Throughout history man has always sought for ways to deliver himself from his condition of depravation. On the one hand, man realizes that his outward conduct is not up to the expectation of his conscience and God's righteousness. On the other hand, he is aware that within him there is always a tendency that draws him to lust, to hate, and to rebel against God's law. These tow things have been with man ever since the beginning of civilization. No matter what culture a man is born into, he always experiences these two problems. We may call these two problems man's outward acts of sins and his inward nature of sin.
The acts of sins that a man commits outwardly cause his conscience to condemn him, whereas the nature of sin within him entangles him to continue in his sin. Man's intuition tells him that there is a God and that such a God is righteous. He desires to know God, but he realizes that his sinful acts and sinful nature isolate him from God. Under such a circumstance he devises many ways to solve this problem of sin and to save himself from sin. These ways are known to man as the different ways of salvation. Hinduism, Buddhism, Mohammedanism, Judaism, and all other great religions of the world have devised many ways for man to save himself. Although these ways are varied and diverse, they have one thing in common: they all depend on man's own work and effort, and all originate from man himself.
The first and most common way man uses to try to save himself is by doing good works. Many people think that good works can save man. The Buddhists believe that as long as one performs good works and does not fill animals, he will fare better in the next life. The Moslems believe that in order to be saved, one must be faithful to God and keep the words of the prophet Mohammed. The Jews believe that in order to please God, man must keep the law of Moses.
However, the Bible says that "man is justified...apart from the works of the law" (Rom. 3:28). To be justified is to be right according to God's standard of righteousness, and "the works of the law" are the good works that a man performs in order to keep the law. Romans 3:20 says, "Out of the works of the law no flesh shall be justified before Him." This verse tells us that a man can never be right according to God's standard by doing good works. Why is it that good works will not make a man right before God? There are two reasons. First, good works will not take away a man's past record of sins. Suppose a man has killed someone and robbed others. Suppose, further that after a few years the murderer feels sorry about it and decides to give a large sum of money to the poor. The act of giving to the poor, though good in itself, will never remove his crimes of murder and robbery. If he goes to court, he cannot plead innocence on the ground that he has done much good to others. Likewise, good works will never erase the sins that one has committed before God.
The second reason that good works cannot make a person right before God is that no good work performed by man can come up to the standard of God's righteousness. A rich young ruler once came to Jesus to ask for the way to gain eternal life. This young man claimed that he had done everything that the law required. But when the Lord asked him to sell all that he had and follow the Lord, he could not do it, because he loved his riches (Luke 18:18-23). He was not able to come up to God's standard of loving God above everything (Matt. 22:37-38). No one can be as holy as God is; no one can be as righteous as God is; and no one can love God in the way that He demands. The Bible says that all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). A filthy rag is something unpresentable before men. Likewise, all our good works are unpresentable before the eyes of God.
Some people like to think that the way to be saved is by doing penance. They think that if they feel sorry about their wrongs, God will forgive their sins. Many religions practice asceticism and mortification, thinking that the more they make their bodies suffer, the more they will obtain favor from God. They think that God is a God who enjoys seeing man suffer. This also is an absurd thought. In reality, doing penance is simply a way of bribing the conscience. Then a man sins, his conscience condemns him, and he thinks that by hurting himself he will appease his conscience by telling himself that he has suffered recompense for this wrongs.
The third way that man tries to absolve himself from guilt is by trying to forget about his sins. He thinks that, given enough time, he will not remember his sins anymore, and that as long as he himself does not remember them, God will not remember them either. Such people are like the ostrich which tries to hide in the sand, thinking that by not seeing his danger, his danger will leave him.. However, the fact that sin is removed from our memory does not mean that it is removed from God's record. To try to absolve one's sin by forgetting about it is also a foolish thing to do.
