In Paul’s letter to the churches of Galatia in Asia Minor, churches he previously had visited on his missionary journeys, Paul addressed those in their midst who were attempting to pervert the Gospel of Christ (Galatians 1:7). There were those who were coming into the churches and telling those who had put their complete faith in Christ’s death, burial and resurrection for salvation as Paul had preached, that in addition they needed to be circumcised for complete salvation. In Galatians chapter five Paul adamantly disputes the notion anything needs to be added to Christ’s sacrifice for salvation.
Paul admonished the Galatian Christians to “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage” (5:1). Paul wrote that if anything is added to God’s free gift of salvation, “Christ shall profit you nothing” (5:2). Paul declared those who agree to the need for circumcision in addition to faith in Christ for salvation place themselves back under the Law, and “Christ becomes of no effect unto you,” (5:3-4). Earlier in Paul’s letter he had written to the Galatians, “By the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified,” (2:16). Jesus said during His Sermon on the Mount, “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil,” (Matthew 5:17). Christ fulfilled through His death, burial and resurrection all that is needed for man’s salvation.
There are those who promote, in addition to faith in Christ, the need to immediately be baptized to wash away sin or the need to do good works in order to obtain forgiveness of sin and salvation in Christ. Just as with those in Paul’s day calling for circumcision to be added for salvation, Paul emphasized, “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love,” GOD’s love: AGAPE love (Galatians 5:6). The attempt to obtain salvation by any other means but through faith in Christ Alone is a false salvation. Paul calls it “another gospel: which is not another,” and gives this proclamation, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed,” and to emphasize the importance of his point he immediately repeats, “As we said before, so say I now again, If any preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed,” (Galatians 1:8-9).
On October 31, 1517 a German monk named Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg seeking a discussion on the selling of Indulgences for the remission of sin by the Catholic Church. The aim of the Church in selling the Indulgences was to raise money to rebuild St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Luther, who had become the Professor of Theology at the college, knew from his reading and studying of the Scriptures there was no forgiveness of sin except through the blood of Jesus Christ. The people were being put under great deception by being told by their priests the Catholic Church held the key to God’s forgiveness through the purchase of Indulgences. The simple act of Martin Luther on that day began a Reformation to return to the Truths of Scripture and away from what had become the tenets of a man-made religion.
During Martin Luther’s early days as a monk he came under great conviction of his sinfulness before God. Whereas other monks in the monastery would spend a few minutes a day confessing their sins to the priest, Luther would spend hours confessing his for he was cognizant of how sinful man is in his fallen state. It was not until he read in Galatians 3:11, “But that no man is justified by the Law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith,” that he realized it was not by the works of confession, simplicity of living as a monk, or even self-flagellation that provided forgiveness of sin but having a living faith based totally ALONE upon Jesus’ voluntary death on the Cross for man’s sin, His burial, and bodily Resurrection triumphant over sin and death (Romans 10:9-10). As a repentant sinner, Luther placed his full faith and trust in Christ apart from the teachings and practices of the Catholic Church from which he was eventually excommunicated and proclaimed anathema, bound for hell.
Only available in Latin and confined to only being read and interpreted by the Catholic Church, Luther began translating The Scriptures into the language of the German people so they, too, could read for themselves, “The just shall live by faith,” and find salvation in none other name but Christ Jesus as the Apostles preached on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 4:12). In doing so, Luther found himself having to be in hiding to complete the task as those led by the demons of Hell sought to stop his work. The Scriptures we hold in our hands today, written in our own language, found its beginning in the days of Luther on that fateful day in October 1517 when God opened the floodgates, that whosoever reads and keeps those things written therein will be blessed (Revelation 1:3).
The coming eclipse of the moon passing before the sun caused numerous details to be considered and executed in preparation of its arrival throughout the United States for its safe viewing. Some traveled great distances at great cost to be in the direct path of its totality of coverage. Maps were pored over, arrangements for travel and lodging were made, meals were planned, the acquisition of solar viewing glasses were sought out and action taken to be in the best possible location for the best possible view. Much preparation took place by individuals to see the once in a lifetime event.
Before natural disasters strike, such as hurricanes in the current age, much time is given broadcasting the time of their potential arrival. Admonitions are made to prepare for the coming wind, rain and flooding such storms bring. Windows are boarded up, store shelves are emptied of their products, fuel is sought out to power transportation and generators, arrangements are made to either stay or find shelter elsewhere until the storm passes by. Much time and preparation takes place by each individual in its path in anticipation of what is about to befall them.
The Prophet Amos in the Old Testament of the Holy Scriptures admonished his hearers “Prepare to meet thy God,” (Amos 4:12). The judgment of God was once again upon the Children of Israel after endless years of rebellion and rejection of God’s Will for their lives. The writer of Hebrews in the New Testament over 800 years later called for Spiritual preparations to be made, “As it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment,” (Hebrews 9:27). Preparing for Eternity is the most important preparation each individual must make.
To find what is needed to prepare for an Eternity with God one must spend time in His Word reading the Scriptures for what God requires of man to be in a right relationship with Him. One must spend time in prayer seeking God’s forgiveness and His Will for their life. One must daily be about the Father’s business, going where He would have them go, doing what He would have them do, sharing the Good News of the Gospel with all who will hear. The first step in preparing for Eternity is to begin with the ABCs… Acknowledge your sin (Romans 3:10, 23); Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, His death, burial and resurrection for sin (Romans 5:8-9; 6:23); Confess your need to Him of His Forgiveness (Romans 10:9-13). From there, as the Apostle Peter admonished in 2 Peter 3:18, “Grow in Grace, and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To Him be Glory both now and forever. Amen.”
