Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at The Finality of The Cross P1 (08-09-21)
Understanding The Framework for Knowing God through Jesus Christ
What does it take to understand God or the meaning of His word? Do you have to know Greek or Hebrew? Do you have to be educated? No, none of that is necessary. Do you have to have a pastor or gifted teacher to explain things to you? No, that is not needed either. That can be helpful if the pastor or teacher rightly divides the word of God and explains things from the word of God. But how would you know if he is telling the truth? One person can persuade you to believe something, and then someone else can then try to persuade you something different. And both could be wrong. How would you know? Turn to 1 Corinthians 2:9-10 and what do we read there that is needed to discern the meaning of the word of God?
To know God requires that you are a child of God, born again from above, having the Holy Spirit, the Spirit full of grace and truth, living in you guiding you into all truth, while you have a heart tuned toward the living Christ. So let us study with Bob George the word of God together so we may grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ. Turn to a study booklet called A Closer Look at the Finality of the Cross, which points the reader to many passages of scriptures so the reader can test and see for themselves what is really so. What really is accomplished by Jesus’ death on a cross for us? Reminder, our Closer Look at the Finality of the Cross bible study booklet is available for purchase directly from our online story. We encourage you to pick one up and study along with Bob as he teaches through the word of God.
As we study, it is important to have the proper framework in which to properly discern the meaning of the word of God. As you read, it is important to understand the context of whatever book you are reading, as well as the audience to whom the book was written and the author. What covenant, the Old Covenant or the New Covenant, are we under today? The New Covenant. Why is that? Jesus ushered in a New Covenant after His death, not before. When Jesus was walking the earth, what covenant was still in effect at that time? It was the Old Covenant, for we read this in Hebrews.
15 For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. 16 In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, 17 because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.
So the book of Hebrews is an excellent book to read to help us understand what covenant we are living under today and what that covenant is. It tells us that until Jesus shed His blood on a cross, the New Covenant did not go into effect, and compares that to a living will that so many are familiar with today when a loved one dies. So the New Covenant is not really divided the way our bibles we read today are separated out into the Old Testament and the New Testament. As you read the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, you see the content centered around the life of Christ walking on this earth, speaking to the people of Israel under an Old Covenant, while at times explaining the New Covenant to come.
Even though our calendars divide history into B.C., before Christ was born, and A.D., Anno Domini, meaning the year of our Lord, God divides history into before the cross and after the cross. This division into Old Covenant and New Covenant is important to understand. Why did Jesus talk a certain way to the people of Israel, such as to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect? As you read the sermon on the mount, and the entire chapter 5 in Matthew, what is Jesus really saying? Can you ever perfectly obey the sermon on the mount? Can your righteousness ever exceed that of the Pharisees, who outwardly appear righteous but inside they are like dead men’s bones? (Matthew 23:27)
So to understand Matthew 5, what covenant were they living under? The Old Covenant. What is in that Old Covenant and what is required of those under an Old Covenant? We can get a good understanding of the Old Covenant by reading Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Many people are familiar with the ten commandments as found in Exodus 20. On top of that, there are all these other rules and regulations and the ceremonial laws in place. And a vital component of that system is the sacrificing of bulls and goats on an altar by high priests inside a temple to get their sins covered until the next time a person sins. It was a temporary and elaborate system of sacrifice that is to exist until the time of Christ. It was a shadow of things to come. It is not the reality, for the reality is found in Christ (Colossians 2:17). In essence, God had a covenant agreement with the Israelites, saying “These are the commands you must keep.” The passage in Exodus 24:3-8 and Jeremiah 31:33-34 are sample passages of scripture to help us understand the book of Hebrews.
