The first-century inhabitants of the island of Crete were notorious for untruthfulness and immorality <Titus 1:12-13>. Paul’s objective in his letter to Titus is “for the faith of God’s elect and the knowledge of the truth that leads to godliness”<Titus 1:1-2 (NIV)>; he states that knowledge of the Truth will lead to godliness. What is the knowledge of “the truth”? First of all, what is truth? This was the question that Pilate asked of Jesus, when Jesus stated “for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth.”<Jn.18:37-38(NIV)>; what is the “Truth” that Jesus was referring to? It is recorded that “The Word” (Christ Jesus) came as a “light” to testify concerning the “truth”; Christ took on the form of mankind <see Phil.2:5-8> and as a person came into this world to reveal God His Father who is grace and truth <seeJn. 1:1-14>.
It is widespread in our culture in the present day for our politicians, leaders and journalists to make statements that are questionable, and oftentimes prove to be misleading or completely false; one national leader speaks of “false news”; and many people express with dismay “who, or what can we believe”. The Scriptures teach that such statements are the result of the “darkness” of sin, and Satan the great deceiver causes all mankind to believe his lies that he has been communicating to us from the beginning of time <seeGen.1:13; Isa.44:18; 2 Cor.11:13-15; 2 Thess.2:11-12>, and since mankind has refused to listen to God He allows us to believe the lies of Satan. Christ Jesus came into this world to reveal the “truth” to mankind, to free us from the “darkness” of sin, and those who desire the “truth” must turn to Christ in faith, believing in Him and accepting His offer of salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life, and this will lead us to godliness, for godliness is the character of all believers in Christ.
Paul also speaks of “a faith and knowledge resting on the hope of eternal life”<Titus 1:1-2 (NIV)> and that this eternal life was promised by God “who does not lie”<Heb.6:17-18> from the beginning of time, and at His appointed time “he brought his word to light”<Titus 1:3; cf. Gen.3:15; Gal.4:4; Jn.1:1, 14> and later entrusted the preaching of the gospel to Paul. Paul is referring to the fact that Christ came into this world and revealed the truth of God’s word which is far removed from the lies of Satan, and that the gospel message is the truth of God. When anyone accepts the gospel message that person, through faith in Christ, now rests in God’s righteousness in the hope of eternal life <see Rom.3:22-26; 5:1-2; Col.1:27>.
Paul addresses Titus as “my true son in our common faith” <Titus 1:4 (NIV)>, an indication that Titus was converted to Christianity through the preaching of Paul, similar to Timothy <1 Tim.1:2> and Onesimus <Phm. 10>, and all individuals because of faith in Christ share in this “common faith”, or the mutual faith of all true believers in Christ.
The question to all of us is: Do you want the truth of the Scriptures or are you satisfied to accept the lies of Satan? The Cretans were quite satisfied to do so since “Even one of their own prophets has said, “Cretans are always liars, ….”” <Titus 1:12 (NIV)>, because the habit of continuous lying is the character of Satan, and Titus was instructed by Paul that such characteristics were not to be allowed in the community of believers that constituted the Church in Crete. What is your choice, the lies of Satan or the truth of the gospel? There is not one individual that does not wish to spend eternity in heaven, but there is only one way to be sure of eternal life with God; Christ said: “You must be born again” – born of the Spirit of God <Jn.3:3, 5>; and to all who have been born again of God’s Spirit is the promise of eternal life <Rev. 21:1, 6-8>.
“How much better to get wisdom than gold, to choose understanding rather than silver!” <Prov.16:16 (NIV)>. If you apply yourself to seeking wisdom and understanding, you will understand the fear of the Lord and find God’s knowledge <Prov.2:1-5>; happy are those who find wisdom and gain understanding <Prov.3:13‑15>; the fruit of wisdom is justice wealth and prosperity. <Prov.8:18-21>. Can it be said that the rich person is more skillful than the poor person: or is the poor person more skillful than the panhandler? Many would agree that the thief is more skillful than the first three. In today’s lifestyle, which of the four really enjoys living? Again, most people would agree that many rich people enjoy life to its fullest.
THE STORY OF THE EIGHT RICH MEN: In 1923, a very important meeting was held at the Edgewater Beach Hotel in Chicago. Attending this meeting were eight of the world’s most successful financiers. Those present were: The president of the largest independent steel company; the president of the largest utility company; the president of the largest gas company; the president of the New York Stock Exchange; a member of the President’s cabinet; the greatest “bear” in Wall Street; the Head of the world’s greatest monopoly and the President of the Bank for International Settlements. Certainly, we must admit that here were gathered a group of the world’s most successful men. At least, men who had found the secret of “making money”. Twenty-five years later (1948) let us see where these men are. The president of the largest independent steel company ‑ Charles Schwab ‑ lived on borrowed money for five years before his death, and died bankrupt. The president of the greatest utility company ‑ Samuel Insull ‑ died a fugitive from justice and penniless in a foreign land. The president of the largest gas company ‑ Howard Hopson ‑ is now dead. The president of the New York Stock Exchange ‑ Richard Whitney ‑ was recently released from Sing Sing Penitentiary. The member of the President’s cabinet ‑ Albert Fall, was pardoned from prison so he could die at home. The greatest “bear” in Wall Street ‑ Jesse Livermore‑ died a suicide. The Head of the greatest monopoly ‑ Ivan Kreuger ‑ died a suicide. The president of the Bank for International Settlements ‑ Leon Fraser ‑ died a suicide. All of these men learned well the art of making money, but not one of them had learned how to live. (Louis R. Lurie, in the Journal of Living. p573 Knight’s Book of Illustrations). There are those people, whose only aim in life is to accumulate as much money as they can, by any means that they can. Some of these people are called “thieves”.
THIEVES: “Immoral procurement” destroys those who obtain it <Prov.1:19>; “dishonest money” soon disappears <Prov.13:11>. There are three ways not to obtain wealth: “get‑rich quick” schemes; false information / advertising; outright robbery; are all “the way of the wicked”. <Prov.21:5‑7>. Dishonesty is robbery <Prov.11:1; Lev.19:35‑36> and all standards must be based on honest references <see also Deut.25:16>.
Unnecessary financial pressure on the poor by forcing them to pay dearly for their existence is the way of the world often duplicated in the Christian community, in that the poor and less fortunate members are at the mercy of the more prosperous members; and the less fortunate members are powerless as they strive to make ends meet; “What you are doing is not right. Shouldn’t you walk in the fear of our God to avoid the reproach of our Gentile enemies?” <Neh.5:9 (NIV)>; this is not a good testimony for any Christian community or church! The Lord prospers us in varying degrees as He sees fit, all that we are and have is given to us by Him; therefore, let us use our resources for His glory.
Slothfulness ‑ “the lazy”; “the slothful man” (another form of robbery); one of the most common forms of robbery that faces our society today, and there are those in our community that must understand that work is not a curse. God encouraged work <Gen.2:15>, and it was a regular habit of Jesus <Mark 6:3> and Paul <Acts 18:1‑3>. We work so as to earn an honest living. The “slothful”; however, loves to sleep <Prov.26:14> although sleep is necessary too much is destructive! <Eccl.5:12>. On the job a lazy person is more of a nuisance than a help! He/she daydreams but does not work hard enough to fulfill the dreams <Prov.21:25>; has a “know‑it‑all” attitude and lives in fantasy telling everyone else how/what to do even though the lazy person has never succeeded in much <Prov.21:25‑26>. The lazy person is good at making excuses <Prov.20:4>; and is destined to live in poverty and hunger, and become a drain on our society including our churches (unless cared for by others) <Prov.10:4; 2 Thess.3:6‑15>. Lazy people lose their freedom to others <Prov.12:24>, waste God‑given resources <Prov.18:9> and opportunities <Prov.10:5>. Laziness, therefore, is nothing but theft, because laziness robs the employer of resources or income; or laziness leads to stealing so that the lazy person can survive.
