"Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:31)
This lesson is the second in a series on what "to be saved" means in the Bible. The first lesson described what "to be saved" means in the Old Testament (Ref. 1). This lesson describes what "to be saved" means in the New Testament.
This lesson uses scripture quotations from the English Standard Version (ESV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB) (Ref. 2).
Consider. What do the words, "to be saved," mean to you? How does a person become saved?
1. "To be saved" in the New Testament means "to be delivered out of danger into safety" and "to be made well or whole."
The Greek word, sózó, translated as saved in Acts 16:31 occurs over 100 times in the New Testament (Ref. 3). Sózó (pronounced sode'-zo) means to deliver, heal, make whole, preserve, and save (Ref. 3). When God saves us, God delivers us out of danger into his provisions (safety).
Items "a," "b," "c," and "d" below provide examples from the New Testament for what it means to be saved.
a. Jesus saves people through storms
(1). Jesus saved his disciples when they were afraid
Matthew 8:25-26 -- "And they went and woke him, saying, 'Save us, Lord; we are perishing.' 26 And he said to them, 'Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?' Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm." (Read the entire account: Matthew 8:23-27.)
(2). Jesus saved Peter when he doubted
Matthew 14:30-31, brackets added -- "But when he [Peter] saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, 'Lord, save me.' 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, 'O you of little faith, why did you doubt?' " (Read the entire account: Matthew 14:22-33.)
Notice in these examples that Jesus saved them even when they had little faith. Let that thought encourage you and calm you in whatever storm you are going through.
b. Jesus saves people when they are lost
Luke 19:8-10 -- "And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, 'Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.' 9 And Jesus said to him, 'Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.'" (Read the entire account: Luke 19:1-10).
In Luke 19:10, the Greek word for lost, apollumi (ap-ol'-loo-mee), has a more severe meaning than just needing directions to point the way. Apollumi (being lost) implies to die with the implication of ruin and permanent (absolute) destruction by experiencing a miserable end (Ref. 4). Jesus Christ came to save Zaccheus, you, and me from experiencing ruin, permanent destruction, and a miserable end.
c. Jesus saves suffering people and makes them well (healed and whole)
The Greek word sózó which means save also means make well, heal, and restore to health (Thayer's Greek Lexicon, Ref. 3). The New Testament strongly teaches the healing nature of being saved.
(1). Jesus healed the woman with a hemorrhage
Mark 5:33-34, brackets added -- "But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth. 34 And he said to her, 'Daughter, your faith has made you well [saved you]; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.'" (Read the entire account: Mark 5:25-34.)
(2). Jesus healed Bartimaeus from blindness
Mark 10:51-52, brackets added -- "And Jesus said to him, 'What do you want me to do for you?' And the blind man said to him, 'Rabbi, let me recover my sight.' 52 And Jesus said to him, 'Go your way; your faith has made you well [saved you].' And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way." (Read the entire account: Mark 10:46-52.)
(3). Church elders are to pray for the sick to be restored (saved)
James 5:14-15, brackets added -- "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save [restore] the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven."
When you are suffering and need healing, seek the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer and faith, and trust him for the results.
d. God will save people who call on him from the day of the Lord and from the wrath of God against sin
(1). People who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved from the day of the Lord
The prophet Joel describes the day of the Lord in Joel 2:30-32. In Joel 2:31, he describes the day of the Lord as "great and awesome [where awesome means to be feared]" (Ref. 5). Then, Joel adds "And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved [delivered, escape]" (Joel 2:32, brackets added; Ref. 6). On Pentecost, the Apostle Peter quoted Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:17-21.
"Calling on the name of the Lord" means "to adore and worship" the Lord and "to invoke" [petition, appeal to, and make an earnest request to] the Lord in prayer (Ref. 7, Ref. 8).
God has promised -- people who call on him (adore, worship, appeal to, and pray to him) will be saved. When you believe in Christ, the time of his return will be a time of salvation, not a time of fear. Thank God and rejoice in that promise.
(2). God will save believers in Christ from the wrath of God against sin
Romans 5:8-10 -- "but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life."
According to HELPS Word-studies, the wrath of God refers to God's fixed, controlled, passionate feeling against sin (Ref. 9). As believers in Christ, we are justified [made righteous] by the blood of Christ (Ref. 10, Romans 5:9). That is why we who believe in Christ will be saved by him from the wrath of God against sin (Romans 5:9-10).
