Monday, October 20, 2008

How Are We Right With God?

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Study 11 --- 1 Samuel 13

13:1 Saul was . . . years old when he began to reign, and he reigned . . . and two years over Israel.

2 Saul chose three thousand men of Israel. Two thousand were with Saul in Michmash and the hill country of Bethel, and a thousand were with Jonathan in Gibeah of Benjamin. The rest of the people he sent home, every man to his tent. 3 Jonathan defeated the garrison of the Philistines that was at Geba, and the Philistines heard of it. And Saul blew the trumpet throughout all the land, saying, “Let the Hebrews hear.” 4 And all Israel heard it said that Saul had defeated the garrison of the Philistines, and also that Israel had become a stench to the Philistines. And the people were called out to join Saul at Gilgal.

5 And the Philistines mustered to fight with Israel, thirty thousand chariots and six thousand horsemen and troops like the sand on the seashore in multitude. They came up and encamped in Michmash, to the east of Beth-aven. 6 When the men of Israel saw that they were in trouble (for the people were hard pressed), the people hid themselves in caves and in holes and in rocks and in tombs and in cisterns, 7 and some Hebrews crossed the fords of the Jordan to the land of Gad and Gilead. Saul was still at Gilgal, and all the people followed him trembling.

8 He waited seven days, the time appointed by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal, and the people were scattering from him. 9 So Saul said, “Bring the burnt offering here to me, and the peace offerings.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 As soon as he had finished offering the burnt offering, behold, Samuel came. And Saul went out to meet him and greet him. 11 Samuel said, “What have you done?” And Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines had mustered at Michmash, 12 I said, ‘Now the Philistines will come down against me at Gilgal, and I have not sought the favor of the Lord.’ So I forced myself, and offered the burnt offering.” 13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you. For then the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” 15 And Samuel arose and went up from Gilgal. The rest of the people went up after Saul to meet the army; they went up from Gilgal to Gibeah of Benjamin.

And Saul numbered the people who were present with him, about six hundred men. 16 And Saul and Jonathan his son and the people who were present with them stayed in Geba of Benjamin, but the Philistines encamped in Michmash. 17 And raiders came out of the camp of the Philistines in three companies. One company turned toward Ophrah, to the land of Shual; 18 another company turned toward Beth-horon; and another company turned toward the border that looks down on the Valley of Zeboim toward the wilderness.

19 Now there was no blacksmith to be found throughout all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Lest the Hebrews make themselves swords or spears.” 20 But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle, 21 and the charge was two-thirds of a shekel for the plowshares and for the mattocks, and a third of a shekel for sharpening the axes and for setting the goads. 22 So on the day of the battle there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people with Saul and Jonathan, but Saul and Jonathan his son had them. 23 And the garrison of the Philistines went out to the pass of Michmash.

Comment:

Are you familiar with how God saves us and makes us right with him? In other words, do you understand the teaching of justification by faith alone?

Q&A 60 of the Heidelberg Catechism explains how God justifies us. The word justify means to declare righteous. The opposite of justify is condemn. When the Lord justifies us, we are right with him, for we are declared righteous in his sight. Instead of standing before him condemned, we stand before him justified.

Let’s take a look at Q&A 60:

60 Q How are you right with God?

A Only by true faith in Jesus Christ.

Even though my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments
and of never having kept any of them,
and even though I am still inclined toward all evil,
nevertheless,
without my deserving it at all,
out of sheer grace,
God grants and credits to me
the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ,
as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner,
as if I had been as perfectly obedient
as Christ was obedient for me.

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.

The first thing to notice about Q&A 60 is that we are all condemned by God’s law or commandments. All of us have “grievously sinned against all God’s commandments.” Our conscience “accuses” us of having broken God’s commandments. We have never “kept any” of the commandments perfectly. But maybe worst of all, even Christians are “still inclined toward all evil!”

This is what we learn about ourselves when we honestly look at God’s commandments and our heart and lives. We have to agree with God’s Word in Romans 3: “None is righteous, no, not one.”

If we stopped at this point, salvation would be hopeless. The Bible is very clear that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The Lord is judge, and according to his justice we stand condemned. Even if from this moment on we could obey the Lord perfectly (this is impossible because our hearts are “still inclined toward all evil”) our past sins would merit God’s judgment.

So, the question is this: How can we possibly be saved from this hopeless situation? How can we move from condemned before God to justified before him? How can we return to his favor?

Q&A 60 gives us the answer. It says that “God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ.” Satisfaction refers to the cross when our sins were laid on Christ as he suffered God’s judgment on our behalf. Righteousness and holiness refer to the perfect life of obedience Jesus lived as he perfectly loved his Father and his fellow human beings.

God saves us by granting and crediting both Christ’s work on the cross and his perfectly obedient life to us! The believers’ sins have been punished and judged at the cross, so that there is forgiveness. But even more, Christ’s righteousness and holiness has been credited to us.

Now, here is the amazing result of God’s granting and crediting his Son’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness to us: The Lord views believers as if we are ourselves hung on the cross and paid for our sins. The Lord views believers as if we lived a perfectly obedient life. In other words, we are not saved by our own obedience, but we are saved by the obedience of someone else, namely, Jesus Christ, and Christ’s obedience is credited to us!

Now, how does this relate to 1 Samuel 13?

In 1 Samuel 13 we have a king (Saul) who failed to obey the Lord. We can make all sorts of excuses for Saul, but the bottom line about Saul is found in verse 13: "You have done foolishly. You have not kept the command of the Lord your God, with which he commanded you.”

This is also the bottom line of our lives. We can make all sorts of excuses, but in the end we “have done foolishly.” The bottom line is that we “have not kept the command of the Lord” (v. 13).

This is why we need a Savior. This is why we need a new king. This is why the Lord graciously promised such a king in verse 14: “The Lord has sought out a man after his own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be prince over his people.” Ultimately, this man is Jesus Christ. It is his obedience that saves us --- that justifies us.

When Samuel comes to Saul and says in verse 11, “What have you done?” these are the same words that the Lord spoke to Adam in the garden (Gen. 3:9, 13), to Cain after murdering his brother (Gen. 4:10), and to Achan after his theft (Josh. 7:19). By these words, we too are convicted of our sin by God’s law. With the catechism we must each confess:

“my conscience accuses me
of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments
and of never having kept any of them,
and . . . I am still inclined toward all evil.”

But the gospel of grace comes to us telling us of Jesus Christ’s perfect work and perfect obedience. It tells us that God in his grace will grant and credit to us his Son’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness, if we will place our faith in Jesus Christ. Salvation is a free gift, and we receive that gift of Christ’s sacrifice and obedience by faith. As Q&A 60 concludes, the glorious good news is about a gift, and all I need to do to receive this gift is to believe in Jesus Christ and his work on my behalf: “All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart.”

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