“After these things the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision, saying, ‘Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.’ But Abram said, ‘Lord GOD, what will You give me, seeing I go childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?’ Then Abram said, ‘Look, You have given me no offspring; indeed one born in my house is my heir!’ And behold, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, ‘This one shall not be your heir, but one who will come from your own body shall be your heir.’ Then He brought him outside and said, ‘Look now toward heaven, and count the stars if you are able to number them.’ And He said to him, ‘So shall your descendants be.’ And he believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness.”
Did Abraham Believe in God’s Promise?
As we can see in today’s Scripture reading, when Abraham looked up towards the stars in the heavens, God said to him, “So shall your descendants be.” God promised Abraham like this, and Abraham believed totally in this Word of God. Abraham believed in exactly what God had told him, that He will make his descendants as many as the stars in the sky. When God asks us if we believe in His Word, we must also be able to answer boldly, “Yes, I believe.” Only those who are able to give this answer can truly believe in this gospel Word of the water and the Spirit as well.
I used to get up early in the morning sometimes and try counting the stars in the sky. If God tells me to look up at the stars in the sky and asks me the same question that He asked Abraham, saying to me, “Do you believe in My Word?” then I will answer Him with a ‘Yes.’ I will say to Him, “Yes, Lord, I believe in You. Although my acts are insufficient, I believe in You and Your Word. I believe that You, who came by the gospel of the water and the Spirit, are my Savior. Lord, when You came to this earth, You bore all my sins and curses and solved them all away. As I could not live according to Your Word, I committed countless sins, and I was destined for hell because of these sins. Yet You came to this earth incarnated in the flesh of man for me, took upon all my sins once and for all, and bore the condemnation of my sins in my place by being crucified to death. I believe in this, Lord. And I believe that in my stead, and in everyone else’s place, You were baptized, shed Your blood to death, rose from the dead in three days, and ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the throne of God the Father.” I can say boldly, “I believe in Your righteousness. I believe in all the righteousness You have fulfilled to me. And I believe in all Your Word of promises.”
You and I have received the everlasting remission of sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, the Word of God with all our hearts. It is not by keeping the Law before God that we have received salvation. Our salvation was reached by our faith in the Word of God and His righteousness revealed in this Word. What can be called true faith before God is the faith that’s based on the written Word of God, not on one’s own acts. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:17). As this passage says, it is by believing in the gospel Word of the water and the Spirit that you and I have received the remission of sins once and for all, not by walking by the Law of God.
Therefore, if God were to ask me, “Do you believe in My righteousness?” I will answer Him as the following: “Yes, Lord. I know Your righteousness and I believe in it without a doubt. I believe that You have blotted out all the sins of my entire lifetime with the gospel of the water and the Spirit, that You have made me sinless, and that You have through this become My Savior. I believe that even though I was a sinner by nature, You made me a righteous man by blotting out all my sins with Your righteousness. I believe that You have made me Your child. I also believe that You have given me Heaven and everlasting life.” All of you sitting in front of this pulpit must also be able to confess like this. If you really want to be approved by God and be born again like Abraham, then you must all believe in God’s Word of righteousness completely.
As you know very well, during the time of the Old Testament God gave the Word of the Law to sinners. Now I will explain to you what effects the Law of God had on us, and what kind of faith enables us to attain the righteousness of God.
The God-Established Law
The first five Books of the Old Testament―Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy―are all called the Pentateuch. Of the countless people appearing in the Pentateuch, God called Abraham in particular, and as Abraham believed in the Word of God, his faith was accounted for righteousness. God made Abraham one of His righteous people.
Abraham received the remission of his sins by believing in the God-spoken Word with his heart. On account of this right faith in the Word of God, he became one of God’s people and a righteous man. After a long while, when the people of Israel, that is, Abraham's descendants were led by Moses out of their 430 years of slavery in Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, God gave them His Law. In other words, God gave His Law to the descendants of Abraham gathered in the wilderness near Mount Sinai. This Law was established by God. God had given it to human beings, the descendants of Adam, for their own sake. In giving 613 statutes and commandments that human beings must keep before Him, God established the Law that must be kept between Him and us human beings.
However, the real purpose for establishing this Law was to teach the people of Israel and us through the Law of God, just how insufficient our hearts and acts are, and how sinful we are. God established no less than 613 statutes for His Law. But these statutes were not given so that we would keep all the Law of God. What is the real reason God gave us His Law? It was given to us so that every human being would realize that no one can stand upright before God on his own acts of the flesh. Put differently, these 613 statutes were established by God so that human beings would look at themselves and realize that they are inevitably destined for hell.
