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We have seen in the meetings that have already passed that the cross is the only basis of God’s provision for every need of the whole human race. God didn’t do a lot of different things at different times, but it says “by one sacrifice He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” After he had offered that one sacrifice, the writer of Hebrews says Jesus sat down at the right hand of God. Why did he sit down? Because he was never going to have to do it again. I want to tell you although Jesus is deeply compassionate and concerned for his people, he’s not anxious. He’s not leaning over the rail of the throne of God with white knuckles, holding on and hoping everything will work out. He is in total control.
Today at this morning’s service I want to deal with another very important aspect of the cross. That is that through the cross Jesus administered to Satan and his kingdom a total, permanent, irreversible defeat. Amen. He’s never going to have to do that again. Satan has already been defeated. You and I do not have to defeat Satan, we have to apply the victory which Jesus has already won.
So, this morning I’m going to dwell on this theme, “The Defeat of Satan.” I’m going to read some verses from Colossians. Colossians is a rather neglected epistle amongst some people, I think. But if you’re ever dealing with people who’ve been in a cult, whatever the cult may be, Colossians is the place to take them because Colossians presents Jesus in a way that’s unique. When you’ve studied Colossians you can no longer believe that Jesus was a guru or just a prophet or a good man. So we will read, first of all, in Colossians 1, beginning at verse 12 and reading two or three verses.
“...giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.”
Our inheritance is in the light and there’s no darkness in it anywhere. It’s totally in the light. How has he done it?
“He has delivered us from the power [I prefer to say ‘domain’] of darkness...”
There’s one of the translations that uses the word “domain.”
“He has delivered us from the domain of darkness, and translated into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption, through his blood.”
So, by redemption through the blood of Jesus.
Now I know some of your translations don’t say “through the blood” because there’s different texts. But if you turn to Ephesians 6:1 and 7, you’ll find it says there we have redemption through his blood and there’s no alternative text. That’s just to clear up any confusion there might be in your mind.
So, through redemption we have been delivered from the domain of darkness and translated [or carried over] into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love.
That word that’s translated “domain” or “power” is actually the normal Greek word for “authority.” It’s very important for us to understand that Satan has authority. Why does he have authority? Because he’s the ruler of all those who are in rebellion against God. Anyone who is in rebellion against God is automatically under the authority of Satan, he’s in the domain of darkness.
Keep your finger in Colossians, we’ll be coming back, and turn to Ephesians for a moment. Chapter 2, beginning at the first few verses.
“And you God has made alive, you who were dead in trespasses and sins...”
That’s not physical death, that’s spiritual death. That’s where all of us were, we were dead to God because we were living in trespasses and sins.
“...in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air...”
Who’s that? Satan, the ruler of the region of authority of the air. The problem with me is when I get into this, it’s hard to get out! There are two Greek words for air. Without going into a lot, one of them gives us the English word “ether,” the other gives us the English word “air.” And the difference in Greek is ether is the higher, rarer atmosphere, air is the lower atmosphere, contiguous with the earth’s surface. It’s the second word that’s used here. Satan is the ruler of the realm of authority of the surface of the earth, contiguous with the earth. He’s:
“...the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience.”
Why does he work in those people? Because they’re disobedient to God. You see? We have only two options. We can be in Satan’s territory or God’s territory. There’s no third option. If we’re submitted to God’s appointed ruler who is Jesus, we have the right to be in God’s kingdom. If we have rejected or not accepted God’s appointed ruler Jesus, we are in Satan’s kingdom because we’re sons of disobedience. Satan has legitimate authority over all those who are in rebellion against God. Whether they speak in tongues or not is not important. Satan rules over all rebels. I think I’d like you to say that. “Satan rules over all rebels.”
All right. Paul goes on in verse 3:
“...among whom also we all once conducted ourselves...”
How many of us did? All of us.
“...in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind...”
And notice it’s not just the flesh. Our minds were alienated from God. The carnal mind is enmity against God. You have an enemy of God dwelling in your mind, the carnal mind.
“...and were by nature children of wrath, [even] as the others.”
That’s a very important statement. We were born with a disobedient nature. This is a fact of human experience. How many of you parents ever had to train your children to be naughty? Not one, because there’s something in every descendant of Adam—the nature of a rebel. Adam never had any children until he was a rebel and everyone descended from Adam has in him the nature of a rebel. And that nature makes him subject to the authority of Satan.
