Lesson 5: Ephesians 2: 7-10 A Look at the Process of Salvation.
For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God; not of works, lest any man should boast.
Paul tells us: my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. ( Phil. 4)
But do you know what is mankinds greatest need? Salvation. Why do I say that? Because the Lord Jesus said: For the Son of Man comes to seek and to save that which is lost. (Luke 19)
Todays lesson describes the gift of salvation. A gift that came at great expense. Salvation is an old fashioned biblical word- but it never goes out of fashion.
Salvation is deliverance from danger or suffering; it is to be delivered or protected. To be Saved means to be rescued. Christian salvation is to be delivered from the wrath of God; delivered from the consequences of sin by having our sins removed. This was made possible by the payment for our sins by the only one qualified to pay for our sins- the Son of God, Our Kinsman Redeemer, the Lord Jesus.
ITS STILL THE CROSS. ITS STILL THE GOSPEL!
Paul writes in I Corinthians 15: Now brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you which you RECEIVED and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel, YOU ARE SAVED. If you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise you have believed in vain. For what I received, I passed on to you of the first importance: that Christ died FOR OUR SINS;(He was our substitute) according to the Scriptures, that He was buried,that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Peter, then to the Twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living. Then He appeared to James , then all the apostles, and last to me as one abnormally born.
The Gospel is the Good News. It was not man made- it was not received from any man, nor was Paul taught it; rather, Paul received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.( Galatians 1)
This is the True Gospel. It has three elements: the death, burial and resurrection of Christ on our behalf. Our old nature was crucified with Christ on the cross. We were buried with Him Then we were raised with Him to walk in newness of life. ( Romans 6) This is the true gospel. This is the Good News. But to fully comprehend the good news let us consider the bad news.
The bad news is as a result of the fall in the Garden of Eden, every part of man born since that time is corrupted by sin. Our minds, our emotions our flesh are sinful to the core- there is no good thing. Because of this condition, this sinful nature, there is not one of us who seek God. In fact our minds are hostile to God. God has declared the penalty for sin is death- eternal separation from God. It is in hell that one pays for the penalty of sin against a Holy and Righteous God if they have not received the Gospel. What horrible news- if there were not a remedy. But God who is rich in mercy and because of His great love devised a plan- a plan of salvation before the foundation of the earth. He, God Himself would redeem us from our sins. This is the Gospel- and it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes. (Romans 1)
What must I do to be saved? Many people today are looking for the steps to salvation or enlightenment. They would like to have a manual and instructions that shows them the actions one must undertake in order to obtain salvation. In Islam these are described in the Five Pillars*. These are to be obeyed and if they are to obtain salvation. What a false and futile religion that places an impossible task of earning salvation thru works.. It appears that so uncertain are these followers of being received into heaven- they are willing to die in a Holy War in the hope of obtaining mercy. How sad and desperate are people without assurance of salvation and acceptance when a false anti-Christ religion demands works to earn salvation.
Our clearest answer as to what must one do to be saved ( from our sins and their inevitable consequences) is asked and answered in Acts 16: 30,31
What must I do to be saved? ( said the Philippian jailer). Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.(Paul speaking.) This is the only step.
So lets consider the bad news: All have sinned against God.( Romans 3:23) The penalty for sin is death, eternal separation from God in a place called Hell.
The Good News is: For God so loved the world, He gave His only Begotten Son, that whosoever should BELIEVE IN HIM , would not perish but have everlasting life.: (John 3:16- the verse that is the essence of the Gospel.) Jesus, in this conversation with Nicodemus, goes on to tell us- He did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him the world might be saved. But He also pronounces: This the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.: ( John 3:19)
For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is a gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast. ( Ephesians 2: 8,9)
Salvation is a gift. But it is a gift that can be accepted or refused, as per Jesus statement in John 3:19. Men loved darkness instead of light. Instead is a preposition of choice-a preference for an alternative which here represents a choice by man of his own free will.
The gospel must be received. That is what Paul emphasized in I Cor. 15. The Gospel you received and have taken your stand on. How do we receive this gift? By grace through faith. Grace is receiving what we do not deserve. Ever try to pay someone something for doing a favor for you and they would not receive it? Ever try to give someone something just because you wanted to bless them- but they in pride refused to take what they had not worked for or earned? Grace is Gods unmerited favor- we did not deserve. Some refuse based on pride, some refuse based on choice- they preferred their sinful lifestyle. They were deceived into thinking as Eve was- that God did not have the best intentions for them. They did not believe that Father Knows Best.
We are told that faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God. This immediately presents what seems to be a problem- some have not heard the Word of God in remote places where no Christian has ever ventured. Not true. All have heard the word of God. The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of His hands. Day after day they pour forth SPEECH; night after night they display KNOWLEDGE. There is NO SPEECH OR LANGUAGE where their VOICE IS NOT HEARD..(Psalms 19)
In Romans 1, Paul writes : Since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world, Gods invisible qualities, His eternal power and divine nature have been CLEARLY SEEN, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
What did man do when the wrath of God was revealed to them? They suppressed the truth by their wickedness- even though WHAT MAY BE KNOWN ABOUT GOD IS PLAIN TO THEM BECAUSE GOD HAS MADE IT PLAIN TO THEM.
So Paul explains, although they knew God they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. ( Romans 1: 21) Proverbs 20:27 tells us: The spirit of man is the lamp of the Lord searching all the inward parts of his inmost being. God gave man enough light to respond- enough truth to reveal Himself- but man suppressed the truth in his wickedness- preferring darkness instead of light and so God blew out the light and left him in darkness.
For these reasons Paul proclaims he was not ashamed of the Gospel. Paul was not ashamed of the Gospel- socially, morally or intellectually. He was unashamed because the Gospel was the power of God for salvation for everyone who believes. ( Romans 1: 16)
You see the Word of God is not like any other book or words written on paper. The Word of God is alive and powerful.(Hebrews 4:12) It is the instrument which God uses to save lives; the Gospel brings salvation to all who believe.
What must we do to be saved? Believe in the Gospel as Paul described its three elements in I Corinthians 15.
God has given all of mankind two witnesses: an external witness- His creation; and internal witness- God has written the requirements of law in our hearts, our conscience bearing witness. ( Romans 2) God has set eternity in the heart of every man- Eccl 3:11
Paul writes with a heavy heart in Romans 10 that his hearts desire and prayer to God is for Israel that they may be saved. Their problem? Paul describes their problem and a problem for many today- they are ignorant of Gods righteousness and seek to establish their own righteousness, having not submitted to the righteousness of God.(Romans 10:3) This is an attempt of man to earn salvation via self righteousness and is rejected by God.
Paul goes on to describe in that 10th chapter of Romans that there is NO need to go up heaven to bring Christ down to earth. He has already come down. That is why we celebrate Christmas. There is NO need to go down into the abyss to bring up Christ for He has risen from the dead. That is why we celebrate Easter.
Then Paul tells us something very interesting. The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart. ( that is the word of faith we preach.) The word gets into a persons heart and mouth by preaching the word of faith. Notice in the parable of the sower and the soils, the seed represented the Word of God and the soil represents the heart of man. The birds that devoured the seed that fell by the wayside represent the devil who desires to take away the word so you will not believe in your heart. The others who did not believe are described as rocky soil which lacked moisture no root- did not believe in their heart and fell away when tempted. And another is described as thorny soil which choked out the word of faith- because of their interests in the world- and its riches and pleasures. So the world , the flesh and the devil want to take away the word of faith preached into ones mouth and heart before they believe in their heart and confess with their mouth. Peter says we have been born again not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the Word of God which lives and abides forever.(I Peter 1:23)
Therefore to be saved one must: Confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness and with the mouth confess is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9,10
Notice you confess He is Lord, Reigning Lord in your life.
YOU MUST BE BORN AGAIN.
What does it mean to be born again? This classic passage from the third chapter of John records one of the most significant conversations in all of history. A man named Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a ruler of Jews came to talk to Jesus one night. Listen carefully to what was said: (Nicodemus speaking) Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles you do except God be with him. Nicodemus had heard this young rabbi from Nazareth teach and knew of or had seen miracles that Jesus had done. In fact it is recorded in John 2, that when Jesus was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast days, many believed in his name when they saw the miracles he did. But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew what was in the hearts of men.
Jesus knew what was in the heart of Nicodemus. Nicodemus had heard this young teacher he had heard the word of God from the One who is the Word of God made flesh. He was astounded- he was impacted- he was drawn for the words and deeds had made Nicodemus realize he was missing something. He hungered for something. What I believe had happened was Nicodemus had heard Jesus preach the word of faith the word was near, it was in his mouth and in his heart- preached their by the word of faith.
Jesus then makes a statement in response to Nicodemus question that does not make sense- unless you consider what was said about Jesus in John 2- that he knew what was in the heart of man. Jesus knew what was in the heart of Nicodemus. So he goes straight to the matter of the heart and tells Nicodemus he must be born again for no one can see or enter the kingdom of God unless he has been born again..
