Calvary Road Baptist Church

“JESUS, OUR SUBSTITUTE”

Ephesians 4.32-5.2

Christian, let me take you through three verses of scripture which will do more, I think, to separate you from and distinguish you from the unconverted than just about anything else you can imagine. These verses have to be rightly understood. However, when they are rightly understood, they are critical to the ministry of a church that means business for God. Turn to Ephesians 4.32. When you find that verse, stand and read silently with me through 5.2:

32     And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.

1      Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children;

2      And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour.

Keep in mind that these are comments the Apostle Paul writes to believers, who have already been scripturally baptized, and who are serving God as a part of the church in Ephesus.

Verse 32 begins, “And be ye kind one to another.” Among evangelical Christians this is taken to mean being “nice.” You must always be “nice” to everyone. However, “kind” does not mean “nice.” “Kind” refers to that which is worthy, that which is useful, that which is beneficial.[1] You know good and well that you can be “nice” to someone without benefiting him in any way except to momentarily make him feel good. We are not so concerned about momentary good feelings here, but eternal well-being.

The verse continues “tender-hearted.” Again, this is greatly misunderstood by the religious and the not so religious world as being sentimental, or to feeling sorry for someone. However, since all things work together for good to them that love God, no Christian in his right mind should ever feel sorry for a brother or sister in Christ.[2] Empathy, perhaps. Compassionate understanding of suffering and pain. On the other hand, “tender-hearted” refers more to being sensitive to the realities of a situation than it does to being driven by sentiment. Does “tender-hearted” suggest that our duty in life is to minimize suffering and pain? How can this be, since throughout the Bible the case is made for the benefits of suffering and the particular role that God has in the suffering of every one of His children? No, beloved, since God often uses suffering and pain as a means to conform us to the image of Christ, being “tender-hearted” does not mean you should be on a personal campaign to end suffering and pain, either in your own life or in the lives of others. Your personal campaign should be to serve God and engage yourself in bringing the lost to Jesus Christ.

The verse ends, “forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” My personal opinion is that forgiveness, and forgiving one another, is the most neglected practice in Christendom. I think so few people actually forgive, and with forgiveness comes forgetting and no longer being embittered by the wrong done to you, because so many do not really enjoy the forgiveness of God that comes with trusting Jesus. Do you remember Joseph’s attitude toward the ten brothers who sold him into slavery? He forgave them because, looking at things from God’s perspective, he knew that while they had meant it all for evil, God meant it all for good. Only the truly converted person can by God’s grace have that kind of perspective toward sins committed against them.

Paul then expands from the specifics of being kind, and compassionate, and forgiving, to Ephesians 5.1 and the general trait of being “followers of God, as dear children.” Though Paul uses this practice of “following,” which is actually the Greek word for imitating, throughout his writings, I seem to recollect that only here are believers exhorted to follow God.[3] Let me also remind you that only believers are encouraged to follow God. Attempting to “follow” God in order to be saved from your sins is a futile effort. What does it mean to “follow” God? What does it mean to be a mimhthV, to be an “imitator” of God, to in a good sense “mimic” God? Consider the context in which Paul urges this upon us. In the previous verse he makes mention of kindness, of tender-heartedness, and of forgiveness. In the next verse he makes mention of walking in love. So, at the very least, following God must include kindness, must include tender-heartedness, must include forgiveness, and must include loving others. We are to do this “as dear children,” as children who are beloved. Think about this: Do not children who are greatly loved by their fathers tend to admire their fathers, tend to adore their fathers, and tend to imitate in every possible way their fathers? Of course they do. Christian? As one dearly loved by your heavenly Father, imitate Him.

Now we come to verse 2. Three phrases comprise this verse. The first phrase reads, “And walk in love.” Paul frequently uses this term “walk” in his writings to refer to a person’s manner of life. So, he is here urging Christians in that church to have a manner of life that is best described as “in love.” That is, live the kind of life that is dominated and influenced by love. What is love to the Apostle Paul? What is love in God’s Word? It certainly is not romantic feelings. Neither is it something that you helplessly fall in and out of. Love, according to God’s Word, bears little resemblance to what most people consider to be love today.

