In today’s Bible reading, the writer of Hebrews says all of the other priests who came before Jesus brought the blood of goats and calves into the holy places to make atonement for the people. Once every year the high priest would bring a sacrifice to atone for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 9:7)
However, he says that when Jesus entered the Most Holy Place, He brought His own blood to atone for the people’s sins once for all time, securing an eternal redemption. (Hebrews 9:12)
And as I said two days ago, Jesus didn’t have to bring blood for His own sin since He was without sin.
Never again will anyone need to offer another sacrifice. Jesus’ sacrifice for our sin-debt sufficiently dealt with God’s wrath. Jesus’ sacrifice was so complete that you don’t have to worry about whether or not God will accept you. You are completely acceptable for all time.
Until you cross over to the other side of eternity, you will continue to have to deal with temptation. You will always have to deal with sinful inclinations and sinful behaviors. But if you are one of God’s kids, you can never do anything that will bring His displeasure to throw you out of His presence. You have been forgiven once-for-all. You have been adopted once-for-all. You have been accepted once-for-all.
And that’s good news!
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?
In today’s Bible reading, we see Peter and John approach the Temple to worship. They are approached by a lame beggar — we aren’t given his name — who asks for a donation. The only other thing we know about this man is that he has never walked; he was lame from birth. And because he has been lame from birth, he’s completely dependent on someone to carry him to the Temple and place him where he can receive gifts from the worshipers. (Acts 3:2)
Perhaps this nameless beggar has sat at this same spot for decades. If so, many Jews have passed by this man on their way to worship. Occasionally, they will throw him a few coins. But this day is different. What happens this day changes his life.
Peter and John tell the man that they don’t have any money to give him. But they do have something better than money. They command him to get up and walk. And reaching out, they help him stand to his feet. But he doesn’t just stand. He walks. He runs. He leaps.
And for the very first time in his life,
he is able to enter the Temple and worship God.
Imagine for a moment being able to go to the Temple every day for all of your life. But you aren’t able to go into the Temple to worship God because you can’t walk. (Leviticus 21:18) Because of no fault of your own, you aren’t welcome to enter and worship God. Your only knowledge of what goes on in worship is what people tell you because you can’t experience it for yourself.
And then one day, someone tells you to stand up. As they lift you to your feet, your muscles, ligaments, and tendons begin to strengthen. You can stand! You can walk! And you can go in and worship!
I think we don’t consider how fortunate we are as Christians in Western Society. For his entire life, this poor man couldn’t go worship God. As much as he may have wanted to, he wasn’t permitted.
In the Twenty-First Century in Western Society, we are able to go to church to worship with our friends and family. But just because we are able doesn’t mean that we do.
Because of the (literal) sacrifices of many who lived hundreds of years ago, many of us have multiple copies of the Bible in various English translations. We have access to even more translations through our phones and computers. But just because we can doesn’t mean that we do. Or even that we want to. And yet there are still many people worldwide who do not have any access to a Bible in their native language. Many don’t have access to a New Testament in their native language. And many don’t have a copy of the Gospel of John in their native language. They don’t have a Bible, New Testament, or Gospel of John, not because they haven’t been given one. They don’t have access to God’s Word because it hasn’t been translated into their native language. There’s not a Bible to give them. There’s not a New Testament to give to them. There’s not even a single verse for someone to read to them!
You may have all of the blessings of multiple modern translations in your native language, but if you don’t regularly read your Bible, study your Bible, and memorize Bible verses, you have no real advantages over those who don’t have a single verse in their native language.
Spend some time today thanking God that He preserved His Word through the ages and blessed scholars who could faithfully translate His Word so you could read it. And study it. And memorize it. And share it.
Here’s another application point: Prayerfully consider partnering with the Illuminations Project to help translate the Bible for every people group on the planet in the next thirteen years. Ten Bible translation organizations are coordinating their efforts to eradicate Bible poverty in this generation.
Things continue escalating in today’s Bible reading. Seven angels pour out seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.
First Bowl: Painful Sores
Second Bowl: The sea turned to blood and all sea life died
Third Bowl: Rivers and springs became blood
Fourth Bowl: People are scorched by the sun. They blaspheme the One who has power over the plagues. They do not repent.
Fifth Bowl: The Beast’s kingdom is plunged into darkness. The people are in intense pain and blaspheme God and do not repent.
Sixth Bowl: The Euphrates River dries up, paving the way for the eastern kings to march to Armageddon.
Seventh Bowl: The greatest earthquake ever occurs. God pours out His wrath on Babylon the Great. One hundred pound hailstones fall and people blaspheme.
Once again, we see people refuse to repent of their sin when they’re face-to-face with God’s wrath. They don’t cry out for mercy. Instead, they blaspheme. They curse God.
We’ve seen this before. God brings hardships in order to call people to repent. And yet they don’t. Their hearts have grown so hard, they don’t see a need to ask for God’s help. Instead, they call down curses on God, the only One Who can stop or give any relief from the plagues.
So what does this say about God? It says that God is holy. God is righteous. God is just. And God is justified in pouring out His wrath on sinful, rebellious humanity. God is patient. But a Day is coming when He will no longer hold back His wrath. He will pour out His wrath and punish sin. He will punish those who pursue their sin. And that Day will be the worst day ever.
Are you ready for that Day? If you repent of your sin, God will credit the righteousness of Jesus to your account and His wrath will be satisfied in the punishment Jesus bore on a cross almost two thousand years ago.
You can face God’s wrath on your own. Or you can have Jesus to deal with God’s wrath for you. Turn to Jesus and repent of your sin today!