The foundations upon which the new covenant rests are twofold.
First there is the principle of faith. To receive the gifts of God and to enter the kingdom of God requires faith. You cannot receive or achieve anything from God on the basis of works alone, but only through faith for that is the way God has set it up. And faith is the foundation that we must apply. Faith is the bit we have to do. But even faith would not be helpful if it were not for the primary principle that God established.
The principle of grace. If God did not show us His grace that allows all of His good gifts and promises to flow to mankind, especially the Gentile races of the world, then we would all be lost. God opened the door for us through His grace and then everything else followed. It is only by grace that Jesus came and died for our sins and established the pathway to righteousness.
Well can we sing Amazing Grace for it is amazing that God chose us to be found when we were lost and that He chose to show such grace to a people who did not seek Him or know Him.
This is perhaps one of the most powerful messages of the new covenant and yet so often either not known, not employed or forgotten by Christians. This is a message we need to remember and employ as we walk with the Lord day by day.
Listen to this. Romans 8 opens with the words, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” The problem all mankind faces is that they do have a sense of morality and of what is right and wrong. Even the most evil people in the world have line that they believe should not be crossed, which is where their sense of morality lays.
But it is when each of us crosses that line of morality we bring ourselves under condemnation, either from God, other people or worst of all, we condemn ourselves. And condemnation from whatever source is judgement whether we are judged by others, by God or by ourselves.
But this scripture gives us reason to be comforted for it gives us hope.
They abolished slavery several hundred years ago. At least they did in most western civilisations and those civilisations where rulers had compassion for their people. And this is a good thing.
But despite that fact we are all slaves. Every person on this earth is in the bondage of a slavery like no other, for we were all sold under sin many, many years ago and there is nothing we can do about it.
There is no payment we can make, work we can do, gift we can offer or anything else on this earth that can buy back our freedom from this slavery. We were born slaves and because of this slavery we will die slaves. The slavery I speak of is the bondage to sin and we are very fortunate to live in this time and age for although we cannot do or pay anything to buy back our freedom, Jesus has done it for us.
In my last post we saw why it is necessary that we are set free from the law to negate and remove the power of sin so that God can help us to grow mature in Jesus Christ.
In these next few verses of Romans 7 we see how this works and we learn how God enabled this to take place. You can’t just say that sin and the law does not apply to you because sin applies to everyone because all of mankind dies for their sins. So if we are to escape sin and law, which is the power of sin, there needs to be a process by which we can be separated from the law.
God made sure that there is a way for us to be set free from the law and sin and He established a process and a path that we must follow to get there. God established the process in the law and then when Jesus came He set the path in motion. So let us look at how freedom from law works and how we enter into it.
This section of scripture says the following and it presents a wonderful blessing to all who understand it.
20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Let us look at these few words and see what the blessings and promises are and how they work for us in Jesus Christ. In them we see the power that was at work in Jesus, and that is now at work in us to redeem us from this world. And by anyone’s standards, that is a truly wonderful blessing.
The words of that most famous of hymns begin saying, “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound…” And grace is truly amazing. It is by grace that we have access to all the gifts and promises of God promised through the writings and words of His prophets, disciples, apostles and of course Jesus Christ his only begotten son.
But grace is an unusual concept and an odd word that is not really well understood. Moreover access to grace is even less understood because of the all encompassing nature of it.
But what truly shocked me about grace was when I read this one verse in Romans 5:2 and began to see that the giving of grace and the extent of grace was not as universal as both I and I know many others believed it to be. This was quite a revelation for it shows that there is a definite process and a way to receive the grace of God. It is not open to everyone but only to a select group, and when we know and understand the process then we are able to receive God’s grace and the bountiful promises that come with it.
There is a chorus we sing in church on a regular basis which goes like this:
For from Him and to Him and through Him are all things…
The chorus was written around the words in Romans 11:36, but if ever a piece of scripture bore out those words it is this section of Romans 4.
This website and blog are titled the Free Gift From God and those words too are made clear in this short section of scripture in Romans 4. For it is made abundantly evident what and how much we have been given and what we do for it in these few verses.
In my last post I discussed verse 23, which is a much used and well known scripture. It spoke of the fact that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. I spoke also of the redemption that is possible for those who subsequently come to God seeking a better life and desiring to seek and do God's will.
In these next few verses we see Paul speak of this redemptive power and how it is to be received. It is a wonderful scripture and too often overlooked because so many focus on the fact that we are all sinners.
This scripture shows that even though we all start out in sin, we do not have to stay in that terrible place. There is a solution and there is a means by which we can find redemption and once again be reconciled to God.
The secret to this redemptive power, not that it is any great secret, is contained in these few verses.
The righteousness of God does not depend upon, nor is it based upon works of the law. As I showed in my last post, the law served to show what sin is and to give man the knowledge of sin. The law is NOT sin but it showed sin up for what it is and through the breaking of the law sin became even more sinful.
But the righteousness of God is not based upon the law as these two verses now show us, for they say,
21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it, 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.
The righteousness of God in the New Covenant has been given to man and made manifest to all mankind, not by works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ. This is where the righteousness of God is to be found…in faith. And those who seek God’s righteousness, his favour, his grace and all the other things God gives to us need to seek them through faith in Jesus Christ.
These two verses hold some very interesting and important information, not the least of which is the question that is the title of this post. What is sin? The verses read as follows:
19 Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. 20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
As I read these two verses it was the last few words that struck me and raised this question as to what sin is.
There are many different opinions about what sin is, and I have held a few opinions over the years myself. But I see that there is a lot more to this question than I had previously imagined, and also a lot more to the antidote for sin, which is grace. So I will look at what I have seen over the past week or so as I examined this matter, and I would be interested in your thoughts also.