It certainly doesn’t take much effort to notice that there is something terribly wrong with our world: crime, pollution, corruption, wars, famine – the list goes on and on. We ask ourselves: Is this the way the world should be? Is this the way it was designed to be?
These “Problems” are Merely Symptoms.
Actually, the things we believe to be the problems are merely symptoms of a more fundamental issue. According to the Bible, humanity has a problem that is much more basic than crime and wars. The Bible says that the real issue is that humanity has chosen to disobey its Creator. We have rebelled against God and His design for this world. This one problem has resulted in devastating consequences to our world. We see those consequences in crime, corruption, wars, and so on.
Rebellion Creates a Relationship Problem.
If a child rebels against the authority of its parent it creates a relationship problem. The Bible identifies this as the problem between human beings and God. When we chose to rebel against God, our rebellion caused some very fundamental problems. Let’s look at some of those problems carefully.
1. All Human Beings Are Rebels.
First, the Bible makes it clear that all human beings have rebelled against God. The Bible refers to this rebellion as “sin” which literally means “missing the mark” in relation to God and His design for the world. The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23. All Scripture is quoted with permission from the NIV Bible).
2. Rebels Are Criminals.
Apparently God takes this “missing the mark” much more seriously than we do. According to the Bible, our sin makes us all criminals in God’s eyes, having broken His law. The Bible says that “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” (1 John 3:4).
3. All Criminals Are on Death Row.
According to the Bible, all of us are presently on “death row.” Just as every crime in our justice system has a corresponding punishment, so it is in God’s system of justice. The Bible clearly states that “the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). The Biblical definition of death is twofold: physical and spiritual. Our ancestors died spiritually as a result of their disobedience; physical death entered this creation as a direct result of their rebellion. Let’s look at these concepts more fully.
a. Spiritual Death.
God told the first man, Adam, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” (Genesis 2: 16-17). The man did eat and that day he “died.” The Bible indicates that “death” is a separation. The body dies when it is separated from the spirit; a human being dies spiritually when separated from God’s fellowship. Fellowship between God and Adam was terminated because of the rebellion and Adam died spiritually that day.
b. Physical Death.
Furthermore, as a consequence of Adam’s rebellion, God removed from him the privilege of eating of the tree of life. (Genesis 3:21-24). This means that his physical death was a direct consequence of his disobedience.
4. What Is Broken Cannot Be Unbroken.
Once we have broken God’s law, we can do nothing to correct the problem. We cannot un-break God’s law. Imagine trying to talk your way out of a speeding ticket by explaining to the officer that your headlights, taillights, horn, smog device, etc. are all in compliance with the law. It is obvious that the only violation being punished is the speeding infraction; full compliance with every other ordinance on the books would not make up for this one violation. Such is the nature of a legal system. Clearly, no matter how many “good works” we may acquire, we can never make up for even one violation of any law, much less God’s law.
5. Rebellion Creates a Rebellious Heart.
Finally, once we participate in the rebellion our personalities are forever changed. Once we decide to sin, it becomes much easier to do it again the next time. Surely we recognize this in our own experience. So many of our flaws are due to our own inability to overcome our weaknesses. We recognize as truth the Bible’s reference to sin as “enslaving.” (Titus 3:3, Romans 6:16-17). Once entangled, we are incapable of escaping its grasp by ourselves.
The Great Dilemma:
Our rebellion has placed us in a threefold dilemma:
1. Legal Problem.
First, it creates a “legal” problem in God’s courtroom. Our crime before God is rebellion, our sentence is death, and we are simply awaiting judgment. Unless something (or, rather, someone) intervenes, we will receive the judgment and sentence that our works deserve.
2. “Death” Problem.
Second, our rebellion creates a problem with respect to our physical bodies: we are all going to eventually die physically. This is but another consequence of our rebellion against God.
3. “Life” Problem.
Finally, our sin creates a problem of the heart. We become weak beings. Once we participate in the universal rebellion, we become enslaved to sin. We cannot break free from the entanglement of sin.
Consider this passage carefully: “When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, ‘Who then can be saved?’ Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible . . .’” (Matthew 19:25-26).
It is inescapable that we are hopelessly lost in God’s judicial system. How can we ever make up for the broken laws? But, if Jesus’ comments ended there, we would be in deep trouble. Thankfully, Jesus finished the statement: “but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).
And Now, The Good News
The Bible reveals to us the “gospel” of Jesus Christ. The word gospel literally means “glad tidings” and refers to what God has done, is doing, and will do to help human beings out of the dilemma described above. Let’s look at the glad tidings, or gospel, carefully.
