The Blessing Of Abraham

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Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”—so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles , so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Galatians 3:13-14).

What glorious promise! To know that one such as the Son of God, the Holy one, took my place and died on a cross, the most shameful death of all! And to think that He did that just for me! The just for the unjust; a righteous man for sinners like you and I!

But the promise doesn’t end there. Christ did not only take my place and die on a wooden cross; He redeemed me from the curse of the law; by being himself accursed! As if this was not stupendous enough, the Apostle piles yet another superlative upon superlative and declares “that the Blessings of Abraham might come upon the gentiles.”

But what do these promises really mean? Redemption from the curse of the law; and the blessing of Abraham? Does this verse speak to the mysterious ancestral curses that are purported to follow all those with ancestral ties to idol worshippers?

In a continent such as ours, that would include a vast majority of people including me, whose forefathers poured libation to images carved out of stone or wood and made obeisance and sacrificed to these. And what are these blessing of Abraham? Are they his cattle, or his donkeys, or his silver and gold?

The bible did let us know that Abraham was heavily loaded with substance. Are we to lay claim to his riches and wealth? How do we begin to find where he stashed his treasure? And who are these to whom this is addressed? Are these promises for the Galatian Christians of the first century only, or are we beneficiaries in this 21st century?  And why does the Apostle speak of Christ’s redemption in connection with the blessing of Abraham?

Paul did not leave his statement in ambiguity leaving us to figure out and choose our own meaning.The letter to the Galatians contains what is referred to as “apostolic astonishment ” over the Galatians who were so quickly turning from the Gospel of Christ to another Gospel – which he alluded to was no gospel at all (1:6). He warned sharply, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!” (1:8).

In chapter 2, we are given an insight into what this false Gospel is all about. A group of Jews, who Paul referred to as “the circumcision group” (2:12) were teaching in essence that if these Galatians did not get circumcised (a requirement of the Jewish law), then something was lacking in their Christianity.  Even apostle Peter was at a point nearly carried away by this false teaching, attracting a remonstration from Paul (2:11).

In chapter 3, Paul lays down the crust of his argument – and the overarching theme of the true Gospel: “salvation is by faith, not by works of the law”. He lays down his principle, “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.” How is Abraham the father of the children of faith?  We find the answer in the rhetoric of verses 5 & 6:

Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith— just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”?

Abraham believed God when He promised him that “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” (3:7). Expounding what this promise entailed, Paul says “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.” (3:16). So God promised a “blessing” (not blessings) to all nations through Abraham. This was the promise to send a Messiah, namely Christ. “So then, those who are of faith [in Christ] are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” (3:9; emphasis mine); meaning, all those who would believe in Jesus for salvation will be partakers of “the blessing” that God promised the world through Abraham thousands of years ago.

Paul wrote to the Galatians, that if they yielded to the deception of the “circumcision group” to be circumcised in order to attain salvation, then they might as well keep the whole law! He goes on further to explain why it is crucial to believe in Christ for salvation (faith) as opposed to trying to do so by observing the law (works). He says, all who try to attain salvation by keeping a set of codes are under the “curse of the law” – because, the law works such that, to attain salvation by it, one must keep all of it (100%); and keep doing so till their final breath, if they will have any hope of attaining salvation by it.

This is an impossible task, which no man, apart from Christ, has ever, or ever will attain (3:2); because “it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law” (3:11). Christ alone perfectly obeyed all of God’s holy law; and by His substitutionary sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, He thus freed all who will believe in Him from this curse of (not being able to keep) the law.

It is in this context Paul makes his statement of verse 13&14 – our opening verse.

This verse does not speak of material possessions or earthly benefits; no! Nor are ancestral curses the focus here. This promise is far beyond that. The context shows us quite plainly that these verses speak to us about the Gospel – if we would have faith in the Son of God and what He has done for us on the cross; we would be saved! Those who read material prosperity into this verse are manufacturing another gospel — which is no gospel at all.

Once saved, we become sons (and daughters) of God, and qualify by faith to receive the Spirit of God, which He has promised to give all those who put their faith in His Son Jesus (Acts 2: 38-39; 5:32). Thus Paul writes in chapter 4,

that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father” (4:5b-6). 

