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15. Perfected Through Christ’s Sacrifice For Us


– Chapter 15 –

Perfected Through Christ’s Sacrifice For Us

Too easily satisfied with regeneration

Regeneration, renewal, and perfection cover the scope of the Christian life from beginning to end. Christians today don’t hear much about the Biblical teaching of perfect­ion, and are often left with only regeneration. And even in the matter of regener­ation they seldom receive adequate teaching. And where regeneration is act­ually taught, usually little else is taught in regard to salvation, so we are left to wonder if the Christ­ian life has anything beyond being born again.

What takes place after you are born again? We are often given the impression that nothing much more happens, and that regeneration is more or less the end of the matter. But in our study of God’s word, we have seen that regeneration is only the start of a process called renewal, which ultimately leads on to perfection.

The Old Testament sacrificial system

Let us continue our study of perfection in the light of God’s word, parti­cularly in the book of Hebrews. I wonder if today’s subject may be too deep for Christians today. Many are accustomed to elementary and even superficial teaching, and anything beyond that is often too difficult for some Christians to handle.

I will be touching on the Old Testament sacrificial system as well as the teaching about it in the New Testament, hence my con­cern whether the subject may be too hard for some readers. But how can we understand the Bible if we don’t understand the sacrificial system? We can hardly open the Old Testament without reading something about the sacrificial system. The New Testament, too, has many references to it, and the book of Hebrews is a full exposition of it.

Why did Jesus have to die?

Let us begin with an often-asked question: Why did Jesus have to die in order to save us? Why couldn’t God save us simply by forgiving us our sins? Couldn’t He have said to us, “I forgive all your sins,” and closed the matter at that? Why was Jesus’ death necessary?

If God’s holiness, righteousness and purity are alien concepts to us, and if we don’t know what the purpose of the sacrificial sy­stem is, then obviously we wouldn’t understand why it was necess­ary for Jesus to die in order to save us. That is why we say to ourselves, “Why couldn’t God just forgive us our sins without the sacrifice of Jesus?”

But if that could truly be done, wouldn’t God have thought of it Himself? We often imagine that we have seen something God has overlooked!

In addressing this question, we are not dealing with advanced theology but with the very basics of salvation. I will try to explain the matter as simply as possible without technicality, if at all possible. I aim to make this complex subject as simple as the Lord enables me.

It is not whether we accept God, but whether He accepts us

The first point we must grasp about the sacri­ficial system is this: In Scripture, the point is not whether we accept God but whether God accepts us. Many preachers in their good intent­ions have turned the matter upside down. They are always talking about accepting Christ, accepting sal­vation, as though everything depended on our accepting him. Jesus is portrayed as a rather pitiful character who stands at the door of our hearts. He keeps on knocking, apparently with some degree of desperation, on the door of our hearts — a door, it is stressed, that has no knob that he can access from the outside. They derive this picture from Revelation 3:20: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with me.”

To apply this verse in this way is to tear it out of its context because Jesus addresses these words to Christians, not unbelievers. He is speaking to the Christians who have rejected him from their lives even though they once had “accepted” him. Jesus is in effect saying to the Christ­ians of Laodicea: “You who claim to be my people are in reality living without me, having excluded me from your lives. But if there is still anyone among you who hears my call and opens his heart to me, we will have sweet fellowship together”.

This sad picture is familiar to anyone who is acquainted with the Old Testament prophetic writings. It was an accusation that the pro­phets leveled against Israel time and again. Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel and many others proclaimed to Israel: “I have called you to be My people and the people of My covenant, yet you have excluded Me from your lives, not necessarily in word but in deed.”

It is wrong exegesis to apply Revelation 3:20 to non-Christians. Many evangelists have turned the matter upside down, portraying the Lord as a pitiable character who pleads for acceptance at the door of the hearts of unbelievers.

The truth is that you and I, rather than God or Christ, are the pitiful ones. It is we who need to plead for His mercy and acceptance, because to be accepted by Him is life and to be rejected by Him is death. The God of love, justice and holiness will accept us only if we approach Him on His terms. The apostles didn’t preach a pitiful God or pitiful Christ who pleads at the door of our hearts. Paul proclaims that God, as Lord of all, “commands all people every­where to repent” (Acts 17:30, “commands” translates parangellō, παραγγέλλω, “give orders, command, instruct, direct,” BDAG).

As for Revelation 3:20, we ask: Should there have been a closed door between the Lord and the Laodicean (or any) church in the first place? What does that tell us about the spiritual condition of that church? If the door was closed, it was not Jesus who closed it because it was he who called on them to open it. If they open it, fellowship with him can be renewed, as depicted by sharing a meal together.

