KEY THOT: When Joseph discovered that his wife Mary was pregnant before their marriage was consummated, he decided to divorce her quietly so as not to shame her. While he was considering this option, an angel appeared to him in a dream to tell him that Mary's conception was not a result of infidelity but a supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. And Joseph was to give Mary's son the name Jesus, for "he will save his people from their sins" (v.21). In fact, the name Jesus is the Greek transliteration of the Hebrew name, Joshua (or Yeshua). Yeshua means literally "Yahweh is salvation". Jesus came to save us from sin residing within us. Humanity's problem is not economic (lacking money) nor educational (lacking knowledge) but ethical (lacking morals). Hell is not our problem; sin is. Hell is the fruit and sin is the root.
But why does Jesus need to save us from sin? We may summarize Jesus' mission as saving humanity from the penalty of sin, the power of sin and the presence of sin.
- Penalty of Sin: Sin has consequences. We cannot break God's moral laws with impunity. Ezekiel describes the consequence of sin starkly: "the soul who sins shall die" (Ezekiel 18:4). Paul states the same truth in a different way: "For the wages of sin is death" (Romans 6:23a). While we usually associate death in Ezekiel 18:4 with physical death and death in Romans 6:23a as spiritual death, they are basically the same thing: sin separates us from God who is the source of life. This separation from life will simply result in death. It's like a computer with its power plug removed from the mains. It can still work for a while, but sooner or later, the battery will go flat and the computer "dies". Jesus came to save us from the penalty of death by reconnecting us back to God who is the Source of eternal life: "but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 6:23b).
- Power of Sin: Sin not only cuts us off from God's life; sin also puts us in the domain of darkness under Satan's power. Once we are cut off from God's life, we are expelled from God's kingdom into Satan's kingdom. We lose the freedom that is ours in His kingdom to do what He has designed us to do--to bear fruits of righteousness. Instead, under Satan's rule of darkness we come under bondage to the power of sin and could only engage in works of darkness: lying, stealing, coveting, worshiping false gods and idols, dishonoring God's name, engaging in sexual immorality, and also dishonoring parents. Jesus came to deliver us from this domain of darkness into his kingdom where He rules as our new Lord and King: "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins" (Colossians 1:13-14).
- Presence of Sin: Having been transferred out of the bondage of darkness into the power of the Spirit's environment marked by righteousness, peace and joy, sin's presence begins to be rooted out as we repent, confess and walk by the Spirit daily. When we were baptised, the sinful flesh was crucified and sin's power is broken. While sin's presence is still embedded in our flesh, it has no power to dictate our behaviour if we walk by the Spirit. As we choose daily to obey the Word of God and listen to the voice of the Spirit, sin's presence is slowly being eradicated as we are transformed into Christ-likeness marked by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control: "And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit" (2 Corinthians 3:18). A church with a weak theology of the Spirit is also one where members see themselves only as "forgiven sinners" instead of conquering saints who are being transformed into Christ's image from one degree of glory to another.
And all this work of salvation is made possible through Christ's atoning sacrifice at the cross. For it is through his death that sin's penalty, power and presence are broken in us once for all.
Father, thank You that Jesus came to save us from our sins and not just to model perfection. He takes us from where we were to be where He is. Amen.