Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Salvation 101 (Part 6) - Who Can Be Saved?

Question: Who can be saved?
Answer: Anyone! Anyone in the whole world.

By this time, I hope it only makes sense, from Scripture, that anyone can be saved. I hope I've demonstrated from God's word, not my imagination, that Jesus Christ has executed all the work required. Salvation is not by works. Salvation cannot be earned. I hope it is also clear from the word of God that no one, no not one, has any advantage for being saved (Romans 3:9-12).

I've already addressed many objections and reasons why. Yes, I have a few more questions I'd like to address in future posts for this 'Salvation 101' series. But, the solid foundation has been established; Jesus Christ has completed all the work necessary. It is finished. 

He [Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)

The end result of looking at more of what God's word says about salvation will be an even greater understanding and assurance regarding His message and method of permanent reconciliation. 
  • There is no wiggle room. 
  • There is no margin of error. 
  • There are no other sacrifices required.
  • There is no other name by which we can be saved.
  • There are only absolutes regarding salvation.
  • Neither Jews nor Gentiles have any advantage.
  • There is no distinction among all before salvation.
  • There are no contradictions about salvation in Scripture.
  • If the context is not about salvation, don't make it about salvation.

Click here to see all the 'Salvation 101' posts so far. If you're new to this blog, you may also be interested in "Why Scripture?" and "Scripture Q&A."

Note: In this post, I'm addressing the question "Who can be saved?" Not, "Who will be saved?" While it's true anyone can be saved, not everyone will be saved. Why not? Because there will be those who reject Christ as God's solution to condemnation, which was His judgment after Adam sinned. 

There will be those who will resist the Holy Spirit. (Acts 7:51) That is, no one is incapable of receiving the grace of God as a gift except those who would disqualify themselves by refusing to accept God's gift. To phrase that another way, if one is capable of rejecting Christ, they are also capable of receiving Christ. 

Consider these verses and phrases from God's word to be sure His word says that anyone can be saved (ESV unless otherwise noted):
  • And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (John 3:14-15)
  • For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
  • For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)
  • Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3:18)
  • Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on them. (John 3:36 NIV)
  • But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: (Romans 3:21-22)
  • And all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given to us the ministry of reconciliation; whereas God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and putting the word of reconciliation in us. (2 Corinthians 5:18-19)
So, who can be saved? 
Anyone! Anyone in the world.

That definitely includes you.
That definitely includes me.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

How a Misfit Like Me Fits In (Letters to My Father - August 28, 2017)

Dear Father,

This world is both confusing and confused. The complexity of human-generated problems in the world is beyond my comprehension.

Much of what the world praises doesn't make sense to me anymore. At one time it did because I didn't think much on it. Now, it amazes me how upside-down our priorities can be.

What am I to do? 

Conformity is not my specialty if I don't understand why and agree with the reasons. You've given me so many reasons and validation for believing in You.

Yet, I've wasted so much time trying to fit in to this world, teetering between feeling like a misfit and trying to conform to the patterns of this world, which are simultaneously particular and peculiar.

There is no fitting in. 

There is no place for me here. I am no longer of the world. Rather, my goal is to stop being conformed to the patterns of this world and be transformed by the renewing of my mind (Romans 12:2*).

Of course I'm a misfit! 

I'm a sojourner in this world. But, my sojourn is not a vacation where I lie in a hammock in the tropical sun sipping piƱa coladas to my heart's desire. It's more like a tour of duty overseas where I risk getting my heart ripped out.

Am I giving up? Not at all!

Quite the opposite, in fact. I consider Your rewards in Christ, Father, for example, there's joy, peace, love, and freedom - and all for eternity, versus the temporary satisfaction and pleasures of the world.

At the very least, there's striving to reduce the painful experiences of poverty, ill health, suffering, and loss. There's a time for everything under the sun, including fun and pain. Yet, all is vanity and striving after the wind if I simply try to fit it all in before I die.

I'd rather take at least some time to store up treasure in heaven...

