The Four Great Calls

THE FOUR GREAT CALLS

By Wayne S. Walker

     One of the amazing marvels of modern technology is the cell phone.  Nearly everybody has one, including everyone in my family.  They are practically ubiquitous.  It is almost amusing to see what I consider “little kids,” twelve, ten, even eight, running around with their camera phones snapping pictures of everything in sight and texting all their friends.

However, I shall let my younger readers in on a little secret.  Back in the “dark ages,” when I was a young boy growing up at home, we did not have cell phones.  Nobody did.  They were not invented yet.  So, if you were expecting an important phone call, you just had to hang around the house, stay near the phone, and wait for that old “land line” to ring.  This raises an interesting question.  From whom might you be expecting that important call?

Might it be a boyfriend or girlfriend?  Could it be Grandpa or Grandma inviting you over to spend the night at their house for a special occasion?  Or would it be your teacher or maybe the principal to talk about some matter at school?  If you were a bit older, might it be your employer, or, if you were looking for a job, a prospective employer?

Not many of us ever expected a call from the mayor of the city or the governor of the state, and most surely not from the President of our nation.  And no one would have even thought to await a telephone call from God.  Yet, although we know that God does not necessarily utilize the telephone, the Bible teaches that God has called people.  “Therefore thus says the Lord God of hosts, the God of Israel: ‘Behold, I will bring on Judah and on all the inhabitants of Jerusalem all the doom that I have pronounced against them; because I have spoken to them but they have not heard, and I have called to them but they have not answered’” (Jeremiah 35:17).

God called Israel, not on the phone but through His law and the prophets, yet they did not listen.  To use the vernacular, He kept calling them, but they would not pick up and answer the telephone.  Therefore, they were ultimately destroyed.  And God is still calling people today.  Are we listening?  Will we answer?  Each of the next four issues of this bulletin will contain an article about one of “the four great calls” that God has for mankind.

The Call of the Gospel

     The first of the four great calls is the call of the gospel.  “But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 2:13-14).  What is the gospel?

Our English word “gospel” comes from two Anglo-Saxon roots and basically means “good news.”  It is used to translate a word in the original language of the New Testament that literally means “good news” or “good tidings” or “good message.”   The gospel is obviously very important to Christ because He told His apostles, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).  From this, we conclude that the gospel is a message which can be preached.

Furthermore, we learn that Christ wants this gospel message to be preached to “every creature.”  He is talking not about cats and dogs, horses and cows, or elephants and giraffes, but about human creatures, mankind, people in all the world.  Thus, we understand that God intends the call of the gospel to be universal.  It is for everyone.  But what is the substance of that message?  “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.”  It is the message of salvation for all mankind through Christ.

Paul confirms this.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek” (Romans 1:16).  Of course, this raises the question, salvation from what?  Paul sets forth his thesis here and then explains it through the rest of the book.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  This is true of all responsible human beings.  The call of the gospel is universal because the problem which it is intended to solve is universal.

So, we all sin, but why do we need to be saved from sin?  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).  Sin has a penalty attached to it, and that is death.  The “death” under consideration here is not physical death but spiritual death, the opposite of “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Hence, because of our sin, we stand condemned to eternal death.  However, God does not want that and has devised a plan to save us.  “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).  This is the essence of the gospel message.

Therefore, based on what Paul says, no one can be saved from sin and its penalty apart from hearing and responding to the call of the gospel, and this response involves obedience.  How do we know this?  Notice what Paul says will happen to those who do not hear and respond to the call of the gospel.  “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

In summary, all responsible human beings have sinned and are under the penalty of spiritual death.  However, God loves us and wants to save us, so He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for our sins.  He then revealed His plan for our salvation in the gospel, which includes His terms which we must obey to receive it.  Just as God chose the Thessalonians for salvation and called them by the gospel, so He calls all people in every generation through the gospel.  “…Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).  Have you heard and obeyed the call of the gospel?

The Call of Death

     The second great call from God is the call of death.  “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation” (Hebrews 9:27-28).  The call of the gospel is universal, but God gives each individual the choice of responding or not.  The call of death is also universal, as well as the two to follow, yet in these there will be no choice.  We shall respond to this call, except for those alive when Christ returns.