Turn to First Corinthians 13.1-8a and read along with me, noting that in this passage “love” is translated by the word “charity”:

1      Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

2      And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3      And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

4      Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

5      Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

6      Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

7      Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

8      Charity never faileth . . . .

From verse 3, we see that sacrifice is not necessarily love, though we will see in a moment that love always sacrifices. Love is not selfish, either, verse 5. Neither does love cry out, “Me first,” according to verse 4, or do unkind things. From this passage, we see that love is a great many things we would never think of ourselves, as well as not being a number of other things we might assume it was. Second John 6 declares that love is exhibited by obedience to God: “And this is love, that we walk after his commandments. This is the commandment, That, as ye have heard from the beginning, ye should walk in it.” It is clear from what we have seen that Paul wants from Christians a startling display of unusual behavior.

It is a display of behavior that is much like the Savior’s, “as Christ also hath loved us.” Here is one of those places in the Bible where we are reminded that real love is not only willing to sacrifice, real love does sacrifice. As the Father’s love for us was demonstrated in sending His Son to die for us, the Savior’s love for us was demonstrated in doing the will of the Father and dying for our sins. This love of Christ’s was not and is not emotion. It was and is the willingness to do anything, pay any price, to meet the need of the one who is loved. What is the greatest need of every man? To be reconciled to God, to be saved from his sins. That being true, show someone you love him. Display wisdom and patience in doing what you can to bring him to Christ.

The precise display of Christ’s love is seen in the last phrase of Ephesians 5.2: “And hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savor.” An offering can be anything given to God, but a sacrifice refers to that which is put to death. A sweet-smelling savor is a reminder of the burnt offerings that God prescribed under the Law of Moses to atone for sins and trespasses. The blood of the sacrifice was shed, the body was burned on the brazen altar, and if the offering was pleasing to the LORD, it was described as being a sweet savor. Paul’s reference to the Savior’s display of love shows us that Jesus went so far to love us, so far to meet our need, that He became the sin offering that we needed for the remission of our sins. We are to love each other like that. We are to forgive each other when we sin against each other. We are to be tenderhearted toward each other. In addition, we are to be kind. If you are truly born again, if you are a saved man or woman, you are a child of the heavenly Father. So, imitate your Father. Exert yourself, now that you are saved, to be like Him. Forgive. Forget. Love. Empathize. Be kind.

If you have ever read God’s Word in an effort to discern the spiritual climate of this day in which we presently live, I am quite sure that you concluded that we live in a day of great apostasy. However, did you also notice the connection between spiritual apostasy and the ministry of God’s preachers, both Old and New Testaments? God sent prophets, almost exclusively, during times of apostasy. Their function? To preach a scathing denunciation of people’s sins in an effort to turn people back to God. In other words, to preach a negative message. A great many people do not like such negative preaching. They easily tire of sermons that focus on the condemnation of sins and the judgment of God against wicked people. However, how many of those same people would object to the traffic congestion caused by construction to widen the freeway? I have not heard anyone complaining about any of those steps taken to complete the huge project over on the 405 freeway. Ever notice that the first pieces of equipment the contractor brings in are always machines designed for demolition work? In order to establish a sure foundation for the construction of something beneficial, a seemingly negative aspect must first occur. That which is not needful, that which is a hindrance, that which is superfluous, and that which is actually dangerous, must be torn down and removed. In spiritual pursuits, exactly the same approach must be taken.

Over the last generation, we have seen introduced into popular Christianity some grievous errors. These errors must be opposed by preaching against them, by teaching against them, by seeking to counter them in every way, so that proper spiritual structures in people’s lives can stand on sure foundations. The main channel through which error has been introduced into popular Christianity is through what I have termed Southern California style Christianity in churches. One of the dangerous errors that this type of Christianity has tolerated and eventually came to espouse without knowing it is related to the work that the Lord Jesus Christ did on the cross. In Ephesians 5.2, Paul points out that the Lord Jesus gave Himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God. Statements such as that one show us that Jesus was the vicarious sacrifice for our sins. That is to say, the Lord Jesus Christ, on Calvary’s cross, died a substitutionary death for sinners and paid the penalty for their sins. If not actually absent from most of what we see in Southern California Christianity, this truth is at the very least minimized in all but a very few churches. However, this doctrine is central to a proper understanding of the gospel.

