KINGDOM BIBLE STUDIES
"Teaching the things concerning the kingdom of God..."
TO BE THE LORDíS PRAYER
FORGIVE US OUR SINS
"Our Father which art in heaven...forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" (Mat. 7:9,12). "Forgive us our sins; for we also forgive everyone that is indebted to us" (Lk. 11:4). "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you" (Mat. 7:14).
Our theme in this message is, "Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin (trespass) against us." I doubt that anyone has ever plumbed the depths of the wonders of these words. We talk about forgiveness and many think they have an understanding of it, but our very lives, and the preaching of the preachers and the teaching of the churches prove that most of us know little about it. We hear people speaking of forgiving others, but they never seem to forget what they are supposed to have forgiven. It is still harbored within their minds and in spite of everything that remembrance colors all their thoughts and dealings with that one they supposedly have forgiven. In other words, the sin is still alive in their minds.
That is not the case with Godís forgiveness of us, which is true forgiveness. God has declared, "For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I REMEMBER NO MORE" (Heb. 8:12). This word "remember" means to be a fixture in the mind. God will not recollect your sins, He will not remind you of them or use them against you, and He will not punish you for them. In Romans 11:27 God speaks of a covenant He would have with His people when He would TAKE AWAY THEIR SINS. God would never hold these over the heads of His people or of mankind. There would be no punishment and God would never bring them up at any time or under any conditions. Such is almost incomprehensible to most so-called Christians.
Various words are used in different renderings of the Lordís Prayer, translated as sins, debts and trespasses. The word in Matthewís Gospel is OPHEILEMATA, which means "debts". Two verses later, these debts are referred to as "trespasses". The word is PARAPTOMATA, meaning "a side-slip" or "mistake". In Luke the word is "sins" from the Greek HAMARTIA, which in its root means "missing the mark". By any word ó sins, debts, side-slips, mistakes, trespasses, missing the mark ó our failure is written large in black letters. Before considering the prayer of sons, "Our Father...forgive us our sins," I would draw your attention to the manner in which God has dealt with the sins of the world.
THE SIN OFFERING
The whole book of Leviticus is about atonement. Atonement is the instrument of forgiveness. Leviticus is a book of blood and sacrifice. It is important to note, however, that although the book of Leviticus deals largely with sacrifice, there is only one of those sacrifices that is a sin sacrifice. It is called the "sin-offering" in Leviticus chapter four. In most cases, under the law, when you brought a sacrifice it was not because you had sinned, but on the contrary, because you had the deep desire to worship, you wanted to give thanksgiving to the Lord, to celebrate His goodness and greatness, His dealings and faithfulness. Often there were special holidays or feast days and there were special sacrifices for those feast days to celebrate oneís relationship with his God.
But there was also the sin-offering that we find in Leviticus chapter four. The question follows: Does the sin-offering atone for just any kind of sin? Actually, it atoned only for one type of sin. What type of sin is that? Sin that is done unintentionally. Under the law the sin offering provided only for acts of unconscious transgressions, mistakes, or unavoidable errors. It applied only to sins done through ignorance, passion, due to the weakness of the flesh, in opposition to those done presumptuously, deliberately, or calculatedly. Only if you did a sin unintentionally, by accident, through ignorance, is it atoned for by the sin-offering. Most people do not realize this. And most preachers do not even know this!
But let us read the word of the Lord. "And the Lord spake unto Moses, saying, Speak unto the children of Israel, saying, If a soul shall sin through ignorance against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and shall do against any of them: if the priest that is anointed do sin according to the sin of the people; then let him bring for his sin, which he hath sinned, a young bullock without blemish unto the Lord for a sin-offering. And he shall bring the bullock unto the door of the tabernacle of the congregation before the Lord; and shall lay his hand upon the bullockís head, and kill the bullock before the Lord. And if the whole congregation of Israel sin through ignorance, and are guilty; then the congregation shall offer a young bullock for the sin, and bring him before the tabernacle of the congregation. When a ruler hath sinned through ignorance, and is guilty; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a male without blemish. And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, and be guilty; he shall bring his offering, a kid of the goats, a female without blemish, for his sin which he hath sinned. And the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him" (Lev. 4:1-4,13-14,22-23,27-28,35). According to these regulations the animals used for the sin-offering varied with the status of the offender. The high priest or community as a whole offered a bull; a ruler offered a male goat; while a lay person brought a female goat or ewe.
The reality is, if you commit a sin intentionally, under the law sacrifice does not work. How do we know this? The scripture says it openly. When the Lord gave the law of the sin-offering to Moses in Leviticus chapter four He continues on and identifies four classes of people who commit sins ó the priest, the king, the common person and the nation. The annual Day of Atonement was the greatest celebration of the sin-offering in Israel. On that day Israelís high priest offered animal sacrifices and made atonement for himself, for the other Levites, and for all the people of all the tribes of the nation. The one thing they all have in common is that their sacrifices are for sins done through ignorance. Someone objects, "But surely the great sacrifice on the Day of Atonement was for ALL of Israelís sin ó not just the mistakes or sins of ignorance!" The Word of God is against your objection. The writer to the Hebrews tells us: "Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle (Holy Place), accomplishing the service of God. But into the second (Holy of Holies) went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people" (Heb. 9:6-7). The word "errors" translates the Greek word AGNOEMA which means "something done in ignorance, a shortcoming, an error or mistake." The translation by Kenneth Wuest reads, "But into the second, once a year, alone, the high priest entered, not without blood which he offers in behalf of himself and in behalf of the sins of ignorance of the people." The Amplified Bible says, "But into the second division of the tabernacle none but the high priest goes, and he only once a year, and never without taking a sacrifice of blood with him, which he offers for himself and for the errors and sins of ignorance and thoughtlessness which the people have committed." Other versions concur.
