“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” -Romans 1:16
The problem of mankind is inescapable. We are rebellious sinners who do not desire to be reconciled with our Creator. We deserve wrath and Hell, and God is just to punish us.
God showed His loving mercy by sending His son to save us from our plight, and die for sinful men. But what does it all mean? What actually happened on the cross?
How does this apply to us?
The work of Christ, and the subsequent work of the Holy Spirit, solves every problem that keeps us from God. God’s agreement between Himself and mankind was this: If you obey me, I will bless you with life. If you don’t, I will punish you with death and wrath. Again this is the natural law we see everywhere, we get what we deserve, and God is just to fulfill His end of the bargain, but we only disobey, and are all running mad straight to Hell.
God became a man and fulfilled our end of the bargain for us, because we couldn’t. Where we were disobedient, He was obedient. Where we sinned, He was innocent. Where we hated and denied God, He loved and pointed to His Father. He did what was required of us to do. He was the spotless lamb God required.
Now the Father actually gives Christ’s righteousness to every person who believes in Him. A Christian is looked at by God as if he actually lived the perfect life that Christ lived. We know we’re sinners, but God looks at us as if we were Jesus. This giving of Jesus’ perfect status to believers is called “imputed righteousness”.
The death of Jesus on the cross is where we see how much God loves His people. The crucifixion was a greater sacrifice than it might appear on the surface. He was actually receiving a punishment more torturous and humiliating than any man has ever received. The sovereign King of the universe was stripped, beaten, mocked, and destroyed by His subject. Worse, God Himself was allowing, even orchestrating, His own Son’s death. So what good came from this seemingly senseless and barbaric murder?
In the first post, I talked about God’s wrath toward sinners. God is angry with our sins and justice must and will be served for our crimes. We deserve to die, but Jesus died in the place of believers. The wrath God owed to us was being poured out completely on the Son, who laid His life down for us. Our sins were laid on Him, and those sins were completely paid for by His death. A believers sins are totally forgiven, past, present, and future because they were atoned for in Jesus. The work of Jesus on the cross completely satisfied God’s angry wrath toward believers. This satisfaction of God’s wrath is called “propitiation”.
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” -Romans 5:8-9
How can I be saved?
All of the work mentioned so far is the work of God. Now You may wonder what we must do to obtain this work.
Here is what you need to understand. God saves, and God saves alone. Salvation is not conditional on your goodness or badness. God’s salvation can not fail. And there is not a single thing you can do to help God save you. We are justified solely by the free gift of the grace of God, through faith.
Turn your trust away from the things of this world. Money, power, sex, morality… none of these things can save you. Understand that your sin problem is inescapable and you will be judged. With that understanding of hopelessness in yourself, believe that the sacrificial death of Jesus is perfectly what God requires for you to be forgiven. And be united to His death through that faith.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Galatians 2:20
This is how we are justified before God: through faith.
Too Good to be True?
If you’re hearing what I’m saying properly, this thought should cross your mind: “So you’re saying that I’m guilty before God, but all I have to do is believe that Jesus died to satisfy God’s anger in my place, and I’ll be forgiven? There is nothing I have to do to contribute to my salvation? Then the rest of the sins I commit for the rest of my life are covered, and I go to Heaven?”.
That is exactly what I’m saying. It is a free gift, and demonstrates how rich in mercy God really is. Now the obvious next question is where things get interesting… I’ll let Paul ask it, as he confronted the very same question when He preached this message.
“What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” -Romans 6:1-2
When we’re saved, we aren’t left in the condition we were found in. God changes His people through a miracle called regeneration. The heart is changed from loving the things of the world into a heart that loves the things of God. So yes, on some level we can go on doing whatever we want, but God changes our wants. God makes sure that the deepest desires of the believer’s soul are no longer sin. Don’t get me wrong, Christians still sin, and there will always be a struggle in the believer between the sinful flesh and our Godly spirit.
“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.” Romans 7:21-25
How Free are We?
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” -Romans 8:1-4
You see, the “law of sin and death” is what was making us guilty before God. Every sin was earning us more and more wrath, and we are more sinful than anyone realizes. The condemnation was poured out on the flesh of Christ, meeting the requirement of the “law of sin and death”. So now we, who are walking according to the Spirit (remember the regenerated believer), are set free from that downward spiral. So now we still sin, but there is no condemnation. We are deemed 100% not guilty, and the God who is in complete control, ensures we will be changed more and more into the image of Jesus.
God’s Promises to the Believer
The amazing accomplishment of Jesus on the cross has earned us a bounty of promises that only believers enjoy. Here are some of the best.
Adoption as Sons/Daughters
We were God’s enemies, due to our willing rebellion. God forgives us, changes our hearts, and brings us into His family, where we can never be cast out. By the Spirit, we then naturally refer to God as our loving Father.(Romans 8:15)
God promises that through the internal work of the Holy Spirit and through correction, like a loving Father, He will continually conform us into the image of His perfect Son. While we’ll never achieve it in this life, we will strive toward it continually.(Ephesians 4:15)
God promises to work all things for the good of His people. This means that no matter what’s going on around us, we can trust that God is in control and will carry us through to the very end. (Romans 8:28)
Those whom God saves can never be lost again. God is the one who initiates, carries us through, and brings our salvation to completion. Nothing, in all of creation, can separate believers from the Love of Christ. (Romans 8:38-39)
The ultimate destination of Christians is eternal life in Glorified bodies in the very presence of God. God welcomed redeemed sinners into communion with, and worship of Himself. We will forever look upon the amazing love that God had for us in Christ and worship God. This will be the fulfillment of the purpose of our creation, and will be the greatest joy we could ever experience.
Come to Him
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28