As we read Hebrews chapter 10, we get a better understanding of why the Old Covenant had to be replaced. The Old Testament sacrifices could never make anyone perfect. They only make a person conscious of sin. The law was there for us to understand our condition of spiritual death, of what a wretched man each of us is, so each person may turn to Christ for life (Romans 7:23-25). That is why you read that Jesus came to fulfill the law for us for we could not do it (Matthew 5:17, Romans 13:8-10). Jesus is God in the flesh, God is love, and love does its neighbor no wrong, and so love is the fulfillment of the law. But we are born without the love of God in our hearts, born spiritually dead, having inherited the sin nature of fallen Adam. That is why Jesus became sin for us, so He could take away the cause of our death, which is sin, in order to offer us what we really need, His resurrected LIFE and His righteousness. For no one will ever be made perfect, or complete, in the sight of God by observing the law (Romans 3:20). The law was added so sin might increase (Romans 5:20), that is, so we recognize sin as utterly sinful (Romans 7:12-14), that we might receive the grace of God through the completed work of Jesus Christ (John 1:14-17, Ephesians 2:8-9).
It was the law that Jesus came to accentuate. He came to explain to the religious the stringency of that law, that only complete perfection will do. We read that also from the apostle James who said that if anyone stumbles at just one point in obeying the law, he is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). So Christ literally while here on earth was the explainer of the spirit of the law, that if you looked lustfully at a woman in your heart, then you already committed adultery (Matthew 5:28). He addressed the inward issues of the heart from which all the things of the flesh come out; adultery, murder, theft and everything else (Matthew 15:19). The religious of the day thought they knew the letter of the law. They studied it with great intensity. They memorized most of it. But they did not have a clue what it meant. They certainly knew what it said. They did not even have to go to a seminary to study Hebrew. They knew what it said but had no clue what it meant.
So too in the religious world today. We think we can obey the law which the Israelites could never do. So we try harder just as they did, and we fail also. So have you ever come to the end of the law for righteousness, not a righteousness of your own by means of the law, but a righteousness that comes from Christ as a gift to be received by faith (1 Corinthians 1:30, Romans 10:4, Galatians 2:21, Galatians 3:21)? Do you realize you have no righteousness of your own, so you must receive His?
You can know what the word of God says but not know what it means. You have religions today that add to what God said is finished (John 19:30). In those early days of the Israelites, many continued to go back to the Day of Atonement, to sacrificing bulls and goats, when Jesus said it is finished. Today, we have religions that develop their own sacrificial systems, that deny Jesus finished the work, that He took away the sins of the world forever from the eyes of God, and that before you and I were ever born. The system of sacrifice for sins is over. You cannot perform any sacrifice to make yourself acceptable to God or to get your sins erased. That would require the shedding of the blood of a perfect human being, and only Jesus Christ, God in the flesh, qualifies (Hebrews 9:20).
Jesus said it is finished (John 19:30). What is finished? Forgiveness is finished. He shed his blood on a cross, and as Hebrews 9:20 says, without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. He is not going to shed His blood again. And in Hebrews we read that this New Covenant has now been provided for men to receive by faith in order to be recipients of that will. That new covenant, new will, or new testament is what God made with Himself through His Son Jesus Christ, that whosoever puts their faith in Him, in what He alone provided through by His death, burial and resurrection, shall receive Eternal LIFE. This is what is written in regard to the New Covenant, contrasting with what was not possible under an Old Covenant.
11 Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. 14 For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.
15 The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
16 “This is the covenant I will make with them
after that time, says the Lord.
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds.”[Jeremiah 31:33]
17 Then he adds:
“Their sins and lawless acts
I will remember no more.”[Jeremiah 31:34]
18 And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.
In order for man to turn to Christ for life, and in Him there is righteousness and forgiveness of sins, he first has to understand he is a sinner. The law tells you that. The cross would have no value to you until you recognize yourself as a sinner. If you do not understand you are a sinner, why would you ever turn to Him to recognize the forgiveness of your sins He has provided? He has already forgiven the sins of the entire world at a cross (1 John 2:2 NASB). The mercy of God has already provided that for us. He has reconciled the world unto Himself through the death of His Son (Romans 5:10), not counting our sins against Him (2 Corinthians 5:19-21). So, be reconciled (believe it).
If you do not understand you were dead spiritually, why would you ever turn to Him for life? The grace of God through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead provided that for us. He ascended back to His Father in order to give you the Holy Spirit, to dwell in you forever, now that the cause of our death is taken away. He is imploring men to come to Him to receive resurrected life (Ephesians 1:7, Romans 5:10), to enter into the New Covenant, to be a recipient of the will of God for us in Christ Jesus.