But if you sin intentionally, there is no sacrifice ó it simply is not enough. The sin-offering never covered any kind of deliberate sin. For those kinds of sins there were other means of atonement ó fines, restitutions, penances and penalties. Generally it was "an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth." After you had paid such a price, no sacrifice was necessary; the sin was atoned for, forgiven. Crimes against other people were dealt with by appropriate punishments that did not involve sacrifice. The sin offering was only one means of atonement under Old Testament economy. Most Christians have never heard this truth, but it is extremely important, beloved, for it is the very foundation of the offering of Jesus as our sin-offering and reveals in a unique and wonderful way the broad, all-inclusive work of Christ Jesus as the sin-offering on behalf of the whole world of humanity!
The sin-offering speaks of the death of Christ in terms of forgiveness. This is made very plain in Leviticus chapter four, that great chapter setting forth the law of the sin-offering. In each case, whether the king, the priest, the common person or the nation, it is said concerning the sin-offering, "And the priest shall make an atonement for him as concerning his sin, and it shall be forgiven him" (Lev. 4:20,26,31,35). The sacrificial animal was brought before the door of the tabernacle, where Aaron and his sons laid their hands upon the head of the beast, thus identifying the animal as theirs and their life with that of the animal. Always with the sin-offering the person that brought the sacrifice had to lay his hand upon the head of the victim and feel the pulsating life and know the innocence of that animal when it was compelled to lay down its life for the sake of fallen man. After the identification of the priests with the sacrificial animal, Moses plunged a knife into its throat. There was no sound, no scream, no lowing, only a long-drawn-out sigh as the life-blood drained away from the helpless victim, as, too, with our Lord Jesus Christ, "...He is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth" (Isa. 53:7). Some of the blood was put upon the horns of the altar, and the remainder dashed at the base of the altar, thus, the life of the animal and those identified with it was released unto God. The fat and the inward organs were burned upon the altar, and thus became a sweet savour unto God; but the flesh, the skin and the dung were taken outside the camp and wholly burned. The New Testament commentary reads: "For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore JESUS ALSO, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate" (Heb. 13:11-12). Ah, yes, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself IS OUR SIN-OFFERING, bringing the forgiveness of all our sins committed through the weakness of the flesh.
This brings us to a most important point. There is a beautiful statement in II Corinthians 5:21 wherein Paul states, "For He hath made Him to be SIN for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." The popular, but careless, understanding of this passage is that the Christ was somehow "made sin" or actually "became sin" or "sinful," the sins of the whole world being imputed or imparted to Him as He hung and died upon the cross. For long centuries Christians have accepted this crude notion that makes Christ A SINNER IN OUR PLACE. I must speak a word against that. Nothing could be father from the truth! If Christ was indeed "made sin" for us, then pray tell me HOW SIN CAN ATONE FOR SIN? How could He die FOR US if WHAT WE DO and WHAT WE ARE were imputed or imparted unto Him? The very idea is a contradiction ó an unmitigated absurdity. It simply cannot be done. SIN ATONES FOR NOTHING. There is no way under heaven that you can do away with sin by offering up sin! The primary requirement for the sin-offering was that it be "without spot" and "without blemish" in every respect.
The words "to be" are not in the original. Literally it is, "He has made Him sin for us..." But what is meant by this? What is the exact idea that the Holy Spirit intended to convey? It cannot be that He was literally sin in the abstract, or sin as such. Nor can it mean that He was a sinner, for it is said in the same statement that "He knew no sin," and it is everywhere said that He was holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. Nor can it mean in any proper sense of the word that He was guilty, or even accounted as guilty, for then He deserved to die, and His death could have no more merit than that of any other guilty being; and if He were properly guilty, it would make no difference in this respect whether it was by His own fault or by imputation: a guilty being deserves to be punished; and where there is desert of punishment there can be no merit in sufferings. All theories that try to make our pure, holy, spotless Redeemer to BE SIN, or sinful, or guilty, border on blasphemy and are abhorrent to all who know and love the truth. It is the cornerstone of the whole economy of redemption that the sin-offering MUST BE PURE and therefore acceptable to God and efficacious for man. "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed by such corruptible things as silver and gold...but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb WITHOUT BLEMISH AND WITHOUT SPOT" (I Pet. 1:18-19). Not, my friend, a lamb MADE SIN, BUT A LAMB without blemish. "How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself WITHOUT SPOT to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb. 9:14). Ah, He did not offer Himself AS SIN, but WITHOUT SPOT!
