When one studies the gospel plan of salvation, the study will often end at baptism. However, baptism will get one into Christ; faithful living will keep him or her there. Galatians 5:4 is a good text to illustrate the point: “You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Among other things, this passages shows that it is possible to fall from grace. In the books of Romans and Galatians, Paul is stressing the point that one must remain faithful to Christ in order to remain saved.
First, faithful living requires application. James 1:22 says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” Knowing what the word of God says and making application of it are two entirely different things. In Acts 14:22, the Bible tells of Paul and Barnabas were found encouraging the disciples whom they had converted to remain focused and continue in the faith. Salvation does not end at baptism but rather it begins at baptism. Further, Luke 6:46 Jesus said, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” Jesus comands His disciples to do, not merely believe. Obedience requries action and action is more than beliefe. It is not enough to believe that Jesus is real or even to believe that He is the Savior. The belief one has must move him or her to action — to doing what He says. “If you love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15).
In fact, if belief were enough, then the demons would have salvation (James 2:19). Belief or faith alone is not enough. First, there are very few (if any) men who believe in the concept of ‘faith only.’ Those who advocate such wil continue to talk of what actions needs to be done or they may define belief by various actions that must be done. Further, God certianly does not believe in faith only. The Bible uses the phrase only one time and then it is used in negative sense: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Faithful living requres action or application of the word of God.
Also, faithful living requires aspriation — the idea of being better tomorrow than today. God demands growth and not just any growth but spiritual growth. Peter commanded his readers saying “…as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby…” (1Peter 2:2). They were to desire milk for a a reason — to grow. Paul made a great statement in Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” Everyone has a dream. Everyone hopes to acomplish good things in their individual lives. God can accomplish great and wonderful things through His people. Here, Paul says God can accomplish things that are beyond the human imaginaiton. One person said, “Faith is holding on to God’s dreams…and finding your own fullfilled.” Faithful living will take one further than he or she ever dreamed or imagined going. It will help one to aspire to greater things and do things he or she never thought possible. Through Christians, God can accomplish things “exceedinly abundantly above all we ask or think.”
Another passage that concerns biblical growth is Hebrews 5:12: “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” The writer chastized them for not growing like they should. If a person does not grow in Christ, then he or she is not following the demands of God. Often times, the song is lead “Just as I Am.” Certainly, God will accpet a person just as he is but He will not leave him that way. He wants a person to grow in the grace and knowledge of God (2Peter 3:18).
Finally, there are many benefits to faithful living. The one which will be considered in this article is assurance. 1John 5:13 says, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.” If one will biblcally believe on the name of the Son of God, then that person can know that he or she has eternal life in Heaven. Paul spoke of the suffering he had experience in this life and made a clear statement of the assurance he had when he said, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (2Timothy 1:12). There will be suffering for anyone who desire to follow the commands of God (John 15:18-19; 1Peter 4:16; 1John 3:13). Yet, Paul understood that the suffering he experienced in this life had purpose. Likewise, the suffering of any Christian has purpose. The acting Faith of Paul gave him such great assurance that he was able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2Timothy 4:7). Paul knew he was saved and likewise Christians today can know they are saved. The only way they will know is by faithful obedience to the cross of Christ.
In fact, Paul made a candid and powerful statement in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” The gospel of Christ is something in which there should be no shame. It is also the power of God that brings salvation to all men. It is hope for the salvation of mankind and it is the only hope there is available.
The gospel plan of salvation is simple and straightforward: One must hear the word and believe it to be true (Romans 10:17; Hebrews 11:6). One must repent of their sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 2:38). One must confess Christ (Romans 10:9). One must be baptized for the remission of their sins (Galatians 3:27). Finally, one must live faithful to God (Acts 14:21-22).
“For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps” (1 Peter 2:21). Jesus commanded that men follow Him (Matthew 4:19; 8:22; 9:9; Mark 10:21; John 1:43; 21:22; 12:26). Clearly, He is to be our example in all that we say and do..
It is amazing and inspiring to study His life and observe how He handled the temptations, trials and problems of life. He was victorious over every obstacle He had to face. We should be happy to follow in the steps of our Master.
