Christ Died For Our Sins

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Image: Cover Photo for TableTalk Magazine (Ligonier.com), January 2015 issue

Genesis is the first book of the Bible. It is also the book of beginnings because it tells us  the origins of life and accurately explains the main problem of the world–Sin. From the first two chapters of Genesis, we are told of a Creator ―God― Who created the world and all that dwells in it (Genesis 1:1, 31, 2:26-27). After creation, God saw that everything He had created was good (Genesis 1:31).

But today, in contrast to Genesis 1:31, the world in its current state is not good. It is a world filled with pain, tragedy, wickedness, cruelty and every horror imaginable. How do we reconcile the current state of the world with God’s proclamation that “everything that he had made…was very good”. The answer is that sin entered the world. So;

What Is Sin?

Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God [a].Lev 5:17; Jas 4:17; 1 John 3:4

~Westminster Shorter Catechism Q14

In these words we see what sin is. Sin is breaking God’s law by omission or commission. In modern English, the words, “want of conformity” will read as “inability to conform to the law of God” or “failure to measure up to or obey God’s command”. In Greek, the word hamartia is used in explaining what sin is. Sin is “missing the mark” just like when an archer or bowman misses their target. And rightly so, we are all sinners because we have missed the mark of God’s righteous standard (Romans 3:23).

How did sin enter the perfect world God created one may ask? Again, we turn to the book of origins. In Genesis 2:16-17, we read of a commandment God gave Adam, the first created man, “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die”.

Fast forward to Genesis 3, Adam disobeyed God; he ate of the forbidden tree and by that act of disobedience, sin entered the world. Adam in the garden of Eden was acting as a federal head for all of humankind therefore his fall became the fall of all who will ever walk this earth: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned”(Romans 5:12).

Except Jesus who lived a perfect life without sin, all humankind inherited the consequences and effects of Adam’s fall; physical and spiritual death. Our nature was badly corrupted and we were alienated from God. The Psalmist said “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5).

What he means here is that he was born with a sin problem. He inherited sin. We are by ourselves unable to please God: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (Romans 3:11-12). These words describe the helpless state of humankind without Christ. They are enemies of God, separated from Him and guilty of eternal damnation.

However God didn’t leave sinners to our fate to try to work our way to Him. God made the first move towards reconciling sinful humankind to Himself. If you read Genesis 3 again, we see that though Adam and Eve sinned, God’s mercy was manifested.

Firstly, God proclaimed what theologians refer to as protoevangelium–the first gospel. God announced His plans towards reconciliation. A curse was pronounced and a remedy for that curse was also revealed: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel” (Genesis 3:15).

The seed of the woman referred to here is Christ who the Bible speaks of by saying “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil”(1John 3:8). The works of the devil is sin that separated us from God. And it is this, Jesus died to destroy. He took the punishment that belonged to sinners. He died in our place to appease for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. Our sin was imputed to Him. He became our substitutionary atonement  (Isaiah 53:5-6, John 1:29).

Secondly, God covered the nakedness (guilt and shame) of Adam and Eve revealing a type of Christ’s imputed righteousness to those who will come to Faith through Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:21). Paul aptly captures this saying, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Corinthians 5:21).

Christ was murdered on the cross because of the sins of you and I. And He resurrected to give eternal life to all who will come to Him in Faith. This is the essence of what we celebrate as Easter. Christ dying for the sins of the world (John1:29). If you have not come to saving faith through Christ, you are condemned to eternal damnation and an enemy of God. One day, you will have to answer for your sins before a Holy God and nothing you will present will measure up to God’s Holy standard. Your good works outside of Christ are like filthy rags. Repent from your sins and turn to Christ for forgiveness.

Gospel Tract: What’s The Gospel?

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There are many so called gospels out there. But many of these miss what the gospel actually is. The Gospel is not God will heal you. The Gospel  is not about wealth or your well-being. The Gospel  is about our salvation. It is a good news that cancels a bad news of our separation and rebellion towards God in our sins.

Here is a short tract that tells us succinctly what the gospel is. You can download a PDF copy here :Gospel Tract (PDF)

If you need a hard copy for your personal use or outreach, kindly contact info.truthpublications@gmail.com

Eternal Life: God’s Gift

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For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 6:23).

At the end of every month, I draw a salary from my employer for work done. That salary is my wages. I have earned it because I worked for it. My employer is not doing me a favour by paying me a salary. My salary is my reward for my service.

However, should I not be an employee of an organisation or provided a service, yet, I draw a remuneration from that organisation, it ceases to be something I deserve. It simply becomes a favour or a gift.

Nobody deserves a gift. It is given solely by the discretion of the giver.

