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Intro: Some basics of salvation. Do we know the basics?
I. What is our problem? Sin: the word is used 446 times in the Bible (NKJV). From Genesis to Revelation it is at the center of God’s revelation. It is the problem of man.
- 1 John 3:4 – 4 Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness.
- Rom 3:22-23 – For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, All are guilty – All stand equal. Paul describes the sinner as “dead in his sins” (Eph. 2)
- The Bible also teaches that no one who is guilty of sin can enter heaven. In John’s vision of the city of God he proclaims, 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life. (Rev 21:27 NIV)
- So on what do you rest your hope of heaven? We have hope that God will declare us “not guilty”, and we will be able to enter in.
II. What is the Solution? The process whereby you and I become “not guilty” before God and thereby acceptable to Him is called justification in the scriptures.
A. “justification is described by Vine’s as “being the legal and formal acquittal from guilt by God as Judge, the pronouncement of the sinner as righteous…” (from Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words) Strong’s defines this word as an “acquittal (for Christ’s sake).. “to render (i.e. show or regard as) innocent.” Our justification is everything. If we are not justified, then we cannot be anything but lost eternally.
B. Interestingly the word justification is only used 3 times in the entire Bible. All three times is Romans 4 & 5.
1. Rom 4:25 – who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.
2. Rom 5:16 – And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification.
3. Rom 5:18 – Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life.
III. How am I justified? ROMANS 5 & 6 is a key passage in answering this question. As we shall see the Biblical answer is both simple and multi-faceted. I must be willing to take God’s word for the answer.
A. We Are Justified by Faith: Rom 5:1-2 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Paul says it is through our faith that we are justified. What is “justification by faith”?
B. Faith, as defined in scripture, is not esoteric or mystical. It comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). When God speaks, we either believe or we do not believe. If we believe what He says, we are bound by the nature of faith itself to trust Him in the application of His words. Twice in Romans Paul mentions “the obedience to the faith” as the goal of His writing. (1:5; 16:26) If we are to be justified we must trust in God enough to do what He says. Justifying faith demands obedience.
C. But justifying faith is also objective faith. It is faith in something; not just faith in the efficacy of believing. What must I have faith (trust) in?
1. We cannot be declared innocent, or justified, based on our own performance. We are not innocent, we are guilty. The law of God makes that known to us, but the law itself will never justify us. Rom. 3:20 – Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. We can only be justified through our faith, or trust in another’s performance – In another’s obedience. We must have faith in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
IV. Why did Jesus Die? From Matthew to Revelation the N.T. emphasizes the power of the blood of Jesus in justifying sinners. God wants every Christian to recognize the primary place of Jesus’ death as the means of salvation. The entire sacrificial system of the O.T. pointed to this single fact: Read several passages with me:
Matt 26:28 – “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
Acts 20:28 – “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.
Rom 5:9 – “Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”
Eph 1:7 – “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace”
Eph 2:13 – “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
Col 1:19-22 – 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled 22 in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—
1 Pet 1:18-19 – “knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
Rev 1:5 – “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, You cannot preach the gospel without preaching about the power of the blood of Christ.
1. Christ died for sinners: Rom 5:6-8 “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Christ died for us when we were sinners (guilty ones) thus demonstrating that our salvation is by grace; not through our own initiative but through what he did for us.
2 Cor 5:14-15 – For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.
1 Thess 5:9-10 – 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. My justification must be by faith (or trust) in what Jesus did on my behalf.
2. As a propitiation through His blood: But this emphasis on blood does not indicate a magical association with the actual blood that Jesus shed. Nor is it a reference born from any gruesome ritual. Why is blood central to justification of sins?
1) As early as Gen. 9:4-5 The scripture speaks of our “lifeblood” and even uses “life” and “blood” interchangeably (Lev. 19:16)
2) Life comes from God, and it is only natural that blood (without which there could be no life) be regarded with the highest reverence in God’s Word. In the covenant of the O.T. it became the highest symbol of true worship & sacrifice
Leviticus 17:11-12 – 11 For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.’ 12 Therefore I said to the children of Israel, ‘No one among you shall eat blood, nor shall any stranger who dwells among you eat blood.’ The blood was given (because of its life-giving character) as the element of atonement – therefore it was not to be eaten (even that used in sacrifice was not to be eaten or consumed). This was so zealously followed that the Gentile converts to Christ were asked to refrain from things strangled or from blood (Acts 15:20)
The law stipulated that the blood must be “poured out on the earth like water” and then covered with dust – (Lev. 17:13, Deut. 12:16) -suggesting giving the life back to God who created it. God wanted to teach the people of Israel that the blood had a divine essence, and that it was a symbol of life and death. This would be consummated in Jesus (as God Himself) giving His blood for all people.
