Letter From Lady Jane Grey

We hear a lot today about “strong women,” but usually this term is used in a purely worldly fashion.  For instance, women who have outed sex abusers such as Harvey Weinstein or Matt Laurer have been called “strong women,” even though their own personal lives, apart from whatever abuse they may have suffered, have in most cases have been unclean and immoral.  These are not the type of “strong women” Christians should be admiring and emulating, nor should any type of Feminism be accepted by true Bible believers.

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Now imagine yourself a teenage young woman, scheduled within days to be beheaded because of political machinations with which you had nothing to do.  How would you respond?  How would you feel?  How would you relate to others in your waning moments?  While none of us can answer these questions definitively, never having been there, the case of Lady Jane Grey, and the letter given at the link above, shows what a young woman strong in the Lord can do, and how she will think, even in the face of imminent death.

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The Sixth Commandment and Abortion

When preaching a series of messages on the Sixth Commandment, there is no way, in our contemporary context, to evade the issue of abortion.  This message, then, attempts to tackle this ugly and unpleasant subject from the standpoint of the word of God.  I begin by briefly tracing the history of abortion in our fallen world, and attempt to briefly describe the brutal reality of what abortion is.  The remainder of the message is spent addressing what the scriptures have to say about the unborn child, and consequently about abortion, which is so tragically practiced not only in our own nation, but all over the world in nations that have turned their backs on God.

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The person of Christ is at the center of our gospel message, but so also is His work; and this sentence which we are dealing with so briefly also describes the amazing work of salvation which He accomplished on our behalf. God not only sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, but “for sin…” It is always important to remember that the word for in the Bible very often has the meaning because of. The context generally will inform us when this is the case. It certainly seems to fit here; we may read it, “and because of sin.” God sent His Son into the world, made Him a man in the likeness of sinful flesh, because of sin; not His own sin, of course, but because of our sin. He came expressly for the purpose of dealing with sin; as Daniel said, He would “finish the transgression, and make an end of sin.” He came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, and having done so, He now stands as our great Intercessor, against Whom no counter-argument can possibly prevail.

 

But the words can bear a different meaning, and are understood by some to mean “a sin offering.” This, of course, would not significantly alter the meaning, but it does at the same time help connect the coming of Christ with the law. We know that God’s law condemned sin, but in its ceremonies it showed that God would forgive sin through the means of a blood offering. The sin offering was one of the primary sacrifices delivered in the law, which foreshadowed the work of our Saviour. Of course, the blood of those animals which flowed down the stones of Israel’s altars made no real atonement, for an animal cannot possibly answer for the sins of a man. But the blood of Jesus Christ, God’s dear Son, was the true sin offering, and it answered every pronouncement of condemnation the law can possibly make against us. His was a successful offering, and every person that has an interest in it must be saved, and cannot possibly run the hazard of being lost. This is because our sin was condemned in the flesh of Christ. Our sins deserve condemnation, but Paul tells us they have been condemned. Yet, not in us; we could never fully pay our debt, and therefore must suffer eternally, if we are called upon to suffer in our own persons. But Christ our sin offering accepted our condemnation in His own flesh. That is why we see that bloody form transfixed to the cross, bleeding from countless wounds and lacerations, because our sins were being condemned in His flesh. “By His stripes we are healed,” said the prophet in foretelling of our Lord’s great atoning work, and now Paul unfolds in plain language what Isaiah and his contemporaries could see but dimly with the eye of faith.

 

Murderous Attitudes

One of the most helpful aspects of our blessed Lord’s Sermon on the Mount is how He showed us that not only the blatant violation of a commandment is sin, but also those sinful attitudes which would tend toward that sin.  He did this specifically in the case of the Sixth Commandment, showing us that unjust anger, hatred, and insulting words violate God’s command not to murder.

This message, then, deals with those attitudes with which all struggle to a greater or lesser degree, which violate the principle of the Sixth Commandment.  Particularly, unjust anger is discussed, along with other sinful attitudes such as hatred, envy, and a desire for revenge.

