In Lesson Four we learned about the wonderful things that Jesus Christ said and did while he was on earth. However, you may wonder what all this has to do with you. You may be asking: “Did Jesus die in my place? Can I find forgiveness for all my sins? Can I really be sure that I will live forever with Jesus in glory?”
1. What does it mean to be “saved”?
Being saved is not the same as being baptized or joining a church or making a public profession of faith. Being saved involves an inward change in a person’s mind and heart which is brought about by the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. A person who is saved sincerely trusts in Jesus Christ as the one who paid the penalty for his sins and accepts Jesus as the Lord and Master of his life. A saved person is therefore a child of God whose sins have all been forgiven and who has received the gift of eternal life.
To all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)
The blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7)
God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. (1 John 5:11)
2. How can God forgive us without punishing us?
God forgives us because Jesus Christ, the sinless Son of God, took on himself the punishment which we deserved. When we put our trust in Jesus and accept him as our Savior, he becomes our substitute. God accepts Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross in our behalf and declares us not guilty.
He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)
All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. (Romans 3:23-25)
3. Is God actually willing to forgive all our sins?
Yes, every one! There is no sin too great or too serious to be beyond God’s forgiving grace. However, we should remember that God’s gracious forgiveness does not always repair the harm that is done in this life because of our sins. The guilt of our sin is gone, but the
consequences of our sin may continue in many different ways.
Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. (Isaiah 1:18)
As far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:12)
He [God] will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7:19)
4. What must I do in order to receive this wonderful salvation?
You must humbly repent of your sins and sincerely believe that Jesus died in your place. Faith is not simply a mental belief that Jesus died on the cross for “the sins of the world.” It is a sincere belief that Jesus died specifically for you. It also includes treasuring Jesus as supremely precious, desiring to have Jesus take control of your life, and sincerely committing yourself to please and honor him in all that you do.
The apostle Paul said: Testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)
Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out. (Acts 3:19)
Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household. (Acts 16:31)
5. What does it mean to repent?
To repent involves honestly admitting that we have not lived the way God wants us to live, sincerely grieving over the ways we dishonor God and hurt others through our failures and sins, truly desiring to stay away from those sins in the future, and genuinely intending to live the rest of our lives the way God wants us to live. We may have to repent over and over again, but our sincere desire and intention is to increasingly do the will of God through the help of the Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions . . . wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow . . . Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:1,7, 9-10, 12)
The apostle Paul said, “I declared that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance.” (Acts 26:20)
6. Can’t we earn salvation by simply doing our best to live a good life?
No. If we do not truly love Jesus and put our trust in him, even our best works will merit nothing. Salvation is a gift of God’s mercy and grace. It is impossible to merit it or earn it. Besides, even if we committed only one sin (and we all commit far more), we would have to
pay the penalty for that sin. And, the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
There is none who does good, not even one. (Psalm 53:3)
We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)
God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ . . . For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9)
7. Is there another way to be saved if we do not believe in Jesus?
No. Many people have tried to find another way through punishing themselves, showing kindness to others, giving gifts to the poor, making some significant personal sacrifices, serving other gods, or simply doing the best they can. But none of these things will erase our sins or give us peace with God.
Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
All the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him [Jesus] receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:43)
For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all. (1 Timothy 2:5-6)
There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved. (Acts 4:12)
Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son. And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. (1 John 5:10-12)
8. What does the Bible teach about being born again?
No one can be saved unless he is born again. This involves a radical change in our lives which no one can accomplish by himself any more than a person can arrange for his own natural birth.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3)
You have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God. (1 Peter 1:23)
9. What does it mean to be born again?
To be born again is to receive a new, inner spiritual life through the Holy Spirit. When that happens, the believer becomes a new creation in Christ and a child of God. (See Lesson Six for more information about the Holy Spirit.)
Jesus said, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” (John 3:6-7)
To all who did receive him [Jesus], who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:12-13)
No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. (1 John 3:9)
Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God. (1 John 5:1)
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
10. Why is it necessary for someone to be born again in order to enter the kingdom of heaven?
Without the new birth, we are all spiritually dead, born under the sentence of death, and deserving of God’s punishment. Unless we are spiritually changed in our hearts and minds through the work of the Holy Spirit, we remain under the sentence of death.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me. (Psalm 51:5)
You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world . . . We all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. (Ephesians 2:1-3)
And you, who were dead in your trespasses . . . God made alive together with him (Christ). (Colossians 2:13)
11. What great blessings are given to everyone who is born again?
Everyone who sincerely repents of his sins and trusts in Jesus as Savior becomes a child of God. He receives the gift of eternal life and is no longer under the sentence of death because of his sins. He also is given a genuine desire to live for God in a way that pleases and honors him.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Romans 10:9)
To all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)
These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)
12. What is eternal life and when does it begin?
Eternal life is not simply a life that does not end. Eternal life involves a new relationship between a believer and God. It is a relationship of love, joy, and peace that begins the moment someone believes in Jesus and will never end. Through faith the eternal life of God enters into us as the Holy Spirit of God comes into our hearts.
Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.” (John 6:47)
This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)
By this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:24)
13. If we believe in Christ, is it important for us to confess our faith publicly and also to be baptized?
Yes. Public confession of our faith in Jesus and water baptism are both very important. However, there may be times when a person chooses not to make a public profession of faith or be baptized immediately. This might be true, for example, when a public profession of faith would alienate family or friends whom the new convert is trying to reach with the Gospel. Or a public baptism might result in significant persecution which would remove a mother or father or young person from their home. It is important that we do not deny Christ, but we may have to be prudent in choosing a time and place for our baptism.
Jesus said, “Everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:32-33)
Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. (Acts 2:38)
When they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. (Acts 8:12)
If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. (Romans 10:9-10)
14. Can we be absolutely sure that we are saved for eternity?
Yes. God’s promises are sure, so we never have to doubt them. Even when we fail at times to live the way God wants us to live (or fail to live as we ourselves want to live), we may be sure that God will continue to love us and forgive us when we truly put our trust in Jesus.
Jesus said: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:13)
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)
For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:38-39)
1. What does it mean to be saved?
In general, we refer to salvation as something that takes place only once in a person’s life. One cannot be saved today and lost tomorrow and then be saved over and over again. Salvation is not the same as forgiveness. A person can be forgiven over and over again (and all believers are forgiven repeatedly), but truly saved only once. Salvation involves the sincere confession of our sins and a sincere profession of faith in Jesus Christ as the one who died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. When we sincerely confess and profess these things, we become children of God, our sins are forgiven, and we are given the gift of eternal life. We may still sin at times after we are saved and we may also lose our sense of the blessedness and joy of our salvation, but sin by itself does not take away our position as saved children of our heavenly Father. By sincerely confessing our sins and humbly asking for forgiveness, we can again be restored to a right relationship to God. We obviously should never take our sins lightly or act as if they don’t matter very much. However, we should not let our sins and weaknesses destroy our confidence that we truly belong to Christ in spite of those weaknesses. Recall the words of David in Psalm 51 after he was guilty of the sins of adultery and murder: Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Let me hear joy and gladness . . . Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me . . . Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:7-12)
2. What must a person do to be saved?
We must sincerely confess our sins, demonstrate true repentance for what we have done or failed to do, and put our complete trust in Jesus and his sacrifice to atone for all our sins. It is very important, however, to realize that salvation is a gift and is not something we earn or merit. By confessing our sins and putting our trust in Jesus, we acknowledge that there is nothing we can do by ourselves to atone for our sins or make ourselves right with God. We do not simply promise that we will change our conduct and start walking on a new path and then assume that God will be satisfied with our good intentions or sincere promises. Rather, when we humbly confess our sins and place our trust in Jesus, we throw ourselves on his mercy with the acknowledgement that there is absolutely nothing we can do to win the favor of God or earn the gift of salvation.
Salvation is therefore always and completely a work of God’s GRACE rather than the result of human effort. It may be significant when a person sincerely says, “I’ll do better from now on,” but that is much different from recognizing our own inability to get right with God through our own efforts. The apostle Paul carefully obeyed all God’s Old Testament laws when he was younger, describing himself in Philippians 3:6 as someone who was “faultless” in regard to legal righteousness. However, in regard to salvation Paul wrote, But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5) A bit later he added: For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not 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, that we should walk in them. (Ephesians 2:8-9)
3. Can a person be saved without knowing it? Can a person think he is saved without really being saved?
The answer to both questions is YES. A person who is saved definitely should know that he is saved, without doubt or hesitation. However, there are people who are genuinely sorry for their sins and who sincerely trust in Jesus for salvation who still sometimes doubt that they are truly saved. This is particularly true when people focus on their own weaknesses and failures rather than focusing on the perfect life and atoning sacrifice of Jesus. They may feel that they simply are not good enough to be a child of God and they deeply regret that they still wrestle with significant sins in their lives. All believers should regret any sin in their lives, but they should not focus so much on their sins that they forget the many promises in the Bible that God will truly forgive all those who sincerely repent of their sins and trust him to forgive them all. As Isaiah 1:18 teaches: Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. And 1 John 1:9 teaches: If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
It is also possible for people to believe they are saved when they are not. Regrettably, there are many people like that. These people often take sin very lightly and therefore believe that they have nothing to worry about. They often overestimate their own holiness and underestimate their own sinfulness. They do not put their trust in Jesus alone, since they feel they don’t need a Savior. They often have a sense of self-righteousness and believe that they are much better than most other people. And even if they do recognize that they are not as good as they should be, many feel that God is a very kind and gracious being who really doesn’t take sin very seriously. In his sight (they argue), no one is so bad that he should suffer any significant punishment for whatever sins he might happen to have done.