2. Biblical Principles about Being Saved
a. God was so moved by his love for the world that he has already provided the way for the world to be saved
John 3:16 -- "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life."
b. God sent his Son not to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through him
John 3:17 -- Jesus said to Nicodemus, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him." Nicodemus, a Pharisee (John 3:1), may have been expecting a Messiah that would destroy Israel's Gentile enemies (Ellicott's Commentary on John 3:17, Ref. 11). Jesus came at that time not to initiate the final judgment of the world, but to provide the way for the people of the world -- Gentiles and Jews -- to be saved.
c. For those who believe in Christ, God has saved us from our former life of sin
Romans 5:8 -- "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us."
Ephesians 2:4-5 -- "But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved."
d. God has provided his Son, Jesus Christ, as the only way by which people are saved
Acts 4:10,12 -- The Apostle Peter referred to Jesus Christ of Nazareth when he said, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
e. Our only "to do" to become saved is to believe in Jesus Christ, God's Son
Acts 16:30-31, brackets added -- "Then he [the Philippian jailer] brought them [Paul and Silas] out and said, 'Sirs, what must I do to be saved?' 31 And they said, 'Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.'"
The Greek word for believe means trust in, have faith in, and have confidence in (Ref.12).
3. Salvation Prayer
Apply. If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, tell him you are sorry for all the sins in your life (1 John 1:9), and put your faith and trust in him. Tell Jesus that you believe in him and that you believe he died for you (Romans 5:8). Tell Jesus that you believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead (Romans 10:9). Thank Jesus for being your Savior and Lord.
"Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved" (Romans 10:13).
"What Does 'To Be Saved' Mean in the Old Testament?" (Psalm 18:3)
"God's Offer of Salvation and Eternal Life" (John 3:16)
"But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4-5)
God has made believers in Christ alive together with Christ. We identify with the resurrection of Christ, and God gives us a new quality of life -- eternal life.
Consider. If you are a believer in Christ, how would you describe to an inquisitive unbeliever or a new believer what it means to be "made alive together with Christ"?
1. Who is Paul writing to?
Paul begins his letter, "Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:" (Ephesians 1:1). The Greek word for saints is hagios (hag'-ee-os) which means different or holy. Christians are different from the world because we are like the Lord (Ref. 1). Clearly, Paul is writing to believers in Jesus Christ.
2. What was the former spiritual condition of the Ephesian believers before God made them alive together with Christ?
Paul writes, "And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world ..." (Ephesians 2:1-2). In the same way, without Christ, we were dead in our trespasses and sins. We inherited our spiritual "deadness" from Adam (Genesis 2:16-17, Genesis 3:6). Romans 5:12 says, "When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned" (Romans 5:12 NLT).
Trespasses are a lapse or deviation from the truth, a slip-up, or an error that can be unintentional or willful (Ref. 2). Sins are thoughts, words, or deeds where we miss the mark or target (Ref. 3).
3. Even when we were dead in our trespasses and sins, before we were in Christ, God loved us.
God's divine attributes of mercy and love moved God to plan for and provide for our salvation (Ephesians 1:3-5, Ephesians 2:4-5, Colossians 2:13-14). Romans 5:8 tells us, "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Jesus said about himself, "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him" (John 3:16-17).
4. Together with Christ, God has made us alive.
Ephesians 2:5 tells us (believers) that God has made us alive together with Christ. In the Greek, the verb does not just say "made alive." It says, "made alive together with" (Ref. 4). Strong's Exhaustive Concordance defines this verb, suzóopoieó (sood-zo-op-oy-eh'-o), as "to reanimate conjointly with, (figuratively) -- quicken together with." As believers in Christ, we identify with and are co-joined with Christ in his resurrection. Paul writes, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved" (Romans 10:9).
5. When God makes us alive together with Christ, God gives us a new quality of life -- eternal life.
When we believe in Jesus Christ and in his resurrection, God makes us alive together with Christ. God gives us a new quality of life -- eternal life (Romans 6:23). Eternal life begins for the believer when they put their faith and trust in Christ, and continues after their physical death (John 11:25-26, Ref. 6).
Being made alive in Christ results in a new quality of life. The Greek word for eternal in eternal life is aiónios, which means perpetual, unending, age-long (Strong's Concordance, Ref. 5, Ref. 6). Aiónios includes the character of that which lasts for an age, as contrasted with that which is brief and fleeting (Ref. 5, Ref. 6). "Aiónios does not focus on the future per se, but rather on the quality of the age it relates to. People who are alive spiritually in Christ live in eternal life right now, experiencing this quality of God's life now as a present possession" (Helps Word-studies, Ref. 5, Ref. 6).
Apply. If you already are a believer in Jesus Christ, praise God that God has made you spiritually alive together with Christ. Thank God for the quality of new life that he has given you in Christ. If you are not yet a believer in Jesus Christ, put your faith and trust in him today. He will forgive your trespasses and sins. He will make you spiritually alive together with himself, and he will give you a new quality of life -- eternal life.
"What is Eternal Life?" (John 17:3)
"Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life (Job's Question, Jesus' Answer)" (Job 14:14, John 11:25-26)
"Jesus Christ is the Life - John 14:6"
"Jesus is the Way to Heaven" (John 14:6)
"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace ..." (Ephesians 1:7)
This lesson explains the New Testament biblical definitions of redemption, forgiveness, trespasses, and sins.
Consider. Think for a moment. How would you define redemption in your own words? How would you explain your redemption through Christ to an inquisitive unbeliever or a new Christian?
1. Redemption is the action of buying back or repurchasing what was previously forfeited or lost.
The transliteration of the Greek word for redemption in Ephesians 1:7 is apolutrosis (ap-ol-oo'-tro-sis) (Ref. 1). The Strong's Concordance definition of apolutrosis is a release effected by payment of ransom (Ref. 1). Helps WORD-studies adds that apolutrosis (redemption) literally means buying back from, repurchasing what was previously forfeited (or lost) (Ref. 1). Note that Jesus said, "For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10).
In the New Testament, the primary idea in "redemption" is deliverance from a bondage, the bondage of sin itself (Ref. 2, Titus 2:13-14, Hebrews 9:13-15). "Into that bondage man has plunged himself; God’s mercy redeems him from it at an unspeakable price" (Ref. 2, Romans 5:12, John 3:16, 1 Peter 1:18-19).
2. Jesus Christ Has Paid the Ransom Price -- His Blood -- For Our Redemption
Jesus said, "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). The transliteration of the Greek word for ransom is lutron (loo'-tron), which literally is the ransom money (price) to free a slave (Ref. 3). Jesus Christ has paid the lutron, the ultimate "liberty price" -- the blood of Christ -- to purchase (ransom) believers, freeing them (us) from all slavery to sin (Ref. 3).
1 Peter 1:18-19 -- "Know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish."
Hebrews 9:11-12 -- "But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things having come, He entered through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made by hands, that is, not of this creation; 12 and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all time, having obtained eternal redemption."
"Jesus sought me when a stranger, Wand’ring from the fold of God; He, to rescue me from danger, Interposed His precious blood" (Robert Robinson, the hymn, "Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing" - Ref. 4).
3. As the result of our redemption by Christ, believers in Christ have complete forgiveness of our trespasses and sins - past, present, and future.
In Christ, we have complete forgiveness of our trespasses and sins. Christ procured the forgiveness of our sins by his full, perfect, and sufficient offering (propitiation) of himself for the sins of the human race (Ref. 2, Ref. 5, 1 John 2:2, 1John 4:10).
The Greek word for forgiveness in Ephesians 1:7 means sending away, releasing from obligation or debt, and pardon (Ref. 6). Trespasses are a lapse, slip-up, or error that can be unintentional or willful (Ref. 7, Matthew 6:14-15, Ephesians 1:7, Ephesians 2:1-2, Colossians 2:13-14). Sins are thoughts, words, or deeds where we miss the mark or target (Ref. 8, Matthew 26:26-28, Ephesians 2:1-2, Colossians 1:12-14).
In Acts, a Gentile named Cornelius sent for and invited the Apostle Peter to speak to his relatives and friends (Acts 10:30-32). Peter spoke the good news of Jesus to these Gentile people. Peter concluded his message with "And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. 43 To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name" (Acts 10:42-43, italics added).
4. As believers in Christ, we have redemption and forgiveness of our trespasses and sins because of the grace of God.
Our redemption is a free gift by God to us, believers in Christ, according to the riches [abundance, wealth, fullness] of God's grace (Ref. 9). The Apostle Paul teaches us, "In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Ephesians 1:7, italics added).
