FIRST THINGS FIRST
By Pastor Max Solbrekken, D.D.
“For I delivered unto you first of all, that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15: 3,4)
This little treatise sets forth in no uncertain terms the foundation stone of the Christian Faith; the Death of Jesus Christ for the sins of the world according to the Old Testament Scriptures; that He was Buried and Arose from the dead on the third day according to the Scriptures!
Without fear of contradiction we can truthfully declare that the foregoing statement by St. Paul, is in fact and reality, God's unvarnished and unedited Truth!
The Bible says: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (1 Timothy 3:16).
“Knowing this first that no prophecy of the Scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man; but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” (2 Peter 1: 20, 21)
In this 'Foundation Declaration' I will not seek to lean on philosophical or philological arguments or draw from the sciences to prove my point that Jesus of Nazareth was none other than God the Son from eternity, Who came from Heaven to redeem the human race through His vicarious death for us and His glorious resurrection from the dead!
THE INCORRUPTIBLE WORD!
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ is based on God's incorruptible and immutable Word. God the Son becoming man, is the incomprehensible truth that was in the mind of God before the foundation of the world and the very purpose of Christ's Redemption of mankind!
The Bible states: “For as much as ye know that ye were not Redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation (empty lifestyle) received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious BLOOD of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish or spot: Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
“Who by Him do believe in God, that raised Him up from the dead, and gave Him glory: that your faith and hope might be in God.” (1 Peter 1:18-21). How wonderful: Our names were inscribed in the Lamb's Book of Life before the foundation of the world!
How Tragic is this: “...those whose names are NOT written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world will worship the Antichrist.” (Rev. 13: 8). It is almost unbelievable that men and women who are made in God's image would spurn the Gift of His Son, Jesus Christ and follow the Devil and the Antichrist!
The Bible clearly states: “For God so loved the world that He GAVE His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have Everlasting Life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3: 16, 17)
“Paul, an apostle...and God the Father, Who raised Him from the dead; Grace be to you and Peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who Gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God, and our Father: to Whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Gal. 1: 1-5)
God's LOVE for us was the sole impetus that caused Jesus Christ to offer Himself as God's paschal Lamb to atone for the sins of mankind against our Heavenly Father, through His vicarious death as our Substitute, in meeting the righteous demands of Divine Justice!
Adam's sin of High Treason had to be paid and Jesus of Nazareth, true God from eternity and true man by His Virgin Birth, paid that debt for us in full!
St. John declared: “Hereby perceive we the love of God for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” (1 John 3: 16); “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is LOVE. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His Only Begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. There is no fear in Love; but perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us.” (1 John 4: 8-19)
CHRIST AND THE CHURCH!
Jesus Christ came to earth to Redeem mankind and to take unto Himself a people purchased with His own blood. Through His incarnation, the eternal Son of God became true Man so that He might through His vicarious death and resurrection, atone for Adam's sin and ours. Jesus Christ became the propitiation (covering, expiation, satisfaction) for our sins, thereby satisfying the Righteous demands of divine Justice in the Courts of Heaven!
St. Paul takes us deeper as he unveils the glorious truth that because of God's mercy and love, we have become one with Him. He lifts us out of the quagmire of sin and degradation and gives us His nature making us His children, heirs of God and joint heirs with His Son Jesus Christ. Through the process of divine Adoption we become partakers of His Holy Spirit.
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in Heavenly places in Christ: According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love:
“Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.
“In Whom we have Redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace; wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence. Having made known unto us the Mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.” (Eph. 1: 3-9)
The Bible states: “But God hath Chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath Chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And the Base things of the world, and things which are despised hath God Chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are;
“That No Flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, Who of God is made unto us Wisdom, and Righteousness, and Sanctification, and Redemption.” (1 Cor.1: 27-30)
We have nothing to boast about. We are totally dependent upon God the Father through Jesus Christ our Lord for everything we have! It is only by the GRACE of God that are we in Christ Jesus! When we received Jesus Christ as our personal Saviour, He came into our hearts and God made us partakers of His Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption.
BY HIS GRACE ALONE!
Salvation is totally the work of God. It was God Who called us by His Holy Spirit. God gave His Son to die as our Substitute to purchase our salvation. The Holy Spirit placed us into the Body of Christ: “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free, and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.” (1 Cor. 12: 13)
Jesus Himself baptizes us with the Holy Spirit and fire: “John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water, but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of Whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: He shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire.” (Luke 3: 16);
“And I will pray the Father and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever. Even the Spirit of Truth; Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him; but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you.” (John 14: 16-18)
By His GRACE alone we are partakers of the Wisdom, Righteousness, Sanctification and Redemption of God. The Bible says; “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are Above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set you affection on things Above, not on the things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.” (Col. 3: 1-3)
“For God hath made Him to be sin (sin offering) Who knew no sin: that we might be made the Righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Cor. 5:21);
“Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all that believe: for there in no difference. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 3: 21-24)
William Cowper penned the timeless song, 'There is a Fountain Filled With Blood ' which has has blessed millions down through the years. He believed the Gospel was true but couldn't believe that it included him. It was only after reading this Scripture that the light broke through:
“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (satisfaction, covering) through faith in His Blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission (forgiveness) of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. ” (Rom. 3: 25)
GOD MOVES IN A MYSTERIOUS WAY!
