Alfred Place Baptist Church

1:13 The Glory Of Being Included In Christ

Ephesians 1:13 “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation.”

This verse actually begins with four little words in the original, “in whom you also.” The NIV correctly supplies us with ‘Christ’ so that we have this, ‘in Christ . . . you also’ This grammatical structure is called an ellipsis, and to translate it into English various suggestions have been made, such as ‘in Christ you also were sealed,’ or ‘you trusted,’ or ‘you received the inheritance.’ The NIV simply underlines the main point of this phrase, that Paul is telling this Ephesian congregation this wonderful truth that they also were in Christ. They too, there in idolatrous Ephesus, men and women, slaves and free, Jews and Gentiles, were also all included in Christ. They were not passed over. They were not second class Christians. There are no Christians ‘un-joined’ to Christ. All of us here who are believers have been included in Christ.

What an extraordinary blessing it is. Professor John Murray has written that “Union with Christ is really the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation” and that was so important for that great man of God that he went on to repeat that phrase in one little chapter in his marvellous book, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” (Banner of Truth, Edinburgh, 1961, see pp. 161 and 170). Let me too say it again, that union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation, and let me explain what these two little words, ‘in Christ’, mean and defend my old teacher’s conviction of them being he central truth of salvation. I want you to see this for yourselves from the Bible, that it is absolutely magnificent that we are in Christ.

When I was a seven year-old boy I was having some disagreement with another boy on the street and I spotted my thirteen year-old cousin Keith Jones walking up the street towards me. So I said to this boy, “That’s my cousin coming here.” The boy bravely held his ground, and Keith soon reached us. I said to him, “This boy is being mean to me.” Keith never stopped. He turned his head slightly as he walked past and muttered, “Fight your own battles.” Very good advice. Keith Jones has no recollection of that incident, but I do, and we’ve laughed over it. I was a skinny child, uncoordinated and fussy, and I needed at times to be fleet of foot, or to be surrounded by other bigger boys.

We as Christians meet constant but subtle opposition from three sources, from the devil who is the god of this world, from the world system itself which is antagonistic in all its values to Christ, and from the power of remaining sin within our own lives. We can be given unhelpful counsels from fellow Christians; they can let us down. What is going to keep us? It is this reality that Paul is telling us here, that we also here in Aberystwyth have been included in Christ. Our eternal security and acceptance with God depends upon this fact that we have been united to Christ, and that Christ is in us, and that nothing can separate what God has joined together. In Christ is all the fulness of the Godhead bodily and we are in that divine Christ. ‘You also . . . in Christ.’

Too many Christians are unaware of the wonderful provision, privilege and possession that they have in this union. They are like me as a seven year-old, looking to the wrong protector. They struggle with doubts, and they fear each time they fall into one particular sin that so easily besets them. ‘How can I be a Christian when I’m behaving like this?’ They want to serve the Lord but they labour with a load of guilt. What can cleanse their consciences? Is it that there are some areas of their lives that they need to lay on the altar to surrender to the Lord? What more is left undone? They lose out through their ignorance of simply being ‘in Christ.’ Are you like that? Let me say that whatever our failures, whatever our fearful inconsistencies as Christians, however we feel about our fellowship with God today, nothing can change this fact: once in Christ, in Christ for ever. There is that great exhortation of Paul to the Roman congregation, so practical and essential, that they were to reckon on their new status in Christ. They must bring this reality into their scheme of reckoning day after day. Don’t forget it! Reckon on this! They were in Christ and so Christ’s merit was theirs. His satisfaction of the law of a sin-hating God is now reckoned theirs. His accomplishment of peace with God is reckoned theirs. His righteousness is theirs. Their risings and fallings cannot affect their acceptance by God because Jesus Christ is made everything to them. Reckon on that fact. The reckoning won’t give you the victory. Christ has obtained the victory. The reckoning will give you peace about your real share in Christ’s victory. ‘You also . . . in Christ.’

