The Gift of Salvation
In writing to the Church at Ephesus, Paul had this exhortation to the saints:
"And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."Ephesians 2:1-8
We have all been dead in trespasses and sins, for the wages of sin is death. In fact, every sinner has been under a death sentence since the days of Adam. The apostle Paul summed up his problem with sin:
"O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Romans 7:24
He found the answer through faith in Christ Jesus:
"And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." Acts 22:16
On the day of Pentecost, Peter answered a crowd's similar question with:
"Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." Acts 2:38
Soon after this he exhorted another audience:
"Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;" Acts 3:19
Peter also testified to Cornelius:
"To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." Acts 10:43
The Apostle John also tells us that
"If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us [our] sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." John 1:9
So well does Jesus deal with our sins, that
"As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us." Psalm 103:12
In fact, Jesus does not just bear the burden of mankind's sin, he actually became sin, the embodiment of everything that is vile and loathsome before God.
"For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him." 2 Corinthians 5:21
It's no wonder that Jesus went into the lower parts of the earth upon his death, but the real miracle is that He was resurrected in power over sin and the devil. How then, do we enter into salvation won through the power of the blood of Christ?
The mystery of it is perhaps best summed up in the lyrics of the hymn "There Is A Fountain" by Clarence McClendon.
There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel's veins
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains
As for plunging into the blood and the blessing of Christ's sacrifice, this is beautifully symbolised with the act of baptism by immersion. As explained in Romans 6, this symbolic act of being buried with Christ is immediately followed by the symbolism of His resurrection.
"Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin." Romans 6:1-7
"But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life." Romans 6:22
If we continue to walk in faith and to live a life of holiness, we are assured of being accepted as the victorious sons of God.
"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together." Romans 8:13-17
Furthermore, Jesus has promised to never leave us nor forsake us until we finally meet Him in Glory.
"And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads. And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever." Revelation 22:3-5
If Jesus paid for our salvation with His own blood, is it fair that we should enter into these promises simply because we believe that He died for us. There is more to our faith than simple heady ackowledgement of historical facts. There is a price to pay, which is commonly ignored by mainstream Christianity. Let's look at what Jesus said.
Count the cost
"And there went great multitudes with him: and he turned, and said unto them, If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea, and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple.
And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
For which of you, intending to build a tower, sitteth not down first, and counteth the cost, whether he have sufficient to finish it? Lest haply, after he hath laid the foundation, and is not able to finish it, all that behold it begin to mock him, Saying, This man began to build, and was not able to finish.
Or what king, going to make war against another king, sitteth not down first, and consulteth whether he be able with ten thousand to meet him that cometh against him with twenty thousand? Or else, while the other is yet a great way off, he sendeth an ambassage, and desireth conditions of peace.
So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:25-33
These words from Jesus are rarely quoted in sermons today. They don't fit in with the gospel of love that's become a popular mantra for preachers wanting large crowds at their meetings. But Jesus did say it, and He did mean it. And it doesn't take away from the fact that Jesus does love us and that He gave Himself on the cross to save us from our sins. How can it be ignored?
There are two sides to this challenge - the cost of following Jesus, and the cost involved in NOT following Him. Let's weigh up the options.
Firstly, what do we gain by following Jesus? Eternal life in glory stands out as the main promise of salvation. The New Testament inspires us to look beyond this short life to the reality of eternity. While the Old Testament promised prosperity and security in life on earth, as well as salvation for eternity, Jesus taught us to shun an abundance of wealth in order to win souls for the Kingdom of God. Jesus did assure us that God would meet our daily needs, but that our interest in spiritual things should come first.
"Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Matthew 6:31-33
Notice that all of His other promises of security in this life come as a condition of forsaking all for Christ.
"And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, but he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. Mark 10:29,30
"And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life." Matthew 19:29
And what will this cost us? Jesus did not preach about acting like a Christian once a week, or once a year, but every day. His call is for people who are going to completely dedicate their lives to Him, regardless of the cost involved with losing friends, fortunes, careers, family members, reputation, or even your own life. Jesus was not just speaking to the apostles, but to all and to any man. This dedication is expected of all Christians, not just those who end up as preachers or leaders of the church.
"And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me." Luke 9:23
"So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple." Luke 14:33
Secondly, what do we gain by NOT following Jesus? God has given us the natural pleasures of this life to enjoy, and for many people, that's all there is. If your life has no particular religious focus, then it's a life of self will, doing what you want day by day and getting along as best you can in midst of the government's rules and regulations.
Is there any cost in this? The Book of Romans teaches plainly that the wages of sin is death. A life of self-will is nothing else but a life of sin. As God is a God of holiness and righteousness, he cannot and will not tolerate sin in His presence. So at the end of a sinful life, there is only one destination for the sinner - the lake of fire and brimstone.
"For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment . . . The Lord knoweth how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished:" 2 Peter 2:4,9
"And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works." Revelation 20:13
"And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire." Revelation 20:14
It's your choice
"For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:13
The pagan Greeks spoke often of "fate", the concept that man's actions on earth were pre-determined by the gods, and that man had no responsibility in guiding his life. Whatever happened was your "destiny". This may have some truth in terms of natural disasters or events beyond our control, but the for the most part, people make decisions every day concerning their present life and future. It's known as free will, mankind's ability to choose for himself. This gift of God meant that His created beings could choose to either obey Him,or disobey Him.
That was the choice offered to Adam and Eve. They had only one rule to keep - don't eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. They chose to disobey that rule, and plunged their descendants into the chaos of sin we find today.
This generation is still able to exercise free will. Our lives are not lived according to the whims and fancies of God, who makes random choices about who is to be saved and who is not to be saved. WE make those choices, and God passes judgment on what path we have chosen. Considering the two options above, which is the most sensible choice to make?
"Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.
And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: and the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it." Matthew 7:24-27