Freedom by Sacrifice: The Shocking Truth of Substitutionary Grace


Our world is jaded. We carry justice around like a pet. If everything was right and fair, then we would have no problems, things would line up, just the way they are supposed to be…right?

No. It never works out that way, does it? Even when justice comes, we get that pang in our stomach. When one of my kids does something wrong, and then they have to suffer the natural consequences of it, I have mixed emotions. Wouldn’t it be nice if justice had a counterpart that let compassion in? Wouldn’t it be great if our world was a place of where justice was important, but we weren’t ruled by it?

Grace.

This is why grace is so shocking.

It’s not first nature. It’s actually what we would do second, third, or even last. It doesn’t come naturally, but we are desperately seeking it, chasing it, even when we don’t know it. That pang in your stomach when you hear of the death penalty, you have to watch your kids endure consequences, or when you really know it’s better just to hang up on the telemarketer.

Paul is about to use the language of astonishment in Galatians 1:6, but first, he reminds the Galatians, and us, that there is something bigger, that everything he is about to say and present is really held in the context of something greater:

Shocking grace.

Read Galatians 1:1-4 to connect Paul’s full introduction in one spot:

Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— and all the brothers and sisters with me,

To the churches in Galatia:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

Grace and peace to you…made possible by God, through Christ.

Paul starts even his introduction with the full Gospel.

Jesus gave Himself….

Perhaps our world has heard it a million times, so it isn’t really shocking anymore. The Galatians may have had a similar problem, slipping into “It can’t be. There’s no way. No one does stuff like that.”

Let’s hear the freedom in the truth of this message once again:

…the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself…

Romans 5:6-8 reminds us just how shocking this Gospel is:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

If you have your Bible out, underline these words –

very rarely

might possibly

Do you hear the language of the unexpected?

Look back at Romans 5:8 – But God…

God demonstrates who He is and how He brings freedom to this world, very differently than we would expect. Paul’s message is that it’s not what we expect that we need, but rather –

truth is found where we least expect it – in grace.

Christ didn’t just die for our sins. Christ gave Himself for our sins and for our deliverance.

The NIV and NASB translations use the word rescue instead of deliver. The NRSV translation uses the very straightforward to set us free.

Deliverance – that sounds a whole lot like freedom to me.

Christ did it for us. This is substitutionary grace, meaning we couldn’t do it. When there is a substitute teacher, it’s because the regular teacher couldn’t get there. We can’t get there either. We would never get there on our own to save ourselves. We can chase freedom all we want, but we need a substitute- for us.

Christ gave Himself for you, for your family, for your neighbor, for the unborn, for the elderly, for the junior high student, for us.

The truth is freedom will never come from justice. Freedom only comes through the shock of Grace.

We may want to be free from the evil around us in this world, but God does something different. He sets grace down in the middle of it instead. We think freedom looks like deliverance from the junk of life. God says it looks like deliverance from being ruled by it.

What junk, what anxiety, what trouble of this present evil age feels like it’s ruling right now for you?

God gives us grace in the midst of it. He gives us the knowledge of for us. Sin no longer has control, because… Grace.

Where might some shocking grace seep out of your mouth and your heart because of the freedom of Christ?

Shocking grace, for you – sounds a lot like freedom to me.


Discussion Questions:

Look again at Galatians 1:2. Who does Paul say is “with” him in his writing of the letter? Why do you think this is an important detail he included? (If you can, google the NRSV translation of this verse… that one is my favorite.)

Why do you think authority is such an issue for Paul with the Galatians? Do you ever struggle with authority in any of your vocations? What grace can be found in the matter of authority?

The words deliver or rescue, and the concept of needing a substitute, insinuate our helplessness. What usefulness is there in knowing and understanding that we are helpless? What is hard about this?

 

 

 

The High Price of Ransom

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Day 3 – The high price of ransom

What do you know of the Old Testament stories of the Red Sea, of Moses, of the original Passover lambs and doorposts, or of the Hebrew slaves ransomed?

Take a moment to jot down or think through words and pieces of the events you remember of what we call The Exodus. Feel free to quickly skim the first 14 chapters of the book of Exodus to jog your memory or to learn something new! This is an open book test. 😉

(Just joking. There are no tests in Bible study. I promise!)

What did God bring the Israelites out of in The Exodus? Slavery. Yes. Hard slavery, ever increasing oppression, task masters, a life of clay with no straw and drown baby boys. Can you imagine?

God references His work to free His people from Egypt’s bonds in Isaiah 43:3-4. Let’s read that.

For I am the Lord your God,
    the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.
I give Egypt as your ransom,
    Cush and Seba in exchange for you.
Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
    peoples in exchange for your life.

God is willing to give what is most valuable to Him to ransom His children – namely, people.

This concept may be more than a little disturbing for us, God giving some people in exchange for others. To understand it better, we need to open our Bibles and return to the end of the Exodus, to the crossing of the Red Sea into the land of promise, the land of freedom. Please read Exodus 14:19-31. For the sake of space here, I will only highlight Exodus 14:18-20, 23-24, and verse 30 below:

And the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord, when I have gotten glory over Pharaoh, his chariots, and his horsemen.”

19 Then the angel of God who was going before the host of Israel moved and went behind them, and the pillar of cloud moved from before them and stood behind them, 20 coming between the host of Egypt and the host of Israel. And there was the cloud and the darkness. And it lit up the night without one coming near the other all night.

