Understanding the Gospel
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira
When Christ came to this world 2,000 years ago, He came primarily to be the gospel, not just to explain the gospel. It is Paul who God set aside to explain the gospel. Paul tells us about himself and his ministry:
Although I am less than the least of all the Lord’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the boundless riches of Christ....
That word “boundless” (“unsearchable” in some texts) means “something beyond the reach of man” or “something that we could not discover through the scientific method but only through the revelation of God.”
I want to introduce you to the central theme of Paul’s theology. There is a key phrase that runs through all Paul’s writing. If you were to take this phrase out, you would have very little left of Paul’s exposition of the gospel.
This recurring phrase which is the central theme of Paul’s theology is “In Christ.” Sometimes he calls it “In Christ Jesus.” This phrase is sometimes expressed by other similar phrases like “In Him,” “in the Beloved,” “through Him,” “by Him,” “because of Him” — these are all synonymous terms. The truth behind this phrase was first introduced by Christ Himself when He told His disciples [in John 15:4], “Remain in Me” (“Abide in Me” in some translations). These are the undergirding words of the gospel and if we don’t understand what that phrase means, we have actually missed the very heart of the gospel message.
There is nothing that we Christians experience, or what we Christians have, apart from what we have in Christ. Everything we hope for and enjoy as believers — whether we talk of the peace that we have through justification or the victory in holy living through sanctification and the hope of glorification — all of that is ours only in Christ. Outside of Him we have nothing but sin, condemnation, and death.
The expression “in Christ” is a rather difficult phrase to understand, just as “You must be born again” was very difficult for Nicodemus. He could not grasp it. Likewise, the idea that I am “in Christ” is very difficult, especially for the Western mind which thinks in terms of individuals. The question is, “How can I be in somebody else?” Worse still, “How can I, born in the twentieth century, be in somebody who was born 2,000 years ago?” It makes no sense to us and so we tend to skim over those phrases and we miss the point.
Take an old Bible, go through the epistles of Paul, and mark the phrases “in Christ” or “in Him” or “in the Beloved” and so on. You will be amazed to find it all through his writings. In fact, the only two books in the New Testament that specialize in righteousness by faith are Romans and Galatians, but the “in Christ” motif is in all Paul’s epistles. It is the central theme of his theology.
This phrase — “in Christ” — is based on what is known as “Biblical solidarity” and that, of course, needs to be explained if you are to understand what it is all about. Therefore, we will start with an explanation of what the phrase implies. The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were in danger of giving up Christ and going back to Judaism. There is a big argument about who the author of Hebrews is. I believe myself it is Paul who wrote it in Aramaic and someone translated it into Greek. The Greek is not Pauline but the theology is and so I think the original manuscript was lost. But we have the Greek translation and we know it is an inspired book, which is all that counts.
The writer of Hebrews takes the Jews who are very familiar with the Old Testament, also all the types and shadows of the Old Testament, and shows his readers that Christ is the reality of the shadows. Therefore, as the reality, He is a better Prophet; He is a better Priest; He is a better Sacrifice; He is a better everything, and all of that passage in Hebrews 5, 6, 7, and 8:1 is dealing with Christ as our Priest.
Because Jesus was born of the tribe of Judah, He was disqualified to be a priest (according to the order of Levi) so He could not belong to the Levitical priesthood. In Hebrews 6:20 we are told that Christ is our High Priest and He is a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
[Jesus] has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
To prove Christ is superior as a priest to Levi, Paul first has to prove that Melchizedek is superior to Levi. He makes a statement:
And without doubt the lesser is blessed by the greater.
This may make no sense to us, so let me explain the Eastern or Jewish way of doing things.
In the Jewish culture, when the child went to bed, he would go to the father and the father would put his hand on the child’s head and bless him. Or, if a younger man would go to an older person, the older person would bless him. Here we put our old people in nursing homes, but, in most Eastern cultures, the older people are highly respected. In fact, in many cultures in the East, they have a different greeting for someone older than the greeter.
One day just after Idi Amin was deposed from Uganda, I went back to that country. I was leaving the airport in the mission car which was tied by wire and string and in very bad shape. There were two English geologists who were invited by the government to help find some water in Uganda and they were met by a government official in a Mercedes Benz.
They were driving in front of us and, in Uganda at that time, there were a lot of check points because of the trouble. A young boy, probably 14 or 15 years old, was stationed at one of the checkpoints. He had an automatic rifle with a bazooka on top of it and he stopped this Mercedes Benz. One of the British officers pulled out his card and said, “We are official visitors of the country. We don’t have to go through screening.” This young boy said to him, “I am the king of this country. You open your trunk.” He cocked his rifle so these two Britishers got out and he examined everything. Then he said, “Now you may go.”
Then it was my turn. He should have given me a special greeting because I was older than he. He was not a Ugandan; he was a Tanzanian, so his language was Swahili. Normally, when you greet a friend, you use the word “Njambo,” but when you meet somebody with respect, you say “Sheikamo,” which he should have said to me. I used his culture, but I reversed it because of the way he treated the two men in front of me. Immediately he realized I knew his culture and he didn’t even ask me to open the trunk. He said, “Go on.”
Paul is saying that it is generally understood, or it is beyond all contradiction, that the lesser is always blessed by the superior.
In the one case, the tenth is collected by people who die; but in the other case, by him who is declared to be living.
Let me explain to you. The Jews paid tithes to their priests, the Levites. But the Levites were mortal men who died. Melchizedek received tithes from Abraham. We need to know the history; otherwise, we will miss the point of this statement. Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek and Melchizedek blessed him. So by paying tithes to Melchizedek, Abraham was admitting that Melchizedek was superior to him and, in turn, Melchizedek blessed him. That is found in the Old Testament.
With this in mind look at this:
One might even say that Levi, who collects [that is from the Jews] the tenth [or tithe], paid the tenth through [the Greek word is “in”] Abraham....
Now let’s get the picture. Abraham came to Melchizedek and paid tithes to him. Now Abraham had a son whose name was Isaac, who had a son whose name was Jacob, and Jacob had a son whose name was Levi. Abraham paid tithe to Melchizedek before Isaac was born; therefore, Isaac was not born when Abraham paid tithe to Melchizedek and, therefore, Jacob wasn’t born. Levi was not even heard of.
But what the writer of Hebrews is saying is, that Levi actually paid tithe to Melchizedek but not as an individual. He paid tithes to Melchizedek “in Abraham.” Verse 10 explains that:
...Because when Melchizedek met Abraham, Levi was still in the body of his ancestor.
This makes no sense to the Western mind, but this is based on solidarity. This is typical even of the Middle East today. The Arab mind, the Jewish mind, is based on solidarity. That is why, when America bombed an Arab country, it touched not just an individual but the Arab nation and they are going to get revenge.
During the Gulf War, the war was between Saddam and the Allies, which were the American forces and Saudi Arabia. But during the Gulf War, Saddam was bombarding the Israelis. The Israelis had nothing to do with the Gulf War.
The problem is that the Gulf War did something terrible to the Middle East. It split up the Arab nation — Saddam on one side and Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on the other side. America was on the side of Saudi Arabia, but Saddam bombed Israel, the common enemy of the Arab nation, so that, if Israel attacked Saddam back, the Arab nation had to be united again and America would have been defeated by Saddam using a psychological method.
But Israel also believes in solidarity. They were wise; they didn’t retaliate. They let America do the fighting because Israel realized what Saddam was up to. They think alike. If Israel was America, they would have bombed back.
If any Arab touches Israel, even one little incident, they attack back but this time they refused to attack back because they knew what Saddam was up to. So Saddam’s scheme was defeated for the simple reason that Israel understood the concept of solidarity.
Having said this, we will defend three statements from scripture:
Genesis 2 tells us about the creation of Adam. There is something that is not in our Bibles but it is in the original.
Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life [the Hebrew original is “lives” — not singular but plural], and the man became a living being.
So when God put life into Adam, He put the corporate life of the whole human race into one man. Even Eve was not a brand new person; she was out of Adam, but Adam was the total human race which Acts 17:26 brings out. This is what Luke wrote.
