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).
And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. (Matthew 19:29, NKJV)
Jesus had previously explained the kingdom of God is not entered by the power of money and human expectations, but by the power of God (Matthew 19:23-26). After assuring the apostles of their reward of service in the kingdom, Jesus went on to explain how kingdom entrance requires sacrifice and devotion by everyone who wants kingdom citizenship (19:29). One is not entitled to kingdom citizenship who does not enter it correctly. I cannot simply enter the kingdom by expecting citizenship. Everyone who wants to be in the kingdom of God must leave behind (forsake, yield up, let go) everything for the sake of Jesus Christ. That’s what Jesus said. Whether it is possessions or people, Christ demands first place in our hearts and lives or we will not be regenerated (born again, saved, and conveyed into the kingdom, cf. Luke 14:33, 26; Colossians 1:13-14). Many spiritual blessings accrue here and now to the disciple of Christ (Ephesians 1:3). And finally, the inheritance of eternal life is the faithful Christian’s reward (2 Timothy 4:8; 1 Peter 1:3-5). Blessings from heaven belong to all who submit to the will of Jesus (Acts 3:19). Every attempt to enter God’s kingdom without doing the will of God will fail (Matthew 7:21).
9 And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; 10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:9–10, NKJV)
Zacchaeus was not saved because he was a fleshly descendant of Abraham. If that is what Jesus meant in verse 9, then every physical descendant of Abraham would be saved upon the basis of the flesh. That is patently false. Romans 9:6-8 says, “…those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God…”. Galatians 3:7 says, “Only those who are of faith are sons of Abraham.” Zacchaeus was especially a son of Abraham because of his faith. Salvation came to Zacchaeus because of his faith, not because of his flesh. When the crowd saw this tax collector, they saw a sinner (Luke 19:7). When Jesus saw Zacchaeus in the tree, He saw a lost man whose faith was “working together with his works” to produce a perfect or complete faith (James 2:22). Zacchaeus asked Jesus to see his faith, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (Luke 19:8). This is the kind of faith that brought salvation to Zacchaeus. This is the kind of faith Jesus sees and saves. What kind of faith does the Lord see in you? Is it obedient to the will of God? An obedient faith will bring you salvation (Matthew 7:21). That is the faith that makes you a son of Abraham (Romans 4:16; James 2:21-24).
Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” And they divided His garments and cast lots. (Luke 23:34, NKJV)
God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4). Question: Did God forgive the murderers of Jesus in their unbelief? No, for without faith in Jesus as the Son of God, they would die in their sins (John 8:24). Did God forgive the murderers of Jesus in their ignorance? No, they killed Jesus “in ignorance,” and their failure to know the truth prevented their salvation (Acts 3:17). You don’t have to know everything to be forgiven, but you do have to know some things. When did not forgive the murderers of Jesus? The answer is in Acts 2:36-41, where about 3,000 believed the gospel message “that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (v. 36). The murderers asked, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (v. 37), and were told to “Repent, and let everyone 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” (v. 38). The sinners who received his word were baptized and added together to form the church (v. 41, 47). God’s desire to forgive sinners combines with repentant faith that is baptized. Then, sins are forgiven. If not, when were the murderers of Jesus forgiven?