sits on a throne. He sits on a throne of truth and of grace.

His Heavenly tabernacle is better than the earthly Tabernacle known to the Hebrew believers. Jesus is a High Priest who is perfectly suited for us because we need something more than the blood of bulls or lambs. We need a better sacrifice.

For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount.

Hebrews 8:4-5

The Law showed a picture of the eternal reality in Heaven. Earthly priests were suited to that ministry. They gave gifts and made sacrifices for themselves. But our Great High Priest did not need to sacrifice for Himself, and He does not need to repeat the sacrifice each year for atonement.

But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.

Hebrews 8:6

He is a better Priest, with a better ministry, ministering a better covenant, established upon better promises. His role as “Mediator” reminds us of the “daysman” longed for in Job 9:32-33. Our Mediator/Daysman brings us into eternal loving peace and familial relationship with God. Job had a desire to draw near to God – to “come together in judgment” – but he lived in the time of shadows – shadows of better things to come. He had the desire to draw near to God, but not the means.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second.

Hebrews 8:7

Was the old covenant wrong? No. It’s “fault” was that it was temporary and it led to what was to fulfill it. If the Old Testament Israelites had obeyed it, they would have been blessed, but it didn’t have the power to transform – to create new hearts.

Does the Law have any ministry for believers today? Yes, the righteousness of the Law should be fulfilled in us as we yield to the Holy Spirit.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

Romans 8:1-4

But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust.

I Timothy 1:8-11

What better way to draw nigh unto God than by letting Him (His Holy Spirit) completely take over? If the Spirit glorifies Christ, and we let the Spirit have control, where will we be drawn?

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people:

Hebrews 8:10

This shows the fulfilling of the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34. The laws of the Old Covenant are inside Christians (Zechariah 8:8) in righteousness and in truth, as the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts and to our minds and actually lives inside us.

Lord, thank You for Your saving grace. I praise You because You can not lie, and because You do not change Your plan of salvation. Lord Jesus, we are grateful to You for making intercession for us before the Father. As You do so, let us draw ever closer and closer to You. Make me more like You today than I was yesterday. Amen.

The Redeemer Is Prophesied

June 6, 2011 at 11:01 am | Posted in Bible Studies, Genesis | 24 Comments
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I am now getting near the end of a long series of posts on the Book of Genesis. Since Genesis is the first book of the Bible, it has been fun to point out several things, ideas, or words, which occur for the first time in Genesis. We have seen the first plants and animals, the first man and woman, the first marriage, the first sin, the first murder, the first song, the first tears, the first rain, and the first interpreter.

Now we will look at the first time a very special Bible word is used in Scripture: “redeemed.”

The Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads; and let my name be named on them, and the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.

Genesis 48:16

The Hebrew word is ga’al, and it means “to buy back,” or “to pay the price to set someone free from slavery.” When a sinner trusts Jesus Christ as his Savior, he is set free from the slavery of sin.

The concept of redemption is a key to understanding God’s plan of salvation, and it is a concept about which the Lord has much to say in the Bible. Below is a brief study guide on the Biblical concept of redemption:

Q. What was the price of redemption?
A. The precious blood of Christ. (I Peter 1:19)

Q. Can it be paid for with something else of value?
A. No, silver and gold are corruptible (I Peter 1:18), but the blood of Christ is incorruptible.

