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Understanding God's Salvation

God's plan of salvation is often expressed in various ways. One proclaims 'Repent and accept Jesus as your Savior.' Another states 'Trust in Christ and His sacrifice to be saved.' Yet another cries out 'You must believe that Christ died on the cross for the sins of the world, but he did not stay dead. He rose on the third day and by asking Him into your heart to be your lord, you will receive eternal life.'

All these expressions are true and in response to any of them if a person truly by faith turns to Jesus Christ for eternal salvation, that person will be given eternal life and become a child of God. Yet he or she may not fully understand the intricate details of this most important transaction. Unless one seriously and systematically studies the Bible, God's infallible Word, that person may never be able to say along with the Apostle Paul, 'Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift.' (2 Corinthians 9:15). This 'gift' is not only Christ Himself as is stated in John 3:16, 'For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life,' but is also eternal life, which Paul records in Romans 5:15-17 by saying 'But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man [Adam], how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many . . . . For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one Man, Jesus Christ.'

But you should understand the magnitude of this gift of God. To do so will encourage you to more deeply worship and praise Him, will intensify your gratitude for Him, will increase your desire to study God's Word, will stimulate your sharing of God's salvation plan and His Word with others and will motivate you to love others as Christ both commanded and showed us.

So let's cover the details. They follow in sequence.

1. God's Word clearly states that we have all sinned and have fallen short of His standard. In Romans 3:23 the Apostle Paul declares 'There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God . . . .' The beginning of our sin started with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This is depicted in the third chapter of the book of Genesis in the Old Testament. It is also referred to by Paul in Romans 5:12, '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 . . . .'

2. There is an eternal and terrible penalty for our sin. Reread Romans 5:12 above and you will see that 'death' comes as a direct result of sin. Again in Romans 6:23, 'For the wages of sin is death . . . .' In these verses the Apostle Paul is not talking about physical death although this too was a result of Adam's sin in the Garden of Eden. More specifically he is speaking of an eternal death, which at the very least is an eternity separated from God. This then is the 'second death,' and about it the Book of Revelation states in chapter 20 verse 14, '. . .The lake of fire is the second death.' So as sinners and apart from God, we have a very terrible penalty to pay for our sin. Without God's salvation, this is all we have to which to look forward.

3. But God is not willing that anyone perish. The Apostle Peter states this in 2 Peter 3:9, 'He [God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.' God wants every person to have eternal life. That was one of His purposes for creating man in the first place. Listen again to the Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:3-6: 'This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all men . . . .' When the Apostle John relayed God's words in John 3:16, 'For God so loved the world . . . ,' God is speaking about all of mankind. His desire is that everyone be saved and have eternal life. This means you.

4. We cannot save ourselves, no matter what we by our own power can do. This reveals the one preeminent difference between religion and true Christianity. Apart from Christianity, the world of religion (and this includes several delusional 'Christian' sects or denominations) proclaims the concept of 'salvation by works.' It teaches that in order for a person to eventually achieve eternal life, one must practice pure thoughts and good deeds, perform certain sacraments or rituals and meet other established religious requirements. Even then those who follow such a protocol are never absolutely certain that they'll make it to God's eternal abode. What is sad is that many of these religious groups call themselves Christian. They are neither rooted in or attempt to follow God's Word. The Bible clearly states that it is impossible for any one of us to obtain eternal life by 'works' or anything that we personally can do. Hear the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:8,9, 'For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.' It is natural for us to want to believe that we can save ourselves by following some form of religious law, but the Apostle Paul again says, after a detailed discourse on the subject, in Romans 3:28, 'For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.' If in fact Jesus Christ and the eternal life He provides for us is a 'gift,' as is declared over and over again in the Word of God, then reasoning dictates that one can do nothing to 'earn' the gift. One can only receive it.

