Our Glorious Salvation 3

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Humans sin.  That is a statement of fact.  Humans will sin no matter what their environment.  That’s because sin comes from the inside out, not the outside in.  Of course we are tempted to sin from without.  However, the nature of man is sinful.  Put man in a sterile environment and he will find a way to sin.  No wonder man needs help!  All the rules, regulations and laws a society puts in place will do nothing to curb man’s sinful impulse.  Try as he might, man cannot  eradicate sin on earth; there’s no chance of man creating Utopia.

But there is hope.  God has created a plan of salvation that takes care of both the personal and social aspects of life.  Save a man’s soul, and his whole life will necessarily change.  The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in him, saving him, convicting him of sin, leading him in God’s will and enabling him to live a God-pleasing life.  The Holy Spirit teaches us about ourselves and our God.  In doing so, as Augustine taught, man is given a desire for God’s truth and finds joy in the things of the Spirit.

A lot takes place at conversion, that’s for sure.  Let’s take a look at God’s plan of salvation and discover what it’s all about.

Repentance from sin, (Acts 2:36 – 41)

Entrance into the “new Israel,” verses 36, 39

Therefore I clearly state to everyone in Israel that God has made this Jesus you crucified to be the Lord, the Messiah!  (Acts 2:36  TLB)

For Christ promised him to each one of you who has been called by the Lord our God, and to your children and even to those in distant lands!   (Acts 2:39  TLB)

Those words were spoken by Peter as part of his Pentecostal sermon.  Peter preached this sermon following the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and he preached it to his people, Jews.  In the course of this tremendous sermon, Peter urged his listeners to recognize that Jesus is both Lord and Christ.  He did this by talking about Jesus’ life, death and resurrection and linking those things to God’s plan.  He also, to the shame of the Jews, emphasized their responsibility for the death of Jesus.

It was essential that the Jews understand that Jesus is their Messiah.  However, He isn’t just their Messiah, but He is the Messiah “even to those in distant lands.”  This was a new idea Peter was introducing.  A Jewish Messiah that would save even Gentiles!  This was a huge pill for the Jews to follow.  It’s not insignificant that Peter introduced it.  Later on, he would have issues with just eating with Gentiles!

What is important to  note is that God made Jesus the Messiah.  No human agent did that.  God made Jesus the Messiah and it is up to Jews and Gentiles to accept that.  In his sermon, Peter did just what God did:  he laid out the facts then left it up to the audience to decide the truth the message.  Or, to use Peter’s own words, God calls.  But we must answer.  That decision allows the Spirit to do His work of putting us into God’s family.

Initiation into the faith, verses 37, 38; 40, 41

Peter’s sermon must have hit the bull’s eye!  Somebody shouted out:  What shall we do?  His answer is classic:

Each one of you must turn from sin, return to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; then you also shall receive this gift, the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38  TLB)

This is the essence of salvation:  the forgiveness of sins.  Verse 38 in no way suggests that in order for sins to be forgiven one must be baptized in water.  Salvation results in faith in Jesus as Savior, not in some symbolic exercise.  What Peter was getting at was one must be baptized because of the forgiveness of sins.  When this crowd, moved by both Peter’s stirring sermon and the Holy Spirit, repented, their sins were forgiven and they wanted to take the next step:  baptism.

A.C. Dixon’s comments on salvation are interesting and worth a look at:

We  need a quickening of faith; faith in the power of the God of Pentecost to convict and convert three thousand in a day.  Faith, not in a process of culture by which we hope to train children into a state of salvation, but faith in the mighty God who can quicken the dead soul into life in a moment; faith in moral and spiritual revolution rather than evolution.

He’s right about that.  The church in the twenty-first century is all about evolution; all about teaching and training children on how to be good Christians.  When the time is right, we haul them in front of the church or the board of elders, have them make a confession of faith (which they had previously rehearsed), and *bingo* that child is saved.

Or is he?  Can an unsaved child evolve into a child of God?  Can any unrepentant sinner “ooze” in Christianity just by hanging around other Christians?  Not if you follow New Testament precedent.  Dixon was right; faith is not a process.  It is something that happens in a moment, when a decision is made.

Confess Jesus as Lord, Romans 10:5 – 13

Confession as “covenant renewal,” verses 5 – 8

For Moses wrote that if a person could be perfectly good and hold out against temptation all his life and never sin once, only then could he be pardoned and saved.  But the salvation that comes through faith says, “You dont need to search the heavens to find Christ and bring him down to help you,” and, “You dont need to go among the dead to bring Christ back to life again.”  For salvation that comes from trusting Christ—which is what we preach—is already within easy reach of each of us; in fact, it is as near as our own hearts and mouths.  (TLB)

These verses occur in the midst of larger discussion on the state of Judaism after the coming of Jesus as the true Messiah.  Paul was very concerned that so many of his people had rejected Jesus in spite of his best efforts.  As far as obedience to the law was concerned, Paul made it clear the law was no longer necessary.  That flew in the face of what the Jews believed; that the law was a  prerequisite  for having everlasting life.