3) The Blood of Jesus is the Propitiation for our Sins. Romans 3:24-26 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
a. Paul says that God sent Jesus to be a propitiation by His blood, so that God could be just in justifying us. The term “propitiation” describes the effect of the blood of Jesus in our behalf. It is a word that means an appeasement (satisfaction of wrath) and implies enmity or animosity. My personal sin has created a need for propitiation, or satisfying sacrifice, because God, as a just God, must punish my sin. Vine says… The expiatory work of the Cross is therefore the means whereby the barrier which sin interposes between God and man is broken down. By the giving up of His sinless life sacrificially, Christ annuls the power of sin to separate between God and the believer.
b. Interestingly, the word used for propitiation in the N.T. comes from the O.T. (Hebrew) word that literally means covering. It was used to describe the covering of the Ark of the Covenant, called the mercy seat, where the blood of the sacrificed lamb was poured out. It was not called a seat because someone sat on it, but because it was a seat of God’s judgment on sin. So the blood was poured out there. That blood was designed to propitiate God, or render Him gracious toward the sinner. The blood of Jesus was offered once for all to render God gracious toward the sinner.
Ungers says…the blood-sprinkled body of Christ on the cross has become the Mercy Seat for sinners once and for all. The Mercy Seat is thus a continual throne of grace. What otherwise would be an awful judgment throne becomes an altar of infinite mercy.” (from New Unger’s Bible Dictionary)
II. At What Point (of my faith) Am I Justified? To conclude that we are justified by faith is not to conclude that we are justified at the first point of faith. James points out the dynamic nature of faith when tells us that the demons believe and tremble – but certainly they are not justified by their faith. Their faith is dead or ineffective. Consider some testimony to help us with this question:
A. The Preaching of the Apostles: Mark 16:15-16 “And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. Jesus specifically told the apostles to preach a conditional message of salvation. He who… will be… What are conditions for being saved (justified) in this passage? Belief and baptism. To recognize that unbelief is the condition that brings condemnation does not negate the fact that belief and baptism are the conditions for salvation.
B. The Conversions in the N.T.: Where is the example of a conversion in the book of Acts that does not include baptism? Where is the example that indicates a person was justified before baptism?
1. Look closely at the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. Acts 22:11-16 “And since I could not see for the glory of that light, being led by the hand of those who were with me, I came into Damascus. 12 “Then one, Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, 13 “came to me; and he stood and said to me, ‘Brother Saul, receive your sight.’ And at that same hour I looked up at him. 14 “Then he said, ‘The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. 15 ‘For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. 16 ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’ If Saul had been justified before baptism then Ananias’ request was invalid. He could ask for baptism, but not by appealing to the washing of his sins.
a. This statement helps us to understand the apostolic call for people to “call on the name of the Lord” – There is no example of an unbeliever being told to pray for justification.
2. What did the Ethiopian see as he read Isaiah 53? (One of the two great Messianic prophecies of the O.T.) Isa 53:3-7 – 3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. 5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. 6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. This is a picture of a sacrifice – the shedding of blood that the Jew had seen a thousand times in the death of lambs & goats. But this was not a lamb – it was a man. This was blood unlike any other. He had just come from the slaughter of thousands of lambs and streets running with blood, but not one drop of it could take away his sins. He needed this lamb. So Philip preached unto him Jesus.
a. But even Jesus’ perfect sacrifice was days, possibly months before. How could this blood be applied to his sins? Philip did not tell him to go back to the hill of Calvary. He told him how he could have that blood applied wherever he was – through obedient faith. When he saw water he knew he had to do something. He could go back to Calvary through obedient faith in baptism. “What does hinder me from being baptized? Paul later told the Roman Christians that they had been baptized into the death of Christ (gone back to Calvary) Rom. 6:4 “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” This new life is in the blood.
b. Consider this: If When….. This conclusion does not force baptism into a more prominent or important position than repentance or any other act of faith. But it does place baptism as the point of the exercise of my faith when God provides the gift of His grace.
Are You Guilty or Justified? Have You Been Baptized into the Death of Christ?
Conclusion: The death of Jesus was a well planned rescue mission, whereby God provided adequately for the remission of every sin. But how can I be benefited by Christ’s death? Through faith in Christ. Saving faith always involves obedience.