Our Glorious Salvation, 2

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God’s big plan was not behind His creation of the material universe.  It was much, much bigger than that.  God’s big plan was His plan of salvation.  Part of the plan is grace.  What most Christians know about grace is what they’ve been taught in Sunday school or heard in a sermon.  It goes something like this:  God’s unmerited favor.  That’s a good, basic definition and it describes how most of us view grace – an external aspect of God’s nature, that is, a manifestation of His great love for us.  There is another aspect of grace we don’t think much about; an inner aspect.  God’s grace is not only external, but internal – as in in us.  God’s grace is His power working in us.

For God is at work within you, helping you want to obey him, and then helping you do what he wants.  (Philippians 2:13  TLB)

That’s God’s grace!  And it’s just part of His great big plan of salvation.

Let’s consider that plan by looking as some Scriptures.  There’s  no way I can do a study of this topic in one post and do it justice.  But grab your Bible and we’ll do our best by beginning at the beginning:  at the dawn of Creation, in the Garden of Eden.  Never let it be said that God took His time letting the grass grow under His feet!  When it came to the salvation of His creation, He initiated His plan immediately.

Salvation promised, Genesis 3:15, 21; Isaiah 51:4-11

Grace initiates the Promise, Gen. 3:15, 21

And I will put enmity between you and the woman,and between your offspring and hers;he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.  (Genesis 3:15 NIV84)

The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.  (Genesis 3:21 NIV84)

Some people wonder why the “fall of man” can be traced back to something as seemingly insignificant as a mouthful of fruit.  The sin, however, wasn’t in the eating, it was in Adam and Eve’s preferring the serpent’s word to God’s Word.  God told them NOT to eat the fruit from that one particular tree; the serpent – Satan – told them to go ahead and eat it.  Simply put, they chose to listen to the wrong voice; they rebelled against God.

The moment they bit into that fruit, everything changed.  All of a sudden, the paradise in which God had placed them seemed to change.  Had it really?  Paradise hadn’t changed yet; they had.

To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted.   (Titus 1:15 NIV84)

The first couple were no longer pure.  Once they were completely at ease with each other, yet now they were embarrassed by their nakedness and sought to cover themselves up.

The serpent had promised them knowledge.  They got it; they now knew experientially real evil.

God’s judgment was swift and began with the serpent.  In a courtroom-like setting, God acting as Judge passed a dreadful sentence on the serpent, who was really Satan.  Genesis 3:15, known as the “protoevangelium” (first gospel) records Satan’s death sentence.  It’s also the first prophecy is Scripture.  The Devil knows what his fate will be.  He is destined to remain a miserable failure until his head is finally crushed by the Son of God, the Second Adam.

It’s interesting to read of how God sought out Adam and Eve, who hid from Him after they had sinned.  Read this verse carefully:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the Lord God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the Lord God among the trees of the garden.  (Genesis 3:8 NIV84)

They heard “the sound,” not “the voice” of God.  They weren’t in fellowship any longer with their Creator.  They feared meeting up with Him.  When at last God found the pair, He did an unexpected thing:  He made them simple clothing.  Why did He do that?  This is an example – the first among many – of grace.  God provided something Adam and Eve needed.  Actually, they needed many things at this point.  Ultimately, of course, salvation was initiated back in Genesis 3:15, but the fulfillment of that prophecy hasn’t happened yet, even in our day!  The pair’s immediate need was clothing.  God sacrificed an animal to provide a covering for man.  The interpretations of that single divine act range from things like, God wanting man to wear clothes to man’s sin resulting in the sacrifice of an animal to the idea of the necessity of sacrifice itself; a kind of foreshadow of Christ’s sacrifice.  Or maybe God just gave them some clothing because they needed some.  No matter how you chose to interpret what happened here, God gave man what he needed in man’s here-and-now.  God is still doing that today.  God has made a way for man to spend eternity in Heaven, but God also makes sure all of man’s needs for today are met.

You just can’t sing Amazing Grace enough.

Grace sustains the promise, Isa. 51:4-11

The book of Isaiah is one of those Bible books that divides up easily in terms of content and context.  Chapters 1-39 deal with the prophet’s warnings to Judah concerning the coming Babylonian exile, and chapters 40-66 present God’s promises (prophecies) in the midst of that exile.

For over 20 years (600-580 BC), Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, led a total of three devastating assaults on Judah.  During those assaults, citizens were deported to the Babylonian empire.  By the end of the final assault, Nebuchadnezzar had deported most, but not all, of the Jews and completely destroyed Jerusalem.

