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The Simplicity of Salvation
John 3:31-36 (01/28/01)
By Tony Grant
I invite you to turn in your Bibles to the gospel of John chapter 8 and follow along as I read verses 31-36. "Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches." (RV2:29).
31 He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all.
32 And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony.
33 He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true.
34 For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.
35 The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into his hand.
36 He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.
Amen. The word of God. Thanks be to God.
An old man and a young boy were out together paddling around a lake. A leaf, made beautiful by the colors of autumn, came floating by the boat. Taking the leaf in his hand, the old man asked, "Son, do you know anything about plants: their names and their uses."
"Not much," admitted the boy.
"Why," said the old man, "You have missed 25% of your life."
After awhile, the boat passed some granite boulders along the shore. "Son, do you know anything about the science of rocks," asked the old man.
The boy did not want to appear totally ignorant, but he did reluctantly have to admit that he did not know much about rocks.
"Why, you have missed 25% of your life then," said the old man.
Finally it began to grow rather late, and the sun went down and the stars came out. The old man looked up at the glittering sky and asked, "Son, do you know anything about astronomy?"
Well the boy was really getting tired of the old man putting him down, but he was an honest boy, and so all he could do was say, "No sir, I do not know anything about astronomy."
And sure enough, the old man said again, "You have missed 25% of your life."
Now it was time to go home, but when they began to turn the boat toward the dock, it flipped over in the water and sank. The boy started swimming for shore. Looking back, he saw that the old man was splashing and thrashing around in the water. The boy yelled, "Mister, do you know anything about swimming?"
"No," screamed the old man.
The boy shouted back with some glee, "Then you have missed 100% of your life, because you are going to drown."
Of course, the boy did not really let the old man drown. After he had had his moment of revenge, he turned back and helped him to shore.
But there is a point to this story for us. If we know everything else, and do not know Christ as our personal Savior, we have missed 100% of our life. JH3:36 puts it plain enough for anyone to understand. Anyone who believes on the Son, anyone who has faith in the Son and clings to the Son and relies upon the Son, has eternal life--The Greek here is "zwhn aiwnion." we get our word zoo from the Greek word for life--"zwh" And our word eon is directly from the greek meaning a long period of time. Aiwnion means eternal, unending or everlasting. Those who believe on the Son have unending life. But the verse does not stop there. It adds: whosoever refuses to believe on the Son, whosoever disregards the Son, will never see life.
That is the gospel, plain and simple. Unfortunately, many people are living under the wrath of God today because they do not know how to be saved. That is their fault, it is not God's fault. God has shown us very clearly in the Bible what is necessary for salvation.
I. Sin Debt
The first step toward salvation is to realize that we are dealing with almighty, holy God. Because God is holy, God has said that a penalty must be paid for sin. Ez. 18:4 "The soul that sinneth, it shall die." Sin must be paid for, and the payment for sin is death. This death is more than dying from cancer or heart attack. It is spiritual death as described in Rv. 20:14 "And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire.. This is the second death." The first death is physical; the second death is spiritual. To pay what I owe as a sinner, I must die and go to hell and eventually go to the second death in the lake of fire. That is the price that I owe God for my sins. And no other payment that I can make will suffice. I cannot offer my works as payment for my sins, because that is not the payment that is required. I cannot say I have been baptized, or, I am a member of the church. The Bible says those things are not the payment for sin. God has one payment for sin, eternal death in the lake of fire. Thus, if I wish to pay my sin debt to God, the only thing I can do is die and go to hell.
II. All are Sinners.
The second step in salvation is to realize that the sinners that the Bible is talking about are not just those convicted felons who are locked up in prison, but all of us. Rm. 3:23 " For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God."
The words "come short" mean "to miss the mark." How far we miss the mark is not the important thing. The important thing is that we missed it. When I was in High School, a student needed 70 to pass. If the student averaged anything less, she failed. Suppose one student averaged 65 and another 35. The difference in their grades is 30 points, yet both failed. It is that way in God's school. God looks down upon the world and says, "You have all failed and come short of my glory."
