Put off the old man; put on the new

“That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Ephesians 4:22-24

Since we have been redeemed by Christ Jesus and saved entirely of God’s grace from beginning to end, how should we then live as God’s redeemed children, as members of Christ’s body, the Church?

As St. Paul wrote to the church at Rome (Romans 6:1-4): “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Cf. Luther’s explanation of Baptism, Part IV.

That is why the apostle here also directs members of Christ’s Church to put off the old Adam – our old sinful ways and way of living – and put on the new Man, who “after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”

Though Adam was originally created in the image of God – loving God, trusting God and seeking to honor God in all His ways – all of us were born in the image of Adam after the fall into sin and, so, are self centered and sinful. Instead of seeking to walk in God’s ways and according to His perfect will, we seek our own ways and our own will.

Since the Spirit of God has regenerated us and brought us to trust in Christ Jesus as our Savior by means of the waters of Baptism and the faithful preaching of God’s Word, we now have a new spiritual nature dwelling in us which again loves God, trusts Him and seeks His honor and glory. The apostle urges us as believers, redeemed by Christ’s shed blood, to put off the old corrupt man and put on the new man which “after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” Cf. Gen. 1:26-27; Tit. 3:3-7; Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10; 2 Cor. 3:18; Ps. 17:15.

The apostle then lists specific sins to put off and commands God-pleasing behavior to put on as believers in Christ. Cf. Eph. 4-5.

Grant that we would repent of our sinful ways and look to You, O Lord, for mercy and forgiveness and for the strength to put off our old ways and put on the new man You have created within us. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

Are You Too Busy for that One Thing Needful?

“And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:41-42 (Read v. 38-42)

How easy it is to become so busy in our service to the Lord Jesus that we neglect that one thing needful: To sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word! It even happens to ministers. They become so busy getting everything ready for church services and Bible studies that they neglect to read and meditate in the Scriptures for their own benefit.

It happened to Martha. When Jesus came, she was busy preparing and serving Jesus and His disciples. Now, that’s not a bad thing to do; but she was so busy she neglected to take time for what was most important and even voiced her concerns that Mary, who was sitting at Jesus’ feet and hearing His Word, did not get up and help her.

Each one of us can benefit from considering Jesus’ answer: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things: But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

What is keeping you so busy that you do not have time to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word? What is keeping you from spending time each day reading and meditating upon the Holy Scriptures? Is it work or school? Is it relaxation and recreation? Is it television? Is it church work?

Remember: While all these things may be good and important, there is one thing that is truly needful for all of us, and that is to sit at Jesus’ feet and hear His Word. Why? His Word teaches us of God and His ways. It teaches us how God would have us live as His children. But, most importantly, Jesus’ Word assures us of His love and mercy and forgiveness. It tells us that He died for all our sins and rose again that we might have forgiveness and life through faith in His name!

O Jesus, forgive me for being so busy in my service for You that I neglect to take time to sit at Your feet and hear all You have to say to me in Your life-giving Word. Grant that I not neglect this one thing so needful for my soul. Amen.

[Scripture quoted from the King James Version of the Bible]

Preserving Our Unity in Christ

“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:1-3

Wherever the Word of God is preached in its truth and purity and the Sacraments are rightly administered the devil is hard at work to destroy the unity created by the Holy Spirit and to break apart what is bound together in peace. This is why the apostle Paul, after explaining to the believers at Ephesus how God graciously granted them salvation through faith in Christ Jesus (Eph. 1:3ff.; 2:1ff.), urged and beseeched them to walk worthy of their calling and membership in Christ’s holy Church.

By God’s grace and mercy alone, we have been called out of this world and gathered into Christ’s Church (ekklesia) – the congregation of saints, or those counted holy and righteous through faith in Christ Jesus. God graciously chose us to be His own before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-5). He sent His own dear Son to make atonement for the sins of all (Eph. 1:6-7). He called us to faith in Christ Jesus through the preaching of the Gospel (Eph. 1:13-14; 2:4ff.) and made us His own dear children through the waters of Baptism (cf. Gal. 3:26ff.; Eph. 5:25-27). We are now in fellowship with God the Father through faith in the Son (cf. 1 John 1:3ff.). God has “delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins…” (Col. 1:13-14).

We are one with all other true believers in Christ. “There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (Eph. 4:4-6).

