The Mediator, Advocate, and Redeemer in Job

The Book of Job provides some of the greatest revelation of the Messiah in the Old Testament. Although Job didn’t have the revelation that we have, he still looked forward to a Mediator, Advocate, and Redeemer. Centuries later, Jesus revealed Himself to be the reality and substance of Job’s words.

Job Needed a Mediator

He longed for a Person to stand between him and God:

Job 9:1–2—Job asked: “Truly I know it is so, but how can a man be righteous before God?”

This is the most important question people can ask, because it determines where we spend eternity. Job answered his question and explained why “a man [cannot] be righteous before God”:

Job 9:3–4—“If one wished to contend with Him, he could not answer Him one time out of a thousand.
God is wise in heart and mighty in strength. Who has hardened himself against Him and prospered?”

Nobody can stand before God and respond to His questions. Job learned this the hard way when he was finally given his audience. Continue reading “The Mediator, Advocate, and Redeemer in Job”

Reformation Day and the Five Solas

Unfortunately, Halloween comes to mind when many people think of October 31st. This date actually looks back on one of the most dramatic moments in church history. On this day in 1517 Martin Luther nailed his list of grievances against the Catholic Church to the door of a chapel in Wittenberg, Germany. These Ninety-Five Theses became the catalyst for the Reformation, which produced the Five Solas.

Martin Luther spoke one of my favorite quotes when the Catholic Church threatened to excommunicate him. He said:

Unless I am convinced by Scripture and plain reason – I do not accept the authority of the Popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other – my conscience is captive to the Word of God. I cannot and I will not recant anything for to go against conscience is neither right nor safe. God help me. Amen.

The Catholic Church was unable to defend their false teaching with Scripture or respond to Luther’s criticisms. On May 25, 1521 Luther was declared an outlaw and his literature was banned. The Catholic Church said, “We want him to be apprehended and punished as a notorious heretic.” It was a crime for anyone in Germany to give him food or shelter.

Jesus said, “I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). It’s hard to argue there are more significant fulfillments of this promise than the victory God produced through Martin Luther. When October 31st rolls around each year we would do well to think not of Halloween, but of the Reformation and the Five Solas.

In honor of the Reformation I want to provide a brief summary of each of the Five Solas…

1. The Five Solas: Sola Fide—“Faith Alone”

This excludes any works from being necessary for salvation. Justification – or being declared righteous by God – is received by faith only, apart from anything man can do. At the time the Catholic Church emphasized the use of indulgences (donated money) to purchase status, and even forgiveness, with God. Works, such as baptism and other sacraments, were seen as required for salvation. Continue reading “Reformation Day and the Five Solas”

How Did Salvation and Forgiveness Take Place in the Old Testament?

How were people forgiven (or saved) in the Old Testament? Did forgiveness (or salvation) take place through sacrifices or human effort? The short answer is forgiveness (and salvation) was received in the Old Testament the same way it’s received in the New Testament: by grace through faith.

Unfortunately, people think of the Gospel as a New Testament invention, but Paul uses the Old Testament to present the Gospel. He explains justification by faith apart from the law and works in Romans 3:21-28. Then he discusses two prominent Old Testament men to have credibility with his Jewish readers. In the process he shows people were forgiven (or saved) in the Old Testament, just as believers are in the New Testament.

Paul’s First Example of Old Testament Salvation: Abraham—The Father of the Jewish People

Although Abraham was well-respected, he committed well-known sins:

  • God commanded Abraham to leave his family behind. He failed by bringing his nephew Lot (Genesis 12:1-4).
  • Abraham failed when he left Canaan, went to Egypt, and tried to protect himself by telling Sarah to say she was his sister (Genesis 12:10-20).
  • Sarah told Abraham to have a child with Hagar, and he obeyed her (Genesis 16:1-2).
  • Abraham lied about Sarah being his sister (Genesis 20:2).

Romans 4:1—What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather, discovered in this matter? 2 If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God.

We can boast if we’re justified by works, “but not before God,” because it wouldn’t impress him.

Romans 4:3—What does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Paul quotes Genesis 15:6, which summarizes the Gospel. Abraham was justified by faith. He was saved by believing God.

Romans 4:4—Now when a man works, his wages are not credited to him as a gift, but as an obligation.

