11 Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—12 that at that time you 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. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:11–13, NKJV)
The fleshly circumcision that identified Israel as God’s covenant people was an operation performed “in the flesh by hands” (v. 11). Removing the foreskin was a foreshadowing of the “circumcision of Christ,” which is “the putting off of the body of the sins of flesh” – the operation God performs when a sinner is “buried with Him (Christ, jrp) in baptism” (Colossians 2:11-12). Baptism is an action of faith in the power of God that saves the sinner and raises him or her to spiritual life in Christ (Colossians 2:12). Whether you are a Jew or Gentile in the flesh does not matter. In this gospel age, one is not a child of God until the circumcision of Christ occurs in the heart, as the sinner is buried with Christ in baptism and God forgives his or her sins by the blood of Christ (Colossians 2:13). That is when the sinner rises from spiritual death to walk in newness of life.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (1 Peter 2:9, NKJV)
All the earth and all who dwell on it belong to the Lord God, but Christians are God’s own special people (Psalm 24:1). The word “special” conveys an idea of acquisition and possession. We have been acquired by God, purchased or redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ” (1 Peter 1:18-19). We belong to Him and not ourselves (1 Corinthians 6:20). Here again we see the value of the church from heaven’s point of view since Christ purchased the church with His own blood (Acts 20:28). The church, God’s purchased possession, will be redeemed eternally when Christ delivers it up to God on resurrection day (Ephesians 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24). Having been purchased by Christ’s blood, we are purified to accomplish God’s purposes. As “His own special people” we are redeemed from sin to be “zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14). Therefore, we bear a great responsibility to represent God faithfully and honorably in this world (1 Peter 2:11-12). Belonging to God means we arm ourselves with the mind of Christ and live for the will of God, not for the lusts of men (1 Peter 4:1-2). We belong to God. Let us live for His will, not our own.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:9, NKJV)
To be justified means to be declared righteous, free of guilt and innocent of sin. The death of Jesus is the basis for our justification from sin. Without it we would have no way to be freed from the guilt of our sins and the wrath sin brings (Romans. 3:19; 6:23). The New Testament attributes the sinner’s justification to many things, including God’s grace (Romans 3:24), man’s faith (Galatians 2:16), and the works of faith (James 2:24). God’s love prompted the sacrificial death of His only begotten Son on Calvary’s cross (Romans 5:6-8). Although Christ died for every sinner, only those who have faith in Jesus are saved from wrath through Him (Romans 3:26; 5:9). Yet, sinners are not justified by “faith only” (James 2:24). Faith is dead without obedience to the word of God (James 2:17, 20). Do you have faith to do whatever Jesus commands of you? Or, is your faith merely an affirmation without obedience? Whoever “fears God and works righteousness” is acceptable to Him, not because they earn justification, but because they believe God justifies them by the blood of His Son when they obey His word (Acts 10:34-35). It should not surprise us that water baptism is the action of obedient faith by which sinners obtain justification by Christ’s death (Romans 6:4; Acts 22:16). The nature of your faith is crucial in assuring your justification by the blood of Jesus.
5 This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. 6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5–7, NKJV)
What does it mean to walk in the light? This verse gives us a definitive definition: “Practice the truth” (v. 6) is equivalent to “walk in the light” (v. 7). Fellowship with God comes to those who “walk in the light” – those who practice His truth (His word, John 17:17). We lie if we say we have fellowship with God, yet “do not practice the truth” (v. 6). The God of light is found in the light of truth, not in the darkness of error. According to verse 7, two things happen when one walks in the light: 1) He has fellowship with God, and 2) The blood of Christ cleanses him from all sin. This verse does not say the Christian does not sin (see v. 10). It says the blessing of cleansing from sin by Christ’s blood occurs when we walk in the light. Because this person practices truth (walks in the light), he does not deny his sin when it happens, he confesses it, with the assurance of God’s forgiveness (1 John 1:8-9; Acts 8:22-24).