A Wrong Vow
However, the people of Israel at that time did not realize the intention of this God-established Law of 613 statutes, and so they vowed to keep and obey every commandment God had given them.
Let’s turn to Exodus chapter 24 here: “So Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD and all the judgments. And all the people answered with one voice and said, ‘All the words which the LORD has said we will do.’ And Moses wrote all the words of the LORD. And he rose early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars according to the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young men of the children of Israel, who offered burnt offerings and sacrificed peace offerings of oxen to the LORD. And Moses took half the blood and put it in basins, and half the blood he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read in the hearing of the people. And they said, ‘All that the LORD has said we will do, and be obedient.’ And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words’” (Exodus 24:3-8).
And in Exodus chapter 20, God said, “You shall have no other gods before Me; you shall not take My name in vain; You shall not make for yourself a carved image—any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them; remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy; honor your father and your mother; you shall not murder; you shall not steal; you shall not covet.” From Exodus 20:1, God established the Ten Commandments like this. The first four commandments specify our obligations to God, and the remaining six commandments specify the obligations that we have to each other as fellow human beings. And from Exodus chapter 21 and on, God then spoke about ethical requirements that should guide our behavior towards both God and other human beings. For example, one requirement is that we should not hurt others lest we are also hurt. In other words, God spoke about moral and ethical obligations that we should keep as human beings.
Like this, God specified the Ten Commandments and other statutes, and there were a total of 613 decrees. He then made Moses read to the people of Israel all these commandments of God which were written on a scroll. Moses then put half the blood of peace offerings in basins and sprinkled it over the people of Israel who accepted the Law of God and swore to keep it all. With this act, we can see that God was saying to the Israelites, “If you fail to keep these 613 statutes that I have now established, you will die like these animals. This Law is the covenant you and I have established with blood.”
However, at that time, the people of Israel did not realize yet that they were unable to keep the Law. So they vowed before God, “Yes, we will keep and obey all these statutes of the Law.” It wasn’t so much that the Israelites at that time thought about whether they could keep the Law of God or not, but they thought that they had to keep it regardless because it was God’s commandment.” However, God knew beforehand that the people of Israel would not be able to keep all His Law, and so He gave them the sacrificial system of salvation, of the remission of sins. The wages of sin is death. But to all sinners unable to keep the Law, God allowed them to be washed from their sins by offering sacrifices according to the just sacrificial system ministered by the priests in congruence to the law of death.
My fellow believers, you and I are simply too inadequate to keep all these 613 commandments of the God-established Law. In other words, you and I cannot avoid but be condemned for our sins. Once the Law of God came into this world through Moses, anyone who failed to live according to this Law must bear the condemnation of sin. God is the Almighty, the Legislator, and the Ruler. When we disobey the Word of this Ruler, then we deserve to bear the condemnation of sin. The justice of God is strict according to His Law. When we break the Law of God, we are not forgiven just by asking, “Lord, please forgive me,” but we have to be condemned according to the just Law of God. That is how strict and clear the just Law of God is. Therefore, since we were simply incapable of keeping the statutes of God, we could not escape His just judgment. No matter how hard we tried to keep the Law of God, we could never achieve this on our own, and so another law, the just law of salvation was needed. Because every human being who is a sinner before God cannot avoid but die and be cursed according to the Law of God, it was absolutely necessary to have the law of salvation that enables everyone to be saved from all sins. Even though human beings are incapable of keeping the statutes of the Law of God, but the people of Israel did not realize this, and that is why they vowed to God that they would keep the Law.
Did God then establish His Law to judge the people of Israel? No, that is not the case. The Bible says that God gave us the Law so that we would realize our sins. This is clearly explained in Romans 3:19-21: “Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”
What does it mean when the Bible says here, “By the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin”? It means that God gave us the Law to expose our blemishes. The function of the Law is to enable us to realize our sinfulness, and that anyone who is sinful must bear the punishment of sin.
In Christian communities today, there are many spiritual leaders who teach their congregations that the Law of God must be obeyed. Think about it for a moment. How many Christians are trying to live according to the Word of the Law and yet are disappointed to see their weaknesses and shortcomings as they end up breaking the Law? Of course, it’s admirable that all these Christians are trying to keep the Law of God and His commandments, but one thing that we must realize clearly here is that we can never keep the Law of God.
