14 “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14–15, NKJV).
Jesus makes it very clear that our forgiveness is conditional. The little word “if” carries much weight. It directs attention to personal responsibility to do something to be forgiven by God. Namely, if we forgive others, our Father will forgive us. If not, then God will not forgive us. Jesus did not say to only forgive your brethren, but “men” (anthropos, person, human being). The gospel teaches Christians to put on hearts of forgiveness (Col. 3:12-13). Christ’s sermon to this point has repeatedly called on kingdom citizens to have a heart that is ready to forgive (Matt. 5:7, 9, 23-24, 39-42, 44). To withhold forgiveness brings punishment from God, not blessing (remember the unforgiving servant, Matt. 18:27-35). If we do not forgive from the heart, we will be punished, too (Matt. 18:35). Now, since forgiveness is conditional, why is there such objection when the gospel tells us of other conditions we must meet to be forgiven by God? The gospel says faith and confession of faith in Jesus, repentance, and baptism are conditions sinners must meet to be forgiven by God (John 8:24; Rom. 10:9-10; Luke 13:3, 5; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38). So, it is false and futile to say salvation (forgiveness, remission of sins) is unconditional. Instead, we ought to be asking ourselves, do I have faith to submit to God’s conditions to be forgiven of my sins?
12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:12–13, NKJV).”
Regardless of race, ethnicity, language, gender, social status, free or enslaved, all of us have sinned against God and need saving from sin and death (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). The gospel accomplishes what we cannot do for ourselves. It delivers us from the bondage and death of sin (Rom. 1:16-17; 7:24-8:1). Still, God says we must “call upon Him” to be saved. The “why” is evident (salvation). But how do we call on the name of the Lord? Paul quoted Joel 2:32 as Peter did on Pentecost (Acts 2:21). That gospel sermon explained how to call on the name of the Lord for salvation. Sinners were convicted of their sin against Jesus Christ and asked, “Men and brethren, what shall we do (Acts 2:37)?” They already heard Peter say, “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Now, Peter explained how to do so to be saved. “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Peter told convicted believers to call on the name of the Lord by repenting and being baptized. By doing so, they would receive God’s gift of salvation (remission of sins). He did not tell them to pray a sinner’s prayer. He did not say to ask Jesus into their hearts as their Lord and Savior. He said to repent and be baptized. God was calling them to be saved. Peter encouraged them with many additional words, and about 3,000 “gladly received his word” and were baptized (Acts 2:39-41). We plead with you to call on the name of the Lord as they did. When you do, the Lord will save you.
30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” 31 So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” 32 Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. 33 And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized. 34 Now when he had brought them into his house, he set food before them; and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his household (Acts 16:30–34, NKJV).
What does it mean to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” for salvation? Before one can do so, he or she must hear the word of the Lord since faith comes by hearing the word of God (Rom. 10:17). So, Paul and Silas “spoke the word of the Lord” to the jailer and his house (v. 32). Believing on Jesus Christ for salvation mean more than agreeing and confessing He is “the Christ, the Son of God,” since demons did as much (Luke 4:41; James 2:19). The jailer’s conversion shows us when sinners believe and are saved in Christ. This sinner was convicted of the truth when he heard God’s word. He repented of his transgressions (indicated by washing their wounds) and was immediately baptized (v. 33). Then there was great rejoicing because he (and his family) had “believed in God.” Some try using this passage to deny water baptism is essential for salvation. If that is true, why were they baptized immediately? Why was the rejoicing after baptism and not before it (v. 34)? Saving faith is not like the faith of demons. It trusts Christ and obeys from the heart His commands to repent and be baptized (Rom. 6:17-18; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38). That kind of faith saves the soul (Matt. 7:21).
