GOD DESIRES ALL WOULD BE SAVED, BUT FEW ARE
GOD PREPAIRED SALVATION IN ADVANCE
SALVATION IS A PROCESS
SALVATION REQUIRES ENDURANCE
NOT ALL WHO TRY MAKE IT
EMBRACING AND WALKING IN SALVATION
The American church is populated with worldly souls. These individuals profess a saving belief in Jesus Christ, the Son of The Living God, yet live lives indistinguishable from the perishing masses around them. The only difference between a professing, yet worldly, church-attendee and the godless, is the weekly pilgrimage to the house of worship.
This inability to distinguish between the conduct of church attendees and the lost has lead to serious problems for both the church and the world. Within the church, it has lead to the proliferation of attendees who believe they are saved from eternal judgment because they attend church services. They have no recognition that their lives are unchanged from the lives they lived apart from the knowledge of Christ. Transformation into the image of Christ is not preached from the pulpit. Dieing to self to be able to live as Christ, isn’t preached from the pulpit. Godly and holy lives are not exemplified by experienced Believers within congregations. New attendees don’t have good role models to imitate. The congregation is lulled into a comfortable stupor with feel-good messages that deal with social problems but don’t address spiritual development. The result being, millions of people attend church services believing the act of attendance itself qualifies them for eternal life. They don’t understand they have never step into eternal life.
In the world, the problem is magnified. Unbelievers who search after truth see only hypocrisy among church attendees who profess knowledge of Christ, but live without the life of Christ. It appears to be a dead religion that offers no spiritual benefits. It looks like an exclusive club that offers members the right to look down on everyone else. Yoga and meditation at least offer a chance to unwind, which is worth something in this hectic world. But the lost reject the hypocrisy of the average Christian example, and choose their own way, instead of finding “The Way”, Christ Jesus. Because they couldn’t find what they were looking for in church, they enter eternal damnation in droves.
This monumental problem within the church is a compelling reason to visit again the foundations of salvation in light of the Scriptures. Without a fundamental working understanding of our salvation and how it affects our lives, we can fall short of our eternal potential and fail in God’s purposes for us.
GOD DESIRES ALL WOULD BE SAVED, BUT FEW ARE
Let’s start with the understanding that God desires everyone should be saved from eternal damnation and enter into a full, meaningful and spiritually productive life, shared with the Creator Himself. That’s right, everyone. God loves the child molesters and wants them to be saved and share eternal life with Him in Heaven. God loves the adulterers and wants them to enter in to peace and joy in His presence. God loves the homosexuals and gossipers and wants them to share in the inexpressible, inexhaustible, overwhelming satisfaction of a life dedicated to the unselfish pursuit of God’s will. God even loves those who cheat on their taxes and don’t use their turn signals and desires they too would come to repentance. God desires that everyone would be saved and that no one would perish. To everyone who calls themselves by the name of the Lord, God gives these instructions.
1 Timothy 2:1-4 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. NIV
Believers are urged to entreat God and his power to transform the lives of everyone, because our Savior wants everyone to be saved and enter into knowledge of the truth. Why? Because God so loved the world – and every soul that would ever live – that he sent His only begotten Son. God loves every single person so much, that in order to have a relationship with each of us, He sent His Son to take away our sins. It is the knowledge of the sin in our lives that causes us to run from God’s presence. Yet God wants us to come close to Him. So He sent His Son to take our place of disgrace, so we could take His place of honor as a child of our adopted Father.
John 3:16-21 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” NIV
God sent His Son to redeem us from ourselves, not only us, but everyone who has ever lived or will live in this world. The price has been paid, every soul has been redeemed, there is no reason for anyone to reject the free gift of Christ and perish. Yet, human nature exalts itself against the knowledge of God in favor of self-determination. God will not, and cannot, force anyone to love Him. Though a place has been prepared for each of us in the Kingdom of God, only those who serve the King are allowed into the Kingdom. If Christ Jesus isn’t the Lord and Savior of our lives, we can’t be allowed into God’s Kingdom to disrupt it with our disobedience . Heaven wouldn’t be perfect and holy if it were populated with rebels. So, all who reject God and the Lordship of His Son, are in turn, rejected from entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven. This is only right. We, as homeowners and renters, determine who we invite into our homes. We keep all others outside our doors with locks and security systems if necessary. We don’t want anyone coming into our homes and disrupting our lives. The Kingdom of God isn’t very different from our own earthly homes in this respect.
The peace of Heaven is maintained by not allowing rebels to enter Heaven. But, God still desires these very rebels would come to repent of their willful attitudes. God still desires to have a personal relationship with each of us. After all, God sacrificed His Only Begotten Son for these very people - for us. This was a monumental price for God to pay. Each life that isn’t transformed by the blood of His Son, pains God with the crucifixion of His Son all over again. So, God patiently waits on us. He endures our rebellion, hoping that someday we will come to repentance. To the last dying breath of each rebellious child of darkness, God hold out for a miracle. God stretches out each century knowing it will all have to end, but not wanting anyone to miss out on His free gift of salvation. Our Heavenly Father fully understands the consequences of rejecting His offer of salvation, and it breaks His heart.
2 Peter 3:8-9 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. NIV
Our Heavenly Father endures our foolishness, knowing with time, a few more will come to understand the truth. What is this truth the Father longs for us to understand?
John 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” NIV
The Father desires that everyone come to understand His Son Jesus is the only way to find reconciliation with the Father. Why is Jesus the only way? Because every religion humanity has invented relies on individuals working to become better, with the hope they can achieve enough good on their own to earn a place in God’s presence. Anyone who will acknowledge the truth will admit nobody can become perfect. God is the only one who has said, “No, you will never be able to become perfect and abide in my presence. Therefore, I will provide a substitute for you. He will bear the penalty for your imperfections, and you will share the reward for His ultimate righteousness.” Only God has said this. Man’s religions say, “We can achieve perfection by our good works and be worthy of standing in God’s presence.” Jesus is the way provided to come into reconciliation with the Father. Jesus is the truth helping us to realize we can’t do it on our own. Jesus is the very source of life. To live Jesus, not just acknowledge Him, is life and salvation. No one can enter into the Kingdom of God unless they pass through Jesus.
Romans 5:9-11 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. NIV
In Romans 5, we see it is the shed blood of Jesus that justifies us, making us just, or righteous, in right standing with God. Because Jesus took our place of punishment, God no longer counts our transgressions against us. Since we have been reconciled to God, His anger over our sins is extinguished. Even those who scorn the sacrifice of Jesus, these enemies of God who have justly earned His wrath, (as we were before we accepted our salvation), have been reconciled in God’s sight through the death of His Son. Nothing they have ever done, or ever will do, is held against them. Christ’s death blotted out all our debts, but unless we enter into life with Christ, we are still dead towards God. Jesus not only died, but was raised from death to new life by His Father. Unless we enter into the life shared with Christ, we will not be alive towards God.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV
In Romans 12 we are encouraged to be living sacrifices, even as Jesus sacrificed His own desires to do the will of His Father. We are compelled, by the life placed in us through Christ, to live a life that is holy and pleasing to God. We are told to stop acting like Christ didn’t live in us, but to transform our conduct by wrapping our heads around the fact that Christ is in us. Then, as we live lives of holiness, of obedience, we will be able to know the will of God. To know not only what things are acceptable for Believers to do, but those things that please our Father; and not only those things that please our Father, but those things the Father wants specifically for us. It is the continual LIVING in Christ that is our salvation from death.
