Vol. 14 No. 41
God’s Way of Salvation
John 20:12, “and she saw two angels in white sitting, one at the head and one at the feet, where the body of Jesus had been laying.”
Continuing the subject of “how grace found us”:
Vs. 1, Grace found us spiritually dead.
Vs. 2, Grace found us under the control of Satan.
Vs. 3, Grace found us under the control of the Old Sin Nature.
Eph 2:3, “Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.”
Just so we do not apply arrogance and say we were never like the unbelievers of this world, i.e., the “sons of disobedience,” God adds here, “among them we too all,” EN HOS KAI HEMEIS PAS. And just to make things doubly sure, He closes this passage with, “even as the rest,” HOS KAI HO LOIPOS, where LOIPOS means, “the remaining, rest or others.”
So the first and last phrase of this verse counters any arrogance of exclusion from sin and evil we may think or say we had. Therefore, there is no escaping it and no getting around it. We were all sinners who fell short of the glory of God. That is why His grace had to come in!
So here, Paul specified the third force that works against unbelievers, their fallen sinful nature as we have three phrases that once again speak the types of disobedience we “formerly lived in,” or literally “had our conduct once in,” ANASTREPHO in the Aorist, Passive, Indicative, with POTE for “once” and EN meaning “in.”
ANASTREPHO, ἀναστρέφω means, “overturn, return; turn here and there, stay, live; to conduct one’s life, or act.” It comes from the root verb STREPHO that means, “turn, return or change.” ANASTREPHO typically means to “turn back,” but here and several other places it refers to “conduct in living one’s life,” especially in the sense of the practice of certain principles. So here it speaks of our former conduct of life living under the influence of our Old Sin Nature inside of Satan’s cosmic system. It is defined in three ways:
1. “The lusts of our flesh.” This uses the noun EPITHUMIA, ἐπιθυμία that means, “desire, longing or craving.” This desire is “of our flesh,” SARKOS, that is used literally for our skin, but also figuratively, here and elsewhere, for the Old Sin Nature. It refers to the evil desires we used to have. This is also the first area of the three temptations of Satan and his cosmic system, 1 John 2:16; Gen 3:1-6; Luke 4:1-13, which we call creating an appetite to sin within your soul by negatively influencing our Sin Nature. The other two are beauty, (the lust of the eyes). and ambitious pride, (the boastful pride of life).
2. “Indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind,” This uses POIEO for “indulging” that simply means to do something. The thing that you do is give in to “desires,” THELEMA that means, “will desire, determination, purpose, etc,” “of the flesh” (SARKOS – Old Sin Nature) and the “mind” (DIANOIA – mind, intellect, feelings or disposition). It means you did what you wanted to do, as unbelievers habitually yield to the cravings of the sinful nature with which they were born, Rom 5:12.
This is the culmination of the “three temptations” of Satan’s cosmic system that you allowed to take root in your thoughts when you chose to sin, just as the Woman and Adam did in the Garden, Gen 3:6. It speaks not only to external influences but also the internal influence of your OSN that when left unchecked leads you into all kinds of sins.
3. “Were by nature children of wrath” EIMI PHUSIS TEKNON ORGE. Here we see that our Adamic nature (OSN) is one of sin and trespasses that caused us to be under condemnation. In other words, we were being pulled irresistibly under Satan’s authority, under the authority of the OSN, toward the Lake of Fire, “even as the rest,” i.e., all other unbelievers are. The word “wrath” speaks of God’s abiding opposition to evil, Mat 3:7; Rom 1:18, and it is a reminder that those individuals who continue in their unbelief practicing sin, are facing the wrath of God.
The Doctrine of the Old Sin Nature
1. Definition. The Old Sin Nature is that which was acquired originally by Adam’s fall and subsequently acquired by us at the point of physical conception passed down through the male. It is the source of the soul’s rebellion toward God.
2. The fall of man resulted in numerous changes from the garden.
- Satan became the ruler of this world.
- The Old Sin Nature became the ruler of man’s body.
- Mankind became spiritually dead, and therefore under the condemnation of the justice of God, which became our new point of reference.
3. The essence of the Old Sin Nature is specified in the Greek of Rom 6:6. Basically it is fourfold.
- There is an area of weakness which produces all personal sins, Heb 12:1 specifies the principle. The doctrine of hamartiology classifies three types of personal sins: mental, verbal, and overt.
- The Old Sin Nature has an area of strength which produces human good in contrast to Divine good. Human good is described in Isa 64:6 and the principle is mentioned in Rom 8:8.
Isa 64:6, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.”
