Salvation in Acts to Revelation
We want to give our hearts to Jesus. But what does that mean? How is it done? What are our hearts? Who is Jesus? What is the salvation that He gives us? How does it work? In what ways has our relationship with Jesus been obscured by false teaching in humanity's closing epoch? These are some of the questions that we are seeking to answer.
In our first message we discovered just what the Bible says about God's original plan for us, our fallen nature, whether or not it might truly be said that we are "born" sinners. In our second message we explored who is this Jesus to whom we would give our hearts. We saw that He became as human as we are. In the thirdi and fourth messages respectively, we began this portion of the series
Today we continue our journey. We pick up from the book of Acts and go out to Revelation. We are tracing what salvation means in the Bible. When we looked at the Old Testament we highlighted texts using the word "salvation." We stayed close to that word to pick up key themes surrounding the idea. Coming to the New Testament we took a more open approach, looking into various texts, some from which we've commonly heard from on this topic along with others sometimes overlooked. Today we continue to the close of the New Testament.
Salvation in Acts 4:12
Some want to insist that after Acts two, it is a fundamentally different scenario; that salvation is different after that. I don't believe it. There are mighty developments, but the plan of salvation does not there divide or change. It is the same. There is still one Lord, one faith, one baptism. There is still salvation only through Jesus. There is still only the one gospel that not only says we are saved but changes those who are saved.
How inconvenient this gospel is! It is not a gospel of complacency, or that grants us "dodging rights." We cannot say after we have sinned (to paraphrase Adam), "God, it's not my fault, but the gospel that You gave me to be with me." No, friends. The gospel is the same all through the Bible, as we shall see. We want to give our hearts to Jesus. Let's look at what way He has outlined for us. Start with me in Acts 4:7-12:
And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this? Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by Him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
The power they are asking about here is dunamis, strength, and in what name, a question of authority, they have healed this man. Peter makes it very clear to those who hear the exchange. He says, If you are asking how the asthenous, "weak" man was what? "Made whole," sesostai, "has been saved," or as we could have it, "has been healed"
Jesus makes people whole. He does it now. No, He doesn't take away the fallen nature right now. But He does give power to overcome it, to supercede its control, to subdue it. Whereas before we had been in bondage to our lower nature, now through the strength given us by God it is taken captive, it is held in bondage. Often it is a very close battle to keep it there, but that is the plan. Jesus was manifested to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8), not just in some cold and distant theological world, not just at the time He came, not just in the lives of the heroes of the Bible, but in your life and my life, here and now. He would destroy the destroyer. He would make us whole.
Now Peter arraigns "the builders," the ideological architects before the bar of God and says that they in constructing their temple have left out the corner stone, the standard, the measure, the base line by which all the temple is to be aligned. Mind you, still they built a religious temple, but leaving Jesus out. He didn't fit in their plan.
They wanted a salvation just like today we so often want; a limited one, with only a few cursory demands made. One with which the fallen nature still can be nursed and retained, while lip service is given in the worship of God
They "set at nought" the chief cornerstone, Christ; they "made of none effect" His counsel. And did not the "testimonies of the Spirit of God" come to the people through Jesus? Oh yes. Then in its advanced state of rot, Israel was fully engaged in the process of making "of none effect the testimonies of the Spirit of God." Now this is very interesting!
But notice the remainder of this passage: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved."
Salvation is not in a system of theology only, but Christ is the substance. Salvation is not in methods of worship, in techniques of testimony, in songs and CDs. It is not in degrees or academic achievement or rubbing shoulders with the latest crowd of refugees at Fuller. It is in Jesus.
Salvation is in His name only, for He only is the channel of access to the Father, He only is the giver of grace from heaven, He only is He who sends the Holy Spirit to us to help us become more like Him. Oh how we err when we turn to technique and the latest fads in order to do the work of heaven. No other name is given under heaven whereby men must be saved but Jesus. Nor will any other message suffice to meet the stern needs of the hour but the present truth message for that hour sent by the Cornerstone Himself. If we are not giving heaven's message with a strong present-truth ring in it, it is because we are trying to do heaven's work under our own energies, according to our own wisdom, by means of our own very offensive-smelling schemes.
