EASTER MESSAGE 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Written and Presented by His Lordship:  The Right Rev. Dr. Elijah Dennis Ejila. Presiding Bishop King Jesus Ministries Inc.

Lamin Village, Kombo North, WCR, The Gambia

9877271, Email ejilakings@yahoo.com

EASTER IN THE LIGHT OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION 500 YEARS

 

Bible Reading

 “They brought Jesus to a place called Golgotha they offered Him wine mixed with mirrh, but He did not take it.  And when they had crucified Him, they parted His garments costing lots upon them when.  What every man should take and it was the third hour and they crucified him and Jesus cried with a loud voice and gave up the ghost.  And the veil of the temple was rent in two from the top to the bottom” Mark 15: 22-25,37,38;

 “But he said to them, Do not be alarm you seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen. He is not here. See the place where they laid Him”. Mark 16:6. “He(Jesus Christ) who was delivered up because of our transgression and was raised because of our justification”. Romans 4: 25.

“But God demonstrated His own love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him” Romans 5: 8-9.

INTRODUCTION

We give thanks to God Almighty who in His graciousness and benevolence enables us to witness another Easter in an atmosphere of peace and tranquility in The Gambia. As we therefore begin to celebrate the death, burial and resurrection of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ it becomes necessary to once again reflect on the truth and on the main significance of Easter.

In this year`s Easter Message, I would want to re-focus on what the true meaning of Easter is to us as Evangelical Christians. And as such we shall reminiscence on the great Protestant reformation that eventually led to the multiplications of various denominational groupings within the Christian faith.

It is now exactly 500 years when Martin Luther the great German Priest and Professor of theology launched what later turned out to be the protestant reformation.

On October 1st 1517 Luther nailed a copy of his 95 Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Castle Church.  The 95 Theses, later would become the foundation of what become known as the protestant reformation.

The foundation of Professor Martin Luther’s work was however laid by the early church philosopher St Augustine (340-430) who emphasis the supremacy of the Holy Bible and who also taught in his writings that humans could not reach eternal salvation by their own acts, but that only God could bestow salvation by his divine grace, this was contrary to the belief held then by the “established Church” as it was, that salvation was possible only through good works of righteousness that is pleasing to God and that salvation could be maintained through paying of penance or punishment for the mistakes and wrongs that one does.

The first two of the Theses contained Luther’s central idea that God intended believers to seek repentance and that faith alone, and not deeds, would lead to Salvation.

Actually the reality of what Christ’s death accomplish for us as Christian believers mirrors exactly the central message of the protestant reformation hence the need to reaffirm once again “that Christ Jesus was delivered up and crucified for our sins and that He was raised for our justification”. Romans 4:25

Isaiah 53:10-11. “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him, he hath put him to grief. When thou shall make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hands. He shall see of the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied, by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many, for he shall bear their iniquities”.

The Easter narrative focus on two major parts namely the events leading to Christ physical death on the Cross, His Burial and His Resurrection.

 

WHY CHRIST DIED ON THE CROSS

The Holy Scripture from where we draw our authority has made it very clear that the purpose for which Christ came to the world and died on the cross is for the atonement of sins.

The Evangelical community plans to converge in Wittenberg in Berlin Germany in late May 2017 in what is known as “Deutscher Evangelischer Kirchentag” during this time, events of various kinds will be staged, from biblical and secular lectures to arts like music, drama and dance. It is an event that hopes to attract well over 140,000 participants from all around the world. Top political office holders past and present who share in the evangelical faith are expected to grace this occasion.

During this celebration focus will be on the gains, challenges and the future prospect of the reformation 500 years after.  The reformation has over the years touched on every aspects of life of the ordinary Christian world-wide.

It is not coincident that the Kirchentag is taking place 39 days after Easter and exactly 11 days to Pentecost, this is so because the evangelical message of the reformation is more properly communicated by the events that happened from Good Friday to Easter Monday, which has always been and will remain so, that “the eternal Salvation of a sinner is obtained through faith by grace alone without any human merit”. And this was the reason Easter happened.