13 He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, 14 in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13–14, NKJV)
The letter to the Colossians displays and describes the preeminence of Jesus Christ. Colossians 1:13-20 details His primacy and our incentives to entirely submit our hearts and lives to Him. Today’s passage unequivocally states that Jesus has a kingdom and, therefore, a King (v. 13). It also views Jesus as the Redeemer whose death gives forgiveness of sins (v. 14). The kingdom of God (also called the kingdom of heaven, Matt. 13:11; Mk. 4:11) exists today. Therefore, Jesus is now reigning as King (Heb. 1:8-9). The Son’s kingdom is the church He built, the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 16:18-19; Heb. 12:28). Sinners escape the “power of darkness” (sin and death) by entering “the kingdom of the Son.” This transfer from the spiritual realm of darkness to the Son’s kingdom happens when the Redeemer’s blood is applied to the sinner, forgiving his or her sins (Col. 1:14). The blood of Jesus is the ransom price paid to deliver sinners (1 Tim. 2:6). Redemption is only in Christ (v. 14; Acts 4:12). The gospel calls sinners to Christ for forgiveness through His blood. When sinners believe in Jesus Christ, repent, and are baptized into Christ, the blood of Jesus washes away their sins (Acts 2:37-41; 22:16; Rom. 6:3-4; Gal. 3:26-27). Jesus, the King, and Redeemer, continues to save sinners. He is worthy of our undying praise and devotion (Rev. 5:8-14).
And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then they asked him to stay a few days. (Acts 10:48, NKJV)
The commands of God are not optional. They are necessary because they come from God. Obeying the commands of God expresses our love for God (1 Jno. 5:3). When we obey God’s commandments, we are following the example of Jesus (Heb. 5:8-9). When we obey God’s commands, we submit ourselves to His will as dutiful servants (Lk. 17:10). When we obey Jesus, we trust His word instead of our will (Matt. 14:24-33). We should not view God’s commands and obedience negatively. When Peter commanded Cornelius “to be baptized name of the Lord,” it was because the gospel says believers who are baptized will be saved (Mk. 16:15-16). The Holy Spirit had miraculously testified Cornelius and the others were believers (Acts 10:44-46). Therefore, to forbid baptism to believers (by telling them they are saved before and without obeying God’s command to be baptized) hinders their remission of sins (Acts 10:42-43; 2:37-38; 1 Pet. 3:21). Let us obey the commands of God in faith, trusting God’s will instead of our own.
15 So I said, ‘Who are You, Lord?’ And He said, ‘I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 16 But rise and stand on your feet; for I have appeared to you for this purpose, to make you a minister and a witness both of the things which you have seen and of the things which I will yet reveal to you.’” (Acts 26:15–16, NKJV)
Saul was traveling from Jerusalem to Damascus with authority to seize Christians in the synagogues when Jesus appeared to him (Acts 9:1-6, 13-14). Saul will go from being faithless to being faithful, from a persecutor to a preacher, from an antagonist to an apostle. His conversion is a touchstone of God’s mercy, grace, and longsuffering. It serves as “a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him (Christ, JRP) for everlasting life” (1 Tim. 1:12-16). Therefore, it is essential to expose and reject the assumption that Jesus saved Saul on the road to Damascus. That was not the purpose for which Christ appeared to Saul. Jesus plainly stated why He appeared to Saul: to make him “a minister and a witness” of Christ (Acts 26:16; 22:14-15; 9:15). Jesus appeared to Saul to appoint him as an apostle (1 Cor. 15:8-11). Saul was a believer after this miraculous event. And he was repentant toward God, as demonstrated by his praying and fasting (Acts 9:9, 11). But in Damascus, three days later, his sins still needed to be washed away. Ananias said to Saul, “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If Jesus saved Saul on the road, what sins needed washing away? Since Saul still needed cleansing from his sins, it is apparent he was not saved on the road. To follow the pattern of Saul’s conversion includes being baptized to wash away sins (by Christ’s blood, Rom. 6:3). Why are you waiting?