In Jesus’ final words to His disciples gathered in the Upper Room before His arrest and crucifixion, He made it clear the only way to forgiveness of one’s sin and a right standing before God was through Him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me,” (John 14:6). Within two centuries of Jesus’ return to Heaven there began to creep into some of the early churches a teaching that baptism was the way to salvation.
Known as “baptismal regeneration,” this was and is a most serious deviation from the Scripture, “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin,” (1 John 1:7). Man’s desire to make baptism the way of salvation contrary to Scripture is evident from the introduction of baptizing infants. It was thought if salvation could be obtained by water baptism, the earlier one was baptized the better. When infant baptism was first introduced babies were fully immersed under the water, but centuries later pouring or sprinkling of water came into vogue in most erring churches.
It was baptismal regeneration along with infant baptism that brought about the numerous denominations in the world today. Whereas Baptists alone continued to stand firm on “by grace are ye saved through faith,” in Christ Alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), declaring non-fellowship with those early churches which accepted and practiced the errors of baptism, it was not long before, in A.D. 416, a law was passed in the Roman world making infant baptism compulsory. Ten years later in A.D. 426 the Dark Ages began, lasting 1,000 years, during which time many Bible-believing Christians were martyred for their faith and their stance against the corrupting of the Scriptures taking place in their midst.
In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus spoke of those who would stand in the judgment and be told “I never knew you: depart from Me,” (Matthew 7:23). For those who do not come to God His way in repentance of their sin and faith in His Son, Jesus Christ Alone by His blood, but desire to come by water baptism or any other means, those words will be their doom. The Apostle Paul wrote, “I declare unto you the Gospel… by which you are saved… How that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4). Baptism is not the means of salvation; baptism by immersion is a picture of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection for the repentant sinner who has placed their faith and trust in Him pre-baptism, identifying with Him for eternity.
I declare unto you the Gospel,
How that Christ died for our sins;
That He was buried, And that He rose again.
I Corinthians 15:1-4
Throughout the Old Testament and during Jesus’ earthly ministry it was to the Jew first God’s righteousness was offered. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness (Genesis 15:6). When the Jews rejected God’s offer of salvation through Jesus Christ, the Promised Messiah, the Gentiles were afforded the opportunity to “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” (Acts 16:31). The Apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans wrote of the Gentiles’ righteousness coming by faith, whereas the Jews sought righteousness through the keeping of the law (Romans 9:30-32).
Earlier in Paul’s letter he had written, “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight,” (Romans 3:20). The Jews based righteousness on their futile attempts to obey all of God’s laws along with the hundreds of other man-made laws the priests had added to them throughout the centuries, not understanding God’s purpose “by the law is the knowledge of sin,” not salvation. The Law shows the need for a Savior, for no man can keep the whole Law. Paul wrote to the Galatians “the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith,” (3:24). To the Jews, Christ became a stumblingblock to them; they stumbled at laying aside their “works salvation” for a “righteousness by faith in Jesus Christ Alone salvation” as was preached to the Gentiles. Paul wrote of the Jews, “Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law.” He further wrote, “they… going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth,” (Romans 9:32; 10:3-4).
Paul tells us Moses described the righteousness which is of the law, “That the man which doeth those things shall live by them. BUT the righteousness which is of faith speaketh on this wise… That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved… For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon Him,” (Romans 10:5-13).
Righteousness by faith in Christ which the Jews would not accept as the New Covenant, is a righteousness of grace through faith; “not of yourselves… not of works.” It is Christ, the Perfect Lamb of God, who brings salvation to the whole world both Jew and Gentile, to everyone that believeth on Him and commits their life to Him (Luke 22:20; Romans 10:3; Ephesians 2:8-9).
As the Apostle Paul stood before King Agrippa recounting the events of his Damascus Road transformational experience, he quotes Jesus’ actual words to him that changed his life from darkness to Light. In Jesus’ own words we are given the path to forgiveness of sin and salvation unto eternal life.
The Apostle Paul had been accused of turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6) by preaching that Jesus, whom the Jews had crucified, was the Promised Messiah the Old Testament prophets had spoken of throughout the previous millennia. He spoke of the resurrection of the Messiah whom he encountered on his way to Damascus with orders from the high priest in Jerusalem to bring any believers in Christ he found back to the Holy City to be imprisoned for their faith. As a great Light brighter than the sun shone round about him on that designated road, Jesus delivered to him the way of salvation to God, the Father, for Saul who would become Paul and for all those who would follow (Acts 9).
Jesus spoke to Paul on the road to Damascus of opening the eyes to the Gospel, of which Paul wrote of in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4, “I declare unto you the Gospel… how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day.” Jesus then said what follows is what Paul needed to do, turn from the darkness to the Light, turn from the power of Satan to God, which is repentance. It is not enough just to know the Gospel; one must believe the Truth of the Gospel and turn away from sin, walking in newness of life based upon the commands of Holy God found in Scripture (Romans 6:4). In so doing, Jesus told Paul man would receive forgiveness of sin and an inheritance of eternal life, “sanctified by faith that is in Me” (Acts 26).
After being blinded by the great Light, three days later as soon as Paul’s sight was miraculously restored and along with his new life in Christ, he began proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ, sharing first with those at Damascus, then Jerusalem and Judea, and then to the Gentiles, “that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” Doing works “meet for repentance” is not working for one’s salvation, but is doing works because of one’s salvation. Paul wrote to Titus, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost: which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour,” (Titus 3:5). Salvation is of God, not of sinful man. God says all our righteousness is as filthy rags; we are all an unclean thing (Isaiah 64:6). There can never be a scintilla of righteousness in us apart from God and His redeeming grace.