Adoption into God’s family by faith in Christ Jesus through the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the blessing herein spoken of.

Healed And Restored

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Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed (1 Peter 2:24KJV).

Many have twisted this text to preach a health and wealth gospel. But that is a great error. We are no where in this text promised physical healing. It is only a wrong reading that leads to that interpretation. Our greatest predicament as human beings is not poverty or sickness. Therefore the offering of health and wealth as the solution to all our problems is false and no gospel at all.

Our greatest predicament as humans is sin, hence our greatest need is the forgiveness of sin.

Death: The Wages Of Sin

Romans 3:23 condemns all human beings under sin separated from the glory of God. To be separated from the glory of God is man’s greatest problem and no amount of money or good health can make up for that void.  Sin is a sickness that plagues all humankind. And the wages of this sin is death the Bible says (Rom 6:23). We are not only sick of sin. We are dead in sin! “We are dead in sin” That is terrible. Looking at our ourselves we can identify the havoc sin causes in our lives and the lives of people we know. Sin is not only of earthly consequences. It has eternal consequences. Sin separates from God.

The prophet Isaiah wrote this of God’s people – a description that is characteristic of all fallen man:

Ah, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, children who deal corruptly! They have forsaken the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they are utterly estranged. Why will you still be struck down? Why will you continue to rebel? The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but bruises and sores and raw wounds; they are not pressed out or bound up or softened with oil (Isaiah 1:4-6 ESV)

This is the state of our sickness and our sin; which the prophet graphically likens to sores and bruises that have covered the whole body from head to toe. This is the sickness of sin Christ died to heal us of that we might live to righteousness! How tragic that 1Peter 2:24 which deals with the grave situation of the life estranged from God by sin; and the glorious promise of redemption through the substitutionary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus will be cheapened to one of material significance!

Healed Of Our Sins And Restored Unto Rigtheousness

by whose stripes ye were healed“. Peter quotes Isaiah 53:5 to tell us how we were healed. How? by Christ’s stripe. Healed of what? Sin. And how are we healed of this? Christ bore our sins in his body. That is good news. God has made a way to reconcile us unto Himself by putting our sins on Christ: “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree”. This is what theologians call double imputation. Our Sin is imputed to Christ and His righteousness imputed to us. Oh, what good news. Our sins are all forgiven when we trust in Christ.

The result of this imputation is that we “should live unto righteousness“.

Righteousness  simply is right standing with God as if we have never sinned. In Christ we who previously were sick and dead in sin are healed and made alive and  reconciled to God: “And you hath he quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1KJV). “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him”(2Corinthians 5:21KJV).

Have you experienced this exchange; your sin for Christ’s forgiveness? If not seek His forgiveness. On the other hand, if you have, you can break forth into doxology and sing:

Praise, my soul, the King of heaven;
to his feet your tribute bring.
Ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven,
evermore his praises sing.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise the everlasting King!

Praise him for his grace and favor to his people in distress.
Praise him, still the same as ever, slow to chide, and swift to bless.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Glorious in his faithfulness!

Fatherlike he tends and spares us; well our feeble frame he knows.
In his hand he gently bears us,
rescues us from all our foes.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Widely yet his mercy flows!

Angels, help us to adore him;
you behold him face to face.
Sun and moon, bow down before him,
dwellers all in time and space.
Alleluia, alleluia!
Praise with us the God of grace!

~ Henry F. Lyte, 1834

A Christian Has Peace With God.

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For the past days, we have been looking at 3 Marks Of A Christian. In the series, we have already looked at two marks–Heavenly Mindedness and A Christian Fights Sin. In this article, we will look at the final post: A Christian Has Peace With God.

In this series, our lessons have been taken from Colossians 3:1-17. When God calls the believer, he calls him to peace: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful” (v.15). The peace in reference can be looked at from two angles:

Peace with God

The bible tells us that by nature we are not at peace with God. In an unregenerate state, humankind has turned their back on God and has incurred the just condemnation of God. The unregenerate man declared war on God when Adam and Eve disobeyed Him, and that meant no peace for all mankind. But God in his kindness and mercy looked down on our situation, moved with compassion, He sent down his Son into the world.