God ordained physical death as a consequence of the fact that sin was brought into the world.  We remember how God created man in His own image, male and female.  He made the male from the dust of the ground and put him in the garden with the command not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.   Then He determined to make a helper suitable for the male, so took a rib from Adam, and fashioned Eve.  However, Eve yielded to the temptation of the devil, ate the forbidden fruit, and gave some to her husband.  They sinned.

One of the consequences of this sin is found in Genesis 3:19.  God told Adam, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.”  While we understand that physical death is not a specific punishment for sin—not everyone dies physically when they sin, and little babies who have not sinned sometimes die–we often think of it as a general punishment for sin, and the Bible does call it “the last enemy.”  Yet, there is also a measure of God’s grace and goodness here.  Once man sinned, God did not want him to live forever in a condemned state, so he decreed that we must die.

What happens when we die?  The most succinct description occurs in Ecclesiastes 12:7.  Solomon begins the chapter in the days of our youth, then proceeds in highly figurative language to describe the process of growing old, culminating in the time when the silver cord is loosed and the golden bowl is broken, a symbolic picture of death, after which he says, “Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, and the spirit will return to God who gave it.”  We humans are dual beings.  We have a physical body which is made up of the same elements as the earth, and we have an inner man, called the soul or spirit, which is made in God’s image.  At death, the body returns to the dust of the ground from which it was taken, and the soul returns to God, the Father of spirits.

While there is a lot that we simply do not know about what happens at death because it is not revealed, Jesus gives us a little more detail in the story of Lazarus and the rich man.  Lazarus was a beggar covered with sores who was laid at the gate of a certain rich man who was clothed in fine linen and fared sumptuously.  The implication is that the beggar was righteous but the rich man was not.  “So it was that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried. And being in torments in Hades, he lifted up his eyes and saw Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom” (Luke 16:22-23).

At their deaths, we would conclude that the bodies of both men were buried and returned to the ground, but the text tells us that their souls returned to the control of God and were in a place called Hades, the unseen realm of departed spirits who await the end of time, second coming of Christ, general resurrection, and final judgment.  However, Lazarus was comforted in Abraham’s bosom, a portion elsewhere called Paradise, while the rich man was in torments, a portion elsewhere called Tartarus, and they were separated by a great gulf.  Again, this call of death is universal.  All who have lived on earth, except Enoch and Elijah, have died, and all who are now alive or ever will live, except those alive at Christ’s coming, will die.  Are you ready for it?

The Call of the Resurrection

     The third of the four great calls from God is the call of the resurrection.  “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:22).  Here, again, we see the universality of this call.  As we noted in our previous article, because of Adam’s sin the sentence of physical death was brought upon all mankind.  Paul then says that because of Christ’s own resurrection from the dead, all mankind will be raised again.

Jesus Himself talked about this coming resurrection.  “Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).  Some claim that there will be two separate resurrections—Jesus will come back once to raise the righteous dead and then after a thousand years, during which time the righteous will rule on the earth, will come back still another time to raise the wicked dead.

Yet Jesus said, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth.”  The word “hour” suggests a point in time.  So Jesus is saying that at the same point in time, all who are in the graves, both those who have done good and those who have done evil, will be resurrected.  There is simply no room in Jesus’s statement for two different resurrections separated by a thousand years.  All the dead, both righteous and wicked, will be raised at the same time.  However, most of the other passages which speak of the resurrection deal primarily with the resurrection of the righteous.

Paul wrote, “Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does corruption inherit incorruption.   Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed—in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.  For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.  So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: ‘Death is swallowed up in victory’” (1 Corinthians 15:50-54).

As long as we remain in these physical, fleshly bodies we cannot dwell with God in heaven.  So, while not everyone will die before the Lord comes, all must be changed.  Paul is telling us that when Christ returns, the righteous dead will be raised in changed, incorruptible bodies, and then the righteous living will also be changed (cf. Philippians 3:20-21).  In both instances, this mortal will put on immortality and we shall have the final victory.

Paul also wrote, “But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17).

Here Paul talks about the results of this resurrection.  When the Lord descends, the dead in Christ will rise first.  “Aha!” says someone; “then second the dead out of Christ will rise a thousand years later.”  Unfortunately for this doctrine, that is not what Paul says.  The second thing that Paul says will happen is that those who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  “And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  The word “thus” means in this way.  Following the resurrection, the risen dead and the changed living will meet the Lord in the air, and “thus,” in the air, they will always be with the Lord.  There will be no coming back to this earth to rule a thousand years because there will be no physical world left (cf. 2 Peter 3:10).  This is what the Bible teaches about the call of the resurrection.  Will you be raised to life or to condemnation?

