|Volume 24 Number 3 March 2022
We read in Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (NKJV). In Galatians 2, Paul dealt with individuals who were trying to convince Christians to live by part of the Old Law – the Law of Moses. He said that anyone who did that would take away the liberty they have in Christ and put themselves into bondage to the Old Law. He told them that he even had to confront Peter when he gave preference to Jewish Christians over Gentile Christians. Paul wrote that Christians are not justified by the Old Law but through the New Law. All the justification that comes through the New Law is based on faith in Jesus Christ (v. 16). No man could be justified by the Old Law. All Christians must be justified by Christ (v.17). This , then, is explained further in verse 20 above. The life a person lives as a Christian is only possible because Christ, the Son of God, was willing to die by crucifixion according to the will of the Father. If He had not done that, we could not be Christians or have justification in the sight of the Father.
Paul said Christ gave Himself for us. Many would interpret that to mean he died in our place. It is correct that he died in our place, but this phrase in the Greek language used the word huper. That word means above or over. He died to cover us and be over us. This connects us to the atonement of the Old Testament. Atonement only came by the shedding of blood. Atonement means a covering. Jesus Christ died to cover us and make us pure in the eyes of God. Thus, we are in Christ because He covers us. He protects us and cleanses us from the fiery darts of Satan.
Study your Bible. Learn how to get into Christ. Learn what is necessary to obtain the atonement of Christ. If any of this is hard to understand, ask an adult to help you.
Hellfire, Brimstone and Love
Growing up, I was surrounded constantly by passionate preachers. I use the word “passionate” not only because the lessons they presented were heartfelt, but also because when the need arose, they preached passionately against the sins about which the Bible warns us. This kind of passionate preaching has sometimes been labeled as preaching “hellfire and brimstone,” which is a reference to the punishment that awaits those who do not obey Christ (Revelation 21:8). If someone were to tell you the preacher is preaching hellfire and brimstone, how would you respond?
First, I want to acknowledge that there are many people in our world who have probably never heard this phrase and might not have an immediate response. Maybe this is because they have never heard this kind of preaching, or maybe it is because they have just never given it a label. So, we need to acknowledge that phrases like this are not always understood by all, and that even includes those of us who think we know what we are talking about.
Preaching hellfire and brimstone gets both positive and negative responses. Some see it as harsh and unloving preaching that only focuses on sin, condemnation and hell. Others see it as loving and zealous preaching that in a very direct way calls sin what it is, explains the punishment for being disobedient and encourages faithful living before God. As you can see, these are two very different viewpoints on this type of preaching. In a similar fashion, if someone were to say the preacher is more about love and grace, there would also be both positive and negative responses to it. Some would see this as preaching that focuses only on God’s love and grace while never mentioning sin, responsibility, faithfulness and judgment. Others would see it as compassionate preaching that tries to motivate, to encourage and to convict people to love God and to be faithful to His Word. So, which is it? What is the answer? What are we to do? How are we to preach?
The reality is that as Christians, we are called to teach the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). We should teach all that God has told and revealed to us in His Word. That means in regard to God Himself, our preaching should contain the grace, mercy and love of God (John 3:16), along with His severity, justice and wrath (John 3:36; Hebrews 10:26-31). We are to speak the truth and do so in a way that demonstrates the same kind of love that God has for us (Ephesians 4:15). This is the kind of teaching and preaching that can help us grow. Everyone will neither always love what we say, and nor will they always want to hear it. Yet, that does not change the message. We are to lovingly speak the Truth and let the Word of God work and prick hearts (2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12).
As each of us prepares to teach and to preach to those around us, let us remember to “speak as the oracles of God” (1 Peter 4:11). Let us all strive to “convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Timothy 4:2). Like the apostle Paul, we are to preach Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 1:23; 2:2). Jesus is the answer to the world’s problems. If we will submit to Him and obey His Word, then we can have all of the blessings that our loving God has promised. However, if we deny Him and reject His Word, then we will face the wrath of God.