Even though we have different gifts and abilities, we are part of one Church, made up of all true believers in Christ Jesus.

Therefore, we are to endeavor “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” And how do we maintain the unity given us in the body of Christ by the gracious operation of God’s Spirit? How do we keep from loosing the bond of peace we have in Christ? We seek to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith [we] are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.” (Cf. 1 Cor. 13:4ff.; Col. 3:12ff.) We hold fast to Christ and His teaching and grow up into Him (cf. Eph. 4:8ff.).

The devil would have us find fault with each other, to be proud and to insist on having things our way in the Church. Christ would have us be humble, to suffer long the shortcomings of our fellow believers, to forbear (to hold back and refrain from speaking harsh words or taking retaliatory actions against) one another, in Christian love. Instead of picking each other apart and dividing what God has joined together, God’s Word calls upon us to: “Confess [our] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that [we] may be healed” (James 5:16); and to “be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Eph. 4:32). And God’s Word calls upon us to grow up in Christ, not to be swayed by every wind of doctrine and to build each other up in the truth (Eph. 4:14-16).

Satan seeks to divide us with false teaching and pride. Jesus unites us with truth and humility.

We thank You for Your grace and mercy toward us in Christ Jesus, O God, for calling us out of this world and bringing us into the kingdom of Your beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of all our sins. Grant that we would hold fast to Christ, our Head, and preserve the unity and bond of peace You have given us in our Savior. In His name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture from the King James Version of the Bible]

Are you part of the mystery of the Gospel?

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.” Ephesians 3:8-12

Do you know the greatest mystery in the world? It was a mystery not even revealed to the angels of God in heaven until it unfolded in time and was, by the church, made known to the heavenly beings. And did you know that we – you and I – are a part of this mystery promised of old but made known in Christ Jesus?

What is this mystery? It is spoken of and revealed in the Bible. It is the plan of God to save both Jew and Gentile through faith in the crucified and risen Messiah Jesus, God the Son and true man, born of the virgin Mary, who suffered and died for the sins of the world under Pontius Pilate and then rose again.

Yes, it was promised; but who understood that the promise of the Seed of the woman, Abraham’s Seed, the Son of David, the Child and suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah would all be fulfilled when God sent forth His own Son into the world, “made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons” (Galatians 4:4-5)? And who knew that Messiah Jesus, through whom God made the worlds, would take upon Himself the punishment for the sins of the world and rise again?

And who knew that God would save both Jew and Gentile through faith in His Son (Ephesians 2:11ff.)? And yet He did. Through the preaching of the Gospel, He even brought you and me to see and know Jesus as our Savior and to trust in Him for forgiveness and life eternal in God’s everlasting kingdom.

The apostle Paul was privileged to preach this mystery and you and I are privileged to be a part of it and to share it with others. Through faith in Christ Jesus, who atoned for the sins of the world, you and I are forgiven and have a place in God’s eternal kingdom. What a blessing!

We thank You, O Lord, for making known unto us the mystery of Your will in Christ Jesus, our Savior, and bringing us to trust in Him alone for forgiveness of sins and life everlasting. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

“Fellowcitizens with the Saints” Ephesians 2

Tomorrow, July 4, our nation celebrates Independence Day. We celebrate tomorrow, the day the document’s wording was agreed upon in Continental Congress, though it was actually declared on July 2, 1776, signed in August of 1776 and not received in Great Britain until November of that year. The Revolutionary War, which began more than a year earlier when the first shots were fired at Lexington and Concord as the British attempted to disarm the Americans, did not end until 1783.

In this way, our nation gained its independence from the tyrannical rule of the British Crown. And we have been so richly blessed! Perhaps more than any other nation on earth, we have had the Word of God and have had the freedom to read it, preach it from the pulpit, teach it to our children and share it with our neighbors. We have so much for which to be thankful. We have been blessed beyond measure with both religious freedom and the freedom to pursue earthly prosperity in this world.

But what has happened to our nation which once held to Christian and Biblical values? A place where the Bible was once read and studied, and where prayers to the true God once ascended? God’s Word is now becoming despised, explained away and even outlawed. And while our nation would seek to grant religious freedom to every other religion on earth, it seeks to silence Christians and the true teaching of the Bible.

