Category Archives: Salvation

The Light of the World

i-am-the-light-of-the-worldBelief in Jesus is necessary to eternal life. This is insisted upon by the New Testament and has been the conviction of the Church through the centuries. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved” is a phrase that was coined within a few weeks of the death of Christ and it is still declared at street corners by open-air evangelists and in many a tract and book designed to catch the attention and interest of the unconverted. A few generations ago Salvation Army lasses used to lead the “drunks” out of the beerhouses into the local Citadel and to the penitent form and if these in their semi maudlin state expressed belief in Jesus a shout of Hallelujahs went up; the man was “saved”. In present days attendants at revivalist rallies will answer the appeal to “come forward” and, perhaps somewhat more clear-headedly and intelligently, declare their conversion, and again the Lord is praised aloud for brands snatched from the burning and the counselors get busy to establish the new-found faith of the converts. But always the emphasis is upon the impossibility of salvation without this definite profession of faith.

In modern times this attitude is being questioned, not only by “modernists” who claim, with truth, that “there is good in all religions”, but also by some thinking Christians who realize that there have been, and are, some exceedingly good men who nevertheless are not Christians. One might cite the case of the Mahatma Gandhi, who, had he professed the Christian faith, would undoubtedly have been considered a saint. A character manifestly fit for Heaven, yet living and dying in the Hindu faith, is he to be denied entry on that account? It would be easy to quote similar examples and almost everybody could find such among their personal acquaintances in daily life.

Nevertheless, the New Testament is adamant. There is a future never-ending life but no one will attain it without deliberate and intelligent avowal of faith in, and acceptance of, and the linking of life with, the Lord Jesus Christ. “There is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” insisted Peter in Acts 4:12 — “Believe in the name of Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” said Paul to the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:34). “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart . . . . thou shalt be saved” (Romans 10:9). There is no escape from this basic principle, so clearly enunciated so many times in Scripture; there is no possibility of eternal life for any man, however moral, noble, and good, unless and until he has consciously and intelligently accepted Christ and begun to conform his life and his being to the will and purpose of God. It is not that God has established an arbitrary dictum which he will modify or dispense with in individual cases when he sees fit; this demand is fundamental to the nature of Divine creation and things cannot be otherwise than they are.

There is a reason for this. We do not understand all the secrets of life and Nature, although researchers have made a lot of progress in recent years, but we do know that God is the source and sustainer of all life and the origin of all power — energy. Without access to that power and life man would cease to be. “If he set his heart upon man, if he gather unto himself his spirit and his breath, all flesh shall perish together and man shall turn again unto dust:, said Elihu the philosopher. (Job 35:41). We do not understand in anything like fulness the relationship and unity which exists between the Father and the Son, but we do know that the Son is the manifestation of the Father to man and the channel through which life comes to man. Hence the insistence of Scripture in so many places; “My sheep hear my voice . . . . and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” (John 10:27-28). “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). “In him was life, and the life was the light of men” (John 1:4).

Now what the Scriptures call eternal life has a quality which does not exist in the measure of animal, physical, life which we possess at present. This is a life which must inevitably be terminated by death; that is a life which is infinitely continuous, never-ending. This life is one which, resulting from the original implanting of life in our first parents at the beginning, has been cut off from its sustaining source in God by sin, and is thereby defective and cannot endure. That is life continuing in full union with God through Christ, and being thus continuously derived from the immortal source of life will never end. But an essential factor in this union with the source of life is belief in, and acceptance of, and union with, the channel through which it comes and that is why the New Testament writers were so adamant that conscious and deliberate acceptance of Christ as Lord and acknowledgment of belief in him as Savior and medium of union with God is essential to salvation.

This is what is meant by being “born again”, to use a very familiar expression, although a more accurate rendering of the Greek is “begotten again”. The next step after conversion and acceptance of Christ as Lord is the unreserved and unconditional dedication of life, abilities and possessions to him for his service and the conscious deliberate resolve to live for him and in union with him, for the remainder of life and for all time. The Apostle Paul says that one who has reached this point has become a “new creation”, that old things have passed away and all things have become new (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is the point at which the inner being is quickened by the power of the Holy Spirit in the beginning of a new and eternal life which comes to the believer through Christ; this is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. “God has given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:11). And this means something much more than mere mental belief in the reality and the saving power of Christ or an outward verbal profession of faith in him; it means a vital linking of life with Christ and willing association with him in all for which he stands, even unto death. “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.” (Romans 5:4-5). There is purpose in all this, for those who thus give themselves in complete consecration to the end of life become thereby members of the Church which is his Body, associated with Christ in all that he does in all the coming ages of eternity. These are they who are said to “reign with him” when he comes to rule the world in the day of his power; these are they who are gathered to him at his promised Second Coming when the “dead in Christ” are raised to life and the “living that remain” changed” to spiritual life to see him as he is and to be like him. (Revelation 20:4; 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:5-53; 1 John 3:2).

