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?
“You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4, NKJV)
Can a Christian be lost in sin after being saved in Christ? Calvinism says, “No.” Reportedly, so did Billy Graham: “Returning home with a friend that night, Mr. Graham said, he thought: “Now I’ve gotten saved. Now whatever I do can’t unsave me. Even if I killed somebody, I can’t ever be unsaved now” (nytimes.com, Feb. 21, 2018). But, the apostle Paul told Christians, “Yes.” He said an attempt to be justified by law-keeping (the law of Moses, Galatians 2:21, 3-7) would cause them to be “estranged from Christ” and “fallen from grace.” That’s clear enough. The doctrine of “once saved, always saved” gives false comfort because it does not conform to the Scriptures. Jesus warned of those who would joyfully “believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away” (Luke 8:13). Christians are told to “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God” (Hebrews 3:12). And so, we are urged to “exhort one another daily…lest any of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:13). “Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11). A Christian who does not repent and pray God’s forgiveness for sins committed, will not be saved (Acts 8:18-24; 1 John 1:9). The Scriptures must inform and sustain our faith.
8 But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” (that is, the word of faith which we preach): 9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:8–10, NKJV)
The “word of faith” was preached by the apostles. It produces faith in the good and honest heart (Romans 10:17; Luke 8:15). It produces belief in the heart that God raised Jesus from the dead, and that Jesus is Lord. A verbal confession of one’s faith that Jesus is Lord (Ruler, Master), and that He was raised from the dead, is necessary to be saved. Confessing one’s belief that Jesus is the risen Lord is not the only thing essential to be saved. The command to repent of sins must be obeyed, or we will perish (Luke 13:3, 5; Acts 17:30). Water baptism is also commanded to be saved (Mark 16:16; Acts 10:47-48; 1 Peter 3:21). The “word of faith” contains all these essential actions of faith to be saved by grace. The gospel plan of salvation is for the lost to hear the gospel, to believe in Jesus, the resurrected Lord (the Son of God), to confess Jesus as Lord, to repent of your sins, and to be baptized into Christ. God will save you by His grace, when you do the things God wants you to do.
37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 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. (Acts 2:37–38, NKJV)
In answer to the question posed by the murderers of Jesus (Acts 2:36), Peter did not tell them to “just accept Jesus as your personal Savior, and you will be saved.” (They evidently already believed Jesus to be “both Lord and Christ,” because they are convicted of their sin against Him. You cannot be convicted about something you do not believe.) Peter did not tell them to “pray the sinner’s prayer” to be saved. (Yet, that is what many tell sinners to do about their sins.) Peter did not tell them, “There is nothing you can do to save yourselves. God has done everything.” (But, many tell sinners they are completely passive in their salvation.) Peter did tell them to repent. These believers were not yet saved; they needed to repent, or they would not be saved. Peter also told them to be baptized “for the remission of sins.” Just as one must believe and repent to be saved, one must also be baptized to be saved. Instead of accepting doctrines that deny and oppose this simple passage about how to be saved, why not believe it, obey it, and be saved? When you believe, repent and are baptized, God will remove your sins, just like He did theirs.