HUGH’S NEWS & VIEWS
RELATIONSHIP WITH CHRIST
It is sometimes affirmed that salvation is not rules or regulations or religion but a relationship with Christ. But what does it mean to have a “relationship with Christ”? The expression can range all the way from a very nebulous, “better-felt-than-told” sort of thing to a healthy, biblical view of the matter. What does the Bible say about a relationship with Christ and how such a relationship is established and maintained?
In what is sometimes called His high priestly prayer, Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). Years after he had become a Christian, Paul expressed a fervent desire to “know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:10-11). Near the end of his life Paul confidently affirmed, “For this reason I also suffer these things; nevertheless I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep what I have committed to Him until that Day” (II Timothy 1:12). How did Paul initially come to “know” the Lord? How did he establish a relationship with Christ?
Paul’s conversion from Judaism to Christ is recorded in Acts 9, 22, and 26. A study of these chapters will show that Paul came to faith in Christ as the Son of God and that he was baptized in water to have his sins washed away by the blood of Christ. (Read carefully Acts 9:1-22; 22:1-21; 26:1-32).
A study of all of the accounts of conversion found in the Book of Acts will show that a particular pattern or course of action was followed. While every action taken is not specifically named in every case, in all the cases each of the “steps” not mentioned is nevertheless implied. For example, in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), nothing is said of his repentance, but does anyone believe for a moment that he entered a relationship with Christ without repenting of his sins since Christ Himself had declared, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3)?
When all of the actions mentioned in the conversion cases in the Book of Acts are added up, one comes to see that in order to establish a relationship with Christ one must hear the gospel of Christ, believe the gospel of Christ, repent of sins, confess Christ to be the Son of God, and be baptized (immersed in water) for the remission of sins.
- The people on Pentecost were told to “repent and be baptized for the remission of sins” (2:38).
- The Samaritans “believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ,” and as a result “both men and women were baptized” (8:12).
- Following his baptism, the eunuch went on his way rejoicing (8:36-39).
- Saul (who became Paul) arose from a period of prayer and fasting (evidencing his sincere repentance) “and was baptized” (9:18) to wash away his sins (22:16).
- Cornelius and his household were commanded “to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (10:48).
- Lydia and her household were baptized (16:15).
- The Philippian jailer and all his family were baptized “the same hour of the night” (16:33-34).
- “Many of the Corinthians, hearing, believed and were baptized” (18:8).
- Twelve men in Ephesus who had been baptized with the outdated baptism of John the Baptist had to make a second trip to the water and get their baptism right by being “baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus” (19:5).
All of these steps are necessary today in order to establish a relationship with Christ. “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Clearly, It is at the point of baptism that one actually enters into Christ.
When a person has been gravely ill, suffered serious debilitating bodily injury, or undergone major surgery for it to later be reported of him, “He was able to take a few steps today” is seen as an encouraging sign. Jesus invites all to come to Him (Matthew 11:28-30). But in order to “come” to Christ one must take some steps! To maintain a relationship with Christ, one must “walk in the light” (I John 1:7), and walking involves taking steps! Let no one be guilty of denigrating the “steps” in God’s plan of human redemption!
Yes, we are saved by having a right relationship with Christ—being in Christ and remaining in Christ. Our eternal salvation is dependent upon our maintaining a right relationship with the Lord and dying in the Lord (Revelation 14:13). Let us make sure that we establish such a relationship in the way the New Testament instructs. Let us make sure that we keep that relationship healthy and intact.
August 21: Fairlane Church of Christ, Shelbyville, TN
August 20, 2013