By Kenneth E. Thomas
Years ago I either read or heard (I can’t remember which) Marshall Keeble’s sermon by this name. It was impressive then and is as needed today as ever. There are a number folks who are saying that if man must “do” certain things to be saved (especially baptism) or if man must do something to “keep saved,” this some how negates grace. This doctrine isn’t new, it has been around for many years. Guess who originated it? It came from the same source as did the “you shall not surely die” if you eat the forbidden fruit doctrine of (Gen. 3:4). Man leaves God by disobedience, man must return to God by obedience. If obedience negates grace and earns salvation on one’ s own merits, why wasn’t this so from the beginning? Has it changed? If so, when? Those who teach this are obligated to give us answers to these questions (1 Pet. 3:15). Hebrews 11 refutes this idea as well as (Jas. 1:18-25; 2:14-26; Matt. 7:21; Heb. 5:9).
Places Where Salvation Was
We are told that the things that transpired in the Old Testament records of God’s dealings with man are “written for our learning” and that they are to serve as “examples” to those of us living since that time (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11-13). Let’s look at some historical events and make the proper application to you and me today.
1. A proper relationship (fellowship) with God was enjoyed between Adam and Eve “in the beautiful garden.” As soon as they sinned, they were expelled from the garden and lost their access to the tree of life along with the relationship they had formerly enjoyed with God (Gen.3:1-24). See (vv. 22-23). In order to approach God now, since their sins had separated them from him, animal sacrifices were instituted as a means of temporarily atoning for their sins, allowing them to approach him in worship. While nothing is specifically stated about Adam and Eve having offered such sacrifices after the fall, we do have the record of two of their sons, Cain and Abel, as they attempted to worship God outside the garden. We learn from Hebrews 11:4 that Abel acted by faith offering what God had commanded for this particular sacrifice and was blessed. We also learn that Cain attempted to substitute the fruit of the ground and his worship was rejected by God (Gen. 4:1-7).
2. Next as we study biblical history, we learn how exceedingly sinful mankind became on earth. Man became so evil in fact that the record says that “every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). The Bible says, “It repented the Lord that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart” (v. 6). “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). Then we read God’s commandments to Noah regarding the building of a giant boat or ark three stories high with one door and one window, along with specific instructions as to its size and type of wood to be used in its construction, as well as its contents (Gen. 6:14-21). The last verse of Genesis 6 simply says, “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded Him, so did he.” You will remember that the Scriptures say that “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:8). Did “doing according to all that God commanded him” somehow negate God’s grace in that dispensation? If you answer no, then you are bound by honesty and consistency to admit that doing doesn’t negate God’s grace today, for the Hebrew letter says, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Heb. 11:8). You will please observe that “Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark” (Gen. 7:23b).
A New Testament application of this principle may be found in Peter’s reference to how Noah’s kind of faith will also save us when we do as instructed. “. . . when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by (through, KET) water. The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ: Who is gone into heaven, and is on the right hand of God; angels and authorities being made subject unto Him” (1 Pet. 3:20-22). Isn’t it strange that folks will totally disavow what the word of God says about scriptural baptism today? They say it does not save whereas the Bible says it “does also now save us.” This little change of one letter makes the difference between salvation from alien sins and continued separation from God. Look at those two words “not” and “now”! If the Lord wanted us to know the role baptism plays in our salvation, how much plainer could He have said it than “baptism doth also now save us?” Does it or doesn’t it? Just as surely as one is “saved by faith,” (Rom. 5:1; Gal. 3:26; John 8:24; Heb. 11:6), one is likewise saved by baptism. If we can’t take God’s word here, how can we claim to take it elsewhere? Jesus said something about living by “every word” (Matt. 4:4).
3. It cannot be denied by the honest Bible believer that God made provision for justice to be properly meted out in Israel. Involved in this were the “six cities of refuge.” Three were to be on one side of Jordan and three on the other in Canaan. If one committed manslaughter or murder, he was “fair game” for the next of kin, the avenger of blood, unless he was able to take up residence “in the city.” There he was safe from harm and would be brought up before the congregation for judgment at the proper time. If he was caught “outside the city” the revenger of blood could take his life with God’s approval. See Genesis 9:6 for when this law of capital punishment was first stated so far as we know (cf. Num. 35:6-33). There is much more of interest concerning these cities but that will have to wait for another lesson. Suffice us to keep clearly in our minds that “salvation was located” in these cities.
4. Our next illustration of “salvation being located” is the case of Rahab the Gentile of the city of Jericho. She had heard of God’s dealings with the various people who opposed Israel in the wilderness wanderings. When spies were sent by Joshua to “spy out the land,” she hid the spies so they would not be caught. She made them take an oath to save her and her family from the destruction of Jericho when they came against the city. Not only was she told that she and her family must “stay in the house” or their promise to spare them would be null and void, she was also told to “place a red string in the window.” These are conditions placed on the grace that she and her family were to receive you see. Did she and her family earn being spared by staying in the house and placing the red string in the window? Certainly not! Would they have been spared without meeting those conditions? Certainly not! If conditions did not nullify grace then, why do some suppose they do today? Read Joshua 2:1-24. See verses 17-21 in particular. Do you suppose there is any reason, prophetically speaking, that this “red string” or “scarlet cord” was the sign for Israel to spare this particular house? Whether that is so or not, it does remind us of the blood of Christ and how God’s wrath against our sins is stayed when we are “under the blood of Jesus” by having obeyed the gospel and by continuing to walk in the light (Rom. 1:16-17; 6:3-6; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; 1 Cor. 15:1-4; 1 Pet. 1:22-25; 1 John 1:1-9). Please read these passages.
5. Salvation for Paul and the crew of a ship was once conditioned upon every one “staying in the ship.” The temptation was to try to escape death by jumping over board. Paul said an angel of the Lord had promised them that no harm would come to them if only they would “stay in the ship.” The lesson here is the same as in the other cases of course. Their safety was by God’s grace, but to be a recipient of said grace they must do as instructed. Do you suppose any one of these fellows said, “We have earned our lives being spared for we stayed in the ship?” I don’t think so. They knew their safety had come from the God whom Paul served (Acts 27:21-44). See verse 31 in particular.
Our Salvation Is “In Christ”
Salvation is “in Christ” (2 Tim. 2:10)
Redemption is “in Christ” (Eph. 1:70
Forgiveness is “in Christ” (Acts 2:38)
Sonship is “in Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27)
Reconciliation is “in Christ” (Eph. 2:13-16)
Translation is “in Christ” (Col. 1:13-14)
One is a new creature “in Christ” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Sealed with Spirit “in Christ” (Eph. 1:13)
An heir of God “in Christ” (Rom. 8:17)
Seed of Abraham “in Christ” (Gal. 3:27, 29)
Blessed in death “in Christ” (Rev. 14:13)
Complete in “Christ” (Col. 2:8-10) All spiritual blessings “in Christ” (Eph. 1:3)
Being “In Christ” Same As Being “In His Church”
The sphere of being “in Christ” and of being “in his church” are identical spheres or relationships. The same acts of obedience that placed one “in Christ” at the same time makes one a part of that which is known as his church, kingdom, family, household, body, or bride. To say that one is saved by one means and becomes a member of the church by yet another, is to show one’s lack of understanding. Since Christ’s blood is the purchase price for his church (Acts 20:28; Eph. 5:15) and since the church is the “spiritual bride of Christ” (Rom. 7:4; Eph. 5:22-33), when one has been cleansed by his blood, he automatically becomes a part of his bride. To say one is save and then must “join” the church would be akin to saying, “I am going to be married and then seek a bride.” The figures of speech which show when one’s state or relationship is changed from “out of Christ and out of his body” to “in Christ” and “in his body” are many. To Nicodemus Jesus said that he must be “born again” to see the kingdom (John 3:3). This new birth is of two elements, the water and the Spirit (John 3:5). This is paralleled by Titus 3:5 which shows that God saves us “through the washing of regeneration.” When he is “born again,” therefore, he is automatically a child in the family of God. The same acts which place one “in Christ” are what make one a member of his church. The church and the kingdom are one and the same spiritual relationship (Matt. 16:18-19; Col. 1:13-14; Mark 9:1; Acts 2:22-41, 47).
How Does One Enter Christ?
Surely the question has already been sufficiently answered to the discerning mind who has read this far in our study, but to give more specific information may be needful and so we continue.
If we do not “enter Christ,” we will remain aliens and unreconciled unto God by the cross. I know because of the following language inspired by the Holy Spirit. “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For He is our peace who has made both (Jew and Gentile, KET) one, and has broken down the middle wall of division between us, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that was between us, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity” (Eph. 2:12-16). To remain out of Christ is to be separated from God; but to be “in Christ,” is to be “no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Eph. 2:19).
A preacher I once knew said, “I know the church and the kingdom are one and the same relationship, for every time the first century Christians planted the seed of the kingdom, churches of Christ sprung up.” That’s exactly so (Rom. 16:16). Jesus said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this (Jewish, KET) fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one fold and one shepherd” (John 10:16). The apostle Paul, who was chosen late to be Christ’s apostle to the Gentiles, was qualified when Christ appeared to him on the Damascus road. He both heard his voice and saw the Christ (1 Cor. 9:1; Gal. 1:11). This man was a praying, penitent, fasting, lost soul until he heard “in the city” what he must do (Acts 9:6). In the city he was told, “And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). In doing this, he was “delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God’s dear son” (Col. 1:13). This same man wrote by divine inspiration the following: “. . . do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death” (Rom. 6:3)? Since, as already shown “all spiritual blessings are in Christ,” can you not see that since we are “baptized into Christ,” we have no access to any spiritual blessing that is “located in Christ” without scriptural baptism. Scriptural baptism is when a penitent believer is baptized upon his confession of faith in Christ for the remission of sins and into the one body. Period! Are you “in Christ?” If not, let us assist you as soon as possible (Acts 2:22-38, 40, 47; 26:28-29). Read Acts 2 and see what was taught and what these folks did on Pentecost to become a member of Christ’s church. This was hundreds of years before such a thing as Roman Catholicism was heard of and many more hundreds of years before such a thing as Protestantism was on the world scene. If we go back beyond those things to the Bible, believe and do as they did, we will be what they were. If not, then why not?
Guardian of Truth XLI: 19 p. 6-8
October 2, 1997