Part 1: God wants all men and women to be saved.
How is God able to save from sin and death?
Salvation is only through Christ
When will God save men and women?
Part 2: What must I do to be saved?
The essential steps
1. Humble ourselves, to accept Grace
2. Have faith
4. Be baptized
5. Live a life of obedience
Once Saved, Always Saved?
In our hearts we know that there must be more to life than simply living and dying. We look into space and consider the wonder of creation and realize there is a greater power than ourselves. We look at the complexity of the human body and realize we are not here by accident or chance. So, why are we here and what is the meaning of our existence?
For many, life is full of suffering and misery. Life often seems unfair and without meaning or purpose. But the Creator of the heaven and earth has told us there is meaning and purpose to life. He has told us there is much more to life than simply living and dying.
The Bible tells us that God wants to save all men and women from a meaningless existence and include them in His eternal plan. The Bible is a book of hope and it tells us of the way that leads to SALVATION.
Part 1: God wants all men and women to be saved.
God tells us that He wants to save all men and women:
“This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
“The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9)
God also tells us that He will fill the earth with His glory and knowledge:
“Praise be to his glorious name forever; may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.” (Psalm 72:19)
“They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.” (Isaiah 11:9)
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.” (Habakkuk 2:14)
God will fill the earth with His glory and knowledge by saving men and women who know God and reflect His glory. However, today we see a world that is torn apart by war, disease, poverty, suffering and disaster, and many people do not know, or want to know, anything about God. It is a world that is far from reflecting the glory of God.
When the earth is full of people disobeying God’s laws how can the earth be filled with His glory? Ever since the first human failure in the garden of Eden, all men and women have inherited a natural tendency to disobey God. As a result, all people sin and eventually die:
“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned.” (Romans 5:12)
Before the earth can be filled with God’s glory, sin must be removed. When sin is removed all the problems associated with sin will also disappear. For this to happen, God has told us about His plan of salvation.
Without such a plan, the earth would never reflect the glory of God and we would be without hope.
How is God able to save from sin and death?
Consider the steps that led to the introduction of sin and death in the Garden of Eden:
1. The earth was full of God’s glory until Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s commandment (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:6-13).
2. They were punished with a mortal (dying) nature that would experience suffering (Genesis 3:15-19).
3. All people have inherited the same mortal nature (Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22).
To remove sin and death and fill the earth with God’s glory, the above steps must be REVERSED. And this is exactly what happened. Jesus Christ succeeded where Adam failed.
Jesus never sinned, he was totally obedient to God and as a result he opened a way for God to save us and fill the earth with His glory.
The steps leading to the removal of sin and death can be summarized as follows:
1. Jesus Christ obeyed God completely (Hebrews 4:15).
2. He was rewarded with an immortal nature that was not able to sin (Acts 2:22-24).
3. All CAN inherit an immortal nature (Romans 6:8-12).
The essential steps
There are five essential steps that God requires us to take if we want to be saved:
1. Humble ourselves – to accept Grace Romans 3:23-24; Titus 2:11
2. Have Faith in God and the Gospel Ephesians 2:8; Hebrews 11:6; Acts 8:12
3. Repent and be Converted Acts 3:19; Luke 13:3
4. Be Baptized Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16, Acts 8:16, Acts 10:43
5. Live a life of Obedience Matthew 28:19-20; 1 Timothy 4:16; Matthew 10:22; James 1:12
1. Humble ourselves – to accept Grace
The first step is to humble ourselves because there is nothing we can do, or have done, that makes us deserve this wonderful gift of eternal life. We have all sinned and deserve death (Romans 6:23). Eternal life is a gift we cannot earn, we can never expect it as something that is rightfully ours. We are told that it is by God’s grace (favour) that we are justified (made right):
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 3:23-24)
Therefore, we must humble ourselves so we can prepare our minds for the coming of Christ who will bring us salvation:
“. . . All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:5-6)
2. Have faith in God and the Gospel God will only save us by His grace if we have faith:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8)
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”(Hebrews 11:6)
Not only must we believe that God exists and will reward us, we must also believe in the good news about the Kingdom of God and Jesus Christ. This message was at the very centre of Paul’s preaching:
“Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 28:31)
Belief in the gospel was required before a person was baptized:
“But when they believed Philip as he preached the good news of the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.” (Acts 8:12)
It is also important to have a correct belief about God and Jesus. We are told that true worshippers will worship God in truth:
“Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks.” (John 4:23)
We are also told that our eternal life depends on knowing the only true God and Jesus Christ:
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” (John 17:3)
A correct knowledge of God, Jesus and the Kingdom of God can only come through reading the Bible. When Paul preached the good news to those in Berea they did not simply accept what he was saying, rather they searched the Bible to see if what they heard was the truth (Acts 17:11). We too must have this attitude and search for truth.
