Bride’s Veil Waterfall, Isle of Skye, Scotland. Water is essential to life. And so water is a symbol of life. That’s especially significant in the land of Israel, which has a Mediterranean to semi-arid climate, with seasonal rains and dry summers. Water is one of the Bible symbols of the Spirit, Who brings God’s life. Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ ” (John 7.37-38). John the Gospel writer then comments, “Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, . . . .” The Spirit was poured out on the Day of Pentecost. From that moment, God’s Spirit came to live in the hearts of believers, giving them new, eternal life. Jesus says to us all: “let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (Revelation 22.17).
We look at how God transforms people when they become Christians. When someone repents from sin and trusts Jesus Christ completely for their salvation, they are united with Christ and become part of God’s new humanity. And that changes everything! They are justified, reborn from above, given a new heart, released from slavery to sin, adopted into God’s family, and made a temple of God’s Holy Spirit. As Paul writes, “if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5.17 NIV). And as we trust God and obey Him, God’s Holy Spirit transforms us more and more.
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Summary of part 13
At the end you’ll find Bible passages to read and questions for individual or small group study.
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Jesus – God’s perfect sacrifice
On the Day of Pentecost, Jesus released the Holy Spirit into human hearts. What happened on that wonderful day flowed directly from Jesus’s death, resurrection and exaltation at His Father’s right hand in heaven. Only then could God give people His Holy Spirit. Only then could God live in the hearts of true believers, and have true fellowship with them.
Jesus achieved everything that the Old Testament sacrifices could not do. The Law with its sacrificial system was “a shadow of the good things to come” (Hebrews 10.1) – the “good things” being full salvation through Jesus Christ. In Session 7 we looked at the five key Levitical sacrifices and how they dealt with sin and restored the sinner to fellowship with God and with other people:
The 5 basic kinds of sacrifice are detailed in the first 7 chapters of Leviticus. These sacrifices picture how sin must be dealt with, and how fellowship with God and other people can be restored. These are the five basic kinds of sacrifice, and what their significance is.
●Sin offering: the pollution caused by sin is dealt with
●Reparation offering: restitution is made for sinful acts
●Burnt offering: the worshipper offers himself wholly to God.
●Cereal offering: the worshipper gives all that he possesses to God.
●Fellowship offering: the worshipper, and everyone who eats with him, enjoys fellowship with God and each other.
Jesus fulfilled the entire sacrificial system. He didn’t offer an animal, as the Old Testament priests did. He offered Himself. ● Jesus is our sin offering; His death cleanses everyone who believes in Him from the defilement of sin, and they are forgiven. ● He is our reparation offering; He has made restitution for all our sins. ● He is our burnt offering; God accepted Jesus’s perfect life and His sacrificial death as a perfect whole burnt offering on our behalf. ● He is our cereal offering. On our behalf, He dedicated all that He had – His abilities, His energies, and His time to do God’s will. ● And Jesus is the perfect fellowship offering. Those who receive Him as their Lord and Saviour enjoy fellowship with God and each other.
In addition to these five offerings, there were two other major sacrifices:
►The Day of Atonement. Once a year, the high priest offered a final great sin offering for all the sins of the nation over the preceding year. The key sacrifice was a pair of goats. One goat was killed and the blood brought right into God’s presence. The other (called the scapegoat) had the sins of the entire nation confessed over it. It was then led away and released into the wilderness. Jesus fulfilled all that took place on that awesome day.
►The Passover Through the first Passover sacrifice, Israel’s firstborn (collectively representing the whole nation) were saved from death. Jesus is our Passover lamb, Who was slain for us. Those who believe in Him are saved from death. And Israel’s covenant bond with God was celebrated by the Passover meal. Our covenant relationship with God is also celebrated by a meal – the Lord’s Supper.
In Session 4 we listed all the terrible effects of the first human sin. Jesus dealt with all of them. Through His death, resurrection and exaltation to His Father’s right hand in heaven:
►He quenched God’s righteous anger towards us. On the Cross, our sin was reckoned as His. He bore its guilt and suffered its penalty in our place. So He satisfied God’s perfect justice. Those who repent and believe in Jesus – who acknowledge Him as their Lord and trust Him for salvation – no longer stand under God’s wrath. God now takes pleasure in them.
►He provided restitution for sins. He paid the debt that we owed to God, and to everyone whom we have harmed (deliberately or inadvertently). And Jesus dealt with all that we ourselves have suffered because of other people.
►He redeems those that believe in Him. His sacrificial death was the price He paid to release them from captivity to Satan and slavery to sin.
►The believer’s old self is crucified and buried with Him; they rise with Him into a new life and are exalted with Him into heavenly places. And so they are born again, born of God. God now lives in them.
►God justifies the believer. God pronounces them ‘not guilty’ and credits Jesus’s perfect righteousness to them. They stand in the same relationship to God as if they had never sinned!
►Jesus reconciles believers to God – now they are in fellowship with Him.
►God sanctifies the believer. In other words, He makes them holy – that is, He cleanses them and dedicates them to Himself. Now they belong to God. He has set them apart to serve Him. This sanctification is a once-for-all act that occurred when they were born again. But it’s also a process. That sanctification, or holiness, is to be worked out in them, as we’ll see below.
►He broke Satan’ power over mankind, and sentenced him and every evil spiritual being to eternal doom.
