Thursday, May 29, 2008
Just what is SALVATION? BY DAVID C. PACK
Such unnecessary confusion and misplaced confidence about salvation! What does salvation mean? When—how—is one “saved”? The answers are not what you think—or expect. Here they are, made absolutely plain!
Religious people and preachers continually speak of “being saved,” “getting saved,” “getting salvation,” or “receiving their reward.” What does this mean?
All professing Christians want salvation. None want whatever is the alternative. The masses hope to leave this life for a better one. But just what is salvation? Exactly what is it that they—and you—are seeking? Most merely accept popular tradition and do not really KNOW! Do you? Are you certain?
Take a moment and write down your expectation for salvation—what it means to be “saved.”
Did you write “go to heaven”—“be with Jesus”—“have eternal life”? Or did you write “conversion”—“accepting Jesus now”? Even this much uncertainty raises questions. Does salvation come at death? Or at conversion?
On one occasion, a young man asked, “…what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?” (Matt. 19:16). Christ gave a very specific answer. Do you know what it was?
Why the mystery? Why the confusion, uncertainty and outright disagreement about just what salvation is?
God says, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” Surely this includes proving the hope of salvation—and how you will spend eternity!
So let’s prove the issue most supremely important to you—your salvation. We will answer what happens, when it happens and where. And we will also examine how one achieves life’s greatest goal.
Let’s make it absolutely plain, leaving no room for misunderstanding!
You Should Be Concerned
The Bible declares, “it is appointed unto men once to die” (Heb. 9:27). Accept this verse for exactly what it says. It means that death is the most certain reality in every person’s life. Literally, all have an “appointment” that cannot be broken.
This includes you.
Surely, why we are alive and why all must eventually die are the most important questions in life. Yet, at the same time, they are perhaps the least studied and thought about. The average person spends almost no time considering the enormous significance of what is personally the most certain event in every person’s life—DEATH!
But why do men die? Where did this “appointment” come from? What caused it?
God’s Word states, “ALL have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). “All” means everyone—no exceptions. This includes you.
For every cause there is an effect—and the Bible states that there is a consequence for sin. But what is it?
Romans states, “…the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ” (6:23). There it is. Sin causes death!
Let me say again, this means you. The fact that you may not be a religious person does not exempt you from either sinning or its consequences.
Since everyone has sinned, everyone will eventually face the death penalty. Since the wages of sin is death, this is the paycheck issued by God that people receive for what they have earned. Death is what we have all earned by our deeds.
Do you begin to see why you—and all mankind—must be saved?
But what does saved mean? In one sense, salvation is no different than being saved from a burning house, an overturned car, a raging river or any other dangerous predicament from which one cannot deliver himself.
Saved means SAVED! It means delivered from a fate that, without intervention by another party, would result in injury or death. It means to be preserved.
Any good dictionary will tell you that being saved, in the religious sense, involves deliverance or preservation—redemption. God says true salvation is being delivered from death, but this is not what is commonly believed.
No Immortal Soul
I have attended and conducted many funerals. I have heard numerous long, pious dissertations about where the dead have gone—how they have not really died—punctuate every funeral. I have watched preachers represent death as a “friend” met at the end of “life’s highway.”
Men have long attempted to deny the finality of death by saying that death is not really death. Of course, in a funeral, this is said in an attempt to comfort those who are grieving over the loss of a loved one. It is as though the bereaved can take comfort if they can picture the dead as not really dead, but alive somewhere else.
Religionists and theologians have substituted the truth of what happens at death with the popular belief that it is merely a transition to another form of life. They do this through the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and, as a result, most religious people believe they possess one. I was taught this in Sunday school.
Almost no one understands the relationship between men and souls. The common belief is that, upon death, the souls of sinners go to hell forever, since they are immortal.
Is this what the Bible says? If the wages of sin is death, could the Bible also teach that people have immortal souls? It cannot be both.
Genesis 2:7 states, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.” This verse does not say that men have souls, but that they are souls. Adam became a soul—he did not receive a soul.
Christ taught, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh” (Jn. 3:6). Human beings are made of flesh—“of the earth” (I Cor. 15:47). This means your existence is entirely physical and chemical—temporary. You depend upon air, food and water to survive. Deprived of even one of these, you will not live long.
Almost immediately after Genesis 2:7, God warned Adam, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat of it: for in the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die” (vs. 16-17). When placed together, these verses offer further evidence that men are souls and that souls can die!
The prophet Ezekiel wrote, “The soul that sins, it shall die” (18:4, 20). This is recorded twice for emphasis. Death is the absence of life. It is the discontinuance—the cessation—of life. Death is not life in another place. It is not leaving “this life” for “another life”—the “next life.”
Now consider Matthew 10:28: “And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear Him [God] which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Souls can be destroyed! They can be destroyed as much as bodies can. This verse introduces the fact that God destroys souls in hell! While bodies can die in many different ways, souls die in hell fire.
Though there are many scriptures explaining that God will do this—and how He will—it is helpful to examine just one: “For, behold, the day comes, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yes, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that comes shall burn them up, says the Lord of hosts, that it shall leave them neither root nor branch…And you shall tread down the wicked; for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this, says the Lord of hosts” (Mal. 4:1, 3).
