I hear these days that the whole essence of Grace is to secure a man’s place in heaven. But then the teaching has gone far as to say that every man who has simply confessed Jesus to be the Son of God and believes in Him is forever saved, and that no matter the sin he commits in the future, nothing can deprive him of a place in heaven. And it says also that all sins, past, present and future, have been forgiving, and as such, if you sin, you need not ask God for forgiveness. You can just leave it at that. It further goes to say that we have no command from God, and are therefore under no obligation whatsoever.
What do I know? Yes, I know this will be a long treatise of many parts. And I pray you find the patience to read through.
Early on at the beginning of my Christian walk, I determined not to get into arguments and counter-talk about the Bible. My greatest pleasure is in unravelling the deep mysteries it carries, because no other book brings joy to my heart as the Bible does. I simply love it. And in the course of the last five years, several things have become so clear to me.
First, the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament. Nothing about His person and character has changed. For that to happen, He would have to be less than God! In themselves also, the Old Testament and the New Testament do not carry a substantial difference. Not at all.
Many come to the conclusion that the God of the Old Testament was a God of wrath and judgment who related with people through fear and a show of power, while the God of the New Testament is a God of love.
But God has always been a God of love. His relationship with His people has always been, and will always be, out of love! His judgment and wrath are functions of His love.
In the book of Jeremiah, God talks about love so much, and His greatest pain was how His people did not recognise that love. I mean, for the Israelites, God had done everything. He loved them so much, He did not hesitate to wipe out whole nations and all who were against them. But every time, he met with rejection. Right from the days of the Golden Calf and rebellions in the desert, to the exile in Babylon, and many more examples. He would display His love and affection, and they would simply go their own way.
God speaks in Jeremiah thus:
“Go and declare in the hearing of the people of Jerusalem: ‘This is what the Lord says: “I have fond memories of you, how devoted you were to me in your early years. I remember how you loved me like a new bride; you followed me through the wilderness, through a land that had never been planted. Israel was set apart to the Lord; they were like the first fruits of a harvest to him. All who tried to devour them were punished; disaster came upon them,” says the Lord.'” Now listen to what the Lord has to say, you descendants of Jacob, all you family groups from the nation of Israel. This is what the Lord says: “What fault could your ancestors have possibly found in me that they strayed so far from me? They paid allegiance to worthless idols, and so became worthless to me.
Jer 2:2-5 (NET)
All God ever wanted was to have a people respond in like manner; in love.
The Old Testament reveals a deep problem of the human heart: it was desperately wicked. There was no love in it. After the fall of man in the garden, it had become a loveless, lustful, proud and self-seeking heart. Pleasing God could never come easy to that heart. Moses mentioned this in Deuteronomy 31, just before he died.
God has always being a God of love, and His laws in the Old Testament only demanded one thing: LOVE.
Jesus sums this in the New Testament in a very simple defense of the law code. He answered a question regarding the law of Moses thus:
37 …“‘ Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind .’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 The second is like it: ‘ Love your neighbor as yourself .’ 40 All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”
Matt 22:37-40 (NET)
His answer is pretty simple, that the entire law of Moses and by extension, the Old Testament, hinge on love. When you take the Ten Commandments, and examine the spirit in which they are written, you will realise they tell a direction of selflessness, and a life of putting others first before self.
Why did the law code fail then?
God forbid that God’s law was not good enough.
The problem was with man!
The Apostle Paul’s words are quintessential in explaining this.
So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous, and good. 13 Did that which is good, then, become death to me? Absolutely not! But sin, so that it would be shown to be sin, produced death in me through what is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual – but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin.
Rom 7:12-14 (NET)
The law, being spiritual, could not produce the results of the Spirit in carnal men. Rather, it was read by unregenerate minds as a way to either prove themselves as better than other men, or to decline and deny the authority of God by engaging in the prohibited.
All in all, sin was produced. And it persisted, even in the heart of the best of men.
But God, unchanging as always, looked down in love, and sent us a saviour, Jesus Christ. By His great Grace, we are recipients of the most elaborate gift of all: new hearts. Hearts capable of love, and of loving in the manner of God. Self-less love.
5 And hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. 6 For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) 8 But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Rom 5:5-8 (NET)
That sacrifice is a perpetual sacrifice, continuing in perpetuity, and therefore cancels out the requirement to keep offering sacrifices every year, or every time we sin.
And that is essentially what people think of the most when Easter comes around. I think of it all the time. I don’t just see the part that says that Jesus died, but I see also the part that says the love of God is now in my heart as well. All the hardness there before, it’s all been replaced. My spirit is pure, and what great glory that is.
When we come into this, truly, we see the dimension of God that has always been thought of as a mystery: He is a God of love. Totally, and completely, and essentially, His entire makeup, is love.
It has always been, and forever will be.
(To be continued…)