Archives for posts with tag: salvation

““In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; In Your strength You have guided them to Your holy habitation.” (Exodus 15:13 NAS95)

This is part of the Victory Song that Moses pens after the Israelites are delivered through the Red Sea and then, without any effort on their part, they watch as the Egyptian army is destroyed in the midst of that same sea.

Moses said that Yahweh had redeemed his people in that moment.  Here the word redemption means: “to buy back from bondage.” The deliverance at the Red Sea becomes the quintessential moment of redemption for Israel, one that she looks back to again and again in her history to remember that Yahweh is their God and will deliver them from whatever calamity besets them.

This concept of redemption takes on deep meaning when we see it used by Jesus’ disciples in the aftermath of his death.  When Jesus—unrecognized by Cleopas and an unnamed disciples on the road to Emmaus—asks what they are talking about, they begin to explain Jesus’ life and death and then the say this: ““But we were hoping that it was He who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21 NAS95)

They got the concept correct—they needed to be to redeemed, and so did all of Israel—they just missed the fact that Jesus was there to redeem sins, not to free Israel from Roman occupation.

The irony here is that Jesus had already redeemed Israel (and the whole world!), what was left was to realize that he was the Messiah and to follow him by faith.  Jesus explains all of this to the pair before their eyes are opened and they realize that they are talking to the risen Lord!

We must be redeemed from our sins, because that is the only way that we can enjoy eternal fellowship with a holy God.  This Jesus came to do.  This his disciples hoped that he would do, and this is exactly what Jesus did do.

 

 

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“And again Isaiah says,   “THERE SHALL COME THE ROOT OF JESSE, AND HE WHO ARISES TO RULE OVER THE GENTILES, IN HIM SHALL THE GENTILES HOPE.”” (Romans 15:11–12 NASB)

In rapid succession in this passage, Paul quotes from Ps. 18.49, Deut 32.43, Ps 117.1, and Is 11.10 (quoted above).  We presume that as he was dictating this letter to Tertius, he was not looking up the passages in a scroll, but quoting them from memory, which is pretty amazing.  I shudder to think what debating him on Old Testament scriptures must have been like.

The point that Paul is making here is that, all through the Tanakh (Old Testament) we see prophecies that the Gentiles will also share in the hope that the Messiah will bring, that the gospel is not only for the Jews, but for every person who will listen and respond to it.

This is the wideness of God’s grace that, at first, the fledgling church did not understand, but after Peter’s encounter with Cornelius, they did understand and so Paul became the missionary to the Gentiles.

We see from this—and Paul is at pains to point it out—that it was in God’s plan all alone to bring salvation to the Gentiles, of which I am one.  This seems to bring new meaning to Paul’s words to Titus:

“He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit,” (Titus 3:5 NASB)

 

 

We are in Day 59 of our rapid journey through the NLT Chronological Bible.  We are still in Paul’s letters, presumably the ones written when he was a prisoner in Rome, since we finished Acts yesterday.

Paul’s pattern when he wrote his letters almost always followed a basic formula: Part 1 – Theology; Part 2 – Practice.  Both Ephesians and Colossians follow this formula.

In both Ephesians and Colossians, Paul first gives the important basic truths of the Christian faith, in Ephesians, Paul discusses how while we were still sinners and opposed to God, God himself reached down and saved us:

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!)” (Ephesians 2:4–5, NLT)

In Colossians, Paul emphasizes the same thing, but in a different way: “He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:14, NLT)

[On a side note, Big Daddy Weave has illustrated the truth of Col. 2.14 particularly well]

 

In the practical sections of these letters, Paul is concerned with how we apply this new life we have in Christ in our daily lives.  We have a good example of what this looks like in Colossians: “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” (Colossians 3:12, NLT)

What we learn from Paul’s letters is that both truth and walking daily in faith are essential to our lives in Christ.  We can’t walk in faith if we do not understand the truth about Christ himself, and it does no good to have perfect understanding of truth if we are unwilling to put that truth into practice in our own lives.

Here’s the thing.  Walking in faith, which we can think of as practical holiness, is–much like Leviticus was for the Jews under the Old Covenant–God’s gift to us, so that we as weak, bumbling, prone-to-wander followers of Christ can live in a way which pleases God.  What we discover is that we need God’s strength in the Holy Spirit to do this.

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.