Christ the minister of righteousness

Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh by justified.

But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

(Galatians 2:17-18)

This marvelous statement by Paul in verse 18 is loaded with a beautiful picture of our salvation through the imputed righteousness ofChrist.

It is a simple, three-part hypothetical statement that canproperly be expounded this way:

(1) IF those who are justified by faith in Christ

(2) are ALSO found sinners – that is, found to be sinners at the same time they are justified by faith in Christ

(3) THEN Christ must necessarily be the minister of sin

Of course in the text, Paul poses this as a rhetorical question, the answer to which is “God Forbid.” But God forbid what? Obviously, God forbid that Christ ever be found the minister of sin. We know that Christ is our sinless savior, the Lamb of God without blemish:

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. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Verse 18 is Paul demonstrating the utter blasphemy that it would be to consider ourselves BOTH justified by our faith in Jesus Christ AND to be sinners in need of further atonement. Paul is making an emphatic statement here—EITHER our faith in Jesus means we have been fully justified, OR we are still sinners despite our faith in Jesus, and Jesus Christ is therefore the minister of sin.

In the churches in Galatia to whom Paul was writing, Judaizers had infiltrated the believers and convinced them that salvation is to be found in continued obedience to the Mosaic laws. There is nothing in the epistle itself to suggest that these Judaizers directly denied the gospel of Christ Crucified. In fact, the epistle strongly suggests that the problem Paul was addressing were professing Christians who superficially acknowledged Jesus as the Messiah, but insisted that we must obey the law in order to maintain our salvation (as an example of this very case, see Paul’s rebuke of Peter in Gal. 2:11-14).

What’s interesting to me is that Paul’s priority in rebuking and correcting this heresy is to expound once again on the basics of the gospel of Christ’s substitutionary atonement.

To Paul—under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit—any suggestion that we must add something to the Cross of Christ is a direct attack on the gospel itself.

That is because Paul understands that this is in fact a blasphemous insult on what the Lord Jesus Christ accomplished on the Cross.

Paul understood better than anyone what it meant for us to be justified by faith in what Christ did. Paul knew that salvation through faith in Christ came by the way of the imputed righteousness; that is, the perfect righteousness of Christ gifted to our account freely, conditioned upon our believing in the gospel.

And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ (Colossians 2:10-11)

It is “in him”, that is, in Christ that we are found perfect and righteous—justified before a thrice Holy God. To say that we who are in Christ are sinners is to say that Christ is a sinner. To say that, having received the righteousness of Christ through faith, that we are less than righteous is to say that Christ is not righteous.

Paul is often attacked for the truth he preached, both then and now. One of the charges laid against him ever since the time of his ministry is that he perverts the gospel to be a license to sin. This is not so—Paul constantly reproved and rebuked sin, and exhorted Christians to be holy:

What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that gracemay abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longertherein? (Romans 6:1-2)

Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let uscleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfectingholiness in the fear of God. (2 Corinthians 7:1)

Yet Paul vehemently refused to compromise the sinless,perfect, once and forever sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Paul would not dare to tarnishthat brilliant perfection of Christ’s righteousness—that righteousness which isimputed to us, accounted as ours, given as a free gift of grace which justifiesus through faith without works, once and forever.

Finally, we must then properly understand the “two natures” of a born-again Christian who has been saved by faith in the gospel of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection according to scriptures. This is crucial in harmonizing passages such as this:

Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seedremaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. 1 John 3:9

For you see, as we read in Colossians 2:11 above, in Christ we are circumcised from “the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ”. Salvation involves a spiritual operation in which our eternal souls become untethered from our body of flesh. Therefore sin can no longer reach beyond our flesh unto our souls. At the death of the body, the soul goes to the Lord, and sin dies with the body–indeed it has been accounted to be dead already.

Starting from the moment of the new birth, we have an inner man, the spiritual man who loves the Lord and cannot sin; residing in the outward man, the old man, the fleshly man who loves sin and hates the Lord. And until the day that we leave this old body behind to be with the Lord forever, we are engaged in a constant battle—between the flesh and the Spirit. But as far as the scriptures are concerned, the sin that is committed after we are saved cannot reach beyond the outward man to the inner man.

Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (Romans 8:20)

Therefore brothers and sisters in Christ, be bold in yourbattle against sin, knowing that the devil can no longer condemn you with fear,and the flesh can never again rule you with damnation. We fight against thisbody of sin, but we do not fight for victory, but from victory—in Christ inwhom are all things we could ever need or want.

The victory in yielding

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.

(Romans 6:12-13)

How are we as Christians to attain victory over sin?

In verse 12, we learn that born again Christian saints have a choice: Paul warns us not to allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies, which will result in our obeying the lust of our flesh.

This teaches us that we have a say in the course of our sanctification. We can allow our mortal body, elsewhere called “the body of this death” wherein “dwelleth no good thing”, to rule over us. Or we can resist it.

But how to resist it?

In verse 13, Paul gives us the answer: yield.

The answer might be counter-intuitive to us. We would be more comfortable with the idea that we should grit our teeth and push with all our might against sin. But this is simply the natural extension of the gospel of God’s grace.

The gospel that saves us is first acknowledging that gritting our teeth and pushing with all our might toward righteousness is futile. We yield ourselves to the only way by which we might be justified before God: faith in the only righteous one: our Lord Jesus Christ.

So it is, that while we yet live in this mortal body of sin and death, our sanctification is a matter of continuous yielding of ourselves to God. And that is what Paul points out in verse 13 – our part is to choose between yielding to our flesh of sin, or to God whose Holy Spirit resides in us.

“Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7)

“For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would.” (Galatians 5:17)

A Christian lives in a constant state of warfare; the lust of his flesh wars at all times against the Holy Spirit of God that dwells within him, for dominion over his soul. Our soul must obey one or the other: thus our choice is to yield either to the lust of our flesh, or yield to God.

Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us yield ourselves to the Holy Spirit of God:

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.” (Romans 6:14)

Never man spake as this man

“And it came to pass, when Jesus had ended these sayings, the people were astonished at his doctrine: For he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”(Matthew 7:28-29)

Jesus didn’t teach like the scribes and the Pharisees. The scribes and Pharisees were learned men, knowledgable, experts in scripture, in tradition, and history.

Some of them were no doubt very eloquent, powerful speakers. They were great thinkers, reasoners, lawyers and doctors of the law, and they taught the people as was their custom. But none of them could speak with authority as Jesus did.

In John chapter 7, after Jesus had taught in the temple during the feast of Tabernacle, the chief priests and Pharisees sent officers to seize Jesus.

The chief priests and Pharisees hated him, because they envied him. The Bible says that when they delivered him up to Pilate to be crucified, crying out for his innocent blood, Pilate knew they had delivered him up for envy. They hated him and therefore these religious leaders sent officers to seize the Lord Jesus.

“Then came the officers to the chief priests and Pharisees; and they said unto them, Why have ye not brought him?” (John 8:45)

Now the temple was the center of their authority, it was their place of power. It was a place under their control. And the officers were sent to capture the lone son of a carpenter from a little town in the countryside. So we can understand the bewilderment and outrage of these high priests and Pharisees when they came back empty handed.

So they wanted to know why. Why? They asked. Why couldn’t you grab him? Was it his size? Was he a giant, 9 cubits tall? Were you like grasshoppers before him? Was it his wealth? Were you bought with gold and silver? Was it the people? Did they line up to defend him with their lives? Why, they demanded, have ye not brought him? And the officers answered:

“Never man spake as this man.” (John 7:46)

So when the Lord Jesus came to this earth and began teaching the people, the people were amazed and astonished. They were amazed and astonished because he taught with authority.

It was not with the authority of men, as the Pharisees. The people were no doubt very familiar with the authority of men. They had heard often the speech of those with the authority of men, and it did not move them the way Jesus moved them.

Neither was it with the authority of messengers, as the prophets. When the Old Testament prophets spoke they said over and over again: “Thus saith the Lord”. The prophets knew that the words they were speaking did not originate with them. In other words, they had to give credit to the source of the words they were speaking, and point to the one to whom the words belonged: “Thus saith the Lord”.

But when Jesus spoke, he never said, “thus saith the Lord”. Instead he spoke of himself:

“For verily I say unto you” Matthew 5:18; verse 20, “For I say unto you”; again, verses 22, 26, 28, 32, and again and again and again, thus saith Jesus.

For the authority belongs to the author, and Jesus is the author of all things, so he spoke and taught of the things of himself. For “all things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Therefore, when the Lord Jesus spoke he spoke as the author, and the creator, and all who heard him were amazed and astonished.

