SALVATION: THE SECRET TO ETERNAL LIFE
Throughout the ages many questions have been asked about salvation. What is it? Why should we seek it? How do we acquire it? Answers to these and many other questions about this vital subject are found in the handbook for human survivalthe Bible.
THE REALITY OF DEATH
The reality of death is one of the most terrifying realities of this human existence. It is so frightening and distasteful that most people try to avoid talking or thinking about it, and most humans go about their daily lives acting as if death only happens to other people. Many will go to great expense and effort to try to preserve their life and will use every scientific device available to extend their life. Some will even needlessly take another's life in order to preserve and extend their own.
Yes, life is our most precious possession, but no matter what we do or how hard we try to preserve it, the inevitable will happen; we will die.
WHAT IS DEATH?
The scientific definition of death is "the cessation of the life function" (i.e., all systems cease to operate). The heart stops pumping blood, the brain stops sending orders to the organs, the thought processes cease, the body becomes immobile, all regeneration processes stop, and the body starts to decay.
The biblical definition of death is basically the same as the scientific one, with one exception. God said to Adam and Eve after they had disobeyed in the garden of Eden:
"For dust you are, and to dust shall you return" (Gen.3:19 KJV).
"His breath goes forth he returns to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish" (Psa.146:4 KJV).
There is no quarrel with the scientific definition here. It would seem as though human life is just a chemical-electrical reaction of a well designed structure of gas, fluids, and solid matter, reacting to internal and external stimulation.
IS DEATH THE END?
Is death the end of our existence? Is there no more to human life than just a few short years on this planet? People throughout the centuries have pondered these same questions about life and death. Men and women alike have searched in vain for the elixir of life, the fountain of youth, a magic potion, a philosophy, anything that would extend life, both life here on earth and beyond the grave.
Many believe in life after death, and a multitude of bizarre theories have developed over the centuries as to how to attain life after death. One religion teaches that holding the tail of a cow will bring life after death. The ancient Egyptians believed that after death their spirit embarked on a great journey and would be carried to the after-life on a boat. Many today believe they will be reincarnated at death, and their spirit will re-enter another human, a beast, a bird or an insect. Almost no one believes that at death they will cease to exist.
THE HOPE OF SCIENTIFIC DISCOVERY
Those who do not believe in life after death hope for a continuance of life through scientific achievements. Scientists say that given enough time, money and effort there is no doubt that they will discover a way to prolong life almost indefinitely. But what about those who have died in the past? Will science be able to bring them back to life? Even if science could extend life a thousand or a million years, what happens when the earth and the universe finally wear out and cease to function? What about accidental death? What about those who die before a life-extending discovery is made?
If there is no hope beyond this physical life, at death we would cease to exist, never again to enjoy the fragrance of a flower or feel the sun and wind on our face, never again to see a beautiful sunset or hear the voice of a loved one; we would return to the basic elements from which we are composed. Or will we?
HUMANITY NEEDS SALVATION FROM ETERNAL DEATH
Humanity needs God's intervention in order to live on after physical death.
The first reason that we need God to save us is that, to date, all human efforts have failed to eliminate death and produce eternal life. The second is that all humans are under a death sentence for violating God's law. Therefore, there is no hope of eternal life unless it comes from the Creator of all life.
The Creator God explained the frailty of human life to our ancient ancestors:
"In the sweat of your face shall you eat bread, till you return to the ground; for out of it were you taken: for dust you are, and to dust shall you return" (Gen.3:19 KJV). See also Psa.146:4; Matt.10:28.
This saving from the fate of eternal death, and being given eternal life by God the Father through Jesus Christ, is defined in the Bible as salvation.
LIFE AFTER DEATH
Salvation from eternal death and the granting of eternal life is a central theme of the Bible. It is this salvation that Jesus Christ, the apostles, and prophets expounded upon throughout the pages of the Bible. Being given salvation from God the Father through Jesus Christ is the only hope of the living and the dead. No science or philosophy can guarantee life after death. Only God the Father and Jesus Christ (who was the Creator of mankind) have the power to resurrect and change the physical to eternal.