Mark 16:16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. NIV
In Mark 16, we are told that if we believe and are baptized, we will be saved. Anyone who doesn’t believe will be condemned. What do we need to believe to be saved?
Romans 10:8-10 But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the word of faith we are proclaiming: That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. NIV
We understand from reading Romans 10, we must believe God raised His Son Jesus from the dead, and we will be saved. With our hearts we believe this truth and are placed into right standing with God because of it. With our mouths, we confess, “Jesus is our Lord,” and speak our heart’s belief into reality. When we accept the Lordship of Jesus, we are no longer rebels, barred from the Kingdom of Heaven, but subjects of God’s realm. Notice, however, what we are required to believe. We don’t have to believe Jesus died for our sins to be saved. Jesus died for everyone’s sins regardless of whether or not they believe it. We must believe God raised Jesus from death to new life. Why is this? What is important about Jesus rising from the dead that saves us? The answer is in Mark 16:16. In Mark 16:16, we were told we must believe AND be baptized. In Romans 10 we are told we must believe Jesus was raised from death to new life. Our salvation depends on believing Christ was raised from the dead to a new life AND being baptized.
If Jesus had only died and been buried, He would have been just one of countless thousands who were crucified by the Romans. But Jesus was The Son of The Living God. Hundreds of prophecies had been made about the Messiah and His death and resurrection. Jesus was glorified by The Father through the resurrection. It is because Jesus was raised to new life that we can be raised to new life in Christ. In Mark 16:16, we are told to believe and be baptized. Baptism is the ritual of symbolically being buried in death with Christ when submerged into the water, and being raised again to new life in Christ when drawn out, (Colossians 2:12). Dipping a body into water does not hold salvation for that person any more than taking a bath does. But what baptism symbolizes does hold salvation. Baptism is a public declaration, (just like confessing, “Jesus is Lord,” with the mouth is a public declaration), that indicates the intention of the heart. Someone who is baptized declares they have died to their old way of life and will live a new life in Christ. If baptism isn’t followed up with a life lived in Christ, it was as worthless as a spit-bath, it doesn’t really even make you clean.
What make us clean, holy, is a life lived in service to our Lord and King. Look back at Romans 12:1-2 again. Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. NIV
The value of baptism is in living as a sacrifice to God, holy and pleasing in His sight. It is our spiritual duty to worship our Father with our life. We are not to be conformed to this world, as we were before we believed, but daily transformed by study, fellowship, and growing in our knowledge and understanding of spiritual life in Christ. Baptism symbolizes dieing to self to live in Christ. If we believe God raised Jesus from death to new life and we live that new life in Christ, (symbolized by baptism), we will be saved. Salvation is actually living the new life in Christ. It is an on-going process that continues even after mortal life is over. It isn’t a one-time experience. It is a way of life, new life in Christ.
Many have been taught that once we confess Jesus as Lord, have been sprinkled as an infant, or whatever ritual is taught by the particular denomination, we are saved and that’s the end of that. We may not live lives that exemplify the life of Christ, but we are still saved from damnation. No deception from the pits of Hell could be more damning to those who believe it. Human nature always looks for loopholes allowing us to live our lives the way we want to. Everyone wants to, “do it my way”. We don’t listen when Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” But, if we should listen to anyone, we should listen to Jesus and not be deceived by what others say.
Luke 13:22-24 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to…” NIV
Many will try to enter – and will not be able to. Why wouldn’t anyone who is trying to enter be able to enter? Didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, he who seeks finds and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” NIV Now, we all realize, even if the door is opened, that doesn’t mean we will walk through it. And, Jesus said again, just a few verses later in Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” NIV Again, Jesus is talking about entering. The narrow pathway is there, the door is open to those who knock, but it is the entering that results in salvation. Why would Jesus warn His followers repeatedly it is difficult to enter through the narrow way and find salvation? These people were seekers. They were following Jesus around seeking the Kingdom of God and salvation. What could be so hard about that?
The difficulty lies in our human desire to determine our own fate. We like to listen to the truth, but we don’t want to abandon our lives to live the truth. Jesus made this point very sharply in the synagogue in Capernaum. What Jesus told the people was so hard for most of them to deal with that many disciples turned away from following Jesus on that day.
John 6:53-57 Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.” NIV
What did Jesus mean when He said we must eat His flesh and drink His blood or there is no life in us? The Jews argued among themselves over the meaning. No one really believed they were supposed to cannibalize the physical body of Jesus. But what did Jesus mean when He told them whoever eats His flesh and drinks His blood remains in Him and He in them? In the natural, our lives are maintained by eating food and drinking fluids. We even enjoy and look forward to eating and drinking. If we discontinue either of these actions, our physical bodies wither away and die. If we eat unhealthily, our natural bodies are more prone to sickness, disease, weakness and death. Likewise, our spirits depend on a good diet for our spiritual lives. What did Jesus tell us would give our spirits life? Himself, of course. If we consumed everything about Jesus; what He taught, how he conducted Himself, how He loved, His devotion to His Father, His selflessness; and it all became a part of who we are, we would have life within us.
Consuming Jesus and making Him part of our lives can’t be a one-time-thing. To be alive in Christ requires daily consumption of Jesus’ spiritual life-giving self. If we stop feeding on the life of Jesus, we wither away spiritually. The hope and faith within us dwindles until it is just a glimmer in the past. Eventually, if this spiritual starvation goes on long enough, we will die spiritually. To live, we must continue to consume Christ. To stop, will starve that life of Christ within us.
1 Corinthians 11:23-26 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. NIV
It is easy to fake spiritual life, but it is difficult to fake living a life filled with Christ. Many who attend church put on their Sunday game face for the crowd, but wonder why they feel empty and life is a struggle. Others seek to deceive out of selfish ambition, desire for power, or financial gain. They may have an impressive knowledge of God, but choose to serve themselves instead. Religion becomes a tool to gain what they want. We are warned about these individuals who masquerade as Believers. They preach a message that sounds good, but doesn’t require the listener to die to themselves. Their gospel builds people up while spreading spiritual death. It appears to have a form of godliness, but lacks the power to transform their lives into spiritual beacons of truth.
Titus 1:16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good. NIV
Anyone can put on a good show for a couple of hours a week. But living a life of self-denial, so we are dead to ourselves and alive to Christ, is our salvation. It is a continual, ongoing process, which should last the rest of our natural lives. Jesus illustrated the process with the story of the farmer and the seed.
Luke 8:5-15 “A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.”
When He said this, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, “’Though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.’
“This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” NIV
We see in Jesus’ explanation of the parable how hard it is to hold on to the Word of God. The devil snatches the Word away from some so they cannot be saved. Others find salvation and rejoice. But their faith is shallow and in times of testing they fall away from their faith and loose their salvation. Remember Mark 16:16? It is the one who believes and is baptized, who is saved. Baptism is symbolic of dieing to self in order to live in Christ’s resurrected life. Those who receive the truth with joy, but don’t “live” the baptism, don’t consume the life-giving Christ, die spiritually. Then there are those who are saved, but their lives are unproductive for the Kingdom of God. Life’s worries and the pursuit of money and pleasure consume their energy. They may have a desire to serve their Lord and Savior, but their efforts are focused on their own needs and desires. While they may not loose their salvation, their lives don’t glorify their God either. Then, there are those who live the baptism and serve their Risen Lord. Their lives are examples of God’s grace and the redeeming work of Christ’s cross. These people are the light of the world in the present darkness; the preserving salt in a world of rottenness.
