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Salvation through Justification
Lesson 28
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Sin Begins

Genesis 3:6 says, “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” I believe the devil schemed and planned his approach at the tree for some time and he was unbelievably successful. He gained Eve’s full attention and ultimately her confidence. The fruit was beautiful and desirable, and after he had beguiled Eve with his comments, she tasted it. The serpent quickly left the tree and Eve, no doubt, felt strange and uncomfortable inside. For the first time she felt guilt of sin. Quickly she gathered up some of the fruit and ran to Adam. Adam recognized the forbidden fruit Eve was holding and knew she was in trouble. She excitedly explained the course of events and then, in an innocent way, sought his companionship by offering him some fruit. Adam must have thought: “God will strike Eve dead today because she ate the fruit and if she is taken from me, life will be miserable and lonely.” Eve was created to perfection, she was beautiful and she had been his “soul mate” since the day of their creation. She was part of him, they were of one flesh and spirit, and he was deeply distressed. Therefore, out of love and devotion for Eve, he chose to eat the fruit and share God’s punishment with her. Unfortunately, Adam loved Eve more than he trusted God to resolve the problem.

A very important distinction can be made between the sins of Adam and Eve. Eve believed a lie and she sinned in ignorance. Adam chose to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit because of his love for Eve. Even though Adam’s sin was not an act of defiance, it was intentional and willful. Remember the text? “And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘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) Adam knew better, his sin was deliberate, whereas Eve’s sin was not. Therefore, Paul concludes that Adam is responsible for the entrance of sin on Earth and not Eve! It would have been great if God could have said, “O.K. Adam and Eve, we will overlook your sin this one time, but you had better not sin again!” God could not say these words for two reasons: First, Adam and Eve were now subject to the penalty of sin. They had violated God’s law; God’s law cannot be cancelled or altered because His universal government is based on the rule of unchanging law. Second, after Adam and Eve sinned, they were not the same. They were immediately transformed by sin and their minds and hearts suddenly became hostile to the authority of the Godhead.

Passing the Blame

Adam and Eve were confronted with their sin that evening. When they heard Jesus approaching, they ran and hid. They were ashamed, naked and defensive. When confronted with their deeds, they were strangely unrepentant! Eve blamed her actions on the serpent. She said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:13) Even worse, Adam blamed his rebellion on his Creator and then on Eve! Adam said, “The woman you put here with me – she gave me some fruit from the tree and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12, italics mine.) The moment Adam and Eve became sinners, their nature changed, instead of having a predisposition toward righteousness, they became rebellious and carnal. The Creator listened and then He spoke. He addressed the serpent first, then He placed a curse upon the woman, and last, He turned to Adam and said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat of it,’ Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)

Access Denied

God drove Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden for one simple reason. They could not have access to the Tree of Life! Read the following text carefully: The Lord God said, ‘The man has now become like one of us, knowing good from evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take from the tree of life and eat, and live forever {without end}.’ So the Lord God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the Tree of Life.” (Genesis 3:22-24, insertion mine.)

Two Types of Death Created

At this point in the story, it is important to consider a development that occurred that fateful day. Remember, God had warned that Adam and Eve would be executed the very day they ate the fruit of the forbidden tree. If the execution had been carried out, that would have been the end of the story. However, when Jesus stepped “in the way” of their execution, offering to die in man’s place, an important development occurred: Two types of death were created. It became possible for man to die twice. We know the penalty for sin is death by execution, but the consequence of being shut way from the Tree of Life is also death. The “first death” occurs as a consequence of sin. People die of cancer, accidents or old age. This type of death is called “sleep” 53 times in the New Testament because in God’s eyes it is a temporary death. (See John 6 and 11.) The second death is reserved for people who remain defiant against God’s authority during their life. The annihilation of the wicked occurs at the end of the 1,000 years. (Revelation 20:14) Currently, no one has experienced the “second death” (except Jesus) because God has not executed the wicked. The second death occurs by fire and the results are eternal and final.

The reason Adam and Eve had to be banished from the garden and denied access to the Tree of Life was because God did not want sin to live forever. Notice how this works: Man was created a mortal being (man has a beginning and the possibility of an end). If man cannot obtain the fruit from the Tree of Life, he dies. Have you ever considered how the rebellious predisposition of Adam and Eve, like a biological trait, has been passed down to all the offspring of the guilty pair for nearly 6,000 years? The heritage and power of sin were quickly revealed in their firstborn son, Cain, who became a murderer!

