Copyright 1994 - 2018 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
October 13, 1997
Last Updated :
March 17, 2018
God's Love For Us, Jesus' Loving Sacrifice Sets Christianity Apart From All The Other Religions, Jesus Warning Regarding False Prophets, Jesus Christ Is The Only Way To Salvation And Eternal Life, Salvation Is A Token Of God's Love, Saved By God's Grace And Mercy Alone, God Humbles Saul Of Tarsus, Paul Came To Recognize His Sinful Condition, Self-Righteous People, Consider Your Own Life, God's Law Of Love, Wicked Human Heart, Our Sins Are Not Hidden From God, We Will Give Account Before God, There Is None Good, Nothing Needs To Be Added To Christ's Sacrifice, The Biblical Definition Of The Words "Sin" And "Transgression", Mosaic Law Governed Jewish Life, 613 "Mitzvoth" And The Greatest Commandment, We Love Ourselves, Love Of Many Shall Wax Cold, Love Is The Royal Law, If We Break Even One Law We're Guilty Of Breaking All Of Them
As I noted in part one, Jesus' life was not self-centered, but rather God-centered. He wanted to please His Father first and above all. Thus, He gladly laid down His life for us as acceptable Atonement for our sins. Jesus did not have to do it, but He did it anyway, out of love for us, and love for His Father. He obeyed His Father's Will, because He knew that it was absolutely necessary for our Salvation and our Redemption. In His moments of agony while in the Garden, you may recall that He said the following:
". . . Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."
Luke 22:42, KJV
So there was a choice, but Jesus acquiesced to His Father's Will, as I explain in such articles as "So You Really Think You Are So Humble?". Thus, that same night, He took the path that led to the Cross, when He was betrayed into the hands of sinful men. Would any of us have had the same degree of love which must have been required in order to make such a difficult choice? Let there be no doubt. It was indeed an act of love. As the Apostles John and Paul both inform us:
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life."
John 3:16, KJV
"But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us."
Romans 5:8, KJV
"Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren."
1 John 3:16, KJV
"Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins."
1 John 4:10, KJV
"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Romans 8:38-39, KJV
Many so-called wise men, holy men, philosophers and teachers have come and gone down through the centuries. They have each impressed men with their wisdom, and inspired men with their various esoteric teachings and examples of love, patience and tolerance. However, none of them, not one single one of them, ever did what Jesus Christ did. None of the others paid the Ultimate Price. None of them opened the way to Eternal Life. Only Jesus could do that, and He willingly did so. That is precisely what sets Christianity apart from all other world religions. That is, God's love expressed to the world through the Sacrifice of His own dear Son. Not only that, but Jesus warned of those false prophets who had come before Him, and of those who would undoubtedly come after Him. In the Gospels He said the following:
"All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them."
John 10:8, KJV
"For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect."
Matthew 24:24, KJV
Jesus knew from the very beginning that there was no other way, but the way of the Cross. Thus, by going the torturous way of the Cross, He in fact became the Way -- the only Way -- to Salvation and Eternal Life. That is why in the Gospel of John He stated the following:
". . . I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me."
John 14:6, KJV
"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand."
John 10:28, KJV
Some time later in the Book of Acts, and after they had been filled with the Holy Spirit, the Apostles affirmed Jesus' own teachings when they said such things as the following:
"Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Acts 4:12, KJV
". . . Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved . . ."
Acts 16:31, KJV
The Apostle Paul also tells us that Jesus is the Author and the Finisher of our faith. Jesus started it all, and without Him, it would have never been, so praise the Lord:
"Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God."
Hebrews 12:2, KJV
As I partially explained in part one of this series, the Scriptures repeatedly state that we are all sinners. The Bible plainly teaches us that we simply cannot ever be good enough, or perfect enough, to deserve God's love and mercy. How much less the Salvation, and the Heavenly Life which He offers us? The Apostle James plainly states that anything good we have in our lives, is a gift come down from God above. That most certainly includes the Gift of Salvation. Consider the following verse:
"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning."
James 1:17, KJV
So as we have seen, Salvation is purely a token of God's great love, as well as His grace. All we have to do is to accept His love through Christ's Sacrifice. If we are really honest with ourselves, then contrary to what certain other religions may teach regarding meriting Eternal Life through our own good works or good deeds, we know in our hearts that our very best is never going to be good enough. In other words, we cannot possibly save ourselves from ourselves and from our personal sins, no matter how hard we try, and no matter what we do. Only the love, grace and mercy of God can truly save us, because we are imperfect in the flesh and always will be, simply because we are humans born with a sinful nature. We already know how to do wrong and evil from a young age, but we must learn to do good. Consider the following verses which show the contrast between God's grace and our own self-righteous works:
"For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Ephesians 2:8-9, KJV
"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us . . ."
