What Shall I Do With You?

1 “Come, let us return to the Lord;
    for he has torn us, that he may heal us;
    he has struck us down, and he will bind us up.
After two days he will revive us;
    on the third day he will raise us up,
    that we may live before him.
Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord;
    his going out is sure as the dawn;
he will come to us as the showers,
    as the spring rains that water the earth.”

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?
    What shall I do with you, O Judah?
Your love is like a morning cloud,
    like the dew that goes early away.
Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets;
    I have slain them by the words of my mouth,
    and my judgment goes forth as the light.
For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,
    the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

But like Adam they transgressed the covenant;
    there they dealt faithlessly with me.
Gilead is a city of evildoers,
    tracked with blood.
As robbers lie in wait for a man,
    so the priests band together;
they murder on the way to Shechem;
    they commit villainy.
10 In the house of Israel I have seen a horrible thing;
    Ephraim’s whoredom is there; Israel is defiled. Hosea 6:1-10 ESV

In the opening verses of chapter six, Hosea envisions a highly unlikely scene: The humble and sincere repentance of the rebellious Israelites. It’s unclear what Hosea hoped to accomplish with this description of a contrite and penitent response on the part of the people. Was he attempting to illustrate how his stubborn audience ought to be responding to his messages, or were his words intended to mock their hard-hearted rejection of His message of warning?

From a historical perspective, there is no record of the Israelites ever uttering words of this nature. At no point did they cry out to God, acknowledging their guilt, confessing their sins, and asking for His forgiveness and healing. All the way back before God divided the nation of Israel into two kingdoms, He had allowed King Solomon to build a temple in His honor. This remarkable building in Jerusalem was meant to be the house of God, where the people would come to offer sacrifices and seek His forgiveness for the sins they had committed. And God made a series of promises to the people of Israel confirming His willingness to grace the temple with His name and honor their humble, heartfelt prayers with forgiveness and healing.

“…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” – 2 Chronicles 7:14 ESV

Yet, by the time Hosea penned the words of his book, more than 150 years had passed since Solomon had dedicated the temple, and the people of Israel remained stubbornly unrepentant and unwilling to humble themselves before God. And exacerbating their problem was the fact that they no longer had access to the temple in Jerusalem. They had long ago forsaken Yahweh, choosing instead to worship at the shrines and temples dedicated to their false gods.

The scene of a repentant Israel calling out to God is meant to dramatize and accentuate the inexplicable hardness of their hearts. Hosea is portraying what their response ought to be when God brings His judgment against them. They will suffer greatly when God rains down His righteous indignation on them. But they will experience no healing because they will refuse to call out to Him in humble contrition.

Hosea even indicates that when the judgment of God comes, they will view it as short in duration and easily overcome.

In just a short time he will restore us,
    so that we may live in his presence. – Hosea 6:2 NLT

They won’t take His punishment seriously. They’ll end up underestimating the depth of their own depravity and mistakenly assume that any suffering they endure will be quickly remedied by God. Hosea seems to portray their repentance as a bit overconfident, and a bit too self-assured that God will quickly restore them.

He will respond to us as surely as the arrival of dawn
    or the coming of rains in early spring – Hosea 6:3 NLT

But none of this has ever happened. The people of Israel did not return to the Lord. They never did humble themselves before Him and confess their many sins against Him. Even their eventual defeat at the hands of the Assyrians did nothing to break their stubborn refusal to heed His call to repent. The prophet Amos delivered a sobering word from God concerning Israel’s inexplicable refusal to learn anything from the judgment they endured.

“I destroyed some of your cities,
    as I destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.
Those of you who survived
    were like charred sticks pulled from a fire.
But still you would not return to me,”
    says the Lord. – Amos 4:11 NLT

And, in response, God asks the probing question, “What shall I do with you?” (Hosea 6:4 ESV). He has warned. He has threatened. He has disciples. Yet, they have not yet returned to Him. At no point has Israel or Judah lived out what Hosea described in the first three verses of this chapter.  In the face of all of God’s blessings and despite all of His warnings and past judgments, the people of Israel and Judah remain determined to live in disobedience to His commands. And their failure to faithfully observe His laws was nothing less than an expression of their lack of love for Him.

“…your love vanishes like the morning mist
    and disappears like dew in the sunlight.” – Hosea 6:4 NLT

He had repeatedly sent His prophets with words of warning, “to cut you to pieces—to slaughter you with my words, with judgments as inescapable as light” (Hosea 6:5 NLT), but the people had refused to listen. And God lets them know that what He wanted from them was love, not sacrifices. What He desired most was intimacy, not religious duplicity. He was sick of watching His people go through the motions, offering their meaningless, heartless sacrifices. He was no longer willing to put up with their sanctimonious and hypocritical displays of religious zeal. Mere obedience to His commands was never what God wanted. He desired faithfulness that emanated from the heart. That was something King David knew and understood.

You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one.
    You do not want a burnt offering.
The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.
    You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God. – Psalm 51:16-17 NLT

And the prophet Isaiah would communicate God’s displeasure with His peoples’ meaningless displays of ritualistic religious fervor. It has never been about the bulls and goats, the blood and smoke, or the pomp and circumstance. It had always been about the heart.

“What makes you think I want all your sacrifices?”
    says the Lord.
“I am sick of your burnt offerings of rams
    and the fat of fattened cattle.
I get no pleasure from the blood
    of bulls and lambs and goats.

“When you come to worship me,
    who asked you to parade through my courts with all your ceremony?
Stop bringing me your meaningless gifts;
    the incense of your offerings disgusts me!

Wash yourselves and be clean!
    Get your sins out of my sight.
    Give up your evil ways.
Learn to do good.
    Seek justice.
Help the oppressed.
    Defend the cause of orphans.
    Fight for the rights of widows.” – Isaiah 1:11-13, 16-17 NLT

But God’s people, following in the footsteps of Adam, had been guilty of breaking their covenant agreement with Him. When God had placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He had surrounded them with beauty and provided them with everything they needed for life, including intimate fellowship with Him. The only condition God placed on the first couple was that they obey one command.

