Words of Salvation
Three very important words, that we all need to understand, are righteousness, temperance, and judgment. And we need to understand these words, as the bible uses them.
We typically say that “righteousness” is the keeping of God’s commandments. It really means, “to do justice”, but it means to do justice “in the eyes of God”. So then you can see how doing justice in the eyes of God, would be the same, as keeping His commandments. Righteousness is OBEYING God. That’s pretty straightforward. The prophet Micah, said it beautifully, in Micah 6, verse 8; “..And what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” Obey your God.
Our second word is “temperance”. And it simply means, self-control. Self-restraint we could say. Do you see how it goes hand-in-hand with righteousness? We need to control ourselves, so that we do ONLY, what God’s word ALLOWS us to do. Isn’t that also what obedience is? Restraining ourselves, to do only what God allows. Temperance is one of the “fruits of the Spirit”, listed in Galatians 5, verses 22 & 23. The NAS version uses the word, “self-control”. Those fruits are; “..Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”.
And then our third word is “judgment”? Sometimes in the bible, this word specifically means condemnation. Such as in Mathew 23, verse 14, where Jesus says; “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! Because you devour widow’s houses, even while for a pretense, you make long prayers, therefore, you shall receive greater condemnation.” Greater judgment!
Other times, the word “judgment” simply refers to the giving of a decision, or a “verdict”, as in a court of law. In Hebrews chapter 6, verse 2, it talks about; “Instruction about washings, and laying on of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.” “Eternal judgment” here, refers of course to the end of time, when the final “verdict” will be announced. It doesn’t specifically imply either good or bad verdict, simply the fact that this is the final word on our fate.
The Final Word!
So that’s some pretty serious stuff, isn’t it? The “final” word on the matter. We probably need to talk MORE, about the judgment, simply because it IS so serious.
Did you know, that your fate will actually have already been decided, even BEFORE the judgment day? Your eternal destiny is decided WHILE you live!
Jesus says in John 3, verse 18; “He who believes in Him is NOT judged.” There’s an example of the idea of condemnation again. “He who believes in Him, is NOT condemned! So then, while you live, if you believe in HIM, it’s already been decided, that you will NOT be condemned. You won’t be judged. “But he who does NOT believe, has been judged ALREADY!” If you don’t believe in Christ, while you live, then you’ve already been condemned. The reason for that condemnation, is given in the same verse; “Because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.”
Acts 4, verse 12 tells us; “There is salvation in NO one else; For there is NO other name under heaven, given among men, by which we must be saved.” Only the name of Jesus. So then we’re either condemned or NOT condemned, even while we live. But on the judgment day, the official announcement of that verdict, will be made. And then the appropriate recompense will be handed out.
That’s what we’re told in 2 Corinthians 5, verse 10; “For we must ALL appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed, for his deeds done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good, or bad.”
Now listen to verse 11, because it’s a very important verse; “Therefore, knowing the FEAR of the Lord, we persuade men..” There’s a little more to that verse, but that’s the part I want to impress on you. “Knowing the fear of the Lord..” In other words, KNOWING, what it says in Hebrews 10, verse 31; “It is a fearful thing, to fall into the hands of the living God!”
Here’s a serious question that God asks us, in Hebrews 2, verses 2 & 3; “For if the word spoken through angels proved UN-alterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a JUST reward, how shall we escape, if we NEGLECT, so great a salvation?” To NEGLECT, so great a salvation, is to NOT become a Christian.
“If You Believe Not that I am He, You will die in Your Sins” John 8:24
If you simply don’t believe, then you can’t be a Christian, and you can’t be saved. But if you DO believe, then that opens the door for you. Once you believe, then you have the opportunity to repent of sins, and confess your faith, and to be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and THEN you become a Christian, and THEN you’re saved. But if you don’t do those things, then you remain lost.
Therefore, “Knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men..” Or at least, we do our very best to TRY to persuade men. That’s why we preach and teach the bible, every chance we get. Because people need to be saved.
Did you know, that when Jesus said “He who believes in Him, is not judged”, what He means, is that he who OBEYS what he believes in, is not judged? It’s true! When the bible tells us that we’ll be saved if we believe in Jesus, it means that we must also DO the things that the bible tells us to DO. In other words, we must obey, God’s word.
You need proof of that, don’t you? Here’s a verse that I really love, because it makes this point so clear. John 3, verse 36; Listen closely; “He who believes in the Son, has eternal life, but he who does NOT obey the Son, shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” Those are the words of God. The apostle John wrote it, but it’s really the words of God. And do you see what God is saying? Listen again; “He who believes in the Son, has eternal life, but he who does NOT obey, shall not see life..”
You either believe, or you DON’T obey. You either obey, or you don’t believe. You could say it either way. But the point is; When it comes to salvation, you can NOT separate believing from obeying, because they are so intertwined, that they virtually mean the same thing.
That’s why God says; “Faith without works is dead, being by itself.” (James 2, verse 17) In other words; “Faith without obedience is dead, being by itself.” The kind of “works” that God is talking about here, are works of obedience. And our God makes that perfectly clear in verse 21, when He says; “Was not Abraham our father, justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac, on the alter?”
God commanded Abraham to offer Isaac, and Abraham obeyed. (You’ll find that in Genesis chapter 22) And when Abraham obeyed, God said that he was justified by works. Works of obedience, to the commands of God, are inseparable, from belief. If you don’t DO the works, then you don’t really believe in God. It’s that simple. If you don’t DO what God says, then obviously, you don’t BELIEVE what God says.
A Bible Story
I want to tell you a bible story. And by the end of the story, you’ll see how it ties in with what we’re talking about.
In the book of Acts, we learn of a man named Felix. Felix was a procurator of Judea. That’s a fancy word for a governor. So Felix was the governor of Judea. But Felix came to be governor, in a bit of an unusual way. Felix was at one time a slave. He was one of the household slaves belonging to a woman named Agrippina, who was the mother of the Roman Emperor Claudius. To make a long story short, Claudius became familiar with Felix, and took a liking to him, and he actually elevated Felix, from the position of a household slave, to the position of governor of the province of Judea.
And as governor of Judea, Felix ended up being the one in authority over the apostle Paul, after Paul had been arrested for preaching Christ.
Paul, at one point, had been a very prominent religious leader among the Jews. He was a Pharisee, with quite a bit of authority. But then he became converted to Christ, and when he did, he didn’t get elevated. At least not socially, or politically. Paul became a slave to Christ, when he became a Christian. He didn’t consider himself, as even having a life of his own anymore. He was completely owned by Christ. He said in Galatians 2, verse 20; “I’ve been crucified with Christ, and it’s no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me..” His life wasn’t even his own.
In Acts chapter 24, we see these two people meet, Paul and Felix. They had both travelled different paths; One went from a slave, to a ruler, and then to a judge, and the other went from a ruler, to a slave, and then to a prisoner. But their paths happened to cross. Paul had been imprisoned, because he had found favor from Christ, and Felix was going to preside over Paul’s trial, because he had found favor from the emperor Claudius. Isn’t that interesting how things sometimes work out.
Here’s how the apostle Paul, describes his own transformation.. (you might want to turn to Acts chapter 22, and follow along)
Paul says, in Acts 22, beginning in verse 3; “I am a Jew, born in Tarsus of Cilicia, but brought up in this city (Jerusalem) educated under Gamaliel, strictly, according to the law of our fathers, being zealous for God, just as you are today. And I persecuted this WAY (the WAY he’s referring to, is faith in Christ) to death, binding and putting both men and women into prisons, as also the high priest and all the council of the elders can testify. From them, I also received letters to the brethren, and started off for Damascus, in order to bring even those who were there, to Jerusalem as prisoners to be punished.”
“And it came about, that as I was on my way, approaching Damascus about noontime, a very bright light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me. And I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me; Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? (Saul, was Paul’s Jewish name) And I answered; Who art thou, Lord? And He said to me; I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.”
Have you ever persecuted Jesus? No? You certainly haven’t persecuted Jesus to the extent that Paul did. But have you ever been “indifferent” towards Jesus? Jesus said, in Luke 11, verse 23; “Whoever is not with Me, is against Me. And whoever does not gather with Me, scatters.”
If you’re indifferent towards Jesus, are you “with Him”? You’re not, are you? You’re not WITH Him, if you’re indifferent about Him. What’s the only other alternative then? If you’re not with Christ, you’re against Him, right?