- There is a lust pattern in the old sin nature, Rom 7:7; Eph 2:3. Approbation lust is the basic concept, the basic motivator of life and is why people seek to get attention from others. There is power lust, materialism lust, sex lust, and so on.
- The old sin nature has antithetical trends; a trend toward lasciviousness and a trend toward asceticism. One is as bad as the other, both are evil.
4. The Biblical nomenclature for the Old Sin Nature.
- The flesh (carnal KJV), Rom 7:14; 1 Cor 3:1-3; Gal 5:16; Eph 2:3.
- Old self/man, Eph 4:22; Col 3:9.
- Sin (in the singular). The singular of the Greek word HAMARTIA generally refers to the Old Sin Nature, Rom 5:12, 7:14; 1 Cor 15:56; 1 John 1:8. The plural generally refers to personal sins as we noted above in vs. 1.
- Heart is generally used for the right lobe and occasionally for the Old Sin Nature’s influence on the right lobe, Jer 17:9; Mat 12:34-35; 15:19; Mark 7:21-23.
5. Principles of the Old Sin Nature.
- The Old Sin Nature is a source of spiritual death in mankind, Rom 5:12.
- The Old Sin Nature is perpetuated in the human race through physical conception, Psa 51:5; 1 Tim 2:13-14.
Psa 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me.”
- The believer continues to have an Old Sin Nature after salvation. There is no such thing as sinless perfection, 1 Cor 3:1; 1 John 1:8.
- The Old Sin Nature frustrates bona fide Divine good production in phase two, Rom 7:15.
- The Old Sin Nature is not found in the resurrection body of the believer, 1 Cor 15:56; Phil 3:21; Col 3:4; 1 Thes 5:23.
- Divine judgment solves the problem of the Old Sin Nature. Phase one judgment: Christ is judged for our sins on the Cross, 2 Cor 5:21; 1 Peter 2:24. There is a phase two judgment: the believer’s sins in time are judged by the rebound technique, 1 Cor 11:31; 1 John 1:9. There is also a phase three judgment where the believer’s human good is judged, 1 Cor 3:10-15; 2 Cor 5:10
Having noted in vs. 1-3 that the Grace of God has found us under three areas of evil:
Vs. 1, Spiritually dead.
Vs. 2, Under the control of Satan.
Vs. 3, Under the control of the Old Sin Nature.
The Contrast is:
We were under these authorities taking us to the Lake of Fire, but now we are under God’s authority taking us eventually to surpassing grace. God’s grace found us spiritually dead, under the control of Satan’s cosmic system and our own Old Sin Natures, yet He has purchased us away from it all and entered us into eternal life with hope and blessings. So we see that God’s grace found us even when we were spiritually dead, under the control of Satan and his cosmic system and under the control of the Old Sin Nature!
Eph 2:4, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us….”
In the first three verses, we have noted the state or condition in which we were in when God’s grace found us and brought us to salvation. All three of these conditions are the direct result of Satan’s rebellion in eternity past and his subsequent attack on mankind. Now beginning in vs. 4, we turn to God’s grace that was applied towards us to purchase us out of the slave market of sin and into eternal life, as a result of Jesus Christ breaking down the dividing barrier of sin that held us at enmity with God.
Eph 2:14, “For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one, and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall.”
In contrast to the first three verses, here is the good news. God has both holy anger against sin and also merciful love for sinners. So we see more of our “riches in Christ,” here being His mercy towards us, which we are told are based on His love.
The first half of this verse tells us that “God (THEOS) is (EIMI) rich (PLOUSIOS) in mercy (EN ELEOS).” The Adjective PLOUSIOS, πλούσιος means “rich, wealthy, abounding in material resources, abounding, or abundantly supplied.” The Noun ELEOS, ἔλεος meaning, “mercy, compassion, pity, or sympathy” is defined narrowly as an emotional response to someone else’s condition of distress. It is kindness or concern expressed for someone in need, i.e., mercy, compassion, pity, or clemency. In other words, God has more than enough mercy to go around, more than enough to save every member of the human race, as His mercy is exhaustless.
Here we have an anthropopathism, which is ascribing to God a human characteristic of feeling or emotion, which He does not actually possess, so that we can better understand God’s grace policy toward mankind; what He has done for us and why, in terms of human frame of reference by the use of language of accommodation.
Our “condition of distress,” was being spiritually dead in our sins, under the control of Satan and his cosmic system and fully under the control of our Old Sin Nature. But yet because God is abounding in mercy, He is able to save mankind, Titus 3:5; 1 Peter 1:3.
