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Salvation from sin

1 December 2018

Salvation from sin

REDEMPTION

It is obtained by faith

The Holy Scripture states that all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), thus all are slaves of the sins they commit, as it is written: “Whosoever committeh sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). However, the Scripture affirms also that a sinner can be set free from the bondage of sin. How? Through repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Why is it necessary for him, after he has repented of his sins, to believe in Jesus Christ? Because Jesus Christ is the One who was sent by God to save men from their sins. For the angel who appeared to Joseph, before Mary gave birth to Jesus, said to him: “He shall save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21), and Jesus Himself said that He came to save the world: “For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world” (John 12:47).

But what did Jesus do in order to save the world? He offered His flesh and His blood. Let me explain to you this fundamental concept. Sin entered the world through one man, called Adam, and it passed upon all men, thus all have sinned (Romans 5:12). But what gives strength to sin? The law, because, as Paul says, “the strength of sin is the law” (1 Corinthians 15:56). Paul explains this concept when he says: “For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me” (Romans 7:11 – NKJV). In other words, sin brings death into man by the law. Of course, the law is good and holy, yet sin uses the law to work death in man. As a killer uses a piece of wood (which was created by God) in order to kill another man, but it is not the piece of wood (which was created by God and which is good in itself) that kills that man, but the killer uses that piece of wood to accomplish his evil plan, so sin uses the law, given by God to Israel and thus is a good law, in order to kill people spiritually. Therefore it was necessary that sin should be destroyed, that is to say, that sin should be deprived of its power over man. And this is what Jesus did by His sacrifice, He put away sin (Hebrews 9:26): He was able to do this for He bore our sins, dying on the cross for us (Isaiah 53:6,11,12). That’s why whoever believes in Him is set free from sin, for Jesus Christ on the cross crucified the old man of those who believe (Romans 6:6-7). Therefore, every believer died with Christ unto sin, and thus the law no longer has dominion over him, for the law has dominion over a man only as long as he lives; after his death the law cannot have any dominion over him. And every believer has become dead to the law through the body of Christ, he has become dead to what he was held by, that he might belong to Him who was raised from the dead (Romans 7:1-6).

As I have already said, the deliverance from the bondage of sin is received through faith in Christ, therefore not by good works, whether they are done before or after a man’s conversion, nor by water baptism which follows faith, but only through faith. That’s why salvation is by grace, because in order to obtain it a man needs only to believe in the One who sets man free from sin, that is, Jesus. And since salvation is received by the grace of God and not by our merits, anyone who has received it has nothing to boast about before God. He can glory in the Lord, that is, he can take pride in having received this great salvation from the hand of God solely by His great mercy. However, many people have set aside the grace of God by saying that salvation depends on the merits of man, on his sufferings and many other things (among these people are the Roman Catholics, the so called Jehovah Witnesses, and the Mormons). Therefore, in this Bible study, I want to reaffirm with all boldness and strength that salvation can be obtained by a man only through faith. Here are some passages of the Scriptures which attest in an unequivocal way that we are saved only through faith.

When the keeper of the prison in Philippi asked Paul and Silas: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30), they answered him: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 16:31).

Notice how the apostles answered that frightened prison keeper: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” immediately and with one accord, because this shows that the message of salvation they preached to men was based on the faith in Christ and not on men’s merits. The apostles could answer that question at once and correctly (for they told him that he had to believe in Jesus Christ in order to be saved) because they had shod their feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace (Ephesians 6:15). That was the Good News that men heard from the mouth of the apostles and that is the Good News that men ought to hear today from us.

Paul said to the Romans: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

This passage means that it is the message of the Good News that delivers all those who believe in it from sins. And we are witness of the salvation worked by the Gospel in those who were once slaves of all kinds of sins: men who were formerly fornicators, homosexuals, thieves, drunkards, covetous men, sorcerers, liars, have been set free from the sin which they served through faith in the Gospel.

Paul says to the Ephesians: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

We who have believed in the Gospel of our salvation have been set free from our sins through faith in the Gospel. We can’t say that we have been saved from our sins because we gave alms, we visited the sick, the widows and the orphans, or because we gave food, drink and some clothes to those who needed these things, because we all have obtained this great salvation not through good works, but through faith alone; I say it again, ‘through faith alone’; faith in what? Faith in the Gospel of the grace of God. If a man could be saved through his good works, Christ would have died in vain, and therefore it would be useless to preach the Gospel to all those who think that they can be saved by doing good to themselves and to their neighbour. But besides this, it must be said that if a man could be saved through some good works he would have something to boast about before God because he could say that he deserved to be saved. In other words, he could say that salvation was the fruit of his labors and he would never say that salvation is the fruit of the labor of Jesus Christ’s soul. He could say that he suffered many things in order to be saved, and he wouldn’t say that it was Jesus Christ, the Righteous, who suffered for us who were unjust in order to set us free from the bondage of sin. However, as Paul said to the Romans “Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith” (Romans 3:27), because we know that a man is saved through his faith in Jesus Christ. This is the reason why we have nothing to boast about, because we have been saved by the law of faith and thus by grace. Yes, by the grace of God, because it is through faith alone that we have been saved.

Paul says to the Thessalonians: “But we are bound to give thanks alway to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth” (2 Thessalonians 2:13).

The apostles gave thanks to God because God was pleased to save the believers of Thessalonica according to His eternal purpose. But how did God save them? Did He save them through good works? No, but He saved them through the sanctification of the Spirit and faith in the truth. Once again the Scripture confirms that salvation is obtained through faith in the truth and not by good works. Where are the merits of man then? They are excluded by the law of faith.

Paul says to the Corinthians: “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved ….” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 – NKJV), then he tells them the Gospel which he preached to them, and afterward he says to them: “So we preach, and so you believed” (1 Corinthians 15:11 – NKJV).

From these words of Paul we learn that the Corinthians were saved through their faith in the Gospel and not by good works they had done. Some of them had been adulterers, fornicators, idolaters, effeminate men, homosexuals, thieves, covetous, extortioners, drunkards and revilers (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), but they were saved from their sins through their faith in the Gospel, apart from the deeds of the law. This is the reason why the message of Christ is called the Gospel of peace, because in order to have peace with God, that is to say, in order to be reconciled to God, sinners don’t have to do meritorious deeds, but they must believe on the name of Jesus Christ. On the other hand, how could the message of Christ be called Good News if the Bible stated that in order to be saved a man has to do good works? Wouldn’t such a statement contradict the essence of the Gospel? Of course, it would contradict it; for it would mean that Jesus came to save us freely, demanding only repentance and faith in Him from us, but we must work with Him (that is to say, we must do good deeds) in order to be saved from our sins! What a contradiction!!

Paul says in the epistle to Titus: “For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:3-5).

From these words of Paul we learn two things: the first is that we have been saved and therefore we can say that we are saved, without running the risk of being presumptuous; the second thing is that we have obtained this salvation not by good works we have done but by the mercy of God, who has begotten us again to a new life through the Word of God planted in us (the washing of regeneration) and through the renewing which the Holy Spirit has worked in us.

Paul says to Timothy that God “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10).

Once again Paul says that God has saved us by grace and not because we have done some good works; but He says also that God gave us His grace before the world began, that is, before the foundation of the world. If this passage is not sufficient to make you understand that our salvation did not depend on some good works we have done, but on the mercy of God who was pleased to save us who did not deserve to receive anything from Him, I quote the following words which Paul wrote about Esau and Jacob to the Romans: “(For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her [Rebecca], The elder shall serve the younger” (Romans 9:11-12) and also these other words of Paul: “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy” (Romans 9:16). These words destroy all those arguments which induce people to rely on good works in order to be saved.

The apostle Peter said in the presence of the other apostles and the elders in Jerusalem: “We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they [the Gentiles] are” (Acts 15:11 – NIV).

Now, Peter said that they who were Jews by birth were saved by grace just as the Gentiles were, even though the Jews were circumcised in the flesh and they had the law of Moses containing the commandments of God. But why didn’t Peter say that they who were Jews had been saved by the deeds of the law, while the Gentiles, who had not the law, had been saved by grace? Because they (who were Jews by birth) also had to believe in order to be saved (therefore they had not obtained God’s salvation through the law). The words of Peter make it clear that in order to be saved a man must believe, because God’s salvation is given both to the Jews and the Gentiles freely. We conclude, therefore, that God will save the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.

Other passages of the Scriptures which confirm that we are saved by faith alone and not by good deeds

Paul says to the Romans: “But what saith it [the righteousness which is of faith]? The word is nigh thee, even in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:8-13)

As you can see, in order to be saved a man doesn’t have to do good works but he has to confess with his mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in his heart that God raised Him from the dead. Isn’t simple and clear the way of salvation which is written in the Scripture? Of course, it is.

Brothers, I exhort you to hold on to the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus and not to forsake it, otherwise you will set aside the sacrifice of Christ, you will declare that Christ died in vain and so you will fall from grace. Talk with one another about it so that you might be strengthened, and proclaim it to the sinners so that they also might repent and believe in Jesus Christ. Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God, that’s why in order to believe in Christ for their salvation sinners need to hear of Christ, of his atoning sacrifice. Let the cross, the cross of Christ, be preached with all boldness because the message of the cross is able to save man from sin. There is no other message that can save man, and you know it very well because it was through the message of the cross that you were saved by the grace of God.

Now we are slaves of righteousness

As we have just seen, the Scripture clearly states that we have not been saved by works of righteousness which we have done, but we have been saved through faith in Christ and thus by the grace of God. However, the Scripture states also that, having been set free from sin, we became slaves of righteousness and therefore we must do good works. This part of the counsel of God was proclaimed by Jesus Christ, who said to His disciples that He had chosen them so that they should do good works. Here are His words: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). Afterwards, Paul confirmed it by saying to the Ephesians that we “are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10), and to Titus that Jesus Christ “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).

But why should we be zealous for good works? Because Jesus said: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8), and: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16); these words of Jesus mean that by doing good works we cause the name of God to be glorified. So let us do good works, so that the name of our God may be glorified. Furthermore, you must bear in mind that by doing good works we lay up treasure for ourselves in heaven, which is the reward that on that day the Lord will give to us (and this is a stimulus to do good works). For when Jesus told the young ruler to sell what he had and give to the poor He said to him: “And you will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21 – NKJV), and Paul told Timothy to command those who are rich in this present age “to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age” (1 Timothy 6:18-19 – NIV).

I conclude by saying this: we believers know that by our faith we have been saved from sin and from this evil age, however we know also that now we are slaves of righteousness, thus we must offer the parts of our body in slavery to righteousness by doing all kinds of good works. But whereas when we were slaves of sin we did not reap any benefit from our evil works which we are now ashamed of, now that we are slaves of righteousness the good works we do for the sake of the Lord and the elect make our call and election sure and they enable us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, a good treasure for the time to come, and we will never regret doing them and we will never be ashamed of them. Therefore, the works of righteousness are useful, very useful; let no one despise them. Let those who despise the good works know that the Scripture states that “as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26); such a faith is of no value before God, as it is written: “You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless?” (James 2:20NIV). Therefore, I say to these people: ‘Do not deceive yourselves!; know that those branches which don’t abide in Christ are picked up and thrown into the fire and burned (John 15:6)!’.

Giacinto Butindaro

 

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