Thank God there is a way out of Satan’s kingdom and into God’s kingdom. This is so vivid for me. Some years ago I was preaching in the country of Zambia and I was in a remote area in the west of the country, right on the border of the Zambezi River which at that point separated Zambia from, I think, Zaire—I forget where it is. Anyhow, I think the Zambezi is the most beautiful river I’ve ever seen. It has in it the Victoria Falls. If you’ve never seen them, you’ve missed something. It is quite absolutely unique. I’ve seen the falls in America which is Niagara. They’re wonderful but they don’t compare, in my opinion, with the Victoria Falls. That’s just by the way.
Anyhow, I had a congregation of about four or five hundred Africans and I was trying to communicate to them this wonderful fact that God has made it possible for us to escape from the kingdom of Satan and get into the kingdom of God. I said, “Suppose here on the east side of the Zambezi River we were in the kingdom of darkness. But on the other side of the river is the kingdom of light. In order to get from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of light, we must have a bridge across the river.” I said, “God has provided a bridge. There’s only one bridge and it’s the cross of Jesus Christ. But, through that bridge you can cross out of the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love.”
If we go back to Colossians now, verse 13, you see it says that:
“He has delivered us from the [domain] of darkness [where we all were] and translated us [or transferred us, or carried us over] into the kingdom of the Son of His love.”
God doesn’t want us to stay on the bridge. God wants us to get into another kingdom and rule with Jesus now as kings and priests. That’s our destination. The problem with the Christian church is we have millions and millions of people who, praise God, have got out of the kingdom of darkness but they’re hanging around on the bridge. They’ve never moved over into the kingdom of God.”
Well, thank God the bridge is so powerful it could hold millions of people, it will never collapse. But that’s not our destination. Lots of people just say, “I’m saved and that’s it.” It’s wonderful to be saved but that’s not the end. The bridge is just the way from one kingdom to another kingdom.
The New Testament teaches that through redemption by the blood of Jesus, God has made us kings and priests now in this dispensation. Romans 5:17, it says:
“...those who have received the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life now by One, Jesus Christ.”
Let me ask you, Where are you? Are you hanging around on the bridge or are you reigning in life with Jesus? Everybody thinks they’re going to reign in the next life. That’s wonderful, but that’s not what God is concerned about right now. He’s concerned about where we are in this life.
All right. Now if we read on a little we’ll find one of the most glorious presentations of Jesus in the following verses. There’s a similar presentation which we won’t look at this morning, but I’m just telling you if you’re interested, in the opening verses of the epistle to the Hebrews. These two passages depict Jesus in His fullness. And interestingly, each of them has got seven features, and in each of them the first five features deal with His eternal nature and the last two features deal with His redemptive work. Now, we will only look at the ones here in Colossians 1.
Let me say that if you really want to enjoy the Lord and be free in the Spirit, you have to put some work in. You can get a kind of superficial excitement by just throwing your hands in the air and hopping around—which I like to do. I’ve taught a lot of people to dance, you might be surprised at that. I have certain simple steps that I lead people into, and then after that they take off. But, what I’m trying to say is if you really want the real thing, you’ve got to put your intellect into it. You’ve got to put some work—Jesus said we shall worship the Lord our God with all our heart, soul and mind. That’s right. I’ve been in the Pentecostal movement long enough to remember the days when when you went to church and you drove by car and you parked your car in the church parking lot, you could safely leave your mind in the car because you wouldn’t need it in church! That is not a true presentation of the gospel.
Why I’m saying this is because you’re going to have to put in a little work right now. Beginning at verse 15 and reading through verse 18, here’s this sevenfold presentation of Jesus.
“He is the image of the invisible God, [number one,] the first-born over all creation [number two]. For by him all things were created [number three—and it specifies the “all things.”] that are in heaven and are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers—all things were created through Him and for Him. [Number four:] He is before all things...”
He’s eternally self-existent. We came here in a taxi today with a driver whose wife is a Jehovah’s Witness and busy trying to get him to be a Jehovah’s Witness. I pointed out to him that one of the great errors of Jehovah’s Witnesses, they teach that Jesus is a created being. Here is the answer, He is eternally existent before all things. He was never created. And number five:
“...by Him all things consist [or hold together].”