Titus 3:5, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.”
1 Peter 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”
Therefore, man does not have to continue to live on the lower plain of his sin described in the first three verses of this chapter, because God made a higher level of life possible for those who would accept it.
Principles of Mercy
“Mercy” is the Noun ELEOS, ἔλεος meaning, “mercy, compassion, pity, or sympathy.” It is defined narrowly as an emotional response to someone else’s condition of distress.
Another less frequently used word for “mercy” is OIKTIRMOS, οἰκτιρμός that means, “pity, mercy or compassion.” It denotes the lamenting that occurred at the death or misfortune of another. It expresses the sympathy and pity one felt towards another that often manifested itself in some form of assistance. It is used for God in relation to how the believer should function and operate in this world towards others, Rom 12:1; 2 Cor 1:3; Phil 2:1; Col 3:12; Heb 10:28.
To fully understand mercy there are three words that need to be distinguished: love, mercy, and grace, which are all found in our passage, Eph 2:4-10.
- Love is that in God which existed before God would care to exercise mercy or grace.
- Mercy, on the other hand, is that in God which motivated Him to duly provide for the need of sinful man.
- Grace is that in Him which acts freely to save and bless mankind because all the demands of holiness have been satisfied in Christ.
The difference between grace and mercy is that mercy is that within God which provides for man, while grace is the expression of that provision. Sinners are not actually saved by mercy but by grace. Mercy only provides a Savior and draws the sinner to Him. God’s mercy alone goes out to every living creature, not His active grace. It only goes out to the believer.
II. The Object Lesson of God’s Mercy.
The mercy of God was revealed in the Holy of holies inside the Tabernacle with the cherubs and the Mercy Seat. Jesus Christ as the God of Israel was actually going to dwell above the Mercy Seat between the cherubs in the Holy of holies. This is taught in Lev 9:23 and Num 16:42.
The Mercy Seat was the lid atop the Ark of the Covenant, Ex 25:17f, called the KAPPORETH meaning, “atonement, cover or lid.” Both were constructed of wood and gold representing the humanity and Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ, respectfully. Together, they represent the hypostatic union. In the N.T., Heb 9:5, “Mercy Seat” is the Adjective HILASTERION that means, “means of expiation or place of propitiation.” HILASTERION also functions as a technical term for “Mercy Seat” in replacement of KAPPORETH in the Septuagint. “Martin Luther is credited with the first use of “mercy seat” (German, “Gnadenstuhl”) as an equivalent to the term HILASTERION.” (Complete Biblical Library Greek-English Dictionary.)
The ark was a wooden box approximately 50” by 30” by 30” made of acacia wood overlaid with gold. Inside the Ark were three items that spoke of the sins of Israel, Aaron’s rod that budded, a jar of manna and the tablet that had God’s commandments, cf. Ex 16:32f; 31:18; 40:20; Num 17:8-10. Heb 9:4 tells us that inside the box were:
Heb 9:4, “Having a golden altar of incense and the Ark of the Covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden jar holding the manna, and Aaron’s rod which budded, and the tables of the covenant.”
- The urn of manna, which represented sin as rejection of God’s logistical grace provision.
- Aaron’s rod that budded, which speaks of sin in the sense of rebellion against the authority of God and rejection of God’s system for communication of doctrine.
- The tablets of the Law, which spoke of sin as transgression of Divine law, since the law defined freedom in the client nation.
- In vs. 1 we were spiritually dead manifested by our trespasses, willful disobedience to God’s provisions, and sins, missing the mark of God’s righteousness.
- In vs. 2 we were under the control and authority of Satan and his cosmic system in rebellion against God’s authority in our lives.
- In vs. 3 we were under the control of or enslaved to our Old Sin Nature in direct contrast to God’s Divine law.
The contents being placed inside the ark represent Christ bearing our sins on the Cross, 1 Peter 2:24; 2 Cor 5:21.
1 Peter 2:24, “And He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.”
2 Cor 5:21, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
When the high priest came into the Holy of holies twice on the Day of Atonement, he sprinkled blood over the top of the Ark or Mercy Seat. Blood was sprinkled twice on the Mercy Seat on the Day of Atonement, once for the priest, the blood of a bull, and once for the people, the blood of a goat. That blood represented the saving work of Christ on the Cross as noted in Rom 3:25
Rom 3:25, “Whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation (HILASTERION – Mercy Seat) in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed.”
There the term HILASTERION occurs, the only other time it is used in the N.T., and could be literally translated, “which (with reference to Christ, vs. 24) God presented, a ‘mercy seat’ through (the) faith in His blood.” The implication is that Christ is the site at which atonement takes place through faith.
