The Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ (Part 2)

Jesus’ Tomb
Three decades ago, archaeologists found an ossuary in Jerusalem that had what is believed to be a family tomb. This was not big news until recently when James Cameron announced that he was filming a documentary claiming this was the tomb of Jesus Christ. Now, thirty years after the fact, it has been announced that “researchers have made a new discovery that could shake Christianity off its foundation”. I have even watched some of the more liberal ‘Christians’ come up with new theories that make Jesus’ ascension into heaven symbolic. One priest even made the comment that Jesus’ spirit ascended but His body remained on earth.

Why is it that each time the atheists make a claim, Christians put their faith in these wild theories even though there is no credible evidence? When researchers found a tooth of a pig some years back, it was declared to be a missing link for mankind and they used this tooth to create – not one hominid, but an entire family. Science eventually prevailed and it was proven to be a tooth of an extinct pig and not the imaginary ‘Nebraska Man’ created from the imaginations of evolutionists. The evidence of Jesus’ tomb is on par with the pig’s tooth – a speck of evidence and a mountain of imagination. It is such a laughable theory I originally shrugged it off; however, since I have seen so much concern over the topic among Christians, I have decided to add a brief segment into this study.

The arguments for the tomb of Jesus are so easily refuted, that no rational person would give them any credibility. A few paragraphs should sufficiently aid the Christian with all the information needed. The first thing that should be noted is that the archaeologists that discovered the tomb did not see any significance in the names at all as related to Jesus Christ (and still do not). Why? These names were so common during the era of Christ, that it is not surprising at all to see them together. Think about the scriptures. In the four gospels, three Mary’s are directly involved with Jesus. There could have been more, but the fact that in one place you see three people named Mary should be sufficient evidence that the name is quite common. The same is true for the name ‘Jesus’. Jesus was the third most common name in Israel during the era of the tomb. Evidence for this is also found in scripture. In Colossians 4:11 Paul introduces one of his workers as Jesus whom they call Justus.

The Tomb of Jesus theory claims that the odds that Jesus and Mary being in the same tomb together is rare and proves Jesus married Mary Magdalene. This is like saying the odds of a man named Steve being married to a woman named Mary is nearly impossible. Since these two names are common in America, you may find dozens of Steve’s and Mary’s joined together in marriage. Critics of the Bible also claim that Mary’s tomb has the name ‘Magdalene’ over the tomb. This is an attempt at deception. The name on the tomb is ‘Miriamne’ which is a Greek name. Cameron is claiming that this is the Greek translation of ‘Magdalene’.

There are two flaws with this statement, first, it is pure speculation that this Greek name means Magdalene and researchers have not made this connection – only Hollywood has. Second, why would a Jewish woman have a Greek name put on her tomb? The Jews despised the Roman government and the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. was a revolt to break away from Roman rule. The only reason Greek was spoken was because of Roman law. When Rome conquered a nation, they established a Roman governor and required all people to learn a simplified form of Greek. This was a point of contention among the Jews in the Bible and ultimately led to their destruction as a nation.

Amon Kloner, the Jewish archaeologist who oversaw the original excavation of the ossuary in 1980 called Cameron’s claim ‘nonsense’.  He stated that Jesus’ family were Galileans with no ties to Jerusalem. Also, the Archaeology Institute of America stated the following:

Jacobovici points to the James Ossuary as the last missing piece of the puzzle, though he acknowledges the artifact has a controversial background. The inscription on the box, “James Son of Joseph, Brother of Jesus,” has been demonstrated to be at least half fake. Studies of the box show that “Brother of Jesus” was recently added to the inscription by forgers. Moreover, a recent news report states that an FBI expert witness at the trial of Oded Golan over the “James Ossuary” and other dubious antiquities, has testified that Golan had photos of that ossuary taken in the 1970s. See http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/jesus/

So in other words, Director James Cameron and filmmaker Simcha Jacobovici are taking a little bit of fact, mixing it with proven frauds, and creating a documentary that they claim to be proof. Ernst Haeckel would be proud!

Those who promote the Jesus Tomb theory claim that they have evidence through DNA testing. They fail to publicize the fact that the DNA came from a contaminated source where several remains were mixed, making it impossible to tell whose DNA was being tested. So even if they could make a reasonable test, it has little value. The fallacious claim is that since the two samples tested were proven to be unrelated, this proves that the remains were a married couple. The claim of DNA evidence serves only one purpose – to make the theory sound scientific. It is merely a vain attempt to fabricate evidence from the ruins of their theory. Why are atheists so gullible? Perhaps it is desperation. The real bottom line of the documentary is money. The press release in 2007 was to generate publicity for their book and movies. That is why researchers shrugged off the claim, but the media and atheist circles devoured it like wolves.

The best expert witness Cameron could come up with was Shimon Gibson of the Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Israel. He was also a member of the original team that excavated the ossuary, and his response was reported by the Archaeology Institute of America:

After a lengthy description of the original condition of the tomb, Gibson confessed to being skeptical about the claims that the site was Jesus’ tomb, though he added he was trying to keep an open mind about the possibility.

In other words, he doesn’t see credibility in the theory promoted by Cameron, but he’s willing to be persuaded. Ah, the heart of atheism. I have another theory. Perhaps he is truly skeptical to this imaginary theory, but he isn’t willing to risk losing any financial compensation he was to receive from promoting the documentary. It is ironic that the best expert witness on this claim is someone who is not convinced, yet the masses are accepting the theory like it was the gospel.

The name Matthew was also found in the tomb and it is supposedly evidence that it is Jesus’ tomb. Once again, this is a very common name; however, why weren’t the other disciples buried in the tomb? If you notice, the only names that have been the target of attention are the ones that are common to names found in the Bible. When they figure their odds that they broadcasted as evidence, they only chose the names that would increase their argument and ignored the rest. It was claimed that the odds were 600 to 1 in favor of their theory. That is only using four names and assuming the other six ossuaries to be inconsequential. An honest attempt would have factored in the six limestone boxes that could not be linked to the Bible. These were not included in their statistical analysis.

The strongest evidence against the Tomb of Jesus theory is the location of the tomb. At least the swoon theory had the foresight to put Jesus in a far away place, but the new theory puts Jesus right in the middle of Jerusalem. Think about the implications of this for a few moments. The church is now growing at an alarming rate, the Jewish religious leaders are doing everything in their power to stop this new faith, the apostles are being beaten, threatened, jailed and killed for their claims that Jesus rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven. Doesn’t it seem a little odd to say that Jesus was living openly in Jerusalem – the hotbed of controversy – and no one thought to point down the street and say, “Why is Jesus living down the road with his children?” The irony almost makes me laugh.

Critics claim this discovery to be the deathblow to Christianity. So in truth, they are admitting the very flaw that undermines their own claims. If this find shakes the foundation of Christianity today, how much more true would this have been during the life of the apostles? The entire Christian belief system would have crumbled and the early church with it if Jesus was on the streets of Jerusalem. If these were just a bunch of cult followers, they would have rewritten the Bible to fit the evidence and would have made Jesus into a cult leader instead of a risen Savior. This would include rewriting the Old Testament that foretold that His life would be taken from the land of the living (Isaiah 53:8).

Anyone who puts any faith at all in this theory should also take a moment to pay homage to the Nebraska man’s pig’s tooth.

The stolen body theory.
This is the only counter-argument that is even remotely logical. It also has flaws that can’t be explained. First, who stole the body? It is undeniable that the body of Jesus was no longer in the grave. The disciples, Jews, and Roman soldiers all concurred that the body was missing. As one historian put it, “history’s silence is deafening concerning the body of Jesus. No one has ever claimed to see the body of Jesus after the resurrection.” If the Jews or Romans stole it, they would have produced it. All of the efforts to squelch Christianity and the determination to explain away the resurrection would have ended quickly if someone produced the body. We know that the soldiers did not have it or they would have surely produced it. They were paid for their silence, how much would they have been paid if they produced the body? There would have been no need to think up and rehearse the story of the disciples stealing it if the soldiers had it. We know the Jews didn’t have it, because they would have been the first to put it on display. This only leaves the disciples or the resurrection.

Let’s look at the possibility that the disciples took Jesus’ body. When Jesus was arrested, the disciples scattered like cowards. Peter was the boldest of the twelve and he denied Jesus three times. To show how cowardly he was at this point, he was afraid of a servant girl who did not even have the legal right to testify in that culture. Yet when she confronted Peter, he called curses down upon himself to prove he was not one of Jesus’ followers.

The disciples were too afraid to come forward to take Jesus down and help with the burial. How is it that they would suddenly be bold enough to risk certain death and sneak among the guards, break the seal, move the stone without rousing anyone and take the body. Also consider that the head cloth was neatly folded and laid beside the burial cloth. Anyone sneaking into the tomb would be hastily retreating after getting the body. They would not take the time to remove the burial cloth and then neatly fold it.

How would a stolen body suddenly empower eleven men who were hiding from the Jews to go out and begin preaching His resurrection boldly before the same leaders they feared? What would make eleven men rejoice at being beaten, imprisoned and then put through painful deaths? A stolen corpse? The stolen body theory holds no water.

The final possibility is that Jesus was resurrected. We see that all the evidence against the resurrection falls short, but what evidence lends credibility to the resurrection? Let’s begin by examining the disciples. These men fled in all directions when Jesus was arrested and they did not offer any defense on his behalf during the trial where he was sentenced to death. After the resurrection there was a dramatic change in their lives. These men who were afraid to be present at Jesus’ burial now were going into the very city where the crucifixion occurred, and were boldly proclaiming His resurrection at their own peril.

The crowds were still present and so were the council members that tried Jesus and the soldiers who crucified Him. Why would they suddenly have such a change of heart that they would preach the same Jesus that they had just denied? Not only did they preach the resurrection, but they also condemned those responsible for His death and called them to repent so they could be forgiven.

To create a legend, you don’t go where the eyewitnesses are and exaggerate when the facts are still fresh. Legends are born by carrying the story to a distant land or waiting until the facts have faded from memory. The disciples went to where the fire was still hot. They proclaimed the resurrection to those whom they knew would examine the facts. There are no accounts of anyone refuting the disciples. There was no attempt to silenced them with evidence; they were threatened in an attempt to persuade them to stop. When ordered to never again preach in the name of Jesus, Peter said, “We cannot help but to proclaim the things which we heard and saw.”

There were many eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ. Look at Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 15:

6 After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.
7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.
8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.

Paul presented his claim before those that could question him and in fact is inviting them to question. He is saying that most of these witnesses are still alive and available to examine. His reference to James is significant because James was one of the brothers who scoffed at Jesus during his life. After mocking him, the Bible says that even his brothers did not believe him.

People may be willing to die for what they believe to be true, but who would die for what they knew to be a lie? The eleven disciples saw Jesus die. They gained absolutely no financial gain from this faith; indeed we see just the opposite. They lost everything except their joy and the hope of heaven. When Jesus was alive, their hope was their expectation of an earthly kingdom. After the resurrection, they lived for Christ with reckless abandon as they were committed to the hope given to them for the eternal life and the kingdom of God to come. Only John died of old age; however, he was beaten, imprisoned and banished to the isle of Patmos. Patmos was a penal colony where criminals were sent to die either from starvation or from the hands of other criminals. Each of the other disciples were beaten repeatedly and eventually killed. Look at how Jesus’ disciples died and determine if this sounds like men clinging to a lie:

Matthew was slain in Ethiopia.
Mark was dragged through the streets until dead.
Peter and Simeon were crucified.
Andrew was crucified.
James was beheaded.
Philip was crucified.
Bartholomew was flayed alive.
Thomas was pierced with lances.
James, the less, was thrown from the temple and stoned to death.
Jude was shot to death with arrows.
Paul was boiled in hot oil and beheaded.

