In today’s Bible reading, Paul directly addresses the claims of the Jewish legalists. They claim that they are the heirs of the covenant promise God made with Abraham. But Paul rightly points out that the covenant that God made with Abraham was based on faith rather than obedience to the Law. In fact, Paul reminds the legalists that the covenant predated the law by over four hundred years.
Paul refers to Genesis 15:6, “And he believed the Lord, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” (ESV) He also refers to Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (ESV)
The covenant extends to Abraham’s sons through Jesus Christ. All who are “in Christ” are heirs of the promise. Paul writes extensively about the blessings to those “in Christ” in his letter to the Ephesians.
Abraham believed God and that belief was credited to him as righteousness. Looking at the diagram above, we can see that on God’s Faith Ledger, God kept a record of Abraham’s — and our — sin in the Liabilities column. Then He added faith to the Asset column on His Faith Ledger.
Given Jesus’ infinite righteousness, the balance at the bottom of the Ledger shows that Abraham — and we — are fully justified, due to the infinite righteousness that was added to the account. God justified Abraham on the basis of his faith, his belief. And like their spiritual father, those who put their faith in Jesus Christ are the heirs of the covenant promise. We receive the covenant blessing in order to share the covenant blessing with others, bringing them into the Household of Faith.
Have you put your faith in Jesus Christ? If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out to me.
Jesus is a better priest than Melchizedek, the King of Salem, King of Righteousness, King of Peace. In fact, Jesus was from the priestly order of Melchizedek. We read in today’s Bible reading that unlike all the other priests who came before Him, Jesus didn’t have to offer a sacrifice for Himself before offering a sacrifice for the people. Why? Because unlike all priests who came before Him, He didn’t have sin for Himself to have to atone for. Unlike all other priests who came before Him, He was sinless.
So why does the writer of Hebrews make such a big deal of Melchizedek? The Jewish people had always looked up to Melchizedek because he was the one to whom Abraham tithed the spoils after defeating the King of Sodom who had raided Abraham’s nephew Lot. Melchizedek blessed Abraham. He was seen as a messianic figure and precursor of Jesus.
As I said earlier, the main theme throughout the book of Hebrews is the supremacy of Jesus in the New Covenant over the Old Covenant system. As highly as the Jewish people looked up to Melchizedek, the writer of the letter emphasizes Jesus’ supremacy over him.
Jesus isn’t just a little higher. Jesus is supreme over all other priests who came before Him. Including Melchizedek. Jesus’ supreme sacrifice of Himself covered all sin for all time. Never again do God’s people have to find an unblemished lamb to bring to a priest to make a sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient — more than sufficient — to atone for our sins.
Well, things finally come to a head in today’s Bible reading. The Judaizers have raised such a ruckus that the church has its first council, the Jerusalem Council, to codify how the church should handle their first major problem. The problem: Does a new convert to Christianity have to be a good Jew to be a good Christian.
It seems like everywhere the Apostles go, an unfriendly crowd of Jewish religionists follow and cause problems. One of the major problems they create is to raise doubts as to whether submitting to the Jewish Law is necessary for a new Christian convert. (Acts 15:1) At first, there really wasn’t an issue since all of the new converts were all Jewish.
As the Gospel message spreads, Gentiles are converted to Christianity. Some Christians with Jewish heritage look down on the Gentile converts and tell them that if they really want to be good Christ-Followers, they have to submit to the Jewish Law, including the rite of circumcision. It’s just a cut of a little bit of skin. That’s all. Right?
The problem isn’t the cutting of skin. The problem isn’t the ritual. The problem comes down to asking the question, “Is Jesus enough to make fallen people right with God? Or is there anything else we should add to give us a better standing before God on Judgment Day? That really is the question!
The reason the question is so crucial is that if there’s anything that can give a person a right standing before God — in addition to Jesus — was Jesus’ atoning sacrifice really enough? And the reason this question is so important is that if something can be added to make us right before God, did Jesus really have to die in the first place? Is there something we could have done apart from Jesus that would cause God to look favorably on us.
See, the reason these questions are so important is because it forces us to answer the question of how badly were we affected by the Fall to begin with.
