3 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. 4 For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 3–4, NKJV)
Jude was eager to write to faithful brethren about “our common salvation.” But, an even more pressing need arose that required his immediate attention. His epistle gives a stern warning and a strong indictment of false teachers who had slipped in among them unnoticed. Their teaching was corrupting the grace of God, offering sinful abandon rather than the self-control of holiness. This was nothing less than a denial of God and our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 4). Please note, there is a common salvation and a singular faith that we must contend for and from which we must not deviate. Just as there is only one way of salvation, there is only one faith (Acts 4:12; Ephesians 4:5). The ecumenical movement is a direct assault on both of these gospel principles. Unless we contend (struggle intensely) for the gospel that was fully and finally delivered to the world by the apostles and prophets of Jesus, we have already abandoned our common salvation for the whims and impulses of men. The enemies of truth are afoot. Let us “fight the good fight of faith” and “lay hold on eternal life” (1 Timothy 6:12).
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure. (Philippians 2:12–13, NKJV)
More than a few times we have heard this passage misused to endorse accepting people in error and the immorality it produces. Such brethren defy the existence of absolute truth while tacitly accepting the moral relativism it produces. Since good and sincere brethren disagree on certain doctrinal issues (which they define as gray areas), they conclude each one will have to just “work out their own salvation” on the matter. This view is applied to divorce and remarriage. One of the problems with using Philippians 2:12 this way is it results in accepting adulterers as if they are faithful Christians. No longer is the sinner rebuked and called to repentance. Now he or she is tolerated and allowed to “work out their own salvation.” People “commit adultery” when they divorce and remarry in violation of Matthew 19:9. How do you “work out your own salvation” as an adulterer? God only forgives the adulterer when the sinner repents, prays and ending the adulterous remarriage. “Work out your own salvation” means to keep on obeying God (read verse 12 again). You bring your salvation to its full accomplishment by obeying God, not by remaining in disobedience.
Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it. (Jonah 3:10, NKJV)
The Protestant Reformation of the Roman Catholic Church fell far short of restoring New Testament Christianity. One such area was its failure to return to the Scriptural (and thus, essential) place of obedience to God to be saved “by grace through faith” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Obedience is an “unprofitable” servant’s faith at work (Luke 17:10). Protestantism opted to demonize every kind of work while codifying salvation by faith only, even though Scripture says, “faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:17). And, “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Nineveh’s salvation from God’s imminent destruction well illustrates the part that a working faith plays in salvation. Why would God consider Nineveh’s “works” at all, if works have nothing to do with God’s gift of salvation (Jonah 3:7-9, 10)? Jesus endorsed their works as proof that “they repented” (Luke 11:32). Even so, we do not earn salvation when we obey God’s command to repent (Acts 17:30). But, without obeying God and repenting of sins, we will not receive His grace that saves our soul. Repentance is a work of faith, a condition we must meet to be saved (Acts 3:19). God has given commands we must obey as conditions to be saved “by grace through faith.” Unless we obey them, we do not trust God. All we have is a dead faith.
38 Then Peter said to them, “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. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38–39, NKJV)
The Bible records many promises of God, but, three He made to Abram are especially profound. God promised a nation, a land and a seed to Abram (Genesis 12:1-3, 7; 22:18). The Bible is a record of God keeping these promises. The nation promise was fulfilled when Israel became a nation after being delivered from Egyptian bondage (Exodus 19:5-6). God kept the land promise to Israel when they invaded Canaan and “took possession of it and dwelt in it” (Joshua 21:43; 23:14; Nehemiah 9:7-8, 24). The promise that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” was restated to king David and fulfilled in Jesus Christ (Acts 13:22-26; Galatians 3:15-16). Thus, God’s promise to bless the whole world (Jews and Gentiles) is fulfilled Jesus, the Savior of the world (Acts 13:23, 32-34). As Paul preached, “Let it be known to you, brethren, that through is Man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins” (Acts 13:38). The “blessing of Abraham” is salvation in Christ, spiritual relief and life from sin’s bondage and death (Acts 3:19; Galatians 3:14). Those who repent and are baptized for the remission of sins have the promise (Galatians 3:22, 26-29). They are saved! Let us thank and praise God for keeping His promises.
3 As I urged you when I went into Macedonia—remain in Ephesus that you may charge some that they teach no other doctrine, 4 nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith. (1 Timothy 1:3–4, NKJV)
Is doctrine essential or nonessential to your faith and fellowship with God? Undoubtedly, there was a particular doctrine that was to be taught in Ephesus. All other doctrines were to cease. Timothy was to charge teachers to “teach no other doctrine” than the one that produces “godly edification which is in faith.” Doctrine means teaching, and it is essential that one’s teaching (doctrine) conforms with God’s truth, the Scriptures. Therefore, doctrine must be “sound” (1 Timothy 1:10), “good” (1 Timothy 4:6), given attention (1 Timothy 4:13), and continued in (1 Timothy 4:16). Doctrine must be God’s (1 Timothy 6:1), and it must conform to godliness (1 Timothy 6:3). Apostolic doctrine must be “carefully followed” (2 Timothy 3:10). It must agree with the Scriptures (2 Timothy 3:16), and it must not be rejected (2 Timothy 4:3). Anyone who says doctrine is not essential to your salvation and fellowship with God is not teaching and applying 2 John 9 properly: “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” Oh yes, doctrine matters.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: 13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12–13, NKJV)
God gives believers the right to become His children – to be saved in the Son (1 John 5:11-12). John explains that birth into the family of God is not due to physical lineage (“not of blood”) or fleshly procreation (“of the will of the flesh”). The apostle Paul said, “nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham” (Romans 9:7). One is not born into the family of God by the will of man. Neither human desires and wishes, doctrines, creeds or confessions produce the new birth. Birth into the family of God is of faith, not of flesh. “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:26-27). Children of God are born of God and have life in the Son. Children of God walk in the light. Such rich blessings of salvation come “by grace, through faith” to those who put on Christ, which occurs when the believer is baptized into Christ (Galatians 3:27).
5 And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. 6 And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. (Acts 2:5–6, NKJV)
Devout men and women need to be saved, too. At times we meet with resistance when calling religious people to hear and obey the pure gospel of Jesus Christ. The assumption is that, since a person is religiously devout (pious, God-fearing), he or she is in no need of hearing the word of God and examining themselves in light of it. It is notable that he apostles of Christ preached the first gospel sermons on Pentecost to Jews who were devoutly practiced their faith. Yet, they were sinners in need of salvation. They had consented to the murder of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The gospel convicted them of who Jesus is and of their sin against Him, and then told them what to do about it (Acts 2:22-38). Instead of relying on your religious piety to save you (it won’t), hear, believe and obey the pure gospel of Jesus Christ, like about three thousand devout souls did almost 2,000 years ago.