According to the Bible, God's righteousness requires that all sins be judged. The only way that sin can be judged righteously is by the way of death. Hebrews 9:22 says that "without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." In order for God to judge and then to forgive our sins, there must be the shedding of blood; that is, there is the need of death. Any way of redemption that does not involve death cannot meet the righteous requirement of God, but comes short of God's standard.
In the Old Testament God required that death of animals as sacrifices. When a man sinned, he had to offer a lamb or a bull and had to kill the sacrifice before God's righteous demand could be appeased. Although this way allowed God to pass over the man's sins, it was not meant to be the final solution to the problem of sin. In the New Testament God's solution to the problem of sin is to send His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ, as the unique sacrifice, to replace all the Old Testament animal sacrifices (Heb. 10:1-18). He caused Jesus to die on behalf of all mankind (1 Pet. 3:18). By executing His judgment on Jesus Christ, God's only begotten Son, man's sin is judged, and the problem of sin is finally and eternally solved (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 9:26). In the Old Testament man had to do something to take care of his sins; he had to offer up animals as sacrifices. But in the New Testament everything that needs to be done has been done already by God in Jesus Christ. Christ is the perfect sacrifice and the eternal sacrifice. There is nothing more that man can add to this sacrifice to improve what God has done. This is why in the New Testament man does not need to do any wood works to save himself; God has done everything for man already.
The best picture of this work of redemption is seen in Christ's becoming the Passover Lamb of God. In the Old Testament the children of Israel were in Egypt, a land of bondage and slavery (Exo. 1:8-14). In order to force the king of Egypt to release His people Israel, God intended to pass through the land and destroy the firstborn of every household. As long as a person was the firstborn of his family, he was destined to die. This is a picture of mankind under the bondage of sin. There is nothing that man can do to free himself. In spite of all man's achievements and the efforts he has exerted, he cannot save himself form God's judgment. Man in this modern age has made great achievements; he has landed on the moon and has made great breakthroughs in science and medicine. Yet all of his achievements cannot help him to escape God's judgment on sin. In this world man is under the bondage of sin and is destined to suffer God's judgment.
Under such a circumstance God prepared a way through which the people of Israel could be delivered from His judgment. He ordered the children of Israel to kill a lamb an dput the blood on the doorposts of their houses. In the night the messenger of God passed through the land and executed judgment on the land. In all the houses that did not have the blood on their doorposts, the firstborn was killed; but those who hid under the covering of the blood were saved and delivered. This occasion was remembered later by the Jews as the Feast of the Passover.
The Passover is a type, or a picture, of God's work of redemption which He accomplished in the New Testament in Jesus Christ. Christ is the real Lamb of God. He was not merely a great teacher or a great religious leader. Her is the Redeemer of mankind. The Bible says that He is "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). After thirty-three and a half years of living on this earth, Jesus Christ died on the cross. His death was not an ordinary death. Many great leaders of the world died for their causes. Many national heroes shed their blood for their countries. But Jesus died for the sins of all mankind (2 Cor. 5:14). He died as the unique Redeemer.
When He was crucified on the cross, He was rejected by God. Because of this He cried out on the cross, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (Matt. 27-46). He was the sinless Son of God, yet He was forsaken by God. He was judged by God not for His own sins but for the sins of all mankind (1 John 2:2). Through this judgment God's righteous requirement concerning sin was satisfied, and man was redeemed.
In explaining Christ's death on the cross, Isaiah, the Old Testament prophet, said "Jehovah has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him" (Isa. 53:6) and "Jehovah was pleased to crush Him, to afflict Him with grief" (v.10). It was Jehovah God who executed judgment on Christ. Christ was not judged under man's hand. Because it was God's own judgment on Him, God was satisfied.
We need to be clear that redemption is something that God has done in Jesus Christ to satisfy His own righteous requirement on mankind; it has nothing to do with what we= are or what good works we have done. It is foolish for some people to try to crucify themselves again or to imitate Christ's suffering. Nothing can add to what God has already accomplished in Christ. Redemption is an act before God and it satisfies God.
