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Bible verses about Salvation
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Justification: A legal act on God's part to impute the righteousness of Jesus Christ to us once we have accepted His sacrifice on our behalf. One could say that justification puts us into "alignment" with God and His law.

Salvation: The conclusion of the process by which God conforms us to His image and brings us into His Family. Delivering us from the power and effects of sin by a resurrection, he gives us eternal life in His Kingdom.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Except as we see the fruits of God's Spirit in evidence, we cannot know where God is working today. As He worked in Elijah's day, He is working in ours, doing His main work in the lives of individual Christians. His purpose is to reproduce Himself, to bring sons and daughters into His Kingdom (Romans 8:14-17; II Corinthians 6:18). God taught Elijah that a spectacular public work—even with stupendous miracles, signs and wonders—is not more important than the salvation of His people.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Elijah's Dose of Reality


 

God's salvation is clearly revealed to be a process consisting of His calling, justification, sanctification, and glorification. In the Exodus account, justification is exemplified by Israel being called out of slavery, coming under the blood of the lamb on Passover, and passing through the Red Sea in a type of baptism. Like us under the New Covenant, the Israelites were then prepared to make the Old Covenant with God.

Glorification is pictured by their passing through the Jordan River and entering into possession of their inheritance. If we measure the time required for their justification and glorification, we can see they were very short periods. But sanctification, the in-between period during which the Israelites were preparing to possess their inheritance, took a long forty years.

John W. Ritenbaugh
After Pentecost, Then What?


 

We would normally read and expound these scriptures in the context of Passover. We normally think of Passover in terms of being reconciled to God. However, Passover and the Day of Atonement are inextricably bound in that both of them involve reconciliation.

Atonement, though, supplies answers and solutions to problems not resolved by Passover. The Passover is personal in nature, providing reconciliation of the individual to God and the beginning of unity with man in the church with Christ. It is through Passover that we learn the price of redemption and reconciliation—xno less than that of the Creator, Jesus Christ.

Atonement, however, is universal in nature and provides reconciliation of the world to God—all of mankind at one with God and each other through Christ. Passover shows Satan defeated, but still free to work out his nefarious schemes to produce confusion and division, as well as rebellion against God. Atonement, on the other hand, shows Satan defeated and punished by banishment—no longer free to do anything but to bewail his lot.

The emphasis in I Peter 1:17-21 is on the cost of reconciliation, which is vital to God's purpose because a major portion of our desire to obey God comes from our sense of obligation to God and Christ in appreciation for how much was paid for us to be free.

We will never feel this until we begin to understand that this was done for us as individuals. If only one person had ever sinned in all of God's creation, it still would have taken the life of the Creator to get him free from the wages of his sin.

He did it for us! It is easy for us to escape responsibility for His death when we conclude, "Well, He did it for all of mankind." Indeed, He did, but he did it for us as individuals too. This is the path that a person has to take in his thinking to recognize the cost that was made for us and to come to a sense of obligation. We ought to respond if only out of thanks for what He did. We owe our lives to Him.

People have been willing to give virtually everything to someone who saved their lives from drowning, snatched them out of the way of a speeding automobile, or saved them from some other kind of painful death. At Passover, we rehearse that, understanding that Jesus Christ saved us individually.


 

Genesis 15:17-21

For the events of Genesis 15:17-21, the sun has gone down, and it is dark. In the crucifixion sequence, by dark the Son was in His grave. This is now the 15th of Nisan, the day that became the first day of Unleavened Bread, the part known as the Night To Be Much Observed, "the selfsame day" of Exodus 12:41. Numbers 33:3 confirms Israel left Egypt on the 15th of Nisan, but Exodus 12:42 specifically states Israel began its departure at night, and God names that night the "Night To Be Much Observed." Its significance is that, because the firstborn of the Egyptians have been slain, the descendents of Abraham are released from their bondage and free to leave Egypt. The firstborn of Egypt thus become a type of the True Firstborn, Jesus Christ, the sacrifice for our sins that enslave us to spiritual Egypt.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Countdown to Pentecost 2001


 

Genesis 15:17

Now it was dark. In the antitype, the Firstborn, Christ, is in His grave. Therefore, time-wise we are now into Abib 15. We have come all the way from ben ha arbayim, at the beginning of Abib 14, and the events progressing one after the other through Genesis 15. At verse 17, Abib 15—the First Day of Unleavened Bread—begins.

What occurs in Genesis 15:17 is the actual beginning of the Night To Be Much Observed. Exodus 12:41-42 merely records a fulfillment of this first Night To Be Much Observed. Genesis 15:17 is the point from which the 430 years began, and they ended in Exodus 12:41—down to the very day. It was the beginning of Abib 15.

This is a night of great significance in the salvation story of God's people. Because the firstborn of the Egyptians had been slaughtered, and the descendants of Abraham had been released from their slavery to leave Egypt, the firstborn of Egypt thus become types of the Firstborn, Jesus Christ—the Sacrifice for our sins that enslave us to spiritual Egypt.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Wavesheaf and the Selfsame Day


 

Genesis 49:10

The patriarch Jacob had twelve sons, and God had to choose from which tribe His Son would descend. He proclaims His choice through Jacob's prophecy in Genesis 49:10: "The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people." Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew, as many scriptures record (Matthew 1:2; Luke 3:33; Hebrews 7:14, etc.).

This fact also has spiritual implications for us. Jesus says to the woman at the well, "For salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22). Paul explains what this means:

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God. (Romans 2:28-29)

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Born of a Woman


 

Exodus 3:7-10

God is already calling them, "My people." What had they done? Had they pledged themselves to God? Had they repented? They had not done a thing yet, and God is already calling them His own.

Does He have a similar feeling of possessiveness toward those that He is going to deal with in terms of salvation? Definitely! "They are Mine!" What will He do for His own? Who will hold back the hand of God? Nobody, and that is the story. Israel got out of Egypt because God set His mind to do it. He said, "I have chosen them, and they are Mine" and they had not done a thing yet. In fact, it would be weeks before they even knew that Moses existed anymore than just what they had heard about what occurred forty years before.

There is no indication that Moses had any contact with anybody in Egypt during those forty years. He was not sending letters every couple of weeks saying, "Get ready—I am just about to return now." No, he was in the wilderness learning what it is like to be a shepherd, tending sheep, because he was going to pastor a whole nation of millions of people. He was getting his attitude straightened out. God had sent him to school to prepare. The wilderness was the school of hard knocks for someone like Moses who had been reared in a cushy palace. God probably had to knock a great deal of pride, vanity, and cockiness out of him before He could use him.

Thus, the salvation of Israel was already underway. Who does the Bible say is in charge? Who does the Bible show to be the one who has the answers to their problems? Who took the initiative? Who is doing the leading? Who is doing the providing? Even at this point, we can see that God is the One doing all these things.

By the time they begin to realize that God is involved, we find that all they needed to do is to agree with what He wanted them to do, and He would do the work to bring them out of Egypt.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost


 

Exodus 8:22

The difference between the Israelites and the Egyptians became very pronounced at this point, helping the children of Israel to understand that God indeed was working for them. God works even to make sure that His people have the faith they need! God supplies everything except one's decision—and even in the decision a person makes, He keeps poking us in the ribs, shoving us in the back, to move us in the right direction. He does not give up easily once He sets his mind to do something.

To this point, the Israelites had been required to make few decisions concerning their salvation, yet everything was proceeding along quite nicely. In actuality, they were doing little except observing what was happening, almost like the audience of a grand stage play. Despite their lives being dramatically affected, they had done little themselves to effect their freedom. God had done virtually everything, but as the tenth plague approached, the Israelites were finally having to decide whether or not they would be active participants in God's purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Unleavened Bread and Pentecost


 

Deuteronomy 29:4

God's freeing of the Israelites from their bondage and His use of them in the journey to the Promised Land and in the Promised Land were for an entirely different purpose than salvation at that time. Ultimately, the experiences these people had will stand them in good stead.

Of course, God certainly did not use them for the purpose of abuse. He was causing Moses, primarily, and others to reflect on those experiences in the wilderness so that they would write them down under God's inspiration, supplying us with an accurate record to consult and come to understand the purpose of God, be humbled by it, and have the right perspective on salvation.

For this reason, He never gave the Israelites the Spirit of God. No salvation was really offered to them—no forgiveness of sin, no invitation to join God's Family. They did not even have access to Him. They were, in a sense, actors on a stage; God was moving them about so that a record would be left for us: the Bible. When they are resurrected in the second resurrection (see Ezekiel 37:1-14), they can look back on the record, hit themselves in the forehead, and say, "Now I see!" The scales will be removed at that time.

Nevertheless, He never gave them His Spirit and never really revealed to them what He was doing with their lives. Thus, they reacted to their circumstances as human beings would normally react without the miracle of His Spirit being performed on them, opening up their minds and revealing what His purpose is all about.

In Hebrews 4:2, Paul reflects that God preached the gospel to these people, or at least a gospel that pertained to them. They heard a "good news," yet because it was not mixed with faith, it did them no good. All through the wilderness trek and on to their deaths, neither they nor their relationship with God improved in any way. If anything, as Hebrews 3:17 declares, they deteriorated as they went along.

John W. Ritenbaugh
We Are Unique!


 

Deuteronomy 29:29

Even mysteries of prophecy are revealed for the purpose of salvation so that we might be better motivated, and therefore He deemed it helpful for us to know, not for purposes of vanity, but that we might be more precisely motivated to keep His law, as this verse clearly instructs. In other words, the revelation of prophetic truth is given that we might pay better attention to conduct.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Beast? (Part 4)


 

Deuteronomy 30:15-20

God—by His calling, granting us repentance, giving us His Spirit, helping us understand the gospel of the Kingdom of God, and the revelation of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice—has brought us to a place that is spiritually identical to that of the Israelites after the Old Covenant was confirmed. Thus, this passage cries out to us with great forcefulness.

The world, and even some who claim membership in the church of God, tell us that salvation is secure once we have been justified by God's grace. They say that salvation from that point on is unconditional. If salvation is unconditional from justification on, why does God admonish us to choose between life and death? Why does He command us to choose to keep His law so that we may live and inherit the land? Why does God threaten us, His children, with the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15)? Are His threats hollow? Are they lies because there really is no Lake of Fire?

If salvation is unconditional after we receive God's Holy Spirit, then the death of an entire generation (except for Joshua and Caleb), lost because of faithlessness, is nothing but a misleading waste. God, then, expended over a million lives for no good reason. But I Corinthians 10:11 says, "Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come."

John W. Ritenbaugh
After Pentecost, Then What?


 

Psalm 68:19-20

Psalm 68:19-20 contains an important thought bearing on salvation. "Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, the God of our salvation! Selah. Our God is the God of salvation; and to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death." In a sense, this is a major issue for all to acknowledge; everything written in God's Word is intended ultimately to lead us to this point and this issue. Only God can save. He can save us now and others when their time comes to be called. Salvation, then, is not a matter of "Can He save?" but "When will He do it?" If He delays for some people, He has good reasons.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Eight


 

Psalm 74:12

The work of God is much more extensive than merely preaching the gospel to the public. We have gotten into the habit of using that term "work of God" far too narrowly.

This particular verse indicates

1) God is working. He is actively, continuously, and personally involved in our lives.

2) His work is more widespread than first appears to the casual observer.

He will do whatever it takes. He is not an assembly-line worker doing the same things over and over again. He accommodates for the way things are going within the purpose that He is accomplishing.

Salvation is a term that the Bible uses quite broadly. It literally means "deliverance," but it can be used to include anything that God does in His efforts to bring mankind into His Kingdom. The "feeding of the flock" is His work too. As Jesus stated in John 5:17, "My Father has been working until now, and I work."

"Feeding the flock" is a part of His work, just as getting Israel out of Egypt under Moses was a work. The major emphasis, though, was different. Getting Israel into the Promised Land under Joshua was also the "work of God." But, again, the emphasis of the work of God changed. Organizing Israel into a nation under David was part of His work, but again there was a shifting of gears in "the work of God."

Rebuilding the Temple under Ezra was a "work of God" done through men, but the emphasis changed again. The rebuilding of the wall under Nehemiah a little later was also the "work of God." The building of the ark through Noah was the "work of God" at that time. The examples are almost endless, and so the conclusion is that the specific application of the "work of God" can vary from era to era.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 4)


 

Jeremiah 25:3-4

This passage, along with verses 8-9, gives a simple, clear, and graphic example of why hearing God's Word, believing it, and understanding God's sovereignty is important to practical applications in our life. This is why Jesus admonishes us to listen. The Jews certainly heard Jeremiah's voice proclaim God's warning, but it did not motivate them to act. They did not fear God's sovereignty over their lives. The direct result was disruption in society, the pain of warfare, and the captivity that followed. As almost any parent would say to his child in a similar situation, God is saying, "I told you not to do that. If you had listened to me, this would not have happened."

Why did they not listen? The words spoken by God's prophets carried no authority in their minds because they had no faith in God's sovereignty. If asked, these people would have asserted they believed in God. In reality, they had no faith that God was even anywhere around, that He had the power to do what He said, or that He cared enough for them to do it. They lacked living faith.

Why is it so important to listen to God's message? Because God's summons comes to those who listen to and believe the message, and through them His work is done. Notice John 6:29: "Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.'" God is working salvation in all the earth (Psalm 74:12), and He is doing it in and through those who believe the Son. Only those who believe the Son will willingly submit to God's sovereignty because they look to Him as their Ruler.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Introduction


 

Zechariah 14:16-19

During the Millennium, people will be required to go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles to worship the King, Jesus Christ. The Feast will be their primary reminder of where they are in God's plan and when they must secure their salvation. If they fail to keep it, they will reveal their refusal to accept Christ as sovereign and to cooperate with Him in His purpose.

Staff
Holy Days: Feast of Tabernacles


 

Malachi 3:16-18

God listens to what we say. He wants to hear us speak to and help each other during these stressful times. He does not like to hear judgmental and condemning conversations among His people, but words of encouragement that spur others into standing fast in God. He likes to hear brethren urging each other to fix their attention on the true teachings of God and to have faith in what He is doing.

Soon, God will make us His jewels, a special treasure for Himself, and those who have conducted themselves wisely will be most prized by Him. We need to realize the dangerous times and attitudes into which we can be dragged. We must stay focused upon what God is working out in our lives and in the lives of others—wherever they may be fellowshipping. By doing so, we can fight against Satan's influences and overcome them in faith. God is preparing His own special, peculiar people (I Peter 2:9), and He will bring them all to a full and wonderful salvation!

John O. Reid (1930-2016)
The Whirlpool of War


 

Matthew 1:21

The Son of God became a human being to save people from their sins. Thus, salvation is the process whereby sinners are rescued from the consequences of sin.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Matthew 4:12-17

It was in the Gentile area of Galilee—not in Jewish Jerusalem to the south—where Christ began His ministry of light. In Romans 11:11, Paul asserts that "salvation has come to the Gentiles." Peter, in citing Joel in his first sermon, understands the Gentiles to be spiritually "in the region and shadow of death," in deep darkness, with clouds obscuring their vision of God's salvation. He relates Joel to Pentecost because, on that day, God spread apart those clouds to allow the light of His salvation to reach the Gentiles, dispelling their gloom. What happened in Acts 2 gave the Gentiles the hope that they could build a relationship with the God of salvation. The hope of the Gentiles becomes the theme of the book of Acts, as seen, for example,

» in the preaching by Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8);

» in the work by Peter with Cornelius and his family (Acts 10); and

» in Paul's ministry to the Gentiles in every city he visited. God called Paul "to bear My name before Gentiles" (Acts 9:15). Chapters 11 through 28 of Acts relates how Paul did that.

Charles Whitaker
Peter's Trumpets Message—on Pentecost


 

Matthew 5:6

At first, the question "What is righteousness?" may seem like a "no-brainer" because we know it means "rectitude," or more simply, "right doing." By quoting Psalm 119:172, "All Your commandments are righteousness," we feel equipped with a direct biblical definition of this important biblical concept. None of these is wrong, but the Bible's use of "righteousness" is both specific and broad—so broad that in some places it is treated as a synonym of salvation itself (Isaiah 45:8; 46:12-13; 51:5; 56:1; 61:10).

Though the Bible uses "righteousness" so broadly, its comparison with "salvation" does not help us much in understanding it because "salvation" is one of the Bible's most comprehensive terms. Since none of us has fully experienced salvation, we look through a glass darkly trying to comprehend it.

Righteousness is used in a similar sense in the very familiar passage given in Matthew 6:33, where Jesus commanded, "But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you." Here it has the sense of seeking all of God's spiritual blessings, favor, image, and rewards. We see in this verse not only a broad New Testament application of the term but also, more importantly, its priority to life. This dovetails perfectly with the hunger-and-thirst metaphor. It is not enough to ambitiously yearn to accomplish. According to Jesus, God's Kingdom and His righteousness are the very top priorities in all of life. Seeking God's righteousness is that important.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Beatitudes, Part Four: Hungering and Thirsting After Righteousness


 

Matthew 10:27-28

It is not unreasonable that we should fear God. Jesus Christ Himself says that we are to fear Him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. Why? He is the only One who can revoke the judgment of Gehenna fire. The wages of sin is death in Gehenna fire. If we want to escape this punishment, we can see that it is closely connected to whether or not we actually fear God.

Why? What does the fear of God have to do with escaping a judgment that would otherwise take us into the Lake of Fire?

This series of verses in Matthew 10 contains some encouragement, indicating that, if one really fears God, then there is no need to be fearful of others. Proverbs 29:25 plainly tells us, "The fear of man is a snare." This is an attitude in which we do not want to be entrapped. It is obvious, in the context of Matthew 10:27, that He is talking about fear in the sense of "dread." We are not to fear men because the worst that they can do does not even begin to match the worst that God can do! The basis for this is what God is: omnipotent and omniscient, and in Him are the issues of life and death!

The Christian life is our calling; this is our only chance for salvation. We have been personally chosen by God. The elect are an insignificant number, and we are even more insignificant personally. Yet, He has given us this calling. The world population is somewhere in the vicinity of six billion people, and out of this huge number are a miniscule few who are truly converted and have been given the Spirit of God. This is not something that we want to pass up! The fear of God is crucial to our salvation!

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fear of God


 

Mark 1:15

Is there any doubt in our minds that we are within striking range of the return of Jesus Christ? The gospel of Jesus Christ has been preached for almost two thousand years, and prophecies made by Him and others regarding His return are being fulfilled. The crisis at the close is almost upon us. Mankind's only hope is revealed in the gospel, yet we find great ignorance regarding what His good news is.

The complete secularization of the Western, "Christian" world is almost accomplished, and doctrinal confusion abounds. It seems as though the vast number of professing Christians believe that all one must do is believe in the name of Jesus Christ to be saved. This is most certainly required, but Jesus Himself says in Mark 1:15 that one must believe in the gospel in order to be saved.

That is quite a bit different than merely believing in Jesus. While it is definitely true that Jesus died for our sins, the true gospel provides a great deal more instruction regarding Christianity and its purpose than solely Jesus' part in our salvation. It reveals that a Christian must play an active part in the spiritual creation that God is working in and through men.

One of the more effective deceptions Satan has palmed off on mankind is that all God is attempting to do is to "save" people. Most Christians somehow fail to think of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, as actively involved in doing something more with those who are converted.

Consider this process, which most people believe: At some time in his life, the "saved" one had perceived the need to be forgiven of his sins. He then asked God to forgive him, and from that point on, because of Christ's blood, he was "saved." Is this true? Though this illustration has been simplified a great deal, it is nevertheless close to the prevalent belief.

We will add a biblical fact to that scenario. Almost all Bible commentators hold that the Israelite's experience of walking through the wilderness following Israel's release from bondage to Egypt is a type of a Christian's walk following his conversion. Walking is typical of laboring or working to reach an objective.

Did the Israelites arrive in the Promised Land - a type of the Kingdom of God - immediately upon release from their bondage? No! They had ahead of them a forty-year journey filled with trials. As they journeyed, God worked with them and supplied their needs, preparing them for their inheritance. Release from Egypt only began another aspect of God's work with them. To reach their objective, a great deal of labor lay ahead of them.

We all need to come to grips with the reality that our Creator is a God who works. He is not merely observing mankind, or worse still, having gone way off somewhere in the vastness of the universe, letting things run more or less on their own. Jesus says in John 5:17, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." More plainly, the Father began working in the indefinite past and has continued working right up till now. God is not sitting around passively saving people.

In Psalm 74:12, notice the psalmist Asaph's revelation of what God is doing: "For God is my King from of old, working salvation in the midst of the earth." The salvation of human beings requires God to work, yet some seem to think that all He does is as simple as turning a "forgiveness switch," and the person is saved. However, in various places both the Father and the Son are called "Saviors." It ought to be apparent that saving a person from circumstances he needs deliverance from requires a savior to work. If a deliverer or savior does not make a strenuous effort, the one in need of rescue will not be saved.

Jesus testified that the Father was working at that very moment. The Bible provides abundant records of Jesus, our Savior, working on behalf of mankind: teaching, counseling, praying, healing, setting the example for His disciples, and obeying His Father flawlessly in order to be the sacrifice for the forgiveness of our sins. Further, He says in John 14:10, "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works." Jesus thus shows the Father to be His partner in His ministry.

In addition, when Jesus rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, He was made Head of the Church, as well as its High Priest. As such, He is responsible to the Father for working with the members of His Body, interceding on our behalf. He thus bears great responsibility for the salvation of its individual members and the success of the church as a whole. These vital tasks require His careful attention, especially as events near the crisis at the close of the age.

The conclusion is obvious: The work of God abounds with works for all concerned in seeking the objective He has set before us in His purpose. That objective is the Kingdom of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Five)


 

Mark 3:3-5

Mark 3:3-5 reinforces Jesus' attitude toward Sabbath activity. By Jesus' example, His reaction (anger, verse 5), and His words, God very clearly not only intends us to do good on the Sabbath, but also to fail to do good when the opportunity arises implies evil and killing!

Jesus does not appear to have gone out of His way to find people to heal on the Sabbath, but these were incidental occurrences as He went along His way. If a sick person came to His attention, He healed him. But someone unconcerned for the physical and spiritual salvation of others on the Sabbath is automatically involved to some degree in destructive efforts and attitudes, for failing to do good when we have opportunity is sin (Proverbs 3:27-28; James 4:17). God is preparing us to assist in the salvation of others, and it behooves us to begin thinking along these lines.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

Luke 1:76-77

John the Baptist's message laid the groundwork for the ministry of Jesus Christ who would reveal the knowledge of salvation and demonstrate that it comes about through the remission of sins.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Luke 1:76-79

Verses 76-79 comprise a prophecy devoted without qualification to John and his work.

From the very beginning, John and Jesus are allied in the salvation scheme. However, the Bible shows in interesting ways how John is subordinate to Jesus. For instance, in Luke 1:36, Mary and Elizabeth are shown to be related, probably cousins. Both women conceive in a miraculous way, but Mary's conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit is far more miraculous. Then, when Elizabeth greets Mary (Luke 1:39-41), John, while still in her womb, leaps for joy in the presence of our Lord in His mother's womb. Finally, Luke 1:76 shows John to be only a prophet, but verses 32-35 show Jesus to be the Son of God and Heir to the throne of David.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Elijah and John the Baptist


 

Luke 1:77-79

No salvation is possible without forgiveness. Our Father cannot forgive our sins on the grounds of justice, and therefore He does so through His tender mercy. He has made Himself our God by giving us grace—undeserved favor. He passes by the transgressions of His people because He delights in mercy. He is so full of pity that He delays to condemn us in our guilt, but looks with loving concern upon us to see how He can turn away His wrath and restore us to favor.

Micah 7:18 adds, "Who is a God like You, pardoning iniquity and passing over the transgression of the remnant of His heritage? He does not retain His anger forever, because He delights in mercy." God is love, and love is kind, but perhaps our approach to His forgiveness has been prosaically legal. The Scriptures reveal that God does kindness with intensity of will and readiness of mind. He forgives with all His heart because He delights in mercy! He says, "I have no pleasure in the death of him that dies." God's nature works to give mercy, not punish; to create beauty, not destroy; to save, not lose.

Can we not see a lesson in this? Are we anywhere near God's image in this? How many of us, fellowshipping among God's people, are hiding resentment and bearing the seeds of bitterness against a brother because of some offense—or carrying a grudge, or filled with envy, or communicating gossip? Are these things acts of kindness? Does a forgiving spirit that delights in mercy enter into acts that destroy a brother's reputation and widen existing divisions?

One other phrase in Luke 1:78 shows the kind and tender nature of our God: "He visited us." God did not merely pity us from a distance, nor did He allow His compassion for us to remain as an unresolved, inactive feeling. David writes in Psalm 8:4, "What is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?" But God did just that!

Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed he does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like his brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted. (Hebrews 2:14-18)

God has not merely pitied us from a distance, but He has entered into life, our life, on our level. The Creator stooped from His high and pure abode as glorious God, and veiled His divinity for an abode of animated clay. He assumed our nature, was tempted in all things like us, took our sicknesses, and bore our infirmities for the express purpose of being a merciful and faithful High Priest. He did not enter into our world and yet maintain a status superior to us. He truly walked in our shoes and still went about doing good.

Christ, Paul adds in Galatians 1:4, "gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father." Who knows how many individual acts of kindness—from the conception of the plan to its fulfillment—are contained within this simple statement?

This is the heart of God's nature. He generously and mercifully gives that others might benefit. Now, because of what He did, this nature is growing in us. By His Spirit He has taken His abode in us to enable us to work out our salvation, and as we yield, our lives are changing, gradually conforming to His image. He dwells in us despite all our provocations, stubbornness, neglect, and rebellions. How often we must disappoint Him, and yet as our High Priest and Intercessor, He stands ever ready to serve us with yet more kindness.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness


 

John 3:16-17

The Father and the Son are not failures; their plan is right on schedule. Most of the world will be saved! The question is, "When?" However, most people will not be saved at the return of Christ—the order of resurrections (I Corinthians 15:23; Revelation 20:4-15) allows for a broader timeframe for saving the world.

Staff
Who Are the 144,000?


 

John 3:26-27

John had come to grips with this concept. He understood that his role in the vast scope of God's purpose was limited by the overruling wisdom of the Creator as He carried out His purpose. This is a reason why salvation is spoken of as "free"—because God is not bound to show mercy to anybody since all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). All too often, we forget that the invisible God is working things out according to His purpose, not ours. God is free to do as He pleases. He owes no one anything.

I Corinthians 4:6-7 adds:

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

Do we have grounds for being puffed up or jealous? John the Baptist did not think so, and what he declared is truth. I Corinthians 12 makes clear that God places people in the church as it pleases Him, and He gives gifts to them so they can be responsible for a function. The gifts do not make them "better," just prepared by the Creator to serve in a specialized way.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Two)


 

John 5:17

What work is the Father doing? He is "working salvation in the midst of the earth" (Psalm 74:12). God is always working toward the completion of His purpose - the salvation of mankind. Jesus works within the same process and pointedly makes an issue of this on the Sabbath days. God's work is creating sons in His image. Thus, healing, forgiving sin, and doing good are part of Christ's work as Savior and High Priest that He might be "firstborn among many brethren."

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fourth Commandment (Part Two): Christ's Attitude Toward the Sabbath


 

John 6:29

God works to create in His children faith in Jesus Christ because He has decreed salvation is by grace through faith. Faith is absolutely essential, and so He works to create in us a strong trust His Son. This is done through "feeding the flock." Only a small portion of it is done in the initial conversion. We have to live by faith, not merely profess Jesus Christ. It is necessary that faith be built in us because our choices should be made on the basis of faith.

John W. Ritenbaugh
What Is the Work of God Now? (Part 1)


 

John 6:38-40

The "I" in these three verses is very emphatic! To show this emphasis, some translations read, "I Myself." He personally promises to follow through, fulfilling the Father's will, and to guard and preserve those given Him to the very end! He is virtually ensuring a calling that cannot be revoked, a foundation that cannot be shaken in any way, a seal or promise that cannot be broken, and a life that cannot perish! He practically guarantees the salvation of the saints! This is God's promise through Jesus Christ to "everyone who sees the Son."

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Four)


 

John 8:32

What kind of message does it send to God if His children, those called by His name, either do not seek truth or carelessly ignore what they have? Perhaps it would be good for us to think of it like this: He is Truth personified. Therefore, to ignore truth is to ignore Him and, by extension, to ignore salvation. Remember, salvation is the active, continuous process by which God delivers us from what causes disease in the mental and physical areas of life and eternal death in the spiritual. Is it really worthwhile to ignore truth?

Truth does not come to us all at once. It gradually accumulates in those who ask, seek, and knock for it, then use it in their own lives to glorify God. We do not always easily find it. Sometimes truth emerges only after a long and confusing search that is constantly impeded by conflicting information. Nevertheless, we must persevere!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Eating: How Good It Is! (Part Six)


 

John 10:27-29

Taken alone, these three verses could give us the impression that salvation is a free, downhill ride. However, II Peter 1:10 levels the playing field considerably in its sobering instruction: "Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble." If salvation is a free coast into the Kingdom, why does Peter admonish us to be diligent to make sure we do not fall? Paul adds that we have a responsibility to "work out [our] own salvation" (Philippians 2:12). These instructions do not contradict but complement and balance, making our responsibilities more specific and varied.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility: Part Eleven


 

John 17:20-22

Salvation can easily and accurately be described as "being at one with God." As long as we are separated from God, we do not have salvation. When we are "at one" with God, it means that we are becoming like Him, that we are walking along the same path with Him and will be saved.

Jesus Christ's death bridges this impossible situation for us. We can then begin to contribute to being at one with God. What remains yet undone, despite the gap being bridged, is a change in character and in attitude that must be worked in us in order for us to become like God. It takes living God's way for us to become like God. This is why humility is necessary.

We can see from Jesus' prayer and from our own experience (and from the history of man) that mankind is not at one with God, yet that is God's aim. Satan motivated Adam and Eve, and subsequently all the rest of mankind, to separate themselves from God. As long as Satan can keep us separated from Him, salvation is impossible. Satan's thinking, which was passed on to Adam and Eve and then to us, is that we all have the right to set our own standards or codes of right and wrong. He has convinced mankind that they have the same prerogatives and that these Satan-inspired, man-made standards can produce abundant prosperity, good health, peace, and a sense of well-being in our lives.

But they do not, and that is the problem! Humbling oneself means giving up that devilish notion and submitting to what God says. He has given us free moral agency to choose whether to obey His standards and codes, not the freedom to set our own.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Division, Satan, Humility


 

John 17:26

Does knowing the name of God have anything to do with salvation? Or, to put it another way, does the third commandment have anything to do with salvation? It has everything to do with the quality of the way that we do things, which is directly attached to knowing the name of God.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Holiness (Part 1)


 

Acts 2:38

Our first step in the salvation process is to repent from sin. This means, not only being sorry for having committed sin, but also turning or changing from a life of transgressing God's commandments to a life of obedience to them.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Acts 3:19-21

These verses tie several things together. II Timothy 1:9 says that God's purpose began before time. Could God plan His awesome purpose without an end result in view? Would He name His message of salvation after something that was going to happen in the middle, or would He name it after the goal toward which He was working?

Peter calls God's purpose "the restoration of all things," another descriptive phrase for the good news of the Kingdom of God. God will put the Kingdom of God on earth, governing through His law. These verses explain not only the end toward which God is moving, but also that God has been prophesying of this since the world began. God too is looking toward the goal.

God's purpose began before time, but He has revealed this purpose to mankind since at least the days of Enoch, who lived long before Noah. In Jude, Enoch is quoted as saying, "Behold, the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints" (Jude 14). We must take God's word at face value: From the beginning He has prophesied of the culmination of His purpose.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Acts 8:12

It is quite plain what the apostles preached (Acts 8:12; 19:8; 20:25; 28:23, 31). They preached the Kingdom of God with the same zeal as their Master, who had given them the example. To those who have ears to hear, it is clear that the gospel of the Kingdom is the gospel. Otherwise, why did Christ not call it something else?

Every time the word gospel appears—if Jesus qualifies the word at any point—it is always "of the Kingdom of God" or "of the Kingdom of heaven." That is what He preached! He preached the coming of a great Kingdom that would turn this world upside down and establish His Father's rule over all things.

That is what He lives for—and I use the present tense purposely. He still lives for it! He is just anxious to come back and finish His work—this time as King of kings and Lord of lords with the authority to make real changes. This is the same gospel—the same message—that His ministry must teach. We must preach the Kingdom of God.

We know that grace, peace, salvation, and Christ's life and example are certainly part of that preaching, but the primary thrust is the Kingdom of God. Our hope of being resurrected and changed to be part of that Kingdom, and all of the things that come with it, will all come about because the gospel of the Kingdom is the focus. This is how God works through human, physical, fleshly people. He gives them the gospel, and He sends them out. It must be preached, for by it salvation comes (Romans 1:16).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Itching Ears


 

Romans 1:19-20

God can be understood—even the unconverted can comprehend some things about Him. Despite these verses in Romans 1, the opinions of learned men say that God is incomprehensible, yet Paul is saying that there is a clear testimony. It is a constant and natural revelation of God's power and nature, and that revelation is sufficient for God to hold these people responsible for their conduct.

This natural revelation, however, is not sufficient for salvation because God shows in other places that salvation requires a specific and personal revelation of His word. "No one," Jesus says in John 6:44, "can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day."

But this revelation through what God has created is clear enough for Him to hold people responsible for their conduct. Thus, if His invisible attributes, eternal power, and divine nature are clearly understood by the visible things that God has made in this world, then all we need to do is to use a little common sense in connection with plain statements from Scripture to find out what God really looks like. So, if God says that His attributes can be clearly understood by the unconverted, and if He is seen in the visible creation in this world, what visible things on earth give us a picture of the invisible God?

The very thing that God Himself says in Genesis 1:26. We—mankind—look like Him.

Is that so difficult? Just understanding this principle, it is no wonder that the Greek gods of mythology reflected mankind in all of our foibles, weaknesses, and passions. The Greeks simply turned the principle around. They turned the image around, reflecting in their gods the things of man.

Other portions of Scripture, like I Corinthians 2:6-16, explain the special, personal revelation of God that helps us to know the things of God, so that we can have the mind of Christ and put on His image. However, we know from other passages that the created human being is but a pale reflection of the reality of God, and that God's creative power is still at work reproducing His image in men. That is, we are a work in progress and still unfinished.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Image and Likeness of God (Part 2)


 

Romans 3:19-21

Some ministers would like us to believe that justification and salvation by grace through faith just suddenly appeared when the Son of God lived and died in the first century. They imply that God changed His approach to saving men—that He was either losing the battle to Satan, or the way He had given man was just too hard. It also implies that men under the Old Covenant were saved by keeping the law.

Once a person has sinned, they are under the penalty of the law, and their righteousness is not sufficient to justify them before God. Since all have sinned, the whole world is guilty before God. It takes a righteousness apart from lawkeeping to do this.

Then Paul says that this righteousness is revealed in the Old Testament Law and Prophets! The teaching has been there all along, all through the centuries from Moses to Christ and down to our time! God never changed His course. In the first century, He only openly revealed the means, Christ, through whom would come the righteousness that will justify one before God.

Men have always been justified and saved by grace through faith. People who were saved during Old Testament times looked forward in faith to this being accomplished. We look backward at it as a promise and as fulfilled prophecy.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is God a False Minister?


 

Romans 3:20

To be justified means to have our past sins forgiven and to have righteousness imputed to us. The apostle is saying that there is no way anyone can receive forgiveness of past sins by obeying the law. Present obedience does not do anything to wash away past iniquity. There has to be some other manner for sinners to receive forgiveness of past sins if they are to have hope of entering God's Kingdom.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 3:20

Salvation cannot be obtained by simply repenting and deciding to obey God's laws. Merely keeping the law will not justify anyone. Being justified means having one's sins forgiven and coming into a right relationship with God.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Romans 3:28

This concludes Paul's entire discussion begun in Romans 3:10. The only way we can be justified—that is, have our sins forgiven and be brought into a right relationship with God—is through faith in the sacrifice of Christ. This justification is something that is imputed to us once we meet God's conditions of repentance and baptism (Acts 2:38). We cannot earn it through lawkeeping or doing good works.

However, what many do not understand is that being justified is not the same as being saved. Justification is only one step on the road to salvation. Someone who has been justified cannot break God's laws with impunity and expect to receive salvation anyway. To have our sins forgiven, we must repent from having broken the laws of God (Acts 3:19). To repent means "to turn around"—to stop sinning and orient our lives to obeying God's law. Paul explains it plainly in Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law."

The true Christian, having repented from sin, has been given the gift of God's Holy Spirit, which is the love of God that enables him to keep His laws in their full spiritual intent and purpose. He has been justified and has received God's undeserved pardon. He realizes his sins caused Jesus Christ to have to suffer and die. Because of all of these things, the true Christian strives with all his might to resist the pulls of the flesh and to put sin out of his life.

Paul makes it very clear that the true Christian must not continue to live a life of sin. "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?" (Romans 6:1-2). The true Christian understands that the way he lives and conducts his life has a great bearing upon whether he will inherit the Kingdom of God (Galatians 5:19-21).

To receive salvation, we must not only be justified, but we must live a life of obedience to the laws of God, developing the fruits of His Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5:22-23). Then—and only then—will God give us the gift of eternal life.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Saved By Faith Alone?


 

Romans 4:3

Justification is the imputing of righteousness. In this case, God accounts righteousness where it does not logically belong. We may describe justification as being aligned with a standard. It is also being legally declared free of guilt. Justification can probably be defined about a half a dozen ways, but in no case is justification salvation.

Salvation is deliverance. That is what the word means, to be delivered. Justification means to be made right. They are two different things altogether. In the biblical sense, salvation does not occur until a person is in his inheritance, in the Kingdom of God.

Even though justification does provide a measure of deliverance, it is only the first step towards a person's complete salvation or deliverance. We are still in the flesh. Even though there is no good reason why we should fail, we can still fail—despite being justified.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

Romans 4:16

Paul states a major reason why justification absolutely must be by grace through faith: It is by means of grace that everybody receives a fair chance for salvation. Grace levels the playing field. What would happen to those who could not match the impressive body of works of an Abraham? They would fail to be justified. The truth is that even Abraham was not justified by his circumcision works. He, too, was justified through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and God's grace. It has been this way from the beginning; Genesis 6:8 testifies that Noah found grace in God's eyes.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Romans 5:2

The word "stand" is translated from the Greek histemi, and in this context it means "to continue, endure, or persist." Our calling, election (Romans 11:5-6), repentance (Romans 2:4), and justification enable us to stand before God in the sense of being given access into His presence. After that, receiving the gift of His Spirit and continuing on to salvation itself are accomplished by means of grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Amazing Grace


 

Romans 5:6-10

Sanctification and justification are not the same. They are, however, different processes within the same purpose, and they are definitely related issues. They both begin at the same time: when we are forgiven, justified, and sanctified. Justification has to do with aligning us with the standard of God's law that in turn permits us into God's presence. We will never be any more justified than we are at that moment; justification does not increase as we move through our Christian lives.

Some believe that Jesus Christ lived and died only to provide justification and forgiveness of our sins. However, those who believe this are selling His awesome work short. As wonderful as His work is in providing us with justification, His labors in behalf of our salvation do not end there. Notice that verse 10 says we are "saved by His life." Jesus rose from the dead to continue our salvation as our High Priest. God's work of spiritual creation does not end with justification, for at that point we are far from complete. We are completed and saved because of Christ's labor as our Mediator and High Priest only because He is alive.

Sanctification unto holiness continues the process. Hebrews 2:11 states that Jesus is "He who sanctifies," and those of us who have come under His blood are called "those who are sanctified." Note these verses carefully:

» John 17:19: And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.

» Ephesians 5:25-26: Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for it, that He might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.

» Colossians 1:21-22: And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight. . . .

» Titus 2:14: . . . who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.

Sanctification has a definite purpose that is different from justification. In one respect, justification—as important as it is—only gets the salvation process started. Sanctification takes a person much farther along the road toward completion. It occurs within the experiences of life generally over the many years of one's relationship with the Father and Son. How long did God work with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, and the apostles to prepare them for His Kingdom? By comparison, will our perfection be achieved in just a moment?

Sanctification is the inward spiritual work that Jesus Christ works in us. Notice His promise, made on the eve of His crucifixion, in John 14:18: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." Moments later, when asked by Judas, "Lord, how is it that You will manifest Yourself to us, and not to the world?" (verse 22), Jesus replies, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him" (verse 23). These clear statements show that Jesus would continue His work with them following His resurrection.

As our High Priest, He continues that work in us after our justification. He not only washes us of our sins by means of His blood, but He also labors to separate us from our natural love of sin and the world. He works to instill in us a new principle of life, making us holy in our actions and reactions within the experiences of life. This makes possible a godly witness before men, and at the same time, prepares us for living in the Kingdom of God.

If God's only purpose was to save us, He could end the salvation process with our justification. Certainly, His purpose is to save us, but His goal is to save us with character that is the image of His own.

Notice Hebrews 6:1: "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God." This verse and those immediately following confirm that, at the time of justification, we are not perfect or complete. Justification is an important beginning, but God intends to complete the process of spiritual maturation that He began with our calling. When sanctification begins, our Christian walk truly begins in earnest.

Sanctification, then, is the outcome of God's calling, faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, justification, and our becoming regenerated by God through receiving His Spirit. This combination begins life in the Spirit, as Paul explains in Romans 8:9: "But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His."

At this point in Christian life, the principles of Christianity must be practically applied to everyday life. At this juncture, it might help to recall what righteousness is. Psalm 119:172 defines it succinctly: "My tongue shall speak of Your word, for all Your commandments are righteousness." The apostle John adds to our understanding in I John 3:4: "Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness." Both rectitude and love concisely characterize the same standards, the Ten Commandments, and we are required to labor to perform both.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Four)


 

Romans 5:8-9

We are justified by faith in the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Because Jesus Christ's life was worth more than all the rest of humanity combined, His death paid the penalty of the sins of the whole world. Through faith in His suffering and death, we receive forgiveness of sins and are brought into a right relationship with God.

The scripture states that "we shall be saved from wrath through Him." "Justified" does not mean "saved"; nor does it mean that we have eternal life. It simply means that our guilty past has been wiped clean because Christ paid the penalty for our sins. Once justified, we can proceed to the next step in the process of salvation.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Romans 5:8-10

Verse 10 says, "We shall be saved," in the future tense. Thus, we now have access to the Father, to the Tree of Life, and to a relationship to build upon which should lead to everlasting life. But God has willed that our development must take place within the world, not the Garden of Eden.

Part of God's solution clears us of guilt of past sins; this is referred to in the Bible as "justification." Justification by faith in Christ's blood is only a partial solution because it neither changes the nature nor the character that is the cause of our needing justification through Christ's blood. It does clear us of indebtedness due to sin, and that in itself is a major blessing—an enormous gift—but by itself, it does not change the behavior that was responsible for us being indebted in the first place. It does open the door to that change, and thus verse 10 says, "We shall be saved by His life." This phrase implies help to enable us to be saved. Help is available to fulfill our part because Christ is alive to assist us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Laodiceanism and Being There Next Year


 

Romans 5:9-10

"Shall," in verse 9, indicates something that will take place in the future. Justification takes place in the present. When we are justified, salvation is still yet future. We have been justified by the blood of Christ, but salvation shall come. Notice this distinction. Salvation is shown not to be a property of justification, but justification is a necessary step towards salvation (which shall be given afterwards).

Now notice the word "for" at the beginning of verse 10. It is a connector, showing that what follows will further explain the statement he just made in verse 9, that salvation is given afterwards. "We shall be saved by His life" suggests that salvation is given afterwards because Christ lives, not merely because we are justified.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 4)


 

Romans 5:10

We are saved—receive salvation—by a living Jesus Christ! After He died, God the Father raised Him from the dead. Today, Christ is alive and powerful and sits at God's right hand to make intercession for us. He will help us overcome sin and live righteously as He did (Hebrews 4:14-16).

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Romans 5:10

Reconciliation with God is not the end of a process, nor does it stand alone. We are reconciled so that we can be saved, and we will be saved because Christ is alive.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Reconciliation and the Day of Atonement


 

Romans 6:1-2

To receive salvation, a Christian must now live a life of obedience to the law of God. Those who claim that they know Christ and still continue in a life of breaking God's commandments are liars.

Earl L. Henn (1934-1997)
Basic Doctrines: Salvation


 

Romans 6:4

Romans 6:4 restates the reason for our being admitted into God's presence: Our altered standing before God enables us to walk in newness of life so we can be conformed to the image of His Son.

Walking requires effort, the expending of energy, to arrive at a desired destination. Are any works involved in the salvation process? "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10). These works most assuredly do not earn salvation, but at the same time, God requires them. In fact, this verse says we are being created for the very purpose of doing them! Such works are covered within the general term "walk."

Besides requiring effort, walking implies a destination, a goal. When a person walks, he is moving purposefully to accomplish something regardless of whether it is to flip a light switch, shop at a store, get some exercise, or go to work or school. God requires that we "walk in newness of life." It is our God-appointed goal in life and the reason He invites us into His presence. Our lives cannot consist of aimless drifting; we are headed somewhere, even as Israel's goal was the Promised Land.

I Peter 1:13-19 highlights what we must do:

Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your sojourning here in fear; knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.

Christianity is a way involving far more walking than talking. It requires effort, and most scriptures imply that the walking is voluntary. It must be this way because, most of the time when we walk, it is because we have made a voluntary decision to move from one point to another. In God's purpose, it is the only way to make the mind, nature, and character of Christ truly ours.

The last, brief phrase of Romans 6:4 contains a great deal about life's overriding purpose. In a broad sense, it is what life after conversion is all about. It is awakening to the reality of our spiritual slavery and responsibilities through God's calling, followed by a change of mind toward Him and a spiritual death, burial, and resurrection so we might walk in conformity to Christ into God's Kingdom.

God allows the sacrifice of Christ to take the place of the claim He has on us to restore us to fellowship with Him, which is absolutely essential in providing us the strength, motivation, and gifts—whatever it takes—to complete the walk successfully. Mankind has never enjoyed this; it has not had contact with God since He cut humanity off by putting Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden.

This walking in newness of life is how going on to perfection is accomplished (Hebrews 6:1). God alters our standing with Him legally, graciously, and with generosity and kindness so we can fellowship with Him through prayer, Bible study, fasting, meditation, and obedience. God's spiritual creation requires our participation. It cannot be impressed upon us; we must consciously make decisions to take that walk.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Offerings of Leviticus (Part Eight): Conclusion (Part One)


 

Romans 6:23

The Holy Spirit delivers us from death and leads us to the gift of eternal life. We inherit mortal life through Adam, but God gives His Spirit to endow eternal life on His faithful and obedient children. Since the Spirit is God's gift, neither are we born with it, nor can we earn it.

Martin G. Collins
The Holy Spirit


 

Romans 6:23

God could see—in His wisdom He knew—that man would sin. Because the wages of sin is death, how could God extricate man from this dilemma? How would He continue His purpose?

There is an interesting aspect to this when we consider the word "wages." The apostle uses this term because in his day they did things in much the same way as we do. One does not work for a person for a lifetime and then receive his wages, but rather he works a specified period of time—a week, two weeks, a month—and receives his wages on a regular basis. Today, it is common to receive wages every two weeks.

This should give us a better understanding of this verse. Since a wage is something that we earn and the wages of sin is death, the apostle—and therefore God—is telling us is that we will receive these wages—the penalty of sin—not just at the end of our lives. The penalty of sin is meted out on a regular, just as wages are. In other words, we will be affected by the penalties of sin all the time. It is what we are earning.

God looks at these things in an interesting way. We can begin to see the scope of what God is doing, with Passover opening up a new avenue. Salvation is not something that we receive at the end of our life. Actually, it is something that begins whenever we accept the blood of Jesus Christ. Whenever we begin on the process of salvation, of true freedom, we begin to receive salvation on a daily, weekly, monthly basis. In other words, our liberty, our freedom, is progressive. Like the penalties of sin, freedom or salvation does not come all at once.

It is not that we earn it—please do not misunderstand. It is something given. Grace is a gift of God, and it is not something that happens only once but constantly. God is always giving because it is His nature, His way. He is giving us of His life constantly. Christ says, "I am come that they might have life and have it more abundantly." God wants us to begin to receive His salvation right here and now by living the abundant life. It is a wonderful concept.

We need to expand our thinking in regard to Passover because the solution to God's "predicament" regarding human sin begins immediately upon our acceptance of the blood of Jesus Christ. Salvation is much bigger in scope, involving far more than just the end of the process.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

Romans 7:22-25

Was Paul a novice in the faith when he wrote the book of Romans? God would hardly allow a novice to write Scripture. The apostle Paul was one of the most mature Christians who ever walked the face of the earth. But he saw himself being torn—the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh. Paul was in the middle, having to make the choice. If he had not grown spiritually, he would never have seen the conflict; his mind would have passed right over it. Thus, on the one hand, Paul delighted in his understanding of the purpose and perfection of God's law, yet on the other, that insight produced much dismay in him because he could see how far short he fell, from time to time, of its perfection.

The existence of this inward conflict is not a sign that the person is not sanctified. As long as we are in the flesh, we will never be entirely free of this struggle. Human nature does not go down without a fight. It must be overcome! In a way, this evil entity within us actually becomes part of the means of our perfection.

Overcoming is a long process, and it requires diligent and humbling effort to subdue our human nature. However, we must never allow ourselves to fall into the attitude that all of our effort is somehow justifying us before God—even though it pleases God and gratifies us. The holiest of our actions, the holiest of the actions of the holiest saints, are still full of imperfections and defects. Even some of these are done from the wrong motive. They could even qualify as being nothing more than a splendid sin in God's sight. Nevertheless, we are saved by grace through faith. Even with that, God requires that we make an effort to do what we can on our part.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 9)


 

Romans 8:24

It is fairly easy to understand that, once we have what we desire, we no longer have to hope for it. As a hope fulfilled, we do not need that longing or desire for it anymore. Right now, we do not have what we are hoping for in its fullness. We have a vision of it, and that vision may not be very clear, but we can see it and believe in it. However, we need to focus mainly on how important Paul says this is: We are saved by it. But are we not saved by grace through faith? Yes, we are!

That is ultimately how salvation comes, but God is not merely trying to save us. Saving us is the easy part. The more difficult part is to achieve the fullness of His purpose for each one of us, which is for us to be created in His image. For that to occur, our cooperation is required. We will not cooperate unless we are hoping in the right thing. If we are not hoping in what God wants us to hope for, we will begin heading in a different direction. If we have a different vision, we will go off the path God has set us on. Having the right hope is absolutely essential.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Resurrection From the Dead


 

Romans 10:4

Paul says that Christ is the object of the Bible. The law, as one aspect that represents the whole plan of salvation, is the instrument that broadly describes God's righteousness. Like everything in God's purpose, the end—the goal—of the law is to bring us "to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:13).

Jesus fulfilled the law in that He perfectly exemplified God's desires in everything He did (see Matthew 5:17). He personifies perfect love and government. He is the perfect man yet also God in the flesh. He is the Standard toward which men are to strive.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christ, Our Passover


 

Romans 11:5

This spiritual remnant is what several New Testament writers term "the elect," those who have been called and chosen by God through grace. These "elect" have received what Israel did not: spiritual redemption, salvation, a relationship with God, and so forth.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Remnant


 

Romans 11:11

We begin to see a major reason why God chose to provide salvation as He has. In short, He feels that more can be produced toward His purpose by doing it this way than by Him entering into another covenant with another group of people.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 11)


 

Romans 15:4

Within its scope, this verse includes God's work with Israel and with other nations and peoples over the entire Old Testament. This should teach us that the scope of God's salvation activities is far vaster than it appears on the surface.

II Peter 3:9 confirms this: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is long suffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance." In I Timothy 2:3-4, the apostle Paul echoes Peter's statement: "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

God is preparing us for what is to come. He has caused these examples and principles to be recorded and preserved so that we would be equipped with the guidance to conduct our life in the right way. The scope of what God is working out in our lives is awesome! If we are to discern Passover and its costs rightly, this has to be considered deeply. When properly understood, every bit of what God is doing is out of love. We will not be able to observe Passover properly unless we can see its importance in its broadest sense.

What a moment in time it was on that Passover in AD 31! God must have been filled with excitement about what was taking place. It was an awesome step toward what He is working out with us.

We must consider Romans 15:4 in light of the historical witness that God is making in our lives. Meditate on this: How many people have lived and died in the vast sweep of the history of each nation to prove a very important point—that there is no way but God's way that will produce the environment that man greatly desires but has never achieved? We need to consider this before taking the next Passover because it is important to our thinking that we look at things from God's point of view.

It is not necessary to recount everything, but from Abraham on, how many Israelites have lived and died without ever being offered spiritual salvation? The numbers become staggering as we expand our meditation further back in time. How many people were obliterated from existence at Sodom and Gomorrah? How many people lost their lives in the Flood?

How many people died in Egypt over and above the firstborn? That land was so devastated that it took generations to recover—and may never have truly regained its former glory! In the days of Ezekiel, God prophesied that Egypt would "be the lowliest of kingdoms" until the Millennium (Ezekiel 29:15), when He will raise it up to be one of three major nations with Israel and Assyria (Isaiah 19:23-25). Egypt must have been an awesome nation, a wonderful people, with plenty of ability, as their remaining architectural monuments testify. Yet, God decimated them to provide an object lesson for us! He can do that—He is God, and it is His purpose being worked out. He perhaps did not have to do it, but He did it to help us to understand and appreciate Passover more fully. God thinks so big that it is beyond our comprehension.

God's Old Testament record of His dealings with them continued to be written right on through Malachi. Even among the Israelites, few seemed to have been called to conversion. From the days of Abraham to Jesus, how many lived and died just as the wilderness generation did so that this record could exist for our edification? What a costly operation!

When we take the Passover, we need to weigh these things so that they make a deeper impression on our minds than they did before. Even so, the cost of the Father and Son's love, as shown by Passover, does not end here. It goes on.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Love


 

1 Corinthians 9:19-22

In verse 22, Paul speaks of “sav[ing] some.” Sometimes we have an automatic tendency to think of eternal salvation, or at the very least justification, whenever we hear the words “save” or “saved.” However, that is only one facet of the Greek word translated as “save,” sozo (Strong's #4982), whose basic meaning is “to make safe.” It can be expanded to mean “to deliver or protect, either literally or figuratively.”

This word is frequently used in reference to physical deliverance from a dangerous or undesirable situation, and is often translated as “heal,” “preserve,” and “make whole.” When healing people, Jesus would tell them, “Your faith has made you whole.” He was essentially saying, “Your faith has saved you”—but the salvation was a physical one. The person was saved from a condition of misery.

In the highest sense, a person is not ultimately saved—“safe”—until he or she is no longer subject to death or to sin, which earns death. That is, we are not truly safe until “this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality” (I Corinthians 15:54). Until resurrected or changed at Christ's return—until we are “like Him” (I John 3:2), and “death is swallowed up in victory” (Isaiah 25:8)—we are subject to the corruption of our human nature, the breakdown of our physical bodies, and the cessation of life, all things that keep us from being eternally safe. Until we are spirit beings, we will always be in need of deliverance, protection, healing, and restoration. Even the salvation that takes place upon our repentance—the forgiveness of our past sins—does not guarantee our future safety, for until we take our final breath, it is possible for us turn away from God and reject His way of life.

What kind of salvation Paul is talking about here? Since no man is saved eternally at the point of conversion, he is not referring to eternal salvation. We also know that he could not have meant justification here either, because even an apostle does not have the power to justify. Nor was he given the authority to impart true belief. Only those whom God appoints to eternal life at this time are going to believe (see Acts 13:48). So that sort of saving is not what Paul is talking about.

Before we get to the full explanation, we need to understand how this passage fits with the rest of the epistle. I Corinthians 8-10 relate to the controversy over eating meat offered to idols. Paul's basic teaching throughout these chapters is that it was far better for the Corinthians to deny themselves a perfectly lawful thing than to risk causing a brother to stumble. Through much of this instruction, he uses his own pattern of self-denial as an example, showing in various ways that he would go without lawful things to keep from causing unnecessary offense.

Thus, if he were interacting with the Jews, he would deny himself things that could be offensive to them but that technically would have been fine. It is not that he would compromise with God's standards, but he would limit himself for the sake of not turning people away. This is what he was doing to gain them. By these means, he was working for a more profitable relationship. His basic point in the overall context is that, if he were willing to do this to gain people who were not even converted, then the Corinthians should be willing to limit and restrain themselves for the sake of gaining their own brethren. A person who is “gained” is more likely to hear what we have to say, so we may be used to help them in some way.

So what does Paul mean by writing, “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some”? He may have been referring to their eventual salvation, which he might play a part in, but which he could not actually claim as having brought about. As he had previously written: “I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase. So then neither he who plants is anything, nor he who waters, but God who gives the increase” (I Corinthians 3:6-7).

However, there is a type of “saving” that Paul could have a hand in through his preaching:

My brothers, if any among you strays from the truth, and someone turns him back, he should know that whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his life from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)

James is not referring to eternal salvation or justification. He means making a man safe by helping him to stop a sin. If a person is sliding into apostasy, and someone turns him back, a type of salvation has occurred, for the one who had been going astray is now on a safer trajectory. If an individual helps another avoid or overcome any sin, a type of salvation has occurred because there is always greater safety where sin has been diminished. This salvation is only a shadow of the kind that God gives, but a saving nonetheless occurs anytime protection or deliverance is provided.

Thus, I Corinthians 9:19-22 shows that, wherever possible, Paul practiced self-denial so that he could gain a positive rapport with others. In this way, he might help them because his preaching of the truth could stir repentance in some area. He is not suggesting that through his preaching or example a person would be justified and brought into a relationship with God, but that his life would be better because there would be at least a little less enmity toward God and His way.

Without compromising, Paul kept the door open so that he could preach, and perhaps his preaching would protect or deliver someone in a small way, even if God was not calling the individual. Nevertheless, Paul was not bringing people into a relationship with Christ, nor is he suggesting that we try to do that either.

David C. Grabbe
Can We Win People For Christ?


 

Galatians 2:3

The account of Acts 15 shows that it is not necessary for salvation for Christians to be physically circumcised. Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith without works is dead. We cannot "work" or "earn" our way into the Kingdom of God. The privilege to be a part of the eternal Kingdom is one that God bestows according to His will. Nothing we can do will make God indebted to us or require Him to do something for us, such as grant us admission into His Kingdom.

But at the same time, if we are within the salvation process, we must show forth works, or fruits, that demonstrate our repentance, our attitude, and our desire to live by the rules of His Kingdom. We must live now in the same way that we will be living for eternity—by the laws of God's Kingdom. Our works do not save us; they demonstrate that we are being saved.

Under the Old Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances were primarily physical, and the spiritual aspects were implied. Under the New Covenant, the ceremonies and ordinances are primarily spiritual, and the physical aspects are implied. For example, there is no record of Christ ever performing an animal sacrifice, even though the Old Testament requires one in the morning and in the evening. Under the New Covenant, the physical rite is not required, yet the basic law is still there, and is thus manifested in morning and evening prayer, a sacrifice of our time and energy.

In the same regard, the council of Acts 15 shows that circumcision is not one of the works that is required to demonstrate the salvation/sanctification process. When considering eternity and the spiritual bodies that we will have at that time, circumcision is almost insignificant. What is truly important is whether or not the heart has been circumcised. The physical rite was a reminder to the children of Israel that they were separate and distinct, but even in this God was looking for a change of heart so much more so than a modification of the flesh.

David C. Grabbe


 

Galatians 2:17-21

Justification is clearly an act of God's grace, because what we deserve from what we have earned—from what we have done, the conduct of our lives—is death. There is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:1). Since justification, then, cannot be claimed as a right because we have sinned, it must be received as a gift. That fact that it is given makes it an act of grace.

It is not our hanging on to Christ (that is, the keeping of the law) that saves us, but rather Christ hanging on to us. That is, it is not what we do, but it is what He does continuously as acts of grace that saves us, because we deserve death. If we can earn salvation through law-keeping, Paul is saying in verse 21, "then Christ died in vain." If we can earn salvation through law-keeping, then Christ's sinless life and agonizing death were not necessary, because we can do it ourselves.

Justification is not vindication or exoneration. Both of those words connote that a person was right all along, but the true facts were hidden from those who were doing the judging. In some cases with men, vindication is possible because people are judged unrighteously. Their judges are not using righteous judgment.

But God never judges unrighteously! He knows all the facts. He knows our heart. He knows everything about us in every situation that we have ever been in, so He cannot vindicate us because we are not clear of guilt. He cannot exonerate us because we are not innocent. Justification is more than that. It is setting us right or calling us righteous though righteousness does not exist in us.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Grace Upon Grace


 

Galatians 5:1

The yoke of bondage is an approach to justification and salvation, or righteousness, that relies on a syncretism of Jewish ritualistic legalism and pagan practices (usually rites of purification), while at the same time avoiding the sacrifice of Christ. This means that what we believe and who we believe in will determine whether we will be justified. Why is this approach a yoke of bondage? It cannot free a person from the penalty of sin or from Satan. It does not provide forgiveness. It will not put one into a position to receive God's Holy Spirit.

Paul is not writing to do away with the law! He is writing to clarify lawkeeping's relationship to justification and what a person believes through justification. If Paul were writing to do away with law, much of what he wrote later on in chapter 5 would not be there.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 28)


 

Galatians 6:9-10

We are to be doing good, and we are especially instructed to perform those acts for the members of the church. Remember, it takes a church to produce prepared, well-rounded sons of God. The church is the vehicle that God has given us to learn these things. God has put within the church all the factors, materials, and opportunities we need to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
It Takes a Church


 

Ephesians 1:6-7

"Redemption" implies the payment of a ransom. We have been redeemed or bought back.

"Through His blood" reminds us that making the New Covenant cost Him His life (I Corinthians 11:25).

Forgiveness here suggests "to be loosened from bondage." The Greek word-picture is of somebody who is tied up by cords or ropes. Have we, as Christians, been loosened from a political entity, as the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt? No. Were we in bondage to another human being? No. Have we been freed from sin? Yes, that is what held us in bondage. The word translated "sins" is paráptoma, which indicates deviations from the right path. We have been held in bondage by our deviations from the right path, but now we have been loosed or freed from that bondage according to His grace.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Awesome Cost of Salvation


 

Ephesians 2:8-9

When we first turn to Ephesians 2:8-9, the first thing we notice is that we are confronted with a whole list of spiritual-sounding words: grace, saved, faith, gift, works. Even those of us who have been in God's church for many years and who may clearly understand each of these words individually, are slowed down in our comprehension of these verses when faced with such terms presented one after the other.

So let us take a very brief Greek lesson. Please take the time to study these words in more detail. Here are the key terms contained in this scripture in English and Greek, the Strong's Concordance reference number, and, to make the meanings clearer, other English terms translated in the New Testament from the same Greek words:

  • Grace (#5485): charis (khar'-ece). Also translated as favor, thanks, thank, pleasure.
  • Saved (#4982): sozo (sode'-zo). Also translated as make whole, heal, be whole.
  • Faith (#4102): pistis. Also translated as assurance, believe, belief, those who believe, fidelity.
  • Gift (#1435): doron. Also translated as present, offering.
  • Works (#2041): ergon. Also translated as deed, doing, labor.

We have just learned that ergon is the original Greek for the English word "works." It does not appear to be a very difficult, ambiguous, or confusing term. But what do the many people and churches who claim that works are not required perceive "works" to be?

Opinions vary. One group perceives works to mean the whole law in general. A second group perceives works as specific portions of God's law, which they look upon as being "Jewish" or "Old Covenant," or that they are just not willing to keep and teach. A third group, amazingly enough in their rejection of it, perceives this term as meaning works of charity in general!

Individuals or groups who choose to substitute the word "law" for the word "works" in Ephesians 2:8-9, and who thus say that New Testament Christians do not have to keep God's law, do not appear to mean it totally and literally. Instead, most of them reserve the right to choose which parts of the law they wish to keep ("You shall not kill," "You shall not steal," etc.) and those that they do not wish to keep ("Remember the Sabbath," holy days, tithing, clean and unclean meats, etc.). God has nowhere given authority to His people to be selective in these matters, thus this stance toward the law is inconsistent and even hypocritical.

The church of God has always agreed one hundred percent with those who say that salvation is a gift, and that a Christian cannot earn salvation by charitable works or by obedience to God's law. However, obedience is a condition we must meet before God will give us His free gift of salvation. New Testament evidence is overwhelming on the matter. Here are just a few verses:

· And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit, which God has given to those who obey him. (Acts 5:32)

· He who says, "I know him," and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I John 2:4)

· So He said to [the rich young ruler], "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." (Matthew 19:17)

· If you love Me, keep My commandments. (John 14:15)

The apostle Paul, in Ephesians 2:8-9, does not say that works are not required at all. The purpose of his statement is to show that works do not save us, but that grace and faith do! In fact, the very next verse, verse 10, shows that God calls members of His church for the very purpose of performing good works: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Ephesians 2:10).

The apostle's language is very clear. God desires us to walk in good works, and He has prepared our spiritual educational process so that we will learn to do them. Doing good works in the name of Jesus Christ is a major part of the purpose for the life of each true Christian. We cannot truly be Christians without them!

Staff
Faith Without Works


 

Ephesians 2:8-10

The right works do not earn us salvation, yet we are created for good works. God ordained this from the very beginning. It is the right works that make life worth living, that prove to God our understanding of His purpose, and show His love in us. That love is then shown to the world and ensures that the proper witness is made for Him.

It is incredible but true that people worry and argue whether keeping the commandments of God are required as works. Of course they are! Remember, "By grace are you saved," as well as that we have been created for good works.

The book of Ephesians is about unity, about diverse people—the Gentiles on the one hand and the Jews, primarily the Israelites, on the other—living together as part of a common body. What we have in common is Jesus Christ; He is the Savior of both. What do we have to do so that we can live together? What will make life worthwhile? The right kind of works, righteous deeds and acts.

It is the same principle as in marriage. What enables two different people to live together in marriage? The right kind of works, that is, how they conduct themselves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works


 

Ephesians 2:8-10

Notice first how this chapter begins: He has made us alive (Ephesians 2:1). Paul makes sure that we understand that it is God who gives what we spiritually possess. As for verse 8, it does not matter whether we believe that the pronoun "it" refers to grace or faith; both are gifts of God.

Grace is God's kindness to us, shown or demonstrated by His revealing Himself to us. It might help to think of this in reference to God revealing Himself to Moses in the burning bush before He sent him to Egypt. If God did not freely purpose on the strength of His own sovereign will to reveal Himself, neither Moses nor we would ever find Him. If a person cannot find God on his own, how could he possibly have faith in Him? Satan has deceived us so well that men have only the foggiest idea of what to look for.

Faith—with God as its object—begins and continues as part of His gift of kindness. The gift includes His calling, the granting of repentance, the sacrifice of Christ for our forgiveness, and His giving of His Spirit. It is a complete package of many individual gifts. The gospel is the medium that provides knowledge of the objects of the faith He gives, that is, what we believe and trust in. Paul, perceiving these gifts as a package, uses "grace" as its label. In verses 9-10, he advances to the logical "next step" in God's purpose.

Our works in no way jump-start the process of justification, sanctification, and glorification. All our works, beginning with repentance and continuing through our period of sanctification, depend directly on the freely given kindness and faith God provides. Our God-ordained good works are the result of our response to the gift of faith that God gives. Works, then, are the external evidence of the unseen, internal faith that motivates them. A person could not do them unless God had given the gift of faith beforehand. Good works follow, they do not precede.

II Corinthians 5:17-18 confirms this: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. Now all things are of God who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation." This corroborates that it is God working in the person. His work is termed a "new creation." Since nothing new creates itself, we are the workmanship of another. We are God's workmanship. In sum, because of what God does, we cooperate and produce works that He ordains.

The apostle Paul adds to our understanding in Philippians 2:12-13: "Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure." He is not saying that we should work in order to obtain salvation. These verses indicate the continuing use of something one already possesses. They suggest carrying something to its logical conclusion, which is for us to live lives worthy of the gospel, doing the works God ordained, as in Ephesians 2:10.

In Romans 9:9-19, Paul, using Jacob and Esau's pre-birth circumstances as a foundation, provides a clear illustration to show that from beginning to end, the whole salvation process depends upon God's involvement. Jacob, representing those called into the church, received God's love in the form of gifts designed to prepare him for the Kingdom of God. From Esau, representing the uncalled, God has simply withheld His love for the time being.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Four)


 

Ephesians 2:10

If God, having foreordained us to be in His Kingdom, is not willing that any should perish and has thus called us, led us to repentance, and given us His Spirit, why should we be careful to "maintain good works" (Titus 3:8) or "exercise [ourselves] . . . to godliness" (I Timothy 4:7)? Why is such work necessary, since God is so determined to have us in His Kingdom?

The reason is both simple and profound. It is essential we understand it because it captures the essence of the issue of God's sovereignty. The reason is, simply, because it is His will that we do them. We must do them or we may destroy ourselves by refusing because we thus show Him that He is not really sovereign in our life. The works, of course, have other purposes as well. In fact, they have many purposes, for God rarely creates or commands anything for which He does not have multiple uses.

It should be enough for God's children to do as He wills simply because He has bidden us. Nowhere does Scripture teach or even encourage an attitude of fatalistic indifference to our circumstance. The Bible everywhere urges us not to be content with our present spiritual state. We have a long way to go to grow to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ. This is a major reason why the "welfare mentality," dragged into the church from the world, is so damaging. It destroys human responsibility to God and each other, greatly hindering one's submission to God's will. Submitting to God's will entails some measure of work because human nature, Satan, and ingrained habits must be overcome.

In Philippians 3:14, Paul proclaims, "I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." God has summoned us to salvation. Salvation is the prize that goes to those who yield to His will, showing by their lives that God is indeed their sovereign. Jesus admonishes us to, "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able" (Luke 13:24). God's Word exhorts us to proceed energetically and solve the problems of life according to His instructions.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility: Part Eleven


 

Philippians 2:12-13

It is God who saves! God saved Israel from Egyptian slavery. Israel did not overcome Pharaoh and Egypt by either warfare or by dint of superior intelligence. Jesus Christ is our Savior, and we cannot save ourselves from sin's power. When we accept Him as Savior, it obligates us as His servants to obey Him.

In like manner, when God broke Egypt's power, enabling the Israelites to be free, it obligated them to walk out of Egypt if they wanted their liberty. If the Israelites wanted to save their skins and be totally free of Egypt when God parted the Red Sea, it obligated them to walk the path God made for them between the walls of water. When God said, "I am going to bring you into the land and provide for you along the way," if Israel wanted these things, they were obligated to walk all the way to Canaan. It is very clear that if Israel wanted what God said He would give, then Israel had to also cooperate by working in the form of walking to where God said He would lead or take them. "Walk" is a code word for living.

With this as a background, when Paul says to "work out your own salvation," it cannot possibly mean we are going to save ourselves. Rather, like what confronted the Israelites when God opened the way to their physical salvation from slavery in Egypt, we should be ready to make God's spiritual salvation practical and operational. Paul does not say we must work for salvation, but rather carry our salvation out to its conclusion. He uses "work out" in much the same sense as when a student is told to work out an arithmetic problem—to bring it to its conclusion. For us, the conclusion, the goal, to work toward is Christ-likeness. The salvation here is sanctification, victory over sin unto holiness.

To make it very plain, if we want to be one with Him, we must get moving in the direction He is pointing, and He points toward His standards of conduct and attitude. Each person's walk is not exactly the same because each person's experience and makeup are somewhat different. There is enough similarity among humans, though, to make the Bible always relevant.

One of the beautiful things about this is that each person's walk toward the image of God is exactly right for him. What is more, Philippians 2:13 also says God gives us both the will and power or energy to do it! The New Testament in Modern Speech renders it, "For it is God Himself whose power creates within you both the desire and the power to execute His gracious will." This work of God in us is another aspect of His grace, and without it, we could never be one with Him.

God Himself produces in us both the desire to live righteously and the effective energy to do so. He does not demand what we cannot do (I Corinthians 10:13). We see in Philippians 2:12 our responsibility and in verse 13 help to accomplish it.

We can see this working together with God in simple illustrations from physical life. We may launch a sailboat upon the water, but it takes what God supplies, wind, to make it move. We may plant vegetable seeds, but it is the power of God in nature that makes the plant grow and produce food. We may generate gigawatts of electricity in power plants, but God provides the wind, water, sunlight, coal, oil, or gas to turn the turbines. In each case, we add something to what God already supplied.

Our salvation is something already given because it is God's will, and He is sovereign. We, though, must do something to make it practical by applying ourselves to salvation's demands. Even in this, God enables us to do it!

We will never know where the dividing line is between what God supplies and what we are responsible to do because it is different for each according to God's purpose. This proportion must be different because each person is different, and He is preparing us for different responsibilities within His Family. This is sure, however: Our walk toward salvation will always be difficult enough to be challenging and edifying.

Even here the analogy of Israel in the wilderness comes to our aid. Where did Israel get the energy to walk across the wilderness to the Promised Land? Did it not come from the manna and water God supplied, as well as the vision and hope of the inheritance which He also provided? Still, Israel walked! They had to work, to cooperate.

The verb "work" in Philippians 2:12 is in a tense that indicates continuous working. Just as Israel did not leave Egypt and arrive in the Promised Land in one step, neither are our salvation and oneness with God accomplished at once. It, too, is a process; it is our life's work.

John W. Ritenbaugh
All in All


 

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

This is a prayer of Paul's in which he makes a bold request on behalf of that congregation. It contains great encouragement for us. Paul requests their complete sanctification and preservation as holy until they die or God finishes His activities on behalf of the church at Christ's coming.

Sanctification is the part of salvation that deals with our progressive growth in the grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ—or put another way, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ—or in yet another way, into God's image. God is faithful in carrying out His part in the building of Christian character. God's faithfulness guarantees the progressive perfection of a Christian's life. He is not like men who begin a project, lose interest, run into difficulties, consider it too hard to overcome, or become impatient and quit. He does not begin a work and then get disgusted with it and turn to something else. He does not begin and, finding He lacks the resources to finish, give up. Men do this, but God never stops until He is finished. He does not finish until He is satisfied.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Faithfulness


 

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14

Sanctification is just the opposite of apostasy. Apostasy means "to depart" from truth, from God. Sanctification, on the other hand, is becoming more attached to God until Christ's image is formed in us. There is a contrast, then, between those condemned and those who are going to receive salvation, who will be rescued because they love the truth.

John W. Ritenbaugh
A Place of Safety? (Part 4)


 

2 Thessalonians 2:13-15

What did Paul teach them that he calls "traditions" (verse 15)? The King James Study Bible says in a note regarding traditions which you were taught: ". . . refers to more than customs. In view here is the totality of the apostolic doctrine as it was given to them."

He is not referring to the rituals or ceremonies of the apostolic church. He is talking about keeping the commandments of God—about keeping the Sabbath and the holy days, about living the Christian way of life, and about salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. I Thessalonians 2:14 says that the Thessalonians were "imitators of the churches of God which are in Judea in Christ Jesus." How were the Judeans conducting their Christian lives? They certainly did not think the law of God was done away.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace and Law (Part 20)


 

1 Timothy 2:1

Three times in four brief verses (I Timothy 2:1, 3-4, 6), God states He has planned for the salvation of all. Since He desires to save all men, they must all be given an opportunity for it. It is very obvious from human experience that very few among all mankind have ever heard the gospel or come to the knowledge of the truth.

Verse 6 also says that Christ is a ransom for all, and this will be testified or witnessed of in due time. The way Paul wrote this shows that the testifying is still future. In other words, many had not heard of Christ's ransom for sin, and Paul indicates that he expected many then living and many yet unborn would also die without hearing of it. But it would be witnessed to all in due time because Jesus Christ is the only name under heaven by which men can be saved.

God's plan, humanly speaking, covers a long time. Like Paul, Peter clearly says that God does not desire anyone to perish. Other scriptures indicate that some will, but it is not God's will that they do so.

The critical factor in these verses is repentance. How can a person repent if he does not have knowledge of the truth, if he does not know the purpose God is working out, of what he should repent, why he should repent, or by what means his sins are forgiven? The overwhelming majority of people who have ever lived on earth fit into this category! These things remain untestified to them.

I Corinthians 15:21-23 adds another important revelation to this mystery. "For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ's at His coming."

Simply put, God is proceeding according to a plan. All die, but that same all will also be made alive, resurrected in a certain order according to God's plan. Verse 26 reads, "The last enemy that will be destroyed is death"—it has not yet been destroyed! This means that God's plan is still continuing, and in due time the opportunity for salvation will come to all, even though God must resurrect many to that opportunity. Most churches exclude most of this world from salvation because they are not part of their group. Why do people scoff when we point out that God will give all mankind the chance to conform to His image?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Final Harvest


 

Titus 2:11-14

Titus 2:11-14 describes this obligation thrust upon us as a result of receiving God's grace. These verses are jam-packed with instruction about our Christian responsibilities. Having grown up in this Protestant-dominated society, we have heard much about God's "free grace." Though God's grace is freely given, by no stretch of Scripture can we properly label it as free! No gift has ever been so costly! It cost Christ His life! And because grace obligates us to give our life as a living sacrifice completely set apart to God (Romans 12:1), it has also cost us ours.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Five Teachings of Grace


 

Titus 2:11-14

Remember that Paul uses "grace" as a collective term to encompass many aspects of God's freely given kindnesses. To the astute, grace is a gift that teaches its recipients. These verses show what it teaches:

1. It teaches how and in what attitude we must conduct our lives—that is, righteously and godly.

2. It teaches us to live in anticipation of Christ's return.

3. It teaches us about iniquity and redemption.

4. It teaches that we must zealously do good works.

Ephesians 2:8-10 states that salvation is by grace through faith, and that these two lead to good works. Grace and faith are the very foundations of salvation, and with the privilege of having access to God, we also have a responsibility: to perform the good works God ordained beforehand for us to do. Can we honestly avoid the fact that God requires works?

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

Hebrews 4:14-16

If justification saved us, why would there be any need to hold fast? to come boldly to the throne of grace to obtain mercy after that? Justification does not mean salvation. It is, indeed, a step in that direction, but it is not a property of justification to bestow salvation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 4)


 

Hebrews 6:1

During the time of the Exodus, the people of Israel heard a message of good news from Moses (Hebrews 4:2). It consisted of redemption from slavery, the Passover, baptism in the Red Sea, and a journey through the wilderness to the Promised Land. The good news, then, included the occurrences of and the knowledge about all the steps along the way, all of the benchmarks. The purpose for which all those events occurred was the most important part. What good was it to have the death angel pass over their house, for them to receive the forgiveness of sin and redemption from slavery, if they never made it to the Promised Land? That is Paul's warning. The steps, though vital in themselves, are not as important as the goal.

This warning applies especially to today. What Jesus Christ did in His life, in His death and in His resurrection, is awesome, a wonderful and great gift. It is good news that these things have occurred, but they are not the good news. The good news is the goal, and that has not yet occurred. What Jesus Christ did is exceedingly important to the fulfillment of God's purpose, but it's still possible for us to reject the Son of God even after we have accepted His blood for the forgiveness of our sins, as Hebrews 12 also shows very clearly. So in this analogy, life in, possession of and governance of the Promised Land was the culmination, the good news, the fulfillment—at least physically—of the promises to Abraham.

The message that Jesus Christ brought, the gospel, is about the Kingdom of God, the culmination, the goal, the fulfillment. Certainly it includes the knowledge of and information about those benchmarks along the way, but the Kingdom of God is the goal toward which every Christian is aiming.

These doctrines or principles are very important, as Hebrews 6:1 shows. God will grant us repentance and forgive us through the blood of Jesus Christ. What good news! But it is not the good news. That is the principle: Being granted repentance and having faith in and through Jesus Christ are good news, but the result of those things is the real good news. It is the culmination of the process—"let us go on to perfection"—that is the good news.

What if the gospel concentrates solely on the person of the Messenger and overlooks the message He brought? If it focuses on the greatness of the Messenger, all of the good news about Him, and His importance to the process, His significance actually begins to diminish. If one concentrates on the Messenger, he will believe that salvation comes merely because he believes in the Messenger (see Matthew 7:21). Further development of that human being stops because he has made the wrong choice. That is the problem with concentrating on the Messenger, as important as He is.

The gospel does not specifically concentrate on Christ, yet we do not want to denigrate the major role He plays either. The process pivots around Him, though its ultimate purpose will end when He delivers the Kingdom to the Father (I Corinthians 15:24). The Messenger became the High Priest, and we are saved through His life. Christianity has to go beyond the fact that He was the Messenger. Now He is the High Priest in heaven. And though He is High Priest, we still have choices to make in relation to the Kingdom of God.

That is why Hebrews 6:1 says, "Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection." As we go through the process that the Messenger went through and begin to experience what He accomplished, He is magnified in our eyes, because we try to do what He did and realize how awesome and difficult what He did was. While we try to imitate Him, the process of creation is going on. If we stop trying to imitate Him, He becomes diminished. That is why we have to go on to perfection, to completion, because the process is not complete with just believing in Jesus Christ.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Hebrews 6:4-6

These verses give great difficulty to those who believe in an unconditional salvation. It is very clear that anyone who fits this description will not be in God's Kingdom.

If it were not possible for us to fall away, why would Paul even write as he did in I Corinthians 9:27? "But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified [castaway, KJV]." He also warns in Colossians 1:22-23:

In the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and irreproachable in His sight - if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven, of which I, Paul, became a minister.

John W. Ritenbaugh
After Pentecost, Then What?


 

Hebrews 6:4-6

These verses mean exactly what they say. Every Protestant commentary has trouble with this because, to them, justification and salvation are the same thing, but they are not! Their belief flies in the face of the reality of God's Word. A person who has been justified can fall away, just as verse 6 says. This is reiterated in Hebrews 10:26-31, in what is arguably the strongest language in the entire Bible.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part 29)


 

Hebrews 10:5-10

Here, Jesus is recognizing His body as a gift given so that the Father's will may be done. Animal sacrifices could not accomplish God's will, but the sacrifice of the sinless God-man, Jesus of Nazareth, could. It has the power to cleanse from sin so that a New Covenant, a whole new religious order, may be established based on a personal relationship—unparalleled in its intimacy—with our Creator.

A major weakness of animal sacrifices is their failure to produce a desire in the offerer to obey God. No animal life is equal in value to a human life. Though we may grieve at the loss of a pet, an animal's sacrificial death cannot have a real impact because it will not motivate us to do anything. But when a human dies for us, we feel it! We feel we owe something in return; indebtedness arises from our gratitude for what the sacrifice accomplished.

In our case, the most valuable Life ever lived was given. Gratitude, worship, and obedience are the only appropriate responses to such a sacrificial gift as the body of Jesus Christ. There is no other acceptable sacrifice for sin that will allow us to continue living.

The theme of Passover is the awesome cost of salvation, which is manifested in the sinless sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His was not a mechanical sinlessness, but He was sinless, innocent, even while encumbered with the frailties of human nature just as we are. His was sinlessness with sympathy, empathy, compassion, kindness, and concern for the helpless slaves of sin. Understanding this, we should feel revulsion that our sins caused such an injustice as His death to occur. At the same time, we should also express appreciation, indebtedness, and thanksgiving by departing from sin.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Christ, Our Passover


 

Hebrews 10:26-31

Most Protestants believe their salvation is assured once they accept Jesus Christ as their personal Savior. Many call this doctrine by the very familiar phrase, "once saved, always saved." To them, this means that God's grace eternally covers them, and thus they have eternal security that God will save them. God is bound to accept them and to give them salvation no matter what occurs after they accept Jesus. In his worldwide crusades, evangelist Billy Graham has popularized the Protestant hymn, "Just as I am, Lord," which sings the praises of this doctrine.

To us, this idea of "eternal security" is a completely ridiculous concept. God is pure and holy (I Peter 1:15-16). He will not accept people who are not as He is. He forsook His own Son, Jesus Christ, when the sins of the world were placed on Him (Matthew 27:46)! Why would He accept us, who are far more personally sinful, if we failed to repent of our sins and came before Him demanding Him to save us "just as we are"?

An analogy from the real world may be helpful. Just because a criminal is absolved of committing a certain crime does not mean that he will never again be guilty of another crime. For example, if the governor of a state commutes a murderer's sentence, but the criminal commits another crime later in his life, he is not innocent. The law says he is guilty of the later crime.

In the same way, a Christian who commits sin is guilty even though God's grace has covered him in the past. If he continues in the sin until it becomes a habitual way of life, he is in danger of losing the salvation promised to him. Notice Paul's quite concise statement in Hebrews 10:26: "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins."

This is plain. If we sin in rebellion against God, setting our will to go against God and His way of life, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ no longer applies. In essence, we have spit in His face. Paul continues by telling us what applies at that point (Hebrews 10:27-31).

Peter says, "For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God" (I Peter 4:17), and if we live a life of sin, we will reap the punishment that those sins deserve. Our God is a God of justice. The idea of "eternal security," then, is foreign to the Bible. It is puzzling how theologians could develop such a doctrine when the Bible repeatedly comments, warns, and advises that we can lose it all through sin.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?


 

Hebrews 11:5-7

The objection people have regarding Hebrews 11:5-7 is that the mention of works and reward in the same breath suggests legalism and working for salvation. Is that so, or is it a misconception on their part? The latter. They misunderstand the salvation process because they do not allow the Bible to interpret itself.

God says in Genesis 15:1, "Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward." His encouragement applies to us as well as to him. God Himself is the reward of those who seek Him. "Those who seek Him" is limited to those God invites to approach Him and who believe enough to take advantage of the opportunity and thus stir themselves up to draw near. The invitation itself is an aspect of God's grace.

Romans 4:4 makes it clear that earning access to God is impossible because it would put God in man's debt. No, access to Him is the result of freely given grace. The pairing of grace and reward is no more inconsistent than God's almighty sovereignty and man's responsibility being linked, or Jesus being both our Lord and our Servant. There would be no reward if God did not first give grace.

Another pairing we need to consider is found in Colossians 3:23-24: "And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance; for you serve the Lord Christ." Is not salvation a free gift? Yes, but as servants of Christ, we work, and our reward is eternal entrance into God's Kingdom. Add to this the idea found in Isaiah 55:1, that we are to "buy . . . without money." Salvation, then, is both a gift and a reward.

It should be clear that, in terms of salvation, gifts and works are nothing more than opposite sides of the same coin. Both are involved in the same process—salvation—but they are seen from different perspectives.

One thing is certain: There will be no lazy, neglectful people in the Kingdom of God (Matthew 25:26-30). Why? Because God is preparing us for living with Him eternally, so we must be created in the character image of Him and His Son, or we absolutely will not fit in. We would live in absolute, eternal misery. Jesus stresses that diligent work is part of His character when He says in John 5:17, "My Father has been working until now, and I have been working." Creators work!

Luke 13:24 adds strength to this point: "Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say to you, will seek to enter and will not be able." The Greek word translated "strive" is actually the source of the English word "agonize." In addition, Jesus urges us in John 6:27 to labor "for the food which endures to everlasting life." God chooses to reward such strenuous efforts, not because they earn us a place in His presence, but because He deems it fitting to recognize and bless them. The Bible shows salvation as a reward, not because people earn it, but because God wants to emphasize the character of those who will be in His Kingdom and encourage others to be like them. The citizens of that Kingdom are workers like the Father and Son.

A second reason why reward and salvation are linked is because salvation, like payment for a person's labor, comes after the job is finished. Among the apostles, nobody worked harder for God than Paul did. At the end of his life, he writes:

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing. (II Timothy 4:7-8)

Just as wages for work performed are paid after a job is done, God's major blessings are not given completely until our course is finished.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Christian Fight (Part Five)


 

Hebrews 12:14

Holiness starts in one's relationship with the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ. Justification through God's merciful act of grace opens the door of access to Him, as well as the door to the Kingdom of God. Justification is entirely an act of God, a legal action on our behalf that we accept by faith because He does not lie. Others do not easily discern our justification, since in most cases it has no outward manifestation.

While sanctification unto holiness begins at the same moment as justification, it is a progressive, creative, time-consuming work of God within us. Unlike justification, sanctification cannot be hidden because it appears in our godly conduct. By it, a witness is made that God dwells in us. Where there is no holiness, there is no witness to glorify God.

So we see that justification and sanctification are two separate matters. They are related - indeed, they cannot be separated - but we should never confuse them. If one partakes in either, he is a partaker of both, but we should not overlook the distinctions between them.

Christians cannot take sanctification for granted. We must pursue it until we are assured that we are sanctified. Our course is clear: We must go to Christ as forgiven sinners, offering our lives to Him by faith, crying out to Him for the grace we need to enable us to overcome all the flaws in our characters.

The apostle Paul writes in Philippians 4:19, "And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." The same apostle adds in Ephesians 4:15-16:

. . . but, speaking the truth in love, [we] may grow up in all things into Him who is the head - Christ - from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.

Close communication with Christ is the source of the perception, motivation, and energy to discern flaws and overcome them. It is a biblical principle that whatever God requires, He provides what we need to accomplish it. Thus, we are to draw from this inexhaustible well and be renewed every day in the spirit of our minds (verses 23-24). In John 17:17, on the night before His crucifixion, Jesus asked the Father to sanctify us by His truth. Will God not answer that prayer, especially when we desire to be sanctified to be like His Son? He most certainly will answer it so that our sanctification will continue.

Perhaps a word of caution is in order, and with it an admonishment that we also ask for patience. Growth does not always come quickly. In addition, as we grow in knowledge, at the same time we become more perceptive of our flaws. The more we know, the more flaws we see, and this can become humiliating and discouraging. The humility it produces is good, but the discouragement is not so good if it halts our growth.

Paul faced this, writing of it in Romans 7, but he most certainly did not let it stop him. By the time he finishes his discourse, he declares resoundingly that he knows he will be delivered by Jesus Christ. Sinners we are when we begin, and sinners we find ourselves to be as we continue - we will be sinners to the very end. Salvation is by grace, is it not? Our absolute perfection will not occur until we are changed "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet" (I Corinthians 15:52).

While reaching for God's holiness, we should not let our goals ever be anything but the highest. We should never let Satan convince us that we can be satisfied with what we are right now.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required To Do Works? (Part Six)


 

1 Peter 3:7

A husband should give his wife the impression she is the finest in the land. The apostle links this with our salvation and relationship with God. It is that important!

Staff
A Matter of Honor


 

1 Peter 4:1-2

We are commanded to arm ourselves with the same mindset and attitude of Christ. He had the entire host of heaven at His disposal yet never lifted a finger in His own defense! He threw the moneychangers out of the Temple, not because they were threatening Him, but because they were desecrating His Father's house. When it came to His own security, He always chose to remove Himself from the situation—until His earthly ministry was over, when He humbly submitted to the most unfair treatment that has ever been imposed on a human being.

Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10 to "be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might." In the next several verses, He shows that we are involved in a war, one in which no sword, gun, or any other human weapon can help us. Our battles are spiritual battles, and even when those battles involve human instruments, our articles of defense are still spiritual: truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, and of course, the "sword" of the Spirit—the Word of God (verses 14-17). This is the sword that we should carry with us constantly and look to for defense.

David C. Grabbe
Living By the Sword


 

2 Peter 3:14-18

Peter ends the epistle with the same thought with which he began: We live in spiritually dangerous times, and the way to stay on the beam is to keep on growing. If we grow, our salvation is assured. God is faithful; He has promised us salvation, and He will give it to us if we are faithful.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Do We Have 'Eternal Security'?


 

2 Peter 3:15

That God is longsuffering or forbearing with us means that we are able to have salvation. It will not happen any other way. If He were not longsuffering with us, there would be no salvation. We could never please Him with our miserable works, and our sins would qualify us only to be grease spots on the road. "The longsuffering of our Lord is salvation." We had better be glad that God is patient, that He will take the time to work with us, however long it may take, so that we can be in His Kingdom and grow in His character.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Forbearance


 

1 John 3:1-3

The goal is salvation, a concept that needs to be rescued from the small ideas man has assigned to it. Protestant religion has degraded it by talking about it incessantly. But salvation is such a majestic idea! It denotes the comprehensive process of God's purpose by which He is justifying, sanctifying, and transforming His children. John shows us the transformation. God does this by calling us, granting us repentance, forgiving our sins, accepting us as righteous in His sight through Christ, and then progressively changing us through His awesome creative power, by His Spirit, into the image of His Son, until we become like Christ, made like God God, with new bodies in a new world, the new heaven and the new earth. It is deliverance from the degrading, mean lives in which we have been held captive in this world! It is living in the Kingdom of God, its goal!

We must never be guilty of minimizing the awesomeness of such a great salvation.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Guard the Truth!


 

Revelation 2:2

To each church in the letters in Revelation 2 and 3, Christ says, "I know your works." People with an incomplete knowledge of Christianity will argue almost endlessly and quite vociferously that no works are needed for salvation. These people are simply, if energetically and zealously, confused.

Salvation is indeed a free gift; it cannot be earned by anyone's works. But that does not mean Christianity has no works. Why would Christ say, "I know your works," if He did not expect people to have them as part of their way of life, as part of Christianity, and if He was not, in most cases, disappointed at the way that the people were working? Christianity does have works as a major part of its makeup.

Herbert Armstrong used to explain salvation and grace and works in an understandable and accurate way. He said, "If I freely offered to give to you one million dollars, but you have to meet the condition of walking across the room to get it, you haven't earned the money by simply walking across the room. You worked during the walk, you met a condition, but the money was still a gift. If the gift had not been offered in the first place, no amount of walking across the room would have earned it. You could have walked from here to Tokyo if you wanted to, and it still would not have earned you that gift. The gift had to be freely offered first."

Think of this in terms of eternal life. No amount of work, no degree of quality of work, can earn that gift for us. We do not have immortality inherent in us, for immortality is something that must be given as a gift. This is what God offers us. He offers us the opportunity to be born again into the Kingdom of God, thus receiving the gift of eternal life. It must be given and received as a gift. However, it is given on the conditions of faith, repentance, and remaining loyal to Him and to His way.

It is in the area of loyalty that works play a major role. We show our loyalty by the way we talk, what we talk about, who we fellowship with, and what we do with our time, our knowledge, and energy. In short, we show our loyalty by our works—that is, by our conduct—and what we produce with what we have been given.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Love and Works


 

Revelation 3:12

Because Christ criticizes Philadelphia very little, opens doors before her, and offers protection from the Tribulation, it is easy to think we "have it made" if we were or are part of Philadelphia. Yet Christ admonishes Philadelphia just as He does the other churches: Overcome! A Christian must never rest on his oars, no matter what his situation or era. We all must overcome the world (I John 5:4), our nature, and Satan to be granted salvation, and if we do, entrance to God's Kingdom is an absolute promise!

Staff
The Seven Churches: Philadelphia


 

Revelation 20:11-15

The resurrection of the righteous takes place at Christ's return (I Thessalonians 4:13-18), but that of the uncalled - the second resurrection - will occur in the Great White Throne Judgment after the Millennium. God is merciful, loving, and kind, not willing that any should perish. He desires all to come to the knowledge of the truth and to true repentance at the proper time. He has determined that most will receive this opportunity when He has set up His Kingdom on the earth, an environment most conducive to salvation.

These people will be raised up to physical existence. The "books" that are opened at this time are the books of the Bible in which are revealed true knowledge and understanding. The "Book of Life" will also be opened so their names can be written in it when they repent of their sins, accept Christ as personal Savior, and receive the Holy Spirit. During this time, they will be judged according to their works. Thus, we see most of humanity standing before God to be judged. God in His wisdom has determined that this is the best way to bring the most sons to glory and eternal life in His Kingdom.

Martin G. Collins
Basic Doctrines: The Second Resurrection


 

Find more Bible verses about Salvation:
Salvation {Nave's}
Salvation {Torrey's}
 




The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

The Berean: Daily Verse and Comment

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