The Celebration of Communion

The single greatest event in the church is the crucifixion of Jesus. While the resurrection gave us justification, the crucifixion removed the barriers that prevent us from fully experiencing the love of God. The church is very good at celebrating the resurrection, but Jesus commanded us to continuously proclaim His death.

Many evangelicals neglect this important command, and the biggest reason is unfounded fear based on a misunderstanding of scripture. Let’s begin this study by examining this scripture. 1 Corinthians 11:17-32

17 Now in giving these instructions I do not praise you, since you come together not for the better but for the worse.
18 For first of all, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and in part I believe it.
19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.
20 Therefore when you come together in one place, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.
21 For in eating, each one takes his own supper ahead of others; and one is hungry and another is drunk.
22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you in this? I do not praise you.
23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread;
24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”
25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.
27 Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.
28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup.
29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body.
30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.
31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged.

Many translations use the word ‘unworthily’ instead of ‘in an unworthy manner’. Though the vernacular during the era of the translators may have been consistent to the intent of the scriptures, our modern vernacular misunderstands this as if we are being proclaimed unworthy instead of our actions being unworthy. The Greek word is anaxios, which is accurately translated as ‘unworthy manner’. Yet even if the wording might appear to be unclear, the context around this phrase should clarify any misconceptions. We sometimes take things out of context, so the meaning gets lost in our assumptions.

The Apostle Paul begins this instruction by scolding the church. “You are not coming together for the better, but for the worse,” again directing our attention to the method and not the individual’s spiritual condition. The people had turned this remembrance of the Lord’s sacrifice into a party of indulgence.

The church is reminded of how this commandment had been originally delivered. Notice, they were not merely eating the bread and drinking the wine of communion. In the Corinthian church, what should have been a celebration of Christ instead had become a runaway festival of human glory. One person ate a banquet, another was drunken, and the poorest among them had nothing.

In the late 1700s, a similar example emerged in the European church. To raise money, the church allowed parishioners to purchase the pews they sat in. It wasn’t long before people started decorating their own pews. One would deck out their family pew, and another would one-up them. Soon it became a status symbol of wealth, each person beaconing their own glory to the church by the lavishness of their pew. The church began discouraging the practice once the richest pew-owners began encasing themselves in decorative boxes to be separate from the lower status parishioners.

This same spirit exists today. Churches beacon their success through architecture and lavish buildings. Members present things that separate themselves from others, whether that be images of wealth, denominationalism, or pride in their knowledge and self-righteousness. What is supposed to be the communion of the saints at a common table focused on the Lord has been perverted into a call for divisions.

Churches deny communion to those who are in Christ but not of their particular sect. Christians separate themselves from the communion table when other believers in Christ are not of their particular label of Christianity. Communion is the one time we are commanded to put everything else aside and focus on Christ alone. Unfortunately, religion has divided the table of fellowship and excluded those who belong to Christ. This is sin and is why the Bible says, “I praise you not,” and then condemns us for breaking into factions within the church.

There is one body, one Lord, and one salvation. (See Ephesians 4:4-6) Anyone who is in Christ is in the communion of the saints – even if people within the various church sects don’t acknowledge this truth. They may be well meaning, but if anyone is supporting division, they are under the warning of the above scripture.

This is what was occurring in the church of Corinth. They were turning their tables into banquet halls. One displayed his feast, one had the party table where the group became drunk, and the poorest among them were left out of the picture. The poor people were watching others feast and probably wondered why God was not including them, but the truth is that God wasn’t in this indulgence at all. While the members were boasting about their own glory, they were shaming the cross and true faith was pushed aside for self-glorifying religion.

It is at this point that the warning is given. “I praise you not!” This is not the Lord ’s Supper. It’s a carnally minded festival. After rebuking this sham of a practice, Paul returns their focus to what had already been delivered to them, and they are reminded to take the bread and cup with a focus on Christ. Then they are commanded, “Examine yourselves.”

This self-examination is not the command to see if we are sin-free and worthy to take the Lord’s Supper. It is a command to examine our actions to see if we are conducting ourselves in a way that honors or dishonors Christ’s sacrifice. Examine yourself is not a command to see if you have sin that makes you unworthy. You are worthy because Christ has made you worthy! Let’s take a moment to look at the meaninglessness of our ideas of worthiness. Look at 1 Corinthians 15:9-10

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.
10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

Why was Paul worthy? It’s a trick question. He could never become worthy. He is called by God because of God’s grace. Not only does God’s grace place Paul within the center of God’s perfect will, it also becomes the force within him to do good works. God produced good works as Paul focused on Christ.

