Behold the goodness and the severity of God.
On those who fell: severity. On you: goodness.
If you continue in his goodness. Otherwise, you’ll be cut off as a branch from the tree of God like the Jews were in the first century. —Romans 11:21-22
Our first encounter with King Jesus is often an encounter with his severity. As many of you know who have read this blog, the only clear description of the coming Messiah that actually uses the word “Messiah” is Psalm 2. There we find that the Lord God and his Messiah face the rebellion of the nations. We find also that God’s reaction is both fierce and strong. He holds them in derision; he speaks to them with wrath; and he terrifies them with his fierce anger. He tells the kings of the earth to be wise and serve the Lord with fear and rejoice … with trembling. They should kiss the Son, the Messiah whom the Lord God has begotten, in order to avoid his anger.
Before the joy comes the fear.
The apostles were clearly influenced by Psalm 2. Not only did Peter proclaim, by the revelation of the Father, that Jesus was “the Messiah [Christ], the Son of the living God,” something only revealed in Psalm 2, but on the day of Pentecost, he proclaimed the Messiah in much the same way as Psalm 2 does.
[Jesus of Nazareth], being delivered by the decided counsel and foreknowledge of God, you have taken and crucified and slain with wicked hands … This Jesus God has raised up … Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this same Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah. (Acts 2:23,32,36)
As you might imagine might happen when you find out that you have killed the one that God has said to kiss to avoid his anger, the Jews were “cut to the heart.” In other words, they were terrified. They were not looking forward to God’s derision, nor to being terrified in his fierce anger.
“What must we do?”
It is here that those who are stricken by the severity of God find the goodness of the Great King.
Peter doesn’t use the word “believe” in Acts 2, but the words he does use are the definition of “just believe.”
Repent. Repent does not mean a simple change of mind unaccompanied by action. When Paul spoke of calling the nations to repentance, he demanded of them “works suitable to repentance” (Acts 26:20), just as John the Baptist had before him (Matt. 3:8).
Be baptized in the name of Jesus, the Messiah King. We are far too prone to using “Christ” as Jesus’ last name. Peter had just told these Jews that resurrection established that Jesus was both Lord and Christ/Messiah. Not only was he Lord and Messiah, but they had killed him! God had to raise him from the dead so that he could rule over them.
Being baptized in the name of Jesus, the Christ, was an act of belief. Peter had announced Jesus as the Messiah, the begotten Son of God that Psalm 2 said would reign over the nations, the Son that must be kissed lest he be angry. To be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ—God’s Messiah King—was to accept the Gospel, the announcement that Jesus is the Ruler of all, the Judge of the living and the dead.
Believe that terrifying proclamation of the severity of God—that Jesus is the Messiah, the King that will rule the nations, break them with a rod of iron, and smash them like a piece of pottery—acknowledge him as King by being baptized, and you move from the severity to the goodness of God.
And you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The gift of the Holy Spirit? Yes, the Holy Spirit. Earlier in his sermon, Peter had announced the arrival of the New Covenant by declaring that those in the upper room had received the promise God made through Joel that all God’s people would receive the Holy Spirit. From the least to the greatest, from fathers and mothers to slaves and handmaidens, all would receive the Holy Spirit, prophesy, see visions, and dream dreams.
The last days had arrived, and with them came the New Covenant, where no one would have to tell his neighbor “know the Lord” because they all would know him from the least to the greatest (Jer. 31:31-34).
All they had to do was call on him as Lord (Acts 2:21).
For those who surrendered in fear at the announcement of the King who would judge all the earth, there was entrance by baptism into “the goodness of the Lord.”
For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. Not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord, Jesus the Messiah King, by whom we have received the restoration to favor. (Rom. 5:10-11)
The καταλλαγη, the restoration to favor with God, is an entrance into the incredible life of God. It is not simply forgiveness. It is the right to enter the court of the King of the Universe with boldness (Heb. 4:16). It is to become a son or daughter of God with all the privileges that entails:
Behold the kind of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called the children of God! (1 Jn. 3:1)
We are no longer citizens of this world, but citizens of God’s heavenly kingdom (Php. 3:20).
Those are big and exciting words.
But what do they mean?
Paul makes a really odd statement in Romans 5 before telling us more fully about our restoration to favor before God.
By him we also have access by faith into this grace by which we stand. (Rom. 5:2)
By what grace do we stand? What does that even mean?
Paul tells us something very similar in Ephesians 2:
For by grace you are in a state of being saved, through faith, and that is not of yourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one will boast. (Eph.2:8-9)
What is this gift of God? We know from Greek’s use of gender that Paul is not referring to grace or faith as the gift of God. He is referring to being saved. That is the gift of God.
That gift of God is “by grace.” It is “through faith,” which tells us just what Romans 5 tells us. Through faith, we have access to grace, and this is a huge and important thing, because by grace we are saved.
Nowadays we generally assume that being saved means going to heaven. That’s not a correct assumption. Being saved is something much bigger.
- Sin will not have power over you because you not under law, but under grace. (Rom. 6:14)
- The grace of God, the grace that saves all men, has appeared, teaching us that denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present age, looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus the Messiah King, who gave himself for us so that he might redeem us from all iniquity and purify for himself his own special people, zealous for good works.
Jesus died to obtain a people zealous for good works, but for far too many people, grace is a reason to be careless, or even negative(!), about good works.
According to his divine power, he has given us all things that concern life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to glory and moral excellence. Through [the knowledge of him] are given to us great and precious promises, that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature [whoo hoo!], having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Pet. 1:3-4)
Grace has removed sin’s power over us. The grace that brings salvation has appeared, and grace itself teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live sensible, righteous, godly lives, and to long in blessed hope for the glorious appearing of the great God and Savior who gave himself for us so that he would have a people zealous for good works. His great and precious promises have delivered us from the corruption that is in the world through lust.
Formerly, when all we had were rules and law and conscience, we were slaves to the sin that is in our body. When we knew to do right, we could not do it. We cried out in despair, wondering how we could possible be delivered from this body of death (Rom. 7:24).
The Law couldn’t do it. All it did was awaken sin in our body. Sin drove us to disobedience, and disobedience produced death in us. We were hopeless.
But thanks be to God for our Lord Jesus, God’s Messiah King! What the Law could not do, God did through his Son! (Rom. 8:3-4).
Great and precious promises allow us to partake of the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust! Grace teaches us to deny those worldly lusts! Grace removes sin’s power!
This is the goodness that God has given us!
For by grace we are in a state of being saved, through faith, and that not from ourselves. It is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one will be able to boast. For we are his workmaship, created in God’s Messiah King, Jesus, for good works that God has prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph. 2:8-10)
Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus, God’s Messiah King, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit … And with many other words he exhorted them to be saved from this perverse generation. (Acts 2:38,40)
We are prone to seeing these incredible promises of deliverance from sin as the requirement of the Gospel rather than the benefit of the Gospel.
One of the main reasons for this wrong view of deliverance from the corruption that is in the world through lust is that many (most?) of us do not know how to obtain that deliverance, despite the fact that it is a central (the central?) promise of the Gospel.
I have literally waited decades to be able to say something like this:
In the next post, we will look at how to use God’s great and precious promises to walk in the divine nature and escape the corruption that is in the world through lust.
I have literally waited decades to say something like that because until recently I have not known how to give such advice and expect it to work. Lots of people tried to tell me the secret, which is not supposed to be a secret, but no one had the words that would let me obtain the promise that sin would not have power over me.