Thousands of years ago, a man named Job asked the same questions that many people today ask about life after death. The only difference between Job and most people of today, is that Job knew the answers to the questions. He knew that there would be a resurrection of the dead, and that there was a purpose for humanity beyond this physical existence:
"But man dies, and wastes away: yes, man gives up the spirit, and where is he? As the waters fail from the sea, and the flood decays and dries up: So man lies down, and rises not: till the heavens be no more, they shall not awake, nor be raised out of their sleep. O that you would hide me in the grave, that you would keep me secret, until your wrath be past, that you would appoint me a set time, and remember me! If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change come [Job knew he would be resurrected.] You shall call, and I will answer you: you will have a desire to the work of your hands" (Job 14:10-15 KJV).
God Desires All to be Saved
It is the intense desire of God the Father and Jesus Christ for all of humanity to be saved from eternal death and to become eternal spirit- beings in the God family:
"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1.Tim.2:4 KJV).
"The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should parish, but that all should come to repentance" (2.Pet.3:9 KJV).
"For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost" (Matt.18:11 KJV). See also Lk.9:10.
God the Father and Jesus Christ earnestly desire that all mankind be saved, but they leave the choice up to each of us individually. God will neither force us into his kingdom, nor will he grant eternal life to those who will not obey his laws, precepts, and principals. See Deut.30:19, 15-29; Rev.22:14-15.
SINA MAJOR OBSTACLE TO SALVATION
There is no doubt that the Father and Christ want to save human beings from eternal death and give them eternal life. However, there is a major obstacle which must be overcome prior to a person being transformed into an eternal spirit-being.
The obstacle that prevents a person from obtaining salvation is the death sentence which has been imposed upon humanity for the violation of God's empirical law.
The First Lie
The first lie recorded in the Bible was spoken by Satan when he told Eve that she would not die if she ate the forbidden fruit. Since that time, Satan has deceived most of humanity into thinking they already have an immortal soul. However, humans do not have an immortal soul, and will not escape the penalty for disobedience to God, which is death. All sinful humans shall be put to death, and this death is final and eternal if they persist in their rebellion against God.
Paul explains that because of Adam's violation of God's instructions, the death sentence through the law was imposed upon all humanity:
"Because of this, even as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, so also death passed to all men, insomuch as all sinned; for sin was in the world until the law, but sin is not charged where there is no law. But death reigned from Adam to Moses, even on those who had not sinned in the likeness of Adam's transgression" (Rom.5:12-14 Para.). For more details see our study paper "Understanding Genesis 3."
UNDER THE LAW
Because of Adam's disobedience, humanity is now under the dominion of God's perfect law, and because this law is perfect, it demands perfect obedience. If perfect obedience is not maintained, the law requires the death of the violator. The writers of the Bible record clearly that the violation of the law results in the violator being put to death. The prophet Ezekiel and the apostles John and Paul expressed simply what constitutes the violation of the law, and what the penalty for its violation is:
"Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die" (Ezk.18:4,20 KJV).
"Whosoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law" (1.Jn.3:4 KJV).
"For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:23 KJV).
Under the Sentence of Death
Many believe that all of humanity will enjoy a life after death regardless of their behavior during this present existence, and others believe sinners will somehow escape punishment. However, the Bible says that all of humanity is under the death sentence because of the violation of God's law, and they must be put to death unless they have their sins forgiven and their death sentence removed:
"Do you not know that the unjust ones will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be led astray, neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulators, nor abusers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor covetous ones, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor plunderers shall inherit the Kingdom of God" (1.Cor.6:9-10 Para.). See also Ezk.33:11; Rom.1:28-32; Jms.5:19-20; 2.Pet.2:1-22.
God's law requires perfect obedience, and no one except Jesus Christ has ever kept the law perfectly. Everyone is under a death sentence, until it is removed by God the Father:
"For all have sinned; and come short of the glory of God;" (Rom.3:23 KJV).
Romans 3:10-20 KJV
"As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understands, there is none that seeks after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that does good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulcher; with their tongues they have used deceit; the poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness: Their feet are swift to shed blood: Destruction and misery are in their ways: And the way of peace have they not know: There is no fear of God before their eyes" (vs.10-18). See also Isa.59:1-2; 64:6-7; 1.Jn.1:8-10.