When we follow Him, the steps lead us through the waters of baptism. Many today claim to follow Jesus but they mock and ridicule the idea of baptism. This is inconsistent, for Jesus saw the necessity of it. Though He had no sins, He could not “fulfill all righteousness” without baptism (Matthew 3:13-15). If we truly follow Jesus, His steps they will lead us to baptism. He not only practiced it, He commanded that it be done (Mark 16:16). Will you follow Jesus or men? Our place in eternity depends upon how we answer that question.
As we follow Jesus, His steps lead us to Gethsemane. There will be trials and tribulations for those who follow Him. The way to heaven has its Gethsemane’s and we will be wounded along the way, but He who was wounded for us has promised a wonderful blessing for our every hurt (Revelation 2:10).
If Jesus' steps had ended at the cross, think of the hopelessness that would come upon mankind. Thank God, such is not the case! We can rejoice as we read of His triumph over death and the grave, and follow His steps as they lead into the portals of glory (Acts 1:9-10). This is one of the greatest motivating powers for our following Him down the stony path of life. We can anticipate the end of our road. Christ gave Martha the assuring concerning the resurrection, “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live” (John 11:25).
Jesus said, "... I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life" (John 8:12). WE MUST FOLLOW JESUS no matter what the cost might be.
The steps of Jesus will also lead us to the worship assembly. Even as a boy, He went into the synagogue. Later He went to the place of worship and stood up to read the law (Luke 4:16). We are not following His steps if we forsake public worship. God understood the value of assembling together and commanded, “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25).
Christ is the only way to heaven. If we follow Satan, we will be led into sin, defeat, and finally into torment (Revelation 20:10). If we follow men, we will be lifted no higher than humans can reach. Following Jesus is the only sure way (1 Corinthians 11:1). We cannot follow Jesus and forsake the worship assembly.
Following Jesus will lead us to the throne of God.
When one is seeking Biblical salvation, first he or she must hear the word of God (Romans 10:17). Then, the person must believe what they have hard (Hebrews 11:6, Mark 16:15-16). Next he or she must repent of their sins (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 2:38). Then, the person must confess Christ (Romans 10:9). One must be baptized for the remission of sins (Galatians 3:27, Acts 2:38). Finally, he or she must live faithfully to death (Acts 14:21-22, Revelation 2:10b). The step of salvation of baptism is the thrust and focus of this article. The Bible speaks of at least five different kinds of baptism. The Bible teaches that baptism is an immersion for the remission of sins. Finally, the Bible teaches baptism to be essential for one salvation.
The Bible speaks of many different kinds of Baptism. In Luke 12:49-53, there is the baptism of suffering. Luke pointed out that Christians could suffer for what they believe. This could refer to Christians today. However, it is possible for a person to become a Christian and then die so soon after that he or she never experiences suffering. So the baptism of suffering might or might not apply to Christians today. In Mark 1:4, one can read of the baptism of John the baptizer. In Acts 19:1-10, one can read of people who were baptized with John’s baptism but were then baptized again according to the law of Christ. Therefore, the baptism of John does not apply to New Testament Christians today. Then, in Matthew 3:11-12, one can read of the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of fire. The baptism of the Holy Spirit occurred in Acts 2 and Acts 10 to give miracles to the first century disciples. Therefore, this does not apply to people today. The baptism of fire probably refers to judgment day and the punishment in store for all non-believers. This seems to make sense in the context of the verse 12. Therefore, the baptism of fire is not used to save the soul of man today.
In Matthew 28:18-20, the Bible says, “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.” This verse refers to the baptism of salvation and it absolutely applies to man today. This is the one baptism spoken of in Ephesians 4:4-6.
One of the objections given to baptism today concerns its technique or mode. There are many advocating that immersion is not necessary but rather if one’s heart is in the right place, then a ritualistic sprinkling, pouring, or an anointing would suffice. The first problem with this idea is that there is a contradiction within it. If one’s heart is in the right place and that person really wants to be pleasing to God, then that person is not going to object to being immersed because that is what God said to do. The Bible teaches clearly that God intended for baptism to be a complete immersion into the water. In Acts 8:26-40, the Bible tells of the conversion of the eunuch of Ethiopia. When Philip had taught him the word of God, he saw water and wanted to be baptized in it. If sprinkling, pouring, or immersion were enough, then why did they stop and both of them go down into the water? Surely, he would have had some drinking water with him. The journey from Jerusalem to Ethiopia is no small journey. They could have used that to sprinkle or pour in the name of baptism. They did not because baptism is an immersion.
Consider what Paul says in Romans 6:4: “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” Then in Galatians 3:27, the Bible through Paul says, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Paul is showing by illustration the point that baptism is an immersion. It is symbolic act of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. A person is symbolically buried with Christ in baptism. Just as Christ rose from death so the new man or Christian is raised from the water of baptism. The biblical technique of baptism is that baptism is an immersion.
Another issue concerning baptism today involves its essentiality. Some say that it is not necessary to be baptized so long as one’s heart is in the right place. Again, there is a contradiction in such thinking. If one’s heart is in the right place and the person truly desires to please God in life, then that person will want to be baptized for the remission of their sins like the Bible says to do. Interestingly, it seems like there is more debate over this step in the gospel plan of salvation than any other and yet the Bible is so clear on the matter. In every New Testament account of conversion that applies to people today, baptism is a part of it. In Acts 2, the converts of Pentecost heard the word, repented, and were baptized. In Acts 8, the Eunuch of Ethiopia heard the word, confessed and was baptized. In Acts 9, Saul of Tarsus was baptized. In Acts 10, the Gentiles of the house of Cornelius heard the word and were baptized. In Acts 16, both Lydia and the jailor were baptized. If people today will do what they did, then they will receive the salvation that they got. The Bible is so very plain on the subject of baptism yet people today want to twist it and make it say something it does not say.
In Acts 10:34, Peter begins his sermon to the Gentiles by saying: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.” If God were to require something different for the salvation of different individuals, then that would make Him a partial God. He will not require anything different today from what He required in the first century. Otherwise, He would be a God who shows partiality. If one wants to be saved, he or she need only to follow the gospel plan of salvation which includes being baptized for the remission of their sins. If one is going to use the Bible as their standard for salvation then he or she cannot deny that baptism is essential.
Reader, have you followed the biblical plan of salvation? Have you been baptized for the remission of your sins?
The Sinners Prayer
In congregations throughout the world we sometimes find ideas that are taught as doctrine but cannot be found anywhere in the Bible (Matt 15:9). We should always strive to do as the Bible says. One important area which has been clouded by false teaching is salvation (Acts 2:37-38).
The first idea I want to investigate with you is referred to as “The Sinner’s Prayer.” The sinner’s prayer originated sometime during the Protestant Reformation movement. Billy Graham used his counselors to tell those who responded to his “altar call” to pray. His method of conversion began with a prayer from what is called his “Four steps to Peace with God” which began with a tract 50 years earlier.
There are a few passages some use in an attempt to teach the “sinners prayer.” However, upon dissecting the verses used, the truth becomes clear. There is no such support for a “sinner’s prayer” in the Bible. Let’s look first at John 1:12 which says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (NKJV). The believer has the right to proceed with his obedience which includes repentance, confession and baptism in water for or unto remission of sins (Acts 2:38, Rom 10:10, 1 Peter 3:21). Only believers have the right; obviously, a person does not have the right of becoming what they already are therefore this is proof that the act of believing alone does not produce salvation. Faith apart from works (of righteousness) is dead (James 2:26). The scriptures do not teach a “sinners prayer” in the idea that it is all that is required for salvation. No where does the Bible give a single example of a person being saved by faith until the faith involved reveals itself in action through obedience to God’s commands (1 Jn 2:4, 5:3).
A second common passage which is used is Romans 10:9-10,13 which says “that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For ‘whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.’” (NKJV). Just because Paul does not mention every step of obedience does not mean it is not implied or understood. In many biblical examples of conversion not every point is brought out, that does not mean that particular step is not necessary or was not completed. No one would deny that those who desire to be called a biblical Christian will do what is required of them. “Calling on the name of the Lord” is the equivalent of gospel obedience. No one would deny that; those in Acts 2, Saul, the Eunuch in Acts 8, and Cornelius in Acts 10 all called on the name of the Lord. However, that is not all they did. These individuals called on the name of the Lord in that they believed, repented, and were baptized. Thus, to call on the name of the Lord is the same as a believer who repents and is baptized.
What about the occasions when a person was speaking to a messenger of God or to Christ Himself? They still did not receive salvation until believing, repenting, and being baptized. Saul met Christ on the road and spoke to Christ himself. However, Saul was not granted salvation. He was told to wait to be told what he “must do.” Cornelius talked to an angel of God but did he receive eternal life? No, he was told to send for Peter to hear what he “must do.” Why did these men not receive salvation at the point of talking to Christ or an angel of God? They were to OBEY God’s will and do what was required of them. “There is also an antitype which now saves us--baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God)…,” 1 Peter 3:21 (NKJV). What now saves us? Baptism, “the answer of a good conscience toward God.” We can know in all good conscience that Christ has washed away our sins in baptism and we now have a clear conscience when we appear in judgment. We are to be buried with Christ in baptism and to rise in newness of life (Rom 6:4). How can we be saved “through the washing of regeneration” that is become new cleansed servants of Christ, if we are not baptized for the right reason? I challenge you to search the scriptures! Is there an example of anyone ever becoming a Christian by a simple prayer? After all, we cannot put on Christ if we are never baptized for the correct purpose (Gal 3:26-27). We see faith is not alone it accompanies works of righteousness and works of obedience that brings salvation (James 2). Search for yourself to see if there scriptural support for something man has invented? Is the sinner’s prayer anywhere in the Bible? The answer is ‘no.’
According to Romans 10:17, belief comes only when one first hears the gospel. Based upon that belief, one will then repent of any sin he or she has committed. The next step in the gospel plan of salvation is to confess Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of all. One must first understand the nature of Christ, follow the biblical examples set forth concerning confession, and understand why confession is necessary in order for one to be saved. In Matthew 16, there is recorded the institution of the church. Christ asked Peter who he believed Him to be and Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). While it is true that Peter confessed who he believed Jesus to be that day, this example may not be the best example for an authority to confess Christ today. There are, however, many other biblical principles, examples, and commands which show confession to be a necessary step in the gospel plan of salvation.
First, one must make sure not to confuse the confession of sin that is sometimes necessary and the confession which is the point of interest in this article — the confession of salvation. It is true that Christians make mistakes and commit sin from time to time in their individual lives. The way to take care of such is to confess it and repent and request forgiveness of it. This, however, is not to be confused with confessing Christ to be the Son of God or accepting Christ as a personal savior.
From John 1:1, one can appropriately conclude that Jesus Christ is eternal in nature. In Philippians 2, one learns of Christ and His nature. He was equal to God and humbled himself to come to earth and spend time (a lifetime) among men. He even subjected himself to dying as men die and in His case a cruel death indeed — the death of the cross. Why did He do this? Philippians 2:10-11 provides a good answer: “…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” The point Paul was making is clear: Jesus was God in the flesh (He is Deity) and every tongue should confess it. Is it essential to spiritual salvation? “Also I say to you, whoever confesses Me before men, him the Son of Man also will confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men will be denied before the angels of God” (Luke 10:8-9). Paul said, “…if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
There are also biblical examples showing some to confess Jesus as part of the gospel plan of salvation. The most notable might be the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:26-40. In verses 36-37, one sees the eunuch clearly confessing Christ: “Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you believe with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’”
What is confession? It is simply standing up and proclaiming who Christ is? What is involved in making the confession? No doubt, a part of it is verbal in nature. Such was the case with the Ethiopian eunuch. Part of confession is for salvation as was the case again with the Ethiopian eunuch. Yet, in Acts 24, Paul is before the governor and makes an interesting statement: “But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.” Confession is more than simply saying Christ is the Son of God. It is living a life that shows that belief. Confession is more than mere words. It is also actions. The actions one puts forth show whether he or she believes Christ to be the Son of God or not.
In this sense, confession is more than cognitive belief or the statement of cognitive belief. After all, if one believes in God, he might not be any better than the devils. James said, “You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble!” Mark 3:11 says, “And the unclean spirits, whenever they saw Him, fell down before Him and cried out, saying, ‘You are the Son of God.’” The devils and unclean spirits believed in one God and even believed Christ to be the Son of God but their cognitive belief and even their verbal statement of it did not save them. And it will not save anyone today. Confession is both said and lived. Paul confessed and continued to confess Christ to be the Son of God. The eunuch confessed Christ to be the Son of God and then changed His life accordingly. The writer of Hebrews said, “Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession” (Hebrews 4:14). Thus, confession must be kept or lived in life. The writer of Hebrews makes this point again in Hebrews 10:23 and then goes on to show that one way the Christian can keep his or her confession is by faithful attendance (Hebrews 10:25).
Finally, confession is a choice but only in this lifetime. The Bible teaches that all will come before the judgment seat of God one day. All will have to give an account of the deeds done in this life. Romans 14:10-12 says, “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” The goal of each person should thus be to make sure that he or she does not wait until it is everlastingly too late to make the good confession.
Of course, this is not all there is to one spiritual salvation. As seen in this article, one must hear, believe, and repent of his or her sins. The Bible also teaches baptism and faithful living to be essential to salvation (Acts 2:38; 14:22).
Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Have you stated it verbally? Do the actions you put forth in life show such to be the case?
The writer of the book of Hebrews chastised the first readers in their spiritual growth. He said, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14). The challenge for the Hebrews was to leave the first principles and grow on to maturity. In fact, the writer encourages such in the first part of chapter six. Some of the elementary principles as given by the inspired writer included things like repentance, baptism, and the resurrection of the dead. While it is true that the salvation of mankind is one of the first-principles, it is also good to examine the subject from time to time in order to be reminded of the biblical truths in regard to the matter.
The Bible clearly teaches a plan by which man can be saved. One must hear the word of God (Romans 10:17). Next, one must believe what he or she has heard (Hebrews 11:6). Then, the person must repent of their sins (Acts 2:38). Fourth, he or she must confess that same belief in Christ (Romans 10:9). Next, the person must be baptized for the remission of his or her sins (Galatians 3:27). Finally, one must remain faithful to the word of God and the cause of Christ (Acts 14:21-22). The third step of salvation — repentance — will serve as the focus of this article.
In Ezekiel 14:6, the prophet encouraged the citizens of Israel to repent of the sin that existed in their lives. He said, “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: ‘Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations.’” In this case, repentance meant a turning or the stopping of an action. Ezekiel was encouraging them to quit worshipping their idols and practicing things which are contrary to the will of God. In 2Corinthians 7, Paul writes of repentance. It seems in a previous letter of Paul’s to the Corinthians he spoke of some concerns he had for the way in which they were living. This led them to feel sorry for the way they were acting but Paul said they were not sorry enough. He said they were only sorry for a while (vs. 8). He then explains how to repent in a biblical way: “For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death” (vs. 10). John the baptizer further speaks of repentance and proclaims that repentance must be seen in action (Matthew 3:7-10). It is not enough for one to simply say that he or she is sorry or that he or she feels bad for a given sinful action. The fruits of that kind of thought must be seen in action. “Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8). The baptism John was performing for various ones was one of the signs of their repentance.
There are several biblical examples of repentance and what it entailed in certain situations. The first example is about the apostle Paul in Acts 22-23. Paul was standing before the commander and the centurion and they were about to scourge Paul because of his dedication to Christ. They learn in the incident Paul was a Roman citizen by birth and no longer willing to scourge him. The next day Paul was brought to the Sanhedrin and he makes a claim of sincerity by saying, “Then Paul, looking earnestly at the council, said, ‘Men and brethren, I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day.’” Paul lived like he lived in sincerity of heart. He did not realize he was doing wrong. Repentance is seen in the life of Paul when he changed his actions. He went from being the persecutor to being the persecuted. When he learned the right way to live, he changed his actions accordingly.
In Acts 16, there is recorded the conversion of the jailor in Philippi. Paul and Silas were imprisoned for casting out the spirit of divination in a slave girl. They were singing songs of praise to God while in prison. While they were singing, an earthquake occurred making it possible for Paul and Silas to escape. When the jailor heard of this, he was willing to take his own life. Paul and Silas stopped him and taught him about the spiritual salvation which comes from God. Actions showing the jailor’s repentance is seen in Acts 16:33, “And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.” He felt bad for what he had done to them and helped them to heal by washing their wounds.
In 1Corinthians 6:9-10, Paul writes of such sins as adultery, homosexuality, and extortion. In verse 11 he says, “And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.” The Corinthians were these things but are these things no longer. Again, one can see fruits worthy of repentance. They changed their sinful actions into righteous actions. Repentance, from the standpoint of salvation, is to stop doing something sinful and to make right what is wrong.
