“I Can’t Become A Christian Because I Know That I’ll Mess Up”

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Over my years of preaching the Gospel, I have been richly blessed to speak with several individuals about lots of different topics.  

One of the topics that has come up more times then I can count deals with excuses people make about not wanting to become a Christian.  

Often we will sit and study (sometimes for hours, sometimes for weeks), and we will notice God’s incredible grace in sending His Son to die for us (2 Corinthians 9:17). We will study about His grace in allowing us time to hear His Word and repent of our sins (Romans 2:3-4). We will study about His grace in allowing us to be baptized into Christ, being buried with Him (Romans 6:3-4).  

Then, the individual I am teaching will often make this comment (or something similar):

“Mark, I know that I need to be saved; but I can’t because I am just so afraid that I’ll mess up and sin after I become a Christian!”

Let me share with you what I tell those individuals:

“Let’s be absolutely clear here bro; I guarantee that you will mess up!!” 

I often get a look of shock when I share that sentiment.  

Friends, let me tell you something: temptation and human weakness are not things which just vanish the moment we are baptized into Christ!  

Doesn’t the New Testament teach us this fact plainly?  

When the Apostle Paul wrote to our brethren in Rome, they had been baptized with Christ (Romans 6:3-4). Yet he told them:

Romans 6:12-13 (ERV)-12  But don’t let sin control your life here on earth. You must not be ruled by the things your sinful self makes you want to do. 13  Don’t offer the parts of your body to serve sin. Don’t use your bodies to do evil, but offer yourselves to God, as people who have died and now live. Offer the parts of your body to God to be used for doing good.

Paul told these Christians that they needed to stop sinning.  

Yes, they had been buried with Christ in baptism, and had risen to walk in newness of life. What then? Some of these Christians had “messed up” and were living in sin.

Did Paul say, “Wow, since you are sinning and have messed up, you can’t be forgiven.”

No!

He said that now, they needed to repent and start living right.  

When Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians, did he not express the same sentiments? 

Hebrews 12:1-2-1  Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2  looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Paul wrote to these Christians and encouraged them to lay down the sin which so easily ensnared them. The imagery of “the sin which so easily ensnares” is that of any type of sin which will surround us and cause us to trip. Some scholars have pointed out that this could have reference to certain types of baggage that a runner would carry in a race that would cause him to stumble, while others have related the language of Paul to certain kinds of loin clothes that a runner would wear which would cause hardship during the Olympics.  

The point I want you to see is that these Christians, who had been baptized into Christ prior to Paul’s writing (Hebrews 10:22), were still struggling with sin in their lives. They had “messed up.” They had started the race and were still struggling with sin.  

Did this mean that they were no longer saved?  

Had the grace of God abandoned them because they had sinned after becoming a Christian?

Not at all!  

I want to suggest five things to you about this mentality that “we can’t become a Christian because we will mess up later.”

First, the Bible makes it absolutely clear that you will continue to struggle with temptation and sin after being saved. Receiving the new birth does not mean that our temptations will cease, for as long as we have these bodies and live in this fallen world, we will struggle with sin. In fact, this seems to be the point that Paul makes in 1 Corinthians when he discusses the blessings of the Second Coming of Christ and how we will receive our new glorified bodies: 

1 Corinthians 15:44-It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

Our “new bodies” will be “spiritual” and not “natural.” Many teach that this means we will receive bodies that are not physical (an idea which is contrary to the text-Christ’s resurrected body is like what our new bodies will be like, and as His body was a physical body, so will be ours-1 Corinthians 15:1-8; 23).  

However, in context, the meaning of “spiritual” and “natural” is very clear: 

“Paul: You misunderstand what I meant by the term natural. The New Revised Standard Version and its predecessor the Revised Standard Version are the only translations to use the word physical. Virtually every other translation renders the word natural.[ 12] Those who translate the word as physical are mistaken, and it is easy to demonstrate this. The Greek word we are talking about is psychikos.[ 13] Would you like to know how many times in the Bible, including the intertestamental writings, this word means physical or material, as the New Revised Standard Version suggests? Zero! It is never used that way.[ 14] The Greek word we are talking about for spiritual is pneumatikos.[ 15] Would you like to know how many times this word means immaterial as the New Revised Standard Version suggests? Zero![ 16] To see what I meant by these words, you only need to look a few chapters earlier in my same first letter to the Corinthian church…I’m saying here that the natural man who is controlled by his fleshly and sinful desires does not accept the truths of God because they can only be understood by those who are controlled by desires that are centered on the true God—in other words, spiritual people. Thus, in chapter 15, verse 44, I’m saying that our bodies are buried with all of their fleshly and sinful appetites. But they are raised with only holy appetites that are focused on God. There is no reason whatsoever for translating what I wrote to mean that we are buried with physical bodies but will be raised with immaterial ones, leaving the old body in the ground.” (Michael R. Licona, Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate On The resurrection, 1590-1602 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

Friends, as long as we are in this world, we will struggle with temptation and sin.  

Second, please consider this: God’s grace is more then sufficient!  

Some seem to have the idea that God’s grace is abundant in leading us to become a Christian, but after that, it somehow loses its power. This is, I think, what caused some in the second and third century church to believe that there is no forgiveness to a Christian who sins. It is almost as if people think, “Well, God’s grace brought me here; now it’s up to me.” Oh, they won’t use those words; but they will often live in such a way that they believe they must be sinlessly perfect, and if not, then that’s it.  

The End.  

No hope.  

Finito.  

Game Over.  

They are “once saved, always in misery.”

Friends, please understand: the grace of God is more then sufficient for you! Isn’t that what the Apostle John meant in 1 John 1:7?

1 John 1:7-But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.

John is writing to Christians, and he reminds them that if they (Christians) say that they have no sin, they are deceiving themselves (1 John 1:8). Notice the tense of the verb: John says if there are Christians who say they HAVE (present tense) no sin, then they deceive themselves. M
Could there be a more vocal claim that Christians sin and “mess up?” 

Far from claiming that Christians never “mess up,” John says if a person says they never do, they are lying to themselves!

Yet John points to a powerful truth in verse seven. He says that if we KEEP ON walking in the light, then we will KEEP ON having fellowship with each other; and the blood of Jesus Christ will KEEP ON cleansing us from our sins.  

The verb “cleanses” that is used here is very important, as are the tenses: 

“The Greek for to cleanse is katharizein, which was originally a ritual word, describing the ceremonies and washings and so on that qualified an individual to approach the gods. But, as religion developed, the word came to have a moral sense; and it describes the goodness which enables people to enter into the presence of God. So, what John is saying is: ‘If you really know what the sacrifice of Christ has done and are really experiencing its power, day by day you will be adding holiness to your life and becoming more fit to enter the presence of God.’ Here indeed is a great conception. It looks on the sacrifice of Christ as something which not only atones for past sin but also equips people in holiness day by day.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letters Of John And Jude, 34 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)

The saving blood of Jesus does not lose its power after the waters of baptism. Instead, the blood of Christ continues to cleanse God’s people of sin, even as Jesus Himself continues to be the Advocate for His people (1 John 2:1-2).  

Third, this passage-and all the ones that we have studied-demonstrate that even though we will sin as Christians, we must continue to fight against sin in our lives. Salvation is not n excuse to keep on living in sin; rather, it is the means by which holiness may be attained.  

When we are baptized into Christ, there is a definite sense in which we are saved (set apart-sanctified).  

Isn’t that what Paul told the Corinthians?

And such WERE some of you? But you were WASHED, but you were SANCTIFIED, but you were JUSTIFIED in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God (1 Corinthians 6:11).  

Yet there is also a sense in which we as God’s people ARE BEING sanctified (as 1 John 1:7 teaches).  

God is perfecting us my friends. Part of that purifying process is the struggle against sin. Therefore we must not stop struggling against sin! Instead, we must fight against it (1 Timothy 6:12), as we work to discipline our body and spirit (1 Corinthians 9:24-27), and continue seeking those things which are above (Colossians 3:1-3) by continually putting to death sinful actions that would separate us from Him (Colossians 3:5-11), and adding those things which are needed to help us grow into the people that God wants us to be (Colossians 3:12-25).  

So don’t use salvation as an excuse to sin: use it as the motivation to become what God calls you to be!  

Fourth, know that when you fall short and sin, you can still come into the presence of God through repentance and prayer. Paul writes:

Hebrews 4:15-16-15  For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Some of my favorite words were written by John Piper as he commented on this passage:

“But it gets even better. On the way to the cross for thirty years, Christ was tempted like every human is tempted. True, he never sinned. But wise people have pointed out that this means his temptations were stronger than ours, not weaker. If a person gives in to temptation, it never reaches its fullest and longest assault. We capitulate while the pressure is still building. But Jesus never did. So he endured the full pressure to the end and never caved. He knows what it is to be tempted with fullest force. A lifetime of temptation climaxing in spectacular abuse and abandonment gave Jesus an unparalleled ability to sympathize with tempted and suffering people. No one has ever suffered more. No one has ever endured more abuse. And no one ever deserved it less or had a greater right to fight back. But the apostle Peter said, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:22-23). Therefore, the Bible says he is able “to sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). This is amazing. The risen Son of God in heaven at God’s right hand with all authority over the universe feels what we feel when we come to him in sorrow or pain—or cornered with the promises of sinful pleasure. What difference does this make? The Bible answers by making a connection between Jesus’ sympathy and our confidence in prayer. It says that since he is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses… [therefore we should] with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16). Evidently the thought goes like this: We are likely to feel unwelcome in the presence of God if we come with struggles. We feel God’s purity and perfection so keenly that everything about us seems unsuitable in his presence. But then we remember that Jesus is “sympathetic.” He feels with us, not against us. This awareness of Christ’s sympathy makes us bold to come. He knows our cry. He tasted our struggle. He bids us come with confidence when we feel our need.” (John Piper, Fifty Reasons Why Jesus Cane To Die, 72-73 (Kindle Edition); Wheaton, Illinois; Crossway Books)

Fifth, remember that God has given you His Holy Spirit to help strengthen and perfect you. If you try to fight the struggles of the flesh on your own, you will fail; but with the help of the Holy Spirit you can succeed!

Romans 8:12-13-12  Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13  For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Friends, we need the help of the Holy Spirit to encourage us in our struggle against sin. We have to do our part-we work with the Spirit-but without the Spirit’s help, there would be no victory.  

Also notice that if we stop struggling against sin-if we just walk away from the Lord and return to the world-then we will die. Compare this with 2 Peter 2:20-22.

Finally, even though you will “mess up,” you are not alone.  

When you become a member of the church of Christ, you become part of a family of people who often “mess up” right along with you.  

But you know what’s great?  

Even though we mess up together, we pick ourselves up together and keep marching on. So we encourage each other when we assemble together (Hebrews 10:24-25), and we bear each other’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-2). We pray for each other (James 5:16-20), and we love each other (Romans 12:9-13). We fall short, but we strive to forgive and encourage each other (Ephesians 4:31-32).

You need your church family, and your church family needs you.  

So why are you waiting? The Lord has gone to the cross of Calvary to save you (Romans 5:8)! He was buried and arose from the dead on the third day to save you (1 Corinthians 15:1-8)! Jesus built and purchased His church with His own blood to save you (Acts 20:28; Matthew 16:18)!  

Even now, realizing your sinfulness, weaknesses, doubts, and fears, He is ready to save you (Matthew 11:28-30).  

Even knowing that you will at times “mess up,” He still wants to be your Savior (Hebrews 7:25).  

Acts 22:16-And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.’

If you are one of the ones like me who has “messed up” before-won’t you please come back to Christ today? He tells Christians: 

1 John 1:9-If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

Come back, to the Lord and to the church. There will be great rejoicing in Heaven, and on Earth, when you do!

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

Original Sin?

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

One of the prominent teachings of our day and age is that children are born as sinners.  

This teaching (largely borrowed from the Catholic Church) embodies the idea that humans are born as sinners as a direct result of the sins of Adam and Eve.  

Of course, Scripture is clear that children do not inherit the sins of their parents.

For example, Ezekiel the Prophet declared:

Ezekiel 18:20-The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.