But if the declaration that He was made "sin" does not mean that He became the embodiment of imputed sin or the personification of sin itself, or sinful, or guilty, then what can it mean? The answer is simple ó once the Old Testament terminology relating to the sin-offering is understood. There are many passages in the Old Testament where the word "sin" is used in the sense of the "sin-offering", or a sacrifice for sin. Hosea 4:8 says, "They eat up the sin of my people," a reference to the apostate priests who ate the sin offering of the people, an act prohibited by law, for the flesh of the sin-offering was to be wholly burned by fire without the camp. These priests did not eat SIN ó they ate the SIN OFFERING. Often in the Hebrew language a noun may be omitted and the adjective used as the noun. For example, in the tabernacle there was the Holy Place and the Most Holy Place. The word "place", however, does not appear in the Hebrew; it is simply the Holy and the Most Holy, and "place" is understood. So the priest did not go from the Outer Court into the Holy Place, he passed from the Outer Court into "The Holy".
The same principle is used with the terms "sin" and "sin-offering". In numerous places in the Old Testament the single Hebrew word GHATTAHTH is used for either SIN or SIN-OFFERING. In such cases the word for "offering" is not in the original at all, although it appears in the English versions. A careful study will show conclusively that in the Hebrew language the single word "sin" was frequently used for "sin-offering" and the context alone determines whether sin as a trespass is meant, or an offering for sin. With the foregoing facts in mind it should be obvious to every reverent heart that Paul is not by any means trying to tell us that the pure, spotless, holy, unblemished and undefiled Lamb of God was MADE IMPURE, UNHOLY, DEFILLED AND BLEMISHED ó SIN for us! The moment He became sin He would have been disqualified for being our sin-offering! Ah, the wonderful truth is that He who knew no sin thereby became the perfect, spotless, unblemished SIN-OFFERING for us, that we might be MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM ó the altogether Holy One! I must insist most emphatically that the Christ was never "made sin". He was a sin-offering. What a difference! What a wonder! How much more logical! And how much more beautiful and blessed!
We will never comprehend the deep mystery of how Jesus became the sin-offering for the whole world of mankind until we understand the nature of manís sin. The preachers proclaim that the whole world is in open rebellion, deliberate hostility and presumptuous disobedience against God. That is the biggest lie that ever was told in human language. And if it were true, then none of manís sins were atoned for by the sacrifice of Jesus. We would all have to pay the full penalty of our transgressions, for there was no sin-offering for intentional transgressions. The sin-offering brought a free and full forgiveness only for sins of ignorance done because of the weakness of the flesh.
Sin is from the Greek word HAMARTIA meaning "to miss the mark", as though you were running a race and came in second. You missed the mark, you fell short of your goal so that you do not share in the prize. Thatís the original term. As for missing the mark, a baseball manager once resigned with the comment, "I have not done what I set out to do," thus speaking for every man. We have all missed the mark in life because of sin. Itís a nature. You canít get rid of it. The whole human race is infected. Sin is often symbolized in scripture by leprosy ó because leprosy is an incurable condition. It begins small and insignificant and it spreads and grows bigger and bigger until it completely rots the flesh of the whole body. Thatís what sin is. Leprosy is no major problem in our modern society, but the disease of our generation that serves the same example would be AIDS.
If the doctor were to tell you that you are HIV positive you would understand. Thatís what Iím talking about ó sin is a killer, a killer substance in your life. The wages of sin is death. Just as people today recklessly yield to the passions of the flesh and for a few minutes of pleasure expose themselves to the AIDS virus, so Adam willfully yielded to his flesh and transgressed the law of God, infecting not only himself but all his progeny with the sin virus. "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned...nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adamís transgression" (Rom. 5:12,14). You see, my beloved, Adam is the one who sinned ó the rest of humanity is the victim. We have not sinned after the similitude of Adam, for he sinned deliberately and received the penalty of death; nevertheless death has passed from Adam to each of us and all have sinned.
It is like the mother that contracts AIDS and then passes it on to her baby. The baby canít help it, the baby did nothing wrong, the baby is the victim ó the mother is responsible. There is a world of difference between premeditation and spontaneous action ó this difference is acknowledged by our laws and taken into consideration in our courts. Because of Adamís reckless exposure to the virus of sin and death we were born sinners. Do you wonder why people are on drugs, why women are in prostitution, why men are out here robbing and murdering, why people are carnal, selfish, and spiritually blind? Do you wonder why even you sometimes have the thoughts and desires that run through your mind and stir your emotions, and you act in ways that disturb you? Thatís the nature of old Adam! Thatís the sickness of sin! "For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: but I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my (spiritual) mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members" (Rom. 5:15-23).
All mankind is victim of the disease passed on to them from Adam. They have not personally or maliciously "chosen" to rebel against God or disobey His commandments. That child that is born in the slums; the child of a harlot and a whoremonger; a child without a name, who grows up with the brand of shame upon his brow from the beginning; who grows up amidst vice, and never knows virtue until it is steeped in vice ó is such a child in personal, deliberate and intentional disobedience and hostility toward God? That child that grows up amidst falsehood, and never knows what truth is until it is steeped in lies; that never knows what honesty is until it is steeped in crime ó has such a child personally, deliberately and intentionally chosen to be the enemy of God? That child born in a communist land and in a godless home; who is told by its government and taught by its teachers that there is no God in heaven, and never knows even a verse of scripture until it is steeped in unbelief and infidelity ó is that child purposely, deliberately and maliciously hostile toward God? That child born in a religious home, never knowing the transforming grace of God until it is steeped in false religion, superstitions, folklore, traditions, powerless rituals, empty ceremonies and static creeds ó is that child intentionally denying the truth of God? Are not one and all victims of ignorance, darkness, blindness, confusion and helplessness? "This I say therefore, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart" (Eph. 4:17-18). "Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind as obedient children, not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance" (I Pet. 1:13-14).
