There has been much religious confusion concerning the point at which a person has been saved from his sins. This is especially true among those within the body of Christ. It is because some false brethren are purporting that it does not matter when an individual has become a Christian, for that knowledge only belongs to God. One liberal brother, Paul Woodhouse, says,
Exactly when sins are forgiven is God's business, Article - An Exchange on the Subject of Baptism, Grace Centered Magazine, March 2001.
Leroy Garrett, another well known false teacher, has made similar statements. First, disbelieving that baptism is essential to salvation for all men, he states,
If this were so, God would be restricted to saving only the immersed. But should you ask if it were essential for me to be immersed, the answer is yes, for I understood this to be my duty. I accept what the Scriptures say about baptism; it does not say it is essential to salvation. That is a deduction, unwarranted, I believe.
Second, according to Garrett, God may save people in other ways than baptism such as through the avenue of prayer. He says,
That is not the way people were saved in the New Covenant scriptures, and I would not teach it that way. But if God, who is eager to forgive, accepts one on this basis, I will rejoice.
Last, regarding whether salvation comes before or after baptism, he says,
Alex Campbell may have been right to say that one is really saved when he believes, formally saved when baptized,(Quotes taken from a previous article titled "Eight Questions for Liberal Brethren").
Contrary to what these brethren and others teach in error about baptism and the plan of salvation, the Bible teaches that one is saved from his sins after being baptized. In other words, an individual becomes a christian after his sins have been washed away (Acts 2:38). Consider carefully the words of Christ in Mark 16:16. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." This is analogous to an addition problem. For example, the number one always remains in its present state until it is added to another number. Then it becomes a new number. This concept can clearly be seen in Romans 6:3-6. Paul says,
Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
There are a number of examples in the New Testament that illustrate this important truth. These include the three thousand souls at Pentecost (Acts 2:37-41), Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1-19), the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), and Lydia (Acts 16:14-15).
"Freedom" is an important concept in the United States. We all speak about our freedoms and cherish them, recognizing that in many other countries, such freedoms do not exist. We have the ability to choose for ourselves what kinds of lives we shall live and what kind of people we will be, and this is good. Unfortunately, however, many regard Christianity as a religion without freedom because of all of the "restrictions" that Christ places upon the lives of His children. Let us examine the Scriptures to see if a Christian has freedom.
When we read the pages of the Word of God, we see very quickly that a Christian most assuredly has freedom! First and foremost, Christians have received freedom from sin, as seen in Romans 6:22:
But now being made free from sin and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto sanctification, and the end eternal life.
Christians have also received freedom from the sentence of death, as Paul has explained in Romans 8:2 concerning himself:
For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death
Christians have also been given freedom from the cares of this world (Matthew 6:31-34), the freedom to call upon the Father in prayer (Philippians 4:6-7), among many others. We ought to be thankful to God that we have been given such freedoms when we wear the name of Christ! All of the troubles that plague the life of man have an answer in Christ Jesus, and of all people we are most blessed.
Unfortunately, many who consider themselves Christians do not recognize what "freedom" really means. Many have the idea that freedom means license to do whatever one wishes to do: after all, if one is truly "free," there will be no impediment for whatever action one wishes to take. Does freedom mean this, that we are able to do whatever we wish to do?
Let us again turn to the United States. We are proud to consider this country the "land of the free," but this freedom does not mean that everyone gets to do whatever they want to do. If someone decides to rob a bank, for instance, he is imprisoned for his deed. There are laws that guide the land, for most humans recognize that without any form of regulation, one man's liberty may cause the deprivation of the liberty of another. As an example, if a man steals the property of another man in the name of liberty, where is the liberty for the one deprived of property? He has lost his freedom to hold to what is his. Therefore, we see that with freedom there is the responsibility to abide by the laws established to protect the freedoms of everyone.
There are similar concepts in Christianity. While we are certainly freed from sin through the death of Christ Jesus, this by no means gives us license to go out and to sin further. As Paul exclaims in Romans 6:1-2,
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. We who died to sin, how shall we any longer live therein?Paul's point is very logical: if we have been freed from sin through the death of Jesus, why would we determine to sin further? If Christ had to die because we have sinned, why would we keep on sinning? Therefore, we see that in Christianity also the freedom we gain in Christ comes with responsibility: we must abide by the law of God so that we may not fall again into sin.
Many, however, would deny that we are under law-- after all, did not God send Christ to die for us so that we would be free from law? This mentality, however, neglects to take into account that our freedom from sin is maintained through our obedience to Christ, as is made evident by Paul in Romans 6:17-18 and Peter in 1 Peter 2:15-16:
But thanks be to God, that, whereas ye were servants of sin, ye became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching whereunto ye were delivered; and being made free from sin, ye became servants of righteousness.
For so is the will of God, that by well-doing ye should put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: as free, and not using your freedom for a cloak of wickedness, but as bondservants of God.
We see here clearly that we become free from sin and must become servants of righteousness-- and if we are to become servants of righteousness, there must be some form of righteousness that can be defined! James assists our understanding in James 1:25 and James 2:12-13:
But he that looketh into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and so continueth, being not a hearer that forgetteth but a doer that worketh, this man shall be blessed in his doing.
So speak ye, and so do, as men that are to be judged by a law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to him that hath showed no mercy: mercy glorieth against judgment.
We see, therefore, that we exist under a law of liberty! This idea may sound oxymoronic to many people today who associate liberty, especially in religious terms, as having nothing to do with "law." This comes from a misunderstanding of the Scriptures. The Scriptures teach, especially as we have seen with Paul in Romans 6:17-18, that man has a choice to make: he must choose whether he will serve God and pursue righteousness or to serve Satan and live in any way he desires to live. If we choose to serve God, we recieve freedom in so many ways: freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom to pray to God, freedom from all cares and concerns of this world. This freedom does not come without any obligations, however, since we must continually live in accordance with righteousness. How may we determine what "righteousness" is? How do we see whether or not we are "righteous" or "unrighteous?" We must search the Scriptures and determine what God has deemed as the actions of those who are righteous and serve Him as opposed to those actions that are either deemed to be actions of those who are unrighteous and follow Satan or actions that are contrary to the principles that guide the lives of the righteous. Since God has given us the knowledge of the actions that please Him and demonstrate that we are servants of righteousness, and these actions are discernible from the Scriptures, how can one deny that the collection of these actions are deemed a "law?" James himself has spoken of the "law of liberty," and we are forced from the Scriptures to define this as the guidelines that those who are free in Christ Jesus will follow!
We have seen from the Scriptures that the Christian most certainly has many freedoms, notably from sin and death, but that these freedoms come with the obligation of serving God as He has determined us to serve Him. Let us constantly be thankful for the ability to serve God and to have the freedoms we do in Christ Jesus.
Ethan R. Longhenry
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