Jesus also gave us the parable of the wheat and the tares to help us understand. Tares are a weed that looks like wheat, but doesn’t produce a head of grain for the harvest. It is difficult for a farmer to tell the difference between tares and wheat until the wheat produces a head of grain and the tares don’t. Tares grow among wheat and use nutrients and moisture that could have been used by the wheat to produce a big crop.
Matthew 13:24-30 Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds (tares) among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared.
The owner’s servants came to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds (tares) come from?”
“’An enemy did this.’ He replied.
“’The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
“’No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, (tares) you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds (tares) and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’” NIV
In this parable, Jesus explains to his disciples what will happen in the Church. The Word of God is the good seed that was sewn. From it, Believers are born. But while everyone is sleeping, that is, when no one is alert to the dangers posed by our adversary the Devil, Satan plants workers of disobedience among the Believers. I like the term my step-son Gabe uses. Anyone who pretends to be a skateboarder, but isn’t dedicated to the sport, is called a “Poser”. They present themselves as a skateboarder, they owned a skateboard, they stand around holding the skateboard, but they are just “posing” in the image of a skateboarder. Within the Church, there are many “Posers”. They present themselves as Christians, they own a Bible, they even tote that Bible around so people can see it, but they are not sold-out for Christ. They live their lives to please themselves. They attend Church to feel better about themselves. They don’t want to give up the selfish things they do for enjoyment, but they don’t want to go to Hell either. So, they hang out in Church. They do good works so they feel they have “earned” the right to get to Heaven. But they have no spiritual life within them. They can’t share their Faith with anyone, they can’t lead anyone to salvation, because they don’t have spiritual life and they don’t know how to be saved, let alone, lead someone else to salvation.
But, the Posers look and act so much like Believers, no one notices until the Believers become spiritually mature and begin producing spiritual results in their lives. To compound the confusion even further, the Believers planted right next to the Posers, are stunted in their spiritual growth because of their close association with the Posers. The Posers rob the Believers of the spiritual nutrition needed to bear spiritual fruit. Instead of fellowshipping around Christ, they get together and fellowship around worldly activities. As a result, the Believers who hang out with the Posers, are as unproductive as the Posers are. By the time the pastors realize their church is full of Posers mixed in with the Believers, it is too late. The Posers are so intermingled with the Believers, it would destroy much of the congregation to weed them out. There is nothing left to be done but to wait for the great harvest of souls. The Posers will be rooted out and destroyed with fire, while the Believers will be gathered into the Kingdom of God.
When we understand God desires everyone would be saved, it’s hard to accept that Posers won’t be. I mean, at least they are trying, right? At least they are coming to Church, that’s got to be worth something. We want to throw open the doors and be all-inclusive. We want to cut people some slack and give them the benefit of the doubt. We want to give them a break. And we should, but not at the cost of the truth. Love, God’s love in us, doesn’t compromise when it comes to a person’s eternal damnation. It is not love to tell someone they are OK and they will probably make it to Heaven when their lifestyle indicates disobedience and separation from God. Only God can judge the content of a person’s heart, we don’t decide who is saved and who isn’t. But Jesus made a very clear and distinct in Luke 9:23-25 when he said,
Luke 9:23-25 “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet lose or forfeits his very self?” NIV
We must clearly explain the necessity of believing and daily living the baptism as the way of salvation. A life lived for Christ is salvation. A life lived for our own desires, guarantees our damnation. It couldn’t be any plainer than that. If we want to be Jesus’ followers, we must deny our own inclinations, ambitions and desires and follow His life’s example. If we want to keep our lives to live according to our own guidelines, we will be lost.
The life we live to satisfy ourselves is just a vague impression of the full and exhilarating life we can have here on earth. Jesus intended for us to experience life to it’s fullest through living in Him. In the second half of John 10:10, Jesus said, “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” NIV While Jesus enabled us to have eternal life, here, He is talking about our life on earth. Jesus lived an exciting and fulfilling life of service to humanity. He intended for us to share in His ministry. We are called the Body of Christ because we literally make up the replacement parts for Christ in this earth, established here to carry on His ministry of truth. He intended for us to share in the inexpressible joy and satisfaction of living His Father’s will. I can tell you from personal experience, life doesn’t get any better than when the Spirit of the Lord is working through me to minister to the needs of people. Of all the exciting, exhilarating and satisfying things I have done in my life, nothing compares to the rush when the power of God flows through me into people’s lives. Jesus intended for us to experience that fullness of life all the time. It only comes through dieing to ourselves and being raised again to new life in Christ. Living in Christ is our salvation, everything else is death.
GOD PREPAIRED SALVATION IN ADVANCE
2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. NIV
For those of us who find ourselves partakers of life in Christ, it is through the purifying work of the Spirit and believing in the truth. Several things are at work here. First, we were chosen for salvation. This doesn’t indicate we are better than anyone else, because God so loved the whole world that He sent His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believed in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life. Salvation was provided for everyone. The word translated “chosen” means, “taken for oneself”. So we see, God has taken us for Himself. How did he accomplish this? Through the sanctifying work of the Spirit, that is, being purified by the Holy Spirit, and through belief in the truth of Christ’s redemptive work of the cross and His resurrection from the dead. The Spirit of God worked in us, purifying us, so we could recognize the truth and repent. Our hearts were blind to the truth. It was only through the purifying work of the Spirit of God that the eyes of our hearts were opened. Having recognized the truth, we believed, we had faith in the message, we relied on the truth of Christ. Through this reliance, we accepted the free gift of salvation for ourselves.
We can’t take credit for any of this. Even though we have accepted Christ’s salvation, we never would have chosen Christ on our own. The natural, selfish, independent human spirit within each of us rejects the Lordship of Christ. Left to our own, we choose to be our own bosses and reject all other authority in our lives. It is only through God’s grace that any of us are saved.
Ephesians 2:4-10 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. NIV
Grace can be defined as: God’s influence on the human heart, and the reflection of God’s unseen spiritual work in the outward human life. I like to put it this way: As humans, we are hard-wired to sin. It is in our spiritual circuitry. Grace overloads, short-circuits and overwhelms our natural tendencies, allowing God to work in and through us. We are disabled, enabling God to work. In salvation, acceptance alone is our responsibility. Everything else has been provided in advance and accomplished by our loving Father through Christ and the Holy Spirit. We contribute nothing toward our salvation but our broken lives and our obedience.
2 Timothy 1:8-10 So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by (according to) the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life – not because (according to) of anything we have done but because (according to) of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. NIV
Here again, we see God has planned everything for our salvation in advance. In this passage from 2 Timothy, the word translated as “by” and “because” is the same word, kata. It means, “according to” and is used here three times. The author, Paul, calls on Timothy to join him in suffering for the good news of Christ’s redemptive work for humanity, according to the power of God. That being, the power of God was at work in their lives, God having saved them from damnation and summoned them to live holy lives dedicated to their God and Savior. God did not release His transforming power in their lives according to anything they had achieved or accomplished, but according to His own purpose and grace. This grace, God’s undeserved favor, was bestowed on them as they entered into the life of Christ Jesus, as God had provided for them before the time of this world had begun. This was provided in advance for all of us, not just Paul and Timothy. Notice however, everyone who comes to salvation through Christ is also called to live a holy life dedicated to God. True salvation saves us from the manner of our previous life of death and works in us to grow us into holiness. It is a continual process throughout the rest of this natural life, and beyond. We see this again in Ephesians chapter 1.
