Serving From Our Salvation – Not For Our Salvation
Study Guide, October 13, 2019
Pastor Clay Olsen
Every once in a while I get requests to clarify certain Bible teachings so as to help all of our Chapel family have a clearer understanding of these teachings and to then be able to better communicate them to others in our community or in our families that are still confused about such matters. So by the grace of God and the revelation of the Scriptures and the guidance of the Holy Spirit let’s look further into some of these matters.
One of the most helpful things you can share with others, even with some who have been in Bible believing churches for many years, is the inspiring and liberating teaching of the Bible of the difference between serving God from our salvation and not for our salvation. Many have historically and naturally confused service with salvation and have therefore confused our works with God’s grace. And many have not yet come to realize or understand that in relation to salvation, or in relation to us having a saved relationship with God, our works and God’s grace are complete opposites. Notice the Apostle Paul’s clear words on this: Rom 11:6- “But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.” NASU
There are only two ways to approach God for salvation: either by our own merits and works or by Christ’s merits and works on our behalf. And of course, Paul makes that as clear as can be made when he said: Eph 2:8-9- “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.” NASU And the NLT also helps clarify it all by putting it this way: “God saved you by His grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it.”
Right away we see crucial things to understand about our salvation. Salvation is not a reward for our works. Salvation is a gift based upon Christ’s works on our behalf, or in our place. He lived a substitutionary life for us. He obeyed the Law of God perfectly for us and of course He then died to remove our sin sentence from us.
Sometimes, even in Biblical Gospel teaching churches, when talking about Salvation and Heaven, from time to time you hear someone say, “Well, I hope I’ll make it.” Wait a minute! What are they hoping in? Our only hope of salvation is Jesus Christ alone. Again, our only hope is certainly not in our own works, but only in the grace and mercy and merit of Jesus Christ alone as our Savior. Remember, when it comes to our salvation, ‘Hope’ is a ‘Person’, not a ‘work’. Hope is the Person of Jesus Christ, not a work of ours. If your trust for your Salvation is in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, you can have a ‘know so’ assurance about going to Heaven, not a ‘hope so’ attitude about it. So, help others better understand that key teaching.
But also notice, often you hear people say that we are saved by faith and not by works. And while that sounds clear, even this can begin to cloud up the clear Biblical picture of salvation, because Paul made it clear that we are saved not by faith, but we are saved BY GRACE through faith. God’s salvation comes to us through faith, but it’s by God’s grace. God’s grace is God handing His gift of salvation to us. Our faith is simply us opening up our hands to receive His gift. Or, has been aptly stated: The moving cause of salvation is Grace. The meritorious cause of salvation is Christ. And the instrumental cause of salvation is Faith. Faith is understanding and agreeing to the truth about what God has said about our sin and about our Savior. Faith is acting upon this truth by believing and committing oneself to this truth. So again, it is not faith in Christ that saves, but it is Christ through faith that saves. Keep the focus on Christ as doing the saving and on you as doing the receiving…receiving Christ and His gift of salvation. The Apostle John specifically equates believing with receiving in John 1:12- “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name.” NASU
Also remember to keep salvation separate from rewards. Salvation is not a reward for our good works, remember, otherwise grace would no longer be grace. No, Salvation is God’s gift to us. And then as saved children of God our service is our gift to God. Our service works are our gifts to God and of course God will examine and then reward us for our faithful works in His Kingdom. Our works are very important, but in their place after our salvation. Notice that in the very next verse after Paul speaks about God’s gift of salvation to us he then states this: Eph 2:10- “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” NASU
Within every human being is the knowledge in our conscience and a deep sense in our soul that we ought to be doing good works for God. And the reason for this is because God created us to do good works. By our very nature we know that we are supposed to do good works for our Creator. But everyone forfeited their privilege to serve their Creator because everyone sinned against their Creator. Their sins separated them from a relationship with their Creator and God. Their sin actually killed their human spirit. And that’s why Christ came, to give spiritual life back to our human spirit and restore our broken relationship with our Creator, so that we could then live in a saved relationship and then do the service works that we were created to do. But again, everyone needs to first be pardoned from their sins against God in order to then offer their service to God. That’s why everyone needed and needs a Savior. But if anyone ignores or neglects or rejects their only Savior and their only salvation, then their good works are not gifts to God from a saved child of God; because their works are still stained with sin and they are still dead in trespasses and sin and are still under sin’s sentence of eternal separation from God.
Again, we were created for service to God, but we first needed salvation from God. And once we do receive the gift of salvation from God then we can offer our gifts of service to God. And every gift of service we offer to God, then becomes a good work that God will turn into a reward from God to us, His children, rewards that are basically privileges within the New Heavens and New Earth because of our faithfulness and service works for God on this present Earth.
