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THE GIFT OF GOD: salvation through Christ

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What does the Scripture imply by the expression, “The soul that sinneth shall die” (Ezekiel 18:20)? We read in Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death . . .” Now, if I may ask, “How is the wages of sin death?” Even though one of the resultant effects of Adam’s disobedience was physical death, the most drastic consequence of the Fall was “separation from God” – which is, spiritual death. Isaiah 59:2 tells us that, “. . . your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear”. (See also, John 9:31a).

Because of being born into a fallen world, every human being is dead in sin and trespasses, thus separated from God. This is what the Scriptures refer to when it speaks of being spiritually dead. May I begin by saying that; spiritual death became the fate of all mankind because of one man’s sin (Romans 5:12). But in spite of Adam’s rebellion and the colossal ruin of God’s wonderful creation, God took upon Himself the responsibility of making a provision that would redeem for this catastrophic damage.

We read of it in these words, “. . . but the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23b). That brings us to a very familiar passage of Scripture, John 3:16. On a general note, I would like to say that we have a very fundamental problem when it comes to understanding biblical concepts as they are rightly used in the Scriptures. This, to me, has been one of the reasons why we have such a watered-down gospel that is of no effect. Many of us are not even aware that the misapprehension of a single word or concept can alter the meaning of an entire verse of Scripture. And this is precisely the case with John 3:16, as with many other passages in the Scriptures.

We read, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” While there are many things that could be possibly said regarding this verse of Scripture, in this article, we are concerned about the two antithetical concepts that make up this verse, namely, “eternal life” and “perish”. It is safe to say that the opposite of “eternal life” is “perish”. They are in direct and unequivocal opposition.

My attention, now, is drawn to the word, “Perish”. To understand what the word means, we must be careful not to pour our own ideas into the text but allow the Scriptures to shade light on its meaning. To begin with, we know from John 17:3, Jesus speaking, “Now this is eternal life: that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.”

Few things need to be said regarding the concept of eternal life, that it has nothing to do with the ‘quantity of life,’ as in the duration of existence – that is, to live forever. Rather, eternal life speaks of a ‘quality of life,’ as in the holy and righteous life of God. This distinction is very important, and it both changes and shapes our view of the Gospel. Eternal life is a present possession with a future fruition. Meaning that, we can have eternal life NOW. If that is the case, then the idea of “perishing” is also primarily related to a quality of life – implying that, although people are said to perish someday, it begins in this life.

With that insight, John 3:16 could be understood to mean, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes [present continuous tense] in Him shall not perish” – that is, not be separated from God nor taste of the second death, according to Revelation 20:11-15 – “but have [present continuous tense] eternal life,” that is, come into a progressive, personal, and intimate knowledge of God and of Christ, whom He sent, according to John 17:3.

The question thus arises, “What does it mean to perish? When does it happen? And why would anyone ever perish? Hosea 4:6, a popular verse which is often taken out of context, reads, (God speaking) “. . . My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge”. Take note of the word, “destroyed”, because it could also be translated as “perish”. So, Hosea 4:6 can also be rendered, “My people perish for lack of knowledge”. But a further question remains, namely, “What kind of knowledge do people lack for which they perish?”

Is it a sophisticated, philosophical, or academic knowledge? Meaning, is it a kind of knowledge that can be gleaned from books and magazines? I believe I can say with all sense of confidence, backed by the authority of God’s Word, that the form of knowledge spoken of here cannot be mere intellectual knowledge. Because we have seen many a learned man waste away, even though he had reached the peak of the academic world.

Or, to sound a bit more religious: Is this kind of knowledge gotten from merely studying the Bible? If it were so, then no one would have ever triumphed over the vast knowledge of the Pharisees, who thoroughly knew the Torah (the Jewish Scriptures). However, they could not recognize the long-awaited Messiah and come to Him so that they may have life. Rather, they conspired and killed Him. In a much similar vein, don’t you think the Theologian or Bible Scholar would have possessed this kind of knowledge to a greater degree, far above the simple and the plain?