Here, Paul speaks of the natural condition of a person prior to having their sins forgiven and being made sinless by God the Father through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ:
"Now we know that what things soever the law says, it says to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God" (v19).
God's law is very specific as to what the law is, and what constitutes obedience and disobedience to his precepts and principles. Because of the strict and eternal standards of the law, everyone has violated them and stands guilty before God:
"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" (v20).
Paul goes on to say that no one can be justified in God's sight by keeping the deeds of the law, since everyone has fallen short and has violated the law sometime during their life, and after the law has been violated, no amount of obedience to the law can erase the penalty of past violations.
Humanity's attempts to be justified or declared righteous before God by their own efforts have failed. Therefore, all of humanity is doomed to death, unless there is another method by which individuals can be made righteous before God.
God the Father and Jesus Christ knew that humanity might not obey and would come under the penalty of the law; therefore, their plan for the salvation of humanity included a method by which people may escape the death sentence.
GOD HAS HAD A PLAN FROM THE BEGINNING
Humanity was created with the ability to reason and weigh alternate courses of physical and mental action. In other words, humans were created with the ability to choose to do as they please, whether good or evil. Before God created humanity, he knew that they might choose evil over good, and that after choosing evil and seeing the results of such behavior, some would want to change and establish a positive relationship with him.
Long before creating human beings, God formulated a sacrificial system in order to give humanity a way to be placed back into contact and right-standing with their Creator.
"Then Abel brought the first lamb born to one of his sheep, killed it, and gave the best parts of it as an offering. The Lord was pleased with Abel and his offering, but he rejected Cain and his offering. Cain became furious, and he scowled in anger. Then the Lord said to Cain, Why are you angry? Why that scowl on your face? If you had done the right thing, you would be smiling, but because you have done evil, sin is crouching at your door. It wants to rule you, but you must overcome it. Then Cain said to his brother Abel, Let's go out in the fields. When they were out in the fields, Cain turned on his brother and killed him" (Gen.4:4-8 GNB).
God tells Cain that if he had done the right thing, he would be smiling. But what was it that Cain should have done? The answer is obvious when we see what the apostle John says to Christians about Cain's behavior:
"The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another. We must not be like Cain; he belonged to the Evil One and murdered his own brother Abel. Why did Cain murder him? Because the things he himself did were wrong, and the things his brother did were right" (1.Jn.3:11-12 GNB).
The apostle John says that Christians must not be like Cain who hated his brother and murdered him. But why did Cain hate his brother and murder him? The scriptures seem to indicate that Cain was jealous of Abel, because the things that Cain did were wrong, and the things his brother Abel did were right. But what were the right things that Abel did?
Here is what the writer to the Hebrews says that Abel did right and Cain did wrong:
"It was by faith that Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain. Through his faith he won God's approval as a righteous man, because God himself approved of his gifts. Because of this act of faith Abel still speaks, even though he is dead" (Heb.11:4 GNB).
It was through a more excellent sacrifice that Abel obtained the witness which showed that he was righteous (i.e., in right-standing with God).
Why was Abel's sacrifice more excellent than Cain's? And how did the act of offering the correct sacrifice cause Abel to continue to speak to us?
THE SHEDDING OF BLOOD
Without the shedding of blood there can be no atonement for sin; unless a life is sacrificed to pay the penalty for violating the law, sin cannot be forgiven:
"For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it for you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that makes an atonement for the soul" (Lev.17:11 KJV).
"And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission" (Heb.9:22 KJV).
From the Genesis record it is obvious that Cain and Abel had been instructed as to how to be put back in right-standing with God through the sacrificial system. Cain was unwilling to diligently follow God's instructions and was a sinner before God. However, Abel was willing to obey God and was righteous in God's eyes.
As it says in Genesis 4:7, Cain would have been smiling if he had given the proper sacrifice. We know Abel offered the proper sacrifice (Heb.11:4), because he was put back into right- standing with God.