When the Passover lamb was slain, its blood was put on the doorposts of the children of Israel's houses. When God saw the blood, He would not execute His judgment on those who were under the blood (Exo. 12:7, 13). Jesus, the Son of God, has shed His blood for mankind. His blood has satisfied all God's righteous requirements. Because He has died, man need not die for his sins. Through Christ's blood God is silenced and heaven is at peace. Now man can come boldly before God (Heb. 10:19). The Bible says that the blood of Christ speaks for us (Heb. 12:24) like an attorney in a law court speaking for the defendant. Through this blood God is at peace (Rom. 5:9) because His righteous requirement is satisfied. When God is at peace, our conscience also is at peace.
If you see how the redemption of Christ has fully satisfied God, you will be at peace with God. By the redemption of Christ, God has forgiven man's sins (Eph. 1:7). When God forgives man's sins, He forgets man's sins (Heb. 8:12). His forgiving is His forgetting. God can do everything , but He cannot remember the sins of those who have believed in the redemption of Christ. Those who believe in Christ's redemption are cleansed, justified, purified, absolved, unspotted, and untainted before God.
Man's Indwelling Sin
Many people have asked, "I know that it is a great thing for Christ to die for me, and I know that by accepting His death I receive forgiveness of my past sins; but what shall I do with the power of sin that still entangles me and that is driving me to sin continually?" Throughout history man has struggled with this ancient problem of the inward lust and nature of sin. On the one hand, man wants to do good, but on the other hand, he finds a powerful force within him that will not allow him to do good. Modern psychology and psychiatry have observed this contradiction within man but have been unable to explain it. The ancient Chinese called this the battle between reason and lust. Two thousand years ago Paul the apostle had the same problem. He complained that every time he wanted to do good, the evil was present with him, and he acknowledged that it was not he who was committing the sins, but an evil force, power, or urge within him was committing the sins (Rom. 7:15, 17). However, later he found out that the saving life of Jesus Christ was able to save him from the power of this inward nature of sin (Rom. 7:25; 8:2).
God has not left anything undone that we must do. Just as He has accomplished redemption for us through judging Jesus Christ on the cross, in the same way He has prepared a wonderful salvation for us by giving to us the life of Christ. There is no need for us to die to redeem ourselves from our sins. In the same way, there is no need for us to live by our own life to overcome the sinful nature and the power of sin within us. Christ has died for mankind to redeem man from the judgment of sin. After He died, he resurrected on the third day. In resurrection he gives His life to man so that through His life man can be delivered from the power of sin. A Christian is not only one who is redeemed from the judgment of sin, but also one who is saved from the power of sin. Romans 5:10 says, "For if we, being enemies, were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more we will be saved in His life, having been reconciled." On the cross Christ bore the curse of sin. In His resurrection he broke the chain of sin. By His redemption mankind is free for the judgment of God. By His life man is free from the bondage of sin. First Peter 2:24 says that Christ "Himself bore up our sins in His body on the tree, in order that we, having died to sins, might live to righteousness." Just as redemption is accomplished by Christ's death alone, so salvation from man's inherent nature of sin is accomplished by His life within us alone. There is nothing that man needs to do to be redeemed. In the same way, there is nothing that man needs to do to be saved. Everything is done by God, and salvation is free.
How can one experience Christ's redemption and salvation? The way is by faith. Paul said in Ephesians 2:8 and 9 that "you have been saved through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works that no one should boast." Redemption and salvation are not something that we earn as merits. They do not originate from ourselves. They are not through the works that we do. There is nothing that a man can do to earn forgiveness or salvation. Both forgiveness of sins and salvation in life are by faith, and nothing else.
What is faith? Faith is first the seeing of what God has done to Christ on the cross. Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the substantiation of things hoped for. Just as our eyes substantiate color and sights to us, so faith substantiates to us God's redemptive work accomplished two thousand years ago. When we see that God has judged Christ on our behalf, we are redeemed.