Taking  on the form of a man, He lived a perfect life which we could not live. He was crucified and was raised from the dead on the third day. In Christ’s death, God has announced that anyone who will cease from their rebellion and put their trust in Christ would be saved. Where previously, humankind was alienated  from God, now through Christ, we have been offered reconciliation: “God…through Christ reconciled us to himself…”(2Corinthians 5:18). Anyone who will accept this hand of fellowship from God will experience peace with God. Peace from guilt and shame, peace from eternal condemnation that is coming on all sons of disobedience. 

If you have no relationship with Christ, you have declared war on God and a rebel. But you cannot win a war against the one who created you. Today He offers you reconciliation. God is calling you to cease from your rebellion and lay down your arms and surrender that you may find peace with him.
He has set a date when he will bring all rebels to judgment, by then it will be too late to repent. Today if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Turn to Christ and be saved.

For you my Christian friend, Paul says we should let the peace of God rule our hearts to which we were called. Since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through His Son Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). We no longer walk in guilt and shame, our sins are forgiven and we must not live in condemnation. We approach God as a Father. We are no longer at enmity with Him. We enjoy God’s grace rather than his wrath.
This is where the believer’s assurance of salvation comes from. We know that if we died today, we will be with the Lord because our debt is paid for and there is no hostility between us and God:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1).

Peace in a Fallen World

The second aspect of the peace Paul talks about is peace in a fallen and broken world. During the final days of Jesus’ ministry on earth he started telling his disciples about his impending departure, although most of them didn’t get it at the time. He knew what was going to happen to them. How they will be persecuted, how the world will hate them because they were his followers.

Jesus told His disciples, “peace I live with you, my peace I give to you not as the world gives to you”. Clearly, there is a worldly kind of peace; but Jesus said His peace is unlike that of the world. The world tells us, “if you could get that job”, “if you could get the insurance” or if you could get married” then all your problems will go away and you will have peace. But the peace Jesus gives is one that says, I may not have all I want but Jesus has given me himself and he is all that I need. Is your life in turmoil? Is there uncertainty about the future? Is your marriage going through hard times?  Is your job under threat?

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7). The believer is called to peace.

Unfortunately the life of many Christians is characterized by fear and anxiety about the future. When we live in a state of panic and anxiety we are telling the world that God is not able to take care of us, and that is a terrible witness. Rather, we should take everything to God in prayer and allow the peace of God to flood our heart.

Lay Hold On Christ’s Peace

The peace of God is not magic. Our worries and anxiety are not just whisked way. It takes  work, an effort to calm our hearts through the word of God: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God”(v.16)

The peace of God comes about when we allow the word of God to dwell in our hearts. As we meditate on the promises of God, our hearts are filled with hope and peace in a turbulent world. There is hope for us in the gospel, though we have tribulations in the world our Savior has overcome the world. The promises of God are true and amen in Jesus Christ. Our knowledge of the word of God is key to our peace. As we meditate on God’s promises we are filled with peace and thanksgiving for what he did on the cross through Christ Jesus for us.

Finally Paul says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (v.17) The life of the Christian is all about the glory of God. If your goal is not the glory of God, you’re on the wrong route because the target of the Christian life is so that God will be glorified.

Are you passionate about heaven or you are comfortable on this side of eternity. The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Father of the faith, Abraham was looking forward to the city whose builder is God. Are you? He was heavenly minded because he had treasure there. Is it possible that you’re not heavenly minded because you have no treasure there?

You are not a Christian if you love the world and it’s deceptive comforts. If you’re not fighting sin in your life daily, you cannot claim to be a Christian according to the bible. A Christian who is under constant anxiety and fear about the future, has not experience truly the peace of God. What do you see as you examine your life? Are you a Christian?

A Christian Fights Sin

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In the previous article, we looked at the first mark of a genuine Christian, Heavenly Mindedness. Today, we will consider the second mark, that is, a genuine Christan Fights Sin. In verse 5 of Colossians 3, Paul tells Christians to  “Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry”.