Later in his Book, Ezekiel discusses the king of Tyre. This wicked ruler is being compared to the downfall of another villain (possibly Satan himself).  

In the passage, we are told:

Ezekiel 28:15-You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.

Please notice that the king of Tyre had been perfect and free from sin until he chose to rebel against God.  

Years later, the Apostle Paul wrote about the fact that before sin entered into his life, he was spiritually alive: 

Romans 7:9-I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died.

All of these facts go to demonstrate to us that children are not born as sinners.  

It is also interesting to notice that the earliest Christians did not subscribe to the idea that children are born as sinners. Consider these quotations from the early church writings: 

“They are as infant children, in whose hearts no evil originates. Nor did they know what wickedness is, but always remained as children.” (Hermas, 150; 2.53)  

“Who are they that have been saved and have received the inheritance? Those, doubtless, who believe God and who have continued in HIs love-as did Caleb of Jephuneh and Joshua of Nun-and innocent children, who have had no sense of evil.” (Irenaeus, 180; 1.502) 

“Behold, Christ takes infants and teaches how all should be like them, if they ever wish to be greater. However, (the Gnostics point out that) the Creator, in contrast, let loose bears against children, in order to avenge His prophet Elisha, who had been mocked by them. This antithesis is impudent enough, since it throws together things so different as ‘infants’ and ‘children.’ The first is an age that is still innocent. The other is one already capable of discretion (able to mock, if not to blaspheme). Therefore, God is a just God.” (Tertullian, 207; 3.386)   

“If you mean the (region in Hades of the) good, why should you judge the souls of infants and of virgins to be unworthy of such a resting place-those who by reason of their condition in life were pure and innocent?” (Tertullian, 210; 3.233)  

When Truth Hits Home

One of my favorite books is written by a former nun named Joanne Howe.  

In describing a conversation she had with a minister who was a member of the church of Christ, she explains her amazement at seeing how the Bible conflicts with Catholic teaching on this point: 

“Study began with Genesis and the story of Adam and Eve. This suggestion annoyed me. I had taught creation and the fall of man for years. I knew the story well and was aware of its theological teachings, I thought I knew all there was to know about sin and its consequences. How wrong I was! Paul asked for my definition of the word “sin.” Quoting from memory the Baltimore Catechism’s definition, I responded, “Sin is my willful thought, desire, word, action, or omission forbidden by the law of God. On account of Adam and Eve’s sin (which is called original sin), we, his descendants, come into the world deprived of sanctifying grace and inherit his punishments.”….Paul seemed confused by this lengthy explanation of sin, especially original sin. He then referred me to Ezekiel 18:20, where I read in the Catholic Bible: “Only the one who sins shall die. The son shall not be charged with the guilt of his father, nor shall the father be charged with the guilt of his son. The virtuous man’s virtue shall be his own, as the wicked man’s wickedness shall be his.” The words startled me, a conflict arose in my mind. I had always understood that every person enters this world with both sinful nature and inherited original sin. As a descendant of Adam, I not only was born a sinner, but was personally guilty and under condemnation before God. Before I read Ezekiel, I was unaware that I had not inherited the guilt of Adam’s sin or the guilt of my parents, but had inherited both the ability to learn good and evil. Turning to the New Testament, Paul asked me to read James 1:13-15: “No one who is tempted is free to say, ‘I am being tempted by God.’ Surely, God, who is beyond the grasp of evil, tempts no one. Rather, the tug and lure of his own passion tempts every man. Once passion has conceived it gives birth to sin, and when sin reaches maturity it begets death.” “Amazing!” I said to myself. Contrary to all I had learned and taught as a Roman Catholic nun, God’s Word told me that we must answer for our own sins, not for those of our forefathers. I concluded that Roman Catholic theologians were in error on that subject.” (Joanne Howe, A Change Of Habit: The Autobiography Of A Former Catholic Nun, 1530-1547 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Gospel Advocate Company)

In studying the Word of God, Joanne learned about the terrible consequence that every sinner brings upon himself/herself: eternal separation from God (Romans 6:23).

As horrible as this news is, it pales in comparison to the gift that God freely offers through His Son Jesus Christ: eternal life!  

Because of Jesus’ death, burial, and Resurrection on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8), sinners can be saved by the amazing grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through repentance and baptism, believers are set free from the guilt and condemnation of sin and receive every spiritual blessing that can only be found in the church of Christ (Ephesians 1:3; Acts 2:37-38).

Josnne describes the joy of that day in these words: 

“October 4, 1972, will long be remembered as my day of liberation. I arose early that morning, anxious to begin the day with an hour of study in God’s Word and a brisk morning walk. Later, I would worship with New Testament Christians with whom I had been meeting on Sunday and Wednesday evenings….I felt angry that I had lived by man’s standards for perfection. My life had been spent attempting to keep the commandments perfectly but often failing! Jesus was the perfect sin-bearer before God and the only atonement for sins. I felt numb as the impact of the Scriptures sank in. I had never before grasped the meaning of the Bible’s truths! My worship was unacceptable before God. Scripture once again confirmed that my acts of penance, reparation, praying the rosary, and participations in religious devotions were totally unacceptable before God. I was convicted anew of my ignorance of God’s plan. Why? A passage I read in Ephesians 2:8 jolted my thinking. I said: “For by grace have you been saved through faith; this is not your own doing, it is God’s gift—not a reward for anything you have accomplished, so let no one pride himself on it.” That was a message of tremendous significance. Throughout my life I was taught and believed that when I was a baby God had sanctified my life with His grace in my spiritual birth at baptism and that grace increased with every worthy reception of one of the sacraments (communion, confession, and confirmation) and with every spiritual meritorious work I performed daily. I was now learning that all my righteousness was as filthy rags before God (Isaiah 64:6). God’s Word told me that I could not earn righteousness before Him; that works such as penance and supplication for sins would have no deeper roots than my own strength; and that if I continued to depend on works for security I would ultimately fail and inevitably lose eternal salvation. I was convinced that salvation could not be purchased by any religious or moral actions on my part. Salvation was a gift from God to me, and I was to accept it by faith, in accordance with the simple plan of salvation set forth in the Bible. In pursuit, I had finally learned God’s unerring truth in His Word! As the autumn wind blew rustling leaves about me, my conscience chilled. I had lived on the ragged edge of spiritual destruction, and the compunction to respond to God’s gift became overwhelming!…During the worship service that morning, my thoughts were exploding. I had trouble focusing on the preacher’s message. I wanted to shout to the world my realization of God’s love, my sorrow for unrepented sins, and my wish to become “born again.” My decision to put on Christ in baptism had been made during the early-morning walk. In a short time, it seemed that my whole life had passed before me, and I became fully aware that my questions had been answered. I will never forget the hymn that was sung as I moved slowly up the aisle to meet my Lord in baptism: There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emmanuel’s veins. And sinners plunged beneath that blood lose all their guilty stains. Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood shall never lose its power . . . Till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more. E’er since by faith I saw the stream, Thy flowing wounds supply, Redeeming love has been my theme, and shall be till I die! My friend Paul reached out his hands to accept my surrender to God. Hugging me and drawing me close, he whispered, “Welcome home, Joanne.” Then, turning me to the assembled congregation, he said, “Most of you know Joanne and the struggles and challenges she has faced in making her life-changing decision. I never fail to stand in awe and wonderment of God’s grace. Today, Joanne has come forward to be buried with her Lord in Baptism. Would several of the ladies accompany her to prepare her for this glorious occasion?” Assisting me with preparation for the baptism was Helen Pearson and Lydia Holby, two of the women who had befriended me during that long and wearisome journey. I thought, “What if someone had not shared with me the simple truth of the Gospel?” The message of redemption was so simple, yet so deeply moving and convicting. Its powerful words had brought me to the fountain of life—Jesus! Standing in front of the congregation in the baptismal water, clothed in a robe of white, I confessed openly my belief in Jesus, and my desire to be born again. Following the example in I Timothy 6:12, and as the Ethiopian nobleman did in Acts 8:27, I died to my past with Christ and was buried with Him in the water of baptism to arise as a new creature (Romans 6:2-4). After all the public and private presentations I had made in teaching others about religious convictions and consecration, this surrender climaxed my complete dedication to God, to whom I had made a commitment at the tender age of six. Baptism into Christ (Galatians 3:27) was the transition between my old life and the new in Jesus. Baptism is the only way the Bible teaches that anyone can get “into Christ.” Faith had started the salvation process, but the power of the Word of God had changed my thinking and purpose in life. I felt so unworthy, for it was only by God’s grace that I was being saved. Believing in His promises, I was immersed in the water of Baptism. Now justified before my God (Romans 5:9), I had the seal of God’s covenant (Acts 2:38, Hebrews 9:15-17, and Hebrews 8:8). Cleansed of all past sins (I John 1:9), I would receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:16-21), and would be admitted into the citizenship of Heaven when I died (Hebrews 10:19). God had broken my will; through the power of the Gospel I was now a New Testament Christian according to God’s plan for salvation. Amid hugs and smiles of congratulations, and amid my own tears, I recognized that this overwhelming joy and contentment were greater than any cost I could possibly pay. An enormous burden had been lifted from my heart—the load of sin!” (Joanne Howe, A Change Of Habit: The Autobiography Of A Former Catholic Nun, 1796-1874 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN; Gospel Advocate Company) 

Why not follow Joanne’s example today (Acts 2:41)? 

Or if you are a Christian who has left the Lord through sin, why not repent and come back to Him through repentance and prayer (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9)?

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

Six Wonders Of Calvary

 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

In this article, I want to share with you some of the wonderful things which transpired at Calvary-the place where our Savior died.  

In learning about some of these wonderful things, i want yo to also see that many of them are also terrible.  
They show not only the heights of Heaven’s light, but the depths of Hell’s darkness.   

Matthew 27:45-54-45 Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

46 And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”

47 Some of those who stood there, when they heard that, said, “This Man is calling for Elijah!”

48 Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink.

49 The rest said, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.”

50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

51 Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

52 and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised;

53 and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

54 So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The Darkness

Matthew 27:45-Now from the sixth hour until the ninth hour there was darkness over all the land.

Many skeptics of the Bible have stated that the darkness here never really took place, but that it was made up by Matthew years after Jesus died.

However, there are a great many secular historians who confirm the darkness, and several of the ancients made mention of it in their writings: 

“Several interesting reports in extrabiblical literature suggest that the darkness at Jesus’ crucifixion was worldwide. The early church Father Origen (Against Celsus, 2.33) reported a statement by a Roman historian who mentioned such a darkness. Another church Father, Tertullian, wrote to some pagan acquaintances about an unusual darkness on that day, “which wonder is related in your own annals and preserved in your own archives to this day.” There was also a supposed report from Pilate to Emperor Tiberius that assumed the emperor’s knowledge of a certain widespread darkness, even mentioning that it was from twelve to three in the afternoon.” (John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 48425-48434 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press) 

The Mayans and the Aztec civilizations also contain written references to the terrible darkness and horrible earthquakes which transpired when Christ died on the Cross. Don Mariano Fernandez de Echevarria y Veytia wrote a two volume work entitled Historia Antigua de Mexico.

He chronicles:

“These natives indicate another singular event in their histories with great exactness, which later served them as a fixed era for their chronological calculations. They say that 166 years after the correction of their calendar, at the beginning of the year that was indicated with the hieroglyph of the House in the number ten, being a full moon, the sun was eclipsed at midday, the solar body being totally covered, such that the earth became darkened so much that the stars appeared and it seemed like night, and at the same time an earthquake was felt as horrible as they had ever experienced, because the stones crashing against one another were broken into pieces, and the earth opened up in many parts…Following these calculations, and adjusted to the comparison of the tables, this event should be placed in the year 4066 of the world, which was indicated with this character as can be seen in the tables, and precisely 166 after the adjustment of the calendar; and because of the circumstances surrounding this eclipse and earthquake, it was impossible for it to be any other than that which was observed at the death of Jesus Christ our Lord, having suffered it in the thirty-third year of his age, and so it seems that the incarnation of the Word should be placed in the year 4034 of the world, which the Indians indicated with the same hieroglyph of the House in the number 4, and I have noted it that way in the tables, and with this calculation following the chronological order they observed, counting the years from one memorable event to another with the assignment of the hieroglyph of the year in which they fell, I have been able to coordinate it perfectly with our years in the year 1519, in which Cortez landed at Veracruz, as will be seen in the discourse of this history. ( Donald W. Hemingway and W. David Hemingway, The Bearded White God Of Ancient America: The Legend Of Quetzalcoatl, 50-51; Cedar Fort, Inc)

The darkness covered the entire world for a period of nearly three hours.  

