The typical false doctrine of false teachers is arrived at by intricate calculations and illogical interpretations of the Scriptures. A system of steps to salvation that lists requirements that man must do in order to be acceptable to God and find that salvation is off-base at the beginning if it requires man’s efforts. But the Apostle Paul has one word that covers the whole landscape—simplicity:
“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).
That most important theological question is the one asked by the Philippian jailer recorded by Luke in Acts 16:30-31: “What must I do to be saved?”
Paul answered, immediately: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved!”
Now wait a minute! What about being baptized and joining a church? I have looked and found it to be a principle of false doctrines that one must join their particular church and be baptized by that church in order to be saved. Check them out—Roman Catholic, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons), Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Church of Christ (Campbellites). The list could go on, for the works of man, himself, are the basis of their beliefs. How much clearer can it be? However, in Ephesians 2:8-10, that salvation has nothing to do with “doing” but has much to do with “believing.” Note how even that is a gift to be received:
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”
Much heavy preaching is given to the sins of man and laying those sins aside to be righteous. Actually, it points to repentance, or turning from those sins. However, one can quit drinking, smoking, cussing, adulterous activity, stealing, even killing, and still go to hell! That is where the “why” of this article comes into the picture—that and the “most important” part, which is vividly expressed in Mark 8:36-37:
“For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Because a person born of Adam’s legacy, as all are, is a sinner by nature, so that is what he does—he sins. There must be a radical transformation from that sinful nature to one that is, at its roots, righteous and acceptable to God. Jesus nailed it when he told Nicodemus, “You must be born again” in John 3. He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.'”
Some look at that statement and say, “O yeah, ‘born of water'” and conclude that baptism is necessary for salvation to be complete. But Jesus clears that up with that next statement of the difference between physical life and spiritual life. Being born again is a spiritual transaction that the Spirit of God accomplishes when a person wholeheartedly receives Christ into his life and submits himself to Christ’s lordship. Physical birth involves water in the process.
Look at Titus 3:5 for how it works: “…Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit.”
But there’s that word, “washing.” “Doesn’t that mean water baptism?” you ask. No, for it is a regeneration of spiritual life, and physical water cannot accomplish spiritual transformations. As Jesus said, “That which is flesh [physical] is flesh, and that which is spiritual is spiritual.”
We are getting closer to the “why” in the title as we press on. Just as Job said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart” (Job 1:21, NIV). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us to “build treasures in heaven for they will not fade away there.” In other words, we cannot take our “stuff” with us!
There are those who say there are more ways to heaven than just by Jesus, but the Scriptures tell of no other way. Is God a liar? If there are other ways to heaven, then why did Christ come into human history with the very purpose of providing an offering for the sins of mankind that man, himself, could not provide. Paul declares, in 2 Corinthians 5:21, that fact: “He [God] has made Him [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be righteous in Him.”
Peter declared of Jesus, at that great fulfillment of the Feast of Weeks, Pentecost, in Acts 4:12, “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
The thief on the cross by Jesus did not join a church or get baptized, nor did he have any way to get a theological education and follow all those man-made rules and hoops to jump through. There was no time for that, and justly so; there was no need for anything but believing in Jesus. Even that was without much expectation, for he merely asked to be remembered when Jesus came into his kingdom. “Today,” Jesus said, “You will be with Me in Paradise!”
Simplicity in Christ, that’s it. Aren’t you glad, dear redeemed sinner, that it is so? That answer says it all which the late theologian Karl Barth gave to the question of “what is the greatest theological truth you have learned in your life?” After a thoughtful moment, he replied, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so!”
May we each treasure that truth in our hearts forever!
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