There is, as we have seen, a clear distinction between wages and a gift. Scripture tells us death is the wages we receive for sin. It means that we deserve death. It is our wages. It is what is due us for sinning. We don’t die simply because we are human beings. Death was introduced into the human race because of sin. In the garden of Eden, our first parents disobeyed God and brought death, the consequences of their disobedience, upon the human race.

What this means is that every human being that walks the surface of the earth is a sinner deserving to die. We sin everyday reaping the wages for sin—death; not only physical death—but spiritual death separating sinners from God now and eternally.

But in contrast to what we deserve, that is, death, God extended a gift towards us. A gift which we don’t deserve and have not worked for. Instead of death, God has extended life to us freely. He sent Christ to come and die to reverse the effect of separation between sinners and God. Christ’s death was a gift to the world to be reconciled to God now and eternally. In Christ Jesus, God has made a way of escape from the death we deserve.

God has offered us a gift of salvation through Christ which if we receive in faith, reconciles us to Himself and gives us eternal life.

Unconditional Election: Salvation Is Unmeritorious

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Election refers to God’s choosing whom to save. It is unconditional in that there is no condition man must meet before God chooses to save him… we are not saying that final salvation is unconditional. It is not. We must meet the condition of faith, for example, in Christ in order to inherit eternal life. But faith is not a condition for election. Just the reverse. Election is a condition for faith. [1]

Probably the most commonly used word in Ghana, among Christians and non-Christians alike is the word grace. Ask someone “how are you?” and you are likely to hear a response “By the grace of God I am fine”. No doubt, it is a word we love to use. A Christian going for a job interview will believe that “by the grace of God, he will get the job rather than the other candidates. A business woman bidding for a contract, will believe that by the grace of God she will win the bid. And a young Christian who has just applied for admission to a university will believe that by the grace of God he or she will gain admission. Clearly, in our everyday use of grace, we do acknowledge we get something from God we do not deserve. If you ask any Christian what grace is, you are sure to get an answer “God’s unmerited favour”. And indeed that is what grace is. It is God’s favour and mercy we contributed nothing towards.

Now far more important than favour over another candidate in a job interview or contract bid or admission to an institution; grace is the determining factor in the salvation of sinners. Without grace, no soul will be saved. Paul says, in a very popular scripture that “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8). Paul tells us we are saved by grace and this grace is accessed through faith. Also grace is a gift of God. To know what we are saved from, it would be helpful to take Paul’s words in its full context. Beginning from the opening verses of Eph 2, Paul describes the state of the Ephesian believers prior to their regeneration. They were dead in trespasses and sin (v.1). Not only them, but this is true of every believer today. We were previously dead in sin. Furthermore, this is also true of every unbeliever. The former state of the believer is the present reality of the unbeliever; they are dead in sin. 

This throws us back to the previous article in this series—Total Depravity: We Are All Sinners. If naturally, the unbeliever is dead in sin, it simply means they will remain dead in sin. Corpse don’t have life, neither can they give themselves life. So for a sinner to come to salvation which is life, a power beyond them will have to intervene. This power, so to speak, is the Holy Spirit who convicts sinners to come to salvation. Without this conviction of sin unto repentance, no sinner will be saved. As Paul says in 1Corinthians 2:14, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned”. The natural person here is anyone who has not come to the knowledge of salvation. And before any one will come to the appreciation of spiritual things, that is, things pertaining to God and salvation, they have to be first regenerated –be born again.

Regeneration is solely a work of God which He does on a sinner. God makes a sinner’s heart come alive and then He gives them the gift of faith to believe. Reformed Theology affirms from Scripture that those the Lord regenerates are those He has chosen and predestined unto eternal life. These chosen and predestined ones are called God’s elect: “Those of mankind that are predestinated unto life, God, before the foundation of the world was laid, according to His eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will, hath chosen in Christ unto everlasting glory, out of His mere free grace and love, without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving Him thereunto; and all to the praise of His glorious grace” (WCF 1.5).

Unconditional election is biblical. Surprisingly, some Christians do ignore the fact that there are a group of people called God’s elect. Speaking about election, Paul says of Jacob and Esau; “though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad— in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” As it is written , “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:11-13). The only reason to explain the choosing of Jacob over Esau as Paul says is “that God’s purpose of election might continue”. God’s elect were chosen before the foundation of the world and that’s what unconditional election is about (Ephesians 1:3-6).

1. Five Points Towards A Deeper Experience Of God’s Grace, by John Piper (Christian Focus Publications, 2013, kindle edition).

Total Depravity: For All Haved Sinned.

