Tag Archives: Obedience

Cleansing a Leper

(Note: An apology is in order for my falling behind in posting these sermons from the book of Mark as I had said I would do each Friday.  We’ve been quite busy, and this is one of those things that slipped through the cracks.  I am sorry.)

Text: Mark 1:40-45 – There came a leper to Him, begging Him, and kneeling down to Him, and saying to Him, “If You desire it, You can make me clean.”

And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth His hand, and touched him, and says to him, “I desire.  Be cleansed.”  And as soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed.  And He strictly charged him, and immediately sent him away, and says to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone: but go your way, show yourself to the high priest, and offer for your cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.”

But he went out and began to proclaim it much, and to spread abroad the incident, insomuch that Jesus could no longer openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places: and they came to Him from every quarter.

Introduction

The King of kings, Jesus of Nazareth, has come into the territory of Satan, proclaiming freedom from slavery to sin.  He is gathering people to His side, preparing them for when His kingdom comes.  With some, as portrayed by Mark, Jesus called them by His word, “Come after me” (1:17).  With others, Jesus proved His point from the Scriptures (1:21-22).  Still others were taught about His power by seeing Him cast out demons or healing the sick (1:27-28, 32-39).

Maybe Mark’s readers were impressed by the healing of sicknesses.  Maybe they were even somewhat impressed by the casting out of demons (though some of them may have been like some skeptics today who claim that demons weren’t real, but were instead just different diseases or mental illnesses).  But doctors had healed diseases before, and people could fake being possessed by a demon.  So perhaps Mark’s readers are still skeptical.  But the next thing healed by Jesus was supposedly incurable, and no one would dare fake it.

The Text, part 1 – The Leper’s Confession (Mark 1:40)

Jesus had come down from the mountain after giving His “Sermon on the Mount” (Matthew 8:1), and had entered into a city (Luke 5:12) when something happened that would have made most people back up in fear.

There came a leper to Him

So many questions could be asked here.  What was a leper doing in the city?  What was the reaction of the disciples and the multitudes that were with Jesus?

Leprosy was not something to be taken lightly.  The Hebrew word for leprosy means “a smiting,” and was viewed as a punishment from God Himself.  Let me read what has been said about this incurable disease:

This disease “begins with specks on the eyelids and on the palms, gradually spreading over the body, bleaching the hair white wherever they appear, crusting the affected parts with white scales, and causing terrible sores and swellings. From the skin the disease eats inward to the bones, rotting the whole body piecemeal.” “In Christ’s day no leper could live in a walled town, though he might in an open village. But wherever he was, he was required to have his outer garment rent as a sign of deep grief, to go bareheaded, and to cover his beard with his mantle, as if in lamentation at his own virtual death. He had further to warn passers-by to keep away from him, by calling out, ‘Unclean! unclean!’ nor could he speak to any one, or receive or return a salutation, since in the East this involves an embrace.” (Easton’s Bible Dictionary)

Leprosy, beginning with little pain, goes on in its sluggish but sure course, until it mutilates the body, deforms the features, turns the voice into a croak, and makes the patient a hopeless wreck. … An animal poison in the blood ferments … affects the skin … destroying the sensation of the nerves. The tuberculated form is the common one, inflaming the skin, distorting the face and joints, causing the hair of the head or eyebrows to fall off or else turn white, and encrusting the person with ulcerous tubercles with livid patches of surface between. The anesthetic elephantiasis begins in the forehead with shining white patches which burst; bone by bone drops off; the skin is mummy-like; the lips hang down exposing the teeth and gums. Tuberculated patients live (on the average) for only ten years more; anesthetic for 20. (Fausset’s Bible Dictionary)

During Jesus’ day, there were leper colonies all over the place (not just in Palestine).  Mark’s readers might have cringed when they saw the word “leper,” because it was a disease that was horrifying, could be contagious, and one for which there is no cure.

All of that, yet this leper—this man who was most likely reduced to begging just to feed himself and perhaps a family—apparently followed Jesus into the city, and bravely presented himself before Him.  He wasn’t someone who was just starting to show signs of leprosy, either.  Luke says he was “full of leprosy” (Luke 5:12).  That is, this man had the distorted joints, the deformed face, the white hair (quite possibly in patches, the rest of it having fallen out).

Begging Him, and kneeling down to Him

This leper didn’t just come to Jesus and wait for the Lord to notice him and say something.  He came to Jesus, falling down to his knees in front of Him, and begged Him, pleaded with Jesus for mercy and help.  Matthew says that this man “worshiped Him”; Luke says that this man fell on his face before Jesus; and both record that this man called Jesus “Lord” (Matthew 8:1-4, Luke 5:12-16).

It’s not stated in the text, but knowing what leprosy is, and knowing the fear people had of being contaminated by it, you can just picture the multitudes backing up in fear, forming a large circle around Jesus and this man.  The man probably had the bleached-white hair and the torn garments visible as he’s on his knees, face down to the ground, begging Jesus for help.  The people around may have even tried to say to Jesus, “My Lord, quickly, you must move, this man is a leper!”

