“CLEARING UP CONFUSION ABOUT WHAT JESUS DOES”

Acts 7.56

 

INTRODUCTION:

1.   Sunday night we had some very nice people sing at our Church.  They were a wonderful blessing to me, and I hope to you.  But one of them said something that I must correct so that you are not left with a wrong impression.

2.   Let me say that, from time to time, someone can say something that is just plain wrong.  It is possible for a wonderful Christian to simply make a mistake about something he says, especially if he says something that he has not carefully considered or studied.  Such was the case Sunday night.

3.   I debated about whether or not I should stand up and immediately interrupt what was being said.  I also considered standing up right after he was finished and correcting him.  But in the end I decided to wait until tonight so that my own actions would not cause your youngsters to remember something I hope they will forget.

4.   My approach tonight is designed to avoid making you young people remember something I hope you do not remember.  Instead, what I want to do is impress something upon your minds very forcefully.  I want to make a powerful impression that I hope you will carry with you for the rest of your life.

5.   I have four points I would like you to focus your attention on:

 

1A.   Point #1, WHERE IS JESUS NOW?

I want you to consider only one Old Testament verse and 27 New Testament verses which show us where the risen Savior is at this time, either by anticipating that He would be in heaven before His crucifixion or locating Him there after His ascension.

1B.    Psalm 110.1:  “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.”  This prophecy was given 1,000 years before the Savior came the first time.  Jesus is here predicted to sit at God’s right hand in heaven, which is where He is now.

2B.    Matthew 22.43-44:  “He saith unto them, How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?”  The Lord Jesus here refers to the prophecy from Psalms that we just read.  He would go to heaven after He rose from the dead.

3B.    Mark 16.19:  “So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God.”  Here He actually fulfills the 1,000 year old prediction and goes to heaven.

4B.    Luke 24.51:  “And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.”  Again, we see that Jesus went to heaven when He ascended after His resurrection.

5B.    Acts 1.8-11:  “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.  And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight.  And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”  Where did Jesus go?  To heaven.

6B.    Acts 2.33:  “Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted, and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, he hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear.”  Where is Jesus, according to this verse?  At the right hand of God exalted.

7B.    Acts 2.34-35:  “For David is not ascended into the heavens: but he saith himself, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, Until I make thy foes thy footstool.”  It is not David who ascended into heaven, but Jesus Christ.  There He sits until God makes His foes His footstool.

8B.    Acts 3.20-21:  “And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:  Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”  Heaven must receive Jesus Christ until the times of restitution of all things.  In other words, Jesus must be in heaven until the time of His second coming.

9B.    Acts 5.31:  “Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.”  Exalted means lifted up into heaven.

10B.  Acts 7.55-56:  “But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.”  While he was on earth, a miracle made it possible for Stephen to see Jesus in heaven.

11B.  Acts 9.3-5:  “And as he journeyed, he came near Damascus: and suddenly there shined round about him a light from heaven:  And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?  And he said, Who art thou, Lord?  And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.”  While he was on earth, a miracle made it possible for Saul of Tarsus to see Jesus in heaven.

12B.  Acts 22.6-7:  “And it came to pass, that, as I made my journey, and was come nigh unto Damascus about noon, suddenly there shone from heaven a great light round about me.  And I fell unto the ground, and heard a voice saying unto me, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”  The apostle Paul gives his testimony of seeing Jesus in heaven.

13B.  Acts 26.13-15:  “At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.  And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.  And I said, Who art thou, Lord? And he said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.”  Paul again gives his testimony of seeing Jesus in heaven.

14B.  Ephesians 1.20:  “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places.”  Where is Jesus Christ, according to this verse?  Heaven.

15B.  Ephesians 4.8:  “Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.”  Where is Jesus Christ, according to this verse?  Heaven.

16B.  Philippians 2.9:  “Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name.”  By exalted is meant raised up . . . all the way to heaven.  Barnes writes on this verse, “. . . he is now raised up to the throne of glory . . . .”[1]

17B.  Colossians 3.1:  “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.”  Paul reminded the Colossians that Jesus is in heaven.

18B.  First Thessalonians 1.10:  “And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come.”  Paul reminded the Thessalonians that Jesus is in heaven.

19B.  First Thessalonians 4.16:  “For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first.”  For Jesus to come from heaven at His second coming He must be in heaven at His second coming.