Think of Adam and Eve’s suffering outside the garden. The Bible says that Adam lived 930 years. (Genesis 5:5) Imagine living that long and observing the terrible consequences of your own sinful choice! Adam had to watch the consequences of his own deed for an extended period of time. He had lived within that glorious garden before sin began; now he survived by the sweat of his brow outside the garden. He saw the effects of the infectious blight of sin within his family and on all of nature. Think of Adam’s mental and emotional agony – living nine centuries to witness the degenerate effects of his wrongdoing – all to be with Eve. And, of course, Eve painfully experienced the degenerate effects of sin within her own body during childbirth, not to mention the disappointing behavior of her children. I am sure that as she held in her arms the lifeless body of her second son, Abel, she was overwhelmed with grief as she began to choke on the bitter taste of sin.

Jesus Not Caught By Surprise

The sins of Adam and Eve did not catch Heaven by surprise. In fact, the very day Adam and Eve sinned, Jesus became man’s intercessor by stepping “in the way” of the executing angel. (Isaiah 53:12; Job 16:20,21; Hebrews 7:25) Jesus stepped between the wrath of God’s law (death by execution) and the guilty pair when He offered to die in man’s place. In my mind’s eye, I can visualize the scene. The executioner was preparing to leave Heaven to slay Adam and Eve, but Jesus ran to the Father. Jesus petitioned the Father to allow Him to die in man’s place. The Father agreed to the petition of Jesus and the work of execution was delayed. Jesus came to Earth and shared with Adam and Eve that a way had been provided for them to one day be restored to their Eden home. Ever since that day, the way back to the Garden of Eden has been called the “Plan of Salvation.” The plan includes many features that reveal Godhead of love. One marvelous feature about the plan is the Father’s willingness to justify sinners with the righteousness of Christ.

What Must I Do?

“Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’” (Acts 16:30,31) A frightened jailer cried out for his life in the middle of the night and an assuring response came from two prisoners. The words that Paul and Silas spoke that night echoed from that prison cell in Philippi for almost 2,000 years has vast importance. However, Paul and Silas’ response includes much more than many Christians understand! To understand the passage of Scripture the student has to take off his Nike’s and put on the sandals of Paul and Silas. In other words, we have to consider the circumstances during which these words were spoken.

The setting in Acts 16 begins a few years before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in A.D.70. The mutual hatred between the Romans and Jews was fierce. To make matters worse, the Romans regarded the Christians as just another Jewish sect because most Christians were former Jews who continued to observe a number of Jewish customs even after they became Christians. While in the Macedonian city of Philippi, Paul cast a demon out of a young slave girl, who was “a fortune teller.” She had earned large sums of money for her owners and when they realized their financial loss, they initiated a riot saying, “ ‘ These men are {those rebellious Jews, and are throwing our city into an uproar by advocating customs unlawful for us Romans to accept or practice.’ The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully.” (Acts 16:20-23, insertion mine.)

Notice in the previous text that Paul and Silas were identified as Jews – their nationality was the inflammatory word that justified the riot. The instigators of the riot did not need to say more. However, in the mob’s angry rush to assault two more Jews who were not welcomed, city leaders failed to consider whether Paul and Silas were Roman citizens – a significant oversight since Roman law mandated that Romans could not be punished or imprisoned without a fair trial. Non-Romans could be punished on the spot.

After Paul and Silas were flogged severely, they were placed under the care of a Roman jailer. The jailer understood the rules of Roman guardianship and he was paid good wages to guard well. If prisoners escaped from his jail, he was automatically guilty of negligence-end of discussion and end of life. Such were the no-nonsense, ironclad rules of Roman government. The jailer had heard Paul and Silas preach. No doubt, the jailer was also a good judge of character. He was fascinated with their teachings about Jesus Christ and their miracle working power, but he was foremost a public servant and prisoners were his highest priority.

“About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose. The jailer woke up, and when he saw the prison doors open, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself because he thought the prisoners had escaped. But Paul shouted, ‘Don’t harm yourself! We are all here!’ The jailer called for lights, rushed in and fell trembling before Paul and Silas.” (Acts 16:25-29) When the jailer reached the open cell of Paul and Silas, he uttered the most important question on Earth, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” When I consider his question in the light of his immediate circumstances, I have wondered if the jailer’s concern was focused on the receipt of eternal life. In fact, could the jailer really be asking, “What must I do to save my present life and that of my family, because I will be promptly executed if any prisoners escape?” If this were the case, then Paul and Silas’ response was instruction leading to justification in God’s sight –“Put your trust in Jesus right now and you will not lose your life, nor will your household perish.” Look at the verse again:” ‘Sirs, what must I do to be saved?’ They replied, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved – you and your household.’”

