Seeking and saving the lost (3)

GERALD COWAN’S PERSONAL PERIODICALS
Number 636 • April 30, 2021

SEEKING AND SAVING THE LOST – Part Three

Are you one of the lost persons Christ is seeking to find and save? Or are you one of the redeemed and restored persons who have been found and saved by Christ? If you believe you are in the saved and secure group what evidence can you offer to support your claim?

Being a believer in God is not enough, though multitudes are trusting that it is enough and that God requires nothing more. They have accepted the false doctrine taught by many or most of the non-Catholic (Protestant) churches that Jesus paid it all for all who believe in him and his redemptive work – that there is, therefore, nothing more to be done, no ‘works’ of any kind for us to do. His once-forever sacrifice, his death on the cross, paid for all human sin from that point onward and the price, once paid, could not be imposed again upon anyone, even upon guilty sinners, as long as they placed their faith and trust in Him and accepted His payment for them. Of course they must also believe in what followed his death: his resurrection and his ascension to heaven where He now rules at the right hand of God, where he has prepared a place for all believers whom He will someday come for in order to take them to their eternal reward. All of that is so refreshing and reassuring, and so easy: by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone eternal salvation comes – just believe and it’s all done and can’t be undone or taken away from you. What reasonable person would refuse such a gift from God?

But – but – but … does scripture actually teach such a doctrine? Does God really say that salvation is free and without cost or obligation to anyone who will accept it? Is there nothing at all a person has to do to receive it? God has never said such a thing. But some have tried to put such words into God’s mouth, have made such promises in the name of God, but it is not the truth. Be careful that you do not believe the lies that have been told in the name of God and perpetuated by ignorant believers and by naive and trusting persons who repeat and perpetuate the lies. Is salvation really “not of any human works,” nothing one must do in order to receive it?

A work is anything one can or must do – or, in the passive sense, have done to or for him. There are some works one can and must do, works which cannot be done to or for the person by others – not even by God or His Christ. Even the act of believing is a work, something one must do for himself. No other person can believe for you, or for any person other than himself. When one asks, “What must I do to be saved?” the answer will be, “You must believe” (Acts 16:30-31). In his commission to his disciples Jesus charged them, “Preach the gospel. One who believes it and is baptized will be saved. One who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Notice the two things Jesus specifies here: belief and baptism. One must believe for himself and must accept baptism being done to him. Without either one the person is not saved but remains lost. The warning Peter gives in 1 Peter 4:17-18 must be addressed. Christians are not exempt from judgment; judgment begins with the house of God. If the righteous (those who believe and do the right things) are scarcely saved (such righteousness is the bare minimum) what shall be the end of those who do not obey the gospel? The answer is not given by Peter in that context; he expects it to be inferred from what he has said before and what he will say after. But Paul gives a straightforward answer. Christ, at His return, will utterly destroy the unbelievers and those who have failed to obey the gospel (2 Thessalonians 1:8). Both Peter and Paul imply that obedience to the gospel is required. Believing is not the only requirement – believing is not enough. Devils believe in God and tremble in fear for their own destined end (James 2:19). What else must one do to obey the gospel? Personal repentance is also a must. One who does not repent of his or her own sins and errors – which means not only to be sorry but to stop doing the wrong thing and start doing the right thing, to correct and repair the wrong things done as much as is possible and to request it does not have God’s forgiveness. Forgiveness is not automatic or universal, it must be requested and any necessary condition for receiving it must be complied with. One who does not repent will perish unforgiven (Luke 13:3, 5 and Acts 2:38). We have already noticed here (from Mark 16:15-16) that one must be baptized. Baptism is also mentioned as a requirement in Acts 2:38. When he asked what to do in order to be saved, Saul of Tarsus was told not to tarry but to be baptized, calling upon the Lord in obedience (belief and repentance implied) in order to have his sins washed away (Acts 22:10-16). It may surprise you to know that after the day of Pentecost in Acts chapter 2 no accountable person is said to be saved without baptism. That is God’s word. Those who tell you that if you believe you will be saved, nothing else required, are lying to you. Lies told or believed or acted upon will not save anyone.

Being a member of the church is no guarantee of eternal salvation. Churches may accept one on the basis of their own laws and requirements, but that is no guarantee that the Lord accepts what the church allows. The church, if it is true to God’s word, is bound by His laws, requirements, and restrictions. It is also required that one be faithful as a Christian in the church. The law of God for His church is clearly set forth in scripture – that is not within the purview of the present lesson. But, as a salient warning to those who trust church membership to save them we suggest one read carefully Matthew 13:24-30, 36-44 and note that at the end of the world at the return of Christ all the counterfeits, pretenders, and unfaithful members of the church will be removed from it and destroyed. Don’t trust the church or your belief in the Lord to get you safely to heaven.

Jesus seeks faithful, penitent, obedient believers to receive His salvation. Those who do not intend to accept and follow Him should not expect to be saved by Him. They remain lost.

To repeat something said earlier, in Part 2 of this essay: Let us quit pretending the world is better than it is, or that we are better than we are. As workers together with God (2 Corinthians 6:1-2) let us make ourselves and our world what He still wants it to be.

GOD MAKE US THE MEN YOU WANT US TO BE

Where can we find strong men to stand
With us and You against all odds?
The time we live in now demands
Strong minds, great hearts, true faith and ready hands
That will not yield to others what is God’s.

Give us men of honor and good will
Whom spoils of office cannot buy,
Men with great insight, strength and skill
Whom lust and stress of office cannot kill,
Men of integrity who will not lie.

In public or in private thought
Help keep our heads above the fog
And empathize with all who’ve sought
To free us from some tyrant, and have fought
A selfish and self-serving demagogue.

While we are mumbling thumb-worn creeds
Strife rules the day and freedom weeps.
The darkness cannot hide their deeds;
Wrong rules the land. In vain the righteous pleads.
Let us not fear while waiting Justice sleeps.

God, let us be men, big in heart.
Armed with the Holy Spirit’s sword
Let us be prompt to do our part
And stay with Him with whom we’ve made a start,
Not giving up to serve some other lord.

When Christ returns we then will know
The fulness of His wondrous love
Who, by his words and deeds, did show
That He from whom eternal blessings flow
Finds in us the men He wants us to be.

– Gerald Cowan

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