I once got into the cab of a steam locomotive as a nine year-old and stood at one side and watched as the fireman shovelled the coal into the furnace under the boiler and saw the engine driver pull the string of the hooter and turn the wheel that braked the train as we puffed down the track from Merthyr Tydfil sidings to Abercanaid. It was a little boy’s dream. No one else in the school had been on the footplate of an engine as it went along the line. I was accepted on that engine on the merits of my father who was the station-master at Abercanaid station. Today, because I am joined to his Son and his Son is joined to me, God the Father accepts me, blesses and keeps me as he would bless and keep Jesus. Can you imagine the Father allowing his Son to be destroyed by the devil, or overwhelmed by the world and so be lost? Jesus being lost? Unthinkable! It is just as unthinkable that I who am in Christ should be lost. God loves his Son so much that he shows that same love to all who are united to his Son. We are given the same privileges of access to his throne, his protection and provision as Christ his Son enjoys. It is all because of Jesus Christ. ‘You also . . . in Christ.’

1. IN CHRIST AND NO LONGER IN ADAM.

Remember the two great giants of Thomas Watson’s illustration, with their huge belts, and all mankind attached either to the one belt or the other. We are all dangling from one of those giants to whom we are joined. We cannot be anywhere else. There is no third giant. There are two only and all of us must be attached to the one or to the other. The one is Adam and the other is Christ. Adam was appointed by God to be public or a representative man. Adam was made the federal head of the whole human race. That is how God planned things. Adam’s actions affected all of humanity. Like the President of the USA determines to invade Iraq and his decision and conduct affects every American because he is the federal head of America. So Adam as our federal head set out on a course of action defying God and taking the serpent’s part. He failed in his probation: in Adam all die. As by that one man sin entered the world, and death by sin, so death passed upon all men for all have sinned. He plunged all of us into our bias to sin, into guilt and corruption and mortality. We all bear the image of our father, the earthy man Adam.

Then God provided another Adam, Jesus Christ his Son, again a public and representative figure of a new humanity to be characterised by life and righteousness. In Christ shall all be made alive. The first man was of the earth; the second man was the Lord from heaven. He grew in favour with God, tested for 33 years and yet always holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners. He unfailingly fulfilled his mission, loving God with all his heart and loving his neighbour as himself. Salvation is being transferred from the one giant to the other, from condemnation to justification. There is therefore now no condemnation to those that are in Christ Jesus. You think of the longing many foreign people have to gain British citizenship and to get a British passport. The government published a document this week suggesting how the ceremony of being made a citizen of the UK could be made more meaningful; they suggested, for example, that the national anthem should be sung on such occasions, or at least played. It is an enormous change of status for many political refugees. In the country of their origin they might be persecuted, or conscripted to join its armed forces, but once they have been legally and constitutionally moved from one kingdom to another then that old kingdom can send them conscription papers and constant reminders, and even summons for not replying. It can prohibit them from public worship and evangelism, but they can put all those letters right into the bin and ignore them. They are no longer members of that country, they are in another nation, citizens under a new federal head. That is the glorious privilege which the Christian knows. At the new birth he has been translated from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son. He is no longer in Adam, condemned in him, but he is in Christ.

2. IN CHRIST AS A SPIRITUAL UNION.

Our union with Christ is not physical like a branch attached to a tree, or like the union of a husband and wife, or like a head joined to the body. Nevertheless being in Christ is real; it is a spiritual or a mystical union. Let’s think, first of all, of Christ being in us. Where two or three are gathered together in Christ’s name he is there, invisible to our eyes, not physically present – for he is at the right hand of God, but really with us too as both the omnipresent Lord, and as the Saviour and Friend of his people, as the one who promises never to leave us nor to forsake us.

So he is in our midst, but he also indwells each one of us. His almighty power is in us. The mighty grace of God in Christ is in us. God’s mercy, love and pity in Christ are in us. But more than the attributes of Christ, the person of Christ is in us. You understand this staggering concept, that the Jesus Christ who moved across Galilee, and did his mighty works, and was full of compassion to men and women, and resisted Satan’s temptations, and was as meek and silent as a lamb before its shearers, and who suffered and died and rose from the dead – he, and no substitute bearing his name, is in each Christian. “I live,” says the new Paul, “yet not I, Christ lives in me” (Gals. 2:20). Paul doesn’t say that ‘vital Christian principles’ are in us empowering us and keeping us going. It is Jesus Christ himself who is really in us. For example, the apostle says elsewhere that the Spirit of Christ, that is, Christ’s own Spirit is in every Christian. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Rom. 8:9). Then the Lord Jesus talks of the true Christian obeying Jesus, and this is what he promises: “My Father will love him, and we will come and make our home with him” (Jn. 14:23). So the triune God is in every Christian, the Father makes his home in us, Christ abides in us and the Spirit is in us. So the Lord Jesus Christ is in us.

