What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin (Romans 3:9, NKJV).
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the apostle Paul established that all people, whether Gentiles or Jews, are sinners (Rom. 3:10-20, 23; 6:23). The extent of sin is universal (“There is none righteous, no, not one;…they have all turned aside,” Rom. 3:10, 12). Thus, all are “under sin” – guilty captives unable to free ourselves from its bondage and death (Gal. 3:22; Rom. 7:24). Sin’s death passes to everyone who sins, not because Adam sinned (Rom. 5:12; Ezek. 18:20). Humanity’s sin (disobedience) against God magnifies His mercy, “that He might have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32). These simple truths expose the lies of Calvinism. (1) Total heredity depravity is not inherited. Personal sin separates each one from God (Isa. 59:1-3; Ezek. 18:20-24). (2) Unconditional election is a farce since God’s mercy is offered to every sinner in Christ (Rom. 5:15). His invitation to be saved is universal, but unconditional election makes God a tyrant (Matt. 11:28; Mark 16:15-16). (3) Limited atonement neglects that Jesus died “for everyone,” not just the elect (Heb. 2:9). (4) Irresistible grace rests on the false premise we are too corrupt to respond to God’s call to mercy without enabling grace from God to jumpstart faith. Yet, the “gospel of the grace of God” is preached to sinners who choose to resist or repent (Acts 2:36-41; 7:51; 13:44-46). (5) Perseverance of the saints is the baseless expectation that once God saves a sinner, that person cannot fall into sin’s condemnation. Sadly, many rely on the false hope of this false doctrine (Gal. 5:4; Heb. 3:6-19; 6;4-6; 2 Pet. 2:20-22). The gospel of Christ calls sinners to salvation through obedient faith (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:17-18). The doctrines of men leave sinners “under sin,” still needing salvation.
For we will surely die and become like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be gathered up again. Yet God does not take away a life; but He devises means, so that His banished ones are not expelled from Him (2 Samuel 14:14, NKJV).
Absalom, king David’s son, had fled into exile after murdering his brother Amnon in vengeance for raping his sister, Tamar (2 Sam. 13:14, 22, 38-39). Today’s passage records the words of a wise woman whom Joab conscripted to persuade David to let Absalom return from his banishment (2 Sam. 14:1-24). They are poignant and persuasive. Death is coming to us all, and its effects cannot be undone, like so much water spilled on the ground (Heb. 9:27). God is the Giver of life, not the One who wants to take it from us (Gen. 2:7). Likewise, God takes no pleasure in the death of sinners (Ezek. 18:31-32). Sin causes spiritual death (Gen. 2:15; Rom. 6:23). But God, in His great mercy, has devised a plan that gives spiritual life from sin’s death through His Son Jesus Christ (Eph. 1:4-12; 2:1-7). Sin separates us from our heavenly Father, banished from the close fellowship He desires. God calls sinners to come to Him by the gospel of His Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). David allows Absalom to return from exile. God’s plan of redemption in Christ ends our spiritual banishment to end so we may walk in sweet fellowship with Him (Eph. 2:13; 1 John 1:6-7). Praise be to God for His abundant love and mercy He gives us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again (2 Corinthians 5:14–15, NKJV).
The love of Christ compels us, driving us forward to do the will of God. His love compels us to live no longer for ourselves but Christ. When confronted with whether or not to obey the will of the Lord, Christians should not say, “Well, I have to do it” (as though it is a burden to follow Jesus, 1 John 5:3). We ought to say, “I will” because of Christ’s love for us. Paul beautifully described the conversion of thought and life from sinful self-interest to selflessly serving Christ. He said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). Jesus “died for all” when we were dead in sin (v. 14; Rom. 5:8). The selfless sacrifice of Jesus Christ compels us to live for Him and love as He loves us. That means we will “walk in love” and sacrifice ourselves for others as He did (Eph. 5:2). It means husbands will sacrificially love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her (Eph. 5:25). It means Christians will love one another with sacrificial, humble service (John 13:1-17, 34-35). Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. You are My friends if you do whatever I command you” (John 15:12-14). We know how Jesus loved us. It compels us to lay down our lives for Him and do whatever He commands.
