Are You Absolutely Sure of Eternal Life?

 

 

Are You Absolutely Sure


of Eternal Life?

Richard Hollerman

People generally are interested in being sure about important life decisions. Who will they marry, what profession or occupation will they pursue, what position will they take, where will they live, and what car should they buy? What is the best alternative to various health issues that may arise, such as cancer treatments or heart disease conditions? If these matters call for some concern and consideration, how much more important is it that we think carefully about our eternal future! If decisions that only affect ten years or a lifetime should be given some study, what about decisions that will determine one’s eternal destiny!

Are you absolutely sure of eternal life? You may be wondering how this question can be answered with assurance. Maybe you deny that anyone can really be sure of going to heaven. In other words, you think that everyone will just need to way for the Judgment Day and hope for the best. Others may have been told that some people can know that they are forgiven and prepared for heaven, but they just aren’t sure about their own standing with God. Still others are quite confused about what lies beyond death. What about you?

The age-old quest of humanity is that which was expressed in the Word of God: “How then can man be in the right before God? How can he who is born of woman be pure?”[1] If we hope to go to heaven, we know that we must be right with God. But how can you be right and how can I be right? Once we have done wrong (the Bible calls this sin), how can we ever be right?

Let’s ask and answer certain important questions in order to find out about receiving eternal life and being right with God. We’ll also make some important statements that we ask you to thoughtfully consider.

        1.    Why do I need to make sure of having eternal life?

We all know that life is uncertain and death is sure.  Just last night I spoke with a woman who said with deep emotion that her husband seemed to be doing well after a stay in the hospital but after returning home, he surprisingly died.  Yes, your or I may die unexpectedly like this. We never know when our end will be.

The Lord Jesus spoke about a rich man who thought that everything was going well with him. He planned to enjoy his retirement and have lots of money to gratify all of his desires. But that very night, God said to him, “You fool! This very night your soul is required of God; and now who will own what you have prepared?”[2] This man didn’t know he was going to die—but he died nonetheless. It could be that way with you or me. We need to make sure of our standing with God now, while we can. It would be a horrible tragedy if we missed God’s wondrous offer!

        2.    Don’t I have a long life before me? Let me just put off these questions for another time.

We know that the average person lives to about 78 years in America—but there are many who don’t. In fact, 50 percent of people don’t make it to the average life expectancy.  Even if we live some seventy or eighty years,[3] this is very brief compared to eternity.

Consider with me.  James tell us, “You do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”[4] At best, we live for “a little while” in light of everlasting life. If eternity were merely one million years, living on earth for a hundred years would only be 1/10,000 of eternity! Eternity would be 10,000 times as long as a lifespan of 100 years! Can you somehow perceive the vastness of eternity! It is impossible to really understand it but we need to at least see how foolish it is to spend our tiny life here without regard to eternal life that reaches out beyond our death!

       3.    Why not just continue as I am? Why should I get so concerned about death and what happens after death?

This is a good question and it has an answer.  Suppose that a person has cancer. Should he just forget about this deadly condition? Shouldn’t he seek medical treatment to solve the cancer problem?  Or suppose that a person has a car with the red “Warning” light on. Should he continue to drive the vehicle as though there were nothing wrong with it? He would soon discover that his car suffers a major breakdown.

Similarly, if we are afflicted with the terrible malady of sin, isn’t it prudent for me to seek how I can get rid of the sin?  Shouldn’t I want to solve my spiritual problem as soon as possible because I never know when God will allow me to die?  It is absolutely foolish to live as though we have plenty of time when, in reality, another day is not promised to us.

       4.    Won’t everyone make it to heaven anyway? Why should I be that concerned about being received into God’s presence?

These are common questions that people have and there are answers to them.  The fact is that not everyone will get into heaven. This may be shocking—but it is true.  Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.”[5]

Do you find this surprising? Many have found it so—and many people don’t believe our Lord’s words. But they are “true and rational words.”[6] It is true that the way to eternal life in heaven is entered by a “narrow gate” and one must walk the “narrow way,” while the way to destruction in hell is entered by a wide gate and one then walks a “broad” way. Only a few will go to heaven but many—the majority—will go to eternal destruction. How sad—but how true.

Someone came to Jesus one day and asked, “Lord, are there just a few who are being saved?” The Lord Jesus answered, “Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able.”[7] According to these words, many won’t enter that heavenly home, whereas only a “few” will be able to enter in. Since only a few are saved in comparison to the many lost, it is imperative that you and I make sure of our own standing with God![8]

        5.    Won’t all religions eventually lead to God in heaven?

Many people believe this. In fact, they are gambling their eternity with the false idea that everyone will make it to eternal life if they are part of a religion of some sort. But this makes no sense.  Truth is truth, wherever it may be found but not all claims for truth are truthful. Not all religions promote the truth. Some are completely wrong and most are at least partly wrong. Because of this, most people are building their life on a foundation of sand that won’t last.

Buddhism can’t get us to heaven for this religion doesn’t even believe in heaven. It doesn’t believe in the true and living personal God.  Hinduism can’t take us to heaven either since it believes in three chief “gods” and over 300 million lesser “gods.”  Thus, they reject the fact of one true God.  “There is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him.”[9] Likewise, Islam can’t be true, thus it can’t be a way to heaven, for Muslims reject the God of Scripture and deny that Jesus is the Son of God. We know that only those who believe that Jesus is God’s Son can have eternal life.[10] New Age teachings can’t give one eternal life and take one to heaven since this modern religious philosophy doesn’t even believe in a true personal God and Creator, plus they utterly reject Jesus as the only way to God.[11] The Jewish religion is incapable of taking us to heaven since it rejects the only way to God in heaven—Jesus the Messiah and the Son of God.[12]

Catholicism, even though it claims to be Christian, can’t take us to heaven since Mary isn’t the only way to eternal life. She was merely a fallible human being in need of a Savior, whereas Jesus is God’s Son and the only way to God’s kingdom.[13] The Mormon religion can’t take us to heaven since these fine people believe in three separate gods and they follow a false prophet. Furthermore, they believe that every faithful Mormon will become a god—a most heretical doctrine.  The so-called Jehovah’s Witness religion is unable to take us to heaven since they don’t even believe that one can be “born again” and we know that only those who are born again can enter God’s kingdom. Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”[14] We could look at thousands of other religions on this earth, but it should be clear that no “religion” at all can take us to heaven and give us eternal life!

        6.    If I miss out on God and eternal life now, won’t I have another opportunity after death?

Sadly, we must say that this is a vain hope. We only have this life to prepare for the life after death. A Hindu may believe that he will be reincarnated after death and be able to work off his bad karma. But this comes from a fertile imagination and not divine revelation. New Age adherents may also think they will come back as another person and have the opportunity to make wrong things right, but this too is a vain prospect.

Catholics believe they will go to purgatory and be able to suffer punishment and purification for their sins in this life, but this isn’t taught at all in the Word of God. One friend believes that after death, God will directly give the truth to all and at that time, nearly everyone will accept His offer and receive eternal life. This too is a vain hope for it isn’t found in God’s Word.  We also know that some people are Universalists who think that everyone eventually will be saved. But this comes from the figment of people’s imaginations for God would have revealed this to us if it were true.

All of these faulty views don’t do justice to the truth of God. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”[15] Jesus gave a parable about an unloving rich man who died and a poor man who also died. The former person went immediately to a place of torment while the latter went to a place of fellowship and comfort.[16] There was no delay. God says that in the resurrection when Christ comes again, some will go to “everlasting life” but others will go to “disgrace and everlasting contempt.”[17] As Jesus said, some will go away into “eternal punishment” while the righteous will go into “eternal life.”[18]

This shows that now is the time to make sure of your standing with God. This is the only time you have to prepare for eternal life in heaven. Otherwise, it will be too late! “Today if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.”[19]

        7.    Can’t we just remain where we are and hope for the best? That is what people have been doing all through history.

Yes, that is what people generally do. Most people remain in the religion of their parents, their society, or their country.  Thus, Muslims generally are born into a Muslim family, live as a Muslim, and die as a Muslim. The same is true of Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, Catholics, Protestants, Jews, and others. But is this a rational thing to do? Is it always wise to continue in the religion of our parents? What if they belong to a religion that denies that Jesus is God’s Son and the only way to heaven? Is it rational to stay in a religion that cannot give us eternal life and can only lead us to hell? No, it isn’t logical or wise.

Jesus’ followers one time told him that he was offending the Jewish religious leaders and their religion. He replied, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted. Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.”[20] In other words, the Lord Jesus said that every religious “plant” that God didn’t “plant” or establish shall be “uprooted” by God in the Judgment. Further, if a “blind” religious leader tries to guide a “blind” member of a religion, both will fall into a pit. Imagine a blind person hanging on to a blind leader who is trying to go through a treacherous jungle, with overhanging branches, deadly spiders, venomous snakes, and holes in the ground! Both would perish. Likewise, if we place our confidence in spiritually blind and deceived priests, prophets, pastors, teachers, gurus, or rabbis, all will be lost.

        8.    Can’t I go to heaven by something I do or some devotion to religious rituals I might perform?

Sometimes we talk to people about what they think will happen to them after death. One person may say, “I’ve tried to keep the Ten Commandments, so I should be given heaven.” But we all know that no one can keep all of them perfectly. Another person may say that he has been a good church member who has an important church office. But this can’t save anyone—and may, in fact, lead him into a false way.  Yet another may boast of his charitable or church giving. But how can this solve the sin problem?  You may know people who try to be good enough and expect that this will indebt God to them.

Whole religious systems teach that being good, keeping he commandments, observing the Golden Rule, being a responsible father or mother, or going to church will assure their place in heaven. Others think they will reach nirvana through meditation or reach purgatory then heaven through religious rituals.

These attempts at placating God or achieving heaven are futile for we can do nothing meritorious at all to deserve heaven. Eternal life comes by receiving rather than achieving. As we have seen elsewhere on these pages, the principles of salvation are God’s grace and our faith: “To the one who does not work [to obtain salvation], but believes Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness.”[21] Notice this distinction: We are not saved by our works (on the basis or ground of our works), but neither are we saved without works. Our faith must be a working, active, obedient faith in order to save.

       9.    What then is the basic problem of the human race?

This is a crucial question and the answer is utterly important.  Since God is perfect in every way, He says that we also are to be perfect.[22] Since He is holy (separated from sin), He requires that we be holy: “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”[23] Since He is righteous, He says that we are to be righteous as well.[24] The trouble is that none of us is perfect, or holy, or righteous in every way and at all times. We all fail to be all that God wants us to be.

God is the “one Lawgiver and Judge.”[25]  Sin is the breaking of God’s basic moral and spiritual Law: “Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness.”[26]  God says that we are “all under sin”[27] and “there is none righteous, not even one.”[28]

Ever since sin came into the world through Adam and Eve, we have had to face the universal human problem of sin![29]  The Bible says, “Just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”[30] This is the basic predicament of man and woman—we are all sinners for we have all sinned. And this sin has disastrous consequences!

        10.So is sin the basic problem that we must face?

Sin is the basic problem along with all of the effects of sin in our life.  The Word of God says, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”[31] “There is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins.”[32] The greatest tragedy is that you will “die in your sins.”[33]  We are all sinners and must face the eternal consequences of falling short of God’s glory and His basic moral and spiritual Law.

Sin may be defined in the Greek language as “missing the mark.” It misses the mark of God’s will and His perfect Law.  Further, “sin is lawlessness,”[34] or disobeying the Law or will of God.  Again, when we fail to do the right things of God we sin, for “all unrighteousness is sin.”[35] We also read, “To the one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”[36] Thus, when we know to do something good but refuse to do it, we are sinning. Finally, the Bible says, “Whatever is not from faith is sin.”[37] This means that if we have doubts that something is right (we think it may displease God but we’re not sure), for us to go ahead and do it, this is sinful for us. So we can see that sin is a lack of conformity to God’s revealed will—in thought, attitude, word, and deed. Doesn’t this include you as it does me?

       11.Now that we see that we all have sinned, what is the result of this personal sin of which we are guilty?

We could discuss this at length, but let’s keep it very simple. But along with the simplicity, we are speaking about something very serious and profound.  The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death.”[38] We also read, “You were dead in your trespasses and sins.”[39] This is not good news! We are spiritually “dead” and cut off from God who is life.  Further, we are “alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds.”[40] Even the best of us has fallen into sinful things—whether thought, word, attitude, or deed. None of us is blameless. All of us are guilty. Further, because of our sin, we are under God’s righteous anger: “The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness.”[41]

If we move beyond the present time, we also see how sin will affect us after death.  Let’s remember that Jesus will come again. We read of the glorious and climactic coming of Christ: “The Lord Jesus will be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These will pay the penalty of eternal destruction away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power.”[42] This will be horrible to experience! The beloved Savior who invites sinners to repentance now will be a powerful Judge in the future and will punish all disobedience. 

Those who commit sin will not be part of the coming Kingdom of God![43] They will be judged by a righteous God.[44] Further, they will be sent to the eternal lake of fire to suffer punishment forever and ever.[45] God will be angry or wrathful against all of those who die in sin and refuse to repent.[46] We can see from these facts that now is the time to solve the sin problem. Better yet, it is wise for us to discover what God has done to solve the sin problem and how we can be forgiven!

        12.But what if a person is much better than the average person?

Suppose that we stood on one side of a deep chasm at the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  We are required to jump to the other side a mile away!  One person in a wheelchair may struggle to jump two feet before he falls into the yawning gorge. Another person may jump 8 feet before he falls into the abyss. And a great broad jumper may leap over twenty feet before he plunges to his death on the rocks below. Yes, the last athlete jumped a little further than the previous ones, but he also perished. Likewise, regardless of how “good” we are in human terms, if we have even one single sin on our record that has not been forgiven, we deserve to spiritually die and face judgment. “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”[47]

Someone may say, “I know that some people may commit a hundred or two hundred sins each day, but I’m much better than that!”  Yes, you may be. But suppose that you only sinned ten times a day, that is still too many! Suppose that you only commit three sins—of thought, word, and deed—each day; that would still be 1,000 in a year, 10,000 in ten years, and 50,000 in fifty years! At best, we all are helpless and hopeless on our own!

        13.If I do enough good things and try to avoid the bad things, won’t this allow me to get into heaven?

In our everyday life, sometimes doing good will let us have certain advantages, but this isn’t the way with God’s requirement of perfect righteousness.  The Bible says that we are saved or rescued from sin “not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.”[48] The Word of God says, “He [God] saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy.”[49] We can be saved from our many sins “not according to our works [or deeds], but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus.”[50] If our good deeds and moral life can’t “buy” our entrance into heaven, how can anyone enter that eternal home?

        14.If I can’t earn heaven by my good deeds, how can I get into heaven?

This is one of the ways that receiving eternal life in Christ differs from other world religions.  The Bible presents to us a way of grace—which means God’s undeserved favor and acceptance.  We don’t deserve to be accepted by the Lord and go to heaven, for we earlier discovered that we should die and be condemned. Instead, God offers us His loving favor and the blessing of heaven too!

But there is another point that we should not overlook.  Most people try to secure their eternal future (however they think of this) through religion, through good deeds, through meditation, through ceremonies or religious rites, or through some great teacher or prophet. The truth is very different. God chooses to rescue the world through His own unique Son! The Lord Jesus declared, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”[51] The Bible says, “There is salvation in no one else.”[52] The only Mediator between God and sinful humans is Jesus Christ.[53] Salvation is through a Person—the Lord Jesus Christ who is both human and divine.

This means that Muhammad can’t get us to heaven.  Buddha isn’t able to take us to God.  Joseph Smith or the Book of Mormon can’t take us to God.  Neither Charles Russell, nor Ellen G. White, nor Mary Baker Eddie can lead us to eternal life. Neither Mary nor the so-called Pope can give us eternal life.  Krishna isn’t able to give us heaven either.  Moses or any Biblical prophet can’t take us to heaven. Jesus Christ is the only Savior from sin!

        15.How can Jesus be our Savior?

This is another important question!  If we are lost in sin and helpless to save ourselves, how is it that Jesus can save us?  God’s Word says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.”[54] This was the purpose of Christ’s first coming to earth.  God sent His only Son to this earth, He was conceived in Mary’s virgin womb, and He became “flesh” or human.[55] This demonstrated God’s own love for us! “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”[56] In a few short words, we learn that God loved us. We also see that His love motivated Him to give Jesus Christ to come to this earth. And we learn that through Him we may have eternal life and escape perishing in our sins! This surely is good news!

       16.What was the means of this great act of salvation?

We have seen that God saves us and that He does this through His Son, Jesus Christ. Let’s see how Jesus became our Savior.  Most of us have seen crosses hanging from people’s necks or on church steeples. We also know that Jesus was crucified—He died on a cross. But what does this mean?

The Bible says that Christ was “offered once to bear the sins of many,”[57] for He was “manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”[58] When Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross 2,000 years ago, how can this save us from sin?  “He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross.”[59] This means that instead of our needing to bear our own sins, Jesus was willing to “bear our sins” Himself by sacrificing His body and shedding His blood. He died for you and me!

Jesus was qualified to do this since He was perfect in every way: “In Him there is no sin,”[60] “He is righteous,”[61] and “He is pure.”[62] He was qualified to take our place and die for us since He was the very Son of God who was sinless! “Christ also died for sins for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God.”[63] We see from this that Jesus was “just” or righteous and sinless but He died for us, on our behalf—the unjust or unrighteous sinners—so that we might be reconciled to God. The sin problem has been solved by God Himself!

       17.Does this mean that everyone will then be forgiven and go to heaven?

At first glance, it may seem that this is true but let’s explain why it doesn’t work like this.  Suppose that you owed a large amount of money–$100 million!  You have no way to pay such an astronomical sum. You are bankrupt and helpless so you will need to spend the remainder of your life in debtor’s prison. But a wealthy and merciful benefactor steps up and writes a check to you for the entire amount you owe—all $100 million!  Are you free from debt yet? Not at all.  You need to receive the check, sign the check, take it to the bank, and deposit it to your account so you can pay off the huge debt. Only then will you be free from your debt.

Likewise, although Jesus has paid for your sins when He died on the cross, this will do you no good unless you, personally, receive Him and His free gift of salvation!  In fact, the Bible does refer to salvation as a gift: “By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God[64] Salvation is a gift that the grace of God provided to us and we receive it by faith!  The Bible likewise refers to a related gift: “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”[65] Even the Holy Spirit is given as a gift,[66] as is righteousness itself.[67]

Similar to the $100 million given as a gift that does no good unless it is received, likewise we must receive the gifts of eternal life, righteousness, salvation, and the Holy Spirit. God’s Word says, “We also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have not received the reconciliation.”[68] We must “receive” reconciliation and all of God’s salvation gifts since this doesn’t just come without God’s conditions. His salvation gifts and blessings are not unconditional.

       18.How then do we come to Christ and receive the gift of eternal life?

We have seen above that we are saved through faith.  Faith has been described as “the empty hand that reaches out to receive the gift of salvation given by God’s grace.”  It is like the empty hand of the beggar that reaches out to receive life-giving food. This is God’s way of giving us the blessing that we need.

How can you and I receive this incredible gift? We must humbly believe in Jesus as God’s Son,[69] as the Lord,[70] as “Christ” (or Anointed King) that has been sent by God,[71] and as the Savior of the world.[72] He came as a baby in Bethlehem, thus He was both God[73] and man.[74] It is also vital that we focus our faith on what the Lord Jesus has done for our salvation.  He came to this earth,[75] suffered and died on a cross,[76] and was raised from the dead on the third day.[77]

Yet our faith must go beyond simply a belief of truths and facts about Jesus; we must also transfer our faith from ourselves to God and to Christ Jesus.[78] Since Jesus personally is God’s plan of salvation, we must rely on Christ and what He has done to rescue us from sin, death, and hell!  Our confidence must be in God our Savior and in Christ Jesus who died to save us and was raised again.[79] This is radically different from other world religions. Instead of “pulling ourselves up by our own religious bootstraps,” we allow God to save us for Christ’s sake.  It is a revolutionary—but true—way of looking at life now and life eternal.

       19.When one places his or her faith in Christ, is that all there is?

The Bible qualifies or modifies the faith that we have described above. We have seen that it is a factual faith—one that believes in the facts about Christ Jesus. It is also a trusting faith—one that relies on the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross and on Christ as our sin-bearing Savior. But another element must not be overlooked.

The faith that saves must be a repentant faith. Many places in the Bible declare that we are saved by or through repentance. This is a point that some people minimize, overlook, or even deny. “Unless you repent,” said Jesus, “you will all likewise perish.”[80] We can’t be saved by faith unless we are willing to repent of our sins! This is why we say that we are saved by a repentant faith—a trust in God through Christ that is expressed in genuine, heart-felt repentance.

The Bible says, “Repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away.”[81] We also read that “God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent.”[82] But what happens if we refuse to repent of our sins and our unbelief? Scripture says, “Because of yours stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.”[83] This shows that God’s righteous anger rests on one who is so hard-hearted or negative that he refuses to repent of his sins!  But God is so gracious, patient and merciful that He longs for us to come to repentance.  God “is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”[84] God wants you and me to repent of our sins!  He promises to bless us with salvation when we do repent and place our faith in Christ; He also promises to condemn us if we repudiate the need to repent and choose to go our own self-chosen way.

        20.Since repentance is so essential to forgiveness, how is this to be expressed in our life?

Repentance is not to be confined to our mind and heart. It must be expressed in how we live.  When John the baptizer preached, he said to the crowds, “Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”[85] True repentance must be demonstrated in our “fruit” or what we do and what we don’t do. This means that we must turn away from all sin if we seek God’s mercy.[86] When Paul the apostle speaks of this, he says that people “should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance.”[87] When we repent, we do good deeds and we cease doing wrong or evil deeds!

How might this be demonstrated in our own life? If one is an adulterer, repentance would cause one to turn from that sin and live a life of purity.[88] If one is a fornicator, one would turn from fornication and live righteously.[89] If one has been a liar, the repentant person should begin to tell the truth.[90] What about stealing? “He who steals must steal no longer; but rather he must labor, performing with his own hands what is good, so that he will have something to share with one who has need.”[91] Suppose one has used bad language. What should he do? The Bible answers this too: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”[92] If one has lusted after material things, he repents of this focus and begins to seek heavenly things.[93] If one has been addicted to drugs, alcohol, or tobacco, he repents of this and produces the “fruit” of soberness, self-denial, and freedom.

There are many such principles and teachings found in the Word of God. The Lord calls on us to recognize the sin in our life—of whatever sort—and feel sorrow for having committed it and grieving our loving God.[94] We must have a “change of heart and mind” in regard to sin (this is the meaning of repent). And we must determine to turn away from the sin and not walk in it ever again!

This is a challenge to us. God wants you to look into your attitudes and if you find hatred, envy, greed, resentment, bitterness, or lust in your heart, you must make a clean break with such sin. You must look at your thoughts and turn from all wrongful thoughts. If you have used bad language or profanity or have taken God’s name in an empty way, God wants to replace this with pure, loving, and kind words.  If you have done wrong things, you must cease the wrong.  If you have failed to do right things, you must begin to do those right things that please God. You must begin to pray, to read and study your Bible, to treat people kindly, and to be a responsible husband or wife, son or daughter, father or mother.

        21.What other principles are involved in our coming to Christ to receive His forgiveness?

Since we have usually directed the affairs of our own life, we must begin to look to Jesus as our Leader, Guide, Lord, and King.  God wants you to humbly acknowledge this change of allegiance, for we read, “If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”[95] Christ asks, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?”[96] The term Lord means “master, owner, one in authority.” If you repent of your sins and look to Jesus as your Lord, God says that you will be saved from those sins!

The Bible also says, “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”[97] But when do we call on the Lord or seek His salvation?  On the day of Pentecost, Peter also said that if we call on the name of the Lord, we will be saved.[98] The people who were convinced of their sins and deeply troubled in conscience then asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?”[99]

Peter replied, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”[100] They were to “call on the name of the Lord” as they repented of their sins and as they were baptized (immersed) in the name of Jesus Christ. And why were they to repent and be baptized? Peter says that they were to be baptized “for the forgiveness of your sins.” And what would God give to the repentant baptized person? “You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” The Holy Spirit would be given as a gracious and free gift!

This connection between people “calling” for salvation and baptism is again found in Acts. When Ananias came to Paul who was deeply grieved for his sins, fasting for three days, and praying continually,[101] he said to this repentant man, “Why do you delay? Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.”[102] Paul was to call on the Lord for He was the Savior, and Ananias said that in this way his sins would be washed away (or forgiven) as he was baptized.

       22.What more could be said about the meaning of baptism?

Christian baptism is similar to the baptism that John the baptizer preached. Scripture says that “John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”[103] Baptism into Christ is also a “baptism of repentance” since it demonstrates the repentance that is in the sinner’s heart when he seeks the baptism.[104]

Baptism is also that act in which one demonstrates his faith in Christ. It is an expression of faith: “When they believed Philip preaching the good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were being baptized, men and women alike.”[105] When they believed, they were baptized. This was in agreement with Jesus’ own words in the Great Commission: “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved.”[106] Notice again that people had faith in Christ and then were baptized to express that faith. This necessarily eliminates babies, children, and very young people who are incapable of exercising saving faith or understanding the significance of baptism. When one is baptized, he is lowered into the water and raised up “through faith in the working of God.”[107]

We might also notice that in baptism, one is connected to God, Christ, and the Spirit. Jesus said that His apostles were to “make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in [into] the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”[108] This can mean to baptize them into the “possession of” or into a “relationship with” God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Further, in baptism, one not only demonstrates his faith in Christ’s saving death and resurrection, but he also dies to sin, is buried in the waters of baptism, and rises to live a new life. Paul explains, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.”[109] This is a profound experience, one that you must look forward to as you come to Jesus. Be willing to “die” to your sins.[110] Be willing to have someone “bury” you in baptism as an expression of your death to sin. Be willing to be raised from baptism through faith to “live a new life” in Christ.

This shows that baptism is not merely a physical or external act, as too many seem to assume.  It is also a very deep and profound “spiritual” experience.  One is not merely immersed in water but also immersed in the Holy Spirit as well as immersed into the Lord Jesus.

        23.What final thoughts can we learn about baptism?

We have noticed the meaning and purpose of baptism. We have also noticed that this meaningful acts is only for those who can and will repent of their sins and exercise saving faith and also acknowledge Jesus as the Lord.  Thus, it is only for those mature enough to believe and understand what is happening.[111] We might also mention that baptism is actually an immersion in water and not merely a moistening with water, a sprinkling with water, or a pouring of water. The term in the Greek literally is baptize which means “to immerse, to dip, to submerge, to plunge, to cover.”

All of this means that if you thought you were baptized as a baby, this really wasn’t a Biblical baptism. If you failed to have faith and repentance, this wasn’t a Biblical baptism either. If you thought that baptism was merely a “church ordinance” or a “testimony of an earlier salvation,” this also differs from a Biblical baptism. If you merely had water poured on your head, this wasn’t baptism either.

Now is the time for you to experience what Jesus and the apostles actually taught.

When someone is baptized, he becomes a “disciple” of Christ.  Our Lord said that He wanted people to be baptized into the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. He went on to say, “. . . teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”[112] This was for those who were baptized as part of the discipling process.[113] In order to help these baptized disciples, Jesus emphasized the importance of the Holy Spirit. We are to be baptized into the “name” of the Holy Spirit, we are given the “gift of the Holy Spirit,” and the Spirit is sent into our hearts.[114] With the Holy Spirit living in us, we are able to live that new life that God gives to us!

 

24.What does God do in our life and give to us as we respond to Him with a repentant faith, accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord expressed in baptism?

The spiritual blessings we have in Christ are wondrous and many!  Paul writes that God “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”[115] Peter also says that God “has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”[116]

What are some of these blessings? We have already referred to the blessed relationship with Christ[117] and the Holy Spirit in our hearts as a gift.[118] We also receive the forgiveness of our sins through Christ[119] or the washing away of all our sins.[120] We receive new life in Christ,[121] eternal life,[122] the very life of God in which we participate.[123]  We are saved from sin,[124] saved from hell,[125] and saved from God’s coming wrath on unbelievers who are still in their sins.[126] We are given “the gift of righteousness,[127] a righteousness we must have to enter heaven.  When we come to Christ, we also enter the Kingdom of God,[128] a kingdom that will be manifested in its completeness in the future.[129]

We become a child of the living God[130] through being born of water and the Spirit.[131] We become brothers and sisters in the same family of God.[132] We become members in the body of Christ.[133]

Consider also what coming to Christ will save us from!  We will be saved from sin, from hell, and from God’s wrath.[134] We are saved from spiritual deadness.[135] We are saved from eternal pain, anguish, and lostness.[136] We are also rescued from our alienation or separation from God by sin and now enjoy reconciliation with our beloved God.[137]  Indeed, when we are born again by God’s Spirit and enter into a saving relationship with Christ, we will be blessed now—and through all eternity!

And what about you?

You have read a short but vital description of our present problem and how God, in His grace and love, has made provision for the solution to this dreadful problem. Have you understood the Biblical presentation of the “good news” that we have described on the foregoing pages? Have you been willing to apply these truths to your own life?

There is so much more that we could have shared with you but it was necessary to keep this discussion simple and brief—but not too brief lest there be misunderstandings on some of the basic points regarding our predicament and God’s answer to our need. 

Are you, personally, willing to apply these truths to your own life?  Are you willing to recognize sin in your life and how you may be forgiven of that sin?  You must not make a mistake about this!  If a mistake only resulted in missing heaven for a day or even a year, that would be one thing. But if we are mistaken about your spiritual standing with God and how we can be saved from sin by God, then we will suffer the consequences for all eternity!  “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.”[138] “Be sure your sin will find you out.”[139]

Moses said to Israel, “I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live. . . .”[140] In a way much more profound than this, God declares for you to come to Him through Christ Jesus, His only Son. If you come through repentant faith and commitment, you can have life—eternal life—but if you reject and go your own self-chosen way, you must remain in spiritual death and will receive the “second death” which is eternal punishment.[141] Make no mistake, this definitely will be your destiny if youf name is not in the Book of Life, if you are still in your sin, and if you refuse to turn your life over to God.[142]

We have a website available for you to learn much more (see below). We also have a selection of booklets that explain these crucial matters much more fully (see below).  Don’t rest until you settle this matter of your eternal destiny. Don’t turn your back on God, the Creator and Sustainer of Heaven and earth, but be willing to humble yourself to come to Him now, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Endnotes



[1] Job 25:4, ESV

[2] Luke 12:20, NASB

[3] Psalm 980:10

[4] James 4:14

[5] Matthew 7:13-14

[6] Acts 26:25, ESV

[7] Luke 13:23-24

[8] 2 Peter 1:10

[9] 1 Corinthians 8:6a

[10] John 20:30-31

[11] 1 Timothy 2:5

[12] John 8:24

[13] John 14:6

[14] John 3:5

[15] Hebrews 9:27

[16] Luke 16:19-31

[17] Daniel 12:2

[18] Matthew 25:46

[19] Hebrews 3:7-8

[20] Matthew 15:13-14

[21] Romans 4:5

[22] Matthew 5:48

[23] 1 Peter 1:16

[24] John 17:25

[25] James 4:12

[26] 1 John 3:4

[27] Romans 3:9

[28] Romans 3:10

[29] Genesis 3:1-19

[30] Romans 5:12

[31] Romans 3:23

[32] Ecclesiastes 7:20

[33] John 8:24

[34] 1 John 3:4

[35] 1 John 5:17

[36] James 4:17

[37] Romans 14:23

[38] Romans

[39] Ephesians 2:1

[40] Colossians 1:21

[41] Romans 1:18

[42] 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9

[43] Ephesians 5:3-7

[44] Hebrews 13:4

[45] Revelation 21:8

[46] Revelation 14:10-11

[47] Hebrews 9:27

[48] Ephesians 2:9

[49] Titus 3:5

[50] 2 Timothy 1:9

[51] John 14:6

[52] Acts 4:12

[53] 1 Timothy 2:5

[54] 1 Timothy 1:15

[55] John 1:14

[56] John 3:16, ESV

[57] Hebrews 9:28

[58] Hebrews 9:26

[59] 1 Peter 2:14

[60] 1 John 3:5

[61] 1 John 3:7

[62] 1 John 3:3

[63] 1 Peter 3:18

[64] Ephesians 2:8

[65] Romans 6:23

[66] Acts 2:38

[67] Romans 5:17

[68] Romans 5:11

[69] John 20:30-31

[70] Romans 10:9-10

[71] 1 John 5:1

[72] 1 John 4:14

[73] John 1:1

[74] 1 Timothy 2:5

[75] 1 John 4:10

[76] 1 Corinthians 15:3

[77] 1 Corinthians 15:4, 20

[78] 2 Corinthians 1:9

[79] Romans 3:24-25

[80] Luke 13:3, 5

[81] Acts 3:19

[82] Acts 17:30

[83] Romans 2:5

[84] 2 Peter 3:9

[85] Matthew 3:8

[86] Proverbs 28:13

[87] Acts 26:20

[88] Proverbs 28:13

[89] Matthew 5:8

[90] Ephesians 4:25

[91] Ephesians 4:28

[92] Ephesians 4:29

[93] Colossians 3:1-2

[94] 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

[95] Romans 10:9-10

[96] Luke 6:46

[97] Romans 10:13

[98] Acts 2:21

[99] Acts 2:37

[100] Acts 2:38

[101] Acts 9:8, 9, 11

[102] Acts 22:16

[103] Mark 1:4

[104] Acts 2:38

[105] Acts 8:12

[106] Mark 16:16

[107] Colossians 2:12

[108] Matthew 28:19

[109] Romans 6:3-5

[110] Romans 6:1-2

[111] Acts 8:12

[112] Matthew 28:20

[113] Matthew 28:19

[114] Galatians 3:27; 4:6

[115] Ephesians 1:3

[116] 2 Peter 1:4

[117] Galatians 3:27

[118] Acts 2:38

[119] Colossians 2:12-13

[120] Acts 22:16

[121] Romans 6:3-4

[122] John 20:30-31

[123] 1 John 5:11-12

[124] Acts 16:30-31

[125] Revelation 21:8

[126] Romans 5:9

[127] Romans 5:17

[128] Colossians 1:13

[129] Matthew 25:34

[130] 1 John 3:1-2

[131] John 3:5, 7

[132] Ephesians 2:19

[133] Romans 12:5

[134] 1 Thessalonians 1:10

[135] Ephesians 2:1

[136] Revelation 14:10-13

[137] 2 Corinthians 5:19-21

[138] Hebrews 9:27

[139] Numbers 32:23

[140] Deuteronomy 30:19

[141] Revelation 20:14

[142] Revelation 21:8

 

 

 

 

Comments are closed.