Now, let us think of us being in Christ. When the Captain of our salvation, Jesus Christ came into the world, he had us on his heart. He had received us as a sacred trust from his Father, given to Christ to save and keep. He loved us all the time he was in the world. As God he knew everything about us and he was full of grace towards us. For us he lived; for us he resisted temptation; for us he suffered; for us he died; for us he rose; for us he intercedes at the right hand of God; for us he is coming again. When he was fulfilling all righteousness loving God with all his heart and soul and loving his neighbour we were then in him. When he was enduring the righteous judgment of God against sin on Golgotha we were really in him then. When he died we died too, and when he rose we were raised to new life too. So I am saying that since the Father gave us to him before the earth’s creation we have been on Jesus’ heart and mind, joined to him for ever. He is determined that we shall see his eternal glory. Christ himself will show it to us in that tremendous day. So there is a spiritual union of Christ in us and us in Christ.

Now again we have to reckon on these facts, for example, that in the death of Christ we too died. I am not saying to you, “Be dead! Die for Jesus! Die with Jesus!” I am not enforcing any obligation. I am not telling you now to put sin to death. There is no demand here at all. This is a statement, a proposition which the New Testament affirms is true for every Christian believer. You are dead. It is fundamental to Paul’s practical application of Christian teaching. The believer is a person who has died in the death of Christ. At a particular point in his past life; there was this completed event, there was this past experience; there has been this definitive, once-for-all, irreversible action – the follower of Christ has died.

What does the New Testament mean? The Christian has died to the dominion of sin over him. A recovered alcoholic has died to the dominion whisky once had over him. A recovered drug addict has died to the dominion heroin once had over him. He is no longer that addict. That addict is dead and gone. Of course he is careful. He determines, “Heroin shall not have dominion over me.” He respects the power of the temptation of heroin to destroy him again, but he is not the man he once was, getting his fix every day at least. That man is buried. So it is with the Christian. Sin still rages within him, but the sin of unbelief and resistance to the gospel does not reign over him. Sin shall not reign over you. That is absolutely impossible because when Christ died he took on the entire force of sin and overcame it. He took all its shame and guilt and condemnation – every single part of it. He forbade nothing sinful from being imputed to himself on the cross. Nothing was too shameful, too unspeakable, too horrific. Every atom of our sin became his and he died bearing that load. There are no rogue forces of sin roaming around my world which can suddenly leap onto me and take up their rule over me. All their power was focused on the middle cross on Golgotha, so that now it is a weak and sickly sin that disturbs me. I died on Calvary’s cross 2000 years ago. The tyranny of sin over me was ended then and there.

I can say it like this also, that the unregenerate man who used to obey sin when it told him to ignore Jesus Christ and his salvation – that man no longer exists. He has died as truly as Christ died on the cross. The carnal mind that was enmity against God has ceased to be. The human being who was totally incapable of receiving the things of the Spirit of God – that has ceased to be. The man dominated by unbelief has ceased to be. He is dead and gone. The Christian is now one new person, transformed by the grace of Almighty God, in whom Jesus Christ dwells. Our regeneration and our union with Christ represents a massive break with what we used to be.

Again we have to say this that the Christian is risen in Christ. Again, it is not an obligation. The New Testament does not say to the Christian, “Rise with Christ!” It is not talking about any process going on. It is not saying that we are rising with Christ, but it is saying to us that in our past we have had this experience that we have risen to new life. That Saul of Tarsus, living for the destruction of the church, ceased to be on the road to Damascus. What is there in its place? There is risen and transformed life. When Christ rose from the dead then you also rose in him. That new life of Christ victorious over death and sin was given to you when you were born again. So we have to reckon on that spiritual union with Christ, that because of it we have died to sin’s dominion and live in the power of new life.

