I’ve decided to put this on a different “page” because it’s vitally and eternally important.
A large percentage of Americans claim to be “Christian” and may even describe themselves as “born-again”. Many groups call themselves “fundamentalist” or “evangelical” and claim to believe the Bible, yet there seem to be serious difficulties.
(NOTE: just a word on “fundamentalist.” This word is often used of groups which have nothing to do with the Bible or Christianity. In spite of that, there are “fundamental” or basic truths to the Christian faith, such as the inspiration, accuracy and authority of Scripture or the deity of Christ or what it means to be saved or many others. Without these basic or “fundamental” truths, then Christianity is indeed just “another world religion.” The word “fundamentalist” itself originated in the early 20th century in the dispute between “fundamentalists” and “modernists,” these latter denying those basic truths or redefining them so as to get away from their earlier meaning. Fundamentalists affirmed these truths.)
In spite of numerous Bible study groups, seminars, etc., error is rampant in our land and we are drowning in unrestrained and heavily promoted sin.
We believe that there are at least two reasons for this departure from historic Christianity – and indeed the principles on which this nation was founded:
1. We have lost the historical continuity of the Gospel. The literature of only a few generations ago reveals a considerably different concept of what “saving faith” is than the one commonly held today. We’ll give a couple of examples of this later.
2. More importantly, we have lost the Scripture content of the Gospel. Expository or doctrinal teaching has largely been replaced by psychological motivation and manipulation so as to cause people to respond in some physical or psychological manner, and their “salvation” is based on what they have done. The result often looked for is simply better self-esteem or feeling good about one’s self.
Now, the purpose of true Gospel preaching seems to be three-fold:
1. Clearly, simply and plainly to present Scripture truth.
2. Through these truths, for they were never intended to be ends in themselves, to bring sinners to the feet of Jesus, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, making them realize that apart from the Lord Jesus, there is no hope of acceptance before a holy God. Also, through these truths, to encourage and instruct the saints, that they might realize in some measure what God has done for them and that they might also realize in some measure what God would have them to do for Him.
These two points are in order that people might have a Scriptural understanding of salvation as well as a Scriptural assurance of it. Saving faith is Scriptural faith. Saving faith parallels Scriptural faith at all points, not just one or two. If a person cannot find his faith in Scripture, he cannot have a Scriptural assurance of salvation. In fact, he quite possibly might not be saved at all.
This leads to the third purpose of Gospel preaching:
3. That as few people as possible go to hell. A teacher or preacher ought ever to minister to his hearers so that when his hearers stand before God, they will not be able to accuse him of not presenting the way of salvation.
It isn’t without reason that our Lord warned that there would be weeping and wailing at the judgment, Matthew 8:12; 13:42. Too many people will discover when it is too late that what their preacher or teacher or imam or guru or life-coach or whatever told them to do is wrong, because it isn’t what God told them to do.
Chapter One: A Tale of Two Conversions.
1. The first account is of a young man named David Brainerd who lived at the turn of the eighteenth century, had a fruitful and extensive ministry among the Delaware Indians of New Jersey and who died at the age of 29. His biography is very inspirational, to say the least. Below is an excerpt from his diary, with comments showing that most of what is preached today as “Gospel” would have been utterly powerless to have helped hlm. In his teens, he became concerned about his soul, he tells us, and quit many of the ordinary pursuits of the young people of his day. He became faithful to church, read the Scriptures and spent time in prayer, both public and private. Of this time, he wrote, “I sometimes hoped I was converted, or at least hoped for heaven and happiness, not knowing what conversion was” (emphasis added).
This went on for some time, until finally:
In the winter of 1738, it pleased God, on one Sabbath morning as I was walking out, to give me on a sudden such a sense of danger, and the wrath of God, that I stood amazed, and my former good frames all vanished; and from the view that I had of my sin and vileness, I was much distressed all day, fearing the vengeance of God would soon overtake me.
Though I renounced all pretenses of worth of my duties, and often confessed to God I deserved nothing for the very best of them but eternal condemnation, yet still I had a secret latent hope of recommending myself to God by religious duties, and when I prayed, and my heart seemed in some measure to melt, I hoped God would be thereby moved to pity me.
