MAN'S PART IN HIS SALVATION
The one thing which can keep man from heaven is sin. The only way sins can be removed is for them to be pardoned by God. Pardon of sins is not something done in us, but something done in heaven for us. This pardon takes place in the mind of God as we comply with the conditions set forth in His word. Behind the great plan of salvation is God's love (Jno. 3:16), and God's grace (Eph. 2:8). From the beginning of time it has been God's eternal purpose to save man in Christ. For the accomplishment of this purpose God designed the plan of redemption, Christ executed it, and the Holy Spirit revealed and confirmed it. Now the Holy Spirit plays a part in every conversion but He works through the revealed word (Eph. 6:17).
At the conclusion of his sermon on Pentecost Peter urged the people, "Save your- selves from this untoward generation" (Acts 2:40). This is sufficient evidence that man is not passive but active in regard to his own salvation. There are conditions that man himself must meet. Be it understood, however, that no man alone can save himself. Peter has just commanded his audience to repent and be baptized for the remission of sins and we read in verse 41, "Then they that gladly received his word were baptized adn the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls."
Salvation is by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8). And this faith must work by love (Gal. 5:6). Even though God has fulfilled His part in the plan of redemption there is yet something to be done by man. Man's faith is tested by obedience. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mk. 16:16). Therefore man is required to perform overt acts of obedience which proves his faith. These acts are belief, repentance, confession, and baptism. Obedience does not eliminate grace but instead is an expression of faith as well as an expression of one's love (Jno. 14:15).
Conversion is the process of turning to God. This process involves three basic changes -- a change of mind, a change of will, and a change of relationship. These changes cannot be accomplished by any one act alone. Faith changes the mind; repentance changes the will; and baptism changes the relationship. Without all of these changes conversion is never complete.
No greater question ever comes before man than, "Where shall I spend eternity?" Neither does he have any greater obligation than to learn and obey the will of his God. In a world of religious division, hatred, and carnality the matter of becoming a Christian can be as easily understood as the most simple arithmetic problem.
Just as there are certain rules that govern mathematics, so there are certain rules that govern the matter of becoming a Christian. There is a standard rule of mathematics which is accepted all over the world. Therefore, no matter where you go, nine times nine always equals the same thing. This result is not a matter of conjecture nor opinion; it is a matter of fact. Likewise the rule that governs conversion always produces the same thing when correctly applied. The first time this rule is found in the Bible is in Matt. 28:18-20: "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you and lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." This is God's law of restoration. It is positive, divine, and unchangeable. Regardless of geographical locations or present circumstances it remains the same. Consequently its results are always identical. Strict obedience to this rule has never resulted in different kinds of Christians, but with it, produces only Christians.
In this day of hand-clapping, card signing evangelism, we hear of thousands "converted" who have never been converted at all. We must learn that the only right way is God's way. The great need of the world today is a complete surrender to the Lord's will and a willingness to accept and obey it.
By William P. Smotherman in The Sentinel.
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