Saturday, April 3, 2010

The Christian Gospel

by Babu G. Ranganathan

I would like to talk personally to you dear reader about the God Who designed, created, and continually sustains this universe and His plan of redemption through the ages. God created man for man to have fellowship with Him; but man rebelled and decided to go his own way. The Bible says that we are all sinners: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Sin separates man from a holy and righteous God. Because God is holy and just He must express wrath toward sin and punish iniquity. However, God's wrath and anger, unlike man's, is always perfect, unselfish, and righteous.

The Bible says that we cannot earn or deserve salvation because no one is able to meet perfectly God's holy standards as revealed in the Ten Commandments. We have all sinned in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Although the Ten Commandments are good, they cannot save us, but can only show us our need for salvation by making us realize how far we fall short of God's perfect standards. That is why God's Word says in Romans 3:20, "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified [or declared righteous] in his [God's] sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin." Again, the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace [God's undeserved favor] are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast [or take credit]." A gift is something not earned. If we could deserve or earn our way to heaven salvation would not be a gift.

The marvelous and glorious gift of salvation was purchased on the cross by the Lord Jesus Christ who was Almighty God in the flesh. On the cross, the Bible says, the Lord Jesus Christ bore our sins in His own body (1 Peter 2:24) and received the punishment and judgment from God the Father that we justly deserve for our sins. "He was wounded for our iniquities [sins]; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and with his stripes [or wounds] we are healed" (Isaiah 53:5). The Lord Jesus Christ shed His precious blood, which had infinite value in God's sight to pay for our sins. On the Cross He took the punishment from God the Father that we deserve for our sins so that God can be just in forgiving us of our sins when we genuinely repent and put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Just as a co-signer to a loan takes upon himself another person's liability and debt so too Christ took upon Himself the infinite liability and debt of our sins. It is because Christ Himself was sinless and Almighty God in the flesh that He alone was able to make atonement for the sins of the world. This arrangement was made with God the Father in eternity past, that the Son would take the blame and responsibility for our sins because the Father chose us in Christ by His grace to belong to Christ. Since we were His property before time began Christ was able to take upon Himself the blame of His people, His sheep, both Jew and Gentile, from every nation and tribe in the world.

However, you must receive the salvation Christ bought on the cross personally in order to be saved and to be forgiven of your sins. "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons [children] of God" (John 1:12). Confessing your sin before God, you need to cry to the Lord for mercy, taking hold of the promise in His Word: "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved" (Romans 10:13). Jesus says in John 3:3, "Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Being "born again" is not just mere reformation, as many people think, but regeneration. To become God's child one must be born of His Spirit. Until a person is born again he has only a creature-Creator relationship with God. Without experiencing this regeneration of spiritual birth, which can come only from God and not from anything within us, a person is spiritually lost. If he remains and dies in such a state the Bible says his soul will eternally perish. O dear reader, may that not be true of you, "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

The Apostle Paul, in the New Testament, says that there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians4:5).

The one baptism that all Christians share is a spiritual baptism performed by the Holy Spirit when an individual puts his or her personal faith and trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. The Apostle Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:13 "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body...and have been all made to drink into one Spirit". This is spiritual baptism of which physical baptism by water is a symbolic picture. When Christians are physically baptized by water it is done through a human agency. But the baptism that the Apostle Paul talks about here in 1 Corinthians 12:13 is done specifically by God the Holy Spirit. It is entirely spiritual and not physical at all.

What about water baptism? 1 Peter 2:38 says, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins.” Doesn’t this mean water baptism is necessary for salvation? No. The word “for” in the passage can also be translated as “because of” and, therefore, the passage can also read as, “Repent, and be baptized … because of the remission of sins.” This is a better translation because the Bible teaches in various passages that we are saved by faith alone. What is necessary for salvation never changes. The repentant thief on the cross was saved by faith alone (without any water baptism). Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin. The word “repent” in the New Testament comes from a Greek word meaning change in our thinking, which is what faith is. These words, repentance and faith, are interchangeable. The change in our thinking is expressed in our changed behavior and actions.

But, didn’t Jesus say in John 3:5 that a person must be born of both “water and of the Spirit” to be born again? We must understand what Jesus meant by “water” by looking at what other Scriptures say on the same subject. In Ephesians 5:26 the Bible says that Christians are washed by the water of the Word. This is in reference to Scripture or the truth of Scripture cleansing Christians. In Titus 3:5 we read about the “washing of regeneration” which we know is accomplished by the Spirit using the Word or the truth found in God’s Word. 1 Peter 1:23 says that we are “born again” by the Word of God. Thus, in John 3:5 Jesus was not talking about physical water. Jesus emphasizes in John 3:6 that it is not by anything physical we are born again.

You say it is too simple to be saved the way of the Bible. True, dear friend, salvation is free, but it is not cheap because it cost the life of the eternal Son of God in the flesh. The Lord Jesus Christ conquered death through His bodily resurrection to prove that He has completely paid the penalty of death for our sins. The Bible says in Romans 6:23, "For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."

There is no religion, organization, philosophy or good works that can save you. Only Jesus and Jesus alone can save. Only Christianity is unique in that it teaches we cannot earn our salvation. All other religions teach that through our good deeds we can earn or purchase salvation and redemption. All the religions of the world are fundamentally the same except for Christianity which teaches that salvation can be found only outside of ourselves, in the Person of the God-Man Jesus Christ Who alone was worthy to pay the full penalty for our sins. Jesus says in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me." He is not a way, He is the way. "Neither is there salvation in any other for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Yes, it is important to do good works, but good works cannot save. A genuine faith in Christ will produce good works, but good works can never produce faith in Christ. Right now call on Him and ask the blessed Savior to come into your heart.

The Bible says, "Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (2 Corinthians 6:2). Do not wait for tomorrow. You are not promised a tomorrow. "Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth" (Proverbs 27:1). And Jesus said, "For what shall it profit a man if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:36-37). My friend, the Lord Jesus Christ bids you to receive Him as your Savior. He says in Revelation 3:20, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Are there any more beautiful words? God Almighty will enter your heart and life if you will only ask Him.

Do not be deceived into thinking that there might be another way to be saved or that there is no hell and that the Bible may contain error. Do not rely on your personal feelings or experiences to determine what is true or false. Trust in God's written Word, the Holy Bible. If your experiences contradict what the Bible says, they are not of God. Scripture says that Satan has tremendous supernatural power and that he can even appear as an angel of light and deceive people with all sorts of experiences in their lives to make them believe that the Bible is not all true. The Psalmist David said, "For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven" (Psalm 119:89). Either you place your faith in the unchanging Word of God or you place your faith in the ever-changing word of men.

There are many questions and problems which cannot be discussed or answered in an essay this size, but do not let anything prevent you from receiving the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior. Join a Bible-believing church in your community where you may receive Christ-centered teaching as well as enjoy fellowship and worship with believers who know the Lord Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior. God bless you, my friend!