“The Process of Salvation”
Hello and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland, and I am glad you have joined us for today's broadcast. For centuries, baptism has been at the center of religious thought and discussion. It has been the subject of great debates and controversies. It is taught in Bible classes and it is preached about in sermons. Oh, some believe it is a matter of personal preference and convenience while others believe is the focus of one's salvation. Well, the Bible is filled with many references to it. Some versions of the Bible mention baptism, or a form of it, about 100 times. But whatever our views might be, there is one unmistakable fact: Baptism receives a great deal of attention; and rightly so! In the midst of so many views, thoughts and opinions, is there something we can know and understand for sure about this most important Biblical teaching? Today we will look at several passages in the New Testament that should help us answer that question. As we study together, we will seek to understand the role baptism plays in one's conversion process. Oh, whatever our thoughts and ideas might be about the connection between one's faith in Jesus and baptism into Jesus, let us open up our hearts and take a fresh look at this most important topic. As we do, I trust it will give us a basis from which to do our own study and investigation. I invite you now to open your Bible as we consider the process of salvation.
In many cases, when an author writes a book or a novel, he or she seeks to communicate a primary message, and several references are made to it. In other words, a continual thread runs through that particular piece of literature. Now, a good writer does that effectively. The book or the novel might even lead one to make some important decisions or meaningful observations. Well, likewise, in each book or letter of the New Testament, there is a primary message. There is one theme that takes the center stage, and that is the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. The word ‘Gospel’ is found some 75 times; and that word refers to an announcement that was good or exciting or positive. It also meant Good News, and those words are found some 30 times. For example, Jesus proclaimed the Good News of God's Kingdom, and the writers of those 27 books or letters made that the focus of their message. Well, within the Gospel, or that Good News message, there was an invitation to make a decision about Jesus. For example, John the Baptist urged the people to soften their hearts and to change their ways so they would be better prepared to receive Jesus and His ministry. Jesus, himself, called upon the people to become His followers and to commit themselves to being His disciples. The apostles, Peter and Paul and others invited people to believe in and to obey Jesus Christ, and oftentimes that led them to being baptized into His name. Well, all of those things are essential to the Gospel story. It was important to have faith in Jesus Christ, to acknowledge Him as God's Son and to be baptized in His name. And yet, those things mean very little if the attitude of one's heart is not right. Now, here is what I mean; there is a difference between simply believing in Jesus Christ and then allowing that belief to transform one's life. Oh, believing in Jesus goes far beyond simply stating the words, “I believe in Jesus.” You know, to truly believe in Him is to develop and then to practice a sincere and genuine faith, believing that indeed Jesus is God's one and only Son and that He died on the cross, was buried in a tomb and then He rose again on the third day. Well, the apostle Paul wrote about that in Philippians chapter 3. This is what he wrote: Everything that he had become was worth absolutely nothing compared to knowing Jesus Christ as his Lord. That was the ultimate for the apostle Paul, to truly know Jesus as his Lord. Well, he wasn't satisfied with that. He continued to write, there in the 3rd chapter, these words: I want to know Christ and the power of His resurrection. Yes, for Paul to ‘know’ Jesus was of supreme importance. And that goes beyond simply knowing a few things about Jesus. Well, no doubt. Paul knew of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, His being raised in Nazareth, His ministry, primarily around the Sea of Galilee. Paul knew about Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, and certainly those were very important details in regards to God's Son. What Paul had in mind, however, when he wrote that, was, I want to know Jesus intimately; I want to know Him personally; I want to recognize who He is as God's Son and what He has done for me. Yes, Paul wanted to have that deep connection with Jesus Christ. Well, the Gospel story invites us to do the very same thing, today. And not only do we have a sincere belief or faith in Jesus Christ, we also turn our lives to obeying Him and His commands. Jesus told His disciples, in John chapter 14 and verse 15, “If you love Me, you will keep My commands;” and, no doubt, that is important for us today. If we sincerely love Jesus, if we sincerely and genuinely have put our faith in Him, then we will live in obedience to Him. We will do what He asks us to do. We will live in the way He wants us to live. And all of that simply shows our love and our appreciation for God and what He has done for us and the salvation that He has extended to us. You know, many people followed Jesus throughout His ministry, but they did so from a distance. They did not know for sure if they wanted to incorporate His teachings into their life, and so they just followed and listened and watched and waited. But when Jesus began to feed the multitudes with just a few loaves of bread and some fish, then they came for that feeding. Or, when people began to be healed by Jesus, they made sure their loved ones, their friends or neighbors were there to receive healing from their sickness or disease; but they were unwilling to make that final decision to be His disciple. Yet, that was exactly what Jesus wanted them to do. He wanted them to commit their lives to following Him and to make that publicly known. And that's why we find these words from Jesus, in Matthew 10 verse 32: <”Whoever acknowledges Me before others, I will also acknowledge before My Father in heaven.”