The grace of God is a gift to us. Paul writes, "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 3:23-24, italics added).
The New Testament Greek word for grace is charis, which means a gift or blessing brought to man by Jesus Christ, favor, and kindness (Ref. 10).
Even though God's grace-full gift of redemption to us, believers in Christ, was free, that free gift of redemption was immensely costly to God (John 3:16, 1 Peter 1:18-19).
Summary. Redemption is the action of buying back or repurchasing what was previously forfeited or lost. Redemption is a release effected by payment of ransom. Jesus Christ has paid the ransom price -- his blood -- for our redemption. As the result of our redemption by Christ, believers in Christ have complete forgiveness of our trespasses and sins - past, present, and future. As believers in Christ, we have redemption and forgiveness of our trespasses and sins because of the grace of God.
Apply. How will you purpose to live today and each day in light of your redemption by Jesus Christ, God's Son? Give thanks for God's gracious gift.
"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." (Psalm 32:1-2)
"Pardoning mercy is of all things in the world most to be prized, for it is the only and sure way to happiness." -- Treasury of David (Ref. 1)
This article teaches the seriousness of transgression, sin, and iniquity from Psalm 32:1-2 as well as the blessedness of forgiveness through the atonement of Christ.
Consider. True happiness comes not from the world, nor through "self help," but from God's forgiveness of our sins through the atonement of Christ.
The Blessedness of Forgiveness
Psalm 32:1 begins with an exclamation in the form of an interjection. The opening phrase could be translated "Oh! How blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven!" (Ref. 2) The Hebrew word for blessed is esher, which is a forceful interjection that means "How happy!" (Ref. 3) David is so joyful that he repeats the exclamation, "Oh! How blessed," again in verse 2. "Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit" (Psalm 32:2). Note that true happiness of forgiveness comes from God, not from man.
The word for "man" in Psalm 32:2 is adam, which means mankind, including men, women, and children (Ref. 4).
The Threefold Picture of Sin
Psalm 32:1-2 employs three words for sin -- "transgression," "sin," and "iniquity." All three are serious. These words describe the compass of sin and its foulness (Ref. 2). Let's take them in the order described by David, the psalmist.
Transgression. Psalm 32:1 says "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven." The Hebrew word for transgression means rebellion (Ref. 5). We commit a transgression against God when we know, or our conscience knows, what God's law teaches, and we go ahead and do the deed anyway.
Sin. The Hebrew word for sin written in Psalm 32:1, chataah, means great sin. Chataah occurs only eight times in the Old Testament (Ref. 6, Genesis 20:1-9; Exodus 32:1-4, 19-21).
A similar Hebrew word for sin, chata, occurs more than 200 times in the Old Testament and means do wrong, commit a mistake, or miss the mark or goal (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance Ref. 7, Exodus 20:18-20, Psalm 4:4).
Iniquity. The Hebrew word for iniquity is avon, which means moral evil (Ref. 8). "'Iniquity' is defined as being wicked or immoral in nature or character. Primarily, it indicates 'not an action, but the character of an action,' and is so distinguished from 'sin'" (Ref. 9). We commit iniquity when we not only rebel against God and miss the mark, but also waver or diverge from the straight path manifest in God's law (Ref. 2).
The Threefold Picture of Forgiveness
Psalm 32 verses one and two describe three aspects of forgiveness - "forgiven," "covered," and "not counted (not imputed)." Let's take each aspect in the order presented.
Forgiven. Psalm 32:1 begins, "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven ..." When God forgives our sins, he lifts them up and carries them away. The Hebrew word for forgiven means to lift, carry away, and bear (Ref. 10).
In the Old Testament, on the annual day of atonement, the scapegoat (literally, goat of removal) carried away the sins of the people into the wilderness (Leviticus 16:7-10, Leviticus 16:29-30, Ref. 11). In the New Testament, Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is the one who takes away our sin (John 1:29). Jesus Christ takes away our sin not just annually but once and for all time (Hebrews 9:11-12). "He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed" (1 Peter 2:24).
Covered. "Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered" (Psalm 32:1, italics added). The Hebrew word for cover means to hide or conceal (Ref. 12). For the believer in Christ, God hides our sin, covers it with a merciful veil, so it no longer comes into his view as evidence against us (Ref. 2). Christ's atonement is the covering for our sin (Ref. 2).
Not Counted (Not Imputed). Psalm 32 verse 2 in the English Standard Version (ESV) begins, "Blessed is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity ..." The Hebrew word for count means impute, charge, or reckon (Ref. 13). Even though our iniquity (moral evil) has been ugly, when we believe in and trust our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, he does not impute to us (charge us for, take into account, or reckon) that iniquity (Ref. 13).
How Do We Receive the Blessedness of Forgiveness?
The blessedness of forgiveness can be known only through the atonement of Christ.
Isaiah 53:5 - "But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed."
1 Peter 1:18-19 - " ... knowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot."
1 John 2:2 - "He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world."
We receive forgiveness by acknowledging our sin and confessing our sin to God.
Psalm 32:5 - "I acknowledged my sin to You, And my iniquity I have not hidden. I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,' And You forgave the iniquity of my sin."
1 John 1:8-9 - "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
True happiness (blessedness) comes only through the forgiveness and removal of our sin by Christ, not from anything the world provides.
Apply. Do you want to receive the blessedness of forgiveness for your sins? Acknowledge your sins, and confess your sins to Jesus Christ (1 John 1:9). He will lift away the guilt and pain of your sin and will heal you. You will receive the true happiness of knowing by faith that you are pardoned forever by Christ.
"Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. 2 And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" (Luke 15:1-2)
God draws people who are sinners to seek Jesus. Jesus actively looks for, expectantly waits for, and warmly receives sinners.
Definitions -- Who were these people in Luke 15:1-2?
1. Tax Collectors
Tax collectors were people who collected various taxes for the Romans who occupied Palestine. They often charged much more than they should to make themselves rich (Ref. 1). The Jewish people despised the tax collectors and considered any Jew a traitor who was a tax collector for the Romans. Jesus called Matthew (Levi), a tax collector, to be his disciple (Matthew 9:9, Mark 2:14, Luke 5:27-28).
The synoptic gospel writers often lumped together "tax collectors" and "sinners" (Matthew 9:10-11, Mark 2:15-16, Luke 5:30, Luke 15:1). The Pharisees shunned both tax collectors and people that the Pharisees deemed "sinners," including:
a. People who lived blatantly in contradiction to the law - such as murderers, robbers, and prostitutes (Luke 7:37, Matthew 21:31, Ref. 2 below).
b. "The people of the land" (am ha-aretz) who did not observe the Pharisees' strict interpretation of the law (Matthew 23:1-5, Ref. 3). This category included almost everybody, so many "sinners" were in the daily company of Jesus (Matthew 11:18-19, Mark 2:15, Luke 15:1, Ref. 2, Ref. 3).
Technically, the Greek word for sinners, hamartólos, means falling short of what God approves, i.e. what is "wide of the mark"; a blatant sinner (Ref. 4).
The Pharisees were a Jewish religious sect. "Pharisee" is derived from the Aramaic term, peras ("to divide and separate"). Hence, a Pharisee was someone "separated from sin" (Ref. 5). The Pharisees separated themselves from the great mass of the populace—the "people of the land" (am ha-aretz)—by their "strict adherence to the minutia of their legal tradition" (Ref. 6).
The Pharisees believed the deception that they earned merit before God based on religious works (Luke 18:10-13, Ref. 6). In contrast, true believers in Christ recognize "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Pharisees appeared in the gospels as the chief antagonists of Jesus (Matthew 19:3, Matthew 22:15, Mark 8:11-12, Ref. 6).
The Pharisees largely were members of the middle class—businessmen, merchants, and tradesmen of their day (Ref. 6). In legal matters, the Pharisees had recourse to the professionals in the law, the scribes (described below).
The scribes were educated teachers and authorities in the Mosaic law (Ref. 7). In Jesus' day, the scribes were legal professionals who drafted documents such as contracts for marriage, loans, or sale of land (Ref. 8). The scribes questioned Jesus' authority, "By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?" (Mark 11:28). The scribes participated with the Pharisees in criticizing Jesus and his disciples (Mark 7:5-8). Jesus pronounced multiple woes against the practices of the scribes and Pharisees (interesting reading, Matthew 23:13-36).
What are the main principles in Luke 15:1-2?
1. God draws sinners to Jesus
Luke 15:1 is remarkable because not only does Jesus seek people who are lost (Luke 19:10), but also that God draws people who are sinners to seek Jesus. Luke, the gospel writer, says, "Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him" (Luke 15:1).