23 The Egyptians pursued and went in after them into the midst of the sea, all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen. 24 And in the morning watch the Lord in the pillar of fire and of cloud looked down on the Egyptian forces and threw the Egyptian forces into a panic…

30 Thus the Lord saved Israel that day from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore.

It should be hard to listen to the loss of the Egyptians. I don’t think we were designed to be ok with people dying. We were made for life. Sin brought death into the world. We were made in the image of God, to have compassion and mercy for every life. We were also made to hold our heads high and that means not sticking them in the sand. Matthew Henry reminds us in his commentary –

“God has purchased them dearly.”

The salvation of the people of Israel, God’s chosen ones, those people who were to bring the knowledge of Salvation to the rest of the world, was not a simple commercial transaction. Giving people in exchange for other people – let us not assume that this was something easy or weightless to God. He gave dearly to ransom them from the hands of those who were destroying them.

When people lose their lives for any reason, God cares.

He cares for the murdered child, he cares for the aborted baby, he cares for the soldier. He cares.

I’m not entirely convinced that there weren’t Egyptians turning to the Lord like mad under the weight of the closing waters of the Red Sea. They had seen His work, they had seen the miracles and plagues and the faithfulness of this unknown God. How many of them turned to Him, we do not know.

But in this instance, a ransom had to be given. It’s hard. God came down as a pillar of fire, a cloud of darkness to stand between His people and the evil that would overtake them. He is not messing around when it comes to His children. Death is our earthly reality, yes, but don’t be mistaken-

He is willing to let hard stuff happen for us to come to Him.

That doesn’t mean that the hard stuff is a flashing neon sign of someone or something’s lack of faith. That’s silly and it’s petty and it is not at all Biblical. Faithfulness does not mean good will come to you, and unfaithfulness does not always bring on calamity. It does mean there are casualties in this war against the devil, sometimes it’s us, sometimes it’s our children, sometimes it’s jobs or homes or happiness.

And the battle is the Lord’s. He is fighting.

Here is the hope: He has won.

Revelation 5:9-10 tells us that Jesus came down, fought the fight and won. The victory is ours for eternity.

And they sang a new song, saying,

“Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
    and they shall reign on the earth.”

Today we learn that ransoming comes with a price. This pilgrimage is hard. This journey is full of boundless love and joy, but also pain and struggle. Sometimes we need to get to the other side of the Sea and thank God for something He’s doing that we don’t quite understand, to lay it into His hands, to weep over those lost, and praise Him for eternal life in Jesus, offered free for every one of us both left standing and drown underwater.

He is working, ransoming, redeeming, and saving souls every where, every day. Rest in Him.

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Exploration:

Take a moment to work on memorizing the Heart verse for the week. Write it out, stick it up somewhere.

Because you are precious in my eyes,
    and honored, and I love you,
I give men in return for you,
    peoples in exchange for your life.  (Isaiah 43:4)

Who are you praying for, that they would come to God, whether through joy or struggle? (You can use a name or vague description of the situation, however you are most comfortable for privacy sake.)

 

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Commended in Christ

Philippians 4:8 (ESV)
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Week Six = Commendable
         1) Commended in Christ
         2) Commending Ourselves
         3) Commended by God
         4) Commended to God
         5) From Generation to Generation
Heart verse:
One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.
                                                               Psalm 145:4
Thank you Pat Maier for the beautiful Scripture engagement tool!

 Commendable – Scripture Engagement Tool PDF

Session 1 – Commended in Christ
Commendable, or the act of commending, is the language of Paul in the New Testament Epistles. It is pretty rare to hear the word commendation or commend in our culture. You need to do something of particular honor, again, often military related. A commendation is a military decoration of highest honor. Saving lives, acts of heroism, an exceptional achievement.
But saving lives, acts of heroism, suffering on behalf of others, that is the language of the New Testament church. Apostles giving of their lives and themselves. People opening hearts and homes to serve. Exceptional sacrifice, struggle on behalf of another, and ready spirit willing to go the length to spread the Word.
Who has gone the length for you? Who in your life gave a bit extra for you to know Christ and His grace and mercy?
These individuals are worthy of not just honor, or thanksgiving, but this very special word – commendation.
The Greek word for commendable in Philippians 4:8 is euphemos. It means to be well reported of, spoken of kindly, to be reputable, and laudable. It is only found in Philippians 4:8, but the word commendable rang in my ears and I knew it was all over the New Testament letters. Why, I wondered? What was going on that this was the particular word utilized so often to describe the acts and work of those in the early church. And the overwhelming tone is similar to our use of commendation today – sacrifice.
 
This should not be a surprise to us. That which is commendable is sacrificial. It is an outstanding work, well reported of by others, but more than that, contextually, it is a Kingdom work of Eternal significance.
It is of no surprise to us, because the One truly worthy of commendation is Christ, and He is above all, sacrificial.
One of my favorite Bible verses comes to mind – John 15:13:
“Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”
Spoken by Jesus, knowing exactly what he would do for us. Knowing the road He would walk, bearing sin and death and shame, but willing to do it…for you.
He is that someone. His every step for you.
This, friends, is so, so worthy of commendation. Worthy of telling and sharing and reporting with all zeal.
1 John 3:16 gives us a little insight into our response to that commendation in us:
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.” 
So, as we study what is commendable this week, let’s fix our eyes on the very Commendation of God. And let Him flow out of us in the language of sacrifice.