To some, redemption is just a matter of getting saved and then practicing good morals, spiritual disciplines and regular attendance to a church building. As long as these things are adhered to, they believe everything will work out. Let me first say, there is nothing wrong with any of these three things I listed. Believers should be practicing all three of these. The problem with this cultural view of christian living is that it focuses on the by-products of redemption without focusing on the foundation of redemption. The foundation can be quickly forgotten. There is a lot more to the christian life than morality and spiritual disciplines! In fact, these are minute in comparison to what a relationship with God, through Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit is all about. Paul said in Romans 14:17, that the Kingdom of God is about “righteousness (Rom. 3:23), peace (Rom. 5:1-2) and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:11, 8:2)!
Sometimes we read the Bible and think all the characters mentioned had the same revelation we have today of who God is, and how His plan of redemption works. That is not the case. The “great” Bible characters were only shown one or more aspects of the redemption plan in the dispensation of time in which they lived. For example, Noah had no “Bible” to read and refer to everyday. Abraham didn’t either. But, God revealed Himself to them. And in such a way that they Believed God would accomplish His plan of redemption, despite the fact that everything in the natural said it was impossible. Although they only had partial knowledge of God’s redemption plan, they Believed, hoped and put their Faith in God alone for redemption (Rom. 8:24). This Faith is what made them right (righteous) with God. This is what the men and women of Faith listed in Hebrews 11 were commended for. God told Noah He would destroy the earth with a flood. He gave Noah the “blueprints” for a boat. A BIG boat. And, Noah had never seen rain before! However, he Believed God and built the boat anyway while others laughed at him. Only took him about 100 years to do it!
Abraham Believed God would make his heirs to be as numerous as the stars in the sky. He Believed the Lord would send a coming redeemer into the world, and it was accredited to him for righteousness (Gen. 15:3-6, Rom. 4:1-5). This is the foundation of The Faith. If you understand this principle, you can understand the story of the Bible. If you don’t really understand this principle, you cannot understand the story of the Bible. What sinful men and women BELIEVE and put their FAITH in, is the only process by which anyone can be right with God.
The Lord revealed to Abraham that He would have to provide a substitute sacrifice in place of the “heir” (Issac and ALL the children of the Faith of Abraham) so that the heir might live (Gen. 22:9-14, Rom. 4:12-16). But it was revealed to Moses the way in which the substitute would be offered (Num. 21:9, John 3:14-16; 8:25-32). The substitute would have to be offered on a pole, a symbol of The Cross. Both Abraham and Moses were saved, but Moses had more revelation concerning the plan of redemption than Abraham did.
Now, fast forward to the time after Jesus offered Himself on The Cross, was raised from the dead and ascended to the Father in heaven. The apostles did not immediately know the benefits and implications that had just been accomplished for humanity. Jesus appeared to His disciples and more than five hundred others during a 40 day period between His resurrection and ascension (1 Cor. 15:3-10). And, He taught them “things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). But, Jesus did not tell them everything about the kingdom. Most of it would come later by revelation through the Holy Spirit (John 15:7-15).
Concerning God’s redemptive solution, Jesus had already instructed his disciples what to teach and preach. He had instructed them how to water baptize Believers after they had been saved. And Jesus’ last words, before ascending to heaven, were about the necessity for them to receive the promise of the Father, the Holy Spirit, before leaving Jerusalem (Matt. 28:19, Mark 16:14-20, Luke 24:46-49, Acts 1:4-9). On the day of pentecost, they learned what being filled with the Holy Spirit was like and experienced what it was for, to be witnesses. Peter preached the first sermon of redemption and called the Jews there to repentance of their sins, instructed them to be filled with the Spirit like the others and then to be baptized in water. So at this point, the disciples knew salvation was by Faith in Jesus, Believers should be filled with the Spirit and baptized in water (Acts 2:1-41). And, they proclaimed this doctrine. As they taught Believers and proclaimed The Truth, miraculous signs and wonders were done through them (Acts 2:42-47). God established His church (the Believers) in Truth and Power! Yet, He had more truth concerning His redemptive plan to show them!
