Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”, that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Galatians 3:13-14 NKJV
Jesus Christ died on the cross and suffered terribly to the point that the people pitied Him as One accursed. He was, in fact, cursed. He did not deserve to be cursed, and He had nothing to do with curses. Yet, He was cursed.
Why is that? He was cursed for us. That curse was meant to be ours. We were under a curse – the curse of the Law. That does not mean that the Law is accursed. The Law is sacred and full of God’s love. Yet, when we humans stand before that holy and righteous and just Law, we cannot be helpless but be cursed. This is because we are originally sinners. Therefore, sinners are accursed beings when they stand before the Law.
However, Jesus set us free from the curse of the Law. He carried the load of sin which we were carrying. The debt we were to pay to the Law, Jesus paid for us. Redemption means that He paid the price to buy us who were slaves and then set us free because we are His. In other words, we had been living as slaves all this time, but Jesus redeemed us so that we can be free. To do that, Jesus was cursed.
The Bible says that he who is hanged on a tree is cursed. Deuteronomy 21:23 says, “For he who is hanged is accursed of God.” Crucifixion was a form of punishment in the Roman Empire. Jesus received the capital punishment that the Romans could impose. Actually, in the Law also, sinners are to be punished with the highest penalty by hanging them on a tree, although it may not be a cross. Thus, Jesus was cursed according to the Law as well as the laws of the world. In other words, Jesus was crucified according to God’s Law as well as by the highest civilization at the time. Therefore, He was accursed before men and before God.
In this way, Jesus bore the curse for us so that we may receive something in Jesus Christ. What was that? What would be the opposite of a curse? God said, “I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life that you may live.” He says to choose life meaning blessing. Thus, Jesus was accursed for us so that we may receive a blessing.
This is similar to what Isaac’s wife did when she blessed her son. Her son asked her, “What if my father curses me? What happens if I am cursed while pretending to be my older brother in front of my father?” His mother said, “If he curses you, let that curse come upon me. But you be blessed.” That is exactly the heart of God. Similarly, as Jesus was crucified, it was as though He said, “I’ll take the curse, but you be blessed.”
But what is that blessing called? We know that blessings come from God. So, we may think that the blessing would be called God’s blessing or Christ’s blessing. However, the Bible calls it the blessing of Abraham. We receive the blessing of Abraham in Christ.
Why is it called the blessing of Abraham? It is because the blessing was what God promised Abraham. Until that time, such a blessing was not promised to man, but God chose Abraham for the first time and planted this blessing into him.
The Bible describes God’s promise, that is, God’s word, as a seed. It is God’s seed. Thus, the field in which God planted that seed for the first time was Abraham. Through Abraham, that came to life without dying. Abraham was a good field. Therefore, he received the word by faith, did not doubt, and kept the word to the end so that it ultimately sprouted. From it, branches grew, the stem grew, then the leaves and flowers and finally, the first fruit. From thereafter, many fruits were produced.
As a result, we have come to receive the blessing of Abraham, which is not only for the Jews but also for Gentiles to receive. What exactly is this blessing? It says that it is to receive the promise of the Holy Spirit through faith.
The promise of the Holy Spirit is simply put, the promised Holy Spirit as it says in Acts 1:4. The Holy Spirit which was promised by the Father as is written in the Book of Joel of the Old Testament, and which Jesus also promised continuously over the course of three years, right up to the moment before He ascended. ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. Do not go away far but receive the Holy Spirit in Jerusalem. Receive the Holy Spirit which the Father promised.’ The reason Jesus died on the cross was so that we may receive the promised Holy Spirit.
Therefore, if we have received the Holy Spirit, it is the confirmation that the blessing of Abraham has come inside us. The blessing of Abraham is within us. Hence, receiving the Holy Spirit does not mean He just fell down from heaven. It says, “the promised Holy Spirit.” He did not just say, “Receive the Holy Spirit,” but always said, “Receive the promised Holy Spirit.”
Although the Holy Spirit came upon man for the first time after Jesus ascended to heaven on the day of Pentecost, strangely, Jesus always said specifically to receive the promised Holy Spirit whenever He spoke of the Holy Spirit.
When He spoke about receiving power, He did not say the promised power. Yet, in regards to the Holy Spirit, He specifically said the promised Holy Spirit. The reason for this is that this was already included in the promise when God first have the promise to Abraham. Thus, He is saying to us to receive the promised Holy Spirit.