This scripture is not ambiguous. It is plain. The wicked do not burn forever—they burn up. They turn to ashes, stubble.
Before continuing, we need to examine immortality from a different perspective. Understand! The doctrine of the immortality of the souls states that everyone is immortal. Then what about the following scripture? In context, it is referencing God and Jesus Christ, “Who only has immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man has seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting” (I Tim. 6:16).
If God and Christ are the “only” ones who have immortality, this leaves no room for people to possess immortal souls.
Romans 2:7 gives God’s perspective on immortality. Notice this instruction to all would-be Christians: “…seek for glory and honor and immortality.” Immortality is not something people already have, or else God would not tell them to SEEK it—and the apostle Paul would not have told the Corinthians that their “mortal [bodies] must put on immortality” (I Cor. 15:53-54) at the resurrection.
It is time to stop believing the fables of men about immortal souls and an ever-burning hell. This is a fiction taught nowhere in the Bible.
But What is Sin?
Nearly everyone has a different idea about what constitutes sin. Do you know? If sin brings the death penalty, then the Bible must tell us what it is. Should you not have an exact definition for what has brought such a terrible penalty upon you and all mankind? Do not settle for half-answers or the opinions of men. Do not concern yourself with what religious people and this world’s ministers say, but with what the Bible says.
God’s Word reveals the truth (John 17:17). Here is His definition—the true definition—of sin. I John 3:4 states, “Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.” GOD decides what sin is. He states that it is transgressing—breaking—His laws. Since sin is the transgression of the law, and the opposite would be obedience to the law, then exactly what law must we obey?
The answer is the Ten Commandments! Now let’s prove it.
John also wrote, “All unrighteousness is sin” (I John 5:17). The Psalms record, “…all Your [God’s] commandments are righteousness” (119:172). So then, unrighteousness—sin—is breaking God’s commandments.
The apostle James added, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend [sin] in one point, he is guilty of all. For He that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law [a lawbreaker]” (Jms. 2:10-11). It is obvious that James was referring to the Ten Commandments.
Even though it is possible for people to go through life without physically committing murder, adultery, lying or stealing, all have sinned.
How can this be? Because even though one obeys the letter of the law, he can still break the spirit of the law—and this is also sin.
Christ magnified and expanded the letter of the law, revealing its spiritual intent. “You have heard that it was said by them of old time, You shall not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart” (Matt. 5:27-28). This is why Paul stated that God’s law is “spiritual” (Rom. 7:14).
Paul wrote, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). The entire purpose of the law is to point out right and wrong—what is righteous conduct and what is sin!
Paul continued, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid.” Some reason that the law is evil—“sin”—simply because it points out sin for what it is. This is ridiculous. It is like saying stop signs are bad because people drive through them without stopping. He finished, “No [the law is not evil], I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, you shall not covet [the Tenth Commandment]” (Rom. 7:7).
Paul recognized that he learned what sin was through proper knowledge of God’s laws. He cited the Tenth Commandment as proof. Lust is a form of coveting—and is therefore sin!
Romans 7 describes Paul’s struggle with sin. He fought his human nature, which he understood went directly contrary to the desire to obey God’s law—the Ten Commandments.
Understand something about human nature, including yours: “Because the carnal [natural] mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Rom. 8:7).
Now read Jeremiah: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (17:9). This is a graphic description of the natural tendency of human nature—the carnal mind—at work within you. It wants to defy God’s instruction and then deceive itself into believing it did not.
This natural pull against God’s law, coupled with the great tendency toward self-deceit, is why all have sinned.
Paul continues in Romans 5:12, “…and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.” So that none would doubt what brought this most certain consequence in each person’s life, Paul adds, “…but sin is not imputed when there is no law” (vs. 13).
Grasp this! The law of God has to be in effect for sin to be imputed. There can be no penalty for breaking a law that does not exist.
Consider this point in one more way. Let’s leave no margin for error or misunderstanding: “Because the law works wrath [the death penalty]: for where no law is, there is no transgression” (Rom. 4:15).
If sin is the transgression of the law, guilt from sin is impossible if God’s law is not in effect. What could be plainer?
Almost every nation on earth has laws paralleling several of the Ten Commandments. There are laws against killing, stealing and bearing false witness under oath (perjury), etc. Some countries even outlaw adultery.
But could prosecutors in these countries bring lawbreakers to justice, for crimes committed, if they were not backed by laws that outline what crime is?
Could the death penalty for “capital offenses” (often the consequence for serious crimes) be applied to those convicted of such crimes if the law did not explain what act or conduct constitutes a capital offense? Of course not.
God is no different. The death penalty and His law are real. Where He charges one with—imputes—sin for breaking His law, He must have already established what constitutes His law. Violators of men’s laws are considered guilty of a “crime.” God simply calls these same violations sin! Sin is spiritual crime.
Let no deceiver tell you that God’s law is done away. It is not—it is in full force, carrying the greatest of all consequences for those who break it!
Salvation is a Gift
So far, our discussion has left the accused sinner condemned to death! What must one do to change this—to change the circumstances that have wrought this most certain of consequences?
How does one escape—be saved from—his condition? Does escape have anything to do with something the condemned—the sinner—does?
In other words, do good works have anything to do with your salvation? Put another way, is your “righteousness” connected to being saved? If so, does it automatically ensure salvation? Is salvation “by works”? Can you earn salvation by anything that you do?
Some believe that they can earn salvation. We have been accused of teaching “salvation by works,” simply because we believe people have a responsibility to do certain things to become, and to remain, Christians. So then, can you, or anyone, earn eternal life?
The Bible does teach that there is something that people “earn” by their works. Remember, “…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23) and “…the WAGES of sin is death” (6:23). The only wages that we can earn, by our works, is death.
Do not misunderstand. There is nothing you can do to earn eternal life. Absolutely nothing! But you can earn eternal death.
Recall that Romans 6:23 concluded, “…but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ.” That is right. Eternal life is entirely a gift, not something paid as wages earned for work done. This is a basic and plain teaching of the Bible.
Ironically, in a certain sense, it is our very accusers who teach that eternal life can be earned when they assert that God punishes people forever (this would be eternal life) in hell fire, because they have an immortal soul. How can eternal life be a gift if one already has an immortal soul?
This is what Satan told Eve, in the Garden, when he seduced her into eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He assured her that she “would not surely die.”
Take a moment. Get a concordance and try to find the words immortal soul in your Bible. Do not take my word for it. Try to do it. You will find no such term, and you have already seen much proof to the contrary in this booklet. (Read our free booklet The truth about HELL to learn about the fallacy of the pagan ever-burning hell idea.)
How silly man-made ideas are, particularly when their originators have not considered what God says. No wonder He states, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways…” (Isa. 55:8).
If you have read much of our literature, you have already discovered that most in professing Christianity teach almost precisely the opposite of what God says. On teaching after teaching, if God says to do something, men say we do not have to. If God says not to do something, almost invariably, men do it.
Preachers and religionists speak boldly about things that are not in the Bible as if they were true.
What about you? Do you speak with confidence—even boldness—about things you have been taught, when those things are not found in God’s Word? Or will you always examine your Bible—and only believe God?
Cut Off by Sin
Isaiah 59:1-2 explains that sin cuts people off from God: “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities [lawlessness] have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.”
God is literally unreachable to the sinner whose past has not been forgiven and cleansed.
Isaiah 55:6-7 instructs those who seek God, “Let the wicked forsake his way.” Notice: “Seek you the Lord while He may be found, call you upon Him while He is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.”
But obedience to God is still not enough to bring you eternal life. Neither will a lifetime of “good works.” If it were, then eternal life could be earned through good works, just as much as permanent existence in hell fire could be earned through evil works.
Many verses explain that sin can only be forgiven through Christ’s sacrifice. John was inspired to write, “And this is the record, that God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that has the Son has life; and he that has not the Son of God has not life” (I John 5:11-12).
Unless we have a Savior—One who paid the penalty for our sins—we are UNSAVED and headed for death! Many more verses could be cited to prove this. Read John 5:26. It shows that only God has the power to grant eternal life. Christ said, “For as the Father has life in Himself; so has He given to the Son to have life in Himself.”
This is wonderful news. God does hold the power to grant the “gift” of eternal life. But, we will later learn, it is a gift with conditions given only to those who have qualified.
Make no mistake. It cannot be earned—it is a free gift!
Now get this point straight! We must remove all doubt about what brings salvation. It is a free gift from God. There is absolutely nothing that a Christian can do to merit or earn it. The only wage that human beings can earn is death. before studying the subject of Christian works, recognize that no one can earn eternal life through works.
Salvation is by God’s grace. But what is grace? It is completely unmerited pardon of one’s sin. Salvation means that one is saved from death. Unless God intervenes to apply the blood of Jesus Christ to cover the repentant sinner’s past, there can be no salvation.
What scriptures directly state this? Ephesians 1:5, 7 says, “Jesus Christ… In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:14 states the same thing, verbatim. God gives grace—forgiveness—through Christ’s blood.
Recognize. You have a temporary, chemical, physical existence. There is nothing about being flesh that means you will live forever. Each of us is a heartbeat, stroke or accident away from our “appointment” with death. From the moment we were born, we began “winding down” toward a certain end. There is absolutely nothing you or I can do about this process other than extending our life a little through exercise, better eating habits, proper rest, etc. Of course, none of these have the power to grant or bring eternal life.
What role does faith play? Some believe that being “justified by faith” is all that Christians must be concerned with. They believe that those who teach that any works are necessary deny God’s gift of salvation. (We will explore this more fully later.)
Faith does play a role, but what is it?
Ephesians 2:8-9 expands on Romans 6:23: “For by grace are you saved through faith; and that [the faith] not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
Salvation comes as a free gift by grace, through faith! And this leaves no room for anyone to boast that they earned it through their own goodness.
Paul explains that even the faith must be a gift. Otherwise, it would, like any other “work,” be generated by human effort. If God gave salvation on this basis, it would mean that a Christian earned it through human faith.
We have arrived at a most critical question. Since it is only true Christians who will be saved, then we must know what IS a true Christian. As with defining sin, we must also let the Bible define this, perhaps, greatest of all questions. What is a Christian?
If one desires to be SAVED, learns what he must be saved FROM, understands that it is a GIFT, but does not know HOW to receive this gift, what good does it do him?
Surely no sincere person who understands even the most basic teachings of God thinks that He will save those who are not Christians (Acts 4:12). Yet, almost no one understands the Bible definition of a Christian.
