Fruitful or Faithless? Part 1 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #13)

The Bible says in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

In response to the preaching of the gospel, whoever believes and is baptized will be saved by God from spiritual death, the penalty of sin. A single Greek article governs both substantival participles, linking them together in describing the inward, efficacious reception of the gospel by faith and the outward, public expression of that faith in water baptism.

Though the New Testament writers generally assume that under normal circumstances each believer will be baptized, Mark 16:16 does not mean that baptism is a necessary requirement for personal salvation. The second half of the verse indicates by contrast that one who does not believe the gospel will be condemned by God in the day of final judgment. The basis for condemnation is unbelief, not the lack of any ritual observance. Baptism is not mentioned because unbelief precludes one’s giving a confession of faith while being baptized by water. Thus the only requirement for personally appropriating God’s salvation is faith in Him.

Today’s quote is from J.C. Ryle. He said: “Saving faith and real converting grace will always produce some conformity to the image of Jesus.”

Our topic today is titled “Fruitful or Faithless? (Part 1)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise that person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation.

THREE CAVEATS

Having said that, some caveats, or cautions, are in order. First, this does not mean that a believer will always be fruitful. Certainly we can admit that if there can be hours and days when a believer can be unfruitful, then why may there not also be months and even years when he can be in that same condition? Paul exhorted believers to engage in good works so they would not be unfruitful. Peter also exhorted believers to add the qualities of Christian character to their faith lest they be unfruitful. Obviously, both of those passages indicate that a true believer might be unfruitful. And the simple fact that both Paul and Peter exhort believers to be fruitful shows that believers are not always fruitful.

Second, this does not mean that a certain person’s fruit will necessarily be outwardly evident. Even if I know the person and have some regular contact with him, I still may not see his fruit. Indeed, I might even have legitimate grounds for wondering if he is a believer because I have not seen fruit. His fruit may be very private or erratic, but the fact that I do not see it does not mean it is not there.

Third, my understanding of what fruit is and therefore what I expect others to bear may be faulty and/or incomplete. It is all too easy to have a mental list of spiritual fruit and to conclude that if someone does not produce what is on my list that he or she is not a believer. But the reality is that most lists that we humans devise are too short, too selective, too prejudiced, and often extrabiblical. God likely has a much more accurate and longer list than most of us do.

Nevertheless, every Christian will bear fruit; otherwise he or she is not a true believer. In speaking about the judgment seat of Christ, Paul says unequivocally that every believer will have praise come to him from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”

What is the Gospel? Part 3 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #12)

The Bible says in Romans 4:23-25: “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

Mentioning the Lord Jesus led Paul to state again the Savior’s central place in God’s program of providing righteousness for sinful people by grace through faith. Both Christ’s death and His resurrection are essential to that work of justification. He was delivered over (by God the Father) to death for our sins. Though not a direct quotation, these words in substance are taken from Isaiah 53:12. Also He was raised to life for our justification. Christ’s death as God’s sacrificial Lamb was to pay the redemptive price for the sins of all people so that God might be free to forgive those who respond by faith to that provision. Christ’s resurrection was the proof (or demonstration and vindication) of God’s acceptance of Jesus’ sacrifice. Thus because He lives, God can credit His provided righteousness to the account of every person who responds by faith to that offer.

In chapter 4, Paul presented several irrefutable reasons why justification is by faith: (1) Since justification is a gift, it cannot be earned by works. (2) Since Abraham was justified before he was circumcised, circumcision has no relationship to justification. (3) Since Abraham was justified centuries before the Law, justification is not based on the Law. (4) Abraham was justified because of his faith in God, not because of his works.

Today’s quote is from Horatius Bonar. He said: “The gospel is the proclamation of free love; the revelation of the boundless charity of God. Nothing less than this will suit our world; nothing else is so likely to touch the heart, to go down to the lowest depths of depraved humanity, as the assurance that the sinner has been loved — loved by God, loved with a righteous love, loved with a free love that makes no bargain as to merit, or fitness, or goodness.”

Our topic today is titled “What is the Gospel? (Part 3)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

THE KEY ISSUE IN UNDERSTANDING THE GOSPEL

Some of the confusion regarding the meaning of the Gospel today may arise from failing to clarify the issues.

One is, What is it that bars me from heaven? What is it that prevents my having eternal life? The answer is sin. The second issue is, How can my sins be forgiven? I need some way to resolve that sin problem. And God declares that the death of His Son provides forgiveness of my sin. “Christ died for our sins”—that’s as plain as it could possibly be. Sinners need a Savior. Christ is that Savior and the only valid one. Through faith I receive Him and His forgiveness. Then the sin problem is solved, and I can be fully assured of going to heaven.

I do not need to believe in Christ’s second coming in order to be saved. I do not need to receive Him as my present intercessor. But I do need to believe that He died for my sins and rose triumphant over sin and death. I do not need to settle issues that belong to Christian living in order to be saved. I do not need to pledge a portion of my future income in order to be saved. I do not need to be willing to give up smoking in order to be saved. Matters of carnality, spirituality, fruit-bearing, and backsliding relate to the Christian life, not to the issue of salvation. Only the Lord Jesus, God who became man, could and did resolve that problem by dying for us. He had to be human in order to be able to die, and He had to be God in order for that death to be able to pay for the sins of the world.

Keep the key issue in the Gospel clear: We are sinners and Christ died to provide forgiveness for our sins.

THE DIRECTION OF THE GOSPEL

We also must keep the direction of the Gospel clear.

The good news is that Christ has done something about sin and that He lives today to offer His forgiveness to you and me. The direction is from Christ to me. It is never from me to Him. I do not offer Him anything. How could I? What could I possibly offer that would help meet my need? To offer the years of my life is to offer something very imperfect and something that can do nothing to forgive my sin. To vow my willingness to change is to affirm something I will not consistently keep; and even if I could, it would not remove the guilt of my sin.

Of course, when I receive eternal life from His hand, I bow before an infinitely superior Person. But I bow as one totally unable to do anything about my sin. I bow as a recipient of His grace and never as one who donates anything to Him. In salvation I am always the recipient; the donee, never the donor. If I try to donate anything with respect to becoming a Christian, then I have added a work, and salvation is no longer solely and purely of grace. Keep the direction straight, and keep His grace unmixed with any work.

What is the Gospel? Part 2 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #11)

The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8: “For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, 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: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

Paul included himself in the company of all believers when he spoke of receiving the truth of Christ’s death and His resurrection on behalf of sinful people. These verses, the heart of the gospel, were an early Christian confession which Paul described as of first importance. It was really a twofold confession:Christ died for our sins and He was raised. The reality of this was verified by the Scriptures and by historical evidence verified by time in the grave and out of it, in the presence of the living. The fact that He was buried verified His death, and the fact that He appeared to others verified His resurrection. Peter, the first male witness, was soon joined by the remaining disciples who composed the Lord’s immediate circle.

Paul considered himself abnormally born because he lacked the “gestation” period of having been with Christ during His earthly ministry. It seems that the apostles were a body wider than the previously mentioned Twelve, but were all distinguished by having seen the resurrected Christ which made Paul the last of their company.

Because he was the last, like a runt, untimely born, Paul could call himself the least of the apostles. He felt less deserving of the office because he had been an opponent of the church which he now served.

Today’s quote is from Frederick W. Robertson. He said: “Every natural longing has its natural satisfaction. If we thirst, God has created liquids to gratify thirst. If we are susceptible of attachment, there are beings to gratify that love. If we thirst for life and love eternal, it is likely that there are an eternal life and an eternal love to satisfy that craving.”

