Friday, September 2, 2011

Salvation is of the Lord, Part 5 of 9

We read “Be faithful unto death and I will give you the crown of life,” Revelation 3:10. Isn’t this verse teaching that works are necessary to retain salvation? No, it isn’t. These are various rewards the saints will receive for rendering service to Christ in this life. Rewards come through our obedience, but salvation (which is not a reward but a free gift, Romans 6:23) comes through faith. The crown of life is the martyr’s crown, as the context reveals, which saints who die from persecution receive upon going to be with Christ.

What about “He who endures to the end shall be saved?” Matthew 24:13. Again, this is the danger of isolating verses like this one and the verse in Revelation. Neither speaks about diligence being a key to retaining one’s salvation unless you assume this verse was given in a vacuum. No, the verse is part of Jesus’ discourse about the coming Tribulation period and is in reference to the saints alive in that day. The salvation He refers to is actual physical deliverance if you happen to survive the whole of the seven years. Christ will come and intercede or else no flesh would be saved, Matthew 24:22. Note that Jesus uses the word “flesh” in this verse to make it clear to the reader that He is presently referring to literal, physical salvation from threat of death. Neither of these are salvation by works passages.

Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates. Now I pray to God that ye do no evil; not that we should appear approved, but that ye should do that which is honest, though we be as reprobates,” 2nd Corinthians 13:5-7.

Are these verses teaching self-examination to ensure that we are still in the faith; i.e. saved? No, in fact, it isn’t. Paul just finished warning the Corinthian Christians that he was coming to them again, and if he found believers living carnally and unrepentant, testing the Holy Spirit, he would not spare them. Likely this is in reference to them being put to death by the power of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate His sovereignty and leadership in the church, Acts 5:1-11; 1st Corinthians 11:30. Both James and John warn of sins that lead to death, James 5:19-20; 1st John 5:16. A rebellious Christian living wantonly against his Lord was apparently struck down from time to time during that age of the church. For all I know this might yet occur. It is written that the Lord will judge His people, Hebrews 10:30. Paul commends self-examination to ensure that Christians walk according to the Spirit to avoid such punishment from God, 1st Corinthians 11:31. But even those who are put to death in such a fashion are still saved, and not judged with the unsaved world, 1st Corinthians 11:32.

Doubtless some have observed that I have not discussed the “trouble” passage of Hebrews 6:4-9. For anyone interested in considering that passage more fully please read A Considerate Look Into Hebrews.

Therefore it is of faith, [the promise of justification] that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,” Romans 4:16.

God gave salvation as a promise to man, beginning in Eden, Genesis 3:15. God declares that He will have mercy on whomever He wills to, Romans 9:13. And we know that it is God’s will to save men through the message of the gospel. This promise was delivered to Jew and Gentile alike since it was confirmed not in Abraham, father of the Jews, but in Christ, the Savior of the world, 1st John 4:14. To ensure that the promise was sure to all the seed (Jew and Gentile believers) God removed the encumbrance of works. God apparently wanted man to know that he could receive salvation; God wanted us to know for certain that eternal life is not a distant hope clouded by our tenuous efforts, it was a reality internalized the moment one believed the gospel, John 3:36; 11:25; 1st John 5:13. God chose this path contrary to human wisdom and mentality partially to frustrate our natural desire to want to be partakers.

For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe,” 1st Corinthians 1:17-21.

“Faith only” rears its head again in this passage. It pleased God to save those who believe through the foolishness of preaching. As the apostle wrote, “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God,” Romans 10:17. The cross is offensive to those who are perishing and it destroys the wisdom of this world. Conventional wisdom hardly looks to a condemned Jewish carpenter who died on a cross as their supposed Savior. Jesus certainly did not meet the criteria of Jewish expectation regarding the coming Messiah or else they would not have killed Him. The world (our vaunted intellect, philosophy, achievement, brilliance) failed to perceive God. We cannot know Him through subjective exploration that begins within. The message of the gospel is objective truth that must, by faith, be internalized. We have no hope of knowing God unless He chooses to reveal Himself. God did just that in the person of Jesus Christ, 2nd Corinthians 4:4; Hebrews 1:3. God turned conventional wisdom on its head by His plan of salvation. It was simple. Yet it was impossible. God as a man paid for our sins to reconcile us to Himself; He does not promise a life of ease thereafter like so many religions today promise (including apostate Christianity). He promises persecution and hardship for the believer in this life, because that is what He received when He came to His own, John 1:11.

Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,” Romans 5:1.

Through Jesus Christ, who is the only way to the Father (John 14:6), we have peace with God. After the dust proverbially settles following the wake of Paul’s great argument in Romans chapter four concerning whether or not a Christian is justified by works, this is Paul’s concluding statement and his way of pressing on to other matters. If we trail back a few verses we see his ultimate conclusion on the topic, and either bow to the authority of the Holy Spirit who inspired him, or go on in stubborn pride demanding that our works fit somewhere into the framework of God’s plan.

And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him 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,” Romans 4:21-25.

How important was this for Paul to stress? It happened that the whole of the epistle to the churches of Galatia dealt with the issue of justification by faith alone. Also, in his letters to the two young men he had groomed to become leaders within the growing church Paul reminded them as to the nature of their salvation.

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,” 2nd Timothy 1:8-10.

But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life,” Titus 3:4-7.

Above we see the essence of genuine faith. Here is what Christians generally mean when they say someone has “savingly believed.” Abraham was persuaded that God would do what He promised to do; that is faith. Likewise when we hear the gospel preached and believe its message—that God is able to do what He promised He would do—that is faith, and that is salvation. Abraham’s faith in God garnered him imputed righteousness. This was why God could come near Abraham; He was looking at this Old Testament patriarch through Christ’s blood. Since God is not entrenched in time the sacrifice of the cross was efficacious for those who placed their faith in the true God, Yahweh. Jesus’ offering had been essentially made before the world was, Revelation 13:8. The final verse in this passage of Romans contains the gospel, more or less. Christ was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised for our justification; so everyone could see that because Christ lived, so too would those who believed on Him. “Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also,” John 14:19.

Read Part Four?

No comments:

Post a Comment

"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," 2nd Timothy 3:16.

My wife and I welcome comments to our Blog. We believe that everyone deserves to voice their insight or opinion on a topic. Vulgar commentary will not be posted.

Thank you and God bless!

Joshua 24:15

All Scripture is taken from the King James Bible (KJV) or New King James Bible (NKJV). Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.