These people are in a far worse situation than those who truly believe in Jesus but aren’t living the kind of holy life they would like to live. Those who are not absolutely sure of their salvation often tend to underestimate the mercy and kindness and grace of God, while those who don’t feel a need for a Savior tend to overestimate their own goodness while underestimating God’s holiness and righteousness. At one time the apostle Paul had much confidence in his own righteousness. However, when he came to know Jesus and put his faith in him, he realized that in God’s sight he had not been righteous at all (Philippians 3:4-9).
4. What is meant by “substitutionary atonement”?
This phrase refers to the teaching that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. That is, Jesus was our substitute when he died on the cross. We could never pay the penalty for our sins, so we needed a perfect Savior who was willing to die in our place so that our sins might be forgiven and God could look on us with favor instead of wrath. Romans 3:25 states this truth in these words: God put forward [Jesus] as a propitiation by his blood. 1 John 4:10 focuses on the love of God in substitutionary atonement: This is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. “Propitation” means a sacrifice that God lovingly provides, a sacrifice that endures God’s wrath against sin and brings the sinner into God’s favor and acceptance. Romans 5:10 states: While we were [God’s] enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son. We deserved to die because of our sin, but we could never pay the penalty for our sins and still live. Jesus therefore became our substitute, our sacrifice of propitiation. Since he had no sins to pay for, he and he alone could pay the penalty we deserve and still live!
After Jesus died and was buried, he arose again on the third day and returned to his Father in heaven. When the devil, the great accuser, wants to call attention to our sins, Jesus is there in the presence of the Father to declare that all our sins have already been paid for. As Romans 6:23 teaches, The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. We can therefore live all the days of our life on earth in gratitude, joy, and obedience for what Jesus has done for us as our perfect substitute.
The phrase substitutionary atonement is not found in most Bible translations. However, the idea of substitutionary atonement is found in every translation. It is at the very heart of the gospel. Included among the relevant Scripture passages are the following:
He [Jesus] was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:5-6) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us. (Galatians 3:13) He [Jesus] committed no sin . . . He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree [cross], that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (I Peter 2:23,24) Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Peter 3:18)
In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:10) He [Jesus] is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25) Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. (Romans 8:34)
5. If someone does not believe in Jesus, is there some other way he can be saved?
NO. Jesus is the only way to salvation. There is no other. Jesus himself said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). Jesus also said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever
believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). On another occasion Jesus said: “I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers . . I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved . . . I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . . I know my own and my own know me . . . and I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:7-15).
Throughout history there has never been any one else like Jesus. Only Jesus was perfect and totally free from sin (1 John 3:5; Hebrews 4:15). Only Jesus had the love and holiness and ability to give his life to pay for the sins of others. And no one else had the power to rise again from the dead. Jesus said: “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again.” (John 10:17-18) Very young children, of course, do not fully understand who Jesus was or what he did. But they still love and trust him and believe that he died for them. Even many older people have little knowledge or understanding of Jesus, but they do believe in him and trust him to be their Savior. Jesus himself said that we must become like little children (in humility, faith and trust) in order to enter the kingdom of heaven. (See Matthew 11:25, 18:3, 19:14.) It is Jesus who saves us—not our own efforts or knowledge. Anyone who is saved (at any time or any place) will be saved only because of what Jesus did when he lived a perfect life and died for the sins of those who put their trust in him. Jesus and Jesus alone is the perfect Savior— whether our knowledge of him is small or great.
6. What does it mean to be spiritually dead? Are all people spiritually dead unless they are born again?
A spiritually dead person is someone who is not saved. He has not been born again. Christ does not live in him. He has only the old “sin nature” with which everyone is born. Many people who are spiritually dead are self-centered, immoral, proud, foolish, and disobedient. However, spiritually dead people are not necessarily “bad” people in the sense that they are always violating the law or hurting others or robbing people or treating them disrespectfully. Some of them may actually be kind, friendly, helpful and pleasant to live with. However, they do not serve others out of love for God, they do not trust in Jesus, they to not seek to live according to the teachings of God’s Word, they do not put Christ first in their lives, they do not acknowledge or confess their sins before God, and they do not seek to live to the praise and honor of God. By human standards some of them may be considered “good” and worthy of praise. However, they do not have the love or the life of Christ in their hearts and they do not seek to live to the glory of God. They are spiritually lost. Ephesians 2:1-3 puts it this way: You were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air [Satan], the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Likewise, Colossians 2:13 reads: You, who were dead in your trespasses . . . God made alive together with him. Revelation 3:1 says: You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. According to the Bible, therefore, every person who is not born again is spiritually dead.