Pondering over the first part of Colossians 3, the question that comes to my mind is ‘if the Colossians were already dead and their life is hidden with Christ in God, why is Paul asking them to put sin to death again?’  Is that not a contradiction? In one breath he says Christ has defeated Satan, death and sin. And again, he is asking them to put sin to death.

Now, we must understand that Christ’s victory was complete and final.There is no question about that. However when we become Christians, what happens to us is a transfer from the dominion of darkness into light. Sin is no more our master. We change kingdoms.

However, we still live in a fallen body in a fallen world yet to be glorified. This brings us into a conflict between our new nature and the old nature, which is the flesh. By the work of God through the Holy Spirit, we are increasingly transformed to become like Christ.

Progressive Sanctification

This is a very imperfect example because the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness are not equal in power, but imagine there are two camps of opposing forces. One day one camp invades the other and captures some of its inmates. What do you think will happen? Will the losing camp sit idle without doing anything? Of course not, it will try whatever means possible to recapture its people. That’s exactly what happens when we are saved.
Jesus stormed the enemy’s camp and rescued us from the chains of sin and of the devil. The enemy’s power has been broken, however he will not sit idle and look on. Obviously he will try everything possible to try and get us back into his camp. John Piper throws much light on this. He said:

When Paul says the flesh has been crucified, he means that the decisive battle has been fought and won by the Spirit. The Spirit has captured the capital and broken the back of the resistant movement. The flesh is as good as dead. Its doom is sure. But there are outlying pockets of resistance. The guerrillas of the flesh will not lay down their arms and must be fought back daily.

Paul calls on the believers in Colossae to wage war on all that is earthly in them daily. Formerly, they lived like the world but now he calls on them to put those things to death. The verse mentions the specific things to put to death: “Sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry”

These are things that characterise the world system. In vv 2 & 3, Paul calls for heavenly mindedness. Then in v5, he draws a contrast mentioning the things which are earthly. In effect, these earthly things are the opposite of the things in heaven.

Non-Negotiables

Paul is not asking us to suppress sin. He says “put it to death”. Some people try to negotiate with sin, but the language used here is not one of a suggestion. It is a command. Putting sin to death requires drastic measures. Jesus in one of his teachings said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.”

Jesus of course is not alluding to bodily mutilation. He is painting an imagery of the needed disciplines to deal with sin. The consequences of sin is such that we must use all means of grace God provides to kill it in our lives. When you look at verse 6, Paul says it is “On account of these the wrath of God is coming”. Either you fight sin or you will be faced with the wrath of God. And none of us would like to fall into the hands of God.

One of the humbling things about this battle is that, it is not a battle with an outside force. The enemy is within. Look back at verse 5, what is Paul asking to be “Put to death?”… “All that is earthly in you…” And v.8 “But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth”. And v.9, “Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices”

These are all things that come from within, that is why the excuse “the devil made me do it” will never stand in the court of heaven. It is true Satan is our enemy and we need to continue resisting him, but he often finds a willing ally with us. Therefore in our struggle with sin, we must always recognize that the enemy is not only out there, but we are his willing accomplices. The battle we are called to fight is one of putting off the old self and putting on the new self, which is in the image of Christ. It is a battle to become like Christ (vv. 9-10).

How Do We Wage This Battle?

1) Fight with the word.

We are in a battle to kill the old self and put on the new self, the most effective way to do this is to renew our minds with the word of God. We change our affections through the renewal of our minds (v.9. see also Rom 12:2). How are you doing with your bible intake? Are you spending time reading and meditating on the word? A Christian without the word is like a soldier without his gun.

2) Starve The Old Self.

We are in the battle to kill the old man, and one of the surest way to kill someone is to starve them. When we don’t give in to the desires of the flesh, we deny the old self the food it needs to survive. We must on a daily basis make decisions that take us away from the scene of sin. So if you struggle with pornography for example, don’t watch nude movies. Don’t be sitting on the internet at midnight. Don’t engage in activities that fuels your weaknesses and sins.

3) Fight In Community.

