Light to Live By

"The unfolding of your words gives light ..." (Psalm 119:130a)

Category: Sin (page 1 of 2)

Two Problems; One Solution

“Oh, that I had the indictment written by my adversary!” (Job 31:35)

“Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24)

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This morning my devotional reading juxtaposed two men, both in deep woe, but for profoundly different reasons. My Old Testament reading concluded in Job 31, which is Job’s last gasp of complaint over what appears to him to be the injustice of his sufferings. My New Testament reading included Romans 7 and 8, where we find Paul crying out in despair over his struggle with sin.

Both men are tormented and distraught; both are crying out in anguish. Job goes through a litany of seven areas of sin, showing how thoroughly he has probed his heart for any evidence of sin as he tries to find a reason that makes sense of why God would let him suffer as he does (Job 31:35-37). Paul, on the other hand, is in anguish because everywhere he turns in review of his ways he finds nothing but sin. He sees sin everywhere in himself. He is looking for someone who can save him from God’s just judgment and the power of sin.

Job sees no sin anywhere in his life, yet he suffers. Paul sees sin everywhere in his life, yet he is powerless to deal with it. Both are beyond distraught.

The answer in both cases is: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:25a).

Job repeatedly longed for someone to stand between him and God as a mediator (Job 11:33; 16:19-21; 19:25-26). Paul knows Jesus to be just that one, a perfect Mediator, who at the cost of His own life paid our sin penalty (Romans 8:3), whether we are able to discern those sins or not (Psa. 19:12-13). Jesus causes us to gladly cry, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (8:1). Plus, Jesus sends His very own Spirit to reside within us (8:9), to deeply and personally make real our connection and fellowship with God (8:15-17), and to produce through us all that He requires of us (8:2-4)!

In Jesus we find the one and only Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5-6), in whom we may rest as life and its hardships do not make sense. In Jesus we find the one and only sin sacrifice, in which we may rest when our sins overwhelm us. In Jesus we receive His Spirit, in whom we may rest, trusting His empowering to free us from the power of sin.

Truly we cry, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

Authority is Unavoidable

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“If within us we find nothing over us we succumb to what is around us.”
“You’re gonna have to serve somebody,
It may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody. “
–Bob Dylan (“Gotta Serve Somebody”)
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
–Apostle Paul (Romans 6:16)
“… by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved.”
–Apostle Peter (2 Peter 2:19b)
“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.”
–Jesus (John 8:34)

The Hinge of History

cross.01“Golgotha is the converging point of all ancient history and the origin of all modern history.” — S. Lewis Johnson (“Golgotha”)

The Weight of Shame

“… looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

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“It is important to recognize that the shame of the cross … is something infinitely more intense than the pain of the cross. Others have suffered the pain of crucifixion, but he alone has endured the shame of human depravity in all its foulness and degradation.” (P.E. Hughes, A Commentary on the Epistle to the Hebrews, 525)

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A Single Cross on a Single Day

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“… through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:20).

Paul has in view reconciliation not merely on a personal, but a cosmic level (τὰ πάντα, “all things”). The same expression was used three times in verses 16 and 17 to depict, as it does here, “the whole of creation” (BAGD, 633). The totality of created reality is in view. Something happened upon that cross on that Friday that was reality-altering for everything, everyone, everywhere, for all time.

There the Father moved to reconcile “to Himself” (εἰς αὐτόν) an entire creation that had been hurled into opposition against him. “The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but … in hope” (Romans 8:20). The realization of that hope was purchased on the cross. For it was there that God the Father “made peace” (εἰρηνοποιήσας) by bringing wrath—not upon our rebellious race and the creation we’ve taken with us into chaos, but by bringing His wrath upon His own Son whom He appointed to stand in our place. The peace-making tells us how the reconciliation was effected. Through our autonomy we made war on God, through His obedience Jesus made peace for us with God.

The means or instrument (διὰ) employed by the Father (at His good pleasure, v.19) to make that peace was “the blood of His cross” (τοῦ αἵματος τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτου). The blood of Christ effected propitiation (Romans 3:25), justification (Romans 5:9), redemption, the forgiveness of our trespasses (Ephesians 1:7), and, as here, reconciliation (Ephesians 2:13). It is the ground of all the blessings of the new covenant the Father extends to us in Christ (1 Corinthians 11:25).

When Paul speaks of Christ’s blood he is using a figure of speech known as metalepsis. Thus, in the first place, “blood” stands for blood-shedding (i.e., the death of Christ). Then, secondly, Christ’s death stands for the full and complete satisfaction which is made by it and for all the merits of the atonement which is brought about by it. Thus, says Bullinger, to speak of the blood of Christ “means not merely the actual blood corpuscles, neither does it mean His death as an act, but the merits of the atonement effected by it and associated with it” (610). The blood is called “of His cross” (τοῦ σταυροῦ αὐτου) because, of course, it was upon the cross where Jesus gave up His life in death to effect the singular event that would change all things forever.

Everything, everywhere, for everyone, for all time – “… this He did once for all when He offered up Himself” on that single cross on that single day so long ago (Hebrews 7:27).

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