And when, at times, great distress began to arise, on a sight of my vileness and nakedness and inability to recover myself from a sovereign God, I used to put off the discovery, as what I could not bear. Once, I remember, a terrible pang of distress seized me, and the thoughts of renouncing myself, and standing naked before God, stripped of all goodness, were so dreadful to me that I was ready to say to them as Felix to Paul, “Go thy way for this time.”
While I was in this distressed state of mind, my heart was especially irritated with this things;”
(1) The strictness of the divine law. For I found it impossible for me (after my utmost pains) to answer the demands of it. I often made new resolutions, and as often broke them.
How would we answer this today? “Why, the Law was for Israel, and has nothing to do with us. You’re being too morbid. Don’t you know that ‘God is love’?”
(2) Another thing was, that faith alone was the condition of salvation, and that God would not come down to lower terms; that He would not promise life and salvation upon my sincere and hearty prayers and endeavors. That word (Mark 16:16), “He that believeth not shall be damned,” cut off all hope there: and I found that faith was the sovereign gift of God, that I could not get it as of myself, and could not oblige God to bestow it upon me by any of my performances (Eph. 2:1, 8). “This,” I was ready to say, “is a hard saying, and who can bear it?” I could not bear that all I had done should stand for mere nothing, who had been very conscientious in duty, and had (as I thought) done much more than many others that had obtained mercy.
What of this? “Why,” we would exclaim, “faith is easy! Just trust Jesus as you would trust a chair to hold you up when you sit on it.”
(3) Another thing was, that I could not find out what faith was, or what it was to believe and come to Christ. I read the calls of Christ made to the weary and heavy laden, but could find no way that He directed them to come in. I thought I would gladly come if I knew how, though the path of duty directed to it was ever so difficult.
Surely we would have such trouble today. All that is necessary, so we are told, is to “come forward” at the end of a service and “pray the sinner’s prayer,” or at least, “make our ‘decision’.” Jesus wants to come into our hearts and all we have to do is to open the door and let Him in.
(4) Another thing that I found a great inward opposition to, was the sovereignty of God. I could not bear that it would be wholly at God’s pleasure to save or damn me, just as He would. That passage, Rom. 9:11-23, was a constant vexation to me, especially v. 21. The reading or meditating on this always destroyed my good frames.
All that would be necessary here, we would say, is to understand the common belief that Romans 9-11 has no bearing on this age at all, and nothing really to do with salvation. Besides, “God has done all He can do, and now it’s up to you,” so God isn’t really sovereign at all, is He?
I shudder even to write that last sentence.
The following excerpt tells what happened when he finally found peace with God:
At this time, the way of salvation opened to me with such wisdom, suitableness, and excellency, that I wondered that I should ever think of any other way. I was amazed that I have not dropped my own contrivances, and complied with this lovely, blessed and excellent way before.
If I could have been saved by my own duties, or any other way that I had formerly contrived, my whole soul would have now refused. I wondered that all the world did not see and comply with this way of salvation, entirely by the righteousness of Christ.
It’s evident from these short excerpts the tremendous, nay, infinite, difference between what used to be called “salvation” and that pale, insipid thing which now stands in its place. We close this portion with a final testimony from the heart of David Brainerd: “Oh, it I ever get to heaven, it will be because God wills it, and nothing else; for I never did anything of myself, but get away from God!”
2. Our second account is that of Charles Spurgeon, told in his own words from his autobiography. I include it because today’s “fundo-evangelicals” seem to believe things have always been done as they are today. This belief is illustrated by the radio announcer on a Christian station who was speaking of the conversion of C.H.Spurgeon and of some of the circumstances under which he “accepted the Lord.” Now these words convey a certain picture. Perhaps he went forward at the end of a service and was dealt with by a personal worker, during which time he prayed and asked the Lord to come into his heart. Perhaps he signed a card of commitment, or “made his decision,” or was “led to the Lord,” in some other way familiar to modern Christians. Certainly, he must have done something in order to be saved. Then there was the preacher who spoke of tears in the eyes of a Roman soldier as he listened to Peter at Pentecost, where presumably he gave an altar call. But the altar call did not come into widespread use until the time of Charles G. Finney, who believed that the work of the Holy Spirit could be reduced to a simple “method.”
Contrary to all this, in the account of his conversion, Spurgeon tells us that for some time he had been under conviction for sin and had despaired of finding spiritual comfort. One day, he decided to go to a certain church. However, it had snowed heavily and he was forced to turn aside into a nearby small and nearly empty chapel. In his own words, Spurgeon tells us what happened:
Now, it is well that preachers should be instructed, but this man was really stupid. He was obliged to stick to his text, for the simple reason that he had little else to say. The text was –
“LOOK UNTO ME, AND BE YE SAVED, ALL THE ENDS OF THE EARTH.”
He did not even pronounce the words rightly, but that did not matter. There was, I thought, a glimpse of hope for me in that text. The preacher began thus: “My dear friends, this is a very simple text indeed. It says, ‘Look.’ Now lookin’ don’t take a deal of pain. It ain’t liftin’ your foot or your finger; it is just, ‘Look.’ Well, a man needn’t go to College to learn to look. You may be the biggest fool, and you can look. A man needn’t be worth a thousand a year to be able to look. Anyone can look; even a child can look. But then the text says, ‘Look unto Me.’ “Ay! said he, in broad Essex, “many on ye are lookin’ to yourselves, but it’s no use lookin’ there. You’ll never find any comfort in yourselves. Some look to God the Father. No, look to Him by-and-by. Some on ye say, ‘We must wait the Spirit’s workin’.’ You have no business with that just now. Look to Christ. The text says, ‘Look unto Me‘.”
Then the good man followed up his text in this way, “Look unto Me; I am sweatin’ great drops of blood. Look unto Me; I am hangin’ on the cross. Look unto Me; I am dead and buried. Look unto Me; I rise again. Look unto Me; I ascend to Heaven. Look unto Me; I am sittin’ at the Father’s right hand. O poor sinner, look unto Me! look unto Me!
When he had gone to about that length, and managed to spin out ten minutes or so, he was at the end of his tether. Then he looked at me under the gallery, and I daresay, with so few present, he knew me to be a stranger. Just fixing his eyes on me, as if he knew all my heart, he said, “Young man, you look very miserable.” Well, I did, but I had not been accustomed to have remarks made from the pulpit on my personal appearance before. However, it was a good blow, struck right home. He continued, “and you will always be miserable – miserable in life and miserable in death – if you don’t obey my text; but if you obey now, this moment, you will be saved.” Then, lifting up his hand, he shouted, as only a Primitive Methodist could do,”Young man, look to Jesus Christ. Look! Look! Look! You have nothin’ to do but to look and live.” I know not what else he said – I did not take much notice of it – I was so possessed with that one thought. Like as when the brazen serpent was lifted up, the people only looked and were healed, so it was with me. I had been waiting to do fifty things, but when I heard that word, “Look!” what a charming sound it seemed to me! Oh! I could have looked until I could almost have looked my eyes away. There and then the cloud was gone, the darkness was rolled away, and that moment I saw the sun; and I could have risen with the most enthusiastic of them, to sing of the precious blood of Christ, and the simple faith which looks alone to Him. Oh, that somebody had told me this before, “Trust Christ, and you shall be saved.” Yet it was, no doubt, all wisely ordered, and now I can say –
E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die.”
There’s quite a bit more, but this is enough to show that Spurgeon’s conversion did not much resemble what is expected today when a person is “saved”.
Chapter Two: “Justified Freely By His Grace.”
Earlier we noted two reasons which underlie the deplorable condition of modern Christianity:
1. We have lost the historic continuity of the Gospel.
2. We have lost the Scriptural content of the Gospel.
This second reason is the more important of the two. Too much of what we believe has come from church dogma or some scholar or teacher. But our question must always be, What does the Scripture say? Romans 4:3.
There are three verse in particular which briefly but succinctly summarize the Bible teaching about salvation. They are:
Romans 1:17, For in it [the Gospel, v. 16] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.”
Ephesians 2:8, 9, By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Romans 3:24, Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus
These verses, and there are many others like them, seem to parallel each other and also seem to contain three elements:
The just / shall live / by faith.
By grace / you have been saved / through faith.
We begin by looking at the first pair: “the just” and “by grace”. What is “justification”? What is “grace”?
Perhaps stated too briefly, justification is the conferring of a right standing before God. We’ll develop this as we go along.
The necessity of justification. Many people believe that they already have a “right standing” before God and are quite content with themselves and their hope of heaven. Why should we rock the boat, as it were, by telling them that things might be different.