At the time of the event that Luke describes in Luke 15:1-2, Jesus was in the last months of his earthly ministry (Ref. 9 below). Many people whom the Pharisees shunned as sinners recognized their need for Jesus and came to him. These were people through home and family associations or through their occupations or immoral living were looked upon with disfavor by the Pharisees and scribes. Often they were indifferent or had little to do with their more religious and orthodox countrymen. The religious people, Pharisees in heart, despised them and looked on them as hopelessly lost (Ref. 10).
No one spoke to these people like Jesus. To these people who were "outside of the synagogues" of their time Jesus brought hope. Jesus spoke to them with tenderness. Sinners came to Jesus as their Great Physician to find healing for their spiritual, emotional, and physical ailments. Jesus did not overlook their sin, but called these people to repentance (Luke 5:29-32, Mark 1:14-15).
2. Jesus warmly receives sinners - then and now
Luke 15:2 tells us, "And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, 'This man receives sinners and eats with them.'" The Pharisees, the religious establishment of Jesus' day, were indignant that Jesus associated with people outside the synagogue community who did not keep the rules the Pharisees believed necessary for merit with God. In contrast, Jesus deliberately showed people the true nature of God. He reached out in kindness to people outside the religious establishment. He treated them with tenderness, and he called them to repentance and faith in God who loves them. Jesus does the same today.
The Pharisees accused Jesus of receiving sinners. That was (and is) a true accusation. Jesus does receive sinners - then and now. The Greek work for receive means actively look for, expectantly wait, and warmly receive (Ref. 11). Jesus is like the excellent example of the father in the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). The father expectantly waited for his son to return to him. When the prodigal son returned, the son repented of his sin, and the father received him with great joy.
Jesus expectantly waits to receive you.
Apply. Come to Jesus. He will warmly receive you. He will heal you of your spiritual, emotional, and physical sickness. Jesus will forgive your sin and will cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).
(refer to "Story Planner")
2. A Theological Word Book of the Bible, Alan Richardson, Editor, MacMillan Publishing Company, 1978
9. Key to the Tree of Jesus' Life and Harmony of the Gospels, The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible, Fourth Improved Edition, B. B. Kirkbridge Bible Company, Inc., 1964
"Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." (Isaiah 1:18)
This lesson is the first in a series on the "Comes" of God's word. This lesson describes God's invitation in Isaiah 1:18, "Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow."
Consider. In Isaiah 1:18-20 (Old Testament), God's forgiveness was conditional on the people's obedience to God. How do people today receive God's forgiveness now that Christ has paid the penalty for sin?
Being accused of having hands full of blood was a serious accusation. Yet, that is exactly how the Lord accused the people of Judah and Jerusalem (Isaiah 1:1) in Isaiah 1:15, "Even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood." Having hands full of blood is a symbol for the cruel wrongs the people had committed including the guilt of actual murder (Isaiah 1:21, Ref. 1). Isaiah had already spoken against the people for their rebellion against God (Isaiah 1:2) and for the insincerity of their sacrifices, offerings, festivals, and prayers (Isaiah 1:11-15).
In Isaiah 1:18, God says "Come now." The Hebrew word for come is halak, which means to go, come, walk (Ref. 2). Here in Isaiah 1:18 "Come" is a summons for the recipient of the message to approach the speaker (God). Although God does not force the people of Judah and Jerusalem to come to him, God strongly urges the people to come to him that they might receive his pardon. Likewise, today God strongly urges all sinners to come to him.
Let Us Reason Together
The Hebrew word for let us reason together, yakach, means to decide, adjudge, prove, and argue (Ref. 3, Job 13:15). The idea is that of a legal process in which each party maintains his own case (Ref. 4, Isaiah 43:26). God proposes to present to the people of Judah and Jerusalem the principles on which he is willing to forgive their sins and bestow his pardon (Ref. 5). God describes the terms for pardon in Isaiah 1:18-20.
Though Your Sins Are Like Scarlet
The stain of the people's sins are bright red and indelible like the scarlet dye used by the ancients. The ancients made scarlet and crimson dyes from the dried bodies of the insect (worm), Coccus ilicis found on oak trees in Spain and in the countries east of the Mediterranean (Ref. 5, Ref. 6, Ref. 7).