Israel in the day of Peter had erected an institutional system by which they could all be very religious but keep their sins. I would submit to you that some today have done the very same, down to the dot. But God sent forth the fiery and the bold to shake them out of their lethargy and tell how His salvation was, even if it seemed but the strange and idle tale to the pitifully pious re-modelers of God's religion. And today He is doing the same. Today we must be forthright in declaring that no other name is given under heaven whereby men might be saved
We live at an hour when boundaries are anathema, when many methods are being pressed into play that are very strange fire. Today many innovations in worship are mere impositions from a contemporary paganism, the identification of such having escaped our notice. Many things in use today certainly are not on Jesus' list. You see, there is no other name given, and so our methods must be Jesus' methods. If we really believe "Neither is there salvation in any other," then we will not make the attempt to go our own way.
Jesus is the center. We can be saved only in His way. And His way means a good deal of cooperation between God and man, wherein God gets all the glory and all the credit and all the praise; we receive neither glory nor praise nor credit, but we do cooperate, we do hold the door open by His strength so that He may enter and repair us. This is the salvation spoken of here, a salvation by which this man in the story was "made whole." Jesus only is the name by which you and I may be made whole.
Salvation in Romans 1:16
Now we come to the book of Romans. Many of a certain stripe have a certain view on what salvation is. A lot of them think that the gospel as they understand it
As much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath showed it unto them. For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse: because that, when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful; but became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.
Notice the inspired definition here given by Paul: the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth." We should notice that the word power here is the Greek dunamis, meaning strength, explosive power, like in our modern word "dynamite." It is a power for everyone who will believe, and which results in "salvation."
The word salvation here and the word deliverance both are sound translations. The gospel is the power of God unto deliverance for all who will believe. Then it says that it is in this gospel that the righteousness of God is revealed. See, whether God is fair or not is revealed in His gospel. Is He an arbitrary, wheel-of-fortune type God, randomly saving some and destroying others? Or is there a method to His . . . kindness?
How might all of this look from the devil's perspective? Have you ever thought of that? Maybe Satan would say, Well, can't You do at least as much for me as You are doing for them? Can't You just count me righteous? And see, if He could, wouldn't there then be unrighteousness with God? But how is that different for us when we live by the same selfish plan as Satan, when we somehow must think that our lives don't matter, that our lives testify nothing of God? Did you hear the Word of God? It said that it was in the gospel
The fictional gospel that counts us as changed only could be managed by Satan. He could say that he would count someone what they were not. He is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44). It would be right up his alley to do that. But the Bible is explicit: in our God there is no lie, no shadow of turning. He cannot tell an untruth, no, not even in the service of any (supposed) ultimate good. God's gospel counts us as changed as we are changed. His accounting always matches the reality. He rightly estimates what we are for He knows what we are. And He knows when we access His power.
When the woman touched Jesus' garment, He said that He felt virtue going out from His presence; immediately He sensed the touch and application of faith. He knew she had been healed. And it is the same today my brothers and sisters. Today, when you, when I, call upon Him for power it is the same. He senses the power going out to us. Today, even more as our Intercessor in heaven He sends forth divine power to aid His people. Did you ever think about that? That when you pray for help, Jesus notices, He experiences it? No wonder He calls us His brethren! No wonder He knows what are our trials and our testings.
We here speak not of an authority merely exercised by God, but a strength, a supernatural power to change. That's what's in the gospel. It operates not merely by authority, but by power, on our lives. If the gospel were, as so many think, an accounting only as righteous, an authoritative declaration, a different Greek word, likely would have been used here. But it wasn't. Instead heaven inspired the idea of power.
Again, this righteousness of God is revealed what? "From faith to faith." Now we can have no faith unless God's Spirit sends life and light into our darkened being. But when He does, and when we consent, when we act on and press into service this faith provided by our Father, then the gospel provided by our Father takes effect. And it is not as though the word of God was without effect. So here is the salvific formula given in Romans: God's righteousness is revealed in the lives of His people as they choose to exercise the faith He gives them. And how shall the just live? "The just shall live by faith." As we, provoked by Him, embrace Him, as we respond to His goodness, in obedience, by faith, we live justly. And we go forward in this, God's way.
Let's consider one more evidence. See, the next thing Romans says is that not only God's righteousness, but His wrath is revealed "from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." They hold back, they hold down the truth because of how they live. They claim to be righteous but they live out a lie, a mere form of godliness. But God is not fooled. His wrath is revealed from heaven. No matter their profession, He refuses to count them as what they refuse to become. And so in vs. 21 they refuse to glorify Him, and in vs. 23 they change "the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man."