Suppose that I am throwing darts at a dartboard. I throw six darts and some are closer to the bull's-eye than others but they all miss the bull's-eye. Maybe one missed by a quarter of an inch; maybe one missed the whole dartboard. But if the standard is to hit the bull's-eye, then they all missed Now some people are better than others, some come closer to pure holiness and godliness than others, but compared to God's perfect holiness, we are all sinners. We have all missed the mark.
III. Already Condemned
The third step in salvation is to realize that the unsaved are already condemned. Jh. 3:18 says "He that believeth on him is not condemned, but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Some folks have the idea that when we die, we stand before the judgment seat of God, and God weighs our good works against our bad works. If the good outweighs the bad, God allows us to go on into heaven. If the bad outweighs the good, a big trap door swings open and drops us into the depths of hell. But the Bible teaches that if we do not believe in the Son of God, we are already condemned. We are not in the position of someone who is to be tried and guilt or innocence determined. We are in the position of the condemned criminal who has been arrested, tried, found guilty, and sentenced to die. We are on death row, awaiting the date of execution.
According to what God has said, I am a sinner. My sins demand a payment. That payment is death--the second death in the lake of fire. That is not a sentence that God may bring against me at some future day of judgment. That is a sentence that has already been pronounced on me if I am not trusting Jesus Christ as my savior.
The unbeliever is already condemned. She is living under sentence, waiting only for this physical life to end, and the moment this life ends, her soul leaves her body and goes immediately to hell.
That is what happened to the rich man in the parable of Lazarus and the Rich Man in LK16:22-23. It says, "The rich man also died, and was buried: And in hell he lifted up his eyes, being in torment." As soon as he died, the unbeliever was in hell.
IV. God Forgives
The fourth step in salvation is to realize that God forgives. God does not forgive sin. God forgives the sinner. Sin must be paid for. Someone must bear the burden. Literally the word "forgive" means "to bear the burden." If I owe someone $1000 and she forgives the debt, then she assumes that burden for me. She pays that debt for me.
In order for almighty, holy God to forgive the sinner, someone must pay the debt. Someone must bear the burden. That is where Jesus comes in. God took every sin we have ever committed and every sin that we will ever commit and laid that burden upon Christ almost 2000 years ago on the cross of Calvary. IPT2:24 says of Christ, "Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree." The greatest truth that we can ever learn is the truth of the substitutionary death of Jesus Christ. The greatest truth that we can ever learn is that Jesus took all our sins--past, present, and future--and bore them in his own body.
You might be saying, "Wait a minute. How can Christ die for my future sins? How can Christ die for sins that I have not yet committed? But that is not hard to believe when we realize that unless we are over 2000 years old, he also died for our past sins before we committed them. God looked down through time and saw every sin that we would ever commit, from the day of our birth to the day of our death, and God put all those sins in one big package and laid them on Christ and punished him in our place to pay the debt that we owe so that when we die we will not have to pay that debt.
Someone might say, "It was the Jews who killed Jesus."
But Jh. 3:16 says "God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." God gave Jesus to die in our place. God actually punished Jesus in our place so we could escape the punishment we deserved.
V. A Satisfactory Payment
The next thing some people ask about salvation is: How can I be sure that God is satisfied with the payment Jesus made? I can answer in three words: "The Empty Tomb." When a prisoner is set free, it means the debt to society has been paid. When God raised Jesus from the dead, God was saying that those who believe on Jesus have had their sin debt paid.
At a flea market, very often the seller simply lays out her goods with no price tags on them. If we wish to buy an item we ask her for a price and she may give you a price that is deliberately set too high. So we offer a much lower price, and we haggle about price for awhile. She goes down some and you come up some, and finally we agree on a price and we give her the money and she gives us the item. When she takes our money, what she is saying is, "I am satisfied with this payment for this item." When God raised Jesus from the dead, God said to all who believe in the Son, "I am satisfied with the payment my Son has made for your sins."
