The Bible and Man's Spiritual Needs (I): Salvation
Donald P. Ames
That "all have sinned" (Rom. 3:23) and that "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23) is just as true today as when the Holy Spirit first guided the pen of the apostle Paul in writing those words. Mankind has not achieved perfection, and as we look about us, we sometimes are made to wonder if perhaps we have not given up and begun to travel in the other direction instead. But the fact is that sin does exist, and some day there will be an accounting for our actions before our Maker (Acts 17:30-31; 2 Cor. 5:10). The Bible tells us "it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment" (Heb. 9:27). There is no way we can avoid having to face that record when we leave this life.
The Bible thus becomes the only book relevant to man's spiritual needs in this respect, in that it is the only means we have of learning the mind of God today. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven: but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21). If our salvation depends on doing the will of God, then we must learn what that will is (Eph. 5:17); and the only source we have is that which is revealed by God Himself--the Bible. Therein God has given us "everything pertaining to life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:3; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Jesus added, "He who rejects Me, and does not receive My sayings, has one who judges him; the word I spoke is what will judge him at the last day" (John 12:48; see also Rom. 2:16). This is important to us for two reasons: (1) It shows that the words of Christ will abide to the very end (1 Pet. 1:25), and (2) we are not going to be saved by what "we think" is okay. The only source we have, therefore, that we can turn to for "the will of My Father who is in heaven" is found in the word of God.
There are also other points that illustrate this truth to us and show us man is not qualified to serve as his source of authority (Matt. 15:8-9; Isa. 55:8-9; Jer. 10:23). We are told that Jesus alone is the author of our salvation (Heb. 5:9), and Peter reminds us "There is salvation in no one else" (Acts 4:12). Since Paul refers to the gospel of Christ as "the power of God unto salvation" (Rom. 1:16), we have the confidence this is why God planned and revealed it as our guide from earth to heaven-above. Certainly if if made "no difference what we believe," then there would have been no need for the Bible, nor concern whether or not we were doing "the will of My Father who is in heaven."
Thus salvation is a two-way street. It involves what God has done for man, and it also involves what man must do to please God as well. Some would'have us to believe God has already done it all, and, thus, there is nothing man can do. Others tell us if we live a good enough life, then Christ will take us all into heaven anyway. But neither of these positions can be harmonized with the word of God, which is the real authority. If man could get to heaven without doing "the will of my Father who is in heaven," then there would have been no need for the Bible, nor for Christ to die on the cross (John 3:16). And also we would not have to worry about being judged by the words contained in the Bible (John 12:48; Rom. 2:16.). On the other hand, if God has done it all, then what is man to obey? Jesus is thv author of salvation "to those who obey Him" (Heb. 5:9). This certainly shows there is that which we must do. We must "do the will of My Father" (Matt. 7:21), and thus we find the Romans and priests were obedient unto salvation (Rom. 6:17; Acts 6:7). We also find Peter on Pentecost urging them to "save yourselves" (Acts 2:40). Thus, while we have been saved by the grace of God (Eph. 2:8), we also see that God's grace only saves when man is willing to obey.
But, what has God done in preparing the way of salvation for us? Without God's part, there could be no salvation. David said, "If Thou, Lord, shouldst mark iniquities, O Lord, who can stand?" (Psa. 130:3). God realized man could not save himself, and thus in His love and mercy, God began preparing the way. His love was not such that He could excuse our sins, but rather put into action to provide a way for the removal of our sins. He loved enough that He offered up His only begotten Son as the sacrifice in our stead (John 3:16; Rom. 3:21-30; 5:8; 1 John 4:10). This Christ was willing to do that we might enjoy the riches of His grace (2 Cor. 8:9; John 10:10). Thus, through the shed blood of Christ, the way was provided for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28; Rev. 1:5). The Holy Spirit was sent into the world to reveal and confirm the sacred truths of God, that we might have "all truth" (John 16:13), and thus everything necessary for our salvation. Thus God's grace was revealed through the Bible, instructing us how to live that we might inherit the blessings He had designed for us (Tit. 2:11L12). We were amply warned of the consequences of disobedience, encouraged by examples of faithfulness, and exhorted to teach others the pure gospel that they too might be saved (2 Thess. 1:6-8; Heb. 11; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Cor. 10:1-13). The church, the kingdom of God, was also set up in the plan and purpose of God, that therein we might encourage and help one another as we serve the Lord (Acts 20:28; Eph. 3:10; Col. 1:13; Gal. 6:1). And, even after obedience, the means was set forth that we might be able to obtain the remission of daily sins in our lives (1 John 1:7, 9). God has done everything possible to make His grace known to us, that we might be saved.
But if God's grace has given us instructions on what we must do to be saved (Tit. 2:11-12), then what does it reveal that God in turn expects of us? The Bible lists several things men must do, and while no one verse contains all of God's will, neither can we be saved without doing what is required in any of these verses. (1) We recognize that we must hear the gospel (Rom. 10:17), and this means we must be willing to examine whether or not these things are so (Acts 17:11), as there are also false teachers (1 John 4:1) who do not preach all the truths of God's word. (2) Then we must be willing to believe in Christ and in God as our supreme ruler as well (John 3:16, 8:24). In fact there is no way to please God without the proper faith (Heb. 11:6). This faith is not based upon what "we think" is okay, nor upon some "experience" that we have had, but. is to be based upon the testimony of the word of God (John 20:3031; Rom. 10:17). Anything else is not acceptable unto God. (3) We are also instructed to repent of our sins (Acts 2:38; 17:30), which involves a change of our will, leading to a change in our way of living. (4) Next, the Bible teaches we must be willing to confess (Rom. 1 10:9-10; Matt. 10:32). W e are not confess "God has already forgiven my sins," but rather that Christ is now indeed our Lord and Master. (5) Then we are to be baptized, immersed in water, for the remission of our sins (Acts 2:38; 8:38-39; 10:47; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; 1 Pet. 3:21). Though men have devised other "baptisms," this is the only one in harmony with "the will of my Father who is in heaven." Then, and only then, have we complied with God's terms for salvation from our past sins, as Christ commanded, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16).
Since only the Bible contains the mind of God and can accurately tell me what I must do to be saved, why would any man be willing to submit himself to any other standard and thereby risk so great a prize? New Testament disciples were Christians, and Christians only (Acts 11:26; 1 Pet. 4:16, and sought the Bible as their sole guide (Gal. 1:6-8; 2 John 9). They realized the importance of so great a salvation, and longed to grow therein. It is our plea that you also will examine whether or not these things are so (Acts 17:11), and thus prove to be a workman approved unto God (2 Tim. 2:15) by doing the will of God today. God has done all He can to save you. Will you not now do your part: accept His offering, obey His will, and thus enjoy the blessings of salvation throughout eternity when this life is o'er (1 Pet. 1:4; Mark 10:30; James 1:12; Rev. 2:10)?
Truth Magazine XXI: 30, pp. 471-472