All of these men could have lived if they had said one statement: “He is dead,” but they refused. The list above accounts of their deaths but they also endured hardship, imprisonment, beatings, and torture. Paul was stoned three times and survived. He was beaten with forty strips from a cat of nine tails on five occasions, and imprisoned repeatedly. Similar stories follow the other apostles. Bartholomew was crucified twice. He was first nailed to the cross and then brought down by the Roman Emperor and set free. Not even a fool would have continued to spread a lie after this encounter, yet Bartholomew recovered and went on spreading the gospel until he was captured again and crucified a second time.

The disciples lived lives that would be considered sheer misery by the world, yet they rejoiced in their sufferings. Not one of them caved in and chose the easy life. Can anyone believe that not one of these men would deny his resurrection unless they absolutely witnessed the resurrected Christ? What did they have to gain by forming this kind of religion? They lost property and often were abandoned by friends and family. Even if you could believe that these men were willing to suffer for a lie, would they be willing to draw their own friends and families into suffering? They may have suffered for Christ on the outside, but they rejoiced openly and lived with joy and peace that their captors did not have and could not understand. Throughout history, many of the very people who have persecuted Christians have become Christians. As they saw the strength, joy, and peace that defied logic, they saw their own lives as meaningless. There are many testimonies of captors who witnessed persecution who said, “I want what that person has.”

If Jesus’ disciples had stolen the body of Jesus in hopes of being religious elitist, they would have given up when the illusions of grandeur proved to be a failure. If it were a lie, they would have quickly grown tired of the beatings and other punishments. Look at James, the brother of Jesus. He rejected Jesus during His life. I am sure that he thought of his older brother as just another sibling and a delusional one at that. Yet after seeing the resurrected Christ James was a changed man as well. After James encountered the risen savior, he no longer referred to himself as a brother of Christ, but a “bondservant of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Not a single critic ever questioned that the tomb was empty. There was no doubt of this fact. The real question is, which testimony do you believe? Those who reject Christ or those who were eye witness testimonies to His resurrection and GLADLY suffered for their proclamation of this truth?

Are the gospels reliable? What about the differences? One of the biggest arguments against the gospels is that they have slight differences. The irony is that if all the gospels were identical, they would have zero credibility. These same critics would say they were written by the same people. In truth, the differences between the gospels are not contradictions but the eyewitness testimonies written from different perspectives each testifying to the same truth. Critics of the gospels argue both sides and don’t see their own contradiction.

Skeptics claim that the later church doctored the manuscripts to support their beliefs and then these same critics point out the differences as proof of error. First, if the later church had doctored the manuscripts, why didn’t they fix the differences? Second, we know the manuscripts were not doctored because we now have documents dating back before the ‘questionable’ era and there are virtually no differences. By all standards, even harsh critics agree that the scriptures have maintained an incredible accuracy over the centuries.

Also consider the testimonial aspect. If three witnesses testified to being eyewitnesses to an event and their stories matched completely with the exception of a few supporting details, would that evidence be valid? By all standards it would. In fact, if there were no differences, it would raise serious doubts to their credibility. The scriptures provide Matthew, Mark and John as eyewitness accounts to the life of Christ and they all agree. Luke comes in as a character witness that makes an airtight case. Luke was not an eyewitness. Luke wanted to do two things. He wanted to give Theophilus a complete explanation of who Jesus was and he wanted to compile all the testimonies that had been handed down 2nd and 3rd hand from eyewitnesses. This is an extremely important testimony. This is how we know if the word and doctrine handed down agrees with the events that actually occurred.

The gospels were not widely circulated at the time. The differences in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John prove that the each of the apostles wrote from their own eyewitness perspective. The gospel of Luke proves that the gospel was accurately handed down without becoming sensationalized. There is virtually no difference between Luke’s account that was passed by testimony and the apostle’s accounts that were witnessed directly. These three witnesses and the character witness of Luke would hold up under any cross-examination.

The earliest apostle writings can be dated back to eyewitnesses. You can’t make that claim from other religions. Christianity was written down closer to the actual events than other religions. The Gathas of Zoroaster were estimated around 1000 BC but didn’t make it into writings until after the third century AD and the most popular Parsi biography was written in 1278. Buddha lived in the sixth century BC, but the scriptures of Buddha were not written until the first century AD. Muhammad died in 632 AD but his sayings were not written for more than 100 years, 767 AD. Unlike other religions, outside the Bible there are many supporting witnesses that verify the accuracy of the accounts of scripture. Without the Bible, we can prove through historical evidence that:

-Jesus was a Jewish teacher
-Many people credited Jesus with healing and exorcisms
-People believed He was the Messiah
-He was rejected by the Jewish leaders
-He was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius
-After his shameful death, His followers believed he was still alive and this faith spread to the multitudes throughout Rome by AD 64
-The Christian faith was held dear by all manner of people; women, men, slave, free, rich, poor.
-Those who converted, worshipped Jesus as God.
-There are also tens of thousands of archaeological discoveries that validate the scriptures and silence criticism.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a fact of history and applies to every person’s life. Because Jesus died, our debt was paid. Jesus’ last words on the cross were, “It is finished”, the debt has been paid. His death on the cross paid the debt for your sin and His resurrection gives you life. Romans 10 says:

9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in
your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the
mouth confession is made unto salvation.
11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put
to shame.”

Salvation depends on the resurrected Christ. When you believe and confess Him as your Savior, you will no longer have to fear the shame of your sins, and no longer have to fear God’s holy judgment for sin. The Bible says that Jesus came into the world and that the world was made through Him. As many as receive Him, to them He gives the right to become the children of God (John 1). It is not automatic, we must acknowledge Him as Lord. The Bible also says that we must count our lives as a loss and receive new life through Him.

Jesus died to take your debt to sin and exchange His righteousness in its place. When we receive Christ, we literally become the righteousness of God so that we are completely justified before Him. It is no longer your ‘falling short’ but the gift of righteousness credited into your life because of your faith and trust in Christ. If you have never received Jesus as your Lord, he offers a new life where the past is buried and you become a new creation.

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” The cry of Jesus on the cross is the love of God. The Bible says that though Jesus existed in the form of God, he humbled himself, took on the form of a bond servant, and became obedient unto death on the cross. The cry of his humanity is a declaration of the love of God to bear our guilt in our place. When Jesus cried, “It is finished,” your debt was paid in full. Hope and salvation is found in Jesus Christ alone and only Jesus proved to be our Savior by His death, burial and resurrection.

Eddie Snipes

The Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ (Part 1)

Psalm 22:
1 My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?
2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.

14 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me.
15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet;
17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me.
18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.

24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.
25 My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him.
26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever!

The most descriptive account of the crucifixion of Christ was written over 1,000 years before Jesus was born. This vivid detail of the anguish of Jesus as He bore our sins leaves little doubt that the crucifixion was a part of God’s plan from the beginning. As a part of this Easter season, let us take a closer look at the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We will look at the resurrection account in light of both scripture and history. What evidence outside the Bible validates the biblical account? Obviously, in a short study like this, we can only hit the highlights of this subject; therefore, let us take a brief look at history and the biblical account that gives reasonable evidence to believe. The purpose of this study is to gain a deeper understanding of the crucifixion and equip saints for sharing faith among a skeptical world. It is frequently argued that there is no evidence outside the Bible to verify the Bible’s claims. Thank God this is far from true; history, archaeology and science are filled with irrefutable proofs that validate the scriptures. In this study we will look at historical accounts that are widely accepted as credible by both biblical scholars and secular historians. Let us take a brief look at the Life, Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.

The Life of Jesus
Some time back, I had a discussion with an atheist who stated that he would not believe Jesus existed unless he saw irrefutable proof. He claimed that the authors of the Bible made up the whole story of Jesus. It is ironic that he needs no proof to believe in the conspiracy of the disciples but he needs irrefutable proof that the conspiracy does not exist. How do we know that Jesus really existed? How do we know that Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, or the founding fathers who signed our declaration of Independence existed? How do we know any historical event is true and not a fairy tale made up to shape history? We know they existed because historical documents, artifacts, the testimonies of eye witnesses and other evidences are examined and accepted as credible by those who have examined the evidence. We either believe the generation that lived through the events or we have to believe there is a massive conspiracy to fabricate historical events. As individuals, very few of the men in our past are mentioned in detail; instead most of their names show up in history as having been at an event but little is known about them as individuals. Where is Jesus mentioned in history? Obviously, the Bible will give the detailed description of Jesus because He is the central figure of the Bible; however, Jesus is accounted for in many other historical documents as well.

First look at the testimony of the Jewish Talmud. The Talmud is a historical document that includes commentaries on the Jewish books of the law, civil and religious records. The Talmud is not supportive of Christianity and is very hostile to Jesus. The Talmud praises the trial, conviction and execution of Jesus. The Talmud also refers to Jesus as a bastard son of Mary. The account of Jesus in this historical document was indisputably written by those who were enemies of Jesus. In a court of law, if your enemy testifies on your behalf, willingly or unwillingly, it is a highly credible testimony. The Talmud testifies on behalf of many of the Bible’s claims about Jesus; it verifies the existence of Jesus, states that Jesus was a teacher, verifies the trial of Jesus as instigated by the religious leaders, the conviction and crucifixion of Jesus. Even more importantly, the Talmud verifies that Jesus performed many healings and miracles. It claims that Jesus performed these miracles through the power of sorcery; however, the key evidence is that even though the enemies of Jesus are hostile witnesses, they do not dispute the miracles but verify them and validate the Biblical account. Jesus’ very enemies validated His works and even though their intentions were malicious, they provide a strong testimony for the scriptures.

Josephus, the great Jewish historian wrote about Jesus. Josephus also claimed that Jesus was a teacher that wrought many surprising feats. Josephus states that by miracles, Jesus won over many Jews and Greeks. Josephus testifies that Jesus was condemned under Pilot, crucified, and then He appeared restored after three days. Josephus states that Jesus’ followers were called Christians after Him.

Roman governor Pliny the Younger produced writings, which also testify on behalf of the Bible. He stated that Christians were sent off to be executed for their “stubbornness and unshakable obstinacy that ought not to go unpunished. …they would not recant and they worshipped and honored Christ as if he were a god”.

There can be no reasonable doubt that Jesus did in fact exist and other historical documents hold testimonies that do not contradict the biblical account. We have testimonies that verify Jesus’ miracles, crucifixion, resurrection and the fact that His followers believed He was God. Two of these three witnesses are hostile to the gospel, yet verify the gospel. There is no shortage of proofs for those who will be open enough to see it.

The Crucifixion
We have already seen that Josephus, Roman historians, and the Talmud validates the crucifixion. Lets look at the picture of the crucifixion. In an essay on a popular atheist website, the writer makes the comment, “On the cross Jesus’ last words were, ‘My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?’ That doesn’t sound much like Jesus’ plan went as he expected”. Of course, this was not Jesus’ last words. After this quote, Jesus then said, “It is finished” and finally, “Father into your hands I commit My spirit”. Even so, as we have seen from the opening passage of this study, not only was the crucifixion foretold a thousand years before this torturous method of execution was invented, but even Jesus’ words and thoughts were foretold as well. It is clear by reading Psalm 22 that God’s plan was completed exactly as expected. The historical account of Matthew 27:46 matches the prophecy of Psalm 22. Matthew 27:

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

To add to the historical significance of the crucifixion, look at the following passages:

Luke 23:44 Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour.
45 Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two.

Matthew 27:50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.
51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

There is also a plethora of historical evidence that validates this event in scripture. Two witnesses to this scripture are Thallus and Phlegon. Although they did not witness the crucifixion, they were both eye witnesses to the events surrounding the crucifixion. Look at their accounts:

Thallus finished his historical account of the world since the Trojan war in 52 A. D. His work was destroyed but quoted by Julius Africanus in AD 221. Julius gives a commentary on Thallus’ AD 33 record of the darkness across the land. “Thallus in the third book of his histories, explains away the darkness as an eclipse of the sun – unreasonably as it seems to me.”

Thallus testified that this event occurred on the exact day of the crucifixion but explained it away as an eclipse of the sun. Why did Julius Africanus state this explanation seems unreasonable? The reason is because the feast of the Passover was ALWAYS celebrated on the new moon during the Jewish month of Nisan. The new moon occurs when the lunar cycle has been completed, and the new cycle begins. At the beginning of the new lunar cycle, the moon is not visible. Each day, more of the moon becomes visible until it reaches a full moon, and then begins to fade each day as it approaches the next new moon. This is an approximate 30 day cycle. On the new moon, the moon has no visibility at all in the sky because it is on the opposite side of the earth, thus making it impossible to have an eclipse. Therefore, to attribute this event as an eclipse is truly an unreasonable assumption. Traditionally people credit this darkening to clouds; however, this is not the case at all. Look at the testimony of a Greek historian named Phlegon.

A Greek author from Caria named Phlegon wrote about the darkness that occurred in the 4th year of the 202nd Olympiad (equivalent to 33 A.D.). “There was the greatest eclipse of the sun. It became as night in the sixth hour of the day (noon) so that the stars even appeared in the heavens. There was a great earthquake in Bithynia and many things were overturned in Nicaea”.

Thallus’ account did not mention an earthquake but Phlegon did, however both reported the same darkness and both believed it to be an eclipse. Thallus was not close enough to feel the earthquake but Phlegon was. The earthquake was regional, but the Bible says that the darkness was over all the land. It is no wonder that they chose an eclipse as the reason since there was no other logical explanation without understanding the scripture’s claim that the sun refused to shine. How this occurred will never be known, but the evidence clearly shows that this event was witnessed throughout the Roman Empire on the date and time stated in the scriptures.

The darkness reported was not consistent with a normal eclipse and was referred to as ‘the greatest eclipse’. Consider how an eclipse occurs. A full eclipse is a rare event and it can only be seen in a specific region. If Atlanta gets a full eclipse, Texas will only get a partial eclipse; therefore, the same applies in this historical event. If two records of the same event occurred thousands of miles apart, an eclipse cannot explain it. Add to this the fact that never is an eclipse so dark that the sky is darkened and all the stars can be clearly seen. Though many have sought natural causes to explain the darkness, they clearly validate the Bible’s account.

Two other pieces of significant evidences are the account of the pierced side and the tomb of the prominent rich councilman, Joseph of Arimathea. After Jesus died on the cross, Joseph went to Pilot and asked for the body so he could bury Him with honor. Pilot sent a soldier to verify that Jesus was already dead. The soldier verified Jesus was dead and pierced His side. The spear clearly went through to the heart and John 19:34 says that blood separated from the water poured out. The only way the blood could separate is if circulation has stopped and the blood begins to clot and separate. It is highly unlikely that John could have known this to be evidence of death and fabricated it. This era had little medical knowledge and those present would not have understood the significance of this statement at the time.

Isaiah 53:9 foretells that Christ would die with the wicked but would be buried in the rich man’s tomb. John’s account is fulfillment of this prophecy. (See Mark 15:43 and Luke 23:50-51) Joseph of Arimathea was a rich, prominent member of the council that condemned Jesus to die. Fabricating the story of Joseph would have been a fatal blow to any ‘conspiracy’. If the disciples were going to make up a story to fulfill this prophecy, as some have claimed, they would not have picked someone out of the council that tried Jesus. If it were a lie, they would be the first to protest and would have the public platform to dispute the claim. There is no reasonable doubt that Jesus was crucified, died and was buried in the councilman’s tomb.

The Resurrection
The resurrection is the most controversial part of the biblical account of Jesus. If Jesus was not bodily resurrected, He was not God, He was not a Savior and Christianity is a lie. Symbolic resurrection is not compatible with the Christian faith. The resurrection is the evidence that Jesus proclaimed to be a sign that He was who He claimed to be. The resurrection is the proof that Jesus conquered death. It is also what gives Jesus the authority to claim that He is the resurrection and that we all will be partakers of the resurrection if we are found in Christ. This alone separates Christianity from mere religion.

The apostle Paul states that if the resurrection is not a fact, then we are false witnesses before God. He sums it up this way, “if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” 1 Corinthians 15:17. If Jesus could not rise from the dead, He is not our savior and our faith is a lie. However, if Jesus were God in the flesh as He claimed to be, then taking up His body would be a small thing. Lets finish this study by examining the proof of the resurrection.

To clarify the resurrection, let us first look at the arguments against it. There are many alternative views used by critics to claim that the disciples conspired to make Jesus look like more than a man. Out of all the dozens of alternate stories, only two are even remotely worth examining. Most conspiracy stories are so weak that no one who uses reason would consider them valid. Even the two more common views are so weak that only those desperate for another answer would even give them credibility. Most skeptics try to argue Jesus out of history in order to avoid the debate all together. History does not support them, but that doesn’t seem to be a deterrent to those determined to disbelieve. Let us examine the two most popular conspiracy stories about Jesus.

The Swoon Theory. This alternative explanation has been repackaged with many variations. The most popular variant was ‘The Passover Plot’ published in 1965. The basic argument is that Jesus and His disciples conspired to fulfill messianic prophecies by faking Jesus’ death on the cross. They managed to manipulate the Jewish leaders into trying and convicting Jesus, the people into demanding the crucifixion and the Roman government into executing Him. The legal manipulation would have been a miracle in itself. Before being nailed to the cross, Jesus was supposedly given a drug that appeared to make him look dead and trick the soldiers into removing Him from the cross while he was still alive. The cool damp air of the tomb revived Him and He appeared alive to His followers. By just using simple logic, this argument fails miserably. The first obvious flaw that jumps out is the question ‘how did they know Joseph would offer his tomb?’ If you can believe that Joseph and Pilot were a part of this conspiracy, there are plenty of other flaws to fight through. Jesus was beaten so badly that He was too weak to carry His own cross and a bystander was commissioned to carry it for Him. He had nails driven through His wrists and feet. The blood loss is hard to escape. The blood poured out His feet, hands, back from the beating, and finally a mortal wound was inflicted between His ribs when the spear pierced His heart.

If someone has faith enough to get past the impossible odds of survival, there are a few more problems to deal with. How does a man who has had spikes driven through his limbs get up and walk and appear as a victorious leader to the people? Somehow Jesus revived, untangled himself from the burial cloths wrapped around his body, pushed a massive stone away from the entrance of the tomb, passed through a squadron of soldiers guarding the site, and ran away without anyone noticing. Not only did he escape, but he also walked seven miles from Jerusalem to Emmaus with two travelers who did not notice he was wounded.

How is it that most people can’t walk with minor pain in their feet, but Jesus was able to walk with holes in His? He had full use of His hands because he took over the evening meal and broke bread. We could come up with dozens of functions that would cause Him excruciating pain if this was a faked resurrection. If by some miracle Jesus and the disciples pulled this off, He would have looked so weak and anemic that no one would have been amazed. It seems a little hard to believe the disciples were able to get the multitudes fired up by seeing a half-dead Jesus

Eddie Snipes
04/2010

Seeing Christ in the Covenants

(An excerpt from Simple Faith)

As you may know, the Bible is divided into the Old and New Testaments. The Old Testament is divided into 39 books, and the New Testament contains 27 books. Generally speaking, the books of the Bible are divided by author or time period. For example, the Apostle Paul wrote two letters to the Corinthian church. Each of those letters stands alone as a book of the Bible.

While the books are divided by author or time period, there is an undergirding foundation to each of the Testaments. The first covenant is the underpinning of the Old Testament. Just before Jesus was crucified, He proclaimed that he was bringing in a new covenant.

The word ‘covenant’ simply means: an agreement made between two people. It is like a binding contract.

On the surface, these terms may sound like theological jargon, but there is an exciting truth unveiled through these covenants that point directly to how God relates to you and I as individuals. I want to show you how the Old Covenant unveils the love of God for mankind that wasn’t fully realized until the New Covenant was confirmed through Christ.

 

God’s Covenant with Abraham

When the Bible teaches the Christian what it means to have faith, Abraham is the example. Yes, the Old Testament patriarch is the model for New Testament faith. Abraham was before the law. This is significant because the Bible makes it clear that the covenant with Abraham came by faith through the promise, and not by the works of keeping the Old Testament law. We’ll look at this shortly, but let’s first take a look at the covenant of faith given to Abraham.

Genesis chapter fifteen is an amazing passage. The chapter begins by God declaring, “I am your exceedingly great reward.” The New Testament points back to God’s relationship with Abraham as an example of how God relates to us as believers. We think of rewards as things, but the true reward is God. If we have intimacy with God, we have everything. If we lack that relationship with God, we have nothing of lasting significance.

The Bible calls Abraham the friend of God[1]. Jesus declared to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants…I call you friends.[2]” In both the Old and New Testaments, the joy of faith is friendship with God. It’s the goal behind redemption.

The faith of Abraham and the relationship he had with God is the same as God offers to the Christian today. God spoke to Abraham and revealed the promise of his inheritance. Then the Bible says that Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him for righteousness[3]. This is how the Christian believes today. God reveals the promise of our new life through Christ, and by faith we believe God and we are credited with the righteousness of Christ[4].

Hopefully you will begin to see the harmony of the Old Testament and the New Testament. What God did in ancient times was a foreshadowing of what God was about to do through Christ. All the Old Testament points to the coming Christ, and all the New Testament points back to our redemption through Christ.

The same is true for the covenant of Abraham. After Abraham’s justification by faith, God introduced the covenant. If you aren’t familiar with the word ‘justification’, it simply means to be justified – or to be declared as just. Those who were once under the accusation of sin are declared just through Christ, and no longer are accounted as sinners. This is a topic we’ll go into later. For now, be aware that Abraham was justified by faith when he believed God, prior to any covenant.

After being declared righteous, God offered the covenant – or a binding agreement with Abraham. The Lord pointed to the land surrounding Abraham and declared, “I will give you this land for an inheritance, and to your descendants.”

At this time, the land had inhabitants who already possessed it. Knowing this, Abraham asked a natural question – how? God not only reveals the how, but takes it a step further. God explains that the current inhabitants will be deposed once they become morally bankrupt[5], but then God seals the promise with a covenant.

In the ancient times, when two parties entered into a binding agreement, they would take an animal – usually a ram or a cow, slay it, and lay half the animal on the side where one party sat, and half where the other party sat. They would then swear an oath to each other, and both parties would walk between the pieces. The meaning of the ritual was that each person agreed that what was done to this animal would be done to them if they broke their part of the agreement. In other words, the covenant could not be broken without a death penalty. Keep this in your mental cache. It will be significant when we see how God brings in the New Covenant.

