IN THIS ERA of great withdrawal from the faith, it is
nearly always claimed that salvation in Christ is conditional. Those who express interest
in meeting Gods supposed requirements are considered candidates for
salvation. Of course in such an environment words like free and
grace will almost surely be present as well. Many will acknowledge that men
cannot come to Christ apart from Gods call and that salvation is of the Lord. But in
the presence of a basic representation of salvation as a thing of reward, all claims about
free grace necessarily become nominal, mere empty words through
which many are seduced (Eph. 5:6). It is dishonest to attempt to deny this, or to cloud
the issues. Yet it is the work of the Adversary to do this very thing, and he does it well
(cf 2 Cor.11:3,4; 11:13-15).
ANNOUNCING THE EVANGEL
than presenting the unbeliever with an offer, the announcement to him should be
that Jesus the Nazarene is indeed the Christ of God, and that He died for the sins of the
unbeliever as well as those of the believer, in the grace of God having tasted death for
the sake of everyone. If he genuinely believes, having done so apart from all
threatenings and inducements merely to profess that which is not his own, he should in due
time be taught the counsels of God. It is especially important for the believer to learn
of those things with which he is personally concerned as a member of the body of Christ.
Apart from either frantic hurry or undue delay, he should be taught basic truths such as
our election in Christ before the disruption of the world, and Gods great goal, to
become All in all at the consummation.
At no time should the
salvation which we have in Christ be presented as a reward, and certainly not as a mere
refusable offer that depends upon man as the key to its success.
SUFFERING EVIL WITH THE EVANGEL
must be that some cannot agree, let us all, above all else, seek to be walking worthily of
the calling with which we were called, with all humility and meekness, with patience,
bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the spirit
with the tie of peace (Eph.4:1-3). Let us rejoice that the infirm one in the faith,
whoever he may be will be made to stand, for the Lord is able to make him
To those who are able to
perceive the true graciousness of the evangel (cf Col.1:6), we would say, Be prepared to
suffer evil with the evangel (2 Tim.1:8). For men love the darkness
rather than the light (John 3:19). They may follow error out of ignorance, but this is no
indication that they will turn from it when it is exposed in its true character. To the
contrary, it is at such times that they will contend for it all the more zealously. We
once did the same, and are by no means superior to others.
If we should find that God
has graciously enlightened us concerning the faith, and yet would avoid being puffed up,
let us always seek to think and act in ways that accord with this glorious evangel.
Now may the God of expectation be filling you with all joy and peace in believing,
for you to be superabounding in expectation, in the power of holy spirit
RECEIVING AND ACCEPTING CHRIST
believe the evangel, we believe Christ. Upon believing, having heard the word of truth,
the evangel of our salvation, we are sealed with the holy spirit of promise (Eph.1: 13).
Thus we first accept (or take along, paralambano) Christ,
as well as the evangel that He died for our sins according to the scriptures (Col.2:6; 1
Cor.15:3). One should never put a contractual connotation upon the word accept
when speaking of our initial acceptance of Christ. There is nothing contractual in the
evangel of grace, nor can there be.
The Greek term for
accept is a compound expression, para and lambano. The first
part means beside; the second part means come into possession of (KEYWORD
CONCORDANCE, entry get, p.121). When lambano is used actively
it is translated in the CV by take; when it is used passively,
it is rendered obtain (in many cases, the AV gives the sense
well by the rendering receive). Often it is translated in the CV
simply as get. The compound, BESIDE-GET, in addition to being
rendered accept, is often translated take along (e.g.,
Matt.2:13,14). These English variants are required because of the differences between
Greek and English idiom. In all cases, the reference is to that which one somehow comes to
have, or possess.
However, popular misuse of
these words has caused much confusion. This is true both of the word receive
(as in the emotional appeals made to the unbeliever to receive Christ), and
with the term accept as well (as in, If you would avoid eternal
burnings, accept Him today). That is, the connotations and inflections
foisted upon these words by preachers, are strictly their own. They find no support
whatever in the Scriptures.
The apostle Paul makes it
plain that all that we havewhether riches, health, success, understanding,
self-discipline, willingness or faithis that which we have received from God.
Everything we possess is given to us by God, even those things which we take
to ourselves through much time and effort. He Himself gives to all life and
breath and all (Acts 17:25).
When noting the difference
between ourselves and others, do we ever stop to think, and then face the fact that all
these things have their own cause? They are all caused to be as they are. Do we realize
that it is therefore altogether foolish to be puffed up about our own virtues
while looking down upon others in their weaknesses? To the proud Corinthians the apostle
Paul says, For what is making you to discriminate [that is, differ]?
Now what have you which you did not obtain [or, receive]? Now if you obtained
it also [even as others], why are you boasting as though not obtaining? (1
Cor.4:7). May God grace us all, as those who have received and accepted Christ, to stop
thanking ourselves for this, and recognize that this was neither of the will of the
flesh, neither of the will of a man, but of God (cf John 1:12,13).
JUSTIFIED BY FAITH
When we believe, our faith is reckoned, or accounted, for
(into, eis) righteousness (Rom.4:5). God considers our faith in His
declarations to be a righteous faith; for it is always right to believe what He
says. However, salvation from sin is only to be found in the work of Christ, not in
ones faith in the work of Christ.
Paul does not say that to
him who is not working, yet is believing (Rom.4:5), his faith qualifies him for salvation!
He does not say that we are justified because we believe or in return for believing. This
is not the case. Our Lord was roused, not merely to make it possible for us to
be justified, but because of our justifying (Rom.4:25). Being,
then, justified by faith, we may be having peace toward God, through our Lord Jesus
Christ (Rom.5:1). We are justified out of Christs own personal faith
(Rom.3:22,26). It is not through our faulty faith, but through the matchless faith of our
Lord Jesus Christ that we have peace toward God. His work of faith affords this to us. Our
faith only makes this known to us.
With regard to Gods
declarations and promises concerning ourselves, as with Abraham, God has made them matters
of faith that they may accord with grace (Rom.4:16). The very purpose
in their being matters which are of faith, is that they should already be true
prior to the time in which we first believe them.
God is justifying
the irreverent (Rom.4:5), doing so gratuitously, in His grace (Rom.3:24). In
the very nature of things, when acting in grace, God must act purposefully,
according to His choice and apart from any obligation to requite His creatures for
their actions (cf Rom.9:11; 11:6).
It is fitting that those
chosen ones who are called in this current era of the display of Gods
righteousness (Rom.3:26) should have faith. Their faith points to Christ, in Whom,
through His sacrificial death, Gods righteousness is manifested. It is manifested,
not through our faith, but through Jesus Christs faith (Rom.3:22). God
unveils (cf Rom.1:17) His righteousness to men by justifying them gratuitously in His
grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus (Rom.3:24). This glorious gratuity
is for all, for all sinned and are wanting of the glory of God
(Rom.3:24). It has been bestowed upon Gods chosen ones at present (it is
on all who are believing; Rom.3:24). God has done this in order that we might
constitute a special display, or example, of this great blessing which He has purposed for
all. Through the obedience of Christ, this and related glorious benefits will actually be
given to all mankind (cf Rom.5:15,16,18,19).
NOT WORKING, YET BELIEVING
eagerly seek to point out to us that faith is not work. However, they only do this in the
interest of making faiththough technically not worka condition of
salvation nonetheless. If they cannot qualify by their good deeds, they hope to at
least be able to do so by their faith. They would not have God save them solely because of
His love and grace, according to His own will, power and purpose. Besides, if that
were true all the glory would be His!
What they fail to realize
is that while faith, in itself, is not an act, ones possession of it is
nonetheless the product of mental activity. Indeed, when one is actively
engaged in believing, he is involved in much mental work.
Many are more persuaded by
a single inference of their ownno matter how poorthan by all the plain
declarations of Scripture to the contrary. For example, many attempt to validate the idea
of conditional salvation by citing Pauls statement in Romans 4:5 concerning one who
is not working, yet is believing. The usual assertion concerning these words
is to the effect that one may believe and yet still avoid all work. From this it is
inferred that while one cannot qualify for salvation by working, he must
qualify for it by believing. It is supposed that if one should be found believing,
doubtlessly his believing constitutes the fulfillment of a requirement! Thus conditional
salvation is proved to be true, and all else in the Word of God twisted in
order to conform to this false idea.
THE EVANGEL DEBARS BOASTING
we are justified gratuitouslywithout any warrant, insofar as anything
we may have done is concernedwe cannot boast in ourselves that we are justified
The truth of the
evangelthe grace of God in truthdebars all boasting in man (Rom.3:27). It is
not merely that we should not boast, but that we cannot boast! Now may
it not be mine to be boasting, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ
Since we are believers, we
are to recognize that God has called and justified us at this time. But we are not to
imagine that inasmuch as most men persist in unbelief, He therefore intends to damn them
for all eternity.
GODS GOODNESS TOWARD ALL
faith is evidence of our calling (1 Cor.1:23,24), of our having been chosen
(1 Cor.1:26-29) for membership in the body of Christ and for life eonian. If others do not
believe, they will not enjoy the life of the coming eons. But this is only because, according
to Gods wise counsels and purpose, they have not been chosen for this particular
We ourselves have not been
chosen to have a part among those who will be vivified at the consummation, which will
doubtlessly be an inexpressibly glorious experience for all concerned. We will never know
the experience of being brought from under the rod of Gods indignation in severe
chastening judging, only to be embraced in the arms of His love at the consummation. Let
us not underestimate the preciousness of this gift for those for whom it is intended.
It is true that we will
have been vivified already, long before this time. Unlike the unbeliever, we are saved
from indignation, and will enjoy life in the eons of the eons. But let us never glory in
our own blessings in ways that lead us to doubt the goodness of Gods counsels
concerning the rest of men.
Since God is so
exceedingly good, all will receive whatever is best for Him and best for them.
This is true even if this should include the experience of a temporary enlistment as a
vessel of indignation in order that mans injustice might commend Gods
righteousness (cf Rom.3:5; 9:22).
When we believe God in
these matters, our faith accords with His operations in grace, and is centered in His
gracious promises. Thus we are enabled to believe, and to rejoice in our happy
expectation. Let us be invigorated by the grace which is in Christ Jesus (cf 2