Here is the key difference ( beyond the obvious that our Adversary is evil and our Lord is good ) between Satan and God — Satan offers us a wage that we earn; God offers a gift that is free and that no amount of effort or good intention can earn.
Sin offers death, for wages; God offers us eternal life as a free gift, through Christ Jesus our Lord.
Paul the Apostle reminds us – quite strongly here – that we are no longer underneath a weight of guilt; we are free from its power to hold us back, to keep us downtrodden, to make us ashamed. Not only are we free from guilt and its power; we are free not to sin. For even as sin gives occasion for grace, God forbid – says Paul – that we would continue in it. For how “can we breathe its air again?” he asks.
I love this image – breathing the dead air of sin. With our fascination with zombies ( in the USA, at any rate ), we likely have a visceral reaction to imagining walking among dead people, breathing the air around them. Don’t we hope to be as far away from that corrupted flesh as possible? I would think so!
“Does it follow that we ought to go on sinning, to give still more occasion for grace? 2 God forbid. We have died, once for all, to sin; can we breathe its air again? 3 You know well enough that we who were taken up into Christ by baptism have been taken up, all of us, into his death.4 In our baptism, we have been buried with him, died like him, that so, just as Christ was raised up by his Father’s power from the dead, we too might live and move in a new kind of existence.5 We have to be closely fitted into the pattern of his resurrection, as we have been into the pattern of his death;[a]6 we have to be sure of this, that our former nature has been crucified with him, and the living power of our guilt annihilated, so that we are the slaves of guilt no longer.[b]7 Guilt makes no more claim on a man who is dead.[c]8 And if we have died with Christ, we have faith to believe that we shall share his life. 9 We know that Christ, now he has risen from the dead, cannot die any more; death has no more power over him; 10 the death he died was a death, once for all, to sin; the life he now lives is a life that looks towards God.[d]11 And you, too, must think of yourselves as dead to sin, and alive with a life that looks towards God, through Christ Jesus our Lord.”
To the church at Rome, Paul reiterates his belief that nothing separates us – the Christian – from the love of God shown in His gift of Jesus Christ to the world. Paul writes:
31 [a]What shall we then say to these things? If God be on our side, who can beagainst us?
32 Who spared not his own Son, but gave him for us all to death, how shall he not with him [b]give us all things also?
33 [c]Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s chosen? it is[d]God that justifieth.
34 Who shall condemn? it is Christ which is dead: yea, or rather, which is risen again, who is also at the right hand of God, and maketh request also for us.
35 Who shall separate us from the love of [e]Christ? shall tribulation or anguish, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
37 [a]Nevertheless, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.
These words are quite amazing. Paul says nothing – that is no thing – is able to separate us from the love of Jesus Christ. God’s love is so big, so powerful that it overcomes all obstacles. No one can condemn us. No one can charge us with anything. No one can pull us out of His hand.
Why? Because God gives us His only Son. As Paul says, if God does not spare His own Son in order to save us, why would He allow us to be lost once we are found? God is not illogical.
Jesus speaks in analogy or parable quite often, but before asking Lazarus to wake up from death and come out of the tomb, He tells Martha, Lazarus’ sister: “I am again rising and life; he that believeth in me, yea, though he be dead, he shall live.” Jesus does not tell Martha a story meant to represent something else; rather, He tells her the truth – that He is eternal; that, despite death, He lives forever; that, belief in Him results in this same eternal life.
Don’t you wonder how Jesus stays out of the pits where the lepers live? How is it no one throws Him in with those society hates? Well, yes, His neighbors do attempt toss Him over a cliff; but in general, especially today, Jesus is called “a great teacher.” A great teacher? Jesus is not a great teacher if He is not God. He claims to be God, the One and Only God. Jesus either tells us the truth – that He is God – or He’s crazy. Why does anyone listen to an insane man?
Jesus gains the ears of modern theologians – who may or may not believe in His divinity – because He demonstrates God’s glory and displays God’s power of “again-rising and life.”
“Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.”
Essentially, Jesus Christ is Life. Not having Jesus is death. Yes, the situation is that black and white. It’s sort of like Reese’s line to Sarah Connor in the first Terminator movie, “If you want to live, come with me.”
Jesus says, “If you want to live, come with Me.” He finds people – individual people – and tells them this same thing: “Follow Me.”
“For [to] me to live is Christ, and to die is winning.”
