Even seemingly trivial incidents recorded in scripture often contain great lessons for those who are willing to learn from them. The apostle Paul was absolutely right when he said, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable . . .” (II Timothy 3:16-17). Consider the following incident recorded in all four of the gospel records.
“And, suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear” (Matthew 26:51, NKJV). From this text, we do not know who cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, we do not know the servant’s name, nor do we know which ear was cut off.
“And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear” (Mark 14:47). Mark adds no additional information to what Matthew has already told us.
“And one of them struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his right ear” (Luke 22:50). Aha! Luke provides a piece of information not provided by Matthew and Mark. Luke tells us that it was the right ear of the high priest’s servant that was severed.
“Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus” (John 18:10). Voila! Now we know not only which ear was cut off, but we also know who cut off the ear (Peter), and we know the name of the high priest’s servant (Malchus)!
If we read only Matthew and Mark, we would be lacking in all the details. If we read only Luke we would have some additional information, but not all. But when we read John we get the full picture! What’s the point? Simply that we must take all that the Bible says on a particular subject in order to know the full truth about that subject!
Take the matter of salvation from sin. Some people read Acts 16:31: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household,” then conclude that all one has to do to be saved is to believe on Christ. But they need to read the rest of the story and see what else occurred in the salvation of this man and his family (Acts 16:32-34). Observe that Acts 16:31 says nothing about the matter of repentance, yet most people know, based on other passages, that one must repent of his or her sins in order to be saved. But they do not learn the necessity of repentance from Acts 16:31. They learn it from other texts of inspired Scripture.
Or, consider Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” Some will say, “Don’t you see? We are saved entirely by grace. There is nothing we can do to save ourselves!” But what else does the Bible say about this matter? (Remember the incident of Malchus’ ear!) Ephesians 2:8-9 says we are saved by grace, through faith! It is neither grace only nor faith only!
Hebrews 2:9 tells us that Christ, by the grace of God, died for all mankind, yet Christ Himself said that not everyone will be saved (Matthew 7:13-14, 21). Why? Because there are other factors that enter into one’s salvation. The book of Hebrews emphatically declares that Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrew 5:8-9)! In the light of this passage (and many others), how can anyone possibly believe that one is saved solely by the grace of God without obedience to Christ?
James makes it clear that one is not saved by faith only. “You see then that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). We are not saved by works of our devising (the kinds of works Paul had in mind in Ephesians 2:9), but we must comply with the conditions (do the works) which God Himself has set forth in order for one to be saved. Even faith (belief) itself is said to be a work. “This is the work of God, that you believe (have faith, hf) in Him whom He sent” (John 6:29). Jesus said, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved . . .” (Mark 16:16). The inspired apostle Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . .” (Acts 2:38). Neither repentance nor baptism are works of human righteousness, but they, like belief, are conditions of salvation which God Himself has set and with which one must comply in order to be saved from sin and come into a right relationship with Him.
Do not make the mistake of reading one or two texts on the subject of salvation and then erroneously concluding that they set forth everything that is involved in being saved. To be saved by God’s grace, one must hear the gospel of Christ (Romans 10:17), believe on Christ (John 8:24), repent of sin (Acts 17:30) confess faith in Christ (Luke 12:8-9), and be baptized (I Peter 3:21). None of these is the work of man’s righteousness, but the works that God has commanded of those who would be saved.
Remember Malchus’ ear!
April 12, 2016
April 13, 20, 27: Green Hill Church of Christ, Mount Juliet, TN