Notice Nicodemus response: How can this be? How means- Nicodemus does not understand but desires to know what steps he must take to be born again. He cannot understand this— but Nicodemus did not say WHY- must this be? Nicodemus response how can this be? represents a teachable spirit. a humble spirit. God gives grace to the humble. When a person responds why must I be born again? this represents a prideful spirit- a rebellious spirit. A teenager told to go clean up his room who responds why? indicates a problem with authority. A response of how? represents a willingness to obey- but not sure how to go about it. Nicodemus is at the stage of being an honest doubter. From this stage watch what the Old Testament tells us can occur: But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul. ( Deut. 4:29) Half hearted efforts will not work.
The way of salvation has always been the same- by faith in God and His ability to redeem us. Adam believed God when God said the seed of Eve would destroy the serpent. Adam did not understand all about God the Son becoming flesh and dying on a cross as a substitute for our sins- paying the price. The way of salvation has not changed but the amount of revelation has changed. Even the disciples who spent over three years with Jesus did not understand He would have to die on the cross.
But Hebrews 1 tells us this revelation of light has been progressive. It tells us in the past, God spoke or revealed Himself through prophets at many times and in many ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all thing and through whom He made the universe.
The Old Testament revelation was fragmentary, partial, not yet complete in fullness and finality. But with the arrival of Jesus, his ministry and his death, burial, resurrection and ascension to heaven- we have the complete revelation. Jesus said he came to fulfill the word of God. He set aside the first to establish the second we are told in Hebrews 10:9. How did Jesus set aside the first covenant to establish the last covenant? He was the Lamb of God who took away the sin of world. He fulfilled the first covenant- the Old Testament every jot and tittle in order to establish the New Covenant, the New Testament. He established a way for us to enter into a personal relationship with Holy God. It was a new way to enter the Holy of Holies. We entered by the blood of the Lamb of God shed for our sins- once and for all. We entered through veil- which was His flesh, His body rent for us at Calvary. Furthermore- there is nothing else to be done or written- we have all we need.
We are told we can now draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. (Hebrew 10:22)
In Ezekiel 36 we read: I will sprinkle clean water on you and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you , your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
Certainly in the times as recent as the mid 20th century- having ones heart removed and another transplanted in its place was thought to be a medical and scientific impossibility. Yet today heart transplants are as ordinary as having your tonsils removed with great success we might also add. Surely if man can achieve this feat with his knowledge and expertise- God Almighty can give us a new heart spiritually speaking. After all- nothing is impossible for God.
We can thank the curiosity of Nicodemus that led him to come to this young rabbi, named Jesus in the dark of night to find the answer that he so desperately sought.
Have you found the answer ? Do you understand the question? How can a man, woman, boy or girl be born again? We are born again of the incorruptible seed, the Word of God that abides forever- that is alive and powerful. It is life giving, life changing and life sustaining. This Word of Faith that has been preached and taught into our heart and mouth. The enemy fought to take it away to snatch it before it germinated, to wither it before it took root with temptation and sin and choke it out with the cares and pleasures of this world, but if you have confessed with your mouth, the Lord Jesus, and believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead- thou shalt be saved- born again, accepted in the Beloved, blessed with every spiritual blessing and are now a new creature. Praise God!!
The phrase born again literally means to be born from above. Nicodemus, like all of us had a real need. He needed a change of his heart- a spiritual transformation. New birth, being born again is an act of God whereby eternal life is imparted to the person who believes. We need to be born again because we are dead in sin and trespasses. Consider the person who has drowned. Pulled from the water they are not breathing. They cannot start to breath on their own. That is why life guards are trained to perform artificial respiration and mouth to mouth resuscitation. By breathing into their mouth and/or nostrils they introduce life back into their lifeless lungs.
I believe the Genesis account of creation of man. And the Lord God formed the man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the BREATH OF LIFE; and man became a LIVING SOUL. ( Genesis 2:7)
Thus we were dead spiritually and God who is the creator of life- breathed spiritual life into our nostrils and we became the recipients of new life- eternal life. We were born of the Spirit of God when we believed and received the Gospel. The Lord is our Life Guard who saves us; then guards our lives and guides our lives. He is our Life.
But the story does not end there.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us: For we are His workmanship, created in Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them>
As John MacArthur says: No good works can produce salvation, but many good works are produced by salvation.
The Five Pillars of Islam are:
1. Testimony of faith. Belief in one god, Allah and Mohammed the true prophet
2. Prayer- five times a day.
3. Giving- 2.5% of income.
4. Fasting- during the month of Ramadan
5. Pilgrimage to Mecca a holy place.