S alvation has always been through faith in Christ based upon His death on the cross. This was true in the Old Testament as well as the New. People were not saved in the Old Testament in some different way than they are saved in the New. In the Old Testament, the animal sacrifices spoke of the work of Christ to come. Since Jesus Christ had not been incarnated, he was known in the Old Testament principally as JHWH, the revealed member of the Godhead. The basis for our salvation is what our Lord did on our behalf on the cross. Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have received access by faith into this grace in which we stand (Rom. 5:1–2a). He, Himself, bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you have been reconciled (1Peter 2:24). Since our Lord died on the cross in time, then those from the Old Testament looked forward to this event in shadow form while we in the New Testament look backwards to it historically.
A ccordingly, both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make the worshiper perfect in conscience, since they relate only to food and drink and various washings, regulations for the body imposed until a the dispensation of a new order. But when Christ appeared, a High Priest of good things that have come, (He appeared) through the greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this creation; and not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place, once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For the Law, since it was only a shadow of the good things to come, not the real image of things, can never by the same sacrifices year by year, which they offer continuously, make perfect those who draw near [to the altar]. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had a consciousness of sin? But in those [sacrifices] there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when He comes into the world, He says, Sacrifice and offering You have not desired, but a body You have prepared for me; in whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin, you have not been propitiated. Then I said, 'Behold I have come (in the roll of the book it has been written of Me) to do Your will, O God.'" After saying "Sacrifices and offerings and whole burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You have not desired nor have you taken pleasure in them" (which are offered according to the Law), the He said, Behold, I have come to do Your will." He takes away the first [the animal sacrifices and the ceremonial Law] in order to establish the second [the real sacrifice of Christ on the cross]. By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands daily ministering and offering time after time the same sacrifices, which can never take away since; but He , having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God. (Heb. 9:9b-12 and 10:1-12).
O LD TESTAMENT ANALOGIES: The cross and the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ was taught in shadow form and by analogy over and over again in the Old Testament. Let me give you a handful of examples: (1) The animal sacrifices of the Law always portrayed the taking of an innocent animal, an animal, without spot or blemish, and killing it to take away the guilt of those who had sinned (Leviticus 1–5). And not through the blood of goats and calves, but through His own blood, He entered the holy place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkling those who have been defiled sanctify for the cleansing of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, Who through the eternal Spirit, offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God (Heb. 9:12–14) (2) What Jew does not know about the first Passover, when God had promised to come through Egypt and to strike down all the firstborn? The only way to preserve the family was to sacrifice a lamb. However, listen how this is worded: "And you will keep the lamb until the fourteenth day of the same month, then the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel is to kill it at twilight." (Ex. 12:6). The blood of this lamb also had to be splashed on the door sill of every house God was to pass over. Here, you need to visualize where the blood was placed: "Then, they will take some of the blood and place it on the two door posts [the sides of the door] and on the lintel [the top of the door, from where it would drip to the ground] upon the houses in which they eat of it." (Ex. 12:7). Our Lord has His hands nailed, His feet nailed, and a crown of thorns on his head; His bleeding when on the cross matched where God had told the Israelites to place the blood 1500 years previous. Today, God passes over our sins when He sees the blood of the Lamb. Knowing that you were not purchased with perishable things like silver or gold from your empty manner of life inherited from your forefathers, but you were purchased with the precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless—the blood of Christ (1Peter 1:18–19). For Christ, our Passover, has also been sacrificed (1Cor. 5:7b) (3) Although the Bible strictly forbade human sacrifice (Lev. 20:2–5), God told Abraham to take his "only-begotten" son, Isaac, the heir to God's promises to Abraham, and to take him as a young man and to sacrifice him. Such a request by God was never given before or since. As Abraham was about to slit the throat of the son whom he loved, God provided a substitute, a ram to offer instead of Isaac (Gen. 22) (4) Everyone recalls, but few realize, the difference between the offerings of Cain and Abel. Abel brought an animal sacrifice and Cain brought the works of his hands, the produce from his garden, over which he slaved in the sun. God accepted Abel's sacrifice and not Cain's. The difference: Cain's sacrifice involved works and no blood; Abel's was a blood sacrifice (5) There are even implied instances going back to Adam and Eve. After the fall, they had first clothed themselves with the famous "fig leaves." These were unacceptable by God. Once God had pronounced judgment on mankind and upon the serpent, we read: And Jehovah God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife, and clothed them (Gen. 3:21). The death of an innocent animal was required to cover the "nakedness" of Adam and the woman. (6) The priesthood was a shadow of Jesus Christ, the Messiah to come. These priests stood before God and offered animal sacrifices for the sins of the congregation. The priests were from the tribe of Levi, from Israel but separated out from all Israel. Only they could offer the animal sacrifices—the people were not allowed to offer these sacrifices themselves. Then there was the High Priest, who entered into the Holy of Holies just one time a year and poured blood on the Ark of the Covenant, to atone for the sins of all Israel. He [Jesus Christ], because He abides forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore, He is able to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, as He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was reasonable that we should have such a High Priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens, Who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins, and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself (Heb. 7:24–27). The examples given here are just a short overview of analogies found in just the first three books of the Bible, all written 1500 years or more before the time of Christ.