If we believe in Jesus and have received the Holy Spirit, that is not an experience limited to us as individuals. Even though we experience it happens, we have to remember when it happens that whoever has this faith has the promise God made to Abraham 4000 years ago fulfilled to them.
People constantly think that this faith belongs only to them and is a matter that applies only to them, which is why they repeatedly face failures and falls. However, this faith is historical. In other words, it is diachronic. Diachronic faith can only be had when one has an insightful perception of history.
Just because one has received the Holy Spirit and speaks in tongues, if that is all he can see, then his eyes are blind. In the same way that an eagle flies high up in the sky and sees the whole forest with one glance, we must have such a bird’s eye view. We need to realize that this is not something that we just received as ours, but it is the promise made to Abraham which has been fulfilled to us.
When we watch an athlete win the gold medal on television, to whom is the camera focused on? It is on the person who won the gold medal. And that person becomes a hero. Although viewers at home cannot see anyone else but him, insightful people will know that he is actually not the main hero. Whether it is archery or judo, the athlete does not become what he is all by himself. It is not that he or she decided, “I will go to the Olympics.” Rather, there is somebody who raised the athlete. Who is it? The coach. The athlete is the work of the coach.
Although the medal is won by the athletes themselves, the one who had the Olympics in mind and reared the athlete, encouraged and motivated to keep going when he wanted to give up to improve and finally win the gold medal, is the real hero. In fact, the gold medalist did not want to continue and wished to give up, but because the coach supported him in those moments and encouraged him, he was able to win the gold medal. Hence, the medal is the coach’s achievement. Although it is the athlete who is shown on television, there is no one happier than the coach when the match is over. The coach leaps with joy.
Yesterday the one that got a gold medal in judo was at first happy when he won gold, but perhaps it felt surreal. Yet, as he went down from the stadium and saw how happy his coach was, that is when he started to cry and hugged the coach. And later, he bowed to the coach on the ground. Watching that for me was the highlight.
I have watched shooting sports and other games, but none of the athletes were like him. Even in shooting, the real hero is the coach who helped and trained the athletes, but the coach is not given any special treatment, and the athletes hardly mention their coach. But with this athlete in judo, he hugged his coach multiple times and then bowed to the ground to his coach. On television which is broadcast throughout the world, he demonstrated that he knows what he is doing and what the gold medal means.
Similarly, people think of receiving the Holy Spirit at the present time as just them who received it or a person living in Singildong that received the Holy Spirit. However, in order for this to happen, if Abraham had not made the choice he made 4000 years ago, this blessing could not have come to us.
Likewise, if Jesus did not die for us on the cross 2000 years ago, this blessing could not have come to us. Also, if God had not given prophecies about faith through the prophets of old, all of this would have nothing to do with us. If there were not those prophets and even Abraham in the Old Testament, even if the Holy Spirit did come to us, how would we possibly know that it is the Holy Spirit, not a demon? Then, it would only lead to mysticism.
However, our faith has been growing since around 4000 years ago. Finally, the fruit came forth, and we got to eat that fruit today. We got to eat that fruit 4000 years later, but we must think about the person who planted that seed 4000 years ago as well as the field, which was the good soil back then, which all finally led to what we have today.
Hence, this is not a subjective event that concerns only us; it is a historical event. Countless objective histories have yielded us the fruit. Therefore, there is no doubt about it. It is not a subjective experience of ours only. There are countless evidences to back it up; there are many records of the past, testimonies and people with their experiences, and finally, Jesus Christ who gave up His life for this. Then, there are witnesses who testified about that; many people have shed their blood to preach about this. A great number of people even came to Korea and died while preaching the gospel to finally come to us.
This gospel came such a long way to get to us so that we received grace and the Holy Spirit. Yet, people are not even grateful towards the person that directly preached the gospel to them. They completely forget about them – how earnestly they prayed, how much effort and work they put into raising them. After growing a bit and doing well, they think it is all by their own work and cleverness. They do not think about the tremendous past histories.
But we were able to receive this faith today because of all the wondrous works that were done. Thus, our faith is not subjective nor spontaneous but historical. Hence, people without a historical viewpoint cannot have this faith. We need a historical perspective.
So, what is faith? Faith is not a feeling of joy, nor is it something that lights our hearts with fire when we read the Bible.
Everything Jesus did was prophesied by the prophets. Therefore, everything we have experienced in Jesus was prophesied by the prophets. Thus, whether all the prophecies of the Old Testament were true and fulfilled can be confirmed through the life of Jesus Christ – if His life coincides with them or not.