Never man spake as this man:

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)

“I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. believest thou this?” (John 11:25-26)

“He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:44-46)

Thus saith the Lord.

Have you heard him? Can you hear him? Do you believe him?

May the God of all peace shed abroad his love in your heart, that you may hear the word of God, and that hearing you may believe, and believing you might have eternal life.

And may the Lord magnify himself in you through his eternal Spirit, abiding in you as the vine, that you might bear much fruit in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

Sober, vigilant, proving all things

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8)

Did you know that born again Christians can be devoured? The apostle Peter warns us in this verse to be sober and vigilant. There is no qualification or condition. Be sober, be vigilant always—why? Because we are always in danger of being devoured by the devil.

Are you sober? Are you vigilant? Or are you being devoured?

“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” (1 Thessalonians 5:21)

One way to be vigilant is to prove all things. Notice that there is no exception or condition placed upon this command. Prove all things. Not “all things except…,” but all things. Today, Christians prove very little. Every fanciful dream, every inner voice, every spiritual experience or encounter is “from the Lord.” Some Christians take every insignificant question or curiosity they have of spiritual things to the Lord, and take the first “sign” as being a definitive divine response. There is no humility, no patient waiting, and worst of all there is no proving of anything. Many hold fast to that which tickle their ears only.

How do we go about proving all things?

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

The Scripture, the 66 books of the Bible, contains the only trustworthy truth we have in this world. These are the direct revelation of God, who cannot lie. Scripture was given so that we as Christians may be perfect and thoroughly furnished unto all good works. A faithful reading of this verse is plain: scripture contains all things necessary to make us perfect as Christians.

The Bible is the revealed word of God, and it is our absolute, objective standard by which we prove all things. We are not to trust ourselves, our feelings, our thoughts, our estimation of other people, traditions, or extra-Biblical sources. We as Christians, being sober and vigilant always, must prove all things by the absolute standard of the Bible.

“For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

When we turn to the word of God to prove all things, we must remember to be especially careful of our own hearts. A twoedged sword cuts both ways. When you face one edge to cut your opponent, there is an edge facing you. When you attempt to wield the word of God, the word of God will discern the thoughts and intents of your heart.

The Pharisees, scribes, and lawyers who opposed Jesus knew the scriptures very well. Many of the heretical church fathers such as Origen and Augustine knew the scriptures very well. Many false prophets and teachers throughout history knew the scriptures very well. Likewise today there are many who wield the sword of the Spirit, the word of God, without a proper heart. The word of God discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart, first and foremost of those who wield it.

They who do not take care to approach the word of God with a pure and humbled heart finds themselves in danger of being cut down. In the book of Ezekiel we see this very thing at work:

“Then came certain of the elders of Israel unto me, and sat before me. And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, these men have set up their idols in their heart, and put the stumblingblock of their iniquity before their face: should I be enquired of at all by them? Therefore speak unto them, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Every man of the house of Israel that setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to the prophet; I the LORD will answer him that cometh according to the multitude of his idols” (Ezekiel 14:2-4)

“For every one of the house of Israel, or of the stranger that sojourneth in Israel, which separateth himself from me, and setteth up his idols in his heart, and putteth the stumblingblock of his iniquity before his face, and cometh to a prophet to enquire of him concerning me; I the LORD will answer him by myself. And I will set my face against that man, and will make him a sign and a proverb, and I will cut him off from the midst of my people; and ye shall know that I am the LORD. And if the prophet be deceived when he hath spoken a thing, I the LORD have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand upon him, and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. And they shall bear the punishment of their iniquity: the punishment of the prophet shall be even as the punishment of him that seeketh unto him” (Ezekiel 14:7-10)

Here we see that the elders of Israel are seeking a prophet of the true and living God. They seek the Lord but have set up idols in their heart, and their iniquity (or rebellion) before their faces.

In other words, though they seek the wisdom of the prophets of the true and living God, they have the wrong motive. These elders know the Jehovah God, they profess to believe in him, and outwardly seek his will. But the LORD knows what is in the hearts of men, and he promises to answer them according to the motives of their hearts.