What was the purpose of this darkness?  

“The purpose for the darkness is not explained in the gospels or elsewhere in Scripture, but according to the Babylonian Talmud many rabbis had long taught that darkening of the sun was a judgment of God on the world for an unusually heinous sin. If, indeed, that was God’s intention at the crucifixion, He presented a gigantic object lesson to the world regarding the greatest sin ever committed by fallen mankind….But in light of many scriptural teachings and events, it would seem that the crucifixion darkness was indeed a mark of divine judgment. In speaking of Assyria’s being used by God to punish Israel, Isaiah spoke of “darkness and distress” that would cover the land, when “even the light is darkened by its clouds” (Isa. 5: 30). In describing the day of the Lord, the same prophet declared that “the stars of heaven and their constellations will not flash forth their light” and that “the sun will be dark when it rises, and the moon will not shed its light. Thus I will punish the world for its evil,” God said, “and the wicked for their iniquity” (13: 10-11). Also speaking of the day of the Lord, the prophet Joel wrote of “a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Joel 2: 2). Amos asked rhetorically, “Will not the day of the Lord be darkness instead of light, even gloom with no brightness in it?” (Amos 5: 20). Zephaniah wrote, “Listen, the day of the Lord! In it the warrior cries out bitterly. A day of wrath is that day, a day of trouble and distress, a day of destruction and desolation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Zeph. 1: 14-15). In those Old Testament passages and many others the judgment of God is directly associated with darkness, and similar association is found in the New Testament….The cross was a place of immense divine judgment, where the sins of the world were poured out vicariously on the sinless, perfect Son. It was therefore appropriate that great supernatural darkness express God’s reaction to sin in that act of judgment.” (John MacArthur, MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 48434-48454 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press)

The darkness was a sign of the wickedness and sinfulness of mankind.  

In fact, in one specific prophecy of the Old Testament, this darkness is said to occur on a day when people’s sins were judged by God!

Amos 8:9- “And it shall come to pass in that day,” says the Lord GOD, “That I will make the sun go down at noon, And I will darken the earth in broad daylight;

Here was the Son of God, being put to death by lawless rebels who simply wanted power and prestige!  

Here is the Son of God, the healer of the broken-hearted whose grace had the power to redeem and to repair all of the physical injuries of humanity, being killed on a cross!  

We often tell ourselves, “My sin is not that big of a deal; maybe a little good can balance it out!”  

Lies.  

Friends, if we want to see a picture of how terrible sin is, then we need only to look at the darkness of Calvary.  

Our hands are stained with innocent blood: the blood of the Messiah of God Himself.  

This darkness shows us our plight, for WE ARE GUILTY.  

Yet wonder of wonders, the darkness shows us something else: it shows us that Jesus is with us, even in our darkness!  

So often in my life, I have known different “kinds” of darkness:

The darkness of death;

The darkness of betrayal; 

The darkness of guilt; 

The darkness of suffering; 

The darkness of depression;

On and on the list could go!  

Yet the darkness that covered the world on that day not only showed me the darkness of sin, it shows me the fact that the Savior is with me even in the worst darkness imaginable.  

The Despair

Matthew 27:46-And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?”

This is one of those passages of Scripture which boggles my mind.  

Did God abandon His Son at His darkest hour?  

Will God abandon us during our darkest hour?  

If not, then what is the meaning of this passage?  

When we look at the statement of Jesus, we learn that He is quoting from the Psalmist:

Psalm 22:1-My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning?

When we look through this Psalm, we see something very interesting.

You see, throughout the chapter, we see the Psalmist suffering and wondering where God is during his trials; however, we learn several times throughout that God has NOT actually forsaken him!

Psalm 22:10-I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God.

Psalm 22:21-Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen! You have answered Me.

Psalm 22:24-For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.

When we carefully study this, we see that the Psalmist FEELS forsaken by God, but that God has not truly forsaken him!  

So, if the text explains that God had not actually personally forsaken the Psalmist (and, prophetically, Jesus), then what is the meaning of the passage?  

Consider two interpretations with me.  

First, it is possible that (grammatically) the Psalmist is asking why God has “forsaken” him in the sense that He has allowed him to be turned over to wicked men.

Adam Clarke explains: 

“However, some think that the words, as they stand in the Hebrew and Syriac, are capable of a translation which destroys all objections, and obviates every difficulty. The particle למה lamah, may be translated, to what – to whom – to what kind or sort – to what purpose or profit: Gen 25:32; Gen 32:29; Gen 33:15; Job 9:29; Jer 6:20; Jer 20:18; Amo 5:18; and the verb עזב azab signifies to leave – to deposit – to commit to the care of. See Gen 39:6; Job 39:11; Psa 10:14, and Jer 49:11. The words, taken in this way, might be thus translated: My God! my God! to what sort of persons hast thou left me? The words thus understood are rather to be referred to the wicked Jews than to our Lord, and are an exclamation indicative of the obstinate wickedness of his crucifiers, who steeled their hearts against every operation of the Spirit and power of God. See Ling. Brit. Reform. by B. Martin, p. 36.”. ”

So, one possibility of the text is that God had “turned him over” to the wicked men
in Israel, yet he would not be ultimately forsaken by God.  

While this is undoubtedly true, there may be another possibility to the text.

Simply stated, it seems that the Psalmist is describing his crisis of faith and expressing his fear and his feeling that God has forsaken him, even though He had not actually done so. It expresses the doubt of the Psalmist, a doubt which would foreshadow the “feeling” of doubt and anguish that the Savior Himself had.  

There is no darkness that we can go through which Jesus does not understand!  

Hebrews 2:17-18-17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

The Death 

Matthew 27:50-And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

The Bible here teaches us two incredible things about Jesus’ death. 

First, the text says that He cried out with a LOUD voice.

This is very significant, because it was extremely unusual for a person to have such incredible strength after being scourged and crucified.

The other Gospels make this point as well:

Mark 15:37-And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.

Luke 23:46-And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘INTO YOUR HANDS I COMMIT MY SPIRIT.’ ” Having said this, He breathed His last.

John 19:30-So when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished!” And bowing His head, He gave up His spirit.

There are times in the Bible when the Lord was tired from physical exhaustion (Mark 4:38), showing us that God understands our weaknesses and trials.  

Yet here we are reminded that even in our weakest moments, the strength of Jesus is greater. With the strength of the Lord on our side, we can have incredible strength, even in the face of death itself.  

Second, please notice that the text makes it clear that Jesus “yielded up” His spirit. In other words, He chose the moment of His death. The Greek word used here is Aphimi, and the meaning of the word is to send away voluntarily.  

In other words, no one took the life of Jesus, and He did not fade slowly away; instead, He freely gave up His life.  
Jesus had earlier declared:

John 10:17-18-17  “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18  No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

I remember once hearing a debate between a member of the church and an atheist who wanted to mock Jesus’ death on the cross. This man believed Jesus to be a weakling, one who had no strength. Yet nothing could be further from the truth!  

Was it weakness or strength to choose to leave ivory palaces and come into a world of sorrow and pain (2 Corinthians 8:9)? 

Was it weakness or strength to live a life of anguish and loneliness, so that You would be forever known as a man of sorrows (Isaiah 53:1-3)? 

Was it weakness or strength to continue living among people who continually mocked you and despised you (John 1:10-12)? 

Was it weakness or strength to have friends that you know would one day betray you and forsake you (Matthew 26:31)?  

Was it weakness or strength to come to a world where you would be tempted with every possible temptation and knowing that if you ever failed you could thwart all of Heaven’s plans to reconcile and redeem mankind (Hebrews 4:15)?
 
Was it weakness or strength to know that the cross awaited you for being true to God?

Was it weakness or strength to save Himself by calling thousands of angels to set Him free (Matthew 26:53)? 

The death of Jesus shows us His incredible strength, even in (and through) His weakness.  

Now, how unusual were these two things that took place?

We are told that the centurion, seeing all these things, was profoundly affected: 

Mark 15:39-So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”

These events were so shocking and unusual that the centurion, who had undoubtedly witnessed many deaths by crucifixion by this point, was astonished and understood that this Man’s strength and power of death showed He was Who He claimed to be.  

The Destruction

Matthew 27:51-Then, behold, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom; and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split,

Within the Temple was a huge veil separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place (Holy Of Holies). We are told that this was an incredibly beautiful and HUGE veil: 

“The veil that hung in Herod’s Temple during the Lord’s day was beautiful tiful to behold, according to Jewish tradition. There were actually two veils in front of the holy of holies. The Talmud states that it was not known whether the veil in Solomon’s Temple hung inside or outside the entrance to the holy of holies (Yoma 51). According to Maimonides, there was no wall between the holy place and the holy of holies, but a space of one cubit (about 18 inches) was assigned to it where the veil was hung. Since the priests in Herod’s time did not know on which side of the cubit the veil was hung, they hung two veils, one nearer the holy place and the other nearer the holy of holies. According to the Talmud, the veils were 60 feet long and 30 feet wide, about the thickness of a man’s palm (four inches), and made of 72 squares that were sewn together. The veils were so heavy that it took 300 priests to hang them, according to Jewish tradition.” (David M. Levy, The Tabernacle: Shadows Of The Messiah In Sacrifices, Services, And Priesthood, 557-563 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Krueger Publications) 

There would have been hundreds of witnesses in the Temple at the time of Jesus’ death. Imagine! For centuries, it was known that only the High Priest could enter into the Holy Of Holies once a year.  

Now, the way was open for anyone to enter!  

In fact, this is what the tearing of the veil symbolized: 

Hebrews 10:19-22-19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

The Apostle is making it clear to us that Christ is the veil! If we want to enter into the Holy of Holies (i.e., if we want to enter into the Home of Heaven), it is only possible THROUGH JESUS!  

There are many people who teach that we can go to Heaven any way that we wish, but this is simply not true.  

Matthew 7:21-23-21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’. 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

John 14:6-Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Romans 6:17-18-17 But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered. 18 And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness.

The Dead 

Matthew 27:52-53-52  and the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; 53  and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.

I have worked with many people who claimed that this account of the resurrected saints was imaginary and made up by Matthew.  

However, the historical evidence undergirding this text is pretty impressive.  

“A number of sources later reported that these were real persons who were raised by Jesus. Ignatius speaks of the prophets raised by Jesus (To the Magnesians 9.2). Quadratus (117–138) reported that they existed a considerable time and some even still lived (Ecclesiastical History 4.3.2). Acts of Pilate 17.1 says Jesus raised Simeon and his two sons, that their tombs could still be seen opened, that they were alive and dwelling in Arimathea, and that people had gone and talked with them.” (Michael R. Licona, Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate On The Resurrection, 2240 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books) 

The early second century Christians mention the names of several of these believers who were resurrected from the dead.  

Notice that these resurrected disciples went into the city and testified to many of Jesus. They understood one of the most important works of redemption, one that we in the church often forget or overlook: the work of telling others about Jesus!  

What happened to these disciples?  

Some of the early Christians believe that they lived for a while and then died again, while some of the Christians (like the ones quoted above) claimed that they were still living on well into the second century! Some even taught that they would live in the world all the way to the time of the Second Coming.  

“Apollinaris: The raising up of the saints’ bodies was announcing that the death of Christ was actually the cause of life. They certainly were not made visible prior to the Lord’s resurrection, since it was necessary that the resurrection of the Savior first be made known. Then those raised through him were seen. It is plain that they have died again, having risen from the dead in order to be a sign. For it was not possible for only some of the firstborn from the dead to be raised to the life of the age to come, but the remainder [must be raised] in the same manner.” (Fragment 144. [MKGK 51.])

Whatever happened to these disciples, they have set us an example in what we need to be doing: teaching and preaching Jesus, getting as many people ready for the Lord’s Return as we can!  