Three observations of benefit to those of you here today who are not converted to Christ:

First, LET US OBSERVE, IN SCRIPTURE, THE DEPRAVITY OF MAN

Please understand that the word “depravity” is a theological word rather than a Bible word. However, the word accurately describes a Bible concept; just as does the word Trinity describe the nature of the Godhead. Let me say that the word depraved does not suggest that man is as wicked as he can be. Obviously, no one in this room is as wicked as Adolph Hitler, Mao Tse-tung, or Joseph Stalin was. Those men murdered millions of human beings. When I assert that all men are depraved, then, I do not by that assertion mean that all men are equally bad. I simply mean that all men are shown in scripture to equally bad off.

That is to say, though you may not be as wicked as Judas Iscariot or the night stalker, Richard Ramirez, you are as equally unable to save yourself as those men are. This is because, no matter how comparatively good to other men you happen to be, you have absolutely no capacity to do anything that would commend you in the sight of God, or that would cause God to save you from your sins because of any good that is in you. In other words, you are spiritually helpless to do yourself any spiritual good. Let me show you why this is true.

·               First, it is established that you are a sinner. Whatever a sinner is, you are one. Romans 3.23 is very clear on this: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” This is borne out by the evidence of your sinfulness that you provide, which is your sinful behavior. To whatever degree you happen to do it, the fact that you have lied, cheated, stolen, thought impure thoughts, etc., shows you to be a sinner.

·               Second, because you are a sinner, you have no righteousness before God, Romans 3.10: “As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one.” Notice that there is no degree of sinfulness mentioned in that declaration, for this is an absolute. With regard to righteousness, neither bad sinners, like the anti-Christ, nor good sinners, such as you may be, are different in this regard. Sinners are sinners are sinners. And sinners are not righteous.

·               Third, because you are an unrighteous sinner you will die, Romans 6.23a: “For the wages of sin is death.” Your death will be the strongest evidence of all that you are a sinner. Dying a sinner, you will of course go to Hell.

·               Finally, the first phrase of Romans 5.6: “For when we were yet without strength.” Now, Ephesians 2.1: “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” Both verses describe sinners. In Romans, you are described as “without strength,” which is impotent. In Ephesians, you are described as being spiritually dead. Both descriptions reflect your depravity, the fact that you are totally incapable of doing anything to deliver yourself from, or remedy in any way, the consequences of your sinfulness. That is depravity.

Second, LET US OBSERVE THE DELUSION OF MAN

Perhaps you do not really believe what I have just told you about being depraved. There is a reason for that. In addition to being depraved, you are also deluded. There are at least three reasons why a sinner will be deluded into thinking he is better off spiritually than he really is, that he is not really in the trouble that he is really in, thinking that his destiny really is not Hell, though it really is Hell.

First, you can be deluded because of the judgment of God. Romans 11.25 reveals that God has blinded the majority of Jewish people to the truths of the gospel. Such judicial blindness will continue until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in, which is after the Rapture. At present, the hand of God blinds most Jewish people’s spiritual insight, so they will not see. We know God will do this with people following the Rapture, who are not saved, Second Thessalonians 2.11: “And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” Therefore, who knows if God has for one reason or another done that type of thing to you? That would explain your unbelief, would it not?

Second, you can be deluded because of the activity of Satan, Second Corinthians 4.3-4:

3      But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost:

4      In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

Scripture does not always tell us how Satan accomplishes the blinding of unsaved people, so they will not understand the gospel and be saved. However, we do know that God allows this to happen in the lives of many lost people. Perhaps it is in response to particular stubbornness. Maybe it is a response to pride and arrogance on the part of those who think they are so smart and know so much. Maybe God permits Satan to target those people. I think the means Satan uses to blind men’s minds falls into three general categories: First, get the ones who think they are so smart to be blinded by the lies of evolution and other scientific (so-called) conclusions. Second, get the ones who think they are so spiritual and religious to fall for modern day evangelical trickery whereby professions of faith are made without real conversions taking place, Romanism, Mormonism, or something like that. Third, get the lazy ones to procrastinate and put off as long as possible any serious consideration of their eternal destiny. However Satan accomplishes his damnable business in the minds of unsaved men and women, the important fact to consider is that he does it. He actually blinds men’s minds, damning their souls to Hell in deluded unbelief.