It is hard to imagine that a church could ever close its door on Jesus! In his gracious­ness, he calls on them to remove the obstacle to fellowship by opening the door. The call to open the door is a rebuke for having closed it, a warning of discipline if they remain obstin­ate, and a call to repentance. All these things are expressed in the previous verse, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discip­line. So be earnest, and repent” (v.19). The Lord is being gracious in calling them to repent­ance after having given them a stern rebuke (vv.15-18). They are called to overcome sin (v.21). The closed door represents the barrier caused by the sins men­tioned in the preceding verses, which separate them from their God (Isaiah 59:2).

New Testament references

The New Testament has many references to being acceptable to the Lord or being accepted by him, but remarkably few references to our accepting him.

With one exception, all New Testament references to receiving or not receiving Jesus are found in the gospels. There is one reference in Mark, but it is of an indirect character: “Whoever receives one child like this in my name receives me” (9:37). It has no direct bearing on the present subject. There is also only one reference in Luke where it reports that the Samaritans were unwilling to receive Jesus into their village (9:53). John mentions that the Galileans were willing to receive Jesus (4:45), and John 1:11 and 5:43 state that the Jews in general refused to accept him. But those who receive him are given the right to become children of God (1:12). These are all the refer­ences there are in the gospels, and only the last three have any direct reference to receiving Jesus into our hearts.

Outside the gospels, there is only one reference to “accepting Jesus”: “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him” (Col.2:6). Here it is not merely a question of “accepting Jesus” but of receiving him as Lord. [1]

By contrast, the New Testament uses at least six different Greek words to express the idea of our being pleasing or acceptable to God or to Christ, or being accepted by Him. All these passages are of great importance for us. For example: “Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us to the glory of God” (Rom.15:7). Or, “You … a holy priesthood, to offer up sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (1Pet.2:5). Further references to the six Greek words are found in this foot­note.[2]

The KJV and NKJV give a beau­tiful translation of Ephesians 1:6: “He has made us accepted in the Beloved”. The word translated “accepted” is the verb form of the Greek word for “grace,” and it means to “bestow favor upon, favor highly, bless”. God has “accepted” us in Christ, His Beloved One.

Summarizing our observations: We need to receive or accept Jesus provided it isn’t just a mental or intellectual acceptance of Jesus as a good person, or as someone who forgives us our sins and blesses us with whatever we want. It must mean nothing less than receiving Jesus into our hearts as the Lord and Savior of our lives. The same can be said of God the Father.

Important as accepting God may be, even more important is our being accepted by God. This would be utterly imposs­ible without the atoning death of Jesus on the cross, where he died to reconcile us to God. His death for our sake was necessary to open the way for God to accept us. If God does not accept us, of what use is it for us to accept Him? His accepting us is an act of His bountiful grace; our accepting Him is an act of the grateful obedience of faith in response to His grace.

Even when we say that we “accept Him,” there is the question as to what we mean by that. It is still up to God to decide whether our accepting Him is even acceptable to Him. We must not fall into a false assurance that leads us to believe that we are saved just because we have accepted Him without bothering to ascertain whether our accepting Him is acceptable to Him.

As for Jesus, only when we receive him as Lord of our lives will our acceptance of him begin to be acceptable to him. Why do we say “begin” to be acceptable? It is because, as we saw in Colossians 2:6, we must “continue to live in him” as our Lord. If our lives don’t match what we profess, we won’t be acceptable to him.

Surely we are not so deluded as to think that we can fool God into accepting us on the basis of a mere profession of faith, or on the basis of a way of life that only partially matches our profession of Him as Lord. Many of the references given in the previous footnote refer to things which Christians should do which are acceptable to God.

The sacrificial system provided a way to be acceptable to God

The fundamental question is not whether we ac­cept God but whether God accepts us. We must grasp this point if we are to understand the sacrificial system at all. The whole purpose of the sacrifices is to provide a means for sinners to become acceptable to God. If we reverse the picture and make everything depend on our accepting God, then it will remain a mystery to us as to why Jesus had to die.

Full-time service also requires God’s acceptance

Before we examine the sacrificial system, let me point out that this important truth — that everything fundamentally depends on God’s acceptance — applies to every area of the Christian life. It applies not only to our salvation but also our full-time service for the Lord. We tend to think that it is we who decide whether to serve God full-time or not. I seldom hear people say it is a question of whether God accepts them for full-time service. Some people think it is up to them to decide whether to serve God or not, and some even think that our full-time service is a favor to God. In contrast to this, what we see in Scripture are men of outstanding quality who hope that God may consider them worthy of His service.