The Call of Judgment

     The last great call from God is the call of judgment.  “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.  For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, and every tongue shall confess to God.’  So then each of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:10-12).  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10).  These verses speak of the universal nature of this call.  Some have suggested that perhaps Christians will simply bypass judgment and slip directly into heaven, but the Bible teaches that everyone—including you and me—will be present at the judgment.  Remember that the Hebrew writer said that it is appointed for men to die once and after this the judgment.

Even those in Old Testament days knew that there will be a final judgment.  Solomon wrote, “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all.  For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14).  Here we learn the basis for this judgment—God will examine every work, including even the secret things, whether good or evil so that each one will receive a reward or punishment based on the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.  “Each of us shall give account of himself to God.”

Jesus also spoke about this coming judgment.  “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).  Here we learn both the standard and the time for judgment.  The standard will be the word of Christ.  The things which we have done will be compared to the teachings of Christ, and we shall be judged accordingly.  The time will be “the last day.”  We do not know exactly when that will be, but it will occur after the second coming of Christ, the general resurrection of the dead, and the destruction of the earth.  Again, Jesus calls it “the last day.”

And Paul talked about the judgment.  “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31).  Here we learn both who the judge will be and the assurance of judgment.  Paul said that God has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness, but He will do so by the Man whom He has ordained, who, of course, is His Son Jesus Christ.  And just as surely as Jesus was raised from the dead, so we can be assured that judgment will come.

Someday, everyone will hear the call of death and the call of the resurrection, except for those alive at Christ’s return, and even they will hear the call to be changed and to rise to meet the Lord in the air.  Then all of us will hear the call of judgment.  The only way to be prepared for those calls is to hear and respond to the call of the gospel in obedience to God’s will.  “For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Peter 4:17).

—taken from Faith and Facts Quarterly; October, 2016; Volume 43, Number 4; pp. 63-73

“Tell How He Liveth Again”: What Leads Us to Believe That Christ Rose from the Dead?

TELL HOW HE LIVETH AGAIN”: WHAT LEADS US TO BELIEVE THAT CHRIST ROSE FROM THE DEAD?

By Wayne S. Walker

     I enjoy reading good biographies.  Of course, most biographical stories end with an account of the individual’s death.  However, while Jesus certainly died, as we noted in our previous article, the story of His life on earth ends a bit differently.  In 1880, Fanny J. Crosby wrote the famous gospel song which includes the lines, “Tell of the grave where they laid Him, Tell how He liveth again.”

“Now on the first day of the week, very early in the morning, they, and certain other women with them, came to the tomb bringing the spices which they had prepared.  But they found the stone rolled away from the tomb.  Then they went in and did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  And it happened, as they were greatly perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments.  Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but is risen! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again.”’  And they remembered His words” (Luke 24:1-8).

Several years before Fanny Crosby’s hymn, in 1834 Anne Richter had written another song that included a stanza about Christ’s resurrection.

We gazed not in the open tomb,
Where once Thy mangled body lay;
Nor saw Thee in that upper room,
Nor met Thee on the open way.
But we believe that angels said,
“Why seek the living with the dead?”

What evidence is there which would lead us to believe that Christ arose from the dead?

First, there is the empty tomb.  It was a new tomb in which no previously dead people had ever been laid (Matthew 27:57-60).  One theory to explain away the resurrection has the disciples mistaking the body of Jesus for some other corpse, but there simply could have been no confusion with other bodies.  It was hewn out of solid rock (Mark 15:42-46).  Another theory has Jesus swooning on the cross, reviving in the tomb, and exiting through a back door.  However, there was just no other way in or out.   The location was well known in that the women carefully observed where the tomb was so that they could come back and anoint the body (Luke 23:50-55).  Still another theory has the disciples mixed up as to where the actual tomb was and going to the wrong one, but they made sure that there was no mistaking where it was located.

A watch was set to guard the tomb and make sure nothing happened to the body (Matthew 27:62-66).  The predominant theory is that the disciples stole the body, but everything within the power of human beings was done to avoid the possibility of a stolen body.  Even Christ’s enemies admitted that the tomb was empty (Matthew 28:11-15).  Of course, the soldiers said that it happened while they were asleep, which is silly because no one can testify to what happened while he is asleep, and in fact they had to be bribed to tell such a self-damning story.   Thus, the empty tomb proclaimed the resurrection.  When Peter announced on Pentecost regarding Jesus, “Whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it” (Acts 2:24), not one person arose, spoke up, and presented any evidence to the contrary.