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In the previous article, I mentioned the doctrines of grace acronised as TULIP (Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace And Perseverance of the Saints) and further explained with a quote that “Reformed Christians believe that all five of the doctrines of grace are derived directly from the Scripture and that the acronym TULIP accurately describes the Bible’s teaching on soteriology—the doctrine of salvation”¹.

I did an unusual thing by first explaining the last petal in the TULIP; P (Perseverance of the Saints). Today, I will do an explanation of the first ‘petal’ T, which is Total Depravity.

You may have heard a charge of bigotry against Christianity for declaring Jesus is the only way to heaven. People have pressed further to say there are good people living charitable, philanthropic lives and based on that, they can make it to heaven. The sad reality however is that, there are no good people on earth. The Bible condemns all as sinners. In Romans 3:9-10, Paul says “For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one”. Further on in v.23, he says  “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. John also puts it this way: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (John 1:8). Anyone who says they are without sin is living in self-deception. That’s the point of John 1:8.

The origin of our sin is explained by the Bible as springing forth from Adam’s disobedience of God’s command: “…of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”(Genesis 2:17). Adam disobeyed, he ate and the sentence for disobedience; physical and spiritual death was pronounced. In Adam’s fall, all humankind fell and were declared sinners: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned” (Romans 5:12).

All I have said so far is what Total Depravity is. We are all sinners: “As a result of Adam’s fall, the entire human race is affected; all of Adam’s descendants are spiritually dead in their trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1, 5). Calvinists are quick to point out that this does not mean that all people are as bad as they could be. Rather, this doctrine says that, as a result of man’s fall in Adam, all people are radically depraved from the inside and that their depravity affects every area of their lives”. ²

G.K. Chesterton, quoted in an online article on Original Sin said “Certain new theologians dispute original sin, which is the only part of Christian theology which can really be proved,” (Orthodoxy, chap. 2) ³. You see, what he means here is that the sinfulness of humankind is not difficult to prove. The empirical evidence is all around us. Just look into your heart and life. Sin stares you in the face doesn’t it? On this grounds, no one stands the chance of acquittal from God on their merit. The only means God has provided is through Jesus Christ who offered Himself as a sin sacrifice to appease God’s wrath towards humankind. Come to Him in faith or you will perish in your sins:

I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins. (John 8:24).

1: https://www.google.com.gh/amp/s/gotquestions.org/amp/doctrines-of-grace.html

2: ibid

3: http://www.theopedia.com/original-sin

Perseverance Of The Saints: Assurance Of Salvation

fb_img_1475583156578There is what is called doctrines of grace amongst those who hold to Reformed Theology or Calvinism. Reformed Theology or Calvinism is nothing strange. Just as some describe themselves as Pentecostals or Charismatics, Reformed Theology or Calvinism is a branch of Christianity with specific beliefs from Scripture.

The doctrines of grace is acronised as TULIP: “Reformed Christians believe that all five of the doctrines of grace are derived directly from the Scripture and that the acronym TULIP accurately describes the Bible’s teaching on soteriology—the doctrine of salvation”[1]TULIP as an acronym represents: Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace And Perseverance of the Saints. A study of what these represents can begin from here.

Here is a brief explanation of the last letter of TULIP–P which is the focus of this article.

Perseverance of the Saints – The particular people God has elected and drawn to Himself through the Holy Spirit will persevere in faith. None of those whom God has elected will be lost; they are eternally secure in Him (John 10:27–29; Romans 8:29–30; Ephesians 1:3–14). Some Reformed theologians prefer to use the term “Preservation of the Saints” as they believe that this choice of words more accurately describes how God is directly responsible for the preservation of His elect. It is clear in Scripture that Christ continues to intercede for His people (Romans 8:34; Hebrews 7:25). This continues to provide believers with the assurance that those that belong to Christ are eternally His. [2]

Now, when I first became convinced of Reformed Theology, one of the doctrines of grace I grasped quickly was the last letter P–Perseverance/Preservation  of The Saints. Some nickname it “Once Saved Always Saved” with a smirk of negativity though. Why I so quickly grasped it could probably be because I have had my own battles with doubt about my salvation and was desperately seeking for assurance to know I was indeed saved. What a joy to discover I couldn’t lose my salvation if indeed I was saved.

Assurance of salvation is the believer’s right and every believer must be “…the more diligent to confirm [their] calling and election” (1Peter 1:10). That said, it is crucial we don’t give ourselves and others false assurances of salvation if indeed we are not saved. The basis of assurance is for those “who are in Christ Jesus”. It is not for those outside Christ. For those in Christ, there is no condemnation. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1). So first things first. A sinner must be saved before they can have any assurance of salvation. Though when saved, they might have seasons of doubt.

