Sunday, September 6, 2009

The Simple and Serious Gospel of Salvation part 1

The Simple and Serious Gospel of Salvation - Part 1
(this article was originally posted by yours truly in The TRUTH Under FIRE in 4 parts; its re-posted here in two parts)

The Gospel in the modern, materialistic world has been at best misunderstood, and at worst, perverted into a “happy” gospel that seems to have more to do with successful living than with the salvation of a life.

During the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s we’ve watched televangelists declare that if “you have enough faith, you can acquire health and wealth, fat bank accounts, a big house, an expensive car and be blessed with all the amenities of a real “King’s kid.”

The poor, the sick, and the needy, these were the weak in faith that were despised by the so-called spiritually mature which looked down on them with disdainful disapproval.

In our current environment, Christianity has sunk even deeper into an apostate, carnal belief system as an increasing number of pastors, leaders, bible teachers, and lay people endorse an “emergent” philosophy that denies the Gospel by declaring it unnecessary (Note to reader: review the excellent article on TNT by A.M. Kisly regarding the Emergent Church Movement- “Invasion of the ‘Body’ Snatchers” and my own article on FROM the MIND of FIRE, “Triumphant But Tragic Trojan”)!

Yet because of all these deviations we’ve never had a time in which the pure, unadulterated Gospel was needed more than in this world succumbing to increasing darkness.

While strenuous endeavors to ‘un-gospelize’ the church by emergent influences continue (and thereby accommodating it to a universal religion comprised of an amalgam of the major belief systems represented in Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, etc.), those of us who are called by the Name of Jesus Christ our LORD must stand firmly in our convictions based solely on the very Word of God, the exclusive source of spiritual Truth, to combat these falsehoods.

No one needs to define the Gospel, nor is the Gospel open to interpretation by theologians, pastors and Bible teachers (particularly of the liberal sort). Further, there is only one Gospel of Salvation, and the apostle Paul expressly stated that Christians are to accept NO SUBSTITUTES (See 2 Corinthians 11:4)! The Bible itself states quite plainly and succinctly what the Gospel is, in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4:

1 Corinthians 15:1-4

"Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures."

Dr. Schofield comments in his study Bible on 1 Corinthians 15:1-8:

“In vs. 1-8 the apostle outlines the Gospel of God’s grace. (1) It concerns a Person – the Christ of the Scriptures and history. (2) It concerns His death – “for our sins according to the Scriptures.” His burial is asserted as the evidence of His death; and that He was seen alive is declared as the proof of His resurrection. This is the Gospel that Paul preached; that the early Church accepted; and by which men are saved (vs. 1-2)”

The very word “Gospel” means “glad tidings” or good news, and it’s intertwined irrevocably with the term “saved”.

In today’s preaching, even among evangelical churches, the issue and reality of hell is seldom mentioned; when an offer of receiving Christ Jesus and His salvation is made, it's associated with a better life, an improved marriage, the means to solve problems, lift burdens, break bondage, brighten gloomy, down-trodden souls and other benefits.

Certainly such things as listed above may result as a by-product of salvation, yet the primary purposes of the Gospel are the forgiveness of sin, without which the unrepentant sinner will perish and spend eternity in hell (in regards to that horrible, deplorable situation, I’ve often said, “There are no exit signs in hell”); as well as this, the redemption of a lost soul via the spiritual birth in Christ Jesus and the new life that this brings to the believer.

We must wonder, where are the on-fire preachers of days gone by, full of zealous love for God, and for sinners? Where are the holy heralders of the Truth, who refuse to compromise or soft-pedal God’s Word? Where are the thundering pulpits that boldly declare the desperately wicked condition of fallen, sinful man and proclaim warnings of an interminable torment in the flames of hell-fire?

How can a people acknowledge their need of salvation, if they don’t know what they’re being saved from?

Since the fall of Adam, our human father and the progenitor of our race, sin has been passed on to all of us and no amount of religious devotion, no substantial weight of prayer (ritualistic or otherwise); no sacrifice or religious duties fulfilled can ever erase the deadly reality of sin in our lives. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ and “believing faith” in such can redeem us from sin, and from its inevitable penalty, hell.

I’ve been given this opportunity and privilege to share the Gospel, and I pray that the LORD is honored by it, and that all who read this are blessed, particularly those who do not yet know Jesus as their LORD and Savior.

We shall examine the doctrine of salvation by biblical ‘exposition’ (that is, what does the Bible mean?) to determine what the Gospel actually is. We will ask, and prayerfully answer, why salvation is necessary, as well as why Christ alone sacrificed on our behalf is sufficient as payment for the sins of the world, including yours and mine.