Saying to Him, “If You will, You can make me clean.”

Mark’s readers, given what they knew about leprosy, might have laughed at this poor leper.  “You poor, ignorant man.  There’s no cure for leprosy!”  But this man had hope.  He had heard about—or maybe even seen—the power that Jesus had exhibited over demons and diseases.  As a result, this man had hope that Jesus could cure even him.  But more than hope, this man had confidence.  He could come to Jesus with, “I’ve got leprosy, is there anything you can do for me?”  He could have asked, “Lord, is there any way you can make my leprosy better?”  But when he came to Jesus, he didn’t ask if it was possible, or if Jesus could help in some small way; he made a declaration: “If You want to, You can make me clean.”

The word “will” or “wilt” (KJV) means to wish for something, to desire something, to want something to take place.  By saying this, the leper confessed his belief in the power of Jesus.  He had full confidence in the ability of Jesus to heal him, and he also knew that he was at the mercy of Jesus—“if You want, You can make me clean.”

This is reminiscent of the Jews on the day of Pentecost.  They didn’t come out and say the words, “I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” but they confessed their belief in Him by the words, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

The Text, part 2 – Jesus’ Compassion (Mark 1:41)

Instead of backing away or rebuking the man for putting the multitude in danger of contracting leprosy, Jesus was “moved with compassion.”

Jesus, moved with compassion…

Mark is displaying the love, the compassion of Jesus with these words.  This great and powerful King, who has overthrown demons and is being followed by huge crowds, doesn’t have the massive ego-trip that kings (like certain Caesars of the day) often do.  He takes the time to look at the man, to listen to the man, and has genuine concern for the man.  The powerful King, Son of the God, whose mission is to bring about His Kingdom and overthrow the powers of darkness, is also a King of compassion who cares about people—not for what He can get out of them, but because He loves them.

It’s worth noting that Mark is the only one who mentions that Jesus was moved with compassion.

Jesus…put forth His hand and touched Him

“Oh no!”  You can just picture the looks on the disciples’ faces when they saw Jesus reach out to touch the leper.  It had been ingrained in their heads for a long time that you stay as far away from lepers as possible—NEVER touch them.  And Mark’s readers probably thought the same thing—“He’s not really going to touch that leper, is He?”

But Jesus did.  Jesus had power over leprosy, and wasn’t afraid.

Jesus…says to him, “I want to.  Be cleansed.”

Imagine someone coming up to you, begging for something that you have within your power to do.  “I need food to feed my family,” or “I’m broken down and need a ride.”  Do you look at them and say, “I don’t want to help you”?  Can you imagine Jesus looking at this man, who is begging for help, and saying, “Nah, I don’t really want to help you”?  Of course not!  When you truly have compassion on someone, you want to help them, and you will help them if it is within your power to do so.

Jesus reaches out and touches the man, and expresses His compassion with the words “I want to [that is, I want to heal you]. Be cleansed.”

The Text, part 3 – The Leper’s Cleansing (Mark 1:42)

Right now, Mark’s readers, who understand that this gospel is supposed to be a true story, are hooked.  Sicknesses and diseases are one thing; but healing leprosy?  That’s something worth noticing.

As soon as He had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him and he was cleansed.

Just like with Simon’s mother-in-law, there was no “recovery period,” or “It looks like it’s starting to get better” with this healing.  The healing was instantaneous.  Oh, to have been able to see that.  If the gospels were written today, we’d have put much more detail about how it looked, and the changes that took place on this man.  Did his hair go back to its original color?  His face looking completely different after the touch than it did when he bowed to the ground in front of Jesus?  The scales on his skin—did they fall to the ground or just disappear?  His joints miraculously changed?

Regardless of how it looked, and how the instant transformation took place, the fact remains that the man was healed—completely healed.  The crowd saw it, and the man knew it.  Put yourself in his place, in agony because of the leprosy, an outcast, bowing down at Jesus’ feet, and you feel His touch as He says the words “Be cleansed.”  You look at your hands and see that they are…normal.  You start to stand and realize that your joints—your knees, ankles, elbows, hips—aren’t bulging and deformed anymore.  You are able to stand fully upright for the first time in ages.  Tears almost certainly flowed from this man’s eyes as he looked upon Jesus, the compassionate King.

Now, take a moment to think about the thankfulness that people who are truly in need will have when you show the love of Christ to them and help them in their time of need.

The Text, part 4 – Jesus’ Charge (Mark 1:43-44)

And He strictly charged him, and immediately sent him away,

It’s interesting that Mark uses this word “strictly” to describe how Jesus spoke to the man, because it seems to be in contrast with the compassion shown in the previous verse.  He looked on this leper with compassion, desired to heal him, and then touched him.  But now there’s a difference in attitude; Jesus is being stern with the man.  Why?  Because even though the man had the best of intentions, he had broken the Law of Moses in coming to Jesus in the city.