When we are saved, we must bear fruit. Yet, we  don’t have to look at ourselves for assurance of salvation. Our human emotion is too frail and a bad barometer for measuring our assurance of salvation. What must be done? Look to God in His word. Seek and dig the word of God for your assurance because it is in God’s world we are told we are sinners and how we need to be saved and possess salvation.

Regardless of your feelings of doubt about your salvation, if you are truly saved, be assured “that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6). If you have it, that is, if you are saved, you can’t lose it. The believer is eternally secure.

Notes

1: https://www.google.com.gh/amp/s/gotquestions.org/amp/doctrines-of-grace.ht

2: ibid

Recommended reading

1: Five Points Towards A Deeper Experience of God’s Grace by John Piper

2: Chosen By God by R.C. Sproul

3: Chosen For Eternity by John MacArthur

4: For Calvinism by Michael Horton

Other resources can be accessed from monergism.com a reliable place for Reformed resources

Four Thoughts To Ponder In A New Month

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It seems like yesterday when we entered the year 2016 and so soon September is here with us. That was fast.

Now thank we all our God
with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,
in whom his world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms
has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love,
and still is ours today.¹

You made resolutions when we entered 2016,didn’t you? You may pause to ask “How well have I fared with my resolutions?”A new month presents us with an opportunity to make amends in particular areas of our lives. It was the Apostle Paul who wrote “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?— unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2Corinthians 13:5). Self-examination and evaluation is crucial in this life and the life after here.  At the end of our lives this side of eternity, we will be called to account before God. Our life here therefore matters for eternity.

As we go through this new month, let us glean a few lessons from Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 which I trust will be valuable.

1. Seek God

Remember your Creator in the days of your youth…”(v.1a)

There are those who will do everything else but commit their lives to live and obey God. They don’t seek Him. Don’t be one of them. The days of your youth as used here by Solomon I believe indicates the days of strength, wellness and ability. Comfort and “good days” have the ability to blind us to spiritual realities  and we must guard against this. Jesus tells us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33).

Solomon contrasts “the good days of strength (the days of your youth)” with the evil day when you have lost your strength: “…before the evil days come…” (Ecclesiastes 12:1a). There is a correlation between how we live our lives and what place God has in our lives in moments of prosperity, good health and comfort. The tendency to forget there is a creator is high. Thus, Solomon’s call to “Remember your Creator ”is appropriate as we go through the rest of the year.

2: Make Wise Use Of Time.

“…before  the evil days come and the years draw near”(v.1b).

A transition from from youthful strength, opportunities and abilities will be gone one day. These won’t always be available. This obviously includes opportunity to live in submission and obedience to God. It is said that, “time waits for no man” and it is true. J. Oswald Sanders in his book,  Spiritual Leadership, wrote that “Each moment of the day is a gift from God that deserves care, for by any measure, our time is short and the work is great. Minutes and hours wisely used translate into an abundant life—  living a God pleasing life”. We will be held accountable for how we lived our lives and what we spent our time on.“Look carefully then”, Paul said “how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil”.(Eph 5:15-16). Moses prayed: “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom”(Ps. 90:12KJV).

Will you make that your prayer?

3: Death, A Reality of Life

“…man is going to his eternal home, and the mourners go about the streets— before the silver cord is snapped , or the golden bowl is broken, or the pitcher is shattered
at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it” (vv.5-7)

We see death clearly spoken of here. Death is inevitable. We will all die, because “… it is appointed unto men once to die….” (Hebrews 9: 27). Death is a reality of life. Not only is death a reality, death points us to the brevity of life.“All flesh is like grass and all its glory like the flower of grass. The grass withers, and the flower falls” (1Peter 1:24). Once we are born, we will die. Scripture tells us there is  “A time to be born, and a time to die….” (Ecclesiastes 3:2). Every passing month and year brings us closer to the end of our days here on earth. We don’t get a notification when death will knock at our door. Death will not wait for you to accomplish your projects, dreams and desires. You are not too busy to die. You don’t have the luxury of postponing your death.

Have you considered the state of your soul? “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”(Hebrews 3:15).

4: Eternity–eternal life or damnation–Beckons.

“…man is going to his eternal home… and the spirit returns to God who gave it (vv5-7).

There is an eternal home for all of us. Either we will have eternal life or eternal damnation. As we begin a new month, and as you consider all that has been said in the previous points, bear in mind our life here is only temporal. Eternity awaits all of us and whether we will be in heaven or hell depends on what we do with God’s offer of eternal life. We are all sinners and until we come to faith in Christ, we are eternally separated from God. Don’t just embrace a new month, embrace also God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Christ:

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

1:http://www.hymnary.org/text/now_thank_we_all_our_god