Is the sin of the human family the kind of sin that can be forgiven and covered through the sacrifice of Jesus, the worldís sin-offering? It has to be, because Jesus IS OUR SIN-OFFERING! If Jesus is our sin-offering, our sins are counted in Godís sight as unintentional sins, sins done through ignorance. They are not meant to defy God, they are the sickness and weakness of the flesh, unconscious transgressions against God as a result of spiritual blindness. No man since Adam has chosen by his own free will to be what he is or to do what he does. He is a slave. "We know that the Law is spiritual; but I am a creature of flesh (carnal), having been SOLD INTO SLAVERY UNDER THE CONTROL OF SIN" (Rom. 7:14, Amplified). The unregenerate man is a slave to sin. He is a slave of Satan. He is a slave of his own carnal mind and deceitfully wicked heart. He is a slave of his own vile passions.
How can a man who is a slave and a captive of the devil be perpetrating deliberate rebellion against God? Impossible! Adam sold us out. Adam gave us no choice in bringing his progeny under the workings of iniquity. When Adam entered into sin, he did not consult with any one of us as to our desire concerning anything he did. None of us had any power or any choice in the condition in which we entered this world. WE WERE NOT SINNERS BY CHOICE, as we have erroneously been told. We are "born in sin, and shapened in iniquity," with the carnal nature in us from the moment we leave the womb. Being "dead in trespasses and sins," dead to God, dead to truth, dead to purity, dead to reality, the Adamic race was no longer capable of making a choice or decision for salvation. How truly the apostle articulated our true state: "And you...were dead in trespasses and sins: wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience; among whom also we all had our conversation in time past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and WERE BY NATURE THE CHILDREN OF WRATH, even as others" (Eph. 2:2-3). And again, "If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them" (II Cor. 4:3-4). The great apostle Paul said this about himself: "Who was before a blasphemer, and persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, BECAUSE I DID IT IGNORANTLY IN UNBELIEF" (I Tim. 1:13).
Even the murderers of the Lord Jesus did not commit their heinous sin maliciously, deliberately, or knowingly. The scriptures boldly acknlowledge the fact. "The God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, hath glorified His Son Jesus; whom ye delivered up, and denied Him in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But ye denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; and killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. And now, brethren, I wot that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers" (Acts 3:13-17). Notice the term "through ignorance" ó the very same expression used in Leviticus chapter four of the class of sins forgiven through the sin-offering! And again, "But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory: which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known it, they would NOT HAVE CRUCIFIED THE LORD OF GLORY" (I Cor. 2:7-8). Then of the High Priesthood of our Lord Jesus Christ it is written, "For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins: who can have compassion on the ignorant, and on them that are out of the way..." (Heb. 5:1-2).
The testimony of God standeth sure ó unregenerate men are the victims of Adamís transgression. Just as the mother who passes AIDS to her child, Adam is responsible. The children are victims. They sin through ignorance, they fall short by nature, they cannot help themselves. And that is just the glory of the sin-offering. It was ordained specifically and exclusively for unintentional sins! And Jesus became the sin-offering for the whole world! Therefore, the whole race of men is forgiven, their sin covered. Jesus Himself confirmed the unspeakable wonder of this at the very moment He became the worldís sin-offering. He was surrounded by sinful and wicked men who were involved in His death, as the scripture says, "For of a truth against Thy holy child Jesus, whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done" (Acts 4:27-28).
And right in the midst of all these planned events, when Jesus was on the cross, there arose above all the cries of the multitude those wonderful words of Jesus, "FATHER, FORGIVE THEM!" Some of the Jews were ridiculing. The soldiers were gambling over His garments. The priests and Pharisees were gloating in their triumph over the Nazarene. The disciples, family and friends of Jesus were all mourning in despair and fleeing in desperation. There is no doubt that Jesus was suffering excruciating pain. But up and out of all that turmoil, hatred, and despair, those wonderful and compelling words ascended, "FATHER, FORGIVE THEM!" Why? Why forgive them? Because He loved them? That is not what He said. Because it was the Fatherís will? He didnít say that. Because of His great compassionate heart and holy nature? Not at all. He called upon the Father to forgive them "for THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO!" "Father, forgive them because they donít know their right hand from their left; they sin in ignorance; they donít mean it against you; their sin is unintentional!"