Something interesting happens as God prepares to make the covenant for Abraham. He asks Abraham to prepare the sacrifice,[6] but does not allow Abraham to participate in the confirmation. Look now at Genesis 15:9-12, 17-18a

 9 So [God] said to him, “Bring Me a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old female goat, a three-year-old ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon.”
 10 Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two, down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two.
 11 And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away.
 12 Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him.

 17 And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces.
18 On the same day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying: “To your descendants I have given this land…

 

At this point, Abraham’s name has not yet been changed, so he is still being called Abram. For the sake of clarity, I will continue to refer to him as Abraham.

Notice that God had Abraham prepare the sacrifice, but did not allow him to walk between the pieces. This is significant. The covenant was with Abraham and his descendants after him. If Abraham had been the confirming party, and either he or his descendants failed to uphold their part of the agreement, the covenant would be broken and judgment would fall. Sin has consequences. Israel (the nation that inherited the promise) sinned and turned their back on God repeatedly. According to the rules of the covenant, the violating party would be slain for breaking the covenant.

To protect Abraham and his descendants, God made the covenant with Himself, but Abraham was the beneficiary. This event was used as an example showing the certainty of God’s promises to us in Hebrews 6:13-18

 13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself,
 14 saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.”
 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise.
 16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute.
 17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath,
 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before
us.

 

In other words, to give God’s people confidence in the certainty of God’s promise, He swore the oath against His life; not against the life of any fallible man. Once again, we see the Old Testament revealing the truth of our promise. To make the promise sure, God swore the oath by Himself. Therefore, even in judgment when Israel abandoned God, the people had the promise of returning to the land and obtaining the promise by simply repenting and reconciling with the Lord.

When the people failed, the covenant remained, for God was the guarantee of the covenant. The oath was between God and Himself, not God and Abraham. However, through that covenant, God blessed Abraham and his descendants with the benefit of the promise. Abraham entered into the covenant as a receiver and not as one making the guarantee.

The law that came through Moses is not how God’s people obtained the promise. The promise has always been by faith, and even when the people fell short on keeping the law, the promise wasn’t nullified. Look at Galatians 3:17

And this I say, that the law, which was four hundred and thirty years later, cannot annul the covenant that was confirmed before by God in Christ, that it should make the promise of no effect.

 

Who was the covenant made through? God in Christ. God swore the oath to Abraham through Christ, and the covenant wasn’t dependent upon the law. When the people fell short, they could not nullify the promise of the covenant. Man cannot break a covenant made between God and Himself. Both the Father and the Son were present at the confirmation of Abraham’s covenant, and are symbolized through the smoking oven of judgment and the light of the gospel torch.

The law cannot nullify the promise. The success of the law was dependent upon man, so it failed. But the promise cannot be annulled by the failure of man, because it was confirmed by God in Christ. So even in the Old Testament, we see Christ being the covenant maker, though He was not fully revealed until His human birth.

The Bible says that the weakness of the law was man[7], and that the purpose of the law was to restrain man[8], show man his inability to justify himself, and therefore turn to Christ[9], to teach man about Christ[10], and to foreshadow Christ[11]. These are all roles of the law. One thing strangely absent is justification. The role of the law was not to justify man. Justification by faith was presented as God’s plan more than four-hundred years before the law was given.

Since man is the weakness of the law, it also stands true that any promises that are dependent upon man are at risk of failure. Any covenants dependent upon man are destined for judgment. Therefore, God swore a covenant by Himself with Abraham and his descendants as beneficiaries of the promise. God’s New Testament plan is no different.

 

The New Covenant

The New Testament and all of Christianity is founded upon the new covenant. A bit of study reveals the new covenant clearly foretold and foreordained in the rituals and practices of the Old Testament – a testament founded upon God’s first covenant. In fact, covenant and testament are interchangeable in their meaning, but for the sake of clarity I’ll use testament to refer to the division between the Old Testament times and the New Testament times.

The problem with bringing in a new covenant is that something must be done about the old covenant. The Bible says that it is to be done away with in order to unveil the full plan of God. The old covenant foreshadowed what God was going to do through the new covenant, but the new can’t be ushered in until the previous one passes away.

Remember when I said to keep the meaning of the covenant ritual in your mental cache? This is where it becomes significant. God swore by Himself as a guarantee for the covenant with Abraham. In order to break the old covenant, it must be done to Him as was done to the sacrifice. The person breaking a blood oath must be slain. And yes, this was part of God’s plan from the beginning.

God did not arrive at the New Testament era and say, “Oops.” The Lord foretold of how He would break the old covenant. The Bible says that the old covenant was confirmed by God in Christ[12]; therefore, since Christ is the guarantee of the old covenant, He must lay down His life to break it. And this is exactly what Jesus foretells of Himself in the Old Testament. Look at Zechariah 11:10-14

 10 And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples.
 11 So it was broken on that day. Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD.
 12 Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver.
 13 And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter” — that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter.
 14 Then I cut in two my other staff, Bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

 

So much is said in this passage. Let’s begin at the end. In the Old Testament times, in order to enter God’s covenant with Abraham, one had to be a Jew. Either they had to have been born a Jew, or they had to convert to Judaism. This is why there was so much confusion in the book of Acts in the New Testament. Jesus was a Jew, and so were his disciples. When God poured out His Spirit upon all people, treating the Jews and the Gentiles alike, Jewish believers had a hard time accepting this.

The word ‘Gentile’ simply means anyone who is not a Jew. For thousands of years, God centered His covenant upon Israel. Now that covenant was broken, and the Jewish Christians had a hard time understanding the significance of this.

This is why Zechariah’s prophecy is so important. The Old Covenant was based on the physical descendants of Abraham, but the New Covenant brings everyone into the covenant through a new spiritual birth in Christ. In order to open up the world to the promises of God, the Old Covenant that promised it to the physical bloodline of Abraham had to be broken.

Jesus alluded to this when he said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.[13]

The Jewish nation looked upon themselves as the sheep of God. God cared for them, nurtured them, and protected them as the fold of His sheep. Now Jesus is saying that another fold will be brought in, and they will be united as one people along with the Jews. This is the gentiles. This is part of the New Covenant. Look at Matthew 26:27-28

 27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
 28 “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.

 

Even Jesus’ disciples didn’t understand this until God revealed his plan to the New Testament church. The cross is where the Old Covenant was broken, and the New Covenant was born. Jesus took the staff of His protection over the flock of Israel, broke it in two, allowed Himself to be nailed to it in the form of a cross, and redeemed all people through the New Covenant.

Think back to the first covenant. Who prepared the sacrifice, and who confirmed the covenant? Man prepared the sacrifice. Abraham prepared it, but God confirmed it by swearing by Himself while making Abraham and his descendants the beneficiaries of the promise. The covenant was between God and God, symbolized in the burning furnace of judgment and the torch of light.

In the same way, man prepared the sacrifice of Jesus, but the covenant was between God and Himself, with us as the beneficiaries of the promise. In the first covenant, only Abraham, the father of the Jews was called upon to prepare the sacrifice. In the New Covenant, God called upon the Romans (gentiles) and the Jews to jointly prepare the sacrifice.

The Jews prepared the sacrifice through the trial that provided false testimony and then condemned Jesus with an illegal court. The gentiles prepared the sacrifice through the Romans who knowingly condemned an innocent man under Governor Pilot, and then executed Jesus on the cross.

Man prepared the sacrifice, but the covenant was between God as the Heavenly Father and Jesus the Son. Isaiah 53 says that it pleased the LORD (the Father) to bruise Him (the Son), and make His soul an offering for our sin.

So we can see that the covenant was between God the judge of sin (burning oven) and the Son who is the light of the world (the flaming torch), with us as the beneficiary to the promise. The promise is our redemption from judgment against sin, and becoming joint heirs, who are now welcomed into the fold of God.

How can we not rejoice in the amazing work of God? And how can we not stand in awe of the foreknowledge of God? He revealed these things from the beginning. The Old Testament saints could not understand these things because Christ had not yet been revealed. We, on the other hand, can see clearly through the lens of the cross and see how God has been working out his plan for thousands of years.


An excerpt from Simple Faith, How every person can experience intimacy with God by Eddie Snipes



[1] James 2:23

[2] John 15:15

[3] Genesis 15:6

[4] 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

[5] Genesis 15:16

[6] Genesis 15:9-10

[7] Romans 8:3

[8] Galatians 3:23

[9] Romans 3:19-20

[10] Galatians 3:24-25

[11] Hebrews 9:19-28

[12] Galatians 3:17

[13] John 10:16

Simple Faith – Part 3

Building upon faith

Let’s take a moment to dispel another misconception of faith. Mark Twain made the following quote famous, “Faith is believing something you know isn’t true.”

Any Christian would refute this statement; however, many live as though this is their mission in life. They try to make themselves believe, and when doubts creep in, they try to overcome doubt by attempting to muster up more faith. It’s purely a human effort – and it’s destined to fail. Best case scenario, human faith is unfruitful. Worse case, people give up on believing. They give up because faith has failed them and they get tired of pretending. Manmade faith is often nothing more than self-deception.

Many years ago, my wife began a relationship with a woman who seemed very religious. As with most Christians, my wife had unanswered questions that nagged at her. She confided some of her struggles with her friend and was summarily rejected. The woman she believed to be her friend sent a scathing letter to her saying, “You have a disease called doubt. As with other diseases, doubt can be spread. I can’t be friends with you or maintain contact with you because I don’t want to catch your disease of doubt and corrupt my faith.”

The absurdity of this lady’s reaction left me stunned. While the Bible tells us to bear up those who are weak in faith, the human-based faith can only survive in a vacuum, and therefore cannot bear up anyone, for it is dependent upon mankind.

The great irony is that many people are shields to their faith rather than being shielded by faith. The Bible says that faith is the shield that protects the Christian from attack; therefore, if our faith needs to be protected rather than being our protection, it is not a true biblical faith.

The woman who feared doubt did not have true faith. Like so many others, her faith only survives as long as she can protect her beliefs from being questioned. She stands as the shield to her faith and through human will, protects the fragile belief system she has placed her hopes upon. Read the testimonies of Christians-turned-atheist. In almost every case, the testimony is the same. “I got tired of pretending.”

Perhaps we aren’t supposed to pretend. A Christian should not be afraid of truth – for all truth ultimately points to God. When you look at the arguments against the Bible they are often a woven tale that avoids anything that affirms the Bible and only accepts the things that are in agreement with the presupposed position, or can be twisted to fit the argument.

Another irony is that manmade faith has the same substance, whether someone claims to be an atheist or a Christian. Atheists stand as guards to their faith in humanistic thinking, weeding out and attacking anything that challenges their fragile belief system. They react with the same volatile emotions when something questions their foundation of sand. There is little difference between the counterfeit faith of religion and the counterfeit faith of atheism. And they both create similar reactions from the possessor when challenged with ideas that rattle their foundation of sand.

Many arguments are fashioned this way, and an entire book could be written with examples. Rather than picking out an example from the plethora of arguments against the Bible, let’s use the Bible itself as an example. My grandfather often used this as a tease, but it serves as a good example in our discussion. In this case, I can only accept the KJV’s wording, and through it, I can prove that women are dangerous drivers. Look at these passages from Acts:

Acts 27:15
 we let her drive
Acts 27:17
 and so were driven.
Acts 27:20
all hope that we should be saved was then taken away.

