By Steven Baxley
As the Israelites camped at Pi-Hahiroth near the Red Sea, they were horrified to look and see the approaching Egyptian army, bent on re-enslaving them. Moses, attempted to reassure the faithless Hebrews by telling them, “Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today” (Exod. 14:13). God, however, was not pleased with Moses’ reply to the people, for he said to him: “Why do you cry to Me? Tell the children of Israel to go forward.” Moses lifted his rod, God parted the waters, and the Israelites went through “on dry ground” (v. 22).
Unfortunately, today many people still have the attitude of Moses of standing still and watching for the salvation of the Lord. They are unwilling to “go forward” as God commanded. This is true in many areas of religion today.
First, many people are unwilling to “go forward” when it comes to their own salvation. Numerous groups teach that “faith only” will save them from their sins. They “stand still” and wait to “see the salvation of the Lord.” The Bible is clear that a man will not be saved by “faith only,” by God’s action without any effort on the part of the man. While it is true that nothing we could possibly do could save us without God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-9), it is also true that God will not save us without obedience (Jas. 2:14-26). God’s plan for salvation is so simple that even a child can understand it. Faith (Heb. 11:6), repentance (Acts 2:38), confession (Rom. 10:9-10), baptism (Acts 22:16), and perseverance (1 Cor. 15:58) are what God requires of us. Yet, so many people in the world today reject one or more of these things on some basis or another. But, all that amounts to is making excuses for not obeying God. We must ask ourselves, what if the Israelites at the Red Sea had said, “No, God, we don’t think it’s necessary to ‘go forward’ across the Red Sea . . . instead, why don’t you just destroy the Egyptians where they are.” Or perhaps they might have said, “God didn’t really mean ‘go forward’ when he said ‘go forward’!” Can there be any doubt as to what would have happened had the Israelites refused to obey the word of God and go forward? Yet, in effect, this is what people say to God every day when they refuse to obey the plan he has so simply laid out in his word! We must not reject the gospel plan of salvation just because it might be inconvenient or troublesome for us to obey!
Second, many people in the church today are unwilling to “go forward” when it comes to the salvation of others through evangelism. I direct your attention to what Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). All too often Christians want to sit back and let the “full-time” preachers do all the preaching and teaching. Brethren, such should not be the case! We need to be like the early disciples who, due to persecution, were forced to leave Jerusalem, and “went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4). Do we seriously think this refers only to “full-time” preachers? No, God expects all of us to teach others about the gospel of Jesus Christ. Perhaps part of the problem is that we have forgotten the reality of an eternal hell. Perhaps we have forgotten the fact that without obedience to Christ, men are destined to that hell (Jn. 14:6; Rev. 21:8). Perhaps we have forgotten that without teaching, men cannot know that they need to obey Christ. Perhaps the real problem is that we are unwilling to take the time, make the effort, and yes, sometimes bear the expense, to “go forward” and take the gospel where it needs to go: into all the world. If every Christian (men, women, everybody) would resolve to spend time every week studying his Bible (2 Tim. 2:15), and teaching others what he learns, we could fill our meeting houses and establish congregations in places which have never known a New Testament church! The church would grow and fill all the world, like God wants it to (Matt. 13:31-33). Unfortunately, all too many Christians, because of a lack of personal study, are like the Hebrews of old of whom God says, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hos. 4:6). A greater misfortune is that souls by the thousands (yes, even by the millions!) are marching daily to eternal destruction and many Christians are unwilling to “go forward” to try to stop them!
The lesson of the Red Sea crossing is clear. God was not content to let the people just “stand still.” Standing still produces stagnation in people . . . those who are not Christians are unwilling to do what is necessary to enter a relationship with God, those who are Christians are unwilling to do what God has commanded. Let us all resolve to “go forward” in regards to not only our own salvation, but also in regards to the salvation of our fellow man! Only when we do can we hope to be pleasing to him. Only then can we hope to inherit the promises he has promised.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 2, p. 18
January 21, 1993