Malankara World Journal - Christian Spirituality from an Orthodox Perspective
Malankara World Journal
Theme: Rich and Salvation
Volume 6 No. 380 October 20, 2016
III. Featured Articles: Salvation

Introduction to Eternal Life and Salvation

by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World

This week we are venturing into one of the difficult concept to grasp for laymen: What is eternal Life. Associated with this is the question of how we spend eternal life - will that be with God in heaven or with Satan in hell. Of course, no one wants to spend time in hell for eternity. So, the question is what we should do to get into heaven with Jesus Christ. This is the Concept of Salvation.

Associated with that is the concept of eternal life. In this week's Gospel reading, an young ruler comes to Jesus and asks Him what he should do to attain eternal life. Jesus' answer was that he should get rid of everything that ties him to this world so that he can surrender himself to God and accumulate treasures in heaven. We discuss this issue in our lectionary reflections section. The ruler was a rich man and was disappointed with the Jesus' suggestion to sell everything and give it to the poor. Some people interpret this as saying that being rich is bad. Actually, what we have is a gift from God. What you do with that - what given to you - is what really matters. The references from MWJ archives given goes into this in more detail.

We introduce the concept of eternal life with an article by Monsignor Pope, a favorite author of mine, if you had been following MWJ for a while. Mon. Pope tries to explain what eternity means. You may get the wrong impression by reading the article casually that he is not talking about time, but the quality of life. This would be wrong.

The word "eternal" in 'eternal life' refers not so much to the length of life as to the quality of life. He was answering to the complaints of some people that they don't want a boring, mediocre life for ever. One commentator has noted:

"Eternal" (in eternal life) specifically refers to a time duration (for ever and ever), not a quality of life. Those that believe on the Lord Jesus Christ will never die, that is, they have "eternal life", they have passed from death unto life (John 5:24).

And it is "life" as opposed to "death". Those who physically die in their sins (not spiritually reborn) will stand before the great white throne of judgement (Revelation 20:11). After spending a 1000+ years in hell, they will be resurrected unto damnation (John 5:29). Only those who are [spiritually] dead will appear at this judgment. (See John 11:25 that we shall never die--he's referring to the new creature, the reborn spirit.) They (the spiritually dead) will be found guilty because they depend upon their own works of righteousness to save them. They will be cast into the lake of fire, which the Bible calls the "second death." (Reverlation 20:15). They will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb (Jesus Christ). Forget any idea of hell being the separation from God. He's right there and his presence is the source of the fire (1 Thess 2:9 -- the greek prep "apo" is source not separation). And the smoke of their torment will ascend up for ever and ever (Revelation 14:10,11).

So, here are the prospects:

(1) eternal glory with God, or
(2) eternal torment in the lake of fire whose fire is never quenched (Mark 9:44ff).

We are all going to spend eternity somewhere and it rests entirely on whether we trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ or on our own works of righteousness. It cannot be both. It's either one or the other.

Forever is a long time.

There is no question that we are all sinners. The only sinless person was Jesus Christ, who died as a ransom for our sins. St. Paul says in Romans 3.23:

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.
- Romans 3:23

The bible also provides the remedy for sin. It says the wages of sin is death. But,

Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
- Acts 16:31

There is a perpetual debate between Evangelical/Reformed Churches and Catholic/Orthodox Churches about what is required for salvation. The reformed church teaches that the salvation is purely from Grace of God. We cannot earn it through our good deeds. Christ has paid for our salvation with his death on the cross. Our church and Catholic Church also teach that salvation comes from the Grace of God; but we also are required to produce good fruits - or theologically saying - works. The church points out the book of James to support this.

Technically, there is no disagreement. If you are truly saved, then you will reflect the light of Jesus Christ in your face as well as in all you do. So, you will produce good fruits. The requirement then simply boils down to what Jesus told us. We can go to the father only through Him - he is the door and the way. Since we are sinners, we need the grace of god to inherit the Kingdom of God.

We have articles that explain this concept well. In one article the author points out that salvation is a trinitarian process, viz., Faith, Works, and Grace. The author points out that Without grace, both faith and works are meaningless.

The question to all of us is if we died today, where will we spend eternity?

If you do not know for sure, please pray this prayer. You will be glad you did!

Lord Jesus, I am a sinner. But I believe that you died upon the cross for me. That you shed your precious blood for the forgiveness of my sins. I believe that on the third day, you rose from the dead, and went to Heaven to prepare a place for me. I accept you now as my Lord and Savior and my friend. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus, and set me free from my sins.

Because you are my Savior, Jesus, "I shall not die, but have everlasting life."

Thank you Lord Jesus! Amen!

Jesus came to this world to save us, not to condemn us. He said,

Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repents. - Luke 15:10

What Is Eternal Life?

by Msgr. Charles Pope

I often think we haven't done a very good job in setting forth the doctrine of Eternal Life. For most people the concept seems a rather flat one, namely, that we shall live for ever and ever and ever…. And frankly for many such a concept seems rather unappealing even if the place of it is heaven. Heaven too is often poorly understood. It is reduced to a rather egocentric notion of a place where I will be happy. I'll have a mansion, I'll see my mother again, I won't suffer…. But most moderns in their description never get around to mentioning God. If God is mentioned at all he's down on the list somewhere, not at the top where he belongs. This is sad for the heart of heaven is to be with God!

Pope Benedict in his Encyclical 'Spe Salvi' also ponders the problem of the poor understanding of eternal life:

Perhaps many people reject the faith today simply because they do not find the prospect of eternal life attractive. What they desire is not eternal life at all, but this present life, for which faith in eternal life seems something of an impediment. To continue living for ever - endlessly - appears more like a curse than a gift. Death, admittedly, one would wish to postpone for as long as possible. But to live always, without end - this, all things considered, can only be monotonous and ultimately unbearable….The term "eternal life" is intended to give a name to this known "unknown". Inevitably it is an inadequate term that creates confusion. "Eternal", in fact, suggests to us the idea of something interminable, and this frightens us; "life" makes us think of the life that we know and love and do not want to lose, even though very often it brings more toil than satisfaction, so that while on the one hand we desire it, on the other hand we do not want it.
(Pope Benedict, Spe Salvi, 10, 12).

My own pondering and experience of the concept of eternal life is that ultimately eternal life is not about the length of life, it is about the fullness of life. To enter eternal life mean to become fully alive. For now we are not fully alive. We experience much of death in these lowly bodies of ours. However, most of us do get glimpses of eternal life and can experience aspects of it even now. For example, have you ever had a day when you had all the energy in the world. Not only did you feel energetic but your mind was sharp and your day was efficient and effective. Everything seemed to click and there was joy and contentment. Most of us have days like that from time to time but they don't last. But it is a glimpse of what eternal life might be like multiplied by a factor of 10 Trillion.

Another experience I have of eternal life I hope you share too. At age 51 my body is not in prime condition. It is aging to be sure and death will one day come to it. But my soul is more alive than ever. I am more joyful, more serene, more confident, more prayerful, more content. Many sins that used to plague me are gone or greatly diminished. In effect, I am more alive at 51 than I was at 28. And wait to you see me at 68 and 88! As I get older I become more alive. What I am saying is that eternal life doesn't just begin after we die. It begins now and should grow in us more and more. Its fulfillment will only be heaven but I am witness (and hope you are too) that eternal life has already set deep roots in me.

So again, the main point here is that with eternal life the word "eternal" refers not so much to the length of life as to the fullness of life. To enter eternal life is to become fully alive with God forever, to experience untold joy, serenity and peace in an eternal embrace with God forever. And having our communion with God perfected we will also have our communion with one another perfected. Who really needs a mansion when you can live in the heart of God? That is our true dwelling place that the Father is preparing. It's not about houses and seats of honor its about a place in the heart of the God who made us and loves us. It is to become fully alive and perfect as the Father is perfect.

Pope Benedict also has a very beautiful image of eternal life in Spe Salvi:

To imagine ourselves outside the temporality that imprisons us and in some way to sense that eternity is not an unending succession of days in the calendar, but something more like the supreme moment of satisfaction, in which totality embraces us and we embrace totality - this we can only attempt. It would be like plunging into the ocean of infinite love, a moment in which time - the before and after - no longer exists. We can only attempt to grasp the idea that such a moment is life in the full sense, a plunging ever anew into the vastness of being, in which we are simply overwhelmed with joy. This is how Jesus expresses it in Saint John's Gospel: "I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you" (16:22).
(Pope Benedict, Spe Salvi, 12)

Source: Archdiocese of Washington Blog

Our Prize: Eternal Life

by Oswald Chambers

"I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go"
 - Jeremiah 45:5

This is the firm and immovable secret of the Lord to those who trust Him:

"I will give your life to you . . . ." What more does a man want than his life? It is the essential thing. ". . . your life . . . as a prize . . ."

It means that wherever you may go, even if it is into hell, you will come out with your life and nothing can harm it. So many of us are caught up in exhibiting things for others to see, not showing off property and possessions, but our blessings. All these things that we so proudly show have to go. But there is something greater that can never go - the life that "is hidden with Christ in God" (Colossians 3:3).