God looks into the hearts of those who aspire to serve Him. He observes the way they live and do things, such as the way they use money or the way they fulfill the responsibilities entrusted to them (Lk.16:9,10; cf. 19:17). Those who are faithful in one area will serve with the same faithfulness in another area. Observations are also made of those who are unfaithful. But God doesn’t choose us just because we think we are faith­ful, for He knows us better than we know our­selves.

The reverse can also happen: we consider ourselves unworthy, but God’s evaluation is different, for His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8,9).

When Isaiah, a prophet of high spiritual stature, was called to serve God, he immediately became painfully aware of his unworth­iness. He did not say, “Here I am, Lord, ready to serve you.” Instead of saying anything like that, he had a deep realization of his unworthy spiritual condition. In the presence of the living God he saw his wretched state and cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined! Because I am a man of unclean lips” (Isa.6:5). How can a man of unclean lips be acceptable to God as His spokesman? God had to cleanse Isaiah, widely regarded as the greatest of the prophets, before he could be accepted for God’s service. Are there not many in the church today who preach with lips that have not been cleansed, causing turmoil, dissension, and even schism in the churches?

In the spiritual life, we don’t call the tunes, and we are not the boss. Let us not be ensnared in the ancient Greek idea that man is the mea­sure of all things. In Scripture, it is God, not man, who is the measure of all things. He is the One who deter­mines everything. From Him proceeds everything that pertains to life. “For with You is the fountain of life” (Psalm 36:9). God is the One who decides whether we will be accepted into His kingdom, or into His service.

Accepted through Jesus’ sacrificial blood

The sacrificial system was instituted so that Israel could ap­proach God, but from a distance. They could not come near. It allowed only one person — the high priest — to enter into God’s presence, and that only once a year. Not even the high priest could come into God’s presence without the shedding of sacrificial blood to atone for his own sins. He could not — dared not — go through the veil into the Holy of Holies without the blood. The people of Israel would stay at a distance, even on the Day of Atone­ment, despite their many sacri­fices. No one dared come into God’s presence; only the high priest could enter, and only through the shed blood.

The fundamen­tal prin­ciple in Scripture is not whether we accept God but whether God accepts us. With­out the blood of the sacrifice, it would be impossible for sinful man to draw near to Him. This was true in the past, and remains true in the present and the future. Jesus died in order to make us acceptable to God because we could never, with our sins, be acceptable to Him.

Being perfect is a basic requirement

There is another vital truth. Since it is God who decides whether we are acceptable to Him, what kind of person is acceptable to God? The answer is found in our present topic: perfection. The only kind of person that God accepts is the perfect man. God accepts nothing less than perfection! We need to elaborate on this astonish­ing principle from God’s word.

Perfection in the Biblical sense is not, in fact, the highest ideal that we suppose it to be. Perfection is but a basic requirement that is commanded of every Christian. “You are to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt.5:48). As we have seen, this means to be holy as He is holy. God required Israel to be holy; otherwise they would not be accepted. The same applies to us. Hebrews 12:14 states plainly, “Make every effort to be holy; without holiness no one will see God.” Not allowed to see God? What can that mean but that the person is rejected by God?

Three aspects of the sacrificial system: all three call for perfection

Let us consider three main aspects of the sacrificial system. First, there is the sacrifice. Second, there is the priest who offers the sacri­fice. Third, there is the sinner on whose behalf the priest offers the sacrifice. There is, of course, a fourth party — God — who accepts (or rejects) the sacri­fices. But here we are discussing the subject from the human per­spective, and examine these three things: the sacrifice, the priest, and the sinner.

1. The sacrifice must be perfect: without any defect

The sacrifice. In the Law, no sacrifice is acceptable unless it is perfect, that is, without spot or blemish or defect. Every sacrifice that we offer to God has to be perfect before it can be ac­cepted. This requirement is stated in many passages. Some examples:

Whatever has a defect, you shall not offer, for it will not be accept­able for you. And when a man offers a sacrifice of peace offer­ings to Yahweh … it must be perfect to be ac­cepted; there shall be no defect in it. (Leviticus 22:20-21)

… the first-born of your flock … if it has any defect … you shall not sacrifice it to Yahweh your God (Deut.15:19,21).

You shall not sacrifice to Yahweh your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to Yahweh your God (Deut.17:1).