The same is true for you. You can never become worthy. Let me reiterate that for emphasis: you will never be worthy enough to earn the right to partake of the Lord’s Supper. You are a partaker of Christ because of God’s grace alone! If you have any doubts on this, let’s look at what the Bible calls sin.

  • To know good and not do it is a sin.
  • To disobey God willfully or ignorantly is a sin.
  • To lust in our heart is equal to adultery.
  • To be angry without a godly cause is sin.
  • Even if we have a godly cause, if anger produces an outburst of wrath, it is sin.
  • To hate is equivalent to murder.
  • To speak against of person in a position of authority, political or otherwise, is rebellion against God and is sin.
  • To fail to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength is a sin. That is all, not most. Any failure to love is sin.
  • To fail to love your neighbor as yourself is sin. Do you have anyone in your town that has less than you do?
  • To fail to pray for someone is a sin.
  • Anything not of faith is a sin. Do you act 100% in faith 100% of the time?

Now examine yourself. Can you identify every sin you have committed and confess them and be declared worthy? If you think you can, I need to remind you that self-righteousness and pride are sins.

Do you see the problem with the false doctrine of having to become worthy in order to partake of communion? 99% of your sins will never be acknowledged. 98% of those are because you don’t even recognize the areas in your life where sin exists. The Bible says that the person viewing life through the natural mind will always be in sin. Only when we are in the Spirit do we have life and peace. It’s all about faith. And that is exactly what the Lord ’s Supper is all about.

It isn’t about your ability to confess your way into perfection. It is about Christ’s work that has set you free from the law of sin and death. You are celebrating His victory over sin, and you are declared worthy because of your faith in Him. Nothing else can make you worthy. If you are putting your trust in your ability to confess your sins, you are hopeless indeed. The best you can do is deceive yourself into thinking you have made things right. However, the life in the Spirit by faith in Christ is always right with God.

Examine yourself. Are you focused on anything other than Christ? Are you trusting in your righteousness, or His righteousness given to you? It is not a man-centered philosophy. It is a faith-centered trust in Christ.

Let’s take a moment to look at the Bible’s unveiling of communion. It began in Exodus 12:21-23

21 Then Moses called for all the elders of Israel and said to them, “Pick out and take lambs for yourselves according to your families, and kill the Passover lamb.
22 “And you shall take a bunch of hyssop, dip it in the blood that is in the basin, and strike the lintel and the two doorposts with the blood that is in the basin. And none of you shall go out of the door of his house until morning.
23 “For the LORD will pass through to strike the Egyptians; and when He sees the blood on the lintel and on the two doorposts, the LORD will pass over the door and not allow the destroyer to come into your houses to strike you.

This is where the Passover celebration came from. The angel of judgment passed through the land and not one person was judged based on their merits or sins. The most noble among them were doomed if they were not under the blood. The vilest among them were saved, if they were under the blood. This is why the Bible calls Jesus the Lamb of God. He is the Passover, but this was not revealed until His birth 2000 years ago. Once Jesus became the Passover Lamb, it became a sin to perform the Old Testament sacrifices. He is the only sacrifice. All that came before Him were merely proclaiming His coming death. Now we take the communion celebration to proclaim the death He accomplished.

Even in this Old Testament ordinance, we see the cross. The blood on the doorpost and the top of the door is the cross. To strike the doorposts is foretelling of His hands that would be nailed and would bleed. The top of the door is the crown of thorns that bloodied His brow. Jesus even called Himself the door of salvation. And none of this would be understood for another two millennia.

The Old Testament is filled with foreshadows of Christ. Melchizedek blessed Abraham and gave the wine and bread of communion, for He was the priest of the Most High God. Now Jesus, the High Priest of our confession brings us the bread and wine of His sacrifice. Though God revealed it in both the Old and New Testaments, no one could understand until God revealed it at the crucifixion, and through the Spirit opening the eyes of our heart. Look now at John 6:51-60

51 “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.”
52 The Jews therefore quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this Man give us His flesh to eat?”
53 Then Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.
54 “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.
55 “For My flesh is food indeed, and My blood is drink indeed.
56 “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.
57 “As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.
58 “This is the bread which came down from heaven– not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever.”
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.
60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this, said, “This is a hard saying; who can understand it?”

