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THE BIBLE'S GRAND THEME

The grand theme of the Bible is salvation!  A simple definition of salvation is deliverance from the power and effects of sin.  Scripturally, there is an initial New Testament salvation experience that brings dramatic change to one’s life.  This is reflected in many of the scriptural terms associated with salvation:


Repentance: A change of mind, a new way of thinking in God.
Conversion: A change of direction, a new way of walking with God.
Redemption: A change of ownership, a new Master in God.
Grace: A change of favor, a new standing before God.
Forgiveness: A change of judgment, a new pardon by God.
Deliverance: A change of bondage, a new liberty before God.
Faith: a change of confidence, a new trust in God.
Holiness: a change of living, a new conformity with God.
Reconciliation: a change of friendship, a new union with God.

The initial salvation experience is a result of faith and obedience to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In response to the question “what shall we do?”, the Apostle Peter answered, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38).  This corresponds to the “new birth” experience Jesus spoke about in John 3:1-5.

Many people are wanting things to change in their life.  There is no greater change possible than what takes place in a person who receives the salvation, Jesus Christ came to give.

FAITH AND SALVATION

The relationship of faith to salvation is one of the most misunderstood in Christendom today. Faith is a necessary ingredient in salvation, but faith is not the whole recipe. Faith alone will not save. “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17).


Faith is the factor that motivates a person to carry out the whole plan of salvation. If a person really believes the Word of God, his response will be obedience to it.


In Acts 16 the Philippian jailor, startled at his awakening to find the door of the prison open, decided it would be best for him to take his life rather than face punishment by his superior officers. Paul, cried in verse 28, “Do thyself no harm: for we are all here.” The Philippian jailor asked in desperation, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”  Paul responded, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house” (Acts 8:31). Many take this to be the total plan of salvation. Notice that the apostle told the jailor, “thou SHALT be saved,” not “thou ART saved.”


Believing was the first step for the jailor’s salvation. Paul then explained to him and his household “the word of the Lord,” and as a result he was baptized that same hour. If believing is all one must do to be saved, why the urgency in baptizing the jailor “that same hour” and  why even baptize him at all?


Jesus said in John 7:38, “He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.” John explained in the following verse, “But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet, given because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”


Those who profess to believe on Jesus Christ, should also acknowledge it to be the plan of God for them to receive the Holy Ghost.


When Peter was in Jerusalem explaining how the Holy Ghost fell on the household of Cornelius he told the counsel of godly leaders, “Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” (Acts 11:17).


Peter claimed that the household of Cornelius received the same gift as the disciples who had believed on the Lord.  The gift, of course, was the Holy Ghost.  Again, receiving the Holy Ghost is related to believing on the Lord Jesus Christ.


It would be impossible to fulfill the plan of God without faith. Hebrews 11:6 states, “But without faith it is impossible to please him, for he that cometh to God must believe that he is . . .”  Faith is absolutely necessary if one is to be saved.  But faith alone will never save; it will only motivate one to obey the truth and live in such a manner that God will lead them in His plan of salvation.

GOODNESS

IN RECENT MONTHS, many events have piqued the interest of prophecy enthusiasts.  End-time watchdogs closely scrutinize political and natural events in an attempt to decipher when Jesus Christ will return for His church. Although many of the current events are signs of the nearness of the coming of the Lord, the Scripture specifies an often-over-looked indicator of the end time.


The apostle Paul declared, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come"(II Timothy 3:1).  He continued by detailing the spirit of the world in the last days.  Contained in this listing of the attitudes of men is the revelation that men would be "despisers of those that are good" (II Timothy 3:3). According to Strong's definition, men would be "hostile toward virtue." The implication is not that men would oppose the doing of "good deeds" but rather they would aggresively resist goodness, principles of righteousness and those who preach and practice such ethics. Perhaps the ungodly attitude of humanity in the present age is the greatest sign of the soon return of Jesus Christ.


The contest between good and evil in recent times has far surpassed predictions of depravity given in bygone days.  Activist groups have worked to banish prayer from schools, remove the Ten Commandments from court houses, and take Christ from Christmas. Simultaneously, the world currently promotes sexual immorality and abortion.  The words of Isaiah reflect the attitude of the current generation which often rewards evil and punished good: "Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20).


Although this conflict has escalated in present times as the scirpture prophesied, good and evil have always been opposed to each other.  When created, man was a morally innocent creature.  He was created in the image of God and void of the knowledge of good and evil. (See Genesis 2:17)  In this innocence he enjoyed fellowship with God.


Man disobeyed God's command when he partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The fellowship once enjoyed between innocent man and God was severed. Since that time, mankind has been dominated by evil. God said, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth' (Genesis 8:21).  The apostle Paul wrote: "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).


God educated man about good and evil by the law given through Moses. Paul recognized, "I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shall not covet (Romans 7:7). But the law was limited in that it was unable to produce goodness in the evil hearts of men. Paul further explained, "for we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin" (Romans 7:14).



A conflict rages in the hearts of men who have the knowledge of evil but lack the strength to overcome the stronghold of sin. The apostle Paul spoke of this frustration: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find, For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice" (Romans 7:18-19 NKJV). The writer recognized the lack of goodness in the flesh, which resulted in evil practices regardless of the knowledge of sin.


Jesus said, "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (John 8:34).  He further explained, "If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed" (John 8:36). The purpose of Jesus Christ was to deliver mankind from the control of evil. This would be accomplished not merely by education but by empowering people to live lives of goodness.


Scripture contrasts the "works of the flesh" and the "fruit of the Spirit." According to the apostle Paul's admission, his flesh was unable to perform good because in his flesh dwelt "nothing good."  The listing of the "works of the flesh" in Galatians 5 verifies that mankind under his own power is incapable of goodness.


Jesus gave the following analogy: "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit" (Matthew 7:18).  The result of the works of the natural man will only produce evil fruit. "For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would" (Galatians 5:17).


On the other hand, the "fruit of the Spirit" is a result of the influence of the Holy Spirit upon one's life and not the effect of works. The remedy for overcoming evil is to "walk n the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh" (Galatians 5:16).


When one repents, is baptized in Jesus' name for the remission of sins, and receives the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:38), the Spirit should produce fruit in him.  One of the attributes God's Spirit will produce is "goodness" (Galatians 5:22).   ACCORDING TO VINE'S EXPOSITORY DICTIONARY OF BIBLICAL WORDS, GOODNESS INDICATES WHAT IS "MORALLY HONORABLE, PLEASING TO GOD, AND THEREFORE BENEFICIAL."  Galatians 5:9 places goodness alongside of righteousness and truth.


Goodness is not a natural attribute of man but rather part of the nature of God.  Jesus informed the young ruler that "there is none good but one, that is, God" (Mark 10:18).  Goodness can never be realized in anyone except through the power of the Holy Ghost.


In these last days as the "despisers of those that are good" grow more apparent the prayer of saints should reflect that which Paul offered for the saints of Thessalonica that God would "fulfill all the good pleasure of his goodness" in them (II Thessalonians 1:11).