Christ Alone — No. 3

[Please see No.1 and No.2 as they might help make sense of this post]

A keystone is the wedge-shaped stone piece at the apex of a masonry vault or arch, which is the final piece placed during construction and locks all the stones into position, allowing the arch to bear weight.

The leaders who opposed Jesus were trying to hold their religion together while rejecting the central figure of the old testament. Nothing in the old testament makes sense without Jesus Christ. As Peter said, All the prophets from Moses foretold the coming of the Christ who must suffer and rise to bring forgiveness and life to otherwise un-saveable people.

Peter and John now tell them that this Jesus, whom they condemned, God did not condemn – God had raised Jesus from the dead. This fact means that Jesus had no sin of his own – no sin at all. He alone of all human beings was without sin. That’s what resurrection means – it mean a dead person receives life again — an endless life — and it only happens to people without sin.

You might see here one very good reason why Salvation is by Jesus Christ alone. Jesus is alone without personal sin.

But why then, how then, could Jesus have died, since he was personally sinless?

Peter had previously told people in the temple that the death of Jesus brings forgiveness of sin to those who trust themselves to him. The temple was the place where the Israelites were taught that sinners may be forgiven by the death of an acceptable substitute – this truth was illustrated by the death of lambs, bulls, goats, pigeons in the place of sinful Israelites. Israelites would bring the animal, place their hands on the head of the animal (to represent a transfer of sin from the sinner to the animal) and then the animal was killed instead of the sinner. The sinner went home alive.

The deaths of these animals were symbolic – like the Lord ’s Supper is symbolic today. These sacrifices did nothing in themselves, but they pointed people to the coming saviour.  While they were useful to teach the message of substitution, the animals themselves were not effective in taking away sin – only the death of a truly good human would do. As Peter said in Chapter 3, the Christ had to suffer, as all the Old Testament prophets said.

Jesus death was possible only because he was bearing the sins of other people – sinners like us.

But how can a mere man fix the sins for others in a real and effective way? Ezekiel 14:14-20 tells us that if Daniel, Job and Noah – each in their own way foreshadowed Christ – were present, they could not give us their righteousness, nor could we give them our sins – each person will die for his own sin.

The Bible’s answer is that Jesus Christ, though a true human being, is not merely a human. He is God too.

The message of the angel to the Shepherds was that the Saviour, Christ the Lord, is born in Bethlehem. Jesus is the LORD, the Creator God.  Matthew 1:21 tells us that Joseph was to call the baby, Jesus, for He (the baby) will save His people from their sins. Jesus means the LORD saves. Jesus is the LORD.

  • Because Jesus is really human, he could die as a human being. But because Jesus is really good, he could die if and only if our sins were regarded as his – reckoned to his account.
  • Because Jesus is really God, his actions, his death and resurrection can be applied to sinners like us.

He bore our sins in his own body on the cross. He died as the substitute for condemned sinners like us. By his death he took the condemnation due to sinners like us.

Anyone who trusts Jesus Christ is regarded by God as having already died for their sin – there is no longer any sin attributed by God to those who trust Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus each one who trusts him is regarded as now being without sin.

  • Because Jesus is sinless, he was raised from the dead never to die again. Remember, only sinless people are resurrected to everlasting life.
  • Because God regards those who trust Jesus as sinless, God will raise them to everlasting life as well.

These truths about Jesus are why Peter and John could go on to say of Jesus of Nazareth:

‘There is salvation in no other ; for there is no other  name given to men under heaven by which we must be saved.’

This means that there is no one else like (Greek: allos) Jesus who can save, only Jesus Christ of Nazareth, and that there is no one different from (Greek: heteros) Jesus who can save, only Jesus Christ of Nazareth can and does save.

Peter says there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved.

  1. We need saving – our situation is desperate. There is a resurrection to everlasting punishment.
  2. The rescue comes only on the basis of who Jesus is and what he has done.
  3. If we are to be safe, we must share in that rescue that Jesus of Nazareth supplies. He has won it by his death and resurrection and he offers it to sinners.
  4. We are simply to trust Jesus Christ — that he was done all that is necessary for our eternal safety.