THE POOR AND NEEDY: When the Jews entered the land of Canaan, each family of the 12 tribes was given a portion of the land as an inheritance, and Moses instructed them (through the Law) that the land was never to be sold, it was to be handed down to each succeeding generation within the same family. Consequently, each family would have some form of income by cultivation of the land, or livestock farming, thus making poverty non‑existent. God in His wisdom also gave specific instruction in the Law to control the amassing of huge properties which would allow the owners of such large properties to control the economy. The Law made provision for the Sabbath day ‑ a day of rest in seven days; there was also the Sabbatical Year during which the land, animals and workers were given a year of rest; and there was the Year of Jubilee (50th year) during which time the land was uncultivated and the property was returned to its original owner, if for some reason it had been forfeited <see Lev.25>. As a result of the failure of the people to obey these laws, God had to send His people into captivity to give the land its rest <see 2 Chron.36:20‑21>, and poverty became a way of life for some. In later years, our Lord Jesus said to His disciples in this context ‑ “the poor you will always have among you” <Matt.26:11>.
SOME CAUSES OF POVERTY: outright refusal to work <Prov.10:4>; love of pleasure <Prov.21:17>; undisciplined lives <Prov.13:18>; such are unable to maintain employment. “At the entrance of one of the great manufacturing plants in America is a sign that reads, “If you are like a wheelbarrow‑‑going no further than you are pushed‑‑you need not apply for work here!” A sign in another workplace reads: “If you do not believe in the resurrection of the dead, you should be here at quitting‑time.” Undisciplined lives lead to loss of employment and ultimate poverty! And further causes of poverty can be attributed to unwise financial dealings; mortgaging the house to finance those “get-rich-quick” schemes. Assuming debts larger than one’s ability to repay <Prov.22:7> which is very common in today’s society! Current news item: “Canadians continue to declare personal bankruptcy in record numbers”. People and events over which one has no control, allows injustice to sweep away one’s resources; wicked rulers and business people crush the less fortunate, seizing what little they possess, (high/excessive taxes, interest) <Prov.13:23; 18:23>. Oppression of the poor is condemned by God who respects both rich and poor showing no preference; therefore, believers should not show any preference in dealing with the rich or poor members of the community <Prov.14:31; 22:2>.
WAYS OF HELPING THE POOR AND NEEDY: do not “despise” or “put down” the poor <Prov.14:21>: do not exploit or rob the poor <Prov.22:22‑23>. Believers should strive for justice for the poor <Prov.29:7>; should judge fairly and defend the rights of the poor <Prov.31:9>. The Church Family has an obligation to help their own needy persons first <1 Tim.5:4, 8> and if we ignore the cries of the poor, God will ignore our prayers <Prov.21:13>.
What do the Scriptures say about the Rich? Is excessive wealth encouraged or discouraged? Wealth is neither encouraged nor discouraged, but the scriptures do comment on the way one handles riches and the manner in which one gains wealth. In dealing with this the Book of Proverbs speaks of “diligence” and “skillfulness” as distinguishing characteristics.
THE DILIGENT: Diligent – constant and earnest in effort and application; attentive and persistent in doing something. Skillful – ability or competence in an occupation, having had long experience, thus having acquired a high degree of proficiency; not being an amateur. Diligence leads to skillfulness, skillfulness eventually leads to wealth; that is, a skillful worker is able to earn more honestly. Diligent people are characterized by: DISCIPLINE; discipline of the inner person, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” <Prov.4:23 (NIV)>. Cultivation of the inner person through prayer and meditation on the Word of God, and submission to the will of God, produces the joy of a diligent and disciplined life. The discipline of diligent work produces the ability and character that others can trust; creating the opportunity for additional responsibility: examples ‑ Joseph in Egypt and David the shepherd. Wisdom is the principle behind diligence <Prov.4:7‑8>, and there is no substitute for hard work <Prov.10:4>. We must discipline ourselves for hard work so as to become more skillful. Diligent people plan their work and work their plan “The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty…. Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.”< Prov.4:23; 16:3 (NIV)>. A successful job is not accomplished by accident, it requires planned disciplined work; the result may be surprising but hard work must be put into it, and God blesses honest hard work <Prov.13:11>. Honesty should be exhibited both in actions as well as words. DEBT‑CONSCIOUS: diligent people are careful not to incur debts they are unable to handle, “The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is servant to the lender.” <Prov.22:7 (NIV)>. In today’s world we can easily get into debt over our heads, especially those who are less fortunate. Demands far exceed our income when we consider the bare necessities of life ‑ rent, food and clothing. Therefore, it is imperative for us to be wise in respect to borrowing. Diligent budgeting is a MUST; we must confer with our spouses and carefully list our combined incomes and expenditures before using those easy‑to‑come‑by Credit Cards, or spending the Cash from our wallets and purses. Do not fall into the trap of WANTING more of material things, go for the NEEDS first. Above all discover the financial level God wants you to be living at and be CONTENT with it.
“Two things I ask of you, O LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, `Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.”<Prov.30:7-9 (NIV)>. Do not try to impress others by accumulating material things which cannot be afforded and must be put on credit, for which you will spend the rest of your working days paying. Our Lord and Heavenly Father knows that we His children have needs that must be met; but our most important task in this world is not to earn money. The most important thing for us is that God can trust us with money, being faithful and accountable in the way we use what He has given to us. “For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” <Matt.6:32-33 (NIV)>
The real measure of our wealth “is how much we would be worth if we lost all our money” (John Henry Jowett). Character is more important than position, wisdom more than possessions <Prov.13:7>. Success in the business world is all-important to the young executives today, but be careful how we climb the “corporate ladder”!
The diligent HAVE A SENSE OF SECURITY: not in their possessions or income, but in their peace‑of‑mind before God. The righteous will flourish <Prov.11:28>; their peace is not purchased <Prov.15:16‑17> and their good name has not been bought <Prov.22:1>. The diligent ARE CAREFUL NOT TO BE PROUD “Humility and the fear of the LORD bring wealth and honour and life.”<Prov.22:4 (NIV)>. It will not be our ability or hard work that will make us rich. It will be the health and physical strength that God gives us that will enable us to accomplish anything in this life; and this leaves no room for pride or boasting. The diligent HAVE A GOOD ATTITUDE TOWARD MONEY: a wrong attitude can wreck friendships and destroy homes, “A greedy man brings trouble to his family, but he who hates bribes will live.” <Prov.15:27 (NIV)>. Those who think only of getting rich place more importance on money instead of people and principles, and the pursuit of riches causes neglect of family and friends. Many families have been destroyed and friends alienated because love has been replaced by expensive gifts. Let us therefore heed the wise advice of the King <Prov.8:10-11>.
Rich man, Poor man, Panhandler, Thief; none but one is condemned by God. The manner in which we become rich or live poor is governed by our relationship with God, the way we use our resources will display our love for our Lord; and wisdom can be found in all three of these types. The Thief and stealing are definitely condemned by God, this type is the only one that despises wisdom.
Get wisdom: do not forsake or despise wisdom though it cost all that you have <Prov.4:5-7>. “BE SKILLFUL”
A detailed study of the Scriptures reveals a noticeable and contrasting division of God’s administration over the Jews (Law) and the Church (Grace): “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” <Jn.1:17 (NIV)>. This quote does not indicate that there was no Law before Moses, since at the creation account God gave specific instructions and the ensuing consequence of breaking His command <see Gen.2:15-17>; neither does it suggest that there was no Grace before Christ came into the world; since in the response of God after Adam and Eve broke His command and sinned, God came down to earth looking for Adam and finally provided for Adam and Eve’s redemption from their sin a means of cleansing and forgiveness (His Grace), by clothing them in the skin of an animal that had to be killed in their place, representing a sacrifice for sin, that which the Law required <see Gen.3:21>; for the Law required the death of the sinner. Here then, we see the very first mention in scripture of the Grace of God and is referenced in the N.T. in the sacrifice of Christ Himself for the salvation of all sinners; “God made him[Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”<2 Cor.5:21 (NIV)>; “He himself[Christ] bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.”<1 Pet.2:24 (NIV)>.
