The gospel message is God’s promise of full forgiveness of sin because of Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection to life. Central to the gospel is the promise that salvation is received through faith alone apart from any individual effort to purchase, earn or deserve God’s salvation. Salvation is only by the grace of God and is never given as reward or repayment for good works. The classic way of stating this is that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. This is the most basic Christian teaching. One is not saved who believes salvation can be gained, whether partially or completely, through any meritorious deed.
Obedience will never bring salvation to a person. Obedience will never secure salvation. Obedience will never sustain salvation. Obedience will never strengthen salvation. All obedience necessary to save a person has been completely accomplished by Jesus. Some protest that such a full and free salvation would encourage men to receive salvation and then live a sinful life with no regard for obedience. Paul answers this exact objection in Romans 6, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid!” The freeness of salvation is never an excuse to live wickedly. Since the obedience of the individual plays no role in gaining or securing salvation, what is the relationship of obedience to salvation?
Obedience shows the reality of one’s salvation. Obedience is the certain result of salvation. Many denominations and religions teach unbiblical ideas on this point, so clarity is crucial. Obedience is the inevitable fruit of salvation, just like an apple on a tree. The apple itself brings nothing to strength or stability of the tree. Fruit reveals the health of the tree. The gospel seed that is received in a believing heart will bear fruit. One fruit of salvation is diligence to obey the commands of God. The absence of obedience does not remove salvation from the soul. The absence of obedience does not prevent one from being saved. The absence of obedience reveals the person was never saved. 1 John 2:4 says, “He that says, I know Him and keeps not His commandments is a liar.”
Obedience is the inevitable fruit of salvation but this does not mean the saved person will never sin, nor even that the person will never commit serious sin. Peter is a powerful example of this. Many remember Peter’s denial of Jesus. Though He most vigorously and blasphemously denied Jesus, Peter remained a disciple. The book of Galatians describes an event many years later. After the gospel began to spread into the regions around Jerusalem Peter fell into an act of collusion with apostates who denied the gospel. The seriousness of his sin brought a stern and public rebuke from the apostle Paul. Peter’s sin was one that undermined the gospel, but he never ceased to be a Christian, nor even to be an apostle. Failures in obedience do remove salvation, nor do incidents of disobedience disprove salvation. Rather, a pattern of striving to obey God in all things is a mark of genuine salvation. A life of willful disobedience is evidence that a professing Christian has not actually been saved. Obedience is the evidence of genuine salvation, the by-product of the transformed heart.
The book of Hebrews describes faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Following that description is a series of illustrations depicting what genuine faith looks like. In all cases faith is believing the Word of God to be true and acting according to God’s direction. Faith is the conviction of truth that changes how a person thinks and behaves. Saving faith is the conviction of the truths of the Bible about sin and the inability of a man to save himself. Saving faith is the conviction that Jesus is God, who died for sin, was restored to life and taken bodily up to heaven where He lives and reigns. Saving faith is the conviction that Jesus is God who did everything necessary for your own salvation. Saving faith believes the truths of the Bible and it responds to those truths as the Bible instructs us to respond.
Faith that brings salvation is far more than agreement with a set of facts. Faith that bring salvation is more than a realization that you have a spiritual problem and that you need help. Faith that brings salvation is more than the realization that you are guilty before God and deserve eternal punishment. All of these things are true, and must be agreed with. However, faith does not only agree with truth. Faith believes those truths apply directly to yourself and then applies the truths and promises to your own heart.
You may believe that Bill Gates is the most generous man in the nation. You may realize that you have a huge a financial need. You may even have a written promise from Mr. Gates that assures you he will give to you whatever is necessary to fully meet your financial need. Believing all those things will not supply your financial need. You must make your request to Mr. Gates, asking him to supply your need.
Saving faith does not just believe, it seeks God. Salvation is freely given to those who ask God for salvation according to the way He has provided. What is that way? God has commanded the sinner come to Him rejecting all efforts to save himself. God has commanded the sinner come to Him rejecting all other gods and beliefs. God has commanded the sinner come trusting in no one and no thing but Jesus. God has commanded the sinner come to Him turning away from all other attempts at salvation, false religions and false gods.
Genuine, saving faith accepts the truths of the Bible as truth, believes them as true about one’s self and then complies with God’s Word by responding exactly as God has instructed. Real faith does not just say it believes. Real faith does not only agree with a fact presented. Genuine faith complies to the instructions that God has given. Saving faith obeys God by calling out to Jesus for forgiveness. Saving faith obeys God by repenting of false worship, human effort and rejection of Jesus. Saving faith obeys God by relying only upon Jesus for salvation, without the addition of any personal effort. Faith believes God and that belief changes a person’s thinking and action to produce a right response to God.