And though we had freedom and blessing, now, because of the sinfulness of man, we have succumbed again to another tyrannical government which openly opposes Jesus Christ and all who follow Him and hold fast to His Word. Because our people and rulers walk “according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience” and seek to fulfill “the desires of the flesh and of the mind,” our nation sanctions the murder of millions of unborn children, openly promotes the false teaching of evolution, rejects the Biblical and traditional view of marriage and protects alleged rights of homosexuals to marry and openly practice their immoral lifestyles.

And God’s Word is quite clear. Because our nation rejects the truth of God’s Word and seeks to silence the testimony of believers, it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for Sodom and Gomorrah, and for other cities and places which have lived in wickedness, than for the United States of America – because we had the truth and heard the truth but now refuse to humble ourselves before God and repent. As Jesus said in our Gospel lesson in Luke 10, our nation, “which art exalted to heaven, shalt be thrust down to hell” (v. 15).

But what about you and me? We make no claim to be, somehow, better than our nation and its rulers. In fact, if it were not for God’s grace and mercy toward us, we would be marching along with our fellow countrymen on the road to hell and be happy about it. Why do I say this? Because the Bible plainly tells us in Ephesians 2:1-3 that by nature, “you … were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.”

We weren’t born into this world Christian. We don’t naturally love the God of the Bible, trust Him, believe His Word and seek to honor Him with our lives. We were born into this world selfish and sinful. We seek our own ways and desire to do what pleases and honors us. We weren’t even able to know God or truly love Him. As David wrote in Psalm 51:5, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

And so how is it that we are not on the same road with so many of our fellow citizens of this land? God gives us the answer in Epehsians 2:4-9: “But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised [us] up together, and made [us] sit together in heavenly [places] in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in [his] kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast….”

It is because of God’s grace and mercy toward us – “His great love wherewith He loved us” – that we have been “delivered us from the power of darkness, and … translated into the kingdom of his dear Son: in whom we have redemption through his blood, [even] the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). By the grace of God, we have been rescued and set free from the tyrannical kingdom of Satan and brought into the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.

“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). The eternal Son of God who created the world and gave life to our first parents came into this word a true man. He kept all of God’s commandment for us. He loved the Lord God with all His heart, soul and mind. Though He was tempted like we are, He did not sin (cf. Hebrews 4:15).

Then God took your sin, my sin and the sin of the whole world and laid it upon His Son, Jesus Christ, and punished Him in our stead. As the Bible says, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). And Jesus suffered and died upon the cross for our sins. He was forsaken of God the Father on account of our sins. He made atonement for all our sins and He rose again in victory.

Jesus Christ, the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for [the sins of] the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2). He “was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification” (Romans 4:25). His resurrection is proof that the Father accepted His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world and that all who trust in Him are justified and forgiven through faith in His name.

And we who “were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” we who “sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Ephesians 2:12,13). God has preached peace to us, the peace of sins forgiven and life eternal through faith in the Son. Through the preaching of God’s Word, and through our baptism and the reception of the Lord’s Supper, God offers to us and assures to us the forgiveness of sins, the pardon, the reconciliation which Christ won for us and all men by His innocent sufferings and death upon the cross. And, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Word, He was opened our blind eyes, raised us up from spiritual darkness and death, caused us to see our utter sinfulness and just condemnation and to trust in Christ Jesus for forgiveness and life. When we, by the grace of God repented and looked in faith to Jesus and His cross, God acquitted us and justified us. He accepted us as His own dear children.

And so, though we are still citizens of our country here in this world, our true citizenship is in God’s everlasting kingdom of heaven. Though the laws and rules of our land may be corrupted by man, our faith and hope rest on the sure foundation of the apostles and prophets, and Jesus Christ and His atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world is the cornerstone of our faith. Though we may be hated, persecuted or even put to death by our own countrymen in this world, God dwells in us by His Spirit and assures us of salvation in Christ Jesus. Though we live and testify to the truth in this world that others too might know Christ, our true home is in heaven with our Savior.

It is as we read in Ephesians 2:19-22, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner [stone]; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.”

I close by reading the words of a hymn written by Thomas Rawson Taylor, an English Christian who lived a short life of less than 30 years (from 1807-1835) and was in poor health in his latter years but realized where his true home was and looked forward to the glories of heaven for Jesus’ sake.