In every battle you increase the chances of victory when you have others fighting alongside with you (vv. 12-14). One of the greatest means of grace God has given the Christian is the church, to support us in our fight against sin. The church as a covenant  family becomes even more important when the enemy is within us. We point out one another’s fault, we rebuke sin, we encourage and we forgive one another.

As we intentionally love one another and admonish one another, we increase our chances of winning this battle with sin.

The last in the series, Peace With God will be treated in the next article God willing.

3 Marks Of A Christian: A Study On Colossians 3:1-17

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There are many groupings and associations in the world today. These groups all have particular marks or characteristics that define them as distinct from others. It could be a country or a social club or even a religion. This equally is true for the Christian faith. When someone professes Christianity, how can we determine he or she is genuine? Or consider your own self; how do you know that your profession is genuine?

In Colossians 3:1-17 Paul provides us with about three marks of a Christian by which we may know if a person’s profession is genuine.

1. Heavenly Mindedness 
2. Fights Sin
3. The Peace of God

In today’s article, we will look at the first mark.

Heavenly Mindedness

A genuine believer is heavenly minded. Paul’s opening statement is a conditional argument, “if then you have been raised with Christ….” It is very important to notice the difference here. Paul is not saying that if you live like this then you will become a Christian. On the contrary, he is saying that it is because you say you are a Christian that I expect you to live this way. You don’t become a Christian by following a set of rules. Salvation is entirely a gift of God. We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone (Eph. 2:8-9).

The verse 1 says, “since you have been raised with Christ”; the question to ask is, “what does it mean to be raised with Christ?” Christ was crucified for the sins of the world, was buried and on the third day, He rose from the dead having defeated Satan and death: “By canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him” (Co. 2:14-15). Anyone who has repented of their sin and put their trust in Christ in effect has gone through this experience with Christ symbolically (Rom. 6:4). A Christian is therefore the person who has been raised with Christ. His old nature is dead and the New man has been ushered in. It is this new person that Paul is writing to.

Have you been raised with Christ?

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth(vv.1-2).

What Are Your Pursuits?

Seek the things that are above“… This reflects pursuit. We are all treasure seekers, we are always looking for something. Some seek money, others for success and others for a good reputation, achievements, happiness etc.

According to Paul, the Christian is seeking for treasures in heaven. What we set our minds on reveals a lot about what is in our hearts. Our pursuit is a window to our hearts. I may say that I am a Christian, how do you know my belief is genuine or not? Paul says here that one of the ways to know is to look at what I constantly set my mind and my pursuits in life on.  Are you heavenly minded? When we look at your ‘to do list’ will we see a person who prioritizes things that are eternal? Does your spending reflect the life of someone who believes that this world is not their home and that they are only stewards of these gifts?

What Occupies Your Thoughts?

Set your minds on things that are above“… This refers to what we constantly think about. In effect, it is the default mode of our minds. Where does your mind naturally drifts to? When you buy any electronic gadgets, there is an option under settings which says “reset to factory settings”. When you select this option, it returns all aspects of your gadgets to its original factory settings.

In the same way, the default setting of the Christian’s mind should be on things that are above where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. When you wake up in the morning, when you are in the traffic jam, when your day is done and reclining to bed. What is it that engages your mind?

So What Are The Things To Set Our Mind On?

Romans 14:17 gives us a glimpse into what Paul probably meant in Colossians 3:1. He mentions three things:”…righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” We can safely conclude that when Paul tells us to set our minds and our hearts on things that are above, these are some of the things he is talking about. Is your life centered on righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit? Are you seeking to live a life that is marked by righteousness and holiness?

Why We Must Be Heavenly Minded

Paul tells the believers the reason why he expects them to live this way. “For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God”(v.3). The Christian is dead to this world, and if that is the case we cannot live according to its standards any longer.  “When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory”(v.4). It is this hope of glory that makes the genuine Christian so fixated on Christ and his kingdom.

When we fully grasp what God has promised in Christ in the next world, nothing in this world will appeal to us. Jesus said in Matthew 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” Our treasure is in heaven, and that is why we must not be lured by the deceitfulness of sin. When Paul came to the full understanding of this, he said ‘…I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”. He also said, “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.