But the Lord God warned him, “You may freely eat the fruit of every tree in the garden—except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat its fruit, you are sure to die.” – Genesis 2:16-17 NLT

God had given them every tree of the garden from which to eat. There was only one tree that was off-limits, and that happens to be the one tree they decided they had to have. They disobeyed God’s command and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In doing so, they displayed their lack of trust in God. They decided that they knew better than God. He had denied them that one tree and now, they had determined it was the tree they needed most. By eating the fruit of that tree Adam and Eve displayed their doubt of God’s love for them. He was denying them something they deserved and desired. He was withholding what they wanted.

And the Israelites were guilty of the very same thing. They had rejected God’s love and determined to live according to their own rules and standards. So, God described the unflattering outcome of their self-determination and blatant disregard for His love as expressed in His law.

“Gilead is a city of sinners,
    tracked with footprints of blood.
Priests form bands of robbers,
    waiting in ambush for their victims.
They murder travelers along the road to Shechem
    and practice every kind of sin.
Yes, I have seen something horrible in Ephraim and Israel:
    My people are defiled by prostituting themselves with other gods! – Hosea 6:8-10 NLT

It was not a pretty picture. Sin had spread like cancer throughout the nation. No city was remained untouched. Every level of society had been infected, including the priesthood. God describes the people of Israel as practicing every kind of sin. Nothing was left to the imagination. Their idolatry had turned to gross immorality, and the entire land was now diseased and in need of God’s cleansing.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG)Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Free From the Curse

22 “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God. You shall not defile your land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance. – Deuteronomy 21:22-23 ESV

God’s rules regarding the corporate stoning of a morally and spiritually degenerate son are now followed by strict instructions regarding the public display of the dead man’s body. Once the guilty party was put to death, it was common practice to hang the dead man’s body from a tree as a visual demonstration of the consequences of sin. It was also meant to serve as a deterrent, a somewhat macabre but effective means of discouraging others to take the same deadly path.

But God provided strict regulations concerning the disposal of the body.  It had to be removed from the tree and buried the same day as the execution. Otherwise, the curse of God, which resulted in the man’s death, would extend to the land. The public display of the man’s corpse was meant as a further means of humiliating and degrading the guilty one for his death-deserving sin. Even in death, he would be subjected to ridicule and scorn. The hanging of the body did not bring about the curse. It was a result of the curse that had deemed the man as deserving of death.

The immediate burial of the body was essential in order to prevent ceremonial defiling of the land. Had the body been left hanging overnight, there is a greater likelihood that animals and birds would have desecrated the body, causing blood to spill onto the ground and essentially bringing the curse of the man upon the entire land. God had warned the Israelites about practicing the ways of the Canaanites. Their pagan, godless ways had literally cursed the land of Canaan, requiring God to ceremonially purge it by having the Israelites remove every vestige of Canaanite influence from the land.

“You shall not pollute the land in which you live, for blood pollutes the land, and no atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it, except by the blood of the one who shed it. You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the Lord dwell in the midst of the people of Israel.” – Numbers 35:33-34 ESV

This requirement to bury the dead man’s body was meant to keep the Israelites from following one sin with another. Once the man was executed for his sin, his body was to be displayed, but then properly disposed of, so that the curse of death could be removed.

Sin against God has always carried with it a curse. When Adam and Eve rebelled against God in the garden, their actions brought about a series of curses from God, including the entrance of physical death into the equation.

“Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
    and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
    ‘You shall not eat of it,’
cursed is the ground because of you;
    in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
    and you shall eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your face
    you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
    for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
    and to dust you shall return.” – Genesis 3:17-19 ESV

Adam’ sin brought a death sentence upon all mankind. It placed every single one of his descendants under a curse. And the apostle Paul goes out of his way to stress this sobering reality.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. – Romans 5:12 NLT

For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. – Romans 5:15 NLT

For Adam’s sin led to condemnation… – Romans 5:16 NLT

For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. – Romans 5:17 NLT

Yes, Adam’s one sin brings condemnation for everyone… – Romans 5:18 NLT

Because one person disobeyed God, many became sinners. – Romans 5:19 NLT

Don’t miss what Paul is saying. All mankind is under a curse and worthy of death. For all have sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious standard of righteousness (Romans 3:23). There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10).

The Israelites who stood back and threw the stones that took the guilty man’s life were no more righteous. They were no less deserving of death. Their sins, while perhaps less egregious, were no less worthy of death. Their very existence made them worthy of death because they stood under the same curse that had condemned Adam. But God didn’t require that they die. Instead, He extended them mercy.

This brings to mind the encounter between Jesus and the religious leaders of Israel. The scribes and Pharisees, seeing Jesus visiting the Mount of Olives, dragged a woman before Him whom they claimed to be guilty of the crime of adultery. They said to Jesus, “Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” (John 8:5 ESV).

And Jesus wisely responded to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7 ESV). And then John records, “when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him” (John 8:9 ESV).

There was no one in the crowd that day who could claim to be sin-free. The spiritual state of every single human being is that of a sinner who is deserving of death for their rebellion against a holy and righteous God. And that brings us to the vital link between this obscure regulation regarding the burial of an executed criminal and the remedy for the curse of death.

In his letter to the churches in Galatia, Paul provides us with a connecting point that makes this Old Testament passage relevant. He reminds his readers that the Jews, who were required to live according to the Mosaic law, were under a God-ordained curse if they didn’t keep the entire law perfectly.

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” – Galatians 3:10-14 ESV

The painful reality was that no Jew had ever kept all of God’s law without fail. As a result, every single Jew stood condemned, cursed, and worthy of death.  And Paul points out that keeping the law was never going to make anyone right with God. It was an impossible standard for sinful men to keep.

Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.”But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Galatians 3:11-12 ESV

The law was the righteous standard provided by God, but no one was able to live up to that standard. And then, Paul provides the missing link.

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. – Galatians 3:10-14 ESV

Jesus became the curse. He took upon Himself the sins of mankind and personally bore the full brunt of God’s righteous wrath against rebellious humanity. And His death was not by stoning. By the time Jesus began His earthly ministry, the Romans had outlawed the Jewish practice of stoning because they wanted to control all forms of capital punishment. So, when Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin, they needed to accuse Jesus of a crime that would warrant the Romans putting Him to death. They chose to accuse Jesus of claiming to be the rightful king of the Jews and of mounting an insurrection against the Romans. This resulted in Jesus being  “hanged on a tree” or crucified.

The prophet, Isaiah prophesied about Jesus and the death He would suffer on behalf of sinful mankind.

Surely he has borne our griefs
    and carried our sorrows;
yet we esteemed him stricken,
    smitten by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions;
    he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
    and with his wounds we are healed. – Isaiah 53:4-5 ESV

With His death, Jesus provided a means by which sinful men and women could escape the curse of the law. By placing their faith in His personal sacrifice on their behalf, they could be freed from living under the looming curse of death associated with failure to keep God’s law.

In his first letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul provided another encouraging connection between Adam and Jesus.

So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. – 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 NLT

No one need die for their own sins anymore. God sent His Son to pay the penalty for every single violation of His law. But the gift of salvation made possible by Christ’s death and resurrection is only available to those who will accept it as what it is: A free gift made possible by God’s grace and received by faith alone in Christ alone.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

An Abomination to the Lord

1 “You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the Lord your God.

“If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the Lord your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst. – Deuteronomy 17:1-7 ESV

One of the reasons God instructed the people of Israel to elect judges and officials in each of their communities was to protect against idolatry. As time passed and each of the tribes began the process of possessing the land allotted to them, it would become increasingly more difficult to police the activities of the people, especially their natural tendency to worship false gods. So, Moses expected these appointed officials to judge the actions of those who violated God’s laws concerning idols and idol worship. Moses had clearly communicated God’s restrictions, which were nothing more than an elaboration on the first commandment.

“You must never set up a wooden Asherah pole beside the altar you build for the Lord your God. And never set up sacred pillars for worship, for the Lord your God hates them. – Deuteronomy 16:21-22 NLT

This section is all about proper worship – the kind of worship that is acceptable by God. He has not left it up to mankind to decide how, when, or who to worship. The form of Israel’s worship is just as important to God as the focus of their worship. Not only were they prohibited from worshiping false gods, they were denied the freedom of worshiping the right God in the wrong way.

“You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the Lord your God.” – Deuteronomy 17:1 ESV

They were not allowed to borrow and incorporate elements from the pagan religions around them in the worship of God. Asherah poles were off limits. These wooden totems were dedicated to the worship of Asherah, a Canaanite fertility god who was considered the wife or sister of another one of their deities. God has strictly forbadding the Israelites from incorporating these kinds of pagan rituals and forms in their worship of Him.

But God would also not allow the Israelies to use proper forms of worship in the wrong way. They couldn’t bring their sick or blemished animals and offer them as sacrifices to God. That was unacceptable worship. He described these kinds of sacrifices as “abominations.” The Hebrew word is tow`ebah and it refers to “a disgusting thing (morally).”

Someone who offered a blemished lamb as an offering to God was technically obeying the command of God. But he would be violating the intent behind the command. The sacrifice was meant to cost the one offering it. By sacrificing an unblemished, perfect lamb, the worshiper was giving the best of what he owned. He was dedicating to God the animal that would have made the best breeding stock. In doing so, he would be placing his faith in God to provide for his needs.

But that unblemished animal was also intended to represent the idea that God’s forgiveness and atonement from sin required a sacrifice that would be acceptable to Him. It had to satisfy His demand for holiness or imperfection. The lamb was acting as a substitute for the sinful human being was offering it. It stood in the place of the sinner, acting as his proxy or replacement.

Because demanded that His people worship Him in a way that reflected His holy and righteous character. They had to honor Him for who He was and all that He had done. And beyond worshiping Him in the wrong way, the most egregious sin they could commit would be failing to worship Him at all. Which is why Moses provides these future judges of Israel with instructions about dealing with idolators. He describes idolatry as doing “evil in the sight of the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 17:2 NLT). It was considered a violation of the covenant the Israelites had made with God. And just so they knew what kinds of actions constituted idolatry, Moses spelled it out: “they might serve other gods or worship the sun, the moon, or any of the stars—the forces of heaven—which I have strictly forbidden” (Deuteronomy 17:3 NLT).

Moses commands these future judges to investigate thoroughly any reports of this kind of behavior among the people. If they found the reports to be true, the violator was to be dealt with quickly and severely.

“…the man or woman who has committed such an evil act must be taken to the gates of the town and stoned to death.” – Deuteronomy 17:5 NLT

Once again, Moses refers to this kind of behavior as tow`ebah – an abomination. God sees idolatry as disgusting and unacceptable. And those who practice idolatry, because they are guilty of failing to remain set apart unto God, are to be set apart from the community by taking them outside the gates of the town, and then executed.

While this sounds like harsh and unusual punishment to our modern ears, we must understand that it was intended to act as a purifying and preserving agent among the Israelites. Sin of any kind, in left unchecked, would act as a cancer among the people, eventually infecting the entire community and resulting in the judgment of God. The death of one, while difficult for us to understand, was to be preferred to the ultimate judgment of God against the entire community.

The death of Jesus incorporates both illustrations used in these verses. First of all, He became sinless Lamb of God who offered His life as the sacrifice for the sins of mankind. He became the unblemished substitute who gave His life so that others could live. The apostle Paul points out the vivid contrast between Adam, the first man, and Jesus, the God-man.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned. – Romans 5:12 NLT

In other words, Adam’s sin spread to all mankind. His disobedience brought the curse of sin and death onto all humanity. But Paul goes on to explain that Jesus offered a permanent solution to the sin problem created by Adam.

Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come. But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:14-15 NLT

God would not allow the sin of Adam to permanently destroy His creation, so He sent His Son as the sinless sacrifice to atone for the sins of man.

Adam’s sin led to condemnation, but God’s free gift leads to our being made right with God, even though we are guilty of many sins. For the sin of this one man, Adam, caused death to rule over many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of righteousness, for all who receive it will live in triumph over sin and death through this one man, Jesus Christ. – Romans 5:16-17 NLT

God takes sin seriously. Because He is holy, God must punish those who commit sin, and the Bible clearly states that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). But God graciously offered His Son as the payment for man’s sin debt. He offered His life as a substitute for sinful man. And while the death of the sinner stoned outside the gates of the city had no atoning value, it would prevent further infection of the community.

The judges of Israel were to treat sin with a seriousness and soberness that reflected God’s hatred for it. But they were to be careful to ensure that any accusations concerning idolatry were fully investigated and thoroughly proven so that no one was punished unjustly. And just to make sure that no one would be tempted to use a false accusation of idolatry in order to enact vengeance against another, Moses commanded, “never put a person to death on the testimony of only one witness. There must always be two or three witnesses. The witnesses must throw the first stones” (Deuteronomy 17:6-7 NLT).

One man could not falsely accuse another. There had to be corroborating witnesses. And it was these men who had to cast the first stone to take the life of the guilty party. This added feature was intended to place the heavy burden of taking the life of the accused on the heads of those who brought the charges. If they had lied, they would be responsible before God for the death of an innocent man.

God considers the worship of false gods to be disgusting and unacceptable. But even the worship of the right God in the wrong way is equally repugnant to Him. Man’s worship is the greatest gift he has to offer. God doesn’t need our gifts. He doesn’t require our sacrifices. What God is looking for is true worship. As the prophet Micah so aptly put it:

What can we bring to the LORD? Should we bring him burnt offerings? Should we bow before God Most High with offerings of yearling calves?

Should we offer him thousands of rams and ten thousand rivers of olive oil? Should we sacrifice our firstborn children to pay for our sins?

No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God. – Micah 6:6-8 NLT

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson




The Task of Imaging God

By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises. These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. – 2 Peter 1:3-4 ESV

As we have already seen, Adam and Eve, the first man and woman, came into this world bearing the image of God.

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:21 ESV

Their very existence reflected the glory of God. They were given capacities and responsibilities far beyond any other creature made by God. They were given reasoning skills, the ability to communicate verbally, and the capacity to love unconditionally. In so many ways they mirrored the character of their Creator, albeit in a shadow form. They were not as God, but as His creation, they shared His likeness. And one of the main attributes of their image-bearing nature was their sinlessness. Adam and Eve were created without sin. That is why, in the Genesis account of creation, it records that “God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Genesis 1:31 ESV).

And it is essential that we understand this aspect of Adam’s pre-fall nature. He and his companion were sinless and enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God. All that they did brought glory to God because they were living in perfect obedience to His divine will.

God gave them a mandate, a clear job description outlining their responsibilities.

“Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” – Genesis 1:28 ESV

Their task was simple and was meant to be enjoyable, and they were more than adequately equipped to accomplish all that God had commanded them to do. At that point in their lives, everything they did was a form of image-bearing. Their every action, done in their sinless state, was a reflection of their Creator’s wisdom, power, and goodness. Everything they did brought Him glory. Until they sinned.

And at that point, everything changed. Moses records, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths” (Genesis 3:7 ESV). They had disobeyed God and eaten from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Now, they knew what evil was, and they experienced the shame and guilt that came with it. Not only did they attempt to cover up their nakedness, but they also tried to hide from God. They inherently knew that they were no longer fit for God’s presence. And mankind has been hiding and running from God ever since.

But God sent another Adam, the second Adam, a man who also bore the image of His Creator. Jesus came to earth, born of a virgin and, therefore, free from the inherited sin of Adam. Like Adam, Jesus entered the world without sin. But unlike Adam, Jesus remained that way. He bore the image of His Father perfectly, never veering from the task appointed to Him. That is why, just hours before His trials began, Jesus was able to say to His Father, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4 ESV). His entire life had brought glory to God because He had never failed to bear the image of God. Even in the face of rejection, ridicule, temptation, and trials, Jesus had remained obedient. And as Paul writes in his letter to the Philippians, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV).

In His high priestly prayer, Jesus, speaking of His followers, asked His Father to “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth” (John 17:17-19 ESV).

Three different times in this passage, the Greek word, hagiazō is used. Twice, Jesus asks the Father to sanctify His followers in the truth. And Jesus expresses His willingness to sanctify or consecrate Himself for the task at hand so that His followers might have the opportunity to be sanctified in the truth. Jesus’ willingness to complete the task given to Him by God, which included His sacrificial death on the cross, was an outward, visible expression of His bearing of His Father’s image.

Romans 5:8 tells us that “But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” But had Jesus not been willing to do what God had sent Him to do – die for those who were enslaved to sin – then that love would never have been fulfilled. But we know that Jesus fulfilled the will of His Father. He did what He had been sent to do, and the apostle Paul uses Jesus’ display of image-bearing as an example for us.

Imitate God, therefore, in everything you do, because you are his dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God. – Ephesians 5:1-2 ESV

Notice what Paul says. He challenged the believers in Ephesus to “imitate God,” but to do so by “following the example of Christ.” Jesus was the consummate image-bearer. He displayed the love of God for man by offering His life as a sacrifice for the sins of man. He put the invisible love of the unseen God on display. When He came to earth, He became God incarnate, God in the flesh. He put the invisible attributes of God in a form that man could not only see but experience. And that is what we are called to do.