Why was Abel's sacrifice more excellent than Cain's? Genesis 4:4 tells us that Abel offered a firstling of his flock. Abel knew that someday Christ would come to earth and offer himself as a perfect sacrifice, and through Christ he could have his sins taken away, never to be remembered again. Abel offered the proper sacrifice, which was symbolic of Christ's sacrifice. His sins were then covered, and he was put back into right-standing with God. Through his faith in this sacrifice (a type of Christ) Abel still speaks to us.
If a person could always maintain perfect and faithful compliance with God's law, they would always be in constant harmony and fellowship with him.
Prior to Christ, when someone violated God's law, their fellowship with him was interrupted and their access to him was barred. In order to deal with this situation, God designed the priesthood and the sacrificial system. The priest functioned as a mediator and bridge-builder between people and God by means of the sacrificial system. By offering a correct sacrifice, the breach of the law was repaired and fellowship with God was restored.
The Ancient Israelites
In the covenant that God made with the nation of Israel at Mount Sinai, he promised that if they would keep his law (Deut.5:29-33; 30:15-20), they would be righteous and sinless before him.
Maintaining a right-standing with God was a major part of the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant. God told the Israelites that if they would obey him, he would bless them, but disobedience would bring curses (Deut.28:1-68).
It is very important to understand how those before Christ maintained a good relationship with their Creator because it is this good relationship or right-standing with God the Father that ensures a person salvation under the terms and conditions of the New Covenant:
"And the Lord showed signs and wonders, great and sore, upon Egypt, upon Pharaoh, and upon all his household, before our eyes: And he brought us out from there, that he might bring us in, to give us the land which he swore to our fathers. And the Lord commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the Lord our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as it is at this day. And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us" (Deut.6:22-25 KJV).
Here, we see that the commandments are defined as righteousness. If a person could always keep the commandments perfectly without ever violating one of them, he or she would be a righteous individual in God's eyes and would escape the second death.
The Prophets and Writers
"When a righteous one turns from his righteousness and does injustice, and dies in them; he shall die for his injustice which he has done. And when the wicked turns from his wickedness that he has done, and does justice and righteousness, he shall keep his soul alive. Because he considers and turns from all his transgressions that he has done, surely he shall live; he shall not die" (Ezk.18:26-28). See also Ezk.3:18-21; Jer.4:14.
"The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple" (Psa.19:7 KJV).
"My tongue shall speak of your word: for all your commandments are righteousness" (Psa.119:172 KJV).
SALVATION THROUGH JUSTIFICATION
There are many scriptures which speak of the necessity to be justified before God in order to obtain salvation. But just what does being justified mean? Since being justified is necessary in order to obtain salvation, it is vital to understand exactly what justification is, and how to obtain it.
The Word Justify
The English word 'justify' as used in the Old Testament, is translated from the Hebrew word that means 'to render just or innocent, free, justify, or to be righteous.' The words 'justification' and 'righteousness' deal with the concept of being made free from sin and being placed in right-standing before God.
It will help in our study to understand that the words 'justification' and 'righteousness' as used in the New Testament are derived from the same Greek word and are used interchangeably.
Both the Hebrew and the Greek words for justification and righteousness are used to convey the same basic meaning of being made right with God and being sinless before him.
God is Our Salvation
"Look to me, and be you saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else" (Isa.45:22 KJV).
"Lead me in your truth, and teach me: for you are the God of my salvation; on you do I wait all the day" (Psa.25:5 KJV).
In order to obtain salvation, we must have our sins forgiven and our death sentence removed. Because it is impossible for us to forgive our own sins or remove our own death sentence, it must be done for us. The only being who can forgive sins and remove the death sentence is God the Father, because he is the Sovereign of all that exists. Therefore, it is he that must declare us sinless and worthy of saving. The question is not whether or not he will save us, the question is how does he save us?
The Righteousness to be Revealed
"So says the Lord: Keep justice and do righteousness; for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed" (Isa.56:1 Para.).
A careful study of the Bible reveals how to become righteous and be saved from eternal death. The righteousness Isaiah foretold was the righteousness of the life and sacrifice of Christ. It is through belief in the perfect sacrifice of Christ that a person may obtain righteousness and salvation.
As we have read, righteousness is defined as the obedience to God's law. What is the righteousness that Isaiah foretold that would be revealed? The answer to this question is found in the writings of Paul:
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For in it is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith" (Rom.1:16-17 KJV).
Romans 3:20-31 KJV
"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. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets:" (vs.20-21).
Paul says that a person can no longer be justified by their efforts of keeping the law, because God has revealed a method to become righteous apart from the deeds of the law.
"Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ to all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:" (vs.22-24).
Under the New Covenant, the way to receive righteousness and to be justified takes faith in the redemptive power of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ:
"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; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believes in Jesus" (vs.25-26).
It is through the righteousness of Jesus Christ that a person may be justified and declared righteous before God the Father, and it is because Jesus Christ sacrificed his life blood that we can have our sins forgiven, our death sentence removed, and be made innocent before God.
JESUS, THE ONLY WAY TO SALVATION
"Be it known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him does this man stand before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:10-12 KJV).
Jesus Christ holds the key to our salvation because he is our Savior. It is through his sacrifice and intercessory authority with the Father, that we can have our sins forgiven. It is through his sacrifice that all of humanityCpast, present, and futureCmay obtain salvation:
"For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1.Thes.5:9 KJV).
Jesus Christ was not only sent to pay the penalty for our sins, but also to explain how to obtain salvation:
"Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes to the Father, but by me" (Jn.14:6 KJV).
"This parable spoke Jesus to them: but they understood not what things they were which he spoke to them. Then said Jesus to them again, Truly, truly,, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd gives his life for the sheep" (Jn.10:6-11 KJV). See Jn.6:39-40; 11:25-26; Rom.1:16-17.
The writers of the four gospels give us a summary of Christ's teachings. In the 14th and 15th chapters of the gospel of John, Jesus stated how he and his Father want those who would obtain eternal life to live their lives. If a person desires to have life everlasting, they must endeavor to obey the teachings of God's word.
Please read John 14 and 15 before reading the rest of this study paper.
THE GOD WHO BECAME MAN
History clearly shows that Jesus was not a myth or a legend; he did exist. He was a real human being who preached and taught God's word with great power and zeal.
John 1:1-5, 10-14 KJV
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not" (vs.1-5).
"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came to his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (vs.10-14).
The God Who Died
Prior to being human, Jesus was an immortal spirit-being who possessed the highest form of existence; life that springs forth from itself, never dying or decaying. This immortal being who was not subject to death, emptied himself of his glory, power, and immortality to become a mortal man. See our study paper "Who Is God?"
"But now in these days he has spoken to us through his Son to whom he has given everything, and through whom he made the world and everything there is. God's Son shines out with God's glory, and all that God's Son is and does marks him as God. He regulates the universe by the mighty power of his command. He is the one who died to cleanse us and clear our record of all sin, and then sat down in highest honor beside the great God of heaven" (Heb.1:2-3 LBP).
"But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man" (Heb.2:9 KJV). See Lk.24:1-7; Acts 2:24-32; 3:15,26; Rom.6:8-10; Phil.2:6-8; 1.Pet.3:18; Rev.2:8; 1:4,17-18.
The Creator God who made all that exists voluntarily gave up his immortality to come to earth in human form, live a sinless life as an example for us to follow, and sacrificed his life in an agonizing death as payment for the sins of all humanity. He did this in order that each of us could be saved from eternal death as a result of our violation of God's perfect law. See 1.Cor.6:20; 7:23; Ezk.18:4,20; Rom.6:23.
Before the advent of the Messiah, animal life could be sacrificed in place of the life of the violator of the law in order to temporarily cover the sin. Under the New Covenant, the Creator God who became the Messiah sacrificed his own life as a substitute for the life of the violator in order to forgive sins.
Jesus Christ, the Creator and Son of God the Father, holds the key to our salvation because he is our Savior (Isa.43:11; 45:21). It is through his sacrifice and intercessory authority with the Father that we can have our sins forgiven.
Notice what the writer to the Hebrews says about the sacrifice of Christ being the ultimate and final sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin:
"How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (Heb.9:14-15 KJV).
It is extremely important for anyone who is seeking salvation to understand and believe who Jesus Christ is, and that he sacrificed his sinless life to pay the penalty for their sins.
The scriptures say that all have sinned and are under a death sentence waiting to be executed. In order to escape execution, a person must have their sins forgiven and be justified (made innocent) before God the Father.
The Bible says that the only way to have one's sins forgiven is through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Without belief in Jesus ChristCwho he was and what he didCno one can be saved.
As human beings, we cannot begin to comprehend or understand the enormous sacrifice the Creator made when he became a human himself. The price he paid and what he gave was worth more than the sum total of all that exists, because he was and is the Creator of all that exists.
Jesus Our Creator and Our Savior
"I, even I, am the Lord; and beside me there is no Savior" (Isa.43:11 KJV).
"This says the Lord, your redeemer, and he that formed you from the womb, I am the Lord that makes all things. . ." (Isa.44:24 KJV).
"I the Lord am your Savior and your Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob" (Isa.60:16 KJV). See also Isa.45:21.
"He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned" (Mk.16:16 KJV).
"For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ," (1.Thes.5:9 KJV).
"For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them . . ." (Lk.9:56 KJV).
"For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost [i.e., humanity]" (Matt.18:11 KJV).
The apostle Paul said, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (1.Tim.1:15 KJV).
JUSTIFIED BY HIS BLOOD SAVED BY HIS LIFE
Paul spoke to the Colossians about God the Father redeeming us by sending his Son to give his life as payment for the sins of humanity.
Colossians 1:13-22 KJV
"Who has delivered us from the power of darkness, and has translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
"For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
"And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell;
"And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things to himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in the earth, or things in heaven.
"And you, that who were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now has he reconciled. In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in his sight:"
Again, it is by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ (the Creator God) that we are reconciled to God the Father and have our death sentence removed:
"And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (1.Cor.15:14 KJV). See also 1.Cor.15:3-4.
If Christ had not risen from the dead, we would be lost without any hope of salvation. This is a very important point because it shows that not only did Christ have to die for our sins but also he had to be brought back to life in order for us to be saved. But why?:
"For we yet being without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will with difficulty die for a just onefor perhaps one even dares to die for the sake of the good onebut God commends his love to us in that we yet being sinners, Christ died for us. Much more, then, being justified now by his blood, we shall be saved through him from wrath. For being enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life" (Rom.5:6-10).
Paul says that we are reconciled to God the Father by the blood of Christ and that we shall be saved from death through him. Notice also that we are made innocent before God the Father by the death of his Son, and because he lives, we are saved. But what is it about Christ's life that brings salvation to humanity?
OUR HIGH PRIEST
Christ now holds an extremely important position, which is vital to our salvation. This position is that of our High Priest. It is because he lives that he is able to be our High Priest and intercede before the Father on our behalf:
"Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb.4:14-15 KJV). See also Heb.2:14-18; 9:7-28.
Christ, our High Priest and Mediator now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven. Christ can and does understand why we sin. He knows our weaknesses as human beings, because he has been human (Heb.2:14-18). Therefore, when we petition the Father, we can also ask Christ to intercede with the Father on our behalf, because he understands exactly what we are feeling. He understands us because while he was here in the flesh, he was also tempted.
Jesus knows how weak the flesh is and now he can explain to the Father who has never been human how difficult it is to dwell in this flesh. Then, the Father can also understand and have mercy on us and forgive us of our sins, because all of us sin, even after we are baptized. Therefore, we still need forgiveness on an ongoing basis, in order that we can always stand before God as righteous individuals.
When we go before God the Father in prayer, we must ask all things in the name of Jesus, which is the same as asking by his authority as our High Priest, because Jesus alone has the authority to intercede on our behalf for the forgiveness of our sins. See Acts 4:12; Heb.7:25.
Notice what is said about the intercessory power and authority of Jesus:
"Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them" (Heb.7:25 KJV).
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1.Tim.2:5 KJV).
SALVATION IS A GIFT FROM GOD
God the Father is expanding his family (Jn.1:12; 1.Jn.3:1-2; 2.Cor.6:1; Heb.2:10) and his intent is to share all he has throughout eternity with beings just like himself (1.Cor.2:9). To accomplish this, he has set in motion a plan through which he will give eternal life and immortality to those who will accept his way of life.
