“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit” 2 Peter 3:18, ESV.
In this single verse, the apostle Peter tells us everything we need to know about the good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus suffered only once.
He suffered and died for sinners, for persons who did not and do not deserve His sacrifice.
Jesus suffered and died to bring sinners to God ( not God to sinners, by the way ).
And how did Jesus accomplish this miracle?
Jesus brought sinners to God by “being put to death” — in other words, by execution which implies a courtroom, a judge and a sentence of death for guilt. Whose guilt? Not His own for He was and is without sin. The guilt that Jesus was sentenced to death for is mine and yours.
So stop pointing your finger at others.
We all alike condemned Jesus to the Cross.
And stop trying to crucify others.
Jesus needed to die only once.
Instead, rejoice! I say it again, Rejoice!
21 Tell me, those of you who want to be under the law, don’t you hear the law? 22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and the other by a free woman. 23 But the one by the slave was born according to the impulse of the flesh, while the one by the free woman was born as the result of a promise. 24 These things are illustrations, for the women represent the two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai and bears children into slavery—this is Hagar. 25 Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 26 But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.
God does not change His mind, but He does create two separate covenants with mankind – the first covenant, often referred to as ‘old’ provides the Law and for a long time, mankind lives under this Law. The second covenant, often referred to as ‘new’ provides the Grace and from that point on, mankind lives under this Grace. Once Grace arrives, the Law is no longer needed. In fact, the Law is nailed to a tree and is essentially fulfilled in the Life and Body of Jesus Christ, once and for all!
Putting oneself back under the Law once under Grace is like going back into Slavery once Freedom is obtained. Who does that?
Paul wearies over the church at Galatia, even saying he remains in labor pains until Christ is formed in them. He wonders how it is that they’ve lost their joy, covering themselves with once-removed burdens. He wants to change his tone, but he is bewildered and hurt that they’ve returned to Slavery unnecessarily.
Don’t make this mistake. Our mother is not Hagar but Sarah; and she is Freedom.
So much of the good news is contained in the first ten verses of the fifth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Rome. He says clearly that we are “declared righteous,” that “we have peace with God,” that “we have obtained access” to “this grace in which we stand.” We may know with certainty that “this hope will not disappoint us.” Why? “Because God’s love has been poured out.” We have been given the Holy Spirit. And all this was given to us “while we were still helpless.” “Christ died for the ungodly.” That’s you and me! This willing death of God’s Son “proves” God’s love for us. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us!” Therefore, “we will be saved through Him from wrath.” After all, says Paul, if Christ died for us while we were His enemies, “how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His Life!”
Since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 We have also obtained access through Him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 3 And not only that,but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance,4 endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. 5 This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.6 For while we were still helpless, at the appointed moment, Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For rarely will someone die for a just person—though for a good person perhaps someone might even dare to die. 8 But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us! 9 Much more then, since we have now been declared righteous by His blood, we will be saved through Him from wrath. 10 For if, while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, then how much more, having been reconciled, will we be saved by His life!
Mankind is not justified before God by working hard to please Him. Paul simply says that if that were so, then Christ died in vain. Rather mankind is saved by the Work of God in His Son, Jesus Christ and by God’s Grace and Mercy.
Paul also says that if we fall into sin, that does not then make Christ the “minister of sin!” He also claims that if we strive to obey the Law, we make ourselves trespassers. Rather we “are fixed to the Cross” so as “to live to God with Christ.” The Law is nailed there on the tree, and all its power destroyed.
Paul warns “cast not away the Grace of God.”
“16 know that a man [soothly knowing for a man] is not justified of the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ; and we believe in Jesus Christ, that we be justified of the faith of Christ [that we be justified by the faith of Christ], and not of the works of the law. Wherefore of the works of the law each flesh shall not be justified.
17 And if we seek to be justified in Christ, we ourselves be found sinful men, whether Christ be minister of sin? God forbid. [That if we seeking to be justified in Christ, and we ourselves be found sinners, whether Christ is minister of sin? Far be it.]
18 And if I build again things that I have destroyed [Soothly if I build again those things that I destroyed], I make myself a trespasser.
19 For by the law I am dead to the law, [For by the law I am dead to the law, that I live to God;]
20 and I am fixed to the cross, that I live to God with Christ. And now live not I, but Christ liveth in me. But that I live now in flesh, I live in the faith of God’s Son, that loved me, and gave himself for me. [with Christ I am fixed to the cross. Forsooth I live now, not I, but Christ liveth in me. Forsooth that I live now in flesh, I live in the faith of God’s Son, which loved me, and betook himself for me.]
21 I cast not away the grace of God; for if rightwiseness be through law [for if rightwiseness is by the law], then Christ died without cause.”
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.”
God is a refuge in the day of trouble – of this there is no doubt.
His mercy comes in the morning. Ever notice? You go to sleep at night, perhaps with a weight on your chest and in the morning you may be briefly aware of peace, of an absence of worry and heaviness. God’s mercy rests on you instead. He’s given you a night of deep rest, of dreams you may or may not remember. He’s clothed you in His mercy, and for a moment, you may notice. Then you’re up, taking a shower, dressing in something presentable or classy or flashy to go out and about. The weight on your chest returns, sometimes with vengeance, sometimes with subtlety. But God’s mercy seems to drift off and you have no way of getting it back.
Sing to the Lord a new song, a song of praise, of song of recognition that He is merciful and full of grace. He is your stronghold, your mighty fortress, your rock and your redeemer. You live and breathe and walk about in His mercy. Without Him, you are nothing. Even Paul says that the Christian is to be pitied above all if our merciful God does not exist.
Sing to the Lord a new song.
But I will sing of thy power, and will praise thy mercy in the morning: for thou hast been my defense and refuge in the day of my trouble.