Ephesians 1:11-14 In him we are also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. NIV
The Greek language allows some latitude in interpretation, and can be slanted by the doctrinal beliefs of the interpreters. A direct and unembellished interpretation of the Greek would be difficult for most Americans to understand. But, in adding words to make it more comprehensible, and to make it align with pre-existing doctrinal beliefs, the meaning of the text can become skewed. Ephesians 1:11-14 is one of those passages where I feel the meaning of the text has been somewhat obscured by the interpretation. The following passage is the same text from Ephesians, but my translation from the Greek. It is always a good idea to investigate the Bible for yourself and not take everyone’s word as an unbiased account of what the Bible actually says or means. I am no exception. Double check your own Bible reference notes and use a Strong’s Concordance of the Bible to look at the original Greek words and their meanings. With that in mind, here is Ephesians 1:11-14 again.
Because we are in Christ we have been assigned, limited in advance, according to the propose of He who works mightily in everything according to the counsel of His own determination: We exist, therefore, to the laudation of His honor, who hoped in advance in the Anointed One of God. In whom you also did likewise, understanding the purpose of the truth, the Good News of your salvation: Into Christ you likewise entrusted your spiritual wellbeing, sealed with the Holy Spirit of assurance, who is the pledge of our heirship, till salvation is acquired, to laudation of His honor. GWT
Because we are in Christ, we have been assigned, the NIV uses “chosen”, limited in advance, the NIV says “predestined”, according to the purposes of God. Earlier, in 2Peter 3:9, we understand that God, “… is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” And in 1 Timothy 2:4 that, “This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” So, we can reasonably assume, when the Bible, in Ephesians 1:11-14, says, “limited in advance”, or “predestined”, in reference to salvation, it isn’t God’s desire to bar the way to salvation for any individual. It has already been stated God wants everyone to find salvation, though it is quite clear God also knows not everyone will.
In fact, Jesus acknowledges not even everyone who searches after salvation will find it. That being the case, when we are told those who are in Christ are limited in advance according to the purpose of God, we have to ask, “What is God’s purpose?” It can’t be to keep people from entering into salvation, because God provided salvation for anyone who would receive it. Since God designed salvation so only those who submit themselves to the Lordship of Christ Jesus can be saved, this aspect of submission necessarily disqualifies anyone who remains rebellious towards God. With this in mind, even though salvation through the sacrifice of Christ had been planned before the world began, and is available for everyone, salvation is limited in advance to only those who submit to the lordship of Christ.
Ephesians 1:14 goes on to speak of how; now that we have entered into a new life in Christ, entrusting our spiritual wellbeing to the truth of the Good News of the Gospel, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit as an assurance of our salvation. The Holy Spirit in us functions as God’s pledge to us we are his heirs. This pledge from God, this assurance to us, is necessary because salvation is a process that is only finalized with the end of our earthly lives.
Hebrew 3:14 For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end. KJV
Salvation was prepared for humanity in advance. For each of us, it is a lifelong process that begins when we first believe and confess Jesus is our Lord. To live our lives in Christ is salvation, if we hold fast till the end. This is why Jesus says in Matthew 22:14, “For many are invited, but few are chosen.” NIV
SALVATION IS A PROCESS
1 Peter 1:3-23 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith (reliance) are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith (reliance), the salvation of your souls.
Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves but you, when they spoke of the things that have now been told you by those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven. Even angels long to look into these things.
Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy.”
Since you call on a Father who judges each man’s work impartially, live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefather, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart. For you have been born again, not of perishable seed, but of imperishable, through the living and enduring word of God. NIV
Salvation is a process. Every process has a beginning. When we believe in our hearts God raised Jesus from death to new life, confess with our mouths Jesus is our Lord, and live lives continually dieing to our old sinful nature so we can truly live in Christ, (publicly declared by our baptism); we have entered into salvation and begun the process. We enter into a living hope. We hope for those things we don’t yet have, or don’t yet see. We live in hope of our coming salvation, the complete deliverance from “this body of death” as Paul calls our physical shell. In our physical death, we will rest from all our works, rest from our struggle against the sin that dwells in our bodies. Until that time, Believers who through faith (reliance) are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. We see that salvation is coming. If we have faith, have a reliance on God, we are shielded by God’s power until our complete salvation is ready to be revealed. The scriptures say for you are receiving the salvation of our souls. We are in the process of salvation. For every generation before us, the process has ended with the termination of their earthly lives. There will come a time when the process of salvation will end with the appearance of Jesus returning in His glory. We are told set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.
Till that moment, we must live our salvation, one breath at a time. How do we live our salvation? A life lived in service to sin is no salvation at all. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. We must renew our minds from our previous pattern of satisfying our evil desires, and instead, do those things the Bible tells us please God. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do. For that, we must read the Word, pray and fellowship with other Believers. These things will strengthen us to resist the sin that exists in our mortal bodies. Then, we can begin to live our salvation.
So, we must live your lives as strangers here in reverent fear. Why? Because God judges each person’s works. Sin so easily overtakes us. The deception of sin is so enticing we must always be on our guard, unless we fall captive again to sin and forsake our salvation.
1 John 3:5-6 But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him. NIV
When the scriptures talk about sin and sinning in 1 John 3:5-6, it is two different words. The words translated sins and sin, in verse 5, are taken from a word that means “offences”. Jesus takes away our offences and in Him there is no offence. In verse 6, sinning and sin are translated from a different word that means “to continue in error, to miss the mark, to not share in the prize”. Everyone sins. If we say we don’t sin, we lie and the truth isn’t in us. But if we confess our sins, we will be forgiven. But here, the scripture differentiate between committing an offence of sin, and a life of sin like the lives we lived before salvation. Jesus takes away our offences, but if we continue to live a life dedicated to ourselves and our desires, as if Jesus’ sacrifice has no effect on our decisions, then we don’t know Christ at all. Often, it is difficult to tell the difference between an immature Believer who makes mistakes, and a poser who claims to know Christ but continues to live for themselves.
1 Peter 2:1-3 Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good. NIV
Salvation is a growing process. Every true Believer needs to be nurtured and fed spiritual food to grow healthy and strong in the Lord. Newborn Believers need spiritual milk to begin their lives as children and servants of God. But there comes a time when they need to move beyond the elementary teachings and grow strong in the Lord.
Hebrews 6:13-14 Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. NIV
So, many true Believers haven’t been taught to move on from spiritual milk. Few churches teach the congregation their job is to grow up into the image of Christ and do the work of the Gospel. This isn’t a new problem. It was addressed in the early church as well.