I have yet to meet one Christian who says this verse actually means, “Mr. Jailer, if you will believe in the Lord Jesus this very minute, you and your entire household will be granted eternal life.” In other words, most Christians do not believe that one person’s acceptance of Jesus saves other family members. So, what did Paul And Silas mean when they said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus”? Here are two choices: First, they could have meant, “Believe that Jesus Christ is a real person. Believe this simple historical truth and He will grant you eternal life.” I mention this option because some Christians actually believe this to be the intent of Paul and Silas. I find this view makes a mockery of the biblical definition of faith. Second, they could have meant, “Believe that Jesus Christ is your Savior and submit your life to His authority. All who do will receive life eternal at the last day.” (John 6:39-44) My study leads me to believe that the last choice is the correct answer. Paul and Silas invited a desperate man to immediately submit to the authority of Jesus Christ (as they had done in their own lives) and allow Him to work out the details. This story is paradoxical. Paul and Silas are telling the jailer to submit his life to the Lord Jesus as they had done. However, consider their misfortune sitting in prison stocks with cuts and bruises – inviting the jailer to submit his life also. The point Paul and Silas were making was that when you submit your life to the authority of the Lord Jesus, your life and future are in God’s hands. But truthfully, after considering the issues of life and all the options, it really is the only way to go. This story reaffirms that justification begins with total and complete submission. If it takes a life-threatening experience or even an earthquake to produce submission, then so be it. (Remember, Paul himself had a life-threatening encounter with the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus. This experience led Paul to surrender his life to Jesus immediately. See Acts 9)

Will Words do the Trick?

Some Christians claim that salvation comes only after a person publicly confesses faith in Christ as Savior. In other words, to become a saved person has to be publicly state, “Jesus is Lord.” While this may sound good among church members, the flip side of this concept is a doctrine teaching that most of the world is eternally doomed because more than 70% of the world’s population has not confessed, “Jesus is Lord.” Carefully notice these texts:” If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9,10) “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

While “proof texts “sound good in a Christian environment, what about the remaining 4.4 billion people who are not Christian? Are people doomed to destruction simply because they were born in a place where there are no Christians or any knowledge of Jesus? Be careful how you answer this question, because God’s offer of salvation to the world is not narrow and simplistic as some Christians claim. There is more to the concept of salvation than first meets the eye. For example, what does a loving God do with:

(a)    Billions of people down through the centuries who have lived and died without having an opportunity to hear about Christ’s generous offer of salvation?

      (b) Billions of people who rejected Christianity because the “Christians” they knew were disgusting examples of immoral and uncivil behavior?

      (c) Billions of people who have never honestly considered the teachings of Christianity because they were born into another religion system or culture that taught their religion was superior to Christianity?

     (d) Billions of good people living right now, as well as in ages past, who never showed serious interest in religion because their parents were not religious?

Are All Four Groups of People Doomed for Destruction?

Through the years I have asked people about these four groups of people and a disappointing number of Christians have callously said that all four groups are doomed for destruction because they never gave their heart to Christ Jesus. When I respond, “But billions of people have never had the opportunity to know about Jesus! What does God do with them?” Sometimes I just get an irritated look because it seems unreasonable to say that God would destroy people who have never had a chance to know about salvation. If the frown is not too bad, I have dared to ask further, “Who will receive greater condemnation: The Christian who did little or nothing to propel the gospel of Jesus throughout the world, or the pagan who did not hear the gospel because a Christian did not share the good news with him.” These questions are important to consider, because the Bible says that God’s love for each person on the Earth is the same! (John 3:16; Acts 10:34,35; Romans 2:14,15

Far too many Christians have a view regarding salvation that is too narrow. Many Church members believe that salvation requires sameness. Consider the logic: “If others are going to be saved, they must become like me for I am convinced that I am saved.” This concept is the mainspring of many evangelical efforts. However, the larger idea behind justification is that God can justify anyone, anywhere, and at any time a person becomes willing to obediently submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit. Consider the magnanimity of God! When a man (or woman) experiences the “born again” miracle in his heart and receives the assurance of eternal life, he becomes motivated to help others experience the joy and peace that he has received. For example, if he finds the “born again” experience within a particular denomination, it is only natural that he would want others to find the same joy he has found when attending his church. This is not inherently bad. The misunderstanding occurs, however, when one denomination concludes that God will not save people who understand His will in a different way. Unfortunately, this is the basis for Christian exclusivity. In reality, the Christian experience should be one of inclusiveness because the Christian life is a mixture of doctrine and experience. If the balance is right, there will be joy and happiness from wholeheartedly serving God and man. Remember this: Good doctrines stimulate good faith. Bad doctrines produce toxic faith.