3. IN CHRIST AS A VITAL UNION.

Think of the great pictures in the New Testament of union with Christ.

i] The first is feeding on Christ the Bread of Life: “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him” (Jn.6:53-56). It is not enough to read the menu, or smell the odour of food being cooked, or see the meal set out on the table. You have to sit down and tuck in! So it is with Jesus the Bread of Life. Christ has lived, but still sinners die! Christ has died to redeem, but still sinners die! Christ lives and is present where his name is preached, and is offered to all, but still sinners die! You have to take him into your life. You have to really imbibe him, eat his flesh, as it were, and drink his blood. That is real food and drink. To as many as received Christ, to them he gave the right to be called the sons of God, those who believed on his name. That is where vital union between ourselves and Christ begins.

ii] The next great picture of being in Christ is the union between a head and a body. “We will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Ephs. 4:15&16). There is a vital link between head and body. The head is the command centre for all the operations of life. From the head flow all the instructions for the body to function. My brain is telling my arm now to rise and my hand to turn, and my fist to clench, and to open again. My arm and hand is obeying the head’s instructions. That is a picture of the union that exists between Christ and ourselves. The body cannot exist without its head, and we can’t exist without Christ. The body doesn’t tell the head what it’s to do, and neither do we tell Christ. He is the head of the church, and vital union expresses itself in our obeying the head. That is the structure of vital union.

iii] The next great picture of being in Christ is the union between the branch of a vine and the vine itself. The branch has to stay in the vine. The moment it ceases to be joined to the vine it withers and dies. It depends on the life of the vine for everything. It cannot survive apart from the vine. “Without me ye can do nothing,” says Jesus. Christ is everything to his people. It is not at all that with him we can do most things better. We cannot do anything that is to God’s glory, anything which God can bless, anything of eternal significance without Christ. We can do nothing at all. Nothing means nothing. There can be no fruit at all unless the branch stays in the vine. It is only through Christ and with Christ and in Christ that anything can be achieved. That is how essential vital union between ourselves and Christ is.

iv] The final great picture of being in Christ is the union between a husband and a wife. A husband can say of his wife, “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” The two have become one. Even so “he that is joined to the Lord is one spirit,” says Paul (I Cor. 6:17). So in marriage two people traditionally share a name; in the spiritual union Christians are called by his name. In marriage two people share one life; in the spiritual union Christians abide in Christ. In marriage two people share a common destiny; so does Christ and his bride. What God has joined together let no man put asunder. So nothing can separate the Christian from the love of Christ. In marriage two people share a mutual attraction and affection. So it is with Christ and his people. Marriage presents us with a multi-faceted picture of the vital union of Christ and his Church.

So now we are being tested concerning the vitality of our union with Christ. Are you showing that you have died to the tyranny of sin? Will you please try and appreciate the tremendous change that has taken place in your lives and characters, so that you who were previously totally averse to all that was godly and indifferent to all that was spiritual, that old ‘you’ has now died and there is a new ‘you’ who is capable of the real obedience of Christian faith and Christian repentance? I know we can go on and on about all the sins of which we are conscious in ourselves, but whatever believers are, and whatever power sin may exercise still in our lives, this fact is undeniable, that we are not the men and women we used to be. We have no right to deem ourselves the people we once were, and we have no right to live like those people because those unconverted people are now dead.

Again, is our life a risen life because of vital union with Christ? Is it what Paul calls ‘a newness of life’? Is it resurrection life? Is it transfigured life? Is there any difference in point of behaviour as a result of our Christian experience? Is our life, in the broadest sense, risen and transformed? Is there elevatedness, majesty, purity and power? I am saying that the Son of God Jesus Christ who lived and died and rose from the dead is really in me and I am in him, and so is there a transformation in me which is comparable to that reality? Is there anything in our lives, not in point of feelings, not in point of gift, but in point of Christian conduct, in point of Christian love and Christian purity, which could tell men that our lives had been touched by the power that raised Christ from the dead? Is there transformation? Are our lives different from what those lives which were once disconnected from Christ? Are our lives different from the unregenerate world? And is the transformation such as to argue that in us now is the life and working of Jesus Christ the Son of God? And as we undergo whatever this life may hold for us of suffering, do we have a courage and a patience that would argue that the Lord has held us up with his own strength, and made over to us the resources of his own power? And as we face the obligations of our own Christian position, as we ask the Lord for a knowledge of his will and we identify his will and we endeavour to do his will, do we do it so effectively, that it might be known that we do it not in our own strength, but by the power of him who raised the Lord from the dead?

