I am often shocked at how little most Christians understand about salvation. In particular, it is alarming the disconnect many have between Old Testament teaching and New Testament teaching and the lack of understanding of the important role of the former in the story of salvation. Many are content to simply parrot off a few basic things about being saved and accepting Christ without fully understanding the meaning of what they have in Christ.
Such a superficial understanding of God’s word not only limits your understanding of salvation but also your knowledge of God’s character. In order to live in full victory as a Christian it is important to understand the relationship you have with God and the role Jesus Christ played in securing that relationship for you.
In the following I give a brief overview of the Bible, the story of salvation.
God created man and gave him dominion and authority over the earth through the first Adam in The Garden of Eden. God had a direct relationship with Adam and walked and talked with him. Adam knew God first hand. When Adam disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit he lost this direct relationship with God because sin came into the world through that disobedience. Secondly, he lost his dominion and authority and gave it over to Satan, who had tricked him into eating the forbidden fruit. Now man no longer knew God in a close and personal way. Man’s sin separated him from God.
God had to find a way to get himself into that close relationship with man again. But he could not do so because man’s sin was a barrier. So God chose a special group of people as his means of getting man to know him and his ways again and re-establishing that relationship. Through the separation of Abraham from his people, God established the nation of Israel as his chosen people. They were the people God would reveal himself to in order to re-establish an intimate relationship with man.
God said to Abraham in establishing this agreement or covenant:
“And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee.” Genesis 17:7 (KJV)
Thus, God started revealing himself to Israel. One key aspect of this revelation and getting man to understand God and his ways was to reveal to man where he had gone wrong. It was to reveal to man what was acceptable before God and what was not. It was the revelation of sin. Man had to understand what sin was. Hence, God instituted the Law of Moses. The law was an indication to man of what sin was.
Consider your own laws in your country. If the law says it is illegal to smoke marijuana then smoking it is a crime or sin. But if the law says it is ok to smoke it then it is no longer a crime or sin. Thus the law is said to have revealed what sin was before God by showing man in clear terms what God considered acceptable or not. So the knowledge of sin came through the law.
“…for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Romans 3:20
But the law served a second purpose and that was to enable man to perform certain rituals that made it possible for man to be “right” before God and thus able to approach God to a certain degree, though not as perfectly as in the Garden of Eden. So all the rituals of sacrifices, offerings, repentance and so on served to create an environment in which man could have a relationship with God and to know God more intimately. God could dwell with man as long as man satisfied the requirements of the law.
But this was not a perfect way as there was still a barrier between man and God. Only the priests could approach God and even then not all of them. The ultimate solution was the second Adam, Jesus the Christ, a Jew. The first Adam broke our relationship with God, but the second Adam re-established it. Jesus fulfilled the law by being sinless before God and taking the place of our sin offering, according to the law. But unlike the annual sacrifice that had to be made under the law, Jesus sacrifice only had to be made once for all. In doing so, he gave each one of us as Christian’s direct access to God. We could once again have that close and intimate relationship with God without having to go through an earthly priest as Christ is now our high-priest.
“For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15:22
One big requirement for us to have this relationship is faith. Thus the Law of Faith was brought by Jesus to replace the Law of Moses. It entails that if we have faith in Christ and believe that he was the ultimate sacrifice for our sins (what separated us from God) and the fulfilment of the Law of Moses, then we can have access to God. We can have right-standing or righteousness before God.
“Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.” Romans 3:27-28 (KJV)
In short, Israel was the nation God chose as a means of getting man to know him again and to understand his ways after the fall in the Garden of Eden. Through them, this close relationship with God is now possible for all.
But it is not complete yet because Christ is yet to return and destroy all his enemies and all the works of Satan. Secondly, he will return to give us spiritual bodies that are without the sinful nature we inherited from the first Adam.
“It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body…And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly” 1 Corinthians 15:44 and 49 (KJV)
This will usher in a new era in which we will now be back to a Garden of Eden scenario where God will no longer be hidden from us and sin will be forgotten totally. Our initial relationship with God will be fully re-established.
Thus, you cannot separate Christianity from Judaism because without the latter and the Law of Moses, Christianity through the Law if Faith is not possible.