Thatís what Jesus said. That is the Voice from the cross. That is the assessment by Jesus of Nazareth of the wickedness of men of all generations, for we all nailed Him to the tree. How many ministers say that there is no forgiveness until you recite the sinnerís prayer? Nearly all of them. But God is asked, by His Son, Jesus, to forgive His persecutors. They were people who had not recited the sinnerís prayer. There is no repentance at all. Can God forgive without repentance? Iíve heard people say, "Thereís no chance of a beautiful person whoís born and raised in a country, thatís never heard about God or Jesus or the Bible, to go to heaven because theyíve never met Jesus as their Saviour. Theyíve never repented of their sins." Ah, but thereís another reason for God to forgive people. I find it quite easy to forgive someone who shows repentance. I find it easy also to forgive them if I really know that they didnít know that they were doing something wrong. "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do." It is possible for God to forgive those who really donít know what they have done. And thatís the WHOLE WORLD! That is why Jesus said to the woman taken in adultery, "Neither do I condemn thee." It wasnít that she hadnít sinned. And there is no record of her repentance. Jesus knew what was in man. He understood the condition of man more perfectly than any that ever lived. He perceived the true nature of all things. And He was the most merciful and gracious and forgiving of all men. Certainly He was! And He became the sin-offering for the entire race, blessed be His wonderful name. Oh, the mystery of it! Oh, the wonder of it!
I recently read a beautiful and redemptive story about Abraham Lincoln. Abe Lincoln passed a slave market in South Carolina one day. As he passed he saw a beautiful young black girl being brought to the block to be sold. She wore a vicious, angry look. She was resisting her captors. He couldnít stand the sight of it, the humiliation that she was being subjected to, the shame that was being heaped upon her. When the first bid came, he raised his hand and found himself bidding to buy this slave girl. In the end, Abe won the young girl. With defiance she looked at him and said, "Okay, what are you gonna do with me?" And he answered her, "Iím going to free you. Go where you want to go. Be what you want to be. Live where you want to live. Do what you want to do. Be free. Go. I donít need you. I bought only one thing ó your freedom." For the first time, she smiled and said, "If Iím free, Iím gonna go with you." That is what Jesus has done for the world. And when the truth of it finally penetrates the consciousness of men, quickened by the Holy Spirit, the response is, "Since Iím free, Iím gonna go with you!"
It has been said that if the average Christian knew what his Bible is talking about, he would burn it as a dangerous and heretical writing. There is much more truth to this statement than most of us like to admit. Religion is founded on error. While professing to believe and teach the Word of God, yet it can do nothing but contradict it. Most of its efforts are therefore an attempt to make the Word conform to its own ignorant imaginings. While it loudly proclaims the Bible to be true and professes to believe it, yet it must continually change and explain its truths in such a way as to make them uphold its own reasonings. The church systems cannot face the full revelation of fact. They cannot take the Bible as it actually is. That would destroy their own man-made doctrines. In order to continue to exist they must teach that "this" means "that." Hence their converts are made into unbelievers through their system of "interpreting" the scriptures according to their own delusions, instead of believing them as the Holy Spirit of Truth means them.
The whole system is very sly and sinister and deceptive. Under the guise of holding to and contending for the faith, it destroys faith completely, in that it completely destroys oneís trust in the infinite love and omnipotent power of the almighty Father and supplants that trust with a total dependence upon what some ignorant man says "about" God and His great plan. It confuses men so completely that the ministers in the churches are made mere parrots, to repeat over and over again what someone else taught them to say. That is what their schools are for. Godís ministers are those who have come to the place where they dare to believe God, though it makes all men liars. And anyone who will serve the Lord faithfully by declaring His truth is bound to be unpopular with all the ministers in apostasy, because he must then continually expose their shame.
Now here is the wonderful truth about the sin-offering ó Christ on Calvary bore every sin of every sinner. He was made a sin-offering for us, He who knew no sin. And since He became our sin-offering, therefore when He died, our sin died. Calvary atoned. And then and there all mankind was freely forgiven, their sin fully atoned for. If that is not true, the Bible is a lie and Calvary is a farce. Oh, the victory of Calvary means so much more than any of us ever realized in the past. It was such a pathetically ineffectual work, according to the way it was once taught us. It was weak and so limited in scope, so incomplete! Christ came to save the world (Jn. 12:47); God sent His Son "that THE WORLD through Him might be saved" (Jn. 3:17). But it was all in vain. He wasnít able to do what He came for. He couldnít finish the work. Satan and the flesh and the will of man were too strong, too powerful, too unyielding. So His redemptive work is left unfinished, according to the way we have always been taught, which made God a poor puny victim of circumstances beyond His control and Christ a mere pawn of the flesh and the devil, a prey to their every whim and fancy.
But He did not die in vain! He was not a failure! Hallelujah! Calvary was not a defeat, but an exultant victory. And there He, the spotless sinless Lamb of God actually gave His life for the life "OF THE WORLD." Let us never again forget that fact. Yes, friend, He actually gave His life for the life "of the world": not for one half of it, not for just a few Christians who are "not of this world" (Jn. 15:19; 17:14). He actually paid the full penalty for the sins of the world ó A-L-L OF IT. And because that penalty is paid in full, because all are forgiven their trespasses by the love of the heavenly Father, "the hour is coming in the which A-L-L that are in the graves shall hear His voice and shall come forth" (Jn. 5:28).