And the leper in whom the plague is, his clothes shall be rent, and his head bare, and he shall put a covering upon his upper lip, and shall cry, “Unclean, unclean.” All the days wherein the plague shall be in him he shall be defiled; he is unclean: he shall dwell alone; outside the camp shall his habitation be. (Leviticus 13:45-46).

McGarvey put it this way:

The language used indicates that Jesus sternly forbade the man to tell what had been done. The man’s conduct, present and future, shows that he needed severe speech. In his uncontrollable eagerness to be healed he had overstepped his privileges, for he was not legally permitted to thus enter cities and draw near to people (Numbers 5:2-3); he was to keep at a distance from them, and covering his mouth, was to cry, “Tame, tame—unclean, unclean” (Leviticus 13:45-46, Luke 17:12-13). The man evinced a like recklessness in disregarding the command of Jesus.

The rest of what Jesus says to this man shows that the stern talking-to was in regards to his following God’s law.

and said to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing the things which Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.”

This command of Jesus not to broadcast the miracle has caused some confusion.  After all, didn’t Jesus want people to know who He was?  Wasn’t He performing a lot of miracles?  Why should He tell this man to keep the miracle secret?  Different suggestions have been given, including:

  1. It may have been better for the man not to mention his cure due to potential religious persecution (as in John 9:34). (McGarvey)
  2. The Lord was trying to suppress excitement, and prevent the crowds that gathered around Him from being too large, hindering His work (which is what ended up happening in verse 45). (McGarvey)
  3. “For the miracle to be properly attested, it was necessary that the appropriate gifts should be offered under Moses’ commandment, and that the priests should certify it. Until this was accomplished, the man should hold his peace; lest, if a rumor of these things went before him, the priests at Jerusalem, out of envy, out of a desire to depreciate what the Lord had done, might deny that the man had ever been a leper, or else that he was now truly cleansed” (Burton Coffman).

While each of these are reasonable, and carry with it some truth, it seems that the most logical explanation—especially given the stern and strict way that Jesus delivered the order to the man—is that He was telling this man to follow the Law of God, as opposed to breaking it like he had done moments earlier.  In other words, in doing this, it’s Jesus saying to the leper, “Repent and sin no more.”

From this, we need to understand that just because Jesus is a compassionate King, that doesn’t mean He’s a King who allows His subjects to ignore the law.  Jesus sternly charged this man to do what the Law required.  Compassion—that is, the mercy of Jesus does not eliminate obedience.

The Text, part 5 – The Leper’s Cheerfulness (Mark 1:45)

But he went out and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter.

It’s been said of this leper that:

[He] was so elated that he could scarcely refrain from publishing his cure, and he must also have thought that this was what Jesus really wanted—that in commanding him not to publish it he did not mean what he said (McGarvey, Fourfold Gospel).

Instead of doing what Jesus sternly commanded him to do, this leper told everyone he could find (hopefully on his way to Jerusalem to at least obey the second part of the command).  His words spread like a wildfire—which on one hand shows just how grateful this man was to be cleansed, but on the other hand showed a blatant disregard for the commands of Jesus.

As a result…

Jesus could no more openly enter the city, but was outside in deserted places: and they came to Him from every quarter.

You might think, “That’s great; more people are flocking to this new King!”  But that is completely opposed to Jesus’ mission and methods.  Up to this point, He spread His message in the synagogues, proclaiming the Kingdom of God, and showing the truth of it from Scriptures.  Now, however, He couldn’t go into the city without a mob of people around Him.  Forget a peaceful, contemplative audience in the synagogue; Jesus was being mobbed by people—most of them either wanting some kind of healing or wanting to see what He would do next.  The disobedience of the leper hindered the cause of Christ, turning Him into a spectacle.

The excitement cause by such an entry was injurious in several ways: 1. It gave such an emphasis to the miracles of Jesus as to make them overshadow his teaching. 2. It threatened to arouse the jealousy of the government. 3. It rendered the people incapable of calm thought. … Disobedience, no matter how well-meaning, always hinders the work of Christ (McGarvey)

The people who came to Him from “every quarter” included scribes and Pharisees from Judea and Jerusalem, according to Luke’s account.  It is as a result of the leper’s disobedience that the religious leaders in Jerusalem took special notice of the works of Jesus, and that’s when the antagonism towards the King began—because someone disobeyed.

Application

Jesus was a Man of Compassion—We Must be as Well.

It was a heart-rending scene for Jesus when He saw the poor leper fall down at His feet, begging to be healed.  Jesus knew He had the power, the ability to help this man in his struggles, and so He helped.  Reaching out and touching this outcast of society, Jesus helped him.  And Mark tells us in no uncertain terms that it was because Jesus had compassion on him.  Jesus reached out to the outcasts, the overlooked, the scorned, and He did it with compassion.