20B.  Second Thessalonians 1.7:  “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels.”  Notice the phrase, “from heaven.”

21B.  First Timothy 3.16:  “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.”  The phrase “received up into glory” refers to ascending to heaven.

22B.  Hebrews 1.1-3:  “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.”  Where does the writer to the Hebrews says Jesus is?  On the right hand of the Majesty on high.  In heaven.

23B.  Hebrews 1.13:  “But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool?”  Another reference to Psalm 110.1.

24B.  Hebrews 4.14:  “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.”  Jesus is in heaven.

25B.  Hebrews 8.1:  “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens.”  Jesus is in heaven.

26B.  Hebrews 10.12:  “But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God.”  Jesus is in heaven.

27B.  Hebrews 12.2:  “Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”  Jesus is in heaven.

28B.  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.”  Jesus is in heaven.

Conclusion:  In Luke 24.39, Jesus Christ describes His Own resurrected body:  “Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have.”   So, Jesus is not a spirit, but rose from the dead physically.  Thus, we have 28 verses that show conclusively where Jesus Christ is, from the time of His ascension until the time of His second coming.  That is where He is now, in His glorified human body.  Jesus is in heaven!

 

2A.   Next, HOW DOES JESUS SAVE SINNERS?

According to Louis Sperry Chafer, the founder of the Dallas Theological Seminary, some 33 different things happen all at once when someone becomes a Christian.[2]  Because of time limitations, I only want to talk about the central feature of God’s work through Christ this evening, which is justification by faith.

1B.    When you have faith in Christ, does something happen inside you, which is to say, does something happen to you?

1C.   You may think I am being picky, but I am delineating between what the Bible teaches about justification and what the Roman Catholic Church believes about justification, so stay with me. This question needs to be addressed.

2C.   Romans 3.24 reads, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”  Romans 5.1 reads, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

3C.   Look at the word “justified” in both verses we have just read:  “This verb, and related words from the same Greek root (e.g., justification), occur some 30 times in Romans and are concentrated in 2:13-5:1.  This legal or forensic term comes from the Greek word for “righteous” and means “to declare righteous.”[3]

4C.   If we consider justification by faith as being distinct from whatever else God does when a sinner comes to faith in Christ, then the answer to our question is “No.  Something does not happen inside you, something does not happen to you when you get saved.”

2B.    Let me ask the question another way:  When you have faith in Christ, does something happen outside you, which is to say, does something happen for you?

1C.   Turn to First Peter 3.18 to see this question answered very clearly:  “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.” 

2C.   The phrase “the just for the unjust” means that what Jesus did He did for me instead of to me.  So you see, something happens for you when you come to faith in Christ.

3C.   And this must be the case, since Jesus Christ’s saving work on Calvary’s cross was finished 2000 years ago and 8,500 miles away.  Being so far away and so long ago, He could not have done what He did to you.  What He did had to be done for you, on your behalf.

Conclusion:  We now have two facts firmly established, even if you do not understand their full implications.  First, Jesus, Who rose from the dead after three days and three nights in a glorified human body, is now in heaven, where He will remain until His second coming.  Second, when Jesus saves someone, specifically when a sinner is justified by faith, He does not do anything to that sinner.  Rather, He does something for that sinner.

 

3A.   Third, WHAT DOES JESUS WANT YOU TO DO?

In one sense, it must be understood that eternal life is a gift from God that cannot be earned.[4]  That is, you cannot work for the salvation that Jesus provides.[5]  This does not mean, however, that sinners are not called upon by God to exercise personal responsibility when it comes to becoming a Christian.  Let me list the things a person “does” to become a Christian, recognizing that what we will be looking at are not deeds done by anyone that deserves salvation, but are different ways in which the faith God gives a sinner to believe in Jesus to the saving of his soul is described.

1B.    In Matthew 11.28, Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

2B.    John 1.12:  “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.”

3B.    In Acts 8.22, Simon the sorcerer was told:  “Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee.”  He is told to repent, as Peter also said to the multitudes on the day of Pentecost.  You misinterpret this verse if you think the sorcerer is being told here that saving faith in Christ involves prayer.

4B.    In Acts 16.30-31 we read of the jailor:  “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved?  And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.”