Jesus gave His life for the life of the world. That ends the matter for all time and eternity. Thank God, the good old Book is true! Thank God, John 4:42 is actually true after all! "This is indeed the Christ, the Saviour OF THE WORLD." Thank God, Romans 3:23 is really true! "For A-L-L have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; BEING JUSTIFIED FREELY BY HIS GRACE." Thank God, Romans 5:18 is actually the fully inspired Word of God, "Wherefore as by the offense of one judgment came upon ALL MEN to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of One THE FREE GIFT CAME UPON A-L-L MEN UNTO JUSTIFICATION OF LIFE!" Thank God, I John 2:2 is not an infamous fairy tale! "And He is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also FOR THE SINS OF THE W-H-O-L-E W-O-R-L-D." Thank God, I Timothy 4:10 is actually true, "God, who is the Saviour of A-L-L MEN, SPECIALLY OF THOSE THAT BELIEVE!"
All men have life because of Calvary and an empty tomb. Jesus actually "put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26). Those sins are gone. The record is clear. And a second accounting can never, never be demanded. He paid it all. The world is forgiven, their sin is covered, a free gift of mercy and love and grace. Blessed indeed is the gracious news of life for a sin-sick world!
I was deeply impressed by a testimony John McAllister shared recently. He said, "When I was fourteen years old I had already gone through the deaths of my mother, four grandparents, and an aunt and uncle. One by one they all went by way of the grave, and my sister and I were left to face life almost totally alone. I cried out to the Lord in my distress and He revealed Himself to me as Saviour, Baptizer in the Holy Spirit, and Present Lord. One evening about a year after my dadís mother died, I had a most unusual dream ó one that stayed with me all these years and helped to mold my understanding of Godís great mercy, love, grace, pardon and forgiveness extended to all mankind.
"In the dream I saw my grandmother. Startled, I spoke to her in deep distress. ĎO Mom,í I said, for I always called her Mom although she was my grandmother. ĎO Mom, if only I had known a year ago what I know now I could have told you about the Lord, the Lord Jesus, and His great love and the free salvation He gives to all who believe on Him, but alas ó now you are dead. You were a drunk and an alcoholic and you died while drunk. Some say you killed yourself ó committed suicide ó and so now, Mom, you are in hell burning in the flames and youíll never get out or have another chance to know Jesus.í I was weeping in great sorrow.
"Then my grandmother spoke, interrupting me in my tears. ĎNot so, my son, not so,í she said. ĎThe Lord has had mercy on me. For He devises means whereby His banished be not expelled from Him.í Awakening from the dream and being puzzled as to what this could mean, I searched everywhere in the Bible to find such a passage. Nowhere could I find it. I had never heard those words before. For a year I did not know or see such a verse until seemingly by accident one day I read II Samuel 14:14. ĎFor we must needs die, and are as water spilt upon the ground, which cannot be gathered up again; neither doth God respect any person, yet doth He devise means that His banished be not expelled from Him.í The entire passage from II Samuel 14:1-21 shows that no matter how far one may stray from the Lord and undergo an internal banishment from that sense of acceptance, nevertheless, our merciful Lord God Himself has devised a means whereby His banished ones would not be expelled forever from Him. ĎFor out of Him, and through Him, and unto Him are all things, to whom be glory unto the ages, Amení (Rom. 11:36). My grandmother taught me that God had mercy on her, He has mercy on me, and He will have mercy upon ALL. ĎFor God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that He might have mercy upon allí (Rom. 11:32)." ó end quote.
There is only one accuser, only one ó Satan. God is not bringing up your sins, no matter who you are: you, me, Judas or Hitler. If Jesus paid the penalty of your sins He doesnít deal with your sins anymore, they are gone, paid for, the account is closed, you are forgiven! What does that mean? It means that because of Jesus all men are free. And I have to accept that. I must view all men in that light. I must bear the "good news" (gospel) to them. If I then turn around and bring up somebody elseís sins because I donít like them, then Iím the sinner.
After a person is forgiven you cannot lay any charge against him. Nearly all Christians know John 3:16, but very few know, let alone live as if they believe, John 3:17: "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world, through Him, might be saved." Itís shocking! Itís shameful! Itís surprising how many of us think that God would condemn us. Why? Where do we pick up these messages? God does not condemn people. If that was so, He could have done that quite easily through Jesus when He sent Him to earth. But He didnít. God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world. We find it difficult to understand such a loving reaction from a Holy God. We are often quick to find fault and shortcomings when we find someone or something falling short of our expectations. Sometimes we do this because we are thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought. But many times, more often than not, we are responding through our own defense mechanism ó to our own insecurities. And because we donít feel better about ourselves, we begin to criticize and complain and gossip and condemn other people. It makes us feel better about ourselves by tearing down someone else, comparing ourselves with otherís faults, failures and sins. God will never condemn any soul. I believe that with all of my heart. God will not condemn anyone. He seeks to save everyone. He plans better and greater things for every man, woman and child in the world. Does that mean that nobody is punished? Not at all. Every man still reaps what he sows ó in this world and in the world to come. But God does not condemn. He does not condemn us who are His children. But beyond that, He doesnít condemn the world!
"Blessed is the man whose sin is covered (atoned for), to whom the Lord imputes no sin" (Rom. 4:8). Ah ó thatís me, Iím a blessed man, I still have sin, but the Lord doesnít impute it to me, He doesnít hold it against me, He doesnít charge it to my account, He doesnít throw it up in my face, He doesnít prosecute me for it, itís not even on my record. Blessed, happy is the man that comes to this truth, to this awareness! Who is the man whose sin is covered ó atoned for? The man for whom the sin-offering has been made. And that is every man who has ever lived or does now live! Christ died for the ungodly. All of them!
