Pastoral Letter 13 Mar 2022

My dear readers,

Running from Death?

Proverbs 10:2: “Treasures of wickedness profit nothing: but righteousness delivereth from death.”

Life is one very long race of running from death. This has been every man’s endeavour from birth. Parents would do everything within their means to ensure that their babies are born safe and given the best start in life. They will choose for them the best schools. They will feed them the best food they can afford. When their children are sick, they will bring them to the doctor for immediate treatment. If they consider it to be something serious, to the emergency room they will rush them to, day or night. There is no day off and they will ask for leave when it comes to watching over loved ones who cannot care for themselves. This is man’s attempt to ward off death. If they can, they will try to push death as far away as humanly possible.

New medical breakthroughs are sought after at immense costs every year. Take the COVID-19 pandemic that occurred from two years ago as an example. The “rush” every nation took to stop the spread of this deadly virus was unprecedented. There was never a time when the world did not work as one to stop this virus. Almost every directive given by WHO was taken seriously and passed off as law in many countries, to the ire of those who believe in conspiracy theories. Schools were closed. Businesses were ordered by governments to close their doors. Entire cities were placed on lockdown to stop the spread. New laws such as mask-wearing when leaving homes were passed as soon as possible to balance saving lives and livelihood. The goal is the same all over the world. Run as far away from death as possible. The sad tale remains the same, however. No man can out-pace death. When death comes knocking, every man has to open the door to let this cold unwelcome guest in to snatch his life away.

With thousands of years of evidence before man’s eyes that he can never out-run death, he will still never stop trying. His vain attempts are stated clearly in Proverbs 10:2.

The literal translation is: “Profit nothing, treasures of wickedness: but righteousness snatches away from death.” Man needs to know that the treasures of wickedness are worthless. There is no profit in them at all. This profit is measured here in terms of avoiding death. What man gains by his earthly toiling are treasures on earth! They can avail him a luxurious life. He can live very comfortably and eat the best food that money can buy. He can travel in his own plane. He can cruise in his own multimillion-dollar yacht. All he will gain, compared to the one who is poor, is that he can die comfortably on his expensive bed. The poor beggar will die in the cold and perhaps on rat-infested streets. But the result is the same . . . death. They will both end up in the same place, cast into hell, for they will die in their sins.

The LORD deliberately used the word “wickedness” to describe treasures because there are the treasures of believers that are very profitable. They can be used for the extension of God's kingdom, the blessing of God’s people and work, the defence of the Christian faith and the believer’s own spiritual growth. This is to demonstrate to sinful man that the problem is not his wealth but his sinful self. A hardworking sinner whose treasures are gained by honest hard work and sound investment are also included in this understanding of “treasures of wickedness.” The reason for this is not that his “hard honest work” is wrong in itself, but it is the sinner who does it. The fact is that man is born in sin and commits many wilful sins against God such as idolatry, and the lusts of the eyes and the flesh and the pride of life, thus these “treasures” he gains are also called wicked as they have no real value in warding off death.

“But righteousness delivereth from death.” This is the righteousness that is imputed to all who believe in Christ as Lord and Saviour. Romans 4:22-25: “And therefore it was imputed to him [Abraham] for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” This is the righteousness of the law. This is the righteousness of Jesus Christ who came and lived a perfect life in obedience to God's law that is imputed to all who believe in Christ. This is the law that man sins against before God. This law is summed up in the Ten Commandments.

When the believer is imputed with this righteousness, he is now righteous before God. God sees he is in Christ. God sees only Christ when He sees a believer. God sees only Christ’s righteousness when He looks at the believer. The believer’s sins on earth do not diminish or erase this righteousness that has been imputed upon him in and by Christ. When the believer sins as a child of God, it is no longer as a depraved sinner condemned. To illustrate, it is like an outsider who has been adopted into a home as a child. Before the adoption, he told lies, as a stranger. After adoption, he may still tell lies, but as a son. The son-ship is not negated by his lying to his adopted father.

God knows that immediately after salvation the believer can enter heaven. But God wants him to remain on earth to witness for Christ to save sinners and encourage God’s people who are also left behind like him. God knows that as he witnesses and serves on earth in his earthen vessel, he will still succumb to sin. But the LORD has assured all believers that their salvation cannot be taken away, i.e. the adoption cannot be vitiated by anything or anyone, not even the believer’s own transgressions. Romans 8:38-39: “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

All born-again believers have their sins forgiven by God in Christ and will always be righteous before Him. Their sinful nature is gone. It has been replaced by a new nature. 2 Corinthians 5:17: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” With this new nature, the believer can smile at death. He no longer needs to be afraid of death, for he no longer will die as he has already died with Christ and in Christ at the point of his salvation. Galatians 2:20: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.” The moment he breathes his last breath, he will be safe in the arms of Jesus Christ his Lord and Saviour. He will go home to heaven and see his Heavenly Father. But the one who toils for earthly treasures will profit nothing as he will still die in sin and be cast into hell.

No man can run away from death. But all believers in Christ have already defeated death. Death has lost its sting. 1 Corinthians 15:55-57: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Amen.

Yours faithfully in the Saviour’s Service,
Rev Dr Quek Suan Yew
Advisory Pastor

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