We have the perspective of history, but the disciples did not. Many of Jesus’ followers turned their backs on Him at this teaching. It was a hard saying. You also will find many things hard to understand, but those who understand that He is their life will not allow this to discourage them.

The day was coming when even those who said, “It’s a hard saying,” would understand. Yet only those who had faith to stay with Him received the blessing of witnessing His resurrection and being part of His first calling. When Jesus said, “Will you also go away?” Peter said, “Where shall we go? Only You have the words of life.”

Peter had no clue what Jesus was talking about, yet because he knew the word was true, he walked in faith until the time when God would open his eyes to see the truth. Even though Peter was overtaken by his flesh and even denied Jesus three times, God did not allow Peter to fail. And that is a message that should give you comfort. Even if you fall, God is able to make you stand. Just believe on Christ, trust His word, and rely on His power.

Your sins are not God’s barrier. Those are part of the body of flesh you are learning to leave behind. Don’t trust in your ability to remain sin-free. Your flesh is never sin-free. There are just blind spots where you can’t recognize your faults, but in God’s eyes, you are faultless if you are in Christ. You are worthy because, by the grace of God, I am what I am. By the grace of God, you are what you are. He has made you stand, and it is by His grace alone that you stand.

Don’t be faithless, but believe. Let’s look at our celebration in Luke 22:19-20

19 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

When you take the bread, reflect on the gift of Christ. His body was broken for your sins. The wrath against all your sin was laid upon Him. You are not partaking of condemnation, you are partaking of life! As Jesus said, “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life.” When you take this bread, you are proclaiming your trust in His death and the gift of life He provided to you.

20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

When you take this cup, it is your declaration of faith in His forgiveness for your sins. It is the proclamation that His blood purchased your life. It is your trust in the New Covenant. The Old Covenant was condemnation, but now you are trusting in the new Covenant purchased for you. It’s all about His gift of love, and nothing is dependent upon you. The only thing God requires is that you believe on Christ. Put your trust in His atoning blood, and celebrate His death for your life. This was shed for you!

Let us remember and celebrate the Lord’s death until He comes. This celebration is in remembrance of His gift. His death is your gift of life. May the Lord bless you as you trust in Him!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

 

The Resurrected Life

Last week we looked at the promise that we were buried with Christ and our sinful nature was taken away. This leaves our flesh unemployed, but us free to pursue life in the Spirit. This week we are going to look at the life in the Spirit. Let’s begin by looking at John 12:23-25

23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified.
24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.
25 “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

Jesus was about to face crucifixion, and He first pointed at His own life to teach that until He dies, a fruit-bearing life cannot emerge. He immediately transitions into connecting His work to our lives. You also cannot live until your life has died to the flesh. Until you die, you remain alone. If you maintain this temporal life of the flesh, you cannot live, but death remains upon you. But if you die with Christ, eternal life emerges. To understand how we died with Christ, I recommend reviewing the earlier message, The Crucified Life.

Let’s take a few moments to see how His death produced our life. Look now at Isaiah 52:13-14

13 Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently; He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
14 Just as many were astonished at you, So His visage was marred more than any man, And His form more than the sons of men;

Who is God’s servant? According to Philippians 2, Jesus existed in the form of God, but veiled His glory and took on the form of a bondservant for the purpose of becoming obedient to death. Therefore, God has highly exalted Him.

This was foretold here in Isaiah. He will be exalted, but before that, we will be astonished at His marred appearance. Jesus will be marred more than any man. This prophecy given before Christ was speaking of his two-fold punishment. Jesus was first marred by being scourged with a cat of nine tails. This is a whip with pieces of sharp rock or other tearing material woven into the tip. It was intended to rip the flesh with each stripe. The whip would strike the back, and the punisher would yank the whip back to intentionally tear away the flesh.

This was normally the end of punishment, but Jesus was also condemned to die, so He was led away to be crucified. Condemned men were humiliated by having them carry their cross up the hill where they knew death awaited them. Because Jesus was so marred, He didn’t even have the strength to carry the cross, so a bystander was summonsed to carry it for Him.