As a Christian, I often say to people that I am a Jew. Most laugh, but to God that is what we are because Christianity is a continuation or build-up from Judaism. Judaism is not only the foundation, but the walls upon which Christianity stands. Without it there would be no Christianity. If you doubt this consider that the Bible is over two-thirds Old Testament (Judaism) and only the rest is New Testament. Thus, you cannot be a complete and powerful Christian without understanding your foundation.
Consider what Paul says about who a Jew is:
“For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.” Romans 2:28-29 (KJV)
He is saying, you are a Jew if you have repented (circumcision of the heart) and not by following the law (letter). He is referring to repentance and accepting Christ.
Indeed the Bible says we as Christians are part of the “commonwealth” of Israel.
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” Ephesians 2:12-13 (KJV)
Therefore, Christians ought to embrace Old Testament reading as much as New Testament. More so given that unveiling and understanding prophecy that is relevant to these end times as we prepare for Christ’s triumphant return requires a delicate marriage of Old and New Testament scripture.
I hate to say this, but it is my observation that we as Christians are some of the most unforgiving people around. I mean, you are more likely to get forgiveness from a so-called “worldly” person than from a Christian most times.
Or maybe forgiveness is the wrong word. Maybe it is that Christians are overly judgmental and quick to condemn people rather than empathise. Quick to cast the first stone rather than stretch out a helping hand.
When someone is in trouble, we are quick to say things like “backslidden” and make it the gossip of the day rather than go down on our knees and pray for them. We have our noses up in the air looking down on them from our pedestal.
Quick to condemn those getting wealthy as being corrupt, witches or Satanists but meanwhile tithing and offering first-fruit offering in the hope of getting a miracle rather than to show gratitude to God.
In trying to trace the roots of this attitude of being judgmental and unforgiving of people I have come to conclude that it is mainly due to one thing – the attitude of thinking we are “better than them”. That “they” are worldly and we are more spiritual. The attitude of feeling we are special and different.
It is in essence the attitude of self-righteousness. We feel we are better and we are in a special class of our own and therefore set apart. Well, scripturally that is true. But the problem is we feel we are entitled to this position, we feel that it is our own inherent goodness and piety that puts us in that position.
We forget the most important thing and that is that our righteousness is not our own but comes from Jesus Christ. He alone is righteous and we all fall short. It is by his grace that we are in such a privileged position. So why do we boast as though it is our own doing?
When someone is in trouble why do we behave like they have messed up beyond redemption? Why do we feel their “filthiness” is worse than ours was? It is the same or at least it was before we bowed to Christ and asked for forgiveness.
We are quick to judge without understanding what it is like to be in that person’s shoes. In fact, we are eager to see people fail and people regress in their Christian walk because somehow that makes us feel better about ourselves and adds to that sense of self-righteousness.
I have done it. I have learnt from it. I have experienced it too. I once stopped going to church and everyone thought I had backslidden, when in fact the truth was I was meditating so much on God’s word that certain things that went on in the church and certain preaching seemed contrary to God’s word to the point that I no longer felt comfortable being there.
I was looking for another church to worship at. My search did not go very well for quite a while as most places I went I would hear the now tired theme of prosperity, getting blessed, wealth and miracle money. But I digress…
What surprised me was no one from the church I had stopped going to ever came up to me or visited me to ask me what the problem was nor offer counsel. I could see a change in attitude in the few I would meet. Not even the pastor, a man I thought we as a family had grown close to, ever called or visited me to ask what the problem was.
No doubt the conclusion had been made -“he has backslidden”…and no doubt many were likely willing to put the nail on the coffin and close that case. But the attitude of shunning people is exactly what keeps some away from the very salvation they desperately need.
Such is the behaviour of many of us as Christians. Self-centred, judging and condemning. But God help us to see the light. We need not judge nor condemn people. We need not take things too personally when people are in such situations. After all, it is about them and their relationship with God. The best we can do is listen, counsel, empathise, pray. Then we let God do the rest.
In Christ alone is our salvation and we are all filthy rags had it not been for his sacrifice on the cross. Let us make him our example because it is folly to follow any man.