Tag Archives: Salvation
“And he went through the cities and villages, teaching, and journeying toward Jerusalem. Then said one unto him, Lord, are there few that be saved? And he said unto them,
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able. When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are: Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets. But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity. There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.” (Luke 13:22-28, KJV)
When Jesus is asked whether there will be few people saved, the key word to his answer is the first word he uses. The word “strive” comes from the Greek term “agonizesthe” and it means – “to engage in an athletic contest, to strive, to strive to do something with great intensity and effort, to make every effort to.” (Rogers and Rogers)
When Jesus talks about who is going to be saved, he says it is going to require intense effort and commitment on the part of those who will be saved. It will not be by accident, nor with a passive interest that one will enter the kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus says that many will seek (from a term meaning – to search, to crave, to demand) to enter and will not be able.
There is no doubt that many people want to go to Heaven, but it is also evident by looking at people’s lives that not many actually want to put forth the effort to be there. We must strive to place ourselves within the kingdom. We must, in sports parlance, “want it more” than the average individual. We must want it to the point that we are willing to do whatever it takes to receive it. Otherwise we will find ourselves on the outside looking in.
Are you striving to enter the gates of the kingdom?
You see it all over Facebook, e-mails, and other forms of social media: the advertisers trying to get you to buy their new drug, remedy, food product, diet, or super-simple means of changing your life forever. People are constantly spending their days trying to find the latest, greatest idea or concoction to deal with things that, most of the time, already have answers that have been known and effectively utilized for generations. Often, the comments and responses from people include such lines as: “This looks cool,” or, “I’ll keep this to try later if _______ does not work,” or, “I guess it can’t hurt to try it.”
While it is true that there are some new things that are worthwhile, and for many of these things there is not a right or wrong decision to be made across the board, it must be recognized that there is a limit to which this mentality can be applied. Unfortunately, many people have taken this same mentality and applied it to religion as well. They jump on the band-wagon for whatever new idea or concept comes along. They affirm to people the necessity of simply “finding what’s right for you,” and they are constantly advocating how much they know that you cannot know.
However, this is not some new fad in regard to religion. Men have been trying to come up with new ways and means of salvation since the early centuries of Christianity. There are nearly as many ways man has tried to purport as acceptable means of salvation as there are cold remedies in the aisles of the local pharmacy. In the 3rd century men began arguing for the acceptability of sprinkling instead of immersion. In the 4th century, some began the practice of infant baptism as an acceptable means of salvation. In the 16th century John Calvin popularized the notion that there was nothing one could do to be saved, God either predetermined you to be saved or lost and you could not change it if you tried. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, men such as Moody and Graham popularized the idea of belief and prayer for salvation. While this is by no means an extensive list, it gives you an idea of the fads and beliefs that people have utilized with the same mentality as has been discussed above.
Like those cold remedies, there are elements of each that are the same. However, unlike a cold remedy (whereby you could take an inferior concoction and still get a meaningful result), taking an inferior remedy for sin will only leave you with one thing: sin. You cannot take away sin with an inferior method or inferior practices, it can only be done by the system that was originally prescribed for its removal.
Utilizing systems that only go back a few centuries, instead of all the way back to the beginning, are not sufficient because they do not go back to the proper source. While religious leaders will use a modicum of truth and Scripture that seems to support their claims; but much like most of the above claims of new products, there is only enough Scriptural detail to pass a cursory glance. A deeper inspection removes the credibility of the claim.
If you go back to the original (the New Testament Scriptures), here is the prescription for the removal of sin: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (John 8:24; Acts 16:31), repent of your sins (Acts 2:38; 3:19), confess Christ before men (Mat. 10:32; Rom. 10:10), be immersed in water for the remission of sins (Mat. 28:18-20; Acts 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4), and remain faithful to God until death (1 John 1:7; Rev. 2:10).
This is the pattern Christ presented, both during and after his time on earth. It is the original, and only, God-ordained means by which one can be saved. Do not be confused by imitations claiming to bring forth a “new way” or an “easier way.” The path God gave is the one that works, and it will be the only one that leads to eternal life.
Remember the words of Paul: “If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:9), and utilize the teaching of John: “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).
He was thrashing his arms and legs in the open sea. The choppy waves threatening with every pass to pull him under the surface, never to be seen again. He had no life-jacket, no raft, and was running out of hope.
Just as his strength was about to fail completely, a rescue ship approaches. It pulls up close beside him and a man throws out a life line.
“Grab hold!” The man yells. He quickly does as he is told and grabs the flotation ring attached to the end of the line.
“Put it under your arms and hold on!” The man continues. Once he has secured himself, the lifeline is pulled in and he is brought onto the ship, safe and sound.
This little illustration parallels closely the means by which we are saved. Unfortunately, members of the church are often accused of believing that we must work our way to salvation. The accusation asserts that we believe we can require God to save us because we believe our works of obedience force his hand. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Just as the man in the story, the sinner finds himself thrashing in the harsh waves of the world. When the ship of salvation arrives, what happens? Does the man save himself? Has he in any way forced entry into the ship with overwhelming power or position? No, not by any means.
The man was unable to save himself. He had not been able, while thrashing in the water, to build his own boat, lift himself from the water, or otherwise get himself to shore. Such is the situation in which we find ourselves with sin. We are separated from God with no means under our own power to save ourselves. Paul places that very emphasis upon the situation in Romans 4 when, speaking about Abraham, he says: “For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ 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,” (Rom. 4:2-5). Abraham was not able to save himself through his works of sacrifice. Even though he did many good things, those actions alone were not enough to release him from sin. Therefore, just as with the man in the story, there had to be some outside force to save him from the waves of sin.