1. I’m but a stranger here, Heav’n is my home;

Earth is a desert drear, Heav’n is my home.

Danger and sorrow stand Round me on every hand;

Heav’n is my fatherland, Heav’n is my home.

2. What though the tempest rage, Heav’n is my home;

Short is my pilgrimage, Heav’n is my home;

And time’s wild wintry blast Soon shall be overpast;

I shall reach home at last, Heav’n is my home.

3. There at my Savior’s side Heav’n is my home;

I shall be glorified, Heav’n is my home;

There are the good and blest, Those I love most and best;

And there I, too, shall rest, Heav’n is my home.

4. Therefore I murmur not, Heav’n is my home;

Whate’er my earthly lot, Heav’n is my home;

And I shall surely stand There at my Lord’s right hand.

Heav’n is my fatherland, Heav’n is my home.

How is it that you and I are saved?

The Formula of Concord, Solid Declaration, Article XI, on Election, explains the Biblical view of election but also summarizes so well the Bible’s teaching about how we are saved entirely of God’s grace and why we can be confident that He will keep us in the true and saving faith unto life everlasting. It also rightly distinguishes between the redemption and reconciliation accomplished by Christ and our justification by faith:

Therefore, if we wish to think or speak correctly and profitably concerning eternal election, or the predestination and ordination of the children of God to eternal life, we should accustom ourselves not to speculate concerning the bare, secret, concealed, inscrutable foreknowledge of God, but how the counsel, purpose, and ordination of God in Christ Jesus, who is the true Book of Life, is revealed to us through the Word, namely, that the entire doctrine concerning the purpose, counsel, will, and ordination of God pertaining to our redemption, call, justification, and salvation should be taken together; as Paul treats and has explained this article Rom. 8:29f; Eph. 1:4f, as also Christ in the parable, Matt. 22:1ff, namely, that God in His purpose and counsel ordained [decreed]:

1. That the human race is truly redeemed and reconciled with God through Christ, who, by His faultless [innocency] obedience, suffering, and death, has merited for us the righteousness which avails before God, and eternal life.

2. That such merit and benefits of Christ shall be presented, offered, and distributed to us through His Word and Sacraments.

3. That by His Holy Ghost, through the Word, when it is preached, heard, and pondered, He will be efficacious and active in us, convert hearts to true repentance, and preserve them in the true faith.

4. That He will justify all those who in true repentance receive Christ by a true faith, and will receive them into grace, the adoption of sons, and the inheritance of eternal life.

5. That He will also sanctify in love those who are thus justified, as St. Paul says, Eph. 1:4.

6. That He also will protect them in their great weakness against the devil, the world, and the flesh, and rule and lead them in His ways, raise them again [place His hand beneath them], when they stumble, comfort them under the cross and in temptation, and preserve them [for life eternal].

7. That He will also strengthen, increase, and support to the end the good work which He has begun in them, if they adhere to God’s Word, pray diligently, abide in God’s goodness [grace], and faithfully use the gifts received.

8. That finally He will eternally save and glorify in life eternal those whom He has elected, called, and justified.

Saved By Grace, Through Faith, For Christ’s Sake

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

The precious truth expressed in this passage of God’s Word was for centuries clouded and hidden from the people. Even today many think that salvation depends upon human works rather than upon the grace and favor of God toward sinful man. But salvation from the eternal torments of hell which we all deserve on account of our sinfulness is by God’s grace alone and through faith alone in Jesus Christ!

We cannot by our own works and lives contribute anything toward our salvation. God is gracious to us sinners and offers to us forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven only because Jesus Christ, His own dear Son in human flesh, lived a sinless life in our stead and then suffered and died upon the cross for our sins, rising again on the third day.

For Christ’s sake, God graciously chose us to be His own and, in time, brought us to trust in Him to forgive our sins and accept us as His own dear children for the sake of the redemption accomplished by His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 1:3ff.; 2:1ff.). He raised us up from spiritual darkness and death by the Spirit’s working through the Gospel, bringing us to know our sinfulness and to trust in Christ and His blood, shed upon the cross for our sins.

From start to finish, our salvation is of God’s grace; we have nothing of which to boast. Even the works we do as a result of God’s gracious gift of salvation are His working in us for Jesus’ sake. To God be the glory forever and ever!