The great thrust of all Paul’s teaching and conduct is this, be what you are. He says in Romans, “Reckon yourselves dead to sin” (Rom. 6. 11). It is not only that they are dead, but they are to reckon themselves dead. They are to keep on saying to themselves, “I died to sin.” They are to keep on saying to themselves, “I have risen with Christ”. And I am not sure but sometimes we put our humility in the wrong place. We are not ashamed of Christ, and of our status in Christ, or of our station, or of our position. We are not ashamed of the work of the Holy Spirit, and it is time for us to realise what is our real dignity, to realise what is our potential, in the Lord. There is nothing wrong with our power if we would reckon ourselves possessed of the power, if we would work out what the Lord has wrought within us. We are transformed people, transformed by the re-creative power of Almighty God. And are we transformed because we are in vital union with Jesus Christ. Are we living according to this kind of teaching? Are we living new, living transformed, living elevated? Are we living powerfully? Living in Christ? Living by the resources, and living out of the power of the God who is our refuge. Our Redeemer is strong! It is not only love and pity and compassion. It is not only meekness that men need to live the Christian life, but they need power. “Finally, my brethren, be strong, and be strong in the Lord” (Eph. 6.10). The Lord expects me to live according to what he has done in me, including me in Christ, and according to the resources that he has made available to me.

4. THROUGH THE WORD OF TRUTH WE CAN GET IN CHRIST.

How are all these blessing mine? When do I get included in Christ? “when you heard the word of truth,” says Paul (v.13). “That word of truth is the gospel of your salvation.” It is by receiving the word that the gospel which offers sinners union with Christ becomes ours. We can never receive the good news except by means of the word of truth. It is a tremendously important phrase, “the word of truth.” The Lord Jesus himself said, “Your word is truth,” in other words, it is infallible and God-breathed. That’s amazing, isn’t it, that in this world there is an entity as sure as God himself, something absolute, a reference point by which I can measure my knowledge, my ethics, and my lifestyle? Without such a reference point do you know anything for certain? Can you have a plan for your life? Without it aren’t you condemned to be mere drifters? There’s nothing worse than being aimless, is there?

The grand old Duke of York,
He had ten thousand men,
He marched them up to the top of the hill,
And he marched them down again.

How aimless. God is not aimless, though, God has a purpose and he has told us all about it in his word of truth. It is to build a new constituency of men and women, all of them transformed into the image of the Son of God, who will inhabit a new heavens and earth. The Queen had a general anaesthetic this week for minor surgery on her knee and face, and when she came round for those first seconds no doubt she had no idea where she was, or what had happened to her. The tragedy is that in all her realm there are few who have any idea who they are, where they are, or what is the purpose of life. The Bible alone is the divine revelation that tells us that the God who made the universe has a plan for it and for you, and he has given us that plan in the word of truth.

This word has been given to us in a way that we can understand. Some people dismiss this faith that the Bible is true as a ‘circular argument’. They point out that we claim the Bible is the word of God, and that all our evidence for this comes from the Bible itself. We have no other external proofs. Let me illustrate my answer by asking you whether you’ve ever had to apply for a passport? You take a photograph and the official form (which you have filled in with black ink) to a professional person, and you ask him to sign the form and photo confirming that it is a true likeness. I sign many passport applications because I am considered in the eyes of the law to be a person with some authority. You go to an earthly authority for earthly confirmation. You go to a divine authority for heavenly things, and there is no higher authority than the Bible. We do not find the Lord Jesus in any other contemporary writing. We come to it and inquire what the Lord has to say about God, the creation, the judgment, the way of salvation. We also ask what does it have to say about divine revelation. What does Jesus say about Scripture? The infallible Jesus then gives us an infallible Bible. “It cannot be broken,” he says. There is no higher authority than the Bible. Jesus Christ appeals to it – “it is written.” That is sufficient. If you start with man to argue your values and beliefs you will inevitably end confirming mere man.

So a believing hearing of the word of truth has been the means of putting the church of every generation for almost two thousand years in Christ. The Bible is not true today and gone tomorrow. Every institution we see around us is falling apart, and losing respect, but not the Bible. Heaven and earth will pass away, but not the Word of God. The Bible is consistent; God is consistent. The same entry requirements for heaven apply for the rich and the poor, the famous and the insignificant – none of us is good enough for heaven by our own merits. All of us need a Saviour. The Puritans lived over 300 years ago, the Reformers 500 years ago, the church fathers 1800 years ago but they speak about the same Christ, and they use the same words, more or less, and it is exactly the same truth that Christ alone saves us. He is the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.