►Jesus received all authority in heaven and Earth. He already had this authority, of course, as the Son of God. Now He received it as a Man. And all those who believe in Him share His authority. We are seated with Him in heavenly places, and share His authority over the evil powers.
►He became the forerunner of a whole new creation – a new humanity living in God’s presence in a new heaven and Earth!
►He demonstrated God’s goodness and love to all heaven’s hosts, to all humanity. Satan, God’s accuser, is exposed as a liar.
A new creation
When someone repents and acknowledges Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, they are “born . . . of God” (John 1.13). God comes to live within them and gives them His divine uncreated life, which the Bible calls ‘eternal life’. Their natural conception and birth made them part of the old sinful humanity ‘in Adam’. Their new birth makes them part of the new humanity ‘in Christ’. God adopts them into His family. They now have the right to call the Father, “Abba! Father!” (Romans 8.15, Galatians 4.6).
Everything changes when someone is born again:
►Their legal status before God changes – once they were guilty, now they are righteous and enjoy good standing before God. This is justification.
►Their inner disposition changes: once they had a sinful disposition; now they have a new disposition free from sin’s bondage. Now they naturally love God and want to serve Him. This is new birth, or regeneration.
►Their family changes. Once they were a child of Satan (see 1 John 3.8,10); now God has made them His child. This is adoption into God’s family.
The Bible symbolises our new birth by baptism in water. What does water baptism symbolise?
►Water washes away dirt. Water baptism pictures the deep, thorough, spiritual cleansing of the believer that occurs when they are born again.
►How does that washing happen? By being “baptised into Christ Jesus” (Romans 6.3). When Jesus died and was raised again, so was every believer – including me! My “old self” was “crucified with him” (Romans 6.6). All that I once was, as a member of sin-ridden humanity, died with Christ. I once had a sinful disposition; I was in bondage to sin. But no longer. That ‘old me’ died when Christ died. And I’m raised with Christ (Colossians 2.12). I’m now “in Christ Jesus” (for example, Romans 8.1). In other words, I am united with Him; I’m a member of God’s new humanity of which He is the Head. I am now freed from bondage to sin. Now, by God’s grace and enabling, I can live in a way that’s pleasing to God – just as Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretold (Jeremiah 31.33, Ezekiel 11.19-20, 36.27, 37.24).
Living out our salvation
My “old self” was “crucified with him” (Romans 6.6). But now I have to live as a member of God’s new humanity. And so, in Paul’s words, I have to “put off” my “old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires”. I have to “put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4.20-24). I have to choose to live a life pleasing to God. Old actions, reactions, and patterns of thinking have to be put off. New patterns of thinking and new habits have to be formed. But God’s Holy Spirit lives in me. He gives me power to make the right choices. My part is to co-operate with Him and obey Him. If I “walk . . . according to the Spirit” (Romans 8.4), I will not gratify “the desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5.16).
We said before that God sanctified us when we believed in Jesus. He cleansed us and dedicated us to Himself. In this sense, our sanctification is a once-for-all act. But, as we saw before, it’s also a process. As we walk in obedience to God day by day, as we put off “old self” and put on the “new self”, God’s Spirit sanctifies us. He purifies and transforms us, so that we reflect God’s character more and more truly, and serve Him more perfectly.
Bible passages and questions
Most of the New Testament (with a few prophetic passages from the Old Testament, too) deals with salvation and the Christian life! As well as the passages specific to each question, read the following passages if you have time (it will take between 1 and 2 hours): Jeremiah 31.31-34; Ezekiel 36.24-28; Matthew 3.11, John 3.3-8, 14.16-17,26, 16.12-14, 17.20-23; Romans 3.20-31, 5.1-6.14, 8.1-17,29-30, 10.9-10, 12.1-2,9-13; 1 Corinthians 3.16-17, 6.11,17-20, 12.12-13,27; 2 Corinthians 5.17,21, 6.16-7.1; Galatians 2.20, 3.27, 4.4-7, 5.16-25; Ephesians 1.3-7,13-14, 2.1-22, 4.20-24; Colossians 1.13-14,19-22, 2.11-15, 3.5-17; 1 Thessalonians 5.23-24; Titus 3.4-7; Hebrews 2.14-15, 9.24-26, 10.11-22; 1 Peter 1.3-5,18-19, 2.24.
?Read Isaiah 53.6, Matthew 27.46, 2 Corinthians 5.21, Hebrews 9.7-8,11-12,24-26. How did Jesus fulfil the Day of Atonement?
?Read Romans 5.8, 6.8. Paul says that Christ died for us, and that we died with Christ. How can both be true?
?Read John 1.12-13, 3.3-8, 1 Peter 1.3,23, Titus 3.4-6. What happens when someone is born again?
?Read Romans 3.20-26, 5.1,8-9, 8.33; Galatians 2.16. What is justification?
?Read Matthew 12.22-29, John 12.31-33, Ephesians 1.20-23, 6.10-18, Colossians 2.15, Hebrews 2.14-15, 1 John 3.8, Revelation 12.7-12, 20.1-3. What did Jesus’s death, resurrection and ascension do to Satan and his kingdom?
?Read Romans 6.19, 1 Corinthians 6.11, 1 Thessalonians 4.3-5, 5.23, Hebrews 10.10. What is sanctification?
CREDITS ► Text copyright © 2017 Robert Gordon Betts ► All Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, published by HarperCollins Publishers. © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.