If What Is Saving Faith? and Beyond The Basics have become a useful mirror of God's truth to you, it is appropriate for you to be included in my closing remarks as to what "we" discovered along the way. So, let's summarize some of the key points of the two books:
We learned that man is lost in sin and trespasses against his Creator. Commencing at the fall of Adam and Eve, everyone has been separated from God — spirit, soul and body. Some refer to this separation as being "spiritually dead", and correctly defined, I agree with the term. Without God's intervention, we would all eventually pass into both physical and spiritual death, ending up eternally apart from God. But, praise His Holy Name, God did intervene!
Beginning at Adam's day, we discovered that God spoke to man in many ways to make him aware of his sin, and to lay down in a clear and concise manner His plan of redemption for mankind. From the outset, there was the promise of one who would come and be the Sacrifice for man's sin. In ancient days, God repeatedly presented this hopeful pledge in a variety of ways, all of which foreshadowed and culminated in the most special man in all of history, the Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth.
We saw that Jesus presented Himself to the heavenly Father and became the Lamb of God. He did this as the second Adam, redeeming in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cross what was lost in the Garden of Eden by the first Adam. When Jesus gave His life and shed His blood, an everlasting Covenant was being confirmed between God and man. Jesus' precious blood sacrifice would provide the forgiveness and removal of sin for all those for whom Christ died. This is made evident in real life by individuals being willing to believe this Gospel message and in its Messenger, Jesus Christ, and to confess their sins and receive the cleansing God has provided through His plan.
In WHAT IS SAVING FAITH? we have seen that the Holy Spirit seals the spirit of every new believer in Jesus, giving them the birth of a "new man". We also saw that this sealing lasts until the day of redemption, meaning at our physical death or when Jesus returns to earth, whichever comes first.
But Jesus didn't remain dead. He was resurrected. And the life which came into Him to raise Him from the dead is available to all who will put their trust in Him. This, we learned, is done very simply by believing in Jesus Christ and His accomplishments to be God's requirements for the saving of our sin-laden spirit, soul and body.
Understandably, the natural tendency in all of us is to see ourselves in a single, unitized way. Our attitude is simply this: “I’m a person and that’s all there is to it”. Many Christian teachers limit the explanation of our makeup to a spiritual side and a natural side, believing that spirit and soul are synonymous terms. What I have tried to do in this study, though, is to make some sense out of passages which clearly indicate the triune-ness of our being, such as is found in First Thessalonians 5:23:
“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, and soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Through careful study of the Scriptures, we saw that there are two distinct salvations in this life. First, as the “Potter” who creates the “pot”, God comes to man and saves whom He wills as determined from the foundation of the world. A new inner, spiritual birth occurs when God does this. And this new birth first pertains to one’s spirit. It is a total gift and requires no works other than belief in Christ. This salvation is perfect, unchangeable and cannot be lost....ever. Then there is salvation of the soul which does require works on the part of the believer. This pertains to a progressive transformation of the soul (will, mind and emotions) through obedience and becoming disciplined according to God's Holy Word and ways. It seems that the closest most expositors and teachers come to presenting a concept of separate salvations of the spirit and soul is to refer to this second process (soul salvation) as sanctification.
Spirit salvation pertains to one’s becoming a child of God which establishes one’s eternal destiny. Soul salvation pertains to the activities in this life, plus one's rewards, or loss thereof, at the Judgment Seat of Christ. I believe the Scriptures teach that Christian works determine one’s rewards which will be received at the Judgment Seat of Christ, and possibly even establishing the position they will hold in Christ's coming Kingdom when He reigns on this earth during the Millennium.
We learned that the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Godhead-Trinity, was sent to convict the world of sin, of righteousness and of coming judgment, as well as being the Christian's Sealer, Comforter, Empowerer and Intercessor. The Holy Spirit is the constant helper of all Christians in everything that we think, say and do. He is also the primary Restrainer of evil as He calls out of the world a people for God's own good pleasure. And even in the midst of the widespread evil in this world, the Holy Spirit, in conjunction with our accurate belief, willingness and obedience, teaches us to be as nearly like Jesus as possible.
Further, we learned that the Holy Spirit baptizes believers of God's Gospel into the body of Christ at initial salvation, an act which unites all believers in Christ. These believers comprise the Church which awaits the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We also saw that the Holy Spirit sometimes floods Christians with His own Spirit so that the believer is engulfed with the love and power of God. Subsequent to this action, the believer often takes on a new level of zeal for the things of God, including, but not limited to, reading the Bible and preaching the Gospel more intensely, loving others, and sometimes possessing gifts not present beforehand. This outpouring has been identified by some as baptism in the Holy Spirit, or being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is very important for you to know that I do not believe that this experience improves the quality of one’s spirit salvation. In fact, I believe that God's method for Christian maturation is more often through consistent and steady spiritual growth from the initial birth onward. However, Church history indicates that God often uses an abrupt filling of the Spirit to get some Christians off and running in the right direction, or to stir them after a long, spiritual “dry spell”.
We also looked at the fact that once they are saved, Christians can have absolute confidence in the saving-and-staying-power of God. In my opinion, refusing to accept this truth, or being confused about it, is a greater error than being wrong in our beliefs relative to how baptism of the Holy Spirit and/or filling of the Spirit works in our day.
The careful and knowledgeable reader will note that my overall theology is somewhat unlike the two evangelical mainstreams of Christianity today. Most Christians feel that believers must be either in one or the other of the "Calvinistic" or "Arminian" camps. And thus, some would say it is impossible to take the stands I do. Permit this observation: Before Calvin and before Arminius, there was God, and there was His Word and His doctrines. And I believe the Bible teaches the conclusions I have drawn. I believe there are some extremes in both Calvinism and Arminianism which result in some serious errors in both camps.
But even if you accept my theological premise, so what? What's the value and purpose of it all? First, it's for your personal benefit. If what I'm saying is true and you are unsaved, then you need for yourself what I'm saying is already mine. To be eternally-saved and heaven-bound is having arrived at the ultimate-good truth! Second, we are commanded to be Spirit-filled (Eph.5:18). Since it’s a commandment, this indicates that, to some degree at least, God permits Christian involvement in the attainment. Knowing that you are Spirit-filled is a magnificent bonus and ought to be desired and sought by every Christian. Thirdly, to know that we have something to do with our future rewards in the Lord's Kingdom should serve as a great encouragement for doing good works.
But remember, possessing spirit salvation, being filled with the Holy Spirit, and walking faithfully before God should not produce pride. Gladness, yes. There's a big difference between these two words. A genuine, growing, Spirit-filled Christian will manifest humility, with an ever-expanding awareness of the sinful state from which he/she came, coupled with an increasing desire to serve both God and man. And if this is not happening in a Christian's life, it ought to be sufficient reason to take another look at 1/ the Biblical accuracy of one's beliefs and 2/ what kind of "baptism" or Spirit filling they really received.
When all is said and done, that is, when right beliefs and right actions have been brought to the fullness of God's intentions for believers in Him and His ways, then the Christian army will be ready to hear the words, follow the commands and accomplish the tasks the Lord Jesus left us with: (Matthew 28:18-20.)
"...All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Amen, and Amen.
Lance B. Johnson, O.D.
606 Cleveland St.
Davis, CA 95616