> Well again, that doesn't mean that we simply state the words that we believe in Jesus, but that is lived out in our life. We allow that genuine belief to become a part of who we are. And then the opposite is true, as Jesus stated, “If you do not acknowledge Me before others, then I will not acknowledge you before My Father in heaven.” Well, the apostle Paul seemed to write out his own version of what Jesus stated in Romans chapter 10. Listen to these words in verses 9 and 10: <If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.> Now, there are several things that work in those two verses. There is sincere belief in Jesus as God's Son. It comes from one's heart, a profession of faith, a proclamation and acknowledgement that Jesus is God's Son. And through that faith and through that confession of who Jesus is, then salvation comes to a person's life. And that is part of the process of receiving that gift which God gives to those who believe in His Son. Well, these words were written to a group of people in the city of Rome who were already doing that. They were living out, or they were practicing, that sincere faith, and they had received God's gift of salvation. Well, one’s sincere faith is also found in one's baptism. In the book of Acts, people were baptized, or they were immersed in water, into the name of Jesus as another act of submitting to that salvation, or submitting to Jesus and the process of receiving that gift. It demonstrated their genuine faith. Baptism demonstrated their love and obedience for Jesus, and it also demonstrated their allegiance to Him, to follow and become one of His disciples. Well, let's notice how all of those things begin to play out, in some examples. An evangelist by the name of Philip shared the Gospel story of Jesus with people in the area called Samaria. Now, Philip was one of the Twelve Apostles. He was a close follower of Christ. And in Acts chapter 1, just prior to Jesus' ascension into heaven, He told His disciples, in verse 8, they were to stay in Jerusalem until they received power from on high; and once that happened, they would then be His witnesses to not only the people in Jerusalem and Judea, but also into Samaria and then into the rest of the world. Well, in chapter 2, the Holy Spirit came up on the people, Philip received that gift of God's Spirit, and he went to the North of Jerusalem and Judea into that area called Samaria. And there he told people about Jesus. He simply shared the Gospel story. He tried to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God. And the people heard it, they believed in it, they listened intently and it made a difference in their life. And we find that in verse 12 of that 8th chapter, here's the result: <When they believed Philip, as he preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.> When these Samaritan people heard the Good News about Jesus, they believed in Him; and they publicly proclaimed that by being immersed into Christ. And by doing that, it let it be known that they indeed loved the Lord. Their faith in Him was sincere and genuine, and now they were committed to following Jesus and becoming one of His disciples. The first letter written to the early church was probably a letter called Galatians, written by the apostle Paul. In it, he reminded those people, who were living in the region of Galicia, how they had come to receive God's gift of salvation. And perhaps the summary statement in that letter is found in chapter 3 verses 26 and 27: <You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.> Paul reminded these people they were children of God. He reminded them that they were in Christ and Christ was in them, and it came through both faith and baptism. Jesus was in them and they were in Him and He covered them or He clothed them, is the word Paul used, in love and forgiveness. In other words, they had now received that gift of salvation. Well, here's another statement very similar to that one. It’s found in Colossians chapter 2 verses 11 and 12. <In Him you were also circumcised in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with a circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism and raised with Him through your faith and the power of God, who raised Him from the dead.> Once again, we see the connection between one's being buried with Christ in baptism and how that corresponds to one's faith in Jesus Christ by the power of God; and so, faith and baptism both work hand in hand. Well, in these Biblical stories, and in others we could notice, when people were baptized into Christ their status with God changed. They acted upon their faith. They demonstrated their love for Jesus Christ. They acknowledged Him as God's Son, and they committed themselves to being His disciple. And as they did that, they put off the old way of life and they embraced a new way to live, as they were immersed into Jesus, as their sin was a forgiven and they began to live as a committed follower of God's Son. The apostle Paul taught a young man by the name of Titus about Jesus; and Titus was a special young man. He was a coworker with Paul. He traveled with him on some missionary trips. And, no doubt, Paul influenced his life and taught him many things. Paul even left Titus on the island of Crete to help oversee the church leadership and to be a good minister to those people. Well, these words were written to Titus. We find them in Titus chapter 3, verses 4 and 5. <When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior.> Titus is reminded that his salvation came from God. In fact, the statement is found twice, in those verses, “He saved us,” referring to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. And that was important for Titus and for others to understand, that it was not by the good deeds Titus had done, but it was by the grace or the mercy of God that he received that salvation. All of the trips and the work that Titus did with Paul, in evangelism, did not earn him his salvation. It was not through the good deeds that Titus did, or his work there on the Island of Crete, but rather it came because a merciful God saved him; and that came through his faith and his obedience and, no doubt, his baptism into Jesus. And that's important for us to consider. We think about what else is mentioned there, the washing of rebirth, the renewal of the Holy Spirit. Titus was born again and he received God's Spirit as a mark of approval or acceptance by God. Well, those same things can take place in our life, as well. We are born again through the washing away of our sin. We receive the Holy Spirit. And through all of that process, God saves us. When we think about all of this coming together, we see that baptism represents the decision to follow through and to be a true disciple of Jesus. It is our response to what He has already done for us. It is not something we do to earn our salvation, but it is a matter of God's grace, and we've simply received what God has done through His Son, Jesus Christ, and the love He has demonstrated for us, even by allowing His only Son to die on the cross for our sake. I want us to look at one more passage that says something quite similar to what we find there in Titus chapter 3. This passage is found in Ephesians chapter 2, verses 8 and 9. <For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God so that no one can boast.> Again, it is not through the good deeds or the works that we might do that say, “God, I deserve to receive your salvation,” or, “Look at all the good things I have accomplished. Certainly I am worthy of eternal life.” No, no, the message is quite clear. It is by grace, God's grace, that we have been saved; through our genuine and sincere faith in Jesus Christ as God's Son. And so, living out one's faith in Jesus and receiving God's grace and mercy brings salvation. We are to never forget Jesus’ great love for us. We know, from 1st John chapter 3 and verse 16, that He laid down His life for us. He went to the cross. He died for your sake and for mine; and what a tremendous display of love. No doubt, that was exemplary of His Father's life. And we know those words from the Gospel of John, chapter 3 verse 16, “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.” Our gift of salvation is a result of that love. And as we express our love back to the Lord, we do so through faith and through obedience; and we become a part of God's family as we are baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. As we draw our lesson to a conclusion today, here are 3 things I want us to remember. Number one, the salvation of the Lord is available to all people everywhere. It does not matter who we are or where we live. It does not matter our social background or our economic standing in this world. God loves us; and more than anything else, He wants us to receive that love. Secondly, obeying Jesus, acknowledging Him as God's Son and being baptized into His name are all outward signs of our genuine faith in Jesus. Oh, they are not done to prove our worth or to say to God we deserve salvation, but simply to say, “I really believe in Jesus Christ.” And then finally, number 3, none of it amounts to anything without God's grace and mercy. Let us know today that, the process of salvation includes a proper response to who God is and what He has done in our life. And as we do that, we are recipients of that amazing grace and the free gift of His eternal salvation.
A number of years ago I had a wonderful and special privilege and the opportunity to marry a very beautiful lady by the name of Becky. In fact, we got married in this chapel right here. And part of that special wedding ceremony was the giving and the receiving of wedding rings; and we are familiar with that. I wear one of those rings on my left hand and she wears one on her left hand as well. But those rings are simply reminders of the vows and the commitments to each other that we made on that special day. And every time we look at those wedding rings, we are reminded of the relationship that we share together as husband and wife. Well, there are a couple of special outward symbols and inner symbols that remind us of our relationship with the Lord. The first one is our baptism into Jesus Christ. It is the outward demonstration of the inward faith that we have, that Jesus is God's one and only Son. And we demonstrate to the world through our baptism that our sin is forgiven and that we are going to faithfully follow Jesus as one of His disciples. The other symbol of our conversion to Christ is something that's on the inside. It is the gift of the Holy Spirit. And God gives us that gift of the Spirit to remind us that we belong to Him and He belongs to us. We are His children and He is our Heavenly Father. And that Spirit reminds us of His continual presence and love for us. Oh, that is a very beautiful illustration of our connection to and our relationship with Jesus Christ. And it, too, is a very beautiful thing that reminds us of who we are.
Thank you for being our guest today on “Key to the Kingdom.” I hope this lesson gave you some things to consider. As you continue to study the role baptism plays in a believer’s life. I trust it will lead you to making a decision about Jesus and the salvation He offers. This lesson, entitled “The Process of Salvation,” is on our website, at keytothekingdom.com. It is available to download without any cost or obligation. You can get it in a variety of formats; and I trust it will be a blessing as you continue to study the Bible's teaching. Other lessons are on the website as well, and I'm sure you can find that which will be of interest. There are also one minute and two minute messages which offer a word of spiritual blessing and encouragement. Bible studies and other information about this ministry are all available for your study and consideration. If you prefer to call the number on the screen and leave a message, we will be happy to return the call just as soon as possible. Facebook® is another way to connect with this ministry. I hope you will find, like and share us with others. Also, a free phone app, which takes you directly to our website, can be downloaded on to a smart phone. I do hope you will take advantage of these many ways to be a part of this mass media mission effort. Thank you again for being a part of today's Bible study and I invite you to join us again next time as we continue to study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom.”