Are you prepared to let God take you into total oneness with Himself, paying no more attention to what you call the great things of life?

Are you prepared to surrender totally and let go?

The true test of abandonment or surrender is in refusing to say, "Well, what about this?" Beware of your own ideas and speculations. The moment you allow yourself to think, "What about this?" you show that you have not surrendered and that you do not really trust God. But once you do surrender, you will no longer think about what God is going to do.

Abandonment means to refuse yourself the luxury of asking any questions. If you totally abandon yourself to God, He immediately says to you, "I will give your life to you as a prize . . . ." The reason people are tired of life is that God has not given them anything - they have not been given their life "as a prize." The way to get out of that condition is to abandon yourself to God.

And once you do get to the point of total surrender to Him, you will be the most surprised and delighted person on earth. God will have you absolutely, without any limitations, and He will have given you your life. If you are not there, it is either because of disobedience in your life or your refusal to be simple enough.

Source: My Utmost for His Highest, The Golden Book of Oswald Chambers

The Trinity of Salvation
The Trinity of Salvation

Alone, Faith is void

Without faith, works are useless

Without grace, both faith and works are meaningless

God is a trinity - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Man is also a trinity - Soul, Body, and Spirit

Our spirit is our life force. It is the part of us that was born again when we put our faith in Jesus. The default sin nature was taken out and we were give a new spirit that is identical to Jesus.

For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin - because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
- Romans 6:6-7

This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus.
- 1 John 4:17

The soul can be described as your personality, your thoughts, your attitudes and what makes you unique. Perhaps this is why we use words like spirit and soul interchangeably because we cannot see either one, yet we understand that we possess something that makes up who we are as a person.

The body is the container for the spirit and the soul. It is the physical structure of a human. It is our flesh and blood. It is who we are when people look at us. This is the third part to mankind, without any one of these things, we cannot sustain life.

Salvation is trinitarian as well - grace, faith, and works.

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
- Ephesians 2:1-10

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if, while we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
- Romans 5:6-11

Hmm. Grace in action - Christ died for the ungodly. God demonstrates his love for us. God provided much more than Grace - He provided the works to go with that grace.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.
- Hebrew 11:6

"...those who earnestly seek him." That sounds suspiciously like action - or works, perhaps?--on our part. Keep in mind the order of the phrase here - we must seek Him in order to get the reward. We do not get the reward before we seek Him, but rather afterwards.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it - not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it - they will be blessed in what they do.
- James 1:22-25

Great passage for understanding the intertwining of faith and works. Faith is void unless accompanied by our works. Faith means nothing unless to exhibit that faith in your works. Merely stating one's faith - without exhibiting it for the world to see - means nothing.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, "Go in peace; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder. You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.
- James 2:14-24

James continues here that faith without deeds, or works, is dead - just like the body without the spirit. A person is considered righteous not by faith alone, but by the combination of faith and works. Show me a person without works - who considers himself saved - and I'll show you a person who is truly dead and doesn't realize it.

One must demonstrate one's faith to himself, to the world, and to God Himself. Faith is made complete only by our works.

Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?' Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'
- Matthew 7:21-23

I see this passage misused quite often. They frequently leave out the second clause. One must perform the will of the Father to enter the Kingdom of Heaven - not merely proclaim it.

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

The King will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'

Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'

They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'

He will reply, 'Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life."
- Matthew 25:31-46

"I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink" Actions here speak louder than words.

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.
- Titus 2:11-14

God's grace has appeared to all men. We must act on that grace through the faith that He gave us in order to attain our salvation. That grace trains us to act properly. It's not merely a give-and-forget event.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people - for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
- 1 Timothy 2:1-4

God wants all people to be saved. He does not Will it - in the sense of a decree, but he desires that we all allow His grace to grow our faith and growth in Him that we may do Good Works for Him and His kingdom. Doing so will allow us to be credited with righteousness in the same manner as Abraham.

Source, Slef, Others

Are There Steps to Salvation?
Are there "steps" required for salvation in Jesus Christ? While resources exist that mention "steps to peace with God" and other religions require steps or processes to gain eternal security, the Bible offers only one step to salvation - faith in Jesus as the risen Christ.

Romans 10:9 presents the essential beliefs for salvation: "if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." This includes faith that Jesus is God's Son and that Jesus was literally resurrected from the dead.

But is there anything we must do to be saved? Ephesians 2:8-9 answers, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." God's grace freely offers salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone. You don't need to make your life better before believing in Jesus. You believe in Jesus and He will help make your life better.

