By Lewis Willis
Modern people have a lot of problems, too many to even mention in the areas of morals, economics, and politics. As serious as these problems are, they are given undue emphasis. Does that sound strange? The emphasis is misplaced because people have a greater problem than all of these combined.
The greater problem is spiritual in nature. It concerns the eternal destiny of our souls. Will we be saved? Or, will we be damned to an eternity in hell? This problem is as old as the ages. This is true because of sin. All of us have sinned (Rom. 3:23), and we must, therefore, be concerned with the consequence of our transgressions. It is, after all, sin which causes damnation. Salvation from sin will enable us to go to heaven. Thus, the question is: “Have I been saved from my sins?”
One of the points we have made in churches of Christ is that if people will do today what people did under the direction of the apostles, the result will be the same. When first century sinners heard the preaching of the gospel, they obeyed it and were saved from their sins. If we do the same today, why would the result not be the same? A rather obvious conclusion, would you not say?
Thus, I thought it might be advantageous to look at an example of conversion found in the New Testament. We will discuss the problem, the solution, and the blessings which followed. Many want to be saved like the thief, meaning they want to do nothing to be saved. He lived under another law, so his example is invalid for those of us living under the gospel. Hence, we will look at an example of salvation for people subject to the gospel. We will consider the salvation of the Corinthians.
Their problem was sin. Paul explicitly describes the nature of their transgressions: “Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 6:9-10). It is evident, when looking at this record of their sins, that they were not any different than modern people. People today have committed the same sins which they committed. So, our problem with sin is the same as theirs. If the problem has not changed, why would we change the solution to it?
After telling these people of their sins, Paul added: “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Something happened to these people which washed, sanctified, and justified them. What was it? One needs only look a few chapters beyond, to the 15th chapter, to discover how these sinners were washed, sanctified, and justified. When we find out what happened with them, we will know what is required of us.
Paul said, “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain” (1 Cor. 15:1-2). He had preached the gospel. They had received it. By it he said they were saved, if they keep in memory what he preached. Would the same result attend a duplication of this action today? If the same gospel is preached, and received, will we be saved? Certainly!
But what did he preach when he preached the gospel? Let’s have Paul tell us: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time” (1 Cor. 15:3-8).
Paul preached the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ to these sinners. Jesus died for all men (Rom. 5:8-9; Heb. 2:9). After his death, he was buried in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathaea (Matt. 27:57-60). Three days later Jesus was raised from the dead (Matt. 28:1-8). Men die and are buried every day. But in the case of Jesus, he was raised from the dead! This validated the gospel. It is effective to save us from our sins and give us hope because of the resurrection (1 Pet. 1:3; 3:21). The resurrection is fact, and Paul cited the evidence of the eyewitnesses who saw him after God had raised him from the dead (Eph. 1:19-20). Because of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, the Corinthians were saved by the gospel. Why will not that same gospel save us?
How The Blessing Came
Paul was the man who took the gospel to them. So we need only look at the record when he went there preaching the gospel to determine what, if anything, they did to be saved. Luke tells us of Paul’s arrival in Corinth (Acts 18:1). He worked there with Aquila and Priscilla as a tentmaker. But he also did something else. “And he reasoned in the synagogue every sabbath, and persuaded the Jews and the Greeks. And when Silas and Timotheus were come from Macedonia, Paul was pressed in the spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ” (Acts 18:4-5). In other words, he preached the gospel to them.
Many opposed him, but he went to the house of Justus who lived next door to the synagogue. “And Crispus, the chief ruler of the synagogue, believed on the Lord with all his house; and many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized” (Acts 18:8). Today sinners must do the same things these Corinthians did. We must hear the gospel about the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, believe it, and then be baptized. When we do that, we will be washed, sanctified, and justified like the Corinthians. Will you be saved like the Corinthians?
Guardian of Truth XLI: 20 p. 17-18
October 16, 1997