Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Doctrines of the Christian Faith 6: The Nature of the Gift

Jesus died on the cross taking on him the sins of the whole world. So that's it, right? We're done here. Everyone gets to go to heaven, right?

It's not that simple, no. Remember the words of Romans 6:23,
"The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." 

Eternal life through Jesus' sacrificial death is a free gift from the Lord, but gifts can be accepted or rejected. In fact, the natural state is for the gift to be rejected.

Similarly, the gift of eternal life is rejected until we accept it as the only thing necessary for salvation. But how do we accept this gift?

Born Anothen 

 Jesus himself explains how we can accept this gift to Nicodemus in John 3:3,
"Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God."

The Greek word for "again" here is anothen, which can mean either "Again" or "From above." From Nicodemus' discussion in the next verse, we understand why it was translated as, "again" rather than "from above."
"Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born?"

However, Peter J. Leithart makes the case in his book, A House for My Name, that John is using a bit of word play,
"In John 3...Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born anothen, a word that can mean either "from above" or "again." Given John's track record, we are safe in concluding that he is being deliberately ambiguous. Being born again is being born from above, by the Spirit, through the One who was sent from above."

This is further shown as Jesus further explains his point to Nicodemus in John 3:6-7,
"Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again."

So, clearly we must be born of the Spirit in order to receive the gift of eternal life. Knowing that it is from the Spirit shows us once again that this is a free gift that has nothing to do with what we can do, but rather is entirely based on what the Lord will do in our life if we accept Him.

Accepting the Gift

But we have still not answered the question of how we can accept the Lord Jesus Christ. Now I know that what I am about to tell you is generally used to teach children about the how to accept salvation, but I find it to be rather clever, so I will use it myself here.

It's as easy as ABC.

Admit. Admit that you are a sinner and that you can't make it to Heaven on your own. The Bible proclaims that on the day of judgment, people who have done several good works will find themselves unworthy to enter Heaven because it's not about us, it's about Him.

Believe. You must believe that Jesus' sacrificial death on the cross alone is sufficient to take the punishment for your sins and gain you entry into the Kingdom of God.

Call. Finally, you must simply call upon the Lord to take away the punishment for your sins.

As it proclaims in Romans 10:9-13,
"That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."

Not of Works

By now, I have probably impressed upon you the idea that salvation cannot be earned by our works, but is instead a free gift from God. Now I would like to discuss a specific impact that this idea has on the permanence of our salvation.

Some people would claim that if we don't stay right with the Lord, we will lose our salvation. However, this is nonsensical. If we can't do anything to gain our salvation, then how can we do anything to lose it? How we act and respond after we have received this gift has no affect on what the Lord has already done in our life. That is why we have such faith in eternal security, and why John 10:28-29 explains,
"And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand."

 The Big Picture

Our lives can be filled with our efforts to be good enough for Heaven, but it will be for naught. We must accept Jesus Christ' sacrifice as atonement for our sins. In conclusion, I will leave you with the words of Ephesians 2:8-9,
"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."

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