What about you Christian? Is it possible that you are not heavenly minded because you don’t have any treasure in heaven? As Jesus said, where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The second mark, “They Fight Sin” will be treated in the next post.

No Confidence In Ourselves.

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Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:2‭-‬3).

Writing from Prison, Paul instructs the Philippian church about the gospel. While locked up in prison, false teachers arose preaching a works based righteousness pointing to the keeping of the law as a conduit for justification. Warning the Philippian church against these false teachers, Paul draws a sharp contrast between works-righteousness and faith. He warns against confidence in the flesh, that is,  justification with God based on keeping the law or on good works.

Just as in Paul’s days, there are false teachers today who oppose the gospel by preaching legalism. John Hendryx defines Legalism as
“any attempt to rely on self-effort (even partly) to either attain or maintain our just standing before God” Writing on the same subject, Nicholas Batzig defines legalism as “an attempt to add anything to the finished work of Christ. It is to trust in anything other than Christ and His finished work for one’s standing before God. The New Testament refutation of legalism is primarily a response to perversions of the doctrine of justification by faith alone”

World religions can be categorised  into two. Works religion and Faith religion. The former–works religion emphasises a system of  ‘do’s and don’ts’ and hopefully if our good deeds outweighs our evil deeds, then the arguments follows that we will be saved by God. Works religion thrives on good works and the keeping of God’s law for righteousness. The latter–faith religion emphasises faith and trust as the only means to be saved by God.

Christianity is a faith religion (Heb11:6). Christianity acknowledges we cannot earn our salvation or please God by ourselves and our good deeds: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law”(Rom 3:28).

Christianity emphasises faith in the finished work on Calvary by Christ Jesus for our salvation (1Cor 15:3-5): Justification By Faith Alone. This is a core, foundational message of Christianity. Anyone or group of persons or a denomination that doesn’t believe in this is not qualified to be called Christian.

Sinners that we are (Ps 51:5, Rom. 3:23), we are unable of ourselves to please God. We are dead in trespasses and sins; our will held in bondage to sin and all we can do is hit the highway of sin and move away from God. The Prophet Isaiah will say “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned— every one— to his own way…”(Isaiah 53:6).

Naturally, we are enemies of God and will not seek to please Him in anyway. This however doesn’t suppose we are incapable of any good deed. Indeed the worst of sinners still have people they feel affectionate towards. But our corruption is such that, even our good deeds are abominable before God. Again Isaiah will say; “We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment”(Isaiah 64:6).

The King James describes this vividly: “our righteousnesses are as filthy rags”. When I first read this, I thought to myself: “rags are already discarded for “filthy use”. To further describe it as “filthy” means the situation is that hopeless. Works rigtheousness is indeed hopeless because in our best moments, we are lost in the brightness of God’s holiness. God demands perfection, and none of us can attain to that. This means we must look outside of ourselves to attain the perfection demanded by God. We must look to Christ; “the founder and perfecter of our faith”(Hebrews 12:2).

The gospel is under threat where legalism and self-righteousness thrives. Paul spares no harsh  words in describing these false teachers. He calls them “dogs and evil doers”. Indeed, to circumvent justification by faith alone with justification by works or good deeds is evil and a damnable heresy. “…any attempt to please God by one’s own efforts and draw attention away from Christ’s accomplished redemption is the worst kind of wickedness.”[1].

Does this mean a person who professes Christianity can live anyhow they please? No! God forbid, Paul says in Romans 6:1-2. Peter’s says “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1Peter 2:11KJV). However, none of our good works and rightful living counts towards our justification. Justification is by faith alone.

No one stands justified before God apart from Christ’s imputed rigtheousness. The righteousness that saves us is outside of ourselves. It is Christ’s righteousness. Anyone who doesn’t  know this righteousness by faith through Christ has no peace with God.

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom 5:1).

1:NASB(ebook): The MacArthur Study Bible; notes on Phillipians 3:2-3

Christianity or Superstition?

