In our previous lesson, we completed our research into the instructions that God gave in order for man to receive the death of Christ, which is the favor that God did for us when we did not de¬serve it, which is also the ONLY thing that pays for our sins! We looked at the basic ideas of FAITH, REPENTANCE, CONFESSION, and BAPTISM and we learned that each of these fit together to form a PROCESS through which a person goes from being LOST, on the wrong side of the “River of SIN”, to being SAVED!
We must remember that these "instructions" are not just ceremonial requirements on some “checklist for membership” that a person must complete in order to join a social group. They are also not "works" by which a person EARNS his place in heaven! These are ACTIONS, whose only purpose is to bring a lost person into a commitment to change their life, and, then put that person into direct contact with the blood of Christ, the result of which is the removal of the person’s sins and entrance into the NEW AGREEMENT! These actions, by themselves, have NO SAVING POWER of their own. Please do not forget what we learned; ONLY BLOOD TAKES AWAY SINS!
The instructions are simply the way through which and by which we RECEIVE God's grace (the death/blood of Jesus) into our individual lives! They are THE INSTRUCTIONS that God left for us, to show OUR faith in him! However, salvation is only by means of THE FAVOR God did for us—allowing Jesus to take our sins and die!
When we follow what God tells us to do, we become people of FAITH, just like Noah, Abraham, and the Israelites who stood in those long lines to make those animal sacrifices. DOING WHAT GOD TOLD THEM placed THEM in contact with the blood of Christ and, in the same way, WE can have the blood of Jesus in our own lives IF we obey the instructions God gave to us.
When we choose to receive Jesus, something wonderful happens. Please turn to Colossians 1:13, get your paper and record the main points. Paul explains that God rescues us out of the kingdom of darkness and removes us into the kingdom of the son that he loves! The main point to remember here is that GOD is the one who does all the work! We also saw this in Acts 2:47, where it said that GOD ADDS saved people to his group of believers!
We have seen HOW a person becomes part of the NEW AGREEMENT, but what about AFTER a person receives the blood of Jesus and becomes a Christian? What happens then?
In our research, we discovered one additional instruction that, in context, applies to a person AFTER they receive Christ into their life. Christians are instructed to remain faithful until the end! In our next three lessons, we will try to better understand what this means.
The New Testament is filled with passages that point out that salvation is FREE and available to all people. It is FREE in the sense that you don’t have to do anything to pay for it, but IS A SAVED PERSON REALLY FREE? Are they FREE to do whatever they desire to do?
There are teachers today who CLAIM that once a person is saved, they are ALWAYS saved1, and there is no way a person can lose their salvation!
Christians are FREE from the burden of paying for their sins, but they ARE NOT FREE to do whatever they desire! We all were made enemies of God because WE DID AS WE PLEASED, and following that way of thinking, we did many things that were against the will of God. However, God made a way for us to be FREE of those past mistakes, but, in return, he expects us to no longer consider ourselves FREE to do as WE please! Therefore, IF a person receives God’s grace and then continues doing WHAT THEY FEEL IS RIGHT, then bad things will happen to them! Consider the following warnings that were written to the first Christians.
The first few passages will be a review of passages we have seen before. One very important passage to consider is 1 Corinthians 15:1-2. Notice that this verse was written to people who are already Christians. We know this because it says that they had already received the GOOD NEWS. Notice also how he tells them that they will CONTINUE to remain “saved” as long as they REMAIN FAITHFUL to the GOOD NEWS. What will happen to them if they do not remain faithful? He told them that their FAITH would then be in vain! What does this mean? It means “useless”. Therefore, from this passage, we see that the NEW AGREEMENT IS CONDITIONAL, and that IF a person does not remain faithful, THEN they will return to the other side of the “River of SIN” and be lost!
The idea of remaining faithful once a person becomes a Christian is found in many other passages. Colossians 1:21-23 is another passage that was written to people who had already become Christians and still the writer tells them that they will remain saved ONLY IF they continue “in the faith”.
Revelation 2:10-11 is another passage. Notice the degree of faithfulness that is required by God. The historical background of this passage is interesting. Evidence indicates that at the time this book was written, Christians everywhere were being persecuted very much and many Christians had been executed by the Roman government simply because they believed in Jesus! When they were captured and questioned by the authorities, it would have been very easy for them to deny that they believed in Christ. After all, in their hearts they could reason that God really knew their hearts and he would surely forgive their denial since it was only given so they could save their lives! Didn’t God KNOW that they really loved Jesus? Is it not interesting to see that even though their situation was so very severe, still, they were told to be faithful UNTO DEATH.
This idea of remaining faithful to God is nothing new for us. We have already learned many things about this topic.
Do not forget what we learned from our study of Matthew 7:21-23, where we saw that being faithful is more than being a religious person. Do you remember how interesting it was to read and discover that doing “religious things” is not enough? The point Jesus made was that we must DO THE THINGS the Father wants us to do.
In addition to this point, John 12:44-50 showed us that this “will of the Father” can be found in the teachings that Jesus gave and that we will be judged, on the Judgment Day, by how well we followed those teachings in our lives.
Remember that the early lessons of Jesus: Man Of The Bible, contained many WARNINGS! In Galatians 1:6-9, for example, one thing that made this passage so important was the knowledge that, at THAT time, there were already people who had become Christians but had left the true teachings of Christianity behind and changed them for something else. The warning that we should not listen to any teachings other than the original ones is very serious. Even as these changed teachings come from angels we are not to listen to them. That means that is it a very serious thing to remain faithful to the teachings.
Let us also not forget what we learned from 1 John 2:3-6! We can KNOW with absolute certainty what our status is in our relationship with God! It is a simply a matter of fairness. IF we are faithfully following his commands, THEN we KNOW that we are right with him! However, IF we SAY that we are Christians and DO NOT FOLLOW his teachings, THEN we are LIARS! IF we say that we know God, THEN we ought to live in the same way that Jesus lived. Faithfulness requires keeping the command of God and not just SAYING that we know him.
2 John 1:9-11 also showed us the importance of our being faithful. If a person DOES NOT REMAIN in the teachings of Christ, he DOES NOT have God! Following the true teachings is a requirement and any teachings other than the ones that were given by God and Christ must be rejected. Do not forget how this passage also speaks of what our attitude should be toward those teachers who do not teach the truth. We should never agree with any teachings except those that are the will of the Father!
This brings us back to one of the very first passages we looked at, 2 Timothy 3:16-17. It is only in the word of God (the Bible) where we find the truth that we are supposed to be “faithful unto death”, because the Bible alone contains the revealed will of God. Using the Bible, we can be completely equipped for every good work that the Father wants us to do.
Knowing the Father’s will and being willing to do it are only part of the battle. We need to remember that we WILL encounter obstacles along the way as we try to remain faithful and it will not be easy to keep this commitment of loyalty to God. We discussed this back in our last lessons of Jesus: Man Of The Bible, when we looked at Jesus as the PIONEER OF THE FAITH. In that study, we looked at TWO major sources of difficulty. In Matthew 10:34-39, we found that some obstacles might come from OTHER PEOPLE, even possibly from members of our own families! In James 1:13-15, we discovered that most of the problems we will have will come from inside; from our own desires! This inward struggle will challenge our commitment to remain faithful to God.
Whatever the source of the difficulty might be, God demands complete and unwavering loyalty from anyone who would CLAIM to be part of the NEW AGREEMENT. Jesus MUST be the number one priority in a person’s life or else that person cannot be his disciple. Is God asking too much? Considering the price Jesus himself paid to become the savior of mankind, this demand is fair! We cannot let any person come between our loyalty to God and us, no matter how dear their relationship may be!
Therefore, we must enter into this relationship with the full knowledge and understanding that while God knows and understands that it will not be easy for us to do, he still demands complete faithfulness and loyalty from each person who receives his grace.
We need to remember the words of James 1:2-12 so that we will not become discouraged! There WILL BE OBSTACLES, but IF we endure them patiently, THEN there will be a generous reward – ETERNAL LIFE WITH GOD IN HEAVEN! James points out that these struggles are for a purpose and with every obstacle that we overcome, there will be growth and strength, which will help us endure the next obstacles when they come.
In addition, let us never forget the promise we all have from God himself, which we found in 1 Corinthians 10:13! God will never allow us to face an obstacle that we cannot endure! Remember that this is HIS promise and so we will be able to endure anything, not because we are so strong, but because of GOD’S PROMISE! The “way of escape” will ALWAYS be there, but you still must choose to take it!
We close this lesson today by looking at 2 Peter 2:20-22. It is a negative message but it reminds us of something we must never forget. As the revised diagram of REPENTANCE below shows, a person walking away from God CAN turn back to God, only to TURN AWAY from God AGAIN so that the final direction is walking away toward SIN! Peter says that this situation NOW is WORSE than it was BEFORE. Why? It is because NOW he knows the GOOD NEWS and yet has turned against it! What can he be told NOW that will give him hope and make him change?
Contrary to what many religious people CLAIM, it IS very possible for a person to become a Christian and then become lost once again! There really IS NOT a “once saved, always saved” doctrine in the NEW AGREEMENT. If there were, then why would Peter say what he does in this passage?
Becoming a Christian is easy but REMAINING a Christian is another matter. We have now seen the individual Christian’s basic responsibility to God. In our next lesson, we will look deeper into this topic and see if we can discover HOW a person can BE faithful to God for a lifetime.
1 This idea has been made famous by certain Protestant groups and is often referred by them as the “Doctrine of Once Saved, Always Saved”. Neither the term nor the teaching of “Once Saved, Always Saved” can be found in the Bible. The only way you can possibly conclude such would be to look only at partial evidence on this topic! However, IF we look at all the information found on this topic then the difficult passages will be explained by those that are easy to understand, just as we learned in our discussions about HOW TO STUDY THE BIBLE.
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