Have you ever looked into it? To their shame people say, “Oh, the Bible’s rubbish!” but they’ve never read it. Why read the Bible? Because it tells us about the greatest of all themes, God and heaven, and hell, and life and death, and sin and Jesus. It tells us about this universe and how it came about. Youngsters at school are taught about evolution as if it were truth rather than a theory. Charles Darwin himself said some shrewd things. One of them was, “The mystery of the beginning of things is insoluble by us.” First there was nothing, and then there was something unimaginably vast, the universe. How did it all begin? Darwin was a very honest man in that respect, that without the word of God we don’t know about the beginning of things. The great news is that God has told us. That is what divine revelation is all about.

Newspapers are sold in greater numbers, when they can make “startling revelations” about famous people. Revelation is just something that you didn’t know before, which, because it is now revealed you can believe it. If the Bible reveals so much to us, then why aren’t people queuing down the street and round the corner to hear about God? The answer is that the Bible analyses our condition in intensely moral terms. In Genesis one, at each step of creation God said, “It is good.” God goes on to measure those who live in the creation by the ten commandments and it finds us all guilty. That is why men and women reject the biblical diagnosis.

The world says that truth is relative. “It’s nice for you that you’re religious, but it doesn’t work for me.” The Bible says it is the one great word of truth given to the world. The world says, “The Bible stifles freedom.” The Bible says the truth actually sets you free. The Government said some time ago that it wanted to get tough on morality. Authorities talk about clamping down on smoking, and speeding, and spam E-mail letters, and celebrating Christmas in schools and libraries lest we upset non-Christians, and the use of fireworks, and open air preaching. The thought police are going to be watching out for all that, but at the same time they are making few judgments on sexual behaviour. The world cries, “Get tough on crime and drugs.” The Bible says, “Let’s find out the cause for people taking drugs.” It says the root cause is in the heart. It is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. That is the human problem.

When Alan Rees moved to a village called Pontrhydyfen in South Wales, they inherited half the side of a mountain as a garden. He went out to clear it, and hacked away for ages with a scythe, and I was getting nowhere. No one had touched it for fifty years. Eventually, he hired a flame thrower, and burnt the whole garden. In about three weeks, back came the brambles. So he did it all over again. Back they came again, and the only way he could get rid of them was to dig down deep, and get the roots out. That is a picture of what the Bible says about sin; it cannot be dealt with by seminars, increasingly fierce laws, more and more prisons, rather you have to go to the source of our troubles – the human heart with its bias against God..

The message of Christianity is the word of truth, that is, the logos of truth – the logic of truth The message of the Bible is logical, because once you’ve heard it and believed it, everything you look into confirms its truthfulness. We find nothing that doesn’t tie in with what the Bible says. John says that he wrote his longest letter so that his readers might know. What might we know? We discover that we are failures. The sun never fails; it will come up again tomorrow morning, if the Lord spares us; the tides never fail; we can predict the high tides in Aberystwyth in a year’s time; the laws of gravity never fail. We are the only inconsistent beings in the whole of the universe. It is only men who snub God. Your pet dog might be incredibly thick, but he never snubs God. We do, though. A dog never hurts God, but we do, and you do. Why? The Scripture explains the reason. It tells us why we pout sometimes; why we lose our tempers sometimes, why we improve in deceiving people the more practice we get, why we’re sometimes over-sensitive. It explains everything about what we are. It explains our sin, what we’re like. It shows us that sin is not just the headlines on the six o’clock news. The Bible says that sin is a determined act of refusal to obey God.

Why aren’t we paying attention to the word of truth? The reason is this that we come to it with our prejudices intact. That saves a lot of time! As they say, “you don’t need the facts, just make up your mind.” This is the way we are, and if someone is prejudiced, you can’t reason him out of it, because it wasn’t reason that put him into the prejudice. We can confront people with the facts, but if they are determined to be prejudiced, they will die in their sins.

Does the Bible tell us everything about God? No. Does it tell us everything about the world we live in? No. Does it tell us if there is life on Mars? No. It is, Paul says, good news about salvation. We deserve eternal death because we are sinners, but God in his love sent his own Son to live and die instead of us so that he might be just and yet could justify those who by faith were joined to Jesus Christ. All in Christ shall live. That is the word of truth, the gospel of salvation. Believe it O sinner, believe it! Believe the glad message, it’s true! It is the word of truth, the gospel of salvation. It tells us how we can be included in Christ by entrusting ourselves to him as our own faithful Saviour.

14th December 2003 GEOFF THOMAS