It might be interesting to see the results if we did an anonymous polling of everyone we know, asking if they would describe us as “compassionate.”  How would they answer if that question was asked about you?  Do you show compassion on those who are in need?  Or do you deem them not worthy of your time?  It doesn’t have to be something massively huge like leprosy; it could be as simple as a kind word or a meal.  Jesus let people know He cared.  We should be the same way.

Compassion does not Eliminate Obedience.

The leper came to Jesus in anguish and pain, in submission and with faith, a man in need of healing.  After receiving mercy from Jesus, though, the man was expected to obey the law of God.  It’s like Jesus was saying, “I’m healing you because I have mercy on you, even though you were disobeying the Law of God.  But now that I’ve healed you, it’s time for you to show your appreciation by being obedient.”  So many people preach the grace of God and resolutely deny—even ridicule the very idea—that obedience is necessary.  “That’s salvation by works!” they cry.  My friends, God’s grace and mercy are amazing things, but they only come to those who are willing to obey Him.  Matthew 7:21 – not all that say to Me “Lord, Lord” shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father which is in heaven.”  Or Hebrews 5:9 – Jesus Christ is the author of eternal salvation to all those who obey Him.”  Christians—those who have received the mercy and compassion of Jesus Christ to cleanse them from sin—are told “faith without works is dead” (James 2).

Disobedience Hinders the Cause of Christ.

Because the former leper disobeyed, Jesus was unable to do His work the way He had planned.  Surely the leper didn’t mean to cause problems and didn’t have ill-motives when he happily told others about his healing.  However, his disobedience ended up making the work of the Lord more difficult, and led to His enemies—the scribes and Pharisees—coming to watch Him; and thus began the antagonistic relationship they had with our Lord.  The same thing can happen to us, when we disobey God today, even without ill intentions, we can do harm to the cause of Christ.  One weekday afternoon, as we were driving down the interstate, we were passed by a car going at least 80 mph, and on the back of their car, it was advertised “Follow me to the ______ church of Christ.”  An honest-hearted person who was looking for a church would quite possibly have said, “Well, we won’t be going there” because they obviously have no respect for the law.

People watch you, and how you act reflects on the church and therefore on Jesus as well.

Leprosy is like Sin.

  • Like leprosy, sin has a small beginning, but then it spreads over the entire man.
  • Its cure is beyond the reach of human skill or natural remedies.
  • It is painful, loathsome, degrading, and fatal.
  • It separates its victim from the pure and drives him into association with the impure.
  • It is a foe to religious privileges.
  • It can be remedied by God. (anonymous)

Invitation

Sin, like leprosy, is a curse.  But unlike leprosy, there is a cure for sin which is available for all people, if they would simply come to Jesus, the compassionate King, who came to this earth and lived a life among sinful, fallen humanity.  In His compassion and love, He showed us how to live, pointed the way to the Father, and died so that we could be cleansed from our sins.

All He asks of you is that you believe in Him, repent of your sinful life, acknowledge Him as the Savior, and be baptized into His death so that you may rise to walk in newness of life.  If we to make the parallel with the story of the leper, it’s come to Jesus in humble submissiveness, bowing down at His feet through obedience to His command to be baptized.  It’s at that point that Jesus touches us and makes us whole, free from sin.  Afterwards, Jesus expects us to follow God’s law, or to put it another way, “walk in the light” or “be faithful.”

Won’t you come and accept the compassionate Savior today?

 

Calling on the Name of the Lord

When kids misunderstand things, we think it is cute.  In fact, people share these adorable misunderstandings with their friends and anyone else who wants to know (look at Facebook for a few days and you’ll see them).

But when adults misunderstand things, it’s not the same, is it?  Adults are rightfully expected to put some effort into understanding things.  A wife isn’t going to post on Facebook about how cute it was that her husband misunderstood what she wanted.  Instead, it’s often times the basis of a (ahem) “discussion” (if you’re married, you know what I mean).

Today, we will consider one of the biggest misunderstandings in the religious world today: Calling on the name of the Lord.

The majority of so-called “Christian” denominations teach that to call on the name of the Lord is to ask Jesus into your heart, praying for salvation from sin.  It’s interesting that if you just take the sheer number (not groups, but individuals) of people claiming to be Christians, the overwhelming majority actually REJECT this doctrine.  However, it has been popularized by televangelists and others who twist God’s word to their own destruction (II Peter 3:16).  Salvation through prayer is “another gospel”, and all those who bring such doctrines will be cursed by God (Galatians 1:8-9).

But what does “calling on the name of the Lord” actually mean?

What is calling on the name of the Lord?

Though this phrase appears in the New Testament, it also appears in the Old Testament.

Seth had his son, Enos, THEN men began to call on the name of the LORD (Genesis 4:26).

This is generally referred to as the “Godly line.” This isn’t saying that no one prayed to God until Enos was born. But it was this line that obeyed God (see Enoch and Noah for examples).

Abraham built an altar and “called on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 12:8).

This “calling on the name of the LORD” could have included prayer, but that isn’t all that it entailed.  It involved praise to God, worship to God, and doing what was acceptable to God – in short, it was obedience.

Isaac built an altar and “called on the name of the LORD” (Genesis 26:25).

This is not an instance of Isaac praying, because in the previous verse, GOD APPEARED UNTO HIM.

Calling on the name of the LORD was the expression of a life lived for God in thankfulness and obedience.

Elijah, on Mt. Carmel, made the challenge to the prophets of Baal,

“you call on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of the LORD. And the God that answers by fire, let him be God.” (I Kings 18:24).

As you will well remember, the prophets of Baal cried out long and loud and nothing happened.  Elijah then prayed,

“LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word.” And of course God answered him (I Kings 18:36-38).

So, see, calling on the name of the Lord means praying! Not so fast…

It is true that Elijah prayed, but notice that in his prayer, the answer was requested completely based upon Elijah’s obedience.  His calling on the name of the LORD was turning to God for help based on his–Elijah’s–obedience.

Psalm 116:12-19 describes calling on the name of the Lord.

What shall I render unto Jehovah For all his benefits toward me?  I will take the cup of salvation, And call upon the name of Jehovah.  I will pay my vows unto Jehovah, Yea, in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of Jehovah Is the death of his saints.  O Jehovah, truly I am thy servant: I am thy servant, the son of thy handmaid; Thou hast loosed my bonds.  I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, And will call upon the name of Jehovah.  I will pay my vows unto Jehovah, Yea, in the presence of all his people, In the courts of Jehovah’s house, In the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye Jehovah.

As you read through this passage, you will notice that calling on the name of the Lord is the equivalent of living right before God, taking the salvation that God offers, and keeping your vows to God.

In short, calling on the name of the Lord is a life of obedience and thankfulness to God.

That they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve Him with one consent (Zephaniah 3:9).

Here, calling on the name of the Lord is described as serving God.

In the New Testament, the concept of calling on the name of the LORD only appears three times.

Two of those times (Acts 2:21, Romans 10:13) are quotations from Joel 2:32.

Acts 2

In Acts 2:21, Peter mentions it at the beginning of his Pentecost sermon (those who call on the name of the Lord shall be saved).  In 2:38, Peter tells the people there to “repent and be baptized.”  In 2:41, those who gladly received his words were baptized and added to their number.  In 2:47, Those who were being added were the ones being “saved.”  Therefore, calling on the name of the Lord involved obedience to His word (including repentance and baptism).

Romans 10

In Romans 10:8-18, Paul discusses salvation.  10:17 – faith comes by hearing.  10:10 – belief and confession = salvation.  10:13 – Calling on the name of the Lord = salvation.  10:16 – but some have NOT obeyed the gospel. Therefore, hearing, belief, confession, and calling on the name of the Lord are requirements for salvation.

Acts 22

The other passage in the New Testament that discusses “calling on the name of the LORD” is Acts 22:16.

And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the LORD.

Calling on the name of the Lord is NOT baptism.  Let me say that again, calling on the name of the Lord is NOT baptismIf it were, then Abraham, Isaac, David, and Elijah all got baptized…and more than once.

Calling on the name of the Lord means the same thing in the New Testament as it did in the Old Testament – OBEDIENCE to God.

The “name of the LORD.”

In Matthew 28:18-20, we read Jesus instructing the eleven apostles to baptize people in the NAME of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”  When something is done “in the name of” someone, it means it is done by their authority.

There is a big argument in some religious circles about whose name you are to baptize in.  Some say you have to recite the three names (citing Matthew 28:18-20).  Others say that we are only supposed to baptize in the name of Jesus (citing every example in the book of Acts).  People are having massive arguments over this, and it is all because they don’t understand what “in the name of” means.  If something is done by the authority of Jesus Christ, then BY DEFINITION it is by the authority of the Father, as delivered by the Holy Spirit.

The “name of the Lord” is the authority of the Lord.  Just like “stop in the name of the law” means “by the authority of the law.”

How do we call on the name of the Lord?

When a doctor called on someone (back when they did that kind of thing), they went to where the patient was.  When a boy went to call on his girl, he went to where she was.  It involved action and a need to be where the one being called on was.

Calling on the name of the LORD is going to where God is.  Calling on the name of the Lord is doing what is necessary to be with Him.

For Abraham and Isaac, this involved living properly under the laws God had given them.  For David and the Israelites, it involved living properly under the Law of Moses.

It is interesting to note that all of the Old Testament examples of people calling on the name of the Lord WERE ALREADY children of God.  They weren’t calling on the name of the Lord to become a child of God.  That didn’t take place until the New Testament.

Calling on the name of the Lord is this:

Turning yourself over to God’s authority in faithful obedience.

For those on the Day of Pentecost, and everyone since then who want to be saved, calling on the name of the Lord involves hearing the gospel, believing in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, repenting of their sins, confessing Christ with their mouth, and being baptized.

Calling on the name of the Lord isn’t baptism, but is sure includes it!

Turn your life over to God, submit yourself to His authority, and enjoy the blessings of salvation!

Tracts from the Past – Salvation by Grace?

Today’s offering is a “Tract from the Past.”  This one is called “Salvation by Grace” and is written by Eugene Smith.  Mr. Smith was a proficient writer during his life, authoring several tracts.  We hope you enjoy it!

Smith_SavebByGrace

Of all the great doctrines of the Bible, none is more capable of arous­ing the appreciation of man than the idea suggested by the words of the apostle Paul in Eph. 2:8, 9, where he says, “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.” In this statement the kindness and love of God is revealed to such extent that we should be eternally grateful to God and in our appreciation should humbly sub­mit to His will in all things.

Christ, of course, is the manifesta­tion of the grace of God. In him the love of God is shown as he was present­ed as the perfect sacrifice for sin. This sacrifice was “not by works done in righteousness, which we did ourselves, but according to his mercy” (Tit. 3:5). Nothing good that we had done was or could be sufficient to merit the sacri­fice of Christ upon the cross. This was the unmerited favor of God to lost and dying man. This was “the kindness of God our Saviour, and His love toward man” (Tit. 3:4), that appeared for our redemption from a curse which was too great for us to lift.

This grace of God was not bestowed on “the few” but rather on “the many.” Paul said in Tit. 2:11, “For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salva­tion to all men.” All were in need of a Saviour and when God gave His Son He made him a “propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (I John 2:2). When we look upon Jesus today we behold the one whom God “crowned with glory and honor, that by the grace of God he should taste of death for every man” (Heb. 2:9).

Therefore by the unmerited mani­festation of the goodness and kindness of God our love for him is born and kept alive. John said, “We love, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). The great love of God which was manifest to the world in the death of Christ is enough to ever keep us humble and grateful before the throne of God for the great gift was made while we were yet sinners and was therefore strictly by the grace and love of God. Paul said of this in Rom. 5:8, “God commendeth His own love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Enough has been said, therefore, to cause us to realize that it is by grace we are saved.

An Oft-Made Mistake

However, in thinking of the doctrine of Salvation by Grace there is a mis­take often made that leads to the wrong conclusion. Some have supposed that the fact that salvation is by grace has precluded and excluded all re­sponse on our part. Some have argued that since it is by “grace” there is nothing we can do in any way in the matter of our salvation. These argu­ments are usually summed up under three headings which are erroneously based on the text of Eph. 2:8. They are: (1) Salvation being of grace there is nothing we can do toward that salva­tion; (2) It being the gift of God there is nothing we can do to receive it; and (3) It being “not of works” we are ex­cluded from doing anything whatso­ever to receive it. Believing the above thoughts to be entirely wrong and based upon a mistaken understanding of the text we want to examine them very carefully in the light of God’s word.

Does Grace Exclude Obedience?

Some have supposed that grace ex­cludes obedience to the commandments of God but this cannot be for it would make of God’s word a mass of contra­dictions and we know this is not so. Christ said, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). Christ in this verse and in the illustration of the two builders (Matt. 7:24-27), which fol­lows, makes clear to all that obedience to God’s will is an essential pre-requi­site of salvation.

The apostle Paul, in speaking along this line, has very clearly said, “He (Christ) became unto all them that obey him the author of eternal salva­tion” (Heb. 5:9). Peter said, “Seeing ye have purified your souls in your obedience to the truth” (I Pet. 1:22) and the beloved John said “This is the love of God that we keep his command­ments” (I John 5:3). Therefore it is impossible to suppose that grace ex­cludes obedience. Nay, rather grace de­mands obedience for in view of the wonderful manifestation of the love of God we should gladly humble our hearts before Him and do His will, obeying His commandments which are given to us in His word. Any course other than this would be contrary to the scriptures and to common sense. We must obey God, obey the truth, or keep His commandments for thus we show our love for Him.

Does A Gift Exclude Obedience?

Some have likewise supposed that since salvation is a gift we can do nothing to receive it. Now to say we can do nothing to merit it is one thing and to say that we can do nothing to receive it is quite another thing. I realize that nothing we can do will ever give us merit enough to make God owe us salvation as a debt He must pay. It is not in this respect that we speak of our obedience. It is not that we are to do a thing or things to merit salva­tion but we must, according to the word of God, do certain things that we may receive salvation.

Christ says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). If we are to receive the “gift of God” we must then “believe and be baptized.” Some will accept the idea that we must believe but will reject the companion thought that we must be baptized. These two, belief and bap­tism, are joined together by the con­junction “and.” One of the elementary rules of the English language is that this conjunction joins words or phrases of equal rank or importance. Therefore when it is used to join belief and bap­tism it makes them of equal import­ance.

The gift of salvation from Christ is held forth to man and he says it will be bestowed upon the man who “be­lieveth and is baptized.” If anyone an­swers that to believe and be baptized is to make it no longer a gift he is surely mistaken about that for the Bi­ble cannot be a book of contradictions. But think one moment about this. If I were to say to you, “Write me a letter and I will give you a book,” you could understand the meaning of my words. If you then wrote me the letter would that in any way show that you had earned the book. No, for when you had complied with my request the book would still be received as a gift and not something you had earned.

A Bible Illustration

To illustrate the fact that one can obey the commands of God and still re­ceive his blessings as a gift we turn to the sixth chapter of Joshua to study the illustration set forth. These things “happened unto them by way of ex­ample; and they were written for our admonition” (I Cor. 10:11). They are given that in them we may see and learn God’s way of dealing with the sons of men in the earth. Paul tells us this again in Rom. 15:4, where he says, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learn­ing.” Therefore we can, by studying the examples of Israel in the Old Testa­ment, learn of God’s dealing with man even today. Not that the Old Testa­ment is to be considered our law but the examples thereof are valuable to us as warnings.

“Now Jericho was straitly shut up because of the children of Israel: none went out, and none came in” (Josh. 6: 1). This was the condition of the city as the children of Israel under Joshua’s leadership encamped before the city. Then in verse 2 God talks with Joshua in the following words, “See, I have given into thy hand Jericho, and the king thereof, and the mighty men of valor.” The city of Jericho was a gift of God to Joshua and the children of Israel.

However God did not end His speak­ing with His statement that He would give them the city. He went on to say, “And Ye shall compass the city, all the men of war, going about the city once. Thus shalt thou do six days. And seven priests shall bear seven trumpets of rams’ horns before the ark: and the seventh day ye shall compass the city seven times, and the priests shall blow the trumpets. And it shall be, that, when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout, and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall go up every man straight before him” (Josh. 6:3-6).

Now if Joshua had been like some people today he would have said “Not so Lord for if we do all that thou hast commanded we shall earn the city and it will not and cannot be a gift.” That is the way people sometimes talk to­day when obedience to the command­ments of God is emphasized by gospel preachers. People are wont to cry, “If we do anything it cannot be a gift.” In this they make a serious mistake that will finally result in the condemnation of millions for failing to do the will of the Lord.

Joshua, however, being a man of faith, did not so speak. He immediately marshalled his forces as God had com­manded and began to fulfill those com­mandments of Jehovah. All that the Lord had said was done in just the way that the Lord had said it should be done. When they came to the seventh day of their obedience we hear Joshua speaking again to the children of Israel as the priests blew the ram’s horn trumpet according to God’s command­ment. He said, “Shout; for Jehovah hath given you the city” (Josh. 6:16). Therefore it must be forever settled and known that men can obey God’s commandments and still receive the promised blessing as a “gift of God.”

More than this in our contemplation of God’s gift to man we must remem­ber that Paul said it was “By grace through Faith” (Eph. 2:8). This is God’s gift and it is received “through faith.” Now let us note another simi­larity between this gift of God and the one we have been studying in Joshua. We read in Hebrews 11:30, “By faith the wall of Jericho fell down, after they had been compassed about for seven days.” Here then is a further confirma­tion of the necessity of our obedience of God’s commandments if we are to be saved by grace.

The salvation by grace is through faith. The falls of Jericho fell down by faith. However they did not fall by faith till God’s commandments were obeyed and therefore we do not receive the blessing of God’s grace till our obedience to God’s will of today is com­plete. Then, and then only, can we re­ceive the blessing by faith. For until our obedience is rendered before God, our faith is dead and vain and can never bring the blessing of God.

Does Grace Exclude Works?

Now we come to the final objection of those who would reject obedience to God as having anything to do with our salvation. They cry “it is not of works” and thus would turn many away from doing the will of God. Let me say first of all that this limitation cannot be un­derstood in an absolute sense, that is to say, prohibiting all works of any kind, for that would cause the apostle to contradict himself in the two verses with which we began this study.

Paul says of this salvation by grace that it is “through faith” and then goes on to say it is “not of works.” Now I know that he does not mean by this that all works are excluded for to do that would even exclude faith. The Christ himself hath said, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent” (John 6:29). God has commanded men to believe and Christ says this is a work that is com­manded of God; a work that men are to do. Therefore as salvation is “through faith” we cannot exclude all works or we would thereby even ex­clude faith. This we know cannot be.

Moreover, we know that “works of righteousness” are not excluded by Paul’s statement for we hear the apos­tle Peter speaking to Cornelius and his household in the city of Caesarea and these were to be the first converts from among the gentiles. As he preached to them we hear him say, “Of a truth I perceive that God is no re­specter of persons; but in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is acceptable to him” (Acts 10:34, 35). Therefore the “works of righteousness, do have something to do with our being accepted of God. In Titus 3:5 as we have already noted they had nothing to do with God send­ing His son but now that the grace of God has been manifested to the world in the son we are acceptable in the sight of God as we “work righteous­ness.”

Working righteousness is obeying the commandments of God for the com­mandments of God are His righteous­ness. We read this in Psa. 119:172, where David says, “All thy command­ments are righteousness.” Therefore it is evident that to “work righteousness” is to “work God’s commandments.” Therefore it is on the basis of our obedience to the commandments of God that we are acceptable in the sight of God and our obedience to God’s com­mandments is not the thing under con­sideration by Paul when he said in Eph. 2:9, “Not of works.”

Moreover Christ has said that our “works of righteousness,” that is our obedience to God’s commandments, is nothing about which we can boast or glory. He says, “Even so ye also, when ye shall have done all the things that are commanded you, say, we are un­profitable servants; we have done that which it was our duty to do” (Luke 17:10). In obeying God’s commands and receiving His blessing we have noth­ing to boast about. The children of Is­rael could not boast about their capture of Jericho. God’s way was not the way that would create boasting on their part but rather a way that would in­crease their faith in and respect for Him.

Had the children of Israel captured the city by force of arms they might have later boasted about it; but taking it as they did they could never glory in it but must always give glory to God. Likewise in our obedience to Christ’s commandments we can never glory for who could say that believing in the Christ, repenting of our sins, confessing our faith in Christ and be­ing baptized could ever be enough to “earn” for us the glory of heaven. Nay, rather, it only emphasizes our depend­ence upon the mercy and grace of God. Therefore as we obey and when we have done all things commanded we are unprofitable and it is still by God’s grace that we are saved. However it is evident that his grace does not ex­clude the “works of righteousness” which he has commanded us to do.

What then can be the meaning of Paul’s statement, “not of works.” It is very simple, and as usual in God’s word, we find it in the very sentence we are considering. Notice, please, that Paul says, “not of works, that no man should glory” (Eph. 2:9). The King James version says “boast” instead of “glory” as we find it in the American Standard Version. This is the key of the entire matter, it is not of works that we can glory in or boast about. It is not by works that we earn salvation or place God in debt to us. This is the en­tire meaning of the apostle’s words and when we thus consider the matter we can see that some works are ex­cluded but that the “works of right­eousness” are not excluded but are the obedience of faith by which we are to receive the “gift of God.” Therefore it is important that we obey the com­mandments of Jesus that he may be the author of eternal salvation to our souls as he is to all them that obey him (Heb. 5:8, 9).

The Ephesian Example

Now in conclusion we want to re­member that our text for this study was written to members of the church in Ephesus. These were said to be saved by “grace through faith” so if we can learn what they did and how they were saved it will be of great im­portance to us in our study. Let us therefore turn our attention to the nineteenth chapter of Acts where we read of the establishment of this church and in this record learn of the conversion of the Ephesians.

“And it came to pass, that while Apollos was at Corinth, Paul having passed through the upper country came to Ephesus, and found certain disci­ples: and he said unto them, Did ye re­ceive the Holy Spirit when ye believed? And they said unto him, Nay, we did not so much as hear whether the Holy Spirit was given. And he said, Into what then were ye baptized ? and they said, Into John’s baptism. And Paul said, John baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people that they should believe on him that should come after him, that is on Jesus. And when they heard this, they were baptized into the name of the Lord Jesus” (Acts 19:1-5).

In this account we have the begin­ning of the church in Ephesus. These are the people to whom Paul wrote, “By grace have ye been saved through faith.” Therefore it is evident that Paul’s conception of salvation by grace did not exclude obedience to God’s commands. Nay, contrary to that, it so emphasized obedience to Christ that when he found these who had been one time baptized but with an improper faith he taught them the truth and they were baptized again. Therefore these were baptized twice, once wrong and once right, and still were saved by grace.

There are hundreds of thousands in this land of ours who are like those at Ephesus. They have been baptized but did not understand the true signifi­cance and meaning of it at the time. Their baptism is invalid and they like the Ephesians should be baptized with the baptism commanded by Christ. That is they should be baptized into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to receive the remission of their sins for this is the baptism commanded by the Lord and therefore the baptism in His name (Matt. 28:18-20; Mark 16: 15, 16).

There are other hundreds of thou­sands who have never been baptized. These need to believe in Christ with all their hearts (Acts 8:36, 37), repent of their sins (Acts 17:30), confess their faith in the Christ (Rom. 10:10), and be baptized into Christ (Rom. 6:3) unto the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). Thus they would in their obedi­ence to the commands of the Christ have him become the author of eternal salvation to their souls. Thus they would “work righteousness” and be­come acceptable in the sight of God. Thus they would “by faith” receive “the gift of God” the salvation of their souls and as children of God “by faith in Christ Jesus” rejoice in the sweet assurance of salvation by and through the grace of God for “as many of you as were baptized into Christ did put on Christ” (Gal. 3:27) and since “in Christ” the grace of God is made known and bestowed they would be saved “by grace through faith.”