The second line of evidence for the resurrection of Christ is the testimony of eyewitnesses.  In any court of law, eyewitness testimony is considered the best.  “For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty” (2 Peter 1:16; cf. 1 John 1:1-3).   The apostles claimed to be eyewitnesses of the resurrected Christ.  Such testimony was one of the qualifications to serve as an apostle (Acts 1:22).  Thus, on the day of Pentecost, Peter declared, “This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32; cf.  3:14-15, 4:19-20, 5:31-32).   However, the question is often asked, why basically them?   Why not everyone?  In preaching to Cornelius and his household, Peter explained, “Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead” (Acts 10:40-41).   Having been His constant companions for some three years, they were in best position to identify Jesus and to testify that the same Jesus whom they knew and saw crucified was now alive again.

Some might object that the apostles had ulterior motives for their testimony, but the third line of evidence for the resurrection is the transformation of the apostles.  Notice the attitude of the apostles when they first heard the claims of the resurrection.  After the women found the tomb empty, Luke 24:9-11 tells us, “Then they returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.  It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them, who told these things to the apostles.  And their words seemed to them like idle tales, and they did not believe them.”   However, notice these same apostles a short while later.  “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus Acts 4:13).  In fact, when they commanded by the authorities to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, we read in Acts 5:41-42, “So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.  And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”

What could have brought about such a drastic change?  In Acts 1:1-3, Luke explains, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”  Some critics want to picture the apostles as credulous, gullible fools who were looking for a resurrection under every rock and behind every tree.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  They demanded proof positive.  Remember Thomas?   When told about the resurrection, he said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”  But when confronted with the actual evidence, he answered, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:24-29).

The final line of evidence for the resurrection that we wish to examine is the conversion of Saul of Tarsus.  Consider Saul when we first meet him in Acts 7:58 where it is said of the stoning of Stephen, “And they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul.”  Following this, we are told, “As for Saul, he made havoc of the church, entering every house, and dragging off men and women, committing them to prison” (Acts 8:1-3; cf. 9:1-2).  Yet, consider what Saul became just a short while later.  “So when he had received food, he was strengthened. Then Saul spent some days with the disciples at Damascus. Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues, that He is the Son of God (Acts 9:19-20; cf. vs. 26-29).

To what did Saul/Paul attribute this huge shift?  “For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.  After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep.  After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles.  Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).  Men may change their minds for all kinds of ulterior motives, such as wealth, fame, power, etc., but none of those motives may be laid at the feet of Paul.  The only reasonable explanation for his dramatic turn around is that he must have seen Jesus after He arose from the dead.

Fanny J. Crosby concluded her 1880 gospel song, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” by saying:

Love in that story so tender,
Clearer than ever I see.
Stay, let me weep while you whisper,
Love paid the ransom for me.

The story of Jesus, whether we read about it in the Bible, hear it preached in sermons from the pulpit, or sing about it in hymns and gospel songs, is the story of God’s love for mankind in sending His Son that through believing in Him we might have redemption through Christ’s blood and the hope of everlasting life.  What does this story mean to you?

—in Search for Truth; 10/25/2015, Vol. VII, No. 13; and 11/1/2015, Vol. VII, No. 14

“Tell of the Cross Where They Nailed Him”: What the Death of Christ Tells Us

 “TELL OF THE CROSS WHERE THEY NAILED HIM”: WHAT THE DEATH OF CHRIST TELLS US

By Wayne S. Walker

     Why did Jesus come to earth, be born of a virgin, experience temptation, engage in His labor, and suffer all kinds of sorrows?  One answer might be that He did all these things in order to prepare the way for Him to die—and He knew that this was His ultimate goal.  “Now Jesus and His disciples went out to the towns of Caesarea Philippi; and on the road He asked His disciples, saying to them, ‘Who do men say that I am?’  So they answered, ‘John the Baptist; but some say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.’  He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’  Peter answered and said to Him, ‘You are the Christ.’  Then He strictly warned them that they should tell no one about Him.  And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again” (Mark 8:27-31).  Fanny J. Crosby, in her well-known gospel song of 1880, wrote, “Tell of the cross where they nailed Him, Writhing in anguish and pain.”  But that brings up another question.  Why did Jesus have to die?  What was accomplished by the fact that He was killed?  In this article, we want to discuss the topic, what the death of Christ tells us.