Abortion has recently been a major topic of conversation in the Everlasting Truths ministry. The Biblical view of abortion is that it is always the willful murder of an innocent human life. Abortion is a horrible thing, the slaughter of one of society’s most innocent and helpless. These truths should sting, but they should not drive anyone to despair. The tragedy of abortion is not exhausted in the extermination of unborn babies but also in the guilt, shame and emotional turmoil of millions of women who have had abortions. Many of these women wonder if she can ever be forgiven. To that anguished heart, Bible shouts a joy filled answer. The resounding cry echoing out of the pages of the Bible is, Yes, you can be forgiven. Whether you have had an abortion, talked a partner into having an abortion or performed abortions, forgiveness is not out of reach.
The Biblical promise of salvation is not limited those individuals who have been basically good. There is no such thing as a sin God will refuse to forgive, nor a level of sinfulness beyond God’s grace. The promise of the Bible is clear, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.” Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19) The Israelites were guilty of a wide range of wicked sins, including sacrificing their infants and young children to idols. Despite the greatness of their sin, God offers a blanket promise. He will give full forgiveness to those who turn from their false worship to Him. He gives the same promise to all men today. No matter the magnitude of your sin, if you will turn from your sin to Him, He will have compassion and cast all your sin into the deepest seas. In Isaiah God promises, “Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be like wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) You may have a scarlet letter emblazoned in fiery letters on your heart, always reminding you of the wrong you have done. You may feel as if there is no way you can ever atone for your sin. The promise of God is you don’t have to make atonement or purge your guilt. Atonement has been made. The judge stands ready to erase all your guilt.
The promise of Jesus is that your abortion will never be remembered by God. You do not have to live in shame or guilt. You can be fully forgiven. When you turn from your sin to Jesus, God promises to remove all your sin. Jesus took on Himself the entirety of the punishment you deserve and gives His righteousness to all who believe. When you place your full dependence on Jesus, the Son of God who died, was buried and rose again for your sin, God will look on you differently. No longer will you be condemned. You will be a righteous daughter of God who is covered by the blood of Jesus. Despite the awful tragedy of abortion, it is not the unforgivable sin. Penance is not required, shame can be set aside, guilt is removed because the full penalty has been paid by Jesus.
This question touches on topics that need a lengthy explanation for the reader to have a sound understanding. Consequently, though at first glance the question may appear to some to be emminently easy, a simple answer will not do. The answer that might be most popular, and tweetable, is to say, “When you stand before God, He is not going to ask to what denomination you belonged.” Such an answer, those possibly accurate, skips over some crucial truths. A sound bite answer will not suffice. The most Biblically accurate answer to this question is neither. When the saved person stands forth for judgment, his salvation is not based upon himself or his church. When God looks at any one to determine his fitness for heaven, God looks at the finished work of Jesus and if that work has been applied ot the individual’s heart. The saved person’s heart is righteous because it has been made new by Jesus. The saved person’s heart is clean because all guilt has been washed away by Jesus. If God were to base salvation on the sincerity of the person’s heart none would have hope of salvation. When God looks at the saved, He looks at Jesus. Salvation has nothing to do with sincerity of heart or denominational affiliation, but on Jesus’ work and if that work has been applied by faith to the sinful heart of an individual.
No saved Christian will face judgment to determine if he will enter heaven. At a person’s salvation, Heaven is secured. At death the believer goes immediately into the presence of Jesus. Paul points to this in Philippians 1:23 when he says he desires to depart this life and be with Christ. When Jesus speaks of the death of the righteous beggar in Luke 16, the righteous man enters immediately into heaven. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. These verses all imply that at death the saved immediately enter heaven, without any kind of trial to determine if they deserve to be there.
Though the believer enters directly into heaven without an entrance examination, he does face a judgment. The judgment faced by the believer has nothing to do with salvation. The judgment of the Christian is not a judgment of guilt or innocence, but a judgment of service. 2 Corinthians 5 says every Christians will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and will be rewarded according to the service he has rendered in this life. 1 Corinthians 3 says the Christian will be rewarded or lose reward based upon his service, but all believers will be saved though some may have no reward in heaven. What will be the subject matter at that judgment? The passages in 1 and 2 Corinthians say the believers judgment will be one regarding service and good works. This author thinks it plausible that such judgment will consider church involvement, but cannot say so with certainty. What is certain is the believer’s judgment will be one of accountability for the way he has served his Master. Those who have faithfully used the resources entrusted to him for the increase of God’s kingdom will be rewarded. Those who have squandered the resources will be rebuked. Such rebuke is not condemnation to eternal punishment but is the loss of potential reward for misusing the Master’s resources.
