By Roland W. Keith
The apostle Paul wrote, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). This willful state of iniquity separates us from a proper relationship with our Creator (Isaiah 59:1-2); in addition to that sin puts us into a state of condemnation. Every just, albeit imperfect, society rightly demands punishment for those who break its laws and endangers the common welfare. Therefore it can be no surprise that God, Who is perfect in His righteousness and is the author of what constitutes the absolute standard of moral, ethical and spiritual behavior commands obedience to His laws of conduct and requires justice for those who act contrary to His divine will (Romans 6:23). Fortunately for us our Creator is not a capricious or vindictive God. Rather, He is a God Who is just in His demands, yet Whose every action toward His creation is marked with infinite love and grace, as His Own Son proclaimed, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him” (John 3:16-17; see also Acts 15:11; 20:32; Romans 6:14).
Since man’s fall from his original state of grace in the garden when his eyes were opened to good and evil, he has been locked in a futile struggle against himself, and his own passions and self-will on the one hand and God’s will for him on the other. Jeremiah rightly noted, “I know, O LORD, that the way of man is not in himself, that it is not in man who walks to direct his steps” (Jeremiah 10:23). Somewhere within man is that spark of the divine nature that reminds him that he was created in the image of God. As corrupted as that image has become, and as unattainable as a return to it is for man by his own actions there is still a way. Not to become righteous again on our own merit, but to be set free and accounted as righteous by the grace of God through the actions of His Son (Romans 8:20-23; John 3:16; James 1:17-18).
Jesus Christ gave His life for us. It is no accident that blood sacrifice was chosen by God as the avenue for man’s salvation. From the beginning certain sins against God and man were specifically deemed worthy of physical death. One who committed rape or premeditated murder stood in forfeiture of his own life for his crime. Sin itself brought death to all men, both physically and spiritually. Throughout our history man has innately understood this concept of justice (Hebrews 9:22). In addition, man has always understood and elevated the value of self-sacrifice. One who gives his or her own life to save others is universally praised as a hero. It is the ultimate form of agape love (love for our fellow man). God’s plan of salvation for man was tailor-made for our natural sense of justice and understanding.
By God’s law we have been found worthy of death, but His Own Son gave, that is sacrificed, His own life to save us (Ephesians 5:2; I John 1:7-9). However, from a proper perspective this goes well beyond agape love. It is one thing for a man to give his life for another man, but for God, our Creator, to send His Own Son to earth to die for our redemption is divine love. It is without merit on our part, yet God determined to do it and guided all of human history to a point in time specially prepared for Jesus to come to earth as His Messiah. As such Jesus ushered in God’s final dispensation for man’s time on earth, as Paul noted: “Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant” Hebrews 9:15).
The revealing of God’s final covenant was continued by the Holy Spirit and Christ’s apostles even after Christ’s ascension, as foretold by Jesus when He said, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak, and He will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:12-13). It took many centuries to prepare the way for God’s Messiah, and the better part of another century to establish His final testament after His kingdom was established. These things were much anticipated in heaven and on earth (I Peter 1:10-12), but the day finally came for God’s plan to be revealed in its entirety. For his part Paul wrote, “For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God's grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:1-5). In his first letter to the Corinthians he also wrote, “But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love Him"— these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God” (I Corinthians 2:9-10).
What then did Jesus and the Holy Spirit reveal? First that the word delivered is truth, and that truth has the power to set men free (John 17:17; John 8:31). Second that Jesus is the way, the only way, to God and salvation (John 14:6; 8:24). Third, that the gospel of Jesus Christ “is the power of God for salvation” to all men (Romans 1:16-17; Hebrews 4:12). Fourth, that for that salvation to take effect man must first believe, then take action on that belief, that is they must be “doers of the word” (James 1:21-22). As Paul wrote to the Hebrews, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him” (11:6). To be one who is truly seeking the Lord we must be engaged in His work, as James pointed out: “So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness"—and he was called a friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” (James 2:17-24).
James was not writing of works according to the Law of Moses, rather he was writing about works of obedience under the law of Christ. Every Christian is expected to be involved in the work of the Lord, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10; see also Titus 2:14; 3:8, 14). Not only must we be about the work of the Lord, we must take care to do all according to His will. Jesus became the source of our salvation through His obedience to His Father, in turn we must be obedient as well (Hebrews 5:8-9), as He said, “Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to Me, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many mighty works in Your name?' And then will I declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matthew7:21-23).
Although Christ came to earth and established His kingdom, opening the doors wide for all who seek to come to the Father through Him there remains a great barrier between God and man— man’s own self-will. Though the proof of God’s existent is irrefutable (Romans 1:19-25), many will deny Him. Others will acknowledge Him but be unwilling to accept God on His terms. Still others will roll the dice and gamble with their own eternal fate, hoping that there is no hell, or that God will not send them there for eternity. Paul informed the Hebrews that God had guaranteed His promises with an oath, telling them that it is “impossible for God to lie” (Hebrews 6:17-20). If it is impossible for God to lie about the good things He has promised, it impossible for Him to lie about the fate of those who disobey Him as well (Matthew 10:28; 23:33; 25:46; II Thessalonians 1:9).
In his first letter to Timothy, Paul told his young protégé, “This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (I Timothy 2:3-4). Peter echoed Paul’s statement in his second letter, where he wrote, “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (II Peter 3:9). God wants all men to be saved. He has given us a clear path to heaven’s gate. Not an easy path, but a true one. Not only that but He is Himself our guide. So long as we obey His word and refuse to turn to the right hand or to the left we will never be lost (Deuteronomy 5:32; Joshua 1:7; Proverbs 4:27).
In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost Peter proclaimed, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). If we come to Christ and remain faithful even “unto death,” we will receive the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.