And in the passage above, Peter tells us that we have been given everything we need to pull it off. We have been given new natures, provided for us by Christ’s loving sacrifice on the cross and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit. That is why Paul so strongly challenges us to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians  4:24 ESV). He wrote a similar admonition to the believers in Colossae, telling them to “put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Colossians 3:10 ESV).

Peter reminds us that God “has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV). The main point of our salvation is not that we might one day escape the punishment of hell or enjoy the rich reward of eternal life in heaven, but that we might once again bear the image of our Creator. Man was created to bring glory to God, but sin made that impossible. Now, because of Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross, now sinful men and women can be restored, not only in their relationship with God, but to His likeness. They can once again bear His image on earth, living in keeping with His holy and righteous commands. Because of Christ, we have “escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire” (2 Peter 1:4 ESV). We are free to bear the image of God; revealed to us in His Word, modeled by His Son, and made possible by the power of His indwelling Spirit. 

We have been given the task of bearing God’s image. But we have not been left to pull it off in our own strength. No, Peter would have us remember that “By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life” (2 Peter 1:3 NLT). But now, with that power residing within us, with God’s Word guiding us, and the example of Christ before us, let us bring glory to God by bearing the image of God to the world created by God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


Adam 2.0

44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual. 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. 48 As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven. – 1 Corinthians 15:44-49 ESV

Adam, whose name in Hebrew means “man,” was the first of his kind. The book of Genesis tells us exactly how God made the first human being: “then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7 ESV). Adam was created by God, but not on a whim or in some kind of prideful display of His power. Adam, like the rest of creation, was intended to bring God glory. But unlike the rest of the creative order, Adam was made in the image of God.

So God created man in his own image,
    in the image of God he created him;
    male and female he created them. – Genesis 1:27 ESV

Over the centuries, there has been much debate as to the exact meaning of that phrase, “in his own image.” Theologians and scholars have wrestled with the significance of what it means to be made in the image of God. Some have argued that Adam’ creation in God’s likeness meant that he was given immortality, a will, and the capacity to love. He was also provided with the responsibility to care for the rest of creation, having been commanded by God to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28 ESV). No other living creature was given this mandate. But one other aspect of the image of God breathed into Adam by God was his endowment with righteousness or, to put it another way, holiness. Adam had been created without sin. And when God had completed His creative process, He pronounced His satisfaction with all that He had made.

God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was very good. – Genesis 1:31 ESV

It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word used to describe God’s satisfaction is towb and it can refer to beauty, but also to moral perfection. In fact, in the very next chapter of Genesis, the word is used again to describe the one tree and its fruit that had been deemed off-limits by God.

And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. – Genesis 2:9 ESV

In this passage, the words “good” and “evil” are set in direct contrast from one another. They are intended to represent polar opposites. Three verses later, the same Hebrew word is used to describe the gold found in the garden of Eden. It was towb or good, because it was without blemish or free from impurities. That is the essence of Adam’s post-creation nature. He was made pure and holy by God. He was free from any kind of flaw. He was a sinless reflection of God’s glory and given the responsibility to care for the pristine and defect-free creation God had made.

But Adam and Eve sinned. They listened to the lies of the enemy and chose to satisfy their own natural appetites rather than obey the will of God. They used the intellect and the free will with which they had been endowed by God to choose evil rather than good. And, in doing so, they permanently marred the divine image given to them by God. Their intellect was darkened. Their formerly free wills were now enslaved to sin. They were no longer free to choose righteousness. In fact, the Scriptures make it painfully clear that righteousness was no longer an option for them or for their descendants.

As the Scriptures say, “No one is righteous—not even one. No one is truly wise; no one is seeking God. All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one.” – Romans 3:10 NLT

But as 1 Corinthians 15 reminds us, God was not about to let the sin of Adam be the final act in His plan for the world. While the creation He had deemed good was now permanently damaged by Adam’s sin, God had a plan of redemption already in place, and it involved a second Adam.

In his first letter to the believers in Corinth, Paul addresses the role of Jesus as the second Adam or to put it in more modern terms: Adam 2.0. While Adam was born a living being, having been created by God, Jesus was born a life-giving spirit. While Adam brought death to mankind, Jesus came to bring life. But it’s important to note that the first Adam had been given the very breath of God.

…the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. – Genesis 2:7 ESV

Adam had been given life by God, but rather than glorify God with that life, he chose to disobey and dishonor God through his actions. And the result was the entrance into the world of both physical and spiritual death. The creation itself became infected by the sin of Adam and Eve, and everyone of their descendants would inherit their propensity to sin. They would become slaves to sin.

But the second Adam came to change all that. Jesus became a man, just like the first Adam, but He lived in complete obedience to His Father’s will. As Paul writes in Philippians, Jesus was “obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV). And it was His willingness to become the unblemished sacrifice for the sins of mankind that made restoration to a right relationship with God possible.

And one of the most important aspects of Paul’s words, found in 1 Corinthians, is his hopeful reminder, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:49 ESV). Yes, we were born into sin, having inherited the sin nature of Adam. And we have inherited the same flawed, sin-prone body of flesh that will one day face not only physical death, but the even more heinous reality of spiritual death – eternal separation from God.

But Jesus came to change all that. And He makes it possible for sinful men and women to have the image of God, lost as a result of the fall, permanently restored. And while Paul speaks of us as one day bearing the image of the man of heaven, the second Adam, we have the joy of experiencing that restored image even now. That is the joy of sanctification. God has made it possible for those who were once dead in their trespasses and sins to be restored to the pre-fall state of righteousness. And the author of Hebrews reminds us of this wonderful reality.

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. – Hebrews 10:14 ESV

Those who are in Christ have been perfected, but are also being perfected. We have been deemed righteous by God because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the second Adam. But we are being transformed, day after day, into His likeness.