35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him. 36 As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?” 37 And Philip said, “If you believe with all your heart, you may.” And he answered and said, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts 8:35–37, NASB95)
This passage resolves important questions about the salvation of sinners. 1) The lost need to hear the gospel to be saved. Faith comes from hearing the word of God (Rom. 1:16; 10:17). When Philip “preached Christ” in Samaria, it included things concerning the kingdom of God, the name of Jesus Christ, and baptism (Acts 8:5, 12). Philip preached the same gospel to the Ethiopian. We correctly conclude that infants do not need saving because they cannot hear and believe the gospel. 2) Preaching Jesus includes the evidence needed to believe He is the Christ, the Son of God. How else did the Ethiopian come to believe Jesus is God’s Son except by hearing the evidence (cf. Jno. 20:30-31; Acts 2:40-41)? 3) Preaching Jesus includes water baptism. The Ethiopian would have known nothing about water baptism without Philip explaining it to him. Undoubtedly, he explained it is for the remission of sins to be saved by Christ (Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21). 4) Belief in Christ precedes water baptism. This is more evidence that babies are not proper candidates for baptism since they do not have the mental and moral capacity to believe. 5) Christ’s plan of salvation is belief plus baptism equals salvation (Mk. 16:16). It is not belief, salvation, and then baptism. Neither is it baptism, saved, and then believe.
1 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1–2, NKJV)
The “commandments and doctrines of men” abuse and distort the Christian’s relation to God’s grace (Col. 2:20-23; Gal. 1:6-7). For example, divine grace is not irresistible; if it were, everyone would be saved (Tit. 2:11; 1 Tim. 2:3-4; Matt. 7:21-23). Grace is available to every sinner, but not every sinner will accept it. Or again, Christians can fall from grace despite the false security of “once saved, always saved” (Gal. 5:4). God’s word of truth assures us that we have “access by faith into this grace in which we stand” through Christ (Rom. 5:2). Indeed, grace is greater than sin (Rom. 5:20-21). But that does not mean grace abounds if we choose to “continue in sin.” The gospel does not teach that we can live in sin, and God’s grace will save us anyway. We must not continue in sin to continue in grace (v. 1). We died to sin in our lives when we were baptized into Christ and into His death (Rom. 6:2-4). That is when we were “freed from sin” to live with Christ, not to continue living in sin (Rom. 6:5-8). God wants to save you, but you must make a decision of faith to die to sin and live with Christ. That begins by being baptized into Christ. Then, no longer live in sin, and the grace of God will abound in you.
13 They brought him who formerly was blind to the Pharisees. 14 Now it was a Sabbath when Jesus made the clay and opened his eyes. 15 Then the Pharisees also asked him again how he had received his sight. He said to them, “He put clay on my eyes, and I washed, and I see.” (John 9:13–15, NKJV)
The healed man had already told the Pharisees how he received his sight (Jno. 9:10-11). Their interest in Jesus and His miracle was not to believe in Him; it was to accuse Him as a Sabbath-breaker (Jno. 9:16). Let’s draw our attention to the particulars of this event. 1) The man said Jesus did something (“put clay on my eyes”), then 2) Jesus told him to do something (“I washed”), and then 3) The man received his sight (“I see”), John 9:6-7. A similar sequence occurs when God saves sinners. 1) Jesus did something (died for our sins and arose from death). 2) Jesus tells us to do something (“arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins” (Acts 22:16). 3) When we believe and do what He tells us to do, we are saved (Mk. 16:15-16). Like the faithless Pharisees, many religious leaders reject and deny this God-revealed sequence of salvation. Yet, like the blind man’s healing, receiving God’s gift of salvation blends God’s grace and our faith (Eph. 2:8). The blind man did not merit his gift of sight when he obeyed Jesus. Neither do we merit our gift of salvation when we obey Him (Eph. 2:8-9; Heb. 5:9; Rom. 6:3-5, 17). But unless we have the faith to obey, we remain blind, lost in sin. So, will we choose to have faith like the blind man and obey Jesus? Or will we join the Pharisees and faithlessly resist Jesus and His salvation?