But you can understand!
What is a Christian?
Just what is a real Christian? As with salvation, are you certain that you know the answer? Would you say he is one who “attends Church”? Is a Christian one who “professes Jesus” or “knows Christ”? Have you perhaps thought a Christian is anyone who has been “baptized”?
Is there a single verse to which we can turn that gives the Bible definition of a Christian and eliminates all confusion? There is!
Paul wrote, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). A Christian is one who has the Holy Spirit leading him. But is having God’s Spirit absolutely essential to being a Christian? Earlier, Paul had said, “But you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His!” (vs. 9).
It is that simple! One either has the Spirit of God, and is a Christian, or does not have it and is not a Christian—is “none of His.” All those who are truly converted must have the Holy Spirit in them.
But what does this mean? And is this all there is to Christianity and conversion, with nothing more to understand?
The Bible is filled with terms that seem to unnecessarily confuse people. “Salvation,” “reconciliation,” “sin,” “justification,” “predestination,” “sanctification,” “works,” “repentance,” and many more, have probably seemed ambiguous and confusing to you.
For instance, most Christians believe they are “saved by the blood of Christ.” This is not true! While the Bible says that we are “reconciled to God” and “justified by His [Christ’s] blood,” it also states that we are “saved by His life” (Rom. 5:9-10).
Understand this point. We are not justified by works, but by the blood of Jesus Christ.
Repentance—turning to God and obeying Him—addresses a Christian’s future obedience. It does nothing to cover up PAST sins. Christ’s blood justifies—makes clean, white, righteous—all past transgressions, sins.
But, being “saved by His life” is vital to understand and requires explanation.
Let’s examine I Corinthians 15:17-18. It begins the explanation of why we can only be saved by the life of Christ: “And if Christ be not raised [His resurrection made Him alive again], your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.” But why is this?
Why would Christ’s Resurrection also be necessary to remove Christians from the consequences of their sins?
Consider! If Christ is not risen from the dead, then He cannot send His Holy Spirit to beget Christians at repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). Remember, “as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Rom. 8:14). It is this same Spirit that God will use to eventually change all converted people into spirit-composed sons of God—resurrected immortal Spirit beings.
It is this Spirit in them that, when they are changed, makes eternal life—salvation—possible.
Is this clear? If Christ had not been resurrected, then He could not have gone to heaven where He could send His Spirit to His followers. Without this Spirit living in a Christian’s mind, there is no hope of eternal life.
We have seen that human beings do not have life inherent within them. They are not born with an immortal soul. Since you are not immortal, your life span will cover a certain allotted time, after which you will die. That is absolute. Unless God intervenes in your life, you have no future—no hope—beyond a limited time of about 70-80 years.
Now let’s return to answering the question of exactly what a Christian is. Remember, it is only the true Christian who will receive eternal life—salvation. We must not accept a partial or incomplete answer to this most vital question.
When Christ kept the Passover on the night before He was crucified, He indirectly, through prayer, explained an important principle to His disciples: “I pray not that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world. Sanctify them through Your truth: Your word is truth” (John 17:15-17).
A Christian believes and follows the truth. It is the truth that sets him apart (sanctifies him) from all those around him. He is not of the world and its ways, customs and traditions.
But what does this mean?
It means that Christians are required to obey the laws of God. That is the truth from His Word.
Jesus never taught that people should just “believe on Him” to receive salvation. When a young man asked Christ what he must do to have “eternal life”—receive salvation—Christ told him, “If you will enter into life, keep the commandments.” Hearing this, and knowing that the man was rich, the disciples were shocked. They also did not understand how obedience was possible and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Christ answered, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matt. 19:17, 25-26).
In Mark 7:7-8, Christ said, “Howbeit in vain do they worship Me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, you hold the tradition of men.”
It is possible to worship Christ in vain. It is possible to think about Him, talk about Him and refer to Him often as Lord—ALL IN VAIN! And if your religion is vain, then you have no salvation.
Hundreds of millions of “Christians” assume that they will be saved at death, simply because they have “accepted Jesus” as Savior. This is not what the Bible says!
Notice: “NOT every one that says unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven [“of” not “in” heaven]; but He that DOES the will of My Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Paul wrote, “the DOERS of the law [God’s] shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13). Professing Jesus is not enough. And God is not willing to forgive (justify) any who will not also “do” the law.
Though it is the blood of Christ that justifies us (Rom. 5:9), His blood will not be applied to those who do not strive to keep God’s law. Obedience to God is a qualifier for those who seek eternal life. It is even essential to receiving or continuing to receive the Spirit of God.
The book of Acts speaks of “the Holy [Spirit], whom God has given to them that OBEY Him” (Acts 5:32). I doubt you have ever heard that before.
Receiving God’s Spirit is preceded by repentance of having broken God’s law and baptism (Acts 2:38). At this point, a new spirit-begotten life begins. The newly begotten child of God is now an “heir of God…joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17). He becomes part of the true Church that Christ promised to build and lead (Matt. 16:18; Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:18), which He feeds through His true ministry (Eph. 4:11-15).
Read our booklet Where is God’s TRUE CHURCH? and our book The History of God’s TRUE CHURCH. They will permanently change the way you view what the Bible says about identifying the real Church of God.