Titus 3:5, KJV
"And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Romans 11:6, KJV
Before his conversion to the Christian faith, the Apostle Paul -- then known as Saul -- was an extremely zealous and self-righteous Jewish Pharisee who did his best to uphold the Mosaic Law. He was probably very confident that his own so-called goodness and dutiful observance of the Mosaic Law made him a prime candidate for Heaven. At least until that fateful day on the road to Damascus when he had his dreadful encounter with the risen Jesus Christ! As many of you will know, the Lord greatly humbled Paul, and opened his spiritual eyes, so that he could finally see the truth regarding his miserable, sinful condition. It was after that, that we find Paul writing such things as the following in his Epistles:
"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?"
Romans 7:24, KJV
"For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."
1 Corinthians 15:9, KJV
What a change of attitude after God had time to deal with Saul's pride. Sadly, there are a lot of Sauls in the world today. Such people tend to possess a lot of self-confidence. They have inflated egos and high opinions of themselves. Quite often they will look down upon others who they feel do not meet their standards and expectations. Those people who are religiously zealous, sometimes have a tendency to think that they are a little better, perhaps a little more holy, and just a bit more righteous than others. This is not the real righteousness which comes from God alone through faith in Christ. Rather, it is in reality self-righteousness, and the Bible does not speak well of it. In fact, it says that it stinks. For example, the Prophet Isaiah wrote this:
"But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away."
Isaiah 64:6, KJV
King Solomon likewise offered some wise advice regarding proud people who have such high opinions of themselves, and who are filled with their own false sense of righteousness. In the Proverbs he wrote the following:
"Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall."
Proverbs 16:18, KJV
Please take a moment now to consider your own life. If you can be honest with yourself, whether you are young or old, rich or poor, you know in your heart that you haven't always led an exemplary life. Perhaps you have lied in order to cover for yourself. Perhaps you have said cruel things which have hurt others. Or perhaps you have stolen something which did not belong to you. Maybe you have even lusted after some woman who belonged to another man. Or maybe you did something even worse. The point is, you have undoubtedly done certain things of which you are ashamed, which would embarrass you if they ever came to light. In short, you have not fully lived according to God's Laws of Love, which Jesus emphasized in the following set of verses:
". . . The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these."
Mark 12:29-31, KJV
What you need to understand, is that while we can hide our misdeeds from our friends and family, we cannot hide them from God. He sees all, and He knows all; and He certainly knows the evil thoughts that dwell in our hearts. That is why He inspired the Prophet Jeremiah to write the following:
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?"
Jeremiah 17:9, KJV
In fact, way back in Genesis -- the very first Book in the Bible -- shortly before the Great Flood had occurred, God observed the evil nature of man; and He was sorry that He had ever created him. Thus, He chose to destroy man, because that was the only way to purge the Earth of man's iniquity. In the Book of Genesis we read the following sad verses:
"And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart. And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them."
Genesis 6:5-7, KJV
Shortly after the Genesis Flood had occurred, God again confirmed the evil nature of man's heart when He said the following to Himself:
". . . I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done."
Genesis 8:21, KJV
The Prophet Isaiah was also keenly aware of our fallen, sinful condition, and our need for a Savior. That is why in one of his prophecies regarding the coming sufferings of Jesus Christ -- referred to as the Messianic Prophecies -- he too wrote the following:
"All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all."
Isaiah 53:6, KJV
King David of old likewise recognized the fallen state of rebellious men. In his fourteenth Psalm he laments how evil the hearts of unbelieving people have become, as we see by the following set of verses:
". . . The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one."
Psalms 14:1-3, KJV
Turning to the New Testament, on one particular occasion, Jesus and His followers were self-righteously judged by the Scribes and the Pharisees, because they failed to wash their hands before eating. Exactly how did Jesus respond to their ridiculous accusations? Consider the following:
"Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."
Matthew 15:17-20, KJV
"And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man."
Mark 7:20-23, KJV
A number of years after his own conversion to the Christian faith, the Apostle Paul paraphrased parts of King David's fourteenth Psalm when he wrote the following in his Epistle to the brethren at Rome:
"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one . . . But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;"
Romans 3:10, 21-23, KJV
Over and over again, in both the Old and the New Testaments, we are reminded that we are sinners. We are told that evil lurks in our hearts, and that we are fallen creatures. It should be obvious then, that it is utterly useless for us to try to hide our sins from God. As the old saying goes, "Be sure that your sins will find you out". This is in fact a verse that is found in the Book of Numbers. Following are a number of verses where this same truth is revealed:
". . . behold, ye have sinned against the LORD: and be sure your sin will find you out."
Numbers 32:23, KJV
"For his eyes are upon the ways of man, and he seeth all his goings."
Job 34:21, KJV
"For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me."
Psalms 51:3, KJV
"O God, thou knowest my foolishness; and my sins are not hid from thee."
Psalms 69:5, KJV
"Thou hast set our iniquities before thee, our secret sins in the light of thy countenance."
Psalms 90:8, KJV
"The eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good."
Proverbs 15:3, KJV
"Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the LORD. Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the LORD."
Jeremiah 23:24, KJV
"He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him."
Daniel 2:22, KJV
". . . Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad."
Mark 4:21-22, KJV
"For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known."
Luke 12:2, KJV
"If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloke for their sin."
John 15:22, KJV
"Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do."