Salvation cannot be earned, purchased, or taken from God by anyone. The power to save a person from eternal death and impart eternal life and immortality is God the Father's alone (1.Sam.2:6), and he will freely do this through Jesus Christ for those who meet his terms and conditions:
"For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of your selves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph.2:8-9 Para.).
God desires to save all of humanity
"Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1.Tim.2:4 KJV).
The desire to save humanity was so great and important to the God Family that Jesus Christ, the Creator God, came to earth and sacrificed himself in order to remove our death sentence.
JESUS THE GIVER OF LIFE
"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give to them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand" (Jn.10:27-28 KJV).
"And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which sees the Son, and believes on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (Jn.6:40 KJV).
The apostle Paul also spoke of the hope of life after death and a resurrection from the dead:
"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Rom.6:22-23 KJV).
Paul understood that the material things of this life are worthless and that the real prize to be sought in life is the knowledge of how to obtain eternal life and immortality:
"Yes doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having my own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable to his death; If by any means I might attain to the resurrection of the dead" (Phil.3:8-11 KJV).
JESUS CHRIST IS THE HOPE OF THE DEAD
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes on him should not perish, but have ever lasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved" (Jn.3:16-17 KJV). See Mk.16:16; 1.Jn.4:9-10; Rom.8:7-18.
After Christ's death and resurrection, the apostles taught the hope of the dead through the sacrifice of Jesus and a resurrection:
"And as they spoke to the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them, Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold (i.e., jail) to the next day: for it was now evening" (Acts 4:1-3 KJV).
"But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the first fruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1.Cor.15:20-22 KJV).
"He who believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that does not believe shall be condemned" (Mk.16:16).
"For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (1.Thes.5:9 KJV).
JESUS THE RIGHTEOUS
Jesus was the only truly righteous human who has ever lived. He perfectly kept all the commandments, precepts, and principals of God his entire life without ever sinning. He did not deserve to die, but chose to die for us, in order that we could have our sins forgiven and live (see 1.Pet.2:21-24):
"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law" (Rom.3:27-28 KJV).
Is it because of a persons efforts to obey God's law that they are declared righteous before God? Absolutely not! All that is required to become righteous is that a person believe in Jesus who was able to meet all the righteous demands of the law:
"Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yes, we establish the law" (Rom.3:31 KJV).
Is it now permissible to violate the righteous laws of God because a person has been justified or declared righteous through belief in Jesus Christ? The answer is an emphatic NO! After a person is declared righteous, they must then establish the law. But how is this done? This is done by beginning to keep the law ourselves with the help of the spirit of God; we establish the law by practicing it. See Rom.6:15-16.
JUSTIFICATION THROUGH FAITH AND WORKS
Some believe that all one has to do to obtain salvation is believe that God exists. This may sound good to some; however, this is not the kind of belief Abraham had. His belief in God was much more than just an awareness of God's existence:
For a detailed definition of exactly what faith is, please read our study paper that deals with the attributes and functions of the holy spirit.
"What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, has found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he has whereof to glory; but not before God. For what says the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness" (Rom.4:1-3 Para.).
Paul said that, if Abraham had been justified by works, he would have had something to boast about. Notice that Abraham "believed God" and he was counted worthy, declared righteous, and justified by God.
"And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform . . . But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead" (Rom.4:21, 24 Para.).
Because Abraham had faith that God would fulfill his promises, he obeyed what he was told to do.
In verse 24, we find that we can become righteous or justified if we believe in God the Father who raised Christ from the dead. We know also that a person may have righteousness imputed to them (given as a gift) because of their belief in Christ's blood. And we have also found that all efforts by humans to earn righteousness (justification) have failed.
THERE IS NO FAITH WITHOUT WORKS
Up to now we have studied about faith. But what about works? Do works have something to do with justification and salvation?
James 2:11-24 LPB
"For the God who said you must not marry a woman who already has a husband, also said you must not murder, so even though you have not broken the marriage laws by committing adultery, but have murdered someone, you have entirely broken God's law and stand utterly guilty before him. You will be judged on whether or not you are doing what Christ wants you to. So watch what you do and what you think; for there will be no mercy to those who have shown no mercy. But if you have been merciful, then God's mercy toward you will win out over his judgment against you" (vs.11-13).