He died to provide an atonement for our sins.  Over and over, the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments, tells us that the main problem faced by mankind is sin.  The prophet told Israel, “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; nor His ear heavy, that it cannot hear.   But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2).  The apostle Paul confirms this.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:23-24).  The problem is that we cannot make atonement for our sins by our own good works.  “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).  Thus, we need atonement for our sins which we cannot provide, and God made it by Christ’s death.   “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).

He died to offer us forgiveness.  Because Christ’s death was an atonement, it deals with the problem of sin and makes remission possible.  In instituting the Lord’s supper, Jesus said of the cup or fruit of the vine, “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).  Thus, the Bible teaches that Christ died for sinners.  “For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.  For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).   As a result, He enables us to obtain forgiveness.  Concerning the spiritual blessings in Christ, Paul wrote, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1: 7).

He died to make reconciliation with God possible.  Again, we must understand that when we are guilty of sin we are separated from God by our sin.  This is what is meant when Paul wrote, “For the wages of sin is death…” (Romans 6:23).  Also, we need to recognize that there are eternal consequences, being “punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).  To avoid this penalty, we need to be reconciled to God.  “Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:17-20).  And Jesus, because He made atonement and thus offers forgiveness by His death, gives us the access to be reconciled to God.  “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight” (Colossians 1:21-22).

In 1762 Joseph Hart wrote a hymn which we often sang when I was growing up to prepare our minds for the Lord’s supper:

  1. That dreadful night before His death
    The Lamb for sinners slain;
    Did almost with His dying breath,
    This solemn feast ordain.
  2. To keep the feast, Lord, we have met,
    And to remember Thee;
    Help each redeemed one to repeat,
    “For me, He died for me!”

We can talk about what the death of Christ accomplished, but until each of us realizes that we, personally, are sinners and that Christ died for us as individuals, His death will not have much meaning.  What does the death of Christ mean to you?

—in Search for Truth; Oct. 18, 2015; Vol. VII, No. 12

“Tell of the Sorrow He Bore”: What and How Jesus Suffered in Life

 “TELL OF THE SORROW HE BORE”: WHAT AND HOW JESUS SUFFERED IN LIFE

By Wayne S. Walker

     The coming of Jesus Christ was prophesied throughout the Old Testament.  Thus, in the fulness of time, the Word who was God became flesh.  When He came, He was born of a virgin.  While on earth, He was tempted in all points as we are.  His life was one of labor for the eternal good of mankind.   Fanny J. Crosby, in her famous hymn of 1880, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” mentions many of these facts.  She also wrote, “Tell of the sorrow He bore: He was despised and afflicted, Homeless, rejected, and poor.”  During the time in which Jesus lived on this earth, He suffered many things in different ways.

“So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You.’   As He also says in another place:  ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek;’ who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest ‘according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Hebrews 5:5-10).   The inspired writer indicates that the sufferings of Christ have an important meaning for us in relationship to His being a sympathetic and merciful high priest.  So let us see what we can learn as we consider what and how Jesus suffered in life.

He suffered poverty.  Apparently, Jesus was born into a poor family.  In Luke 2:22-24, it is said that at His presentation in the temple, the sacrifice offered was “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”  According to Leviticus 12:1-8, if the mother was too poor to bring a lamb, then she could bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons.  As an adult, Jesus Himself lived in what we would probably call poverty.  When someone said to Him, “Lord, I will follow You wherever You go,” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Luke 9:57-58).  What about us?  There may be times in our lives when have to deal with having less than we desire.  Jesus warns us about the danger covetousness in thinking that the quality of our lives depends on the things which we possess (Luke 12:15; cf. 1 Timothy 6:9-10, Heb. 13:5-6).  His chosen messengers remind us to think in different terms.  “Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away” (James 1:9-10).  The next time you seem to have more month left than money, just remember that Jesus had “nowhere to lay His head.”

