Why Jesus Alone is Enough
TRA: Sunday, August 15th, 1999
EVERY SUNDAY AFTERNOON huge crowds queue in the streets outside the Australian Museum to view the exhibition of Egyptian mummies. They are evidence of the hope a nation had of gaining eternal life, and of getting right with their gods.
Archaeology indicates every civilisation in mankind's history has invested vast community resources seeking to get right with their god or gods. To be right with God as they understand Him, becomes one of the end objectives of each community.
This exhibition reveals how people sought to be right with God. Some built pyramids. Others built huge towers, giant idols, magnificent monasteries. Others sacrificed children, animals or foreigners. Others sat upon poles for decades, laid on beds of nails, or mortified the flesh. Others chanted endlessly or endured self-inflicted pain. Others bowed before the statue of Buddha, burned incense and offered the idol food. Some lost themselves in doing good deeds or in serving the least and the lowliest. By effort and achievement, contemplation or activity, people have been desperate to be right with their God or gods.
How to be right with God is mankind's fundamental quest. Today people still seek through social, religious and cultural means to be right with God. Even in secular Australia most follow the traditional Christian practises, but a few try eastern religions, the ritual of the ancient Druids, witchcraft or Free- masonry. Others seek to do good deeds or be socially respectable. The quest to be right with God motivated some of the world's greatest minds.
None influenced more people than the Apostle Paul who discovered after years of endless ritual, punctilious obedience to Judaic laws and fanatical zeal for his ideas, trying to get right with God left him only more frustrated. Nothing helped until he met Jesus. Through Jesus Paul discovered being right with God lay not in what he did but in what Jesus had done for him. Faith in Jesus alone was enough.
We are made right with God; we do not get right with God. All of the pyramids, monasteries, rituals, works, sacrifices, good deeds and the like are of no avail. It is faith alone through God's grace that enables us to be right with God. Paul's letter to the Romans is the finest exposition of that insight.
Paul wrote: "But now God's way of putting people right with Himself has been revealed. It has nothing to do with law, even though the Law of Moses and the prophets gave their witness to it. God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ.
God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all: everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. God offered him, so that by His death He should become the means by which people's sins are forgiven through their faith in Him."
That is the heart of Christianity and the heart of our relationship with God: how to be right with God in spite of our godlessness and sinfulness. Paul turns to what God is doing about man's spiritual condition.
1. GOD'S WAY. v21-22a.
a. God's way. "God's way of putting people right with Himself has been revealed." We place ourselves into the centre of the picture: we are endeavouring to get right with God, we are trying to live a good life, we are hoping for God's help. But our right relationship with God starts with Him, His desire, His will. God's way has now been revealed in Jesus Christ.
b. The Law and the Prophets. "It has nothing to do with law, even though the Law of Moses and the prophets gave their witness to it." The straight edge of the Law revealed our crooked sinfulness and witnessed to God's grace and His way of making us right with Him. Both the Law, the first five books of the Old Testament, and the Prophets, the rest of the Old Testament books, look forward to the coming of Christ. After the resurrection Jesus told some believers on the Road to Emmaus how the Law and the Prophets witness to His life and death upon the Cross.
c. Through faith in Jesus Christ. "God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ." No clearer statement could be possible on how we become right with God. The answer to man's sin in God's grace accessed through our faith in Christ. This is the essence of the letter as Paul wrote: "I have complete confidence in the gospel: it is God's power to save all who believe, first the Jews and also the Gentiles. For the gospel reveals how God puts people right with Himself; it is through faith from beginning to end. As the scripture says: "The person who is put right with God through faith shall live."(Romans 1:16-17). That is God's way of making us right with Himself.
2. MANKIND'S SITUATION. v22b - 23.
The true nature of God's grace is only seen in contrast to the lostness of humanity: "God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all: everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence."
Here is mankind's situation: "Everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence." Everyone! Far away! Lost! Like a sheep that has wandered from its flock, or a prodigal son who has deliberately left his home for the wild life, we are far away, lost!
None of us are exempt. All of our good deeds, our acts of generosity to charity, our conformity to social customs, or our allegiance to other religions make no difference. "Everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence." "Everyone! Outside of Jesus Christ we are a lost humanity.