Dear LORD God, we thank Thee for Thy grace and mercy toward us for Jesus’ sake; and we pray Thee to keep us trusting in Christ alone for our salvation. Grant also that we, as Thy forgiven children, may live our lives for Thee doing those works which Thou hast created us to do. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the King James Version of the Bible]

What has Christ Jesus accomplished for us by His death and resurrection?

“Jesus our Lord … was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification. Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Romans 4:24,25 — 5:2

What has Jesus accomplished for us by His innocent sufferings and death and by His glorious resurrection? That is shown us by the words which the Holy Spirit moved St. Paul to write to the believers in Rome.

“Jesus our Lord … was delivered up because of our offenses.” Jesus was delivered up to death on the cross on account of our sins — yours and mine. Jesus was holy and just. We are unjust sinners. We justly deserve God’s eternal wrath and punishment for our disobedience and sin, but Jesus was delivered up for our sins. He bore our punishment. As St. Peter wrote in his first epistle, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit…” (1 Peter 3:18; cf. Isaiah 53:6).

Jesus “was raised because of our justification.” Jesus’ bodily resurrection on the third day proves that God the Father accepted the sacrifice of His Son as full payment for our sins and the sins of the whole world. “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2). If His sacrifice were not sufficient, Jesus would not been raised from the dead and we would still be dead in our sins. But He has been raised — He lives — and we have forgiveness through faith in His name!

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….” When we believe that “Jesus our Lord … was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification,” we receive God’s pardon and are justified by faith. We then possess peace with God — the peace won for us by the holy and precious blood of Christ shed for us on the cross. Instead of being enemies of God, we are reconciled to God (Romans 4:10-11). The sin which separated us from God has been taken out of the way, being nailed to Christ’s cross (Colossians 2:13-14; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:18-19).

And we need not doubt our salvation. It is as sure as Christ’s death for our sins and His glorious resurrection on the third day. Since Jesus bore our sins and died in our stead, and since God the Father raised Jesus up on the third day, we have peace with God through faith in Christ Jesus, our Savior!

“… through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand.” God’s grace and favor — His loving pardon and forgiveness — is not ours by some work that we do. Rather, it is ours through faith in our Lord Jesus Christ! We access God’s grace, not by works but by faith. As Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness, so also God’s grace and pardon is imputed to us and becomes our own through faith in Him who raised Christ from the dead (cf. Romans 4:13ff.). It is as St. Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

And we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” Now that we are justified by faith in God’s Son, who “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification,” we “rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We have the certainty — a certain hope — of the glory of God. Not only do we have full pardon and forgiveness for our sins through faith in Jesus, we have the certainty of heaven. We rejoice because our sinful, earthly bodies will be raised up glorious, heavenly bodies like that of our Lord Jesus and we shall live forever with our God in heaven (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35ff.; Romans 8:23; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)!

We thank You, dear Lord Jesus, for the bearing upon the cross the just punishment for our sins and for rising again in victory that forgiveness and life eternal might be ours through faith in Your name. Amen.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

What has God done to save man and to restore His creation?

Man’s fall into sin, described in Genesis 3, changed everything in God’s good creation. As a result, all of us are born into sin and evil fills the earth. We must work hard to earn a living. We suffer pain and illness and, finally, we die and return to the dust of the ground. And with Adam and Eve, we stand condemned on account of sin to eternal death and damnation. But as we heard from Genesis 3:15, God promised the Seed of the woman to crush the serpent’s head and undo his evil work.

What has God done to save man and to restore His creation? Perhaps the most simple and clear answer to this question is recorded for us in the words of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Though God is a just God who must punish sin, His first desire for each and every one of us is that we might be saved from eternal condemnation and punishment and live forever in fellowship with Him. In order to provide salvation for fallen and sinful mankind, God sent His Son into this world as a true man to take our place under God’s law and fulfill it for us, and to suffer and die upon the cross to bear the full punishment and condemnation for the sins of all people.

God promised a Savior from the beginning, immediately after the fall of Adam and Eve. He said in His words to the serpent: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15).

God’s Word tells us: “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5; cf. Hebrews 2:14-17).