4 And I say to you, My friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him! 6 Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins? And not one of them is forgotten before God. 7 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows (Luke 12:4–7, NKJV).
Friends tell us what we need to know because they care for us; they look out for us. Jesus is our truest friend who tells us not to be afraid of those who can kill us. They have no power over our immortal soul. God has the power to judge and punish our sins in hell. That is where we ought to place our fear. God is not a terrorist who threatens us. He cares for us and tells us of the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23). He loved us and sent His Son to save us from our sins (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; Rom. 6:23). Fearing God is an act of faith, not terror. God does not forget the sparrows, and He will not forget you. He knows you better than you know yourself. (Quick, how many hairs are on your head? God knows, even though you do not.) Your value is far greater than sparrows. So, do not fear people who threaten you because of your faith. Confident faith leads us to confess Jesus instead of being afraid (Lk. 12:8-9).
23 Then He said to them all, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me. 24 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it. 25 For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost? 26 For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father’s, and of the holy angels (Luke 9:23–26, NKJV).
Commitment. Jesus had it and was committed to doing the Father’s will to the point of death (“lifted up” John 8:28-29). Early Christians had it, losing their lives rather than denying the Lord (Acts 7:59-60; 26:10). Christians who faced impending suffering were exhorted by Christ to “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10). This directive helps us understand what it means to “deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Even life itself must not be more precious to us than Jesus and doing His will. There is no benefit in gaining the whole world and forfeiting souls. Commitment to Christ eliminates being ashamed of Him and His words. We express faith that overcomes the world by our commitment to Christ (1 John 5:4). Commitment to Christ takes precedence over everyone and everything in the life of a disciple. May it be so with us today and each day that follows.
19 Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord (John 20:19–20, NKJV).
The “same day” He was resurrected, Jesus appeared to His apostles and assured them He had overcome sin and death. Their fear of the Jews put them behind closed doors. But Jesus had not given up on them. Soon, Jesus would send them into the world to preach the good news of His death, resurrection, and our salvation from sins (John 20:21; Mark 16:15-16; 1 Cor. 15:1-11). Jesus did two things that evening that assures us God has not given up on us, either. (1) Jesus said, “Peace be with you.” Fear is replaced with the gladness of faith when we believe Jesus is alive (John 16:22). Do not live your life in fear, fellow Christian. “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Tim. 1:7). (2) Jesus showed them His wounds. It was really Jesus. He died for the whole world (Heb. 2:9; 1 John 2:2). He bore our sins in His body on the tree as a sacrifice for sins (1 Pet. 2:24; Heb. 10:10; Isa. 53:4-6). His resurrection assures us of God’s amazing grace and love (Rom. 5:8). Man’s sinful hatred killed the Son of God. But Jesus arose with forgiving love for all who will believe in His name (John 1:11-13; 3:16). We are saved because Jesus lives (Rom. 5:10).
3 The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. 4 Then I called upon the name of the Lord: “O Lord, I implore You, deliver my soul!” 5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; Yes, our God is merciful. 6 The Lord preserves the simple; I was brought low, and He saved me. 7 Return to your rest, O my soul, for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you” (Psalm 116:3–7, NKJV).
Hebrew tradition ascribes Psalm 116 to Hezekiah upon his deliverance from death by Yahweh (Isa. 38). Others view it as a psalm of thanksgiving on the occasion of some other imminent peril (Spence, Pulpit Commentary, Psalms III, 70). Three attributes are ascribed to the Lord in thankful praise of His salvation from the “trouble and sorrow” of death and despair (v. 3). (1) God is gracious (v. 5). His “throne of grace” is ever accessible to our pleas for help in times of need (Heb. 4:15-16). (2) God is righteous (v. 5). He has promised to hear and answer our prayers (1 John 3:22; 5:14-15). He is upright to keep His word. (3) God is merciful (v. 5). His compassion compels Him to protect and secure us in our time of danger and doubt (Matt. 11:28-30; Heb. 13:5-6). Christians learn to cast our anxious cares upon the Lord because we know He cares for us (1 Pet. 5:6-7). God still hears us and delivers our souls from the sorrow, despair, and terror of sin and death. Our souls rest in God’s character. He will deliver us from every evil work (Phil. 4:6-7; 2 Tim. 4:17-18). “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:57). Let us rest in God and praise Him, for He has dealt bountifully with us in Christ Jesus (Ps. 116:7).