When your boss gives you a paycheck you’d be offended if he said, “This is a gift.” You worked for it; therefore, you earned it. A system of works makes God “obligated” to us.

Romans 4:5—However, to the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness.

The man who attempts to be justified – or saved – by works is not trusting God. He’s trusting himself. The man who trusts God finds his faith credited – or given to him – as righteousness.

Paul’s Second Example of Old Testament Salvation: David—The King of the Jewish People

According to God’s Law, David committed two sins that should’ve resulted in death: adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11). A few things made David’s terrible sins even worse:

  • David’s accountability—He knew God’s Law well.
  • David was blessed—God brought him of that shepherd’s field where he was a nobody born to a no-name family. Then God turned him into the rich and powerful king of Israel.
  • David’s sins were premeditated—He planned out all the details, even writing a letter to Joab that he had Uriah himself carry. It was one of the darkest moments in the Old Testament.

If David had to be justified, or declared righteous by works, he’d stand condemned before God. Since justification is by faith, he felt very blessed…

Romans 4:6—David says the same thing when he speaks of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:

David agreed with Abraham about justification by faith, and he wrote about his thankfulness in Psalm 32:1-2, which Paul quoted in Romans 4:7-8:

“Blessed are they
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the man
whose sin the Lord will never count against him.”

When you’ve sinned like David did, you’re very thankful when God doesn’t “count” those sins against you, but instead “counts” or “credits” righteousness to you.

Romans 4:9-10—Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before!

Abraham was declared righteous by God in Genesis 15:6 when he “believed God” at 86 years old. He wasn’t circumcised until Genesis 17:24, when he 99. Since he was declared righteous 13 years before he was circumcised, he had to be justified by faith and not works.

David’s Sins Should not Have Received Forgiveness

If anyone deserved death it was David, but this is also why David’s situation provides one of the greatest examples of God’s grace and mercy in all of Scripture. Nathan the Prophet confronted David, and he responded:

2 Samuel 12:13a—“I have sinned against the Lord.”

This is how we should respond when we sin. In these few words David provides a number of lessons:

  • Take ownership: “I have…”
  • Call it what it is: “sin.”
  • Acknowledge the sin was “against the Lord”
  • Avoid excuses and blame shifting.

Then Nathan said:

2 Sam 12:13b—“The Lord also has taken away your sin.”

These are some of the most amazing words in the Old Testament. Despite the enormity and wickedness of David’s sin, it was “taken away.” Hebrews 10:4 and 11 both state:

“It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.”

Sacrifices couldn’t forgive sins, say nothing of take them away. How could Nathan say this to David? His sins were taken away the same way ours are taken away:

  • When John the Baptist saw Jesus he said, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29).
  • 1 John 3:5 says “[Jesus] was manifested to take away our sins.”

If any Old Testament sacrifices could take away sins, Jesus’s sacrifice would’ve been unnecessary. David looked forward in faith to Jesus the way we look backward in faith to our Savior.

The New Covenant Foreshadowed in the Old Covenant

The grace and mercy David received provide a beautiful glimpse of the New Covenant under the Old Covenant. What did David do to receive this forgiveness? Psalm 51:16-17 records:

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.

David didn’t offer any sacrifices. He had a spiritual insight that was tremendous. He knew parts of the New Testament before they were written, and he knew no Old Testament sacrifices could make up for his sins.

But he did know there was a “sacrifice” he could “give”; he knew there was an “offering” God “desired”: “a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart.”

David Confess his sin and it “took away” evil sins he committed. This is without personal merit, human effort, or penance. This is New Covenant forgiveness by grace; justification by faith.

Forgiveness that Provided Life Instead of Death

David’s sins demanded death, but he found: life. Nathan also said:

2 Samuel 12:13c—“You shall not die.”

These words mean David was going to die. The Old Covenant (the Law) demanded what it always demands: death. But David was able to find life. He recognized the greatness of what took place, which led him to write Psalm 32. Paul quoted this in Romans 4, showing forgiveness and salvation took place the same way in the Old and New Testaments.

Discussion Questions to Answer in the Comments Section 

  • Do you agree or disagree with the post?
  • How did you previously think people were forgiven and saved in the Old Testament? Do you think that now?
  • What other supporting verses from the Old Testament come to mind? What verses from the New Testament?

