HUGH’S NEWS & VIEWS
The following story is well known to many people, including many of the readers of “News & Views.” I tell it here because it is a fitting introduction to today’s column.
Little Johnny was only seven years old when his mother died. She was a pious woman and did everything she could to teach Johnny about God and spiritual matters.
But Johnny’s daddy was a sea captain, and the lure of the sea pulled Johnny in that direction. At the age of eleven, Johnny Newton went to sea and spent the next twenty years as a sailor engaged in African slave trading. His life was spent in the basest sort of wickedness.
However, during a violent storm at sea John Newton almost lost his life. His wicked deeds passed before him in vivid review and caused him to cry out to the God he had known as a child. His life was spared.
His next several years were spent in preparation for the ministry. He studied Latin, Hebrew, and Greek. He diligently studied the Scriptures. He became a preacher and author of great note. But the world knows him best for a hymn which he wrote which was autobiographical.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound;
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now am found;
Was blind, but now I see.
Beyond all doubt, mankind’s only hope of redemption from sin and everlasting life in heaven is the amazing grace of God. In a recent sermon I emphasized that God’s grace seeks the sinner, saves the sinner, and sustains the saved. Yet God’s grace must be appropriated by all who would be blessed by its benefits. Paul the apostle wrote, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). One is neither saved by grace only nor by faith only, but rather by grace through faith!
A Bible professor who was purported to have a great appreciation for and a superior understanding of the grace of God was asked what day he was saved. With a smile on his face, he replied, “It happened about 2,000 years ago on a hill called Calvary.”
Yes, that is obviously true. But from that perspective, everyone will be saved and nobody will be lost because “Jesus . . . by the grace of God” tasted “death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9). Yet the reality is that not everyone will be saved “for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in through it” (Matthew 7:14).
At His second coming, Christ will take “vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 2:8). Christ is “the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 2:9). So, while it is gloriously true that everyone was potentially saved “about 2,000 years ago on a hill called Calvary,” it is equally true that only those who through faith appropriate the grace of God by obedience to the gospel are actually saved.
Sometimes in an effort to appear super spiritual or super wise, some religious professors and preachers make statements that are not founded on what the Scriptures fully teach about a matter. In such cases they need to heed the admonition, “Do not be wise in your own opinion” (Romans 12:16c).
Forty days after His death on Calvary, Jesus appeared to His apostles and said “that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning in Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Ten days later still, on the Day of Pentecost, and fifty days after Calvary, “repentance and remission of sins” began to be preached (Acts 2). On that occasion, the murderers of Christ were convicted of their sin and said to Peter and to the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Neither Peter nor any of the other apostles responded by saying, “There is nothing for you to do; you were saved fifty days ago on a hill called Calvary.”
Instead, Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). “Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and the same day about three thousand souls were added to them” (Acts 2:41). It was at this point that they were saved and that Christ’s prayer on the cross, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34), was answered when the people for whom it was prayed complied with the conditions for appropriating the grace of God to their lives!
Were the “about three thousand souls” saved by grace? Most assuredly! Were they saved “on a hill called Calvary”? Yes, potentially . . . and so was everyone else in the whole world! But in reality the “about three thousand” were saved on the day they came to faith in Christ as the Messiah, turned from their sins in repentance, and were baptized for the remission of their sins. And the day I did those very same things is the day I was saved by the grace of God through faith! The day you did those things (or will do those things) is the day you, too, were (or will be) saved by the grace of God through faith! Let no one deceive you into thinking otherwise.
March 7-9: RomeChurch of Christ, Carthage, TN
February 25, 2014