Hebrews 6:11-12 We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn. In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! NIV
Even in the early Church, some Believers were spiritually immature. They had no idea God intended them to grow up to be teachers of the Gospel. They didn’t understand salvation is a continual process. We need to be constantly growing, constantly seeking God, constantly reaching new and deeper understandings of God’s grace, constantly reaching out to the lost around us. God redeemed our lives with a great price. God intended for us to use our new lives in Christ to carry the ministry of Christ to those around us. Yet, for the most part, even true Believers continue to live their lives to satisfy themselves. This should not be. We were ransomed from sin and death with the blood of the Son of God. Our lives were judged to be worth Jesus’ life to save. What have we done with so great a salvation? Do we continue to squander it on our own desires, or do we carry the Good News of salvation to those around us? At some point in the process of salvation, we should mature and become teachers of the truth, not infants who need to be bottle-fed.
There are things we can do to mature in our faith: Seek out congregations that hunger and thirst after righteousness, study God’s word, submit ourselves to God in times of prayer, fellowship with Believers, find servants of God who have a passion for teaching the truth and equipping the Body of Christ for spiritual service. Perhaps most importantly, we need to keep our hearts centered in love. If we are not walking in love towards those around us, we are not walking in the will of God.
Jude 1:20-21 But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life. NIV
Notice in this passage from Jude, we shouldn’t be idle as we wait for the mercy of Jesus to bring us eternal life. Salvation is a process. We are supposed to build ourselves up in our most holy faith through prayer. We are supposed to keep ourselves walking in God’s love towards one another. These activities work out our salvation from our old way of life. It is the living hope of what is to come that keeps us pressing on.
Romans 8:22-25 We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption (deliverance) of (from) our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently. NIV
Salvation is a process. We should mature in our faith, becoming teachers of the Gospel, and the finishing work of our salvation is our deliverance from our earthly bodies.
1 John 3:1-3 How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. NIV
Now we are children of God. We have been born-again into the Kingdom of God’s family. There is more in store for us though. When Jesus appears to claim His own, we shall become like He is now. Everyone who has this hope in them, everyone who looks forward to the day when they will be redeemed from this body of death, lives in anticipation of Christ’s return. This hope drives us towards maturity - preparation for His return. This hope within us purifies each of us as we live our lives expecting the return of The King. If we live expecting at any moment for our Lord and Master to return for us, we live lives conformed to His desires so we won’t be caught in an embarrassing lifestyle. But, when Jesus returns for us, we will be saved from this body of death and delivered from the sin that dwells in this flesh.
Hebrews 9:28 So Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, to those who eagerly await Him. NASB
1 Corinthians 15:49-52 And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.
I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed – in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. NIV
We see here, those who have died in the faith will be raised, clothed in their new imperishable bodies. Their old, corruptible, sinful bodies can no longer house their spiritual beings. Then, those who remain in living flesh, will be changed from these mortal bodies to incorruptible new bodies designed for immortality. It will all happen in the twinkling of an eye, before anyone has a chance to understand what is happening. The completion of our salvation awaits us in the return of The King. We must endure to the end of our natural lives or till Christ returns in His glory. We must finish the course. We must hold fast to our faith till the end. Whether we die in the faith and rest from our labors, awaiting in slumber the return of our Lord, or whether we live our salvation steadfastly till Christ returns, the end is the same. We are changed and enter into the presence of our Master.
1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will raise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words. NIV
We understand from this passage of Scripture that those who have died holding onto the faith will raise to meet the Lord first. After that, those who remain in this mortal housing will be caught up to join our Master. Then, we will be with our Lord forever. This mortal flesh, housing not only our born-again spirits, but sin as well, will be done away with and our salvation will be complete.
Hebrews 9:27-28 Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. NIV
Jesus has been here in humility already and died in our place, taking on Himself the penalty for our sins. The Christ is coming again, this time in glory, to bring the completion of our salvation, the deliverance from our mortal bodies of death, to those who are waiting for him. Not for everyone who knows about Jesus. Not to everyone who goes to church. Not to everyone who does good deeds. But to those who are waiting, who live in anticipation, who conform themselves - not to this world, but to holiness, because He is holy.
1 Thessalonians 5:8-9 But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. NIV
If we belong to the day, that is, the Kingdom of Light, we should live lives of self-control, growing in faith and love, as our protection against the deception of this world. We should protect our thoughts from straying from righteousness, knowing the salvation from our dead earthly bodies awaits us if we endure in the faith till the end. Jesus died for us so that, whether we are still alive in Christ at His coming, or die holding fast to our faith and rest from our struggle against sin, we can live together with Him for eternity.
Romans 13:11-14 And do this, understanding the present time. The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the sinful nature. NIV
This passage of scripture offers guidelines for living our salvation. If our lifestyle in Christ doesn’t deliver us from our former way of life, it isn’t salvation at all. Knowing about Christ in our heads doesn’t make us “born-again”. Salvation is in a heartfelt surrender to the resurrected Son of God, transforming our lives from bondage to sinful desires, into a life lived in service to the Christ. If we aren’t living the transformation, we are not living salvation, and salvation is a process of growth.
SALVATION REQUIRES ENDURANCE
Anyone who purposes in their heart to follow after Jesus will have to develop endurance. Endurance will come in two forms: the ability to stand against the world and persecution for the sake of Christ, and, the ability to resist our own sinful and willful impulses.
Matthew 10:22 All men will hate your because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. NIV
If we stand fast against the world and all those who hate us because Christ is in us, we will be saved. If we cave-in and forsake Christ in the face of persecution, we are damned with the rest of the world.
Matthew 24:12-13 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. NIV
Jesus tells us the love of most will grow cold. He is not talking about the world growing cold towards God, he is talking about members of the church who profess faith in His name. Jesus warns us that “most“ of the church will grow cold towards Him because of persecution. Those who fall away from the faith are lost to Heaven, but those who stand firm to the end will be saved. While persecution will drive Believers from the faith to their own destruction, there is a more insidious evil working among the faithful. Apathy towards God and the salvation He has provided is responsible for untold masses departing from the faith. They may profess to be Believers, but they don’t fellowship with the Body of Christ. They may say they have faith, but their lives are devoid of any proof because actions speak louder than words. While they console themselves with the argument that they love God in their hearts, the Scriptures sound a loud warning to those who would listen.
1 Peter 4:18-19 And, “If it is hard for the righteous to be saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” So then, those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good. NIV
In 1 Peter 4, we are told it is hard for the righteous to be saved, why? It is because of our rebellious human nature. We are constantly re-asserting our own will in our lives. This is rebellion against the Lordship of Christ. If we believe the lie we can love God but still serve our own desires, then we forget the Lord’s warning that we cannot serve two masters, (Luke 16:13). If the redeemed desire to hold fast to their salvation, they must commit themselves to their faithful Creator. The meaning of 1 Peter 4:19 is actually clearer in the King James Version of the Bible, and leads us closer to the intended meaning of this text.
1 Peter4:19 Wherefore let them that suffer according to the will of God commit the keeping of their souls in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. KJV
To bring out the intended meaning of this text, I have underlined words and in parentheses, given the meaning according to Strong’s Concordance of the Bible from the original Greek.
1 Peter 4:19 Wherefore (So too) let (then) them that suffer according to the will (determination) of God commit the keeping of their souls in (instrumentally, as a means of, by) well doing, (virtue) as (even as) unto a faithful Creator. KJV
So, this text from 1 Peter 4:19 would be more accurately understood as saying: So too then, those that suffer according to the determination of God, commit the keeping of their souls through living virtuously, even as unto a faithful Creator.
It’s a subtle difference, but the application to our lives is huge! The NIV translation is saying, “Believe there is a God and do good works.” That sounds like good advice to me, but the original Greek said, “Entrust your eternal salvation in virtuous living, because you should be living your life for your faithful Creator.” If we just believe in our heads, and try to do good works, we will find ourselves failing. Eventually, we will become despondent and disappointed in our inability to do what we know is right. But if we commit ourselves to a virtuous and meaningful life, knowing that every breath we take is for our Lord, our lives have more meaning that just doing the right things. When we fail, we feel guilt and shame, but we understand our lives are no longer our own. We know we are redeemed by the blood of The Son of God Himself. We understand the price God paid to bring us into a relationship with Him. In spite of our shame, we know the only way to go on is to ask for forgiveness. We know the price Jesus paid is great enough to cover every transgression. We understand the love the Father has towards us, and we seek forgiveness so nothing comes between us. This heart attitude give us the ability to endure our own failures and continue on with our Father.
It takes endurance to walk with God. The Apostle Paul wrote often about running the race for the prize, about fighting the good fight of faith. He constantly encouraged Believers to persist in doing good, to hold fast till the end. In this next passage of Scripture, Paul gently warns the Corinthians they must endure.
1 Corinthians 15:1-2 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. NIV
By this Gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ, you are saved; if you hold firmly to everything I have preached to you. If you fall short, give up, let go of all that I have told you, you will have believed in vain, because you will have allowed your salvation to slip through your fingers. Salvation requires endurance.
NOT ALL WHO TRY MAKE IT
Not everyone who tries to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven makes it. Remember the words of Jesus in Luke 13: 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to…” NIV The Word of God is full of warnings to those who will listen. Again, the Apostle Paul, always concerned about the spiritual welfare of those who would listen, gives another warning to “Believers” about the sincerity with which they follow after Christ.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you – unless, of course, you fail the test? NIV
Paul knew enough not to judge people by outward appearances. He was well aware that only God truly knows a person’s heart. Many Posers put on a good Sunday game face and impress the spectators. Many wounded and struggling souls find eternal life amid the wreckage of their lives. So, rather than judge by how things appear on the outside, Paul warned the first century Church to examine themselves. He told them to test themselves, examine their priorities, align their actions with their beliefs, and see if the proofs of their lives support their claim of being alive in Christ. Then he challenged them. “Don’t you realize your lives should reflect the life of Christ Jesus who lives within you and through you? Unless, of course, the way you live your lives proves that Christ isn’t in you.” That’s a tough test, but Paul loved these people and didn’t want them to perish through and easy gospel of self-deception.
Philippians 2:12-13 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed – not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence – continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. NIV
Here, the Apostle Paul tells his brothers and sisters in Christ to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, why? Salvation was provided for us when the sinless Son died on the cross. What more could there be for us to do once we’ve accepted so great a gift as salvation? “Live it!” is the answer. In the NIV, we are told to “continue to work out” our own salvation with fear and trembling. In the original Greek, the word is “katergazomai” and it means, “work fully, finish, accomplish”. We are told it is our responsibility to finish, or accomplish our own salvation, and we are to do it with fear and trembling. Why? Because we are accountable to God for what we do with this great gift of salvation. We have been redeemed by the Blood of The Lamb, the Son of God, who takes away the sins of the whole world. What have we done with this great sacrifice? How is God supposed to react when He sacrificed so much for us, and we fritter it away? Too many church-goers are in the God-thing for their own selfish reasons. They don’t want to go to Hell. They don’t want to serve God, but they don’t want to burn in eternal torment either.
Jesus tells a parable about the Church in Matthew 25:14-30. It is just one of several parables Jesus uses to illustrate the rewards and punishments for our service to our Father. In the Parable of the Talents, the master, Jesus, gives three servants, that is, three church members, a sum of money in talents, to invest for him when he goes on a long journey. In other words, Jesus invested the priceless gift of salvation in three church-goers. He expected them to use their salvation and spiritual gifts to further the Kingdom of Heaven while he went to spend time with His Father. In the parable, one talent was the equivalent of 6,000 days of wages. Conservative estimates, with the weakness of the American Dollar against the European Euro, values one talent at approximately one and a quarter million dollars. One servant, with much ability, is given five talents, or about six and a quarter million dollars. The next servant, with less ability, was given two talents, which would be close to two and a half million dollars. The last servant, was only given one and a quarter million dollars. This great fortune, invested in these three servants, is only a pail shadow of what God has invested in the Body of Christ through the sacrifice of His Son.
Well, the first Church member invests his salvation and spiritual gifts in the work of the ministry and doubles the incomparable riches that Jesus had invested in him. The second Church member takes his salvation and spiritual gifts and doubles the great fortune Christ had invested in him as well. The last church-goer, buries the riches poured out on him, and plopping down firmly in his favorite pew, plans to hold onto his salvation until the return of the King. When the Lord returns, He is well pleased with the first two Church members who have doubled Christ’s investment in them. He welcomes them into His joy. But when He turns to the last servant, the church-goer begins to make excuses for not doing anything with the salvation and spiritual gifts invested in him. He says to the Lord, “Master, I knew you would expect me to do something with your great gift of salvation and the spiritual gifts you poured out on me and I was afraid. So, I stayed right here in church to make sure you would see I was faithful to you and saved everything you invested in me. See, here it is. I’ve been right here in church with my salvation and spiritual gifts all the time.”
The Lord was not happy with the church-goer. He replied, “You wicked, lazy servant! You knew I expected you to do invest your salvation and spiritual gifts to further the Kingdom of God, and yet you did nothing with it. At the very least, you could have lent what I invested in you to the rest of the Body of Christ, so they could have had at least some service out of you! To His other servants the Lord said, “Take what he has from him and give it to the others. Throw this worthless servant outside, where there will be wailing and grinding of teeth.”
Based on Jesus’ parable, it sounds to me like the worthless church-goer will share the same fate as the rest of the world. The church-goer thought his salvation was secure because he guarded what the Master had invested in him. The problem was, the poor church-goer thought it was all about him. The worthless servant thought saving his own eternal life was the whole point of Christ dieing on the cross. This self-centered understanding of the nature of God and His plan for redeeming humanity, shows the worthless church-goer didn’t really know or understand God at all.
The whole point of redeeming humanity is God’s love. For God so loved the whole world, He sent His only begotten Son, so that whoever believed on Him would not perish, but have eternal life. Redemption isn’t about saving us from the punishment we deserve for our rebellion. Redemption is about God’s love for us. It’s about the joy God has in having a relationship with us. It’s about the longing in God’s heart to be with us and communicate with us. This can’t happen while we are rebellious towards Him. It can only happen when we are reconciled with Him. So, Christ died, not because we deserved to be saved from our rebellion, but because God deserves, and deeply desires and longs for, our companionship, love and adoration. Our salvation isn’t about what we deserve, it’s about what our Heavenly Father deserves. The worthless church-goer missed the point and thought it was all about him. If he had know and understood God, he would have lived his life like the other two servants. Not everyone who tries to make it to heaven will make it.