He suffered rejection.  In fact, His entire life was basically one of being rejected.  “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.  He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him” (John 1:10-11).   Just consider some specific examples.  When He returned to His hometown in Nazareth, the people became so angry that they tried to throw Him off a cliff (Luke 4:28-29).  On one occasion, many of His disciples did not like what He was saying, so they turned back and walked with Him no longer (John 6:60-66).  Even His own brothers did not believe in Him during His earthly life (John 7:1-5).   We may also suffer rejection, even by some we love.  “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to ‘set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law’; and ‘a man’s enemies will be those of his own household.’  He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me. And he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:34-37).  So the next time some neighbor slams the door in your face when you try to hand him a tract or a dear relative says, “If you’re going to talk this religious stuff with me, then just get out of my house and don’t ever come back,” remember that Jesus suffered rejection too.

He suffered hatred.  You can almost feel the hatred that most of the Jewish leaders had for Him.  In John 9:28-29, they told the blind man whom Jesus had healed, “You are His disciple, but we are Moses’ disciples. We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.”  They hated Him so much, they wanted to kill Him (see John 11:45-53).  Of course, throughout history, the world has always hated those who stood for righteousness.  “For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another, not as Cain who was of the wicked one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his works were evil and his brother’s righteous.  Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you” (1 John 3:11-13).   Therefore, we can expect that the world will hate us too.  “If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.  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 15:18-19).  The vast majority of the world hated Jesus, so those of us who are trying to be His disciples should not be surprised that the world will hate us too.

He suffered persecution.  As a result of the rejection and hatred expressed towards Him, Jesus suffered outright mistreatment as well and was even the subject of more than one attempt to kill Him.  On at least two occasions, the Jews took up stones to stone Him (John 5:16-18, 10:30-33).  He again warned His disciples to expect the same kind of treatment.  “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.  Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matthew 5:11-12).  Other passages of Scripture remind us of this.  “Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12; cf. 1 Peter 1:6-7, 4:12-16).  Oh, they may not crucify us, or even try to stone us, but if men persecuted Jesus Christ our Master, we might as well expect that they will persecute us who are His disciples as well.

The problem of suffering is one of the most perplexing issues which mankind has faced and puzzled over.  And we may never know or understand all the answers to this question in this life.  But it is certainly comforting and helpful to know that our God, in the person of His Son Jesus Christ, suffered on this earth for us.  “For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.  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.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:16-18).

—in Search for Truth; Oct. 11, 2015; Vol. VII, No. 11

“Tell of the Years of His Labor”: What Do the Life and Ministry of Christ Mean to Us?

 “TELL OF THE YEARS OF HIS LABOR”: WHAT DO THE LIFE AND MINISTRY OF CHRIST MEAN TO US?

By Wayne S. Walker

    In this series of articles thus far we have studied about Christ in prophecy (“Tell me the story of Jesus, Write on my heart every word”); the nature of Christ’s coming (“Tell me the story most precious, Sweetest that ever was heard”); the birth of Christ (“Tell how the angels in chorus, Sang as they welcomed His birth. ‘Glory to God in the highest! Peace and good tidings to earth’”); and the temptation of Christ (“Fasting alone in the desert, Tell of the days that are past: How for our sins He was tempted, Yet was triumphant at last”).   Another line in Fanny J. Crosby’s well-known 1880 hymn says, “Tell of the years of His labor.”  The first thirty years of Jesus’s life are pretty much a mystery except for a couple of quick glimpses.  However, following His baptism and temptation, Matthew tells us how Christ began His earthly labors.

“Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee.  And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying: ‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.’  From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (Matthew 4:12-17).  The purpose of this article is to answer the question, what do the life and ministry of Christ mean to us?

First, He taught us God’s will.  Jesus was not a “community organizer,” as some have lightly said, but first and foremost a preacher.  Mark’s account of the same event in Christ’s life as we found in Matthew tells us, “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel’” (Mark 1:14-15).   Even many unbelievers agree that Jesus was one of the greatest teachers of mankind.  Consider such principles laid down by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount as the importance of loving even our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48) and how to conquer the problem of anxiety (6:25-34).  Then notice the effect of His teaching on His hearers.  “And so it was, when Jesus had ended these sayings, that the people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes” (7:28-29).   We see, then, that Jesus’s teaching was more than just good, moral principles.  “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).  When we hear or read the words of Jesus, we need to remember that “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…” (Hebrews 1:1-2).  Everything that Jesus said or taught is from God.