Our topic today is titled “What is the Gospel? (Part 2)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

GOOD NEWS IN PAUL’S WRITINGS

Paul gives us the precise definition of the Gospel we preach today in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8. The Gospel is the good news about the death and resurrection of Christ. He died and lives—this is the content of the Gospel. The fact of Christ’s burial proves the reality of His death. He did not merely swoon only to be revived later, as some critics claim. He actually died, and died for our sins. The inclusion of a list of witnesses proves the reality of His resurrection. He died for our sins and was buried (the proof of His death); He rose and was seen by many witnesses, the majority of whom were still alive when Paul wrote 1 Corinthians (the proof of His resurrection).

This same twofold content of the good news appears again in Romans 4:25: He “delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” Everyone who believes in that good news is saved, for that truth, and that alone, is the gospel of the grace of God.

In days past (and even today) we heard much about the “full Gospel,” which included experiencing certain ministries of the Holy Spirit. To be saved, one not only had to believe but also, for example, receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Churches that taught this doctrine were sometimes called “full Gospel” churches. Today we hear about the “whole Gospel,” which includes the redemption of society along with the redemption of individuals. But Paul wrote clearly that the Gospel that saves is believing that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead. This is the complete Gospel, and so it is also the true full Gospel and the true whole Gospel. Nothing else is needed for the forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life.

What is the Gospel? Part 1 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #10)

The Bible says in John 6:37: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck: “There is an election of God which is the Father’s gift to the Son. The Son has no concern that His work will be ineffective, for the Father will enable people to come to Jesus. Jesus has confidence. But people may have confidence also. One who comes to Jesus for salvation will by no means be driven away.”

Today’s quote is from Charles Spurgeon. He said: “I would sooner pluck one single brand from the burning than explain all mysteries.”

Our topic today is titled “What is the Gospel? (Part 1)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

Consider this tale of two students. The first is a straight-A student. He has not received anything less than an A in his entire university career. The second has never received an A in his life. Actually, he struggles to pass.

One semester both find themselves in the same class, and both are in trouble academically. There is a real possibility the A student may receive a B for the course, while the struggling student might not even pass.

The semester ends and both anxiously await their grades. Now suppose the professor goes to the A student and says, “I have good news for you. You passed.” To the A student, that is definitely not good news. The only good news he wants to hear is that he received an A. But for the other student, the message that he passed would be the best news he could hear. “You received an A” and “you passed” are both good news, but with quite different content. Both are “gospels,” but they are different gospels.

THE GOOD NEWS

Our English word gospel means “good story” or “good news.”

But the word gospel must be further defined by answering one more question: good news about what? Even the New Testament uses the word gospel to mean various types of good news, so one has to describe what good news is in view.

For example, in 1 Thessalonians 3:6 Paul wrote that Timothy brought good news, literally a gospel, of the steadfastness of the new converts in Thessalonica. This gospel did not concern eternal salvation; rather it was the good news that the spiritual condition of the Thessalonian believers was vibrant.

Paul warned against the false gospel of the Judaizers in Galatians 1:6. Their good news or gospel included the requirement to be circumcised as well as to believe in order for one to be saved. No gospel of grace was this, for a human work had been added—circumcision.

GOOD NEWS IN THE GOSPELS

In the gospel of Matthew, all but one time the word gospel is used concerning the good news or gospel of the kingdom. This was the message of John the Baptist, of our Lord, and of the twelve disciples when they were first sent out by the Lord.

What was this good news about the kingdom? The correct answer lies in the concept and hope of the kingdom that the Jewish people had at the time of the first coming of Christ. In fact, their hope was for the establishment of the promised rule of Messiah in His kingdom on this earth, and in a kingdom that would exalt the Jewish people and free them from the rule of Rome under which they lived.

But the rule of heaven did not arrive during Jesus’ lifetime because the people refused to repent and meet the spiritual conditions for the kingdom. Most only wanted a political deliverance without having to meet any personal requirements for change of life. So the kingdom did not arrive because the people would not prepare properly for it.

But this did not mean there would never be a Davidic, millennial kingdom. The Lord taught that it would not appear immediately, but He also predicted that the Gospel, the good news of the kingdom, would be preached yet again in the future period of the Great Tribulation. And in that wicked time when Satan and the forces of evil will have almost totally free rein, it will be very good news to know that soon Messiah will rule on the earth.

All of Matthew’s references to the Gospel concern this good news about the kingdom except one, Matthew 26:13. There the Lord said that wherever the good news about His death was preached, Mary Magdalene’s good deed of anointing Him in anticipation of that death would be known.

Mark’s use of the term gospel uniformly emphasizes the person of Christ. Our Lord is the central theme of the good news. Luke also used the word to underscore the centrality of Christ to the good news as well as announcing the kingdom. John does not use the word gospel at all, though of course he records the important teaching on the new birth.

Straw Men and Salvation, Part 4 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #9)

[audio https://www.buzzsprout.com/26114/201379-straw-men-and-salvation-part-4-understanding-god-s-great-salvation-9.mp3]

The Bible says in Luke 2:10: “And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

An announcing angel and other angels appeared at night to a group of shepherds and heralded the birth of the Savior in the town of David, that is, Bethlehem. The shepherds may have been caring for lambs which were destined for sacrifice during the time of Passover. The appearance of the angel and of the radiant glory of the Lord terrified them. The Greek word for “terrified” (literally, “they feared a great fear”) stresses the intensity of this fear. The angels’ message was comforting. The shepherds were told not to be afraid. The message was that “a Savior,” Christ the Lord, was born. This was good news of great joy. Throughout Luke “joy” is often associated with salvation. This news was to be proclaimed to all the people. These were specifically the people of Israel, but perhaps Luke also hinted that the Savior would be for all mankind.

Today’s quote is from R.A. Torrey. He said: “I am ready to meet God face to face tonight and look into those eyes of infinite holiness, for all my sins are covered by the atoning blood.”

Our topic today is titled “Straw Men and Salvation (Part 4)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

The fourth straw man underscores the need to represent accurately opposing viewpoints. Quoting from someone exactly (as indicated by quotation marks around the quote) guarantees an accurate representation of what the person believes. That is what proponents of lordship salvation sometimes do when they lift from context quotes by those who hold a position contrary to their own.

It is not difficult to extract a quotation from its context and make it seem to say what you wanted it to say rather than what the author intended it to say and what in fact it does say. That kind of straw man is easily demolished, especially if you quote something that seems ridiculous out of context.

The misuse of exact quotations has always made me very wary when writing book reviews. A good book review should evaluate a book from several aspects — what is good about it, what may have been omitted, what the reviewer disagrees with. Relatively few books I have reviewed in my lifetime have been totally and completely bad. Therefore, I try to point out in what areas the book will be helpful. But what often happens is that when the second edition of the book appears, the publisher will redo the dust jacket to include excerpts from published reviews. It goes without saying that the publisher will not publicize any detrimental comments. But in quoting only positive remarks from reviews, the reviewer’s evaluation will be misrepresented and sometimes grossly so.

I reviewed a book some years ago and said that it filled “an important gap in our literature,” that it “should be studied,” and that “The publication of this book will be welcomed by evangelicals.” But I also pointed out some of the author’s basic presuppositions with which I disagreed and some of his exegesis which I thought to be wrong. What do you think the publisher quoted on the jacket to the second edition?

So be on guard. If for any reason you suspect that a quotation does not fairly represent what you think you know of someone’s teaching, then check into it. It goes without saying that to misrepresent intentionally, even if quoting exactly, is unworthy of a Christian author or publisher.

Other straw men, such as using the phrase “cheap grace” or saying that salvation has no practical consequences, will be examined in subsequent chapters. But for now, exposing the four which we have covered may help clear the air and focus our attention on the meaning of the biblical text about salvation. That’s where the truth is, and if we understand it accurately and express it with semantic clarity, both the truth and those to whom we communicate it will be well served.