Hebrews 6:4-6, 9-12 It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace…Even though we speak like this, dear friends, we are confident of better things in your case – things that accompany salvation. God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them. We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, in order to make your hope sure. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. NIV
In this passage from Hebrews, the author warns the first century Church if they fall away from the faith, it is impossible for them to turn their hearts back. They will be lost to Heaven for eternity. But, he goes on to say God is not unjust; he will not forget their good works, their Godly love and right living that accompanies salvation. In other words, “Just because you stumble and fall, all is not lost, God will remember what you have done for the Kingdom. Let Him help you up, and continue in diligent obedience to the very end, in order to make your hope of salvation a reality. Don’t become lazy and return to your natural fallen lifestyle, but imitate those, who through faith and patience endure in their faith and inherit the promised salvation.” While this instructs us how to make our salvation secure, it also shows how easy it is to fall from grace and forfeit eternal life. Not everyone who starts the race of faith will finish the course. Not all who try will make it.
While The Creator understands not everyone who tries will make it, He still stretches out the events of time, in the chance that even one more will enter in to repentance. This patience with our foolishness lulls many into a relaxed frame of mind. The Apostle Peter saw this same attitude developing amid the young Church and addressed the problem.
2 Peter 3:8-18 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.
But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare.
Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen. NIV
In reading this passage, it is interesting to understand the recent discoveries of science. Analysis of radioactive Carbon 14 in core samples of the polar icecaps, indicates an increased activity in the Sun’s surface. For the last 40 to 60 years, we have been in a period of increased solar activity. The levels of radioactive Carbon 14 indicate the surface of the Sun has been more volatile in recent history than any time since the last ice age. When I read 2 Peter 3:8-18, I can’t help wondering if the current agitated state of the Sun’s surface is a prelude to the earth being melted down to make way for the new heaven and earth, (Revelations 20:11, The Great White Throne Judgment; 21:1). Everything we see, everything we are familiar with, will be destroyed by fire. But, we have been promised a New Heaven and a New Earth and we are told it will be the home of righteousness. This is exciting news! Knowing this, we should be on our guard so we will not be carried away by the false, feel-good-gospel of lawless men, and fall from our secure salvation to our own destruction. Instead, we should grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples how difficult it will be for Believers in the last days preceding His return, the Judgment and the New Heaven and Earth.
Matthew 24:9-14 “Then they will deliver you to tribulation, and will kill you, and you will be hated by all nations because of My name. At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many. Because lawlessness is increased, most people’s love will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved. This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come.” NASB
While Jesus’ admonition was for Believers in the last day to endure to the end to be saved, we all must endure till the end to be saved. Each one of us will come to the end of our earthly days. We each must endure in our faith till the end to be saved. We are told God judges each individual according to their own deeds. Knowing our sins are forgiven by the Blood of the Lamb, we should be mindful of our deeds, knowing they will be judged.
1 Peter 4:17-19 For it is time for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God?
“And if it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved, what will become of the godless man and the sinner?”
Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God shall entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right. NASB
Since it is with difficulty the righteous are saved, shouldn’t we be making every effort to be found in Christ, our lives being conformed to His image? This is where our human nature overthrows our desire for holiness. We know the truth, but we still want to live our own lives. We resist yielding our lives to God’s will for His purposes. We will always struggle with the sin that wars against righteousness, it’s when we give up the fight that all is lost. We know we are in trouble when we stop feeling remorseful over our transgressions and begin making excuses for them. If repentance and a sincere change of heart are not immediately sought, there will be nothing left but a fearful expectation of judgment.
Hebrews 10:26-31 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. NIV
Sometimes, as Believers, we find ourselves falling short of the glory of God and living our lives for ourselves. The storms of life come against us as we drift aimlessly, guided by our own ambitions. In the midst of the tempest we realize we have drifted from God and it’s time to allow Him to take control again. In one of our home fellowships, someone said, “It’s a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. But it’s worse to fall out of His hands!” If we are not constantly seeking God’s will, we are following our own. When we realize this, we must repent and run to our Father.
Most people will go through this life without ever seeking the forgiveness and reconciliation with God provided for us by Christ. Many who seek salvation will try to be good enough on their own to gain access to God’s presence. Others will search for salvation through Christ’s sacrifice, but will be unwilling to lay down their lives, take up the cross, and follow Jesus. Some will find salvation, but like the farmer who didn’t count the cost before he started building, will be unable to finish the task. Then, there are a few, who seek after righteousness, count this life as a loss, live for Christ, and with perseverance, finish the race and claim the prize.
How do we know if we are truly living for Christ and not ourselves? We must put ourselves to the test. Here are a few scriptures. If we sincerely and honestly apply these scriptures to our lives, it will help us determine if we pass the test.
1 John 1:6-7 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and so not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. NASB
1 John 2:3-6 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. NASB
1 John 2:9-10 The one who says he is in the Light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now. The one who loves his brother abides in the Light and there is no cause for stumbling in him. NASB
1 John 2:15-17 Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever. NASB
This is a big one for most Americans. We are the nation of self-indulgent consumers. We love our cars, we love our football, we love our houses and yards, we love our toys, our vacations, our clothes. We are a nation carried away with the things we can buy. Yet, if we love this world and all it has to offer, we are not doing it with the love of the Father that should be spread abroad in our hearts. It’s time to take account of our possessions and see who possesses who. Are the things we own and the things we do an avenue for us to express God’s love for the lost, or a way to express our love for ourselves and our own comfort. This is a hard test. Few will pass this one. Strive to be among the few.
1 John 2:28-29 Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming. If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. NASB
Abiding, living this life in and for Christ, is true salvation. Living a life unchanged by the Spirit of God isn’t salvation. Salvation is only exhibited in our lives through abiding in Christ. What does it mean to abide in Christ? Jesus used the illustration of grape vines and the branches. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches…” The branches get their life giving necessities through the vine. The sap flows through the vine into the branch allowing it to live, grow and produce fruit. The vine doesn’t produce fruit, the branches do. But without that connection with the vine, the branches not only couldn’t produce fruit, they would wither and die. To abide in Christ is to be connected to the vine. The life-giving love and power of God flows into us through Christ, allowing us to live, grow and produce fruit. If we separate ourselves from Christ, we cut ourselves off from the life-giving vine. We wither and die.
So how do we abide in Christ? Look at 1 John 2:29 again. …you know that everyone also who practices righteousness is born of Him. Practice Righteousness. It doesn’t say be righteous, in and of ourselves our righteousness is filthy rags. It says practice righteousness. We need to strive to imitate Jesus in everything we do. Obviously we fail, but it is in the trying that we find success. We can’t do it on our own, but by the grace of God, as we strive to imitate Christ, God’s grace is poured out upon us, and through the power of God’s grace working in us, we conform to the image of His Son. We only maintain that image as long as we are striving to imitate Christ. As soon as we relax, as soon as we are no longer practicing righteousness, we look like ourselves again.
1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death. NASB
Romans 8:12-17 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh – for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but you have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, “Abba! Father!”
The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirits that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him. NASB
Does the Spirit of God Himself confirm in our hearts we are children of God? The Devil will often challenge young or immature Believers in their faith. Satan is the accuser of the Brethren and the father of lies. We can tell the difference between the voice of God and the lies of the Devil by what is said. The Spirit of God will confirm in our hearts we are His children. God’s Spirit will be a comforting affirming voice that reassures us. Satan on the other hand will throw our sins in our faces and tell us we are unworthy to be called the children of God. And, actually, he is right. We are unworthy, and there isn’t anything we can do on our own to make ourselves worthy. This is why God has poured out His grace upon us. Grace is God giving us good things we don’t deserve. When the Devil tells us we are not saved from our sins, we need to examine our hearts to see if it is true. We need to go to God’s word and study the truth and see if it is in us. If we fail the test, we need to repent and enter into salvation in Christ. If we pass the test, the Spirit of God confirms in our hearts we are His children. In this way, we can use Satan’s accusations for our own good. We can either confirm with confidence we are the children of God, or we can realize we aren’t, and seek repentance and salvation through Christ. Either way, the accuser ends up doing us a service by causing us to seek our Father.