Reject Jesus at your peril. Receive him and you have forgiveness and everlasting life. Jesus himself guarantees it.

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Christ Alone — No. 2

This post follows in from No.1

The Acts 4:1—14 Situation:

Jesus Christ had died a criminal’s death, and most of the religious leaders were happy that this was so.  After all, their principal men had organised it – that teacher and wonder-worker was interfering with their monopoly on right and wrong.

These religious leaders regarded themselves as just, right and good – the standard of right living. Jesus had made them feel uncomfortable, and made their pretensions look stupid; he had to go.

But soon after Jesus’ death on a cross, they heard from credible witnesses that this same Jesus had risen from the dead  – the soldiers that were guarding his tomb had told them so.

This Jesus, who had died, was subsequently seen alive by his followers over a period of forty days. Then, promising his disciples the ability to take his message to the world, Jesus returned to the throne room of God.

The message that God forgives people on the sole basis of who Jesus is, and what Jesus has done, was rapidly spreading through Jerusalem.

The body of believers was about 3000 strong when Peter and John were used to heal a man outside of the Temple in Jerusalem. The forty-year-old man had been lame from birth. This man was recognised by everyone in the temple. He had been sitting outside that place of worship for years, begging. Peter had told him to stand up, invoking the authority of Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Soon after this, Peter explained to the gathered crowd that this same Jesus, whose authority had healed the lame man, can and will deal with the far greater problem of their sin. Peter declared that the resurrection of Jesus meant forgiveness of sins and eternal life are available. All who trust Jesus are forgiven and will be raised to life again, just as Jesus had been.

This is where Acts 4 commences – the religious leaders heard what Peter and John were saying and they were not happy. So, Peter and John are arrested and put in prison till the next day. The council was gathered, and those who were principally active in the arrest and murder of Jesus were again in charge of questioning Peter and John.

The council asked:  By what power, and in whose name do you do this thing?

This might have been simply a question of authority – Peter and John were not recognised teachers. They had not been taught and approved by members of the council. They had not been authorised to teach, and particularly, they were not authorised to teach the forgiveness of sins and the hope of the resurrection through Jesus Christ. For the religious leaders, Jesus was the bad guy.

This question might also have been asking “Who enabled you to heal this man?” Perhaps they wanted to know if it had been Beelzebub or the God of our fathers that they served.

How did Peter and John answer?

Firstly, their answer was Spirit motivated.

  1. This does not mean that what they had to say was a secret that needed the Spirit to give them new information. What they spoke about was undeniable fact.
  2. Rather, the Holy Spirit enabled them to be bold in telling the facts. God the Spirit gave clarity and focus to their message

Then, Peter and John gave the facts:

This man, whom you know to have been a cripple, was made well by the authority (the name) and power of Jesus Christ, the same Jesus whom you crucified and whom God raised from the dead.

Notice how quickly Peter and John moved from noticing the healing to tell about the healer, Jesus Christ.  The really important message was the facts about who Jesus is and what he has done. Peter and John said that his Jesus whom you leaders killed, God raised to life.

This resurrection message is very important. Our death as humans goes back to Adam’s sin – sadly death is what all sinful humans deserve. The religious leaders knew from their holy book (our Old Testament) that death came to people by disobeying God (by our sin), and that the person who sins shall die.

Further, the death penalty in the Old Testament was a punishment for great crimes, for terrible wrong doing.

These leaders had regarded Jesus as a terrible wrong-doer – they had put him to death as very bad person.

But Peter and John state that Jesus was the keystone that the builders rejected – the religious leaders thought that they were the ones who would make the church grow strongly. They thought of themselves are builders of God’s kingdom. But Peter and John tell them that they are bad builders. They rejected the central piece – the “head of the corner” – the key stone. Jesus Christ is the keystone.

More about the idea of ‘keystone’ in the next and concluding post.