Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The True God and Eternal Life, Part 9

Further contrasting law and grace Paul says that if a law could have imparted life to men, then righteousness would have been by the law, not grace; but if righteousness truly comes by the law, then Jesus died for nothing, Galatians 3:21; 2:21. Absorb the implications of this passage. If we can have any hand in salvation, then Jesus did not need to die at all. When Jesus was agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed the Father, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will,” Matthew 26:39. The Lord requested that if the salvation of mankind could be another way (than by Christ becoming sin for us) then let it pass from Him. But He knew there was no other way; we were powerless, ungodly, and dead in sins and trespasses.

The nature of salvation is summed up by Paul, similar to his dialogue in Ephesians, when he tells us, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed…even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe…for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith…that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus,” Romans 3:21-26. Verse 28 concludes that a man is justified by faith apart from our works. Our efforts do not enter the equation. We are not being justified as we go on in life; we are being sanctified, conformed by our obedient walk with God, as we learn to trust and rely solely on Him. Justification is ours the instant we believe. This explanation agrees with the whole tenor of the Bible, Romans 3:24, 8:30; 1st Corinthians 6:11, Titus 3:7. We are assured a place in Heaven with the rest of the saints when we are dead or Raptured. Those under the dispensation of grace have been called to receive “an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in Heaven for you,” 1st Peter 1:4.

That we are foreknown by God, who knew us to be sinners and saved us anyway by His manifold love and amazing grace is truly good news: exactly what the word “gospel” means. We read, “In Him (Jesus) we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will…in Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession (us), to the praise of His glory,” Ephesians 1:11, 13-14. Someone once said, “When the plain sense of Scripture makes sense, seek no other sense, but take it at its basic, literal meaning.” It is a good rule of thumb for approaching the word of God; simply believing what He tells us, rather than discarding what we refuse to believe.

To summarize: Salvation must be by Biblical definition by grace; faith alone in Christ alone. It must be eternal, since we are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time, 1st Peter 1:5; see also Jude 1:1. To save us and then hand the fate of our salvation over to us would be tantamount to spiritual suicide. We have seen that even sinless, innocent Adam could not do this, and he did not suffer the power and weight of sin in his life as we do now. We have seen that being justified saves us from sin’s penalty. We are saved from an eternal Hell, reserved for an eternal Heaven to fellowship with God and worship Him. Believers are being sanctified daily by the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence, which gives us power to resist sin’s influence and reveals the deep things of God to us. If the Spirit alone knows the things of God we must conclude He is God; for no one conveys their deepest thoughts except in personal revelation, 1st Corinthians 2:10-11; Ephesians 3:5; John 14:26. The Holy Spirit is God revealing His thoughts and person through Christ, Scripture, and prayer.

We cannot maintain our salvation; this is the work of Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of our faith, Hebrews 12:2. This is why He warned us, “If you make Me an altar of stone, you shall not build it of hewn stone; for if you use your tool on it, you have profaned it,” Exodus 20:25. If we touch it, we ruin it. We cannot lose our salvation for the same reason. “Once saved, always saved” is indeed a biblical idea. It has been since the beginning, and resonates throughout Scripture. Some would refer to King Saul losing his salvation, since the Holy Spirit departed from him (1st Samuel 16:14). But the Holy Spirit's indwelling was a phenomenon unique to the New Testament dispensation, see John 7:37-39; Acts 2:1-4, 33. King David wrote in his time, "Do not take Your Holy Spirit from me," Psalm 51:11. Despite the fact that the Holy Spirit left Saul, he was still a new person by means of regeneration, 1st Samuel 10:6. When he visited the witch in Endor, God allowed Samuel's spirit to return to rebuke Saul one final time. He was going to physically die for his disobedience to God's will, but note the prophet states, "Tomorrow (when Saul dies) you and your sons will be with me," 1st Samuel 28:19. Samuel was certainly saved and likewise with Saul, despite the punishment God inflicted. He was only undergoing the discipline the Lord administers to those who are His, Proverbs 3:11-12; Hebrews 12:5-11. Such a case is in Corinthians, when Paul states, "deliver [the immoral brother] to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus," 1st Corinthians 5:5. God's rod sometimes fall hard upon the backs of His children, but it is for our good and His glory. And it is always done in love. A loving father takes no pleasure in having to discipline even errant children. We have to do some biblical gymnastics to fabricate a single biblical character that lost their salvation.

The mark of straying from Biblical truth rears its head when someone begins to proclaim that salvation is found only within their sect (or that we don't need to be 'saved'), and not in faith in Christ alone as God and Savior. Church participation and religious zeal contribute nothing to salvation, and when someone tries to teach otherwise they hinder men from being saved, Matthew 23:13. Such baseless activity reveals an ignorance of God’s holiness and plan of redemption, Romans 10:2-4. The wonder of grace is that God saves us despite what we do, not because of what we do! Search the Scriptures and pray to God, that He may bring clarity to our thinking and spirit. There is only God’s truth, or Satan’s lie. If we do not love the truth, then we embrace the lie. The lie being, “Has God indeed said…?” Genesis 3:1. The Tempter always contorts the simplicity of God’s word. I love the grace found in Jesus Christ, who saves unworthy sinners, which is what everyone one of us is! We are like the leper in Mark, who knelt before Jesus and said, “If You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus answered, “I am willing; be cleansed,” Mark 1:40-41. Won’t you humble yourself like this leper, and go in faith to the Lord, imploring Him to cleanse you? The leper could not cure himself; leprosy has no human cure. It is no small irony that God used leprosy to represent our sin which separates men from Him in the Old Testament. Leprosy made those afflicted go outside the camp; they were separated from the congregation because they were unclean. Listen to Jesus’ words, “He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean,” John 13:10. Our worth in the Father’s eyes is found in Jesus Christ. If we are counted “worthy” it is only because Christ’s life through the Spirit dwells in us, see 1st John 5:4-5. Nothing good dwells in us otherwise.
Jesus asked the most vital question of faith in Him there was: “Who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15. Who do you say Jesus is? One’s eternal destiny resides not on how much faith one has in Jesus, but on which Jesus we have faith in. There is only One who gives life freely and eternally: God the Son. “Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy, and eat. Yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price,” Isaiah 55:1. God’s gift is without price; a precious salvation delivered by a merciful God. I hope this Post is thought provoking, and I pray that God may save some through its contents. Amen.

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