It is important to observe that wherever the Law is mentioned in Scripture it refers to the Law given by Moses and covers God’s administration up to the event of Christ’s death on Calvary, the final and eternal sacrifice for all sin. From that point in time, and onward, God’s Grace is the characteristic of His administration over the Church age and will continue until He comes to call all believers (the Church) to be with Himself <see 1 Thess.4:16-17>. Furthermore, it should be observed that in any time period defined by God (dispensation), the Scriptures do not combine the two principles of Law and Grace, and Paul explains this in his letter to the Galatians’. Wherever the Law is mentioned it demands justice, condemnation, curses and the death of the lawbreaker; and a study of the books of Exodus and Leviticus will reveal the demands of the Law <see such passages as Ex.20-23; Lev.19-24>. In contrast then, where the Law brought terror, Grace brought freedom to the worst of sinners <see Lk.23:39-43; Rom.5:8; 1 Cor.6:9-11; 1 Tim.1:15>.
Another important observation that must be made is that the N.T. references to the “law” are to the Law given by Moses, but there are exceptions <see Rom.7:21-23>. In some cases, the reference is to the both the “moral law” (10 commandments) and the “ceremonial law” (offerings and sacrifices), both comprising the whole law. Examples are: of the whole law <Rom.6:14; Gal.2:16; 3:2>, of the moral law <Rom.3:19; 7:7-12>, and of the ceremonial law <Col.2:14-17>. Contained in the ceremonial law are the “types” or “foreshadows” of the Person and work of our Lord Jesus Christ as Priest and Sacrifice pictured in the Tabernacle and the Levitical Offerings <see Ex.25-30; Lev.1-7; cf 2 Cor.3:7-18>.
Three errors that have plagued Church teachings are those that affect the relationship between Law and Grace:
ANTINOMIANISM: such maintain that believers in Christ have been freed from the moral law by virtue of faith and grace and therefore are not required to live holy lives: <see Titus 1:16; Jude 4>
CEREMONIALISM: a system of rites and formalities and originally it demanded that believers should observe the Levitical ordinances, and the modern form is in the teaching that such ordinances are essential to salvation: <see Acts 15:1>
GALATIANISM: or the intermixing of law and grace – teaching that justification is partly by grace and partly by law; or that grace is given so that the incapable sinner can keep the law. Such teaching has been addressed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians’ and is God’s conclusive answer: <see Gal 1:6-8;3:2-3>
The following outline and scripture references, which speak specifically to the moral law, is what the Scriptures teach us on this important subject.
WHAT THE LAW IS: It is holy, just and good <Rom.7:12>; spiritual <Rom.7:14>. It is something in which we should delight ourselves <Rom.7:22>. It is NOT of faith <Gal.3:12>
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW: It exposes, or makes us conscious of sin <Rom.7:7; 13>; it condemns us before God, it cannot justify <Rom.3:20>. It was given because of transgressions <Gal.3:19>, and makes us guilty before a holy God <Rom.3:19>. It demands complete adherence in all it’s elements <Gal.3:10; James 2:10>. It is the administration of death and condemnation <2 Cor.3:7, 9>, and proclaims the death sentence upon all <Rom.7:9>. It is the power of sin <1 Cor.15:56>. It was given (2500 years after Adam) to convict guilty mankind of sin and complete helplessness in view of God’s just requirements – strictly an administration of condemnation and death <Jn.1:17; Gal.3:17>
WHAT THE LAW CANNOT DO: It cannot justify anyone before God <Acts 13:39; Rom.3:20; Gal.3:11>; or anyone who attempts to obey its principles <Gal.2:16>. It cannot obstruct God’s grace <Gal.2:21>. It cannot pass judgment on the sinful nature (only the sinner) <Rom.8:3>, and cannot make anyone perfect in God’s sight <Heb.7:19>.
THE BELIEVER IS NOT UNDER LAW: Christ, through His death, burial and resurrection has freed us from the demands and condemnation of the Law, and through our faith in His sacrifice we are identified with Him in His death (through baptism), and death exempts us from the Law <see Rom.6:1-10> Now that we have been risen with Christ we should live according to the principles that direct our life-style as believers <Rom.6:11-23>. We are not delivered from the guilt of sin but from the control of sin <Rom.6:14>. However, this should not encourage us to lean toward Antinomianism where we say that a godly life is not important <Rom.6:15>. Another principle that is given to us is that since we are dead to the Law and alive unto Christ, our lives should demonstrate the “fruits” of our new life <Rom.7:1-6; Gal.2:19; 3:23-25; 1 Tim.1:8-9>. Note here that in Rom.7:1-6 Paul is not referring to the Ceremonial Law but to the Moral Law <Rom.7:7>.
In consideration of the above, it is instructive “to remember that God’s appointed place for the tables of the law was within the ark of the testimony [covenant]. With them were “the golden pot that had the manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded” (types [pictures], the one of Christ our wilderness bread, the other of resurrection, and both speaking of grace), while they were covered from sight by the golden mercy-seat upon which was sprinkled the blood of atonement. The eye of God could see His law, so badly broken by Israel, only through the blood that completely vindicated His justice and propitiated [appeased] His wrath” (quote from Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth – Emmaus Correspondence Course) <see Heb.9:4-5; cf Ex.25:21; 34:27-28; 40:20-21>.
WHAT IS GRACE?
Grace is the undeserved mercy and kindness of God to a sinner; even though we as sinners are not deserving of God’s grace: <Rom.5:6-8; Eph.2:7-9>. “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy….” <Titus 3:3-5 (NIV)>
GOD’S PURPOSE IN GRACE – We are saved from God’s wrath by His grace through our faith in Christ, and justified apart from the Law <Rom.3:24; Eph.2:8-9; Gal.2:16>. As a result of His Grace we should look forward expectantly to the hope of all believers – the hope of His return for us <Titus 2:11-13>; we have also been made heirs of salvation <Titus 3:7; Eph.1:13-14>. We now have direct access to the throne-room of God through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ <Rom.5:2; Heb.4:16; 10:19-22>, and are maturing through His written Word <Acts 20:32>. The Grace of God is therefore complete and all-inclusive, and these principles cannot be blended together with the Law, “And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.” <Rom.11:6 (NIV); see also Rom.4:4-5; Gal.3:16-18; 4:21-31>.
In conclusion then, we see that believers in Christ are not classified as “children of the bondwoman (or slave)”, we have been freed from the bondage (slavery) of sin <Gal.4:31>, consequently we have no fear of what the Law demands (death of the sinner), and we should not attempt to divide the Law into “Moral” and “Ceremonial” for we are not bound by what Moses gave to the Israelites at Sinai <see Heb.12:18-24>. This is referred to as “the righteousness of God apart from the law”<Rom.3:21>. So all unbelievers, having violated the Law, should accept the sentence of the Law “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”<Rom.3:23 (NIV); Rom.6:23 >; but such can find in Christ a perfect and eternal salvation for; “Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes……..if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” <Rom.10:4, 9 (NIV)>.
One of the basics of Christianity taught in the Word of God – The Bible; is the fact that there will be a resurrection of all the dead. That was confirmed by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ:
“But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.”<1 Cor 15:12-19 NIV >
However, as we study this subject it is important to understand that not all the dead are raised at the same time, since we find that there has already been a partial resurrection of believers: “The tombs broke open and the bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs, and after Jesus’ resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many people.” <Matt.27:52-53 NIV>. Two other resurrections are still in the future and will be different in respect to who will be raised, and when. These are referred to in the scriptures as “those that will be raised to life everlasting”; and “those that will be raised to condemnation”<see Jn.5:28-29; Dan.12:2>.
In Luke 14:14 our Lord speaks of the “resurrection of the righteous” which is a reference to the first resurrection only <cf 1 Cor.15:22-23; 1 Thess.4:13-16>. Paul in his letter to the Philippians writes: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection …… becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” <Phil.3:10-11 NIV>; and his reference to “the resurrection from the dead” does not imply that all the dead are raised simultaneously for he does not say the “resurrection of the dead”, indicating that some of the dead will remain in that state.
“…. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. They had not worshiped the beast or his image and had not received his mark on their foreheads or their hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ a thousand years. (The rest of the dead did not come to life until the thousand years were ended.) This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy are those who have part in the first resurrection. The second death has no power over them, but they will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with him for a thousand years.” <Rev.20:4-6 NIV>; in this passage we see the first resurrection of the righteous and the outcome it will have on those that attain to this event: they will reign with Christ and will not be overcome by the second death.
“Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”<Rev.20:11-15 NIV>; this passage describes the second resurrection of “those that will be raised to condemnation” and note here that the condemnation will be “the second death” which takes place when such are “thrown into the lake of fire.” An examination of the details of these two resurrections will also indicate the time between the two events which is 1000 years.
In conclusion, it is clear that the “dead in Christ” or believers in Christ who die before Christ’s coming in the air will be raised from the dead and will be caught up to meet Him in the air one thousand years before “those that will be raised to condemnation”<see 1 Thess.4:16-17>; and that the doctrine of the resurrection concerns only the bodies of the dead, no matter what the state of decay may be, they will be raised either to glory or anguish <cf Lk.16:22-24; 2 Cor.5:8; Phil.1:23>.
THE FIVE JUDGMENTS
In the study of this subject one must be careful of the term “general judgment” that is used by some writers; this term is not scriptural and neither is the theory conceived in the scriptures. The event of Rev.20:11-14 should not be considered as one great event that takes place at the end of the age comprising all people of the earth – saints and sinners. The scriptures speak of five judgments that differ in four respects: the individuals; the location; the time; the consequence.
The Judgment of the Nations: this will occur at the second advent of Christ in the “Valley of Jehoshaphat” (a symbolic name for a valley near Jerusalem – NIV Study Bible). The result will be that some are saved and some will be lost, the basis being the treatment of these nations to the remnant of Israel “brothers of mine”<see Matt.13:40-41; 25:40-46; Joel 3:1-2, 12-14>. The judgment of the nations should not be confused with the Great White Throne Judgment <Rev.20:11> compare the following distinctions:
NATIONS: No resurrection; nations judged; on earth; no Record Books. Three groups: sheep; goats; “brothers of mine”. Time: when Christ appears.
GREAT WHITE THRONE: Resurrection; Judgment of “the dead”; earth and sky have “fled from his presence”; Record Books opened. One group: “the dead”. Time: after Christ has reigned 1000 years. [source: “Rightly Dividing The Word Of Truth”; Emmaus Bible School]. Since the believers (saints) are partnered with Christ in this judgment they cannot be the subjects <1 Cor.6:2; cf. Dan.7:22; Jude 14-15>.
The resurrection of the dead is certain; for as we have seen from the scriptures, our Lord Jesus Christ taught this to His disciples, and the apostles spoke of this in their documents to the Churches. It is also a promise to all believers in Christ <Jn.14:2-3> and a warning to unbelievers <Jn.14:5-6; 20:29, 31; 3:15>. As certain as the resurrection is, so also are the Judgments. The purpose of Christ’s first advent was to bring salvation to a world of sinners through His death on the cross, and all who reject Him and His offer of salvation will pay the penalty of such rejection, and there will be no exceptions <Jn.3:17; 5:24; 12:47-48; Rom.8:1; 9:28>.
“If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” <Heb.10:26-31 (NIV)>
“….. the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow.” <1 Peter 1:10-11 NIV >
Any study of Old Testament prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah reveals two contrasting and apparent contradictions. One predicts Him as coming in weakness, humiliation and sorrow: “Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed? He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”< Isa.53:1-3 NIV; cf Isa.53:3-12; Psa.22:1-8>.
The other prediction seen, reveals an impressive and powerful Sovereign who purges the earth with judgments, and reinstates dispersed Israel and the Throne of David in the land promised to Abraham; introducing a reign of peace and perfection in righteousness: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” < Isa. 9:6-7 NIV; see Isa.11:10-12; Jer.23:5-8; Dan.7:13-14; Micah 5:2; Lk.1:31-33>.
In the right and proper time as appointed by God the first part of the prophecy was literally fulfilled by the birth of Messiah – Christ – to a virgin named Mary: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman…” <Gal.4:4 NIV; cf Matt.1:20-23>; and His life then was a literal fulfillment of all prophecy concerning His first advent <see Matt.21:1-5(Zech.9:9); Jn.19:15-16>. However, no assumption should be made that the purposes of God concerning Messiah were confounded by the wickedness of mankind in the crucifixion and death of His Son The Christ, or Messiah; for God’s purpose was to include a second advent in which His earthly “glory” will see the same literal fulfillment as was seen in the sufferings of His first advent <see Hos.3:4-5; Matt.24:29-30>.
In a comparable manner as the Jews were slow to believe, and were “blinded” to the predicted sufferings of Christ their Messiah; we today are also sluggish and “blinded” to believe all the predictions concerning His glory: “He said, “Go and tell this people: “‘Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.’ Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed.””<Isa. 6:9-10 NIV; cf Rom.11:8>. His second advent is described in precisely the same terms as His departure; “This same Jesus….will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven”<Acts 1:10-11; cf. 1 Thess.4:16-17>.
From the previous discussion it is abundantly clear that Christ’s second advent will be a personal and bodily appearance; and should not be considered as the death of a believer; the destruction of Jerusalem; the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost; nor the gradual dispersion of Christianity. It is the “blessed hope” of the Church that has been promised to all believers <Titus 2:13; 1 Cor.15:51-52>.
In a further examination of the two advents let us look at the following contrasting scripture references:
These are a few selected references and many more can be found to show that the promises made to both Israel and the Church require a personal return of Christ to the earth; and this visible appearance must be distinguished from those that refer to His divine attributes of Omniscience – in that He knows all things; and His Omnipresence – in that He is always present everywhere even to the end of the age <cf Matt.18:20; 28:20>. It should be a comfort to every believer that our Lord and Saviour is now personally and in bodily form as a man at the right hand of God in heaven, from where He is also present with every believer everywhere <see Acts 1:9-11; 7:55-56; Col.3:1>. So, by virtue of His divine attributes our Lord is present with the Church now and will be visibly upon the earth at His second advent.
Let us now consider some of the current theories of Christ’s second advent:
The Prophecies concerning Christ’s return were not fulfilled by the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Such an interpretation would make the Holy Spirit only a manifestation of Christ. Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit as “another comforter”<see Jn.14:16>, and all the writers of the New Testament speak to Christ’s return as a future event – after Pentecost. None of the events predicted to accompany the second advent occurred at Pentecost such as: the resurrection of the “sleeping saints” and living believers being “caught up” to meet the Lord in the air <see 1 Cor.15:22-23, 51-53; 1 Thess.4:13-17; Phil.3:20-21>: nor the anguish of all the nations at His visible coming <see Matt.24:29-30; Rev.1:7>.
The conversion of a sinner is not the coming of the Lord. According to scriptures the conversion of a sinner is a sinner coming to Christ, not the coming of Christ to the sinner <see Matt.11:28; Jn.5:40; 6:37; 7:37>. None of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming occurs at the conversion of a sinner.
The death of a Christian is not the coming of Christ.“Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.”<John 21:22-24 NIV>. The writers of the scriptures always refer to a believer’s death as a “departure” from this earthly life <see 2 Cor.5:8; Phil.1:23; 2 Tim.4:6>. Again, none of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming occurs at the death of a Christian.
The Roman destruction of Jerusalem was not the second coming of Christ. Three events are predicted by the discussion between Christ and His disciples in respect to their question – “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”” <Matt 24:3, (4-34) NIV>; and the fulfillment of one event does not constitute a fulfillment of all three, since they are three distinct occurrences. The apostle John who wrote Revelation after the destruction of Jerusalem speaks to Christ’s coming as a future event <see Rev.1:4-7; 3:11; 22:7, 12, 20>. Here again we see that none of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming occurred at the destruction of Jerusalem <see 1 Thess.4:15-17; Matt.24:29-30; 25:31-32>.
The dispersion of Christianity is not the second coming of Christ. The dispersion of Christianity is a gradual process, while the return of Christ will be a sudden and unexpected event <see Matt.24:27, 36-42; 2 Pet.3:10; Rev.3:3>; and it is obvious that the dispersion of Christianity brings salvation to the ungodly whereas the coming of Christ will be sudden destruction <see Matt.25:31-46; 1 Thess.5:2-3; 2 Thess.1:7-10>; and again, none of the events predicted for Christ’s second coming are seen in the dispersion of Christianity.