Should Christians “Just Show Love”?
Most professing Christians speak endlessly of the “love of God.” Modern preachers speak just as endlessly about the need for Christians to “love their fellowman.” And aren’t Christians merely those who “show love”? If so, what is it? How can one show love if he does not know what it is?
This booklet would be incomplete if the relationship between love and salvation had not been made clear. Let’s consider several more verses—and remove all confusion!
Paul wrote, “...because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy [Spirit] which is given unto us” (Rom. 5:5). When a Christian receives God’s Spirit, he receives some (a very small amount at first) of the love of God. Over time, through actively exercising it, the depth and amount of love grows. It is actually one of the nine “fruits of the Spirit.”
God’s way is practiced by exercising these fruits: “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness [or humility, the opposite of vanity and pride], temperance” (Gal. 5:22-23).
Some important overview is required here.
There are two different ways of life. One is the “give” way—the way of love and outgoing concern—God’s way! The other is the “get” way—the way of selfishness and self-concern—the way of this world.
Most people are interested in enjoying pleasures and the accumulation of physical things. One man observed, “Life is about seeing who can die with the most toys.” That may be true of this world but it is not true of God’s way and the way of a Christian.
Christ taught that “It is more blessed to GIVE than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Practicing this way of life leads to abundance, peace, prosperity, supreme happiness and joy. Christ likened God’s Spirit to a river flowing out of each person. Notice: “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me, and drink. He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spoke He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive…)” (John 7:37-39).
The fruits of God’s Spirit are to be visible and abundant to all who view God’s true people. But recall the earlier explanation that it was only through and after Christ’s resurrection that He could send His Spirit to be present and active in each Christian. Christ continued in John 7:39, “…for the Holy [Spirit] was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified [resurrected].”
Carnal minds cannot obey spiritual laws. It is impossible! One must have, be actively led by, and utilize the power of the Spirit of God (II Tim. 1:7) to be able to keep God’s spiritual law—or to demonstrate real love.
Now read the Bible definition of love: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous” (I John 5:3). Many people who claim to have love believe that the Commandments ARE, in fact, grievous. God says they are not. He calls His law “holy, and just, and good…spiritual” (Rom. 7:12, 14).
Through Paul, the Bible explains that the Commandments and the law are the same: “Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Rom. 13:10). God’s Word reveals that love is “the fulfilling of the law.” Keeping the Commandments is fulfilling the law—and doing this “works no ill to his neighbor.”
Did Christ Change the Law?
Did Christ bring a new definition of sin? Did He alter God’s Law in some way? And did it relate to the subject of love?
Christ declared, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). He also taught that the New Testament Church is built, in part, on the prophets of the Old Testament, where the law of God is first given. Notice: “And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone” (Eph. 2:20). The law of God is not done away.
Immediately after Matthew 5:17, Christ examined several of the Ten Commandments. He magnified and strengthened each one He referenced.
Concerning the Sixth Commandment, He explained that not only is killing your brother a sin, but it is also a sin to hate him. Regarding adultery, He said that even lusting after a woman violates the Seventh Commandment.
Violating the spirit of the law is sin—and all sin is against God (Psa. 51:4). God’s spiritual law governs every action in life. It is best described in a single word—love. It is outgoing concern for others. The way of this world is incoming, not outgoing. It practices the “get” (for self) way of life. But the first four Commandments teach how to love God and the last six how to love our neighbor (Matt. 22:36-39).
Christ said, “I have kept My Father’s Commandments” (John 15:10)—and He expects us to do the same thing. Christ’s obedience to God’s law did not somehow take us off the hook. This same verse explains, “If you keep My Commandments, you shall abide in My love.” This means you.
If you want to “show love” to others, OBEY GOD!
God’s Law—A Mirror
God’s law shows how to have a right relationship with God and with our neighbors. Think of it as a spiritual mirror. Here is James’ description: “But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass [mirror]: For he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was. But whoso looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed” (1:22-25).
Do you ever hear preachers describe God’s law as a “perfect law of liberty”? Almost certainly not! Yet it is, for those who practice obedience to it.
Like any mirror, God’s law must be used. While it cannot wash your face, it will expose the dirt that is there. Remember, Paul wrote that “by the deeds of the law is the KNOWLEDGE of sin,” and that “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight.” The law will not remove the dirt. It simply notifies you that dirt is present.
The law also has no power to forgive sins. Only Christ’s sacrifice can do this. But, at conversion, Christ’s blood only forgives past sins. The law points out how to obey God in the future, but it has no inherent ability to forgive sins that are past (or for that matter, future sins).
Notice what Paul wrote: “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God” (Rom. 3:24-25).
Christ’s blood, and nothing else, covers past sins.
Of course, some conclude that since the law cannot forgive sins, we do not need to keep it. This is like saying that, because the mirror cannot remove dirt, there is no need to ever use one to find it. No one would say this about a mirror.
This is why Paul stated, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2).
Once you have been forgiven, you are “dead” to the penalty of sin. It no longer has any effect on you. But God did not send His Son to die for you so that you could go right back to practicing what brought His death in the first place. Regarding sin, we are not to “live any longer therein.”
A few verses later, Paul is even plainer: “What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law [under its death penalty], but under grace? God forbid. Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?” (vs. 15-16).