He maintains the total universe in being. Hebrews says he upholds all things by the word of his power.
So, those are the five eternal facts about Jesus. Let’s go through them again.
Number 1: he’s the image of the invisible God. Jesus said, “If you want to know what God is like, look at me. He who has seen me has seen the Father.” You know why God doesn’t want us to make any images? Because he’s got His own image and we can’t improve on that. It’s presumption to substitute any other image of God for Jesus.
Number 2: He’s the first-born over all creation. I prefer to say before all creation. Jesus is the only begotten. He’s not created, he’s begotten. And, He’s begotten before any creation ever took place.
Then verse 16, “All things were created by Him...” The Greek says “in Him.” All creation took place in and through Jesus. One of the great characteristics of God is that he likes to share with others. God is a sharer. So, when God the Father decided to create, he didn’t do it all himself but he communicated his intention to the Son and he brought all creation into being through the Son.
That, strangely enough, is a message for fathers. Don’t do it all, share with your children. Bring them into the place where they know what you want them to do, and become the doers of it.
It’s also a message for spiritual fathers. Don’t do it all, share with those you’re training and discipling. Bring them into the place where they’re doing it. Then you can stand back and watch. It’s a wonderful feeling.
Ruth and I have been at least three times to the city of Belfast. We have ministered there and held some rather powerful healing services. The last time went the leaders said, “We want another healing service.” I said, “I don’t feel God has put it on my heart to teach on healing. So, I’m going to teach what I believe on, what I believe God wants me to teach, and you local leaders [about 12 leaders of local groups], you can do the healing.” So, I taught what I was going to teach and then I said, “Now we’re going to hold a healing service and your local leaders are going to pray for you.” I got, I think there were 12 couples, husbands and wives. I got them lined up at the front and said, “Now, those of you that are sick, come and be prayed for.” Honestly, Ruth and I sat on the platform and just enjoyed it.
Some really major miracles took place. One young man came with crutches, threw them away and just couldn’t stand still or stop jumping for the rest of the meeting. To me, that was a kind of, I would say, a moment of triumph, in a way. It doesn’t all depend on one person. If it all depends on me, I’m a failure. The more we share, the more successful we are.
That’s just by the way but as I say, there’s no extra charge for it!
We’ve got the fact all things were created by him. Then we come to the statement, “He is before all things.” Not He was, but He is. He eternally is. He shocked the Jews when He said to them, “Before Abraham was, I am.” That’s right. And when they came to arrest Him in the garden He said, “Who are you looking for?” They said, “Jesus.” He said in the Greek, “I am,” which is the way of saying, “I’m the one you’re looking for.” When He said, “I am” and pronounced the sacred name, they all fell backwards. They couldn’t stand against the power of that name. So the next time He changed the words and allowed them to arrest Him.
All right. He is. And then, “In him all things consist [or hold together].” It’s a very remarkable fact which we’re celebrating, in a way, in our songs that the very cross on which He was crucified was maintained in power, in being, by his word. The men who crucified Him were maintained in being by His word. He maintains everything in being by the word of His power.
Now we come to the last two of the seven. These don’t relate to His eternal nature but to His redemptive work. They are in verse 18.
“He is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence [or might be preeminent].”
So there’s two further facts. He’s the head of the body and He’s the first-born from the dead. What’s the body? It says it’s the church, the assembly. And, His resurrection here and in various other places is compared to a birth. Out of death, out of the tomb he was born afresh. So, here’s a beautiful thought for you. He’s the head and He’s the first one to emerge from the womb of death. In a natural birth, if everything goes right, what’s the first part of the body that emerges? The head. And what does that tell you? The rest of the body is going to follow. And so when the head emerged, that was the guarantee of our resurrection. See that? You could spend profitably hours meditating on these seven statements about Jesus but we won’t stay there because we’re going to go on to the victory that he won.
We’ll go on to Colossians 2, reading verses 13–15. Here again you’re going to have to use that mind that God gave you. You won’t get it by osmosis. You can sit there with your mouth and your eyes open and nothing will happen. Forgive me if I seem a little—but I’ve been with Christians for 47 years and I still love them! Verse 13 of Colossians 2:
“And you being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh...”