5. God provided only one way in which we may be saved. He provided for only one person to pay the debt that our sins demanded. That person was and is His Son, Jesus Christ. Only when we accept Christ and His payment as made in our behalf will God bestow upon us eternal life. Let there be no doubt about this. The Apostle Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit and speaking of Christ, declared in Acts 4:12, 'Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.' Jesus Himself said in John 14:6, '. . . I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.' But how is this so you may ask, and how exactly did Christ pay for my sins that I may have eternal life. The following are the details:
It should be noted at this point that one does not need to understand every detail to be saved. It is only important that a person understand and believe that Jesus Christ alone can impart salvation (eternal life) and only when he/she accepts by faith Christ and His sacrifice on the Cross for this will he/she be saved.
a. Jesus Christ is God incarnate, that is, He was made flesh. He was born of a virgin in the person of Jesus Christ, and He lived among us but never sinned. Speaking of Christ in 1 Timothy 3:16 the Apostle Paul writes 'And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh . . . .' Speaking of God the Father, Jesus Christ said in John 10:30, 'I and the Father are one.' Because Christ made this statement, the Jews decided to stone Him saying in verse 33, 'We are not stoning you for any of these but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.' In John 12:45 Jesus declared that any person that sees Him also sees God. Although not quoted here due to length of verse, it is clear that a review of Matthew 1:18-22 and Luke 1:26-45 reveals God in the form of Jesus Christ through the working of the Holy Spirit was born of a virgin. The Bible also says that He lived some 30 years but was without sin. Referring to Jesus, the Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 2.22, 'He committed no sin . . . .' Speaking again of Jesus in Hebrews 4:15, '. . . one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet was without sin.' And in 1 John 3:5, '. . . And in Him is no sin.' Why was it important that God be manifest in the person of Jesus Christ and after all temptation be found sinless? Because only then could He be the perfect sacrifice to take away the sins of all mankind. Only God had the power and authority to do this. This brings us to the next most critical point.

b. According to all that was prophesized about Him, Jesus was hated by the world and was eventually delivered to die on a rugged Roman cross. But the death that Christ Jesus suffered was not merely a physical death. It was the spiritual death that every person who has lived or will ever live upon this earth must face if not saved by God's grace. That is why according to Matthew 27:45 and 46, while Christ hung on that cross, 'From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land.' and 'About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?'-which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?' In that hour and in some inexplicably miraculous way, God the Father separated Himself from God the Son. This was spiritual death. To Christ this was more painful than anything we can or ever will be able to imagine. More importantly, why? Because not only did Christ Jesus take upon Himself the past, present and future sins of the world, but also He became our sins. This bears repeating. Christ Jesus became (was made) our sin. The Apostle Paul referring to Christ declares in 1 Corinthians 5:21, 'God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.' It was the only way. Taking and becoming our sin and thereby paying the price for it may now through faith in that act make us righteous. This is the most awesome and overwhelming aspect of God's Salvation Plan. But there is more.

c. Sin and death, both physical and spiritual, did not conquer Christ Jesus. After He was buried He rose from the grave on the third day victorious over all sin, all evil and all death. He ascended to God the Father in Heaven. This positively demonstrated that He alone is sufficient and able to bestow eternal life upon all who will accept Him and His substitutional sacrifice. In Matthew 28:5 and 6, ' The angel said to the women, 'Do not be afraid, for I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; He has risen, just as he said.'' In Luke 24:5 and 6, '. . . He is not here; He has risen! Remember how He told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: 'The Son of Man, must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.'' In Mark 16:19, 'After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was taken up into heaven and He sat at the right hand of God.' In 1 Peter 3:21 and 22, '. . . It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand-with angels, authorities and powers in submission to Him.'

6. All this information will do you no good unless by a conscience act of your will you make it personal and practical in your life. You ask, how? The Bible in various ways declares over and over again that in order for one to be saved, you must repent and turn to Christ. Exactly what does 'repent' mean in this context. Strictly speaking it means to turn from one direction and head in the opposite direction. It means that you must turn around from any form of salvation dependent upon works or whatever you can personally do. It means you must turn away from the belief that good deeds, sacraments or religious practice can bring you eternal life. It's not talking about turning from a life of sin for if we could do this, this alone would be considered a 'work.' In Ephesians 2:8 and 9 the Apostle Paul clearly proclaims, 'For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.' So you must turn from this and turn to Christ. This means that you must by faith accept all that He did as total and final payment for your sins. You must place your faith only in Him and His sacrifice for eternal life. This must be a conscience act of will. You may wish to tell Christ of this decision by a silent prayer. You may wish to scream it to Him from the housetop. But by some act of will you must make the decision to trust only in Christ to be saved. Christ put it this way in John 3:16, 'For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.'

[Two afterthoughts. One is that 'eternal life' is permanent, or otherwise it is not 'eternal.' So once you have it, it can never be taken away from you. Jesus said in John 5:24, 'I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.' Have confidence in God words to Christians in Hebrews 13:5 when He says, '. . . Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.' Two is something mentioned in the article but bears repeating. This Biblical doctrine of 'not by works but by faith in Christ' is the one most distinguishing doctrine from the doctrines of salvation of all other sects and religions, some even calling themselves 'Christian.' If anyone or any church or group does not adhere to this Biblical doctrine, they are not of God. Here the Apostle Paul in Galatians 1:6-8: 'I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the One who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!']

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