Six inch nails were then driven through His wrists. Most translations use the word ‘hands’ but the Greek word for hands also includes the wrists. The hands didn’t have enough strength to support a human body, so crucifixion used the gap between the two bones in the wrist. It’s also one of the most painful places to be pierced.

Nails were driven between the space in the center of the feet, two to three inches behind the toes. Another agonizing place to be pierced. When someone hung from the cross, the weight pulling against their chest made breathing nearly impossible. Each labored breath required the convict to push up on the nail in their feet so they could release the pressure against their ribcage. Crucifixion was intended for maximum pain, and maximum humiliation. Knowing this makes the next passage clearer, Isaiah 53:3-6

3 He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Isaiah 52 says that Jesus is about to be highly exalted, but before this He will be marred more than any man, and He must go through the shame of Isaiah 53. Man will hide his face from Christ. This means the people will disown Him. Everyone will turn their backs on Him. His disciples will forsake Him out of fear, and the people will turn their backs on Him out of hate.

Satan is delighting in the torment, yet God was working a magnificent plan. The very stripes being laid on Jesus’ back were creating the flow of love that would soon be offered to His enemies for redemption. His bruises were for our sins. His stripes were for our healing. His rejection was for our acceptance. During the midst of this brutal act, God was laying your iniquities upon Him, so that your sins could be put to death in Him and new life emerge. Until you die with Him, you remain dead in your sins. But when we trust in Him, we are accounted as dead indeed to sin, but alive to God. And we are promised a new life – which we receive when we put our trust in Him. Look at this amazing promise from Ezekiel 36:26-27

26 “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27 “I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.

And this is from the Old Testament! God is foretelling of the day when God will take away our stony heart of sin and give us a new heart that is tender toward God. He then takes our dead nature away, and gives us a new spirit. Not only that, but His own Spirit will also be placed within us, and we will then have perfect fellowship with God.

Your old nature based on a spirit born into sin can never have fellowship with God. But when God takes away our sin, He gives us a new spirit AND His Holy Spirit. This is why we are called the temple of God.

But wait! There’s more! God then promises to be the driving force of good in our life, so that He causes us to walk in His ways and do His will. This is why the book of Romans tells us that the Gentile Christians, those who knew nothing about the law, did by nature the things written in the law, proving that the law of God was written on their hearts.

It is only when people are taught to walk in the flesh that they begin to struggle with sin again. We are called to walk according to our new nature, then the old sins have no power. Sin is defeated in the life of the Spirit. It cannot be defeated by human effort. Nor can faith be lived through human effort. We learn to walk in new life, and then righteous living is a natural way of acting. It is by nature that you keep God’s ways. It cannot be by forcing our flesh to live by a godly standard.

The Spirit subdues the flesh to make us instruments of righteousness. The flesh cannot be the focus, for it cannot change itself. Or as the Bible says, “The body is dead because of sin, but the spirit is life because of righteousness.” Life lived through the flesh will always produce sin. But you are not in the flesh if the Spirit of Christ is in you. Now you must learn how to walk according to your nature, and not according to the dictates of the flesh.

The resurrection of Christ is your power. Look at Romans 8:11-15

11 But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.
12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors– not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh.
13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.
14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.
15 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, “Abba, Father.”

It is God’s Spirit that gives life to your mortal bodies. Everything of God comes through the Spirit. One of the evidences of life is God’s Spirit transforming your outward life into an instrument of righteousness according to the inward man – a new nature born by the Spirit. You cannot make your body become a Christian. You cannot redeem your body. Until your body is changed at the resurrection, it will always be dead because of sin. Thankfully, we are given two important promises here.

Your body is constantly given life – if you are in the Spirit. Second, your body is always in sin, but you are not subject to the body – it is subject to you. The only way sin can reign over you is if you submit yourself back into the flesh.

You are given new life, and that spirit within you desires the things of God. The body desires sin, but when your mind is focused on the Spirit, you are walking by faith and God subdues your sins, God empowers you to walk in His will, and God empowers you to do His works. It is His Spirit working in you; not you working to produce good works for Him.

Sin has no power in the Spirit. It is God’s work and He blesses you for possessing His free gift of life. Let’s now look at Romans 4:23-25

23 Now it was not written for his sake alone that it was imputed to him,
24 but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead,
25 who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification.

