Living a Faithful Life
We read in Revelation 2-3 about the seven churches of Asia. Jesus has some good things and bad things to say about them, but one promise bookends every message to them: “to he who overcomes…” There are different things spoken about that will be given to “he who overcomes”, such as “I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.” (2:7), or “will not be hurt by the second death.” (2:11), or “I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it.” (2:17). We could continue, but the point here is that there are great promises for those who overcome. This is primarily about staying faithful to God.
The common idea among religious circles today seems to be that there is no way to fall from grace. It is impossible. Verses like John 10:28 are used to prove this concept, where Jesus says, “And I give to them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them from my hand.” On the face of it, we can see this idea, that no one can interfere directly with my salvation in Christ. This is biblical. However, we must ask the question, what about the clear examples we have in Scripture of some being “In Christ” who fell away?
The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 5:4, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” This is a very plain statement from the Apostle about some who were trying to be justified by the observance of the Old Law of Moses. These believing, baptized Christians had fallen from grace.
Our works do not save us. Salvation is a gift from God (Eph. 2:8). However, our works can plainly condemn us. Ananias and Sapphira were members of the Church at Jerusalem, yet they lied to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5), and were struck dead because of it. Were they in God’s favor at that time? Simon the Sorcerer, who obeyed the Gospel in Acts 8:13, sought to purchase the healing power that the Apostles displayed (8:18-19). It was Peter who soundly rebuked him in verse 20-23: “You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity." If Simon needed to repent, it surely did not mean that He was alright with God at that moment!
“Once saved, always saved” is a lie of disastrous proportions, leading so many away from faith in God, and wrapping them with faith in men. The answer to this falseness is to live a life that is faithful to God. Christians WILL overcome when this life is over if they are pleasing to God. “Be faithful unto death, and I will give you a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). -Steven McCrary
The Need for Baptism
The Apostle Paul mentions in Ephesians 4 that there is “one baptism” (verse 5). However, the Bible, specifically the New Testament, mentions more than one kind of baptism. Which baptism are we talking about, then?
John the Baptist said that Jesus would baptize the ones listening to him with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16). Does that mean that we are today baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire? In actuality, Jesus referred to the moment at Pentecost (Acts 2), and the giving of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Acts 10). This is known by harmonizing what Peter says about these two events in Acts 11:17. There is no evidence that every single believer is baptized in the Holy Spirit. We have an indwelling of the Spirit (Rom. 8:11, 1 Cor. 3:16, Jas. 4:5, 1 John 3:24), but we do not receive the same full measure as the Apostles and early disciples did. Thus, Spirit baptism is not the one baptism mentioned in Ephesians 4.
The one baptism we are left with is precisely what we find within the Gospels and Acts - water immersion baptism. Most might not consider it to be very important. In the usual denominations, baptism is not administered in order that a person might be saved, only that they might join that particular denomination, whatever it may be. Many in the religious world have trivialized the concept of water baptism for remission of sins, but that is exactly the baptism that is defined in the New Testament. The “One Baptism” is water immersion for the reason of remission of sins.
Jesus says in Mark 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved, but he who does not believe will be condemned.” This implies a very serious consequence to the one denying that baptism has anything to do with salvation. Jesus came to be baptized by John the Baptist; not to join his sect or teaching, but to do as His Father willed. John at first said, “I need to be baptized by you”, but Jesus said to him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” (Matthew 3:14-15).
If Jesus was supposed to be baptized, how can we deny our need for it? Further reading in the New Testament tells us that baptism is for “remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), saves us (1 Peter 3:21), and that it is the moment wherein we die with Christ (Romans 6:3-4). The meaning of the Greek word, baptize (transliterated into “baptism) literally means, a “burial”. What sense does it make for us to say that we have died with Christ before we are buried with Him?
There is much dishonesty about this subject in the religious world today. What baptism have you been baptized with? Is it the One Baptism, or some other one? Only the One Baptism will play any part in our salvation. -Steven McCrary
The Good Confession
Once we completely believe and have faith that Jesus is Lord and Christ, and we have repented (turned from) our sinful ways, the next step that the Bible shows us in the salvation plan is the Confession. What is meant by this?
