Salvation: It’s More About God Than Us!

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Salvation: It’s More About God Than Us!

James R. Aist

I almost entitled this article “Its All About God”, because, in a sense, it is. Salvation is how God transforms us from creations that dishonor and scandalize Him into new creations that praise and glorify Him. But, I relented, because I didn’t want to minimize the mind-boggling magnitude of God’s love for us, which was amply demonstrated when Christ died in our place (Romans 5:8). Hence, “salvation is more about God than us” better captures the fullness of what I hope to get across in this article.

I would venture to guess that most born-again Christians have gotten the impression that salvation is all about us. After all, God so loved us (John 3:16), Christ died for us (Romans 5:8) and salvation is a free gift to us (Romans 5:15-16). And, if the only reason that God saved us was to keep us out of hell and bless us forever, then salvation would be all about us. But, there’s more to it than that, much more. So, I’ll get right to the point.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism (1647) states that “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him for ever.” In an earlier article, I presented a biblical basis for these conclusions (click HERE). The first of these two conclusions tells us God’s primary motive in creating us; that is, to glorify Himself. The second conclusion “…to enjoy him for ever”, describes what God intended for us to get out of our new relationship with Him; namely, to enjoy Him forever in heaven, which is eternal life. But, when sin entered the world, death followed, and mankind no longer glorified God and ceased to enjoy Him at all, much less forever. And, that’s where salvation came in. God had a plan to restore mankind to the original, created condition, so that mankind would, once again, glorify God and enjoy Him forever.

So, exactly how is our salvation more about God than it is about ourselves? Let’s start with salvation belongs to God (Psalm 3:8; Revelation 7:10 and 19:1), and go from there. When His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, was born, the angels ascribed glory to God (Luke 2:14). This Jesus is the author and the finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2), through which we are saved (Ephesians 2:8). Moreover, we love God because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). And, it is God who chose us for salvation, not the other way around (click HERE).  We are reminded repeatedly in the New Testament that our victories in Christ are for the glory of God. In fact, a quick search of the New Testament (MEV) produced at least 50 verses that speak of various ways that mankind gives glory to God. Even our confession that “Jesus Christ is Lord” is to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:11). Salvation is about the glory of God first and foremost, from the beginning covenant given to Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:15), right through to the New Covenant, sealed in the blood of Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:25). God is the giver here, while we are the recipients, and it is the giver to whom all the glory for our salvation belongs, because God will not share His glory with others (Isaiah 42:8; 48:11). Without such a great salvation, we would have remained without God and without hope in the world (Ephesians 2:12)! It was God’s ingenious plan of salvation that paved the way for mankind to, once again, glorify God. As a result, mankind is enabled to enjoy Him forever, which, by the way, is also to the glory of God (Romans 15:7)!

That said, please don’t get the idea that I am discounting the role that God’s love for us played in motivating Him to save us; I am not. God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8)! And, God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16). For sure, we are eternally grateful for God’s great love toward us! But, in contemplating the gift of salvation, we often tend to forget that God created us to glorify Himself in ways that no other being that He created on the earth is able to, because only we can really know Him and love Him back (click HERE). That, I believe, was His ultimate purpose in creating mankind in the first place: to reflect His glory back to Him, just as Jesus does (Hebrews 1:3 with 2 Corinthians 3:18). And now, thanks to God, we are willing and able to do that!

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

The Parable of the Wedding Banquet… Revisited

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The Parable of the Wedding Banquet… Revisited

James R. Aist

“For many are called, but few are chosen.”

As I read through Matthew’s account of the Parable of the Wedding Banquet (Matthew 22:1-14), I find that a natural reading of it tells me that this is an historically sweeping parable that represents the Kingdom of God from Old Testament times (Part 1), through the times of the early Christian church (Part 2), and right up to the time of the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:5-9)(Part 3). Now you may already have a different take on this parable, but if you will humor me for a few moments, I will illustrate why I have come to this conclusion. To do this, I will reproduce (in bold lettering) this parable as it occurs in Matthew’s Gospel, and insert (in parentheses, with italics) my understanding below each portion as it comes up.

Part 1 – Old Testament times

Jesus spoke to them again by parables, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who arranged a marriage for his son, and sent out his servants to call those who were invited to the wedding , but they would not come. 

(As I see it, this is a largely parallel scenario to the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, where, here, Jesus represents the son. The servants represent the Old Testament prophets, who were sent to call to the wedding ceremony those who were already invited: that is, God’s chosen people, the Jews, to whom the Gospel message was first given (Acts 13:45-46); hence, “those who were already invited.” But, they refused to come.)

“Again, he sent out other servants, saying, ‘Tell those who are invited: See, I have prepared my supper. My oxen and fattened calves are killed, and everything is ready. Come to the wedding banquet.’

(In this passage, its like God is saying to the Jews, “I have done all that is necessary for you to come in and enjoy the wedding banquet with me. I have already promised you a Messiah who will come to save you from your sins, so come now and rejoice with Me.”

But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his business; the rest took his servants, treated them spitefully, and killed them. When the king heard about it, he was angry. He sent in his army and destroyed those murderers and burned up their city.

(The Jews mistreated and even killed the prophets of God. For this offense, Jesus prophecies that God will send in an army to destroy and burn their Holy City, Jerusalem, which prophecy was fulfilled by the Roman army in 70 AD. Many scoffed and mocked the invitation, while others were too busy with worldly matters to take heed. But, sadly, the Jews failed again to come to the Wedding Banquet.)

Part 2 – Early Christian Church

Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding is ready, but those who were invited were not worthy. Go therefore to the streets, and invite to the wedding banquet as many as you find.’ 10 So those servants went out into the streets and gathered together as many as they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests.

(After delivering the Good News to the Jews first, and being largely rebuffed, God sent Christian evangelists out to deliver the Good News to the Gentiles. All were invited to the banquet, whether righteous believers or unrighteous nonbelievers. And they packed out the wedding venue!)

Part 3 – Marriage Supper of the Lamb

But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man who was not wearing wedding garments. He said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without wedding garments?’ And he was speechless.

(All the righteous in attendance were clothed in “wedding garments.” At the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, the believers will wear white garments, which will be representative of their righteous deeds (Revelation 19:8). By extension, then, only the ones in white garments at the Wedding Banquet were qualified to be there. But one person there had on regular street clothes. He was not a believer, and he had no clue why he managed to get past the guards and into the banquet hall. He probably didn’t even know that he was not really supposed to be there. Perhaps he was a “churchgoer” who had not been “born again” (click HERE).

Then the king told the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

(Because this man had never accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior, he was bound and cast out of the banquet hall and into the Lake of Fire, the Second Death (Revelation 20:14) as his just recompense for the sins he had committed (Romans 6:23). Remember that Jesus said, Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonderful works in Your name?’ But then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice evil.’ (Matthew 7:22-23).

For many are called, but few are chosen.

(A great multitude, of both Jews and Gentiles, has been able to hear and respond to the Gospel invitation, but only those whom God has chosen for salvation have accepted it. These alone, the ones that Jesus “knew”, will be allowed to participate in the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. To more fully appreciate the biblical foundation for my understanding of this verse, click HERE.)

And, here’s the Good News for you: “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:19). It would be awesome to have you enjoy the Marriage Supper of the Lamb with us!

(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)

The Gospel of John 3:16

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The Gospel of John 3:16

James R. Aist

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ. For it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16)

In the New Testament, the word “gospel” refers to the “good news” that Jesus brought to mankind by way of His sinless life and effective solution to our sin problem. The fulfilling of the Great Commission by those who are saved – by grace through faith in Jesus – requires that we share this good news with unbelieving sinners so that God may also save them.  There are several sets of scriptures that have been identified that can serve as a guide to sharing this good news, perhaps most notably the “Romans Road”: Romans 3:10 and 23; 5:12; 6:23; 5:8; 10:13; and 10:9-10, in that order.

Not long ago it struck me that if one is looking for an inclusive, yet concise, summary of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, one need not look any further than John 3:16. This one Bible verse contains all of the skeletal elements necessary to present the Gospel to an unbeliever; just add some details, and there it is! Or, if you are a pastor or evangelist, it presents an excellent outline for a powerful sermon series.

To show you what I mean, let’s take John 3:16 and insert, in italics and parentheses, pertinent key phrases: For God (the doctrine of “God”) so loved (the “love of God”) the world (the doctrine of “man”) that He gave (the substitutionary death of Christ) His only begotten Son (the incarnation), that whoever believes (God’s supernatural gift of saving faith) in Him should not perish (eternal suffering with the devil and his angels in hell), but have eternal life (everlasting fellowship with God in heaven).

I don’t know about you, but I see the makings of an eight-part sermon series right there! And when you’re finished, you will have presented a wonderfully amplified version of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, with John 3:16 as the springboard! Whether you are preaching or sharing the gospel privately with a friend, you may want to include also a discussion of John 3:17, which completes and confirms the points made in verse 16 by explaining the purpose for Jesus’s coming into the world: that the world, through Him, might be saved. Now that is good news indeed!

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)

When Grace Is Not So Amazing

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When Grace Is Not So Amazing

James R. Aist

The Gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to a life of obedience and grace, not of rebellion and compromise!

“Grace” can be defined as receiving something good that we haven’t earned. It can be given by one person to another, and it can be given by God to anyone. Most notably, it is by the grace of God that sinners are saved from spiritual death (Ephesians 2:8), which is the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23). And this is what is so amazing about grace: that the penalty for our sins was paid by God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, so that we may not perish (i.e., go to hell), but have everlasting life with God in heaven. For our part, God only requires that we believe in the One He sent, Jesus Christ, in order to receive this amazing grace (John 6:28-29). This is the real and complete Gospel of Jesus Christ in a nutshell, as summarized beautifully in John 3:16.

Sadly, false teachings and damning heresies concerning grace have crept into the Christian church. Something that is absolutely essential to the Gospel – the grave consequenses of sin – is being increasingly ignored or even denied in some of today’s Christian witness concerning grace. Many contemporary teachers and preachers are leaving sin out of their message of grace, yet calling it the Gospel. What they fail to understand is that where there is no sin, there is no need for grace. In such a scenario, grace would be neither amazing nor necessary.

At this point, I believe it would be helpful for me to provide some prominent and current examples of the kinds of “gospel compromises” I have in mind:

Abortion. Abortion clinics are being dedicated to God by clergy who claim that Jesus approves of them, whereas the Bible clearly teaches otherwise (click HERE);

Fornication. Unmarried couples living together are being given positions of prominence and leadership in some churches, whereas the Bible clearly teaches that they are not qualified (1 Timothy 3:1-7; 1 Timothy 3:8-13);

Foul language. Cursing, swearing and profanity are being practiced increasingly by some Christians, sometimes even by pastors, whereas the Bible instructs us to refrain from such misuses of the gift of language (Exodus 20:7; Matthew 12:35-37; Ephesians 5:4; James 3:10);

Homosexuality. Openly and actively homosexual people are not only being given positions of prominence and leadership in some churches, but they are conducting homosexual “weddings”, against all that the Bible says about the sanctity of biblical marriage and the sinfulness of homosexual sexual relations (click HERE).

Of course the grace of God is available for all kinds of sin, but God will not be mocked! When evil is called good and good evil (Isaiah 5:20), the grace of God does not flow, and sin remains. Moreover, if we cherish sin in our heart, God will not hear us when we call out to Him (Psalm 66:18), and that is not a good place to be in! The true Gospel of Jesus Christ calls us to a life of obedience and grace, not of rebellion and compromise! And if you are wondering if obedience really fits in here, remember that Samuel said to Saul, “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Obedience is better than sacrifice, a listening ear than the fat of rams (1 Samuel 15:22).” And .Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15). The grace of God does not make obedience optional!

So, here is the fatal flaw in such perversions of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ: all have sinned and come short of the righteousness that God requires (Romans 3:23). Mankind has a “sin problem” that must be dealt with effectively before the grace of God that brings eternal life is even available. The grace of God (manifested by forgiveness) comes into play only after we have confessed our sins (i.e., we have agreed with God that what we did is a sin) and repented of that sin (i.e., solemnly resolved to not repeat it). God has offered us no other way to restore a right relationship with Himself. And when we confess our sins and repent, He is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrightneousness (1 John 1:9); faithful, because He promised to forgive, and just, because Jesus has already paid the price for our sins. Those who preach and teach a gospel that ignores or denies the sin problem (or specific sins) are not presenting the real Gospel of Jesus Christ, but a perverted counterfeit of it (2 Corinthians 11:4). The sad result is Christian churches that are becoming more like the secular world instead of more like Jesus.

The true Gospel of Jesus Christ begins with the bad news of our sinfulness and ends with the good news of God’s forgiveness of our sins. What many don’t realize is that it is the grace of God that brings both the bad news and the good news. The following phrases in the beloved hymn, Amazing Grace, state this truth wonderfully, “’twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fear relieved.” Moreover, Jesus gave us an example of God’s grace bringing first the bad news and then the good news to the woman at the well (John 4:4-42). The bad news was that she had 5 ex-husbands and was currently shacking up with another man out of wedlock. Once He got her attention with those Words of Wisdom concerning her sinful ways, He was able to then move on effectively to the good news that He had for her, and many were saved because of her testimony.

Before I close, I would like to share with you a vision God gave me that reveals His heart toward people who are among the “down and out” of our society. I was sitting in my car one day, waiting for my wife to finish having her hair “done.” Along came what appeared to be a homeless man. His clothing was dirty and tattered, his head was down and he had a slow, plodding gait, as one defeated by life. As I watched him pass in front of me, suddenly his form became somewhat transparent and another man’s form was superimposed upon his. This other man was clean, well-dressed and walked with his head held high. After they had taken a few steps in unison, the image of the second man disappeared, and then I saw just the homeless man as he walked out of sight. For just a few moments, God had given me a glimpse of who He saw walking in front of me: not a disheveled, defeated and hopeless man, but a happy, successful man full of hope, the kind of man God wanted him to be! Then I received the interpretetion (i.e., the message) of the vision: There, but for the grace of God, go I!

When we speak of God’s grace to someone, let’s be sure not to water it down by compromising what it really is. When sin is at issue, tell them that God’s grace brings first the conviction of sin, and then, following confession and repentance, the forgiveness of sin. Anything less than that is not really God’s grace, and it is not amazing at all. So let us always be obedient to this instruction from the Apostle Paul: “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2)

(To read more of my articles with a biblical theme, click HERE)