Q. To what were we enslaved?
A. Sin – such as serving divers lusts, hating one another, living in envy, living for self (Titus 3:3), and to vain conversation or empty living. (I Peter 1:18)

Q. What are we set free to do?
A. To serve the Lord diligently, not to be slothful or lazy. (Romans 12:11)

Q. Who is the Redeemer?
A. Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Colossians 1:13-14)

Q. How did the Redeemer first appear?
A. As a young child. (Luke 2:25-40)

Q. How does the Redeemer continue to work?
A. As a Mediator. (Hebrews 9:14-15 and Job 9:32-33)

Q. How long does redemption last?
A. Redemption is eternal. (Hebrews 9:11-12)

Q. How long will the Redeemer last?
A. He always has been, always is, and always will be: “He lives” (perpetual present tense). (Job 19:25)

Q. Redemption sets our bodies free from the slavery of sin, but what about our souls?
A. The price has been paid for our eternal souls to be set free. (Psalm 34:22)

Q. How should being redeemed make us feel?
A. Our lips and souls should sing and rejoice. (Psalm 71:23)

Q. Do we deserve redemption?
A. No, God’s mercy allowed our redemption. (Psalm 44:26)

Q. Can anyone other than Jesus be powerful, influential, or wealthy enough to redeem me?
A. No, true redemption is through Christ alone. (Psalm 49:6-9)

Q. How much time is there before it is too late to be redeemed?
A. The offer of redemption is for a limited time only – you must by faith receive Jesus, and trust in the price He paid, before you die and before He comes back. (Hebrews 9:27 and Luke 21:27-28)

Q. Should we keep quiet about our redemption?
A. No, the redeemed of the Lord should say so. (Psalm 107:2)

Q. What is the role of the Holy Spirit in redemption?
A. He seals us unto the day of redemption. (Ephesians 4:30)

Big Words of the Christian Life: Justification (Part 2)

January 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 8 Comments
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Last time, we looked at God’s Motive in justification:
1. There was no other way for sinners to be made righteous, unless God Himself did it.
2. He did it for His Own glory.

We also examined the Meaning for justification: It is the act of God, Who, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

That’s an even more Biblical definition of Justification. God made Jesus to be sin for you and me, even though Jesus Himself never sinned, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Jesus.

Here is an illustration I am borrowing from Roy Gustafson and Warren Wiersbe: Let’s say you decide to buy a Rolls Royce. You think to yourself, “Well, I spent a fortune, but I don’t care, because everyone knows that Rolls Royces don’t ever break down. Therefore, I won’t ever have to see a repair shop again.” However, sure enough, you do start to have car trouble one day. So, you call the dealership and immediately a mechanic arrives and fixes the car. Days and then weeks go by, and after a while you get worried about the cost of the repair, and, tiring of the dread, you are anxious for them to send you the bill. You call Rolls Royce, Inc., but they tell you, “We have no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with a Rolls Royce.” We might say that, when God justifies a lost sinner, there’s no longer an “official record” of that sinner ever having sinned.

Curtis Hutson illustrates this another way, by comparing God’s imputation of righteousness and willful “forgetting” of sins to the “clear” button on a microwave oven that lets you start over if you programmed in 30 minutes, when you only meant to program in 30 seconds. He says that God has a divine “forgetter.”

Having said all that, however, I do want to address a couple of misconceptions about justification. The purpose of this lesson is to try to make Justification very simple to understand, but remember, the deeper into theology we go, the more practical it gets.

It is important to know if you’ve been justified, and it is important to know what it means to have been justified, and it is important to live like you’ve been justified. Justification does not really mean that it is “just as if” you never sinned. Justification declares you righteous before God – it takes away the record of your sins. But remember, it is a legal, forensic term. When my wife and I got married, we were legally declared married when somebody said, “I now pronounce you man and wife.” But nothing physically changed about us at that instant. Justification is an event – it happens in an instant. There are other “big words” in the Christian life which are part of a process – such as “sanctification” – but the record of your sin, at the moment of true salvation, is really and truly covered with the blood of Jesus under the doctrine of Justification. Your slate is then “clean,” but your slate is not then “blank.” God is not, from that time on, watching and waiting, without knowing, to see whether you will ever sin again. No, He already knows you will sin after being justified. Therefore, we need to remember that Justification declares you to be, not only redeemed from the price of sin, but actually righteous before God. That is even better than “just as if” you never sinned.