Scripture seems to indicate that we were so deeply affected by the Fall that we have nothing to contribute to salvation at all. (Jeremiah 17:9, Isaiah 64:6, Psalm 14:3) Theologians call our Fallen Condition, Radical Corruption since our corruption goes to the root of who we are. In fact, one theologian rightly noted that “You contribute nothing to your salvation except the sin that made it necessary.” (Jonathan Edwards)
The question answered by the Jerusalem Council is still applicable today. Is Jesus enough to give lost, Fallen people a right standing before God? Or do people have something they can contribute, something that can make them look better when they stand before God on Judgment Day. And if there is, did Jesus waste His life … and death?
The basic questions come down to the heart of the Gospel message. If people can do anything to earn God’s favor, then words like grace and mercy are meaningless. They’re meaningless because if people can earn God’s favor, then God’s favor is wages paid to deserving people. Therefore, God is obligated to pay salvation to those who earn it.
On the other hand, the Bible consistently teaches — from beginning to end — that each human being who has ever lived has failed to live up to God’s standard of righteousness. (Romans 3:23) And each human being who has ever lived is an enemy of God (Romans 5:10) and deserving of death and eternal separation from Him. (Romans 6:23, Ephesians 2:1-9)
Yeah, I’ll take free grace over earned wages any day! How about you?
I want to bring out a couple of things from today’s Bible reading.
First, in Acts 8:9-25, we see the miracles performed through the hands of Philip. In addition to many others, Simon the Sorcerer (a man who got his magical power from the occult/demonic influence) was saved. When Simon saw that people received the Holy Spirit when Peter and John laid hands on them, Simon offered money for the power to do the same thing. That was a very wrong thing to do. Philip rebuked him and said, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”
The second thing I’d like to point out is in Acts 8:26-40. Philip comes across a very important man from Ethiopia. He’s the Queen’s Secretary of the Treasury. He’s reading from a scroll that contains the Old Testament book of Isaiah. Philip asks if he understands what he’s reading. The man responds, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. (Acts 8:31) Philip climbs into the chariot and explains that the Scriptures in question (Isaiah 53:7-8) address Jesus as the sacrificial Lamb of God.
The first application point is for Acts 8:9-25: You can’t buy God’s anointing. And trying to reveals corrupt motives and a dark heart. Granted, Simon was a brand new Believer. New Believers don’t know what you can and can’t do. But look at his response in Acts 8:24: “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.” His response reveals that the Holy Spirit was doing a work in his heart. He begged for God’s grace and forgiveness. He didn’t want to incur the judgment of believing in a transactional religion.
Transactional religion haunts many of us in Western Culture. It’s the belief that you can make a deal with God. You do this and God will do that. You put some coins in God’s vending machine and the machine will give you the blessings that you select.
But God doesn’t practice transactional religion. God doesn’t make deals. In fact, making deals with God reveals that you really don’t understand the concept of grace. Grace is favor that God gives despite our unworthiness. If God only gave based on our worthiness, He wouldn’t be in the grace business; He’d be in the wages business. Grace is undeserved. Wages are deserved/earned.
The second application point concerns Acts 8:26-40. Unless someone explains the Gospel to someone, they will not understand it. In our fallen state, we have no desire for spiritual things. Oh, we may be involved in an intellectual pursuit of spiritual concepts, but unless God does a miraculous work in our hearts, we won’t come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. We won’t because we can’t.
Lost people need you and me to be available. Lost people need you and me to pray for God to work in their hearts. And lost people need you and me to always be ready to tell people about Jesus. (1 Peter 3:15)
Who are you praying for? Who do you need to tell about Jesus? If no one tells them about Jesus’ offer of grace, they’ll never know. Are you prepared to tell them?
In today’s Bible reading, we read of the coming of the perfect new heavens and new earth. The perfectly-adorned bride of Christ is revealed. There’s no more sin or anything associated with it. There’s no more crying. There’s no more death. God dwells with His people. An angel measures heaven with a gold-standard. Everything is perfect. There’s no need for a sun or moon, for God Himself is the light. There’s no need for a temple because God Himself and the Lamb (Jesus) are the temple. Even the people there are perfect:
Nothing unclean will ever enter it,
nor anyone who does what is detestable or false,
but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.
Revelation 21:27 (CSB)
The central idea behind Revelation 21 is, “Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.'” Revelation 21:6 (CSB)
When God says, “It is done” He uses the perfect tense, meaning that it has already been done. There is nothing left to continue doing in the present or to do in the future. It’s complete. It’s perfect.
One of the hallmarks of the Gospel message is the completion of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection accomplished everything necessary for us to be right with God. It is so complete that we can’t add anything to our salvation (as if we had anything to contribute anyway!).
And that’s great news!