They refuse God's righteousness and insist on their own righteousness. They keep their behaviors but call themselves His children anyway. And you know what? That can become a pious mask. That can leave one where they say that they are counted by God as what both He and they know they are not. Brothers and sisters, we are made in God's image
Either our lives reveal God's righteousness or our own evil. No theological slight-of-hand can adjust this truth. Either we are changed into His image from glory to glory, from faith to faith, or we are living under our own steam and our lives testify of God as if He were only as selfish as ourselves, saying who or what is righteous only on an arbitrary and amoral line, portraying the uncorruptible God as if He were corruptible man, as erratically moral as we have been.
Pardon me for believing that the gospel of God is the power of God unto salvation for all who believe, and that when God says so, He means it!
Brothers and sisters, how I wish we could spend more time here in Romans. But if we are ever going to get where we are going in this series, we must keep moving. Last year though I did have the opportunity to preach the book of Romans on the topic of Real Grace," and all of those sermons are on the website, so if you want to hear more you can go there.
Salvation in Ephesians
If you have read through the New Testament even a little you will be thinking about what the book of Ephesians says about salvation. This book is very rich on this topic. We are running out of time and can spend only a little now. But turn with me to chapter two of the book. Let's take a look.
The first line in this chapter insists that what we had been now is changed, that now we have been quickened, made alive "together with Christ," He lives even now, He empowers even now. We sit together with Him in heavenly places "in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 2:1-6). Now here is an important idea, the idea of being "in Christ." We'll look into this some more on an occasion when we can go in deep and careful. But for now realize this: we are not in Christ unless Christ is in us. Now if you want some evidence for that, just spend some time browsing through John 15. Again, I would invite you to join me for a moment just a few pages over at Colossians 1:27-29). What are we told there?
To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory: Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus: Whereunto I also labour, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.
The riches of God's glory is not us in Christ, but Christ in us. You see, the pauper's way is us in Christ when we mean that we refuse His change and He saves us anyway. Yes indeed, we must be "in Christ," but that doesn't mean that we are only counted changed. When we are in Christ it means that we also invite Him, receive Him inside. It is this presence of Christ that changes His people, that gives us the "hope of glory," that works in us mightily. Do you remember the classic statement from Galatians 2:20? Here is yet more evidence: "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me." Paul said that Christ lived in him. That was how he lived "from faith to faith." He was not alone. He lived as a Christian with Christ within, the hope of glory.
The evidences are piled high. But one more before moving along. Back in Ephesians 2:8-9 we read the classic statement on salvation: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." I believe and accept and cherish this truth with all my heart. I am saved by grace through faith. It could never arise merely from myself. It is the gift of God. Nor may I work for it, receive credit towards it, merit it, or make myself good enough for it on my own. No, never! Yet, all that being true, I receive it in the context of the oft unspoken truth of the summary verse, Ephesians 2:10: "For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them."
We are His workmanship, not our own. God's workmanship glorifies its Maker. Our lives will glorify Him. When you and I are "created in Christ Jesus," the work never stops there. Rather, this creation goes on to its purpose: "We are created in Christ Jesus unto good works." And God, before, from the very beginning, ordained that we would walk in such, live in such, live-out such, express such, and show the world the righteousness of God. We are the monitor screens, the radio stations, the portals through which heaven teaches, the cable-channels to which every heavenly intelligence is tuned. These are things that angels want to look in to. And they are. All the universe wants to know what it means to give our hearts to Jesus, what it means to experience the salvation of God. This, this, is salvation in Ephesians.
Salvation in Philippians
Philippians is full of beautiful teachings on salvation. We are commanded in this book to "have the mind of Christ" (Philippians 2:5). But so many have been taught that we cannot! Then we are told that Jesus "made Himself of no reputation," that He took the form of a servant and humbled Himself. We are told in this book that Jesus laid aside completely His divinity, emptying Himself, when He came down to earth and lived as a man among men. When He became as human as we are, He lived as human as we do. He only did miracles by the power of His Father
And you know, the devil was continuously provoking Him to take these powers up again. He was desperate to provoke Jesus into ruining His example for man. So He provoked Him to make stones into bread, to jump down off the high tower and force His Father to save Him, to come down off the cross by taking up His strength again as God. But He refused. The cup of salvation trembled in His hand in the darkness of the garden. In Gethsemane He said not His will, but His Father's be done. But He refused to take up, until He had offered His life on the cross, what rightfully was His own. Through the gospel we can have the mind of Christ.