It is stated clearly and repeatedly that a sacrifice has to be perfect before Yahweh God will accept it. It can have no blemish at all, not a single flaw. The sacrifice that we offer to God will be rejected if it has the slight­est imperfection.

In the sacrificial system, when an animal is brought to the temple as an offering to God, the priest inspects it for flaws. If it has even one imperfection, the priest will say, “Take it away. It is unacceptable to God.” This is designed to teach Israel that only the best and the perfect are accept­able to Yahweh. The Israelites shall offer to God only what is flawless and without blemish (Exod.12:5; Lev.1:3,10; Ezek.43:22-25; 45:18,23; 46:6,13).

The Israelites were taught this lesson day after day, yet it seems that Christians still don’t get it despite having the Old Testament in their Bibles. Do we think that perfection is required before God under the Old Coven­ant, but anything goes under the New Cov­enant? What sort of concept of God or the New Covenant do we have?

Some Christians offer a bit of their spare time to God, but the fact is that we are the Lord’s, having been bought by him with a price (1Cor.6:20; 7:23) — namely, the life blood of Jesus — so we ought to live for him full-time.

Many Christians don’t even give tithes to the Lord (cf. Malachi 3:8,9). Or if they do, they think they have done a great service for the Lord who supposedly pleads at the door of our hearts. If you give something to a beggar, you are being kind to him, aren’t you? Of course no one would dare call God a beggar since that would come close to blasphemy. But is that not how He is sometimes treated? We could be guilty of blasphemy, not by what we say but what we do.

In the history of Israel, during the times when their relationship with God grew more tenuous and remote, their spiritual lives began to decline, even to the point that the priests “despised” Yahweh. If the priests could do this, what could one expect of the nation as a whole?

“If I am a Master, where is My respect?” says the Lord of hosts to you, O priests who despise My name. But you say, “How have we despised your name?” You are presenting defiled food upon My altar … But when you present the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And when you present the lame and sick, is it not evil? (Malachi 1:6-8, cf. also v.13)

People don’t normally give good things to a beggar, but here God was being treated as a beggar by the ungodly priests who gave Him the animals no one else wanted. What kind of insolence towards God had they descended to? Little wonder that not only their sacrifices but the nation as a whole was rejected by God, and the people were sent into exile.

If you plan to offer God something that is less than perfect, you might as well not bother at all; it will surely be rejected. God may even regard such an offering as evil, as Malachi makes clear. Will we contin­ue to think that if our lives are less than holy or perfect, we will still be acceptable to God?

Both Israelites and Christians ought to have known that only un­blemished offerings are acceptable to God, for that was already true long before the sacrificial system was instituted. As early as in Genesis 4, when Cain and Abel made their respective offer­ings, God rejected Cain’s offering. He explained to Cain that if he had “done well,” his offering would have been accepted (4:7). Abel, on the other hand, did well, offering his best, and his sacrifice was accepted.

2. The priest must be perfect

The priest. It is not only the sacrifice but also the priest that has to be per­fect before he could be accepted into God’s service. This is stated in Leviticus 21, in which God said to Moses:

Speak to Aaron [the high priest], saying, none of your offspring through­out their generations who has a blemish may approach to offer the bread of his God. For no one who has a blemish shall draw near, a man blind or lame, or one who has a mutilated face or a limb too long … No man of the descendants of Aaron the priest who has a blemish shall come near to offer the Lord’s food offering; since he has a blemish, he shall not come near to offer the food of God (Leviticus 21:17,18,21, ESV).

No one with the slightest imperfection may offer sacrifices to God. Both the sacrifice and the priest must be per­fect. God was not, of course, primarily concerned with phy­sical flawless­ness. All this was designed to drive home the lesson that nothing less than spiritual excellence and perfection is acceptable to God. Every priest had to be thoroughly inspected before he could be accepted into God’s service. He was not exempted from inspection despite his priestly des­cent.

That priests have to be without blemish to be acceptable to God connects to what we said earlier regard­ing full-time church workers, since priests are like “full-time workers” in the temple ministry.

Aaron was the high priest, yet none of his descendants would be accepted for the priestly ministry if they had any defect. Being of priestly descent, and belonging to the tribe that God had appointed for the priestly service, did not automatically qualify the priests to serve in the temple. Even a man of priestly birth must be inspected to verify that he is perfect and without blem­ish.