Lest this article run over long, the answer will be continued in the next article.
Most Christian churches insist that faith is necessary for salvation. Even among those groups who believe certain acts or rituals must be practiced to gain salvation, faith is still taught as holding a major role, usually the decisive one, in a person’s salvation. The pastors who are a part of the Everlasting Truths ministry unapologetically preach that one only receives salvation through faith in Jesus. Why is faith such an important part of being saved?
The first reason, which is sufficient by itself, is the Bible commands faith. The message of salvation is called by the Bible “the gospel”. The gospel is defined a set of facts about Jesus (He is God, He became man, He died on the cross, His death was to pay the punishment of men’s sin, following His death He was restored to life again and the Bible is the accurate record of these salvation truths). The gospel is that these truths of salvation are to be received by faith. The apostles Peter and Paul describe unbelievers as those who “obey not the gospel”. The book of Hebrews describes rejecting salvation as disobedience to God. In Romans 16 Paul says the gospel is published throughout the world, “for the obedience of faith.” 1 John 3:23 commands we believe in Jesus for salvation, “This is (God’s) command, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 3:23) Faith is a command of God. As the Author and Provider of salvation, God has every right to determine the conditions by which He will give salvation and to forbid salvation to those who will not come to Him under the terms He requires.
Second, faith is required for salvation because it is impossible for a person to save himself by his own effort. Salvation is either accomplished by something the person does for himself or by something Jesus does for the person. The Bible denies that any one can be good enough or obedient enough to save himself. Titus 3 says salvation is, “not by works of righteousness which we have done.” Ephesians 2 says salvation comes, “not of works, lest any man should boast.” Romans 3 and Galatians 2 both declare that the keeping of God’s laws are totally unable to bring righteousness to man. The problem is so great, that the one who attempts to earn salvation by his obedience is in fact condemning himself with every failure to obey. Faith is necessary to be saved because salvation is not attainable by the effort or goodness of any individual. Salvation is a gift that must be received, but can never be earned.
Faith is the deciding factor in salvation because salvation is only possible by the grace of God. He who refuses to receive God’s gift, whether it be by the unbelief that denies the truths of salvation or the unbelief that thinks a person can be saved by his own ability, cannot be saved because he has rejected the only means of eternal life. Faith in Jesus for salvation is necessary because it confesses the individual’s inability to save himself. Faith asks God to give a person the salvation he cannot gain in any other way. Christianity does not teach the necessity of faith so it may condemn all those who do not believe as Christians believe. Christianity teaches faith as necessary for salvation because God declares the necessity of faith. Faith is necessary for salvation because only God saves, and God only saves those who rely fully on Him, and Him alone, for forgiveness of sin and eternal life with Him.
Recent statistics show there are over 1.5 billion Muslims and approximately 1 billion Hindus in the world. Besides the two and a half billion people of the world’s second and third largest religions, there are hundreds of millions of other people who worship deities other than the God of the Bible. Many of these worshipers are devoted and serious about their religion. Many are good people who treat others with respect, contribute to their society and sincerely worship the god of their culture and heritage. Do Christians really believe these good, sincere people will be sent to hell because they don’t worship God the same as western Christians? Does the Bible teach sincere worshipers of other gods will go to hell?
These kinds of questions strike a chord deep in hearts. For good people to go to hell for not worshiping the right way or for not calling God by the right name seems patently unfair. The assumption of divine unfairness towards sincere worshipers of other religions reveals wrong ideas about salvation, heaven and hell. The question reveals a belief that one gets to heaven by worship, devotion, good behavior and sincerity.
The Biblical explanation of who goes to heaven has nothing to do with sincerity, goodness or practicing the proper religious rituals. The Bible gives specific examples of sincere, religious men who worshiped and did good but who were nonetheless condemned. Nicodemus was a good man who had great respect for Jesus and who sincerely worshiped God. Jesus told Nicodemus he was lacking something very important and could not enter heaven without it. In the book of Titus, we are told that salvation is “not by works of righteousness which we have done.” (Titus 3:5)
What Nicodemus lacked is what every man needs. Jesus said, “”Except a man be born again can, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Only those who are born again by believing Jesus is God the Son and their personal Savior will enter into heaven. Going to heaven is not a matter of sincere worship. Going to heaven is a matter of turning to Jesus for forgiveness and trusting only in Him to remove one’s guilt and its consequences. The issue is not an issue of devotion or sincerity. The issue is a matter of reliance.