Let’s review:
1. The Motive for Justification: We were meritless sinners with no hope for righteousness outside of God’s Own righteousness somehow being imputed to us.
2. The Meaning of Justification: It is the act of God whereby He, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous.

Now, let’s examine at the Method of Justification, meaning how it’s done – how God ordained it to be. We want to know why there is justification, what is justification, and how justification works. These inquiries mirror three of life’s biggest questions for every one of us: Why am I here? Who put me here? How did He do it?

I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

Job 9:2

Supposedly, the ancient philosopher Socrates, after much deep consideration, once said to his protege’ Plato: “It may be that God can forgive sin, but I don’t see how…” He was describing a real problem. God is just. We have sinned. God forgives sinners. But where did His justice go? Or: God is love. God gives us justice. But where did His love go?

Justification is God’s glorious solution to this problem. It cancels our sin debt, but not by having God overlook it.

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 3:24

God’s justification and our redemption are by grace, not by merit. God did not see something in us worthy of justification. He justifies because He is the God of grace. He is not lonely. He is not frustrated. He is not lacking in worshipers. He needs nothing outside of His Triune Self to be complete and satisfied. The word translated “freely” in Romans 3:24 means “without a cause.” It describes the same idea behind the way the Jewish and Roman authorities tried, convicted, and killed Jesus: “without a cause.” There was no cause in Him for Him to be punished. There is no cause in us for us to be pardoned or saved – much less justified and given God’s righteousness and the standing we are given.

I want you to cancel the idea that you are basically a good person, or that God saw something in you that could really be useful, or that He finally got you to start acting the way you ought to act so that He could save you. NO! Salvation – redemption – regeneration – justification – is of the LORD!

So, Justification is by grace, and now we will see the other part of the Method of justification: it is through faith. And if it is through faith, it can not be of works.

Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:20

Oh, how the carnal man hates to hear this! He says, “But it MUST depend in some way on what I can do. I will accept God’s grace, but can’t I add some of my works to it? Surely I can’t admit that I am totally incapable of helping myself in any way.”

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Romans 3:27-28

Now we see that Justification is all God – His grace, received by faith – nothing good inherently in us – nothing good we were able to do. But what about God’s holiness and justice? The Bible says that sin charges a debt, and that debt must be paid. The answer to this dilemma is that Justification is the act of God’s grace, appropriated by faith ALONE – in the blood of His OWN SON.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Romans 5:8-9

God poured out His wrath for my sins, but His Son took it in my place. The debt that was owed for my sins was paid – but Jesus Christ the Righteous is the One Who paid – and He paid it in full! “It is finished,” He said, and, because He was telling the Truth, I live! I have eternal Life. I am justified before God!

I not only can try to tell you what Justification means – I have had it happen to me personally. The devil accuses me of sin – I accuse myself of sin – you can accuse me of sin if you want. But when God hears the accusation and looks in His divine account books for the record of my sin, He does not see it there. The record He sees is the record of His Own dear Son coming up out of that empty tomb, with nail prints in His wrists, saying, “Paid in Full.
God says, “I have no legal record of the sins of the accused. He’s My child, My son. He’s RIGHT with Me – JUSTIFIED.

If that is your testimony, too, you need to stop listening to whomever or whatever is telling you that you are still guilty. If your testimony is that, “I really didn’t realize that justification is the gracious of act of God. I’ve been trusting in myself or my deeds or works,” then forsake that right now. Believe that Jesus Christ paid for your sins in full, and call upon Him to save you. You, too, can be Justified.

Next time, we will look at the marks of justification.

Big Words of the Christian Life: Justification (Part 1)

December 29, 2009 at 10:31 am | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 43 Comments
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Many Christians tend to shy away from some of the great Truths of the Bible for two reasons: One, they seem so hard to understand. Two, they just don’t seem as practical. We want our Biblical lessons to focus on how we can get money; how we can have happier marriages; how we can be healed; how we can beat stress; how we can have great sex. But the fact is, the deeper into doctrine you go, the more practical it becomes. We sometimes live very defeated Christian lives because we’re afraid to try to understand just what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.

