The Mighty Grace of God! Part 2

In our last message, we were busy with Luke 23:39-43 and we had just finished discussing the first part of verse 40 were one of the criminals who was crucified with Jesus was reprimanding his fellow criminal for mocking Jesus. The first question that he asked was if by mocking Jesus like this, did he not fear God.  I highlighted that there were four very important points that were made by the robber who was reprimanding and fear of God was the first one. I have already discussed the fear of God and now we will go to the second point that he made.

Luke 23:39-43 (ESVST)
One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “ Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “ Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “ Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

We find the second point in the last part of verse 40 including the first part of verse 41.
The criminal firstly says to his fellow criminal, how can you mock Jesus if you are under the same sentence. He is not saying his fellow criminal is as guilty as Jesus, he is simply saying that they both have received the same sentence. Since you are also being crucified, why are you mocking Jesus. The criminal continued to say we have been sentenced justly and rightfully so and we deserve what we are getting.
This criminal is aware of his crimes and he is saying that he deserves the punishment he is getting. The man is simply acknowledging that he has sinned (sinning means lawlessness). 
1 John 3:4 (ESVST)
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.
To break the law of Israel was to break the law of God and therefore a sin. So, first this man acknowledges that he is a sinner and that he has sinned. He also acknowledges that he deserves the punishment that he gets because of the sins that he has committed. This my friends is repentance. Repentance is sincere regret or remorse for the sins that you have committed. 
The question here is how or what made this man change his mind regarding sin. Well, keep that in mind for now.

The third point that this criminal makes is regarding the innocence of Jesus


In verse 41b, the  criminal makes a statement that I am sure surprised his fellow robber and many that were gathered there who heard him. This statement might also have angered a lot of people. He said Jesus did nothing wrong. This criminal is saying this man Jesus who is now being crucified with us today, has done epsolutely nothing wrong but yet he is being crucified with us. He says we know why we are here, we know what we did and we know that we deserve what is happening to us but this man, did nothing wrong. He is being crucified for nothing. This confirms to us today that indeed Jesus did not die because of his own sins but rather he has died for nothing other than our own sins. 

The fourth point that the criminal made was acknowledging that Jesus is Lord.


The criminal then asked Jesus to remember him when he gets into his kingdom. Jesus preached a lot about the kingdom of heaven and in the Gospel of John chapter 5 & 6, he discussed in detail what this kingdom is about and the fact that he is God and King of this kingdom. Now although the criminal might not have attended church or synagogue, he would have heard other people talk about the preachings of Jesus since, they were so controversial to the Jews. This criminal publicly confesses Jesus to be Lord and a King and indeed after confessing this, Jesus answered him by saying, today, you will be with me in paradise. This signaled that this man’s sins were forgiven and was saved. Why I say this because, no one would enter heaven a sinner. Whoever enters heaven, his sins would have been forgiven. This man repented from his sins and confessed with his mouth that Jesus is Lord and believed in his heart.  

At the end of it all, this criminal was the first person to enter heaven because he believed in Jesus. 

What does this mean? This man was a criminal, the worst kind of a criminal at the time, why, because crucifixion was reserved for the worst kind. He clearly did not go to church or synagogues, why, with the strict Jewish rules, there was no way he would have been allowed to enter the synagogue, he did not pay tithe, he did only bad things, he was not baptized because you could only be baptized if you believed and he did nothing that we today would consider as holy or good. This man did epsolutely nothing but, he was saved. God allowed him into heaven because of his own mercy and grace. The only thing that this man did was believe in Jesus and he was saved. 

John 6:40 (ESVST)
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
This is all that is required of us. Jesus said it many times that if we believe in him, we will be saved. Jesus did not say we must attend church everyday, Jesus did not say we must pay tithe, Jesus did not say we must be baptized and Jesus did not say we must be good people. All that Jesus said was we must believe. This is all that is required to enter heaven and this criminal is an absolute proof of that. With all his sins, by the grace of God and through his faith in Jesus, not by anything that he had done, he was saved. This was a gift that God with all his mercy and grace gave to him and gives to us today as well.
Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESVST)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

I know some of you may say but Jesus said we must be baptized. Yes Jesus did say that but, he never said that you need to be baptized to go to heaven. Let’s look at that. 
Mark 16:16 (ESVST)
Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.

Most people use the above verse to justify belief and baptism as part of salvation. However, if you look at the second part of this verse which they conveniently ignore, it is not lack of baptism that condemns you but it is unbelief that condemns you. It would not make sense to say you need both belief and baptism to enter heaven but, only unbelief condemns you. Secondly, Jesus would have also mentioned, baptism in this verse but he did not, why, because it is not relevant to salvation. Look
John 6:40 (ESVST)
For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

See, no baptism at all. Some will argue and say but James say that Faith without works is dead so, we need to do good as part of salvation, that would be wrong because James never said that you need to do good works to enter heaven. What James is talking about is that faith that does not result in good works cannot be accepted by others as true faith. Secondly, James is not talking about God, he is talking about how we as people will be able to see that indeed a person has true faith or not. This is the reason why James says show me your faith and I will show you my good works. 
It is quite clear how massive the Grace of God is that even such a criminal, just by believing, could be saved. The only thing that you need is to believe and you will be saved. Nothing else. If you continue to believe people that continue to tell you that you need to do good works and/or pay tithe and all these other things to go to heaven and you believe them, well, don’t say you did not know.
To answer the questions that we had before, if this man was a criminal probably all his life and even on the day of the crucifixion was still mocking Jesus together with everyone else? How did he know about fearing God and what changed his heart regarding sin?
This is what God promised
Jeremiah 31:33-34 (ESVST)
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘ Know the Lord, ’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
And this is how God said he will implement his promise
Ezekiel 36:25-27 (ESVST)
I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. 26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
Notice how in the promise and in the implementation, there is only “I”and this “I” refers to God. There is nothing that we as people do in both the promise and the implementation. We play epsolutely no role. So, the answer is that this man was drawn by God to salvation. It is God that changed his heart of stone and placed a heart of flesh. It is Gos who washed him from all uncleanness. It is God who put his Holy Spirit in him so that it may guide him to the truth. It Is God that wrote his law in his heart and that is how he knew he needed to fear God. Without God drawing someone to himself, no one will be saved.
John 6:44 (ESVST)
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.
This verse on its own brings another huge controversy regarding the doctrine of predestination but, that is for another time.
Father thank you for these wonderful words. Thank you for such an abundance of grace that we access through our faith in Jesus. Thank you for sending your son to die for us so that through, we sinners, can be saved. Amen.
Posted in Grace of God, Selected Scriptures.

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