Allow no one to twist this verse into stating that we are no longer “under” an obligation to keep the law. The Bible’s answer to such deceit is “God forbid.” But the newly forgiven is clearly now no longer under the law’s penalty.
Would you throw away a mirror because it exposed dirt on your face? Or would you appreciate it because without it you could not have seen the dirt—either accumulated from the past (and now to be covered at conversion) or future dirt that will periodically be seen during the rest of your Christian life?
Earlier we covered whether Christ taught that the law had been either changed or done away. You must grasp that He did the opposite of this. He actually magnified (Isa. 42:21) and strengthened the intent of obedience to God.
Christ taught that we must practice the spirit of this law. God says that the Spirit gives life. Obeying God in the spirit is far better than just obeying Him in the physical letter of His Commandments: “Who also has made us able ministers of the New Testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life” (II Cor. 3:6).
If God’s spiritual law reflects love for God and man, then the opposite is self-love—focusing on the things of self and getting for self. Sin is the opposite of love. Competition, strife, greed, envy, jealousy, hatred and lust are all the opposite of love.
I Corinthians 13 contains a detailed description of love. Read and consider each phrase of this chapter!
What is the First Step?
An enormous question now looms over you. You are determined to be a Christian. You desire to obey God. You want to be saved—to receive salvation. How do you get started on the Christian path? What is the very first thing you must understand, and then do?
Remember, you are still cut off from God. All obedience and law-keeping has no power to save you, and salvation is what you want. Your first priority is to escape the death penalty. And that penalty is real.
Now you understand there is no eternal punishing, in an ever-burning hell, awaiting the unrepentant sinner. But there is eternal punishment, and it is called the “second death” (Rev. 20:6, 14). Hebrews 9:27 describes the first death—the one to which all are “appointed.” John 5:28-29 describes the resurrection of the evil to final judgment, and to final punishment.
Now let’s focus on you. I will be dramatic. Think of this sobering analogy. Like a condemned capital offender taken from death row, you sit strapped in an electric chair, awaiting execution. On a predetermined signal, the executioner is prepared to pull the switch and send thousands of volts of electricity through your body to end your life.
Since you cannot save yourself, and you are guilty as charged, you are left in a completely helpless—and hopeless—state. Your crime(s) have strapped you into the chair and you cannot move. You cry out for mercy—a reprieve—and learn that only one is available. How do you receive such a reprieve and begin on the Christian path? There is but one way to gain access to God. Let’s make it so plain that none can misunderstand.
We need to carefully examine several verses in Romans 5, which explain how this reprieve—mercy—pardon—forgiveness—can be obtained.
First read verse 6: “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” You are “without strength.” You have no power to do anything about your circumstances. Christ’s intervention is necessary.
Now verse 8: “But God commends [begins] His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” There is nothing that you or I did to deserve Christ’s sacrifice. Out of love (John 3:16), God sent Christ to give Himself while we were still living in and practicing sin. No human being would be so magnanimous and unselfish (vs. 7). The great God of heaven was willing to send His only Son to give Himself for all mankind before anyone understood or appreciated what had occurred on their behalf.
Now verse 9: “Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be SAVED from wrath [the death penalty] through Him.” Recognize that only our past is justified (made right) by the blood of Christ. His blood has literally “saved” us from the “wrath” of God—the death penalty!
Finally, verse 10: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.” Once our past is “reconciled,” we can have a relationship with God, because sin no longer cuts us off from Him. The barrier of sin (Isa. 59:1-2; Jer. 5:25) has been removed. The law no longer holds any claim over our lives!
But the terms reconciled and justified are not the same as saved. These terms come into play upon repentance and acceptance of Christ as Savior. That event wipes our past clean, but does nothing about our future. Justification and reconciliation are not the equivalent of the gift of salvation. Christ’s blood, of and by itself, gives no one salvation.
The law of biogenesis states that death cannot impart life. Life only comes from life—and Christ and the Father are the only Ones that have life inherent within them. You can only receive eternal life through the LIFE of Christ. Take time to read I Corinthians 15:14-23. And then determine that you will never again confuse these terms—or let others try to confuse you by twisting them.
You now know that you are saved by Christ’s LIFE. But did you notice the words “shall be” before that phrase in Romans 5:10? Read it again. It is written in the future tense, not the past tense! And that is what it means. We are not YET saved, but we are forgiven. Salvation is something that “shall” happen in the future. The verse does not say that we are “now saved,” but rather shall be.
Will you believe men? Or will you believe the plain words of the Bible?
Grasp this critical knowledge. Salvation does not happen at the moment of justification and reconciliation. Rather, this is the moment the salvation process begins.
“Saved”—Past, Present, Future
Some understanding is important in explaining exactly when a Christian IS saved. This is a subject of great confusion. Comprehending it is critical to everything about the subject of salvation.
The Bible teaches that you are saved in three distinct ways. All of them represent what is correctly described as the process of salvation.
Romans 6:23 explained that the wages of sin is death. At repentance, baptism and conversion, a Christian is forgiven by the blood of Christ and is immediately saved from the penalty of PAST sins. So, in one sense, it can be said that the person has been “saved,” at that moment, from death.
But by now you recognize that this is not the whole story. There are two more applications of when and how a person is saved.
