Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17, NKJV)
A relationship with Jesus Christ is essential to being saved from our sins. That is not in dispute. When one is outside of Christ (not in a relationship with Him), that person is without God and without hope (Eph. 2:12). The blood of Christ brings sinners into Christ, where we have blessed peace with God (Eph. 2:13, 16-18). The pertinent question is, how does the sinner enter a saved relationship with Christ? Is it through a profound, unique experience that is different for each person? Is it through a sinner’s prayer uttered from a heart of faith and repentance? Are we left to self-define how and when Christ comes into our hearts, and when we enter into Him? No. Every sinner is saved by the same means, in the same way (Acts 4:12; 10:34-35). Nowhere does the Bible say we are at liberty to self-define when Jesus enters our life. Scriptures say sinners put on Christ and are saved when they are baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27; Mk. 16:16). We are lost in sin and outside of Christ until our sins are washed away by Christ’s blood. This cleansing by His blood happens at baptism and is when one becomes “a new creation” “in Christ” (Acts 22:16; 2:37-38). According to Scripture, until the blood of Christ washes away our sins, we are not in a relationship with Christ, regardless of how we feel or what we have experienced. May we rest our hope of salvation on what the Scriptures say, instead of on feelings and experiences.
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).
17 For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 Now “If the righteous one is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Peter 4:17–18, NKJV)
Judgment from God comes to the Christian as well as to the unbeliever. This passage affirms the house of God (the church) obeys the gospel of God and is composed of “the righteous” who are saved. By contrast, the result of the ungodly and sinner, who does not obey the gospel of God, is being lost. Each of us choose whether our judgment will bring us salvation in Christ or condemnation due to our sin. To be “scarcely saved” requires the strenuous activity of obeying the gospel. Jesus said the way that leads to life is difficult (confined or straight, Matthew 7:14). The way that leads to death is broad and has many travelers (Matthew 7:13). It is time to see clearly which road you are on. One leads to eternal life and the other leads to eternal death. Choose wisely by obeying the gospel of God.
13 And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!’ 14 I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted. (Luke 18:13–14, NKJV)
The depth of our sins magnifies the depth of God’s mercy. The Pharisee in this parable depicts “some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others” (Luke 18:9). The Pharisee justified himself in comparison to others. He considered himself to be superior spiritually – “not like other men” (Luke 18:11-12). When we cannot see our own sins we are unable to show compassion to others, much less receive God’s merciful forgiveness for our sins. God is ready, willing and able to show us mercy when we, in anguish over our sins, turn to Him for relief (Psalm 51:17). The tax collector was crushed over his sin. Even so today, a sinner who is “cut to the heart” over his sins receives God’s mercy when he repents and is baptized for the remission of sins (Acts 2:37-38). The contrite heart turns to God for compassionate forgiveness and receives it. It is precisely when we understand our own need for mercy that we are able to show mercy to others. The merciful do not elevate themselves above others, for they know their own need for mercy. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7). The self-righteous do not give or receive mercy.
46 “How long, LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever? Will Your wrath burn like fire? 47 Remember how short my time is; For what futility have You created all the children of men? 48 What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” (Psalm 89:46–48, NKJV)
Yes, none of us will escape death. Long before 19th-century Australian poet Francis Duggan penned “Death the Great Equalizer,” the preacher Solomon wrote a similar, inspired refrain (Ecclesiastes 9:2-3). The imminence of death drove the psalmist to beg God to act with swiftness and remember His covenant with David, and remove the reproaches that had befallen Israel because of her sins. God did just that, by sending His Son, Jesus Christ (Luke 1:67-79). We are compelled to get right with God by knowing the reality of death, and the truth that God keeps His covenant. The covenant of Christ offers mercy to sinners who believe, repent and obey the Son (Matthew 11:28-30; Mark 16:15-16). But, it also contains the warning of sure wrath against those who “do not obey the truth” (Romans 2:8). Death is certain. Your money, fame, popularity, pleasure, or anything else of this world, will prevent your death. Thank God, Jesus overcame death (Revelation 1:18). He will save you, if you will come to Him (Acts 4:12).
But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ (Matthew 18:16, NKJV)
Jesus said to make a personal, private attempt to gain your brother when he sins against you (Matthew 18:15). When the one who committed sin will not repent, the Lord says to follow the directive of Deuteronomy 19:15 (which He quotes), thereby giving another opportunity for both clarity and conversion to occur. The “one or two more” are brought into the conversation with the sinning brother to accomplish at least three things. First, to identify the actual presence of sin. Second, to verify or establish the accuracy of the sinner’s refusal to repent. Third, to try to persuade the sinner to repent and turn from his sin. By using this approach, the integrity of the situation is beyond dispute. An allegation of sin must not be allowed to degenerate into name-calling, and one person’s word against another person’s word. It goes without saying that credible witnesses are required to insure this integrity, since bearing false witness is also a sin (Ephesians 4:25).
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, 20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19–20, NKJV)
This Bible passage enjoins upon faithful Christians the task of rescuing a struggling, sinning Christian from spiritual death. It forever exposes and opposes the false teaching of “once saved, always saved.” Here, the soul that needs saving is a Christian who: (1) Has wandered from the truth. We must walk in the truth to be secure in our salvation (Jno. 10:27); (2) Needs turning back. The person is headed in the wrong, spiritual direction; His present way is “error.” You see, there really is only one way that leads to life (Jno. 14:6); (3) Has sinned. The person is “a sinner,” “in error” and in “death.” He/she is lost. You see, doctrine (teaching) affects salvation. False doctrine is error; a wandering from the truth. Wandering from the truth into error is a real danger. When it happens, the spiritually strong must become first responders, trying to save a soul from death (Gal. 6:1). In what more worthy endeavor can you participate? “He who wins souls is wise” (Prov. 11:30).