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JESUS, THE GIFT OF GOD

Romans 6:23b-6:23b
Key Verse: 6:23b

We just finished hearing the first part of God’s gospel message, and man’s situation is not looking great at all. As we just learned from scripture, the reality of man’s situation actually looks pretty grim, depressing and hopeless. In the culture of our times, we don’t like to think of death and judgment. And we’d rather postpone these things to near-myth, distancing ourselves as far from their reality as possible. But God’s word penetrates this fiction, forcing us to consider the truth about death and judgment, likening it even to our wages; revealing in a word, that death and eternal condemnation comes because we’ve earned it. That was the first part of the gospel message. The second part of the gospel is about God’s response to man’s sin problem.

I. How God Responded

So, in response to man’s sin problem that sentenced him to death and judgment, what do you think did God decide to do? When someone is really deserving of your wrath and anger, we’re most inclined to really give them what they deserve. But what does God do? Let’s look at Romans 6:23b: “...but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. To sinners deserving of death God responds by giving the gift of eternal life (!) One of the key points that makest he gospel such great news to our ears is because God gave did not give sinful man what he deserved, but gave him what he needed. Sinful man deserved death and judgment, but God gave the gift of eternal life. God gives a ‘gift’, which implicitly tells us it’s not something we can earn, and it is tied to the person Christ Jesus being our Lord.

Why would God do such a thing? Why give a gift to the undeserving? John 3:16 gives us a glimpse as to why God did this. “For God so loved the world…” God gave the gift because He loved us. When we were most unlovable, God responded by loving us. The gift we received is really the love of God. Moreover, this verse reveals the reason God gives us this gift is due to the fact that He does not want us to perish(!) Consider briefly for a moment the ways in how you are perishing…God really doesn’t want you to perish…but to have eternal life. He doesn’t want you to perish because He loves you. These are the reasons why God gave us a gift in response to our sinfulness. The gift is the person Jesus.

II. Who Is Jesus?

So who is Jesus? Firstly, the gospel verses identify Jesus as Lord. A lot of people nowadays are tempted to consider Jesus as simply a good man, a good teacher, or even simply a Saviour--but integral to His identity is that He is Lord. Secondly, John 3:16 reveals Jesus as God’s one and only Son. Sinners are in a broken relationship with God; enemies of God actually, and objects of His wrath. But Jesus has a Father and Son relationship with Him. The Father/Son relationship is one of the most beautiful of the many paradigms of relationships that we have. The Son is the image of the Father, such that if we want to know who the Father is, we can look at the Son. The Son is obedient and does nothing outside His Father’s will. It is the Son who knows His Father’s will best, the one most qualified of carrying it out; the one most capable of doing His Father’s work. Moreover, the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. The Son is not an object of His Father’s wrath, but the object of His love. This is who Jesus is in relation to God. God’s gift of Jesus to us sinners is for us sinners to be restored back in relationship with God—not just any kind relationship, but into a love relationship--one that mirrors what a loving Father has with His Son.

But how does Jesus exactly restore this broken relationship?

One of the most beautiful descriptions of Jesus that we have was the one John the Baptist gave when he saw Jesus coming toward him. He said,“Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” The title ‘Lamb of God’ helps us understand who Jesus really is.

To better understand the meaning of this title, it is helpful for us to reference its historical roots. During the time when God called the Israelites to be His people, the sacrifice of the lambs played a very important role. When God wanted to deliver the people of Israel from 400 years of slavery from Egypt, He ordered His people to prepare a lamb sacrifice for each household. Then God instructed the blood shed by the lamb to be painted on the doorposts of His people’s houses. That night God poured out His wrath over the land of Egypt, and He struck down all the firstborn—of both men and animals. But when God saw the blood of the lamb on the posts of the houses, He passed over them, and did not pour out His wrath nor did He destroy them. Notice that though they were called His people, they were still sinners deserving of God’s judgment just like the Egyptians were, but the blood of the lamb sheltered them from it, causing God’s wrath to pass over them. Later this lamb sacrifice became known as the Passover Lamb, celebrated by the Jews in yearly commemoration of what God had done for them, in a ceremony now referred to as Passover. But even after God’s deliverance of them from Egypt, a lamb sacrifice was still ordered by God to be offered every morning and evening at the temple, in atonement for their sins. Thus the sacrificial lamb has a deep and rich spiritual meaning in the narrative of God’s redemptive history of His people.

Now, we may find the sacrificial system established during those times foreign to our experience today, but we still understand the notions of debt, restitution and payment. Sin creates a debt between God and man, a debt that can only be paid with sinful man’s death. Jesus came to pay that debt of man, by being the sacrificial lamb who laid down His life for man’s sins by dying on the cross. His righteous blood is actually what shelters us sinners from God’s wrath. God’s righteous wrath is finally satisfied by Jesus’ blood, because His sacrifice is perfect and without blemish. Man couldn’t come up with any satisfactory payment, being deep in debt towards God in his sinfulness. But God Himself prepared a satisfactory payment for man, Jesus the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world, both yours and mine.

When we consider just how much we suffer under the power of sin, all the pain and grief it has caused us, the gift of Jesus taking away our sin is truly the most wonderful gift we could ever receive. It transforms us from being the object of God’s wrath to subjects of God’s love.