The resurrection is your justification. His death was the payment for your sin, and His life is the deliverance of your justification. You live because He rose. You are justified through the resurrection, not based on your own actions or merits. What must you do to please God? According to the Bible, without faith it is impossible to please God. Faith in what He has done. Faith in His works. Faith in His righteousness. Trusting in His resurrection.

When the people asked Jesus, “What must we do to work the works of God?” Jesus answered, “This is the work of God, that you believe on Him whom the Father has sent.” Jesus was sent, and your only work is to believe on Christ! You are saved by grace through faith, not of works. You now live by grace through faith, and not of works.

Works is God’s Spirit performing His will in you, and then He gives life to your mortal body so that you can outwardly manifest the life that is being transformed inwardly. The more your mind grows in faith, the more your outward life will both depart from sin and do the works of God.

Because of the resurrection, you have new life, and you are freed from sin. Look at Romans 6:4, 7-12

4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,
9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.
10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.
11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

Your old nature was buried, and you now are in the new life. It is an accomplished fact, if your faith is in Christ. If you have died with Christ, you have been (past tense) freed from sin. Sin no longer has dominion over you. You are free. Death has no dominion over you, for as we looked at last week, sin and death condemned sin, but Jesus condemned sin in the flesh and nailed both our sin and the law that condemned us to the cross. You are free.

If this is true, why does sin trouble us? Why do we struggle with sin? The Bible says we are no longer under the law, because we are no longer in the flesh. We now have the law of faith and the law of righteousness. Our new nature does not need the letter of condemnation, for it desires to serve God alone.

Yet the Bible says that we can submit again under sin and the law. The Bible says, “Do you not know that whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slave whom you obey? This is true whether we are submitting to sin leading to death, or obedience leading to righteousness.

The flesh rises up and wars against your mind, demanding your submission to its desire to sin. If a child walks onto a playground and says, “I’m in charge,” what happens? If he has a strong personality, he might convince many, if not all, the children to submit to his claim of authority. But what happens if someone says, “No, you aren’t the boss?” His authority is gone. His authority is dependent upon your submission.

Now what happens if your boss comes up and says, “This is what I want you to do?” He has authority and either you do what has been commanded or there will be consequences.

Your authority comes from above, not from the earth. Your flesh is dependent upon you being convinced you must submit to its demands, but the Bible says, “No. Reckon yourself dead indeed to sin, but alive to God.”

To reckon is to account something as true. It is to believe, knowing something is certain. You have certainly died to the flesh; therefore, when you reckon that to be true, you will be stripping the flesh’s claim to authority over your mind. When you reckon yourself alive, you are putting your trust in the truth of God’s promise of life.

Let’s conclude by looking at Isaiah 54. Isaiah 52 speaks of Christ’s exaltation after He is marred more than any man. Chapter 53 explains the purpose of the crucifixion. He was wounded for your iniquities, striped for your healing, bruised for your sins, and rejected for your acceptance. Everything negative to you has been laid to His account, so that everything positive with Jesus is laid to your account. Isaiah 54 gives us a glimpse of how we now are viewed by God. Look at Isaiah 54:8-9

8 With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says the LORD, your Redeemer.
9 “For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; For as I have sworn That the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn That I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you.

In the Old Testament, God gave a rainbow as a symbol of His promise to never flood the entire earth again. Never again will He wipe out all life on earth because of man’s sin. This is a certainty and God cannot lie. It will always stand as a promise.

Now that the work of Christ has been completed, a new covenant of God has been given. God has sworn that once we are in Christ, He will never again be angry at us or rebuke us. Our sins are cast into the depths of the see. There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. His anger was laid upon Him, so His favor could be laid upon you.

Do you believe God’s declaration of His oath of promise? It’s only found in Christ. When you put your trust in Christ, you are now under the covenant of promise, and the Bible says that we are saved from wrath through Christ.

For a moment, God hid His face. Through the law, man was under condemnation. Man could never attain to righteousness, and that is the purpose of the law. It showed how helpless we are to rise to the acceptable standard of God – which is perfection. But that moment has passed. Now we have passed from death to life, and are accounted as sons of God – both male and female. This is explained in Romans 5:1-2

1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

We are all inheritors of the promise. Never again will we be under wrath if we are in Christ. That is God’s oath. This is a certainty!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987

 

You died with Christ and are now free!