Second, He left us an example.  We have His example of servitude.  When His apostles argued among themselves as to who was greatest, He told them, “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:27-28).  Later, He showed them what He meant by washing their feet (John 13:3-15).  We see His example of love.  “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.  And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma” (Ephesians 5:1-2).  He is also an example of humility.  When Paul tells the Philippians, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.  Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others,” he points them to Jesus, saying, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:3-8).  Finally, Peter cites the fact that when we suffer, we should remember how that “Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;’ who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).

Third, He qualified to be our perfect sacrifice.  Each animal sacrifice of the Old Testament had to be “a male without blemish” (Leviticus 1:1-3).  Jesus came to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).  This means that He also had to be “without blemish.”  And He was because He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15).  Thus, His sinless life enabled Him to shed His precious blood and be offered as “a lamb without blemish and without spot” so that He might redeem us from our sin (1 Peter 1:18-20).

There are other aspects of Christ’s life that could be discussed, such as His miracles.  “And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30-31).  However, about 28 years after Fanny Crosby wrote her famous hymn, J. Wilbur Chapman wrote another hymn, the chorus of which sums up the life of Jesus.  “Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me; Buried, He carried my sins far away; Rising, He justified freely forever; One day He’s coming—O glorious day!”

The Hebrew writer said of Christ, “Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:7-9).  That is what the earthly life and ministry of Jesus Christ was all about.

—in Search for Truth; Oct. 4, 2015; Vol. VII, No. 10

“Tell of the Days That Are Past, How for Our Sins He Was Tempted”: The Temptations of Christ

 “TELL OF THE DAYS THAT ARE PAST, HOW FOR OUR SINS HE WAS TEMPTED”: THE TEMPTATIONS OF CHRIST

By Wayne S. Walker

     The whimsical story is told of a storekeeper who said to a boy who had been lingering too long near a tempting display of fruit, “What are you doing?  Trying to steal one of those apples?”  The boy replied, “No, sir, I’m trying not to.”  In a very simple way, this illustrates the power of temptation in our lives.  In one form or another, temptation keeps multitudes who are in sin from coming to Christ for salvation and draws many who are Christians away from Christ.  Thus, every one of us has to face and deal with temptation in our lives.

However, God has not left us on our own to figure out how to do it all by ourselves.  He sent someone to live as we do and overcome temptation so that we might have an example.  “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, ‘If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread’” (Matthew 4:1-3).  In 1880, Fanny J. Crosby wrote, “Fasting alone in the desert, Tell of the days that are past; How for our sins He was tempted, Yet was triumphant at last.”  Please consider some important lessons that we can learn from the temptations of Christ.

What is temptation?  In general, the word “temptation” means a testing, trying, or proving.  In Genesis 22:1, the familiar King James Version reads, “God did tempt Abraham,” whereas the newer versions say, “God tested Abraham.”  When James 1:12 says, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation,” the idea of temptation in this context must include what James has already mentioned in verses 2 and 3, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.”   In a specific sense, the term is often used to mean an enticement or inducement to do evil.  “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death” (James 1:14-15; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:13).  Thus, we see that the basis for temptation, the reason why we can be tempted, is the fact that we have certain lusts or desires, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 John 2:15-16).  In fulfilling these lusts or desires, we can choose either a means that is sinful or a way that is acceptable before God.  That choice is the temptation.

Who is being tempted here?  It is Jesus, the divine Son of God, the Word who was with God but became flesh and dwelt among us as the Lamb of God who came to take away our sins (John  1:1, 14, 29; cf. Philippians 2:5-8).  Thus, Jesus was in essence God or divine, but He came to this earth and was born as a man or human being.  Now, how could He be tempted?  “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God;’ for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone” (James 1:13).  Since God cannot be tempted, Jesus was not tempted as God but as a man.  He met and overcame temptation not by use of divine power but by use of the same means that God expects of any other human being and so became an example to us of how to resist temptation.  “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.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18).  The very reason why the temptations of Jesus are recorded is so that we can learn from His experience how to react when we are tempted.

Who is doing the tempting?  It is the devil or Satan.  The tempter of verse 3 is called the devil in verse 5, and Jesus identifies Him as Satan in verse 10.  “For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5).   God cannot be tempted nor does He Himself tempt anyone.  He allows us to be tempted as a test because He created us as free moral agents and we must have the choice to do good or evil.  However, the source of every temptation is the devil.  He, through the serpent, tempted Eve (Genesis 3:1-6).  He is the one who brought all the calamities to test Job (Job 1:6-12ff).  “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5).  Yet, while the devil tempts us just as he did Jesus, like Jesus we do not have to yield to his temptations.  “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).   How?  “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).  If we follow the example of Jesus and use God’s word as our sword of the Spirit, then we CAN resist the devil and his temptations.