The word salvation is derived from the word saved. So, the second way is the most obvious, and it is the actual receiving of eternal life, the pinnacle of salvation. This happens at the resurrection of the dead in Christ (I Cor. 15:50-55; I Thes. 4:13-18), upon His Return. This is future!
But no one receives eternal salvation now. All must first undergo a life of trial, testing, learning, growing and overcoming.
So then, the third way one is saved is that he is “being saved”—an ongoing process—throughout his lifetime. Many verses reveal that nothing is automatic simply because conversion—spiritual begettal—has taken place. To believe that salvation is complete upon conversion is to mock God by ignoring all of the scriptures we have read about obeying Him.
Besides, if you are automatically saved at conversion, then what would be the point of living out the remainder of your natural life? Why would God not simply take you directly to whatever is the afterlife after you “accept the blood of Jesus,” if salvation is finished at the moment of conversion?
Not “Once Saved, Always Saved”
Almost certainly you have heard the term “Once saved, always saved.” It is common among the masses of professing Christians. The problem is, we have seen that it is not biblical—it is not what the Bible teaches!
I have met many who tell me how good it is that they “know the Lord.” Others have tried to convince me that I need to “know Him” in some supposed way that they prescribe. John wrote, “He that says, I know Him, and keeps not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (I John 2:4).
Invariably, the people who tell you that they know the Lord will also state that you need not keep God’s Commandments. They loudly proclaim that Christ kept them for you. This is tantamount to telling pardoned murderers, thieves and rapists that their forgiveness frees them to return to society and do the same things for which they were just pardoned. While judges, prosecutors and the police would never be so foolish, preachers apparently think God is not as smart as the civil authorities.
You now know what God says about people who say they know Him but do not keep His Commandments. They do not know God, and He calls them “LIARS” for saying that they do. The “truth” about salvation, or much of anything else, is not “in” them.
Those who say that you cannot keep the Commandments are technically correct. You cannot, by yourself—on human effort—keep a spiritual law. Recall the young man who asked what to do to receive eternal life. Since he was told by Christ to “keep the commandments,” it is obvious that Christ disagrees with those who say this cannot be done. But what He added (read the account) did surprise the disciples (Matt. 19:25). Christ told them, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (vs. 26). Also see Luke 1:6.
With God’s help, it is possible for you to keep His law!
Just before Christ was crucified, He explained to His disciples the wonderful truth of how God’s Spirit can enter and help you: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter [Holy Spirit] will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send [it] unto you” (John 16:7). Christ had to return to God’s Throne, where He could sit in glory and send the Spirit that helps us grow and overcome (Rev. 3:12, 21)—and give us life, SAVE US!
On the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4), A.D. 31, after Christ’s Resurrection, He established His Church and began to give His Spirit to all whom He would call (Acts 2:39, 47), and who would repent and obey Him (Acts 2:38). (To better understand these subjects in greater detail, read our free booklets What do you mean WATER BAPTISM? and What is true CONVERSION?)
For now, at least understand that Acts 2:38 explains that you must: (1) Repent and (2) be baptized and then you will (3) receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Repentance is toward God (Acts 20:21), because all sin is against God, and faith is toward Christ because of His sacrifice (same verse).
But salvation does not end there.
You must allow the Holy Spirit to lead you for the duration of your life (Rom. 8:14). You will, quite literally, have Christ living His perfect, law-keeping life within you.
Remember, He has not done it FOR you (and will not!), but with His help it is possible for you to obey Him. In fact, you will only continue to receive God’s Spirit so long as you obey Him (Acts 5:32).
If you continue to practice a life of sin, God is not foolish enough to tell Himself that you are righteous, simply because 2,000 years ago Christ obeyed His law “for you.”
You Must Endure
In the Olivet Prophecy, Christ was asked about the sequence of events just prior to His Return. He described very difficult times. (We have a number of booklets describing the events foretold to occur at the end of the age.)
In answering, Christ said, “But he that endures to the end shall be saved” (Matt. 24:13; 10:22).
Christianity is an endurance test. There is nothing automatic about it. Christians can fail in this lifetime if they do not continue on the right path. Ephesians 4:23 states, “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind.” Copying Christ is a daily, lifelong process that completely renews the mind.
No one is permanently saved at conversion. Christ said (twice) that His servants must “endure to the end” of their lives. What is the point of this statement if salvation is automatic upon accepting Christ?
The book of Hebrews contains several admonitions—warnings!—to those who would live the Christian way in a negligent manner: “Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip [Greek: to run out of a leaking vessel]. For if the word spoken by angels was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation…” (2:1-3).
Be careful! This is a caution to all. Salvation is not easy—not automatic. It can slip away if we let important knowledge and need for action “leak” from our understanding.
Paul continued by describing the grave danger of willful sin: “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for He is faithful that promised;) and let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together [members of the true Church of God meet together each Sabbath]…For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remains no more sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:23-26).
This is serious!
The ministers of this world teach that their followers are “under grace”—that they are already saved in this life—that they cannot fall away or fail due to misconduct or practicing sin. Do not be confused by soothing words of deceit from those who claim to represent Christ. God has standards, and they must be met. (Also read James 4:17.)
Hebrews 6 describes what happens to those who “fall away.” It paints a sobering picture: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, and were made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God, and the powers of the world to come, if they shall FALL AWAY, to renew them again unto repentance; seeing they crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh, and put Him to an open shame” (vs. 4-6). For these, “there remains no more sacrifice for sins” (10:26).