Let’s begin this study with Colossians 2:8-14

8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.
9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;
10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.
11 In Him you were also circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the sins of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ,
12 buried with Him in baptism, in which you also were raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead.
13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses,
14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

The Bible explains that each person who enters the world has been born through Adam. Through him, we inherit our sin nature. We aren’t sinners because we committed sin. We committed sin because we were sinners. That nature is born into sin and seeks to serve itself.

From early childhood, we begin to demand our ways while also learning how to develop a selfish attitude based on our sin nature. This is why it is impossible for man’s efforts to make him righteous. Even if we do good by human standards, it still is born through a sinful nature and is ultimately self-serving. We do good because it makes us feel good. We sacrifice because it makes us appear honorable. Honorable to those watching, and honorable to our own egos.

Jesus said that whatever is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. The flesh cannot produce spiritual fruit. It can only produce flesh and decorate it with man-made works. This is also why Isaiah 64:6 says, “All of our righteous acts are filthy in God’s sight.”

One thing that is often overlooked by Christians is that we are not only receiving Christ, but He is crucifying our old nature. Not only is Jesus taking our sins out of the way, but He is taking our fleshly nature out of the way, and He is taking the law that kept us in bondage out of the way with it.

Christians often focus on the front-side of the cross. We have little trouble understanding that Jesus paid for our sins, but that is not all Jesus accomplished. Jesus took our sins completely out of the way, took our sin nature out of the way, and gave us His life and His righteousness. You are righteous because you are a possessor of the righteousness of God in Him. Look at 2 Corinthians 5:21

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

It is NOT your righteousness that pleases God. It is your faith in Him so that you are a receiver of God’s righteousness. He took your sin out of the way through His death. He also took your sin nature and the burden of the law upon Himself. The barriers between you and God have been taken out of the way, and a new nature is born. We’ll look at our new birth in detail next week, but let’s take a moment to focus on the work of God to remove our sin and sinful nature.

Before Christ, you had one nature. It was a corrupt nature born through Adam. After Christ you also have one nature, but this nature is born of God, has its life in God, and abides in the Spirit. Look now at 2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

Old things have passed away. Your old man was crucified with Christ and taken out of the way. This is what the Bible means when it speaks of the circumcision without hands. In the Old Covenant, God provided a living symbol of what He would one day perform for us. Every male child had to be circumcised in order to enter into God’s covenant of promise. The flesh of the child’s foreskin was cut away as a symbol of God’s working. The child had to do nothing. They were unaware of what was happening to them.

When Christ came, God unveiled the meaning of circumcision. He alluded to this even in the Old Testament. Look at Deuteronomy 30:6

And the LORD your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.

We are the descendants. This is why the Bible says that anyone who is born of faith are the children of Abraham, who is the forefather of the Jews. The outward foreshadow of circumcision became the inward working of the Holy Spirit at our new birth.

Before Christ, your nature has a bent toward sin. Your heart is sinful, corrupt, and incapable of pleasing God. You cannot enter into God’s promise because your sinful nature is incompatible with the life of the Spirit. But when the message of Christ is preached, the Holy Spirit reveals the joy of the Lord as He draws us to submit to His call. Anyone who responds by faith receives new life. But that new life cannot occur until the circumcision of Christ occurs first. The Spirit cuts away your old nature, buries it in Christ, and a new life in the Spirit is born. This is what is meant by being born again.

You cannot enter into God’s promise while the old nature is within you. God circumcises the fleshly nature away, we enter into the covenant of promise, and we are born as a new man and receive the promise that now all things are new and of God. Old things have now passed away, and behold all things are new – and all things are now of God!

If you put your trust in Christ, you are now buried with Christ! The old nature that ruled you is dead, buried, and taken out of the way. Look now at Romans 6:4-7

4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,
6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.
7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

You are not trying to get rid of an old nature – if you are in Christ, that old man (or fleshly nature) has been crucified with Christ. Past tense. It is not your work, it is the work of Christ. Your body of sin is now unemployed.

In the next few weeks we are going to look at the source of sin and why we still struggle, but we must first understand that our old nature is dead and gone. There is a little confusion in the way verse 6 is translated. Most translations say things like, “The body of sin might be destroyed,” or, “The body of sin might be destroyed.” ‘Might be destroyed’ is translated from a single Greek word, ‘katargeo’ which literally means to become unemployed.

