Archives for posts with tag: salvation

Acts 18:27 And when he wanted to continue on into  Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived there, he greatly helped those who had come to believe through  grace. (Mounce NT)

The Complete Word Study Bible defines “grace” as: “A favor done without expectation of return; the absolutely free expression of the loving kindness of God to men finding its only motive in the bounty and benevolence of the Giver; unearned and unmerited favor.” We have a good example of what this means in Acts 18.27.

Remember that Luke, no doubt due to the fact that he was a physician, is very precise and careful in his use of theological terms.  Here Luke is describing the ministry of Apollos and how many responded to his preaching of the gospel and came to believe through grace.  We expect Luke to write that many people came to believe through the preaching of Apollos, or through the preaching of the apostles, but Luke knows that this isn’t accurate.  Yes, Apollos played his part, but those who came to follow Jesus by faith did so because of grace, not Apollos.

Here is why this is such a crucial and happy fact:  God doesn’t need an Apollos to draw us to faith.  He can use a terrible Methodist preacher as he did with Charles Spurgeon; He can use the death of an unknown, suffering person in the next hotel room (who turned out to be a close, colleague from college), as he did with Adoniram Judson; or He can even use no one in particular, as he did with my wife who came to faith wandering around a graveyard.  God doesn’t need an Apollos because he uses grace.  Thank the Lord that He uses men like Apollos, he doesn’t need them, but he uses them, but everything is ultimately of grace, the sheer bounty and benevolence of the Good Giver.

 

“Listen to me, you stubborn of heart,
you who are far from righteousness:
I bring near my righteousness; it is not far off,
and my salvation will not delay;
I will put salvation in Zion,
for Israel my glory.” ”
https://ref.ly/Is46.12-13;esv

God’s message to his own people who were slowly straying away from Him in pursuit of other so-called gods.

Their primary problem was that they had stubborn hearts.  The Complete Word Study Bible says that the word “stubborn” means in part: “When used to describe a person or a person’s heart, it normally refers to a strength independent of or opposed to God.”  So they had a strength that was independent of God and this led them into idolatry and away from God.

We need to watch carefully that we ourselves do not follow this same pattern.  Our hearts are prone to try to take over and go our own way and have a strength that is not dependent upon God because we do not like to be dependent people, even though it is in our best interest.

The amazing thing here is that, despite their idolatry, God will bring his righteousness near and his salvation will not delay.  What is this if not grace in action? God’s people don’t draw near to salvation, God brings salvation near.  This is exactly what transpired at the cross.

 

 

Moses answered, “Don’t be afraid! Stand your ground, and you will see what the Lord will do to save you today; you will never see these Egyptians again. The Lord will fight for you, and there is no need for you to do anything.”” (Exodus 14:13–14, GNB)

We have a picture here of what salvation looks like.  The Israelites are in crisis.  They have finally! left Egypt and thought they were headed for freedom in the Promised Land.  Instead they are at the shores of the Red Sea, water in front of them and the Egyptian Army behind them.  Surely the only wise choice is to surrender to the Egyptians and go back to slavery in Egypt.

This, however, is not God’s plan.  God placed the Israelites in this exact spot at this exact time for a very specific purpose.  He was going to save Israel while destroying the Egyptians.

Here’s the cool thing:  The Israelites had to do nothing.  They were to stand their ground and watch and be a witness to God’s great salvation.  God promised; they obeyed, and they never did see the Egyptians again.

This is a beautiful picture of the ultimate salvation to be found at the foot of the cross.  The forces of darkness and sin are arrayed against us, indeed they rightfully declare us guilty of sin and worthy of destruction.  Jesus Christ absorbs all those forces and all those true accusations for us at the cross and we are saved.  Justice has been done.  Love has won.  We are declared guiltless.  What did we do to bring this about?  Nothing.  Same as the Israelites.

Which reminds me of the hymn “Rock of Ages” by Augustus Toplady..