That’s like Ephesians 2, you were dead to God. Dead spiritually in acts of disobedience and your carnal nature.
“...He [God] has made alive together with Him [Jesus], having forgiven you all trespasses [all your acts of disobedience], having wiped out the handwriting of requirement that was against us [which was contrary to us]; and He’s taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross. [And then verse 15:] Having disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
Now that’s not easy but it tells us—we also need to read verse 16.
“Therefore let no one judge you...”
What is the conclusion? It’s the same as Romans 8:1, there is therefore now no condemnation. See? The whole purpose of redemption is to get us to the place of no condemnation. I just spent 12 hours in my last meeting in the United States preaching on Romans, chapters 1 through 8. I took it like a pilgrimage, stage by stage, to a destination. The destination is chapter 8 which is the life in the Spirit. But the entrance to chapter 8 is in verse 1 which is “no condemnation.” As long as you are under condemnation of any kind whatever, you cannot live in Romans chapter 8. That’s why I think a very high proportion of Christians are not able to live in Romans 8, they have never really escaped totally from condemnation.
Let me tell you this, that Satan is the one who makes you feel guilty—not God. The Holy Spirit convicts of sin, that’s specific. He tells you you did this wrong and you did this wrong, you need to repent, you need to do this, confess, make restitution, you’re forgiven. But guilt is a kind of uneasy feeling that we’re never quite sure we may have not done enough. It’s from the devil and not from God. When you realize that you’ve made a major discovery in your Christian pilgrimage. God doesn’t make us feel guilty.
I remember as a young preacher beginning in the ministry I had a small congregation. I told them exactly how bad they really were. I mean, I didn’t leave out anything. After the sermons they would come up and shake my hand and say, “Wonderful message.” I’d think, “Did you hear what I said?” I mean, it was very frustrating. The more I told them how bad they were, the worse they got! But, God in His mercy told me something. He said, “I didn’t call you as a preacher to bring people under condemnation. I called you to teach people how they can be made righteous.” What he said is, “You’re doing the devil’s work for him.” That’s the devil’s work to make people feel guilty, not God’s. That was a real turning point in my ministry. It’s much harder to make people feel righteous than it is to make them feel guilty. Anybody can make people feel guilty but it takes the power of the Holy Spirit and the word of God to convince people that they’ve been made righteous.
All right. So, the aim there is “therefore let no one condemn you [judge you].” I want you to notice “in respect of food or drink or regarding a festival or new moons or sabbaths.” Seventh Day Adventists, please note! We are not to let anyone judge us in respect of the sabbath. If you keep the sabbath, that’s your decision. I keep the sabbath my way but it’s not the way the Seventh Day Adventists do it. But I will not let them judge me. Why? Because God says I’m not to let anybody judge me. So, if I let them judge me, I’m disobeying the word of God, you see? There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. All right?
Now, I can see things coming over your faces. I know what’s coming because I teach this in many places and it’s like I’ve thrown a bomb in the middle of the church. I said to a group of people somewhere a little larger than this, and I wasn’t intending to shock them, I was just saying something that was obvious to me. I said, “Of course, Christianity is not a set of rules.” I think they would have been less shocked if I had said there is no God. But that’s the truth of the matter, Christianity is not a set of rules. Okay?
Israel had had a perfect set of rules for about 13 centuries and the New Testament tells us the Law of Moses was perfect. God wasn’t going to substitute another set of rules, he had another plan, a completely different plan.
So, now we’ve got to see how Jesus accomplished what he accomplished. You’ll notice that it says in verse 15:
“...[that he] disarmed principalities and powers, He made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them in it.”
What principalities and powers did he disarm through the cross? Who is represented by them? Satan, that’s right. The modern translations will say “rulers and authorities” or something like that.
This is vitally important, I want you to keep your finger in Colossians and turn to Ephesians 6:12. This is one of those verses if I get into I find it hard to get out of. All right. Ephesians 6:12:
“For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers [you’ll notice the same words as in Colossians 2:15], against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
I know the Old King James said “high places” but it’s not a correct translation. The same word is used five times in Ephesians, and in every other place it’s translated “heavenly.” And all the modern translations say “heavenly.”