Now most people know Paul isn’t saying, “I wanna die!” Rather, Paul is saying, “Life is Christ; death is winning.” If you examine Paul’s life, you can readily understand why living for Paul is “Christ.” Paul’s walk is filled with sufferings, thorns in the flesh, and hard hard work for the Lord. He writes frequently about “suffering” for Christ’s sake. No wonder Paul looks forward to dying for to him, death is the end of the struggle and the beginning of eternal glory.
Life is hard, but life is good. Death is harder, and eternal life is best. Why is eternal life best? Nope. Not because of gold streets or shiny baulbs. Eternal life is best because of being in God’s presence, face to face. Fully knowing Him as we are fully known. The end of tears, no fear, no pain.
“They [God’s people] were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated—” (Hebrews 11: 27, NIV)
None of these sufferings matter in God’s presence. Paul likens death to winning a race, crossing the finish line, celebrating the victory, accepting the prize. That’s why he writes, “To die is winning.”
“This is eternal life: that [we] may know You, the only true God, and the One You send — Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) I’m always a bit bewildered that people don’t seem to realize they are in hell. Obviously some people are extremely aware of being in hell — their circumstances make their condition painfully obvious. For others, however, this earth has many pleasures — its natural beauty is one of its best attributes. Of course, we owe that entirely to the Creator. But, after the fall into sin by Adam and Eve, we — in our natural state — also find ourselves in trapped in hell. Remember the angels usher us out of the garden of Eden and bare the way back.
Jesus reveals God to us. As we accept Him as God — that is, Lord and Savior, Healer and Coming King — we are ushered out of hell and into His kingdom. Because we remain on this earth for a time, we may be very aware of the trappings of hell around us. But, we are not of this world. We are foreigners, waiting for our full inheritance, our heavenly country, as the author of Hebrews writes.
Knowing God is eternal life.
Paul is redundant, quite often. He appears to be trying as hard as he can to make the churches understand the gospel of Jesus Christ. He writes, “For sin pays a wage, and the wage is death, but God gives freely, and His gift is eternal life, in union with Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul contrasts an earned wage with a free gift; he contrasts sin and death with eternal life and union with Christ. The benefit of the free gift, says Paul, is holiness. In contrast, the benefit of sin is death.
Paul says this is a matter of slavery: either slavery to sin or slavery to righteousness. “You used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Romans 6:19,NIV)
Paul writes of being “dead to the law through the body of Christ.” (Romans 7:4,NIV) “By dying to what once bound us, we are released from the law so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit, and not in the old way of the written code.” (Romans 7:6,NIV)
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” concludes Paul. He is trying again to make the church understand the simple gospel of Christ; that the free gift of God is salvation from sin, the development of righteousness leading to holiness and eternal life.
“There is no fear in love; instead, perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. So the one who fears has not reached perfection in love.”
Most importantly, “the one who has the Son has life.” (1 John 5:12) Secondly, “this is the confidence we have before Him: Whenever we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears whatever we ask, we know that we have what we have asked Him for.” (1 John 5:14-15)
Fear is incompatible with love — if we are loved by God, what have we to fear?
“We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we may know the true One. We are in the true One — that is, in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)
Fear is incompatible with eternal life — if we are “in the true One”, what have we to fear?
“What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare His own Son but offered Him up for us all; how will He not also with Him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the One who justifies.” (Romans 8:31-33)
Fear is incompatible with the justification of God — if God has given us His Son, what have we to fear?
“Jesus says, ‘ I Am the resurrection and I Am life. If a man has faith in Me, even though he die, he shall come to life; and no one who is alive and has faith shall ever die.’ “
Here Jesus does seem to be saying that with a proper amount of faith, one need not die. And of course, since Jesus says that faith as small as a mustard seed can accomplish the placement of a mountain into the sea, it does seem possible to forestall or perhaps completely eliminate death.
Nevertheless, in this context, we find Jesus comforting Martha, who has just lost her brother Lazarus to the grave. Martha has confirmed to her Lord that she knows He can ask anything of God the Father and it will be done. She also acknowledges that Lazarus will rise “at the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24) Jesus tells her that she need not wait. Lazarus will rise from the dead now. Jesus confirms His power over death; that the grave is incapable of holding those who belong to Christ.
Mary, the sister of Martha, also acknowledges that if Jesus had been present, Lazarus would never have died.
Seeing Mary’s sadness, Jesus weeps for her, for Martha, for Lazarus and I do believe for Himself — for He has lost a good friend and brother.
Jesus commands that the stone be removed; then He prays. “Did I not tell you that if you have faith you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) He commands Lazarus to “Come forth.” (John 11:43) Lazarus obeys, walking out of his grave.
Jesus commands, “Loose him; let him go.” (John 11:44) Death releases its captive.