Which Church is the Right Church?

A large number of Christians believe that salvation is church specific; that is, you must believe the right things and belong to the right church to be saved. As a result, some Christians will brazenly say that members of other churches are doomed for destruction because they do not follow God correctly! Interestingly, every Christian denomination on Earth claims to be the true church of God. For example, the Roman Catholic Church believes it is the only true church of God on Earth. Notice the recent comment: “The fullness of religious truth, unmixed with error, is found only in the Catholic Church, the very Church which Jesus Christ Himself established.” (Joel Peters, “Scripture Alone?, 21 reasons to reject Sola Scriptura,”p.64, 1999, Tan Books and Publishers, Inc.) Mr. Peters also concludes that neither the pope nor the Catholic Church can lapse into error.” The Holy Spirit was given to the Church by Jesus Christ, and it is exactly the same Spirit who protects the Church’s visible head, the Pope, and the teaching authority of the church by never permitting him or it to lapse into error.” (Ibid, p.26) I use these quotes by a recent Catholic author to demonstrate, that Catholics are not reluctant to declare everyone else wrong and themselves the only inerrant depositories of God’s truth. However, I must quickly add that every Christian church does the same thing (more or less), even though they may not be as “up front” or boastful about their claims as this Catholic writer.

Religions Differ, but They are Similar

Even though the religions of the world differ, they share certain characteristics. Although we may be a world of many languages, religions, governments and cultures, the ways of humanity are surprisingly similar. Whether we realize it or not, certain laws govern the exercise of religion on Earth and this similarity among diverse religions proves the presence and operation of “basic law.” Consider these five laws and the effects they produce:

Law #1:  Religion usually limits a person to one view or perspective of God. For this reason, 95% of the world’s populations stay within the religious system they were born. Moslems tend to stay Moslems, Jews tend to stay Jews, Catholics tend to stay Catholics, and Protestants tend to stay Protestants. Why does this phenomenon exist? Ideas about God become a part of a person’s conscience at an early age and many people cannot have their views about God challenged without feeling threatened or becoming hostile. Unfortunately, for 95% of the world’s inhabitants the only exit from an inherited religion is death.

Law #2:  Religion does not change very fast. People who decided to follow Christ were expelled from Judaism because Jewish leaders could not update their thinking. Protestants were expelled from the Catholic Church because papal leaders refused to change their thinking. For a more modern example, the Worldwide Church of God (Armstrong) literally disintegrated during the 1990’s when leaders suddenly changed key doctrines. This also reveals that layman, too, cannot adapt new ideas or change their views very fast either.

Law #3:  Religion usually encompasses a body of knowledge that is far larger than laymen care to understand. For this reason, few laymen thoroughly investigate the origin and teachings of their religion. People usually submit (more or less) to the views of their religious authorities unless or until there is a divisive controversy. The confidence, allegiance and trust laymen place in their religious authorities is so great that they will not consider a contradicting point of view no matter how logical or well presented it may be. Often, religious controversies are more about social issues than theology. Because religion is a complex influence that integrates with culture, churches often establish their own publishing houses because laity prefers to read material produced by their own denomination. Of course, this self-indoctrinating process tends to keep views of the laity in line with church tradition.

Law #4:  Every religion is inherently self-exalting. Each denomination concludes it has the truth about God and all other religions have less truth or no truth. No religion system on Earth will concede that another church has greater truth about God than itself. Christ’s experience with the religious leaders of His day should be a warning to religious leaders today. Be careful not to become so devoted to your religion that God Himself cannot open your mind to greater truth.