This, then, is the path to the eternal state for all who, in this present Age, hear the invitation of God in Christ, and hearing, heed, and convert, and accept, and follow in the footsteps of the Redeemer, trusting in the efficacy and the power of his death on their behalf, until at the end of earthly life they find themselves at the beginning of a new and more abundant life in a sphere where sin and evil, frustration and imperfection, disease and death, are no more, and where Christ is All in All (see Colossians 3:11). From then on, life is without flaw, one of continuing progress and development and achievement in the ever-present radiance of the glory of God.

But what of those who have never heard, or whose capacity for hearing is so impaired that they cannot respond to the Divine invitation, and so, unwittingly and through no fault of their own, live life through and pass into death without even hearing, or at least without having ability to understand, the significance of the only Name given under heaven whereby men can be saved. What has God provided for them?

Can We as Saved Christians Lose Our Salvation?

once-savedA concept that is held by many Christian people is that eternal salvation IS ASSURED once we have accepted Christ as our personal Savior and have become a “new creature” in Christ.

But if this were so, that once we have received God’s grace, it is impossible to lose it . . . THEN . . .  

. . . WHY does Paul say, “I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest . . . I MYSELF SHOULD BE A CASTAWAY?” 1 Corinthians 9:27

. . . WHY can some RECEIVE “THE GRACE OF GOD IN VAIN?” 2 Corinthians 6:1

. . . WHY  must we be “FAITHFUL UNTO DEATH” to receive a “crown of life?” Revelation 2:10

. . . WHY does Peter say, “For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, THE LATTER END IS WORSE WITH THEM THAN THE BEGINNING. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to return from the holy commandment delivered unto them?” 2 Peter 2:20, 21

. . . WHY are we told that only “he that ENDURETH TO THE END shall be saved?” Matthew 10:22.

. . . WHY are we told “For it is IMPOSSIBLE for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted of the heavenly gift, . . . If they shall fall away, to RENEW THEM AGAIN UNTO REPENTANCE?” Hebrews 6:4-6

. . . WHY must we KEEP OURSELVES into the LOVE OF GOD? Jude 21

. . . WHY are RESURRECTED SAINTS the only ones upon whom the “SECOND DEATH hath NO POWER?” Revelation 20:6

. . . WHY are we told “IF WE SIN WILFULLY after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there REMAINETH NO MORE SACRIFICE FOR SINS, He that despised Moses’s law died without mercy . . . OF HOW MUCH SORER PUNISHMENT . . . shall he be . . . worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing?” Hebrews 10:26, 28, 29

. . . WHY must we “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling?” Philippians 2:12

. . . WHY are we told “IF WE BE DEAD with him, we shall also live with him: IF WE SUFFER, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, HE ALSO WILL DENY US?” 2 Timothy 2:11-13

. . . WHY are we told “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? SO RUN, THAT YE MAY OBTAIN?” 1 Corinthians 9:24

. . . WHY are we told “add to your faith virtue . . . knowledge . . . temperance . . . patience . . . godliness . . . brotherly love . . . charity . . . he that lacketh these things is blind, . . . and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins . . . give diligence to MAKE YOUR CALLING AND ELECTION SURE, for IF ye do these things ye shall never fall?” 2 Peter 1:5-10

From the above Scriptures it becomes readily apparent that heavenly salvation is dependent on more than JUST BECOMING a true Christian. Faithfulness unto death will be required for all who will obtain the crown of life. Revelation 2:10

As we consider these Scriptures, further questions come to mind: What is implied by being faithful unto Death? What happens to those who fail? Will only Christians receive salvation? Will all Christians go to heaven? How will God’s will be done in earth as it is in heaven? Matthew 6:10.

“By their Fruits you shall know them,” says our Lord [Matthew 7:18-21]. But fruits aren’t grown instantaneously; they neither come in a fit of ecstasy, nor should they come at the moment death closes our eyes. This process is one which the Apostle Paul terms “being transformed by the renewing of your mind.” [Romans 12:2] These fruits of character can come in only one way — and that is the way of the cross, the strait and narrow gate, a way of self denial, of daily taking up our crosses, presenting our bodies, “living sacrifices,” and being dead “with Him.” This class is termed by our Lord as his “little flock,” [Luke 12:32] for they are a “peculiar people zealous of good works” [Titus 2:14], to whom the scriptures promise the chief blessings as overcomers [Revelation 3:20].

But what of the rest? What blessings, or judgment does God have in store for the heathen who have never heard of the Grace of God, those who died before our Lord’s first advent, or even the so-called “backsliders” and “carnal” Christians? Send away now for the advertised book, “The Divine Plan of the Ages,” which sets forth the scriptural basis of the hope for these, an exposition that in every way conforms to the character of our God; one that compromises neither his Love, nor his Justice, and like Him is reasonable. We are sure that this guide to your Bible study will bring both refreshment and a blessing to your heart.

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“Are There Few That Be Saved?”

noah_ark_people_drowing1“I have eight thousand souls in my parish whom I want to get to  heaven. It seems to me at the present time only about two percent will for certain arrive there.”

So wrote a Bristol vicar, despondently, in his parish magazine some years ago. One can sympathize with his solicitude for the salivation of those unheeding parishioners. But — is this the right view of the matter? Is it true that the mass of unbelieving mankind is headed straight for Hell, or whatever the equivalent which modern times have substituted for the old-time fire and brimstone, and only a relatively few pious folk manage to escape to Heaven, as it were by the skin of their teeth? Are we to conclude that Divine wisdom and power is unequal to any more than this scanty fruitage of all that God has said and done since the dawn of history? Is this hopeless creed really what Christianity is all about?

In this skeptical age questions like these demand answers. Of those who do stop to think about the matter at all, a great many just will not accept that if there really is a supreme Deity who created all things, he could possibly be so petty and vengeful as our forefathers believed. If we truly do owe life and being and all that we are and have to an all wise and all-powerful Creator, such will argue, he must have brought us into existence for a purpose; we must have been created primarily for life and not for death. This is sound argument; there is such purpose, a purpose that will be achieved! So far from only two percent getting past the “pearly gates”, it is much more likely by the time the Divine Plan for mankind is fully effected that considerably less than two percent will have failed to respond to the appeal of Christ, in such failure proving themselves unworthy of continuing life. We may be sure of that.

The idea that only a relative few will win Divine approval and eternal life, and the greater part of mankind, at the close of a usually unsatisfactory and generally unhappy earthly experience, be cast off forever, has grown up and become a feature of Christian belief through the centuries, but it was no part of the message of Christ. he came to seek and to save that which was lost, to draw all men to himself, not to condemn the world but to save it. (Luke 19:10; John 12:32; John 3:16-17). One might reasonably expect, surely, that the return upon such an outlay of Divine love and power is going to be a lot more than two percent. The traditional Christian view is well-founded when it lays stress upon the necessity of faith in Christ and loyalty to God as the essential prerequisites for eternal life, but it is unnecessarily pessimistic in its estimate of the effectiveness of God’s methods in dealing with the consequences of sin.

It is likely that the present generation is able more readily to accept that man was created and intended for a definite purpose and place in the Divine scheme of things than were those of earlier centuries. People of medieval times thought of the future life mainly in terms of standing around the Heavenly throne playing harps and blowing trumpets to all eternity — occupations which must surely pall after a while! Our modern wider knowledge of the visible universe, and our deeper conception of the infinite Intelligence and Power that is God, logically leads to the realization that this present earthly life is but a stage — the first stage, a very important stage — in a continuing experience which will progress through constantly expanding spheres of development and achievement in eternity. Whether that destiny involves a future and everlasting life on this material planet, or upon another like it, or in a sphere of life based upon fundamentally different environmental conditions from the one we know, and involving a form of life which may be quite incomprehensible to us in our present state, does not affect that cardinal principle. The Apostle Paul declared that there do exist such different worlds and spheres of life when in the Fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians he spoke of a celestial world and a terrestrial world, celestial beings contrasting with human, a world whose life forms have little or perhaps nothing in common with the atomic structure to which terrestrial creatures over their organisms and environment. And our Lord is authority for the fact that there is no sin in that other, celestial, world, only goodness, harmony and order. He told us, too, to pray for the day when the same happy state shall subsist upon this earth (Matthew 6:10). St. Paul tells us, further, that in the “fullness of time” God will unite in Christ all things in heaven and earth (Ephesians 1:10). That not only implies the eradication of sin, and of irrecoverable sinners, from Divine creation, but also points to the fundamental truth that only “in Christ”, by belief in him and acceptance of him and devotion to him, can any of God’s created sentient beings, whether terrestrial or celestial, receive and enjoy continuing, “eternal”, life. We are told plainly that Christ is to “fill all things”, “far above all heavens” (Ephesians 4:10), that in his Name will every knee bow, upon earth as well as in heaven (Philippians 2:9). Such tremendous words must certainly denote a stupendous Divine purpose within which the human race is assigned a definite place; the conclusion is irresistible that, despite the ignorance and lack of comprehension which is inevitable under the conditions of this present embryo life, that purpose will be accomplished.