So, I sometimes have commented on that verses that most Christians punctuate it wrong. This is the way they punctuate it. “For we do not wrestle—full stop.” That’s not what Paul is saying. He says we’re wrestling, but not against one kind of person but against another kind of person. I’ll give you the Prince version.
Let me say I was privileged to learn Greek since I was 10 years old. It wasn’t always a privilege, believe me! I’m qualified to teach it at university level. That doesn’t mean to say I’m always right but I’m entitled to my opinion! I mean, nobody is always right about the Greek language, it’s a very complicated language with a long, long history. But anyhow, this is the Prince version. “For our wrestling match is not against—now, this is the Amplified Prince version—is not against persons with bodies.” That I borrowed from the Living Bible which I think is an excellent way of rendering it. We are not fighting persons with bodies. You remember what I said last night about evil spirits? They are persons without bodies. “But against rulers with various areas and descending orders of authority.” All right? We are in a wrestling match with a very powerful and highly organized kingdom which has rulers and sub-rulers and sub-sub-rulers. And each ruler is responsible to Satan for a certain area which is under his authority. And Satan has the whole world divided up into areas which he seeks to dominate through these rulers.
Okay. I see some of you—if you could see your faces. All right. Going on, “Against the world dominators of this present darkness.” Now I deliberately used the word “dominate” because the Greek word is very strong and because as I pointed out last night and I’ll be pointing out again, domination is characteristically a Satanic activity. God never dominates. So when you meet domination, you’re not dealing with God. These I call the world dominators of this present darkness. Satan’s aim which he’s pursuing steadily and consistently is to become the ruler of this world. And as I understand prophecy, there will be a very short period right at the end of the age when he will temporarily succeed through a certain man whom he will raise up called the antichrist, who will be empowered by Satan and who will persuade the whole world that is not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, to worship him. And in worshipping him they will worship Satan who empowered him.
Why does Satan want above all things to be worshiped? I’ll tell you why, because his original fall came when he claimed to be equal with God. And, today he’s not on the level that he was on but he still has one way to claim equality with God. Because there’s one thing that belongs by right only to God. What is that? Worship. So if he can receive worship, he is still asserting his claim to be equal with God. And when you come into this world of kingdoms you’ll find that Satan’s supreme ambition is to be worshiped. It’s also very important to realize that what you worship is what has power over you. Have you ever dealt with people who’ve worshiped Satan? I have. And believe me, to get them free is a major battle because Satan feels he has legitimate power over them.
This has also got another application. The more you worship the Lord, the more you come under his power. If you want to be under the power of anything, worship it. The people who worship money are under the power of money. The people who worship idols are under the power of idols. The people who worship the Lord Jesus are under the power of the Lord Jesus.
All right, going on with Ephesians 6:12 if you might not have noticed where we were, the final description of this Satanic kingdom is spiritual hosts or forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Did you hear that? In the heavenlies. I cannot go into this, I’ll just make this statement and you can adjust whatever way you please. Satan’s headquarters is not in hell. This is a traditional form of speech in the church which does not correspond with scripture or reality. I say to many people who say Satan is in hell, it would be nice if it were true but it isn’t. Satan is very much at large. Peter says he walks around like a roaring lion, seeking who he may devour. And his headquarters are in the heavenlies. Okay? That’s difficult for you because you were taught quite rightly that he was cast out of heaven. Okay? That’s right but there’s more than one heaven.
Paul said he knew a man that was caught up to the third heaven. As a former professor of logic, I am totally convinced that if there’s a third heaven there must be a first and a second. All right? You cannot have a third of anything without the first and the second. So there are at least three heavens. I’ll offer your my opinion. The third heaven to which this man was caught up is the heaven of God’s dwelling. The first heaven which is never so called is the visible heaven. And between then there’s an intermediate heaven, between the heaven that covers the earth and the heaven which is God’s dwelling, and that’s where Satan’s kingdom is. And that’s got a lot of important implications because it means every time we get to God we have to go through Satan’s kingdom. That’s why we use the phrase “praying through.” Because many, many times you have to pray through satanic opposition to get to God’s presence.