Paradoxes in the Bible

Paradoxes are statements that seem contradictory, inconsistent, or absurd, but are nonetheless true…and the Bible is full of paradoxes…

Here’s one of the most common: God exalts the humble and humbles the exalted:

  • 1 Peter 5:6 Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time
  • James 4:10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

This principle is expressed in the Old Testament as well:

  • 1 Samuel 2:8 God raises the poor from the dust
    And lifts the beggar from the ash heap,
    To set them among princes
    And make them inherit the throne of glory
  • Ezekiel 21:26 Thus says the Lord God, “Remove the turban, and take off the crown;
    Nothing shall remain the same.
    Exalt the humble, and humble the exalted.”

Here are a few more paradoxes:

  • In Matthew 23:11 Jesus said, “Whoever wants to be greatest, should be everyone’s servant.”
  • In Mark 9:35 Jesus said, “Anyone who wants to be first, must be the very last.”
  • In Luke 17:33 Jesus said, “Whoever tries to keep their lives will lose it, and whoever loses their lives will keep it.”
  • In 2 Corinthians 12:10 and 13:9 Paul said, “When we are weak we are strong.”
  • James 1:2 says, “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials.

Other paradoxes are subtler. For example, Luke 1:50 says God’s mercy is for those who fear Him. People who are most afraid of God have the least to fear from Him, and people who don’t fear God have the most to fear from Him. This is a paradox. It doesn’t make sense: if you fear God you don’t have to be afraid of Him, but if you don’t fear God, you have a lot to fear from Him.

Think about Nineveh, the capital of Assyria. The Assyrians were known for their cruelty and brutality. They mutilated people, resettled entire populations, and rejoiced over butchering their victims. They had absolutely no fear of God, and as a result had every reason to fear God: in Jonah 3:4 the prophet told the people, “In forty days God is going to destroy your city.” The people became afraid of God and dramatically repented. As a result, God’s mercy toward them became so great that when Jonah still wanted to see them judged, God rebuked the prophet for his lack of mercy saying, “Should I not pity these people?” (Jonah 4:11). The simple point is this: when they didn’t fear God they had everything to fear from God, but when they feared God, they had nothing to fear from Him.

I’d like to mention one more paradox, but there are three things I’d like to say about it first:

  1. While the previous paradoxes could be quoted, there isn’t one specific verse to capture this paradox.
  2. Even without one specific verse, this paradox is a truth maintained throughout the entire Bible.
  3. This is the most important paradox in the Bible as it determines where individuals spend eternity.

The paradox is this: people who think they’re righteous will be declared unrighteous by God, and people who declare their unrighteousness will be declared righteous by God.

Justification is the process by which God declares unrighteous sinners to be righteous. In other words, people are justified when God has declared them righteous. It isn’t about them being righteous; it is about God declaring them to be righteous. The Bible is very clear that there is only one way for individuals to be justified (or declared righteous by God), and that is by faith:

  • Romans 3:28 We conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.
  • Romans 5:1 Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
  • Galatians 2:16 A person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Christ. We have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law, because by the works of the law no one will be justified.

Individuals declaring their righteousness think they’re good, trust in themselves, do not seek the righteousness that is available by faith, and therefore will not be justified by God. Individuals declaring their unrighteousness recognize they’re not good, don’t trust in themselves, seek the righteousness that is available by faith, and therefore will be justified by God.

This paradox is most clearly seen in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

  • Of the Pharisee it says he prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other men—extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I possess.’” (Luke 18:11, 12).
  • Of the tax collector it says, “standing afar off, [he] would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ (Luke 18:13).

Then Jesus said, “I tell you, this tax collector went down to his house justified, rather than the Pharisee.” (Luke 18:13).

This is a paradox. The individual who – by all outward evidence – was exceptionally righteous shouldn’t be declared unrighteous and the tax collector – an individual the Bible identifies as terribly unrighteous (Matt 9:10, 11:19, Mark 2:16, Luke 5:30, 7:34, 15:1, 18:13) – shouldn’t be declared righteous. Those who believe they deserve heaven and are good enough to enter it will find themselves infinitely far from it, and those who know they don’t deserve heaven and could never be good enough to enter it will be welcomed.

These paradoxes are why God says, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts” (Isa 55:8, 9).

And these paradoxes are why Paul can say, “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and how unfathomable His ways” (Rom 11:33).