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As Jesus was dying upon the cross, already racked with pain from the tortures of crucifixion, He also suffered the agonizing pains of scorn and humiliation, not only from His religious enemies and the soldiers, but even from the criminals among whom He was numbered.  In spite of the innumerable good things He had done for the nation healing people and teaching them the truth about the things that make for peace, here He was being rejected by all, seemingly even by His heavenly Father.  In this way His greatest test of faith also became His greatest temptation as He was mocked by those He came to save to save Himself if He was truly a king and son of God.  But as His lifeblood drained from Him, the Spirit of His life was also being poured out with it, affecting those near to Him at His death in a way they probably couldn’t explain; cf. Luk 23:48.  Later, after His resurrection that demonstrated to His apostles the power of that Spirit, and after His ascension to the right hand of the throne of God in heaven, that same Spirit would be poured out even more fully on the day of Pentecost like rivers of living water (Joh 7:38).  But even now as He was giving up His Spirit that would give life to those born again of His travail (cf. Joh 16:21), it was unexpectedly giving life to some at the cross that none would have imagined: the soldiers who had just crucified and mocked Him (Mat 27:54, Luk 23:36-37), as well as one of the criminals who was being crucified with Him, a robber who had also just earlier been reviling Him (Mat 27:44, Luk 23:40-43).

While Christ’s Spirit was strangely affecting “the multitudes who came together for this spectacle”, including the soldiers and one of the criminals, removing their hearts of stone and giving them a heart of flesh (Eze 11:19, 36:26), what does Luke record about how it was not having the same effect upon the other criminal?  See Luk 23:39.  How was the effect that Christ’s Spirit was having upon him similar to the effect it had upon the religious leaders and others who rejected the true salvation He came to give?  Note that the NAS hurling abuse is the same word often translated as blaspheming, and see Mat 12:24,31, 27:39-43.  What does this other criminal’s words to Jesus reveal about his hope and understanding of salvation as being a salvation from the consequences of sin, rather than from sin itself?  How is that similar to the hope and understanding of the religious leaders and the Jewish nation?  Compare Luk 23:39 and Mat 27:41-43, and consider how the Jewish nation’s bondage under the Romans was ultimately a consequence of its sin from which they sought a messiah’s deliverance, even while at the same time they were rejecting the deliverance from sin itself that Jesus came to provide, by which means they could have been set free from all bondage; cf. Mat 21:25-26,32, Luk 19:41-42, Joh 8:34-36.

How is this understanding of salvation as being from the consequences of sin rather from sin itself similar to that of many Christians today, even many evangelical Christians, who rejoice in the forgiveness of sin, but suppose they are still saved even though they love the world and are not truly repentant of their sins?  Cf. 1Jo 2:15-17.  What is the significance that Christ’s Spirit that was being poured out and that was clearly affecting some, was not affecting those whose hope of salvation was only from the consequences of sin, and not from sin itself?  Contrast Luk 23:40-41.  What does this teach us about the very different type of salvation from the consequences of sin that the world will accept but for which Christ’s sacrifice will not avail, and the salvation from sin itself for which His Spirit was poured out to save us?  Cf. Tit 3:3-6.  If one is not born again of Christ’s Spirit of sacrifice that follows Him in the way of the cross to lay down his life and die to sin so as to be saved from it, but will only accept a salvation from the consequences of his sin, is that person truly saved?  See Mat 1:21 and note carefully from what Jesus came to save His people.  Note also that inseparably related to the forgiveness of sins is our release and deliverance from them: see Luk 4:18 where in His very first words of gospel ministry Jesus said He was anointed by God’s Spirit to proclaim release to the captives, and to set free those who are downtrodden, both of which translate the same Greek word that is translated every other time as forgiveness.

Consider again the response to Jesus’ Spirit by those whose hope of salvation was from the consequences of sin as it was being poured out from upon the cross to save people from sin itself; whereas that Spirit was softening the hearts of others unto true salvation, was it the case that it simply had no effect at all upon them?  Rather than changing their hearts of stone to flesh, what does their disparaging rejection and railing against Jesus indicate was happening to their hearts instead?  See Joh 12:40, and note that it was after Pharaoh had hardened his own heart against the truth to the point that he was a vessel fit only for destruction that the Lord hardened his heart even further to accomplish His own purposes through him, cf. Exo 7:13,22, 8:15,19,32, 9:7,12,34,35, 10:1,20,27,11:10, 14:4,8, Rom 9:17-18,21-22, 2Tim 2:20-21, Heb 3:7-8.  What does this teach us about any notion that there can be a neutral response to Jesus’ Spirit?  If His Spirit is not softening our heart, is it simply doing nothing?  What does this remind us about the great danger of accepting only a salvation from the consequences of sin, and thereby resisting God’s Holy Spirit that was poured out to deliver us from sin itself?  How do these things also help us to understand the way that the Lord harvests the earth, and the process of winnowing by which He separates the wheat from the chaff through His Holy Spirit?  Cf. Mat 3:11-12.

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