In the past, I have taught basic discipleship lessons: salvation, baptism, everlasting security, church membership, sin, prayer, the world. These lessons on “big words” are not really more difficult. They just have more syllables in the title.

Justification

I want to focus on:
1. The Motive for Justification
2. The Meaning of Justification
3. The Method of Justification

I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

Job 9:2

Prior to our salvation we were not “just” with God: we were not righteous before Him. Why? We might say it is because we had sinned. But we must understand that the bigger issue is not that we had sinned – the bigger issue is that we are sinners.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:19-20

One of the reasons God gave the Law is so that everyone could plainly see his/her own sinful condition – for none of us have ever come close to keeping the Law of God. Therefore, the Law “stops every mouth.” No one has a valid argument that they are not guilty before God.

God’s motive for justification – for somehow making guilty unrighteous sinners right before Him – is the Truth that there was absolutely no other way for us to do it. He has to do it for us – to make us righteous – or it could not be done.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Romans 3:21

Whose righteousness is involved in justification? Is it ours or God’s? God’s righteousness must be imputed to us in justification, for there is no other righteousness outside of God.

1. God’s Motive in Justification:
A. There is no other way.
B. It is for His Own glory.

Those are the motives for justification. We see why there must be such a thing as justification if we are to have a relationship with our Creator; if we were to be saved from judgment and hell; if God’s great plan of redemption and salvation is to bring Him the greatest glory of forever and all time.

1. The Motive for Justification
2. The Meaning of Justification

Now, I want to look at the meaning of justification – the definition. What is “Justification?” Justification is a forensic term – a legal term. It is the act of God, Who, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ, to be righteous.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Romans 3:23-26

Everyone has sinned and come short of the glory of God, and not just a little short. No, we fell way short. We were totally depraved – completely without merit. God has freely justified those who have been born again by His grace. God gives His righteousness as a free gift. But it is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and it is not a cheap gift. Christ Jesus is the Propitiation. A propitiation is a sacrifice which satisfies the punishment that is justly due. God declares justification for the remission of sins, so justification is real, even though it’s an act of declaration, and not a physical change. God Himself shows that He is just through His Own act of Justification. God legally declares sinners to be righteous when – and only when – they believe in Jesus.

Justification happens instantaneously. It is not a process. If my kids turn on the yard sprinkler, and we all run through it, some of us get a “little wet” and some of us get a “lot wet.” There are different degrees of “wet.” But if we all run, and leap into the air, and land in the deep end of the swimming pool, then we all get completely soaked. That’s how justification is. In an instant, every Christian who truly believes is justified to the same degree as every Christian who has ever been justified. And that degree is 100% – fully soaking wet.

Justification is not something earned. It is not a process of working and getting good enough to be justified. God does it all. And it does not change.

After the end of the O.J. Simpson trial, people used to always ask me this question about O.J.: “But do you think he’s really guilty?” And I would respond: “No, I know for a fact he’s ‘not guilty.’ He was declared ‘not guilty’ in court.” That is not the same as saying he’s innocent. It is not the same as saying “he didn’t do it.” I don’t know if he “did it,” because I wasn’t there – and you don’t either. The jury came back and said “not guilty,” so legally he was declared not guilty.

I’m sure O.J. felt pretty good about the American legal system’s version of “justification” at the time, but God’s Justification is even better. In a “not guilty” verdict there is still a record of what was done. Justification is even better than a “pardon.” A pardon says that, whether you did it or not, we’re letting you go. Justification is saying: Not only are you not guilty – but you are completely righteous – all your record is wiped clean and there’s no more evidence of it. You are declared to have the same righteousness as Jesus Christ Himself.

Next time, we will see the Method of Justification.


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