23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,” (Romans 3:23–25, NKJV)
The reality of sin in our lives makes it impossible for us to ever earn our way to heaven. God, out of His great love for us, provides sinners (us) with redemption from sin in Christ Jesus. His grace, freely given, justifies through faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Since not everyone is saved (Jesus said few find the way to life, Matthew 7:14), it necessarily follows that sinners have a responsibility to respond to the gospel call to be saved in His Son. God’s grace is available to sinners in the blood of Jesus Christ, by which God’s wrath against sin is appeased (that’s propitiation). Redemption by the blood of Christ (His death) is obtained when we are “baptized into His death” (Romans 6:3). The action of faith that brings the sinner into contact with the atoning blood of Jesus, is baptism. We need God’s grace to be justified from our sins. Without grace, we are lost. Grace is available to all, and is received by those who “fear God, and keep His commandments” (Acts 10:34-35). Thank God, that He has revealed His plan to redeem us in His Son.
4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:4–6, NKJV)
The appearance of Jesus to Saul the persecutor of Christ brought this violent unbeliever to faith that Jesus was alive. Saul, who had been “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord,” now yields his will completely to the will of Jesus: “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Saul would be told what to do in the city of Damascus. After three days of prayer and fasting, Jesus sent the preacher Ananias to him, who told him what to do: “And now, why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). The vision did not wash away his sins. Three days of prayer and fasting did not wash away his sins (Acts 9:9, 11). Water baptism washed away his sins (because the sinner is baptized into Christ’s death, where His saving blood is applied to sins, Romans 6:3). Do not kick against the goads, and refuse water baptism to wash away your sins. It is what Jesus says you must do, too (Acts 2:38; 1 Peter 3:21).
26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, (Acts 17:26, NKJV)
The true God does not evaluate human beings on the basis of race or ethnic origin. Nor should we. We are all of “one blood”, descended from Adam and Eve, but created by God (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7). The origin of nations was by the hand of God, as He confused men’s languages to scatter them upon the face of the earth (Gen. 11:9). The governance of the nations is overruled by a Sovereign God, who executes His will upon the earth. While nations rise in power, extend their rule, and then decline into the ash heap of history, it is the Most High God who “rules in the kingdoms of men, and gives it to whomever He chooses” (Daniel 4:32). There is no legitimate place in this world for bias that grows out of the arrogance of supposing one race or ethnicity has superiority over others. In Christ, every vestige of such bias is eliminated: “there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free; but Christ is all and in all” (Col. 3:11).
And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord. (Acts 22:16, NKJV)
There is a danger in allowing the Bible to explain itself. The danger is not against the truth or those who believe it and obey it. No, the danger is to false teaching and to those who cling to error instead of surrendering it for the sake of truth. That is dangerous to the soul. This verse well illustrates our point. The preacher Ananias plainly explained to Saul what he had to do in order to be saved. He had to “arise and be baptized, and wash away (his) sins.” The blood of Christ was applied to his sins when he was “baptized into His death” (Rom. 6:3). This is “the washing of regeneration” by which God saves us (Titus 3:5). Calling on the name of the Lord, according to this Scripture, involves being baptized in order to “wash away your sins.” That is dangerous to the false doctrine of salvation before and without water baptism. No amount of appeals to Greek grammar or rationalizations will change the clear force of this verse. Baptism that washes away your sins is commanded by the Lord. The danger comes when one refuses to believe and obey this verse, and instead cling to a doctrine that disregards the word of God. Why are you waiting to believe and obey this divine directive?
For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes. (1 Corinthians 11:23–26)
Today is Memorial Day in America. We pause to pay tribute to and remember those in our armed forces who sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We cannot help but also remember an even greater sacrifice for an even greater freedom. The Son of God gave His life to free us from our sin and its death. His body hung on a cross until it was dead. His blood dedicated a new covenant that dispenses an eternal inheritance to His people. The Lord’s Supper is a constant memorial proclaiming the grandeur of the Lord’s death. Christians eat the bread and drink the cup to remember Jesus and what His death has accomplished. Never forget.