Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Catechism #17

Q. How did Christ, the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ became man by assuming a real body. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary.

In order for Jesus to be our Redeemer, He needed to live on earth as a man; He needed to live a sinless life in order to be a proper substitute for our sin debt. So Jesus came to earth in the form of a person—an event known as the incarnation—and was born with the mission to die.

When Jesus came, He did so in the most miraculous way: He was born of a virgin. Biologically we understand this to be impossible, but with God nothing is impossible (Luke 1:37). The virgin birth is recorded by both Matthew and Luke. Matthew 1:18 says, “When His mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with to be with child from the Holy Ghost.” In verse 20 an angel appears to Joseph and confirms what Mary told him, “That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost…you shall call His name Jesus.”

Luke 1:27 twice calls Mary a virgin, and that chapter reveals the conversation between Mary and the angel about the baby Jesus. Matthew reminds his audience that this was the fulfillment of the prophecy from Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bare a son, and you shall call His name Emmanuel, which means ‘God with us.’”

Some like to argue against the virgin birth, saying the word translated as virgin could also mean “marriageable maiden.” This is true; that is a secondary meaning of the word. But we need to remember two things: under the Mosaic Law maidens were not marriageable if they were not virgins, and consider Mary’s response to the angel: “How can this be since I have never known a man (Luke 1:34)?”

The Bible clearly teaches the virgin birth, but you might be wondering why the virgin birth is a necessary truth. Remember, the Redeemer needed to be a man, but He also needed to be God. By being conceived of the Holy Ghost Jesus was both God and man.

The Redeemer also needed to be sinless. Had Jesus been born of two human parents, He would have been born with a sin nature. The Bible teaches that the sin nature is passed through the seed of man (5:12), which is something Jesus was protected from being born of the Holy Ghost.  

People who reject the virgin birth usually do so because believing in miracles seems foolish. However, I prefer to believe in a God who can do the impossible; if God were not powerful enough to pull off the virgin birth, He could never live a sinless life or come back from the dead. I’m glad to serve a God who can and did all three.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Catechism #16

Q. Who is the Redeemer of mankind?
A. The only Redeemer is the Lord Jesus Christ, who being the Son of God, became man.

As we have previously seen, when Adam and Eve chose to sin against God they invited in the curse that leads to death and separation from God. The only way of escape for mankind is through redemption.

After the first sin God killed an innocent lamb and used its skin to make a covering for our first parents. That act was a perfect foreshadowing of the redemption to come—an innocent lamb was sacrificed as a substitute so that the guilty party could be covered.

Years later, when the nation of Israel was in slavery in Egypt, God sent the Ten Plagues to persuade Pharaoh to let His people go. The tenth plague, the death of the firstborn, was a horrific event that was the culmination of years of rebellion and idolatry in Egypt. But God, in His mercy, still gave each family a way out.

God said that if each family would take a spotless lamb, kill it, and apply its blood to the doorposts of their house, then God would pass over their house. This event became known as the Passover, and is celebrated in Israel every year.

Each year at Passover a spotless lamb would be sacrificed for the nation, and God would let the guilty party go free because of the substitute lamb.

Years later, God came to earth in the form of a man named Jesus; He lived a perfect life, and was therefore a spotless substitute. When John the Baptist saw Him, he declared, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”

When Jesus died on the cross He became the great substitute, bearing the sin of the guilty party—the whole world—and becoming the once and for all sacrifice for sin (Hebrews 10:10). Now, whoever will look upon the Lamb of God and trust in that sacrifice for the forgiveness of their sins can go free. God will place our sin upon Jesus, and place the righteousness of Jesus upon us.

That is how Jesus Christ became the Redeemer for mankind. 

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Catechism #15

Q. By what sin did our first parents fall from their original condition?

A. Our first parents’ sin was eating the forbidden fruit.

The first sin we see in the Bible was in the eating of the forbidden fruit by Adam and Eve. But as we saw last week, there are sins of commission and omission. The eating of the fruit was an act of commission—a sin that was committed in the Garden of Eden.

But before Eve ever took her first bite, a few sins of omission occurred that led up to the sin of commission. First, notice that it was Eve, not Adam, that did all the talking with the serpent in Genesis 3. Yet it was Adam, not Eve, who was created as the spiritual leader of the family. For whatever reason Adam abdicated his role as the spiritual leader and stood silently by as Eve ate the fruit. After Eve’s bite, she gave it to Adam, and he ate it too.

Not only did Adam omit his role as leader, Eve omitted her trust in the goodness of God. Not only did she misquote God when speaking with Satan, but she bought the lie that God did not want her eyes to be opened to the fact that she was a god.

(Still today some miss the truth of this passage and believe that we are born as gods and just don’t realize it yet. Jesus called Satan “a liar from the beginning”, and the first words we see from Satan in Scripture is this lie to Eve)

If Eve believed that God is good she never would have believed what the devil said. A good God has rules that are for our good, yet Eve questioned that. Her decision to eat the fruit was not based on hunger or wanting to try a new fruit; it was motivated by her distrust in the goodness of God.

Most sins that we commit today are based on an omission in the goodness of God. Deep down we buy into the lie that God’s rules and ways are not good for us. If we trust that God is good then we would obey Him more.

Do you trust that God is good? If so, keep His rules, because they are for our good.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Catechism #14

Q. What is sin?

A. Sin is disobeying or not conforming to God’s law in any way.

Sin is a word that is used a lot in our churches. “That is sin,” we tell people. Or, “Don’t do that—its sinful.” Sin is failure to conform ourselves to God’s law, or simply put, it is disobeying God.

We like to tell the children at church that sin is anything we think, say, or do that makes God unhappy. I know the thought of an unhappy God is unpopular these days, but it is true. Do you think sin makes God happy? Do you think He is neutral toward sin? That only leaves one alternative.

Both Testaments are peppered with verses that refer to or allude to God’s wrath toward sin. The Old Testament recounts stories of God’s wrath on display toward the complaining and idolatry of Israel; the New Testament tells us “the wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all ungodliness (sin)…(Romans 1:18).”

God loves us, but He hates sin.

There are two ways we can sin: we can either commit an act (commission) or fail to commit an act (omission). I Thessalonians 4:3 says, “For this is the will of God: your sanctification, that you abstain from fornication.” According to this verse, fornication is a sinful act that we commit, either in our minds or with our bodies.

But failure to do something we know to be right is also sin. James 4:17 tells us, “To him that knows to do good, and does not do it, to him it is sin.” When we choose not to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:39), choose to not to meet a need when we have the means (I John 3:17), or choose to rob God by withholding our tithes and offerings (Malachi 3:8), we are sinning by omission.

Sin is a part of our human nature that has been here since the curse. We will not achieve sinless perfect while on earth, but that should not keep us from trying to sin as little as possible.

What shall we say then? Should we go on sinning so that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who have died to sin live any longer in it?

Romans 6:1-2