4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. 5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God? (1 John 5:4–5, NKJV)
Faith is the victory that defeats the world of evil. A good brother reminded me that the righteous die victoriously (Sword Tips #2226), as assured in Revelation 2-3. Let us briefly note those assurances to “him who overcomes.” 1) Access to the tree of life (Rev. 2:7). Eternal life, forever sustained by God’s provisions. 2) Protection from the second death (Rev. 2:11). The faithful have no part in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14-15; 21:8). 3) Identification as God’s chosen (Rev. 2:17). This one is known and kept by God forever (Rev. 14:1; 22:4). 4) Share in the glory of Messiah’s victory over every evil enemy (Rev. 2:26-28). The faithful one will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:4). 5) Confessed before the Father (Rev. 3:5). The pure life that unashamedly lived for Christ is written forever in the Book of Life (Mk. 8:38; Rev. 20:12). 6) Secure citizenship with God in His eternal kingdom (Rev. 3:12). Forever dwelling with God, serving Him in full fellowship is the reward of those who hold fast (Rev. 3:11; 21:2, 22). 7) Reign with Christ over sin and death (Rev. 3:21). To forever share in His great victory over every enemy of God will be the indescribable reward of the righteous (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 22:5). These are our hopes and expectations in Christ. He will keep His word to us. Let us keep our word to Him and be faithful even to the point of death (Rev. 2:10).
Who can count the dust of Jacob, or number one-fourth of Israel? Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my end be like his! (Numbers 23:10, NKJV)
When all is said and done, and they lay our cold, dead body in the grave, will it be said that we died the death of the righteous? Death comes “to the righteous and the wicked,” it is true, but their deaths are different in eternally significant ways. 1) The righteous die in faith. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off were assured of them, embraced them and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13). Only when we walk by faith will we die in faith (2 Cor. 5:7). Being faithful to the Lord in life affects how we die (Lk. 12:19-21; 16:19-25). 2) The righteous leave a legacy of good deeds. A display of her charitable kindness attended Dorcas’s death (Acts 9:36-39). “Some men’s sins are clearly evident, preceding them to judgment, but those of some men follow later. Likewise, the good works of some are clearly evident, and those that are otherwise cannot be hidden” (1 Tim. 5:24-25). 3) The righteous die after a life of spiritual service despite adversity. “Write: ‘Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’” “Yes,” says the Spirit, “that they may rest from their labors, and their works follow them” (Rev. 14:13). Come what may in life, our paramount goal is to die in the Lord. 4) The righteous die with God’s blessing. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints” (Psa. 116:15). Death is an appointment we will all keep (Heb. 9:27). We choose whether ours will be the death of the righteous by the choices we make in life.
And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18, NKJV)
The apostle Paul continues the theme of Christ’s preeminence by noting His relation to the church and His power over death. The headship of Christ over His church immediately draws our attention to the authority of Christ and His prerogative to oversee and direct His church (Matt. 16:18; 28:18). All things concerning the church are “under His feet,” subservient to Him (Eph. 1:22). The church does not belong to us; it belongs to Jesus. The church is composed of Christians; each one is a member of His body (Acts 2:47; 1 Cor. 12:12-13, 26-27). The church of Christ is His body and is valuable because Jesus loved it and died for it (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:25-29). To devalue the church is to devalue Jesus Christ. Christ also has power over death. He is the beginning (the origin, the source) of resurrection. Without Him, there would be no power over death. As the “firstborn from the dead,” His resurrection attests to His power and superiority over death (Acts 2:24, 30-32; Rom. 1:4). “Alive forevermore,” Jesus has “the keys of Hades and of Death” (Rev. 1:18). With just a few sentences, the Holy Spirit has made the case that Jesus Christ is King, Redeemer, Creator, Firstborn over all creation, Sustainer, Head of the church, and Supreme Victor over death (Col. 1:13-18). Jesus has preeminence in all things. Our faith is secure, our salvation is sure, and our hope is complete in Christ.