"Dear brothers, what's the use of saying that you have faith and are Christians if you aren't proving it by helping others? Will that kind of faith save anyone? If you have a friend who is in need of food and clothing, and you say to him, 'Well, good-bye and God bless you; stay warm and eat hearty,' and then don't give him clothes or food, what good does that do? So you see, it isn't enough just to have faith. You must also do good to prove that you have it. Faith that doesn't show itself by good works is no faith at allit is dead and useless" (vs.14-17).
James says that it is not enough just to have faith, because faith that does not show itself through good works is no faith at all. It is dead and useless.
FAITH AND WORKS
"But someone may well argue, "You say the way to God is by faith alone, plus nothing; well, I say that good works are important too, for without good works you can't prove whether you have faith or not; but anyone can see that I have faith by the way I act." Are there still some among you who hold that "only believing" is enough? Believing in one God? Well, remember that the devils believe this tooso strongly that they tremble in terror! Fool! When will you ever learn that "believing" is useless without doing what God wants you to? Faith that does not result in good deeds is not real faith" (vs.18-20). The King James Version renders verse 20 as: "Faith without works is dead."
"Don't you remember that even our father Abraham was declared good because of what he did, when he was willing to obey God, even if it meant offering his son Isaac to die on the altar?" (v21).
James says that Abraham was declared righteous or justified because of what he did. Abraham was willing to obey God, even if it meant offering his only son, Isaac, to die on the altar:
"You see, he was trusting God so much that he was willing to do whatever God told him to; his faith was made complete by what he did, by his actions, his good deeds" (v22).
Abraham was willing to trust (have faith) in God, no matter what God instructed him to do. Therefore, because of his physical works, his faith was complete. Thus, without the manifestation of works, faith is not complete.
Abraham's faith was also the knowledge that God could resurrect Isaac, and that God had promised the blessings to come through Isaac. His physical works, based on knowledge, resulted in faith that was complete:
"And so it happened just as the Scriptures say, that Abraham trusted God, and the Lord declared him good in God's sight, and he was even called 'the friend of God'. So you see, a man is saved by what he does, as well as by what he believes" (vs.23-24).
BELIEVING AND DOING
James concludes that a man is justified or made righteous by what he does as well as by what he believes. It is very important to understand what James said about faith and physical works. It takes physical effort as well as a right attitude to fulfill God's laws, precepts, and principals:
"For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified (or declared righteous)" (Rom.2:13 KJV).
Righteousness is imputed to us (given as a gift) because of our belief in Christ's sacrifice of his own life. We have found also that all efforts by man to earn righteousness (justification) without God's help have failed, and that we must obey God's laws in order to be justified.
Prior to the coming of Jesus, all of humanity was awaiting the death sentence to be carried out as punishment for the violation of God's law. But now, we may have our sins forgiven and be made totally innocent before the Father through the sacrifice of Christ.
Prior to the advent of Jesus Christ, a person could offer a sacrifice for certain sins, and be put back in right-standing with God.
Because Jesus Christ offered his life as the final and supreme sacrifice for the sins of mankind, there is no longer a need for animal sacrifices to be performed for justification; however, there is still a need for the forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ:
"But God commends his love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. 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" (Rom.5:8-10 KJV).
Escape the Death Sentence
Now the forgiveness of sin can be accomplished by going directly to God the Father by the authority of Jesus Christ and asking to be forgiven. The Father will then forgive and forget the sin because of the supreme sacrifice of his Son.
This is how we are saved. This is the way God has chosen to give us salvation. For those who accept the call of God and follow his way of life, the reward is eternal life, tremendous joy, and happiness forever.
God the Father wants everyone to repent of sin and obtain salvation. He has set before humanity the choice of life and death, and each one of us must eventually choose which we desiredeath or life (Deut.30:15-20).
Now that you have this knowledge, may God give you the wisdom and strength to act upon it in a positive manner.
If you are being called to salvation in this age, the apostle Peter says, "Repent and be baptized . . . and you shall receive the gift of the holy spirit" (Acts 2:38 KJV).
By B.L. Cocherell, file b3w9