Salvation - Part 1
Romans 3:23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God"
One simple look at the human race will confirm the above truth. Yes, everyone has sinned. One simple look in our own lives will quickly settle the issue for us, "Yes, I have sinned too". The Bible further reveals that sin, which is a violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4), cuts off one’s relationship with God (Isaiah 59:1-2), thus bringing spiritual death (Ephesians 2:1-3). If one persists and dies in such an unforgiven condition, then one is cut off from God forever (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9). The Bible goes on to state that the only way to be forgiven is to come into contact with the blood of Jesus Christ, for He is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The conditions necessary to benefit from His sacrifice are hearing the word of God, faith in Jesus as the Son of God, repentance, confession, and baptism (Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38; Romans 10:9-10). In this lesson we want to ask the question, "Why is it that sin can only be forgiven by the death of Jesus Christ?"
Hebrews 10:1-4 "For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins"
This is simply a stated reality in the Bible. It is impossible for even one sin to be removed by a host of animal sacrifices. We see the same truth in Micah 6:6-7 "With what shall I come to the Lord and bow myself before the God on high? Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings, with yearling calves? Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams?" Points to Note: 1. Clearly the "life" of an animal is not the moral equivalent of an act of rebellion against God. Even the lives of thousands or millions of such animals are still not the moral equivalent of one sin. 2. The entire sacrificial system contained in the Old Testament testifies to the true evil nature of sin. Sin is so bad, so evil; that all the animals sacrificed under the Law could not even remove one human evil deed. 3. Among other things, it would appear that the life of an animal cannot remove human sin, because an animal has no volition or free will and an animal has no soul or spiritual life, for only man is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26; Matthew 12:12). 4. The writer reveals that in the sacrifices under the Law there was a reminder of sins "year by year". This evidently refers to the great Day of Atonement; even the sacrifices on that day could not remove sin. So far from purifying a man, they reminded him that he is not purified. An effective thing does not need to be done again; the very fact of the repetition of those sacrifices, is the final proof that they are not purifying men. The sacrifices under the Law were so ineffective that a new one had to be offered every time a person sinned.
Micah 6:7 "Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?"
The answer is "no". Even the ultimate human sacrifice, the life of our firstborn child cannot atone for our sins, even if such a sacrifice is an innocent child, a child who has yet to sin (Romans 7:9). The life of our most precious possession is still not the moral equivalent of our sins. We cannot purchase salvation, even when we do offer something of real and genuine value. If the sacrifice of our own children is ineffective in redeeming us, then obviously the sacrifice of some other mere human being wouldn’t forgive us either. First, my life wouldn’t save yours, for I have my own sins (Romans 3:23), but secondly, even if I was sinless, like a child, still the offering of myself wouldn’t save me or you.
Titus 3:5 "He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness"
Good deeds, religious works, great human sacrifices, and noble efforts cannot make up for the sins that we have committed. Cornelius was a devout, God fearing man, who gave may alms to the Jewish people (Acts 10:2,22), yet he was as lost as any other man (Acts 11:13-14).Here is where many people in the world are mistaken, for a good number of people somehow think that a good deed now and then will make up for the things that they have done that are wrong. A token contribution to a church, attending a worship service now and then, giving to a charity, volunteering for a good cause, and so on, will not remove one sin that we have committed. In other words, philanthropy will not save us! Even the greatest human sacrifices, to spend our entire life helping people in a third world country, to give millions or billions for humanitarian aid, still won’t remove even one of our sins, "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). At times Hollywood will produce a movie in which someone is barred from heaven or eternal life until they prove their worthiness by doing some good deed. Such a plot is only reinforcing the myth that man can save himself, earn his salvation, and that one can be saved apart from complete trust in, and submission to Jesus Christ (Hebrews 5:9 "And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation"). Please note that after the rich man died in Luke 16, he was not given a second chance to redeem himself, neither was he sent back to the earth on some special mission.
Matthew 16:26 "For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?"