I'd rather search Your word for the unsearchable riches that are in Christ (Eph 3:8). I'd rather know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge and filled with Your fullness (Eph 3:19). I'd rather learn from You who can do exceedingly abundantly more than I can ask or think (Eph 3:20).**

I'd rather discover Your secret and hidden wisdom that was destined for my glory before time began (1 Cor 2:6-10).***

What a perfect fit!

Aug 28, 2017

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2 ESV)

** To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ(Ephesians 3:8)

and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God(Ephesians 3:19)

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, (Ephesians 3:20)


*** Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him"-- these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. (1 Cor 2:6-10 ESV)

Monday, September 4, 2017

Salvation 101 (Part 5) - What Does It Mean to "Work Out Your Own Salvation?"

Salvation, all of it, is by grace. None of it, is by works. It is a gift of God.

This phrase, "work out your salvation," comes from Philippians 2:12 which reads...

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, (Philippians 2:12 ESV)

Work out our salvation? It's not done? Fear and trembling? Fear of what? Condemnation? Fear of bringing up this verse because it doesn't seem to fit a salvation that is by grace?


Salvation by works? It can't be!

Salvation is a gift of God. Isn't it?

Salvation is not of works. Is it?

Yet, here is Scripture that seems to indicate works are involved, heavily involved, with fear and trembling no less. So, how do we resolve this phrase with a salvation that is by grace? Does this mean salvation requires at least some personal effort? Is grace conditional based on something I perform? Are we supposed to work for a gift? Is it initially given by grace as a gift, but then somehow maintained by works?

By no means!

This verse does not contradict with my opening assertion and previous lessons. It was the intent of this Salvation 101 series to show that, according to Scripture, salvation is indeed by grace, completely. In fact, grace and works cannot co-exist. Work earns wages, which cannot be counted as a gift.

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. (Romans 4:4-5 ESV)

Salvation is a gift of God, plain and simple, it is not of works (Eph 2:8-9). Jesus Christ already completed the work when He pronounced, "It is finished." (John 19:30) What began in the Spirit by hearing with faith cannot be perfected by the flesh (Gal 3:2-3).

So, why does Paul tell us to work out our salvation here?

What can this possibly mean?

Paul is communicating about having the proper attitude as a Christian in this chapter to the Philippians. An attitude doesn't get one saved, it gets changed and matures over time. Salvation is not even the subject, sanctification is.

That is, the subject is growing up in Christ. Now that you are saved, which does not require works, the goal is to grow up in Christ, which does require works: show up teachable to God's word.

First comes salvation by grace...

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9 ESV)

Then we learn why we were saved...

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:10 ESV)

If you don't work, or you work on the wrong things, you're still saved.

That doesn't change.

If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Corinthians 3:14-15 ESV)

But, there is treasure far beyond comparison to anything in this world in knowing Christ Jesus and the One who sent Him. That doesn't just happen at salvation. You need to grow into it. Just because you were born in the flesh doesn't automatically mean you'll mature as an adult. It takes effort.

In the same way, just because you were born of the Spirit doesn't automatically mean you'll mature to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Eph 4:11-14). This is all about walking in the Spirit once you have the Spirit in you. And if you have the Spirit in you, you also have Christ and the Father in you.

Think of it this way. Salvation bought you a permanent membership at the fitness center. Use it! You won't lose your membership if you don't. But, you will miss out on the unimaginable benefits of regularly getting a cardio and muscular good workout.

We'll address the topic of sanctification another time, perhaps Sanctification 101. There's much to be said about this process, this spiritual journey. Most of what Paul wrote in the NT is about growing in grace: leaning forward in the chair, as it were, to focus more intently on the Instructor's voice, while eliminating the unproductive behaviors of the flesh that only grieve the Spirit.

For now, let's just know that when we're saved by grace, we're completely saved by the One who did all the work on our behalf. There is no other sacrifice required. Even if there were, there would be none qualified to do it. Only Christ could execute the Father's plan. The work of Jesus Christ completely satisfied the requirements of reconciliation with the Father, not only for us, but for the whole world, so that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have everlasting life.

This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:11-12 ESV)

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ESV)

Amen!  And...

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen. (Jude 1:24-25 ESV)