From one man he [that is, God] made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands.
It is crucial that we understand that the human race today is the multiplication of Adam’s one life, which was the corporate life of the human race. So you can use the phrase “in Adam.” You and I were in the body of Adam at creation, just as Levi was in the body of his father Abraham.
Therefore, just as sin entered the world [the human race] through one man....
Also the first part of verse 18:
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people....
We say, “Unfair” because we think in terms of individuals, but the Bible talks in terms of solidarity. Turn to 1 Corinthians 15 and there you will find not only the second truth I just mentioned but also the third truth that the Bible brings out.
1 Corinthians 15:21:
For since death came through a man [singular], the resurrection of the dead comes also through a Man [also singular, except this time it is capitalized and you know who it represents].
Who are these two men, one bringing death and One bringing life? Look at verse 22:
1 Corinthians 15:22:
For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive.
Let me explain to you something that is very important. We have seen already that our human lives are an extension of Adam’s life and God said to Adam after He placed Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden, “The day you sin you shall die.” Adam had no children when he sinned; therefore, his whole family was in his body. Had Adam died the same day he sinned, which legally he deserved, his whole family would have died in him. That would have been fair, but the reason he did not die is because there was a plan of salvation prepared for all of us “in Christ” from the foundation of the world.
Paul tells us:
For he chose us in him [the “in Christ” motif — we in Him, not by ourselves] before the creation of the world [God chose you before you were born because He knew you before you were born] to be holy and blameless in his sight.
In ourselves we are not holy or without blame but “in Christ” we are.
Having laid this foundation, let us now look at why this truth is important. The “in Christ” motif that we have just been introduced to is the means by which God saved us. We have covered the love of God, but the fact that God loves you unconditionally does not mean that He can take you to heaven, because He is also a holy God. He cannot forgive us by excusing our sins.
One day Jesus was preaching to the people by the Sea of Galilee. In those days, the preacher sat down and the listeners stood up. Jesus was sitting on a rock; the people were standing around Him. They normally kept a distance of six to eight feet between Him and them. He was speaking and suddenly they heard a commotion at the back. They looked around and saw a group of men pushing the people aside and dragging a woman. They all knew who these men were because of their robes and because they had this huge box on their foreheads which was full of Bible texts. They looked like unicorns pushing through. These were the Pharisees.
They were dragging a woman and they dropped her in front of Jesus saying, “We caught her in the very act of adultery.” We wonder what happened to the man. Well, it was all planned. He was one of them. They did all of this to trap Jesus Christ. They said to Him, “This woman was caught in the act of adultery. According to Moses’ law, she should be stoned.” If Jesus said, “Go ahead and stone her,” He would have been breaking the law of Rome. If He said, “Don’t stone her,” He would be breaking the law of Moses.
So He sat down and He wrote. The Bible doesn’t tell us what He wrote, but they thought He was biding His time so they said, “Tell us, what shall we do with this woman?” Jesus said, “He that is without sin.” There is one word that is missing in your Bible. In the original text, the words that Jesus said was, “He that is without the sin.” He was not talking of any sin. He was talking of a specific sin.
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without [the] sin [the sin that they were accusing her of] be the first to throw a stone at her.”
These men suddenly realized that this Man knew their lives inside out and so, one by one, they left. Jesus said to her after they all left, “Where are your accusers?” and she said, “They are gone.” Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you.” Jesus had a right to condemn her; He had a right to stone her. In fact, according to Moses’ law, He should have stoned her, but He said, “Neither do I condemn you.” Was He breaking the law of Moses? The answer is “No,” because He was going to pay the price for her sins. She discovered that sometime later. No wonder she bought that expensive ointment to anoint Him. “I’m not going to anoint You after You’re dead. I want You to know before You die how much I appreciate the price You have paid to forgive me.” That is Christianity, living a life full of appreciation for Jesus Christ. It is not a life of dos and don’ts.