Is. 53:11 prophesied "He shall see the travail of his soul and shall be satisfied." "To satisfy" means "to do enough," or "to pay what is required." Christ did enough on the cross to pay what God required for sin. We must accept the satisfaction that Jesus made to God for our sins, or satisfy God ourselves. But we have already said that the only way we can satisfy God is to die and go to hell. You can make your own choice, but personally I prefer to accept the Way of Christ.
VI. Satisfied With Christ Alone.
If we try to add anything to what Jesus has done to achieve salvation, no matter how good the addition may be, we are saying by our actions, "I am not really satisfied with the payment Jesus made." But Jh. 3:36 does not say that believing in the Son plus my works gives me "zwhn aiwnion.". It is only belief that give me everlasting life. Christianity is not Christ plus works. Christianity is only Christ.
To show that we are fully satisfied with the payment Christ made for us, we must cease to trust any and everything else and trust Christ alone. We must cease to trust our good works, no matter how good they are. We must cease to trust our church membership, no matter how good our church may be. We must cease to trust our baptism, no matter how beautiful and meaningful our baptism may be. To trust anything other than Christ on the cross of Calvary for salvation is to say to God, "I am not fully satisfied with the payment your Son made for my sins. I feel I must have something else."
In order to show God that I am satisfied with the payment Christ made, I must trust Christ completely. Jh. 3:36 says "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." It does not say "He that partially believeth on the Son and partially on other things hath everlasting life." There is no room for partial or halfway commitment to Christ. God is not interested in half-committed Christians. When God says belief, God means complete, wholehearted belief.
What about your state of belief this morning? Have you let God know that you are satisfied with the payment Jesus made for your sins? Are you trusting Christ and Christ alone and nothing else but Christ for your salvation?
VII. The Promise of God
As we conclude, let us consider one last question: How can you know that if you trust Jesus Christ as your Savior, you will go to heaven? The answer is simple. You have the promise of God himself, and God is too wise to be mistaken and too honest to deceive us. If God said it, it is guaranteed. When God prescribes a cure, it is certain that the cure will occur The disease is sin. God has prescribed the cure for sin. We see it in Jh. 3:36 "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." God says that if you are trusting Jesus Christ completely for your salvation, then you have everlasting life. You are not going to have it some day, you have it now. Jh. 3:18 says "He that believeth on him is not condemned." God promises in that verse that the person who is trusting Jesus is no longer under sentence. The sentence has been lifted. That person does not have to pay the sin debt. The debt has been paid.
That is the promise, and the promise has more authority for us because it is written in the bible than it would if an angel came down from heaven and said to us "You have everlasting life. You are going heaven." Because if the angel came and spoke to us, the angel would still be a secondary authority, the angel could only say, God promises you this or God promises you that. But we have a greater authority. God himself is our authority. God himself has written down his promises in the Bible and they are more precious than gold.
Jh. 6:37 says, "Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." In the ancient Greek of the original manuscripts there are five negatives in that verse. In the Greek it means "Him that cometh to me I will never, no never, no never, no never, no never cast out." That is the most emphatic way possible of saying, if you trust Christ you will never be lost. You can stake all eternity on that promise.
This then is the way of salvation. The question is what shall you do about this way? Have you accepted it?
Will you pray the sinner's prayer and say, "Lord, I know that I am a sinner, and that as a sinner I owe the sin debt. I also believe that Jesus Christ died on the cross in my place and that his death paid in full what I owe. From this minute on I am depending on Christ alone for my salvation. Amen.
Pray that prayer of trust in Christ. Pray it today, and you will have everlasting life. Amen.
If you have questions or comments, email Tony Grant
Copyright 2000 York Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
Last modified, 02/02/01