So just how can we receive this gift of God? Jesus said: “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.” Eternal life comes to those who hear Jesus’ words and believes God who sent Him. Hence, receiving the gift of God is really about receiving Jesus and His words. It is about believing who He is as God sent Him. So if we want to receive the gift of God, we should really ask ourselves: Am I really hearing Jesus’ words? How am I receiving Jesus’ words? Eternal life comes to those who hear Jesus’ words and believe.

We may be tempted to wonder why sinful man can't simply accept God--why we must also accept Jesus. But Jesus’ bearing the title as the ‘Lamb of God’ clearly illustrates for us our inadequacy as sinners to really meet God. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus…” (1 Ti 2:5) The truth is, we really are unqualified in our sinfulness-- but Jesus the Son of God meets this qualification before God in His lack of sin. How wonderful it is that God should send us a Mediator---one who is willing to stand along with us who are lacking in qualification, that He may qualify us to stand before Him (!)

III. Living Hope and Inheritance in the Kingdom of God

God gave sinful man the gift of Jesus; Jesus who came to be our Lord, who came to restore man’s love relationship with God, who came to be the sacrificial Lamb for man’s sins, who came to stand as Mediator on behalf of man before God. How do you think did sinful man receive Him? Let’s look at Acts 2:23.

“This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you with the help of wicked men, put Him to death by nailing Him to the cross…” Here we can ask ourselves, ‘what did I really do with the gift God gave to me?’ This verse shows us that though we weren’t physically present at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion, our sinfulness and rejection of God’s gift implicates us as fellow participants to this event. Furthermore, this verse illustrates the horrible truth of how sinful man living under the power of sin easily become murderers alongside with the help of wicked men—even murderers of the Son of God.

But let us continue to read what follows from this verse together:

“…But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.” (!) Had Jesus, the Son of God remained dead on the cross, the crimes of man against God would have been most overwhelming, and man, the most deserving of the worst kind of judgment. But God raised Him from the dead...His Son Jesus who was without sin, without blemish. Jesus who laid down His life for man’s sin instead, dying the most horrible kind of death by the deeds of sinful man, in full obedience and trust in His Father’s purpose, remaining in His love to the end. It was impossible for death to keep its hold on Him. God raised Jesus from the dead… In doing this, God changed the most hideous ending to a most marvelous one! This is sinful man’s hope! That our most offensive act towards God should be directed to no one else but towards the Son of God, so that He may bear the cost and purchase life for us. In doing this, He re-wrote man’s destiny toward death and replaced it with the promise of life and much hope in Christ. No longer does man need to live under the power of sin and death, he can now live according to the principles of God, on whom death has no power over.

God raised Him from the dead---Jesus is living; He is not dead. The gift we received from God in the person Jesus has no death in Him at all. God did not give the gift of death, but the gift of life. Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, whoever hears my words and believes in Him who sent me has eternal life…” Jesus is able to say this because He is the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25). He is alive; the words He speaks are living, and they pertain to my life and yours in this very present. And because Jesus is living, He is able, fully able(!), to help man overcome the power of sin and death until he is fully transformed into the image of the Son before the God the Father.

'Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade--kept in heaven for you...' (lPe 1:3,4) Jesus’ relationship with God is one of Sonship with the Heavenly Father. The inheritance of sonship is what we received when we receive Jesus. What is the Son’s inheritance from the Father? Everything! The Son inherits everything from the Father—and the Father gives everything to the Son because He’s the Son(!) So God, in giving us His one and only Son because He loved us, that we may not perish but have eternal life, actually gives us everything. In Jesus, God truly gives us everything! Consider how we were such enemies of God, in full rebellion against Him, even killing His Son Jesus…but God raised Him from the dead, that we may not have death but have eternal life, and have full participation and share in His kingdom, into an inheritance of sonship—one that can never perish, spoil or fade, kept in heaven for you.

IV. What Did You Receive?

Life without Jesus really is ruled by the power of death. I was a philosophy student so I was well acquainted (at least philosophically) with the meaninglessness of life. But even when I considered the practical particulars of my life, the presence of sin intrudes and corrupts even what should be considered good things, such that nothing can really be truly deemed good: family, friendships, my relationships with other people, myself, my own thoughts, and my own hope for my own future. The power of death in particular, robs one’s hope of a future. I remembered thinking: “I just want to finish my job, fulfill the responsibility heaped upon me, and croak”—and actually planning my life according to that principle. Sin can really make people want to die. I considered my life not worth keeping, and while in some sense though I was still ‘living’, I have actually already thrown it away because of this principle I lived by. But during the time I considered my life of least value to me, God considered it most valuable. And He proved this by giving His one and only Son Jesus to die for me, that I may not perish, but have eternal life. I didn’t really care much for my life, but in that gift, God showed how He was the one who cared for my life the most; I had zero hope for my future, (even wanting to check out as soon and as early as I can), but in giving me life in the living Jesus God showed how He had the greatest hope for my future. He did this for each one of us. The story of the gospel is as universal as much as it is personal. The cross where Jesus was crucified is the meeting point where your worst self is laid bare, but it is also the point where God meets you in His greatest mercy, in His greatest love, and in His greatest hope for you. This is the good news of the gospel: that in Jesus, God truly gave us everything; Jesus the gift of God, given for you.

So herein I ask you…in hearing the gospel story, what did you really receive?

'For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures...'

(By Jemmie Hwang)

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