Why then do so many evangelists and preachers paint a pitiful picture of a beggarly Lord standing at the door of our hearts, hoping that we might open the door out of compassion for Him? We have turned everything upside down. The truth is that no one except the perfect will be accepted into God’s holy and majestic presence.

Brothers and sisters, per­fection in Scripture is not a high and lofty ideal that is unattainable in this life. We are talking about something that God expects of everyone, a perfection without which we would be rejected.

3. The sacrifice perfects us, freeing us from the guilt and the power of sin

The sinner. The third point concerns the sinner on whose behalf the sacrif­ice is offered. The purpose of the sacrifice is to make the person who offers it ac­ceptable to God, by making him perfect. And what do we mean by “perfect”? The book of Hebrews gives us a definition of “perfect” that is particularly relevant because it is used in the context of the sacrificial system.

Hebrews first points out that “the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year … make perfect those who draw near” (10:1; also 7:11).

If the purpose of the sacrifices was not to make perfect those for whom the sacrifices were offered, then this statement would be irrelev­ant. The whole point hinges on the truth that the sacrifices were offered in order to make sinners perfect.

But the sacrificial system of the Old Covenant could not accom­plish this because it was “a symbol for the present time. Ac­cordingly both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience” (9:9), that is, the sacri­fices cannot free him from the guilt of sin in his heart because they can’t free him from the power of sin. As explained in Romans 7, he does the evil he doesn’t want to do, and is unable to do the good he wants to do. Though he may repeat the sacri­fice offerings, he is not any better off than before because he keeps on sinning. “O wretched man that I am” (Rom.7:24) expresses that the worshiper is not “perfect in conscience,” being under sin’s unrelenting dominion.

Perfection, therefore, means freedom from the guilt of sin and the power of sin. Anyone who has been freed from sin in both senses — the guilt and the power — is thereby perfected. If you have been freed from the power of sin and are no longer enslaved to it, and if your past sins have been forgiven by the sacrifice, then your spiritual state is one of perfection. If you are no longer com­pelled to sin, you are clearly free from its power. You are able to live a life that is holy and righteous, pleasing and acceptable to God.

The sacrifices were offered in the temple to remove the guilt of sin that grips the conscience. “I have sinned! What shall I do?” Those in bondage to sin are constantly paralyzed by a guilty conscience.

In an earlier chapter, we saw that it is not enough to be freed from the guilt of sin. Even if a drug addict is par­doned, that does not solve his root problem, because he is still under the powerful control of his addiction to drugs. To forgive him his sins without freeing him from the power of sin is not true mercy, because he will keep on returning to drugs, thus increasing his sin and his guilt.

For the sacrifice to be effec­tive, it must remove the guilt of sin, and free the person from the power of sin. We cannot be perfect in this sacrificial sense unless we are free on both counts. To preach a for­give­ness of sins without a corres­ponding freedom from the tyrannical power of sin is not the good news of the gospel at all.

Does the drug addict truly rejoice if he is told that he is pardoned when he is still in the grip of his addiction? If his addiction compels him to jab dirty needles into his veins, where is the good news? He is still enslaved to drugs. There is no gospel or good news to talk about unless we preach freedom from both the guilt and the power of sin, which is perfection.

This explains why the Old Testament sacrifices had to be replaced by the sacrifice of Christ. If the Law could have imparted life and freedom, then the Law would have been sufficient, and Christ’s death wouldn’t have been necessary. But in reality, the Law cannot free us from the power of sin. Hence neither can it ultimately free us from the guilt of sin. He who is still under the control of sin will continue to sin and increase his guilt.

Hebrews 7:19 says that the “Law made nothing perfect”. For this reason, “the former regulation (the Law) is set aside because it was weak and useless” (v.18, NIV).

The description “weak and useless” indicates that the temple sacri­fices were ultimately unable to deal with the problem of sin’s power. Hence the law made nothing perfect. But a better hope has arrived by which we can draw near to God by being made acceptable to Him. This is the Good News: “We have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all … because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Hebrews 10:10,14).

Jesus Christ as sacrifice, high priest, and offering

The three aforementioned points regarding the sacrificial system can be applied to the Lord Jesus himself: (i) Christ is the perfect sacrifice; (ii) Christ is the perfect high priest; (iii) the offering of Christ perfects the sinner.

(1) Jesus, the perfect sacrifice

Firstly, Jesus has to be perfect, for he cannot otherwise be of­fered up as a sacrifice for us. This is seen in 1Peter 1:18-19:

It was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. (NIV)

(2) Jesus, the perfect high priest

Secondly, in line with the Old Testament requirements, Jesus had to be perfect as a high priest. Because he is both priest and sacrifice, he had to be perfect on both counts, or else his sacrifice would not avail for us.