Such high destiny demands prior training — a time of instruction and probation followed by final judgment as to fitness or unfitness, worthiness or unworthiness. That judgment cannot be passed on any man until he first has had full and abundant opportunity to learn of the Divine design, to appreciate its implications, to accept it for himself and by means of the transforming power of God to divest himself of all that is antagonistic to that purpose and so attain the moral stature which enables him to take his rightful place in Divine creation. Not until every man, woman and child of every generation back to the beginning has enjoyed such an opportunity and made his or her eternal decision for good or evil, for Christ or against him, will the great Day of Judgment come to an end and the human race enter its perpetual inheritance. And be it noted that the Last Judgment of Scripture is not confined to a moment, the moment in which sentence is passed; it covers a period, a period which includes the process of investigating and of distinguishing between right and wrong and of separating the two. Furthermore the purport and intent of the Day of Judgment is not for the condemnation and destruction of sinners without opportunity for conversion; it is for the reclamation and reconciliation of as many as can by any means be reclaimed and reconciled and it is only when this endeavor has failed in any particular case that the final condemnatory sentence is passed. Hence the Day of Judgment is depicted in Scripture, not as a time of unrelieved terror and gloom and despair, but one of joy and happiness and hope. The Psalmist is Psalm 96 depicts the Lord coming at this Judgment as at a time of universal rejoicing. “Let the heavens rejoice, and the earth be glad . . . . the fields be joyful . . . . before the Lord, for he cometh to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth.” It is not always realized that the Day of Judgment is in some of its aspects a very joyous occasion, notwithstanding that it is also a time when, to sue the language of Isaiah, justice shall be laid to the line and righteousness to the plummet, the Divine law of retribution will operate and every man “receive the things done in his body”. None will escape the implication of the principle so clearly enunciated by St. Paul — “Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Galatians 6:7). Yet parallel with this somber but very necessary theme of disciplinary retribution there also runs the brighter one of conversion and restoration, for one very definite factor in the Day of Judgment is the presence of Christ with his Church for the express purpose of saving those of the unregenerate who can be saved. The whole Biblical presentation of the reign of Christ and the Church over the world prior to the culmination of all things in eternity has no meaning — and no conceivable purpose — unless that reign is for the conversion of the nations; the Bible is positive that in fact this is so. If the Millennial reign of Christ and the Day of Judgment are regarded as running in parallel, so to speak, over the same period of time, as being to a great extent synonymous terms, then a number of apparently contradictory Scriptural themes and statements are harmonized and a foundation laid for an understanding of the Divine purpose which will satisfy every instinct both of justice and love. It will go far to explaining the apparent enigma of the Divine permission of evil and provide a convincing answer to the question why, two thousand years after Christ appeared as the Light of the world, to seek and to save that which was lost, the greater part of mankind have not yet seen the Light, and the lost, although sought, consistently and persistently, not only by the Lord himself in person, but by his followers in every generation and land, are still not saved.

Be it remembered moreover that no man has life in himself and no man can save himself by his own efforts. The New Testament lays down as an immutable law that there is salvation only in the Name of Christ, that no man can be saved except through the channel of acceptance of Christ and his life given on man’s behalf, and unquestioning loyalty and allegiance to him in eternity. Christ is the medium through whom Divine life comes to man, and there is no other way.

This, then, is the task; to discern the Divine purpose for mankind in the light of all that is known about the Creator, his attributes and his works, under the guidance of his revelation in the Scriptures. There must be added, to some small degree, the words and writings of outstanding Christians of the past and present who have had laid on their hearts this concern for the triumph of good over evil, and the reconciliation of such proportion of men to God, and their triumphant entry into eternal life, that it can with conviction be claimed that our Lord Jesus Christ has truly and gloriously become “All in All”! (see Colossians 3:11)