 

There you have it. The Bible disapproves of women drivers, right? I used the text exactly as written, without alteration, and I am able to prove my point by scripture. In reality, the only thing I have done is exclude information. What’s missing fills in the key to an accurate understanding. By hiding information that doesn’t say what I want to be said, I can give the false impression that I’ve proven something that is actually false.

If we look at Acts 27 in context, we discover that ‘her’ is a ship that the Apostle Paul and Luke were aboard. It was caught in a violent storm, and they struck the sails and allowed the ship to be driven wherever the storm would take them. In despair, the men felt that all hope was lost.

Excluding key pieces of information can make this text to appear to say something it does not say. The same is true for science, history, archaeology, and any other source of information. A critic can present a persuasive argument by excluding what he or she doesn’t want you to know, and presenting what can appear to say what they want you to believe. How do we defend against this? Simply by finding out the whole truth. What is missing is often what dispels doubt. This is why the Bible commands that we study to show ourselves approved.

Sometimes the information we need is not available. Yet if you know what you believe and why you believe it, the missing evidence won’t rattle you. It’s amazing that we can have a mountain of evidence, but if we have one criticism we can’t answer, we’ll doubt the mountain and trust the objection.

Rather than covering our eyes and pretending questions don’t exist, we need to look at the question and explore the objection in light of what we know is true. Only then can we have confidence. The person who runs from the disease of doubt can never have confidence in the truth. Sometimes the questions aren’t answered easily, but honestly seeking for answers will give the Christian confidence. And honestly looking at the mountain of truth will give assurance when the molehill of doubt arises.

In discussions with people who claim to be ex-Christians, I see a pattern. They began by refusing to look at questions honestly and standing as guards to protect their faith. A college environment or another source of influence put them in a position where they couldn’t escape criticism. By sheer human will, they fought doubt until it finally overcame them. In frustration, they declared that their faith was a childish fantasy and they gave up the whole thing.

Now they stand and guard to protect their new faith in humanism against the attacks of Christianity. They use the exact same methods; they have just changed sides. They still will not look at the whole truth with honesty. So now they continue to guard half-truths and protect their new faith, only it’s easier to stand in the atheist camp since there are more allies and it masquerades as intellectualism.

The truth of the matter is that you don’t need to protect God – or your faith. Faith is not forcing yourself to believe something. Faith is being assured of truth so that it becomes your firm foundation. If you can’t stand with confidence, you are lacking a foundation and your faith is manmade.

Let’s now look at what Jesus said about faith. Look at Luke 17:5-6

 5 And the apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith.”
 6 So the Lord said, “If you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be pulled up by the roots and be planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.

 

Rarely will you hear this passage looked at in light of what Jesus was communicating to the disciples. Just like the rest of us, the disciples who learned under Jesus struggled with doubt. Daily they witnessed the model of perfection – Jesus Christ. In the light of His life, they recognized something was deficient in their own lives. Throughout His life, Jesus professed absolute trust in the plan of our Heavenly Father. It was a plan that would lead Him to the cross. Yet He never wavered. In the same sense, Jesus constantly challenged the disciples to follow His perfect plan.

Jesus and his disciples knew the religious leaders of the day were seeking to destroy them and several times it looked like they might succeed. Once, they were nearly stoned, and to His disciple’s dismay, Jesus went right back to the city where their lives would again be in peril. Jesus said that He couldn’t die until His time was fulfilled. How could this man so firmly believe in God’s plan that He could walk right into peril without batting an eye? The disciples wanted this confidence, so they said, “Lord, increase our faith.”

Did Jesus give them a list of ‘faith principles’ or ‘laws of faith’? No. He made it clear that they already had all the faith they needed. Jesus often used a mustard seed as an illustration. He often called it the least of all seeds. Jesus wasn’t saying, no seed is smaller than a mustard seed. It was a word picture that every person in that culture could understand. Mustard was a spice that everyone used and it was likely the smallest ingredient people could identify with. One time Jesus held up the tiny seed and declared it to be a symbol of how the Kingdom of Heaven grows from the smallest source.

In regards to faith, Jesus is again holding up a seed that looked so insignificant. “If your faith is this big, it can move mountains.” Jesus used both mountains and trees to illustrate the power of our faith. Both are objects that appear immovable, yet none can stand before faith in the heart of the one doing God’s will. So the answer to faith is, “You don’t need more.”

Jesus again uses this as a teaching opportunity when the disciples experienced failure. In Matthew 7, Jesus gave his disciples power to cast out demons and heal the sick. He sent them out to preach his coming, and they returned in victory, excited that even the demons had no power against His name. However, victory was turned into confusion when their faith was challenged.

After returning from a mountain, Jesus saw a commotion around His disciples. When He approached, the people informed Him that His disciples could not cast out a demon from a man bent on destroying himself. This was after the disciples had experienced great victory and rejoiced that demons were subject to them in Christ’s name. After Jesus cast out the resistant spirit and healed the man, the disciples came to Him to find out why they couldn’t do it. Look at Jesus’ answer in Matthew 17:19-21

 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?”
 20 So Jesus said to them, “Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
 21 “However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

 

The plain meaning is easy to overlook. The reason they failed was because of unbelief. Yet, Jesus made it clear that they indeed had the power, for all they needed was a mustard seed of faith – and then nothing was impossible. Nothing also means this event in which they failed. So we can see that Jesus empowered them to do this very thing. The disciples succeeded in Matthew 7, but here in Matthew 17 they failed. Unbelief caused the failure, and the solution is found in prayer and fasting.

Prayer and fasting does not increase their faith. Jesus made it clear that they already had enough faith. Instead, it was a call to weaken the flesh and build them up in the Spirit. Fasting brings the flesh under subjection while prayer puts their focus on the Spirit.

Unbelief is of the flesh, but faith is of the Spirit. The disciples were so focused on their unbelief that they could not walk by faith. All of their efforts combined could not muster up faith – and indeed it did not need to. They were already given the gift of faith. The problem was that they were walking in the flesh. The flesh verses the Spirit is a topic for another chapter, but keep in mind that Jesus never increased their faith. He always reminded them that they had what they needed. Unbelief may hinder their faith, but the solution wasn’t to gain more faith, but to deal with what was causing their flesh to dominate their lives and empower unbelief.

Romans 12:3 tells us that God deals every person the measure of faith. Faith isn’t something we build, nor is it something we obtain or increase. Faith is a gift from God. Anytime spiritual matters become man centered or man dependent, we have stepped outside of true faith. The Bible never tells us to build our faith; it tells us to build our lives upon our faith. Look at Jude 1:20-21

 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,
 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

 

This passage doesn’t tell us to build faith. The Bible says that we have a most holy faith that we should build ourselves upon. It’s most holy because it comes from the Most Holy God. We keep ourselves in the love of God by keeping his word. This is another avenue we’ll explore later. Let’s also consider Romans 10:17

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

Why does faith come by hearing the word? It goes back to our examination of Hebrews 11. Faith is a sure foundation. The word is our foundation and as we hear the truth of God, we learn how to build our lives upon it. We hear, believe, and build ourselves upon the most holy faith that is revealed in the word. The word is by the Spirit (see John 6:63) just as faith is of the Spirit. You can know the word and still not have faith, but you can’t have faith without the word. The power to believe (or live by faith) has already been given to us by the Holy Spirit. What’s lacking is our understanding of God’s word and how to live in the Spirit where faith is discovered.

Rather than faith being something we force ourselves to believe, faith is believing God. It is God revealing His word to us in a way that creates such certainty that we build our lives upon that unshakeable foundation. Faith is believing God so that we are accounted as righteous. By faith, we move our foundation from human nature, and build it upon the assurance of God and His promises. A false faith says, “I believe,” but then remains on a dead foundation built on the weakness of the flesh. Then all spiritual matters are dependent upon man and have no part in the eternal power of God. When faith depends on mankind, it is a weak foundation and will not stand when we need the rock of a firm assurance.

We have a better foundation. When we believe God’s word and build ourselves upon that most holy faith, the disease of doubt has no power over us and we need not to convince ourselves to believe anything we aren’t sure to be true. We will have the firm assurance of truth and that assurance is the shield and strength of the Christian life.

 

Eddie Snipes
Excerpt from Simple Faith: How every person can experience intimacy with God.

Simple Faith – Part 2

What is Faith?

Faith isn’t a mystical force. As we have seen, faith is believing God and that belief causes us to act in obedience. Faith isn’t a substance as some claim by misunderstanding how the Greek is translated. Let’s take a moment and look at a passage that is often misunderstood, but is very important in understanding faith. Look at Hebrews 11:

 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

 

The King James and the New King James Versions use the word ‘substance’ in this passage. I’m going to use a little Greek here, but don’t let it turn you off. Knowing how words are translated can bring life to passages of the Bible. In Hebrews 11, the Greek word is ‘hupostasis’, which means: to put under, substructure, foundation, steadfastness of mind, confidence, firm trust, assurance, something of substance, or a real being.

While all these words can be used in translation, it should be self-evident that the context in which a word is used must be consistent with how we define the meaning of the word itself. When translating, don’t think of these as multiple choices where we just pick one which suits our fancy. Rather we need to understand that the translation is based on a definition. The Greek word is an idea, and the translator must choose an English equivalent which best conveys that idea into words, and do so while being consistent with what was being communicated in the original Greek.

Even if you don’t know Greek, you can get an understanding of what the word means by looking at all its possible English translations. Taken together, we can understand what is meant by substance by looking at the overall definition of hupostasis. Substance in this instance does not mean that faith has physical properties, but that it has ‘real substance’ in what it assures us of.

When someone makes empty promises, we say that their words have no substance. In other words, there is little assurance someone will fulfill their word if their promises were empty in the past. The opposite also is true. If someone is reliable and keeps their promises, we say their word has substance. This also applies to how hupostasis is translated in the above passage.

The Greek word ‘hupostasis’ is used four other times in the New Testament. Three times it means to boast or have strong confidence, and one refers to the real being of the person of Christ. The English word ‘substance’ is used two other times in the New Testament. Both are in Luke and both are Greek words that mean possessions or wealth. These examples are physical items, but is not the word ‘hupostasis’ as used in Hebrews 11:1.

Clearly this passage in Hebrews is referring to faith as being our firm assurance of things hoped for. As was the case in Jacob’s life, by faith, we also can have the confidence to hope for what we cannot see, knowing God will stand true to his word even if circumstances seem to indicate otherwise. Only by a firm assurance in God’s word can we have hope in the midst of trials and testing.

 

Eddie Snipes
Excerpt from Simple Faith: How every person can experience intimacy with God.

Simple Faith – Part 1

 

The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthian church and expressed his fear that they might be drifting away from the simplicity of their faith in Christ. The same threat faces you, your church, and every Christian on a daily basis. If we allow human philosophy to muddy the waters of truth, nothing will be clear.

I once had a discussion with someone about faith. In our talk, it was stated that faith was too complicated to understand. Books on theology and Christian philosophy clouded the issue and made things seem too hard to grasp by anyone other than learned scholars. Once again, I pointed back to the simplicity of the gospel. The Bible says, “Abraham believed God, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness.”

Faith = believing God.

Could it be any simpler than this? What was the evidence that Abraham believed God? When God commanded, Abraham believed the promise and then obeyed the command. I can’t say, “I believe God,” and then act in disobedience. If I truly believe, my life will show it. Disobedience is rooted in unbelief, but obedience is born from faith. Let’s look at an example.