The Deliverance  

Matthew 27:54-So when the centurion and those with him, who were guarding Jesus, saw the earthquake and the things that had happened, they feared greatly, saying, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

The last thing I want to share with you in this article is the deliverance that here takes place.  
The centurion-witnessing all of these incredible events-is now firmly convinced that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.  

This is always the result of a person who honestly and carefully examines the evidence.

The conclusion is inescapable: Jesus Christ is the Son of God!  

Not only did the centurion see this, but so also did one of the thieves who was crucified with Jesus:

Luke 23:42-43-42 Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”. 43 And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

This thief was guilty before God, and living under the Old Testament Law (Hebrews 9:16-17) was required to make full restitution and offer appropriate sacrifices before he could be forgiven (see Leviticus 6 and 7). Unable to do this, he could only plead to the Lord for mercy; and the Lord showed him this in what may be characterized as a true “deathbed conversion.”  

Beloved, at Calvary you will find deliverance from all sin and from all barriers. Satan has no power here, and the demonic hold is broken by the Lord of glory Himself.  

Why not today turn your life to Jesus Christ and be saved? He died for you, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). He invites you to come to Him to be saved:

Acts 8:35-38-35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him. 36 Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”. 37 Then Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.”. 38 So he commanded the chariot to stand still. And both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water, and he baptized him.

If you are a Christian who has turned from the Lord, God’s Word calls you back to Him: 

1 John 1:9-If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.  

The Sinner’s Prayer Is Still Not In The Bible 

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

Recently while studying with a friend about the Gospel, I was reminded again of the need to study the Word of God carefully (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

You see, there are many false ideas and notions in the religious world around us (1 John 4:1).

For that reason, we must make sure that we receive the Word with all readiness of mind and search the Scriptures daily to determine whether or not the things which we are told are true (Acts 17:11).  

My friend that I was studying with had made the comment that they were trying to teach people of the need to be saved.  

That was wonderful!

Indeed, all the fallen sinners of Adam’s race need redemption (Romans 3:23).  

My friend had pointed out that it was only through Jesus that a person could be saved.  
That was wonderful!

Indeed, Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and no one comes to the Father except through Him (John 14:6).  

Then my friend made the following comment (paraphrased):

“Mark, I have been trying to get the lost to see their need to pray the sinner’s prayer and be saved from their sins.”  

How tragic and how sad.  

While I commend my religious friends for teaching people of their need to be saved, I am very saddened that so many proclaim that this salvation takes place in the form of a “sinner’s prayer.”

You see friends, there is no sinner’s prayer salvation in the Bible!  

In each of the conversion accounts mentioned in the Book of Acts, sinners are NEVER told to pray the sinner’s prayer to be saved.

Instead, they are told of their need to believe in Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31) when they hear His Word (Acts 2:40; 8:11-12; 18:8), to repent of their sins (Acts 3:19-21), to confess their faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 8:37), and to be baptized into Christ to receive the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38).  

It it is often argued that the statement “whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21), refers to the “sinner’s prayer.”

Yet does it really?

I would ask you to consider three things with me regarding this allegation.  

First, the phrase ‘calling on the name of the Lord’ was a common expression used throughout the entire Bible.

It simply meant to serve or to obey God in whatever He has commanded.

The Lord was clear about this in HIs statement through the Prophet Zephaniah: 

Zephaniah 3:9-For then I will restore to the peoples a pure language, That they all may CALL ON THE NAME OF THE LORD, To SERVE HIM with one accord.

Do you see that here “calling on the name of the Lord” simply meant to “serve” or “obey” Him?

Isaiah the Prophet also made it clear that ‘calling on the name of the Lord” means to obey Him completely and with the whole heart: 

Isaiah 55:6-7-6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, CALL UPON HIM while He is near.

7 Let the wicked FORSAKE HIS WAY, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him RETURN TO THE LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.

Calling on the name of the Lord simply meant to obey God with the whole heart.  

Second, that “calling on the name of the Lord” here in Acts does not have reference to praying the sinner’s prayer for salvation is evident from the text itself; for if the people in Acts 2 had understood the phrase “calling on the name of the Lord” to be the sinner’s prayer, then they would not need to have asked, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

They would have already known that they needed to pray the sinner’s prayer! Yet their response shows that they understood the phrase “calling on the name of the Lord” simply meant to obey God’s Word.  

Third, the connection between Acts 2:21 and Acts 2:38 is clear, and it is here that we see what ‘calling on the name of the Lord” meant in this particular context. &nbsp

Notice: 

Acts 2:21-And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on THE NAME OF THE LORD shall be saved..’

Acts 2:38-Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized IN THE NAME OF JESUS CHRIST for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

We “call on the name of the Lord” when we as believers repent of our sins and are baptized by Jesus’ authority (in His name) for the remission of our sins.  

Don’t we also see this with Saul of Tarsus? Saul was a believer who had repented of his sins and who had been praying to the Lord for three days and nights (Acts 9:9-11). Yet what was he told after those three days of prayer and fasting?  

Acts 22:16-And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD.’

Most of our religious friends would have told Saul that he was forgiven when he prayed as a believing sinner who repented of his wickedness for those three days and three nights. Yet he was not forgiven until he arose and “got himself baptized” (literal translation).

Further, even though he had been praying for those three days and nights, he still had not truly “called on the name of the Lord,” i.e., he still had not done what God instructed him to do.  

Since the sinner’s prayer is not in the Bible, where did it originate?

One author, carefully investigating that very question in great detail, has written the following: 

“It is clear from this study that a theology that could support the use of the Sinner’s Prayer emerged in the middle of the nineteenth century. This is evident in the teachings of Methodist preachers, such as James Caughey and, especially, William ‘California’ Taylor. It was a crucial component of D. L. Moody’s preaching from the mid-1870s. At the end of that century, it would also seem very likely that the use of spoken Sinner’s Prayers was being encouraged in Moody meetings by some counsellors and by officers in The Salvation Army. This practice seems to have become common in the first half of the twentieth century, especially in America, with printed forms certainly appearing in books in 1922 and 1945. Cards, booklets and tracts with Sinner’s Prayers were being used from the late 1940s and 1950s, and they became common in the 1960s. Billy Graham and Campus Crusades’ Four Spiritual Laws have done more than anything else to popularise this method of evangelism, taking it to most countries in the world. Sinner’s Prayer evangelism, therefore, can be regarded as first emerging in the late nineteenth century, developing in the first half of the twentieth, before becoming a major form of evangelism from about 1960. Yet it is not good evangelism. As we suggested in chapter 2, there are better and more biblical ways to evangelise. It is recommended that you read chapter 2 again to become more familiar with those practices. Jesus said, ‘Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit’ (Matt. 28:19). This we must do and do it well.” (David Malcolm Bennett, The Sinner’s Prayer: It’s Origins And Dangers, 4039-4050 (Kindle Edition); Capalaba Qld; Even Before Publishing a division of Wombat Books) 

To all of my denominational friends and preachers, I plead with you: please return to the Gospel plan of salvation that is clearly outlined in Scripture. Let us turn away from these human constructs and return with all of our might to the Word of God.

The sinner’s prayer IS NOT found in the Bible.  

Could you face criticism for speaking out against these ideas (2 Timothy 3:12)?  

Yes.  

Could friends from your denominational affiliation reject you for preaching what the Lord did (Mark 16;15-16)?  

Yes.  

Is it possible that you will be hated by religious people for speaking the words of the Bible and turning away from the innovations of man (Galatians 4:16)?  

Yes.  

Will God be proud of you for not being ashamed of His Word (Mark 8:38)?  

Absolutely!  

Will people who desire to hear the Word of God be saved because you had the courage to speak that Word to them in love (1 Thessalonians 2:13)?  

Without a doubt!  

Friends, I plead with you: drop the “sinner’s prayer” and embrace New Testament Christianity.  

The God of Heaven loves us so very much that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to die for the sins of mankind on the Cross of Calvary (Isaiah 53). Jesus died for each and every person (1 Timothy 2:6; 2 Corinthians 5:15) because He wants all sinners to be saved (Ezekiel 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:4). He died for us, was buried, and on the third day arose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:1-8).

With His blood, He established His church (Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28) to which He adds all those who are saved (Acts 2:47).

Who are those whom He saves?

Those who obey His plan of salvation outlined above (Romans 6:17-18).

Why not today turn your life to the Son of God and let Him save you from your sins?

If we are faithful to Him, He has promised us a home in Heaven when He returns in judgment on the world (John 14:1-3; Revelation 2:10).

When we sin and fall away after being saved, He forgives us when we repent of that sin and confess it to Him in prayer (1 John 1:9).

Why not obey God today?  

If I can help you in any way, please call upon me.  

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

What It Means To Be A Disciple Of Christ

By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

Recently, I read this quote from a fantastic book: 

“After Jesus rose from the grave, He left His followers with a simple command: “Go into all the world and make disciples” (see Matt. 28: 19). The church should be known for this. If we are going to call ourselves followers of Jesus Christ, we should be making disciples. But most Christians today are not known for making disciples. We have developed a culture where a minister ministers and the rest of us sit back and enjoy “church” from a comfortable distance. This is not what God intends for His church. Every Christian is called by God to minister. You are called to make disciples.” (Francis Chan with Mark Beuving, Multiply: Disciples Making Disciples, 9 (Kindle Edition); David C. Cook) 

In the church, many have forgotten (or have never been properly taught) what it means to be a disciple of Christ.  

In this article, we are going to study what the Bible teaches about this subject.  

Defining Our Terms 

What does the word “disciple” mean?  

William Barclay has well written: 

“Akolouthein is the common and normal Greek verb which means to follow. It is a word with many uses and with many associations and all of them add something to its meaning for the follower of Christ. First, let us look at its usage and its meaning in classical Greek. (i) It is the common and the usual word for soldiers following their leader and commander. Xenophon (Anabasis 7.5.3) speaks about the generals and captains who have followed the leader for whom they are fighting. (ii) It is very commonly used of a slave following or attending his master. Theophrastus, in his character sketch of the Distrustful Man, says that such a man compels his slave to walk before him instead of following behind him, as a slave would normally do, so that he can be sure the slave will not dodge away (Theophrastus, Characters 18.8). (iii) It is commonly used for following or obeying someone else’s advice or opinion. Plato says that it is necessary to find out those who are fitted by nature to be leaders in philosophy and government, and those who are fitted by nature to be followers of the leader (Plato, Republic 474c). Some people are fitted to give leadership; others are only fitted to accept it. (iv) It is commonly used of obeying the laws. To follow the laws of a city is to accept them as the standard of life and of behaviour. (v) It is commonly used of following the thread or argument of a discourse. When the argument has got into a difficult position Socrates says: ‘Come now, try to follow me, to see if we can get this matter adequately explained’ (Plato, Republic 474c). (vi) In the papyri akolouthein is very commonly used for attaching oneself to someone in order to extract some favour which is desired. One writes in advice to another: ‘stick to Ptollarion all the time…. Stick to him so that you may become his friend.’ The idea is that of following a person until the favour desired is finally extracted from him. Every one of these usages has light to throw on the Christian life. The Christian is in the position of the soldier who follows Jesus Christ, and who must immediately obey his leader’s command. The Christian is in the position of the slave, who must obey as soon as his master speaks. The Christian must ask for the advice and for the ruling of Jesus Christ and must have the humility to follow it, whatever it may be. The Christian is the man who desires citizenship of the Kingdom of Heaven, and, if he is to receive it, he must agree to live according to its laws. The Christian is the learner and the listener who must listen to the words of Jesus, and who must follow their thread, so that day by day he may learn more of the wisdom which Jesus is ever wishing to teach him. The Christian is always in the position of one who needs and desires the favour and the grace and the help which Jesus Christ can give to him, and who follows Christ because in Christ alone he finds his need supplied.” (William Barclay, New Testament Words, 594-618 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press) 

We also must realize that the word “disciple” carried the idea of personally trusting a particular person and his teaching: 

“Math teu (make disciples) is the main verb and the central command of verses 19-20, which form the closing sentence of Matthew’s gospel. The root meaning of the term refers to believing and learning. Jesus was not referring simply to believers or simply to learners, or He would have used other words. Math teu carries a beautiful combination of meanings. In this context it relates to those who place their trust in Jesus Christ and follow Him in lives of continual learning and obedience. “If you abide in My word,” Jesus said, “then you are truly disciples of Mine” (John 8: 31). It should be noted that some disciples were not true (see John 6: 66).” (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew, 49990-50006 (Kindle Edition); Chicago; Moody Press) 

From this, we see that there are several fundamental principles about being a disciple, including: 

Being Ready To Learn From The Master And His Word; 

Trusting In The Master And His Word;

Loving And Clinging To The Master And His Word; 

Being Willing To Obey The Master You Follow;

Being Willing To Sacrifice For The Master And To Go Wherever He May Send.  