Now let’s go back to the very beginning of Scripture. Even prior to the nation Israel, even prior to the flood, there was one acceptable approach to God—through the sacrifice of an animal without spot or blemish. The works of man’s hands were not acceptable. The first animal sacrifice is given only by implication. You will recall when Adam and the woman sinned, they realized that they were naked and covered themselves with fig leaves. God, after passing judgement on the human race, clothed them in animal skins (Gen. 3:21). The only way that they could be clothed by animal skins was for an animal to die. Although the Bible goes into no detail at this point, God would have showed them that an innocent animal had to be sacrificed on their behalf, and that they be clothed by the skin of that animal to stand before God. Now, I realize that some might be skeptical at this point; however, it is clear in the next chapter of Genesis what was deemed acceptable in God’s sight and what was not. The two sons of Adam, Cain and Abel, both brought their sacrifices before God. Abel brought an animal sacrifice and Cain brought an offering of the fruits, grain and/or vegetables that he had slaved over. God respected the offering of Abel because it was a blood sacrifice of an innocent animal, which represented Christ’s death on our behalf. God did not accept the offering of Cain, as the produce that he brought was the work of his hands. God accepts only the sacrifice of the innocent on behalf of the guilty (Gen. 4:1–5). For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the Spirit (1Peter 3:18). So Christ also, having been offered, once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time for deliverance (Heb. 9:28a). God did not respect the works of Cain’s hands.
N ow, before I get into the dozens of verses which assure us that salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone, I need to dispense with two problems. I have found as a math teacher that, no matter how clearly you teach a particular topic, if a student's mind is still stuck on a problem from ten minutes ago, his mind won't go on to grasp the new material. Therefore, we must deal with (1) the person of Jesus Christ and (2) the promise of the Scriptures that salvation is absolutely, unconditionally free.
S ome of you think that Jesus was a great man, a great social reformer, a prophet, a man from God, perhaps like a really, really good male Mother Theresa. This is well and good, but this does not line up with what Jesus Christ said about Himself nor does it line up with what others said about Him. When you ignore the historical record of His life and make up things, you may not realize it, but you are making God in your own image and that is, at best, idolatry, and, at worst, blatant self-worship. Let me give you a few examples where Jesus presents Himself as being far more than just a good man or merely a prophet.