7. What does it mean to be born again? Can we somehow earn the privilege of being born again? Can a person be born again more than once?
To be born again means to receive new spiritual life from the Holy Spirit. It cannot be earned or merited by anything we do. It is a gift of God. And, just as we can be born physically only once, we can be spiritually “born again” only once.
Being born again involves the miraculous, spiritual, and somewhat “mysterious” work of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life. When a person is born again, it is as if the “seed” of new spiritual life is planted in the center of his life. He has a conviction of sin which drives him to genuine repentance, sincere faith in the atoning work of Jesus, a new purpose for living, a heartfelt desire to do what God wants him to do, a deep love for Jesus, and a genuine love for others. Being born again also brings a heart of joy, thanksgiving, and a new spirit of praise and gratitude in a person’s life. The following passages all refer to this new birth. Jesus said: Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)
[You] were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. (Ephesians 4:22-24)
You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. (Colossians 3:9-10)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope . . . to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. (1 Peter 1:3-4)
People who are born again are made new spiritually and have a sincere desire to serve God in every area of their lives. However, they are not yet perfect in this life. They still sin and fall short of being all they want to be or hope to be. As long as they are on this earth, they will still have to wrestle with failure and temptation. However, even if they do fail at times, they do not lose their status as children of God who are truly in Christ and destined for an eternity of joy and peace and love in his presence.
There are five important theological terms which describe various aspects of our salvation: regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification, and glorification.
• Regeneration describes being born again.
• Conversion describes the initial radical change in our lives when we turn away from living a sinful life that dishonors and displeases God to a life that honors and pleases him.
• Justification describes our standing before the judgment seat of God as people who are declared by God himself to be “not guilty.” God counts Jesus’ goodness as ours and counts our sins as paid for by Jesus. Even though we may still need to be cleansed over and over again, we as believers in Jesus are declared “justified” or “not guilty” because Jesus paid the penalty for all of our sins—past, present, and future, and because Jesus’ perfect obedience is forever counted as ours.
• Sanctification describes the process of becoming more holy in our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. Sanctification is a lifelong process which is never fully completed until the day of our death or Jesus’ return.
• Glorification describes the future glory which we will experience when we will be with Christ forever in glory. We will have perfect new bodies and will forever be without sin or sickness or sadness of any kind. We will also experience joy and love and peace far beyond anything we have ever experienced before. According to the Bible, our SALVATION includes regeneration, conversion, justification, sanctification and ultimately glorification.
8. What is meant by eternal life? Does this refer simply to the length of life or does it refer to something more than that?
The phrase “eternal life” does not always refer to exactly the same thing. “Eternal life” sometimes refers to a life that never ends. In that sense, “eternal life” is the same as “everlasting life.” However, “eternal life” may also refer to a new quality of life, a life in Christ that is far superior to life without Christ. This life, too, does not end, but the emphasis is more on the kind of life that a believer experiences rather than on the fact that it has no end. In some Bible translations the phrases “eternal life” and “everlasting life” seem to be used interchangeably. Consider the following passages.
This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. (John 17:3)
Jesus said: “Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)
Jesus said, “There is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:29-30)
Jesus said, “These [the unrighteous] will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” (Matthew 25:46)
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. (1 John 3:15)
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
9. Can a person be saved without being baptized? Can a person be baptized without being saved? Why is baptism important?
The answer to the first two questions is YES. Some people are truly saved but for one reason or another choose not be baptized (at least, not for a while). Perhaps they put off baptism because they are afraid of the reactions of family or friends or government authorities if they are baptized. Some may consider that baptism is not really important or required since they emphasize the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Still others may live in a place or situation where there is no one to baptize them.
Many others are baptized out of tradition or the expectations of family or friends but do not have a true saving relationship with Jesus Christ. Many children are also baptized but never come to the point where they commit their lives to Jesus.
