True Religion—Part 3 (Obedience)

Stan Crowley, Minister, Church of Christ at Schertz

schertz@swbell.net

In the previous two articles in this series we have looked at three of the Four R's of True Religion: Revelation, Righteousness, and Repentance. Today, we will look at Redemption.

When we choose to sin, we choose to reject God's will for us. Sin puts us in rebellion against God and will ultimately bring forth spiritual death (James 1:15). The justice of God demands eternal death as the appropriate payment for our sins (Rom. 6:23). How grateful we should be that our God is not only a God of justice, but also a God of mercy and grace! Through God's love and mercy Jesus Christ provided redemption by shedding His blood (Heb. 13:12, I Pet. 1:18-19).

For us, there is no other source of salvation except Jesus Christ (I John 4:14, Acts 4:12). But, to obtain the salvation He offers, we must believe in (John 8:24) and obey Him (Heb. 5:9, Rom. 6:17-18, I Pet. 1:22). Terrible consequences are promised for those who "… do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thess. 1:8 NKJV).

What exactly, though, does the New Testament teach that a person must do—must obey—to have this salvation that is available because of His sacrifice? In the New Testament there are three things that are linked with the redemption promised through the blood of Christ.

First, before we do anything physical, we must have that change of heart that the Scriptures call "repentance." Paul informs us: "For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation, a repentance which bringeth no regret: but the sorrow of the world worketh death" (II Cor. 7:10 ASV). {Underlining in Scriptures indicates emphasis added by the author of the article.}

It is important to note that in this verse, in the original Greek language, the word "unto" is a powerful Greek preposition that means "for," or, "in order to," or "unto." In the Greek, perhaps even stronger than in the English, repentance is inextricably linked to salvation.

But, that is not the only thing that is so strongly linked to salvation. Following that mental change, there are two actions that we must take that are just as strongly linked (with that same Greek preposition) to our salvation.

One action is that we must confess Christ. Paul wrote to the Romans: "For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation" (Rom. 10:10 NKJV). The word "unto" is that same powerful Greek preposition that now forms an unbreakable link between confession and salvation. If there is no confession, there is no salvation.

However, even our confession of Christ does not complete the required obedience. There is one other action that the New Testament Scriptures link to the redemption process—to the forgiveness of sins.

That final step in obtaining salvation is baptism. Peter said that baptism is "for," or "unto," the remission of sin: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…" (Acts 2:38 NKJV). Just as strongly as confession is linked to salvation, so baptism is linked by that same powerful Greek preposition, translated "for" in this verse. If there is no baptism, there is no salvation.

Realizing that many believe and teach that one is saved before baptism, let me offer three quick proofs that it is exactly at the point of baptism that one becomes a saved person.

Proof #1: Baptism is the act that puts us into Christ's body. You can use your concordance or your computerized Bible to search for "in Christ" or "in Jesus" or "in the Lord" to find all the passages that teach that "in Christ" is where we want to be. All spiritual blessings are "in Christ" (Eph. 1:3); salvation is "in Christ" (II Tim. 2:10). It is Christ's body that He saves (Eph. 5:23). But, if we want to be "in Christ," we must somehow get "into Christ."

Today, many different ways are taught for getting "into Christ." The New Testament teaches only one. Again, use your concordance or your computerized Bible to find all the scriptures that teach how to get "into Christ" or "into Jesus" or "into the Lord." You will find only two: Rom. 6:3 and Gal. 3:27. Both say we are baptized "into Christ."

Proof #2: Baptism is for the remission of sins. Acts 2:38 was used earlier to show the way baptism is linked with the "remission of sins" by that strong Greek preposition. Religious groups teach many different things about the meaning of that phrase, "for the remission of sins." Will we let our Lord teach us what it means? Jesus used the same phrase when He said His blood was "… shed for many for the remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28 NKJV). The phrase "for the remission of sins" in Acts 2:38 and Matt. 26:28 is exactly (letter for letter) the same in the KJV and the NKJV and in the Greek text from which they are translated.

Jesus' meaning is clear: the shedding of His blood was an action that was absolutely essential to the remission of sins. Anyone today who would say that baptism is not really necessary for the remission of sins, must admit that the shedding of Christ's blood is not really necessary for the remission of sins. And, in fact, Acts 2:38 is not the only time Peter says that baptism saves us. Years later Peter wrote: "… even baptism doth also now save us …" (I Pet. 3:21 KJV).

Proof #3: For our third proof that it is exactly at the point of baptism that we are saved, let me give you a proof that is different and, in ways, the most objective and convincing. This proof is the simple fact that no convert in the New Testament EVER delayed baptism.

Paul arose immediately to go to be baptized (Acts 22:16). When the Ethiopian in Acts 8 had been taught about Jesus, he must have been taught about baptism, because he said … "See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?" (Acts 8:36 NKJV). He immediately stopped the chariot and was baptized. Why stop that chariot in the wilderness and go into a strange body of water to be baptized unless it was to do something that was urgent?

When Paul was teaching that Philippian jailer and his household in the middle of the night, they responded to Paul's teaching by being baptized "the same hour of the night" (Acts 16:33-34). Why an urgency to be baptized under such extraordinary conditions, if baptism is not essential?

Those who heard the apostles and early evangelists preach and teach understood that baptism is the exact point at which one is forgiven of sins and becomes one of the saved. They were unwilling (and wisely so) to delay baptism—because they were unwilling to risk their eternal salvation by waiting.

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