Mercy

Learn From the Thief – But Learn from the Rest of God’s Word Too!

Many times when the forgiveness of sins is discussed there are some who eventually use the thief on the cross (Luke 23:39-43) as example of what people should do to be saved today. I am glad that the conversation of Jesus and the thief is recorded because it reveals the willingness and desire that Jesus had then, and still has today, to extend His mercy to the lost. But it saddens me when one tries to teach that “all a person has to do be saved” is believe like the thief did. This is simply not true. Let me quickly explain why with the scriptures:

First – the thief lived under a different covenant than we do today:

For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.” (Hebrews 9:16-17)

Second – the thief did not have to believe that Jesus was raised from the dead like we do today:

[T]hat if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Romans 10:9-10)

Third – the thief was not saved by faith alone; he reviled Jesus at first but then he repented:

Likewise the chief priests also, mocking with the scribes and elders, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. If He is the King of Israel, let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe Him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver Him now if He will have Him; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Even the robbers who were crucified with Him reviled Him with the same thing.” (Matthew 27:41-44)

Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.”” (Luke 23:39-41)

Lastly – the thief found forgiveness because Jesus had the power to speak sins away while living on the Earth (Mark 2:10); Jesus gave the command for baptism for the remission of sins after the thief was dead:

And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15-16)

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2:38)

If a person wants to learn about salvation today, they can learn about God’s willingness to forgive from the thief, but they must also learn from the rest of God’s word too. EA

Then Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his household. And many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)

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Why did God Require Animals to be Sacrificed?

There are times in the Bible when a person can miss the blessing of something because they don’t understand the purpose or point of God’s command. This is especially true when it comes to understanding why God had people do certain things in regards to their sin. 

Many Christians today take for granted what God was trying to teach his people under the Old Testament. Some look at the Old Testament as old, and unworthy of study or care; but if a person misses why God had his people do certain things under the Old Covenant, they’ll never come to a fuller appreciation of what God has accomplished for us under the New Covenant of today! And there are very few places where this is more true than when it comes to the animal sacrifices found from Genesis to Malachi and right on into the gospels we read.

Let’s think about why God required what he required under the Old Testament, and how it can better help us understand the sacrifice that Jesus made on behalf of humanity when he established the New Covenant.

So the first question is, “Why did God have animals sacrificed?” If we’re not required to sacrifice them anymore, why were they ever sacrificed to begin with??? If God was going to send Jesus all along, then why didn’t he have people just say they were sorry and then forgive them when Jesus died? Why did God have people do something when it seems like it was useless in dealing with sin? Did God even care whether or not someone sacrificed an animal? If He did, then why did he say he didn’t sometimes? These are some of the issues and questions a person can have when they read about these things in the Old Testament and New Testament.
So did God really ask for, require and even command animal sacrifices? Contrary to what some try to teach, he sure did! When Adam and Eve sinned and they made fig-leaf bikinis, and God said that wouldn’t do, what did He give them? He gave them clothes to wear! Now, you don’t have to be a tanner to know that you can’t get an animal-hide outfit to wear without the animal losing its life. Right from the get go with sin, a sacrifice was made. From the garden, to Noah, to Abraham, to Moses and all throughout the history of the children of Israel you will find God requiring the sacrifice of animals for sin. There’s even a book called Leviticus that deals with the intricacies of how to properly deal with the sacrificing of burnt offerings, peace offerings, guilt offerings and sin offerings that God commanded.

But if God required the sacrifice of animals then why did he at times say he didn’t want them??? I mean there are multiple places in the Old Testament where God plainly says, “NO!!!” Read them for yourselves:

  • To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the Lord. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats.” Isaiah 1:11
  • For I desire mercy and not sacrifice, and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.” Hosea 6:6 (quoted by Jesus in Matthew 9:13, 12:7)
  • For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering.” Psalm 51:16

As if that’s not enough, the New Testament says this about sacrificing animals as well:

  • But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.Hebrews 10:3-4

If this is true then what was the whole point of it all? The point has to do with the context that all these verses are given in. There was, and still is, a big lesson about sin and the human heart behind all that sacrificing that God called for! The majority of the time, God’s people in the past, like His people of today, were missing the whole point of worship, sacrifice and sin.

When blood gets spilt – God takes notice! He noticed Abel’s blood (Genesis 4:10). He warns all men to take notice (Genesis 9:6). Judgment was pronounced upon the scribes and Pharisees because of bloodshed (Matthew 23:34-35). Even when an animal dies, God takes notice (Matthew 10:29b). When an animal was killed or sacrificed, God commanded that the utmost respect be shown toward the blood (Leviticus 17).

Why does God take notice of every drop of blood that gets spilt? Because life is in the blood: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul’” (Leviticus 17:11). God called for the blood sacrifice of animals because He was teaching His people about the cost of sin. (more…)

The Gospel is for All…

Afraid you can’t become a Christian because you have a past?

Well, that didn’t stop the people who Peter wrote his letter to from becoming Christians. He told them, “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.” (1st Peter 2:9,10) Don’t let your past control your present; and don’t let your present ruin your future. Christ died because we all have a past, but He also died because He wants us all to have a future.

Afraid that God won’t accept you because of where you were born or because of the color of your skin?

Well, that didn’t stop the people who Paul wrote his letter to from becoming Christians. He told them, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28) Don’t let the negative opinion of others or your own doubts stop you from accepting the fact that Christ positively loves you. Jesus died to bring all of mankind back to God.

Afraid that you have waited too long and are too old to obey the gospel and become a Christian?

Well, Paul didn’t hold a person’s age against them when he instructed Titus to teach the church that “…the aged men be sober, grave [serious], temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness….” (Titus 2:2,3) As long as a person comes to God the way He has taught in His gospel you can become a Christian. Christ died so that no matter how old a person may be they can experience a new birth (John 3:3-5).

The gospel is for imperfect people. The gospel is for sinners. The gospel is for all.

And why is that? It’s because everyone needs it. Paul taught, “…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). That’s why he said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first and also to the Greek (gentiles). For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:16,17).

When we’re willing to repent and obey the gospel of Christ then we can become a Christian exactly like the people who read the original letters that Peter and Paul sent. How did they do that? Read 1st Peter 3:21, Galatians 3:26,27 and Titus 3:3-6. These scriptures are apart of the same letters that teach the world that the gospel is for all. That includes you! EA