The house was blazing and fire-fighters were rescuing people trapped inside. It was extremely dangerous and the firefighters had to apply their skills with great care.
“Thank you SO much for saving me”, gasped one man who had finally been brought to safety. “No problem”, said the fire-fighter, “but you stay well away from the building now; don’t go anywhere near until we say it is OK”.
Some minutes later the man ran back to a part of the house that did not look as though it was on fire.
No-one knew why and no-one could stop him.
Suddenly there was an almighty crash and part of the building fell on him, killing him outright.
Remember Lot’s Wife
There is a similar account in the Bible.
Angels visited the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah and told the man Lot to get out, together with his family. God was going to destroy these cities because their inhabitants were so wicked. Lot’s family was led to safety by the angels, who even held their hands and told them “Escape for your life! Do not look behind you nor stay anywhere in the plain” (Genesis 19:14–17).
However, after being taken out of the city, Lot’s wife did look back and was turned into a pillar of salt. Jesus refers to this in Luke 17:32, warning people of the importance of taking notice of his words.
In each of these scenarios people had been removed from inevitable destruction by being taken to a safe place, but they subsequently perished because of their own foolishness.
Doubtless they thought they were ‘saved’, even though they perished.
Jesus our Saviour
We are all painfully aware that the human race is a dying race. Everyone dies. However, the Bible tells us that God sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world (1 John 4:14). In fact, being associated with the name of Jesus is the only way of escaping permanent death.
“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
God has provided a way of escaping inevitable destruction. Consequently, the Bible refers to believers as ‘saved’ (2 Timothy 1:9, Titus 3:5, Romans 8:24).
Some professing Christians believe that this means that eternal life is guaranteed to them, whatever might happen. This is not what the Bible says. The death of Jesus can save us from the inevitability of death, just as Lot’s wife was saved from the brimstone and fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19:24).
However, just like Lot’s wife, we might still perish. This is clear in the writings of the apostles. In 2 Timothy chapter 1, the apostle Paul describes believers as ‘saved’ (verse 9), but subsequently urges Timothy to ‘hold fast the pattern of sound words’ (verse 13) and clearly states that some people have in fact strayed from the correct way (2:16–18).
Similarly, Paul tells the believers at Corinth that they are saved by the gospel “if you hold fast the word which I preached to you” (I Corinthians 15:2). Jesus himself says that “he who endures to the end will be saved” (Matthew 10:22 and 24:13). The point is reinforced in I Corinthians 1:18 where Paul describes believers as those “who are being saved” (also 2 Corinthians 2:15).
God Asks Us to Obey
God has saved mankind from the otherwise inevitable death sentence. However, He asks us to respond individually: to believe and be baptised:
“He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16).
Jesus said that:
“Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5).
These are very strong words without any possibility of compromise. Later in the chapter Jesus says that we must believe on the ‘name’ of the Son of God (v 18). It is abundantly clear that this belief is not merely an intellectual assent to the record of Jesus’ life. It also requires a personal commitment, which must be based on an understanding of what the ‘name’ means.
Jesus means ‘Saviour’ and Christ means ‘Anointed One’. Those names spell out God’s plan: to save us because of what Jesus has done and to send him again as King.
The Only Name
In Acts 4:17–18 Jesus’ name is associated with doctrine (i.e. beliefs). It is therefore necessary to understand his name and the implications for our relationship with him. Jesus commanded his followers to live by the same selfless and godly principles that he did (John 13:34). He described this as taking up the cross:
“Whoever desires to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Mark 8:34).
This obviously requires us to understand what Jesus himself believed and how he lived.
We have been offered a reprieve from the death sentence that we inherited from the moment we were born.
God offers us salvation. Please don’t ignore this life-saving offer.
By Anna Hart