“Although the above theories are wide-spread, none appear in the writings of reputable theologians of any school or denomination, nor are they maintained by any expositor or universally recognized leadership, who all maintain the bodily and visible second coming of Christ.” [quote; Emmaus Bible School-“Rightly Dividing The Word of Truth”]. However, it is said that Christ’s second coming cannot occur until the whole world has been converted by the preaching of the gospel message and submitting to a spiritual reign of Christ for one thousand years. This theory is also erroneous since scripture describes the condition of the earth at Christ’s second coming as one of appalling wickedness <cf Lk.17:26-31; (Gen.6:5-7; 13:13); Lk.18:8; 21:25-27>; and further, an evaluation of the present time-period excludes any possibility of a converted world <see Matt.13:36-43, 49-50; (25:1-10); 1 Tim.4:1-2; 2 Tim.3:1-5, 7; 4:3-4; 2 Pet.3:3-4; Jude 17-19>. God’s purpose in this time-period is not the conversion of the world but to gather out of the Jews and Gentiles a group of people to form His Church, and when the Church is completed He will return, and then we will see the conversion of the world <cf Acts15:14-17; Matt.24:14; Rom.1:5; 11:14; 1 Cor.9:22; Rev.5:9>.
In conclusion, Christ’s first advent was His coming into the world in human form to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of mankind <see 1 Jn.2:1-2>; and His second advent will be His bodily return to reign over His earthly kingdom.
The entire period of time, from the creation until “the new heaven and earth” is in place, is divided by the Scriptures into seven unequal administrations sometimes called “Dispensations”.
“to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment” < Eph.1:10 (NIV)>
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times” < Eph.1:10 (KJV)>
“A period of time under which mankind is answerable to God for how it has obeyed the revelation of God which it has received. The term dispensation is found twice in the NKJV: “The dispensation of the fullness of the times” (Eph 1:10) and “the dispensation of the grace of God” (Eph 3:2). The KJV uses the term four times (1 Cor 9:17; Eph 1:10; 3:2; Col 1:25).
Many Bible students believe all of history can be divided into several dispensations. According to this view, all of history has been pointing toward the SECOND COMING of Christ, when salvation will be made complete. Others reject this view, insisting that God has had faithful, loyal followers in all times who have lived according to His COVENANT with them.
Extending from the creation of Adam <Gen.2:7> to the expulsion from Eden. Adam and Eve were created innocent and ignorant of good and evil and placed under the responsibility of abstaining from eating the fruit of the tree of the “knowledge of good and evil”<Gen.2:15-17>. This dispensation ended in the failure of mankind, producing far-reaching effects, resulting in the judgment of God in expulsion from the garden <seeGen.2:17; 3:6, 22-24>.
2. MANKIND UNDER CONSCIENCE
The sin and ultimate “fall” of Adam and Eve caused them to transmit through their descendants, and consequently to all mankind the “knowledge of good and evil”imparting a basis for right moral decisions, and so mankind came under this measure of responsibility. This resulted again in the total failure of mankind <see Gen.4:1-11; 6:1-7; 11-13; 7:24>.
3. MANKIND IN AUTHORITY (HUMAN GOVERNMENT)
After the judgment of the Flood, God gave the purified earth to Noah and his descendants making them responsible to administer it. Again, the failure of mankind is displayed by Noah’s descendants as they attempt to become independent of God, and this dispensation closes in judgment, in the “Confusion of Tongues” <see Gen.11:1-9>.
4. MANKIND UNDER PROMISE
Out of the dispersed descendants of Noah’s sons Japheth, Ham, and Shem, God calls out Abram, a descendant of Shem <Gen.11:10-26>, with whom He enters into covenant. Some of these promises to Abram and his descendants were “unconditional” and have been or will be completely fulfilled literally. Others are “conditional” upon the faithfulness and obedience of the Israelites; however, every one of these have been violated, and this dispensation closed in judgment in their period of slavery in Egypt <see Gen.12:1-3; 13:14-17; 15:5; 26:3; 28:12-14; Ex.1:11-14>.
5. MANKIND UNDER LAW
From the outset of the Fall God’s grace has been seen in the way He has dealt with mankind under each dispensation, and again we see this grace extended to the Israelites in their freedom from slavery in Egypt. As they enter the desert to begin their return to their Promised Land God gives them a choice to continue under His grace or to be governed by Law. Their choice being: “The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.” <Ex.19:8 (NIV)>. Their history of journeying through the desert and their life back in the Land was one of constant and persistent violation of the Law, and after numerous warnings from God through the Prophets, this dispensation closed again in judgment. The Jews went into exile and were dispersed throughout all the other nations of the world. A small and feeble remnant returned to the Land under Ezra and Nehemiah of which Christ was born, and they finally sealed their fate when they totally rejected Christ and crucified Him. So, their dispersion continues, and will continue, until God closes this chapter of their history <see Rom.3:19-20; Acts 2:22-23; Rom.10:5; Gal.3:10; cf 2 Kings 17:1-18; 25:1-11; Acts 7:51-52>.
6. MANKIND UNDER GRACE
Christ’s sacrificial death introduced the dispensation of Grace, a period of time when mankind is under the “undeserved favour of God”; God now offers us His righteousness instead of requiring it as the Law does. Salvation (freedom) from sin is now offered to all mankind, regardless of race or circumstance, upon the acknowledgment of sin and repentance, and faith in Christ <see Jn.6:29, 47; 5:24; 10:27-28; Eph.2:8-9>.
This dispensation closes with the personal return of Christ and the judgments introducing the final dispensation <see Matt.24:29-30; 25:31-46>.
7. MANKIND UNDER THE PERSONAL REIGN OF CHRIST
Once the purifying judgments are complete at the personal return of Christ to the earth (His second advent), He will reign over the earth for a period of one thousand years called the “Millennium”; ruling from Jerusalem, while the saints, which will include those saved during the Dispensation of Grace – the Church, will be associated with Him in His glory <see Acts 15:14-17; Rev.19:11-21; 20:1-6; Isa.2:1-4; 11:1-16>. After the thousand years “Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth…” <Rev.20:7-8 (NIV)>, finding the “natural heart” of mankind is still prone to sin and rebellion against God, he assembles the nations in battle against God and His saints, and this last dispensation closes, like all the previous six, in judgment. The “great white throne”will be set and all the wicked dead will be raised and will stand before God to give an account of their lives and their total rejection of Christ <see Rev.20:11-15>. Then the “new heaven and the new earth” will come into being as eternity begins <see Rev. 21:1 – 22:21>.
NOTE: This outline should not be considered as the only correct outline. Many competent Bible scholars would suggest the following as a possible alternative:
The age from Adam to Noah
The age from Noah to Abraham
The age from Abraham to the Cross of Christ
The present age of Grace
The Tribulation Period
The Eternal State
Whichever format of dispensation one chooses to accept, the important truth to remember is that Salvation has always been, and will ever be, by Grace through Faith in Christ. In the O.T. mankind was saved by faith on the basis of the future work of Christ. Today we are saved by Faith on the basis of the work of Christ when He offered Himself as our sacrifice for our sins. (Emmaus Correspondence School)
There are three groups of people that the Scriptures refer to, each group is distinct, and in the Scriptures, God deals with each separately and also collectively.
“Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God” <1 Cor.10:32 (NIV)>. Here, Paul is cautioning the Corinthian believers not to be the instrumental in causing the concern of unbelievers or the faith of their fellow believers to falter because of their conduct, in relation to the three groups of peoples to whom the gospel message is proclaimed.
It is obvious to any Bible student that a large portion of the Scriptures relate to one nation or people, namely the Israelites or Jews. It is also evident that God has a distinct relationship with the Jews. The Old Testament is a record of their history, and the other nations are mentioned as they relate to the Israelites. Jews are descendants of Abraham and were separated from all the other nations and taken into covenant by God for a specific purpose, and if faithful to His commands they were promised earthly blessings, power, and riches; but if unfaithful they would be scattered among all the other peoples of the earth <see Deut.28:1, 15, 29, 36-37, 64-65; cf Rom.3:1-2; 9:4-5; Jn.4:22>.
