YOUR ROLE IN YOUR SALVATION
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
There are several Divine objectives of the plan of salvation. The New Testament tells us what we must do to attain each of the objectives. It may be noted that God is the one who has given the plan and the necessary virtue, wisdom and power. But in every case there is something we must do if we are to achieve the objectives God has set for us.
YOUR ROLE IN YOUR SALVATION
Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12—NIV)
The plan of salvation came from God. It is a sovereign program, so sovereign that the very names of the elect were announced at the time the world was created.
We did not choose Christ. He chose us. No person can come to Christ unless the Father draws him or her.
No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him, and I will raise him up at the last day. (John 6:44—NIV)
There are several passages of the New Testament that emphasize the sovereignty of God in the plan of salvation, the Divine predestining that operates in terms of God’s foreknowledge.
Because of the clear teaching of God’s sovereign actions in our salvation there often is a tendency to overemphasize God’s role in redeeming us. Sometimes belief or praise apart from any effort on our part are presented as our sole responsibility. While belief and praise are very important, it cannot be maintained from the New Testament that these are our sole actions in responding to the plan of salvation.
Perhaps we need to take a look at our role in our salvation.
There are several Divine objectives of the plan of salvation. The New Testament tells us what we must do to attain each of the objectives. It may be noted that God is the one who stated the objectives and has given the plan and the necessary virtue, wisdom and power for the attainment of the objectives. But in every case there is something we must do if we are to achieve the objectives God has set for us.
The central purpose of the two thousand years of the history of the Christian Church is to prepare a Body for the Head, Jesus Christ. The Body is the Church, the Wife of the Lamb, the new Jerusalem.
It is the preparation of the Body that is of concern in the present hour. Christ—Head and Body—will one day appear, drive Satan and his works from the earth, and install the Kingdom of God. This is God’s plan of salvation for mankind. But, obviously, each member of the Body must be prepared to return with the Lord.
- Each member of the Body must be delivered from love for and trust in the spirit of the world.
- Each member of the Body must be delivered from the lusts and passions of the flesh and soul.
- Each member of the Body must be delivered from all self-will and disobedience to the will of God.
- Each member of the Body must have Christ formed in him, thus being made the eternal dwelling place of the Father and the Son.
- Each member of the Body must be in the moral image of Christ.
- Each member of the Body must be dwelling in untroubled rest in Christ in God.
No person of whom the above is not true is prepared to return with Jesus Christ and drive Satan from the earth. He still is part of the problem, not of the solution.
What is salvation? Salvation is exactly what we have described above. It is deliverance from the world, from lust, from self-will. It is being filled with all the fullness of God. It is the development of the moral image of Christ in us. It is untroubled rest in the Father. This is what salvation is—nothing short of this.
This is the goal.
I can’t imagine any Christian finding fault with what I have stated thus far. The Scripture is undeniably clear that we are to be made in the image of Jesus Christ and are always to abide in Him that we might keep on bringing forth this image of righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God.
Since there can be no problem with this goal, because every Christian believes we ought to be like Jesus and we should abide in Him, then the next step is to see what the Scripture states about reaching the various objectives that compose the goal. Does God accomplish His will in us sovereignly as we believe and praise Him, or is there something we have to do?
What do the four Gospel accounts, the Book of Acts, the Epistles of the Apostles, and the Book of Revelation have to say about how we are to attain the Divine objectives?
- How about the forgiveness of our sins? Does God do this for us as we merely believe, or is there more we must do?
- How about deliverance from the world system? What does the New Testament say is our role in being delivered from the world system?
- How about deliverance from the lusts of our sinful nature?
- How about deliverance from our self-will and disobedience to God?
- How about having Christ formed in us?
- How about the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in the new creation that has been formed in us?
- How about living in untroubled rest in the Father?
- How about attaining to the resurrection out from among the dead, the resurrection of the priesthood that Paul was seeking?
All of these are elements of the great scriptural goal of the new covenant. What efforts on our part are required in order to arrive at these objectives?
The only way we can find out is to see what the New Testament has to say about each objective.
Let’s begin with the forgiveness of our sins, for this is the aspect of salvation that is most familiar to us. Does God do this for us as we merely believe and praise Him, or is there more we must do?
We know from the Scriptures that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world.
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. (I John 2:2—NIV)
Here is a sovereign action of God. The Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary has made an atonement for the sins of the whole world.
Now, have the sins of everyone in the world been forgiven? Yes, by the sovereign action of God through Christ. No, in that in order to be forgiven there is something we must do.
What must we do to have our sins forgiven—the sins already sovereignly forgiven?
According to the Book of Acts we must believe and repent; not just believe, but believe and repent.
First to those in Damascus, then to those in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and to the Gentiles also, I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20—NIV)
“Prove their repentance by their deeds.” By their deeds!
While there are numerous verses in the New Testament that stress belief, or faith, there are others that present repentance as being a necessary aspect of having our sins forgiven.
Notice carefully the above: “they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.”
Several times in the Book of Acts we find the Apostles preached believing in Jesus and repenting of our former way of life.
Isn’t it enough just to believe Christ has forgiven our sins?
No indeed, it is not enough just to believe! We have to turn to God and prove by our actions that we have turned away from our sins.
The concept of repentance, of turning away from the world and entering a new life in Jesus Christ, is dramatized in the sacrament of water baptism. Repentance, acted out through water baptism and then carried out by choosing each day to put away the lust, malice, and other wickednesses of the world system, is at the heart of the Christian salvation, according to the New Testament.
John the Baptist and Jesus preached: “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.”
There is no forgiveness of sins until we turn to God and leave the practices of the world behind.
Today we stress “only believe,” an expression taken from the Scripture. There is a world of difference between merely believing, on the one hand, and believing and repenting, on the other.
One can be nothing more than mental assent. The other is an action produced by our will as we choose to leave the malice and wickedness of the world and turn to God.
I think Satan today, knowing that God is going to bring revival in our time, is attempting to head off or at least dilute the work of the Lord. He is doing this by encouraging doctrine that is partly true.
In actuality, something that is partly true often is totally false.
If an individual is told that in order to be saved all he has to do is believe in what Christ has done, and then praise God, he has been told a half-truth. The purpose of a half-truth is to deceive.
The person has not been oriented correctly to the Christian salvation. Therefore his joy shall be short-lived. It will not stand up under the spiritual pressure that eventually will be brought to bear on him.
There is only one correct orientation to the Christian salvation!
The one correct orientation to the Christian salvation is to believe in God’s salvation through Christ, and then to turn away from one’s past life and to signify this repentance in water baptism. Now he or she has been crucified with Christ and has been raised with Christ to walk in newness of life—not in the former pattern of living!
As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. (Ephesians 2:1-3—NIV)
Can you see in the above passage that the Christian no longer is gratifying the cravings of his sinful nature or following its desires and thoughts?
We can believe and praise God all we want to. But we are not abiding in Christ until moral transformation is taking place. Moral transformation does not take place until we, with the help of the Spirit of God, begin to obey the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.
The Mercy Seat in Heaven is always ready to hear our prayer for help in keeping the numerous commandments found in the New Testaments. When we pray, grace is sent to us so we can overcome worldliness, the lusts of our flesh, and our stubborn self-will.
Repentance is something we do. As Paul said, we should repent and turn to God and prove our repentance by our deeds.
No matter what relief we obtain by believing and praising, if we do this apart from proving our repentance by our deeds we eventually will find our good feelings and enthusiasm drying up. We must read our Bible and pray each day that we may discover the will of Christ for that day. Then we must do what He commands.
For example, God does not allow us to hold a grudge against another person. If we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us.
We must continue to pray to the Lord until we are able to forgive. If we do not, but just believe and praise God, not actively seeking to overcome the grudge we are holding, nothing will take place in our personality. We may go through our entire life holding that grudge because we did not actively press into Christ until we received the grace to forgive the individual.
And so it is with all aspects of the Christian life. God has sovereignly called us to be perfect in Christ. Then He has shown us in the New Testament what we must do to attain perfection.
A careful reading of the Book of Acts will reveal that the Apostles did not preach the forgiveness of sins apart from active, vigorous repentance on the part of the convert. None of the books of the New Testament emphasizes mere belief accompanied by praise as being the means of obtaining the salvation promised by the Lord.
We must learn today not to judge the work of the Lord by the seeming results of an endeavor but by the written Word. If the Word is being left behind as we rush toward satisfying human needs, we may have a temporary, apparent success; but over a long period of time we will witness a crumbling of what seemed so glorious at the beginning.
The Bible is as a rock on which we can depend. If we are to have true success we must meditate in it day and night and not depart from its commandments.
How about deliverance from the world system? Do we just believe Christ has done this for us, or will do it in us, without any effort on our part?
“Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (II Corinthians 6:17—NIV)
It is not enough just to believe we are to come out of the world. We have to make an effort to do this. God will send us grace to help us if we will ask Him.
Does it sound to you, from the above verse, as though we are just to believe and praise God, or is it up to us, with the Lord’s help, not to touch something unclean?
What is an unclean thing? Something that defiles our body, soul, or spirit.
- Cigarette smoking defiles our body.
- Romantic fantasizing defiles our soul.
- Haughty, arrogant behavior defiles our spirit.
We are not to touch these. We are to resist them whenever we are tempted to behave in this manner. If we do, God will receive us and be our Father. If we do not, with the help of the Lord, turn away from cigarette smoking, romantic fantasizing, and arrogant behavior, the Lord will not receive us. He will not be our Father.
We can believe and praise from now until the Lord returns. But if we do not do what He has commanded, He will not receive us. This is what the Bible says.
Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (II Corinthians 7:1—NIV)
Does the above passage suggest we merely believe and praise God? It sounds to me as though we, through daily interaction with Christ, are to purify ourselves. We are to save ourselves by doing what God has commanded.
Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them, because if you do, you will save both yourself and your hearers. (I Timothy 4:16—NIV)
How do we save ourselves and our hearers? By watching our life and doctrine closely. By persevering in them.
We have to be on guard constantly that we do not fall into the traps Satan sets for us.
If we are not to be condemned with the world we have to actively live as a Christian disciple each day of our life. We are to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow the Lord Jesus. Belief and praise are extremely valuable aspects of the Christian life. But they by no means are the only valuable and necessary aspects of the Christian life, according to the New Testament.
How about deliverance from the lustful passions of our flesh and soul? We have to put them to death through the Spirit of God. They will not just vanish as we believe or praise God.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13—NIV)
Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24—NIV)
Who does the crucifying? We do the crucifying.
Our sinful nature cries out to be part of the world system, the system God hates. We have to continue in all wholesome Christian activities until we gain the upper hand over our love of the world. Some Christians find this extremely difficult.
Our sinful flesh and soul take great pleasure in the lusts and perversions of Satan and his demons. We have to war against these continually. We have to walk so close to the Lord each day that when some lustful passion suddenly arises and seeks to bury its talons in us we are prepared to immediately call on the Lord, denouncing and renouncing this ungodly thing, resisting the devil with all the strength we have, meanwhile calling mightily on the Lord.
We are in a battle against sin, make no mistake.
In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrews 12:4—NIV)
The sons of God are always led by the Spirit of God to put to death the actions of their sinful nature.
Psychological relief is obtained when someone tells us that Christ has taken care of our sins and all we are to do is believe and rejoice. But this is not the scriptural way of salvation and soon we will find ourselves facing powerful temptations to sin against the Word of God.
A half-truth is a total lie. It is a total lie to tell people that once they have accepted Christ, sin no longer is an issue. As long as we live on this earth sin will be an issue.
In the beginning man chose to serve Satan. God did not send Christ to redeem us apart from any action on our part. God sent Christ so through His virtue, wisdom, and power, we can escape from the person and works of Satan and become completely immersed in the Person and works of God through Jesus Christ.
God has made a way for us through Christ. Christ will not save us apart from our active response, and we cannot save ourselves apart from Christ. It is the sword of the Lord and of Gideon. God and man work together in our salvation.
How about deliverance from our self-will and disobedience to God?
It is not enough just to believe this will happen. We have to come to God several times each day to ensure that we really are in His will; we truly are walking in the light.
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will. (Romans 12:1,2—NIV)
We can keep on believing and praising God, and these are good things to do. But we have to choose to offer our body as a living, holy, pleasing sacrifice to God.
We have to choose what to read and listen to so our mind is not conformed to the world but is transformed according to God’s Word.
We have to test and approve what God’s will is. If we do not do these things we will never walk in God’s will.
How about abiding in Christ?
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. (John 15:4—NIV)
It is clear the Lord has commanded us to remain in Him, to dwell in Him. How do we do this? By bringing every decision of every day to Him for His will to be done, by looking to Him in all things. We abide in Christ by keeping our attention focused on Him continually, praying without ceasing.
Anyone who has ever attempted to keep his mind on Christ soon finds out that this is the chief struggle of every day. I do not know about other countries, but in the United States of America there are numerous attractions and fears that seek to turn our attention away from Christ. It is not easy to abide in Him, but He has commanded us to do this.
How about having Christ formed in us? The parable of the sower teaches us that of the different kinds of ground, only one brings any fruit to maturity. We must bring forth the fruit of Christ by patiently keeping His commandments, obeying Him at all times so He may feed our spiritual nature with His body and blood.
How about the coming of the Father and the Son to dwell in the new creation that has been formed in us? The Father and the Son will not come to us and make Their dwelling place in us unless we keep the commandments of Jesus Christ and His Apostles.
Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” (John 14:23—NIV)
How about our dwelling in untroubled rest in the Father? We have to labor to enter the rest of God.
Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so no one will fall by following their example of disobedience. (Hebrews 4:11—NIV)
Why do we have to make every effort to enter the great salvation that God has prepared for us? It is because every kind of pressure attempts to prevent our entering, including Satan, our sinful nature, and the world and circumstances of life.
We have to believe there is a rest in God’s perfect will. It is helpful to praise Him as He assists us. But we have to make the effort every day to turn away from that which is not pleasing to God, and to strive to keep the commandments found in the New Testament. Also, we have to spend time each day meditating in the written Word, and waiting on God that we may prove His will for our life. These are things we simply must do if we are to press through to the inheritance to which we have been called.
We are warned continually throughout the Book of Hebrews to not neglect our great salvation but to continue in Christ each day, putting aside the sin that so easily entangles us, and patiently run the race.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. (Hebrews 12:1—NIV)
How about attaining the resurrection out from among the dead, the resurrection of the priesthood that the Apostle Paul was seeking? Do we attain the first resurrection by believing and praising God, or is there more to this?
Let us look at Paul’s goal, which is one of the primary elements of the whole goal of our salvation:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11—NIV)
Here is a clear statement of one of the objectives of our salvation—to attain the resurrection which is out from among the dead.
The surrounding verses inform us that Paul was actively seeking the out-resurrection. He was not just believing and praising God, he was pressing toward the mark in order that he might lay hold on that for which God had laid hold on him.
Just look at the vigor and intensity of the aged apostle!
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. (Philippians 3:8,9—NIV)
By seeking the righteousness that is by faith Paul does not mean he is doing nothing but believing. The third chapter of Philippians indicates that Paul had turned aside from the Law of Moses and no longer was seeking righteousness through the Law. This is what Paul means by “not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law.”
The righteousness that is by faith, that Paul desired, is that which has no confidence in the Law of Moses but casts all other achievements aside, counting them as garbage, until the worshiper is living by the power of Christ’s resurrection and sharing in His sufferings.
This passage from Philippians assuredly is not referring to a passive believe-praise attitude but a most vigorous pressing forward in Christ each day until the old sinful nature no longer governs the believer but a new righteous creation has emerged. Thus the early resurrection is attained by the most diligent application to seeking the Person and Life of Jesus Christ.
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13,14—NIV)
The current doctrine that all we are to do is to praise and believe is a half-truth. A half-truth is a total lie. Half-truths have as their purpose to deceive.
An individual may find immediate relief by coming to Christ with this attitude. But it will prove to be a temporary solution, because it is not the scriptural orientation to the Christian salvation.
It is amazing how many doctrines found in the Christian churches emphasize that the convert has only to believe what God has done, is doing, and shall do in the future. To this naked belief, praise is sometimes added. Believe and praise—this is all you are required to do in order to please God.
No such doctrine is found in the Scriptures. From Old Testament to New we are commanded to choose continually whom we shall serve, and then to serve the master of our choice, whether it be God or sin.
The Kingdom of God would not be formed even if everyone on earth were to believe and praise God. The will of God is not done until we enter daily interaction with Jesus Christ, giving Him our whole personality each day and night. Only through daily interaction with Jesus Christ, obeying the written Word and also when He speaks to us personally, do we arrive at the various objectives of the great goal of salvation.
There absolutely is no substitute for such diligent application to Jesus Christ and His commandments, and those of His Apostles.
The mainspring of the Christian salvation is our death with Christ and our resurrection with Him. This is a position we are to take by faith and maintain by faith. When we do so, and then seek the Lord each day and meditate continually in His Word, the Holy Spirit will make our death with Christ a reality and our resurrection with Christ a reality.
The Gospels, the Book of Acts, the Epistles, and the Book of Revelation—all inform us of what we are to do.
When Joshua received the mantle of authority to lead the Israelites into the land of promise, the Lord commanded him to pay careful attention to the Law that Moses had written.
Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful. (Joshua 1:8—NIV)
The above verse was given to me by the Navigators when I first became a Christian. The Navigators, including Dawson Trotman, impressed on all of us new Christians the utter importance of adhering strictly to the words of the Bible, to memorize them, to hide them away in our heart so we would not sin against God.
Today we see that God’s people are running here and there looking for new experiences, some new exciting way in which to be blessed of God apart from the years of patient, cross-carrying obedience.
Sometimes it indeed is helpful for there to be an area of excitement in which the faith of people can be elevated so they can gain a new grip upon God. But if this initial awareness is not soon directed into patient discipleship, a patient meditating in the Scriptures accompanied by daily seeking of the Lord, then the merciful grace given on the exciting occasion will wear off and the believer will find himself back in the same bondages that have never been overcome.
The true salvation of God, the true path to eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ, is found only in reading the Bible and then praying for grace, for wisdom and power to do what we have been commanded.
The gate is small and the way is filled with resistance of all kinds. But there simply is no other path, no easy shortcut to eternal life!
(“Your Role in Your Salvation”, 3163-1)