By the grace of God, he has made it possible for us to be rescued from the deeps. However, belief alone is not sufficient. The man in the story believed that the rescue ship could save him, but that did not automatically put him in the boat; there was still something that had to be done. Instead he was told to do three things: grab the lifeline, secure himself, and hold on. All three of these things had to be done in order for his rescue to be accomplished.
The same holds true with us. Belief in Jesus and all he accomplished is absolutely necessary, but more is required to get us into the ship of salvation. Believing that we can be saved we must be willing to take hold of the life line and enter the boat. That is accomplished by repenting of our sins (Acts 2:38); confessing Christ before men (Mat. 10:32); and being immersed in water (1 Pet. 3:21).
By grabbing the lifeline, we have not saved ourselves; instead, we have simply followed the directions necessary to allow the ship to rescue us. The power for our salvation is not found in our own actions, but in the lifeline that is cast (the blood of Christ – Heb. 9:24-28); nevertheless, without following the directions that tell us how to get in the boat (Rom. 1:16), it is impossible to find our way into the ship by any other means.
Now, let us take our illustration a step further. Once the man is in the ship he is saved, but not safe. For the ship is still on the ocean, not at shore in the harbor. Therefore, in order to truly reach safety, the man has to stay on the ship. I am reminded of the old movie Captains Courageous in which a young boy is thrown overboard into the sea and is picked up by a fishing trawler. However, instead of a cozy ride back to shore, the trawler has a job to do and the boy is going to have to remain with them to the end of it. Additionally, if the boy is going to stay on the boat, he will have to work to earn his keep; otherwise there is no room for dead weight.
The same holds true for us in the ship of salvation (the church). Once aboard, it has a mission to do (rescue as many as possible), and there is no room for dead weight. Therefore, we must either get to work and earn our keep, or jump off the ship back into the sea; for it is not until the ship finally reaches shore that we are truly safe. Unfortunately, far too many have chosen to jump back into the sea.
Have you been rescued by the ship of salvation? Having heard the call and seen the lifeline, what will you do with it; will you accept it for what it is, or will you claim it is too difficult and try to find another way into the ship? Please do not make that mistake, for there will be no other ship available, and no other lifeline extended but the one the Lord has delivered through his blood and his instructions.
Two tenets of Calvinism are Unconditional Election and Irresistible Grace. As one examines these two foundational elements to a doctrine that most of the religious world recognizes and, at least partially, accepts; some very interesting principles are revealed.
Unconditional Election teaches that God “elected,” or selected, every individual that was going to be saved from the very beginning of time. It also argues that this selection was done without pre-conditions (thus the unconditional part). God did not make differentiation between the individual who would live a life in service to him and the individual who cared nothing for him. God simply chose people based on no criteria whatsoever. That being the case, if God chose you to be saved, there is no way for you to be lost. If God chose you to be lost, there is no way to be saved. Your eternal destiny was predetermined before the world began.
With Irresistible Grace, Calvinists build on the principles of unconditional election to teach another doctrine. They argue that when God wants you to be saved and extends his grace to man it cannot be denied. God’s grace is so strong man could not resist it and overcome it if he wanted to do so. Therefore, whether you want to be saved or not, if God’s grace is extended to you as one of the elect, the choice has already been made for you.
However, there is a problem with such reasoning. Calvinism has turned the responsibility of each individual’s salvation upon God. The argument, therefore, is that if you are lost it is God’s fault, not yours; because God did not select you for salvation. How does this measure up with Scripture? Consider the following:
“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2Pet. 3:9). Peter is adamant that God wants all men to be saved (he is not willing that anyone perish). If it is the case that God wants all men to be saved, then why would God unconditionally select men and women to be lost?
If, “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16), then why would he only extend his grace to some when he could cover all men?
If, “The grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared unto all men” (Tit. 2:11), then why are all men not saved? Why should we have to bother with proclaiming the Gospel at all?
Even though God’s grace is extended toward man as an outreached hand waiting to be grasped, man has to respond by reaching out and taking hold of that grace through obedience (Heb. 11:6; Acts 22:16; etc.). Hence, God is long-suffering toward men (2 Pet. 3:9) with the desire that all men will obey him in faithful repentance and obedience; for there is not an individual on this earth God wants to be lost.
Unfortunately, many do not believe that statement. The Calvinist proclaims that God forces man to be lost, even against man’s own will. However, there is another group that argues God does not want them. If you have spent any time trying to teach people the Gospel you have come across someone who has said, “You don’t know the things I have done in my life; God would not want me.” Such could not be further from the truth.
Throughout scripture God has taken in and been willing to save people from all walks of life; who have lived their former lives in many different ways (1 Cor. 6:9-11). Consider for a moment that God saved Saul of Tarsus, who at best was an accessory to murder, if not a murderer himself (Acts 7, 9). He was willing to save Simon who was nothing more than a cheap con man (Acts 8). The Lord selected a zealot (a religious extremist) in Simon Zealotes, and one perceived to be a traitor to his people in Matthew, a tax collector, to be among the twelve apostles (Mat. 10:2-4). God added to the church slaves and jailers politicians and soldiers, poor and rich, Jews and Gentiles, men and women (Gal. 3:27-28). God did not exclude anyone from being able to come to him by means of obedience and the blood of Christ, nor did he state that he only desires a certain grade or group of people.
Who does God want to be saved? The answer is clear: everyone. Who is going to be saved? That is up to you. God has given us the ability to make our own choices in life. Therefore, we must choose whether we will comply with his commands and accept the plan that he has put in place. If we are lost, we have nobody to blame but ourselves.