All right. Now we’re going to deal with the fact that Jesus disarmed the principalities and powers of Satan. He stripped them of all their weapons. The Greek is very emphatic. He left them nothing. How did he do it? The first thing I think we need to understand is Satan’s number one weapon against the human race is guilt. All right? And Jesus stripped him of the ability to make us guilty.
Let me give you a little picture. This is just imaginary. God had already dealt with Satan, I think, before he created Adam. Satan was already a fallen angel, the enemy of God and anything that God created—particularly man. Then Satan succeeded in tempting Adam into the same rebellion that he was in and his temptation was “You shall be like God.”—which was exactly what had motivated him in the first place.
Now, this is just imaginary but I believe Satan knows a lot about God’s feelings and attitudes and he knows his love for the human race. So you can imagine a kind of dialogue between Satan and God. And we know in the book of Job that when the angels came to appear before God, Satan came amongst them. So at that time, at any rate, he still had access in some way to the presence of God. Furthermore, the text seems to indicate the only person who spotted Satan was the Lord, because he had been transformed as an angel of light.
Anyhow, let’s imagine this dialogue. Satan says to the Lord, “Lord, you’re a righteous God. You’re a just God and I’m a rebel. I know it. I’ve got no doubts about it, I’m a rebel. You see that lake of fire over there with all the unpleasant smoke coming out of it? I know that’s where I’m headed. I know it was created for me and for my angels. But God, I just want to remind you of something. You see these men and women that you love? They’re as guilty as I am. They’re rebels too. And so whenever you throw us into that lake, you’re going to have to throw them into that lake. Just remember, God, your justice makes it essential.”
And I suppose that we could imagine that for many, many, many centuries God didn’t answer Satan. So Satan went on but God had his plan. His plan was Jesus. And when Jesus came, he became the last Adam, the final representative of the Adamic race. He took upon himself all the guilt and condemnation and all the evil consequences which we were looking at the other night of Adam’s transgression. He died as the last Adam, he was buried as the last Adam and he rose again as the second man, the head of a new race. In that way the guilt of Adam’s race was expiated by Jesus. For those who believe in Jesus, the guilt of Adam is no longer held against them. So, God can now forgive us without compromising his justice, you understand? He’s removed Satan’s argument from him by the death of Jesus. So, He’s made it possible for us to be received by God as righteous without any condemnation.
Now, if you look briefly in Colossians 2:13–14, you will see how He did it. At the end of verse 13 it says:
“...having forgiven you all trespasses...”
Through the death of Jesus, God, without compromising His justice, can forgive us all our past acts of disobedience. How many of them? I wasn’t quite sure what you said. You see, if even one were left unforgiven, you’d have no right of access to God. So you better be sure this morning that all your past sinful acts up to this very moment have been forgiven. As we come to take the Lord’s Supper, if there’s anything that you’re conscious of that you’ve done that hasn’t been confessed and dealt with, do it before you take the Lord’s Supper because the Bible says “let a man examine himself.” Not his neighbor, not his wife, but himself. All right? Thank God God has made it possible for us to be assured that all our past sinful acts have been forgiven.
But that doesn’t take care of the future. So in the remaining part of this passage we find the future taken care of. It’s in verse 14:
“...having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”
Now that’s not a very clear translation. Does anybody have a New International Version that they can lend me? Nice big print. Thank you. This is my granddaughter in case you didn’t know who she is. Here we are, one of my thirty some grandchildren. This is the NIV.
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins [I notice my granddaughter has the word “all” underlined. I think she’s listened to me preach on this before!], having canceled [listen carefully] the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.”
What was the written code? The law, that’s right. This is the crucial point. Jesus, by His death, set aside the law as the means of achieving righteousness with God. Before that, every time anybody who was seeking to achieve righteousness with God by keeping the law came to God, Satan would say, “But regulation number 353 B, they haven’t complied with it. They have no right of access to you.” So the law stood between us and our access to God. But by His death on the cross, Jesus removed it and left it nailed to the cross.
You see, there’s a hymn that says “all my sins are nailed to the cross.” That’s not what the Bible says. It may be true but what was nailed to the cross was the law of Moses as the requirement for achieving righteousness with God. Now we don’t have to keep the law either in part or in the whole in order to achieve righteousness with God.