With these things in mind, lets study three of the things which Jesus teaches us about being His disciple.  

To Be A Disciple Of Christ, You Must Put Jesus First 

In the Gospel of Luke, the Lord tells us;

Luke 14:26-27-26 “If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.

27 And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Now, what does it mean to “hate” our fathers and mothers and wives and children and brothers and sisters, etc.?

Many people would read this and clonclude that the Lord wants us to literally HATE our families.

Yet how can this be since we are to love everyone? 

Romans 13:8-10-8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.

9 For the commandments, “YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY,” “YOU SHALL NOT MURDER,” “YOU SHALL NOT STEAL,” “YOU SHALL NOT BEAR FALSE WITNESS,” “YOU SHALL NOT COVET,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”

10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

How can we literally hate our parents when the Bible teaches us to honor our fathers and mothers (Exodus 20:12)?  

Perhaps the answer lies in studying that original word used in Luke’s account that is translated as “hate.”

Notice some different translations of this passage: 

Luke 14:26 (CEV)-You cannot be my disciple, unless you love me more than you love your father and mother, your wife and children, and your brothers and sisters. You cannot come with me unless you love me more than you love your own life.

Luke 14:26 (Amplified)-If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his [own] father and mother [in the sense of indifference to or relative disregard for them in comparison with his attitude toward God] and [likewise] his wife and children and brothers and sisters–[yes] and even his own life also–he cannot be My disciple.

These translations are picking up on something important that we often miss in limiting ourselves to one translation of the Bible: sometimes the word “hate” simply means “to love less.”  

For example: 

Genesis 29:30-31-30 Then Jacob also went in to Rachel, and he also loved Rachel more than Leah. And he served with Laban still another seven years.

31 When the LORD saw that Leah was unloved, He opened her womb; but Rachel was barren.

The word used here is the same in the Greek Old Testament as the word used here.

The idea of “hated” carried the ideas of “loved less.”  

“Fourth, the Hebrew word for “hated” really means “loved less.” Indication of this comes from the life of Jacob himself. For the Bible says Jacob “loved also Rachel more than Leah…. The Lord saw that Leah was hated” (Gen. 29:30—31). “The former implies strong positive attachment and the latter, not positive hatred, but merely a less love.”88 The same is true in the New Testament, as when Jesus said, “ ‘If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother … he cannot be my disciple’ ” (Luke 14:26). A parallel idea is expressed in Matthew 10:37: “ ‘Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me.’ ” (Norman Geisler, Chosen But Free: A Balanced View Of Divine Election, 85 (Kindle Edition); Bloomington, Minnesota; Bethany House Publishers) 

If we would be a disciple of Jesus, we must be willing to put Him first in our hearts and lives.

In fact, we need to be ready to put Him above family, friends, and even our very lives.

Notice that we are told that we must be willing to “take up our cross” and follow Him.

In the first century, this was a picture that everyone understood would include two main ideas: 

First, there is the notion of being hated by others.

The ones who were condemned to the death of the cross were mocked and abused terribly by onlookers. There was insult, mockery, personal offense, and hostility by our fellow man.

Jesus endured this, and He and His Apostles told us to expect it from those in the world: 

John 15:18-19-18 “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.

19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.

John 16:2-They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service.

John 16:33-33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”

Many of the attacks against God’s people will come from those who believe they are following God in persecuting His people!

As such, we should not be surprised when we are hated by the world for the cause of Christ. When people hear about our allegiance to Jesus and His Word, they will often insult and slander us.

Names like “Campbellite” and “waterdog” and “legalists” are often attached to Christians by the ignorant and the lost.

Jesus tells us that we need to be prepared to be hated by those in the world.  

Second, the idea of taking up our cross means casting aside earthly attachments.

To the person who was being crucified, there was the understanding that the world itself was nearly ended.

In other words, the person who was taking up their cross was at a point where his life was nearly ended. He understood this; as such, the world itself had lost its power over the one thus condemned.  

Romans 6:3-14 (ERV)-3 Did you forget that all of us became part of Christ Jesus when we were baptized? In our baptism we shared in his death.

4 So when we were baptized, we were buried with Christ and took part in his death. And just as Christ was raised from death by the wonderful power of the Father, so we can now live a new life.

5 Christ died, and we have been joined with him by dying too. So we will also be joined with him by rising from death as he did.

6 We know that our old life was put to death on the cross with Christ. This happened so that our sinful selves would have no power over us. Then we would not be slaves to sin.

7 Anyone who has died is made free from sin’s control.

8 If we died with Christ, we know that we will also live with him.

9 Christ was raised from death. And we know that he cannot die again. Death has no power over him now.

10 Yes, when Christ died, he died to defeat the power of sin one time—enough for all time. He now has a new life, and his new life is with God.

11 In the same way, you should see yourselves as being dead to the power of sin and alive for God through Christ Jesus.

12 But don’t let sin control your life here on earth. You must not be ruled by the things your sinful self makes you want to do.

13 Don’t offer the parts of your body to serve sin. Don’t use your bodies to do evil, but offer yourselves to God, as people who have died and now live. Offer the parts of your body to God to be used for doing good.

Colossians 3:1-3-1 If then you were raised with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God.

2 Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth.

3 For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

If we would be true disciples of Christ, we must Jesus first.  

To Be A Disciple Of Christ, We Must Be Willing To Learn And Obey God’s Word 

Let’s notice a passage which teach us about the importance of learning and obeying the Lord in order to be true disciples of Christ.  

Matthew 28:19-20-19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Here we see that teaching is a definite step in becoming a disciple of Christ, and in continuing to be a disciple of Christ.

Notice that the text has an imperative (a command), i.e. MAKE DISCIPLES.

The text then tells us two participles which instruct us how to make the disciples:

GOING, TEACHING, BAPTIZING.

Furthermore, there is the added command of OBSERVING the teaching of Christ.

As such, we see that to be a disciple of Christ, we must be active in four things:

GOING-TEACHING-BAPTIZING-OBSERVING.  

Notice four things with me.  

First, Christianity is a religion that is focused on “going.”

If you are a disciple of Christ, you have the obligation to GO. Too many believers believe that their obligation to follow Christ is fulfilled on Sundays and Wednesdays.  

“Well, I have been at worship services this week, that takes care of my discipleship.”

Oh most people would not SAY such things, but many certainly live like this.  

Church, God has given us a mandate to GO. Where?

Into all the nations!!

In the New Testament, the Apostles were commissioned to start where they were and then to expand outward: 

Acts 1:8-8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

Second, if we are going to be disciples, then we must be willing to LEARN and TEACH. Notice that in the text disciples are made by “teaching” (KJV).  

Friends, you cannot become a disciple unless you are taught the Word of God.

In the same way, you cannot make disciples unless you teach them the Word of God. Many in our world attempt to engage in lots of programs to grow churches, and yet the Bible is clear that it is only by teaching the Word of God that disciples are made.  

John 6;44-45-44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

45 It is written in the prophets, ‘AND THEY SHALL ALL BE TAUGHT BY GOD.’ Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me.

Please notice that Jesus here teaches how the Father draws us to Him.

How?  

Through the teaching of the Word of God, we are drawn to Him.

Everyone who has “heard” (literally, keeps on hearing) and learned (literally, keeps on learning) from the Father comes to Me.  

The only way you will personally be able to make disciples is to get involved in teaching them the Word of God.

We need to sit down with our friends and family members, ask to have Bible studies and address questions that they have, and show interest in them.

Only by teaching will disciples be made.

Third, notice that this passage teaches us that in order to become a fully initiated disciple, one must be baptized into Christ.

The Greek of the passage is absolutely clear that baptism (along with teaching) is what is involved in making disciples of Christ.

Why was this the case?

The answer lies in the phrase “in the name” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

In the first century, this was a legal phrase that had reference to a slave being transferred “into the ownership” of someone else.  

“The Greek phrase “into the name of ” (εἰς τò ὄνoμα) occurs mainly in commercial or legal documents and carries the idea of “into the ownership or possession” of someone. The Hebrew phrase “into the name of ” ( ) carries the idea of “with reference to,” defining the intention or purpose of the act, or even in some instances “in worship to.” 446 A Hebrew background has greater probability with reference to Matthaean usage, but the practical results may not have been greatly different. Something done by a person as an act of worship toward another brought the first person into a relationship of belonging to the object of the act, and someone to whom a person belonged or was obligated received acts of homage from that person.” (Everett Ferguson, Baptism In The Early Church: History, Theology, And Liturgy In The First Five Centuries, 3005 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 

“Another controversy of the religious world concerns the purpose of baptism. Many people, correctly rejecting the false doctrine of salvation upon the basis of works of human merit, have erroneously concluded that no works-of any type-are involved in salvation. Hence, they have overlooked the clear connection between baptism (which is not a work of human merit; cf. Titus 3:5) and forgiveness of sins in such passages as Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, 1 Peter 3:21, etc. One interesting passage in this connection is Matthew 28:19, 20 where the Lord’s followers are instructed to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” What did Christ mean by baptizing them “into the name” of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit? Many scholars were uncertain. Then archaeologists began to uncover numerous Greek papyri containing the phrase eis to onama, “into the name.” It was a technical expression denoting “into the possession” of someone. A slave was sold into the name, i.e., into the possession, of his owner. So, as Moulton and Milligan comment: “The usage is of interest in connection with Matthew 28:19, where the meaning would seem to be ‘baptized into the possesssion of the Father, etc.'”. What a thrilling concept! When one, in believing penitence, turns to the Lord by the obedient act of being immersed in water, by that submission, he becomes the possession of the divine Godhead.” (Wayne Jackson, Biblical Studies In The Light Of Archaeology, 56; Montgomery, Alabama; Apologetics Press). 

Fourth, if we want to be a faithful disciple, we have to apply ourselves to observing all of Christ’s commands.

As Jesus told His followers earlier: 

John 8:31-Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

To Be A Disciple Of Christ, We Must Be Active Member Of His Church 

The last thing I want to notice with you about being a disciple of Christ is that being a disciple means that you are an active member of His church.

Notice what the Bible tells us:

Acts 11:26-And when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. So it was that for a whole year they assembled with the church and taught a great many people. And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.

    Let’s notice several things.  

    First, the disciples are clearly here identified as being members of “the church” and as being called “Christians.”

    A true disciple of Christ is a member of His church, and-because of that-he is a Christian.  

    Remember that it is teaching and baptism by which one becomes a disciple (Matthew 28:19).

    With that in mind, we recall that those in Jerusalem who gladly received His Word were baptized ; and the Bible tells us that these were then added by God to His church (Acts 2:41, 47).

    To be a disciple of Christ is to be a member of His church.  

    Further, to be a Christian is to be a member of His church.

    The word Christian is often applied loosely to anyone who professes a faith in Jesus; yet in the strictest sense, the word “Christian” has reference to those who have been added by God to His church when they have thus been baptized as believers into Him (Acts 2:37-47).  

    Yet notice something else.

    The Bible tells us here that these disciples were members of the church both universally and locally.  

    Sometimes the word church is used in a universal sense, to have reference to all the saved people of God in any area (cf. Matthew 16:18; Acts 20:28; Ephesians 1:22-23; 2:16; Colossians 1:18).

    The word is also used to have reference to a group of Christians who assemble locally (1 Corinthians 1:1-2; Romans 1:1; Philippians 1:1).

    In these local congregations, the disciples assemble together on the Lord’s Day-Sunday (Acts 20:7) to worship the Lord and to be edified by His Word (Hebrews 10:24-25; Colossians 3:16-17).