5B.    Paul writes in Ephesians 1.12, “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”

Conclusion:  So, sinners should be encouraged to do what the Bible says they should do to get saved.  They should be encouraged to receive Christ, believe in or on Christ, trust in Christ, come to Christ, or repent (which means to turn from sin and turn to Christ).  Sinners should not be encouraged or directed to say or do anything to get converted that is not directly from Scripture.

 

4A.   Finally, WHAT ARE SINNERS NEVER DIRECTED TO DO TO GET SAVED?

1B.    First, sinners are never directed to pray in order to be saved.

1C.   Let me be careful to observe that the Bible strongly encourages sinners to pray to God for mercy, or to plead with God for saving grace.

2C.   Luke 18.13 is often cited as justification for a sinner to pray as a means of coming to faith in Christ:  “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.”

3C.   However, the Lord Jesus Christ uses this example, not to demonstrate how a sinner comes to faith in Christ (Otherwise, why did he pray to God instead of dealing directly with the Savior, Who was standing only a few feet away?).  Rather, if you will read the next verse you will see that He uses the man as an illustration of humility, not to illustrate how to get converted.

4C.   So, while every sinner should pray to be saved, should pray for mercy, should plead with God to draw him to Christ, there is not a single place in the Bible where prayer is shown to be a method any sinner should employ to join with Christ by faith.  Prayer should be resorted to by sinners leading up to the moment of conversion, but prayer does not bring about conversion.  Faith in Christ is what brings about conversion.  While faith can certainly lead to prayer, faith is not the same thing as prayer.

2B.    Next, sinners are never directed to ask Jesus to save them.

1C.   Do I need to support this statement with Scripture?  Why in the world would Jesus need to be asked to do something that He had already suffered and bled and died to accomplish?

2C.   The problem with asking Jesus to save you is that it springs from a heart that seems to believe that the sinner initiates conversion.  But John 1.13 declares, “Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” 

3C.   The conversion of the sinner is God’s idea, not man’s, is accomplished at God’s instigation, not man’s.  Therefore, it is entirely inappropriate to ask Jesus to save you.  Jesus commands sinners to come to Him, so there is no Scriptural reason for a sinner to ask Him to save him.

3B.    Finally, sinners are never told in the Bible to ask Jesus into their hearts.

1C.   Think about this.  We know that Jesus Christ, our risen Savior, has a glorified human body.  As well, minutes ago we read 28 passages which clearly show that Jesus is right now in heaven.  In order to come into a sinner’s heart He would have to leave heaven.  Will He leave heaven before His second coming?  No.

2C.   Here is another thing.  When Jesus saves sinners does He do something for them or does He do something to them?  He does something for them, does He not?  But if He came into a sinner’s heart He would be doing something to him instead of for him, departing from the pattern the Bible establishes for Him with sinners.

3C.   Yet a third thought.  Of all the things we read about that sinners should do to get saved, such as believing in Jesus, such as trusting in Christ, such as coming to Christ, such as receiving Christ, and even repenting, do those examples of laying hold of Jesus by faith resemble in any way asking Him into your heart?  No.

4C.   Finally, let it be noted that there is never a place in the Bible where a sinner is encouraged to ask Jesus into his heart in order to be saved.  Therefore, why try to get someone to do something the Bible does not tell him to do?  Why not just stick to what the Bible says?

Conclusion:  Notice that in none of these verses are sinners ever urged to ask Jesus to do anything.  It is ridiculous to ask Jesus to do what we know He came to do.  Notice, also, that in none of these verses are sinners urged to pray in order to get saved.  Receive Jesus, believe in or on Jesus, trust Jesus, come to Jesus, or repent (which means to turn from sin and turn to Jesus).  But to pray and/or ask Jesus anything?  Not found in God’s Word.  A human invention.

 

CONCLUSION:

1.   Young people, there will be times when you will hear well-meaning people tell you that you need to get saved by asking Jesus into your heart.

2.   I urge you to pay no attention when someone tries to get you to do that, because he is either a wicked man who is not truly converted, or he is a fellow who is repeating something he heard other people say without making sure it was true.

3.   Instead, let us decide to do only what Jesus said to do to become a child of God.  Amen?


[1] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[2] Louis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Vol 3, (Dallas, Texas: Dallas Theological Seminary, 1956), pages 232-266.

[3] Footnote on Romans 3.24, John MacArthur, The MacArthur Study Bible, (Nashville: Word Publishing, 1997), page 1698.

[4] Romans 6.23

[5] Ephesians 2.8-9

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