Obedient Faith

“And they sang a new song with these words: “You are worthy to take the scroll and break its seals and open it. For You were slaughtered, and Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. And You have caused them to become a Kingdom of priests for our God. And they will reign on the earth.””
‭‭Revelation‬ ‭5:9-10‬ ‭NLT

We continue to spend another day looking at this wonderful new song. The lyrics, directed at Jesus, who was standing in the middle of the twenty four elders and four living beings, before the throne of God, included the line, “Your blood has ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation”. A few thoughts about this new song. 

Firstly, do these words indicate that Jesus died for everyone, implying that there will be no exclusions and everyone will get to Heaven? Of course not, but many would like to think so. Jesus paid the ultimate penalty when He died that day at Calvary, spilling His blood so that His sacrifice would redeem everyone who believes in Him from the consequences of their sins. By doing so He paid the ransom for our sin. But to be a “ransomed people“, we have to respond personally, accepting that His sacrifice was for each one of us individually. Universalism, a belief that everyone will be saved and end up in Heaven regardless, cannot be found in the Bible. We have to make a choice – we can either choose to accept God’s saving grace through His Son, Jesus, and in the process assure our future with God in Heaven, or we can choose to reject Him and instead be assured of a life in Hell. Jesus said in John 14:6, ” … I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me”. There is no other way.

Secondly, all human beings, regardless of their race, ethnicity, sex, hair colour and everything else, is eligible to be ransomed by Jesus’ sacrifice. If they want to be. The only exclusions are for people who make the wrong choice, or don’t make a choice at all.

Thirdly, once we have accepted in obedient faith, that Jesus died in exchange for our sins, we adopt a new role. We become fully paid up members of God’s Kingdom of priests. We read in 1 Peter 2:9, “… you are a chosen people. You are royal priests, a holy nation, God’s very own possession. As a result, you can show others the goodness of God, for he called you out of the darkness into his wonderful light.” When we adopt our new priestly roles, we can show others the way to become priests too. Being a priest conjures up images of old men dressed in a funny gown, perhaps wearing an odd-looking hat, officiating at church services. But to us pilgrim priests, our priestly duties are to show others the way to God, by sharing the Gospel with them. By being “salt and light” in our families and communities.

The verse today ends with the line, “And they will reign on the earth“. According to John’s vision recorded in the Book of Revelation, there will come a time when the Kingdom priests will reign on earth. Of course, this isn’t happening in 21st Century society. Western or otherwise. And as fas as I am aware, it hasn’t happened in history either. So there must be coming a time when we pilgrim priests will reign on earth. I’m sure we will find out more as we dig deeper into this fascinating and amazing Book.

Dear Father God. Once again we thank You for the nuggets of revelation contained in these Scriptures. Please help us to understand what You want to reveal to us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The Least Deserving

Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning.”
Ephesians 3:8-9 NLT

““Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the One you are persecuting!”
Acts 9:5 NLT

Paul described himself as being the least deserving of all God’s people. A bit harsh, don’t you think? A false humility? A personal put-down? No, I think I can see where Paul was coming from. When faced with this new counter-cultural but, in the traditional Jews’ opinion, blasphemous cult of “The Way”, Paul suddenly found his life-mission. The most important thing he could do. Perhaps he thought he was the only solution to the problem of this cult. Everyone else was just complaining, tutting, plotting, in the end not doing very much. But he was going to sort it. He was single-handedly going to wipe all these “blasphemers” from the face of the earth. At best he was going to imprison them. At worst, stone them. Speaking of which, that is where Paul, then called Saul, first cropped up in Scripture. At the stoning of Stephen. He held the stoners’ clothes. He looked on in approval. And in him birthed the burning desire to complete the work. We read in Acts 9:1, “Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples….”. His intention was to go to Damascus where he had heard there was a fellowship there, some disciples of “The Way”. With letters of authority he was going to drag them as prisoners to Jerusalem, where they would stand trial for “blasphemy”.

But as we know, something dramatic happened on the Damascus road. A dramatic U-turn so incredible and life-changing that it puts into insignificance the U-turns of our elected politicians. Saul, soon to be Paul, met the risen Jesus. A meeting so amazing that Paul, literally in a flash, changed from being a persecutor of the early Christians to being one of their greatest evangelists. We read that he was blind for three days. Can you imagine the agony of what he was going through? The enormity of what he had been doing must have been driving his thoughts, and we read that “he was praying“. The regrets, the guilt, the hurt. Enough to drive him to insanity? (Incidentally, he was accused of being mad in Acts 26:24 but that’s another story). 

So it is not surprising that Paul thought himself “the least deserving of all God’s people“. I can imagine the poor man must have regularly held his head in his hands, distraught over what he had done. But the mind-boggling truth is that God’s grace was sufficient even for sins of the magnitude of Paul’s. There was no limit to God’s grace in Paul’s day. And there still isn’t today. God will never reject a repentant sinner, even one who is “least-deserving” like Paul. We must never think that we are too bad for God to forgive. Too sinful even for His grace to save us. As Christians, we all experienced a U-turn in our lives. That day when we said “Yes” to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. That day may not have been so dramatic as Paul’s was. But the outcome is the same. We are forgiven by grace. God’s unlimited and wonderful grace. And like Paul, what else can we do than share the wonder of God with those around us. As I have said before, we are “beggars, showing other beggars where to find bread”. Let’s always keep a few crumbs in our pockets for the needy who come our way.