There are a number of examples in the Bible that show us how God views those who worship Him in the way that they think is acceptable without paying due regard to the way God commanded them to worship Him:
– Cain worshipped God in his own way and was rejected by God. We are told in the New Testament that his works were evil (1 John 3:12).
– The sons of Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, were destroyed by fire from God because they were disobedient in the way they approached and worshipped God (Leviticus 10:1-3).
– In Christ’s day the Jews had turned their worship into one that God saw as vain and empty (Matthew 15:9). And they would be ‘thrust out’ of the Kingdom (Luke 13:28).
“Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15)
After hearing the truth about God, Jesus Christ and the Kingdom of God, we must repent.
Paul tells us:
“Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out.” (Acts 3:19)
Repent means, “to change one’s mind for the better”. Therefore, we must change the way we think and turn to God. Our whole life must be focused in the right direction as we prepare to make a lifelong commitment to serve God and walk in the footsteps of Christ.
4. Be baptized
Although baptism may seem a simple and unimportant thing to do, it has great meaning and significance.
We must take the time to understand the meaning of baptism and realize how important it is. Baptism is an essential step and not an optional extra. We are told clearly that belief must be followed by baptism:
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)
The book of Leviticus taught the Jews how to make a sacrifice for sin. The person offering a sacrifice for sin would take the very best lamb and shed its blood. Before it was killed, the sinner would reach forward and place his hand on the head of the animal (Leviticus 4:27-29).
In doing this, he would be making a connection with the sacrifice. As he saw this animal rapidly die, he would understand that this animal represented himself. It would remind him how serious sin was and how terrible it is in God’s eyes and he would appreciate the great love of God in providing a covering for his sin.
In a similar way we have forgiveness of our sins today. Through baptism we are making a connection with our perfect sacrificial Iamb – the Lord Jesus Christ. This connection with Christ through baptism is explained in the book of Romans:
“. . . all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father; we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” (Romans 6:3-8)
In baptism we are symbolically dying, being buried in water and being raised out of the water just as Christ died, was buried and rose to a new life.
After baptism we enter into a new relationship with God and our past sins are washed away and we become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17)
5. Live a Life of Obedience
Once we are baptized we must obey the commandments of the Lord Jesus Christ and tell others about the wonderful hope of salvation:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matthew 28:19-20)
Once saved, always saved?
The Bible never says that salvation is guaranteed. Immortal life is only given at the judgement when Jesus Christ returns to those found worthy. Simply attending a church and saying that we “accept Jesus as our personal saviour” (a popular phrase, but one not found in the Bible) will, sadly, not guarantee our salvation.
The Bible teaches that even after we are baptized there is no guarantee of salvation. We are told that we must strive to enter into the Kingdom (Luke 13:23-24), and that not everyone who seeks eternal life will find it (Matthew 1:13). Christ will reject even some who are confident of their own salvation, because they did not do the will of God (Matthew 1:21-23).
Christ tells us that observing his commandments is part of our Christian walk (Matthew 28:19-20), and seeking to obey them is required for our salvation (1 Timothy 4:16, Hebrews 5:9).
Many Christians sincerely believe that they know the day and hour they were saved “, and yet time and time again such overconfidence so easily leads them to make mistakes.
“Therefore let him who thinks he stands be careful in case he should fall.” (1 Corinthians 10:12)
The Bible clearly teaches that:
Eternal life is not a present possession of believers (see Matthew 10:22, 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, Titus 1:2, Hebrews 3:12-14, 2 Peter 1:10, compare Titus 3:7 with Romans 8:24, compare Matthew 24:46 with Daniel 12:2).