Look back in history to the time of Jacob and Esau in the Old Testament. Esau was the firstborn son. In that culture, the firstborn received a double portion of the family inheritance and received the family blessing. What’s more, these were descendants of Abraham; therefore, the one who held the birthright was rightfully the carrier of the promise that would ultimately be fulfilled in Christ. As we read through the New Testament, we see that God’s promise to Abraham that all nations would be blessed through his descendants was the promise of our redeemer – Jesus Christ.

Esau despised his birthright and willingly forfeited his right to the promise by trading it to Jacob for a pot of stew. He considered satisfying the cravings of his flesh as more valuable than the promise of God. For this reason, he sold his birthright to Jacob for food. When he rejected the promise given through his birthright as the firstborn son, God rejected Esau from the future blessing that carried the promises of God.

In the course of time, Jacob’s mother came up with a plan to obtain the blessing for her son. Jacob and Esau’s father was the son of Abraham, and God established him as a prophet. His blessing was the promise of God. Isaac planned to bless his firstborn, Esau. Knowing the end of his life was near, Isaac called Esau and sent him into the field to hunt for venison. He loved the venison stew Esau made, so the plan was to have a nice meal and then bless his son.

When Jacob’s mother heard the command, she prepared the stew for Isaac while Esau was gone, and sent Jacob into the room to be blessed. Isaac was nearly blind, so he was deceived into believing he was blessing Esau. When Esau returned, he discovered what Jacob had done, and made plans to murder Jacob. To avoid being killed by his brother, Jacob fled the country to live with a relative.

All this background has little direct application to faith, but it sets the stage for one of the best examples of faith in the Bible. God shaped Jacob’s life for twenty years, and then sent him back home knowing he would have to face his brother. Just before Jacob encountered his brother, God changed his name from Jacob to Israel.

As is often the case in the Old Testament, God embeds the gospel into the events of scripture. Jacob had once looked for blessings in the efforts of his own hands. He took what he wanted and hoped he could get enough. He supplanted – or chased after things, trying to take what he wanted. Life was fleeting away, and Jacob struggled to fulfill a desire that could not be fulfilled outside of God.

Previously, Jacob’s goal had been to get what he wanted and life was nothing more than grappling for things he hoped would make him happy. Then the time came when God redeemed him out of his old life, and gave him the promise. No longer was he called Jacob – which means ‘the supplanter’, but now he was called Israel – which means ‘God prevails’. No longer was he dependent upon his own efforts to find fulfillment, but now he would trust in God, who would prevail and cause him to inherit all that had been promised through is forefather, Abraham.

This is a picture of prevailing through the Christian life. Before coming to Christ, we grapple for satisfaction, and the only fulfillment we find is in what we take by the heel and claim for our own. As satisfaction eludes us, we keep wrestling against God and man, looking for the things we think will make us happy. History proves that the one who possesses the most is rarely happy or satisfied, yet because it’s the only way we know, we pursue life just as the rest of the world does. Then the Lord calls us out of that lifestyle, gives us His name, and we become inheritors of the promise.

Now, we too live by the promise that God prevails. Many Christians don’t understand this and still grapple for the world, but the truth is, the promise is ours and all we must do is trust in our God who prevails, and go where He leads.

When the nation of Israel turned from the promise and lived like supplanters, God always referred to them as ‘the house of Jacob’. Yet when blessing them or revealing the promise, God called the nation, ‘the house of Israel.’ We, like Israel, either walk in the failing world system and live like those pursuing something that can’t be obtained in the flesh, or we live like conquerors and walk in the promise of ‘God prevails.’ To walk in the promise, we have to step out of human effort and into faith.

This is the trial Jacob / Israel faced. God visited Jacob while he lived with his uncle and commanded him to go back to his homeland – the very place where his brother waited to take vengeance upon him. God said for him to return, and the Lord would be with him, bless him, and make him a great nation. It’s the call of faith. Go, and God will bless. Step out in faith, and trust in the promise.

Jacob arose, gathered his family and possessions together, and headed toward home. Not knowing how his brother would respond, Jacob sent a messenger ahead of him to greet his brother. The messenger returned and said, “Your brother gathered together four-hundred men and is coming this way toward you.”

That wasn’t a good thing to hear. Shouldn’t God have given him a sign of peace? No one arms four-hundred men and rushes to meet someone just to say, ‘hello’. Clearly, war was in Esau’s heart. Jacob had no army, no defense, and no plan of escape. The normal human reaction would be to turn around and run. No one would blame him if he did. This was the moment of truth.

The command of God was, “Go back to your home,” which was the Promised Land God gave to Abraham. The promise was, “I will be with you to bless and prosper you.” Circumstances seemed to testify against God’s promise, but Jacob chose to believe God over his human instinct.

Let me stop for a moment and point out an important truth. Fear and doubt aren’t necessarily a lack of faith. It’s often said that faith and fear can’t coexist, but this is not true. People are made to feel guilty because they feel fear when in danger or facing a circumstance that seems impossible. The truth is that faith is of the Spirit, and fear is of the flesh. The Bible tells us that the flesh and the Spirit of God are at war against each other. We’ll explore this in greater detail later on, but keep this truth in mind. Jacob didn’t pretend his fear did not exist. Nor did he try to muster up a false faith. He acknowledged his fear before God and prayed for the Lord to guide him.

Jacob divided his family into two groups so one could escape if the other was attacked, and then stopped and took in the dire situation that surrounded him. He had obeyed God, and instead of protection, he was now helpless as an army rushed toward him. He then approached God with a request, and a declaration of obedience. Look at Genesis 32:9-12

 9 Then Jacob said, “O God of my father Abraham and God of my father Isaac, the LORD who said to me, ‘Return to your country and to your family, and I will deal well with you’:
 10 “I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies and of all the truth which You have shown Your servant; for I crossed over this Jordan with my staff, and now I have become two companies.
 11 “Deliver me, I pray, from the hand of my brother, from the hand of Esau; for I fear him, lest he come and attack me and the mother with the children.
 12 “For You said, ‘I will surely treat you well, and make your descendants as the sand of the sea, which cannot be numbered for multitude.’ “

 

What a wonderful example of prayer founded upon faith! The two companies were his wives and children. They were divided so they could not be attacked together.

Notice, he didn’t deny his fears, he confessed them. He didn’t bargain with God, he testified that he was acting in obedience. He didn’t say, “I obeyed; therefore, you owe me.” No, Jacob acknowledged that he was not worthy of any of God’s mercies. And then he claimed the promise that God gave him. God wants us to trust in His promises. And live by them.

Jacob did not put himself into this position, God did. It was to test Jacob’s faith so he would choose to either trust in God, or turn back to the perceived safety of the old life outside of God’s will.

It’s equally important that we understand the difference between acting in faith, and tempting God. The Bible forbids us to tempt God – or put God to the test. To put God to the test is to take it upon ourselves to put our lives or safety in a position where God must intervene to save us. God has the right to put Himself to the test so we must choose to trust His word or our fears, but we have no right to manipulate God by our will.

When the word commands us to obey and we must face persecution or suffering in order to obey, that is an act of faith. When we decide to place ourselves into harm’s way, that’s an act of the flesh. I can’t jump in front of a bus and pray, God save me. I can’t overspend and then give the last of my money to charity and say that God has to miraculously pay my bills. I’ve even seen people provoke persecution and then wonder why God allowed them to suffer. There is reward in obedience, but not in foolishness masquerading as faith.

In Jacob’s case, he crossed the river separating himself from his brother. He was afraid and was in fear for his life, but his prayer was, “You commanded me to do it. I’m afraid. I know I’m unworthy of your deliverance, but I stand upon your promises.”

Then a crazy idea struck Jacob. He made several bands of goats and sheep, then sent them in droves toward his brother. Messengers were sent with each band to tell Esau that these were a present from his servant Jacob.

In my mind’s eye, I picture Esau scoffing at the idea. “Does he think a worthless flock of sheep is going to stop my revenge?” Then he encountered another. And another. And another. At some point, Esau probably shook his head at the absurdity, and eventually it struck him as funny. By the time he reached Esau, his anger had been pushed aside and he could do nothing but greet his brother and ask about the droves of sheep he kept passing.

The method God uses isn’t relevant. What is relevant is God’s faithfulness. He commands our obedience, and then puts us into a position to either believe his promises, or believe our fears. Sometimes Esau comes into our lives as a sinful desire for what opposes God, or as a fear that calls us to flee from God. Neither are sin unless we choose them over believing God. Faith isn’t the absence of fear and doubt – faith overcomes fear and doubt. Faith is how we overcome. Look at 1 John 5:

 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith.

 

Faith can’t be overcome; but it can be neglected. Even in fear, we have the power to believe God. We also have the power to disbelieve God and put our trust in fear.

There will be times when God will put you to the test, for it proves whether you are trusting in Him, or yourself, circumstances, or feelings.

Faith is not complicated, but it is something our lives must be built upon. There are many misconceptions of faith, so in the following section, we’ll dig deeper into what the Bible teaches about faith and how it applies to our individual lives.

Eddie Snipes
Excerpt from Simple Faith: How every person can experience intimacy with God.

We are the Righteousness of God

A few years back, I sat in a congregation and listened to a preacher delivering a message on forgiveness. He shook his fist in dramatic fashion and proclaimed, “We are forgiven of our sins: past, present, and future. That means that you will never be held accountable for anything you do, for sin has no affect on the Christian’s life.”

I have heard and read many messages that make similar claims, but this simply is not true. A popular writer made the statement that if we teach grace the way we should, it will sound like a license to sin. This is true if we teach only forgiveness, but grace is more than the promise that my sins are forgiven. Grace also holds the promise that this forgiveness transforms my life. I am a new creation who has been freed from the bondage of sin in my flesh. We must teach the whole message of grace – not just that we have been rescued from sin. Look at Romans 5:20 – 6:4

 20 Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more,
 21 so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Romans 6:1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?
 3 Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?
 4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

So we can see the message of deliverance from sin, not merely forgiveness of sin. There must be a walk in the newness of life. The apostles recognized the danger of overlooking the entire message. God’s grace is such an amazing gift, that where sin abounds in abundance, grace abounds more. The message is not to wallow in the mire. The message is, regardless of how defiled a man or woman has become, God’s grace is more than sufficient to reach to the bottom of any pit. No one can say, “God could never forgive the things I have done.” Grace indeed forgives, and that is half the promise. Not only will God forgive, but the past is buried with Christ, and the sinner is raised as a new creation – forgiven, redeemed, and set free. Not free to dive back into the mire, but free to live by an eternal standard that is impossible before we have God’s spirit of grace.

The message is not that we will never be held accountable; therefore, we can sin at will. This fallacious way of thinking makes it appear that sin is a gift from God. The message is that we have died to our old life. Since we have been crucified with Christ, his sacrifice satisfied the penalty of sin; therefore, we are free from judgment, and empowered to live in his presence as we reach toward perfection. Grace is not only, “I’m forgiven”, but grace is also, “I can walk in newness of life.” We can’t separate one from the other.

Scripture does not say that the Christian is not accountable, and it is not true to claim that the world will be held accountable for their sins, but the Christian no longer has a standard to live by. In the remainder of this study, we’ll first look at the scriptures that show our accountability, and then we’ll look at the victorious path God has provided for the Christian. When all things conclude, the Christian stands by the promises in Revelation that begin with, “To him that overcomes, I will give…” There are not only promises, but consequences. We also know the words of Jesus, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

The Yoke of the Lord
Jesus’ promise of an easy yoke is a great place to begin looking at our Christian walk toward holiness. Matthew 11:28-30

 28 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
 29 “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
 30 “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

This is a wonderful passage, but must be understood. It’s a paradox. A yoke is a wooden beam designed to go around the neck and bind a pair of oxen together. It is intended to keep both oxen side by side so they can work in unison. The great paradox is that Jesus begins by calling those who are straining under the heavy burden of labor, and find rest by taking on his yoke – which binds us together with Christ as we labor for the kingdom. How can we find rest by uniting with Christ in a yoke which calls us to labor with him?

