The investigation of the Scriptures upon the various subjects we have considered must not be regarded as merely interesting study. These subjects are revealed to us as the constitution of Godís plan of redemption, so that all who desire to share in that plan may comply with the requirements, and that they may do so intelligently, and thus bring their minds into unison with Godís mind in the great work they are privileged to participate in with a view of sharing its proffered blessings. A state of ignorance upon the fundamental doctrines of the plan of redemption is a state of alienation from God. It is only by becoming at one with him in mind that we can really be in the atonement He has graciously provided in Christ.
This is a most reasonable requirement; for how would multitudes of ignorant creatures preserved eternally be any honor to God? In the common affairs of life we are expected to inform ourselves, so that whatever we embark in we may do so intelligently, earnestly endeavoring to know and do the right and avoiding the wrong. Our actions are governed by our belief. If our belief is wrong, our actions will be wrong. If one believes it will be profitable to spend money in or bestow labor upon a certain enterprise, he will act accordingly; and if his belief is without evidence, or based upon false evidence, his actions will likewise be false and end in failure and disappointment. Had not God required intelligence in those He purposed to receive as His children, there would have been no need for the wonderful revelation He has given us; and this revelation is evidence that God requires His people to be instructed, corrected, reproved and exhorted, all as the means of enabling them to walk in the way of righteousness which alone leads to the great redemption. It is therefore folly for people to cry out that in religious matters they have a right to their own opinion. As between man and man they have; but the absurdity of such a claim in relation to God will be manifest when we ask, How could man ever form an opinion that would be worth a momentís consideration, concerning a future life, without a revelation from God? The rule laid down is, "To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them"--Isa. . Many deceive themselves with the plausible idea that it does not matter what our creed is if we are morally good; but the question is, What is moral goodness? Can one be morally good in the sight of God who does not believe God? God has spoken, and the first thing to do in order to be morally good is to hear, understand and believe what He has spoken; then let actions follow consistently with the proper belief, and God will be well pleased.
To his apostles Jesus said, "Go teach all nations." There were doctrines to be taught, and salvation was predicated upon a belief of the doctrines taught and obedience to the commandments, inculcated. In the case of Cornelius, we have a devout, praying, alms-giving man. Yet he was told to send for Peter who would tell him words whereby he should be saved. Evidently it was after he believed the "words" and was baptized that his good qualities would be divinely recognized as part of the means of salvation, in the sense of adding lustre to the crown which induction into Christ by belief of the foundation doctrines and baptism entitled him to.
On the other hand,
there are some who deny that any act is necessary to salvation, and they glibly
cry out, "Only believe! only believe!" by
which they mean a "belief" which comes instantaneously in the form of
a peculiar feeling which comes over them when under the excitement and hypnotic
influence of a shouting revival meeting. In attempting to support this delusion
by scripture, they quote the words, "Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and
thou shalt be saved." But to repeat words without discerning their meaning
will do us no more good than the prattle of a parrot. The question is, What is it to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Study the
meaning of "Jesus" and "Christ," and they will open up to
the view the entire plan of salvation. So that to believe in what the apostle
said to the Philippian jailer is to believe the gospel. This is made quite
evident by the record of Philipís going down to
Let it be observed,
too, that it is important that the belief be in the things, not things
concerning a kingdom which is not the
Now in order to realize
the great importance of salvation we must understand our real state--what we
need salvation from and to. This has already been shown in a broad sense in
dealing with manís mortality and promised immortality; but it will be well now
to consider the matter of manís relationship to God in a specific sense.
The first question is, When did salvation become a necessity and from what
cause? This will take us back again to
This alienated state is declared to be the lot of all who are "without Christ"; and this brings to mind the two relations man is found in, expressed by the words, "in Adam" and "in Christ." The former represents the dominion or constitution of sin and death: the latter the dominion or constitution of righteousness and life. So long as we remain in the former relation, all we can hope for is what sinís dominion can give us; and that is a sorrowful life of alienation from God ending in death and an irrevocable grave. But if we change our relationship we thereby "pass from [the constitution of] death to [the constitution of] life." "putting off the old man with his deeds, and putting on the new man to walk in newness of life."
The "covenants of
promise" are the covenants God has made with men since the fall in
Now the question arises, What means has God provided by which this change can be effected? How can we pass from Adam to Christ, from alienation to reconciliation and citizenship--how can we become the sons and daughters of the Lord God Almighty? What must follow our belief as a means of effecting the transition?
The Apostle Paul says that a special revelation had been made for Gentiles explaining how they may become "fellow heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph. 3: 1-6). When Gentiles have availed themselves of this provision he says, "Now therefore, ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom the whole building fitly framed together groweth into an holy temple in the Lord; in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the spirit"--Eph. 2:19-22.
The most prominent feature of the means of reconciliation with God is the remission of sin through the blood of Christ. "Without the shedding of blood there is no remission" is a truth which the sacrifices of the law had set forth and emphasized most fully; and this reminds us that the penalty resting upon us is death and that God required death in which there was the shedding of blood by one who personally was sinless, as a means of redemption. Hence the abundance of scripture which predicates salvation upon the blood of Christ. The Apostle Paul says, "If one died for all, then were all dead." All were under the sentence of death, and the necessity in the case was that "one die for all." If the "all" had been alike, without any exception, then all must have for ever remained under deathís domination, and "Dust thou art and unto dust shalt thou return" would have been the eternal destiny of all mankind. But if there could be an exception and one could come to the rescue who would voluntarily render to death all that it could lawfully claim, by suffering a violent death in which there would be a sacrificial shedding of blood, and allowing death to take its victim down into its prison house, the grave, then deathís rights and claims would end there--because the law of sin and death had no further claim. It was the sin of the race, federally in Adam, that gave the law of sin and death its power to take its victims into dust; but when this demand had been met voluntarily and sacrificially by one who had rendered to God a perfect life of holiness, the law of sin and death had no further claim, and therefore the bands were unloosed, the shackles opened. "He that died was now freed from sinís dominion" and "Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God"--Rom. 6: 7-10. There was only one kind of death, therefore, that would meet the requirements of the case; and there was only one kind of person whose death would do. The kind of death must be a voluntary one by the shedding of blood; and the kind of person to die such a death must be one possessed of an absolutely holy character. Therefore there never was and never will be salvation in any other than in Christ; there never was redeeming efficacy in any other blood than the blood of Christ; for he alone used the life of the blood of sinís flesh, with every heart-beat of his fleshly existence, to render complete service to God, even to the extent of shedding the blood of sinís flesh and relying upon his Father for restoration to life to die no more, by virtue of being a "holy one". As in the case of Christ, so with every one that will be saved, "He that dies is freed from [the dominion of] sin." But a literal death of a personal sinner will not free from sin. A death that will free from sin must in some manner connect itself with the only death that was equal to all the requirements in the case, and it must derive its sin-freeing and sin-remitting efficacy from that one death, even the death of Christ. Like the death which first "freed from sin," every death that depends upon that must be voluntary; and all who die such a death can no more be permanently held in the grave than could Christ. Hence the apostle says, "Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin."
In this scriptural mode of conversion the three essential witnesses must testify--the "Spirit (word), the water and the blood." The Spirit through and in the word leads the believer to the water; and there, and no where else, the cleansing efficacy of the blood operates. The three must meet and agree in one in transforming a child of the world and of the flesh into a child of God. This brings us to the subject of Baptism and its relation to salvation, which we will consider in the next chapter.