Jesus took the complication out of salvation.  And Paul used the teaching of Deuteronomy to drive home his point:

Obeying these commandments is not something beyond your strength and reach; for these laws are not in the far heavens, so distant that you cant hear and obey them, and with no one to bring them down to you; nor are they beyond the ocean, so far that no one can bring you their message; but they are very close at hand—in your hearts and on your lips—so obey them.  (Deuteronomy 30:11 – 14  TLB)

Well, as good as that sounds, the history of Judaism has shown it doesn’t work.  Thankfully, with the coming of Jesus, God had altered this formula, putting Jesus above the law.  He’s allowed to do that, being God and all.  Now, instead of dealing with “the law” in order to be saved, simple faith has been introduced.  Confessing your faith in the work of Christ is all that is necessary.  Faith operates on the basis of the Word of the Gospel; the message of Christ,  not of the words of the law.   This was a monumental shift in thinking.  Thanks to Jesus, salvation could come immediately; the moment one hears the Gospel, believes and confesses, he’s saved!  The old way, in theory and practice salvation took forever; only after slogging through the myriad of rules and regulations.

Sinclair Ferguson, Scottish theologian, professor at Redeemer Seminary in Dallas, had said something interesting about this:

So what is the place of the law in the life of the Christian? Simply this:  We are no longer under the law to be condemned by it, we are now “in-lawed” to it because of our betrothal to Christ!  He has written the law, and love for it, into our hearts.

Confession as “personal renewal,” verses 9 – 13

Verses 9 and 10 describe the two-fold component of faith:  (1)  “If you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord”; (2) “believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead.”  Those are the two components of faith that “get the job done” as far as your salvation is concerned.  Don’t be afraid to “confess” or testify out loud that Jesus is Lord; that He is your King and Sovereign.  Believe in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  Without these two elements, there is no faith; no salvation.  Moody famously said,

Believing and confessing go together; and you cannot be saved without both.  ‘With the mouth confession is made unto salvation.’  

If the two components of faith are in verses 9 and 10, the next three verses give us the three blessings that those who have made Jesus Lord receive:

For the Scriptures tell us that no one who believes in Christ will ever be disappointed.  Jew and Gentile are the same in this respect: they all have the same Lord who generously gives his riches to all those who ask him for them.  Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  (Romans 10:11 – 13  TLB)

Receive salvation by faith

Faith alone brings justification, Galatians 2:16; 3:21 – 26

The background of Galatians is, in part, a response to a confrontation Paul had with Peter.  It’s hard to believe, but even in the infant years of the church, there were confrontations among the leadership.  This particular confrontation had to do with Peter’s moral cowardice.  He had been eating with some Christian Gentiles until a group of Jewish Christians arrived from Jerusalem.  This group of Jews still clung to certain Jewish rituals believing they were also necessary for salvation.  When they showed up, Peter excused himself from the table of fellowship.  In other words, Peter was a big Christian chicken who was afraid to actually live the freedom of the Gospel provided.  This drove Paul crazy.  What Peter did, as far as he was concerned, was the height of compromise.  In seeking to placate his friends from Jerusalem, Peter had severely compromised the full Gospel.

The goal of Jesus was not to turn Gentiles into Jews into Christians, but to turn both Jews and Gentiles into Christians.

We are no longer Jews or Greeks or slaves or free men or even merely men or women, but we are all the same—we are Christians; we are one in Christ Jesus.  And now that we are Christ’s we are the true descendants of Abraham, and all of God’s promises to him belong to us.  (Galatians 3:28  TLB)

No law or set of rules and regulations can make a person right before God.  That’s what justification is all about:  being just or right before God.  It is Jesus who justifies the sinner.

Where the righteousness of Christ is imputed to an individual, a principle of holiness is imparted to him; the former can only be ascertained by the latter.  (A. W. Pink) 

Faith alone produces good works, Ephesians 2:8—10 

Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God.  Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.  (TLB) 

These incredible verses  show us what salvation is really all about.  We were dead in our sin, God saved us by His grace alone, raising us up to heavenly places in Christ Jesus, and we will be – some day – in heaven manifesting the grace  of God for all the universe to see.  In these verses, we see the fullness of the work of Christ done on our behalf:  past, present, and future.

None of this depended or depends on anything we have done.  It’s all His grace.  We define grace as “God’s unmerited (or undeserved) favor,” but maybe a better definition would be “God’s love in action.”  God saved us because He loved us.  The faith we place in Jesus and His work not only results in our salvation but that faith enables us to do good works.  It empowers us to live the way God wants us to.

Dale Coulter, who teaches at Regent University, wrote:

God takes the broken material of our lives and re-fashions it into something beautiful.  Salvation is God’s gift to help us lead beautiful lives that show forth the glory of the Artist. 

Well put.

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