Terms And Conditions of Eternal Life
Bible students know that eternal salvation is not a matter of merit. Earning eternal life is not possible, because: 1) It is not for sale; 2) It is a gift from God; 3) We would not have the price to pay for it if it were for sale; 4) We would lose it if we had it anyway.
So, how do we get eternal life? That’s the question asked by the Rich Young Ruler. He was smart enough to at least ask the question, although the answer he got was not what he wanted to hear. The first answer was, “...If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments ... Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (Mt 19:17-19)
His reply was, “All these have I kept from my youth. What lack I yet?” Well, if one could have earned his salvation by commandment - keeping, this fellow thought he had done it.
But Jesus did not tell him
to go on his way rejoicing. Rather, He said, “If thou wilt be perfect,
go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure
in heaven: and come and follow me.” At this point we begin to wonder if
the young man was sincere about keeping commandments, because he did not do
what Jesus instructed. Rather, we
are told that he turned, and went away sorrowfully, “for he had great possessions.”
That eternal life is a gift from God is seen from the discretion
used by Jesus. Will He give salvation to the obedient, to those who help the poor, or to some other? It is God’s to give, and the Rich Young Ruler came to the right source, and asked the right question.
On this very subject the apostle Paul wrote this: “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 6:23) Left to our own devices, the wages earned will be death through sin. Those who would have eternal life must come to God through Jesus Christ for the gift. So much for salvation through meritorious works!
Now, why would one come to God for the gift if he can’t earn eternal life? We must come to God to learn the conditions of salvation. Many gifts are received on terms and conditions. Some winnings are received on condition that taxes are paid. Some inheritances are received only on a time schedule. Some property gifts are received on the condition that certain improvements be made on the property.
Please observe that God is the source of eternal life, and that in order to have it one must come to God. Nicodemus came to Jesus out of the darkness of night to hear the Word. (Jn 3) Cornelius was instructed to call for Peter, who would speak to him “words whereby he and all his house would be saved.” (Acts 11:14) The Rich Young Ruler came to Jesus, the “Good Master.” Salvation will not be had by chanting the right prayer, by slaying the biggest dragon, or by finding the mystical code, but by coming to God, the source of life.
Further, once an individual has received promise of salvation, he can lose it. Just as the Israelites lost the ark of the covenant, just as our ancestors lost the exact location of Noah’s ark, and just as Adam and Eve lost their place in the Garden of Eden, so also might we lose hope of eternal life even after finding it. Therefore, one of the terms of salvation is continued closeness with God. If one must come to God for salvation from sin, why would he think that he can continue toward eternal life while drifting away from God? There is a
time schedule for God’s children, and it doesn’t allow for time out or retirement from godly service. (I Cor 9:27)
“And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Gal 6:9)
To the saved John wrote, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (I Jn 1:7) Do you see the conditional tone of salvation? “If we walk in the light....”
After becoming a Christian and stumbling into sin again, the command is “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (I Jn 1:9) “If....”
But how is one saved to begin with? What does the Word say to the lost? Jesus said “...That repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.” (Lk 24:47) Unless an individual turns from sin to follow God he cannot be saved. (Acts 17:30-31)
This term is similar to
the gift with the condition that improvements be made on the property. How could
expect to live with God in Heaven without giving up the practice of sin? (Rom 6:1)
Also, the scripture stipulates a confession of faith for those who would come to God. “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (Rom 10:10) Secret disciples cannot go to Heaven. (Mt 10:32-33)
Finally, one cannot expect to be saved without baptism, for it is “for remission of sins.” (Acts 2:38) It is at this point that old
sins are washed away. (Acts 22:16; I Pet 3:21; Rev 1:5; Heb 10:22) The act of baptism is so highlighted as the beginning place of the Christian life that Luke records the conversion of the Corinthians like this: “And many of the Corinthians hearing believed, and were baptized.” (Acts 18:8)
Is salvation altogether unconditional, or can eternal life be
earned? The answer to these questions is No. However, God allows us to decide whether we will respond to His terms and conditions for the free gift of salvation, just as He allowed the ruler to walk away and Cornelius to be baptized.
“And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”
By George Hutto
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