1. the condition of man. The Scripture begins with God. Genesis 1-3 tells us of creation and form the background of all the teaching about salvation. They tell us of the two-fold relation men have had with God.
God came to Adam as his Creator. God formed his physical body, gave him a spiritual being, 2:7 and put him in charge of caring for and keeping, that is, guarding, the earth, 1:28; 2:7, 15. In the Septuagint, the translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, the word translated “keep” is the same word used of the soldiers who were guarding the tomb of the Lord Jesus many centuries later. Adam faced only one restriction: there was one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, that he was forbidden to eat from. All the other trees he could take from freely, 2:16, 17.
We know Adam disobeyed God, came under the curse and was evicted from the Garden. Because of his sin, he lost the “image of God” with which he had been created and became the father of children in his own likeness, after his image, 5:3 emphasis added. Thus, his posterity, that is, all mankind, were constituted sinners, both corporately and individually, Roman 5:12, became estranged from God, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.
2. the character of God. Scripture begins with God. But what kind of God is He? In the fifty-four chapters from Adam to Moses, there are only fragmentary, incidental references to God’s revelation of Himself. It’s not until Mt. Sinai that we have any record of God giving a detailed spiritual, ethical and moral code. What in the underlying principle of this code? In Leviticus 11:44, 45, God told Israel, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” See also Leviticus 19:2; 20:26.
So the question is, How do we reconcile sinful man, who is abominable and filthy, who drinks iniquity like water, Job 15:16, to a holy God, who is of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on wickedness, Habakkuk 1:13?
The Bible gives us the answer in its teaching about justification.
The nature of justificiation.
1. what justification is not. Even though there might be similarities and elements of some of the following in justification, justification is so much more than any of them.
a. pardon. A pardon removes the offender from the punishment due his crime. His guilt has perhaps been clearly established, but justice is, in effect, nullified.
b. acquittal. In this, guilt is not clearly established, therefore, justice has no claim against the defendant and indeed renders such a one exempt from penalty. But Scripture clearly establishes the universal guilt of man, thus, all are subject to the judgment of God, Romans 1:18-20.
c. a dismissal of charges. Perhaps on a technicality or through clever defense maneuvering. But, again, guilt has been clearly established and divine justice must and will be satisfied, Romans 2:12, 13; 3:19.
d. an excuse. As in “justifiable homicide.” But Romans 1:20 denies to men an excuse for their sin. See also Acts 14:17.
e. restoration to “innocence” – i.e., “just as if I’d never sinned”. This perhaps is closer than some of the others, yet it still falls far short of the reality and wonder of justification.
2. What justification is, Romans 3:20-28; 4:6-9; 2 Corinthians 5:19-21. Earlier, we defined justification as the conferring of a right standing before God. These verses tell us that it is actually a righteous standing before God, which is far different and greater. These verses and many others also tell us how this is done.
Justification is accomplished by:
a. Justice satisfied, 2 Cor. 5:19, 21, also Galatians 3:6-9. 2 Peter 3:8 tells us Christ Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree. Cf. Isaiah 53:11. We are guilty, but it was –
on Him almighty vengeance fell
which might have sunk a world to hell.
In His death, there was no nullifying of justice, no denying or circumventing of it. He drained the last bitter dregs from the cup of divine wrath, flung the cup away, and cried out with a loud voice the cry of victory: “TETELESTAI!” – “It has been finished!” The penalty for all transgression was fully satisfied by the Lord Jesus on behalf of all of those for whom He died.
b. righteousness verified.
1). by declaration, Romans 4:24-25.
a). as to sins past.
How could God “overlook” the sins of His OT people? All the animal sacrifices had not taken away even one sin. Hebrews 10:4 says, It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Christ appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself, Hebrews 9:26. The OT looked ahead to that one sacrifice; the NT looks back to it.
b). as to sins pardoned. We are guilty! We are sinners! Yet God not only does not exact from us the penalty due our sins, but He says that we are righteous! And Romans 3:26 says that He does so justly!! This is because His justice was satisfied on the Cross by the death of the Lord, but also because His holiness was satisfied by the Lord’s life, as we see next.