Then we see in Ex 25:21, “And you shall put the mercy seat on top of the ark, and in the ark you shall put the testimony which I shall give to you. 22And there I will meet with you; and from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubim which are upon the ark of the testimony, I will speak to you about all that I will give you in commandment for the sons of Israel.”
The Day of Atonement portrayed the whole picture of salvation from the standpoint of propitiation. The sprinkling of animal blood represented the spiritual death of Christ bearing our sins and the acceptance by the integrity of God of this work. The resultant principle is that at the moment of salvation, the righteousness of the Father is satisfied, freeing the love of God to motivate the justice of God to bless the believer. God is now free to love and bless us.
Therefore, Christ is the Mercy Seat. Sin is inside the mercy seat. The righteousness and justice of God see the blood on the Mercy Seat, which represents the work of Christ on the Cross, and are satisfied.
The New Testament also confirms the importance of the Mercy Seat as a shadow of propitiation,
Heb 9:5, “And above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat; but of these things we cannot now speak in detail.”
On each side of the Mercy Seat was a gold cherub: one represented the righteousness of God the other represented the justice of God. One golden cherub representing the righteousness of God looked down and was satisfied because Jesus Christ was perfect in His humanity. The other golden cherub representing the justice of God judged those sins, and God the Father was satisfied with His own judgment. This was also depicted in the two angels who sat in the empty tomb of Jesus Christ, John 20:12, signifying that the righteousness and justice of God had been satisfied with the completed work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross.
The key to all of this is found in Ex 25:22, “And there I will meet with you.” The Mercy Seat or the place of mercy was the place and is the place that God meets fallen humanity. Every believer has a relationship with God, which is based on His mercy.
Mercy means grace in action. Paul recognized the grace of God and the grace policy for the Church Age in 1 Cor 15:9-10.
1 Cor 15:9-10. “I am the least of all the apostles; I am not even fit to be called an apostle because I persecuted the Church of God. But by the grace of God, I am what I am; and His grace toward me did not prove vain, but I labored even more than all of them; yet not I, but the grace of God with me.”
Grace is all that God is free to do for mankind without compromising His Divine essence. Grace means favor, kindness, and mercy. Grace means Divine mercy and Divine forgiveness. We are forgiven on the basis of what God has done for us, never on the basis of what we have done for God. There is nothing we can do for forgiveness. Forgiveness is provided for us on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross.
As a Jewish legalistic unbeliever, Paul was vigorous in his persecution of the Church. He looked for many opportunities to kill and imprison believers.
1 Tim 1:12-14, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has strengthened me, because He considered me faithful, putting me into service; 13even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor. And yet I was shown mercy, because I acted ignorantly in unbelief; 14and the grace of our Lord was more than abundant, with the faith and love which are found in Christ Jesus.”
Mercy is one of the main reasons why the Lord was patient and compassionate toward the Exodus congregation just as He was towards Paul.
Heb 8:12, “For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”
Therefore, mercy is the basis and the grounds for the believer’s relationship with God. God is merciful, yet when we talk about the ability to serve and honor God, we talk about His grace. But when we talk about our sins and failures, we talk about mercy. Mercy is actually related to our sins and failures, whereas grace is related to the provisions of God. This mercy is given for our past failures and grace is given for our present needs.
Heb 4:16, proves this principle when it says, “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.”
Post salvation, mercy is for the forgiveness of our sins through confession, 1 John 1:9, and grace provides for our every need. We receive mercy for our past mistakes and grace for our spiritual strength and integrity under pressure. Mercy is the application of grace and reminds us that redemptive freedom rescued us from the pathetic condition of our sinful state and our sinfulness.
If you would like more information on this subject, you may watch/listen to lesson:
#’s 15-127 & 15-128
A PERSONAL NOTE FOR YOU
If you have never accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, I am here to tell you that Jesus loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His life for you. God the Father also loves you. He loves you so much that He gave His only Son for you by sending Him to the Cross. At the Cross Jesus died in your place. Taking upon Himself all of your sins and all of my sins. He was judged for our sins and paid the price for our sins. Therefore our sins will never be held against us. Right where you are, you now have the opportunity to make the greatest decision in your life.
To accept the free gift of salvation and eternal life by truly believing that Jesus Christ died for your sins and was raised on the third day as the proof of the promise of eternal life. So right now you can pause and reflect on what Christ has done for you and say to the Father:
“Yes Father, I believe that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins.”
If you have done that, I welcome you to the eternal Family of God!