THE GREEK (GENTILES)
The phrase “Greek” or “Gentile” (KJV) refers to people described as “heathen,” denoting a person, nation, or people. Since that was the common medium of intercourse in the Roman Empire, Greek and Gentile became more or less interchangeable terms. The use of the word, typically in the Old Testament, is in reference to all other people excepting the Jews; because of their worship of “other gods” as opposed to Jehovah <see Eph.2:11-12; 4:17-18>.
Another group of people mentioned only in the New Testament is the Church, and this body of people also have a distinct relationship with God, and has also received specific promises; but the similarity ends there. Instead of being formed only of natural descendants of Abraham, this body of people displays no distinction between Jew and Gentile, and is comprised of all people and nations <see Eph.1:22-23; 2:14; 5:29-33; 1 Pet.2:9; 1 Cor.12:12-13; Gal.3:28>. A further comparison of Scripture reveals that although both share that distinct relationship with God there are some differences between the Jew and the Church. The relationship between God and Israel is a covenant relation, one based on physical birth, one based on obedience, and one based on an earthly inheritance. Conversely, the relationship of the Church is based upon spiritual birth and a heavenly inheritance which is also based to some extent on covenant, but such covenant is based on the Church’s relationship to Christ and His sacrificial love for the Church. So distinctively, Israel is connected to temporal and earthly things while the Church is connected to spiritual and heavenly things.
It should also be noted that the unrepentant Gentiles (heathen), when mentioned, are distinguished in every respect from both the Jews and the Church, and in the end will fall under the same demands of a Holy God. Thus, any comparison between Israel and the Church in what the Scriptures contain concerning origin, calling, promise, worship, principles of conduct, and future destiny, all fall under a subject of contrast.
Israel: “The Lord had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you.” <Gen.12:1 (NIV)>. Israel’s calling started with God’s call to Abraham, who in response, moved from Ur of the Chaldeans to the land of Canaan. There he settled and some years later his wife Sarai (Sarah) gave birth to a son named Isaac. From Isaac would be born a descendant that was promised (originally to Adam and Eve <see Gen.3:15> and then to Abraham “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” <Gen.12:3 (NIV)>. Isaac’s descendants were Esau and Jacob, and God chose Jacob for the continuation of the promise. Jacob in turn had twelve sons whose descendants eventually became know as the twelve tribes of Israel. Another promise of God to Abraham was that all the land of Canaan would be given to his descendants, the twelve tribes, as an earthly inheritance, and after their exodus from Egypt God gave them the land under the leadership of Joshua <seeDeut.8:7-9; Jos.21:43-45>. Throughout the years that Israel lived in the land there was constant rebellion against God, the Prophets were sent to warn of the impending judgment for their disobedience but to no avail, and finally Israel went into captivity and later on, were eventually scattered throughout the world and assimilated into all the nations. God, however, maintained a remnant who would remain faithful to Him. <see alsoGen.24:34-35; Deut.28:7; 28:13Gen.24:34-35; Deut.28:7; 28:13>.
The Church: “Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling” <Heb.3:1 (NIV)> “But our citizenship is in heaven” <Phil.3:20 (NIV)>. Unlike Israel, the Church’s calling is a “heavenly” or spiritual calling and a heavenly citizenship. Due to the failure of Israel in being the godly witness to all the nations, God called the Church to carry out that mandate <Matt.28:19-20; see also 1 Pet.1:4; 1 Cor.4:11>; and even though there is the promise of a heavenly inheritance <seeJn.14:1; 1 Thess.4:14-18> there will be great difficulty in serving and in the execution of Christ’s command <see Jn.16:2-4>. In regards to “Calling” it should be understood that godly Jews would go to heaven at death because of their faith in God, but the incentive to godliness in this case was the earthly blessings; but since Christ paid the penalty for sin that the Law demanded, by His death and resurrection, all mankind – Jew and Gentile – can only be saved through faith in Christ <see Jn.3:3, 16; 1 Cor.12:13; Eph.1:22-23>. In the Church the distinction of Jew and Gentile disappears <see 1 Cor.12:2, 13; Gal.3:28; Eph.2:11, 14>.
Israel: was called to “go in and possess the land of promise” <see Deut.1:21>, and in order to accomplish this they were commanded by God to execute His judgment upon the heathen and wicked nations that inhabited the land, so that godly generations would rule and inhabit the land promised to Abraham. “When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you many nations — the Hittites, Girgashites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites and Jebusites, seven nations larger and stronger than you — and when the Lord your God has delivered them over to you and you have defeated them, then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them, and show them no mercy. Do not intermarry with them. Do not give your daughters to their sons or take their daughters for your sons, for they will turn your sons away from following me to serve other gods, and the Lord’s anger will burn against you and will quickly destroy you.” <Deut.7:1-5 (NIV)> In this we see that Israel served God in accordance and obedience to the Law given by Moses, and throughout their generations they lived by the Law <see Ex.21:24-25; Deut.21:18-21>.
The Church: we see the opposite of what the Law demanded. The Law demanded death for the citizen or citizens that disobeyed, but there was no way for anyone to be in complete obedience to every demand of the Law, so all were guilty of death <see Jas.2:10>. Christ’s sacrifice, in His death and resurrection, paid the price for all who believe in Him and accept His sacrifice, so the members of the Church are called to a different life-style, one of love for our neighbour <see Matt.5:44; 5:39; 1 Cor.4:12-13; Lk.15:20-23>.
Israel: could worship in one place only, the Tabernacle (Tent of Meeting) or later in the Temple, they worshiped at a distance and could only approach God through a Priest <see Lev.17:8-9; Lk.1:10; Num.3:10>.
Israel: when restored to God and their land will have her greatest earthly splendour and power. Israel’s primary purpose as a nation was to preserve the “Holy seed” or descendant in a world of ungodliness and wickedness; and in spite of her complete failure in obeying God’s commands, and their ultimate dispersion among all the Gentile nations, God maintained a godly remnant from which His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, was born into this world. Christ’s first advent brought about our salvation, for Jew and Gentile, and set up the eventual return and restoration of Israel in preparation for the kingdom reign of their Messiah. “You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.“ <Luke 1:31-33 (NIV)>. “Of the seven promises to Mary, five have already been literally fulfilled” [Scofield] and there is no reason not to believe that the other two will also be fulfilled <see Acts 15:14-16; Rom.11:1, 11, 24-26; Isa.11:11-12; 14:1; Jer.16:14-15; 23:5-6; 32:37-38; Zeph.3:14-15>
The Church: the promise for the future of the Church is to be with Christ in glory <Col.3:3-4>, and this promise was made to His disciples just prior to His crucifixion <Jn.14:1-3>, so unlike Israel’s earthly inheritance the Church’s inheritance is a heavenly one, and will be fulfilled on a future day when Christ returns and calls the Church to be with Him forever <see 1 Thess.4:15-17; Phil.3:20-21; 1 Jn,3:2; Rev.19:7-9; 20:6>.
On Sunday, February 18, 2001, NASCAR lost one of its greatest drivers. Dale Earnhardt Sr., also known as “The Intimidator,” was in third place on the last lap of the Daytona 500 when his car was tapped from behind and sent head-on into the wall at 180 mph. In a matter of moments, it was evident something was terribly wrong. Dale Earnhardt died in the crash. On the following Monday an autopsy report revealed he had died of blunt force trauma to the head. Some have suggested that if Earnhardt had been wearing the HANS (Head and Neck Safety Device) he would have survived the crash. Although this device was available, Earnhardt, like many other drivers that day, neglected to use it. His neglect of this safety device may have cost him his life. The Bible tells us that every individual is on a collision course with God’s judgment. God, too, has provided a safety device–one designed to keep people from suffering eternal death and separation from God. But like Dale Earnhardt and the other drivers in the race that day, each of us must decide whether to accept or neglect this offer. (source: Perfect Illustrations; Citation: Michael Owenby; Carrollton, Georgia)
“Surely the arm of the LORD is not too short to save, nor his ear too dull to hear. But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear.”<Isa.59:1-2 (NIV)>: “the arm”signifies God’s power which is readily available to all that call upon Him <see Isa.30:19>; “your iniquities” speaks of unforgiven sin which is the reason for God’s silence <Isa.59:12>, alienating us from God. Our Sin and iniquity affect our hands and fingers, lips, and tongues; it produces injustice, lies, evil deeds and evil thoughts. <Isa.59:3-8; cf Rom.3:10-18>.
“So justice is far from us, and righteousness does not reach us. We look for light, but all is darkness; for brightness, but we walk in deep shadows. Like the blind we grope along the wall, feeling our way like men without eyes. At midday we stumble as if it were twilight; among the strong, we are like the dead.”<Isa.59:9-10 (NIV)>
THE RESULTS OF SIN- <59:9-15>: Justice is far away; there is constant darkness as we “grope” along life’s road; truth is nowhere to be found. <see Job 30:26; Psa.5:9; 12:1-2>
GOD’S SOLUTION FOR SIN
“He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. According to what they have done, so will he repay wrath to his enemies and retribution to his foes; he will repay the islands their due. From the west, men will fear the name of the LORD, and from the rising of the sun, they will revere his glory. For he will come like a pent-up flood that the breath of the LORD drives along.”<59:16-19 (NIV)>
“He put on the garments of vengeance…. According to what they have done so will he repay” <Isa.59:17 (NIV)> but there is wrath and retribution for those that reject God’s solution in the gift of His Son as the sacrifice for mankind’s sin <see Isa.63:1-4>. God has made a way of escape for the sinner, and there will be a day of judgment by God for sin.
“As for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the LORD. “My Spirit, who is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,” says the LORD.” <Isa.59:21 (NIV)>
From God’s point of view there was “no one to intervene”<Isa.59:16>; and mankind’s point of view there was “no one to arbitrate” (mediate) <Job 9:32-34>. So, God made provision for our salvation. We must be born again by the work of the Holy Spirit <Jn.3:6-7>; by God’s method <Jn.3:14-15> and provision <Jn.3:16-18>; for God’s judgement will be executed <Jn.3:19-20>.
Our sin must be confessed to God, and God only; and God must forgive our sin. We must accept Jesus Christ and His sacrifice for our sins; this is the only way of Salvation. “Born again” means being born of the Spirit of God into God’s family of believers. Unless you accept God’s offer of Salvation you will forever be under God’s rod of judgment and His terror will frighten you forever. You will have no one to arbitrate or intervene between yourself and God.
Paul addresses this personal letter primarily “To Philemon our dear friend and fellow worker” <1:2 (NIV)>, and then “to Apphia our sister, to Archippus our fellow soldier and to the church that meets in your home”. It is suggested that Apphia was Philemon’s wife, Archippus was their son, and that the church met in their home.
Philemon was a resident of Colosse and a convert of Paul; his house was large enough to serve as a meeting place for the local church. He may have had other slaves beside Onesimus, and was not alone as a slave owner (from Nelson’s Complete Book of Bible Maps and Charts). Slave ownership was common in the Roman Empire at that time and it was not uncommon for Christian business people to own slaves <see Col.4:1>, and the guidelines provided here could be applicable to all Christian slave owners of that time period.
In Paul’s prayer of thanksgiving for Philemon he recalls hearing about Philemon’s faith in Christ and his love for all the saints, and he prays that Philemon will be active in sharing his faith and that he will have a full understanding of all the good things that we have in Christ <see Eph.1:3-8>. He states that the love that Philemon demonstrates has brought him joy and encouragement “because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”<1:7 (NIV)>; and this is a great demonstration for all believers to imitate.
Having completed his greeting to Philemon, Paul now addresses the reason for his letter, stating that in light of Philemon’s love expressed for all the saints <1:5>, he would not dictate what proceedings Philemon should bring against Onesimus, but allow Philemon to deal with the matter guided by his love for all the saints; “I appeal to you on the basis of love.” <1:9 (NIV)>. Onesimus is now one of them <Col.4:9>, because he is now a convert to Christianity, a “brother” in Christ, for he considers Onesimus his son <cf 1Tim.1:2; 1 Thess.2:11>, having been converted through Paul’s preaching while in Rome.
The account does not give any details as to how Onesimus came in contact with Paul, but one can conclude that The Holy Spirit directed Onesimus so that he made contact with Paul, and this is an encouragement to all Christian parents as we pray for rebellious children, grandchildren, and other family members and friends, that The Holy Spirit would soften their hearts and guide them to someone who will introduce them to the gospel message.
Paul then sends Onesimus back to his master Philemon with a letter that expresses all the principles of God’s forgiveness: the offense; “Formerly he was useless to you” <1:11 (NIV)>. The name Onesimus means profitable or useful, so here Paul uses that meaning to express the concept; he that was unprofitable is now worthwhile. As sinners, we are unworthy and useless to God <cf Rom.3:10-18, 23>, and when we trust Christ in faith as our saviour, God is able to use us for His glory. We see the compassion, of Paul as he expresses his request and concern for both Onesimus and Philemon; it was not easy for Paul to send Onesimus back <1:13-14; cf Col.3:12-14>, it was harder for Onesimus to face his former master; but was most difficult for Philemon to have to forgive and take back his runaway slave. We see the similarity in God’s compassion for sinners in His plan of salvation; while we were still sinners and unaware of our destiny the Scriptures teach that God had prepared a way of escape for all who wish to be saved from the penalty of sin <see Rom. 3:23; 5:8; 6:23>. Next, we see Paul’s intercession on behalf of Onesimus; he states that it could be, they were separated for a time so that they might be united permanently, since Onesimus was “no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother.” <1:16 (NIV)>; he was returning as a brother in Christ which would be forever. Christ interceded for us as sinners on the Cross <see Lk.23:34> and still intercedes for us as believers <see Jn.17:20-21>. We also see the substitutionary aspect in God’s forgiveness as Paul expresses “If he has done you any wrong or owes you anything, charge it to me.” <1:18 (NIV)>, for there was no way that Onesimus would ever be able to repay his debt to Paul or Philemon; and in this we see the substitutionary act of our Lord Jesus Christ as He gave Himself to God His Father in payment for our debt <see Lk.19:10; 2 Cor.5:21; 1 Pet.2:24>. So, as Onesimus was restored and promoted in his relationship to the one whom he had offended, we see all the aspects of divine forgiveness of sin (New Testament Survey – Merrill C. Tenney).
Where do you stand in light of the above? Do you need God’s forgiveness for your sin? Do you need to forgive someone for injustice done to you? Remember that you can be restored to fellowship with God and with others by simply turning to God and request His forgiveness <see Lk.18:13; Titus 3:5; cf Matt.5:23>. One must understand, however, that continuous rebellion against God will end in certain judgment for sin <see Heb.10:26>.
“I, Paul, am writing this with my own hand. I will pay it back” <1:19 (NIV)>; here Paul’s promise to Philemon expresses the fact that as Onesimus was unable to repay his debt, we too as sinners are unable to repay God for our salvation. There is nothing that we can do since the penalty we face is death – eternally separated from God; but since Christ has payed our debt, we have freedom and fellowship with God, just as Onesimus and Philemon experienced <see Eph.2:8, 12-13, 19; Titus 3:4-7>.
So, Paul expresses his confidence in Philemon; “Confident of your obedience, I write to you, knowing that you will do even more than I ask.” <1:21 (NIV)>, for in this we see a picture of Christianity in action, for these men were Christians which made all the difference in their behaviour and response to each other; for the teaching of Christ, which we are all called to follow, is: “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”<Matt.6:14-15 (NIV)>.
What is the difference between Law and Grace? The answer to this question first requires that we establish what is the Law and what was the reason or purpose for its institution. The first thing that is evident is that the purpose of the Law was never to provide salvation from sin; it was given to reveal sin in our lives and show us our need of salvation. The Law also reveals the “perfection” of God as opposed to the “imperfection” of mankind.