What happens if you choose salvation in Jesus? Will you need to change your life or do anything differently? The answer is yes. However, God's Spirit will now be with you to help empower you to live differently. For example, the Bible teaches that those who follow Jesus should be baptized (Matthew 28:18-20). Baptism does not save you, but is an important step in publicly expressing your faith in Jesus.

Galatians 5:22-23 also shares the fruit of the Spirit all believers in Jesus are to strive to express. They include, "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Ephesians 2:10 also mentions that God has prepared believers for good works. Believers in Jesus will also desire to grow in understanding God's Word (2 Timothy 2:15) and to spend time with others who believe in Jesus (Hebrews 10:25). Again, these actions do not save you, but are the kinds of changes that take place in the life of a person who is saved in Jesus Christ.

If you are uncertain about your salvation, you can settle your doubts right now. Are you willing to place your faith in Jesus Christ as your Savior and receive this free gift of eternal life? You can do it now. There is no special prayer you must pray to do so. However, the following prayer is one you can use to accept Jesus Christ as your Savior now:

"Dear God, I realize I am a sinner and could never reach heaven by my own good deeds. Right now I place my faith in Jesus Christ as God's Son who died for my sins and rose from the dead to give me eternal life. Please forgive me of my sins and help me to live for you. Thank you for accepting me and giving me eternal life."

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Baptism and Salvation
Baptism associating us with the death of Christ means that it is only through baptism that we can have access to forgiveness. We are "buried with (Christ) in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through...the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins...hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses" (Col. 2:12,13). We are " the name of the Lord Jesus" (1 Cor. 6:11) - i.e. baptism into the name of Jesus is the means by which our sins are washed away. This was typified back in Num. 19:13, where those without the water of purification had to die. We demonstrated in Study 10.2 how baptism is a washing away of sins (cp. Acts 22:16). The descriptions of the believers as being washed from their sins in the blood of Christ therefore refers to their doing this by means of baptism (Rev. 1:5; 7:14; Titus 3:5 [N.I.V.] speak of this as "the washing of rebirth", referring to our being "born of water" at baptism [John 3:5]).

In the light of all this, it is understandable that Peter's response to the question, "What shall we do?" (to be saved) was, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:37,38). Baptism into Christ's name is for the forgiveness of sins; without it there can be no forgiveness of sin, and the unbaptized must therefore receive the wages of sin - death (Rom. 6:23). There is no salvation except in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:12), and we can only share that name by being baptized into it. This fact means that non-Christian religions can in no way lead to salvation. No true Bible believer can accept that they do; the fact that Catholicism and the wider ecumenical movement do so, is a sad reflection upon their attitude to Holy Scripture.

Christ's resurrection to eternal life was a sign of his personal triumph over sin. By baptism we associate ourselves with this, and therefore we are spoken of as having been resurrected along with Christ, sin no longer having power over us, as it no longer did over him. Through baptism we are therefore "made free from sin...sin shall not have dominion over you" after baptism (Rom. 6:18,14). However, after baptism we still sin (1 John 1:8,9); sin is still in a position to enslave us again if we turn away from Christ. We are therefore presently sharing in Christ's death and sufferings, although baptism demonstrates how we are also associated with Christ's resurrection, which we have hope of sharing at his return.

Only in prospect are we free from sin. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mark 16:16) at Christ's second coming. Ultimate salvation does not occur straight after baptism, but at the judgment seat (1 Cor. 3:15). Indeed, there is no need for the doctrine of the judgment if we receive salvation at baptism, nor should we have to die. "He that endureth to the end shall be saved" (Matt. 10:22).

Even after his baptism, Paul (and all Christians) had to strive towards salvation (Phil. 3:10-13; 1 Cor. 9:27); he spoke of the hope of eternal life (Titus 1:2; 3:7; 1 Thess. 5:8; Rom. 8:24) and of our being "heirs of salvation" (Heb. 1:14). At the judgment seat, the righteous will enter into eternal life (Matt. 25:46). Paul's marvelous, inspired logic shines through in Rom. 13:11 - he reasons that after baptism we can know that each day we live and endure is one day closer to Christ's second coming, so that we can rejoice that "now is our salvation nearer than when we believed". Our salvation is therefore not now possessed. Salvation is conditional; we will be saved if we hold fast the true faith (Heb. 3:12-14), if we remember the basic doctrines which comprise the Gospel (1 Tim. 4:16; 1 Cor. 15:1,2), and if we do those things which are in keeping with such a great hope (2 Peter 1:10).