The Old Testament’s stress on perfection is designed to teach us spiritual perfection. When Peter (in the passage quoted) describes Jesus as a lamb without blemish, he is not referring to physical flaw­lessness but to spiritual perfection. Jesus was without sin (blemishes represent sin), so God accepted him on our behalf. But contrary to what we might have expected, Jesus, even as the Son of God on earth, was not born spiritually perfect. He had to be made perfect:

In bringing many sons to glory, it was fitting that God … should make the author of their salvation per­fect through suffering … And, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him. (Hebrews 2:10; 5:9)

(3) Perfected by the offering of Christ, freed from sin’s guilt and power

Thirdly, Christ is both the perfect priest and perfect sacrifice. But was the death which he died something that was done for himself? No, he died for you and me, to perfect us. Hebrews 10:14 says that by a single offering, Christ “has perfected for all time those who are sanctified”.

To be perfected — set free from the guilt and the power of sin — results in a profound change. The sinner becomes righteous. He is trans­formed into a new person in Christ.

To be perfected is not a hypothetical ideal but something we can exper­ience in our daily life. To be absolved of guilt is something to give thanks for. But unless we are also free from the power of sin, our guilt will soon return. If the death of Christ only frees us from the guilt but not the power of sin, then it is really no different from the Old Test­ament sacrifices. As Hebrews tells us, those sacrifices had to be replaced precise­ly for that reason. Otherwise, the sinner, like the drug addict, though he is offered a pardon, is still caught in the vice-like grip of sin.

Hence God would not justify us from sin solely in the sense of declaring us forgiven and righteous without also liberating us from the tyran­ny of sin and making us new persons “created … in true right­eous­ness and holiness” (Eph.4:24).

In other words, in the New Testament, justification by faith cannot be nar­rowly defined as “declared righteous” but must include “made righteous”. Freedom from the guilt of sin corresponds to “declared righteous,” freedom from the power of sin corresponds to “made righteous”. “If therefore the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). Are we living in this freedom?

We might call ourselves Christ­ians or have been baptized, but the key question is: Does God accept us? He will accept us, but only if we receive the sacrifice of Christ in such a way that it is efficacious in our lives, freeing us from sin’s guilt and power.

This precious truth is expounded in Romans chapters 6 and 8. Free­dom from sin’s oppression is given to every true disciple of Christ as his spiritual birthright and heritage. The law of sin and death form­erly held us in bondage, but now the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus enables us to live in freedom.

Freedom and assurance

If this freedom is not a reality in us, in what sense has Christ’s sacrifice perfected us? If we have not been perfected, how can we be accepted by God? We may accept Him, but does He accept us? We will have the assurance of His acceptance only if we experience in us the perfect­ing power of the sacrif­ice of Christ. In practice it means that our lives are being “led by the Spirit of God” — the Spirit who “bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:14,16). Herein lies the true assurance of our hearts.

Do we pursue money as the main motivation of our lives? Do we habitually harbor a critical attitude towards people, picking on their every fault? Do we see the splinter in their eyes but not the log in ours? All in all, have we been freed from the law of sin and death, and are experien­cing the new life?

The Lord Jesus in his boundless love welcomes us. His out­stretched arms at the cross showed his desire to accept us sinners. If we fail to come within his embrace, it won’t be because he was unwilling but because we were unwilling.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. (Romans 15:7)

For God has accepted him. (Romans 14:3)

[1] BDAG defines it as, “παραλ. τὸν Χριστὸν Ἰης. accept Christ Jesus, i.e. the proclamation of him as Lord, Col 2:6”.

[2] (1) “ἀποδεκτός means acceptable and ἀπόδεκτος pleasing, 1Ti.2:3; 5:4.” (2) “εὐάρεστος, pleasing, acceptable (said of pers. and things)” Rom.12:1,2; 14:18 (3) “εὐπρόσδεκτος, (easily) acceptable, pleasant, welcome” Rom.15:16; 1Pe.2:5. (4) “παρα­δέχομαι, accept, receive” Heb.12:6. (5) “προσλαμπάνω receive or accept in one’s society, in (to) one’s home or circle of acquaintances τινά someone of one Christian receiving another Rom.14:1; 15:7a. Of God or Christ accepting the believer 14:3; 15:7b”. (6) “πρόσλημψις or πρόσληψις acceptance (by God) Ro 11:15.” All quotations are from A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, BAG.


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