Those who sincerely worship Allah have no more chance of entering heaven by their devotion than those who sincerely worship Jesus have by their faithful church attendance. Those who worship Allah cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge Jesus is God and Savior and ask Him to forgive their sin. Those who worship Vishnu cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge Jesus is the only God and Savior and trust Him alone to forgive their sin. Those who worship their ancestors cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge Jesus alone is God and is the only one able to wash away the stain of sin. Those who worship Jesus cannot go to heaven until they acknowledge He is God and Savior and rely only on Him for forgiveness of sin. Worship (in the sense of religious ritual and devotion) is never a means to salvation, no matter who is being worshiped.
Biblical creationism is important because of the effect a wrong understanding of Genesis has on the whole of Scripture. The devastation of misunderstanding Geneis is most catastrophic when it comes to Jesus and His death on the cross for salvation. When one treats the accounts of creation as spiritual, symbolic or allegorical he leaves no rational basis on which to conclude Jesus’ death and resurrection for salvation from sin is anything but spiritual, symbolic or allegorical. While many view Genesis as an allegory and Jesus’ death for sin as a historical reality, their affirming the truth about Jesus is not a result of the symbolic understanding of Genesis but contrary to it.
Why make such a strong statement? Multiple places in the New Testament draw a direct link between Jesus as the creator of Genesis and Jesus as the Savior of men. One of the reasons the Bible gives for Jesus’ ability and authority to redeem a people to Himself is that He is the creator of all. John 1 draws a clear line between the Creator and the Savior. The gospel of John intentionally copies the opening of Genesis, “In the beginning.” From the beginning of creation, John moves to discuss the one who is life, light and salvation. In the first chapter of his gospel, John introduces Jesus as the Creator who came into the world to give eternal life. In Colossians 1 Paul follows the same logical course John did. He introduces Jesus as the creator of all who took the sin of creation upon Himself on the cross. Hebrews 1 describes Jesus as God the creator who made all things and upholds all things. This same Jesus who is God the creator and God the sustainer cleansed men of sin by His death on the cross. These passages draw a significant theological and practical connection between Jesus as the Creator and Jesus as the Savior.
Some may object that these passages do not repeat the Genesis depiction of creation. One can affirm Jesus as creator through evolutionary means without undermining the truth of Jesus as Savior. This is simply not the case. In Colossians and Hebrews both passages refer to the historical events of creation, without describing the details, and to the historical events of redemption, also without describing the details. The authors clearly expected the readers to have a Biblical, historical understanding of the events to which they referred. The absence of specific details about the creation week does not mean they are up for debate, unless one is also willing to leave the details of Jesus death and resurrection open for debate. How hopeless it would be if man had nothing but a metaphorical Savior who erases metaphorical sins and promises a metaphorical heaven! If the Savior and His salvation are concrete realities, the creative work must be as well. To re-interpret those first passages which tell us of the creation and the God who created is to leave one open for reinterpretation the later work of the Creator God to redeem His creation.
Biblical creationism is a very important subject. A wrong understanding of the opening chapters of Genesis can have significant impact on how one understands the rest of the Bible. Often the impact of rejecting or reinterpreting the Bible’s creation account is far greater than one realizes. Creation is a foundational issue that influences many core Biblical teachings. As important as Biblical creation is, does one have to accept Genesis 1-3 as literal and historical truth to be be saved?
The Bible speaks in very clear terms about those things that are most important. When it comes to the matter of salvation, the Bible states exactly the principle truths that must be professed as part of the gospel. The Bible describes in no uncertain terms what must be confessed and believed to be saved.
1 Corinthians 15 defines the gospel, “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:” These things must be proclaimed when giving the gospel and must be believed to be saved. In Romans 10:9 Paul also describes the things which must be believed to be saved. “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.”
The things which must be believed for salvation are: Jesus is God. Jesus is God who died for our sins. Jesus’ death occurred just as the Old Testament said it would and the New Testament said it did. Jesus died, was buried and restored to life by God, just as the Bible says. To be saved one must admit his own guilt, acknowledge Jesus’ deity, accept Jesus death in place of the sinner and affirm Jesus is living now and forever.
Notice these verse do not mention anything about Jesus’ creation. Though creation is inextricably linked to the message of salvation and the work of Jesus, the Bible does not anywhere require that someone accept a literal reading of the creation account in order to be saved. This does not mean creation is a non-issue. One can be saved despite a wrong understanding of creation, but a wrong understanding of Genesis will be a serious detriment to faith, knowledge of the Bible and growth in Christ.