T he best place to start would be a parable. For this, you need to know some basic historical background. According to the Bible, God chose the Jewish people as His people and, and placed them in charge of the Land of Promise (which was much nicer then than it is now). When the Israelites strayed from Biblical teaching, God would send them a prophet. The Jews rejected these prophets, they stoned them, and they persecuted them. In the passage I will quote from, Jesus is speaking to a crowd in a temple, and the religious leaders had come in to challenge His teaching and His authority. He said to them, "Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard and placed a wall around it and dug a wine press in it and built a tower and rented it out to vine-growers, and went on a journey. And when the harvest time approached, he sent his slaves to the vine-growers to receive his produce. And the vine-growers took his slaves and beat one, and killed another, and stoned a third. Again, he sent another group of slaves larger than the first; and they did the same to them. So afterward, he sent his son to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But when the vine-growers saw the son, they said among themselves, 'This is the heir; come, let us kill him, and seize his inheritance.' And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vine-growers?" They answered Him, "He will bring those wretched men to a wretched end, and he will rent out the vineyard to other vine-growers, who will pay him the proceeds at the proper intervals." Jesus said to them, "Did you never read in the Scriptures, 'The stone which the builders rejected, this became the chief corner stone; this came about from the Lord and it is marvelous in our eyes.'? Therefore, I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and it will be given to a nation producing the fruit of it. And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but on whomever it falls, it will scatter him like dust." And when the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them. And when they sought to seize Him, they became afraid of the multitudes, because they held Him to be a prophet (Matt. 21:33–46). In case you do not grasp the analogy, the vineyard is Israel, the vine-growers are the priests and Pharisees and the people of Israel; the slaves are the prophets of God, but the son is Jesus Christ. He presents Himself as being in a completely different class than the prophets here—now, these are the prophets who spoke the very words of God. They are spoken of as slaves of the landowner and Jesus speaks of Himself as the Son. Now, if Jesus is just a good man, just a really good prophet telling us the correct way to behave, then He comes off as being uncharacteristically egotistical here, if not delusional. On the other hand, perhaps He really was in a different class than the prophets being far superior to them as THE Son of God.
J esus Christ is both fully man and fully God. Now, while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them a question, saying, "What do you think about the Messiah [lit., 'Christ' in the Greek]—whose son is He?" They said to Him, "David's." He said to them, "Then how does David in the Spirit call Him, 'Lord,' saying, 'The Lord said to my Lord "Sit down at My right hand until I make Your enemies your footstool." '? If David then calls Him 'Lord', how is He his son?" And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor did anyone dare from the day on to ask Him another question (Matt. 22:41–46).
E ven with the complex Levitical system which had been set up in the Torah, it was understood by all that the priests did not forgive sins, nor did any of the prophets. God forgave the sins; the sins were covered over by the blood of the sacrificed animals. And Jesus , seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." But there were some of the scribes sitting there and reasoning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus perceiving in the spirit that they were reasoning that way within themselves, said to them, "Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven' or to say, 'Arise and take up your pallet and walk'? But, in order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins," He said to the paralytic, "I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home." And he rose and immediately took up the pallet and went out in the sight of all; so that they were all amazed and were glorifying God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this." (Mark 2:5–12). It appeared easier, of course, to say, "Your sins are forgiven," for how could we know? However, Jesus was able to do both—He could heal the lame and then, on the basis of that authority, forgiven the man his sins. This was more than a good man or a prophet.
O ver the years, we have confused the concept of the Sabbath day. However, it was well known that the Sabbath was given by Jehovah God, Who was the Lord of the Sabbath. When the Pharisees questioned our Lord's activity on the Sabbath, He said, "The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Consequently, the Son of Man is Lord, even of the Sabbath." (Mark 2:27). In case you don't grasp this, Jesus made Himself equal to Jehovah God of the Old Testament.
O ne of the most dramatic moments of Scripture is when our Lord read from a passage in Isaiah (written seven centuries before Christ), which promised the coming of the Messiah. And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him and He opened the book and found the place where it was written, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me because He anointed Me to preached the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives and the recovery of sight to the blind; to set free those who are downtrodden and to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord." And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and He sat down—and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, "Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing." (Luke 4:17–21). Now, how can Jesus be a good man, spoken well of by even His enemies and those who are unbelievers, and at the same time make a statement like that? How many people have come up to you and told you that they are the fulfillment of Scripture? Either He was speaking the truth to them, as would a good man, or He should have been placed in a straight jacket. You cannot call Jesus just a good man and a prophet, if He also made statements like that—you are conveniently overlooking the historical record and making up your own history.
N ow, you can open the first four books of the New Testament to almost any page and read the words of Jesus Christ, and, if you are willing to accept this historical record of Him, you will be forced to admit that He presented Himself as far more than just a good man and just a prophet of God. And if you don't get that, those who heard Him, did; they fully understood what He was saying. For this cause therefore, the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also He was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God." (John 5:18). Now you have a right to your own personal opinions about Who Jesus was, but just bear in mind that you have fabricated these ideas from your own personal religious predilections and not from any historical document or record.
T he second problem that some of you have is with the gospel. You don't like the idea that salvation is free. You don't like the idea that someone can be the most vicious, depraved criminal on earth and be able to receive salvation. What you like even less is that someone could believe in Christ and then become involved in acts of criminality or immorality and still have salvation. This offends your sensibilities. You may not want this Christianity for yourself, and you are appalled that it might not even enforce some normal moral restrictions on its adherents.
N ow, salvation is simple. We are separated from God—we cannot see God, we don't hear His voice, we are trapped in a world of hate and deceit and pain, and we have no contact with God. The reason for this is that God is holy and righteous and we are not. We are born with innate sin. Those who have children know that the child's first two words are "momma" and "daddy" (or vocatives to that effect), and the third word is invariably "no!" This is the expression of the innate old sin nature. I know that some of you believe, or want to believe, that man is inherently good, and I am forced to admit that in just about every person I have met, there is some good in them. However, there is also in every person that I have met, a tendency to lie, or steal, or cheat, or to be self-righteous, or greedy, or self-centered. Somewhere in that person are imperfections. I don't care how wonderful a person is, ask any married person by week 3 or 4—their spouse, with whom they are madly in love, has some imperfections, even some characteristics predilections which are wrong. We cannot have fellowship with a perfect and holy God while we are in sin. His righteousness and justice demands that a penalty be paid for any sin committed against Him. This punishment is eternal separation from Him. We receive a taste of that separation from God here on earth. We receive a taste of living with man in possession of his old sin nature here on earth. Our salvation was obtained by Jesus Christ through His payment for our wrongdoings. On the cross, He received the equivalent of an eternity of separation from God on our behalf. The punishment which we deserved, He took upon Himself. We cannot merit salvation, we cannot appropriate this substitutionary atonement by our works. We cannot dedicate our lives to Jesus Christ, we cannot promise Him that we will behave, we cannot grit our teeth and do whatever it takes to become better people, we cannot ask Jesus into our hearts or lives; there is nothing that we can do to make up for our guilt before God. Our salvation is a free gift which we appropriate be believing in Jesus Christ; by relying upon what He did on our behalf on the cross; by depending entirely upon Him for salvation. This eliminates works, intentions, promises, sincerity, and everything else from the picture. Therefore, what we do prior to salvation and what we do after salvation does not affect what Christ did on our behalf on the cross and cannot remove salvation once it is given to us. I realize that is unpalatable to some. What we do after salvation certainly is addressed in the Bible—however, no matter what we do after salvation, it cannot nullify salvation, for the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29).
U p until this point, I have been essentially giving you an introduction and dealing with some of the normal objections to salvation through faith alone in Christ alone. However, none of that is meaningful unless the Bible also supports this. What I have to follow is a listing of some of the verses which teach this doctrine, in both the Old and New Testaments. Since this, insofar as we are concerned, is one of the most important teachings of the Bible, then this must be taught by more than one or two (or, even 10 or 11) proof texts.
O LD TESTAMENT SALVATION: Then he believed in the Lord and it was credited to him as righteousness. (Gen 15:6) This is quoted at least 3 times in the New Testament to show that Old Testament salvation occurred in exactly the same way. He trusted in the Lord, the God of Israel, so that after him there was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor among those before him (2Kings 18:5). "Listen to me, O Judah, and inhabitants of Jerusalem, put your trust in the Lord your God, and you will be established." (2Chron. 20:20b). Blessed [or, happy] are they who place their trust in Him (Psalm 2:12b). But I have trusted in Your grace; my heart will rejoice in Your salvation (Psalm 13:5). Psalm 19:13 requires some exegesis to understand exactly what it says, but the psalmist, in essence, asks God to keep him from his acts of arrogance (these would be transgressions against God), so that they would not rule over him, and that he would come to the end of his life and be acquitted or declared innocent of his great transgressions. A fairly literal translation is: Furthermore, hold back Your servant from proud [and insolent] [acts]; do not let them reign over me; then I will come to an end and be declared innocent from great disobedience (Psalm 19:13). It is his own great disobedience or insubordination that he will be acquitted of. Return, O Jehovah, and rescue my soul; save me because of Your grace (Psalm 6:4). For our heart rejoices in Him because we have trusted in His holy name (Psalm 33:21). I have properly rendered the verb tenses in Psalm 33:21; the rejoicing is in the imperfect tense, which indicates an ongoing action; trust is in the perfect tense, which indicates a completed action. The next verse is constructed the same way: Let Your grace, O Jehovah, be upon us, as we have placed our confidence in You (Psalm 33:22). Yehowah purchases the souls of His servants and those who take refuge in [or, trust in] Him will not be guilty [or, offensive] (Psalm 34:22). Although Psalm 34 begins to speak of God’s temporal deliverance of David, and God’s grace; at the very end of this psalm, in the last 4 verses, David gives us a glimpse of the Messiah, culminating in this final verse, where he tells us to take refuge in or to trust in Jehovah, and in this, we should not be guilty before Him or offensive to Him. He has not dealt with us according to our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us (Psalm 103:10-12). The details of Christ's sacrifice to come were as perspicuous in the Old Testament as they were in the New. For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of parches ground; He has no beauty or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should treasure Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows sand acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Therefore, our griefs He Himself took away, and our sorrows He carries; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, struck down by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced though by our transgressions, He was crushed by our iniquities and the chastising of our peace was upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray and each of us has turned to his own way; but JHWH has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to a slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. By oppression and judgement, He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of My people was in the stroke of judgement upon Him. His grave was assigned to be with the wicked men, yet with a rich man in His deaths. Although He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. But the Lord willed to crush Him, putting to Him grief; if He would render Himself a guilt offering...As a result of the anguish of His soul, He [God the Father] will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge and the righteous One, My servant, will justify the meany; as He will bear their iniquities (Isaiah 53:2-11).