Third, you can be deluded by the perversion of your own sinful heart. It is easy to show that sin affects the human heart. Jeremiah 17.9 is very clear: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” However, it is the result of a sinful heart's deceit and delusion that I want you to see, this morning. Romans 3.11: “There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God.” Because of sin, because you have deluded yourself into believing things not true, and not believing things that are true, you will not seek after God. Even if you wanted to you would not know how to seek after God, because none understand. Think about this: Because you are depraved you cannot save yourself from sins. Because you are deluded you will not save yourself from sins. That is partly why Ephesians 2.12 describes you as “having no hope, and without God in the world.” If you would save yourself you could not, and if you could save yourself you would not.

Third, THERE IS THE DELIVERANCE OF MAN

Consider what we have just seen in scripture. You are depraved. You are deluded. Yet you stand condemned in the sight of God. What are you going to do? You can do nothing. In light of that, let me point you to Jesus. Three things about the precious Son of God that you must know:

First, though you cannot deliver yourself, Jesus can. How can Jesus deliver a sinful man from sins? Remember Who He is. He is the sinless Son of the living God, Who was born of a virgin. He left heaven’s glory to come and make a way to save sinners from their sins. Thus, where you and I are depraved, unable to do that thing which please God and commend ourselves to Him, the Lord Jesus, the sinless Son of God, does always those things that please the Father.[4]

Second, though you would not deliver yourself from sins, Jesus would. Hear me, now. Anyone would seek to deliver himself from Hell. However, it is not deliverance from Hell that sinners really need, so much as deliverance from sin. You see, Hell is a consequence of sin. Sin is the real problem. Therefore, while you would never deliver yourself from sin, according to the testimony of God’s Word, because of spiritual delusion and deception, because of the wickedness of your sinful heart, the Lord Jesus Christ will. Why will He? Because He loves you. Consider also that He loves you while knowing you as you really are.

There is more. Jesus not only could do what was necessary to save you, He not only would do what was necessary to save you, He actually did what was necessary to save you. Second Corinthians 5.21: “For he [God] hath made him [Jesus] to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him [Jesus].” The Lord Jesus Christ actually stepped into your sinful shoes. First Peter 3.18: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit.” The Lord Jesus Christ then died on the cross for your sins. First Peter 3.21b: “by the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” The Lord Jesus Christ next rose from the dead for you. First Peter 3.22: “Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities and powers being made subject unto him.” He then ascended to His Father’s right hand on high, where He is presently enthroned.

Romanism teaches that Jesus did not fully pay for your sins and mine when He died on the cross. That is why they teach that you must observe sacraments as a way of contributing to your own salvation. Southern California Christians terribly minimize man’s depravity and delusion, which reflects poorly on Christ’s saving work by not seeing sin as all that terrible in God’s sight and salvation not so much being deliverance from the penalty, power and eventual presence of sin, but just allowing things to slide as if they had never happened.

Thankfully, scripture declares what Jesus really did to save sinners. Because you are depraved, and because you are deluded, quite literally everything that needed to be done to save you had to be done for you. Jesus is the One Who did all of that for you. My friend, if you have no church background it is almost a given that you are lost. Even if you have a church background it is almost as certain that you too are not saved. Why? Because the substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ for sin, a critical Bible truth, was in all likelihood not properly presented to you.

It is reasonable to take the necessary steps to make sure you are really saved from your sins by Jesus. Should you desire to come and discuss the matter, we can proceed through scripture carefully and cautiously. After all, eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong about an important matter such as this.



[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 535.

[2] Romans 8.28

[3] Ibid.

[4] John 8.29



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pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org