Hence the question lingers: What sort of knowledge does the Scripture speaks of, that when a people lack, they perish? Now, follow me carefully. Verse 1 of Hosea 4 makes us to understand that it is “the knowledge of God”. In other words, everyone who is ever going to perish – that is, separated from God – it will be on the basis of their refusal to take hold of God’s bountiful gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord; which, according to John 17:3, is a progressive, personal and intimate knowledge of God and of Jesus Christ, whom He sent.

God has given Christ for the redemption of the Fall in its entirety. And part of that responsibility is to restore fallen man back, not simply to his former estate, but to a higher estate of being a partaker of the divine nature and sitting with Christ in the heavenly places (2 Peter 1:4 & Ephesians 2:6). This implies that, fallen humanity is to be restored back into a relationship with God and brought into the knowledge of the Father, the only true God, and of Jesus Christ.

In essence, when Adam detached himself from the Vine because he thought he could survive on his own accord, he withered and died. Indeed, every branch that is cut-off from the Vine will wither and die. Hence the effect of the Fall which came by virtue of detachment from Christ (the Vine), and God (the Gardener), resulted in the physical, relational, and spiritual death of man – and this will culminate in everlasting separation from God in the Lake of Fire.

Because of Adam’s rebellion against God, he died – not just physically, as it were; but much more than that, he died spiritually. Meaning that he lost the true knowledge of God. Hence fallen man is described as been without the knowledge of God. And enshrined in the knowledge of God is the fear of the Lord, namely, a reverence and awe for God that makes a man live in accordance to His will.

Mind you, that whenever the knowledge of God – which begins with the fear of the Lord and a desire to please Him – is lacking in the life of a man, then comes iniquity and lawlessness. Basically, evil emanates from the lack of the knowledge of God, and this happens when a person is separated from the life of God. This is what we meant when we said to “perish” is a quality of life that begins in this present world and culminates in everlasting destruction in the Lake of fire.

You see, the reason people and even professing Christians sin is because they do not know God (1 Corinthians 15:34). And there are those who “profess to know God, but in their works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work” (Titus 1:16). To a certain degree, even true Christians can experience spiritual death; in the sense that, whenever they rebel against or disobey their heavenly Father, although they are still in a RELATIONSHIP with Him, their FELLOWSHIP with Him is broken. (It is important to understand the distinction between the two terms.)

Indeed, the Lord’s eyes are too holy to behold iniquity even in His beloved, and He does not commune with the lawless. Hence to have a broken fellowship with God – referring to Christians – is to live and walk in darkness. This is precisely what happened on the cross when Jesus bore the sins of the whole world. Even in that instant, He was and has eternally been in a relationship with the Father, a relationship that can never be broken. But in that moment of time, His fellowship with the Father was cut short.

Thus, to be detached from the Vine implies that one would lose the moisture content for spiritual growth, being unable to bear fruits that will abide. But because of their eternal relationship with the Father, those who really belong to Christ have been delivered from the ultimate penalty of spiritual death. Regardless of that, no Christian need experience spiritual death because Peter has assured believers in Christ that God has given to them, according to His Divine Power, all things that pertain to life and godliness THROUGH OUR KNOWLEDGE OF HIM who called us by His own glory and goodness (2 Peter 1:3). It is in view of all these that Peter concludes his letter with the words, “grow in the grace and the KNOWLEDGE of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (3:18). This knowledge is a PROGRESSIVE KNOWLEDGE.

Revelation 20:6 introduces us to a group of people whom “the second death” has no power over. Do remember, we made mention of the fact that there is such a thing as “spiritual death” – which all humanity are partakers of by risen of the Fall. However, we are seeing now that there is another form of spiritual death, higher than the former. And in fact, the former leads to the latter; in that, the latter is the total separation of a man from his Creator and Sustainer, God.

Verse 11 through to verse 15 of Revelation 20, gives us an ample understanding of what the ‘second death’ means. It does let us know that “the Lake of Fire” is the second death. (Read also, Revelation 21:8). In plain words, the Lake of Fire is the ultimate penalty for spiritual death. This is known as “everlasting damnation”.
Paul summarily tells us that when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with His powerful angels, “He will punish those who DO NOT KNOW GOD and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His might” (2 Thess. 1:5-10). Therefore, we are beginning to have a clear picture of what the Scripture speaks of in John 3:16 as, “Perishing.”

