Salvation from sin and death

guildhall

Criminal Convictions

The original Guildhall at Lichfield probably goes back even further than 1421, the first recorded date. It was known to be the meeting place of the guild of St Mary and St John which was founded in 1387, hence its name the “Guildhall.” And the later use of part of the building as a prison is enough to send a chill down one’s spine. For in the times in question there was little mercy shown to suspected criminals; the only protection from the weather was the bars which prevented their escape!

The church also had little tolerance for any who deviated from their rigid and unbiblical dogma, a relic of which times stands in the Lichfield Market Place – it is a statue of the last ‘Christian’ to be burned at the stake for his non conformity. The whole picture is one of the dominance of human nature, man’s cruelty, intolerance and projection of self. But it is also a picture of man’s imprisonment to sin.

Prisoners All

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Here the picture is even more striking. In those far off days, only those who were suspected of criminal charges were imprisoned. In fact, then as now, every one of us is imprisoned by sin at birth. Here are some Scriptures that make that very point:

“The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies” (Psalm 58:3);

“Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51:5);

The apostle Paul confirms this when, after reviewing Old Testament teaching, he concludes:

As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. They have all gone out of the way; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one” (Romans 3:10-12), and “You … were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world ... among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:1-3).

Convicted and Condemned

At the Guildhall there was a court of kinds at which offenders were tried before being pronounced either “guilty” or “not guilty.” But what about the man or woman who is captivated by sin from birth? Is he or she to be condemned to death with no hope of deliverance? Is it to be a life in the stocks for them, or for us?

Once again the issue is quite clear when we let the Bible speak for itself. Here’s the apostle Paul again, not now analysing the problem but outlining the solution:

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Somehow the sinner – and that expression includes everybody, since there is nobody who is righteous in the sight of God – must meet God’s terms of deliverance to receive the gift of everlasting life. Note that everlasting life is not something earned, it is a gift. It is not in the first instance a matter of good works, though they will come in later. It is a result of the initiative God has taken to rescue mankind from the prison house of sin:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

It is a matter that requires our understanding and belief that Jesus was given by God to be our Saviour and that he died to save us from our sins! Provided we believe we can be saved from sin and be set free from its power. The apostle John explains the two sides to this:

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3:36).

If we do not accept God’s gift of His Son, and do not believe in him, the anger of God will be directed towards us. But when we believe we can escape those consequences and be set free, for God is offering us eternal life.

Pardoned and Released

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The Bible has some very comforting words for those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophet Isaiah tells us of one who was to come who would:

“Open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the prison, those who sit in darkness from the prison house” (Isaiah 42:7).

Again he writes prophetically of one who would say this to the prisoners:

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound” (61:1).

Although salvation is the gift of God to all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, it is not without cost. Jesus had first to suffer for the sins of men, and it is said of him:

“He was taken from prison and from judgment, and who will declare his generation? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgressions of my people he was stricken” (53:8).

That’s the wonderful message of the gospel. Jesus bore our sins to the cross so that we might be released from the prison house of sin and enjoy the freedom which leads to everlasting life. 


A version of this article was published in Glad Tidings magazine. You can subscribe to receive a free copy of the Glad Tidings magazine each month by clicking on the logo below.

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