Faith is also a receiving of what Christ imparts to us. John 1:12 tells us that those who believe in Christ are those who receive Him. In other words, to believe is just to receive. Faith is not to believe in something that does not exist; rather, it is simply to receive something that is already there and given to you. If someone gives you a watch, all you need to do is to receive it. Once you receive it, the watch becomes yours. When God gives the saving life of Christ to us, all we need to do is to receive it. Once we receive this gift, it becomes our forever. There is nothing we can do to add to what god has already done. We need only to receive it in faith. And there is nothing that can take away this gift once we have it; it is ours forever.
You may be very diligent to do good works. You may be very sincere in doing penance. But if you do not see Christ's accomplished work on the cross and do not receive His life in resurrection, you are still not saved. The Bible says at least one hundred and fifty times that man is justified, saved, and receives eternal life through faith alone (Acts 16:31). In these one hundred fifty times, no other condition is attached. It is faith and nothing else.
Neither redemption nor salvation is through the works of man; both are works of God. Since they are works of God and since they are based on the righteousness of God and the life of Christ, they will never change. We can change, our mood can change, and our feelings can change, but God's righteous judgment will not change, nor will Christ's saving life change; they will stand forever. Even the heavens and the earth can change, but the righteous work of God and the saving life of Christ will never change. Christ's redemption and salvation are forever "insured." Once a person is saved, he is forever saved (John 10:28-29). Once you have received the gift of God, you will never lose it (Rom. 11:29). Once you become a child of God, you can never be lost again.
Today, all you need to do to receive Christ's redemption and salvation is to pray and call on His name. Just say, "Lord Jesus, I believe in Your work on the cross. I believe that You have died for my sins. I believe that God is satisfied with Your perfect work. I believe that You can save me with Your resurrection life and deliver me from my sinful nature. I accept and receive You. Thank You, Lord Jesus. I am saved!" If you would pray and declare in this way, you will surely be redeemed and saved.
The salvation that we receive when we believe is not only a once-for-all salvation but also a day-by-day salvation. Every day we encounter trials and temptations. Even as Christians we can encounter difficult situations while we live on this earth. The Lord has not promised His people that they will be without trials and temptations in this life. But the saving life of Christ is more than able to overcome every trial and temptation (1 Cor. 10:13). The saving life of Christ is a Christian's daily bread (John 6:48) and heavenly air (John 20:22). It nourishes him and supplies him with divine power to overcome all kinds of trials and temptations. The Bible says that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved, and that the Lord is rich to all who call on Him (Rom. 10:12-13). By calling on the name of the Lord, "O Lord Jesus!" we are saved from anxiety, frustration, anger, jealousy, stubbornness, and all kinds of sinful desires. Our mind may have doubts, fears, and worries. By calling on the name of the Lord, all these thoughts will go away. This life will even overcome death and all the by-products of death , such as weakness, sighing, groaning, bondage, and depression. By calling on the name of the Lord, we are saved day by day and moment by moment. The Lord is indeed rich to all who call on His name.
Today what you need to do is to cease your struggling and striving and just come to Christ by faith. Accept Him by calling on His name, and receive Him into your spirit as your Redeemer and Savior. You will experience His redemption and His salvation, and you will also be saved day by day from sin, death, and Satan. You will be a child of God forever, and you will experience His saving power changing your life day by day. May God bless you and cause you to walk the happy and joyful path of living a Christian life in faith.
This article is taken from a series of gospel messages
given in Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia in 1992. They have
been instrumental in bringing over 7,000 people to the knowledge
of God, the Bible, and the Christian salvation.
The entire series comprises six articles with the following topics: 1) The Bible, 2) There Is God, 3) Christ Is God, 4) Christ Is Spirit and Life, 5) Christ's Redemption and Salvation, and 6) The Meaning of Human Life.