Clearly, the second death is everlasting separation from God. Take note, the word “everlasting” is the key word in relation to the second death. The truth is, there is no unrepentant sinner on the earth, so to speak, who is separated from God in an everlasting sense; even though His wrath abides on them right now (John 3:36). But everyone in hell fire, categorically speaking, is forever separated from God. That is the most significant difference between a sinner who has died, and the one who is still living. There is no hope beyond the grave! The case will be closed at death. For by then, the verdict would have been passed already.

Yes, all humankind is separated from God because of the disobedience of Adam. However, their everlasting separation from God will be based on the decision they themselves will make in time, that is, while they yet live. We are sinners by nature and by choice. By implication, every human being will choose, either to willingly accept God’s bountiful gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ, or they will turn their backs against God. This, my dear friend, is the great determining factor: A choice every human must make.

Jesus Christ, the One whom God sent, has suffered the wrath of God on Calvary’s Tree so that no man needs to suffer God’s wrath any longer. In those three hours on the Cross, forsaken of God, it was because He bore the iniquities of us all. Trembling and groaning in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was for this reason. The “cup” Jesus was pleading with the Father to take away was “the winepress of the furry of the wrath of God Almighty” (Revelation 19:15). It was because of ‘the cup of God’s wrath’ (14:10), not merely the physical suffering, that Jesus offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto the Father who was able to save Him from being separated from Him for those three hours He hung on the Cross (Hebrews 5:7).

Romans 5:9 makes it plain that because Christ has justified all those who come to Him in faith by His blood, He will also save or deliver them from God’s wrath. If we were reconciled to God through the death of Christ while we were yet His enemies, how much more, having been reconciled, we will be saved through Christ! This is the lot of those who have trusted in Christ as their personal Lord and Savior.

But the very opposite will be the lot of all those who will refuse to trust in Christ. (Read John 3:18, and compare it with Romans 8:1). Too often, we quote and read John 3:16 without considering the latter verses. The Bible is very clear regarding the state of those who have rejected God’s offer of salvation. It states, without mincing words, that whosoever refuses to trust Christ is under God’s death sentence, whether they know it or not. In other words, God’s wrath abides on them now (John 3:18, 36).

We are faced here with the most important decision in life. I sincerely doubt if there is any decision so important in this world than that of choosing, either to turn to God in repentance by allowing Christ to suffer God’s wrath on your behalf or, to turn away from Him in rebellion and suffer God’s wrath yourself for all eternity. God has set before every man two critical choices: Life or Death! You can choose either way. That is, to trust Christ, who has satisfactorily paid for every sin you have ever committed, or to pay for every sin you have ever committed by yourself, in the Lake of Fire.

Oh, herein is the love of God so marvelously and gloriously displayed. See what great love the Father has shown humankind, that even while we were yet His enemies, He sent Christ to the earth to bring us back into a right standing with Him. What greater love can one show? so profound is this love that Jesus was willing to humble Himself under the mighty hand of God, and suffer all manner of things from His very creatures, and even from the Father Himself. For we are told in Isaiah 53:10, “it was the LORD’s will to crush Him and cause Him to suffer”. All these, Jesus suffered in silence and submission to the will of the Father.

One of the reasons why Jesus came was to set us free from sin so that we can become slaves to righteousness (Romans 6:18). Verse 22 reads, “But now that you have been set free from sin and become slaves of God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life.” Again, we see that salvation from sin leads to holiness of life, resulting in a progressive, personal and intimate knowledge of God and of Christ. Let us be clear, that eternal life is found in no other but the Son. For “God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son” (1 John 5:11). So those who do not have the Son of God do not have life (vs. 12).

It is crucial to emphasize that because the nature of Christ’s salvation has been woefully misinterpreted, especially in our day of great perversion and falling away (Apostasy). But according to 2 Peter 1, particularly verse 3 and 4, we are made to understand that God has given to those who have trusted in Christ everything that is needed for living the Christian life. Verse 4 reads, “By means of these,” that is, the ample provision God has made, “He has bestowed on us His precious and exceedingly great promises, so that through them you may escape [by flight] from the moral decay (rottenness and corruption) that is in the world because of covetousness (lust and greed), and become sharers (partakers) of the divine nature.”