These verses leave no doubt that it is possible to be a true Christian and later fall away from the path to salvation. I have known many who have “tasted the good word of God,” and been “partakers of the Holy Spirit,” who have ceased to be “enlightened”—and have fallen away from God and salvation. Paul states that it is IMPOSSIBLE for these people to recover!
Determine you will never allow this to be your fate. (Read our free booklet Just what is “The Unpardonable Sin”?)
These are the plain words of the Bible. Each scripture referenced here is critical and must be carefully read to recognize the obligations that God places on His servants. Do not be like so many who easily dismiss them, falsely trusting that they have “Jesus in their heart” and cannot fail.
This world’s professing “Christian” ministers teach an unscriptural, false, pagan “salvation” about immortal souls going to heaven, instead of the wonderful truth—that this life is to prepare you for rulership. They ignore the verses that we have just examined, because they do not want to be responsible for having to do anything.
How does “already saved” fit with living a life of learning, growing, obedience to God, sometimes suffering—and intense persecution? (Also see John 15:20; II Tim. 3:12; Psa. 34:19; etc.)
The apostle Jude warned of those who would creep among God’s people and teach a false Christianity involving little or no effort: “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that you should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 3-4).
Christianity means battling, obeying, “contending” to remain in the full truth of the faith. It is not a toboggan ride down a smooth hill toward a soft landing. God’s Word does not teach a “grace” that is merely a license (“lasciviousness”) to sin. “Ungodly men” teach such ideas.
Paul wrote, “…from a child you have known the holy scriptures, which are able to make you wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:15-16).
Study your Bible regularly. It contains all the necessary knowledge “to make you wise unto salvation.”
This booklet has been about salvation, and how to make you “wise” to the truth of receiving it. Will you believe it?
Think again! If salvation comes instantly, at the moment of some kind of religious experience labeled “conversion,” with no obligation to perform any good works of obedience, why does God not simply bypass this life and take people immediately to whatever their reward is supposed to be? The ministers of this world do not and cannot answer this question!
Do not fall for the siren song of “just believe.” It is the greatest single deception that spiritually blind “Christian” theologians (II Cor. 11:13-15) have foisted upon an unsuspecting world!
What Awaits You
Though it is appointed unto all men once to die, you do not have to remain under the ultimate death penalty: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are christ’s at his coming” (I Cor. 15:22-23). This can be you, if you are determined to press toward the mark (Phil. 3:13-14).
Christ is coming to rule earth. He is bringing the reward of every Christian (Isa. 40:10; 62:11) because the saints will reign with Him (Dan. 7:18, 22, 27).
You do not have an immortal soul. God and Christ alone possess immortality. Only they have life inherent within them. And they have revealed that we can share it with them by understanding the truth of the gospel. II Timothy 1:10 states, “But [our calling and deliverance from death (vs. 9)] is now made manifest [obvious] by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ, who has abolished death, and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”
There are many humanly-devised gospels about the Person of Christ and other ideas. But the true gospel—the good news of the kingdom of god—reveals the wonderful, exciting truth of God’s Plan.
Here is just one scripture that gives insight into what awaits you when Christ returns: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is.” (I John 3:2). What could be more awe-inspiring—and motivating? While we cannot fully understand everything about our final glory, we can know that we will be “like” Christ (Rev. 1:13-16).
Allow Mr. Herbert Armstrong to amplify this verse.
Just before the conclusion of his booklet What do you mean…SALVATION?, Mr. Armstrong wrote:
“But it does not yet appear what you shall be. This scripture does not say ‘where you shall go’—or ‘where you shall be.’ It is talking about a condition, not a place: ‘what we shall be’! Salvation is a matter of what you become—not where you shall go! God’s purpose is to change you—from your vile character to His glorious character—not to change the place where you are!
“But—you are now already a begotten son of God—you may now call Him Father!—as long as you are led by His Spirit!—and no longer (Heb. 10:26-27).
“And there are still some ‘if’s.’ You must grow spiritually (II Pet. 3:18). It is ‘To him that overcometh’ that Christ will grant to sit with Him on His throne, when He returns to earth (Rev. 3:21). If you overcome—overcome your own carnal nature, the world and the devil—and keep Christ’s works (not your own works, but Christ’s—by His spirit in you) then you shall reign and rule all nations with Him, in the happy world tomorrow!
“The real Christian life is, truly, a life of overcoming, spiritual growing—but it is the only happy life—the abundant life—here and now! Yet we must endure and remain steadfast—for it is he who endures to the end that shall be saved! Read this in your Bible—Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 4:17; John 6:27; I Corinthians 9:24-27; Hebrews 10:26-27.
“So, finally, back again to you! Where are we, now? You have been converted—changed in mind, concept, attitude, direction of way of life—you are begotten as a child of God—you have now eternal life abiding in you—as long as you are led by God’s Spirit in God’s way—as long as you continue in contact and fellowship with God (I John 1:3)—all by God’s grace as His gift, and not anything you have earned by your works; and now if you continue overcoming, growing spiritually—and all this actually through God’s power—you shall inherit the Kingdom of God, and be made immortal to live forever in happiness and joy!”