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Friday, July 21, 2017

Jerry Pokorsky, an American Catholic priest

“Many Came to Believe in Him”

 

Jerry Pokorsky, an American Catholic priest, recently wrote this:

 

The essential message of the Old Testament is the first tenet of the Decalogue:  “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3) In preparation for the Redeemer, it was necessary to purify the Chosen People of all false worship, setting them apart from every other nation.  The history of the Old Testament is a history of God’s fidelity to His people, the worship of the One God, with repeated relapses into false worship. The preaching of John the Baptist sums up the essential “Purgative Way” of the Old Testament in a single sentence: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” (Mt. 3:2, NAB). From his article, The Three Ages of the Interior Life: History and Liturgy, The Catholic Thing, July 2017.

 

By “purgative,” the author meant admitting and repenting of our sins. But his point: “The essential message of the Old Testament is the first tenet of the Decalogue:  “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex. 20:3),” helps us to see that, at the heart of the Old Testament, was the need for faith! As Abraham was justified by faith, Genesis 15:6, so Israel would be too. Habakkuk 2:4. In other words, in commanding them to have no other gods, Israel was being commanded to trust only in Yahweh, and not merely to know there was only one God. 2 Chronicles 20:20; Isaiah 7:9. And yet there were times when Israel trusted other nations. Deuteronomy 8:17-20; 2 Kings 17:7-12; Isaiah 31:1-7.  Knowing is not believing. Today, many know about God, but relatively few actually believe in Him and His Son as the one and only God who alone forgives our sins and gives eternal life. Romans 6:23.

 

Before we get to Exodus 20:3, we read this: And God spoke all these words, saying, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Exodus 20:1-2. The God who gave Israel freedom from slavery, and who then gave them the Ten Commandments, is the God who expected His people to trust Him in all things. He was their life. Deuteronomy 30:20. When Jesus came into the world as God with us to set us all free from the slavery of sin, and give us true life, Matthew 4:4; John 10:10; Hebrews 11:6. He yet lived his whole life believing in His Father and trying to get Israel to believe in Him as God with us!! John 8:24-36.

 

In Matthew 22:31-32, Jesus said that God spoke the words of Exodus 3:6. “I am the God of your Father, the God of Abraham …” Jesus was God, John 8:58; 20:26-28, but many Jews refused to trust Him. Mark 2:1-12; John 10:7-20,25-39. Though Jesus Himself was God, he still believed these words of Exodus 3 as from God, for he then made an application of this truth: “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Jesus is an example to us of what all of us should do: trust God!

We read what God has spoken. We then believe what He says. Then we apply what He says in obedience.

All the lord has spoken we will do. Exodus 24:3. This is what Israel promised.

Jesus spoke the words of His Father. John 12:44,49-50; 14:24,31; 17:8. Jesus believed the words of His Father.

Though many did not believe, some Jews believed in Jesus, John 7:31; 8:30-32; 10:41-42; 11:25-26.

Such faith brought eternal life. John 5:24. Yet the Law was still in effect! Matthew 5:17-19. All this is proof that: (i) Jesus is God, for God said: “Trust Me only.” Psalm 62. Jesus said: “Trust me.” John 13:19-20; 14:1,6. Therefore Jesus is God!! Habakkuk 2:4; Matthew 4:4; John 1:1-4; 10:10. Jesus confirmed it. Mark 2.

(ii) God has always justified his people through faith, whether or not the Law of Moses was in effect!

(iii) Jesus is the final proof that God always wanted Israel’s faith instead of their legalism and self-righteousness. Luke 13:34; 18:1-14; John 5:37-47. God saves only believers in Him! Romans 10:8-13

 

In Exodus 19, we read:

So Moses came and called the elders of the people, and set before them all these words which the LORD had commanded him. All the people answered together and said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do!" And Moses brought back the words of the people to the LORD. The LORD said to Moses, "Behold, I will come to you in a thick cloud, so that the people may hear when I speak with you and may also believe in you forever."Exodus 19:7-9

 

To believe in Moses is to believe in God, for Moses is passing on the words of God. God is saying in effect, “believe in Moses as a faithful reporter of my words that require you to believe in Me and obey Me!”