The Greek verb translated "saved" is therefore sometimes used in the continuous tense, showing that salvation is an on-going process which is occurring within us by reason of our continued obedience to the Gospel. Thus the believers are spoken of as "being saved" by their response to the Gospel (1 Cor. 1:18 R.S.V.; other examples of this continuous theme are in Acts 2:47 and 2 Cor. 2:15). This Greek word for "saved" is only used in the past tense concerning the great salvation which Christ made possible on the cross, and which we can associate ourselves with by baptism (2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:5).

This is all exemplified by God's dealings with natural Israel, which form the basis for His relationship with spiritual Israel, i.e. the believers. Israel left Egypt, representing the world of the flesh and false religion which we are associated with before baptism. They passed through the Red Sea and then travelled through the wilderness of Sinai into the promised land, where they were fully established as God's Kingdom. Their crossing of the Red Sea is typical of our baptism (1 Cor. 10:1,2); the wilderness journey of our present life, and Canaan of the Kingdom of God. Jude v. 5 describes how many of them were destroyed during the wilderness journey: "The Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not". Israel were therefore "saved" from Egypt, as all those who are baptized are "saved" from sin. If one of those Israelites had been asked, "Are you saved?" their response could have been, "Yes", but this would not mean that they would ultimately be saved.

In the same way as Israel turned back to Egypt in their hearts (Acts 7:39) and reverted to a life of flesh-pleasing and false doctrine, so those who have been "saved" from sin by baptism can likewise fall away from the blessed position in which they stand. The possibility of our doing the same as natural Israel in the wilderness is highlighted in 1 Cor. 10:1-12, Heb. 4:1,2 and Rom. 11:17-21. There are numerous examples in Scripture of those who were once "saved" from sin by baptism, later falling into a position which meant they will be condemned at Christ's return (e.g. Heb. 3:12-14; 6:4-6; 10:20-29). The 'once saved always saved' doctrine of zealous 'evangelical' preachers is exposed for what it is by such passages - complete flesh-pleasing sophistry.

As with all things, a correct sense of balance is needed in seeking to ascertain to what extent we are "saved" by baptism. The act should not be seen as granting us the chance of salvation - a better possibility of it than without baptism. By becoming "in Christ" by baptism, we are saved in prospect; we really do have a sure hope of being in God's Kingdom if we continue to abide in Christ as we are when we rise from the waters of baptism. At any point in time after our baptism we should be able to have humble confidence that we will certainly be accepted into the Kingdom at Christ's return. We cannot be ultimately certain, because we may fall away the next day; we do not know our personal spiritual future in this life.

We must do all we can to maintain the good conscience which we have with God at baptism. Baptism is the "pledge of a good conscience" (1 Pet. 3:21, Greek); the baptism candidate pledges (promises) to keep that clear conscience with God.

Whilst baptism is of vital importance in granting us access to the great salvation which is available in Christ, we must be careful not to give the impression that by the one act or "work" of baptism alone we will be saved. We have earlier shown how that a life of continued fellowshipping of Christ's crucifixion is necessary: "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God" (John 3:5). A comparison of this with 1 Peter 1:23 shows that the birth of the Spirit which occurs after baptism must refer to our gradual regeneration by the Spirit/Word. Salvation is not just due to baptism: it is a result of grace (Eph. 2:8), faith (Rom. 1:5) and hope (Rom. 8:24), among other things.

The contention is sometimes heard that salvation is by faith alone, and therefore a "work" like baptism is irrelevant. However, James 2:17-24 makes it clear that such reasoning makes a false distinction between faith and works; a true faith, e.g. in the Gospel, is demonstrated to be genuine faith by the works which it results in, e.g. baptism. "By works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24). In several cases of baptism, the believer asked what he must "do" to be saved; the reply always involved baptism (Acts 2:37; 9:6; 10:6; 16:30).

'Doing' the 'work' of baptism is therefore a necessary indication of our belief of the Gospel of salvation. The work of saving us has ultimately been done by God and Christ, but we need to do "works meet for repentance" and belief of this (Acts 26:20 cp. Mark 16:15,16).

We have earlier shown that the language of washing away of sins refers to God's forgiveness of us on account of our baptism into Christ. In some passages we are spoken of as washing away our sins by our faith and repentance (Acts 22:16; Rev. 7:14; Jer. 4:14; Is. 1:16); in others God is seen as the one who washes away our sins (Eze. 16:9; Ps. 51:2,7; 1 Cor. 6:11). This nicely shows how that if we do our part in being baptized, God will then wash away our sins. Thus the 'work', or act, of baptism is a vital step in taking hold of God's Gospel of grace ('unmerited favor'), which has been offered to us in His Word.

Source: Bible Basics by The Christadelphians

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