Hebrews 4:13, KJV
In their Epistles, as well as in the Book of Revelation, the Apostles make it very clear that every single one of us has a future appointment with the Lord, where we will have to give an account for ourselves, and be judged. Consider the following group of verses:
"So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God."
Romans 14:12, KJV
"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad."
2 Corinthians 5:10, KJV
"Wherein they think it strange that ye run not with them to the same excess of riot, speaking evil of you: Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead."
1 Peter 4:4-5, KJV
"And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment:"
Hebrews 9:27, KJV
"And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works."
Revelation 20:11-13, KJV
So as you can see, we can fool others, but we simply cannot fool God. He knows the real score, and the Day of Reckoning is coming for each one of us, whether we choose to believe it or not. We will each have to acknowledge our sins.
"Exactly what is sin?" you might be wondering. "I have led a rather decent life", you might be tempted to say. "I have never killed anyone. I have never robbed a bank. I have never raped anyone. I really fail to see how I am a sinner, or why I need to believe in this Jesus of yours. I am a good person."
Let us address the last remark first. Are you really as good as you claim to be? On one particular occasion, a certain person addressed Jesus as "Good Master", and inquired of him what good thing he must do in order to have Eternal Life. How did the Lord respond to this man's respectful remark? It may surprise you to know that Jesus answered by saying the following to that man:
". . . Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments."
Matthew 19:17, KJV
So with one statement, the Lord informed that man that there is only One good; that is, our Father in Heaven. But that is not all. The Lord then told the young man something which He knew the man would not be able to fulfill. Jesus said "keep the commandments". In other words, it appears that Jesus was trying to show the man the error of his ways, when he falsely assumed that he was good, and erroneously believed that he could merit Eternal Life by his own good deeds, particularly by keeping the Commandments.
How much this sounds like many people today. Sadly, it even includes quite a few people who belong to organized religion of one kind or another. They have the mistaken idea that they have to give God a little help in saving them. Indirectly, such people are stating that Christ's Sacrifice on the Cross is not sufficient Atonement for our sins. The idea seems to be that we need to add our human endeavors to the finished work at Calvary. If Jesus said that it was finished in John 19:30, then it was indeed finished. Thus, nothing needs to be added to His Sacrifice in order for us to gain our Salvation. That is, nothing but faith in what Jesus did for us. As we learned earlier, we cannot mix our works with God's Grace. As the Apostle Paul wrote, is either one or the other.
Returning to the definition of sin, in his first Epistle, the Apostle John offers us a very short, clear-cut, precise definition of exactly what sin is. The Apostle states:
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law."
1 John 3:4, KJV
What does "transgression" mean? In the New Testament, it is derived from the Greek word "anomia". This word means to be without the law, or to violate the law. In other words, it means to be lawless, or to break the law. So sinning means to break the law. But exactly what law is John referring to in that verse? Obviously, being as he was an Israelite, he was referring to the greatest laws of human conduct the world has ever known. That is, the Laws of Moses, as laid down in the Old Testament. Jewish life centered around the Laws of Moses, as is evident in both the Old and the New Testaments.
As we saw a moment ago, while there are literally hundreds of laws contained in the Old Testament -- 613 "mitzvoth" according to the experts -- Jesus summed them up when He said that the greatest laws, or commandments, are to love God, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. Let's face it. We most certainly love ourselves more than anyone else. "Me" is number one in most people's lives. The survival of self is the rule which governs this current world. As the Apostle Paul wrote in his Epistle to the Ephesians:
"For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it . . ."
Ephesians 5:29, KJV
If we each loved our neighbor as much as we love ourselves, the world would most certainly be a wonderful place in which to live. Sadly, that is far from being true in our modern times. In fact, Jesus stated that because of an increase in iniquity, or lawbreakers we could say, the end of that age of which He spoke would be marked by a lack of love in the world. The Apostle Paul likewise wrote that the citizens of that age would be lovers of their own selves, more than lovers of God, as we see by the following two verses:
"And because iniquity shall abound, THE LOVE OF MANY SHALL WAX COLD."
Matthew 24:12, KJV
"For men shall be LOVERS OF THEIR OWN SELVES, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures MORE THAN LOVERS OF GOD;"
2 Timothy 3:2-4, KJV
So to reiterate, as I state in my article "The Royal Law: Thou Shalt Love", the greatest of all the Biblical laws is in reality, simply love, exactly as Jesus said; because all of the other laws are encompassed by it. James referred to the commandment to love as the "Royal Law" in the following verse:
"If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:"
James 2:8, KJV
So if we truly wish to please our Heavenly King, we need to obey His Royal Law: love. Any time that we do something which is not motivated by love for God, or love for our fellow man in some way, but only by a selfish love which will bring us some personal advantage or gain, we are in fact breaking God's Laws. If you find that difficult, consider that James also informs us that even if we keep all of the Biblical laws -- that is, the Mosaic Law which is contained in the Torah -- and only break one of them, nevertheless, we are guilty of breaking them all in God's eyes, as we see here:
"For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."
James 2:10, KJV
Please go to part three for the conclusion of this series.
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