N EW TESTAMENT SALVATION: The key to salvation is faith in Christ Jesus. The Bible lets us know what this faith is: Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). The amount of faith necessary for salvation is a little more than no faith at all: “Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible to you.” (Matt. 17:20b). The way people believe is they hear the gospel (or, good news) of Christ—His death for our sins, and they simply believe. So faith comes from hearing and hearing by the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17). Salvation is given to us when we believe in Christ Jesus—faith alone in Christ alone. I will not quote a couple verses here, but give you nearly two full pages of New Testament Scripture:
The Gospels: And Jesus, seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, “My son, your sins are forgiven.” (Mark 2:5). And He said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you, go in peace." (Luke 7:50). When He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs that He performed (John 2:23). Jesus said to him, "For God so loved the world that He gave His uniquely born Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:10a,16–18). He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36). The woman said to Him, I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Jesus said to her, "I who speak to you am He." (John 4:25-26). "Truly truly I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgement, but has passed out of death into life." (John 5:24). "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is these (scriptures) that bear witness of Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me, that you may have life." (John 5:39-40). They said therefore to Him, "What shall we do that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said unto them, "This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent." (John 6:28-29). Jesus said unto them, "I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me shall not hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. For this is the will of My Father, that every one who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him on the last day." (John 6:35,40). "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 in heaven. For this is the will of My Father: that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day." (Matt. 7:21 John 6:40). "Truly truly I say to you , he who believes has eternal life." (John 6:47). Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom will we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Many of the multitude believed in Him and they said, “When the Christ [Messiah] comes, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will he?” (John 7:31). Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out saying, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, 'From his innermost being shall flow rives of living water." (John 7:38-39). "I said therefore to you, You shall die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins." (John 8:24). And as He spoke these things, many came to believe in Him (John 8:30). “Emphatically, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death” (John 8:51). Jesus...said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered and said, "and who is He, Sir, that I may believe in Him?" Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you." (John 9:35-37). "I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture." (John 10:9). And many believed in Him there (John 10:42). Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believe in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believe in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" She said to Him, “Yes, Lord, I have believed that You are the Christ [the Messiah], the Son of God, He who comes into the world.” (John 11:25-26). Many therefore of the Jews who had come to Mary and saw what He [Jesus] had done, believed in Him (John 11:45). But the chief priests took counsel, that they might also kill Lazarus, because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus (John 12:10–11). Nevertheless, many did believe in Him even among the rulers, but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, so they would not be banned from the synagogue. For they loved praise from men more than praise from God (John 12:42–43). Then Jesus proclaimed, "The one who believes in Me believes not in Me, but in Him who sent Me. And the one who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.” (John 12:44–45). And Jesus cried out and said, "I have come as light into the world that everyone who believes in Me may not remain in darkness." (John 12:44a,46). "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me." (John 14:1,6b). “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, Whom You have sent” (John 17:3). [After the crucifixion and after the resurrection] Then He said to Thomas, "Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here you hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing." Thomas answers and said to Him, My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Because you have seen Me have you believe? Happy are those who did not see and believed." (John 20:27-29). Many other signs therefore Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God; and that (by) believing you might have life in His name (John 20:30-31).
Salvation in the Gospels taught by analogy: Jesus healed people for several reasons. First of all, it showed that He was empowered by God the Holy Spirit and could heal with God’s power. Secondly, being made well by Jesus was analogous to being saved by Him. When Jesus healed, He often used this to help explain salvation (essentially, healing was a parable and He used healing to teach salvation). I will give two examples: Matt. 9:1–6: So He got into a boat, crossed over, and came to His own town. Just then some men brought to Him a paralytic lying on a stretcher. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, "Have courage, son, your sins are forgiven." At this, some of the scribes said among themselves, "He's blaspheming!" But perceiving their thoughts, Jesus said, "Why are you thinking evil things in your hearts? For which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--then He told the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your stretcher, and go home." Matt. 9:18–22: As He was telling them these things, suddenly one of the leaders came and knelt down before Him, saying, "My daughter is near death, but come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live." So Jesus and His disciples got up and followed him. Just then, a woman who had suffered from bleeding for 12 years approached from behind and touched the tassel on His robe, for she said to herself, "If I can just touch His robe, I'll be made well!" But Jesus turned and saw her. "Have courage, daughter," He said. "Your faith has made you well." And the woman was made well from that moment.
Salvation in the Gospels taught with a different emphasis: Matt. 11:28–30: [Jesus is speaking]: “Come to Me, all you who are exhausted and heavy with burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My load is light [i.e., salvation is free to us]. He quoted Jer. 6:16. Jesus feeding the multitude with 2 fishes and 5 loaves of bread was an illustration of His power to give us much more than we could ever expect (Matt. 14:14–21). Then children were brought to Him so He might put His hands on them and pray. But the disciples rebuked them. Then Jesus said, "Leave the children alone, and don't try to keep them from coming to Me, because the kingdom of heaven is made up of people like this." (Matt. 19:13–14). When it comes to perception, a young child essentially knows everything from believing. He is told something is true and he believes it. When a woman touched the cloak of Jesus and was made well, Jesus said to her, “Daughter, your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 8:48b). Jesus raised several people from the dead, including Lazarus and a young girl (Luke 8:49–56). The idea is, we are dead in our tresspasses and sins, yet He takes us out of them (however, this does not mean the account is allegorical).
The Acts of the Apostles: "And there is no salvation in anyone else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12). “And He ordered us to proclaim to the people and to solemnly testify that this is the One Who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead; of Him, all the prophets bear witness that through His name, everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 10:42–43). He said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household." (Acts 16:30b-31). [We] solemnly testified to both Jews and Greeks of a change of mind toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21). But some days later, Felix arrived with Drusilla, his wife, who was a Jewess, and sent for Paul, and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus (Acts 24:24).
The Pauline Epistles: Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are subject to the Law, that every mouth be closed, and all the world become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin. But now, apart from the Law, the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe (Rom. 3:19–22a). Therefore, we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law (Rom. 3:28). For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about; but not before God. For what does the scriptures say? "And Abraham believed God, and it was credited to his account as righteousness." Now to the one who works, his wage is determined not from grace but because that is what is due. But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness. Just as David also speaks of the happiness for the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works: "Happiness to those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. Happy is the man whose sin have been covered. Happy is the man whose sin the Lord will not impute." (Rom. 4:2-8). Therefore, we have been justified by faith (Rom. 5:1a). Therefore, there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Rom. 8:1). What is our conclusion? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by faith, but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness did not attain the purpose of the law. Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, as by works. just as it is written, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone of stumbling [Jesus Christ, known then as JHWH] and a rock which arouses opposition, and he who believes in Him will not be humiliated." (Rom. 9:30-33). One problem, which unbelievers do not grasp, is that our righteousness is in our association with Christ and not in what we do. The Jews sought righteousness in their obedience to the Law, thus misinterpreting its purpose. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law with reference to righteousness to everyone who believes (Rom. 10:3–4). For, whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved. How shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed? (Rom. 10:13-14a). But, if it is by grace, then it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise, grace is no longer grace (Rom. 11:6). Paul approaches this from a negative standpoint in 1Cor. 15—twice he tells the Corinthians that, if the fact of bodily resurrection of believers is false, then their faith is in vain (1Cor. 15:12–17). It is not their works, their baptism or anything else but their faith which is in vain. Nevertheless, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, that we may be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified...for, if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly. He [God] made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (Gal. 2:16,21b II Cor. 5:21). The Galatians began in faith, but were led off track by the legalists who tried to get them to conform to the Law. Paul asks them: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing [of the gospel] with faith? (Gal. 3:2b). Even so, Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness (Gal. 3:6 Gen. 15:6). And the Scripture, foreseeing that god would justify the Gentiles by faith, proclaimed the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, All the nations will be blessed in you (Gal. 3:8 Gen. 12:3). But the Scripture has shut up all men under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe (Gal. 3:22). Therefore, the Law was a school bus taking us to Christ that we may be justified by faith. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:24,26). For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one should boast (Eph. 2:8-9). And that I may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis [or, at the point of] faith (Philip. 3:9). We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, having heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints (Col. 1:3–4). He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to HIS mercy, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing by the Holy Spirit; that being justified by His grace we might be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (Titus 3:5,7). And yet for this reason, I found mercy, in order that in me as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life (2Tim. 1:16).
The Other Epistles: HOW SHALL WE ESCAPE IF WE NEGLECT SO GREAT A SALVATION? (Heb. 2:3a). Therefore, let us fear so that while a promise remains (unclaimed) of entering into His rest, that none of you should fall short of it; for we who have believed entered into that rest (Heb. 4:1,3a). Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not decay, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1Peter 1:3–5). Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (1John 5:1a). These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life (1John 5:13).
Salvation by Analogy: Salvation is free; it requires only faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus often used eating and drinking to illustrate the idea of faith. Anyone can eat and drink—it is a function that has no inherent merit. Therefore, Jesus occasionally used this as an analogy to faith. Jesus answered her, "If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, 'Give me a drink,' you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water." Then Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water." (John 4:10, 13–15). Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly I say to you, Moses has not given you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." Then they said to Him, "Lord, give us this bread always." And Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst. But I told you that you have both seen Me and you do not believe.” (John 6:32–36). “I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48–51). Then Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up in the last day. For My flesh truly is food, and My blood truly is drink. He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, not as your fathers ate the manna, and died. He that eats this bread shall live forever." (John 6:52–58). Now on the last day, the great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, "If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He that believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his belly will flow rivers of living water." (John 7:37–38). Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He that follows Me shall by no means walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12). Then Jesus said to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, truly you are My disciples. And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." They answered Him, "We are Abraham's descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can you say, 'You will become free'?" Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly I say to you, that everyone that practices sin is a slave of sin. And a slave does not remain in the house forever, but a son remains forever. Therefore if the Son sets you free, you will be truly free. "I know that you are Abraham's descendants, but you seek to kill Me, because My word finds no place in you. I speak what I have seen with My Father, and you do what you have seen with your father." (John 8:31–38). And Jesus said, "For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see might become blind." Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things, and said to Him, "Are we blind also?" Jesus said to them, "If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you say, 'We see.' Therefore your sin remains (John 9:39–41). "Most assuredly I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold through the door, but climbs up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he who enters through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and he leads them out. And whenever he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, because they know his voice. But they will by no means follow a stranger, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers." This illustration Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand the things which He spoke to them. Then Jesus said to them again, "Most assuredly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and go out, and will find pasture.” (John 10:1–9).
The Basis of Salvation: Salvation is, of course, based upon what Jesus did on our behalf on the cross. We find this repeated throughout the Scriptures: But a certain one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, "You don't know anything, nor do you consider that it is advantageous for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish." Now this he did not say on his own, but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus was about to die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad (John 49–52).
