by Mike Ratliff
21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NASB)
This morning, as I worshiped at our church, we had what some call “The Lord’s Supper” and others “Communion.” No matter which name is used, I rejoiced as I took the bread and the cup and meditated on what my Lord Jesus went through to become my propitiation, to become separate from God the Father, one who knew no sin to be sin on behalf of those he came to save so that they might become the righteousness of God in him. The reason the joy was so intense for those who “get” the magnitude of this is that they also know that not one of those could ever have become reconciled to God the Father by any action or deed or by attempting to keep the Law. No, there was no other way other than a sinless sacrifice paying their penalty for them and that is exactly what our Lord Jesus did.
As the elements of Communion were being passed out I took my Bible and turned to Romans 12 and reflected (meditated) on Romans 12.
1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. 3 For through the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. 4 For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, 5 so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. 6 Since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, each of us is to exercise them accordingly: if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith; 7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching; 8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness. 9 Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; 11 not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, 13 contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep. 16 Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men. 19 Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord. 20 “BUT IF YOUR ENEMY IS HUNGRY, FEED HIM, AND IF HE IS THIRSTY, GIVE HIM A DRINK; FOR IN SO DOING YOU WILL HEAP BURNING COALS ON HIS HEAD.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:1-21 NASB)
This is what believers are like who, by the power of the Holy Spirit, walk in repentance as living sacrifices. This is not in any way a legalistic mandate of rule keeping, et cetera. No, this is what Christians are like as true joy is expressed that comes to all who understand that God is Sovereign and all is under his control and no matter how evil things are in this temporal life we are in, we belong to him and our focus is not temporal, but eternal.
As we examine this, it is incredible that anyone who has tasted this freedom we have in Christ to live this way would listen to anyone insisting that we once again become slaves to the Law, but that was what was happening in the churches in Galatia, which prompted Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. However, think of the visible church in our time. I don’t think any of us would have to look very far to find some so-called Christian group or Christian leader teaching bondage to the Law or attempting to put their people under the bondage of some form of legalism, that is, rejecting grace and seeking to appear righteous before God through works. This is, of course, works righteousness. This is a lot more prevalent than you might think.
10 For as many as are under works of the Law are under a curse; for it has been written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” 11 Now that by Law no one is being justified before God is clear because, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” 12 But the Law is not of faith; but “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law having become a curse on our behalf–for it has been written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”– 14 that to the nations, the blessing of Abraham might come by Christ Jesus so that we would receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:10-14 Possessing the Treasure New Testament v1)
Paul uses several Old Testament quotes in these 5 verses to prove his point. Those who attempt to keep the Law to earn salvation are under a curse. Why? This is a quote from Deuteronomy 27:26 and Paul uses it to show that failure to perfectly keep the Law brings divine judgment and condemnation. Just one violation of the Law deserves the curse of God. No one can keep all of the commands of the Law, which is why the Lord Jesus did that for us and is what is imputed to all those Justified by Faith.
No one is justified by the Law. To be “justified” is to be made righteous before God. However, Paul shows us that the righteous (those who have been justified) shall live by faith. This shows us that justification does not come from keeping the law (Habakkuk 2:4), but is by faith alone (Hebrews 10:38). In v12 we see that justification by faith and justification by keeping the Law are mutually exclusive, which is proven in Leviticus 18:5, which Paul quotes.
In v13 Paul uses the Greek word that we translate as “redeemed.” It was often used to speak of buying a slave’s or debtor’s freedom. Our Lord’s death, because it was a death of substitution for sin, satisfied God’s justice and exhausted his wrath toward his elect, so that Christ actually purchased believers from slavery to sin and from the sentence of eternal death (Galatians 4:5; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18; Romans 3:24; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14; Hebrews 9:12). This redemption took place by our Lord becoming a curse on our behalf. Our sins were imputed to his account and God’s wrath was poured out on him. He bore the wrath due us. As I took the bread and the cup this morning the enormity of that sacrifice was brought home because I know from Ephesians 2:1-10:
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:1-10 NASB)
My brethren, how can believers take their salvation for granted? How can they ignore these obvious passages and believe that the Lord died for them because “they are special,” et cetera? God saved us to display the magnitude of this grace to bring himself glory. Not one person he saves deserves it…not one. However, as we become those living sacrifices, walking in repentance by the power of the Holy Spirit, being transformed through the renewing of our minds (this is our sanctification), God can and will change us and as we humble ourselves for service, abiding in Christ, we can do those good works which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
Soli Deo Gloria!