The secular world’s true view of the afterlife is often revealed when someone famous dies. It is simply taken for granted that talented musicians, singers, actors, and so on will be in heaven, for the very reason that such persons were so well-loved, admired, or talented in this life. Sometimes a singer or actress will die and the comment in the media will be that now heaven is truly heaven, that is, before this person arrived, somehow heaven was lacking something. Points to Note: 1. What a low standard of salvation! I can see someone thinking that actual good deeds may save you, but how could anyone think that some talent to entertain people would save you? 2. How could anyone think that God couldn’t be happy unless He had some human singer or entertainer with Him in heaven? 3. Our society has such a low view of eternal life, for people will say, "I don’t want to go to heaven unless horses, dogs, cats, golf, and so on is there". As if perfect happiness, being in the personal presence of a loving Creator isn’t enough! (Revelation 21:4) 4. People forget what really impresses God. It isn’t some human talent to entertain, rather, it is faith (Luke 15:10; Matthew 8:10 "Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled, and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel"). 5. One assumption is that a certain person is so important, that such an icon of a time or generation must be allowed into heaven. But God is no respecter of persons (Romans 2:11), and what impresses human beings, or what we think is great, God often despises (Luke 16:15 "For that which is highly esteemed among men is detestable in the sight of God").
John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son"
The term "only begotten" means: "only one of His kind, unique", as Isaac was the only child of Abraham and Sarah (Hebrews 11:17). The Scriptures make is clear that Jesus is Divine and just as much "God" as the Father (John 1:1). It is equally made clear that the angels are in no way equal or even close to Jesus in nature: Hebrews 1:5-8 "For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee’? And again, ‘I will be a Father to Him and He shall be a Son to Me’? And when He again brings the first-born into the world, He says ‘ and let all the angels of God worship Him.’ And of the angels He says, ‘Who makes His angels winds, and His ministers a flame of fire.’ But of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom’".
Points to Note: 1. God didn’t have an angel die for our sins, even though an angel is a sinless and powerful spiritual being. If God didn’t have an angel die for us, then it seems clear that even the sacrifice of a mere perfect man could not have atoned for our sins as well. 2. The only sacrifice left is for God to sacrifice Himself.
Hebrews 9:14 "How much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?"
The side reference of the NASV says, "Or, His eternal spirit". Robertson notes, "Not the Holy Spirit, but Christ’s own spirit which is eternal as He is ("the power of an endless life" Hebrews 7:16). There is thus a moral quality in the blood of Christ not in that of other sacrifices" (p. 400). Jesus offered Himself voluntarily for our sins. He willingly laid it down for His friends (John 10:17-18). Jesus wasn’t pressured to offer Himself, neither was it done out of cold duty, "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).Jesus wasn’t an unfortunate victim of circumstances over which He had no control, rather, He voluntarily left heaven (Philippians 2:6), left the glorious presence with the Father (John 17:5), and took upon Himself a human body, so that He could die for our sins, Hebrews 10:5 "Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says…a body Thou hast prepared for Me…Behold, I have come..to do Thy will, O God").
- In light of the high cost involved in our salvation, how can anyone ever say, "God doesn’t love me?" (Romans 5:6-9)
- In light of the tremendous price paid for the forgiveness of even one of our sins, how can we continue to live in sin or treat God and His will with indifference? How can we continue to be apathetic about repentance? (Romans 2:1-4)
- In view of God’s personal sacrifice for our eternal well being, how can we continue to live for self any longer? (Galatians 2:20) How can I ever say again, "But I want to do what I want to do?" 2 Corinthians 5:15 "and He died for all, that they who live should not longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf".
- How can I get discouraged about the "problems" of this life, when my biggest problem, my own sins, can be solved? By the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we have been spared from an eternity outside of God’s presence and love, compared to this "problem" what do our other problems look like?
- In view of the fact that it took the blood of the Son of God, shed on the cross to forgive my sins, how can I assign forgiveness to some human invented system of salvation? What am I saying if I say that a person can be saved apart from Jesus Christ? What am I saying about the meaning of His suffering and death?
- God came to this world and died for your sins. Now, how can anyone ignore such an awesome act of love? Jesus died for me, what am I doing remaining outside of Christ and unforgiven?
Mark Dunagan/Beaverton Church of Christ/503-644-9017