2). by imputation, Romans 4:6-8, 22-26; I Corinthians 1:30- 2 Corinthians 5:21. As we noted above, justification isn’t “just as if I’d never sinned”. God’s Law required positive obedience as well as the abstaining from certain things, i.e., the “thou shalt nots”. In Deuteronomy 6:5, God commanded Israel, “You shall loved the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” The OT records that Israel failed miserably at that. The Lord Jesus is the only One who has ever been able truthfully to say, “I always do those things which please Him,” John 8:29. Because of this, His obedient life can be imputed to believers as well as His offering for sin. Psalm 103:10 says that God has not dealt with us according to our sins. That’s because He dealt with the Lord Jesus according to them.
While it’s true that the Psalm refers to Israel, it’s true of all God’s people, regardless of when they live. Even as our sin was imputed to Him, so His righteousness is imputed to us, not His inherent righteousness as Holy God, but His righteousness as perfect, sinless Man.
3). by impartation, Romans 5:17; 2 Peter 1:4. God doesn’t leave His people in a sinful condition. Not only did He deal with the penalty of their sin, but He deals with its pollution as well, Matthew 1:21; Romans 6:12-22. He not only declares them to be righteous – justification; He sets about through the work of the Holy Spirit to make them righteous – sanctification. It’s true this work will only be finished in heaven, but it’s begun in this life: beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
“We shall be like Him.” Not yet, but soon.
Scripture refutes two widely-held views:
a) the “holiness” view of a “second work of grace,” that is, a person may be justified without being sanctified. However, Paul tells us that salvation is a complete work of grace.
b). the Reformed view that while justification is “by grace,” sanctification is by “keeping the Law.” However, Paul tells us that we are justified and sanctified the same way: only by grace, Acts 26:18; 1 Corinthians 1:30; Galatians 3:2, 3, 21; 1 Timothy 1:7-9, especially v. 9.
It used to be relatively simple to identify those who taught “salvation by works”. They believed in meriting or earning salvation by some ceremony or rite, by doing good works or in some way “suffering” to earn heaven. Hudson Taylor told of a Buddhist “holy man”
who had bricked up into a tiny cell in a wall with only a tiny opening through which to pass food.
However, it isn’t so easy any more. The lines have been blurred and the issued muddied by modern Christianity which, through denial or ignorance of the Word, has redefined “grace,” so that it becomes necessary to be more explicit.
What used to be termed “salvation by works” must now be broadened to include any idea of salvation where “being saved” is the result of something (anything) man does. For example, for a person to say, “I am saved because of my faith” is to teach salvation by works. To say that “God has done His part and man must do his part” is to teach salvation by works. To say to a sinner, “God has done all He can do and now it’s up to you” is to teach salvation by works. Yes such ideas are the general teaching of modern fundamentalism and evangelicalism. By contrast, nearly all the early confessions of faith, to which many in these groups still claim to adhere, have a statement to the effect that repentance and faith are the result of the new birth, and yet the vast majority of Christians now believe that faith is the cause of the new birth. Doing so, they disagree with our Lord, who, in John 3, taught that without the new birth, we can neither see or enter into the kingdom of God, that is, salvation, vs. 3, 5.
So then, what is grace? We note its nature and necessity.
The nature of grace.
1. what it is not –
a. God enabling man so as to allow them to “decide” for or against.
b. God doing everything for the sinner. Though enabling a sinner to believe, God Himself does not “believe” for the sinner.
c. God exercising His sovereignty.
d. Salvation itself.
2. What it is –
Grace is the motivation because of which God saves sinners by making them willing to be saved and to live on His terms, not because of anything “foreseen” in the sinner, but in spite of it. Grace is not what God does, but why. It is the motivation behind the free and beneficent expression of His goodness, kindness and love. A common definition of grace is, “unmerited favor in spite of merited disfavor.” I like the three words, “in spite of.”
a. free. Gratuitous, without charge to or cause in man. Not something man has to earn, not would this be possible if it were necessary.
b. sovereign. God deals in grace on the basis of His own will, as He sees fit. Paul taught this in Romans 9:15, 16, For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy,” emphasis added. To demur at this teaching is to imply some cause in man whereby God is at the least obligated to give man “a chance to be saved.” However, God would still be glorious in His eternal perfection if He sent us all to hell. That’s all we deserve.
c. efficacious. God does accomplish what He wants to accomplish.
d. freely proclaimed through the Gospel. This is as much a sticking point with those who hold unScriptural views of God’s sovereignty as unconditional election is to those to those who hold unScriptural views of man’s condition. However, Matthew 28:18-20; Acts 13:38, 39 and Revelation 22:17, as well as many others, teach us that the Gospel is to be presented to every creature. That is our responsibility, not the determining of who will respond. There is nothing in Scripture to prevent the salvation of the vilest sinner ever born.