When it was time for the female Coccus ilicis to give birth, she would attach herself permanently to an oak tree. Her body protected her eggs until the larvae were hatched and able to live on their own. As the mother died, she oozed a crimson fluid which stained her body and the surrounding wood. The death of the female Coccus ilicis paints a picture of the death of Christ who sacrificed his blood on the wood of the cross that others, by believing in him, may live (Ref. 7, Ref. 8).
The scarlet dye was indelible. Cotton material was dipped in this color twice so the stain was permanent (Ref. 5). The stain of the red dye (and likewise the stain of sin in the human heart) could not be washed away by man alone. That is why we as sinners need God's action to wash us clean.
The scarlet dye was known since early in the Old Testament times, centuries before the prophet Isaiah. For further study, I suggest you check these cross references:
They Will Be White as Snow
Only God can forgive sin. Only God can cleanse people and wash away their sin. David recognized this principle. He prayed to God, "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!" (Psalm 51:1-2). David also wrote, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow" (Psalm 51:7). White symbolizes innocence and purity (Ref. 9). "White as snow " is "a powerful figurative description of the result of forgiveness" (Ref. 10 below).
Though They Are Red Like Crimson, They Shall Be as Wool
Scarlet and crimson are similar reddish colors. Scarlet is bright red with an orange tint. Crimson is a strong, bright, deep red color combined with some blue or violet, resulting in a small degree of purple (Ref. 11). Crimson is associated with the stain of blood (Isaiah 1:15, Ref. 12). The ancients employed crimson color to dye wool (Ref. 5).
The Hebrew word for red in the phrase "red like Crimson" is adom, which means glaring, flagrant in Isaiah 1:18 (Brown-Driver-Briggs, Ref. 13).
Though their sins are flagrant and appear as deep stains, God, upon their repentance and reformation, will remove their sins so they will be like wool restored to its original, undyed whiteness (Ref. 14).
Forgiveness - By Obedience or by Faith?
In the Old Testament, God's relationship with man was based on obedience to God. Isaiah confirms this point in regard to God's forgiveness. In Isaiah 1:18 God offers forgiveness and cleansing to the people of Judah and Jerusalem. However, God's forgiveness and cleansing was conditional based on their willingness to obey God. Isaiah 1:19-20 describes the conditions for God's forgiveness, and the consequences for not obeying God. "If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken" (Isaiah 1:19-20, italics added). For further study on God's relationship with man in the Old Testament based on obedience, I suggest reading Deuteronomy 30:15-20.
In the New Testament, God's relationship with man is based on faith in Christ. The Apostle Paul writes, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). Faith in Christ means believing in, trusting in, and having confidence in Christ (Ref. 15). Peter preached to the Gentiles gathered in Cornelius' house that through the name of Jesus everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins (Acts 10:34-43). God's power to cleanse our sins "white as snow" is through the blood of Christ (1 John 1:7).
Summary - Main Principles
Let's review the main principles in this lesson:
1. God invites all sinners to come to him that we might receive his pardon (Isaiah 1:18).
2. The stain of sin is red as scarlet (Isaiah 1:18).
3. Only God can wash our sins white as snow (Isaiah 1:18, Psalm 51:7). As a result of Christ's death, we know that it is the blood of Jesus that cleanses us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
4. In the Old Testament, God's forgiveness was conditional on the people's obedience to God (Isaiah 1:18-20). In the New Testament, God provides forgiveness and cleansing through faith in Christ (Ephesians 2:8, Acts 10:43).
Apply. If you do not know Christ, come to him, confess your sin, and ask him to forgive you. Put your faith and trust in him and walk in the cleansed life that Christ has given you. If you do have faith in Christ as your Savior, walk with him in the light. Thank him for forgiving your sin and for cleansing you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:7-9).
"God's Great Invitation - Come, Satisfy Your Thirst" (Isaiah 55:1)
"Jesus' Invitation - Come to Me and Rest" (Matthew 11:28-30)
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges - Isaiah 1:15
Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges - Isaiah 1:18
Barnes' Notes on the Bible - Isaiah 1:18
10. The NIV Study Bible, Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985, note on Isaiah 1:18
Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers - Isaiah 1:18
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary - Isaiah 1:18
Mr. Whitney V. Myers. Christian. For more information, please visit the Author Page.
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25Aug19 - "Characteristics of a Child of God - Part 1" (Matthew 7:16)
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"What is Eternal Life?" (John 17:3)