Unlike the labors we take upon ourselves, the work of Christ is not dependent upon man or the strength of mankind. It’s intended to be a paradox because it shows to situations that would normally seem contradictory, but are not because of something unique God is doing. God does not allow man to build his kingdom, but God also does not allow people to sit idly and take his kingdom for granted. Remember the words of Jesus, “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18). Jesus never said, “You will build my church.” I already have a study on labor and works, so I won’t spend much time on this topic here, but keep in mind that our burden is light because he bears the burden. He also bears us up when we grow weary. He is our strength, not we his strength.

The same principle applies when we strive to overcome. How does one overcome? When habits and cravings of the flesh rise up and try to draw us away from fellowship with the Lord, how do we overcome? If my efforts to change my life before Christ failed to make a lasting change, how can I expect my human efforts to change my life after knowing Christ? The words of Paul ring true in our daily lives, “Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”

The truth is that God’s strength is made perfect in my weakness, and I am completely dependent upon the Lord to give me strength. This is why Ephesians 6 tells us to be strong in the Lord and the power of his might. It is not our strength or power, it is the Lord’s strength and the Lord’s power. The Bible says that God is able to make us stand.

It is when we press against the yoke or slip out of it that we become weary and discouraged. When I try to carry the burden, I may appear to succeed for a while, but frustration is in my future. I’ll be frustrated from my own fatigue because I haven’t rested in the Lord, and because I am not being led, I can’t maintain the straight rows God is laying through the joint work with Christ. When God is not leading where I think I should go, I’m tempted to slip out of the yoke and go my own way. This might be a desire to reach for temptation, or a misguided belief that I must do something God has not ordained.

It isn’t my labor; it is the labor of Christ. It is not my righteousness; it is the righteousness of Christ. It isn’t my works; it is the workmanship of Christ, prepared beforehand that I should walk in it. I can only walk as I am led, otherwise I am not on the path God has called me to follow.

So the burden of living the Christian life does not fall upon my shoulders, it falls on Christ. This is why the Bible constantly stresses the necessity of abiding in Christ and having his word abide in us. Without abiding, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Doing nothing means we can do nothing of eternal significance. So even if I accomplish something that looks grand in my eyes, it means nothing, for Jesus made it clear that the flesh cannot produce anything of spiritual value (John 6:63).

Is the Christian accountable?
There are so many scriptures that address this question, it is difficult to know what to begin with and what to leave out. There is a reason why the Bible calls us to fear the Lord. The fear of the Lord is not to be afraid of God, but it is also not merely a reverence for him as many often teach. The fear of the Lord is to understand he is the creator of all things, and has the right to determine our acceptable standard of behavior. Like a loving father who tries to guide his children into good character, our heavenly father does the same for us. He corrects, rebukes, and chastises. While it is true that God’s desire is to comfort and bless, he will not neglect discipline when his children do not respond to his rebuke. Nor will he bless in a way that distracts us from the path he calls us to follow.

God is more concerned with your eternal character than your temporal comfort. Through Jesus, God has shown us the image we are called to conform to. This is the character God will bless and reward; therefore, he will indeed chastise the wayward soul in an effort to prevent us from walking down the road leading to destruction, and toward the narrow road leading to life.

There is a day of accountability. And yes, it applies to the Christian. In Revelation 20:11-15, there is a Great White Throne judgment where the entire world will stand accountable. According to the Bible, the Book of Life will be searched, and any soul not found there will be judged according to their works. These works cannot merit salvation, for after the works are examined, judgment is declared because their name was not written in the book of life. In fact, when the disciples asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” he said, “With men it is impossible. But with God all things are possible.”

According to Christ, it is impossible for any man to save himself without God’s intervention. And that is exactly what was done on the cross. That’s why Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the Father but by me.”

For those who have entered through Jesus Christ, their judgment is not found in Revelation 20. We know that the believer has already been judged prior to this judgment, because the Christians have already received their reward. At the beginning of Revelation, the faithful are casting their crowns at his feet. The Bible also says that when Jesus returns, his reward is with him. Another clear distinction is that the Bible teaches there are two resurrections. One when Jesus fulfills his promise that the righteous will inherit the earth, and the other after the millennial reign. To understand this, look at Revelation 20:4-6

  4 And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was committed to them. Then I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded for their witness to Jesus and for the word of God, who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and had not received his mark on their foreheads or on their hands. And they lived and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.
 5 But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection.
 6 Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. Over such the second death has no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with Him a thousand years.

Blessed and holy is he who has part in the first resurrection. This is the Christian. We do not fear the final judgment for we will have already been judged and rewarded as priests and kings who will reign with Christ. After this, the second resurrection is for those who will stand to be judged for their sins and dead works. A dead work is anything accomplished through the flesh – or human effort.

I say all of this to make sure we understand that there is more than one judgment. Though the Christian will not fear the second judgment, we must fear the Lord now, knowing we will all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:10-11

 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.
 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; but we are well known to God, and I also trust are well known in your consciences.

Why would there be terror for which the apostles felt the need to persuade men? We’ll take a look at this answer shortly, but stop for a moment and consider this passage. It is written to the Christian. This was a letter to the Corinthian church and is an instruction to those who believe in Jesus. The instruction is not to warn the lost of judgment, but to warn the Christian of judgment. How can men stand up and shout, “We will never be held accountable for our sins,” when this passage specifically warns that you and I will be called into account for every thing done in our body – good and bad?

Jesus gives us a glimpse into this day of reckoning when he teaches his disciples in Luke 12. First, he gives the desired result – blessings and honor. Jesus promises that he will return during the time when the church is not expecting. Therefore, it is warned that few will be ready, but we should always be on watch. We watch by doing his will and living as a disciple – someone who learns and practices what God teaches in the word. Those who are found watching have some interesting promises. Jesus said that he will make them to sit down, and Jesus himself will serve them. We, who should be serving our Savior, will have him serve us. He then promises that he will make those disciples ruler over all he has.

That is the good news – the promise which God desires to give us. But the bad news is that few will be found watching. Jesus then gives a warning in Luke 12:47-48

  47 “And that servant who knew his master’s will, and did not prepare himself or do according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
 48 “But he who did not know, yet committed things deserving of stripes, shall be beaten with few. For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.

According to the words of Jesus, are their consequences for sin in the life of the Christian? Jesus warns that believers caught unaware of his return will inherit the same reward as hypocrites, and they will be weeping and gnashing their teeth (Matthew 24:51). The picture is someone lamenting over what they have lost. It is to mourn with such heartache, they grind their teeth.

Along with those who are found unworthy, are those who teach disciples to wink at sin. Look at Matthew 5:19

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus didn’t say these teachers would be sent to hell; he said they would be called least in the kingdom. They are those who sacrificed everything eternal for a false gospel that invested everything in this life alone. Those who will one day weep over their loss will do so because they ignored warnings, such as passages like Hebrews 12:15-16

  15 looking carefully lest anyone fall short of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by this many become defiled;
 16 lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau, who for one morsel of food sold his birthright.

Hopefully you see that God does not want any of his children to miss out on the promise. Esau is given as an analogy for the Christian. As the firstborn son, Esau should have been the heir of what was passed down from Abraham. There was wealth, but the honor of carrying the blessings of God was the greater reward. He should have led the family, which would one day lead to Jesus, our Messiah. He should have been the one God blessed that no one could curse. He should have been the prophet that Jacob became, and should have been led by God’s loving hand. But he forfeited it all to feed his flesh. He couldn’t wait for his needs to be met, so he gave up everything for a meal. He despised his birthright. In the end, he wept on his knees begging to be blessed, but the time of repentance was gone and the consequences were upon him.

You also have a birthright. It isn’t something you must earn, for it is by promise, not merit. According to scripture, we are joint heirs with Christ when we are born again by the Holy Spirit. It is a gift no one can earn, but it is something we can willingly give away. Colossians 2:8 says:

 8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.

It is already yours in Christ – but you can be cheated out of it. This is reiterated in Revelation 3:11

  “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.

The reward is to those who remain in Christ. The reward is not to those who earn salvation, nor to those who try to earn rewards. The reward is part of your birthright, and will remain yours unless you despise it as did Esau. To despise our birthright is to trade it willingly for a moment of pleasure. It is to exchange the promise to gratify the flesh. It is claiming our reward in this life because we don’t have faith in the promise to come. Many false teachers claim to be of God, but mix worldly philosophies into their doctrine and lead others into the deception that has captured their hearts. These are those the scriptures warn are false teachers deceiving and have been deceived. This is what causes men to proclaim that we can live as we please without being concerned with consequences.

When someone buys into the doctrines of the flesh, they will not only seek to justify themselves, but they will persuade others in the hope of being comforted in their rebellion. It is for you to discern the truth by knowing the scriptures. To follow these philosophies and empty deceits, rooted in the principles of the world, is to allow yourself to be cheated. Allowing ourselves to be persuaded to follow the flesh is how someone takes our crown. They have given it away, and there is a desire to persuade you to forfeit as well. Surrounding the principles of the world with religious terms doesn’t change the fact it is of the flesh. The Lord has given you the promise, hold fast to what you have already been given.

Living in the promise
As I stated earlier, we cannot merit anything of the Spirit. You may have heard people say, “I’m going to make my light shine,” but this is a misconception. We don’t have the light; we are the light. We can’t shine the light; we can only let it shine, or hide it. Look at Matthew 5:14-16

 14 “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden.
 15 “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.
 16 “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

If you have the Spirit of God within you, you are the light of the world. Jesus didn’t command you to shine, he commanded you to let it shine and not hide it under a basket. Why does your light and good works glorify God? It is because your light and work is a gift of God. Good works don’t point to your efforts, they point to your heavenly Father who placed his light in your heart and completed his good works through you. Your works are the evidence of God’s hand. Any works that point to our own goodness is a false work with no eternal benefit or significance. A good example of this can be seen in Jesus’ interaction with the rich young ruler. Look at Matthew 19:16-22

  16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
 17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
 18 He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, ” ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’
 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “
 20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
 21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

The first thing we should note is that this rich man was looking solely at the flesh as the source of goodness. He began his question to Jesus by calling him Good Master, or as the NKJV translates it, Teacher. In that culture, teachers were considered masters of knowledge. Many rabbis had disciples and they called them master as both a sign of respect, and an acknowledgement of their special knowledge. This is why Jesus warned his disciples to not allow anyone to call them teacher / master. He isn’t warning that we can’t be identified as teachers, but that we do not put ourselves in the position to be looked upon as being above the people. Though we have different callings and gifts, we are not permitted to be on a higher level than other believers. Jesus said not to let anyone call you master, father, or rabbi (or spiritual guide), for only Christ has that exaltation, and “you are all brethren.” (Matthew 23).

This is what Jesus is rebuking when he rebuffed the ruler for calling him good master. The rich man was looking at Jesus as an earthly rabbi, and placing undo honor on humanity. When Jesus pointed to himself as the Messiah of Israel, he calls himself good (John 10:11-14), but when this man pointed to his role as a master / teacher, Jesus refused to allow people to think of this role with undo honor. It wasn’t his role as a teacher that made him good, it was his role as the Son of God, Emmanuel, God with us. Many rabbis were in Israel, but none had the right to be called good.