Confession means, “to own, acknowledge, or to avow.” So, to confess something is to acknowledge it, but this is not just a simple verbal agreement. This is owning Jesus. Some may scoff at the idea of Jesus being our “personal Savior”, but that is precisely what He is. I am not converted by joining any particular group, but individually by my King. This confession is a step in that direction.
Many feel safe and confident in their supposed Christianity, while never confessing that Jesus is Lord. In the “dedications” of many denominations, allegiance to the Church is constantly impressed, but very little is emphasized on allegiance to Jesus Christ. Others need to know where our service lies.
In John 19:38, we find that Joseph of Arimathea, who until that point was only a secret disciple of Jesus, comes into the forefront in order to ask for Jesus’ body after His death. This was a big risk, since the ruling Jewish authorities had said that anyone who confessed Jesus would be put out of the synagogue (John 9:22). What if such a thing were so for us? In fact, there are many today that experience that same thing. In many countries across the world, preaching and teaching the Gospel is illegal, and can lead to imprisonment, and even death. We must be willing to endure any risk, threat, or consequence of following Jesus, and not hold back when the Truth must be declared (Acts 4:19-20; 1 Peter 4:13).
We must feel the desire to be confessed (or acknowledged) by Jesus, as well. In Matthew 10:32-33, we find that if we do not confess Him, He will not confess us at judgment. Being a Christian is not a secret thing, and should never be hidden (Matthew 5:14-16).
Confession of Jesus Christ means that we treasure Him over Man. John 12:42-43 shows us that many of the Jewish rulers in Jesus’ time had faith in Him, but because of the fear of being put out of the synagogues, they did not openly acknowledge their faith. It is not simply a manner of faith alone that saves us; if we do not confess and acknowledge that faith to others, it means we love men more than God, and we will not be saved.
Paul the Apostle wrote plainly in Romans 10:9-10 that confession of Jesus Christ leads to salvation. The importance of this confession is absolute! However, like repentance, salvation is not bestowed at confession. The Ethiopian Eunuch in Acts 8:26-39 made the good confession, that “Jesus Christ is the Son of God” – yet, he still needed to be baptized. This is what we will consider next time. -Steven McCrary
What Does Repentance Mean?
Jesus said, “...unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3). These are very serious words from our savior, and should give us pause to consider the truth of them. What does it mean to repent, and how does that factor into our eternal salvation? Many might simply say that repentance is when we ask God for forgiveness. However, this falls far short of the true definition. We must understand and practice repentance.
Repentance is, literally, a “turning” – the idea is that one is going in a particular direction, and decides to turn, and to go in a different or opposite direction. It carries the concept of a change of mind, and thereby a change of action. These two things, thought and action, are completely intertwined in the Bible picture of salvation. If we think we should change, our actions should follow; if our actions do not change, then we really don’t think that we should. Repentance is a lifelong action.
Paul the Apostle teaches in 2 Corinthians 7:8-11 that “Godly sorrow produces repentance [leading] to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.” Even though we have seen that repentance is much more than feeling sorry, having a sorrow about what we have done is absolutely necessary in order to produce repentance. We must understand that we have sinned, and that we deserve no praise, no thankfulness, no measure of approval by God. It is our sorrow that should bring us to change our behavior.
We must understand that repentances does not CREATE salvation. Our repentance LEADS to salvation (2 Cor. 7:9). It is one of the conditions that God has set forth for us to be saved.
Repentance often carries with it hard choices, and great sacrifices. Many things that we take pleasure in might have to be given up for a life in service to God. Ezra 9 and 10 record a time when the Israelites were commanded by God to divorce wives they had no right to marry in accordance with the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 7:3-4). Some today have to make a similar decision, based upon the Law of Christ.
If we choose to repent, we must do all that repentance demands. If we think we have changed while holding to the things we should be running away from, we will face a grim day in judgment. Thankfully, we can trust in God and know that if we change our lives to fit what He has given us, we will be blessed. -Steven McCrary