There are several New Testament passages exhorting people today to repent of their sinful actions. God used to tolerate certain sinful things but now wants all men to repent (Acts 17:11). Christ commanded that repentance and the remission of sins are to be preached to all people. He wanted this work to begin at Jerusalem and continue throughout the entire world (Luke 24:44-48). The book of Acts outlines certain events which took place in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to the entire world. Today, preaching of repentance continues so that people will know God’s desire for their lives. God promises great rewards to those who will repent of their actions and live their lives to the will of God. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9).
“Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17a).
One of the first principles of the Bible is the concept of what man must do to be saved. Members of the church have long been criticized for believing the six steps of salvation. While criticism may come, it does not change the reality that these steps are founded in scripture. The first of the steps of salvation is to hear the word of God. This command of the New Testament has been rejected by men and commissioned to Christians by Christ.
In Acts 2, among other things, Peter delivers the first gospel sermon. He shows the people on that occasion why Jesus was the Christ and how that His death was predicted to happen and in accordance with the will of God. Upon hearing the message of Peter, the listeners there wanted to know what they needed to do. Acts 2:37 says, “Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’” Hearing the message of God is quite obviously the first logical step to obeying. Those present on that occasion heard and were obedient to what Peter told them.
The conflict that exists is that men often times do not like what God has to say. We live in a society where people will often say things like “I believe such and such” or “I think thus and so.” The problem is that it really does not matter what a person thinks or even believes. What matters most is what God said. This attitude is not anything new. In Matthew 13:13-17, Jesus quotes the prophet Isaiah when he predicted that people would not want to hear the message. Jesus makes the practical application to those present on that occasion. In Acts 7:54-60, one reads the story of the stoning of Stephen. He has been called the first martyr for Christianity. The problem was the people did not like the message that Stephen had so they attacked the messenger. Then, in Galatians 1:6-10, Paul rebukes the Christians in Galatia because they were listening to every person who had anything to say about religion. They were not discerning the messages there were being taught. Instead, they were a fickle people who would listen to and apply everything they heard. Paul exhorts them to listen to what God said.
All of these examples and more show a real conflict that exists when it comes to listening or hearing the message of God. Some people do not like what God says. Others like the message of men better than the message of God. Still others have simply turned their hearts from God and would not know the message of God from any other message. People today need to follow the command of Paul: “Test all things; hold fast what is good” (1Thessalonians 5:21).
A final important lesson on the subject of hearing the word of God involves the person who is already a Christian. One will never find an instance after the resurrection of Christ where Jesus personally taught someone. Notice a few examples of conversion and some interesting points that surround them:
In Acts 2 where Peter delivered the gospel sermon after the ascension of Jesus Christ one will see that the Holy Spirit was present on that occasion. In verses 1-4, the Bible says, “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” A question has been raised by several people about the Holy Spirit. Why didn’t the Holy Spirit teach the people in Acts 2? He was there and being Deity, he could have removed all doubt of those who were present. The answer is God wanted the apostles to teach on that occasion.
In Acts 9 there is the record of the conversion of the apostle Paul. Again some very interesting events take place. Paul is on the road to Damascus and is blinded by a bright light. A voice asks him why he is persecuting Him. Paul inquires who it is and the person says He is Jesus. Jesus eventually instructs Paul to go into Damascus and wait for Ananias to come and teach him. One might ask why Jesus did not just go ahead and teach Paul on that occasion. He was there and already talking to Paul. Again, the answer is that Jesus wanted His message taught through the agency of man. In this case, the man was Ananias.
Finally, in Acts 8:26-35 an angel appears to Philip and instructs him to go and teach the nobleman. Philip goes to him and teaches from the book of Isaiah. They come to water and Philip baptizes him. Again, the question has been raised why did the angel not go and teach the nobleman himself. He already put forth the effort to go and talk to Philip. And again the answer is that God wants His word spread through the agency of man.
When one considers salvation, hearing is the first and logical step for one to do what God wants him or her to do. It is a simple and straightforward command of God that must be followed. It has been rejected and debated by men over the years but such controversy does not change the will of God. Finally, there is something in this for all Christians in that others will not hear until Christians tell them.
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