And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 20, Number
In this issue:
and truth have met together;
Sinners need God’s mercy, or we will forever be lost in our sins. God’s mercy is offered to us all through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:4-5).
Salvation is the gift of God’s grace that is obtained through man’s faith (Eph. 2:8). Saving faith entails obeying God’s truth by confessing faith in Christ, by repenting of sins and by being baptized into Christ (Rom. 10:17; Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38). Thus, the salvation of the lost couples God’s merciful grace with man’s faithful obedience to truth. The sinner is saved because mercy and truth meet. As Solomon wrote, “In mercy and truth atonement is provided for iniquity; and by the fear of the Lord one departs evil” (Prov. 16:6).
Both God’s mercy and God’s truth are to be exalted and praised for the salvation of sinners: “For Your mercy is great above the heavens, and Your truth reaches to the clouds” (Psa. 108:4). God’s mercy toward sinners is not antagonistic to the necessity of obedience by the sinner to obtain His mercy. God’s salvation is “near to those who fear Him” (Psa. 85:9; Lk. 1:50).
Yet, many deny sinners must obey truth to receive God’s mercy and salvation. Consequently, we have the false doctrines of “faith only” and “grace only” offering mercy to sinners without calling upon them to obey the law of liberty to be saved (Jas. 1:22-25; 2:24; Matt. 7:21-23; Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 5:8-9).
Mercy without truth is arbitrary. Mercy that is not dispensed in harmony with divine truth is subjective and meaningless. God distributes His mercy impartially and in harmony with His truth (Exo. 33:19; 34:6-7; 1 Tim. 2:3-4). So must we (Matt. 5:7; Jas. 2:13).
Truth without mercy is arrogant. The Pharisees forgot mercy when they taught the people from Moses’ seat (Matt. 23:2-3, 23). Consequently, they bound the heavy burden of tradition upon people, demanding compliance to their traditions as if they were the will of God (Matt. 23:4-5; 15:1-9). Truth joined with mercy prevents self-righteousness and upholds divine truth, not human traditions: “Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies” (1 Cor. 8:1).
One cannot expect to obtain divine mercy when he refuses to have the faith to obey divine truth. Mercy is not received despite what God’s word says, mercy is received in harmony with what God’s word says.
God’s mercy and truth meet to preserve the faithful: “Do not withhold your tender mercies from me, O Lord; Let your lovingkindness and your truth continually preserve me” (Psa. 40:11).
To be saved by God’s grace the sinner must put his faith into action and obey the truth of the gospel (Titus 3:5-7; Heb. 5:8-9). When faith obeys truth, mercy and truth meet, saving the sinner in the Son (Acts 4:12).
The apostle Paul used an allegory in Galatians 4:21-31 to show the error of demanding people obey the Law of Moses to be saved (v. 21). Simply put, to do so forfeits the eternal blessings of Christ.
In the allegory, Hagar, Sarah, Ishmael and Isaac typify the old and new covenants: “For these are the two covenants” (Gal. 4:23-24). The comparison is extended to affirm this truth: the old covenant has been cast out and is no longer binding upon men. Those who fail to distinguish between the Law of Moses and the gospel of Christ make a serious blunder. And, those who bind Moses’ law to be saved do so without God’s approval. The allegory shows:
1) The two covenants cannot be in force at the same time. They do not coexist. The bondwoman Hagar gave birth to Ishmael and symbolizes the Mt. Sinai covenant (Gal. 4:24). The freewoman Sarah gave birth to Isaac “through promise” and symbolizes the gospel of Christ (Gal. 4:23; Heb. 8:13).
Hagar and Sarah did not live together in peace, and neither did their offspring, Ishmael and Isaac. As a result, Hagar and her son Ishmael were cast out (Gen. 16:1-6; 21:8-14). This typifies the inability of the old and new covenants to peacefully coexist. Just as Ishmael persecuted Isaac, law-binding Jews persecuted Christians (Gal. 4:29). The answer was not to give in to the law-binding Jew; it was to “cast it out” along with its offspring (Gal. 4:30).
2) The old covenant produces bondage, but the new covenant provides freedom. Just like Hagar and Ishmael were in bondage, the Law of Moses kept those under it in the bondage of sin (Gal. 4:25; Rom. 3:20-23). There was bondage under the old law; it could not redeem men from the curse of sin and death (Gal. 3:10-11, 21-23; Heb. 10:4). However, the new covenant of Christ gives freedom from sin (Gal. 4:26; 5:1). Christ redeems sinners “from the curse of the law” (Gal. 3:13). The old law could never do this.
So, those who teach people must live under the Law of Moses are teaching people to remain in the bondage of sin! Redemption from sins is only obtained in Christ through the new covenant of His blood (Heb. 9:11-14).
3) The old covenant does not provide an inheritance of the promises of God, but Christians inherit an eternal inheritance under the new covenant. God’s promised blessing to Abraham and his Seed was not given under nor obtained through the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:15-19). The old law promised death to sinners, not an eternal inheritance (Gal. 3:10, 13, 18). In the gospel, Christ gives the inheritance of eternal life to the children of God (Gal. 3:19-25). Christians are “heirs of the promise” because they are in Christ and follow His covenant, not because they follow the old covenant (Gal. 3:24-29).
4) “Cast out the bondwoman and her son!” (Gal. 4:30) The old covenant cannot save sinners; the gospel of Christ saves the lost (Rom. 1:16). So, cast out the law of bondage as authoritative today, and stand fast in the gospel and its liberty from sin, by which Christ has made you free (Gal. 4:30-5:1).
Snatched out of the Fire
A Houston, Texas mother and her three children were rescued from their apartment Monday as fire engulfed the 16-unit building. The dramatic rescue was caught on video, showing firefighters on a ladder saving the family (foxnews.com). Firefighter Michael White heard screaming from the second-floor balcony, and “Training took over,” he said. “No sooner than we got that ladder off, it started to collapse in the middle. It was just perfect timing.” (“Kids rescued as fast-moving fire engulfs apartment building,” houstonchronicle.com).
Firefighters train so they can save lives. They must know their equipment, their surroundings, and many other things to succeed. Training and preparation is essential. Without it, lives are lost. With it, lives are saved.
Like firefighters, Christians must be ready to snatch sinners out of the fire of sin’s pain and death. “And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh” (Jude 22-23). Like firefighters, this requires training (“building yourselves up…praying…keeping yourself in God’s love,” Jude 20-21), so that when an endangered soul needs rescuing, our training takes over (so to speak).
We must be aware there are lost souls around us. Firefighters do not walk around the blazing building with their hands in their pockets; they act to save lives! Let us use our opportunities to snatch souls from the flames of hell. Driven by compassion, our work is to teach them the truth, to call them to repentance, and to live godly lives before them (Acts 8:4; Matt. 5:14; 1 Pet. 2:11-12).
Sadly, many remain unaware of their present danger. Let us warn them that sin is real, and its punishment is an eternal flame. Let us tell them God’s love is also real, and by it He saves the soul (1 Jno. 4:9-10; Jno. 3:16-17).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 02/27/2018
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA