True faith in the Lord Christ.
The NT records that there were people who claimed that they wanted to follow the Lord Christ. Their commitment, however, was inconsistent and disingenuous:
As they were going along the road, someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” And He said to another, “Follow Me.” But he said, “Lord, permit me first to go and bury my father.” But He said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God.” Another also said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first permit me to say good-bye to those at home.” But Jesus said to him, “No one, after putting his hand to the plow and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God.”
The “backslider” is a member of this group, a person who thought so poorly of the Lord Christ that something—anything—was always in first place ahead of the Lord Christ.
He/she is the person who “looks back” and thinks wistfully of all that he/she had to “give up” (!) instead of the grandeur of what lies ahead:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
The purpose of this chapter is to detail from the Scripture the majesty of true “salvation in Christ”, something which the “backslider” does not understand and for which the “backslider” has only contempt.
The Need for Salvation
I presented the biblical case in chapter 1, The problem of sin and the representative positions of Adam and the Lord Christ, that Adam’s sin caused all mankind to be not only regarded as transgressors against the LORD but to become actual transgressors. This is the clear meaning of Rom 5.19a:
For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners …
Stated simply, man is condemned from birth and does not have the intrinsic ability, disposition or authority to change that dreadful state. Here are a few texts to make the point:
What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; as it is written,
“There is none righteous, not even one;
There is none who understands,
There is none who seeks for God;
All have turned aside, together they have become useless;
There is none who does good,
There is not even one.”
“Their throat is an open grave,
With their tongues they keep deceiving,”
“The poison of asps is under their lips”;
“Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness”;
“Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Destruction and misery are in their paths,
And the path of peace they have not known.”
“There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God;
For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.
1 Cor 6.9-11
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.
But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
Moreover, because of the truth of universal sin and mankind’s willing and active participation in it, the NT teaches the certainty of the coming judgment for that sin:
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead.”
But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.
There is no hope for anyone without the salvation provided by the Lord Christ; it is certain that judgment will fall upon them to the utmost. And, that judgment, once completed at the Judgment of the Nations or the Great White Throne Judgment, is irrevocable! The unrepentant sinner is destined to spend eternity in the torment of the Outer Darkness.
[For reference, see The Final Sequence and The Day of the Lord on this site.]
Definition of Salvation
If that was the end of the matter, then truly there is no hope for anyone. But praise the LORD, it is not “the end of the matter”!
Remember, the Last Adam—the Lord Christ—provided righteousness and eternal life by His work on the cross:
even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
Remember, just as no one had any direct involvement with Adam’s sin, yet nevertheless each must endure his guilt, so also no one had any direct involvement in the Lord Christ’s personal sacrifice to bring righteousness to “those who receive the abundance of grace”. This is the beauty and elegance of the gospel.
Stated simply, salvation in and by the Lord Christ is the undoing of the fall in and by Adam through repentance and faith, and all because of the grace of the LORD:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
The message of salvation from sin, by the righteousness of the Lord Christ, runs throughout the NT:
But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
[Here, the metaphor is “lost”: someone who has lost his/her way.]
For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, “Rulers and elders of the people, if we are on trial today for a benefit done to a sick man, as to how this man has been made well, let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by this name this man stands here before you in good health. He is the stone which was rejected by you, the builders, but which became the chief corner stone. And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped. But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!” And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”
[The man responsible for ensuring the incarceration of Paul and Silas was deeply convicted in his sins by the miracle he had just observed. All he could think about was that he was a sinner greatly in need of salvation.]
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”
2 The 2.8-14
Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.
[Those who are not saved are characterized as those who “did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved” and those who “took pleasure in wickedness”.]
But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
The terms “salvation” (noun) and “save” (verb) have meaning beyond the redemption of the sinner from the results of Adam’s fall; they also tell us of the LORD’s power to cause His children to endure and persevere in a fallen world.
In short, He saves His children in all ways and at all times.
1 Cor 1.18-21
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
And the cleverness of the clever I will set aside.”
Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.
Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.
2 The 2.13-14
But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.
1 Pet 1.3-5
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.
Future Salvation and Enduring to the End
A frequent message of the NT’s teaching on salvation is that of “enduring to the end”; that is, those who are true believers are those who endure. There is no place for backsliding!
This is the great truth which lies behind this warning:
Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it. For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it.
The path of righteousness is difficult and requires a lifetime of faithfulness!
Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and cause them to be put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but it is the one who has endured to the end who will be saved.
1 Cor 15.1-2
Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.
1 The 5.9-10
For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him.
One of the best places in the NT to demonstrate this truth is the Epistle to the Hebrews. Whoever the author of this epistle was, he understood the history of national Israel: both the Old and New Testaments are filled with examples of a people who professed to know the LORD and be His people but constantly rebelled against Him.
The author’s warnings to his Jewish audience are very ominous. Notice his frequent use of the conditional “if”:
For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?
Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.
For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said,
“Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts, as when they provoked Me.”
