How to Be Saved
Sabbath, 19 March 2916, Edinburg, TX.
First hymn: 300 (“Rock of Ages)
Margo and Seniors: hymn 76 (“Oh, Love that will not let me go”)
Closing hymn: 301 (“Nearer, Still Nearer”)
How to Be Saved
Sinful human beings, that is all of us, are in a bad way, if God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit do not help them. There are three great problems
facing us. (1) First, we have broken the commandments of God, for which the punishment is death. (2) Second, as sinners, we are habitual law-breakers. Let me illustrate. Somebody who has stolen is
guilty because he or she has taken this or
that item. That is punishable, but even when such deeds have been forgiven through the death of our Lord Jesus on the cross, the fact is that the person concerned is a thief, with the tendency to steal more and more. Augustus M. Toplady, a British Anglican minister, in his hymn “Rock of Ages” recognized this problem, more than 250 years ago. Therefore, he pleaded with the Lord:
Let the water and the blood,
From Thy riven side which flowed,
Be of sin the double cure;
Cleanse me from its guilt and power.
(3) But there is also a third problem: sinning involves what I can only call demon possession. This is borne out by several Scriptures. (a) In the Lord’s Prayer, which
Jesus provided as a model to his disciples, there is a special petition: “Deliver us from evil.” This can be translated “Deliver us from the evil one.” (b) Paul wrote about this more than once. In
Col. 1:13, 14 he said about God the Father: “He has
delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.” In Eph. 2:1-3 the great apostle said: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.” We also need to have the devil cast out of us. The Holy Spirit plays a decisive role in our salvation. Jesus
discussed it during a night interview with Nicodemus. He told this learned man of God’s great love for the world, revealing that “he gave us his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This is wonderful. But Jesus also said to Nicodemus something else, of which I must remind you now: “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Most modern Bibles say “born again,” but in the original we have: “¦"< :0 J4H (,<<02® •<T2,< (ean mē tis gennēthēi anōthen).” That is, unless somebody is born anōthen, he or she cannot see the kingdom of God, cannot be saved. What does anōthen signify? It can be translated “again,” but it mostly means “from above.” To be born again is to be born from above, through the Holy Spirit. Yes, we need by faith to accept forgiveness for our sins, but the Lord also wants us to obtain victory over sin. Jesus clearly said to Nicodemus and says to us: “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (John 3:5, 6) By ourselves we cannot be born again. We totally need help. Paul discusses our dilemma in Romans 7 and 8. The Law of God demands obedience, but because of our perverted nature, we cannot keep it. Nevertheless, our Heavenly Father has provided a remedy, through
Jesus who died for us as well as the Holy Spirit. This is how the great apostle put it: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin; He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:1-4) What, in this context, does the word flesh mean? It is our ordinary human nature, including even our minds. My brethren and sisters, those are very deep words. They contain the very essence of righteousness by faith, not only
justification by faith, but righteousness by faith. That is, God who loves us wants to forgive all the sins that we have committed, but he also wants to change our nature by Christ who must live within us through God the Holy Spirit. There is another wonderful Pauline passage about this topic, in Ephesians 2. Often people quote only one of those verses: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8). Now, that is true, but by itself it is an incomplete gospel. Those words should be read in context. Look at what precedes and also what follows them. The chapter starts with the words that I have already quoted: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. (Eph. 2:1-3) In this chapter, especially note the word works. The devil works in people to make them disobedient. But the next four verses fill us with hope: “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:3-7) After that, we find the wonderful verse: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8). Again note the word works and ask: “Whose works?” Well, our defective works, prompted by human nature—and, beyond that, by the working of Satan. But the next verse says: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). Let us now consider that word. Workmanship is possibly, in English, the best translation original; but it does not quite convey what the original says. Some other languages do. For instance, in Afrikaans—my mother tongue—and Spanish, which has hechura, “something made.” The Greek has a very interesting word: B@40:" (poiēma). Apart from “something made,” an “hechura,” poiēma also means a “poem.” Different Scriptures of both the Old and the New Testaments inform us that when the Lord created this world, the whole Trinity was
involved. So, likewise, in our recreation. Genesis 1 begins with the words: “In the beginning God made heaven and earth.” The Hebrew for God is Elohim, which is a plural word; but its verb is singular: אֵת הַשָּׁמַיִם בָּרָא אֱלֹהִים רֵאשִׁית בּ וְאֵת הָאָרֶץ. (B’reshit bara Elohim et hashamayim v’et haaretz.) And in verse 26 the same chapter says: “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our Likeness. . . .” The Hebrew word for a human being is Adám, both male and female. Women are also made after the image of God. In contrast with the devil’s work in the children of disobedience, we are the Lord’s artistic and beautiful poem. This links up well with the first four verses of Romans 8 with which I have dealt. We need full salvation, forgiveness of as well as victory over sin. Involved in this is the entire holy trinity, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
So there we have it. To be saved, we need the Father’s love, we need the Saviour’s death and indwelling, and we need the Holy Spirit. We must obtain life everlasting anōthen, from above. We must be born through the water of baptism as well as the Holy Spirit. And we must be his workmanship, his poiēma, his beautiful poem. He will provide the fruitage, the gifts of a life acceptable to God. I cannot now dwell on all of these but do point out that the greatest of these is love, a deep and abiding love for God and for our fellow human beings, both in and outside our Church. The lives of those who are truly converted and serve the Lord will not be focused on themselves or materialistic things but seek his glory and help to finish his work. He gave everything for you and me. In return, what are we willing to give for him?