T HE SABBATH DAY: I hesitate to bring this up, as this opens up a whole new can of worms, but the correct understanding of the Sabbath teaches us that we rest from our works in Christ. When God created and restored the earth, the restoration process taking six days, He rest from His works. He did not rest because He was tired, but He rested because He was finished. Thus, the heavens and the earth were completed, and all the population. And, by the seventh day, God had completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all of His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it, He rested from all His work which God had created and made (Gen. 2:1–3). The fact that our world runs on a seven day work week is a testimonial to God restoring the earth in six days and proclaiming the seventh a holy day of rest. Jesus called out to those who were tired from work and offered them rest as well in Matt. 11:28: “Come to me, all of you who are weary and exhausted from work, and I will give you rest.” The Lord of the Sabbath offered a true rest from works, which was the antithesis of the Judaism of that day, which offered a very convoluted and distorted obedience to the Law. Bear in mind that the key to the Sabbath is that God has done everything and we can do nothing. The writer of Hebrews explains how the Sabbath rest of the Old Testament is brought into the New in Heb. 4, by correctly apprehending its true meaning. “Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of another day after that. Therefore, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For you see, the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God rested from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest (Heb. 4:7b–11a Psalm 95:7).
E TERNAL SECURITY: So that there is no misunderstanding, the Bible clearly teaches that we have a purpose on earth after salvation, but that this purpose in no way affects our salvation, whether we accomplish this purpose or not. The first way we will examine this is the logical approach. After being saved, do you think that there is a sin or sins that you could commit that would cause you to lose your salvation? Perhaps there is a sin that you might think of that God just totally forgot about and just didn't therefore impute that to Christ on the cross. Or maybe you have thought of committing a sin so terrible that there is no way that Christ would have died for that sin because it is just a little bit too bad. Obviously, these are ridiculous assertions. You might feel that you need to lead at least a mediocre spiritual life (or perhaps even better than that) as though Christ dying on the cross was important, but this righteousness that God imputes to you just needs that little extra effort that you so graciously provide with your mediocre (or better than mediocre) Christian life, as though God is not powerful enough to really provide salvation. However, even more important than logic is what the Bible actually says. Though he falls, he will not be utterly cast down (Psalm 37:24). "But you do not believe because you are not My sheep. My sheep hear My voice and I know them and they follow Me; and I give them eternal life and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of my hand." (John 10:26-29). "While I was with them, I was keeping them in Your name, which You have given me; and I guarded them, and not one of them perished..." (John 17:12a). "Of those You have given me, I have not lost one." (John 17:9b). There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angel, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created things shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:1,38-39). Keep in mind that the Corinthians were famous for gross immorality as you read the next few verses: I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (1Cor. 1:4,8). By His doing you are in Christ Jesus, whom became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption (1Cor. 1:30). The following is in reference to a Christian believer at Corinth who was living in incest with his mother: I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, in order that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (I Cor. 5:5). In Him, you also, after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation—having also believed, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit with reference to promise (Eph. 1:13). If we endure, we shall also reign with Him; if we deny Him, He also will deny us [reward]; if we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself (1Tim. 2:12-13). I know that everything that God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and nothing to take from it (Eccles. 3:14a). Our inheritance from God is eternal: Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not decay, reserved in heaven for you who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1Peter 1:3–5).
O kay, then, what about the passages which deal with works? Does James tell us that faith without works is dead? He certainly does. Actually, the correct word is nonoperational—Faith without works in nonoperational. The believer has three parts to his life here on this earth—pre-salvation, salvation and post-salvation. Nowhere in Scripture are we told that afer we believe are we to simply coast to our death. Once we have been bought by His blood, then we are His. After salvation, we are encouraged (actually, commanded) to be filled with the Spirit (this is not some holy roller experience, mind you) and to pursue His Word. From this will come our good works. This is not automatic and it obviously requires free will. However, our failure to do so does not cancel, make void, nullify or remove our salvation. That believers screw up their lives after salvation is well attested to in Scripture.
C ONCLUSION: Salvation in the Old and New Testaments is exactly the same—it is by faith in the finished work of Christ on the cross as being sufficient to attain salvation for us. This salvation involves no works, before or after salvation (in order to maintain salvation) otherwise grace is no more grace. If we must lead some sort of a mediocre (or better) Christian life in order to maintain our salvation, then we are adding works to grace and grace is no more grace. This is certainly not a brief to lead a life apart from God following salvation, but such a choice is possible and it will not hinder our salvation in the slightest. God has a plan for our life following salvation and we may chose to ignore that plan and endure the natural consequences of remaining out of fellowship. These consequences include discipline, but we still retain our salvation, because that is based upon what Jesus Christ did on the cross.