Today which is 500 years after, we among the Protestants and especially modern day Evangelicals and Pentecostals and some other groups who are referred to as the holiness movement are still discussing and grappling with the theological challenging argument that was once settled by the Reformation. And this is in regards to what qualifies a sinner to obtain eternal salvation. Questions such as these are still been asked. “Is the salvation of the sinner wrought through human works of Righteousness?, Are we saved from the damnation of hell through our good works of charity? Can our salvation be lost in the cause of our life’s journey? What does Apostle James meant when he wrote thus “Faith without works is dead” James 2:26, was he contradicting Apostle Paul who in his letter to the Galatians wrote thus “By the deeds of the law shall no man be justified” Galatians. 2:16. Time and space will not permit me to do an exhaustive theological discuss on these topics but I intend to establish once and again that what brought about the reformation beside other equally important theological issues was more of the need to establish with scholarly evidence the facts that the eternal salvation of the sinner is obtained by grace through faith in Christ alone without any human merit. And this I must say is exactly the reason Easter happened.

 “that no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are you in Christ Jesus who became for us wisdom from God and righteousness and sanctification and redemption”. 1 Corinthians 1:29-30

“For God so loved the world and he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life” John 3:16.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of ourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man boast”. Eph.2:8- 9.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done but according to his mercy he saved us……… which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life”. Titus 3:5

In our efforts and struggles to distance the Christian faith from the moral failures of believers through Puritan’s ideologies and to present a pure, blameless and “undefiled bride” to the world.  We have ended up miss-representing the meaning of Christ’s mission on the cross. Especially the suffering, the insult, the pain of the crucifixion and the glorious resurrection.

Apostle Paul in his treatise to the Galatians wrote thus.

“I do not frustrate the grace of God but if righteousness come by the law then Christ is dead in vain”. Gal.2: 21

What we must come to accept is that there are two parts to the Christian experience.  First is the Salvation experience or what the scripture term as the new birth or regeneration or spiritual adoption, it is also known as Redemption.

This takes place at the moment of salvation it is freely given to a sinner who puts his/her faith in Christ, it is not given on the account of ones works or will it be retained on the ability to keep the promises of Christ likeness.

This gift of eternal life or salvation cannot be lost; it cannot be improved upon. It is entirely the work of God which He wrought in Christ at Easter.

This is the reason Christ died on Good Friday and Resurrected on Easter Sunday.  It is to make salvation absolutely free.  This is what apostle Paul advocated in all his epistles, he nor any of the other biblical writers never contradicted themselves in their presentations and this is what Professor Martin Luther saw and communicated to his audience 500 years ago and this is what am advocating today that, “The just shall live by faith”. Galatians 3:11.

The second part of the Christian experience is the execution of the spiritual life.  Many of the scriptural instructions given in the Holy Bible to live a godly and a practically holy life falls within this category.

A child born into a family may lose his inheritance at the end of the day if he continually fails to represent the family values and norms but he/she will not receive a blood transfusion so as not to be identified as a permanent member of that family. If salvation is not on merit then, it cannot be lost. 

Romans 11:29. “For the gift and calling of God is irreversible”

I will like to quote from Wayne Grudem book on Systematic Theology page 724.

“In Gods legal declaration of justification, he specifically declares that we are just in His sight………………….This is what Martin Luther so clearly saw and this is what gave such motivation to the reformation when the good news of the gospel truly became the good news of totally free salvation in Jesus Christ………….. In God legal declaration of justification, he specifically declares that we are just  in his sight.  This declaration involves two aspects.  First, it means that he declares that we have no penalty for sin, including past, present and future”.

As we celebrate Christ Death, Burial and Resurrection an event whose main message is all about unconditional forgiveness and acceptance into the family of God. I want to urge us all to walk in the light of this message and may God who sent His Son Jesus Christ to come and pay the penalty of our sins so that we can receive eternal salvation free of charge. May He grant to us the grace to forgive one another and to extend love and national reconciliation through Jesus Christ Lord and Saviour.

We pray for his Excellency the President of the Republic and all His Ministers That God will continually protect them and grant to them the wisdom and knowledge to lead this nation to prosperity. We pray for the newly elected members of the national Assembly for God’s continual protection, and guardians as they make laws for the overall benefit of the nation.

I wish you all a Happy Easter Celebration.