The necessity of grace.
As in justification, we look at both God and man.
1. the character of God.
a. immutably holy. We’ve already looked at this somewhat. The basic meaning of the OT word translated “holy” is “separate.” There never has been and never will be a time when God is not altogether separate from sin.
b. inflexibly just. Sinful men tend to define God’s justice by their own fallen standards. However, the OT gives abundant testimony that this is not enough. For example, we would never consider the gathering of a few sticks on the Sabbath as all that bad, but God ordered the execution of a man for just that, Numbers 15:32-36.
Further, consider that the Fall of Man itself, with its temporal and eternal miseries, was brought about by the simple act of taking and eating a single fruit from a tree. Men may ignore, slight or ridicule God’s justice, but God will forever vindicate His holiness and execute His justice.
2. the condition of man. Scripture is clear that man cannot deliver himself from God’s justice, Psalm 49:6-9. The cause of this inability is twofold:
a. moral, or spiritual, John 6:44, 67; Romans 8:7; 1 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 2:1-3. Because, as Ephesians tells us, men are dead spiritually, there is nothing in them to respond to the Gospel. This is the underlying and fundamental truth about men: they are dead before God. However, spiritual death is not like physical death. Physical death is a state of insensibility and inactivity. A dead body neither receives stimuli nor responds to it. On the other hand, Paul tells us that spiritual death is a state of active opposition to and separation from God, Ephesians 2:1-3, motivated by a nature of hatred to God, Romans 8:7. This doesn’t mean that unsaved men aren’t “religious,” there was plenty of religion in Paul’s day, but let the truth of God be faithfully given to them and they will quickly demonstrate their innate hostility toward God. This active opposition to and hatred of God leads to the second inability men have in escaping God’s justice
b. legal, John 3:18; Romans 1:18-20; 2:12, 13, 19. Even in earthly justice, present or future “good behavior” cannot atone for past crimes. We grant that earthly justice isn’t always “just”. However, there is no such deviation in God’s justice. He has declared all the world subject to His judgment, and everyone already stands condemned in His sight, John 3:36; Romans 3:19.
Thus, we see the necessity of grace. Man will not and cannot do that which will please God, Romans 8:8. He cannot recover himself from certain judgment. Further, as an active rebel against God, he has no claim on God. There is no reason in man why every single son or daughter of Adam should not perish eternally. Therefore, if men are to be redeemed, God must do it, and the reason for its being done must be found in God, since there is nothing man to elicit it. That “something” is grace.
“Life From The Dead”
This refers to the second pair of elements quoted above: “the just shall live by faith.” What is “saved”? What does it mean, “shall live”?
1. Salvation – its meaning : “saved”
There are many ways we could look at this, but we will examine four words which describe salvation.
Rescue. Jesus Christ gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, Galatians 1:4. This is a summary of Bible teaching on salvation. We see our Lord’s sacrifice and its intent, that He might deliver us…, and the source of all the spiritual blessings derived from that sacrifice, according to the will of our God and Father. In particular, the phrase that He might deliver us is expressive. The word translated “deliver” has the basic meaning of “to rescue”. Sinful man cannot deliver himself from the wrath of and just condemnation by God. The Lord Jesus came as our Substitute, endured the wrath of God for us, and by means of His death “rescued” us from this present evil age.
Redemption. In Him [Christ] we have redemption through His blood, Ephesians 1:7. The price was the suffering of our Lord; the purchase was the redemption of His people.
Reconciliation. 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 through His life, Romans 5:10. Christ also dealt with the enmity between man and God. Because of His death, we are given “the love of God” as a gift of the Holy Spirit: We love Him because He first loved us, 1 John 4:19.
Restoration. whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began, Acts 3:21. Although we believe that this verse will have a future fulfillment when the Lord returns, yet there is a sense in which believers are restored to what Adam lost and much more besides.
