The True Gospel (Part 5 of the series on the True Christ/Gospel)
This is part 5 in the series on the True Jesus of the bible and the True Gospel. I would highly recommend reading parts 1-4 before picking up here.
In opening I will summarize what has been said before we see that because of the fall of Adam and Eve men are born spiritually dead, unable to do good, unable to please God, can not earn their own salvation, or make their own decision to come to faith (Eph 2:1-10, Rom 3:10-18). There is no religious rules or code of conduct in the world that can change these problems in man and give him the ability to do any of these things under their own power or will. Man can not earn salvation through works, because of this the only way for anyone to have salvation was for God, before the foundation of the world, to choose (and predestine) those He would save in Christ (Eph 1:4-12). This selection had nothing to do with what God saw in man or a choice God knew a person would make but on His will alone (Rom 9:11-18, Eph 1:4-12, Eph 2:8).
The first step in having this salvation is to be “Born Again” which is an act of God alone and does not include any participation from man on his own behalf (John 3:1-10, Eph 2:1-8). In fact you can not even have this happen to you unless the Father Himself first draws you to Christ (Joh 6:44) and then the Holy Spirit gives you a new birth (John 3:1-10). This new birth comes when someone hears the preaching of God's word, the Holy Spirit uses this preaching to regenerate them, causes them to see their wretched position, repent, and believe the gospel (acts 2:14-39).
Once we come to true faith we are commanded to be baptized (acts 2:36-39). Baptism itself does not cause faith, does not grant salvation, and does not cause your regeneration but is a commandment given by God to enter into the church (Acts 2:36-39, Mark 16:16). In many churches today Baptism has been replaced by altar calls, the sinners prayer, and other traditions of men. It is a commandment from the Lord Himself to be baptized when you believe, Jesus even links believing AND being baptized to being saved in Mark 16:16. Baptism represents what has spiritually happened to a believer. Romans 6 explains that baptism represents the believer dying with Christ and being raised up a new man (Rom 6:4). It also represents the washing away of our sins to be made clean before God in Christ. I would encourage you to really study Romans 6 if you would like to gain a better understanding of baptism.
Salvation is a free gift from God and we do not earn it in anyway or keep it on our own. Our salvation is for the glory of God, to glorify His mercy and grace and is in no way to glorify anything that a man has done for himself. Man could NEVER save himself. This plan of salvation was accomplished by the life (fulfilling the law on our behalf), death of God's only Son (to take the punishment we deserve), and resurrection (the assurance that He is the way). Those who do not have Christ, the REAL Christ, do not have eternal life and can in no way earn it, there is NO other way to heaven.
After we are saved we can never lose our salvation (John 6:37-44). God predestined the salvation of those who He chose and therefore does not give salvation and take it away. If we could lose salvation this would imply that in some way our own works keep us saved which is not the gospel but tends more to a cults way understanding of the bible (Catholic, Mormon, Orthodox, etc) understanding of salvation.
Once we are saved God starts a process of sanctification in the believers life. Sanctification is the process by which God (through the Holy Spirit) conforms a believer more and more into the image of His Son (2Thes 2:13). Salvation and sanctification are two different parts of the Christians life we are saved once and for all when we come to faith and then our sanctification is a lifelong process. We must always remember that sanctification works different for everyone. When I came to faith I had some major sins cut off immediately and other sins were more gradual. We must encourage fellow believers in this process. We are to hold each other accountable, but do so in a loving manner. Although we do have grace and patience with each other we must also realize that the idea that is in many churches today of a “carnal Christian” or someone who has made a testimony that they believe but demonstrates no fruits of the Spirit in their life (or cutting off of sin) is foreign to scripture and untrue. We must really practice discernment when it comes to this area. Following the guidelines of having grace for people but also, in a loving way, pointing out areas that are of major concern can be good. I also reject the idea of Christians becoming morally perfect in this world. We await being perfected when Christ returns, that is part of our glorious hope, that sin will finally be destroyed from our lives (Gal 5:5 5 For we through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith.). This does not mean we do not strive toward perfection though. There is a mysterious part of this sanctification that God says He sanctifies yet also commands us to participate in this sanctification. The bible is clear that even though it is God working in us for our sanctification that we also have to work to put certain things out of our life and cultivate holiness. We are to practice obedience to God's word and commandments. Colossians 3:1-18 does a great job explaining this....
3 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. 2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. 3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. 5 Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: 6 For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: 7 In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. 8 But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. 9 Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; 10 And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him: 11 Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all. 12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; 13 Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. 14 And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.
This section will finish up with a brief touching on some of the hopes of the gospel. The hope of the Christian rests not just in the here and now but in what is to come. We have hope for the return of Jesus, the resurrection of the just and unjust, the final judgment, the casting of all that causes sin and evil (including Satan, the beast, and the false prophet) into the lake of fire, the glorification and perfecting of Jesus' people, and the spending the rest of eternity with God in a perfect new heaven and new earth where righteousness reigns and God dwells with His people. Notice what we do not place our hope in; being made rich, having a comfortable life, always being healthy in the here and now, God granting our every wish, or having more possessions. Finally one of the biggest issues is what we think about heaven; do we think about a heaven where we are concerned more with the things we will do there, the physical rehabilitation of our body, having wealth, or foods, or who will be there with us than we are with being with God! The point of our faith is we want to live in a perfect kingdom with no sin or death and be there with our God dwelling among us! God is the ultimate reward for a Christian. As David said,
"25 Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. 26 My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever.” Psalm 73:25-26