Romans 13:12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. NIV
EMBRACING AND WALKING IN SALVATION
As Believers, so much of our energy is diverted into pursuits of our own interests. We get caught-up in the world around us. It is so natural for our daily lives to consume so much of our attention, we don’t even stop to wonder if that is the way it should be. We are like the seed in Jesus’ parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:22. We have received the Word of God, and grown in the Lord, but our lives bear no fruit because the cares of this world have choked the spiritual productivity right out of us.
Most of us can remember a time when we were excited about the things of God. For many of us it was when we were brand-new Believers. We were so excited about our new relationship with the Creator of Heaven and Earth, we could hardly contain ourselves. We were consumed with enthusiasm and those around us could see an outward reaction to the light of God bursting forth in our hearts. Most of us will recall with fondness those days of unbridled excitement and wonder where it all went and how we ended up here.
It’s only natural. Our lives I mean. When our lives lack spiritual excitement and motivation, it’s only natural. It’s just the natural course of our natural lives. We have stopped feeding on the Life of Jesus. We don’t eat, sleep and drink Jesus and His Life. Our attention has been turned away from the source of our spiritual life, and we consume the world and those things that feed our natural lives.
Long before the Last Supper, Jesus talked with His followers about eating and drinking His body and blood. The introduction of this concept was in the synagogue at Capernaum.
John 6:51-56 “I am the living bread that came down out of heaven, if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”
Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?”
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” NASB
This is why our lives so naturally revert to the natural. We eat and drink the world, and its natural food, just to sustain this natural life. In the process, we have stopped feeding on the life of Jesus and everything about Him, and our spiritual lives have fainted away in the process of starvation. Now, for most of us, we haven’t become so weak we have fallen away from our faith, (though just about everyone knows someone who has). We take in enough of the Life of Jesus in our weekly pilgrimages to church to hang on to our spiritual existence. However, we don’t exhibit the robust spiritual life of someone who is well-fed on the body and blood of the Savior.
If a person daily consumes the spiritual food of Jesus in times of prayers, study of the Scriptures, and fellowship with the Body of Christ, spiritual strength is evident in their lives. If somehow, consuming spiritual food and building one’s self up in the spirit, becomes more important than this natural life, a spiritual giant is grown! Like Jesus said, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.” When the life of Jesus abides in us, it is evident to the whole world.
But how do we get to that point, where we feed on the spiritual Life of Jesus and His Life abides in, and is exhibited through, our lives? It starts with desire. We have to desire the Life of Jesus. For most of us, that’s the hard part. We have our own ambitions and desires. They choke-out what little desire we have to abide in Christ. The good news is, God’s grace is sufficient for us. The solution begins with prayer. Most folks should start out with a simple, honest and sincere prayer. It should go something like this. “God, I don’t really have much desire to abide in Christ and have His Life abide in me. I’m pretty busy running my own life and I kind’a like it that way. But I know I should be living for You. Please God, pour out your grace and mercy on my life and give me the desire to desire more of you. Amen”
That’s it. Pretty simple. Most of us need to start out with a prayer acknowledging we don’t desire the things of God but know we should. Believe it or not, it works. Depending on how often you pray that simple prayer, you can see a change in your heart’s desire within hours, days or weeks. Changes in your life follow the changes God is performing in your heart. This is the first step in embracing and walking in true salvation, a salvation that saves you from living your natural life.
We need to get serious about embracing and walking in our salvation, because a life that doesn’t save us from our old way of life is no salvation at all. Once we have begun to follow Christ, we need to pursue His Life with our whole hearts.
Luke 9:62 But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.” NASB
Jesus didn’t just say things to hear Himself talk. Every word that came from the lips of the Savior needs to be listened to carefully and taken seriously. If Jesus says, “Once you’ve dedicated your life to Me, you need to plow ahead and not look back. If you regret leaving your old life behind, you are not one who will inherit the kingdom of God.” You had better believe He is tellin’ it to us straight! We all struggle against the willful flesh, but to enter into the fullness of our salvation, we have to put it to death. The Apostle Paul agonized over his same weaknesses.
Romans 7:24-25 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. NASB
It is God’s grace, so lavishly poured out in compensation for our weakness, that allows us to press forward in our goal of submission and meaningful relationship with our Father through Jesus’ righteousness. It comes with a cost. We must desire to draw close to God. But God can even help us with that. Then, it’s up to us to move forward. While Paul shared our hearts’ cry of despair over our failures, he also proclaims Christ’s victory in overcoming.
Philippians 3:7-21 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, (mature) have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you; however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained. Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. NASB
Paul exhorts us to follow his example. Not the example of a man who has it all together and wrote some of the deepest, most significant, godly principals in Scripture; but the example of a man who struggles against personal failure, yet keeps his eyes on the Author and Finisher of his faith. In his personal weakness, Paul shows us we can be strong, not only strong, but victorious, IN CHRIST. He leads the way by his example, exhorting us to take up our cross and follow after Jesus, even as he follows after the risen Lord.
Our Father has provided the example of Paul for our benefit. Our Father has provided the Holy Scriptures for our benefit. Through Jesus’ example and sacrifice, the God of Heaven and Earth has provided the Holy Spirit as our Comforter and Guide. But, our Heavenly Father has done even more. Our Father knows we are sometimes week in faith and need something tangible we can see and hold on to. So, when the victorious Lord Jesus was about to ascend into Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, Jesus gave gifts to men.
We see this in Ephesians 4:8-16. Jesus gave specific gifts to specific individuals for specific reasons. We call these gifted individuals “The Ministry Gifts”, because these gifted individuals were set apart to minister to the Body of Christ. The ministry gifts were not given to the Body of Christ to rule and control the Body, Jesus reserves the role of “Head to the Body of Christ” for Himself, (since He is the only one qualified for the job). Jesus didn’t choose the ministry gifts to “lead or guide” the Body of Christ, (that job is reserved for the Holy Spirit). Jesus gifted these individuals to be slaves to the Body of Christ and servants of God. To pour their lives out sacrificially in service to the Body of Christ to build it up in all ways, until the Body of Christ becomes mature and functions in the ministry of reconciliation. Jesus gave these gifts to the Body of Christ to be living examples of how to serve God, sacrifice one’s self, and show us the way to grow in grace and wisdom into maturity.
Ephesians 4:8-16 Therefore it says, When He ascended on high, “He led captive a host of captives, and He gave gifts to men.” (Now this expression, “He ascended,” what does it mean except that He also had descended into the lower parts of the earth? He who descended is Himself also He who ascended far above all the heavens, so that He might fill all things.)
And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.
As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. NASB
The ministry gifts are the servants of God and slaves to the Body of Christ, pouring out their lives for the benefit of God’s chosen people. The purpose of their being chosen and gifted by Jesus was not to exalt them, but to use them to exalt the Body of Christ to their proper role in this earth. And what is our proper role in this life?