I do not like it when the guilty gets away with something; when the governor pardons someone a jury has convicted of a crime, not because the person was found to be innocent but rather because he just did not agree with the sentence.
Or how about this case: I am not making this up; it really happened!
First, the criminal was as guilty as sin. There was no doubt about it.
Second, the judge correctly decides on the appropriate sentence based upon what the many crimes deserved. The sentence was death.
So here we have a felon on death row who deserves to die. There does not seem to be a whole lot wrong with that. Everything is pretty much as it should be. But wait.
The judge has a tender spot for the felon. You see, the felon is also the judge's son! The son bears a distinct family resemblance, and though his crimes have caused the judge great sorrow, the judge still loves his son. So, guess what.
Even while the son has yet to show any remorse, the judge devises a rather complicated plan whereby the wayward son can live. He allows someone else, one who is not guilty, to step in and pay the penalty for the guilty, and then declares to the guilty, "You're free to go. I hope this all means something to you and will cause you to think seriously about changing the course of your life, to come back home and start over."
Yes, it is a true story! God is the Judge and Father, Jesus is the substitute, and the guilty son; well, Th... that, uh...that would be me.
For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for a good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:6-10).
HELPLESS ON DEATH ROW
"For while we were still helpless, at the right time, Christ died for the ungodly." (Romans 5:6).
Sin is the transgression of God's law (1 John 3:4). When Adam and Eve ate of the tree forbidden them by the Lord's commandment, that was a sin. It brought forth the penalty of death. Their bodies were from that hour destined to return to the ground, and they became estranged from God. This means two types of death entered the world, physical as well as spiritual.
Likewise, in our sins we are under the sentence of death. We are on "death row". The wages of sin is death. We simply await the final execution of sentence; eternal death; separation from God; eternally existing but never living. The Bible calls it hell; the second death (Romans 6:23; Revelation 20:14,15).
So, now we are as "dead men walking", a term used in our prison systems for those on death row. This well describes us, or as the Holy Spirit put it; "dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you (formerly) walked..." (Ephesians 2:1,2). Is there any hope at all? We certainly cannot realistically provide ourselves with even the smallest measure of hope. There is nothing we can do for ourselves. Our pardon must come from another.
THE MOST POWERFUL DEMONSTRATION OF LOVE
"But God demonstrates His own love for us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8). What a horrible thing it is to die unprepared because of the consequences sin will have on our eternity. But wait; a pardon has been offered!
In the early 1800's, President Andrew Jackson offered a pardon to a man named George Wilson (no, not Dennis Mitchell's next door neighbor) who had been sentenced to death by hanging. Mr. Wilson refused the pardon. Supreme Court justice John Marshall declared, "the value of the pardon depends upon its acceptance. If it is refused, then there is no pardon." Mr. Mitchell died on the gallows.
In Christ Jesus, God offers us a full pardon. By a complete and overwhelming sacrifice, Jesus paid for our sins so that the pardon could be offered to us by a righteous God. It is up to us to accept it. As Paul and Barnabas said to some who rejected their pardons; "...that the word of God might be spoken to you first; since you repudiate it, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles." (Acts 13:46).
The rejection of the gospel by many does not reduce the amount of love Jesus had for us to take our place. Greater love than Jesus has for us is not possible. But, if we insist on rejecting God's pardon, then we will die, not as a consequence of the lack of love on God's part, but because of our own hard-heartedness and self-inflicted blindness.
JUSTIFIED AND SAVED FROM WRATH
"Much more then, having been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him." (Romans 5:9).
Thank God for His pardon! The blood of another is accounted as payment for my sins. And the result of that is that I am saved from facing the wrath of God at judgment.
So, when can I receive this pardon, already paid for by Jesus? Well, the answer is that the offer remains in place by the patience and mercy of God, and is available to me so long as I am still alive; and that the day of passing sentence has not arrived. But once I leave this world for the next; the offer is withdrawn. Now is the time to receive it!
Some take lightly the Lord's kindness and mercy. Instead of allowing God's great patience to lead us to repentance, some abuse it by continuing in sin. The Bible says to those who behave this way, "But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to His deeds." (Romans 2:4-6). The lesson: Please, please do not reject the pardon and be left to face the judgment!
SAVED BY HIS LIFE
" For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life." (Romans 5:10).
We are brought back into harmony with God through the death of Christ. Now, we look forward to victory instead of eternal death. With Paul, we can exult: "Death is swallowed up in victory! Oh death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (1 Corinthians 15:54,55).
By Jesus' life, that is, His resurrection to life after His death, by the power of the resurrection, we are saved. Anyone can die, but Jesus lives again! This same power that reconciles us also pardons, or saves us.
But, like Jesus lives a new life, so must we. We become united with Him in the likeness of His resurrection when we obey the gospel, and arise from baptism to walk "in newness of life." (Romans 6:5). Sin is no longer to be our master; but Jesus is. We receive our pardon of grace by becoming "obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed." This is how to receive God's pardon and to be freed from sin. (Romans 6:17, 18). Accept God's pardon and live!
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 5.9; September 1998