Since man was unable to fulfill the righteous demands of God’s law and could not make atonement for his own sinfulness, God sent His own Son into this world, born miraculously of the Virgin Mary, true God and true man (cf. Luke 1:26ff.; Matthew 1:18ff.). God’s Son, Jesus the Messiah, or Jesus Christ, lived a sinless life under God’s commandments. He walked in perfect fellowship with God the Father in heaven. In obedience to the Father, He then went to the cross and was forsaken and condemned of God the Father that He might suffer the full and just punishment for the sins of all mankind (cf. Matthew 27:46).

Again, the Bible says: “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). The Bible tells us that “if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 2:1,2).

The Bible tells us “that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

Because Jesus died for our sins and rose again, God’s wrath against our sins is satisfied and He is gracious to us. He reaches out to us with mercy and forgiveness. Through faith in Jesus and His blood shed for us upon the cross, God’s pardon and forgiveness become our own – they are imputed to us for righteousness, we are forgiven and acceptable in His sight for Christ’s sake – and we have life everlasting in God’s eternal kingdom.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…” (Ephesians 1:3-7).

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

How do we become children of God?

“For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:26-29

Though Adam and Eve were created as children of God, knowing God and His holy will, truly loving Him, trusting Him and fearing and honoring Him with their lives (cf. Genesis 1:26-27; Luke 3:38), Adam and Eve lost their right to be God’s children when they doubted God’s Word and disobeyed Him. They sought to be like God, knowing good and evil, but became children of the devil, enslaved by evil (Genesis 3). As a result, all of us are born “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath” (Ephesians 2:1-3). We are, by nature, sinners deserving of God’s everlasting punishment!

But, through the promise of His Son to be our Savior, God again gave the right and privilege of sonship to His elect, from Adam through Noah and Abraham to the present. Those who place their faith in Christ Jesus – who was to come and now has come – are called the sons of God (cf. Genesis 6:1ff.; Hosea 1:10; John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:1-2). Those who do not trust in Jesus as the Son of God and their Savior are of their “father the devil” (John 8:44) and continue in his evil ways. Like the judgment of God which came upon the children of men in the days of Noah, so God’s fiery wrath and judgment will come upon the children of men on the Last Day.

How do we become children of God? God’s Word tells us: “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27; cf. Mark 16:16).

We do not deserve the right of sonship, nor can we earn it; for we are sinners. But Christ has won it for us by His holy life and innocent sufferings and death in our stead (cf. John 1:12-13).

The Bible tells us that “Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit” (1 Peter 3:18). Because Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose again, the right and privilege of sonship is ours through faith – by believing the truth that God forgives our sins and accepts us as His own dear children for Jesus’ sake (Ephesians 1:6-7; John 1:12-13).

And, through Christian Baptism, God offers, gives and assures to us this forgiveness of sins, right of sonship and eternal life which Jesus won for us on Calvary. In our Baptism, He graciously washes away our sins, and His Holy Spirit regenerates us and gives us the assurance that we are indeed forgiven children of our heavenly Father (Acts 22:16; 2:38-39; Titus 3:5-6). In our Baptism, our sins are cleansed away, and we are clothed with the perfect and holy righteousness of Christ – making us blameless and acceptable in God’s eyes (cf. Ephesians 5:25-27). This is true, regardless of our race, status or sex; through faith in Jesus, we are God’s children and a part of Christ’s family, the Church.

If we are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ, then we are the promised descendants of Abraham (Genesis 15:5-6; 17:4-8; 22:17-18; Romans 4:13-25) and shall inherit the blessings promised to Abraham and his descendants. We have “a living hope” because of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. We have “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven” for us (1 Peter 1:3,4). When we die, the angels will carry our soul to the bosom of Abraham (Luke 16:22; 23:42-43); and on the Last Day, our bodies will be raised up and changed into glorious and heavenly bodies like that of our Lord Jesus, and we will forever be with the Lord (cf. 1 John 3:2; Philippians 3:20-21; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)!

Dear Father in heaven, we thank You for the privilege of being Your children through faith in our Savior. Dear Christ Jesus, we thank You for winning for us the right and privilege of sonship by Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death. Dear Holy Spirit, we thank You for bringing us to faith in Christ Jesus and making us children of our heavenly Father. Graciously keep us in the true faith until we receive the promised inheritance – eternal life with You, the Son and the Father, and all our fellow-believers. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

[Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]