God chose each one of us; God chose the whole human race “in Christ” so that we would be holy and without blame in Him. When I was baptized, some dear soul gave me a wonderful book that I recommend all of you read called Steps to Christ. When I came to page 62, I read something that baffled me. It said that, when you accept Christ, God looks at you as if you had never sinned. I said to myself, “Who are you fooling?” until I discovered the “in Christ” motif. Then I knew what it was saying.
The “in Christ” motif is the means by which you and I were saved so that God can legally, righteously, justly take us sinners to heaven and still be a holy and righteous God. But there is another problem that we need to be aware of. We have a mission which is called Global Mission at the moment. Every five years we give it another term. I want to give you some facts. The total Christian population of the whole Christian world constitutes only approximately thirty percent of the whole world population. In fact, the total Christian population plus the Jewish nation together will equal approximately the Islamic religion. They are winning more souls than all the Christian denominations put together. Islam is the fastest growing religion in the United States today.
We are facing a crisis, but let me give you one more fact. Approximately 90 to 95 percent of the people who are baptized into the churches are already Christians and the Bible doesn’t call that soul winning. We are moving them from one denomination to another. They already believe in Christ, so let us not fool ourselves that we are winning souls. We have a big job to do and the only way that work can be finished is when God steps in. He will step in when we stop relying on ourselves and let Him take over.
Keep in mind that every non-Christian religion is legalistic. It is salvation by works. They take different forms — Hinduism, Islam, any of them — it’s salvation by works and one of the greatest difficulties the non-Christian world has regarding the Christian religion is what is known as the ethical issue of the gospel. Let me explain what that means.
In 1980, an American merchant ship touched the main port in Kenya. When the sailors hit land, about a dozen of them went to a nightclub. They got drunk, got into a fight, and one of the sailors by the name of Sandstrom from New York stabbed a Kenya woman to death. The police came and arrested him. His ship could not wait for the trial and so he was left behind and his ship returned to New York. But his mother was concerned about her son because of two facts. One, Kenya practices capital punishment. Two, they do not wait years and years after the sentence to execute the prisoner. Once he is judged for execution, why waste tax money to keep him alive? Very soon after his judgment, they put a condemned man to death, mostly by hanging. His mother realized this, so she asked her church to pray for her son.
Then she went to the Senator of New York and asked him to plead for the life of her son. At that time, Kenya was getting U.S. aid and this Senator took advantage of that, used it as a leverage, and actually got this man freed. Of course, his mother rejoiced, but the Kenyans were furious.
Not long after this incident, when I was both the Ministerial Secretary of the Union and also chaplain of Nairobi University, where we had 250 to 300 students, the head of the Department of Law, who was a Muslim of Islam, stood up and made a statement in front of 15,000 students. Later it was published in the newspaper. This is what he said, “Kenya has lost all sense of justice but I don’t blame the Kenyan government, nor do I blame the British government where Kenya got its legal system. The blame must go to the Christian church, because Christianity has taught us that we can commit a crime and, by confession, place it upon an innocent man called Jesus Christ who died on a cross and we can go scott free. No law will allow that. Therefore, Christianity is the most unethical religion of the world.”
In fact, this issue is not new. The Catholic scholars in the counter reformation accused the Reformers of legal fiction. But this problem has now crept into our church. In Provonsha’s book The Remnant in Crisis, he brings this out. He says the doctrine of substitution taught by the Reformers was based on a faulty Roman law and he is absolutely right. The Roman law allowed an innocent man to die for a guilty man, but no judicial law will allow that, not even in America.
There was a lady who was willing to die for her son. That was [serial killer Ted] Bundy’s mother and the judge said, “No. The law in America won’t allow it. He has to die for his murders.”
So the question is, how can God justify us sinners which His law condemns and yet maintain His integrity to His law? Is God going against His law when He justifies sinners? The answer is, “No.” The answer is in the “in Christ” motif. Here it is. Turn to 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 and here we will see the mystery of our salvation.
It is very simple if we forget our Western minds and simply accept what the Bible teaches:
1 Corinthians 1:30a:
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God....
Notice three persons are involved in the statement. There is a “Him” and there is a “you,” which in the Greek is in the plural form, and there is Christ Jesus.
