Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son.
- II John 1:9
The most important discussion we can ever have with someone is the one dealing with the issue of salvation - How is one saved? In our society there are many different religious groups that are promoting their various beliefs and even within Christianity not all say the same thing with regards to salvation. We cannot speak for other religions but as far as Christianity goes we have a clear and sure guide in our understanding of this subject - Jesus Himself!
Unfortunately not everyone says the same thing about salvation so in order to clarify this issue in our own minds so that we can speak with one voice and one teaching, Let us consider what Jesus Himself teaches about salvation using only His words spoken on the subject.I believe that in this way we can lay aside what's traditional, what's popular, or what's uncomfortable and focus only on what Jesus actually said about how one is saved.
Jesus said that ...
One must come to Him for salvation
The first thing that one must do is come to Christ for his salvation, no other person or thing can accomplish it.
In Acts 4:12 - Peter proclaims the exclusivity of the Christian Religion, there is no room for anyone else but Jesus.
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved."
This is so because no one else in history has done for man in regards to salvation what Christ has done. Many have lived good lives, changed nations, started religions, written wise words but no one has dealt with the sin of the world through an atoning and purifying death, and no one has ever been resurrected from the dead as verification that what he taught, did, and promised was valid. No one else has promised his followers a conscious, joyful, certain, eternal life and performed miracles to confirm the promises.
In Matthew 10:32 Jesus said that we must confess His name and the point He is making is that in order to be saved we must acknowledge that only He can save us.
...Jesus said that ...
Faith is necessary for salvation
9 His disciples began questioning Him as to what this parable meant. 10 And He said, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest it is in parables, so that seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.
11 "Now the parable is this: the seed is the word of God. 12 Those beside the road are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their heart, so that they will not believe and be saved.
- Luke 8: 9-12
Once we have recognized that salvation is in Christ, it is found only in Him we need to believe that what He says is true. Not just the intellectual assent that His sayings and promises and work are valid and truthful, but a faith that uses His word as a basis for one's conduct and guarantee for personal salvation from death and condemnation.
Jesus pays us the ultimate respect as human beings by allowing us to express our free will in regards to salvation, by making faith one of the conditions (You need free will to believe). God the Father planned our salvation, God The Holy Spirit prepared the way for our salvation. God the Son accomplished it on the cross but Divinity leaves room for our faith in order to complete it. It isn't much, to say "yes" to the Eternal God, but without that "yes" the plan, the preparation and the redemptive work of Christ is all for naught -- In order to be saved, Jesus says that we first must believe!!
... Jesus said that ...
Repentance is necessary for salvation
5 When Jesus came to the place, He looked up and said to him, "Zaccheus, hurry and come down, for today I must stay at your house." 6 And he hurried and came down and received Him gladly. 7 When they saw it, they all began to grumble, saying, "He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner." 8 Zaccheus stopped and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my possessions I will give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will give back four times as much." 9 And Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."
- Luke 19: 5-10
The story doesn't mention the word repentance but describes the attitude of sincere repentance. Repentance is not just sorrow for past sins but a change of attitude about sin in general. In repentance we go from being lovers of self, sin and the things of the world to lovers of God, righteousness and the lost in the world. Jesus sums up the attitude in Mark 8:34-35.
Repentance isn't negotiating or bargaining with God about how much sin you can keep in your life and still be saved -- it is a total transformation of the direction, attitude and function of our wills. Although painful, repentance is the joyful experience of seeing our old life slip away as we desire more and more to know and do and be only what Christ wants us to know and do and become. A person can talk about Jesus and his faith but unless his action in big a little things demonstrates a real change what is claimed as faith is nothing more than false piety. In Luke 13:3 Jesus said, " .. unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
... Jesus said that ...
You must be baptized for salvation
He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.
- Mark 16:16
The first step in denying self is to bury self in the waters of baptism. Baptism is necessary in order to be saved for many reasons:
- At baptism our sins are forgiven. - Acts 2:38
- At baptism we receive the Holy Spirit. - Acts 2:38
- At baptism we are added to the church. - Acts 2:47
- At baptism we put on Christ. - Galatians 3:26
- At baptism we are saved. - I Peter 3:21
Simple logic dictates that in order to be saved one must be forgiven, have the Holy Spirit, be a member of the church, be in Christ - this is what being saved means; and if these things occur at baptism, then baptism is necessary for salvation because without baptism these things do not occur and without these things we cannot be saved. But the foremost reason why baptism is necessary for salvation is because Jesus commands it and He commands it in connection with personal salvation. He doesn't say it's an outward sign, just a ceremony or a simple unimportant ritual - He says it's for salvation. Yes, we are saved by faith, but that faith must be expressed by our will and Jesus says that this expression of our will / our faith is accomplished by baptism. Jesus is the one who draws this line, not the church or theologians.
... Jesus said that in order to be saved ...
You must endure to the end
You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
- Matthew 10:22
In this passage (and Matthew 24:33; Mark 13:3-23) Jesus is teaching His disciples about two cataclysmic events:
- The destruction of Jerusalem, which would happen in their lifetime.
- His second coming which could happen at any time.
The message for both events was similar however, only those who were faithful to the end would be saved. In these passages He tried to prepare them by telling them some of the things they would have to endure. His disciples would suffer:
- Family division
- Persecution, violence, suffering
- False teachers, hypocrites
- Social and environmental unrest
- Unfaithfulness and lack of love by many in the church.
But His point to them and to us is that these things are not to be used as valid excuses for falling away (as many do, thinking God will ignore their unfaithfulness because they have a good excuse - No, these things have been and always will be obstacles we have to overcome in order to reach the end. In the Christian race only those who finish are saved.
Why this sermon?
I believe most of us have heard the things that I have said here today but I wanted to make sure of three things:
- That everyone is absolutely convinced about what Jesus Himself says concerning salvation - for their own souls and for the souls of others they will speak to.
- To make sure that this congregation and all others who visit with us know what our basic teaching is on this basic question so there be no misunderstanding of our doctrine.
- As a way of challenging those here today to examine themselves and see if they have been saved and if not, do something about it.
Believe in Christ and confess His name if you haven't. Repent of your sins if you haven't. Be baptized (immersed in water) if you haven't. Be faithful, or return to being faithful if you haven't.
Finally, I add one last reason for this lesson and that is to encourage anyone here to ask for prayer if they need the help of the church or identify with this congregation if they wish to extend the hand of fellowship to us. If you have any of these needs, please let us know.