One truth about redemption the disciples and Believers didn’t yet know, was that God doesn’t show favortism to anyone. Redemption and God’s acceptance will come to anyone based on their Faith in His Son’s sacrifice (Rom. 3:27-30). He accepts no person based on who they are, in and of themselves (Rom. 2:11). He already knows what we are; unrighteous (Rom. 3:10,23). He is not inspecting our worthiness, only the worthiness of the sacrifice in which we have placed our Faith. God will accept and make clean ANYONE who allows the blood of His Son to cleanse them of their unrighteousness. Jesus revealed this truth first to Peter in a vision. Gentiles could be “clean” and in relationship with God the same as the Jews. Later, right in front of Peter’s own eyes, the Gentiles assembled at Cornelius house were saved and filled with the Holy Spirit before he had stopped preaching the good news about Jesus Christ (Acts 10:9-20; 10:34-48)! And this revelation wasn’t given to Peter until QUITE SOME TIME (most believe several years) after the feast of pentecost.
So now, the revelation that redemption and access to it are the same for everyone is known. But, what part the Law was to play into this New Covenant wasn’t yet understood. How the disciples and Believers were to daily order their behavior was still in debate, and would be for YEARS to come (Acts 15:1-31). Knowing how one can be initially saved by Faith and filled with the Holy Spirit, is not the same knowledge as knowing how one can live by Faith, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Learning how one can be saved by Faith alone, is the greatest message an unbeliever can ever hear! Learning how to live for God by Faith alone, is the greatest message a Believer could ever hear! This revelation for Believers wasn’t immediately known by the early church or disciples. They would, of course, come to know this information eventually. But, it would come to them through a man who hadn’t even been saved yet! A Jewish man named Saul, who later changed His Jewish name to the Gentile name Paul (Acts 13:9).
Paul, then known as Saul, was a Jewish leader of the, man-made organization called, Pharisees (Phil. 3:5). He hated Jesus and His followers. So much so, that he led a movement to arrest and persecute first century Believers of The Faith (Acts 8:1-4). However one day, while traveling on a mission to persecute Believers, Saul had a supernatural encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus literally spoke to him! And Saul realized and confessed Jesus as Lord, was later filled with the Holy Spirit and baptized in water (Acts 9:1-22).
Now remember, Saul being a Pharisee, had lived his whole life believing that redemption was mainly for Jews. He had been taught that Jews were saved according to their own works of righteousness in keeping the Law (Phil. 3:2-9). He had never known what serving God by Faith in the sacrificial system was about. The Jewish nation was being led by false teachers who proclaimed false doctrine. Malachi bears record that Judaism had left this Faith hundreds of years prior to the advent of Jesus (Mal. 1:6-10,2:1-3:1). They still practiced religion, but not the system of Faith that God had instituted. That is one reason why Jesus ministered the least in Jerusalem, the center for Judaism (Matt. 23:37-39). The religious leaders of Judaism were not the true spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. God didn’t recognize these individuals as spiritual leaders because they held the title of “Pharisee”, “Sadducee” or “Scribe”. God only recognized the people that He had ordained and called to proclaim The Truth. Jesus told the Scribes and Pharisees that they were sons of the Devil, children of hell and were blind guides to God’s people(John 8:39-47, Matt.23:13-39). I wonder how God sees much of the modern church today and it’s leadership?
Of course, there was always a remnant of Jews that had their Faith in God’s solution: the sacrificial system to provide atonement for sin (Rom. 11:3-5). And God always has His ministers whom He has called and empowered with a message. But they are few and far between. Research the Old and New Testament yourself. The “church” of old and now has always been primarily filled with false ministers. At certain times in history, God only had one voice calling out to His people. And if His people rejected that voice for whatever reason, they just missed their opportunity with God. Very rarely did God’s people want to hear The Truth about who they were, and how God works. They would choose rather to believe what they wanted God to be, no matter that it was a lie. Human nature has not changed since Cain and Able. Most would rather Believe a lie than The Truth.