Saying you will do all that the Lord has spoken is a statement of faith, as well as a commitment. It amounts to obedience. Faith and obedience go together. Because we believe what God commands, we agree to obey what he commands us to do, just as a child’s trust in parents is shown in obedience. If the obedience is not forthcoming, the faith is less than it should be. You see this in the New Testament letter to the Romans: through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith … for His names’ sake. Romans 1:5

 

That faith was at the heart of Old Testament living, is clear from these words:

“Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him, but the righteous shall live by his faith. Habakkuk 2:4.

 

This Scripture is precisely what Jesus was referring to in the parable of the Pharisee and the publican. Luke 18:9-14. King David also showed he was living by faith when he wrote those words in Psalm 32:1-6

 

Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. Selah

I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah Therefore let everyone who is godly offer prayer to you at a time when you may be found …

 

Israel’s fatal mistake was always in assuming that their observance of the Law of Moses – not their trust in God -  would bring God’s forgiveness. Paul taught the same thing in his letter to the Roman Christians. Now read Romans 9:30-33; 10:1-5. David loved God’s Law (just read Psalm 119), but he knew that forgiveness came through trusting in God! Jesus had spent his whole life trying to get Jews to understand this truth about believing in God instead of trusting self. In many respects he was only reminding them of what was already in their Law!

 

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through

the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. Romans 15:4

 

We can learn much from the Old Testament and Jesus about the vital importance of faith in God for eternal life.

 

Jesus’ Death and Resurrection Gives Sinners New Life … But When?

 

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. Leviticus 17:11

 

So is the life of the flesh in the blood? Although not confirmed by science until modern times, this statement from Leviticus 17:11 has always been true. Blood actively maintains life by providing a vital function for all cells, tissues and organs, and thus the life of the whole body. The more we find out about the astounding functional design and complexity of blood, the more marvellous it becomes to us, and the more honour and praise is due its Creator. (Andrew Hodge, Life is in the Blood, http://creation.com/life-is-in-the-blood)

 

For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

5 Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me;

6 in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.

7 Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,

    as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’” Hebrews 10:4-7

God prepared a body for His own Son to live in and die in on earth.

There was Jesus’ body. There was also Jesus’ blood which he bled when he died in that body.

Only the sinless Jesus, sacrificing Himself, could atone for the sins of the world.

The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were merely symbolic precursors of the atoning blood of Jesus.

He took upon His own body the sins of every human being who has ever lived and who will ever live.

He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. 1 Peter 2:22-25

 

When Jesus died on that cross in that body His heavenly Father had prepared for Him, Hebrews 10:5, he also shed blood in his dying. Both Jesus’ body dying, and the blood being shed in that death, were essential to the saving of man in the atonement for sins. Man would be saved from the sins he commits in his body when in that body he dies to sin. Romans 6. See full passage later.

 

And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister. Colossians 1:21-23

 

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:23-26

 

Because of that bloody sacrificial death, God would forgive sinful men who believed in what Jesus had done in that death.

 

Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:26-28

 

But God could not forgive man’s sins and then allow him to continue to live with the same self. No, God would have to give forgiven sinners a new life by causing them to be born again. John 3:3,5; 1 Peter 1:3. The sinner puts off the old self, and puts on the new, created to be like God. Ephesians 4:22-24. Here’s how God does it:

 

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. Romans 6:1-8.

 

Do you see that? Jesus gave his life so we could have a new life. God planned, that in the waters of baptism, a sinner would die and be born again with the dying and resurrected Jesus. 1 Peter 1:3; 3:18-22. Not only are we forgiven of sin, but we die to sin and are freed from sin in baptism. Because we commit sin in our body as well as our soul, our body and soul has to die in baptism. Cf. “purified your souls,” 1 Peter 1:22-25. The sinner, in faith, puts off his old life – i.e. the old, sinful-self dies – and is resurrected to live a new life with Christ, who himself died the death of atonement, condemning our sins, Romans 8:1-3, and was resurrected to make this possible for us. That’s clearly being born again! Forgiveness, the new life and the Spirit are all given in baptism. Once dead and condemned in sin; then the Spirit of new life in Christ. Acts 2:38; 22:16; Romans 6:23; 8:1-3; Galatians 2:20; Ephesians 2:1-9; 4:21-24;  Colossians 2:11-14; 3:1-3; Titus 3:1-7. “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ.” Romans 6:23. In Romans 6 context, that gift is given in baptism!!

