The Apostle Paul, writing to the Galatians described the work of our Lord Jesus Christ, saying He “gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.” (Galatians 1:4; ESV) This is in harmony with the prophecy delivered by God prior to the birth of Jesus: “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21; ESV)
Deliverance is one of the great themes of the Bible and repeatedly we are given example after example of God working to deliver His people, all culminating in the work of Jesus, the great deliverer who came into this world to save us from sin and provide an escape from the pain and suffering caused by sin. When the Bible gives us these illustrations of what Deliverance is all about, it helps us to better understand the mission of Christ.
For example, one of the great forerunners of Christ, typifying what it means to be a deliverer, is Moses, whom God sent to deliver His people from bondage in Egypt. Not coincidentally, Egypt itself in the Biblical text becomes typical of a sinners bondage to sin and the world, for just as the people were slaves in Egypt, subject to hard taskmasters, so too are men held captives by sin (cf. Romans 6:16-17). God, seeing His people in their pitiable condition, had mercy on them and commissioned Moses to free them, which Moses did. As the Book of Exodus tells us, Moses confronted Pharaoh, and empowered by God, ultimately led the Israelites out of Egypt.
It is noteworthy that when God delivered the people from Egypt, He did so by removing them from the situation they were in. He did not leave them in Egypt, but instead placed them on a journey towards the promised land of Canaan.
This is important because when Jesus frees us from our bondage to sin, He does not free us by leaving us in that sinful situation, but rather calls us to leave sin and begin a journey towards our heavenly home. You cannot remain in sin while also being delivered from sin. Thus the call of Christ to the people of His generation, and to us still today, is, “repent.” As Jesus preached, His constant message was, “repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17).” Following His death, burial and resurrection, Jesus commissioned His followers to preach “repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Luke 24:47)” in His name. And as the apostles responded to men asking what they needed to do, they answered them saying, “repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38).”
Repentance is a decision to turn away from what was before, and to head in a new direction. Just as the Israelites left Egypt, so too God wants us to have a desire to leave sin. Too many think that the deliverance Jesus offers is sin without consequences, but in reality, Jesus is offering us a life without sin.
After the Israelites left Egypt, some of them had regrets. They looked back and thought it would be better to still be in bondage and slaves (cf. Numbers 11:4-6, 14:1-4, etc.). God wasn’t pleased with them when they did that and He isn’t too happy with those today, who having been delivered by His Son out of sin, look back and long for the comforts of that which brought them death. Christians can do the same thing, choosing to go back to that from which they were delivered. To the Galatians, Paul wrote, “Formerly, when you did not know God, you were enslaved to those that by nature are not gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more? (Galatians 4:8-9; ESV)” Concerning this, Jesus said, “no one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the Kingdom of God (Luke 9:62).
The point of all of this is that the deliverance Jesus offers is more than just the forgiveness of those things we have done wrong, though forgiveness itself is no small thing (cf. Ephesians 1:7). But more than just a washing from our sins, Jesus offers us a life free from sin, and the power of sin, if we will choose to follow Him. Such a life, unshackled and unweighted by the burdens of iniquity is a life of true freedom, and a life of true peace, a peace that the world, in its bondage, cannot know (cf. Romans 3:16-17).
For those who long for such a life, the church of Christ invites you to come worship and study with us to learn more at 234 Chapel Drive, Gallipolis, Ohio. Likewise, if you have any questions or comments, we invite you to share them with us at chapelhillchurchofchrist.org.
Jonathan McAnulty is minister of Chapel Hill Church of Christ.