Further, we shall delve even deeper into this study and examine the component ‘parts’ of salvation and see how they relate to the newly born and saved in Christ, and the maturing saint, as well as the saint who has passed from this life into the next.

You may prefer to read the scriptural references in your own version. I will be posting verses here in the King James Version, but please feel free to grab your own Bible and look them up in your own version.

We will now uncover together "A divine Diagnosis".

A Divine Diagnosis

Just as with any visit to the doctor’s office, before the necessity of treatment can be ascertained, there must be a proper diagnosis to determine what is wrong. Likewise before one perceives the need for salvation, there must first be evidenced the deficiency of righteousness and holiness, both of which God requires of all of us:

Matthew 5:48 "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

1 Peter 1:16 "Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy."

The Ten Commandments (found in Exodus, chapter 20), as well as the Law in general, found throughout the Old Testament, is God’s righteous standard, a yard stick so to speak, to see how we all measure up. Even a superficial overview of the Ten Commandments will snag every one of us, yours truly included, in at least one point.Failure to obey God’s command is generally known as ‘sin’.

One may endeavor in all sincerity to obey God’s law, but never quite obtain a perfect performance. We “fall short of the mark” much like a contestant at a carnival, who, with hammer in hand, tries to strike the bell high above, but as he strikes, the iron ball rises, only to fall back down, without sounding the bell. He has fallen short of the mark, he has failed.

A different kind of offense is one in which a person knowingly disregards the Law of God, and in a spirit of rebellion, disobeys His Holy command. This is known as ‘transgression’. For such an example in our every day world: 55 m.p.h. Enough said!

Whether intentionally or unintentionally, any sin committed by a living soul will reap the judgment of God and due punishment:

Ezekiel 18:4 "Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die."

The justice of God is inescapable and we will all one day come Face to face with our Maker! We are all diagnosed with sin. If we look into the Law of God - - this Law (i.e., as in the Word of God) is very much like a mirror:

“But be ye doers of the Word and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the Word, and not a doer, he is like a man beholding his natural face in a glass [mirror]; for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and immediately forgetteth what manner of man he was.” James 1:22-24

It reveals our sinful condition and our need for a remedy. Even the most religious and ceremonious leaders in Jesus’ day, the Pharisees, were convicted of their own imperfections and sins:

John 8:3-5 "And the scribes and Pharisees brought unto him a woman taken in adultery; and when they had set her in the midst, They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?"

John 8:7, 9 "So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her. And they which heard it, being convicted by their own conscience, went out one by one, beginning at the eldest, even unto the last: and Jesus was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst."

Jesus shocked His hearers when He declared this, in regards to the ‘professional law-keepers’ and ‘religious leaders’:

Matthew 5:20 "For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven."

The Pharisees deluded themselves into thinking they were pleasing God, that they were in obedience to the LORD; they in fact believed they could be saved by the Law; yet the LORD Jesus rebuked them for their outward religious show, and formalism (a superficial observance and adherence to a religious belief system w/o having any inward effect on spiritual purity and moral integrity, known also as “legalism”) as in Matthew 23: 25-33.

The LORD raised the standard regarding the intent of the Law, in his preaching of the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28, 43-44), thus rightly using the Law for its Divinely appointed purpose – to reveal what’s in our hearts:

Matthew 15:18, 19

"But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies:"

It is our hearts, much more than our actions that God will judge! This leads to a verse found in the book of James that many have misunderstood and think that this passage is terribly unfair:

James 2:10 "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all."

Why would God find someone guilty of breaking all the Law, if in fact they kept it all, but failed in one point? When one commits a sin, this reveals a spiritual truth – that this person is a sinner. Without the sin nature one would not be compelled to commit sins, yet this nature so drives the human race!

You can’t expect a dog not to bark, or a fish not to swim, or a bird not to fly, or for a sinner to not sin. Each will act according to their nature; to do otherwise would be unnatural.Thus, having a sinful nature, all one requires is time and availability to have such lusts manifested in one’s heart which God will judge; it’s the nature of a sinful heart, more than sinful actions committed that is being addressed here by James. Right now, you could be thinking, “If that’s the case, then God is asking for the impossible! I can’t be expected to live such a holy, sinless life!”

Exactly right! Romans 3:20 makes it quite clear:

"Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

What hope then do any of us have to obtain God’s favor and acceptance, and to earn the right of passage into heaven? Excellent questions we will address in the second article entitled "The Salvation Solution" where we will find hope, forgiveness, mercy and grace.

No comments: