How to Escape the Fires of Hell
II Corinthians 5:14-21
Of all the various type of disasters that befall us as humans, one of the more feared situations is to be trapped in a burning building. Over the past few years there have been several tragic scenes of dance clubs where hundreds of young people have been locked into halls that have burned and the doors were piled high with the dead who could not get out and escape the fire.
I’ve never been trapped in a burning building, but Bonnie and I will always remember being trapped on a burning elevator in
What is the actual message that answers someone asking, “What must I do to be saved?” God says it comes down to this,
“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will saved,” Acts 16:31.
And how do I do that? Simply believe that Christ came into the world clothed in human flesh, born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, died a subsitutionary death on the cross, rose from the grave, and ascended to the right hand of the Father having accomplished our redemption as our High Priest and coming King.
That sentence is what you could call the essence, or the drive train of the Gospel. You believe that. You believe in the Christ who is the true Christ and in His death and resurrection for you- and God gives you His Gracious Salvation. So the key we hold in our hands is to call men and women to that faith. We call them to start believing God who says,
“For by grace you are saved,” Eph 2:8, “through faith.”
How? We say, “Here, do you want to take the gift? Just trust Christ. Just put your faith, just affirm you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ who lived and died for you and rose again. Do you believe that? And acknowledge Christ as your Lord and Savior.” That’s it. And receive the forgiveness He offers.
But one final question remains, “How in the world can God do it and still be just? One way, reconciliation by the will of God, by the act of justification which involves forgiveness, by the obedience of faith. We just call sinners to believe. How can He do it? How can He punish the sin in our lives at one time and make us His own children at the other? How can He punish us without destroying us?
Take a moment to read II Corinthians 5:14-21.
II Corinthians 5:21 is the answer, and it stands as the greatest verse in the Bible. Fifteen Greek words. If you understand this verse, you understand the Gospel. Fifteen Greek words that define the meaning of the reconciliation message.
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
That’s how He did it. That’s how God did it. There is the plan. This is the secret of redemption right here. Understand this verse, “He made,” is God. God is the one who did it. It’s God’s plan, in order to make it work, “He made Him who knew no sin,” who’s that? Jesus Christ who the writer of Hebrews said is, “holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners.” The sinless, spotless Lamb of God. “He made Him who knew no sin,” that’s so critical. It had to be a perfect lamb. It had to be without spot, without blemish, “He made Him who knew no sin.”
Here comes the key, the Greek says, “He made Him who knew no sin, sin.” His sinless son in whom He said, “I am well pleased.” His sinless son who Peter calls “the just for the unjust” was made sin. On the cross Jesus was NOT a sinner. He never was a sinner before. He wasn’t a sinner then. And He never will be. He was as pure and holy and harmless and undefiled hanging on the cross as ever before or since. He is not a sinner, never a sinner. He never broke a law of God and he never failed to fulfill PERFECTLY everything God ever required or desired. And God did not make him a sinner on the cross.
On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He had committed every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe. Did you get that? God treated Him as if He committed, personally, every sin ever committed by every person who would ever believe though the fact is He committed none of them. That’s the great doctrine of substitution. And that’s the first side of imputation. God imputed our sins to Him. He was guilty of none of them. God treated Him as if He committed all of them. And He just unloaded His fury for all the sins of all the people who would ever believe in Him in the history of the world. He unloaded all His fury against all their sins on Christ.
To borrow the language of Leviticus 16, Jesus became the “scapegoat”. The scapegoat was guilty of nothing. But the High Priest, as it were, laid all the sins of the people on the scapegoat and sent him away. He was without sin. But sin was credited to His account as if He had personally committed it and then God punished Him though the fact is He never committed any of it. That’s imputation.
Have you ever asked yourself the question, “When Jesus came into the world why did He have to live all those years?” If I was planning the plan of redemption I’d have had Him come down on Friday, die, rise on Sunday and go back to Heaven Monday. Why 30 years? Why 30 silent years?
Jesus lived a full life was that He might live a complete life fully righteous. That He might live a complete life absolutely without sin, absolutely perfect, so that that perfect life could be credited to your account. That’s the backside of imputation. On the cross, God treated Jesus as if He lived your life so He could treat you as if you lived His life. That’s the Gospel. That’s substitution.
What happens in justification? God simply declares you righteous because your sin has been paid for. He treated Christ as if He’d committed all your sins and lived your life and He treats you as if you lived Christ’s life. That’s how the Father sees you now. And that happened at the moment of faith, didn’t it? That’s the Gospel. That’s what we need to tell sinners. That’s the essence of it.
No Salvation Without Imputation and Substitution
In faith, repentant faith, acknowledging our sin, we acknowledge Jesus died and rose again for us in simple faith. We ask Him to save us from our sins and at that moment, the payment of Christ is sufficient for all our sins and the righteousness of Christ is granted to us. And from then on God treats us as if we had lived Christ’s life. That’s why Paul in Romans says, 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation.” Can’t be, it’s paid for. Satan shows up in Heaven and he says, “Your saint down there, they did this, and this, and this.” Jesus says, “Paid for. Paid for. Paid for.” The Father says, “Sorry Satan, can’t see it. All I can see is the righteousness of Christ.”
That’s the great message of the good news. And this is what we are called to dispense. This is the word of reconciliation. All around us there is a world trapped in what is literally a burning building, and we are the dispensers of the key to get out and be saved. That’s the heart of the Gospel message.
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