A lady once asked me why there were so many words used of salvation. I replied that salvation is something like a diamond, with many “facets” or parts. Man is spiritually dead; regeneration, the giving of spiritual life, is the remedy. Man are by nature sinners – children of the devil; adoption, the transfer of the believer into the family of God as a child is the remedy to that. If we think of the mortality of the body and physical death, then glorification is that facet of salvation through which these mortal bodies will be made like the glorious body of the risen Savior. Lost people are in a state of sinfulness or moral and spiritual defilement; sanctification is the work of making a believer holy and pure before God. Man lives in spiritual darkness unable to understand the Gospel; calling is the Bible term for God giving light to the sinner so that he can see or understand that Christ is the wisdom and power of God unto salvation. Lost people are condemned because of their sin; justification refers to the believer’s righteous standing in the sight of God. If salvation is considered from an eternal standpoint, then election and predestination are the Bible terms denoting the choice of God’s people and the certainty of their salvation and perseverance.
2. Salvation – its manifestation: “shall live”
Entrance into. John 3:3, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:5, Jesus told Nicodemus, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
Perhaps you’ve heard preachers to be saved because “if you miss salvation, you will miss one of the great things of life!” Is that all salvation is – one of the “great things of life”?
Oh, my friends, to miss salvation is to miss life! Men are spiritually dead and without the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, they shall not see life, John 3:36.
Evidence of. Romans 1:17, For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “the just shall live by faith.” It has been well said –
“…when God saves a man, He saves the whole man. The whole man must, therefore, be devoted to God’s cause. Not only when he is at church, but when he is transacting business, or engaged in political or social activities of any sort. No sphere of his life may be excluded. Life as a whole must be God-directed.” Author unknown.
A large percentage of church-members know nothing of such “God-direction”. To them, God is just a “partner” or “co-pilot” or fire-escape from hell or cosmic bell-hop who must ask, “how high?” whenever they say “jump”. But salvation results in the laying down of the weapons of our warfare against God, the bringing of our steps to the Lord and saying, “Here, Lord, You order them,” Psalm 37:23. It is hard for me to understand how people can actually believe that Christ is their Savior when they are living in rebellion against Him as their Lord. Such is neither Biblical nor historical Christianity.
Here is the third segment of our study: the just shall live by faith.
What is faith? Hebrews 11:1 is not really a “definition” although it’s often used as such. I don’t know that Scripture ever actually “defines” faith; it does give many examples of it, as in Hebrews 11. Because of this chapter, we might define faith as “the receiving and acting upon God’s Word simply because it is God’s Word.” Genesis 15 gives us an excellent example of what this means.
1. the common interpretation of Genesis 15. This familiar portion is always pictured with Abraham outside at night gazing up into the starry sky and wondering at the possibility of his posterity outnumbering that great host.
2. a different view of Genesis 15. We believe there are two things this interpretation misses.
a. Historically. In the time of Abraham, men had counted the stars, or so they thought. Even as late as 1627, only 1005 stars had been catalogued, certainly not a number to compare with “the sand which is on the seashore,” Genesis 22:17, another time God promised a numberless progeny to Abraham. It wasn’t until the invention of the telescope that men discovered that the stars are without number.
b. Scripture. The Bible itself indicates a different view. What is the meaning of the phrase, “Now when the sun was going down,” v. 12, and, “when the sun went down and it was dark,” v. 17, both of which happened after God’s command to Abraham? Don’t they indicate that it was daylight when God told Abraham to “count the stars”? Yes, but….
3. Considerations from Genesis 15:
a. Faith is the substantiating of things “not seen,” Hebrews 11:1, 27, thus Abraham teaches us that if God says it, it’s to be accepted, even if there isn’t a shred of the “tangible evidence” skeptics sometimes require.
b. In the matter of salvation, Abraham teaches us that salvation is solely “by faith,” and not by works or ceremony, Romans 4. Yet in the preaching and teaching from modern pulpits, where is the faithful proclamation of man’s depravity and helplessness, God’s holiness, justice and sovereignty, and Christ’s actual sufficiency and preeminence? More often than not, it is God Who is pictures as being helpless until we “let” Him, man really isn’t all that bad, and, meaning no disrespect to our Lord, well, who knows what He really did on the Cross? I asked a man what Christ did on the Cross. Beyond the fact that He died, this gentleman had no idea. But two other men died on crosses that; what makes Christ’s death different from theirs? I fear that man is not alone in this view of Calvary.