Why was Jesus tempted?  The actual accounts of Christ’s temptations do not say, but other Scriptures give us some reasons.  One reason was to let us know that He has experienced what we go through in our lives and is sympathetic to our needs.   “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” (Hebrews 4:15).  Another reason is that by undergoing the same kinds of temptations that we do but resisting them completely, He became our perfect example of how to resist temptation.  “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth;’ who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously” (1 Peter 2:21-23).  A final reason is to give us hope that we, too, can overcome.  He said, “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” (John 16:33).  Thus, we have the promise, “For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith (1 John 5:4).

Notice the result of Jesus’ temptation.  “Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him” (Matthew 4:11).  The great Scottish reformer John Knox said, “In this answer of Christ we may perceive what weapons are to be used against our adversary the devil, and how we may confute his arguments, which craftily and of malice, he makes against God’s elect….Thus are we taught, I say, by Christ to repulse Satan and his assaults by the word of God.”  The temptations of Christ teach us that if we will “Be sober, be vigilant,” even though our “adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour,” we can “Resist him, steadfast in the faith.”

—in Search for Truth; Sept. 27, 2015; Vol. VII, No. 9

“Tell How the Angels in Chorus Sang as They Welcomed His Birth”: What Happened at the Birth of Christ?

 TELL HOW THE ANGELS IN CHORUS SANG AS THEY WELCOMED HIS BIRTH”: WHAT HAPPENED AT THE BIRTH OF CHRIST?

By Wayne S. Walker

      “Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.  So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.  And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.  Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.  For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’  And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:4-14).

Every one of us, in fact every single person who has ever lived on this earth, was born because that is just the way by which we come into this world.  We normally think of the birth of any baby as a wonderful, special event, but there was one birth in history which was more spectacular than any other.   In 1880 Fanny J. Crosby wrote a gospel song, “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” which includes the following lines:

“Tell how the angels in chorus,

Sang as they welcomed His birth.

‘Glory to God in the highest!

Peace and good tidings to earth.’”

Although the conception of Jesus was something miraculous, His actual birth was quite normal and in fact rather humble, but it is still very wonderful and special.  The purpose of this article is to study what happened at the birth of Christ?

First, several Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled.  We looked at some of them in a previous article.  It was prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (Isaiah 7:14).  This is cited as being fulfilled in Matthew 1:18-25.  It was also predicted that the birthplace of the Messiah would be in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).  That is what the Jews expected, and that is what happened (Matthew 2:1-7).  In fact, Jesus once said, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me” (Luke 24:44).  The truth is that all Old Testament prophecies about the coming of the Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus of Nazareth.

Second, the divine Son of God was incarnate.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).  “The Word” suggests a spokesman, as God speaks to us by His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2).  The Word was “with God,” that is, He was with the Father but separate (Matthew 28:19).  Yet, at the same time the Word “was God,” a divine being equal with the Father (Colossians 2:8-9).  However, John also writes, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; cf. Hebrews 2:9-17).  This is confirmed by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:5-8 when he said of Christ Jesus, “Who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery [lit. a thing to be grasped or held on to, WSW] to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men, and being found in appearance as a man….”  Thus we believe, as Matthew said, that Jesus is Emmanuel or “God with us”—in other words, that “God was manifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16).

Third, God’s plan for sinful man’s redemption was revealed.  Note what Paul said in 2 Timothy 1:8-10.  “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began, but has now been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”  This goes back to “before time began.”  After time began, God began carrying out His plan with promises regarding the seed of the woman, of Abraham, and of David (Genesis 3:15, 12:1-3, 22:17-18, 2 Samuel 7:12-13).   All of this reached its fulfillment as redemption was manifest in Christ (Matthew 1:1; Galatians 3:16, 4:4-5).

How often have we heard the words written by Josef Mohr around 1818:

Silent night, holy night;

Son of God, love’s pure light,

Radiant, beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.

It is too bad that the world thinks about the birth of Christ only in December, because without the birth of Christ, there would have been no life, death, and resurrection of Christ, all of which were absolutely necessary for our salvation and hope of eternal life with God in heaven.

—in Search for Truth; Sept. 30, 2015; Vol. VII, No. 8