 

Christ’s death for our sins makes our death to sin possible. Because the saved sinner’s body appears, from a human perspective, the same body (though God bathed it in baptism, Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:22), it takes faith to see the transformation that God makes. Hear this! God gives sinners a new start in a new life in Christ, but not until the sinner is baptized in water. Yet many denominations don’t think baptism is all that important, insisting it follows salvation by faith only!!! Can you believe that? Do these people read the same Bible I read, or are they putting their church tradition ahead of God’s word? Matthew 15:1-14

 

let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience

and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:22

The heart is cleansed by Jesus’ blood (see also Hebrews 9:11-14), while at the same time, God gives the body a

wash. When does that happen? In baptism! See “wash”  in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 5:26-27; Titus 3:5.

God can release us from our sins by Jesus’ blood when we are baptized. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood. Revelation 1:5. God can then raise us to a new life in Christ, because he has resurrected Jesus to new life after He died on that cross. That’s why Peter says, in a somewhat roundabout way, that baptism saves sinners through the resurrection of Jesus:

but in your hearts honour Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defence to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behaviour in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God's will, than for doing evil. For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as a pledge to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. 1 Peter 3:15-22

 

Do you see that? Water baptism doesn’t save by washing the sinner’s body (though the body is indeed washed); it saves through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, when the sinner, in preparation for that baptism, in good conscience, pledges a new life-commitment to the Lordship of Jesus his Saviour. Jesus’ Lordship is written all over this 1 Peter 3 Scripture! There is a connection between 1 Peter 3:15-22 and Romans 10:9-10, which says we are saved by our confession of faith, with no mention of baptism, just as 1 Peter 3:21 says we are saved by baptism, with no mention of faith!! My old English Revised Version, at 1 Peter 3:21, has a cross reference, in the margin, to Romans 10:10!! Confessing Jesus as Lord is committing to live for Him. That faith-commitment is then witnessed by others as real in the waters of baptism. 1 Timothy 6:12. Baptism is not merely a public demonstration of the salvation you already have by faith; it’s where your faith is seen to be real by other Christians as they watch you demonstrate in baptism that you really want God to save you by faith!

 

As God prepared a body for Jesus, so God has prepared a new life for sinners. But that new life is only available because of two things:

1)  Jesus sacrificing His own life for us, and

2)  The sinners whom Jesus died for, commit to live this new life, through faith in Jesus, when baptised.

 

That’s why Jesus said this: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Mark 16:15-16

 

For faith and baptism going together in salvation, also read Acts 10:33,43,47-48; 16:14-15,30-34; 18:8,27; Galatians 3:26-27 and Colossians 2:11-14.

 

Some four thousand years ago, God had promised Abraham that he would bless people of all nations through one of his descendants. Genesis 15:3-6; 22:15-18. That descendant, of course, is Jesus, and that blessing comes, of course, only to those who believe that God has made that promise come true through the death and resurrection of His own Son.

 

Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith … for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. Galatians 3:7-9,26-29 

 

That is why Abraham’s faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification. Romans 4:22-25

 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself … For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Corinthians 5:17-18,21

 

Dear reader, if you do not yet have this new life in Christ, then I encourage you to do what God has decreed you must do to have this new life: believe in your heart that Jesus is God’s Son who died and shed His blood to save you from the hell that awaits sinners, Matthew 10:28; 2 Thessalonians 1:8-10, determine in your heart to turn away from your present sin-stained life (i.e. repent), Luke 13:3; and be baptized into Christ so that God can forgive your sins, release you from your sins, and give you a new life with Christ through the Holy Spirit.

 

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus

whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the

apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the 

name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36-38

 

This essay is repetitious, just as God’s word is repetitious. Repetition helps in learning and understanding.

 

--David Hunter

 

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