Now then, another way to understand why good works cannot save anyone comes from what Paul said in Gal.3:22- “But the Scriptures declare that we are all prisoners of sin, so we receive God’s promise of freedom only by believing in Jesus Christ. NLT Remember this critical point: Every unsaved person on earth is already in prison, on spiritual death row, awaiting the day when they will be transferred to their permanent confinement of Gehenna Hell. And no amount of good works can remove their eternal sentence of their debt of sin. Regardless of how good a prisoner on death row treats other inmates or what good works he does while in prison, the only way that his death sentence that he is under can be removed is if he is offered and then receives a complete pardon from the crimes he committed that called for the death penalty.
Last week we suggested that you begin looking at everyone around you through the lens of them either being ‘lost’ or ‘saved’, and to then see how this reality changed the way you saw people. We suggest that you also begin looking at people around you through this other Biblical lens of seeing people as either still in prison because of their sin and on spiritual death row awaiting their final sentencing, or as people who have received their pardon from the Judge who stepped down from throne of Heaven and took their death sentence for them and died in their place.
And so the question is: Have they received this pardon that God is offering to them by receiving Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? This is the only way a spiritual prisoner on spiritual death row gets a pardon. And that’s what it means that Christ died for me; died because of me, and died in my place, so that I could be pardoned and be free to now live eternally.
Again, no one can work their way off spiritual death row. The only way off spiritual death row is to receive the gift of pardon from the One who took your place and died for you. And when you do receive Christ’s gift of His pardon, you receive His pardon and Jesus’ own life that brings renewed life to your once dead human spirit.
So when people answer why they think they are going to Heaven with something like, “Well, I’m trying to be a good person”, remember that’s the equivalent of a person that is in prison on death row thinking they will escape their sentence of the crimes that called for their death penalty by trying to be a good person ever since they got to prison. No, only a pardon removes their penalty.
Earth is a penitentiary…and everyone who has not received their pardon from Christ is already on spiritual death row. That’s what the Apostle John revealed in John 3:18- “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” NIV Add that to your picture of how you look at unsaved people around you, at those who have not received Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior: ‘Condemned already’. The more we think Biblically about people around us the more we will be motivated to get the Gospel of Salvation to those around us who are lost, imprisoned in sin, and condemned already.
Now, that leads us to handling some other matters that come up since mankind has historically tried to attach works of some sort to God’s gift of salvation. But again, any attempt to add anything to the gift of salvation then falls under Paul’s warning about grace no longer then being grace, as well as the fact that to try to add a work to salvation is the same as subtracting grace from salvation. It is then no longer a gift, but something that is owed, which, again, cancels out grace and cancels out salvation.
One thing that man has tried to attach or add to salvation is baptism. Now we are not talking about churches that practice different modes of baptism or practice baptism at different times. Throughout history there have been born again teaching and Bible believing churches that have understood ‘baptism’ to have different purposes. Some churches have historically understood the purpose of baptism as being like the sign of a covenant relationship with God, like circumcision was a covenant sign to Old Testament believers that they were in a covenant relationship with God and they were dedicating their children to God as such. Other born again teaching and Bible believing churches throughout history have concluded that the purpose of baptism was to be a personal dedication by one who had already personally believed and received Christ as their Savior. That’s why this view of baptism is referred to as a ‘Confessional’ sign of baptism. It is a confession to serve the Lord Jesus because He has saved you. Here at the Chapel we practice the Confessional sign of baptism for those who have been born again, but we do honor our Brothers and Sisters that believe the purpose of baptism was to be a Covenant sign, not for salvation, but as a commitment that their children would be brought up in the teachings of the gospel so that their children can then later make a profession of faith in Christ and become born again.
The problem is that some false teachers early on in the Church’s history began twisting this Covenant sign of baptism and taught that baptism was the actual Conversion time of a person’s salvation. And among the many problems that came along with that, this false teaching did two things in particular. One: It distorted the Biblical teaching that a person is spiritually born again when he or she makes a personal decision to receive Christ as their own Lord and Savior. And Two: It created a false fear in families who then believed that their child’s very salvation and conversion was dependent upon them getting their child baptized, since they equated baptism with conversion. Plus, this fear was also then used by those false teachers as a powerful way to build a following, along with their position.
The unfortunate reality is that even today there is much false teaching that still misleads people into thinking that being baptized is the same thing as being ‘born again’, whether they were baptized early in life or later in life. But again, baptism is separate from salvation. Baptism is an ‘obedience-work’ issue, whereas Salvation is a ‘receiving of a gift’ issue; receiving the Person of Christ and becoming born again’. The New Birth has to do with a person coming to Christ with a repentant heart and mind and, by God’s grace and through their faith, they trust in Christ alone and receive God’s gift of salvation. And with God’s gift comes Christ’s life, His spiritual life placed into them which causes them to become spiritually ‘born again’.
We do have a few more points that we have been requested to examine so we’ll continue this study. But we pray that this teaching will help and equip each of us more to more clearly help others understand our great salvation and the place of our service works for God. And how inspiring and assuring it is to know that we serve God from our salvation, not for it. Salvation is God’s great gift to each of us. Praise His Name forever and ever!