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It has become common phenomenon recently. Pictures of preachers or handkerchiefs from them or better still ‘holy water’ or anointing oil they have “blessed” are sold at exorbitant prices to congregants with the assertion that purchasing such items constitutes an act of faith.  The believers in these “anointed” items consequently keep them close to their person at all time, or in their cars and homes. In turn, these ‘anointed items’ are purported to be able to accomplish all manner of unimaginable results; including the ability to recover debts overnight; ward off evil spirits; cause a sudden overflow of business income; render one’s enemies impotent and in some cases take the lives of such supposed enemies; upon application in certain ways as directed by the ‘men of God’ from whom they were procured.

One ‘believer’ reportedly said by carrying a special handkerchief from his ‘man of God’, anyone with whom he shook hands was bound to favour them no matter what. He had countless testimonies to prove this, he asserted. But the question that begs answering is, is this Christianity or superstition?

What these preachers and their followers do is what Paul calls using the word of God deceitfully (2Corinthians 4:2). The superstitious practices of these false teachers and their followers are no different from that of users of charms procured from the local fetish priest or traditional native doctor. Whether the end goals of their ritualistic practices and the motives backing these are in line with the Scriptural teaching are secondary to these superstitious Christians. One can be living in sin, and still expect to get miraculous results simply by applying “anointed items” from a “special man of God”; clearly, a contradiction of the biblical teaching as we find in the pages of Scripture.

In Matthew 21: 12-13 Jesus enters the temple and is greeted by all these people engaging in merchandise in the temple. The temple authorities and priests at the time condoned a great market that sold animals used in the temple sacrifice to the worshippers; and served as a hub for money changers. Jesus in indignation chased them out of the temple, citing the Old Testament Scripture ‘’my house shall be called the house of prayer’’ instead of a den of thieves! (Isaiah 56:7; paraphrase).

How different is the Church of today from the scenery Jesus encountered in this passage? Is there any authority in the New Testament to support the selling and buying of so called anointed relics from servants of God, in order to derive miraculous results from these?

Further, what is to be said of the manner in which these so called men of God are idolised? Is God’s grace, which the Bible teaches is a gift, to be purchased with money? I shudder at Peter’s response in Acts 8: 20-22 ‘’thy money perish with thee for thinking that God’s gift can be purchased with money!’’ God’s gift is not to be sold nor bought with money. Faith is not magic. And Christianity is certainly not a quick fix, magic wand that can yield results to whoever wields it, no matter how they live their lives in relation to God’s word; or whatever their motives may be.

Sadly, the Protestant Church of today seems to have quickly sold the past. Johan Tetzel, the 15th century German friar, was reported to have said “As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, the soul from purgatory springs”; meaning that one can give a coin to change the eternal destiny of an already departed one.

Tetzel further extorted money from his followers in exchange for the forgiveness of their sins, even those they were yet to commit in the future. These were the sort of practices that infuriated Luther and the reformers, whose battle cry was sola Scriptura – Scripture alone – with emphasis on salvation through faith alone, and through Christ alone!

Sadly, today we place more faith in preachers than in God and His Word, which alone is exalted above all things! Strangely, the word of men is exalted above the word of God, even when it is in plain contradiction with the Scriptural teaching. Whole congregations have in recent times been reported to do all manner of despicable things in blind obedience to so-called prophetic directions. In the pursuit of temporal breakthroughs and earthly comfort, we have denied the Lord we profess to love and have diverted our faith from Him to men and things.

Superstition is idolatry, because it ascribes the power of God to His creation instead of to Him. God commands that we worship Him alone (Exodus 20:3). He forbids the fashioning of images in any shape or form, and bowing to these (Exodus 20:3-4; Deuteronomy 5: 7-9). Angels refused worship countless times in the Scriptures and instead remonstrated that we worship God alone. Needless to say, the worship of men is clearly contrary to the Scriptural teaching. Peter refused worship from Cornelius (Acts 10:25-26). The apostles consciously pointed the believers to Christ, who alone saves, and were careful to divert all attention to Him and the Gospel – and nothing else. Any worship of a preacher (including bowing down to them instead of to God; kissing their feet in supposed honour, or regarding their words as equal to Scripture and infallible) is nothing short of idolatry in blunt terms, and must not be condoned.

Superstition is not Christianity. Christianity is faith in a person; the Lord Jesus Christ, and in His Word – which alone is our authority for living.