The days prior to Jesus’ ministry, God had raised up one voice to call the whole Jewish race to repentance. Even though God had other Believers, the main task of leading His people to repentance was given to only one. John the Baptist was this one “voice”. John the Baptist did have a group of disciples who could have helped him water baptize. But, God only called, ordained and empowered by His Spirit one voice to preach to the entire Jewish race. What a responsibility!
Under the Old Covenant, it was the high priests job to select the sacrificial lamb that would die for the sin of the Jewish nation. At the time of Jesus, Caiaphas was the Rome appointed high priest of Israel. He didn’t recognize who Jesus was, let alone Believe He was the Messiah (John 18:12-14,19-24). However, God worked through His true minister. John the Baptist’s parents were people of The Faith and were of the God ordained Aaronic priestly lineage (Luke 1:5-17). And, God was working to fulfill His redemptive plan for more than the Jewish people. He was further developing His plan to cover all the people of the world. Moved by the power and inspiration of the Holy Spirit, John recognized Jesus was the Lamb for the whole world. As well, He saw that Jesus wouldn’t just cover over our sins, but actually take them away!!! “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus’ death would make the world’s redemption possible. This had always been the redemptive plan of God. He had made a way for anyone on earth to enter into relationship with Him under the Old Covenant. They could become a proselyte to The Faith. But, the Jewish nation had failed to bring the redemptive plan of God to the world. Because God had commanded them not to inter-marry and practice the lifestyles of other people groups who didn’t know the true God, they turned it into justification to hate Gentiles. God never wants His people to hate anyone! He wants us to spread The Message of His redemption plan with the world! He had wanted the children of Isael to do this as well.
John the Baptist preached “repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. He baptized Believers in water. He publically called out the sin and false doctrine of the false leaders in his day. He preached that Jesus would baptize Believers with the Holy Spirit and with fire. And he pointed everyone to look to The Lamb of God so that their sin could be taken away. (Matt. 3:1-12, Luke 3:1-20, John 1:15-40). Notice Jesus can not only forgive you of your sin, but He can take away your sin! What message have you been hearing? I wonder who God recognizes as spiritual leaders today around where we live? The way to discern whether a minister is God-called and ordained, is by listening to what they preach and teach. The Message hasn’t changed from John’s day to this one.
Some may wonder why Jesus didn’t explain everything about the plan of redemption in the 40 days before He ascended? Why didn’t Peter know Gentiles could be saved by faith alone until he was given a vision and went to Cornelius’ house (Acts 10:9-11:18)? Years later, the apostles had a council to try and figure out how to tell newly converted Gentiles to live for God. Why hadn’t God revealed His whole plan of redemption and how it is to function in His people’s daily lives to all of the apostles? In examination of the whole story of the Bible, God was always progressively revealing this plan little by little. “For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 28:10). So we see this continuing process in the New Testament writings as well. But there came a time when the entire plan and benefits of God’s redemption were revealed.
God decided to reveal the entire plan of His redemption, and explain the benefits of this plan to one man. He in turn, would preach this revelation to the entire known world. This man was the apostle Paul. Knowledge can make even the “best” of us prideful (1 Cor. 8:1). So, because of the amount of revelation knowledge Paul was given, the Lord allowed him to be afflicted by a messenger of Satan. We aren’t told exactly what this affliction was, but we do know why God allowed it. He allowed this so that Paul would not become extremely proud due to the amount of revelation he had received (2 Cor.12:7-10). This revelation of the New Covenant explained HOW to live our life “in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2). Paul was constantly working and praying to get this information to all Believers. Not for their initial redemption, as is obvious. But, for their continued redemption. PLEASE READ TO CONFIRM!!!: (Rom. 1:8-17, 1 Cor. 1:18, Eph. 1:15-19, Phil. 1:1-11, Col. 1:9-14,23-29, 1 Thess. 3:5, 1 Tim. 1:1-11, Heb. 2:1-4,11, 3:6,12-4:2,9-11 [if Paul wrote Hebrews]). This doesn’t include the references from Peter, John, James and Jude.