    It is in the local church that the work of the Lord for evangelizing the local community, and spreading the Gospel through the world, is planned and prepared (1 Timothy 3:14-15).  

    There are many in the church who do not want to be identified with a local congregation.

    They will travel from one congregation to another, and will never identify themselves with a local congregation.

    This is clearly against the Bible patten for faithful disciples.

    First, we are commanded to assemble with the local brethren (Hebrews 10:24-25).

    Second, the Bible tells us that Paul tried to assemble with the brethren at Jerusalem when he was first baptized (Acts 9:26).

    Third, the Bible commands elders of the church to shepherd the flock of God which is among them (1 Peter 5:1-5).

    If members of the congregation do not declare that they desire to be recognized as members of the local congregation, then how can elders of the church ever shepherd the flock?

    Fourth, when Paul wrote his letter to the church at Rome, he identified at least 26 saints (Romans 16:1-16).

    Many were from congregations in Rome that had congregations meeting in their homes.

    Clearly, Paul understood that there were local members in the congregations.  

    If we would be faithful and productive disciples of Christ, we must be members of the church both universally and locally.  

    Finally in this connection, I want you to notice with me that being a disciple of Christ means that we are active members of the congregation.

    The church here in Acts 11:26 was heavily involved in both evangelism and benevolence.

    Acts 11:27-30-27 And in these days prophets came from Jerusalem to Antioch.

    28 Then one of them, named Agabus, stood up and showed by the Spirit that there was going to be a great famine throughout all the world, which also happened in the days of Claudius Caesar.

    29 Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea.

    30 This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.

    Being a disciple of Christ means that we are willing to be involved in the work of the Lord.

    Are we ready and eager to be involved in the work of the Lord?  

    Judges 5:2-When leaders lead in Israel, When the people willingly offer themselves, Bless the LORD!

    Psalm 110:3-Your people shall be volunteers In the day of Your power; In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning, You have the dew of Your youth.

    It seems that in the church, there are many members of the congregation who are part of the “Tate” family:

    “Do you have any idea of how many members of the Tate family belong to your congregation? There is old man Dic Tate who wants to run everything, while uncle Ro Tate tries to change everything. Their sister, Agi Tate, stirs up plenty of trouble with help from her husband, Irri Tate. Whenever new projects are suggested, Hesi Tate and his wife Vegi Tate want to wait until next year. Brother Facili Tate is quite helpful in church business. Cousins Cogi Tate and Medi Tate always think things over and lend a helpful steady hand. And, of course, there is the bad seed in the family, Ampu Tate, who has cut himself off completely from the Body of Christ.” (Paul M. Miller, World’s Greatest Collection Of Church Jokes, 235 (Kindle Edition); Uhrichsville, Ohio; Barbour Publishing, Inc.). 

    If we want to be true disciples of the Lord, then we need to be active members of His church.  

    Conclusion

    Being a disciple of Christ means these three important things: 

    Putting Jesus And His Kingdom First; 

    Being Ready To Learn And Obey The Word Of God; 

    Being An Active Member Of The Lord’s Church

    The central message of the Word of God is the Gospel, or “Good News,” that God’s Son (Jesus Christ) came to this world to die for the sins of mankind (1 Timothy 2:6; Isaiah 53). Jesus died to pay for the price for each person’s sins because God desires for all people to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4). He was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). It is upon Jesus Christ and His Word that we can safely build our lives; only He is the solid foundation upon which His church is built (Matthew 7:24-27).  

    Why not today place your faith in Jesus Christ, repent of your sins, confess Him as the Son of God, and be buried with Him in baptism (Acts 2:37-38; 8:35-38)?

    When you obey God’s plan of salvation, He will add you to His church (Acts 2:47), and He promises to walk with you and to build you up through His Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-13).

    When we fall short and sin as Christians (1 John 1:8), He will forgive us when we repent of that sin and confess it to Him in prayer (1 John 1:9).  

    If I can assist you in any way, please contact me.  

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

    Hebrews 9:7-Will God Only Forgive Sins Of Ignorance? 

    By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist)

    Several times, I have heard the statement made that God will only forgive the sins of those who sin in ignorance.  

    In other words, it is claimed that if a person commits a sin while knowing that it is a sin, God will not forgive said person, even if they repent.  

    It is usually argued that there are several passages in the Book of Hebrews which teach this.  

    In this article, we will study one of the passages which (it is claimed) teaches this.  

    Let’s open our Bibles and study together.  

    Hebrews 9:7-Sins Committed In Ignorance 

    While discussing the various works and responsibilities of Old Testament priests, the writer of Hebrews points to the responsibility of the High Priest on the Day of Atonement. This particular holiday was one of the seven feasts of Israel, and it was held each year in the Fall. The priest would go in and sprinkle blood of sacrifices on the Ark of the Covenant.  

    Speaking of this, we read in Hebrews: 

    Hebrews 9:7-But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance;

    Many read this and conclude that the only sins which were forgiven by God were the sins committed by the people in ignorance.  

    Notice several things with me.  

    The Range Of Forgiveness On The Day Of Atonement 

    The Old Testament is clear that the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement provided forgiveness for ALL the sins of the Old Testament saints of which they repented. Notice what we are told in Leviticus:

    Leviticus 16:16-So he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions, for all their sins; and so he shall do for the tabernacle of meeting which remains among them in the midst of their uncleanness.

    Please observe how this is rendered in different translations:

    Leviticus 16:16 (GW)-So he will make peace with the LORD for ALL THE SINS the Israelites committed against the holy place. These sins happened because the Israelites were unclean and because they COMMITTED REBELLIOUS ACTS. He will do the same for the tent of meeting which is among an unclean people.

    Leviticus 16:16 (Jewish Publication Society)-And he shall make atonement for the holy place, because of the uncleannesses of the children of Israel, and because of their TRANSGRESSIONS, even ALL THEIR SINS; and so shall he do for the tent of meeting, that dwelleth with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.

    These translations are pointing out something that is often overlooked, in regards to the “type” of sins being committed and atoned for.  

    Throughout the Old Testament, there are different words in the Hebrew language which are translated as “sin.”

    Gareth Reese has provided an excellent study of this:

    “It has been said that there are three classes or kinds of sin in the Hebrew Old Testament. (1) The lightest infractions are those that are called chet, chata, chatta’ah, or chattah, a fault, a shortcoming, a misstep, to sin, err, miss the mark. (2). Of a more serious nature are the sins described by ‘avon, avah, or ‘aven, a breaking of a commandment, iniquity. (3) The most serious sins are those called pesha’ (transgression) and resha’ (wickedness). There is the idea of rebellion involved in pesha’, and of what has become a habit or state in resha’. Psalm 106:6 mentions all three words, “We have sinned (cheta) like our fathers, we have committed iniquity (avah), we have behaved wickedly (resha’).” A similar threefold list is found in Exodus 34:7, “Who forgives iniquity (avon) , transgression (pesha’) and sin (chatta’ah).” (Gareth Reese, Commentary On Romans, 216; Joplin, Missouri; College Press).  

    Please notice that here in Leviticus 16:16, we are assured that God forgives all of the sins of the people when they repent and obey His Law of forgiveness.  

    With this understanding, it helps us to better understand other passages of Scripture. think of what God promised through Moses regarding intentional sins:

    Leviticus 6:1-7-1 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

    2 “If a person sins and commits a trespass against the LORD by lying to his neighbor about what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or about a pledge, or about a robbery, or if he has extorted from his neighbor,

    3 or if he has found what was lost and lies concerning it, and swears falsely—in any one of these things that a man may do in which he sins:

    4 then it shall be, because he has sinned and is guilty, that he shall restore what he has stolen, or the thing which he has extorted, or what was delivered to him for safekeeping, or the lost thing which he found,

    5 or all that about which he has sworn falsely. He shall restore its full value, add one-fifth more to it, and give it to whomever it belongs, on the day of his trespass offering.

    6 And he shall bring his trespass offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish from the flock, with your valuation, as a trespass offering, to the priest.

    7 So the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any one of these things that he may have done in which he trespasses.”

    There can be no doubt that the sins here described were intentional sins! Yet, when repentance was manifested, forgiveness was abundant.  

    Consider further what God declared through Isaiah the Prophet:

    Isaiah 55:6-7-6 Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near.

    7 Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.

    We read later:

    Ezekiel 18:23-Do I have any pleasure at all that the wicked should die?” says the Lord GOD, “and not that he should turn from his ways and live?

    Ezekiel 18:27-Again, when a wicked man turns away from the wickedness which he committed, and does what is lawful and right, he preserves himself alive.

    God extends His invitation of forgiveness to all sinners-even to the most wicked!  
    Clearly, the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement provided forgiveness for all the sins of the people of which they repented.  

    Understanding What The Word “Ignorance” Meant To The Hebrews

    However, that still leaves the question as to the meaning of Hebrews 9:7.  
    What did Paul mean when he wrote that the High Priest provided atonement for the sins of the people committed in “ignorance?” 

    The answer is found in how the Jewish people defined the word “ignorance.” Famed scholar William Barclay wrote:

    “The sin of ignorance is pardonable; the sin of presumption is not. Nevertheless, we must note that by the sin of ignorance the Jews meant more than simply lack of knowledge. They included the sins committed when someone was carried away in a moment of impulse or anger or passion or was overcome by some irresistible temptation, and the sins were followed by repentance. By the sin of presumption, they meant the cold, calculated sin for which the perpetrator was not in the least sorry, the open-eyed disobedience of God. So, the priest existed to open for sinners the way back to God –as long as they wanted to come back.” (William Barclay, The New Daily Study Bible: The Letter To The Hebrews, 54 (Kindle Edition); Louisville, KY; Westminster John Knox Press)

    So to the Jewish people, the idea of a sin of “ignorance” included any sin that a person committed, for whatever reason, so long as there was repentance of that sin.  

    To many in our modern world, this concept is difficult to grasp.

    One researcher named Michael Brown has studied the ancient Hebrew Scriptures and rabbinic traditions for years, and has written a four part several of books on the topic, entitled Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus. At one point in his studies, he carefully examines the question of the sacrifices on the Day of Atonement, and whether or not they were only for “unintentional sins.”

    Speaking specifically of Leviticus 16:20-22, Brown writes:

    “Notice carefully what the text says: The High Priest is to confess over the head of this goat “all the wickedness and rebellion of the Israelites-all their sins”-and “all” means “all.” Notice also that the text specifically speaks of the “wickedness” (or “iniquity”; Hebrew, ‘awon) and “rebellion” (Hebrew, pesha, meaning willful transgression) of the Israelites, not merely their unintentional sins. “But what do the rabbis say about this? What is written in the Talmud?” With regard to the kinds of sins atoned for by the sacrificial goats of Yom Kippur, the Talmud is even more explicit than the biblical text. Here are two different translations of m. Shevu’ot 1:6, a well-known text in traditional Jewish law: A. And for a deliberate act of imparting uncleanness to the sanctuary and its Holy Things, a goat [whose blood is sprinkled] inside and the Day of Atonement effect atonement. B. And for all other transgressions which are in the Torah-C. the minor or serious, deliberate or inadvertent, those done knowingly or done unknowingly, violating a positive or a negative commandment, those punishable by extirpation [karet] and those punishable by death at the hands of the court, D. the goat which is sent away [Lev. 16:21 ] effects atonement.22’ And for uncleanness that occurs in the Temple and to its holy sacrifices through wantonness, [the] goat whose blood is sprinkled within [the Holy of Holies on the Day of Atonement] and the Day of Atonement effect atonement, and for [all] other transgressions [spoken of] in the Law, light or grace, premeditated or inadvertent, aware or unaware, transgressions of positive commands or negative commands, sin whose penalty is excision or sins punishable by death imposed by the court, the scapegoat makes atonement.”‘ As codified and explained by Maimonides almost one thousand years later (Laws of Repentance, 1:2): Since the goat sent [to Azazeil]229 atones for all of Israel, the High Priest confesses on it as the spokesman for all of Israel, as [Lev. 16:21 ] states: “He shall confess on it all the sins of the Children of Israel.” The goat sent to Azazeil atones for all the transgressions in the Torah, the severe and the lighter [sins]; those violated intentionally and those transgressed inadvertently; those which [the transgressor] became conscious of and those which he was not conscious of. All are atoned for by the goat sent [to Azazeil]. This applies only if one repents. If one does not repent, the goat only atones for the light [sins]. Which are light sins and which are severe ones? Severe sins are those which are punishable by execution by the court or by premature death [karetJ. [The violation of] the other prohibitions that are not punishable by premature death are considered light [sins].230 Here, then, is a perfectly clear statement from the most authoritative sources of traditional Judaism that the sacrifices offered and the ceremonies performed on the Day of Atonement effected atonement for all kinds of sins, intentional and unintentional, willful and inadvertent. The only question raised by the Rabbinic sources is to what degree repentance was a necessary part of the equation, a question that all Messianic Jews would answer by saying, “Repentance plays a vital part in the equation!”…The rabbis (see b. Shevu’ot 2b; 6b-14a) comment specifically on the words rebellion (transgressions in Hebrew) and sins, explaining that “transgressions” refers to acts of rebellion-which are certainly intentional-while “sins” refers to inadvertent acts.232 And it is the goat whose blood is sprinkled in the Most Holy Place that effects atonement for the people, just as the blood of the bull offered up by the High Priest effects atonement for him (m. Shevu’ot 1:7, following Lev. 16:11, “Aaron shall bring the bull for his own sin offering to make atonement for himself and his household, and he is to slaughter the bull for his own sin offering.”). Notice also that it is a sin offering that effects atonement for Aaron and the people of Israel, demonstrating that it is not only the guilt offering that effects atonement for willful sins.-“‘ Let me also remind you of the prayer of Solomon offered up at the dedication of the Temple (1 Kings 8; 2 Chronicles 6), in which he asked God to forgive his sinning people when they turned to God in repentance and prayed toward the Temple. The Lord promised that he would, in fact, forgive and restore-because of the sacrifices offered up in the Temple (see 2 Chron. 7:12-16, and the discussion above, 3.9)-and the text makes clear that inadvertent or unintentional sins were not the only things covered by Solomon’s prayer. See, for example,, I Kings 8:33-36, 46-50; 2 Chronicles 7:14, clearly referring to all kinds of sins and transgressions.” (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus-Volume Two: Theological Objections, 129-132 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books) 

    Please notice with me that the Old Testament (as well as the New Testament) explicitly taught that all sins of which a person was guilty could be forgiven if there was repentance and adherence to God’s Word.  

    In fact, Michael Brown (in continuing his comments on the aforementioned subject) has some more excellent commentary on this subject. Due to the fact that it is relevant to our present study, I will include it here:

    “How then should we understand Numbers 15:22-31 ? These verses seem to teach that sacrifices could be brought to atone for unintentional sins, but for willful, defiant sins no sacrifice was possible. The sinner’s guilt would remain on him. Let’s look at this passage, allowing some Jewish biblical scholars to explain its meaning: Now if you unintentionally fail to keep any of these commands the LORD gave Moses-any of the LORD’s commands to you through him, from the day the LORD gave them and continuing through the generations to come-and if this is done unintentionally without the community being aware of it, then the whole community is to offer a young bull for a burnt offering as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, along with its prescribed grain offering and drink offering, and a male goat for a sin offering. The priest is to make atonement for the whole Israelite community, and they will be forgiven, for it was not intentional and they have brought to the LORD for their wrong an offering made by fire and a sin offering. The whole Israelite community and the aliens living among them will be forgiven, because all the people were involved in the unintentional wrong. But if just one person sins unintentionally, he must bring a year-old female goat for a sin offering. The priest is to make atonement before the LORD for the one who erred by sinning unintentionally, and when atonement has been made for him, he will be forgiven. One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien. But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORD’S word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.” Milgrom explains: The possibility of sacrificial atonement is explicitly denied to the individual who presumptuously violates God’s law (Num. 15:30-31). This, however, does not mean, as many critics aver, that sacrificial atonement is possible only for involuntary wrongdoers. To cite but one exception, the askant offering is prescribed for that premeditated crime called by the rabbis asham gezelot (Lev. 5:20ff.; Num. 5:5-8). A more correct assertion, then, would be that the priestly system prohibits sacrificial atonement to the unrepentant sinner, for the one who “acts defiantly … it is the Lord he reviles” (Num. 15:30). This is an explicit postulate of post-biblical literature: “the hattat, the asham, and death do not atone except with repentance” (Tosef., Yoma 5:9; cf. Yoma 8:8).-” Or as expressed concisely by Rashi, “Only at the time when his iniquity is upon him shall he be cut off, meaning, as long as he has not repented” making reference to b. Sanhedrin 90b, where the Talmud mud explains that Numbers 15:31 leaves open the possibility that the sinner might still repent. Thus, his guilt remains on him as long as he fails to repent. Interestingly, there is almost an exact New Testament parallel to this warning in Numbers 15:30-31, and it is found-not surprisingly-in in the Letter to the Hebrews: If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge edge 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. Hebrews 10:26-31 The point in both cases is clear: There is no sacrifice, no forgiveness, no atonement for those who commit-and continue in-willful, defiant sin. If they don’t turn back in repentance, nothing will atone for them. As noted by R. L. Harris with reference to Numbers 15:30-31, “Here the NIV has correctly caught the sense of the unpardonable sin-not one done intentionally, but one done ‘defiantly,’ i.e., in rebellion, sinning against light (cf. Matt. 12:31-32).”1″‘ The Hebrew image is quite clear: The sinner transgresses “with a high hand” (bevad ramah)-almost challenging God to punish him or hold him to account. But God is not one to be challenged! As Moses reminded the children of Israel, “Know therefore that the LORD your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commands. But those who hate him he will repay to their face by destruction; he will not be slow to repay to their face those who hate him” (Deut. 7:9-10). But for those who would repent and perform the required Temple service, abundant mercy and pardon was available (see vol. 1, 1.11, and below, 3.21). Looking back, then, at what we have seen so far, we can say categorically that sacrifices were not for unintentional sins only. The sacrifices on Yom Kippur argue against this position, specific sacrifices (the’asham and the hatta’t) argue against it, other scriptural principles argue against it, the Talmud and Law Codes argue against it, the custom of kapparot argues against it, and the concept of repentance offered in conjunction with sacrifices argues against it.” (Michael L. Brown, Answering Jewish Objections To Jesus: Volume Two-Theological Objections, 132-134 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)

    Jesus-The Ultimate High Priest

    Finally, we need to remember the point that the writer of Hebrews is making.

    From Hebrews 2-9 (and continuing through Hebrews 10), Paul has been arguing that Jesus’ Priesthood is greater than that of the Old Testament Levitical system, and that all of the ordinances of the Old Testament actually foreshadowed what Christ would accomplish. Jesus is the ultimate High Priest, and everything through the Old Testament pointed to this reality!  
    To more fully appreciate this, consider several passages from Hebrews which help to make this point more clear: 

    Hebrews 2:14-15-14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil,

    15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.

    Hebrews 2:17-18-17 Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

    18 For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.

    Hebrews 4:14-16-14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.

    15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.

    16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

    Hebrews 5:9-10-9 And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him,

    10 called by God as High Priest “ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK,”

    Hebrews 7:25-27-25 Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.

    26 For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens;

    27 who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

    All of the ordinances of the Old Testament were but a shadow of what Christ Himself would accomplish as our High Priest!  

    Hebrews 9:9-9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience—

    Hebrews 9:23-23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.

    Conclusion

    The God of Creation graciously offers redemption to all people.  

    Revelation 22:17-And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely.

    Friends, if you have believed or have been taught that you committed a sin which cannot be forgiven, please know that this is not true.  

    God WANTS to forgive you (1 Timothy 2:4)!
    God WILL forgive you (Mark 16:15-16)!

    There is no sin so great that the blood of Jesus cannot provide atonement (1 John 2:1-2)! 

    God wants you to be saved and He has made it possible. The entire Godhead-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit-were involved in paving the way for mankind to be forgiven. Our sins have separated us from God (Isaiah 59:1-2). We cannot bring redemption for ourselves, no matter how many good works that we do (Ephesians 2:8-9). Yet the Lord loves us so very much that He sent His Son to die on the Cross of Calvary, to pay the price for our sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Yet do not think for a moment that Jesus and the Holy Spirit were not also willing to make this Sacrifice, for they were; and we are assured throughout Scripture that all Three were involved in the horrible events of Calvary (Isaiah 48:16).

    Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins, was buried, and arose from the dead on the third day (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). The Lord promises salvation to whoever will “call on His Name” (Acts 2:21), which simply means to serve Him and to obey His Word (cf. Zephaniah 3:9).  

    What has God commanded we do to be saved?  

    His Word commands us to believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God (John 8:24), to repent of our sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30-31), to confess Jesus as God’s Son (Acts 8:37), and to be baptized into Him to receive the remission of our sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:37-38).  

    He commands us to be faithful until death (Revelation 2:10), as a part of His church which He adds us to be when we are baptized (Acts 2:41-47).  

    When we sin as Christians, He promises forgiveness to us if we will repent and pray to Him for forgiveness (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).  

    Why not turn to Him today?  

    If I can assist you, please call upon me.  

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.  

    Trying To Come To Grips With The Mind-Blowing Implications Of The Love Of The Godhead   

    By: Mark Tabata (Evangelist) 

    Over the last several weeks in our Wednesday Evening Bible Study at couchtown church of Christ, we have been studying a teaching of Scripture which had mostly been quite unfamiliar to me: the Descent of Christ Into Hades.

    To be quite honest, I was quite shocked about the things which I discovered in our studies of this passage (and I am sure my amazement will continue as we continue our studies of these passages of the Word of God).  

    In our studies, I have come across a passage of Scripture which has thoroughly amazed me. In fact, “amazed” is not even the correct word.  

    It is a passage of Scripture which has SHOCKED me, UPSET me.  

    It is a passage which has LEFT ME WITH UNSPEAKABLE JOY AND GRATITUDE.  

    In this article, I would like to share this passage with you and carefully study it.  

    It has left me completely amazed in the knowledge that what Jesus accomplished at Calvary may be even more Earth-shattering and mind-boggling than I could ever have imagined.  

    Let’s notice the passage and then we will dig into the Word. (Let me encourage you to please read this passage in each of the quoted Bible translations).    

    The Passage

    Colossians 1:16-20 (NKJV)-16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

    17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

    18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.

    19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

    20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.

    Colossians 1:16-20 (ERV)-16 Through his power all things were made: things in heaven and on earth, seen and not seen— all spiritual rulers, lords, powers, and authorities. Everything was made through him and for him.

    17 The Son was there before anything was made. And all things continue because of him.

    18 He is the head of the body, which is the church. He is the beginning of everything else. And he is the first among all who will be raised from death. So in everything he is most important.

    19 God was pleased for all of himself to live in the Son.

    20 And through him, God was happy to bring all things back to himself again— things on earth and things in heaven. God made peace by using the blood sacrifice of his Son on the cross.

    Colossians 1:16-20 (GW)-16 He created all things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible. Whether they are kings or lords, rulers or powers- everything has been created through him and for him.

    17 He existed before everything and holds everything together.

    18 He is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, the first to come back to life so that he would have first place in everything.

    19 God was pleased to have all of himself live in Christ.

    20 God was also pleased to bring everything on earth and in heaven back to himself through Christ. He did this by making peace through Christ’s blood sacrificed on the cross.

    Colossians 1:16-20 (Amplified)-16 For it was in Him that all things were created, in heaven and on earth, things seen and things unseen, whether thrones, dominions, rulers, or authorities; all things were created and exist through Him [by His service, intervention] and in and for Him.

    17 And He Himself existed before all things, and in Him all things consist (cohere, are held together). [Pro 8:22-31]

    18 He also is the Head of [His] body, the church; seeing He is the Beginning, the Firstborn from among the dead, so that He alone in everything and in every respect might occupy the chief place [stand first and be preeminent].

    19 For it has pleased [the Father] that all the divine fullness (the sum total of the divine perfection, powers, and attributes) should dwell in Him  N1 permanently.