In this one brief phrase there is contained an infinitely deep mine of spiritual riches.  I think it is no exaggeration to say that the entire message of the Christian gospel could be preached from this one phrase.  We see the truth of the incarnation in the phrase, “God, sending His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh…”  The sinlessness, the impeccability of Christ, can at least be inferred from the words “the likeness of sinful flesh.”  Praise God, it was only the likeness of sinful flesh, and not the reality.  He was truly human, but never sinful.  He looked like a man, He spoke like a man, He performed all the functions common to sinful humanity, and was in fact subject to many of the infirmities which sin has brought into the world.  Weariness,  pain, sorrow, thirst, and hunger, were all experienced by our dear Saviour.  These things are not sinful in themselves, and yet come as a result of sin, and are infirmities with which sinners must be laden.  Jesus Christ experienced all these, but was never induced by the infirmities to sin, as we so often are.

So, there is much here concerning the person of Christ.  I would suggest we can even deduce His pre-existence from hence, and even His eternal sonship, in that He, the Son, was sent.  This proves conclusively that Jesus did not become the Son of God at the point of the incarnation or His resurrection, or at some time thereafter, but dwelt in glory as the Son of God, and was sent to earth on a mission by God His Father.  Here is a treasure trove of wealth concerning the person of our Saviour, if God will but give us grace to realize it, and embrace it.

As he has so often done, when Paul makes a statement that could seem to cast the law in a negative light, he explains it in such a way as to help us to understand that the problem is never with God’s law, but always with our sinful flesh.  He speaks of what the law could not do; and in the context, he is plainly speaking of salvation.  He is stating once more the truth enunciated in verse 20 of chapter 3, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.”  The law could not justify us, but instead condemned us.

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Why so?  There are many ways in which this could have been truthfully explained in theological terms, but Paul tells us that the law could not save us because it was weak through the flesh.  At times shallow-thinking persons interpret this to be a sneer at the law, but that is very far from being the case.  If there is a sneer in this verse, it is at our flesh.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with God’s law, which is His perfect standard of righteousness.  We ought to have learned that from the 7th chapter, where in verse 12 the apostle told us that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.”  The law is weak in the matter of salvation, not because the law is bad, but because our flesh is corrupt and sinful.  Our flesh is utterly unable of its own power and volition to attain to the righteousness of the law, because it is weak through sin.  When we attempt it, we come off as nothing but dismal failures, and if we are honest must confess ourselves utterly wretched and condemned.  The law cannot save us, not because the law is an imperfect measure, but because we cannot conform to its righteous measure.

That is the bad news.  The glorious good news is that God has provided a remedy for our failure and misery.  While we are utterly destitute of any hope of saving ourselves through adherence to the law, God has stepped in to provide a solution to this problem which has confounded men throughout the ages.  The ancient patriarch Job posed the question, “How shall man be just with God?”  He knew what God required of him, yet he also knew he could not measure up to it.  We rejoice to think that Job knew at least in some measure the answer to his own question, for he professed his faith in a coming Redeemer.  It is to that Redeemer that Paul points us now, when he answers the riddle of how law-breakers can be just with God, by saying, “God, sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.”

In the second verse Paul speaks of two laws, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus,” and then “the law of sin and death.”  These could have reference either to our justification or our sanctification, but probably can be considered to include both.  These are unique phrases, and not easy to determine their precise meaning, yet they seem to be describing the controlling principle of the two great families of mankind, the saved and the lost.  Those who have been saved are saved under the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, while those who are lost remain under the law of sin and death.

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In other words, if we are indeed born again, we have been given new life, or made new creatures, in Christ, by the power of the Spirit of God.  Now we live the new life of children of God, through the abiding presence and effectual communication of grace by God the Spirit.  Those who are in this happy condition are free from the law of sin and death.  We realize that when we were lost, we were under the curse of God’s law, which pronounced condemnation upon us not out of spite, but because we were sinners, rebels against the authority and dominion of our Creator.  We were sentenced to death, not the death of the body only, but to the second death in the lake of fire.  Only through the grace of Christ, as granted to us by the efficacious operations of the Holy Spirit, have we been delivered out of that terrible state of bondage to sin and the law.  It is indeed a miserable thing to attempt to serve the law, for it can do nothing but curse and condemn us when we fail, which we do many times each day.  But Christ delivers us from the curse of the law, having been made a curse for us, and imparts spiritual life to us, so that now we no longer attempt to appease God by keeping the law, but are enabled to run in the way of His commandments, walking not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.