by Steven Chan
22 March 2009
Those who do not know the Lord are described in the Scriptures as spiritually dead in sins:
“And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.” (Eph 2:1-3)
We need to realize that those who have not known the Lord Jesus Christ are spiritually dead and in need of salvation. Like everyone else, they “follow the course of this world being led by the passions of their flesh, and carrying out the desires of their body and their mind”. It is tragic that some do not realize the distinct difference between a Christian and a non-Christian. On the outside, we all look the same. But according to God, who sees the inner being, our spiritual status is vastly different. It is not a matter of personal preference of beliefs with no material consequence – it is the difference between spiritual death and eternal life. It caused Jesus to suffer the agonizing death on Calvary so that those who are dead in their trespasses and sins may now have hope:-
“but God, being rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace have ye been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us to sit with him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus: that in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus: for by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory. (Eph 2:4-9)
The Bible tells us in 1 Pet. 2:24 that Jesus “himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” According to 2 Cor. 5:21, “Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” Jesus took our sins upon Himself that we may not have to suffer the consequences of our own sins. “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 6:23).
The Bible says thus: “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.(Rom 6:16,17). By accepting God’s free gift of salvation through obedience of the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, we can be set free from the terrible snare or trap of sin.
The terms of salvation as contained in the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ are clearly stated by our Lord Himself in Mark 16:15,16: “And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” The gospel of Jesus Christ is the power of God unto salvation as proclaimed by the apostle Paul in Rom 1:16: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”
Brethren, we are engaged in a spiritual battle for the salvation of man and his eternal destiny. Our battle is not physical. It is not merely a matter of what one prefers to believe religiously. It has significant and eternal consequences. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” (Eph 6:12).
And in this battle, our arsenal of weaponry comprise of the spiritual armor provided by God and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph 6:10-20). As stated in Eph 6:10,11: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.”
In our battle, we need to be well-equipped with the Word of God – the Sword of the Spirit! (Eph. 6:17). Jesus came from the Father to give us His Words: John 17:8 “For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me.” The words given by God is the truth (John 17:17) which sets us free from sins (John 8:32). God’s word, the gospel of Jesus Christ, is what will save us: In relating the account of the conversion of Cornelius, a pious man, the apostle Peter said in Act 11:13,14 “and he told us how he had seen the angel standing in his house, and saying, Send to Joppa, and fetch Simon, whose surname is Peter; who shall speak unto thee words, whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and all thy house.”
It is the Word of God that will save man from sin. It is not personal experience or seeing a vision. Cornelius was a religious and God-fearing man, and he also had a vision but neither of those things saved him – he was instructed by the angel of God to seek out the apostle Peter so that he could speak to him “words whereby thou shalt be saved, thou and thy house” What did Peter tell them to do? “Can any man forbid the water, that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Spirit as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. (Acts 10:47-48)
Man desperately needs the gospel in order to be saved. The sad thing is that many do not know the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The tragic thing is that some Christians are coy or shy or embarrassed to tell their friends that Jesus is the key to their salvation. Some of us do a terrible job with regards the marching orders of our Lord as stated in Matt. 28:18-20: “And Jesus came to them and spake unto them, saying, All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”
A critical thing that we ought never to forget is that God did not send us out on our own. He assured us thus: “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:20). God plans to work with us and through us as we use His Word to give light to the darkened souls of men. Listen to the words of the apostle Paul in 1 Cor 3:6-9: “I planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase. So then neither is he that planteth anything, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase. Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: but each shall receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow-workers…”
Those who have yet to receive the gospel is described as “sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death” according to the father of John the forerunner of Jesus, in Luke 1:76-79: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
They need the “light” from God that will guide their feet into the way of peace. According to 2 Cor. 4:4, Satan who is described as the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.”
The Bible says in Psa. 119:130: “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple.” We need to carry the Word of God as a shining light so that those who yet remain in darkness may see the light and gain understanding – and gain spiritual freedom. God has provided all that we need to help those in darkness come to the light – His Word will enlighten the hearers – provided their hearts are inclined to do so. For if their hearts are like those along the pathway or rocky/stony grounds or are pre-occupied by thorns (representing the cares, pleasures and concerns of this world) (Mark 4:1-20) then the Word of God would bring no benefit for them. But we are to keep sowing the seed which is the Word of God (Luke 8:11) so that we may reap in due season if we faint not or give up or quit (Gal. 6:9). God’s Word has the power to convict and convert the souls of men. The power is not ours although we are to be effective vessels: “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us.” (2 Cor 4:5-7) Nothing should displace the gospel of our Lord – neither wisdom of the world nor philosophies nor theological paradigms nor personal wisdom. We must be completely reliant upon God and His Word in the conversion of souls – although we must do all we can to help the hearers listen to the Word so that they may be saved – including ensuring that we are not the stumbling-block for those who need to hear the gospel:
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. (1 Cor. 9:19-23). Notice that the apostle Paul said that I do all things for the sake of the gospel – and not in place of the gospel!
God’s Word is paramount and we should learn to use it so that it can do its mighty work of bringing souls out of darkness into the marvelous light. As the prophet Isaiah penned by inspiration in Isa 55:8-11: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”
Brethren, are we feeding on the Word of God and thereby growing stronger day by day (Matt. 4:4; 1 Pet 2:2; Heb 5:12-14)? “For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (Heb 4:12)