So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image. – 2 Corinthians 3:18 NLT

The second Adam has given fallen mankind a second chance to image God in this world.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Caro l Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson


The Free Gift.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. ­– Romans 5:15-17 ESV

Adam’s sin brought death into the world. And his sin, and that of Eve, was the result of disbelief. They doubted God’s word. When the serpent spoke to Eve in the garden, he got her to question the veracity of God’s word. He planted seeds of doubt in her mind and it led to disobedience. Doubt resulted in disobedience. Disobedience resulted in death – for all. But Paul delivers the great news regarding the good news of Jesus Christ: “The free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin.” Adam’s sin brought death. God’s free gift brought righteousness. Adam’s sin brought condemnation. God’s free gift brought justification. And the free gift that Paul is talking about is the grace of God made possible by the death of His Son, Jesus Christ. He speaks of this same amazing gift of God’s grace in his letter to the Ephesian church. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ ­– by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-5 ESV).

Adam’s doubt in God brought disbelief in God, and that disbelief led to disobedience and death. But the faithfulness of Christ to the will of His Father resulted in a life of obedience, even to the point of death. Paul describes it well in his letter to the Philippian church. “And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8 ESV). Jesus’ obedience to the Father resulted in justification for all men, not just Himself. His death paid the penalty for the sins of all men, for all time. Adam’s sin brought the reign of death to mankind. Christ’s sacrifice ended the reign of sin. John wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16 ESV). Jesus Himself said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24 ESV). The free gift that Paul speaks of is free, but it must be accepted. It requires belief in the message of God’s grace as offered through the death of His Son. Any hope we have for being seen as righteous and acceptable in God’s eyes is found only in the saving work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Adam’s sin brought death and condemnation to all mankind, but Jesus brings the offer of eternal life and no condemnation to any and all who will place their faith in Him as their sin substitute and Savior. In chapter eight of his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1 ESV).

Many struggle with the idea of imputed sin. They find it unfair that one man’s sin could have infected and impacted and entire race of people. That we would be held responsible for a sin committed by one man all those years ago seems to make God out to be a tyrant. But it is not as if we stand guiltless and innocent before God. The sin of Adam and Eve introduced sin into the world, and it didn’t take long for it to take root. Adam’s own sons inherited his sin nature. Cain murdered Abel out of a heart of jealousy and anger. And Paul reminds us, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23 ESV). It is not like we are standing before God with our hands clean and our hearts free from sin and rebellion against Him. Adam’s sin brought God’s condemnation against sin into the world. Death became the penalty for man’s disbelief and disobedience. But God brought the cure for man’s inescapable and inevitable death sentence. He sent His Son as the payment for the sins of all men. He satisfied His own wrath against sin with the life of His own Son.

The first Adam could not remain faithful to God. He doubted God. He disobeyed God. But Jesus Christ, the last Adam, lived a life of obedience and faithfulness to God, fully meeting His righteous requirements and fulfilling His law. Which is why Paul writes, “‘The first Adam became a living being’; the last Adam a life-giving Spirit” (1 Corinthians 15:45 ESV). All Adam could pass on to us was his human nature and, along with it, his sin nature. Paul continues, “The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are of the dust, and as is the man of heaven, so also are those who are of heaven” (1 Corinthians 15:47-48 ESV). With our belief in God’s gracious and merciful gift of His Son, we become new creations. We receive new natures. We become children of God, no longer enemies, alienated and under His wrath. We find ourselves standing in His presence covered in the righteousness of Christ and freed from the condemnation of sin and death. Not based on anything we have done to earn it, but solely on the free gift of grace made possible through Jesus Christ.

Death Reigned.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned — for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come. – Romans 5:12-14 ESV

As he continues to defend the doctrine of justification by faith, Paul uses an interesting comparison, contrasting the sin of Adam and the sacrificial death of Jesus. It was through Adam’s one act of unrighteousness that sin came into the world. While Eve was the first one to give in to the temptation of Satan and take the forbidden fruit, Adam was standing by her side and fully complicit and compliant. As the God-ordained head of his household, he was responsible to keep God’s commands and protect his family. It was to Adam that God had given the command regarding the tree. Eve had not yet been created. The book of Genesis records, “And the Lord commanded the man, saying, ‘You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die’” (Genesis 2:16-17 ESV). In the very next verse God decides to make woman. “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him’” (Genesis 2:18 ESV). So Adam was responsible for communication God’s command to Eve and ensuring that she adhered to it. But he failed. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her” (Genesis 3:6 ESV).

The result of Adam’s actions was death. Not immediate physical death, but spiritual death – separation from God. They became alienated and separated from God. They immediately experienced shame, attempting to cover their nakedness with leaves. They hid from God. And then they came under the punishment of God, as He brought on them curses related to their disobedience. God curse for Adam involved a life of labor accompanied by futility, ending in death. “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Genesis 3:19 ESV). Rather than enjoying the fruit of the trees provided by God in the garden, they were cast from the garden and left to provide for themselves through hard work and effort. And their lives would end in death. Which is why Paul writes, “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12 ESV). It was Adam’s sin (original sin) that brought death into the world. Paul is comparing the one act of Adam and its result with the one act of Jesus and its subsequent outcome. He contrasts Adam’s disobedience with Jesus’ obedience. The first brought death. The second brought life. Adam’s action brought separation from God. Jesus’ action brought reconciliation.

But Paul’s main point in these verses is that men had been dying (suffering the penalty for their sins) long before the law had been given to Moses – “for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law” (Romans 5:13 ESV). Mankind not only inherited death as a result of Adam’s disobedience, they inherited his sin nature. But their death was due to Adam’s sin, not their own. From God’s perspective, they sinned “in” Adam. The penalty for his sin was passed down to his descendants. So Paul states, “death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam” (Romans 5:14 ESV). Long before the law was given, men were sinning. They may not have sinned in the same way that Adam had, but they still faced the same penalty: death. They still experienced spiritual separation from God. Why? Because Adam “was a type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14 ESV).