We will not conceal them from their children, But tell to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, And His strength and His wondrous works that He has done.” (Psalm 78:4, NASB95)

One of the duties of believers of my generation is to pass on to the next generation “the praises of the Lord.” Fortunately for us, the Bible records all of those “wondrous works” so this is an easy thing to do if we just teach our children the Bible.

Here’s the thing.  Even if our children do not follow the Lord, all of those stories are there latent, awaiting the stirring of the Holy Spirit as he draws them home.  Telling the generation to come the praises of the Lord does not guarantee that our children will follow the Lord, that will take a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit moving in power in their hearts.  While we teach the biblical stories, we pray for their salvation.

Save us by your might; answer our prayer, so that the people you love may be rescued.” (Psalm 60:5, GNB)

God loves his people. David believes this so strongly that he rests the security of God’s people on God’s love for them.  David does not turn to weapons or strategy or cunning or trickery as Israel faces the mighty forces of Aram and Edom, he turns to God’s love for his people.  If the people are to be rescued it will not be because of their might but because of God’s concern for those whom he loves.

This verse is a beautiful example of dependence upon the Lord. The people cannot save themselves, only God can save them.  Their own strength is not sufficient, only God’s strength is sufficient.  Rather than rest on their own war cry, they prostrate themselves before God and pray for him to sound his own war cry against their foes “that the people you love may be rescued.”  Israel will get the help that she needs and God will get the glory as his people depend upon him.

Are you in need of help, dear reader?  Prayer and dependence is the starting point.  There will come a time to work, but first we pray and depend.

“Thus says the Lord who made the earth, the Lord who formed it to establish it—the Lord is his name: Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.” (Jeremiah 33:2–3, ESV)

Jeremiah 33 is a chapter of promise, against all odds and contrary to all appearances.  Judah will shortly go into exile in Babylon and she will exist no more as a nation.  And yet words such as prosperity (shalom), restore the fortunes, security, I will fulfill the promise, etc.  are repeated again and again.

In vv. 2-3 we see the foundation of these promises.  The solid rock on which God promises to restore the fortunes of Judah–just as they are heading into exile and the land is destroyed–is God himself.  The Lord who made the earth, the Lord who fashioned and established it, the Lord in whose name all of his character and attributes come together, the Lord who because he is Lord and God and Creator can certainly reveal the “hidden things” that will come to pass in the future, this God is the foundation for all the promises made to Judah which indeed come to pass.

So prophesied.  So done.  Amazingly, and contrary to all experience, 70 years later the Jews return to Israel.

We cling to the promises of God now, not out of blind faith in hope, but based on what we know about God’s character and what we know and have seen about how he has worked in the past, in such places as Jeremiah 33.  The same God who indeed restored the fortunes of Israel and brought them back from exile, will bring all those who trust in him safely into his kingdom and there we will forever be with the Lord.

Paul puts it this way:

For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.” (1 Thessalonians 5:9–10, ESV)

So promised.  So prophesied.  So done.

 

his dead body shall not hang on the tree, but certainly you shall bury him on that day, for cursed by God is one that is being hung; so you shall not defile your land that Yahweh your God is giving to you as an inheritance.”” (Deuteronomy 21:23, LEB)

It’s difficult to imagine the horror with which the Jews looked on anyone who was hung on a tree.  If one was hung then ipso facto that person was cursed by God.

Paul will refer to this verse when he explains the shame of the cross:

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—” (Galatians 3:13, ESV)

We deserved to be cursed by the law because we are serial law-breakers.  This is the bad news, none of us can escape the sentence of just punishment.  The good news is that Jesus took our curse upon himself at the cross.  He was cursed, we were declared law-keepers.  Amazing love!

The Zondervan NIV Study Bible makes an interesting point:

This law combined with the previous two laws, the inheritance of the firstborn son (vv. 15-17) and the stubborn and rebellious son who is executed (vv. 18-21), certainly played a role in the apostle Paul’s thought. His reflection on the disobedience of Israel as God’s firstborn son and the execution of Jesus, the obedient son, on a tree connects the theological “dots” in these laws (Gal 3:10-13). Christ accepts the curse for a lost and rebellious humanity.