Salvation is given to those who have accepted Christ AND have ‘overcome’ the trials they experience throughout their lives (see Revelation 2:7,17,26, 3:5,12,21).
Salvation is ultimately a future experience (Romans 13:11,1 Thessalonians5:8, Hebrews 1:14).
Eternal life is to be given at the “last day” (John 6:39-40,54,1 Corinthians 15:22-23).
The great apostle Paul, although confident of his salvation, recognized that he could be disqualified from the race to receive the incorruptible crown of life (1 Corinthians 9:24-27).
From another of Paul’s letters, it is clear he understood that his salvation was not guaranteed (Philippians 10:10-14). Paul also tells the Gentile believers in Rome that they must ‘continue’ in God’s kindness otherwise they would be cut off as many of the Jews were:
“Behold then the goodness and severity of God; on those who fell severity, but to you goodness – if you continue in his goodness – otherwise you will be cut off.” (Romans 11:21-22).
There are three quotations in Hebrews that leave us without doubt that salvation is not guaranteed when you accept Christ and become a believer. Read the following verses and ask yourself whether the salvation of these believers was guaranteed;
(i) Hebrews 3:12-14
(ii) Hebrews 6:4-6
(iii) Hebrews 10:26-29
God requires us to struggle against our selfish human nature s and remain obedient to Him.
Overcoming temptation is not easy and it will require great effort and perseverance combined with sincere prayer and a constant reading of the Bible. Paul described this struggle as a ‘war’ within himself. There was a battle between doing good and doing evil and often when he wanted to do good he found himself doing evil (Romans 7:14-25).
At the judgment every person will be rewarded according to his or her works, it is to the one who continues in well doing that eternal life will be given. In contrast, the disobedient will receive indignation and wrath (Romans 2:5-10).
The confusion surrounding salvation revolves around the uses of the word ‘saved’. The following example shows us how the word ‘saved’ can be used in more than one way:
Imagine that an airplane crashed in the middle of a large ocean. The people from the plane are struggling for survival. When one of them sees a life raft nearby he cries, “Thank God, I’m saved”. However, he is not completely out of danger, first, he must reach the life raft.
Once in the life raft he is still not totally safe. The life raft may sink or there may not be enough food and water to last until a rescue plane is sent. Even when in the rescue plane, there is a risk of the plane crashing – he is not ‘saved’ in the ultimate sense until he sets foot on land.
When we come to the Bible, we also find clear examples of the word ‘saved’ being used in a number of different ways. There are three distinct uses of the word “saved” in Scripture. Care in their use is required to avoid misleading conclusions:
1) “Saved” in the past tense referring to the sacrificial work of Christ or when the believer connects him or herself with that sacrifice at baptism (see 2 Timothy 1:9 and Titus 3:5 for examples). This is like the person stranded in the middle of the ocean seeing a life raft and saying, “Thank God, I’m saved”.
2) “Saved” in the present tense (continuous tense in the Greek, more accurately “being saved”). The following quotations indicate that salvation is a continuing process throughout the entire life of the believer (see Acts 2:47, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 15:2 and 2 Corinthians 2:15). This is like the person on the life raft.
3) “Saved” in the future tense and ultimate sense (see Matthew 10:22, 1 Corinthians 3:15, 5:5 and 1 Timothy 4:16). This is like the person safely setting foot on land.
Because of the perfect obedience of Christ, God is able to fulfil His purpose and fill the earth with His glory.
When Christ returns, he will re-establish the Kingdom of God and this kingdom will grow until it fills the entire earth.
We can be part of this coming Kingdom if we follow the steps that God has recorded for us in the Bible. If we follow these steps, God will count us as righteous and we will be saved from spending eternity in the grave and be given eternal life.
The hope we are given by God is real. God’s purpose will continue to unfold and we have the option now of being saved and being part of His eternal plan. There are only two ways for us to go. We can chose the broad way that leads to death, or the narrow way that leads to life – the decision is ours.
Let us consider the words of Moses to the children of Israel:
“I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life,” (Deuteronomy 30:19-20)
By JAMES AND DEB FLINT