Long before God gave the law to Moses, men died. All men knew death was inevitable. They just didn’t know why they had to die. They were unclear as to what death was and what purpose it existed. It was to be feared. It was to be avoided at all costs. But when God gave the law, it revealed the righteousness that God demanded of mankind. It provided a non-negotiable list of God’s requirements for what was necessary to escape the penalty of death. Man’s sin nature made it impossible for him to keep God’s law. So before the law was given, man sinned, in ignorance. After the law, man sinned, knowing, like Adam, exactly what God had commanded, but disobeying it anyway. But Paul will continue to built on this comparison, illustrating that God provided a way out. “The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins” (Romans 8:3 NLT). That is the gospel of God that Paul has been talking about. Adam’s disobedience brought death. Jesus’ obedience brought life. Death reigned, but God declared an end to sin’s control over us. Martin Luther summarizes Paul’s contrast quite succinctly.

Christ has become a Dispenser of righteousness to those who are of Him, though they have not earned any righteousness; for through the Cross He has secured (righteousness) for all men. The figure of Adam’s transgression is in us, for we die just as through we had sinned as he did. The figure of Christ is in us, for we live just as though we had fulfilled all righteousness as He did. – Martin Luther, Commentary on Romans

Genesis 7-8, Matthew 4

Sin and Salvation.

Genesis 7-8, Matthew 4

From then on Jesus began to preach, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near. – Matthew 4:11 NLT

Sin had become so rampant in the world and the wickedness of man, so prevalent, that God had to take drastic measures and destroy the world He had created. We read in chapter six of Genesis: “The Lord observed the extent of human wickedness on the earth, and he saw that everything they thought or imagined was consistently and totally evil. So the Lord was sorry he had ever made them and put them on the earth. It broke his heart” (Genesis 6:5-6 NLT). The single sin of Adam and Eve had ushered in a flood wave of sinful behavior that had escalated to such an extent that God was forced to act justly and righteously, wiping out those whom He had made in His own image.

What does this passage reveal about God?

But God showed favor. He offered an invitation to Noah and his family to enter into the ark. There they would find safety, provision and protection from judgment. We must be careful that we do not misinterpret this passage and assume that Noah was saved by God because of his righteousness. The invitation God offers to Noah would seem to indicate that he somehow deserved to be saved. “Go into the ark, you and all your household, for I have seen that you are righteous before me in this generation” (Genesis 7:1 ESV). But this is a statement based on comparison. Noah’s righteousness was not meritorious. In other words, his actions were not the cause of his salvation by God. It was just that Noah, when compared to those among whom he lived, was a relatively righteous individual. “It is not that Noah’s works of righteousness gains him salvation, for none is cited. Rather, his upright character is noted to condemn his generation, which merits death” (Kenneth A. Mathews, Genesis).

No, it was God’s grace that saved Noah. It was God who came up with the idea for the ark. It was God who gathered the animals together in pairs. It was God who gave Noah and his family the skills to take on a construction project of this magnitude. And it was God who closed up the door of the ark once they were all inside. The story of the flood is not simply a story of God’s wrath and judgment against mankind. It is a glimpse into God’s unfailing grace, mercy, love and faithfulness. I personally believe that Noah was saved because it would be through his descendants that the Messiah would come. Luke’s gospel account gives us the genealogy of Jesus and includes Shem, one of the sons of Noah, in the list. The salvation provided by the ark would preserve mankind in order that the true Savior of the world might be born. In a way, Noah’s righteousness, like yours and mine, was based on his association with Jesus. His salvation was due to Jesus, not himself. His righteousness was imputed, not earned.

Chapter eight starts out with the words, “But God remembered Noah…’ What a wonderful statement of the mercy of God. He never forgot about Noah and his family. The ark wasn’t intended to be permanent, but was simply a temporary respite from judgment. God had a more permanent plan for Noah and his family. He would preserve them from destruction, then place them back on the earth, promising to never use a flood to destroy mankind again. “I will never again curse the ground because of the human race, even though everything they think or imagine is bent toward evil from childhood. I will never again destroy all living things” (Genesis 8:21 NLT). Nothing had really changed. Mankind was still evil, even though, at this point, it was just Noah and his family. The ark had preserved mankind, but there had been no transformation. Sin was still a problem. They would still need a Savior. And generations later, He would appear on the scene, preaching, “Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 4:17 NLT). This descendant of Adam and Noah would come to bring true salvation from sin and deliverance from the curse of death. He would provide not only forgiveness from sin, but freedom as well. Jesus is the ultimate “ark” provided by God so that we might be saved from the destruction to come. All those who place their faith in Him will be saved. God will deliver them from death and provide them with eternal life. In the story of the ark, we have a glimpse into the redemptive heart of God. He longs to preserve and protect. He desires to restore and redeem. Through the ark, He did for Noah what Noah could not have done for himself. And through Christ, He has done for you and me what we could never have accomplished on our own.

What does this passage reveal about man?

Man is deserving of punishment and death. The verdict is clear: Man has a serious sin problem and God must deal with it. As God, He cannot simply overlook our sins and act as if they never happened. We are in open rebellion against God, and our very existence brings dishonor to His name as God. As His creation, made in His image, we are an affront to His character. So God, being righteous, holy and just, must deal with our rebellion justly, or He would case to be God. And there is nothing we can do to remedy the problem. No amount of good works or attempts at changed behavior will ever change our condition or soften our condemnation. If we are to be saved, it will have to be done by God. If we can’t satisfy His just demands, then He will have to somehow satisfy Himself. And that is what He did by sending His Son to earth as a man, a descendant of Adam. Jesus would live on this earth as a sinless human being, accomplishing what no other man had ever been able to do. He would live in perfect obedience to God – with no sins or sin nature to separate Him from God. And it was His sinless life that would make Him the perfect sacrifice, giving His life on the cross as payment for the sins of mankind. He would pay the penalty for our sin in order to satisfy the justice of God. And His death would provide deliverance from coming destruction. In Noah’s day, man was in need of saving. God had to destroy them because of their sin. And God would have to save them if anyone was going to survive the flood that was coming. The same is true today. Man is in need of saving, and if anyone is going to escape the destruction to come, it will be up to God. He alone can provide salvation, and He has done so through His Son, Jesus Christ.