Paul is saying here that God took us. Don’t say, “How could He take me before I was born?” He could take the life of the human race because we share a common life that began in Adam. He took the corporate life of the human race and He put it into Christ at the incarnation. Before Jesus could save us, before He could be our substitute, He had to qualify to be our substitute. God qualified Him by taking the corporate life of the human race and putting it into Christ. By doing that, Christ became our wisdom from God. The word “wisdom” in English has more than one meaning but the word wisdom here in the Greek is a word that some ladies have for a name. The word is “sophia” and it means “special knowledge.” Remember, Jesus said:
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
I had a very close friend who experimented. He said, “Our evangelistic efforts are leaning too heavily on our doctrines. We need to start with the gospel.” I said, “Amen.” So he decided to try it in his church. He held an evangelistic effort and the first two weeks he preached nothing but the gospel. His head elder came to him at the end of the second week and said to him, “When are you going to preach the truth?” He said, “I’ve been preaching the truth for the last two weeks.” “No, no, I don’t mean that stuff. I mean the real truth, the present truth.” He asked, “What do you mean by present truth?” He said, “The Sabbath, the state of the dead, the 2,300 days.” The present truth is still Jesus Christ and every other doctrine must be based on that truth. One truth will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other — Christ, our righteousness.
The text says:
1 Corinthians 1:30-31:
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
That word “boast” (“glory” in some translations) is much stronger than the English word, so let me explain by an illustration. When we first came to this country in 1982, we came via California and we stayed for about three days with a family who were missionaries with us in Ethiopia and Kenya. He was teaching in the school there and they had three boys. They were little when we were there but now they were grown up. The youngest was studying at Loma Linda University taking medicine and he said to me, “Do you want to see my car?” I said, “Sure.”
He had bought a totaled Alfa Romeo sports car and he had fixed it wonderfully with an excellent paint job. It was shining and I said, “You did this?” And he said, “Yes.” I put my hand to see how smooth the paint was and he yelled at me, “Don’t!” I thought the paint was wet but it wasn’t; he was afraid that my fingerprints would mar his beautiful car. I had touched the paint so he pulled out his handkerchief and he blew on it and polished it. He was boasting of/glorying in his Alfa Romeo. That is the word “boast” or “glory.” Paul says:
May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
When I first went to Africa, the brethren said to me, “Don’t give them this heavy theological stuff. These people are not educated.” But the truth of the Bible has nothing to do with education. I have known Africans who could not read and write who understood this truth far more than some Ph.D.s in this country. Spiritual things are spiritually discerned. I am not undermining education — it’s important — but when we come to God, we put our degrees aside. We come to God in humility and ask the Holy Spirit to guide us into truth.
I have a piece of paper and this paper represents you. I’m going to use it as a model which symbolizes you. This Bible John describes as the Word of God is Christ. He is the Word of God made flesh. I am taking you, which is the piece of paper, and I’m putting you in the Bible, which is Christ, just as God put us into Christ at the incarnation. Now the two have become one.
That is exactly what happened at the incarnation. Jesus Christ and we corporately became one. Jesus was not one Man among many men. In Him, the whole human race was gathered up. That is why He is called the second Adam and the word “Adam” means mankind. He is the second mankind. Just as all men were in the first Adam by creation, now God put all men into one Man, His Son Jesus Christ, not to make us reproduce but so that the one Man, Jesus Christ, may redeem the human race that the first Adam ruined.
My son writes, “Dad, I forgot my Bible; please send me one.” Now I wrap this Bible with the piece of paper inside in brown paper and I mail it to Mainland China where my son is teaching. The paper actually goes to China. It is not make-believe. It can claim, “I went to China.” What it cannot claim is, “I went to China on my own.” “I went to China in the Bible.”
Unfortunately, China is still a Marxist country, so everything is examined at the Post Office. The Post Office clerk opens the parcel and he discovers it is a Bible. He doesn’t even open it; he has seen the cover and he says, “This cannot be imported.” So he takes it out and he burns it. What happens to the paper? In other words, what happens to you? He didn’t burn the paper; he burned the Bible. Why should the paper get burned? Because it has become one with the Bible. This is how God saved you.
He put us into Christ. This did not save us. This qualified Christ to be our substitute. It qualified Him to be the second Adam; in fact, it made Him the second Adam. Now Christ had a job to do, a job that we cannot fulfill, a job that is demanded by His law in order to qualify us for heaven.
What does the law require of us in order to go to heaven? Two things — perfect obedience plus perfect justice. But since we are sinners, the law says two things. “Obey and you will live.” But the same law says, “If you disobey, you will die.” How many have not disobeyed? If you have not disobeyed, you deserve an honor badge, but I will give you a text which says you are a liar and the truth is not in you if you say you have not disobeyed.
1 John 1:8:
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
A young man said to me at a Campmeeting, “I haven’t sinned for the last two years.” I said to his wife, “It must be wonderful to live with your husband who has stopped sinning. My wife is having a hard time with me.” She just smiled at me. She wouldn’t answer; she knew better. [I have the husband this text.] For 33 years Jesus obeyed the law perfectly without even one flaw. Where were you when He obeyed that law in that humanity of His? In Him. Who put you there? Don’t give the credit to yourself. God put you there; God gets the credit for doing that. God gets the credit for putting you into Christ and Christ gets the credit for living a perfect life and the Holy Spirit gets the credit because Christ did it through the power of the Holy Spirit. All three Persons of the Godhead were involved in your salvation.
But that itself did not make Christ our righteousness, even though that obedience was perfect. After doing that, He took that humanity to the cross and He surrendered that humanity to the wages of sin. On the cross He said, “It is finished.” When He died, it wasn’t one Man dying instead of all men; it was all men dying in one Man. This is Paul saying this because he is basing it on the “in Christ” motif.
2 Corinthians 5:14:
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
So God gave you, He gave me, He gave the whole human race a new history and, in that history, we have kept the law perfectly and we have met the justice of the law in Jesus Christ. Therefore, He took the whole human race from condemnation to justification unto life.
Consequently, just as one trespass resulted in condemnation for all people, so also one righteous act resulted in justification and life for all people.
Notice the verb came is in the aorist tense, past historical tense — it has happened.
But the problem is that what He did “in Christ” He did without your permission. You weren’t even born and He has created us with a free will. So He says to us, “Even before you were born, even before I created you, I had already planned this and I have fulfilled it in Christ. I put you in Christ; I rewrote your history so that “in Christ” you have a perfect right to heaven, but, because I created you with a free will, I cannot force this upon you. The choice is yours.” You can say “Yes” or you can say “No” to this history because what God did to you and me “in Christ” is a gift. What is ours in Adam is not a gift; it is ours by native right.
When I first came to Andrews University in 1964, I had to earn my way through college. All the American students were sponsored by their Conferences. I had to work. I had two jobs. I worked in a motor garage fixing cars and in the evening I cleaned toilets, which was a horrible thing for my parents. In India there is a different caste system and I come from a Brahmin, which never touches toilets. That’s the work for the lower caste and here I was cleaning toilets. Of course, my father didn’t know that American toilets are quite clean.
I was on a student visa at that time. I was not an American citizen; I had a British passport and what bothered me was that every month they deducted Social Security. One day I went to the Social Security office and I said, “I’m here on a student visa (at that time I did not know that I would be forced to come back and I was planning to study and leave this country), why are you deducting my Social Security? I will never receive any benefit from this.” He said, “I am sorry, you were born in the wrong country.” This is the law in America. Anyone who works in America pays Social Security whether you enjoy it or not.
Whether we like it or not, and it doesn’t matter what part of the world we were born in, we are children of Adam by nature; that is our natural inheritance. Now God created in Adam a life that was conditionally immortal but Adam did not pass on to you a life that is conditionally immortal. He passed on a life that has already sinned and that already stands condemned to death.
Therefore, all of us were born in death row. We had no choice there. Jesus came and redeemed us from this predicament and He set us free.
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.
That is what God did for us in Christ.
The only reason you and I would be lost is if we deliberately, willfully reject that gift because God did this unconditionally out of love for us. When God comes to us with the gospel, He doesn’t say, “If you believe, I will put you into Christ.” There is no condition there. What He says is, “I already put you into Christ; I gave you a new history; you stand perfect in My Son; you stand justified in My Son but I can’t force this upon you. Please don’t say, ‘No.’”
If you say “No,” He will say, with tears in His eyes, “Why, why do you say, ‘No’?” Remember what Jesus said to the Jews? “How often I brought you under My wing but you would not.” God is not a Communist who does things by compulsion; God is a God of love. He will not force the gift of salvation on you and the moment you say, “Yes” to God, listen to what happens. Let’s read it from the words of Jesus Christ.
Here is the good news. I am not saying it; Jesus is saying it.
“Very truly [this is a statement of a fact] I tell you [this is Jesus talking], whoever hears my word and believes him [the Father] who sent me [remember what He sent Me for] has eternal life and will not be judged [the Greek word is condemned] but has [already] crossed over from death to life [or from condemnation to justification].”
This is the good news of the gospel that He gave us in Jesus Christ. He gave us a new history and in that history we stand complete.
If you don’t believe me, let me give you one more text. Paul says:
Christ is the culmination [the Greek word for end, tellos, means completion, fulfillment] of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.
Now you have two histories. One is your personal history — and, if it is anything like mine, it is a failure — and one is a history in Christ. Which of those two histories do you want to stand before the judgment seat of God? I know which one I have chosen. It is my history in Christ.
In the judgment, Christ will vindicate all the believers who are resting in Him for salvation. I no longer look at sin as a rule under the law. I look at sin very differently. Sin to me is what the Old Testament tells me. Sin is putting a knife into the Lamb. When a believer in the Old Testament sinned he had to put a knife into the Lamb. A legalist breaks the law; as Christians, we hurt Christ when we sin. We must develop a hatred for sin because we love Jesus Christ, not because if we sin we will not go to heaven.
It is my prayer that the love of God will constrain you. In the next study we will discover how much it cost God to say, “I forgive you.” Once you know it, you will never treat sin lightly.
In 1976, we were facing a famine in East Africa and, thanks to America, we received a lot of foreign aid. We received bags and bags of corn and wheat and tins and tins of oil.
The country was starving so the government told the U.S. that they must first give this to the students — the young people — because they are the future of the nation. The older ones can die but the young ones must not be suffering from this. So all the schools got this free aid from America. There was only one problem. Africans do not like yellow corn; they like white corn and Americans grow yellow corn.
One day in the dining-room some of the students took this food which was like cooked dough and were playing with it. One of the faculty who was a missionary said to them, “Don’t you appreciate what my country is doing for you? People are starving and you are throwing this food around.” One student who had the gall said, “Brother, when your country sacrifices their second cars and the TV sets to help us, we will know that they are really helping us. What you sent here is from your surplus. You couldn’t eat it yourself.” There was no appreciation from that student.
But when God gave Me His only begotten Son, He gave Me something He could not replace. For Him to give me millions of dollars would be nothing because He can turn stones into gold just by a word. But when He gave me His only begotten Son, He was giving me Himself on the cross.
You and I can never be the same. It was at infinite cost that Jesus forgave us and we can never treat sin lightly. But one thing must be clear to you: no matter how much the devil tells you that you are not good enough to be saved — and he’s right, by the way, on that one point he’s not lying, none of us are good enough to be saved — but we are saved because we have a new history in Christ. You tell the devil, “I am not saved because I’m good enough; I am saved because my Savior loved me and gave Himself for me. Can you point to one sin in my Lord Jesus Christ?” The devil will take off. But if he can get you to look at yourself instead of Christ, he has you.
It is my prayer that you will keep your eyes on Jesus. He is your Savior; He is your righteousness; He is your surety, now and in the judgment.
We are thankful for God’s wonderful gift of salvation, for Jesus who was willing to become one with us and whose one desire in His earthly mission was to live a life that fully satisfied Your law so that He may change our history from condemnation to justification. This is Paul saying this because he is basing it on the “in Christ” motif. It is my prayer that we may be rooted and grounded in this truth so that we may say with Paul, “I know in whom I believe and that He is able to save me to the uttermost.”