Serious problems arise when we try to apply good to any works of human effort. The rich man wanted to know what good work he could do to merit eternal life. Jesus set him up to see the futility of the question by pointing to the law, which is impossible for man to fulfill in the flesh. The man proclaimed that he has kept these things through his whole life. To show the fallacy of this claim, Jesus included the command to love your neighbor as yourself. Then Jesus called him to sell everything and give it to the poor. If the man truly loved his neighbor as himself, sacrificing his possessions for the poor would not have been a barrier to obedience.

Even selling his possessions would not give eternal life. The command was to sell all and follow Jesus. It was to cast off his efforts to make himself good, remove his love for things, and become a new creation in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 13 makes it clear that even if I give all my goods to the poor, and sacrifice my body as an offering, if I don’t have love (agape), it profits me nothing. Agape is the love poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. The intent should be clear. If it isn’t the work of God, flowing through us, it is meaningless.

The truth is, we will always place ourselves first if we are standing upon our own works. Place a morsel of food in front of two starving men, and see who puts their neighbor first. It is the power of Christ that enables us to walk by faith, keep the commandments, and experience what it means to live on the rock of Christ. Jesus taught, “You are the salt of the world.” We do not become salt through something we do, we are salt because of Christ. Jesus also warned that the salt can lose its savor and become good for nothing. The salt can lose its impact, the light can be hidden, and the Christian can lose sight of their faith. Instead of being the salt and light of the world, they can become like the world and ineffective in their calling.

Striving to live a life of holiness is not our efforts to become more spiritual, or to gain more faith; our effort is to keep the things of the world out of our life. We remove the things that hide our light and avoid the things that remove the savor of Christ by replacing the gift of God with worthless treasures. Look at James 1:27

 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.

Also, add to this Jude 1:20-21

 20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,
 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.

Notice what is being taught. We keep ourselves unspotted from the world. We build our lives upon the most holy faith God has given us. We don’t build faith, we build ourselves upon the holy faith given to us. We don’t make ourselves love God, we keep ourselves in the love of God. These are gifts of grace. God has given us a new life, and the ability to walk in the Spirit. The works of the Christian are not to do something for God, but to walk in God’s works and hold on to the spiritual mercies given to us.

We often approach Christianity from the wrong perspective. Most people think they have to muster up faith, make themselves holy, force themselves to love God, and purify their own souls. The truth is, these things are the work of Christ. Jesus said, “It’s the Spirit that gives life, the flesh profits nothing,” and “with man, [salvation] is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” We come to Christ, trusting in his completed work, and then keep ourselves in the love of God. James 1:4 tells us that we are tempted when we are drawn by our own desires and enticed. Temptation is the desire to leave the things of the Spirit, and pursue the things of the flesh. That can be blatant sins, or the lure of human achievement where we try to produce the work of God through human effort.

Let’s look at how sin applies to the Christian life. It is not temptation overcoming us, but the Christian being lured away from Christ and into sin. The Christian walking in the spirit cannot sin. This does not mean the Christian cannot sin, it means there must be a change in our minds. We must step away from our walk with the Lord in order to commit sin. Let’s examine some scriptures to understand this. Look now at Galatians 5:16-18

 16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.
 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

This passage goes along with Romans 8:5-6

  5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.
 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

The scriptures are showing a difference in focus. Those who walk in the spirit set their minds on the things above – on eternal things. We must intentionally set our minds on the word of God, and consciously keep ourselves from being drawn by the flesh. The Christian who keeps their minds on the word, and lives according to the truth they have been given will walk in the Spirit, and the drawing of the flesh has no power over their lives. But when we love the world and live only from the perspective of here and now, our minds will be on the flesh and seeking gratification of our desires. We must take care not to be those Jesus said hear the word, and are choked by the cares of the world, never becoming fruitful as Christians. It is a fact that we cannot live in both worlds.

Though I must live in the world, my focus must not be to live for the world. My job is a gift from God, as is my abilities to perform it. My trust is not in my job, or the money I make. I provide for my family, but I should not serve money. Am I living for pleasure, or to glorify God? Am I so determined to fill my life with possessions that I can’t afford to serve God? Jesus made it clear that no one can serve God and wealth, and we must choose which to serve. The sad reality is that most are choosing to serve a passing world at the expense of our faith. This is exacerbated by those who teach that blessings are equal to wealth and that godliness is a means of gain. Neither of which are true.

The desire for things is only part of the human condition that turns our heart from the Lord. The works of the flesh are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, and revelries. Every person struggles with these things to varying degrees, but we are able to overcome through the word. It is a battle between the new creation we have become when we were born as a new person, and the flesh which still desires the life we have abandoned. Look at Romans 7:22-23

 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find.
 19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.
 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me.
 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good.
 22 For I delight in the law of God according to the inward man.
 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members.

Even a spiritually minded man or woman will find themselves being drawn toward the flesh. The battle is fought in the mind. To overcome, we must realize the difference between the flesh and the new man, the new person we have become in Christ. According to the above scripture, the new man is not the origin of sin, but the origin of godly living. It is for us to turn from flesh and not to obey its lust. This agrees with 1 John 3:9

  Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.

The new man cannot sin, for it is born of God, yet, daily we wrestle with sin. The seed of God, the Holy Spirit, remains in us and calls us to live according to the inner man. This is why we are commanded to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect. Even so, we know we will sin and the same book that tells us we cannot sin also says that when we sin, we have an advocate through Christ and repentance. Look at 1 John 2:1-6

1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.
 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.
 3 Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.
 4 He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
 5 But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.
 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.

John is giving us another paradox. We are battling among two worlds. The flesh and the spirit cannot agree and are at war with one another. In the end, the flesh will be destroyed along with everything invested in the flesh. That includes not only sin, but even positive deeds accomplished by human effort. When we sin, we have stepped into the flesh and turned from the commandments of God. At the end of 1 John 1, we are given the promise that if we confess our sins and forsake them, we will have mercy. Repentance is turning from the flesh and to the Spirit. We are confessing our ways, and again putting our trust in Christ to deliver us from our flesh and cleanse us from our sin. Then, we walk again in the new life, according to the new man, and sin has no power in our lives. Temptation will arise again, but it can have no power unless we agree with the flesh and willfully choose to step into the flesh again.

The Christian has the power to live in perfection, and at times we will experience that perfection. However, the perfection is not in you, but in Christ. Any who walk in the light will experience a life of victory. As we draw closer to Christ, his light reveals areas in our life that are still rooted in the flesh. As we surrender these areas to him, dead works are purged and more of Christ is revealed in our life. It is a process that continues as we strive toward our final perfection.

We know this process will never be fully completed until our final redemption when our flesh will be transformed at the day of resurrection. Until then, our life must be focused on keeping his commandments so we can obtain the promise, and run without hindrance. At times, we will fail. The Apostle Paul said, “The things I do not want to do, I do, and the things I know I should do, this I don’t do.” We too, will have times when our flesh gets the best of us. Instead of throwing our hands up, we repent, he sets us back on the right way, and we strive again toward perfection. Our goal as believers is to remove anything which comes between us and our Lord. Hebrews 12:1-2 explains:

1 Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us,
 2 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 has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

We run with endurance by keeping Jesus Christ in the center of our life while we cast out anything that hinders us. When we stumble in the flesh, we turn from our sin, confess, forsake, and draw toward Jesus so we can walk in the light. As we do so, we are laying hold of the promise, “To him that overcomes, I will give…” Overcoming the flesh and the world removes the things which prevent us from inheriting the promises of God. It isn’t easy because it goes against human nature. The Lord knows it isn’t easy, and this is why the greatest promises in scripture are to those who overcome. The only path to overcoming is following the word, and this requires keeping Jesus at the center of our life and focus. A compartmentalized life can’t live the faith as God has called us to do.

Conclusion
In closing, let me reiterate the principle of righteousness in the Christian’s life. Your righteousness means nothing to God, nor does mine. The Bible tells us that all of our righteous acts are filthy rags in God’s sight, or as Jesus said, the flesh profits nothing. You can’t produce spiritual fruit through human efforts. Every time righteousness is revealed in scripture, it is God’s righteousness given to us. We are not called to become righteous, we are made righteous through faith in Christ. This doesn’t only apply to becoming a Christian; the principles of living the Christian life don’t change after we obtain salvation. My life cannot produce righteousness. I can only walk in God’s righteousness. As Galatians states when rebuking the church, “Are you so foolish to think having begun in the Spirit, you are now made perfect by the flesh?”

The truth is that you and I can never produce the righteousness of God. When we are born as a new creation, we are given the righteousness of Christ. We don’t strive to become more righteous, for we already have the righteousness of God. This is explained in 2 Corinthians 5:21

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

How can you add to the righteousness of God? Why would we think that something was needed in order to make ourselves more righteous than the completed work of Christ? The truth is that we can’t. It is a completed work, and anything added to the work of Christ is a corruption. Jesus and the righteousness he has given is fully complete. This is explained in Romans 10:3-4

 3 For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.
 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.

Christ is the end of the law of righteousness. What comes after the end? Nothing. It is the end because the work has been completed. Anything added to perfection becomes corruption. This goes back to Jesus’ teaching about us being the light of the world. We are not told to make the light brighter. We aren’t told to stoke the flames and make the light shine. Our only command is to let it shine. Let it shine, not make it shine. Remove the basket that is blocking the light shining in our hearts. We do this by removing the flesh. It is the gospel message of the Old Testament where Gideon was commanded to take a torch hidden in a clay pot, walk down the path God sent him, and shout with victory as he and his men shattered the clay pots to reveal the light. Then God defeated the enemy and completed the work before the eyes of Gideon. It wasn’t his effort, it was God’s work.

Our work is not to create righteousness, do good works, or build our faith. Our command is to remove the things that hinder the work of God in our lives. It is to break the flesh, submit ourselves to the Lord, and allow his righteousness to work unhindered in our lives. You can do nothing to make yourselves more righteous. You have the gift of righteousness in your heart IF you are born again by the Spirit by faith in Christ. Our calling is simple to understand, but hard to live by. We are called to walk by faith as explained in Romans 1:17

For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

Notice that God’s righteousness is revealed in us by faith. Our calling is to live by faith and walk in faith. Do a search on righteousness in the New Testament. In fact, do a search for ‘our righteousness in the Old Testament. You will discover some interesting phrases’. Below are a few:

The Lord Our Righteousness
The righteousness of God is revealed
God demonstrated his righteousness to the one who has faith in Christ
His righteousness is accounted to Abraham by faith
God imputes righteousness apart from works
That righteousness my be imputed to us also by faith
We receive the abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness through Jesus Christ
Awake to righteousness and do not sin
We might become the righteousness of God
His righteousness endures for ever
Put on the breastplate of righteousness

The message is clear. If your righteousness is not the righteousness of Christ, you are falling under the same condemnation as those warned of in Romans 10:3, “For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God.”

The religious leaders who sought to make themselves righteous, never pleased God, never escaped from condemnation, and never found freedom in Christ. Our call is to walk in obedience by faith. Faith is putting your trust in the completed work of Christ. It is also believing the promises of God. Faith equals trust and drives us to action. That action is not our own efforts for God, but our obedience to God. It calls us to walk in the path God created for us before the foundation of the world, and removing anything in our lives that hinders us from walking in that path and being the light of the world.

Eddie Snipes
02/2011