Therefore, since it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly had good news preached to them failed to enter because of disobedience, He again fixes a certain day, “Today,” saying through David after so long a time just as has been said before,
“Today if you hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”
For ground that drinks the rain which often falls on it and brings forth vegetation useful to those for whose sake it is also tilled, receives a blessing from God; but if it yields thorns and thistles, it is worthless and close to being cursed, and it ends up being burned.
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a terrifying expectation of judgment and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
I challenge anyone who claims to be a “backslidden Christian” to reconcile their life with these terrifying passages! Even the attempt to do so is to prove that you don't know the LORD.
The Salvation of Future Israel
There is one last subtopic that I want to cover in this chapter regarding the terms “salvation” and “save”, specifically, how these terms are used relative to the national Israel of the future.
The Jews were given the special privilege to be the first recipients of the gospel of grace:
These twelve Jesus sent out after instructing them: “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Jesus went away from there, and withdrew into the district of Tyre and Sidon. And a Canaanite woman from that region came out and began to cry out, saying, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” But He did not answer her a word. And His disciples came and implored Him, saying, “Send her away, because she keeps shouting at us.” But He answered and said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
As the record of the NT shows, the vast majority of the Jews rejected the Lord Christ and demanded his murder. However, even that horrific act by the Jews did not change the fact that the LORD made numerous promises to national Israel He would restore them at a future time.
[It is not the purpose of this series to detail this claim. Please refer my lengthy article “The Day of the Lord” on this site for details of this great promise.]
I want only to focus on a single one here, the New Covenant:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
The New Covenant was inaugurated by the Lord Christ at the final Passover meal He enjoyed with His disciples:
And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.”
At a time yet future national Israel (a remnant, actually) will turn to the LORD, and as part of that great event the LORD has promised to “save” them: that salvation will be both spiritual and physical. The former will be a salvation from sin, the “typical” meaning of the term. The latter, however, will be the LORD’s activity to preserve them through the time of trial which is coming upon the earth.
[See the article “The Day of the Lord” on this site for details.]
This was a frequent theme in the book of Isaiah. Here is a sampling:
“But you, Israel, My servant,
Jacob whom I have chosen,
Descendant of Abraham My friend,
You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth,
And called from its remotest parts
And said to you, ‘You are My servant,
I have chosen you and not rejected you.
‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’”
But now, thus says the Lord, your Creator, O Jacob,
And He who formed you, O Israel,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name; you are Mine!
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
And through the rivers, they will not overflow you.
When you walk through the fire, you will not be scorched,
Nor will the flame burn you.”
“I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake,
And I will not remember your sins.”
“Remember these things, O Jacob,
And Israel, for you are My servant;
I have formed you, you are My servant,
O Israel, you will not be forgotten by Me.
I have wiped out your transgressions like a thick cloud
And your sins like a heavy mist.
Return to Me, for I have redeemed you.”
Shout for joy, O heavens, for the Lord has done it!
Shout joyfully, you lower parts of the earth;
Break forth into a shout of joy, you mountains,
O forest, and every tree in it;
For the Lord has redeemed Jacob
And in Israel He shows forth His glory.
Truly, You are a God who hides Himself,
O God of Israel, Savior!
They will be put to shame and even humiliated, all of them;
The manufacturers of idols will go away together in humiliation.
Israel has been saved by the Lord
With an everlasting salvation;
You will not be put to shame or humiliated
To all eternity.
“Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded,
Who are far from righteousness.
I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off;
And My salvation will not delay.
And I will grant salvation in Zion,
And My glory for Israel.”
Thus says the Lord God,
“Behold, I will lift up My hand to the nations
And set up My standard to the peoples;
And they will bring your sons in their bosom,
And your daughters will be carried on their shoulders.
Kings will be your guardians,
And their princesses your nurses.
They will bow down to you with their faces to the earth
And lick the dust of your feet;
And you will know that I am the Lord;
Those who hopefully wait for Me will not be put to shame.”
Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices,
They shout joyfully together;
For they will see with their own eyes
When the Lord restores Zion.
Break forth, shout joyfully together,
You waste places of Jerusalem;
For the Lord has comforted His people,
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
The Lord has bared His holy arm
In the sight of all the nations,
That all the ends of the earth may see
The salvation of our God.
There are many others, but these make the point: the LORD will save the national Israel of the future and establish them as the preeminent nation and political power of the earth.
The Apostle Paul, being very familiar with Isaiah’s prophecies, wrote this:
For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.”
“This is My covenant with them,
When I take away their sins.”
Salvation is not merely a theoretical concept, a “religious” idea either to be used or discarded when convenient. When the LORD determined to save Adam’s race by the sacrifice of His Son He actually did so!
The life of the true believer, Jew or Gentile, is changed dramatically and permanently. But be sure: he LORD does not save a person only to leave that person controlled by sin—a "backslider"!
The “backslider” is a monstrous creation of humanism, a futile attempt to “have it both ways” at the terrible cost of that person being completely self-deceived.
The “backslider” can’t change the fact that the life that is lived in sin is a life of sin, not of righteousness. As the Scripture says:
So then, you will know them by their fruits.
Backslider: you need to pay attention to the fruit of your life! If you don't, these are the words you will hear after it is forever too late to repent and recover:
I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.
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