STAYING IN STEP

Never have I ever seen a caterpillar metamorphose into a butterfly except through some very specific steps. Before we can have a butterfly, there must be 4 distinct stages: egg, larva, pupa then adult. Each phase has different and necessary purposes. There is no way for the butterfly to skip a step, nor to take the steps out of order. People are the same regarding physical things. First gestation, childhood, teen then adulthood. Did you know that there are steps and order for spiritual things, namely, Salvation?

God instructs us to look at nature because it shows His handiwork and it can teach us some spiritual lessons. [cr. Rom 1:20; Pslm 19:1; Prov 6:6]. The example of stages in nature can teach us very powerful lessons about the stages of Salvation.

Although the modern religious world rejects any plan of salvation that has man doing anything, this doesn’t negate scripture that says there is a part man must do and, in God ordained order. “And he trembling and astonished said, Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the city, and it shall be told thee what thou must do.” [Acts 9:6] (emp seb) That being said, and proved, what are the steps for salvation and must they be completed in order?

Romans 10 lays out that there is an order (steps) for one to follow. In verses 13-14, Paul shows that the beginning steps leading to salvation are HEARING, BELIEVING & CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD.

“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” [Rom 10:13-14] (emp seb)

He goes onto write that faith cometh by hearing and hearing by the word of God. This shows that HEARING, BELIEVING & CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD shall be learned through the study of the Word of God, namely, the New Testament. But, is this all that the New Testament has to say on this subject? CERTAINLY NOT!

In the same chapter in verse 10 Paul wrote, “For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” (emp seb) So CONFESSION is also essential to salvation, but is this all that there is? A problem many folks have is that they stop at one passage without considering all that God has revealed about a subject. This is how & why we have thousands of denominations today. Let’s continue our search.

Thus far we have learned that salvation begins with…HEARING the word of God through the scriptures, BELIEVING this word, CONFESSING and CALLING on the name of the Lord. (there must be a distinction between CONFESSION & CALLING). To answer this question we go back to where we began this article by noting what Paul (Saul of Tarsus) was told to do by Jesus. We refer to his own retelling of the story in Acts 22:16, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” We learn that water BAPTISM is synonymous with “CALLING ON THE NAME OF THE LORD” and that it precedes salvation.

Jesus said, “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” [Luke 13:3] Clearly, He’s speaking about salvation. After His death, burial & resurrection, but before His ascension He also said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” [Mark 16:16] (emp seb) This verse also shows the necessity of not skipping the steps and doing them in order and for their intended purpose.

Putting this all together we find only these steps for salvation in this order…
1) Hear & Learn – Rom. 10:17; John 6:45; 17:3
2) Believe – John 6:29; 8:24
3) Repent – Luke 13:3; Acts 3:19; 17:30
4) Confess the Lord – Matt. 10:32-33
5) Be Baptized – Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16; Gal. 3:26-27; 1Pet. 3:21

Failure to follow the steps in their proper order and for their intended purpose is to fight against the very will of God [Acts 5:39]. There is much more on this subject, but none of it contradicts what has been said thus far.

Another thing we find is this saying, also from Jesus, “be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.” [Rev 2:10b]. From this, along with passages like Mat 28:20; Acts 2:42; 2Tim 3:14-17, we learn that continued faithfulness is what those who have obeyed the gospel will continue to do. A person that is practicing faithfulness without having “obeyed the gospel” is practicing a vain religion. There are far too many people living in this false hope.

IGNORANCE, INTENT AND EMAILS

(this article may reference current events but is in no way a commentary on political views by the author as it relates to these events)

Confidential emails have been in the news of late. The jist of which is that a certain, high level, government employee, mishandled classified communication within the government. The FBI investigated and found unsecured & unguarded servers (the device where electronic mail would be stored and sent), “extremely careless” handling of email by this employee and her staff, and poor judgement on the part of this high level employee in the handling of Top Secret communication. The FBI then said, “We did not find…clearly intentional and willful mishandling of classified information.”

It’s on this last point that this article shall address as it relates sin, salvation and getting into heaven.

Under human laws, intent plays a major role. For example, if a person was negligent in their behavior, they may or may not be prosecuted. In recent cases of accidental harm to a person involving a vehicle, intent becomes the deciding factor. God spoke about these situations and gave instructions under the Law of Moses for unintentional harm. “as when a man goes to the woods with his neighbor to cut timber, and his hand swings a stroke with the ax to cut down the tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies-he shall flee to one of these cities and live; [Deuteronomy 19:5] and in some cases were required to pay restitution.

Intent may be a factor, but ignorance of the law is another matter. Under our law system, Ignorantia juris non excusat (Latin for “ignorance of the law excuses not”) is a legal principle holding that a person who is unaware of a law may not escape liability for violating that law merely because he or she was unaware of its content. There are plenty of examples where a person is fined or punished having been unaware that they were committing a crime. If you doubt this, the next time you’re pulled over for speeding just tell the officer you didn’t know the speed limit.

For humanity, God leaves everyone without excuse whether they’ve read the Bible or not.

Look at Roman 1:18-21; “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19 because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. 20 For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, 21 because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” [emphasis mine]

You see, God has made every effort to show himself to every person and it’s their willful disregard for Him that will earns His wrath.

In another place, regarding ignorance, Paul said, “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” [Acts 17:30-31]

Peter also taught that we are not to remain in our ignorance but to obey; “Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” [1Peter 1:13-16]

Here’s the point of what I am saying, when we face the judgement of God, saying “I didn’t know” or “I didn’t intend to sin” will not open the gates of heaven unto us. The only way that we can survive the judgement and to receive an entry into heaven is through the saving blood of Jesus the Christ.

How can one be saved?

Now that you’ve heard about God’s wrath and salvation through Jesus, Repent and be converted from your ignorance. “Yet now, brethren, I know that you did it in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But those things which God foretold by the mouth of all His prophets, that the Christ would suffer, He has thus fulfilled. Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,” [Acts 3:17-19]

After your repentance, their remains the blotting (washing) away of your sins. “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” [Acts 22:16] “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” [Acts 2:38]

If you do this, you will be saved, but this doesn’t give you liberty to keep on sinning. Therefore, the Christian must remain faithful. “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.” [Romans 6:1-4] And if we sin, “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:” [1John 2:1]

Though human courts overlook ignorance, God won’t. Why delay?