Henry Gariepy writes, “William Cowper ...tried to end it all one bleak morning by swallowing poison, but the attempt failed. He then went to the Thames River, intending to hurl himself over the bridge, and was “strangely restrained”. The next morning he fell on a sharp knife... and broke the blade. Failing in these attempts he tried to hang himself, but was found, taken down unconscious, and revived.
“Later he picked up a Bible and began to read the Book of Romans. It was then that Cowper finally met the God of the storms and night seasons, and submitted to the One who had pursued him through so many desolate days and dreary nights. From out of the whirlwinds of his experiences, he sat down and recorded with these familiar words his summary of the Lord's dealing: “God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform: He plants His footsteps in the sea, and rides upon the storm.”
Gilbert Thomas wrote about his conversion: “William Cowper was melancholy and introspective believing that he was beyond hope, believing Christianity was true but he was not capable of faith to believe for himself. He felt rejected. Then, one afternoon in the Garden of St. Alban's Asylum, he picked up a Bible and read Romans 3: 25.
Here is his testimony: “Immediately, I received strength to believe it, and the full beams of the Sun of Righteousness shone upon me. I saw the sufficiency of the Atonement He had made, my Pardon sealed in His Blood, and all the fullness and completeness of His Justification.
“In a moment I believed, and received the Gospel... Unless the Almighty arm had been under me, I think I should have died of gratitude and joy. My eyes filled with tears, and my voice choked with transport; I could only look up to Heaven in silent fear, overwhelmed with love and wonder.”
Here are a couple verses from the hymn he wrote: 'There is a Fountain filled with blood. Drawn from Emmanuel's veins. And sinners plunged beneath the flood, lose all their guilty stains. The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day; And there may I as vile as he, wash all my sins way.'
AND THAT ROCK IS CHRIST!
“And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and the sea. And did all eat the same spiritual meat. And did all drink the same spiritual drink, for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them; and that Rock was Christ.” (1 Cor.10:4)
In 1775 Augustus M. Toplady wrote the great hymn, 'Rock of Ages Cleft for Me'.
- Not the labor of my hands
Can fulfill Thy law’s demands;
Could my zeal no respite know,
Could my tears forever flow,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save, and Thou alone.
- Nothing in my hand I bring,
Simply to Thy cross I cling;
Naked, come to Thee for dress;
Helpless, look to Thee for grace;
Foul, I to the fountain fly;
Wash me, Savior, or I die.
- While I draw this fleeting breath,
When my eyes shall close in death,
When I rise to worlds unknown,
And behold Thee on Thy throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.
WE WILL NEVER UNDERSTAND GOD!
The MYSTERY of Christ and the Church will forever be a mystery to us. It is far too great, deep and incomprehensible for us to understand. St. Paul was given the revelation of the Mystery which God had kept secret for ages and generations. What was that Mystery?
In Old Testament times, the Holy Spirit came upon the prophets. Through His Redemptive work, Christ would live within the believer and we would become one with Him and He with us. The Holy Bible states: “Even the Mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to His saints: To whom God would make known what is the glory of the mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Col. 1: 26, 27)
The Holy Bible says: “Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet (qualified) to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness and hath translated us into the Kingdom of His dear Son. In Whom we have redemption through His BLOOD, even the forgiveness of sins.
“And He is the Head of the Body, the CHURCH, Who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him should all fulness dwell. And having made PEACE through the BLOOD of His Cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself by Him, I say, whether they be things in earth or things in Heaven.
“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the Body of His flesh through DEATH, to present you holy and unreproveable in His sight: If ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the Gospel.” (Col. 1: 17-23)
Our Heavenly Father doesn't expect us to understand Him. He invites us to sit at His table as His children, sons of God and joint heirs with Christ. Salvation is the Gift of God. You don't pay for a gift. It is given to us freely by the ONE Who gave Himself to purchase our salvation. God so loved us that He gave His Son and Jesus of Nazareth, the Incarnated Son of God, was willing to ransom us at the price of His shed blood.
Jesus prophesied His own death, calling it a ransom: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life as a Ransom for many .” (Matt.20: 28)
St. Paul stated: “Grace be to you and peace from God the Father, and from our Lord Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father, To Whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is One God and One Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus; Who GAVE Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.” (1 Tim. 2: 3-6; Acts 20: 28; 1 Cor.7:23)
“But exhort one another daily, while it is called Today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast until the end.” (Heb.3: 13, 14)
WHY HE GAVE HIMSELF FOR US!
He came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19: 10). He came to earth to take out a people for His Name. (Acts 15:14). We are His Body; bone of His and flesh of His flesh. (1 Cor. 12: 27; Eph. 5:30). We are the Bride of Christ. (Rev.12: 1).
He died for the Church. (Eph. 5:25). He wanted us in His Family. He wanted His Father to be our Father also. (John 20:17).That's why He said: “If you have seen Me, you have seen the Father.” (John 14:20-23)
We are “living stones” in His building (1 Peter 2: 5). We “limbs of His Body” (Eph.5:30). We are “temples of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 6: 17-19). We are “saints in light” (Col.1: 12-29). We, “being many are one body” (Rom.12: 5-21). We are “one bread.” (1 Cor 10: 15 -17).
Jesus invites: “Come unto Me all ye who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28); “And Jesus said unto them, I am the Bread of Life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst. All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me and Him that cometh to Me, I will in no wise cast out.” (John 6: 35, 37). Amen.