Idolatry can be anything that you set higher than God, His truth, and His will. For the Christian studying the Bible, it can be a particular doctrine, a pre-conceived notion about who God is, a personal preference for what a particular verse is saying, a desire to feel superior to others through special revelations, or the desire to please a teacher or pastor. Many Christians also seek counsel from the word of God with iniquity or rebellion before their faces, trying to find excuses from the word of God for the sinful desires of their flesh.

“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

It can be difficult to discern for yourself whether your heart is pure. The heart—for the born again Christian, I speak of the heart of your sinful flesh—is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.

That is another reason why a Christian always needs to be sober and vigilant. We must be sober and vigilant, proving even the desires of our hearts, even the things which on the surface seem spiritual and good.

Many deceived Christians tell a very similar story—“I was studying a certain doctrine or scripture, when I felt some deep feeling which moved me, so I got on my knees and begged the Lord to reveal it to me, then that night I had a dream and Hallelujah the Lord revealed to me the things I had been asking for, and it led me to [keep the Saturday Sabbath], [follow the Torah], [set a date for the Rapture], [understand that I’m an apostle!] [restore the lost books of the Bible], [a new thing], [a fresh anointing] … anything other than being a boring and faithful old follower of the New Testament faith once delievered to the saints.”

Brothers and sisters, the depravity of the heart of our old man leads us straight to the open and hungry jaws of the devil. The smallest amount of pride and entitlement as our hearts demand an answer from God regarding some mystery we are not ready to understand can lead us far astray from the precious pure truth of God.

Consider, brothers and sisters, that it is all too easy for us to speak the words—“Lord as thou wilt,” while our heart screams “but Lord you need to tell me now”.

It’s all too easy for us to pray with our lips—“Lord I know I don’t deserve anything,” while our heart screams “but I just know you have a special mission for me”.

“This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me.” (Matthew 15:8)

Humble yourselves as you remain sober and vigilant, proving all things by the word of God, including your own hearts. In so doing, we resist stedfast the devil; and having done all, we stand.

Spiritual warfare is more than “praying on the full armor”. It is full and complete obedience to the word of God. It is the worship of the one true living God, in Spirit and truth, with all our soul, heart, mind, and strength. The scripture has every instruction we need to be complete in our faith, and we need to live in and live out the scripture with a pure heart.

May the Lord bless you with humility of heart, and the revelation of his will with wisdom and spiritual understanding, that you bear much fruit in the name and for the glory of our God and Savior, Lord Jesus Christ.

Amen.

God’s Gift to You

There is an infinite, perfect God, who created all things.

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. (Genesis 1:1)

You are born in rebellion against God and you live in constant rebellion against God. That rebellion against God is called “sin”.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23)

You can never overcome God with sin; it is futile to give yourself to greater sin in the hopes of overcoming God’s judgment.

You can never appease God through your own efforts; it is futile to attempt to be good enough in the hopes of paying off God’s judgment.

You cannot destroy the reality of God with unbelief. One day your body will die, and you will find that God exists despite your unbelief.

But God is a loving God.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)

That only begotten Son of God is Jesus Christ. Jesus has paid the price for your sins.

Jesus Christ is the savior of mankind who was foretold in the Old Testament books of the Bible. Jesus is God became man, born of a virgin, who lived a perfect life, and spilled his perfect blood on the cross as the price for your sins. After his death, Jesus was buried. On the third day, God raised him from the dead.

All of this happened precisely as prophesied in the Old Testament books of the Bible.

I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also you have received, and wherein you stand; …how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1, 3-8)

Do you believe in Jesus Christ? That in Jesus, God became man, lived a perfect life, died to pay for your sins, was buried, and rose again from the dead?

If you believe this with your heart, and confess with your lips the Lord Jesus, God will gift you the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ, and erase the judgment of sin from your record on account of Jesus’ blood sacrifice on the cross.

The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if you will confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and will believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8-10)

And believing, you will have eternal life without pain or sorrow, as children of a perfect and eternal God.

There is a book in the Bible written specifically for the purpose of saving a lost sinner, written that you may believe in Jesus and have eternal life as promised by the only true and living God. It is called the Gospel of John.

“…these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.” (John 20:31)

I encourage you to read through it with a humble and honest heart. The word of God has power, first and foremost to save your eternal soul.

If you do not have a copy of the Bible, then you can read through it online here.

May God bless you all with the spirit of grace, that you may believe, and believing you may be saved unto the eternal life of glory.

Amen.