In this third message from Matthew’s Gospel we see that God intervenes in this world.
In the first message, we found that God has chosen a people for himself; and in the second, we saw that God is in control of world events. In this third we see that God indeed intervenes in the affairs of mankind to pursue a particular purpose.
His purpose – and his purpose alone – are all that ultimately matters.
The final verses of Matthew chapter one talk about the conception and naming of Jesus Christ. They testify that God intervened to direct the entire course of history.
Imagine the history of the world without Jesus Christ. No Christian Bible; no Christian Faith; no Christian Church.
The most significant religious event in human history would not have happened. Its incalculable influence removed, and the world we know a totally different place.
Matthew tells us that the coming of Christ fulfilled a centuries old prophecy by the prophet Isaiah. Only God could predict, only God could fulfill that prediction centuries later.
Only Scriptures inspired by God could record such truth.
Matthew records an angelic visitation and the message the angel brought. Again divine intervention: Mary’s child was conceived by the Holy Spirit – by God himself.
Divine intervention in the every day events of this world. Divine intervention with a purpose.
That purpose is explained in the 21st verse where the divine revelation and the divine instruction is explicit:
Thou shalt call his name, JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.
God’s purpose is to save human beings from their self centred lives lost in sin. Jesus SHALL save his people from their sins. Not maybe, nor could, but shall save his people from their sins.
God guarantees it. God himself is going to do it. God himself comes in the form of human flesh to teach the way to accomplish this saving [or salvation]. God himself shows the way in the life which Jesus lived and in the self sacrificial death he died. God himself is the power behind this message – the power to live the life God requires his people to live.
That fundamental and essential new life style was explained by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 12 and 13:
work out your own salvation with fear and trembling for it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure
Again we see that God intervenes. God intervenes daily in the affairs of mankind. and he intervenes constantly in the lives of his people.
And God does so with a very particular purpose: to make them holy
Holy means separate and therefore different from the world. Separate from in order to be dedicated to God himself – to live as God says; to live to serve God’s purposes.
That journey starts with accepting
- who Jesus is, and
- who we are – sinners in need of Jesus Christ to save us from our hell deserving sin
That journey starts with believing about Jesus Christ – believing that we need Jesus Christ to save us from our sins.
If you do not fundamentally believe that – and act on it – then you are not saved; you do not belong to God – you are not a member of the true, spiritual church.
Not according to the explicit teaching of God’s word in the New Testament.
But if you do believe it, you will respond to it. You will obey Jesus Christ.
Having understood who Jesus is, and having understood that no-one – and nothing else – can save you from your sin, you will see your dependence.
It is in this sense of dependence that we know our need to do what Jesus says.
The first command he gives to those who will follow him, those who will obey him is this:
BE BAPTISED !
Full immersion in water. The first outward act of obedience. An act which symbolises the washing away of our sins. And done in faith will indeed seal that reality to you.
This requirement for baptism in Christ’s Commission to the Apostles separates wishful thinkers from those who really do believe. From those with Biblical faith – that is faith that comes from God, not us.
The gift of faith. Yet another act of divine intervention.
Baptism sorts out wishful thinkers from genuine believers. They know their sinfulness; they know they need the Saviour Jesus Christ; they know that from hereon, he alone has the right to be Master and Lord in their lives. That self must die; that the ways of the self centred and materialistic world must give place to the superior and vital claim of Christ on their lives.
When we go down into the waters of baptism, believing that Christ died for us to save us from our sins, we identify with his death on the cross. And when rise up out of the waters, we identify with his resurrection from the dead.
Done in genuine God given faith in Jesus Christ and what he did, this act seals us as true disciples of Jesus Christ, saved by his work on the Cross.
Only then do we know the power of God to live this new life in Christ – to walk in newness of life ever after. That is what the apostle Paul told the Romans in chapter 6.
That newness of life is real; that newness of life is our new life; the one we are required to live in, and live out, for the rest of our natural lives in this physical world.
That new life is living by the Holy Spirit – a life lived continually turning away from sin and self to live as God wants us to live.
Dead to sin but alive to Jesus Christ.
As the apostle Paul goes on in chapter 6 of his letter to the Romans to say:
Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.