Our sin nature is gone, but sin remains in our flesh; however, the flesh is now unemployed. It once ruled us, but now has been rendered idle. This is why the Apostle Paul said that sin in his flesh wars against his mind, trying to bring him back into captivity. We’ll discuss this in detail at another time, but what’s important to understand now is that the nature that sin once ruled has been taken out of the way. We are born into a new nature that is born of God.

Let’s look at another passage that can help us get our minds around this truth. Look at Romans 7:1-6

1 Or do you not know, brethren (for I speak to those who know the law), that the law has dominion over a man as long as he lives?
2 For the woman who has a husband is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives. But if the husband dies, she is released from the law of her husband.
3 So then if, while her husband lives, she marries another man, she will be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from that law, so that she is no adulteress, though she has married another man.
4 Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another– to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God.
5 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.
6 But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter.

I love this illustration. The Bible begins by presenting the law and our obligation to it. As long as you are alive, you are under the law. Every sin creates judgment. The Bible says that by the deeds of the law, no flesh can be justified. Righteousness cannot come by the law. The law is a reflection of God’s perfect standard based on His perfect nature and character. The Bible also warns that if we offend the law on any point, we are guilty of the whole law. The law is not a grading system. There is no 80% good. There isn’t even a 99% good. The law takes our lives, acts of sin, sinful thoughts, intents of our heart, obedience, disobedience, and compares it to the whole law. The Bible even says, to know good and to not do it is sin. The Bible also says that anything not of faith is sin. Have you ever not trusted in God? Or been afraid to step out in faith? What about the command to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. Have you had any thought that was not based on the love of God?

The law says, “Are you perfect.” If the answer is ‘no’, you are guilty. Now this passage is presenting this problem. It compares the law to a husband. The husband is perfect. The law is good, holy, and pure. Unfortunately, we who are born under that law are not. The law has no tolerance for sin, for all sin is a challenge to God’s authority and an assault on perfection.

Anyone born under the law remains under the condemnation of the law unless the law dies. Yet we know the law cannot die, for it is eternal. Heaven and earth will pass away, but the word will never pass away. The comparison is that we are married to the law from birth, and unless the law dies, we cannot be free. Yet now we see the love of God presented to us through Christ, but we can’t be joined to Christ because our marriage to the law can never be annulled. It must die before we can be free, but it can’t die because it’s eternal.

Then the Bible gives an amazing solution. The law can’t die, but you can. And Jesus, the embodiment of the love of God cares enough for you to bear the penalty for your sins and die for you. While that will take care of your sin, it won’t free you from the law. So God offers an amazing solution. Be crucified with Christ, die to the law, and the one who has died is no longer under the law.

Your old nature was born through the flesh and is forever bound to the law of condemnation. God now promises, let Me put your flesh to death, and then you will be free from the law and born into a new law – the law of faith. The law of life in the Spirit. Now look at Romans 8:2

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Once you are in Christ, the law of condemnation has no power. Let’s add one last passage to this topic. Galatians 5:18

But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

In Christ, you are a spiritual man or woman. You are not under the law, but in Christ. You have a new nature whose life is in Christ and a nature that desires the righteousness of God. This is why the Bible says, “The Gentiles who did not know the law, did by nature the things found in the law, proving that the law of God was written in their hearts.

Our new nature is a partaker of God. Its nature is to act in accordance to God’s will, because its nature is to do so. It is only when we submit our minds to the flesh that sin rises up to trouble us.

In Christ, you have a new life. The condemnation you once had can no longer condemn you. You now have the promise, “Now all things are of God.” You were crucified with Christ, set free from the law and all its condemnation. Now there is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. But this gift of God is only received by faith.

God is calling. God has expressed the amazing love He has for you in the person of Christ. The Bible says that Jesus endured the cross because of the joy set before Him. Did you know that you were the encouragement of Jesus when He was facing the torture of the cross? The joy of your reconciliation was the joy set before Him, and He endured for your hope of redemption. This is the love of God given to you.

You died with Christ, you are free from the law, you are free from condemnation, and all you must do is receive His gift by faith!

Eddie Snipes 2014
Listen to Eddie’s weekly podcast at https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/hollydale-baptist-church/id893226987