“How am I saved?”
“Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Acts 16:30-31
When the terrified jailer at Philippi asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”, Paul and Silas responded: Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:30-31
There was indeed good reason for the jailer to be gripped with terror. For we all deserve eternal separation from God in Hell. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men,” Rom. 1:18. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” Rom. 3:23. “For God has shut up all in disobedience,” Rom. 11:32. “Repent and turn away from all your transgressions,” Ezek. 18:30. Cf. also Ps. 14:1, Is. 64:6, Is. 59:2, Rom. 2:3-5.
But Paul had a message that overcame that unspeakable terror. And our one purpose is to proclaim that same message with the same urgency. For there is only one way of salvation for us, lost and condemned sinners. That way is to turn away from all human works and wisdom and put our trust solely in the perfect merits of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved,” Acts 4:12.
As our substitute, Jesus supplied, by means of His sinless life, the righteousness of life that we owe to the holy God. By His suffering and death on the cross, He bore the dreadful punishment for the world’s sin. Victory over sin, death, and the devil, and the verdict of “not guilty” pronounced by God the Father on the world of sinners were sealed by Christ’s resurrection. This Gospel (literally, “good news”) is proclaimed in such passages as these:
“He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification,” Rom. 4:25. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them…He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him,” II Cor. 5:19-21. “But He was pierced through for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed,” Is. 53:5. See also Rom 3:19-26, esp. vv. 23-24, Rom 5:19, I Tim. 1:15, I Cor. 8:9, Gal. 3:10 & 13.
Christ has accomplished our salvation. Our own works are excluded. Thus, the empty hand of faith simply receives, in humility and penitence, the remarkable gift of grace. “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law,” Rom. 3:28. “For by grace you have been saved through faith: and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one may boast,” Eph. 2:8-9. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life,” John 3:16.
This gospel of God’s good will in Jesus Christ is the one message that the Bible proclaims from beginning to end. To depart in any point from Scripture’s sacred teachings is not only a blasphemous attack on the authority of the faithful and truthful God, who is the one author of every word of Scripture (verbal inspiration), but also a grave disservice to the cause of saving souls.
For it is written: “If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free,” John 8:31-32. “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ,” Rom. 10:17. “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth,” John 17:17
And: “From childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God,” II Tim. 3:15-16. “Which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words,” I Cor. 2:13. “For no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” II Peter 1:21.
Straying from God’s Word, no matter what form it takes, is putting fallible man above God. All attempts to reshape Scripture from its original meaning and context are a means to put man’s desires and sensibilities ahead of God’s. Without the Word as the final authority, to which everyone willingly bows without reserve, factions arise that strive to define truth to suit their own purposes and desires. And as selfishness comes to prevail, concern for the salvation of souls and the good of our fellow man dwindles.
What assaults the Bible suffers today even at the hand of those professing to be Christians! What a decline we observe in the degree of respect that this precious gift from our Savior receives.
Fervent love of that Savior, intense zeal for the salvation of blood-bought souls, and the highest possible degree of reverence for Scripture- these things go hand in hand.
TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS
The various teachings of the Bible all relate to, and support, the central doctrine of salvation by grace through faith in Christ
- The Tri-unity of God; three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Gen. 1:1-3, Gen. 1:26, Mt. 3:9, Mt. 3:16-17, Mt. 28:19, Luke 12:8ff, John 1:1-3, John 3:31ff, John 14:25, John 20:16, Acts 10:38, II Cor. 13:14, Is. 48:16), united in one Godhead (Is. 44:6, Mark 12:29, 32, John 5:23, John 10:30, John 17:3, Rom. 8:3, I Cor. 8:4-5);
- The creation of all things in six 24-hour days (Gen. 1, Ex. 20:11); the fall of Adam and Eve through the temptation of the devil (Gen. 3);
- Original sin (Ps. 51:5, John 3:6, Eph. 2:3, I Peter 1:18, Rom. 5:12ff);
- The Virgin birth, miracles, and bodily resurrection of Jesus (the four gospels);
- Conversion (and preservation in the faith) solely by the working of God the Holy Spirit (I Cor.12:3, II Cor. 4:6, James 1:18, Eph. 2:1ff, I Cor. 2:14, II Thess. 2:13-14, John 3:5-6);
- The saving power of the sacraments- Baptism and the Lord’s Supper (I Peter 3:21, Acts 22:16, Eph. 5:25-26, Mt. 26:26-28, and parallel passages); the Real Presence of Jesus’ body and blood in the Lord’s Supper (the accounts in Mt. 26, Mark 14, Luke 22, and I Cor. 11);
- The spiritual nature of the church and of God’s kingdom (I Cor. 1:2, Eph. 4:4-16, Gal. 6:15-16, Col. 3:3-4. Rom. 8:18-39, Rom 14:17, Luke 17:20);
- Christ’s return to judgment at the end of all things (Acts 1:11, Acts 17:30-31, II Thess. 1:6-10, Titus 2:13, Mt. 25:31-46);
- The bodily resurrection (I Cor. 15, I Thess. 4:13-18, Mark 16:16, I John 3:2) and a literal heaven and hell (Luke 16:19-31, Mt. 8:11-12, Is. 66:24, John 14:2-3, Ps. 16:11, Luke 23:43, Phil. 1:23).
When it comes to what God says, nothing dare be sacrificed. Any loss is a grievous and tragic loss. Note Jesus’ words in Matt. 28:20: “Teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”
TRUE FELLOWSHIP, AND CONTINUITY WITH THE PAST
One manifestation of the devil’s attack upon Scripture and thus upon the Gospel is today’s craze for church union. So very many have been swept along in the ecumenical movement, succumbing to the influence of the ideas that bigger is better and that any joining of hands is a display of “love” . But God’s provisions for bringing souls safely to eternal life are obstructed by church unions in which false teachings (whatever is contrary to the Bible’s teachings), instead of being rigorously excluded, are given place alongside the truth.
How many are still to be found who take to heart the biblical directives to separate from error (such as Rom. 16:17-18) and the biblical examples (such as Noah) of the isolation that can accompany faithfulness to Jesus? The one who paid with His life to redeem us from eternal punishment warned, “Beware of false prophets,” Mt. 7:15. Those who follow that word today are not in a position to win popularity contests. But they can echo Paul’s confident assertion in Rom. 8:31, “If God is for us, who is against us?”
True fellowship is enjoyed by those who still take to heart this word: “Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment,” I Cor. 1:10. See also Acts 2:42, II Cor. 6:14-18, Gal. 5:9, I Cor. 5:6, Rom. 15:5-6, Phil. 1:3-11, I John 1:1-7. Only as we flee darkness do we enjoy the blessings of light.
Our link to countless faithful confessors of the past whom God has raised up is shown by the confessional statements we embrace. The creeds and confessions setting forth our position at greater length include, first of all, the three ecumenical creeds (Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian). As heirs of the Lutheran Reformation, that breathtaking work of God’s grace, we also subscribe to the unaltered Augsburg Confession and its Apology, to the Small and Large Catechisms of Martin Luther, to the Smalcald Articles, and to the Formula of Concord.
It is our fervent prayer that we may yet find many others with whom we can hold fast the word of life together in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation (Phil. 2:15-16), as we with one accord and one voice “glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (Rom. 15:6).