That is why God established the sacrificial system whereby the Israelites were washed from their sins by offering sacrificial animals in the Tabernacle. In Old Testament times, when one opened the screen door of the court of the Tabernacle and stepped inside, the very first thing he saw was the altar of burnt offering. Do you know what the altar of burnt offering means spiritually? To be washed from their sins, the people of the Old Testament brought an unblemished lamb or goat to the altar of burnt offering, and passed their sins to this sacrificial animal by laying their hands on its head. And when the blood was drawn from the throat of this sacrificial animal and given to the priest, the priest who was ministering in the Tabernacle accepted this blood, put some of it on the horns of the altar of burnt offering, and poured the rest of the blood on the ground below the altar of burnt offering. The flesh of the sacrificial animal was then cut into pieces. These cut-pieces were then put on the altar of burnt offering and a fire was built below it. The fire then devoured all the flesh.
What do all these procedures reveal? They reveal that even though the sinner had to be cast into hell, this sacrificial animal bore his sins through the laying on of hands and was condemned for him. Like this, God had prepared two things beforehand as the solution to the problem of our sins. One of them was the Law of God, and the other was the sacrificial system whereby one washed away his sins by passing them onto the sacrificial animal and offering it to God by burning it. Put differently, this means that God had prepared a sacrificial animal and a High Priest to save us from sin. The sacrifice offered at the altar of burnt offering was the Lord. This sacrificial Lamb accepted our sins once and for all through the laying on of hands, died on the Cross, rose from the dead, and has through this become our everlasting Savior.
However, we still continue to commit sin while living in this world. For this reason the Lord gave us faith in the gospel of the water and the Spirit, so that we would be washed even from all our future transgressions. Beyond the altar of burnt offering was a laver. This laver, made of bronze, was shaped like a big basin, and it was filled with water. After cutting the sacrificial animal into pieces and offering it on the altar of burnt offering, if the priests sought to enter the Sanctuary where God’s Ark of the Testimony was located, they had to wash their hands and feet with the water of the laver of bronze without fail before entering. Only then could they avoid death. The priests were responsible for ministering the sacrifices that washed away the sins of the people, and when the priests sought to come before the presence of God, they washed away their filth first with the water prepared in the laver of bronze, and in this way they were able to avoid being killed for their sins.
This laver of bronze was given as the place for the priests of the Old Testament to wash away their sins. The laver was made of bronze. When we turn to the Bible, we see that the laver was made of mirrors used by the women of Israel. It’s written that the laver was made of the mirrors that the women in those days used to see their reflection. There was a special reason why God used bronze mirrors to make the laver of the Tabernacle. It was to make it known that the Law of God is like a mirror showing people’s reflection. The Law of God is a mirror that God has given us. We see ourselves with a mirror. It’s with a mirror that we see how our faces, heads, and bodies look like. Without the mirror, we don’t know if there is something dirty on our faces, and that is why we use a mirror. Like this, God has enabled us to realize through His Word just how sinful our human hearts and acts are, and just how many sins we have, so that we may receive the remission of our sins by believing in the gospel of the water and the Spirit fulfilled by the Lord. This is the Law’s function. The Bible says, “By the law is the knowledge of sin.” The function of the Law is to show us our sins, and this is why it exists. In other words, God gave us this Law to show us how the sinners who still have not received the remission of sins look like.
What then is the sin of the human race? Every act and thought that is not in accordance with the will of God is a sin. Put differently, any failure to live according to the Word of God is a sin. The inability to live according to the 613 commandments established by God, the inability to live according to God’s will—none other than this is the sin of mankind. It’s not just when you steal something that you commit sin, but you are a sinner because you are unable to keep the God-established Law, and you were born with sin. This is the real sin before God.
The Law of God exposes the sinful nature hidden in every sinner. The Law points out the sin of not living according to the will of God. For instance, the commandment prohibiting us from murder reveals the fact that we are in fact murderers. God is saying to us, “When you get angry, in your heart you want to beat someone to death, even if that person has done nothing to you. If not this, then you wish that person to be hit by a car and die.” God is saying that the evil desires you harbor in your heart all constitute sins. This means that in God’s sight, the wicked wish that’s in your heart and the sin that’s committed with your acts are exactly the same.
Because we are not divine but human, we only argue over the sins that are exposed outwardly. But what about the Almighty God? If we want the evidence of our sins, God gives us irrefutable evidence through the Old Testament. Ask God, “Why am I a sinner?” God will then say to you, “Because you are a descendant of Adam, you were born with sin. By one man’s transgression many became sinners, and that is your seed. Because you are Adam’s descendant, you are automatically a sinner as well.” Like this, the Word of God contains evidence that clearly shows that we are all sinners.