And when we check, we find that they do coincide! How can the words written 2000 years ago be fulfilled through one man 2000 years later? And how can the words of Jesus be fulfilled upon us 2000 years later in the present time? Do they really come to fulfilment? The Bible says that they will be fulfilled by those who believe. So, when we have believed and obeyed, we see that the words are fulfilled to us. That is why we believe in the Bible. We believe in the truthfulness of the Bible. The Bible is not any ordinary book; it is a holy book. We can believe that the Bible does truly come to fulfilment.
In this book, of which all the words are fulfilled, it says that we will be saved, that we will receive eternal life, and that we will go to heaven. So, even though we have not yet gone to heaven, we believe we will. It is as though there were 100 prophecies, and we believe 99 of them were fulfilled. Thus, the remaining one we can be sure will also be accomplished even if we have not yet seen it. We believe because there is evidence, not because the word lights our hearts on fire every time we read it. We are not weird people who say, “I can’t seem to receive God’s word these days,” just because our hearts are not burning when we read the word.
There are some strange people who say, “I can’t seem to pray nowadays.” It is obvious that these people have been praying the wrong way. I do not understand by what they mean when they say that they are unable to pray. These people say this because they think that prayer needs to be accompanied by some sort of emotion, some experiential feeling, so that when they do not have that feeling and it seems like they are praying towards a wall, they cannot pray. These people believed that their prayers would be delivered and answered only when such feelings accompanied their prayer. Hence, all of their prayers had been done in vain, for they had been praying with their own self-belief.
You do not pray because of some feeling that comes upon you; you earnestly supplicate before the Lord, believing in His promises. “Lord, send me angels to help me do the works I am about to do today. Strengthen me with more power!” When I pray like this, there is no particular feeling. However, I have asked, and it was according to Jesus’ promise that I asked. Then, I am sure that Jesus heard me and that He will answer. That is what prayer is about, and that is how you ask.
People think that they need to feel something like an emotion when they pray and, therefore, feel refreshed afterwards when they pray. So, some people pray not to deliver their prayers to God but to feel relieved in their hearts. Thus, if they do not go to the prayer room, their hearts feel stuffy, or if they have not prayed for a while, they feel heavy in their heart. They think of it like how your body feels sluggish if you do not exercise. Actually, if you do not exercise for a month, you will feel sluggish. So, people go to the prayer rooms and cry out “Jesus! Jesus!” for an hour and feel refreshed afterwards.
Instead, they should try going to the mountains and shouting, “Hey!” That will make them feel better. Or go to the field and run for an hour. That will improve blood circulation throughout the body, and the lungs will open up and feel great. In that case, praying in the prayer room for an hour and running outdoors for an hour will be no different. Then, funny enough, they will feel refreshed even without praying. Such people do not pray until they feel stuffy and frustrated. We are not praying to make our hearts feel better and refreshed but to deliver our requests to the Lord.
Before I came to believe in Jesus, I used to sing a lot of pop songs while playing the guitar. After singing like that, I felt relieved of stress, and my heart was refreshed. On top of that, if I have a glass of drink or soju and yell, “Ah~” it feels even better. So, why do people not do that instead of singing hymns? People do not even know what faith is and live a faith life that has nothing to do with God’s promises.
So then, how can you receive faith? When someone asks, “Please give me faith,” they ask to lay hands to receive faith. That is being a fool. How can you receive faith by laying hands of head? They do not know about faith. Where does faith come from? Faith comes from hearing the message. Where does hearing come from? It comes from the message of the word of Christ. It comes for the word of Christ. So, the entire Bible prophesied about Christ. Therefore, we have to know the prophecies of the Bible and confirm the fulfilment of those prophecies. That is faith. Thus, we have to know prophecies and confirm, that is faith. And if we believe, then let the word of Jesus’ prophecy be fulfilled in us. That is the experience, not something else. Thus, we need to have faith with a solid foundation. Let us pray that we can have faith with a solid foundation.
God our Father, grant us grace and be merciful upon us. Help us to have faith to confirm and believe that every prophecy in the Bible was fulfilled through Jesus Christ. For God’s every word is surely fulfilled, help us to have the faith through which we experience the words of Jesus coming to fulfilment. Help us to have faith in a solid foundation so that everything we build upon this foundation does not collapse but continues to rise higher and higher. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Sermon by Pastor Ki-Taek Lee
The Director of Sungrak Mission Center
Sermon on August 2, 2012
Translated by Sungrak Mission Center English Team