Why is baptism important? First, because Jesus commanded believers to be baptized (Matthew 28:19). In the early church there appeared to be no questions about the importance of Christian baptism. Second, baptism is a sign and a seal that a person belongs to Jesus Christ, that his sins are washed away, and that he belongs to Christ in every area of his life. It is a great blessing for a person to live in this life knowing that he has received the God appointed sign that his sins are truly washed away and that he belongs for time and eternity to his Savior Jesus Christ.
[Note: There are many churches that practice the baptism of infants as well as the baptism of professing believers (of various ages). Those who practice infant baptism do so for different reasons. Some wrongly believe that children are saved through baptism itself. Others baptize infants only if they are children of believing parents. They emphasize that children of believers in the Old Testament received the sign of circumcision according to the explicit command of God. This sign indicated that the children of believers belonged to God and thus received a sign which indicated the removal of sin and impurity. In their understanding, children of believers today should receive baptism as the New Testament sign of this spiritual blessing. It is also interesting to note that three of the relatively few stories of baptism in the New Testament involved the baptism of entire families: Acts 16:15, Acts 16:31-33, 1 Corinthians 1:16.]
Jesus said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19)
Peter said: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)
As many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (Galatians 3:27)
In him also you were circumcised . . . by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)
See also the many examples of baptism in the early church: Acts 2:41; Acts 8:12,13,16, 38; Acts 9:18; Acts 10:48; Acts 16:15, 33; Acts 18:8; Acts 19:5; Acts 22:16. Also note in 1 Corinthians 1:13-17 where the apostle Paul indicated that he baptized very few believers, since he did not want people to focus on himself rather than on Jesus Christ. Paul was certainly not opposed to baptism itself, but he wanted new believers to recognize that Jesus is the Savior who died for them and that apostles and evangelists and preachers were just servants who proclaimed the message of salvation.
10. Is it possible to be absolutely sure of our salvation? If not, why not? If so, how do we gain this assurance?
Yes! It is possible to be sure of our salvation. Some may question this, since they know of people who at one time seemed to be saved but later left the faith and went back to another religion or to no religion at all. Others recognize that they themselves may not always be very confident of their salvation since their faith is weak at times and their lives do not always demonstrate that Christ lives within them. However, our assurance of salvation does not rest on anything that we have done or can do, but it rests completely on what CHRIST has done for us and our sincere belief in what the Bible teaches about him. If we truly believe the promises of God and humbly and sincerely confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior, then we may have be sure that we are truly God’s children. It’s also important, however, that our lives do reflect what we claim to believe! Not only should we seek to stay away from all known sin, but we should also firmly choose to pursue only that which is pleasing to our Lord. These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:31)
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:16)
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life. . . . We know that we are from God . . . and we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 5:19-20)
11. Is it possible to feel sure of our salvation even though we are not truly saved?
Yes! There probably are many people like that. They may put their trust in the fact that they were once baptized, are members of a local church, attend the church regularly, and read the Bible and pray fairly often. However, all these activities can hide the fact that they have never truly been born again, they do not truly love the Lord with their whole heart, and they are not putting their trust for salvation in Christ alone. It is therefore important for us to examine our own hearts and lives to make sure that our confidence is never based on our own activities but rather on the finished work of Jesus on the cross and his special work in our own hearts and lives.
If our faith is weak at times and we are not living as we should, we should earnestly pray to the Lord for spiritual renewal, greater love for him, and a sincere desire to serve him in all that we do. We should also again read and study those passages in the Bible which teach us about all that Jesus has done for us so that we build our lives on the solid foundation of the truth of God as found in his holy Word.
YOUR OWN SALVATION
After reading the questions and answers in this Lesson, you may still have some questions about your own personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You may not be sure that your sins have been forgiven. Or you may wonder whether or not you truly are a child of God. Or, perhaps you simply do not know what you should do in order to receive from God the gift of eternal life.
If you sincerely want to commit your life to Christ but are not sure what you should do, I encourage you to humbly and sincerely confess your sins to God, believe with all your heart that Jesus paid the penalty for your sins, and then, in faith, claim God’s promise to grant forgiveness and eternal life to all who truly believe.
In order to help you do this, I invite you to pray sincerely the following prayer or a similar prayer of your own.
Dear God, I confess that I have often sinned against you and have not lived the way you want me to live. I have done many things which I should not have done and have failed to do the things which I should have done. Please forgive me. I sincerely believe that Jesus died on the cross in my place and that he rose again for my salvation. In faith I accept from you the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. With all my heart I thank you for these gifts and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I promise to love and serve you as long as I live. I pray all of this in the name of my precious Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!
Read again the promises that God gives to all who confess their sins and put their trust in Jesus for forgiveness and eternal life.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)
God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. . . . I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (1 John 5:11-13)
These are the promises of God. Believe and live forever!