God knows everything about us, for He is omniscient and omnipotent. He knows all about our fundamental nature. He knows what’s in our hearts, how we act in our lives, and even what kind of sin we will commit in the future. So God said to us, “Because of the sins that are in your hearts, you will all bear the condemnation of sin. You shall die because of your sins. You will face the judgment of fire. Just as the flesh of the sacrificial animal is burnt on the altar of burnt offering, you will be cast into the lake of never-ending fire and brimstone to suffer forever for your sins.” The reason why God gave us the mirror of the Law is to enable us to realize our sins and seek out Jesus Christ our Lord.
No one can practice the Law of God exactly as it is—not you, not me, not anyone else. There is no one in this world who can keep the Law of God perfectly. On the contrary, through this Law God wants our hearts to be convicted, and to admit to Him, “Yes, Lord, You are right. We are indeed sinners.” God is telling us to realize that we are sinners by nature, and then be saved from all our sins perfectly by believing in God—that is, by believing that God bore all our sins and blotted them out.
The Right Faith
When God asks us, “Do you know My righteousness? What is your understanding?” We must answer as follows: “Lord, in Your sight I was a sinner destined to hell. I was someone deserving to be condemned before Your eyes. But the loving God came to this earth in the name of Jesus Christ incarnated in the flesh of man. And at the age of 30, this Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River in my place, and in this most fitting way, He bore all my sins and all the sins of mankind once and for all. And by shedding His blood and dying on the Cross for my sins, Jesus was condemned in my place, and He has thereby saved me from all the condemnation of sin, all my blemishes, and the sin of not keeping all the 613 statutes of the Law. Father, as You sent Jesus Christ Your only begotten Son to this earth, He bore all my sins once and for all through the baptism He received from John the Baptist. I believe that the Lord has saved me from sin in this way. I believe that You have saved me.”
So when God asks you, “Do you believe in My righteousness?” you must be able to answer Him like this: “Yes, Lord, I believe in Your righteousness. I believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit; I believe that You are the true God; and I believe that You have become my Lord and Savior. In order to save such an insufficient being like myself from all my sins, Jesus the Son of God came to this earth once, took upon all my sins by being baptized by John the Baptist, and was condemned in my place. I believe that the Lord rose from the dead in three days and is now sitting at the right hand of the throne of God the Father. I believe that the Lord did all these things while on this earth for one reason alone, to save me. My acts will be insufficient until the day I die. But I have been saved through the righteousness of God—not thorough my acts, nor through the Law.”
My fellow believers, do you know the righteousness of God? Do you believe that Jesus Christ, God Himself, is your Savior? Do you believe that He has blotted out all your sins once and for all with the gospel of the water and the Spirit? Do you believe that Jesus Christ bore all your sins by being baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River, paid off all the wages of your sins by shedding His blood to death on the Cross, rose from the dead, and is now sitting at the right hand of the throne of God the Father? Do you believe that Jesus’ birth on this earth, His baptism, His death on the Cross, His resurrection, and His ascension were all done for you and me?
God is still asking us, “Do you know My righteousness?” Of course, the acts of our flesh are insufficient. However, we have faith in the righteousness of God. We believe in God’s righteousness. By believing in the righteousness of God, we have become righteous, sinless, and flawless people. On account of our faith in God’s righteousness, all of us have become His people. Therefore, we can say boldly to God, “I have no sin.” That’s because Jesus, full of love, bore all our sins through the baptism He received in the Jordan River. And He shed His blood on the Cross. By believing in the water and the blood of Jesus, we have become righteous. You and I are of those who believe in Jesus Christ wholly, the one and only Savior who has delivered us from all our sins.
Our God said, “For in it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith.” What is the gospel mentioned here? In Greek, the word ‘gospel’ is “euaggelion,” which means “good news.” What then is the most joyful news for us? It is that even though we were destined to hell because of our life-long failure to keep the 613 statutes and commandments of the Law of God, Jesus Christ came to this earth and bore all our sins in our place by being baptized, and we have become sinless by believing in Him. None other than this is the most joyful news and the gospel.
As sinners, we could never have become righteous through our own acts. However, our Lord came to this earth to make all sinners righteous, to save them from sin, and to deliver them from judgment. Having thus come to this earth, Jesus accepted all our sins through His baptism by saying, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matthew 3:15), and He has thereby made it possible for us to be saved perfectly.