THE PURPOSE OF THE LAW: “What, then, was the purpose of the law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.”<Gal.3:19, 21, 23-24 (NIV)>
Webster’s Dictionary describes LAW as a rule or principle of proper conduct sanctioned by conscience, concepts of natural justice or the will of a deity: a commandment or a revelation from God. “Biblical law is more than a record of human law. It is an expression of what God requires of man. It rests on the eternal moral principles that are consistent with the very nature of God Himself. Therefore, biblical law (the Ten Commandments) is the summary of moral law. As such it sets forth fundamental and universal moral principles.” (from Nelson’s Illustrated Bible Dictionary) (Copyright (C) 1986, Thomas Nelson Publishers)
The Law is from God, and the Law is holy: <Rom.7:12>. Sin is exceedingly sinful when measured by the standard of the Law: <Rom.7:13>. What then does the Law serve? <see Gal.3:1-19>“it was added because of transgressions”. Just as Abraham believed what God said and it was accounted to him for righteousness; so, it is for all saints, whether Old Testament or New Testament. <Gal.3:7>. Thus, we see that the Law was added to the Abrahamic Covenant, and that the covenant preceded the Law by some 430 years. In effect, God gave Abraham and his descendants a way of salvation 430 years before the Law was introduced <Gal. 3:17>.
God gave a promise and He kept it! <Gal.3:18>. The Law was “added” to the covenant “until” <Gal.3:19>; the “seed” meaning Christ <see Gal.3:16>. Therefore, no one is justified by the Law in God’s sight <Gal.3:11>, and to substantiate this fact Paul quotes Habakkuk: “but the righteous will live by his faith” <Hab.2:4 (NIV)>
Why then did God introduce the Law? It was given that we might see just how sinful sin is. The Law is a measuring tool to show us that we do not measure up to God’s standards. When we measure ourselves against God’s standards, we all fall short; one person is no better than the other <see Amos 7:7-8;Isa.28:17>
So then, the Law was added because of transgressions to show us how sinful we are. The other reason is, that being found sinners by the standards of the Law, we might all be saved through faith in Christ, who is the descendant (seed) of Abraham. The Law implants into the heart of mankind a sense of sin and a need of a saviour, revealing our sinfulness and our lost condition. Consequently, we are led to seek God’s forgiveness for our sins by trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ who bore our penalty that the Law required; introducing us to the subject of Grace.
Described by Webster’s Dictionary as favor or goodwill; manifestation of favor especially by a superior; mercy, clemency, pardon; favor shown in granting a delay or temporary immunity; the freely given, unmerited favor and love of God. Grace is favour or kindness exhibited in spite of what an individual deserves, and is one of the key attributes of God <see Ex.34:6-7>. It is almost always associated with mercy, love, and compassion, and the supreme example of grace was the redemption of the Hebrew people from Egypt and their establishment in the Promised Land, and this did not happen because of any merit on Israel’s part <Deut.9:5-6>; and although the grace of God is always free and undeserved, it must not be taken for granted. Grace is given by God, <see Amos 5:15>, and is to be humbly requested <Mal.1:9>. The only way of salvation for any person is by the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ” <Acts 15:11>.
What then is the difference between Law and Grace? How is Grace made possible? How is God’s grace extended to mankind? The answer to these questions is in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and what He accomplished in His death, burial and resurrection.
Jesus was born under or subject to the law: being born subject to the Law He was in complete obedience to the Law <Gal.4:4>; and His earthly life was lived in accordance with the requirements of the Law <see Luke 2:21-24>. He fulfilled the law – he did not destroy or discard the law <Matt.5:17>. He lived in perfect obedience to the Law <Matt.3:17; Matt.17:5 >. He confirmed the promises made to the fathers under the Law <Rom.15:8>. He fulfilled all types of the Law by His life and sacrificial death <see Heb.9:11-26>. He redeemed mankind from the curse of the Law so that the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant might be on all who believe: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”<Gal.3:13-14 (NIV)>. He is the mediator of the New Covenant by His blood: <see Heb.8:6-13>.
Before the Law there was no transgression. One cannot transgress (i.e. “to go beyond”) something that does not exist, the Scriptures make this quite clear: “because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.” <Rom.4:15 (NIV)>. Does this mean then that there was no sin before the Law? There certainly was! Sin was just as wicked and terrible before the law was given; but mankind did not understand the gravity of sin until God’s law revealed the sinfulness of sin; “the sin which had always been morally wrong now became legally wrong”. Thus, the Law revealed sin to be a transgression against God and to convince the sinner of a need for salvation: “for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law.” <Rom.5:13 (NIV)>. Sin therefore was present before the Law, and the only specific penalty for sin was death (God said to Adam “…for when you eat of it you will surely die”Gen.2:17); there was no law for specific sins such as murder, theft, adultery etc., only the penalty of death was pronounced.
The Law did not produce sin, nor was the Law itself sin; it revealed the exceeding sinfulness of sin. God gave the Law with detailed instructions and specific penalties, showing the true nature of sin, causing an awakening in the heart of mankind: “The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more” <Rom.5:20 (NIV); Rom.7:5 >. The Law stirred up sin, and guilt was experienced because blame could now be assigned. This is illustrated by a parent’s command to a young child not to do a specific thing or go to a specific place. Prior to this the child had no desire to “do” or “go”, but now curiosity takes over and the desire to disobey is strong. The Law is therefore for sinners not saints: <see 1 Tim.1:5-9>.
Since the Believer is no longer subject to the Law, does this mean that a Believer is allowed to live as if the Law is of no consequence? What is the effect or consequence when a Believer sins? Is the Law broken? Is the Believer’s sin a “transgression of the Law”? Many Believers who are faced with these questions arrive at conclusions that are not biblical, attempting to make themselves comfortable with their solutions. “The Bible never separates faith from obedience. Love is no longer love if there is no obedience. Rather than being some sort of penalty, obedience is what makes faith strong. Far from being oppressive, the commandments are blessings. God’s love is His law. Without the law, God’s love becomes meaningless and God Himself is merely a dead abstraction. Those who live as though God’s law does not matter are guilty of promoting atheism and unbelief.” (Christianity Today, Apr 29, 1991). Therefore, the sin of the Believer breaks the Law of God’s Love; in other words, we spurn His love and disregard His grace and are thus out of fellowship with Him, and can no longer enjoy communion with the Lord. <see Rom.6:1-2, 15-18>. “It must be carefully noted that the Christian is not under law; grace has imparted to him all the merit that he could ever need <John 1:16; Rom. 5:1-2; 8:1-2; Col. 2:9-10>. Being “ related” to Christ <1 Cor. 9:20-21> does not mean that the Christian is without law, but it does mean, as one redeemed by grace, that he has the duty, or rather gracious privilege, of not doing that which is displeasing to God and of fully discharging that which is well pleasing to Him on the basis of a manifestation of spontaneous gratitude for his salvation in grace.” (from New Unger’s Bible Dictionary) (originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois. Copyright (C) 1988.)
The knowledge of being free from the Law can cause some Believers to become spiritual “law makers” forcing other Believers to abide by “their laws”: that is, they establish laws by which others are judged, and fellowship among believers is dependent upon whether or not these “laws” are observed; attempting to restrict God’s grace to man-made rules <see Gal.5:13-15; 1 Pet.2:16-17>. “Grace involves applying the Biblical requirements with tenderness in an effort to help, heal, and restore. It means not going beyond what God has said in imposing consequences. Grace demands that we do all we can to minister to the hurts others suffer due to emotional or cultural pressures. It is a matter of grace for a congregation to set up a biblical standard and then to lovingly discipline members who violate that boundary. Grace demands that we work hard to understand the truth of Scripture so that we neither fall short of it because of emotional or cultural pressure or go beyond it and become more severe than God would be.” (Moody, Nov. 1991)
HOW DOES LAW AND GRACE AFFECT US TODAY?
The Law prohibits – Grace invites and gives. Law condemns the sinner- Grace redeems the sinner. The Law curses – Grace blesses. The Law condemns the best person – Grace saves the worst person. The Law reveals sin – Grace atones for sin. The Law demands obedience – Grace gives power to obey. The Law and its demands ended in Christ – Grace abides forever. The Law says “the soul that sins shall die” – Grace says “believe and live”.
Grace then, dismisses all human accomplishment and only requires faith in Christ our Saviour, and any combination of human capability violates the Grace of God.