1. God Became a Human Being.
First, the Bible says that God became a human being for us. (John 1:1-3,14; Philippians 2:5-11; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 1:1-3; Colossians 1:15-20). God had to do this because we were unable to correct the problem ourselves.
2. The Penalty for Our Crimes Was Paid.
Next, Jesus was crucified for our sins. (Romans 4:25; Isaiah 53; 1 John 4:10; Hebrews 10:10-14). Because He lived a sinless life, He did not have to suffer the consequences of sin, that is, He did not have to die. But, He chose to die! Why would He do such a thing? Because after He had voluntarily died, as a sinless human being, He then offered that death in the place of yours and mine.
The good news is that God has accepted that death in the place of yours and mine! The central message of the Bible is that you do not have to pay the penalty for your sins – Jesus has already done that for you!
3. Proof Is Given of Life Beyond the Grave.
Next, Jesus was raised from the dead to give us hope that one day we will be raised too. (John 5:28-29; 1 Corinthians 15:12-19; John 20:24-31). Our physical death is no longer a problem because we will be raised just as Jesus was raised.
4. God Consoles Our Weaknesses.
Next, Jesus ascended to heaven for our weakness. (Hebrews 1:3, 7:25; 1 John 2:1-2). Jesus is now in heaven as a human being! He represents all of us before God. We can now speak with God freely through our representative in heaven, Jesus!
5. He Is Coming Back.
Finally, Jesus will come again. (Acts 1:9-11; John 14:1-4; Hebrews 9:28). He will come again to reward those who have turned to Him in obedient faith; however, He will punish those who have continued in their rebellion against God. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).
What Must Be Done?
First, you must acknowledge that you are in the dilemma described above. If the Lord were to return right now, you would have to stand before Him and enter a plea in His courtroom. Your only plea is guilty. Unless you have someone to satisfy the demands of God’s law (death for each criminal violation), you will suffer the condemnation described in the Bible. You cannot survive a judgment in which your eternal destiny is determined by your deeds. Face the facts: if you are a human being you are guilty of rebelling against God.
2. Belief in God’s Answer to The Dilemma.
But, if you trust (believe) that Jesus is the answer to your dilemma (Romans 1:16; Acts 16:29-34; John 1:12-13, 3:16), that He is the payment for your sins, and have a proper relationship with Him, God has already accepted full payment for every sin you have ever committed. You will be, in essence, acquitted.
3. Turn From Rebellion.
Then, you must repent. This involves turning from your sins and asking God to forgive you. You must purpose to no longer live in rebellion. You must submit yourself to Him as your Lord and Master. (Acts 20:21).
4. Obedience Is Always Required.
The Bible says that you must obey God by obeying the gospel. (2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; Romans 6:16-18, 3-4). You “obey” by hearing what God has done, believing that Jesus is the answer to your dilemma, repenting of your sins and turning to God in humility, submitting your will to Him, confessing Jesus as the Christ, and being baptized for the forgiveness of your sins (Acts 2:38).
What is Baptism?
1. Death to Sin.
If we are ever to enjoy communion with God, something must be done about our sinful nature. The Bible describes Baptism as a death, burial and resurrection. (Romans 6:3-4). When a believer repents, confesses Christ and obeys God in baptism, he “dies to sin.”
What does it mean to be dead to sin? It means that God takes the baptized believer out from under the burden of having to perform perfectly (a “legal” system) in order to be saved. He places His children under a system in which their faith makes them perfect in His sight. This is His system of Grace.
Thereafter, God’s children are truly free – free to serve Him without fear. What better motivator can there be to serve Him as Lord and Master than knowing that He is not counting every little mistake against His children?
2. Entry Into Salvation.
When God destroyed the world through a flood, He provided a place of salvation. Anyone inside the boat that Noah built was saved; anyone outside that boat was destroyed. So it will be when God judges the world through Jesus Christ. Those “in” Christ will be saved; those outside will be lost.
The Bible describes baptism as our entrance “into” Christ where there is safety from the judgment to come. (Romans 6:3-4; Galatians 3:27). It is for this reason that the Apostle Peter can say that “baptism . . . now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God.” (1 Peter 3:21).
For a visual depiction of what happens at baptism, look at the illustrations below. The first illustrates the fact that Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection offer hope to the human family. The second illustrates how obedience brings a believer into contact with what Jesus did on the cross. Jesus enacted the gospel; human beings reenact it in obedient faith when baptized.
If you have any further questions, or if we can serve you and your family in any way, please contact us. We are here to serve you and yours.
Church of Christ
9500 Three Chopt Road
Richmond, VA 23229-3858
(804) 346-HOPE (4673)
(804) 346-1983 (FAX)