How do we achieve righteousness with God? Through—one word—faith, that’s right. Our faith is reckoned to us as righteousness. Lots of Christians quote that but they never really believe it. What does it mean? It means that by believing in the substitutionary death of Jesus on our behalf, our faith is reckoned to us as righteousness. We follow in the footsteps of Abraham who believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness. That was in Genesis 15. In Genesis 16, Abraham had a child by his wife’s maid, Hagar. The child was named Ishmael. That was not in the will of God. He did the wrong thing. But listen, his faith was still being counted to him as righteousness.
In Genesis 20 he allowed Sarah his wife to be put in a Gentile king’s harem. That was not right. His faith was still being counted to him as righteousness. Listen, take a deep sigh of relief. Even if you do the wrong thing, your faith is still counted to you as righteousness. Praise God! That doesn’t mean you can go ahead and do anything you like because that’s not faith, by no means. But you do not achieve righteousness with God by keeping the law of Moses or any law. And that means the Pentecostal law, the Baptist law, the Catholic law and every other law. You do not achieve righteousness with God by observing any law.
Let’s look at a few statements. I just want to read Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2, beginning in verse 14. This is the NIV, I’ll read it because it’s so particularly clear in this matter.
“For he himself [that’s Jesus] is our peace, who has made the two one [who’s the two? Jew and Gentile], and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations.”
Nothing could be clearer than that. He abolished the law with its commandments and regulations. And you’ll notice that in Colossians 2:16 Paul says: “Let no one judge you in respect of the sabbath,” which is the fourth commandment, you see. You’ll hear some people say, “Well, we don’t have to keep the rest of the law, we have to keep the commandments.” That’s not what the Bible says. This is where a whole host of errors have come into the church. Had the church been properly instructed, Seventh Day Adventism could never have made any inroad. And I bless God for the Seventh Day Adventists, many of them are lovely people. They’ve just got one bee in their bonnet, that’s all.
We’ve got a few minutes, I want you to look at this because I’ve learned by experience when I get to this point I leave a lot of question marks. Let’s turn to Romans for a moment. Romans 3:20.
“Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in [God’s] sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
Justified. No flesh, no human being will achieve righteousness in the sight of God by keeping the law. Okay? It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the law, the problem is we can’t keep it. And we can’t split the law up into a lot of different sections and say, “I’ll keep Section A and ignore Sections B and C. I’ll keep Section D and then I’ll keep a few other sections.” Because, the law is one law. You either keep it all, perfectly, all the time, or you do not achieve righteousness by it. There’s no other option.
All right. Romans 6:14:
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
Okay. Notice they’re mutually exclusive alternatives. If you’re under law, you’re not under grace. If you’re under grace, you’re not under law. You can’t have it both ways at the same time. And if you’re under law, sin will have dominion over you. Paul says sin will not have dominion over you because you are not under law but under grace.
And then Romans 8:14:
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.”
How do you live as a son of God? By being led by the Holy Spirit. This is a vitally important truth which has escaped the notice of most Pentecostals. Pentecostals talk about being saved, baptized in the Spirit, baptized in water and that’s it. That’s only the entrance. The life is being led by the Spirit daily, hourly, moment by moment.
Now turn to Romans 10:4.
“For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes.”
Okay. Do you believe? Then Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to you. Not the end of the law as part of God’s word, not the end of the law as part of the history of the culture of Israel; but the end of the law as a means of achieving righteousness with God. That’s it for everyone who believes, Jew or Gentile, Protestant or Catholic. It makes no difference. If you want to be reckoned righteous with God by the death of Jesus, it means the end of the law.
And then Galatians 5:18:
“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Okay? So you can choose but you can’t have it both ways. And Jesus has made it possible for us to be guiltless, uncondemned; because He’s abolished the law as a means of achieving righteousness with God. As long as you are seeking to achieve righteousness by keeping a law, you will never be without condemnation, you’ll never be sure you’ve done enough, you’ll never be sure that before the end of the day you won’t have broken it. Okay?
Let me point out to you, and this I close, you’ve got two alternatives. The map or the personal guide. The map is perfect, it will tell you the whole way from earth to heaven. But you’re not clever enough to follow it. That’s the problem. It’s not with the map, it’s with you. The alternative is the personal guide. Who’s that? The Holy Spirit. And He says, “I don’t need the map. I know the way. Give me your hand and I’ll lead you.”
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