As everyone enters this back-to-school season, it reminded me of my school years. We were taught the 3 Rs: reading, (w)riting, and (a)rithmetic. And again this year, the tax-free weekends, the teacher’s in-service days, the school crosswalks being freshly painted, and classroom decorating all tell us that school is starting now.
Did you ever stop to consider what the three Rs of Christianity might be?
Just like school is a never-ending process, so is growing in Christ and living out what we learn from Him. So, let’s look at the three Rs of Christianity. They are:
- Reconciliation; and
Do you remember the old songs we used to sing about how we are “redeemed” by the blood of the Lamb? Almost everyone has heard that word. And yet, if you asked the modern saint what REDEMPTION means, I wonder if you would even get an answer. Or perhaps the saint would ask, “Redeemed from what?”
The words “redeem” and “redemption” mean “to buy back, to repurchase, or to set free.”
The Old Testament gives an ordinance which is a great picture of the coming redemption of mankind through Christ. Leviticus chapter 25 gives several scenarios of someone being sold as a slave, yet God gives provisions in order to redeem that person. For example:
- A near relative could pay the amount and redeem the slave.
- If they were Hebrew, then the price of his or her release would be set according to the number of years left until the Year of Jubilee (and the Jubilee happened every 50 years).
- Another example was on the Day of Atonement, when the High Priest would sacrifice an animal. He would then take the blood into the Holy of Holies (which represented God’s presence) and sprinkle it on the altar annually for Israel’s price of redemption.
The New Testament also provides pictures of redemption in many of Jesus’ parables.
Jesus stated, “the kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and hid; and for joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.” In another parable, Jesus says, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it.” Likewise, the Father invested “all” when He gave His only Son to redeem mankind.
When I was a little girl, I remember hearing the word “redeem” at the stores.
Certain stores would distribute S & H green stamps with every purchase. Large stamps represented a dollar spent, and smaller stamps would be issued for every ten cents spent. Three large stamps or 30 small stamps filled one page of the redemption booklet.
When you finally had several booklets filled with stamps, then you would drive to the S & H Green Stamp Redemption Center and trade the stamps for merchandise–such as an electric can opener, a steam iron, dishes, silverware, etc.
All the previous examples of buying things back–and the prototypes in Scripture–are only temporary and not eternal.
They are only pictures pointing to Christ. But Jesus paid the price for you and me to be redeemed by His own blood which He shed on the cross. He shed His blood and then offered it on the true altar in the real sanctuary in heaven–making the payment one time and for all of mankind.
The writer of Hebrews says it succinctly:
“But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption” (Hebrews 9:11-12).
PRAISE GOD! Jesus bought us back with His own blood, once and for all – no stamps needed. 🙂
The next “R” of Christianity is “reconciliation.”
To “reconcile” means “to settle an indifference or a quarrel, to make compatible, or to bring into harmony or balance.” When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, we humans were estranged from our relationship with God, our Creator.
The Father made several attempts to bring us back to Himself, such as:
- establishing the Old Testament sacrificial system;
- sending prophets to warn Israel of their sinful ways; and
- lastly, providing the ultimate gift of Jesus to bring us back to the Father by shedding His own blood.
Paul expounds on this masterfully in his letter to the Romans, saying:
“For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:6-10).
Praise God, again! We can now draw near to God without fear or torment.
Paul also wrote to the Corinthians:
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).
In other words, since God has reconciled us to Himself, we are now responsible to reconcile relationships and other things in our lives.
In Paul’s day, the great divide was between Jews and Gentiles. He addresses this issue to the Ephesian church, saying that Christ “Himself is our peace … and has broken down the wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity … to create in Himself one new man … that He might reconcile them both to God” (Ephesians 2:14-16).
Friend, our world today is splintered and in need of God’s reconciliation.
There are divisions between rich and poor, white and black, Republican and Democrat, educated and uneducated, straight and LGBT, sanctity of life and right to choose, not to mention the morass of gender identity. We, as the church, should be the shining example of reconciliation in all these areas.
Only by the power of the Holy Spirit and the blood of Christ can we be reconciled. The world does not and will never have the solutions. We are created by Him, for Him, and in His image. Plus, it is in Him that everything fits together and holds together (see Colossians 1:16-17).
Remember, He is our peace and He has broken down every wall of separation. People of God, let us unite in the love of Christ and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be a true example of reconciliation.
The last R of Christianity is “resurrection.”
All resurrections are not the same. Does that shock you? There are three resurrections recorded during the earthly ministry of Jesus, but all the people who were resurrected eventually died again. Jesus, however, was resurrected from the dead, and is alive forevermore!
The first mention in the New Testament of the word “resurrection” is when the Sadducees question Jesus concerning seven brothers who were married to the same woman. They wanted to know whose wife she would be in heaven. His reply was:
“You are mistaken, not knowing the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like the angels of God in heaven.
But concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was spoken to you by God saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matthew 22:29-32).
In other words, through the wisdom and power of God, there will be new and greater relationships in Heaven that transcend the physical ones on Earth because of the resurrection.
Later, Paul told the Corinthians that Christ has indeed “risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep” (1 Corinthians 15:20). Thus, we have hope in our own resurrection.
What is this hope?
Paul says that our hope in resurrection is that our physical body will be:
- Sown in corruption, but raised in incorruption;
- Sown in dishonor, but raised in honor and glory;
- Sown in weakness, but raised in power;
- Sown a natural body, but raised a spiritual body;
- Sown bearing the image of the man of dust (Adam), but raised bearing the image of the heavenly Man (Jesus).
Also, Paul gives us a living hope that we will not all die (fall asleep), but some will be instantly changed if we are alive when the last trumpet sounds. The Bible says:
“For the Lord Himself will descent from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore, comfort one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
Friends, that final resurrection will be the perfect resurrection.
That final resurrection will accomplish full redemption and bring complete reconciliation. So, look up and cheer up! Your redemption, reconciliation, and resurrection draws near.