The group of verses in Isaiah 51 were written during the exile and were meant to encourage the faith of those exiles.  The salient point of these verses is the frequent use of the possessive “my.”  God is speaking to HIS people, HIS nation, and He promises HIS deliverance and HIS salvation.  These people, living in exile, needed to know God was still with them.  Even though Isaiah, and other prophets, warned them that the exile was God’s punishment for their disobedience, they also comforted the people with God’s promise of deliverance and restoration.  Who would not be comforted by words like these:

The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing;everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them,and sorrow and sighing will flee away.  (Isaiah 51:11 NIV84)

God’s promises of deliverance, restoration, and salvation go far beyond the Jewish people.  Certainly they are at the center of His big plan of salvation, but salvation is for all people.  The promise was given back in Genesis and here in Isaiah the Lord continues to remind His people of that promise.  Thomas Manton, puritan clergyman, wrote:

One way to get comfort is to plead the promise of God in prayer, show Him His handwriting; God is tender of His word.

Salvation foretold, Isaiah 55:1-7; Jeremiah 31:31-34

A call to new life, Isa. 55:1-7

Isaiah had been preaching to the Jewish exiles living in Babylon, but here in chapter 55 the call to salvation is universal in scope.  This makes complete sense since God’s salvation is for all men.

Why spend your money on food that doesnt give you strength? Why pay for groceries that do you no good? Listen and Ill tell you where to get good food that fattens up the soul!  (Isaiah 55:2  TLB)

Isaiah was a not only a prophet, but he was an effective preacher known for using contemporary, homey illustrations to put his points across.  He was also very familiar with the Wisdom Literature, especially this passage:

Come, you simple ones without good judgment; come to wisdoms banquet and drink the wines that I have mixed. Leave behind your foolishness and begin to live; learn how to be wise.  (Proverbs 9:4-6  TLB)

When you read verses like these, you get an impression of generosity – God’s generosity.  The new life – a life which is the result of God’s salvation – is a life of abundance, spiritual and otherwise.  The new life comes after an expression of repentance for the old life, and repenting means far more than merely regret.  A good way to think of repentance is thinking along the lines of a “cost-benefit analysis.”  When you stop to compare what God is offering you in terms of a new life versus what you have now, then consider what the cost of this  new life is, why would you NOT choose God’s new life?  It only makes sense.

A new covenant, Jer. 31:31-34

The time is coming,declares the Lord,when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.  (Jeremiah 31:31 (NIV84)

Along with a new life, God wanted to make a new covenant with His people to replace the old one.  This is what some Bible scholars refer to as a “mountain-peak” passage.  It certainly is the climax of Jeremiah’s book to be sure.  What makes it even more “mountain-peak-ish” is the fact the the prophet wrote these verses while he was imprisoned.  In this “new covenant,” the law is replaced by grace.  No longer will the law be an external thing, instead it will be internal – it will be written on the hearts of God’s people.  Charles Feinberg, in his excellent commentary on Jeremiah, provides a useful outline of the fullness of this revelation of a “new covenant”:

  • The time of the covenant: “at his coming,” verse 31
  • The Maker of the covenant: “the Lord,” verses 3, 20, 32, 35
  • The name of the covenant: “new,” Romans 11:27; Hebrews 8:6-13; etc.
  • The parties of the covenant: “the house of Israel,”  “the house of Judah,” Ezek. 37:15-19; Rom. 9:4-5
  • The contrasted covenant (vs. 32): not like the old covenant, based on merit, works, keeping rules and regulations, easy to break, dead-end, not life-giving.
  • The nature of the new covenant (vs. 33-34): not dependent on any external rules or regulations nor open to human interpretation; written on the heart not on tablets of stone; gives immediate knowledge of and fellowship with God, forgiveness of sins, and peace.

Salvation provided, Ephesians 2:4-7; Titus 3:3-7

God’s mercy is rich, Eph. 2:4-7

But God is so rich in mercy; he loved us so much 5that even though we were spiritually dead and doomed by our sins, he gave us back our lives again when he raised Christ from the deadonly by his undeserved favor have we ever been saved…  (Ephesians 2:4, 5  TLB)

Paul paints a bleak picture of life away from God before reminding them of what God has done for them.  All of God’s generous promises given throughout the Old Testament are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

God’s love is extravagant, Titus 3:3-7

…he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.  (Titus 3:5-7 NIV84)

And once again we read about God’s generosity.  There’s a definite continuity of thought here.  God is crazy generous.  His plan of salvation is based on His generosity.  But God must be generous because of the bad shape we were in when He found us.  So it’s a good thing God is “rich in mercy.”  We need as much as we can get.

Of importance here is that God’s great big plan of salvation is made possible through the work of His Son and His Holy Spirit.  Jesus made the way, the Holy Spirit makes it possible.

 

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