If someone is NOT a Christian, who’s side are they on? You have to choose to be on Christ’s side don’t you? But if you’ve chosen to NOT be a Christian, then you’ve chosen to be against Christ, wouldn’t that be correct? Paul admits clearly, that he was on the side of the persecution. In his eyes, he was a powerful man, and an important man. And in his eyes, he was a free man. But he was about to change sides. Very shortly here, Paul is going to become a slave to Christ.
Let’s go back to reading from Acts chapter 22, beginning in verse 9; “And those who were with me, beheld the light to be sure, but did not comprehend the voice of the One speaking to me. And I said; What shall I do Lord? And the Lord said to me; Arise, and go into the city of Damascus, and there, you will be told, of all that has been appointed for you to do.”
“But since I could not see, because of the brightness (or glory) of that light, I was led by the hand, by those who were with me, and came to Damascus.”
Paul wrote to Timothy one time, and told him; “Even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor, and a violent aggressor; And yet I was shown mercy, because I had acted ignorantly, in unbelief.” (1 Tim 1:13)
Paul was ignorant of the true desires of God, concerning Christ, and so he acted in unbelief. And of course, unbelief, results in disobedience. But now everything was going to change. It took being blinded by the brightness of Christ, but Paul became a believer at that moment. But he wasn’t saved yet, because he hadn’t done anything ABOUT his belief yet.
Remember what Christ had told him? “Arise and go into the city of Damascus, and there you will be told, of all that has been appointed for you to do.” God has “appointed”, that certain things must be done in order to be saved. That phrase, “has been appointed”, comes from a word that means, “I have arranged, I have set in place, and I have ordained”. Paul is going to be told exactly what it is, that has been ordained by God, that HE must do, and that WE must do to be saved.
There was a Christian named Ananias, living there in the city of Damascus. And God spoke to Ananias in a vision, and told him to go to a certain location where Paul would be waiting. Acts 9, and verse 9, tells us that Paul “was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank.” Paul was there in Damascus waiting to be told what to do. He must have been a believer at this point, because he was doing exactly what Jesus had told him to do.
Paul the Believer, is Not Yet Saved
So Paul the believer is waiting to be told what he must do, and God sends Ananias, to deliver that message. Here’s what Ananias, tells Paul, beginning in verse 14; “..The God of our fathers, has appointed you, to know His will, and to see the Righteous One (that’s Jesus), and to hear a message from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him, to all men, of what you have seen and heard.”
So God had some special plans for Paul. God had “appointed”, that Paul should actually SEE and Hear, Jesus Christ. And he was to be a witness for Christ, to all men. Paul had believed Jesus. He went three days, without food or water, showing his belief, AND showing his sorrow for the things he had done, but Paul wasn’t saved yet. He hadn’t been forgiven of any sins yet. So here’s what Ananias tells Paul to do about that..
Verse 16; “And now, why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name.” Paul believed, he demonstrated his repentance, and his sorrow, and now he was told to wash away his sins, by being baptized. THEN Paul became a Christian.
Acts 9, verses 19 & 20 tell us; “Now for several days, he was with the disciples who were at Damascus, and immediately, he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying; He is the son of God.” Paul was confessing his faith, by preaching Jesus.
But later on, Paul was arrested for preaching Jesus, and he went to trial, and came before a man named Felix. And Felix, along with his wife Drusilla, who was of the Jewish faith, “sent for Paul, and heard him, about faith in Christ.” (Acts 22, verse 24)
And Verse 25 says; “And as he was discussing.. righteousness, and temperance, and the judgment to come, Felix became frightened, and said; Go away for the present, and when I find time, I will send for you.”
Paul preached to Felix, about righteousness, and temperance, and the judgment to come. And Felix became frightened. And I’m sure that it wasn’t the “doing of God’s will”, or the matter of self-control, that frightened Felix. But rather, I’m sure it was the “judgment to come” that had him scared. And it should have us all scared! We should be scared enough, that we wouldn’t want to wait another day, to become a Christian.
“He who believes in Him, is not judged.” And we know that when God says to believe, He means to obey. “But he who does NOT believe, has already been condemned.”
Believe in Jesus Christ, and in His gospel. Repent of your sins, and confess your faith in Him. and then, be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will then, be a Christian. And then, you will not be judged.
Obedience, self-control, and then judgment to come. Think about it, as God gives you the opportunity to obey.
As always, your comments and questions are deeply appreciated. Please tell me how you feel about this, and other bible subjects.