How would I apply what I’ve read to my own life?

I have been saved so that I might live a life that is holy and set apart to God. I belong to Him now. But I have to constantly remember that my righteousness is not of my own making. I did not deserve to be saved. I was a sinner just as much as the next guy, but God, in His mercy and grace, showed me favor. He offered me an invitation to step into the safety of His ark, Jesus Christ, and find protection from the flood to come. I am covered by His righteousness, not mine. I am preserved because of His holiness, not my own. And now I am called to live as one who has been saved by God. My response to His grace and mercy should take the form of willful obedience out of gratitude for all that He has done for me. I am to live like one who has been given a new lease on life.

“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the bodyand the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. ButGod, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:1-10 NLT).

Father, thank You for providing salvation for me. I am so grateful that You placed me in Christ so that I might enjoy protection from the wrath that I deserved. I did nothing deserving of Your grace, mercy and love, and yet You saved me. I have no reason to boast or brag. But I have every reason to rejoice, because I once was as good as dead because of my sins, but You have made me alive in Christ. Amen.

Ken Miller Grow Pastor
& Minister to Men kenm@christchapelbc.org

Romans 5:12-21

Law Versus Grace.

Romans 5:12-21

God’s law was given so that all people could see how sinful they were. But as people sinned more and more, God’s wonderful grace became more abundant. – Romans 5:20 NLT

Over and over again in his letter, Paul has made it painfully clear that the Law of Moses can’t save anybody. “So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law” (Romans 3:28 NLT). But that fact does not diminish the importance of the law or in any way provide us with an excuse to ignore it. “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law” (Romans 3:31 NLT). But all of this raises the question, “What is the purpose of the law?” It makes us reconsider God’s reasoning for giving the law in the first place. After all, if God knew that man could never live up to the standards of the law, why did He give it to us in the first place? Paul answers this important question in verse 20: “God’s law was given to that all people could see how sinful they were.”

Michael Horton, in his book, The Law & The Gospel, puts it this way: “The Law leads us to Christ in the Gospel by condemning us and causing us to despair of our own ‘righteousness.'” The law can’t save us, it can only convict us. The law gives us the requirements, but without any assistance to meet them. The law gives us the expectations of God, but without any ability to fulfill them. But that was never its purpose. “The law comes, not to reform the sinner nor to show him or her the “narrow way” to life, but to crush the sinner’s hopes of escaping God’s wrath through personal effort or even cooperation. All of our righteousness must come from someone else – someone who has fulfilled the law’s demands. Only after we have been stripped of our ‘filthy rags’ of righteousness (Isa. 64:6) – our fig leaves through which we try in vain to hide our guilt and shame – can we be clothed with Christ’s righteousness. First comes the law to proclaim judgment and death, then the gospel to proclaim justification and life. (Modern Reformation, Good News: The Gospel for Christians, May/June 2003).

When Adam (and Eve) sinned, sin entered the world. It took up residence in the lives of Adam and Eve’s descendants, resulting in generations of men and women who inherited not only their propensity for sin, but the guilt and condemnation that accompanies it. The law was given to reveal just how sinful we really are. Later on in this letter, Paul gives a personal testimony regarding the law and its role in his own life: “…it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet” (Romans 7:7 NLT). Like a speed limit sign on the side of the road, the law simply revealed man’s transgression of God’s righteous standard. Paul goes on to say, “But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power. At one time I lived without understanding the law. But when I learned the command not to covet, for instance, the power of sin came to life, and I died.” (Romans 7:8-10 NLT). The law simply shows us our sin. It reveals to us our unrighteousness. It is God’s holy standard made clear – in black and white. No excuses allowed. I love the way Martin Luther said it. “The Law is a mirror to show a person what he is like, a sinner who is guilty of death, and worthy of everlasting punishment. What is this bruising and beating by the hand of the Law to accomplish? This, that we may find the way to grace. The Law is an usher to lead the way to grace.…The fatuous idea that a person can be holy by himself denies God the pleasure of saving sinners. God must therefore first take the sledge-hammer of the Law in His fists and smash the beast of self-righteousness and its brood of self-confidence, self-wisdom, self-righteousness, and self-help. When the conscience has been thoroughly frightened by the Law it welcomes the Gospel of grace with its message of a Savior….” (Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians).

Rather than living under the exacting standards and condemnation of the law, we live within the wonderful grace of God. We have received the righteousness of Christ and the indwelling presence and power of the Holy Spirit. That does not mean the law has become null and void though. Jesus did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it. And Paul gives us ample exhortations that we are to live lives that are in keeping with God’s standard of righteousness. “And we are instructed to turn from godless living and sinful pleasures. We should live in this evil world with wisdom, righteousness, and devotion to God, while we look forward to the hope to that wonderful day when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed(Titus 2:11-13 NLT). “For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time – to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.(2 Timothy 1:9 NLT). Those who walk in the Spirit don’t break the law, but fulfill it. They have a power and capacity to do what they could never have done before. We can live holy lives, not out of our own self-effort, but according to the power of the Spirit who lives within us. Paul paints the vivid difference between trying to live according to the law in the flesh, and fulfilling the law in the power of the Spirit. “But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Galatians 5:18-23).

Father, I am so grateful that I do not have to keep the law to maintain a right standing with You. But I am also grateful that Your law is a constant reminder of just how holy You are and just how unholy I can be without You. May Your divine, holy, righteous law constantly remind me of my need for Christ. May it make me ever more dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s power and not my own. Thank You for providing me with the righteousness of Christ and the life-transforming power of the Spirit in my life. I have the capacity to live a life worthy of the Gospel and as a citizen of heaven. Amen.

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men