The laying on of hands and the baptism of Jesus are two Biblical ways in which one’s sins are transferred. In the age of the Old Testament, one’s sins were passed onto a lamb when he laid his hands on its head; likewise, in the age of the New Testament, all our sins were passed onto Jesus when He was baptized in the Jordan River. To save us His creatures, the Almighty God Himself, the eternal Ruler, forsook His throne of glory, took on the image of man, and was born on this earth as the Baby Jesus through the body of a virgin named Mary. And by being baptized by John the Baptist, He accepted all the sins of every sinner of this world once and for all. Moreover, by shedding His blood on the Cross, He has saved us from the condemnation of all these sins. My fellow believers, Jesus was baptized in this way. Through His baptism the Lord bore all the sins of this world, each and every sin of mankind. This is the true gospel, and this is the righteousness of God.
This work of making everyone sinless in the most proper way is God’s righteousness and the true gospel. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son.” Just as this passage tells us, Jesus came to this earth and took upon all our sins through His baptism. Jesus Christ accepted all the sins of this world onto His own body. Not just your sins and mine, but all the sins of this world were passed onto Jesus through His baptism.
Those Who Believe in the True Gospel of the Water and the Spirit Have Been Saved Eternally
Let’s turn to Hebrews chapter 10 before ending today’s sermon. It’s written in Hebrews 10:1-2, “For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.”
In the days of the Old Testament, the Israelites passed their sins onto a sacrificial animal every day, cut its throat and drew its blood, put its flesh on the altar of burnt offering and burnt it, and in this way the sacrificial animal had to bear the condemnation of sin in their place. What does this all mean? This sacrifice was the sign of the promise that Jesus would come to this earth, bear all our sins through His baptism, shed His blood and be condemned on the Cross in our place, and thereby make us sinless. In other words, the Old Testament’s ritual of the laying on of hands was a shadow of the baptism of Jesus Christ to be realized. Jesus was the real substance, and this Word of the Old Testament was His shadow. If there is a shadow, there must be the real object casting this shadow. And when the age of the New Testament came, Jesus Christ, the real substance, personally came to this earth and finished the work of blotting out all the sins of humankind.
The Bible says in Hebrews 10:9-10, “Then He said, ‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” Where it says here, “I have come to do Your will, O God,” who has come to do the will of God? Who is “I” in this passage? It’s none other than Jesus who came to do the will of God. No human being can ever do the will of God. The only way for us to do the will of God is to believe with our hearts that Jesus Christ blotted out all our sins when He came to this earth. How did Jesus fulfill the will of the Father when He came to this earth? He made everyone sinless by bearing all the sins of the entire human race through His baptism, and He was vicariously condemned on behalf of the entire human race. This is how Jesus fulfilled the will of God.
God said, “He takes away the first that He may establish the second.” My fellow believers, you must remember clearly that you can never receive salvation through the Law. Your sins are never blotted out by the Law. That is why God replaced the Law with the law of love and salvation.
The Bible continues on to say, “By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Take a look at this passage. Does it say that we will be sanctified in the future? No, it says that “we have been sanctified,” which means that our sanctification has already been completed. Jesus is telling us to believe in Him, “It’s all over. I have now finished blotting out all your sins. All that you have to do is just believe. Do you now believe in Me? As you believe in God, believe in Me also.” Therefore, it is only a matter of time that we should indeed believe in Jesus and His work of salvation. Jesus is the Savior. He is God Himself. He is the Creator who made the universe and all things.
It’s written in Hebrews 10:11-14, “And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.”
My fellow believers, has Jesus blotted out all your sins forever and completely as this passage says, or has He not done this? He has indeed blotted them all out! If you make a mistake tomorrow, will you turn into a sinner again? No, you will not turn into a sinner again. Just as the saying goes, “Once a marine, always a marine,” those of us who have become righteous by receiving the remission of sins from Jesus are forever righteous. Those who know God correctly and believe in Him correctly do not trust in themselves, nor do they look at their own weaknesses. They only look towards God and meditate on what He has done for them, and they believe in God alone. As those who have received the remission of their sins and salvation through Jesus Christ, we are such righteous people. We are the righteous who are forever perfect.
The Bible says in Hebrews 10:15-16, “But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.’” The covenant that Jesus will make with us after blotting out all our sins is this: “I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.” My fellow believers, has God saved us or not? He has saved us all. Is there any sin left in our hearts then? No, there is none. Is there any sin in our minds? No, there is no sin. Are we then sinners or righteous people? We are righteous people. This is what is written in our minds. God has written this in the hearts of all those who believe in Him.
Let’s turn to verse 17 again: “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Verse 18 then continues on to say, “Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin.” That is right; Jesus has blotted out all the sins of the world. He said that “there is no longer an offering for sin.” It’s all over! Every believer is now sinless. All who believe in the gospel of the water and the Spirit have been saved from sin forever.