3. GOD'S GIFT. v24.
Yet such is God's love and grace that He is unwilling for us to be apart from Him. This is the Good News. "But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with Him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free."
a. God's Gift. "But by the free gift of God's grace". God's offer of grace is made available to us, not according to our merit or effort but solely according to our need. It is free, only to be received. We do not earn it, cannot deserve it, and shall not achieve it. It is a gift to be freely received from God's grace.
b. Man's new relationship. That gift is the most valuable we can ever receive because it enables us to be made right with God. And not only us, but "all are put right with him". There is a cosmic scope to redemption, limited only by our own response to Jesus.
c. Jesus is crucial. "through Christ Jesus". Jesus Himself declared that He was the only way to God. Narrow mindedness is not responsible for declaring that those outside of Jesus Christ as still lost and far away from God. It is essential to the Gospel. I have no right, just because I am broad minded and tolerant to declare other people acceptable to God just because they are sincere, or act charitably, or worship another god. The scriptures are unanimous in declaring Jesus alone is the way, the truth and the life, and the only One through whom we come to God.
d. Our benefit. If we accept Him as Lord and obey Him as Saviour we receive forgiveness from our sins and are made right with God. For all who have faith in Him, Jesus "sets them free". What an opportunity for mankind, and at what cost to God Himself.
4. MANKIND'S OPPORTUNITY. v25.
Our opportunity to be made right with God was at a huge cost: "God offered him, so that by His death He should become the means by which people's sins are forgiven through their faith in Him."
a. The purpose in Christ's coming. "God offered him". Jesus came into the world for a purpose. Joseph was told before the birth in Bethlehem: "You will call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
His death upon the Cross was no accident, no tragedy caused by wicked and ignorant men. His death was the point of His birth, the purpose behind His coming. The cross was the cost of the cradle. He came to enable us to be right with God.
b. His life took meaning in His death. Jesus was never to be a great teacher or philosopher. Such thinking lacks understanding. The whole point of His life was "so that by His death He should become the means by which people's sins are forgiven". Our sins have been removed, covered, blotted out, atoned for through the shed blood of Christ. "Christ has for sin atonement made, Hallelujah, what a Saviour!" We are redeemed, justified, forgiven.
c. Our faith in Jesus enables us to appropriate God's gift. It is only our faith in Jesus that allows us to receive God's free gift of forgiveness and life. Those who are right with God, become so "through their faith in Him." Faith is the key to salvation. We have been made righteous in God's eyes because of our acceptance of what Christ did for us on the Cross.
Only one question remains: "When is this blessing available to those who believe?" When are the eternal benefits available for me? The first words give us the time of these blessings and benefits. "But now..." It comes like a great sigh of relief. Paul has been writing about the sinfulness and ungodliness of mankind, and of God's wrath against such unrighteousness. It is an impossible situation. Mankind deserves to be destroyed. The great experiment of creating humans with free-will has failed. They have sinned and fallen from the original condition of being created in the image of God.
They have rejected all God offered them. They have brought upon themselves His wrath to their destruction. "But now....but now God's way of putting people right with Himself has been revealed." Since Jesus Christ has come everything is different! We are living as the "now generation"! That theme runs through scripture: "But now..." "Now that we have been put right with God through faith we have peace with God." "Now is the hour to receive God's favour, today is the day to be saved."
History is littered be ways men seek to be right with God. They have built pyramids, huge towers, giant idols, magnificent monasteries. They have sacrificed children, animals and foreigners. They have sat upon poles for decades, laid on beds of nails, and mortified the flesh. They have chanted endlessly and endured self-inflicted pain. They have lost themselves in good deeds and in serving the needy. By effort and achievement, contemplation or activity, people have been desperate to be right with God.
But the scripture declares simply and logically:
"God puts people right through their faith in Jesus Christ. God does this to all who believe in Christ, because there is no difference at all: everyone has sinned and is far away from God's saving presence. But by the free gift of God's grace all are put right with him through Christ Jesus, who sets them free. God offered him, so that by His death He should become the means by which people's sins are forgiven through their faith in Him."
Accept that forgiveness and salvation now, by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus alone is enough!
Gordon Moyes 1999
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