From the same book and just a few verses down comes this precious Scriptural command: "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world" (Philippians 2:12-15).
Here again is the axis of salvation. God gives the strength, we choose, He empowers, and according to Scripture, no matter how politically-incorrect, we are to "work" out our own salvation. But it is never alone. "For it is God which worketh in you." And His working is both to will and to do according to His good pleasure. And what did we find back at the starting gate, at the beginning of this series? That God is a moral Being, desiring to take pleasure in us, and that we were made for, designed for, His pleasure. Isn't it only right that through His children He should have the joy of working according to His good pleasure?
Now look at the next few lines. What does it say? That this living isn't marked off for some future time on the other side of the sky 10,000 years from now. Rather, we live here and now, with the grace of God upon us so that we become "blameless and harmless" here and now. We live "Without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation." To what purpose? "That we may shine as lights in the world." Oh how that makes Him happy. Oh how He takes pleasure in that!
Are you beginning to grasp the picture?
Oh how much more we could share had we time this day to take up Titus and Hebrews and Peter and so many other books we've not the time to work through. Even now our time is all but gone. But let us turn our attention, at least for a moment, to the last book of the Bible: Revelation.
Salvation in Revelation
We've dealt with some of this at prayer meeting. But let us ponder one last section of the Bible: turn with me to Revelation 14.
Here, just after the mark of the beast chapter in the first verses of the chapter we find a group standing on Mt. Zion with Jesus, having the Father's name, not the devil's mark, in their foreheads. They are those who, in the end, showed themselves willing to follow the Lamb wherever He would go. They are finally faultless before the throne of God. They let Him do a mighty thing in them. The universe looks on and sees not them, but Jesus, glorified. And the message that took them to that glorious day at the end of the great controversy, is presented in the following verses.
And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.
Thus we have what we've come to call the first angel's message. From front to back, the Bible has told us the same story. From front to back the good news, the gospel portrayed has been one and the same. And here at the end of Scripture we find it again: "the everlasting gospel." It is a gospel that according to the following angel messages, gives power to keep the Sabbath, power to come out of false religious structures, power to receive God's seal rather than the mark of the beast. It is a gospel that gives power because it is Jesus' gospel. No human dogma can match it; no Satanic dogma can equal it; no paper-gospel keeping Christ on the outside can counterfeit it (when the people of God invest themselves in knowing His Word).
The gospel is here identified as one "everlasting." It has never changed. I think, by the grace of God, that in these past three messages we've seen this fact come to life. The result of these three angel messages here in Revelation at the end of time will be a people who are the embodiment, the enfleshment, of the gospel. The righteousness of God will be revealed in their lives from faith to faith, from glory to glory. Not if they go their own way and settle for the threadbare lie of the devil, but surely if they receive the truth as it is in Jesus. They will be changed. And all the universe will know it! Down, at the very end of time, God is preparing a people through whom He will close out the existence of sin forever; through whom all sin and all suffering shall be eternally ended. Their lives will be evidence for eternity that Jesus saves. It is our special privilege to live this experience. It is our choice. How precious is the effect of knowing Jesus. Today all the world stands waiting for the manifestation of the sons and daughters of God.
Eternity stretches out before us. What shall we choose? Today we basked in the light of God's Word. But we are not done. Next week we'll take a break as Pr. Russell Standish will be here and speak, but the following week we'll move this series forward in time with I Want to Give My Heart to Jesus #6: Salvation After the New Testament." Between then and now, something has happened. All the world it seems has been caught-up in a collection of creative Satanic schemes, carefully-crafted counterfeits meant to bring every human soul to destruction. The pages of neither Scripture nor history are silent, but witness exactly to what has happened. No one on this planet should miss what heaven will share on that Sabbath. Consider yourself invited. Do bring your Bible. Jesus is finishing the mystery of God and has called us to do that with Him. And we'll give Him all the praise. Amen.
Mentone CA SDA 2001-08-11