So, according to the Scriptures, God’s primary purpose is to produce a breed of people who are, by grace, partakers of the divine nature. That this group of people will lay hold of the gift of eternal life and be gradually but certainly conformed to the image of Christ. This so great a salvation will culminate at the second coming of Christ, when He will transform the vile bodies of those who love His appearing to be like His own. Therefore, this is the reason for the Christian’s calling. It is to this end that God chose them by His foreknowledge, predestinating them to be conformed to the image of His Son.

By the enabling power of the Holy Spirit, the believer is to make every effort to walk on the narrow path that leads to life: the Highway of Holiness. “So, dear brothers and sisters,” Peter encouraged, “work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Doing this, you will never stumble or fall away” (2 Peter 1:10). And how will anyone prove that they really are among those whom God has called and chosen? This, Peter speaks of from verse 5 through to verse 9, exhorting those who claim to belong to Christ to add the exercise of other graces to faith.

Matthew 1:21 tells us about the instructions of the Angel to Joseph regarding the child Mary was to bear: “. . . you are to give Him the name Jesus because He will save His people from their sins”. Jesus came to die, not so that He may merely forgive our sins – which alone is a great thing in itself. But one of the reasons for the death of Jesus on the Cross was to set people free from the shackles of sin – to deliver them from its power and control. It was for this purpose that the Son of Man was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Therefore, He willingly gave His life as “an offering for sin” (Isaiah 53:10).

Herein lies the greatest problem in the world: SIN. Every trouble man has encountered and will yet encounter, emanates from here. This is the root cause of all our calamities. The ailment itself is SIN, and the symptoms are such things as cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery, etc. All those sins find their root in our sinful nature. And what has produced this sinful nature? It is the lack of the knowledge of God, as Hosea 4 tells us.

Hence when people indulge in the lusts of their hearts, it is a sure indication that there is no fear of God before their eyes. The resultant effect of that is sinfulness; of “every inclination of the thought of the human heart [being] only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). How can we be certain that we really know God? Among other tests, one of them is the fear of the Lord. The reason is, the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowing Him.

There is no true, intimate knowledge of God that does not begin with a holy and reverential fear of God. And that means, there is most certainly going to be a hatred and displeasure for whatever God hates. For it was said of Jesus that He loved righteousness and hated iniquity (Hebrews 1:9). The result of being slaves to sin is separation from God. The result of being slaves to righteousness is eternal life. Let a man’s personal relationship with God be restored, and every other thing will fall into place. Such a person need not be monitored by anyone, but he or she will walk uprightly and do what is right even when no one else is watching. To such a person, compromise is a great wickedness and sin against God.

Seeing that your soul is eternal and you will someday cross over to the great beyond, the place of no return, what pressing decision are you convinced needs to be made now that you have breath in your nostrils? I seriously doubt if it would be to get married or buy a car or purchase clothes or any such thing – even though those things are good and need to be attended to. For they all have their rightful place.

Howbeit, I would like you to carefully meditate on these words: “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). I tell you the truth under God, my dear friend, you can gain whatever you desire, or acquire whatever you will, but as long as the great gulf between you and your Creator stands un-breached by the one Mediator, Jesus Christ, you are separated from God and therefore in danger of getting lost forever.

If you were ever opportune to interview the Rich man in hell fire now, he will tell you something like: “All those things put together are not worthy of pursuit, if one does not have a radical, life-changing relationship with God through Christ.” Therefore, why not run to Christ now that there is yet an opportunity to make things right with God? I invite you to make that conscious decision today!

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4 thoughts on “THE GIFT OF GOD: salvation through Christ”

  1. Spent a quality time reading this! A new perception that we, as Christians need to see and check our eternal life. Great post Caleb!! Would love to read more of such posts.

    Thanks!

    1. @Binny: Thanks for the words of encouragement. God bless you, bro. I trust God for grace and illumination into His Word.

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