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The Death Knot

“Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and demonstrating that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus whom I preach to you is the Christ.”.

Acts 17:1-3.

“Now while Paul waited for them at Athens, his spirit was provoked within him when he saw that the city was given over to idols. Therefore he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and with the Gentile worshipers, and in the marketplace daily with those who happened to be there.  Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him. And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection.”

Acts 17:16-18.

In the Book of Acts, Paul preached the gospel to Jews and Gentiles. Whether Paul himself realized it at the time or not, he was, in fact, at the epicenter of a universal conflict. This conflict concerned the eternal future of man (Adam and Eve including their offspring), and the key “parties” in this conflict were all those who heard the gospel of God and had to make decisions, both Jews and Gentiles.

But men themselves do not know that their lives and their future are locked in a “death knot” by Satan through sin.

This “death knot” is that, on one hand, the gospel of God is necessary for man (the door to his eternal destiny and future), but on the other, it is precisely the gospel of God that man finds impossible to believe.

Man’s heart is tied in a knot, and he does not realize its critical and dangerous nature.

This knot is not only tight, but it will become even tighter if one pulls it according to one’s own feelings and logic. It is a death knot.

This knot is not a coincidence, but an elaborate ruse of Satan, which uses “sin” to tighten the two things that appear contradictory (but should not be) and become irreconcilable in man’s heart.

Because of the consequences of sin, man cannot do without the gospel of God, for there is only one end for sinners without the gospel of God, namely, eternal death; but at the same time, because of sin, it is precisely the gospel that man cannot believe, for sin blinds and distorts the heart of man, so that the heart of man is alien to the nature and love of God.

So much so that, when man hears the true gospel, he finds it repulsive and impossible to believe, and may even turn hostile against it.

What is this gospel that people react to in such a way?

The most basic point of God’s gospel is, “This Jesus is the Christ” and “Jesus died and rose again.” The first part is offensive to Jews and strange to Gentiles, but the second part is ridiculous to both Jews and Gentiles.

“This Jesus is the Christ” is the gospel of God to those Jews who sincerely wait for Christ. Christ is the Messiah, which means “the anointed one”, the Savior who is to come. A true Jew must be waiting for Christ, for this is the core of their nation-state faith and the only future they hope for. God had repeatedly promised and foretold from Moses, Joshua, and later the prophets that Christ would come.

The Jews at the time of Jesus waited for the coming of Christ. But when the Christ of God did come, they could not believe, and not only did not believe, but they were so offended and killed him. Because of their sinful heart (self-centered and selfish to say the least), they could not believe that the Christ they were waiting for and hoping for would be one without majesty and honor but only suffering and weakness (weakness even unto death). Although the Old Testament of the Jews prophesied that the Messiah would suffer, die as a victim, and be offered as a sacrifice, man could not accept it because it was contrary to his sinful nature.

The carnal Jews liked to see Christ as a mighty King who came to save Israel from the rule of the Roman Empire. They rejected the truth that God’s only solution to the problem of man’s sin was for the suffering Christ to bear the sins of all men.

This was the “death knot” that Satan had made in the hearts of Jews.

“Jesus died and rose again” is the gospel of God to the Gentiles who sincerely hope for life. A person whose conscience toward God is not dead, whose intuition tells him that death is a tragedy, and not a normal one, has hope in his heart for eternity. (The word “conscience” here refers to the conscience given by God, which is not the same as the moral conscience of man; see “The conscience.)

The good news from the true and only God who created all things must be such news that transcends any man-made hopes and must have something to do with eternity.

Therefore, the Gentiles are also looking forward to it.

However, because of man’s sinful nature, man likes to hear about esoteric religious theories, but does not like and cannot believe in the objective and concrete fact that God has sent a Savior, died for sinners, risen from the dead, and has accomplished salvation. To the natural man, the story of God’s salvation for man is weak, and offensive, and makes man uncomfortable because of its unequivocal and definite condemnation of sin. Man does not appreciate the fact that God Himself bore the condemnation of sin for man in grace, but rather rejects it simply because the message carries a conviction of sin and requires repentance.

In addition, to the natural man, the story of resurrection feels ridiculous, even offensive, because it is impossible. He has listened and accepted the lie of death Satan started from the beginning of Adam’s story. He is so fundamentally victimized that he feels the story of the last Adam (Christ) is insulting.

The “resurrection from the dead” is the only way for man to live, but it is precisely also the most incredible news to the carnal senses of the sinner.

The heart of man is tied by the “death knot” that Satan has made for him.

But Paul argued with the Jews from the Scriptures, explaining why, according to the Scriptures, Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead, and saying,

“This Jesus whom I preached to you is the Christ.”

Acts 17:1-3.

To the Gentiles, Paul preached the word of Jesus and the resurrection. Acts 17:16-18. Here Paul does not mention Christ. It is not that the Gentiles did not need to know Christ, but since the Gentiles did not have the concept of Christ, the first step they needed to understand was Jesus and the resurrection.

The gospel that Paul preached did not avoid the “death knot” of man, nor could it avoid it. If it did, it would not be the true gospel. The purpose of the gospel is not to make people feel comfortable by accepting some doctrine that seems plausible. It is to save sinners from the bondage of death. Nothing that is natural to the natural man’s heart can save him.

The first step of this salvation, and also a necessary condition of it, is to break the “death knot” that Satan has created for people through sin.

Thank the Lord that that seemingly hopeless “death knot” can be broken in some people! This is the power of the gospel, the power of resurrection: the fact that Jesus rose from the dead, and the Holy Spirit came down and to personally work in the hearts of men.

To men, salvation is a miracle. But for God, it is an election according to His foreknowledge.

But not all are blessed with this blessing, for not all are chosen by God the Father. For one who is chosen, it is a matter of time because the “death knot” may not be opened until his time has come.

Are we preaching the real full gospel, or are we discounting it, watering it down, or even spoiling it, because we are afraid that people will find it unbelievable if the true gospel is being told?

Although we cannot and do not need to start by preaching a complete gospel from the very foundation of the world to reveal the whole counsel and the eternal plan of God in Jesus Christ, for this takes maturity, we still must preach the only gospel that is true. Because otherwise, what we preach may not be the gospel at all. A message that does not at least have the basic elements of salvation by faith, and faith in the Son of God who has died for sinners and rose again from the dead, is not the gospel.

It is not the true gospel if it only tells people that God loves the world. If the message fails to tell them exactly what God’s love is and how he loves, it is an incomplete and ineffective message. Likewise, if the message only promotes a so-called faith that promises to make people feel more confident and happier in life, but does not make it clear that the object of the faith is God Himself through Jesus Christ, the Savior who rose from the dead.

For this is how God loves: God loves through His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, who died for sinners, and raised him from the dead so that whoever believes in him will not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16). This is the only way that God loves. Outside of this, God cannot love man. God can do anything except that He cannot violate his own divine and holy. God cannot love sin. He loves a sinner only because the sinner’s sin has been cleansed through the blood of God’s Son for forgiveness.

The fake ‘gospels’ are much easier to believe, but they are not the true gospel, and cannot save.

‘Incredibleness’ is an inherent characteristic of the gospel as far as the sinner is concerned, for the true gospel must touch and face the power of the impossible “death knot” in the sinner; but at the same time, the true gospel can only be preached by the Holy Spirit himself to the soul of man, with unexpected supernatural power.

“With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26.

If we preach the true gospel, we should not be dismayed by people’s unbelief but rejoice and praise God for the fact that there are people who are able to believe. Through the power of redemption and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit has untied (in fact, destroyed) the death knot that ties the lives of the people.