Law #5:  Everyone born on Earth inherits three basic elements of religion, whether institutional religion is practiced or not. Just as we inherit a carnal nature from our parents, we also inherit a basic need to know God. Because Jesus created human beings this way, we should not be surprised that adversarial religions flourish all over the Earth. The basic elements are:

  1. Adoration of someone or something greater than self
  2. Submission to someone or something greater than self
  3. Association with others who share similar adoration

These five laws help to explain why religious forces are so strong, why they exist, and why they plague the entire human race. These laws explain, in part, why human beings are diverse, yet similar. These laws also explain why a religious gridlock exists throughout our world. Every religion is self-exalting; therefore diverse people from all over the world cannot discuss truth because there is no common authority from which to start. Every definition of God is different. The Jew has no common ground with the Moslem. The Moslem has no common ground with the Christian. Do not despair there is good news! God has a plan that will soon break up the religious gridlock of the world. Jesus has a plan that will show the world how each religious system is not the answer to salvation. Jesus is the answer for man’s need of salvation. He will extend the offer of salvation to every human being alive during the Great Tribulation. He will save hundred of millions of people from every nation, kindred, tongue and people who love truth. God will use the world’s religious diversity to make a profound point about the way He loves humanity! Here’s how: Jesus will send a powerful testimony throughout the world during the Great Tribulation. Individuals who love truth and are currently living up to all they know to be right will quickly see the beauty of this simple, but powerful testimony. Millions of people will accept God’s truth, even at great peril to life itself. Jesus has carefully designed this final exam. At the end of the Great Tribulation, the people of Earth will be separated into two groups: the sheep and the goats. The sheep will be following The Good shepherd. The goats will be corralled by the Antichrist.

Confessing that Jesus is Lord

I would like to go back to the text, “ If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9,10) Some people read this text with the same disregard for its setting, as they do the earlier text in which Paul and Silas told the jailer to trust in Jesus and his household would be saved. To say that eternal life comes by merely stating, “Jesus is Lord” is to miss the essential point of what Paul was saying. When Paul wrote these words, the believers in Rome were in serious trouble. As far as the Romans were concerned, the only difference between the hated Jews and the Christians was words. Consequently, many Christians in Rome lost their possessions, homes and freedom because they would not bow down to Caesar and worship him as Roman law dictated. The Caesars believed they were gods among men. To face Caesar (or one of his governors) and testify with your mouth “Jesus was Lord” was a surefire recipe for the severest punishment, even death. The Apostle Paul himself died at the hands of the Romans for his confession that “Jesus is Lord.” So, Paul’s point in Romans 10 is about faith and loyalty to Christ in the face of life-threatening circumstances. Paul is encouraging the believers to stand firm in their faith, and like the jailer, God will honor your faith and reward your commitment to Him when He returns or maybe sooner! (John 6:39-54) God eventually rewards everyone who puts his or her faith in Him. (Romans 8:28; Hebrews 11) Standing up in a Christian church and confessing that Jesus is Lord is not exactly what Paul had in mind when he penned these words, although there is certainly nothing wrong with doing this. However, Paul is encouraging all believers like you and me to stand firm when your life and the lives of your family members are being subjected to severe punishment. Continue to confess that Jesus is Lord, and through faith alone, you will be justified and ultimately saved.

Summary

The Bible is full of good news. God uses a legal and fair process in Heaven called justification to justify sinners on Earth. Justification is not a whitewash for rebellion against God. Justification is an enormous gift that the Father is willing to bestow upon any sinner if that sinner is willing to live in obedient submission to the Holy Spirit. Justification was made possible through the perfect life and death of Jesus. Every person who has lived on Earth, except Jesus, is a descendant of Adam and Eve. (Acts 17:24-27) Therefore, sin and rebellion are part of every generation because of our grandparents. Of course, our Creator foreknew that sin would rise; just as He knew that when He created the world it would someday be populated with billions of people speaking different languages, following different customs and having many religious beliefs. Therefore, from the beginning of time, the Plan of Salvation has been inclusive of all people, even though most of Earth’s population at any given time does not know the truth about God. The Plan of Salvation includes Chinese, Indians, Russians, Americans and all humankind in every nation – even if they are not Christian. The receipt of God’s offer for justification does not require that we first know the whole truth or absolute truth about the Father or Jesus. Remember, “Christians” did not exist prior to Christ’s ministry on Earth, yet everyone before Christ who placed their faith in God was justified by faith! (See Romans 2-4 and Hebrews 11.) It might be said that they were justified on the promise that Jesus would be forthcoming. Nevertheless, justification is the only way to life eternal and if you are will to submit to the authority of the Holy Spirit, the assurance of eternal life will be yours absolutely free!

Memory Verse: Luke 9:26 “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.”

Quiz:

  1. The only way a sinner can receive eternal life is through _________________.
  1. Justification occurs when a person becomes willing to obey the authority of the _______   __________ and lives a life of _________.
  1. What is the difference between being mortal and immortal?

  2. What is the difference between the penalty of sin and the consequence of sin?

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