    20 And God purposed that through ( N1 by the service, the intervention of) Him [the Son] all things should be completely reconciled  N2 back to Himself, whether on earth or in heaven, as through Him, [the Father] made peace by means of the blood of His cross.

    Studying The Context 

    It has been said that the Books of Colossians and Ephesians are in many ways parallel together. The theme of the Book of Ephesians is said to be the church of Christ, while the theme of the Book of Colossians would seem to be the Christ of the church. Throughout the Book of Colossians, Paul elaborates in many ways upon Jesus. The kingdom (church) belongs to Jesus (Colossians 1:13), and it is through the redeeming price of His blood that we have been saved from our sin (Colossians 1:14). Indeed, Jesus is the “image” of God (i.e., the full representation of God’s attributes), just as He is Ruler and owner of the entire Creation (Colossians 1:15). This is not surprising since all things in Heaven and on Earth were made through Him and for Him (Colossians 1:16).  

    It is by Jesus that all things “consist” or are “held together” by His sustaining grace (Colossians 1:17). Indeed, the Son of God is the Head of the church, even as He is the “firstborn” from the dead (not the first One to rise from the dead, but the One Whose Resurrection is the most important in its’ far-reaching implications-Colossians 1:18). It is through Jesus that Christians have access to all wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2:3), and by His Word we have access to what we need to have spiritual life (Colossians 2:6-7).  

    While the world offers “vain” (empty) philosophy (Colossians 2:8), in Jesus we have the Son in Whom the Godhead fully dwells (Colossians 2:9) and in Whom we are complete (Colossians 2:10) so that through what He has accomplished in His life and death, we have received salvation and remission of sins through Him when we were baptized into Him (Colossians 2:11-3). It is Jesus Who brought the curse of the Old Law to an end (Colossians 2;14) and Who has defeated the principalities and powers by His death (Colossians 2:15). Thanks to what He has accomplished, we are not bound to the Old Testament Law (as the Judaiers teach), nor are we bound to Gnostic philosophies which combined Christianity with pagan Greek religions (Colossians 2:16-23).  

    Throughout the rest of the Book of Colossians, Paul continues to discuss the priority and the preeminence of Jesus Christ (3-4).  

    The Specifics Of Our Passage 

    In Colossians 1:19-20, Paul discusses how God has made it possible for “reconciliation” to take place. What does this mean? The word “reconcile” simply means “to make friends again,” and has reference to people who were in a state of hostility who are brought back to a relationship of peace.

    Yet W.E. Vine says that the Greek word used here (apokatallsso) literally means to “reconcile completely” (W.E. Vine, Merrill F. Unger, William White, Jr., Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 50929 (Kindle Edition); Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers).  

    So, Paul says that there are things which have been at war, and which have now been “reconciled” to God again. What things were at war that are now able to be reconciled to God?  

    Colossians 1:19-20-19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell,

    20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on EARTH or things in HEAVEN, having made peace through the blood of His cross.  

    The Things On Earth

    The things which are on Earth which have been reconciled to God are identified in the next verses: 

    Colossians 1:21-21 And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled…

    The Lord has reconciled sinful humanity to Himself through the Sacrifice of Jesus. Specifically, those whoa re reconciled are the ones who respond to the message of the faith (Colossians 1:22-23) in repenting of sin as believers and being baptized into Him (Colossians 2:12-13).  

    Things In Heaven…

    Yet what are the things “in HEAVEN” that are reconciled to God?  

    Fortunately, the text tells us.  

    Colossians 1:16-For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

    The things that are “in Heaven” are identified by Paul as: thrones, dominions, principalities and powers.  

    What does this mean?  

    Throughout the Hebrew Old Testament, ancient non-canonical Jewish works, and the writings of the rabbis, we find that these phrases were used to refer especially to the fallen angels. For example, Clinton Arnold has documented: 

    “While all three texts refer to the angelic hierarchy surrounding God’s throne, the Jews believed the same hierarchy existed in the kingdom of evil. Furthermore, many of these terms were commonly used to refer to various ranks of human leaders in governmental positions of authority. The angelic kingdom was widely believed to be structured in an analogous way to earthly political kingdoms….While “principalities” (archai) and “authorities” (exousiai) seem to be uniquely Jewish expressions for the unseen realm, many of the other words he used were also used by Gentiles to refer to the world of spirits and invisible powers. Words like “powers” (dynameis), “dominions” (kyriotetes), “thrones” (thronoi), “angels” (angeloi), “world rulers” (kosmokratores), “demons” (daimonia), “elemental spirits” (stoicheia) and “rulers” (archontes) were known and used by pagans, as evidenced in their magical and astrological texts.”” (Clinton E. Arnold, The Powers Of Darkness: Principalities & Powers In Paul’s Letters, 90-91 (Kindle Edition); Downers’ Grove, Illinois; InterVarsity Press) 

    The renowned series of books, The New International Greek New Testament Commentary, agrees with this assessment: 

    “Rather, we should suppose a hierarchy of heavenly powers -“thrones” superior to “lordships,” and so on (see particularly Lightfoot 151-52). The “thrones” are assuredly to be located in heaven (cf. Dan. 7:9; Rev. 4:4; though cf. Wis. 7:8), not least because the word is used for heavenly beings in Testament of Levi 3:8 (in the seventh heaven, with “authorities”); 2 Enoch 20:1; and Apocalypse of Elijah 1:10-11. Likewise the “dominions” (xvptotirltiES) are almost certainly to be taken as referring to heavenly powers, in the light of Eph. 1:20-21 (also I Enoch 61:10 and 2 Enoch 20:1; F. Schroger, EDNT 2.332). But the same must be true of the “principalities” (apxai) and “authorities” (~4ovaiat) in the light of 2:10 and 15, not to mention the other New Testament parallels (I Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21 again; 3:10; 6:12; see also on 2:10). The fact that all four terms thus refer only to the invisible, heavenly realm23 and the repeated emphasis on Christ’s supremacy and triumph over the “principalities and powers” in 2:10 and 15 do therefore strengthen the likelihood that the two lines were inserted by the author(s) of the letter, sacrificing the balance of the hymn in order to add a further reference to Christ’s superiority over all beings in heaven as well as on earth.” (James D.G. Dunn, The New International Greek Commentary: The Epistles To The Colossians And To Philemon, 1292-1301 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company) 

    So…because of what Jesus accomplished at Calvary…the Lord has made it possible for reconciliation to take place-not only for humans-but even for the angels who have sinned against Him.  

    Just stop a moment and think carefully about that: let that sink in (Selah).  

    Putting It All Together

    The Bible teaches clearly that the fallen angels as well as accountable humanity have sinned against God (Genesis 6:1-4; 2 Peter 2:4; Revelation 12:7-12; Romans 3:23; Ecclesiastes 7:20, 29; Isaiah 59:1-2), and are therefore justly condemned before Him. Our fate is deserved (Romans 6:23)! The penalty against an offender rises in accordance with the character of the of subject of the offense, as well as the nature of the offense. We deserve eternal separation from God because every of sin (Romans 6:23).  

    What Jesus accomplished at Calvary has made it possible for everything to be reconciled back to God. Not only “reconciled,” but COMPLETELY reconciled.  

    “Throughout the New Testament are more Scripture passages indicating that the ministry of Christ on earth also accomplished final reconciliation in heaven. Many times we read these passages and simply skim over them because we really don’t grasp their import. We have not understood that the ministry of Christ, God the Son, has significance far beyond the confines of earth and humanity. It is true that the ministry of Christ-His Incarnation, life, atoning death, resurrection, and glorification-took place in interaction with humanity. However, the efficacious effects of His ministry go far beyond humanity. This will become clear as we explore further. One of these passages is in Paul’s epistle to the Colossians. In this passage, Paul describes the vast magnificence of Christ and Christ’s ministry…This is a wonderful, powerful passage extolling the surpassing magnificence of the Savior. Each verse deserves full exploration. However, for our purposes, let us focus on a few key phrases…Each of these translations agree on this essential point: In this passage Paul is saying that all “things in heaven” were reconciled to God “through the blood of His (Christ’s) cross.’ In these verses, Paul is declaring something astonishing-that Christ’s ministry of reconciliation reached into heaven…Therefore, it is easy to simply slide over the rest of the words in the passage without truly grasping the full impact of their meaning. We do this because we are not used to thinking that ‘things in heaven’ were also reconciled to God through Christ. Yet, this is exactly what Paul is saying in this passage! To what is Paul referring when he says ‘things in heaven’ are ‘reconciled’ to God through Christ? It might be easy to read this passage and assume that Paul is referring to those saints who have died and gone on to heaven before the Incarnation. This is not sufficient. There is no indication that Paul is referring to earthly saints now in heaven. In the context of these verses, Paul is intending to portray the vast scope of the work of Christ. To interpret ‘things in heaven’ to mean earthly things that have gone to heaven would be to still limit the work of Christ to merely earthly things-just earthly things that have been moved to a new place. The only satisfying interpretation of Paul’s phrase ‘things in heaven’ is to understand them to mean things native to heaven. The Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament echoes this understanding of Colossians 1:20: ‘Reconciliation with God…also embraces Supra terrestrial beings…’. The Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary says, ‘An actually reconciliation or restoration of peace in heaven, as well as on earth, is expressed by Paul’ (emphasis in the original). There can be little doubt that this is Paul’s plain meaning. If we interpret ‘things in heaven’ the same way we interpret ‘things on earth,’ we must understand Paul to mean heaven’s sentient population-the angelic host and other heavenly creatures…The Greek word translated “reconcile” in this passages is apokatallasso. It is a stronger form of katallasso which is used by Paul to mean humanity’s reconciliation to God through Christ (2 Cor. 5:18, 20; Rom. 5:10). Apokatallasso not only means ‘reconciling,’ it has a stronger meaning to ‘reconcile completely.’…In the ages to come, Christ will be fully Lord of all on earth and in heaven because His Incarnation, life, sacrificial atoning death, and resurrection has directly affected all of God’s creatures on earth and in heaven.” (Michael A. Wiley, The Salvation Of Angels: Understanding The Heavenly Impact Of Jesus Christ, 109-113 (Kindle Edition); Xulon Press) 

    Conclusion 

    Now, there are still many things about all of this that I do not understand. For example, 

    How does this harmonize with what Paul wrote in Hebrews 2:14-16?  

    Or how does this all jive with what the Lord Jesus taught in Matthew 25:31-46?  

    Is it possible that the fallen angels would one day repent of their wickedness against God?  

    I do not know the (full) answers to these things, but I sure that one day I will find out! 

    In the meantime, the things covered in this study leave me standing absolutely amazed at the incredible and unfathomable grace of God.

    What Jesus did at Calvary goes far beyond anything I have ever imagined (or possibly beyond anything that I can imagine).  
    At Calvary, God showed His incredible love for us: for while we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). Jesus death at Calvary, His burial and Resurrection three days later, serve as the basis of the Good News or “Gospel” (1 Corinthians 15:1-8). Today, the Good News is that God loves you and calls you to come to Him to be saved (Matthew 11:28-30). Believers who repent of sin, confess their faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and are baptized into Him will receive the forgiveness of their sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:36-38; 8:35-38). When we obey His Gospel, God adds us to the church (Acts 2:47) which Jesus purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28), and in which are found all spiritual blessings (Ephesians 1:3-7). He calls on us to live faithfully to Him, even to death, to receive the blessed Home of Heaven (Revelation 2:10). When we as Christians sin and fall short, He assures us of forgiveness when we repent and confess those sins to Him in prayer (1 John 1:8-2:2).  

    “Could We With Ink The Ocean Fill, 

    “And Were The Skies Of Parchment Made; 

    “Were Ev’ry Stalk On Earth A Quill, 

    “And Every Man A Scribe By Trade; 

    “To Write The Love Of God Above, 

    “Would Drain The Ocean Dry,” 

    Nor Could The Scroll Contain The Whole, 

    “Tho’ Stretched From Sky To Sky”. 
    “O Love Of God, How Rich And Pure!  

    “How Measureless And Strong!  

    “It Shall Forevermore Endure, 

    “The Saints And Angels Song!”  

    (Frederick M. Lehman, The Love Of God)

    The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.