Sunday, September 4, 2011

Salvation is of the Lord, Part 6 of 9

But someone may now ask: what is the gospel? What is it precisely, and what does it contain? What must I believe? These are fair questions, and the Bible does not leave them unanswered.

Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen,” 1st Corinthians 15:1-5.

Jesus confirmed this by telling us that our "work" was to "believe in Him whom [God] sent," John 6:29.

Here is the gospel. This is the Christian message. Christianity is a historical faith whose foundation is rooted in fact that two thousand years ago in Roman controlled Israel Jesus Christ was put to death on the cross as a malefactor, and raised to life by God. He was seen by more than five hundred of His brethren at one time, 1st Corinthians 15:6. They spoke with Him (John 20:21), ate with Him (Luke 24:41-43), touched Him (John 20:27), and learned from Him, Luke 24:27. Christ died for our sins. He rose again to demonstrate that God accepted this offering for sin; the issue of sin had now been removed forever. No works to attain or maintain salvation were needed, Hebrews 10:12-14.

For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him,” Romans 5:6-9.

The logic of Paul’s argument slowly erodes and shatters any legitimate hope of participating in the plan of salvation. God left no stone unturned, so to speak. He inspired Paul to inform us that we were both without strength and sinners when Christ died for us. The idea of being without strength suggests that mankind could not save itself. We were hopelessly cut off from God, and unless God Himself took action to reconcile us back to Him there would never have been any hope. God commends His love toward us in this respect. Christ did not die because He deemed that we were worth the purchase price; no, Jesus died despite our lack of worth. The gospel is not an injection of self-esteem to show us how much we were worth in the eyes of God; it was a divine message of God’s amazing love toward a world full of rebels that would rather kill Him than serve Him. We needed reconciliation. This happens to be exactly what the Lord did and His apostle proclaims that if we are in fact justified in a legal sense it is by Christ’s blood. Paul doesn’t even defend that notion here but states it as a fact the Roman Christians should simply accept, following this truth with a promise of security for the believer; that if you are saved by Jesus Christ, our Lord will keep you safe from the wrath to come.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand,” John 10:28-30.

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,” Romans 8:38-39.

There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit,” Romans 8:1-4.

This passage follows the heels of chapter seven and Paul’s personal testimony concerning his struggles in the flesh, yearning that someone would deliver him from this body of death. The final verse of that chapter finds Paul praising God for what Christ accomplished on his behalf. The opening of chapter eight has Paul using one of his famous “therefore’s” to emphasize a point. If Christ has freed you, you are indeed free, John 8:36. If the law of the Spirit of life (what Paul elsewhere refers to as the law of faith, Romans 3:27) has liberated us we are no longer under bondage to the law of sin and death. There is only one thing in Scripture that an unsaved man works for: sin, Romans 6:23. It gives us wages for our labor, and those wages are death. This is the gulf of contrast between grace and works; grace grants life while works produces death. Consequently saints serving Christ will receive rewards at His judgment seat; again, salvation is not a reward but a free gift, Romans 5:15.

Note that the law was too weak due to our flesh to save us from sin. The law taught us to recognize sin’s presence and increased our guilt but was impotent to alleviate our suffering. Our conscience is God’s moral law at work in us daily, and it cannot declare how to become right with the One we’ve offended; only in fact that we have offended. Again Scripture asserts that where man failed God succeeded perfectly. Christ as man stood as our representative before God, a perfect sacrifice for sin, Hebrews 7:27. That is why Paul can say that believers fulfill the law; the Law commanded us to attain perfect righteousness. The Law drove us to Christ, who fulfilled the Law, and when we believe on Him we receive His righteousness as a gift. Christ was the ultimate end that the law was given to prepare Israel for, Romans 10:4; Galatians 3:24. The Law is a road sign; Jesus is the actual destination.

For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his,” Romans 8:5-9.

There are three types of people I see here: those who are in the flesh, those who walk after the flesh, and those who walk after the Spirit. The first type refers to the unsaved, “in the flesh.” The other two are separate types of believers. One is what some refer to as the “carnal Christian” walking after the flesh as though unwashed and unsaved. The other is a Christian walking in obedience with his Lord, after the Spirit. I know there are some Christians who insist that there is no such thing as a carnal Christian. You are either in the faith (that is, walking according to the Spirit) or you are deceived and unsaved. Before we pass judgment let us see what Scripture says about the matter in other areas.

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men? For while one saith, I am of Paul; and another, I am of Apollos; are ye not carnal?” 1st Corinthians 3:1-4.

For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskilful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil,” Hebrews 5:12-14.

The language here is very similar. Paul refers to these Corinthian Christians as carnal men, babes who have not grown in grace. The writer of Hebrews utilizes the same language, calling these Jewish Christians babes who are unskillful in handling the word of God. These are not unsaved men, since Paul uses the term “natural man” to describe the unsaved in 2nd Corinthians 2:14. Carnal men are apparently then saved men who walk after the flesh rather than the Spirit and suffer the shipwrecks that follow. These are the ones who will have their works burned at the judgment seat of Christ. Much confusion has been created by demanding an unrealistic expectation from Christians. If we do not witness constant fruit bearing in one’s life hasty assumption dictates that one has believed in vain and is not truly saved. From this faulty logic verses such as the ones above are reinterpreted to mean something other than their straight forward meaning to support a “good Christian or false professor” doctrine. This too has led to a rejection of “faith only” and “once saved always saved” to help buttress a grace-like gospel that injects enough works to ensure that the saints are never idle. The motivation is not grounded in love however, but misplaced zeal and veiled fear of falling short of salvation.

1 comment:

  1. Once again you've hit the nail on the head. Every modification of doctrine forces other changes. The only way to stay true is by accepting everything God says and taking the trouble to compare other scriptures and reconcile our understanding with them.

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