23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed. 24 Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:23–27, NKJV)
With these few words, the Holy Spirit summarizes God’s gospel plan for human redemption through Jesus Christ. He said: (1) The law of Moses prepared people for Christ (“before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law…our tutor to bring us to Christ,” 3:23-24); (2) Our means of justification is “by faith” (not by the law of Moses, 3:24); (3) Since “faith has come” (the gospel, 1:23; 3:2), the law of Moses no longer has binding authority over anyone (“we are no longer under a tutor,” 3:25); (4) Justification by faith makes Jews and Gentiles children of God (“you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” 3:26); (5) Justification by faith happens at baptism (“for as many of you as were baptized into Christ,” 3:27); and (6) The lost become children of God at baptism, when their relationship with Christ begins (“For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ,” 3:27). Without a doubt, the child of God has “put on Christ.” But, one is “baptized into Christ” in order to “put on Christ.” Therefore, without being baptized into Christ one has not yet become a child of God. One has not yet been justified by faith. Baptism is a necessary part of being justified by faith.
If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:18, NKJV)
Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jno. 16:33). As they preached the gospel, Paul and Barnabas were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying, ‘We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God’” (Acts 14:22). Peter said, “do not think it strange” when fiery trials happen to you because of your faith (1 Pet. 4:12). These statements do not suggest we earn our way to heaven. They explain being a faithful Christian brings you face to face with challenges and turmoil that require the effort and conviction of a faith to endure and prevail when they come. “Scarcely” is from a Greek word that means “with difficulty.” Luke used it in Acts 27:16 of securing the skiff with difficulty during a storm. He also used it in Acts 14:18 of the difficulty of restraining the mob from sacrificing to Paul and Barnabas. The righteous are saved, but not without difficulties that test our faith. Trials purge the dross from their faith and identify them as being unashamed to live for Christ (1 Pet. 1:6-7; 4:16-17). On the other hand, the “ungodly and the sinner” will not appear in glory due to their lack of faith. They are unwilling to endure tribulations to enter the kingdom of God, preferring not to obey the gospel of God (1 Pet. 4:17).
And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” (Acts 2:40, NKJV)
When the gospel of Christ was preached by His apostles on Pentecost, they invited and implored sinners to be saved from their sins and the impeding judgment upon that present, perverse generation (Acts 2:16-21). Those who believed were told to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:37-38). There awaits a great day of judgment when we all will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, and our lives judged by His word (2 Cor. 5:10; Jno. 12:48-50). Knowing this, salvation and eternal life are offered to all through the truth of the gospel (1 Tim. 2:3-4). This being true, why don’t we regularly hear gospel invitations from a growing number of pulpits in the churches of Christ? Why aren’t gospel preachers punctuating their sermons with calls to come to Jesus for salvation, to escape the punishment of hell? The apostolic tradition is to exhort sinners to be saved. “And the Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Rev. 22:17). Why is it we fail to hear the gospel invitation to “come” and be saved? We hear, “If you have a need, come…” But, without telling sinners what they need, how will they know they need anything, or what to do about it (read Rom. 10:13-17)? Preaching the word demands we preach the gospel call to be saved (Matt. 11:28-30).
You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. (James 2:24, NKJV)
A newly published survey finds that one-in-five Americans know Protestantism (not Catholicism) traditionally teaches “that salvation comes through faith alone” (“What Americans Know About Religion,” Pew Research Center, July 23, 2019). We take that as an encouraging piece of news, since the doctrine “that salvation comes through faith alone” is indeed Protestant doctrine. It is not Bible doctrine. As today’s verse clearly says, justification is “not by faith only.” In fact, the Bible says we are saved by a number of things when, “by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). Scripture teaches we are saved by the gospel (Rom. 1:16-17). It says we are justified by grace, by faith, and by the blood of Christ (Rom. 3:24; 5:1; Rom. 5:9). The Bibles says baptism saves us (1 Pet. 3:21). It is an action of faith that appeals to God for a clearing of the conscience and a cleansing from sin (Acts 22:16). Yes, we are saved by faith that diligently seeks God (Heb. 11:6). The Bible teaches saving faith is an obedient faith (Heb. 5:8-9). The Bible does not teach we are saved by “faith alone.” We can avoid such errors by accepting everything the Scriptures say about what saves us.
21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:21–23, NKJV)
Law identifies sin, but it cannot save the sinner (Rom. 3:19-20). How God justifies the sinner is revealed in the gospel of Christ, not in the law of Moses (Rom. 1:16-17). God’s redemption is “apart from the law,” that is, the Law of Moses could not justify sinners. (Christians who attempt to justify themselves with the Law of Moses “have fallen from grace,” Galatians 5:4.) The “righteousness of God” in today’s verse is the means by which God counts sinners righteous (Rom. 1:17). How God does this is testified of by the Law and the Prophets, and is accomplished “through faith in Jesus Christ” to all who believe (whether Jews or Gentiles). Since all have sinned, no one attains to the glory of God on his own. That would require sinlessness. The sinless person is the only one who could earn justification as a debt owned (Rom. 4:1-5). Since we are all sinners, no one can earn the right to be saved. We need grace to be justified (Rom. 3:24). This is a far cry from denying the need to obey God to be saved. Without obedient faith we are lost (Acts 10:34-35; Heb. 5:8-9; 11:6). Obeying Jesus does not earn salvation, it is trusting Christ to save us because we have the faith to obey Him.
And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. (Acts 2:21, NKJV)
Peter quoted and applied the prophecy of Joel to the things that began to happen on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-21). The preaching by the apostles in different languages on that day was an identifying mark of “the last days” (Acts 2:16-17; Hebrews 1:1-2). Today’s verse declares the apostolic gospel offers salvation to “whosoever calls on the name of the Lord.” To call on the name of the Lord means to invoke His power for salvation. How does the sinner call on the name of the Lord to be saved? Many say this is accomplished by praying the sinner’s prayer. But, on that day, sinners were told to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). About 3,000 called on God’s power to save them by obeying this commandment and being baptized (Acts 2:39-41). Calling on the name of the Lord is not praying for salvation. After Saul had prayed and fasted for three days he was told to “arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If you want to be saved, then call on the name of the Lord the same way sinners did so in the New Testament – repent of your sins and be baptized. God is calling you to salvation through the gospel of His Son. When you will call on His name in the Bible way, you will be saved.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived. 14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them (2 Timothy 3:13–14, NKJV)
In yesterday’s Sword Tips (#1599) we learned the gospel teaches God’s people are no longer identified by their flesh, but by their faith (Romans 2:28-29). Now, let us apply what we learned. God’s word of truth informs us that the physical nation of Israel is no longer the chosen people of God. Therefore, any religious doctrine that elevates the nation of Israel to “chosen” or “promised” status is necessarily mistaken. For example, a widely held view is that Christ will return to earth and return the nation of Israel to its promised land (even though God fulfilled that promise long ago, Joshua 21:43). Scripture says we will meet the Lord in the air, not on the earth (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Another doctrine some teach says every nation will be judged by God based on how it treats the nation of Israel. The judgment of the last great day will be individual, not national (2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15). False doctrines concerning Israel deceive many souls. Today, it is one of the nations of the world, but the word of God gives it no superior standing among the nations. Every nation is under the rule of Jesus Christ, and every person who rejects Him as Messiah is lost in sin (1 Timothy 6:15; John 8:23-24). “In every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him” (Acts 10:35).