What about repentance? In their insistence on “salvation by faith,” some reject any mention of repentance. Some say it was only for the Jews. Yet what does Paul say about his teaching? In Acts 20:21, when recounting his ministry among them, he told the Ephesian elders, that he had testified “to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” And in his defense before King Agrippa, he said that he had “declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance,” Acts 26:20, emphasis added. Repentance was a vital part of Paul’s message to whomever he preached – Jew or Gentile.”
1. What is “repentance”? In some ways, this is a difficult subject, yet in others, it isn’t. The common idea is that repentance is a “change of mind”. This is true, as far as it goes. Certainly, one must change his thinking about his sin and his danger and deserving of judgment, because of that sin. However, this is more just a change of opinion. It is a change of the mind itself, so that a man can change his thinking.
Repentance is more than just being “sorry for your sins,” as sometimes said. True repentance is to take the same view of sin that God does. Many people are “sorry” for their sins only because they are suffering the results of those sins or are afraid of those results. They do not, however, see it as God sees it, as something utterly hateful and wicked and deserving of judgment. Thus, they are lost, for our Lord said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish,” Luke 13:3, 5.
Although separate from faith, repentance is a corollary of it, for if one doesn’t believe what God says about sin, he will never turn from it, cf. Jonah 3:5.
2. Contrasts between true repentance and false, or “remorse”.
a. Exodus 9:27, “I have sinned.” This is Pharaoh’s statement as he was terrified of an unprecedented hailstorm in Egypt. There is, however, no seeking to be saved from his sin, no acknowledging of inherent sinfulness: “I have sinned this time,” emphasis added What about all the other times? He wasn’t willing to acknowledge the justice of what God had done. And as soon as the “trouble” left, he sinned yet more; and he hardened his heart, he and his servants, vs. 33, 34.
b. Jonah 3:5-10, especially vs. 7, 8, where, in the face of impending judgment, Nineveh’s king issued a proclamation: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything; do not let them eat, or drink water. But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God; yes, let every one turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands, emphasis added. See also Matthew 12:41. This is repentance! It’s not enough, as we’ve said, merely to be “sorry” for sin; it must be turned from and forsaken and detested. We don’t need more converts like the churches have had for the last 60 or 70 years, who want to be saved from hell. We need some people who are willing to be done with sinning. America’s churches are full of people who’ve “made their decision,” or are “trusting Jesus,” but who are likely to wind up in hell because the sin question has never been answered in their lives.
2. Evidence of salvation, “live by faith”
Much of what we’ve said holds true for this section, as well. To close, we’ll just quote what Paul wrote to the church at Thessalonica in 1 Thessalonians 1:4-10,
knowing, beloved brethren, your election by God. For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.
And you became followers of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became examples to all in Macedonia and Achaia who believe. For from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth, not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place. Your faith toward God has gone out, so that we do not need to say anything. For they themselves declare concerning us what manner of entry we had to you and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.
Our Lord told John to write letters to seven churches is what was known as Asia Minor, or Turkey, as we know it. There is some discussion as to the “meaning” of those letters. Suffice it to say that they were seven actual churches. Some believe they prophesy church history. Be that as it may, I think they might also be considered as “representative” churches; every age has them. If the “prophecy” idea is true, then I believe we are in the era pictured by the church at Laodicea.
Remember what the church said about itself. “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing, Revelation 3:17. They were well satisfied with themselves. Isn’t that what many churches are like today? Huge buildings, ornate decoration, the latest electronics, Hollywood-style “worship services,” “celebrity” pastors. They “have need of nothing.”
But what did the Lord think of this splendid church?
“You are wretched, miserable, poor, blind and naked,” also v. 17.
Salvation and service to our God isn’t a fluffy, superficial thing. It is bound up with eternity. Our eternity. By that, I don’t mean that there is more than one, like the multiple-universe view of modern skeptical science; it means that we’re all heading there day by day. One day will be the last day for each of us. Perhaps today will be that day for some of us. Only God knows.
The thing is, are you – am I – ready?
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved.