If Christians are perfect already, then why does Paul urge us to “grow in every way into Him who is the head — Christ?” His admonition makes no sense if we have accomplished the ultimate state, i.e. sinless-ness, i.e. holi-ness. Yes, we are declared sinless, we are positioned in Christ as holy, but we continue to make mistakes because we are still contending with the ‘flesh’ — what is that anyway? Some might say the ‘flesh’ is the sinful nature, the ‘old man.’ Or, perhaps the ‘flesh’ is as simple as ‘we are born human, not divine.’ I know — I hear the protest — that sounds like an excuse for sin. Rest assured, there is no excuse for sin. We shouldn’t say, “Well, it’s Adam and Eve’s fault, you know.” Nor should we deny that we sin. Instead, God calls us to confess our sins one to another. If we don’t sin, how then can we confess?
And so, we are called to “speak the truth in love.” The truth is God asks us to “grow in every way” underneath and within Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, Healer and Coming King.
“But speaking the truth in love, let us grow in every way into Him who is the head—Christ.”
“But I know my living Redeemer, and He will stand on the dust at last.”
When Job says this, he has not yet met the Lord. He has heard of the Lord God “by report” but he has yet to “see God with his own eyes.” Even so, Job knows that God lives; and he trusts that one day God “will stand on the dust at last.” Job understands God will overcome sin in mankind and so defeat death, the wage of sin.
What Job doesn’t know is the fullness of God; he doesn’t yet have a personal, face-to-face relationship with the living Redeemer. He has yet to “abhor himself and repent in dust and ashes.” At this point, he has only heard; he has yet to see!
“But because [Christ] remains forever, He holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore, He is always able to save those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to intercede for them.”
Under the old covenant, the priest literally stands between the people and God. Annually, the priest offers an unblemished lamb as a sacrificial substitute for the people, their sins burning up along with the body of the lamb, the sweet fragrance satisfying the wrath of the Lord. The people come to God through the priest; God accepts them because of the lamb.
The author of Hebrews may as well shout. For under the new covenant — the better covenant — the priest “remains forever,” and “always lives to intercede for [the people].” Under the new covenant — the final covenant — the priest is the Lamb! And, the sacrifice is once for all. And, the Priest lives forever, always able to intercede for each and every one “who comes to God through Him.”
Jesus tells us the truth. One day — “as He lives” — every individual who ever existed will bow to Him and give God praise. Now I can see every person kneeling in humility before God, but imagining every one praising God is not as easy. I’ve heard such vile, foul statements made against Him in my time here on earth that imagining those same persons speaking words of praise is difficult.
Think of Hitler or Stalin or Manson speaking words of praise to God, and you may have some appreciation for what I am saying. Praises from such men are incongruous with their personalities.
So, what happens? What changes? Do their hearts change at the judgment? Do they become like Job who said to the Lord, “I know that Thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withheld from Thee. Who is he who hideth counsel without knowledge? Therefore I have uttered that which I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech Thee, and I will speak; I will demand of Thee, and declare Thou unto me. I have heard of Thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth Thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:2-6, KJV)
Will persons such as Kim Jong-il and Saddam Hussein suddenly recognize God and “abhor” themselves? Will they see God and “repent in dust and ashes?” As they bend their knees and fall on their faces, will their mouths open in songs of praise?
God’s creative force — His Spoken Word — is difficult to imagine much less comprehend. That God Speaks “Let there be light” and light appears; that He makes matter and energy from nothing is staggering. Even the Big Bang Theory of the creation of the universe does not explain how something came from nothing. Where did the energy originate if not from God?
“For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.”
God’s divine nature is apparent in the stark variety within His mighty creation — if you will, within His Intelligent Design we see not only His power but His creativity, a creativity beyond ours. If you’ve any doubt, watch BBC America’s PLANET EARTH and marvel at God’s world – of what little we know of it.
Jesus gives us a definite sense of His joy here in the gospel of John when He says He gives us eternal life, and that we “will never perish – ever!” Jesus says:
“I give them eternal life, and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all. No one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”
We are the Father’s gift to His Son. The Father “is greater than all.” The Son and the Father “are one.” We are firmly held in God’s hand — and He never lets go! No one has the power to “snatch [us] out of [His] hand.” No one, especially not our adversary. Satan may very well prowl around seeking to devour us, but He can’t. We may struggle to escape God’s grasp, but once we are His, we are His. We are a possession worth keeping, says Jesus. We are worth protecting because His blood purchased us; and His blood is too precious to waste.
Does this mean we can relax and do whatever we want? Hardly! Or, as Paul says, “By no means!” Rather, Jesus’ precious blood calls us to live — not only for Him — but because of Him! Though grace increases with sin, we are not to go on sinning! The prodigal son comes home; he doesn’t go back to the pigs to wallow in mud and eat moldy corn husks. Neither should we!
A monk tells me that all people everywhere eventually will be saved. I’ve read this view on the internet, on Facebook particularly. I’ve wondered about Paul’s statement that all things will be united under Christ, eventually. This is God’s purpose — yes? — to put all together under the authority of Christ.
“But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead also comes through a man. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.”
Does Paul really mean us to believe everyone everywhere will be saved? Will everyone be “made alive” through Christ just as everyone died “in Adam?” Many will answer with a resounding “no,” reminding that salvation comes with faith in and confession of Christ’s redemptive work. Others will hesitate, not knowing with certainty because God’s thoughts and His ways are so beyond us. Is God’s will crystal clear, or is it a mystery? Do we see everything or do we see through a glass darkly? Do we fully comprehend the depth of His love, or do we grope to find its end? Is there an end to His love? Or is He ultimately so perfect, we melt away in dust and ashes?
What is the message of the cross? Paul writes that this message is “foolishness to those who are perishing, but it is God’s power to us who are being saved.” Therefore, it makes sense to know what this message is exactly. The message of the cross is that God’s power saves us. We do not save ourselves. The message is that Jesus comes that we might not die. The message of truth is that — outside of Christ — we are dead already, dead in our sin, unable to save ourselves. If not for Jesus’ inception into the world through birth, if not for His daily life on earth, if not for His death and then His resurrection and ascension, we remain in sin. The message of the cross is a message of the great cure, the only salve that heals completely. Nothing additional is needed.
Two find the message of the cross impossible — the “Greek” or the one who relies on knowledge and the “Pharisee” or the one who relies on obedience to an external regulation. Neither of these two persons comprehend or accept God’s power. Only the humble grasp its significance — understand that Christ is “the wisdom and power of God.”
We speak of Jesus fulfilling the Law because He obeys His Father in Heaven in all things. When He picks the heads off the standing grain so as to feed His hungry disciples, He says the Sabbath is made for the Lord, not the Lord for the Sabbath. When He heals on the Sabbath, He rhetorically asks whether it is right to do good on the Lord’s Day or evil — implying that doing nothing for others just because it is the Lord’s Day is tantamount to evil. Paul sums it up in one beautiful statement:
“The one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
Paul tells the church at Corinth that which is of most importance — good news that he is given; not a story he conjures but news he receives from God Himself. The truth Paul is given, he passes on to others. He writes:
“3 For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:
that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures, 4 that He was buried,
that He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures.”
This good news, says Paul, is “according to the Scriptures.” From before the beginning of the world, God devises His plan and reveals it over time through His Word. God gives this news to Paul on the road to Damascus and through experiences and further revelations. Every piece of information Paul receives, he verifies through the Scriptures.
The key, says Paul, to understanding this good news is to acknowledge Christ dies for our sins, is buried, and is raised again to life on the third day — all “according to the Scriptures.” Amen.