According to Godís arrangement in providing Christ as the sin-offering on behalf of the whole world of mankind, ALL must be delivered from the sin and death that passed on them from Adam, else the sin-offering does not avail for all. Paul makes a wonderful point when he says, "For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be LORD (Ruler, Controller) both of the dead and the living" (Rom. 14:9). The point is that the object of Christís death and resurrection was not merely to be Lord of the living, to bless and rule and restore the living people and nations, but to give Him authority over, or full control of, the dead as well as the living, insuring that the rights and privileges secured for them by His sin-offering would avail for them as much as for living men.
To claim that He was the sin-offering for the whole world and yet to claim that the whole world is counted as guilty and deserving of eternal hell, is absurd; for it would imply that either God accepted the sin-offering and then unjustly refused to forgive and pardon those for whom the sacrifice was made, or else that the Lord, after redeeming all, was either unable or unwilling to make effective the results secured by the sin-offering. The grand design of Godís great love wherewith He "so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son," repels and contradicts such a thought, and gives us assurance that the intent of Godís loving purpose will bring to all men everywhere the blessing of release from sin and death and the opportunity to return to the rights and liberties of sons of God, enjoyed before sin and the curse.
The sin-offering for all simply means that through Jesus Christ ALL MEN ARE FORGIVEN. Not shall be ó are. God provided His own sin-offering for the whole world to proclaim the glorious message, "I love you! I forgive you! Your sin is atoned for! I will save and restore you unto Myself!" It can mean nothing else but that God really and truly "was in Christ, reconciling THE WORLD unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:19). Let us read this from the Concordant Literal Translation. "Yet all is of God, who conciliates us unto Himself through Christ, and is giving us the dispensation of the conciliation, how that God was in Christ, conciliating the world unto Himself, not reckoning their offenses unto them." You will notice that the Concordant Literal Translation has changed the wording from reconciliation to conciliation. This needs some explanation. There are two Greek words, both of which the King James Version has translated reconciliation: KATALLASO and APOKATALLASO. They are related but slightly different.
If two people are enemies and are separated by some dispute, they need to be reconciled one to another. But if just one of those people takes it upon himself to drop the case and forgive the other, raising the white flag of truce, a conciliation has just occurred. A conciliation is a one-sided peace, done outside the will or knowledge of the second party. It is done by the counsel of his own will in the secret chambers of his governmental palace. He who has conciliated his brother then sends his ambassador with the white flag of truce to sue for peace, to beg the other to conciliate in return. If he does so, then it is two-sided ó it is a re-conciliation. Other scriptures show irrefutably that God will bring the issue to a successful conclusion ó all men will be reconciled to God. The conciliation will become a reconciliation. Hallelujah!
In II Corinthians chapter five we find that God has conciliated the world to Himself. He laid aside His righteous and lawful case which He had against the world and conciliated the world. Now He has sent us into the world as His ambassadors to them to beg them to be conciliated to God, to respond to His conciliation. All who take heed and make peace with God are reconciled to Him. This is confirmed by Romans 5:10, in which the context is that while we were still sinners and fighting against God, Christ died for us. In other words, the conciliation took place before the reconciliation, because God took it upon Himself to act first. "For if, when we were enemies, we were conciliated by the death of His Son, much more, being conciliated, we shall be saved by His life." Paul uses these terms carefully. This can easily be seen in the passages where he uses the term APOKATALLASO, or reconciliation. The first is in Ephesians 2:16, "And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby."
"Not imputing their trespasses unto them" means they are forgiven! God holds nothing against them! It means not charging to their account, not writing down in the ledger, making no record. Today, itís up to man to be conciliated to God. Today, itís left for man to change his attitude toward God. The hell-fire and damnation preachers, the eternal torment teachers are not helping one bit. God has made the first move by sacrificing Jesus on the cross. Our message is no longer one of hell-fire and damnation ó that is neither Godís attitude nor His intention toward mankind. Today, our message is "the word of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:19). The New Testament gospel is "the gospel of peace" (Eph. 6:15). God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. And neither does God send His sons into the world to condemn the world. When you hear preachers ranting and raving, telling sinners how bad they are and how the wrath of God is stored up for them you can be certain of one thing ó those preachers ARE NOT SONS!
Some people say that when Jesus was on the cross, because God could not look upon sin, He turned away His face from His Son, and Jesus cried out, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?" That has bothered me for years, because if God could forsake such a perfect One, who am I? How can I ever trust the promise He made, "I will never leave thee nor forsake thee." But Iíve got proof that God never forsook Jesus, and right here it is: "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." Another scripture says that we were reconciled by the death of His Son. God was on that cross, not only with Jesus, but in Jesus. God Himself was there "laying down" on our behalf in the person of Jesus Christ. God Himself was seeing to it that no longer upon our account, in our ledger, would our trespasses be written.
Someone has said that the individual heart is very much like a police headquarters; there peopleís deeds are arranged as in a file drawer. One has only to ask, "What do you have on that person? What have you on this one?" The person can open the file and give out information on anyone. Sometimes with real grace we leave the drawer closed and do not talk about the cases; yet, when the occasion arises, the key is still there so that the cases can be brought to light. And that is unfortunate; it does harm. As long as we have a police register in our hearts, it is impossible for us to bless humanity or our brother. Even if we appear to have a great ministry, it still wonít do. The clear outpouring of the grace, love and power of God becomes possible only after the file drawer has been destroyed. We must be as firm as a rock in this matter: I will not be a police headquarters; the cases shall no longer be entered in me! I am not called to be a police station; I am called to be an ambassador of the God who has conciliated the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. The forgiveness of God must flow through me unto all men. I must never speak a word of condemnation to any or about any. I must reconcile all men to God and to one another in Him. "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God."
On one occasion Jesus was talking alone with His disciples about prayer. Peter asks a question. It is never difficult to think of Peter asking a question or making a few remarks. He asks, "Master, how many times must I forgive a man? Seven times?" Apparently Peter thinks he is growing in grace. He can actually think now in terms of forgiving a man seven times in succession! But the Lord in effect says, "Peter, you havenít caught the idea. You donít get it. Forgiveness is not a question of mathematics; not a matter of keeping tab on somebody; it is not that you have forgiven someone six times, so you will go for one more. You must forgive not seven times but seventy times seven ó in one day!" And Peterís eyes bulge open with an incredulous stare ó "four hundred and ninety times ó one man ó in one day ó Wow!" Methinks that Jesus is thinking that Peter will lose count, or get tired of counting, and finally get it, concluding that the spirit of forgiveness is the only way, the only thing that counts.
God has committed unto us the ministry of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:18-20). Reconciling who? Just white Anglo-Saxons? Just Baptists? Just Pentecostals? Just Kingdom people? Just the kind of people you like? Just people that smell like you, look like you, think like you, act like you? What was God doing in Christ? He was busy. He was reconciling THE W-O-R-L-D ó to a denomination, to a movement, to a doctrine, to a message, to a way of life ó NO! God was in Christ reconciling the world unto HIMSELF! What was God doing in Christ? God so loved the world that He forgave. And where is God now? He is still in Christ, Head and body. He is in the many-membered Christ. And what is He still doing? Heís still reconciling THE WORLD. And what will He be doing in the coming age? He will still be reconciling THE WORLD. What will He be doing in the ages beyond that? He will still be reconciling THE WORLD. When will He stop reconciling THE WORLD? When THE WORLD is reconciled!
"To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus" (Col. 1:27-28). Christ in you is the hope of glory. The hope is that EVERY MAN will be presented perfect in Christ Jesus. Thatís not your hope ó thatís Godís hope. Thatís gloryís hope. Your hope isnít big enough yet. You just hope you can make it. You just hope your spouse can make it. You just hope your family can make it. You just hope your group can make it. Godís hope is bigger than that! "Christ in you" is plural in the Greek ó itís not Christ in me. Only the you, YOU ALL, or "Yíall," as they say down south, is big enough to express HIM. Weíre the fullness of Him that filleth all-in-all.
How large is your vision? How big is the God that lives in His temple? And how big is the world that He wants to touch through you? How large is your hope? Many years ago I got past just hope for me, just hope for my wife, just hope for my family, just hope for my friends, just hope for the Church, just hope for this life, just hope for this age, just hope for the millennium. My hope is bigger than just for you dear ones who read these lines, and your seed, and your seedís seed. My hope goes beyond men who are just now breathing upon this planet, my hope reaches into that which is within the veil ó how big is your hope? He is the God of the living, and He is the God of the dead. And His hope is that He will have a whole family of sons and daughters just like the first one. You say, "Oh, my hope embraces all men; I believe in the ultimate salvation of every man." My hope goes beyond that. My hope is bigger than that. My hope is not merely the salvation of every man ó my hope, Godís hope, gloryís hope is that every man shall be presented PERFECT IN CHRIST JESUS. Not just saved, not merely forgiven, not only conciliated, but made perfect in Christ Jesus, conformed into the image of the Son. Then, and only then, will God truly be ALL-IN-ALL, everything to everyone.
"God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them." Now thatís not a blanket of grace to excuse sin. Itís the redemptive power of love to forgive and transform men from sin and death into the righteousness of God. The very character of God stands pledged to it; every promise that He has made implies it; and the typical sacrifice of the sin-offering points with unerring accuracy to the great and sufficient sacrifice ó "the Lamb of God, which TAKETH AWAY THE SIN OF THE WORLD" (Jn. 1:29).
Since all men in Adam were guilty and condemned; and since all men through Christ are forgiven and redeemed, the hour is coming when every man will be made alive in Christ. Adam was the son of God, the scripture says (Lk. 3:38). In redemption all men will be the sons of God. The manifested sons of God to be birthed out of this age are just the "firstfruits" of Godís creatures ó all will be Godís sons in that blessed hour when God becomes all-in-all. Any other view would be both unreasonable and unjust. The sin-offering does not propose to count sinners as saints, and usher them into everlasting bliss without any further work. It simply releases the sinner from the first condemnation thus guaranteeing the dealing of God in due time to restore him to life and holiness and glory in the image of God. What a glorious hope!
To be continued... J. PRESTON EBY [HOME] [KINGDOM RESOURCES]