If Christianity is false, then the contents of this lesson are worthless. However, if there is
no valid reason to believe atheism and to be antichristian, then understanding God’s requirement for salvation
(GRFS) is of primary significance. The Old Testament (OT) indicates
that God chose the Jewish culture for the purpose of providing Messiah, through whom the world would be blessed (GN
22:18, IS 42:6, 49:6, JL 2:28& 32, MIC 4:2-3, ZPH 3:8-9, ZCH 2:11, 14:9&16), and the New Testament (NT) proclaims
that Jesus of Nazareth is Messiah (ACTS 2:36, RM 1:1-4, HB 1:1-4, 3:3-6). What do Jesus and the
NT say is GRFS? (This question may be viewed as a third watershed decision for
theists.) It is tragic that the person God has ordained to be the head of one worldwide
body of believers (JN 17:20-23, EPH 1:9-10 & 3:6, CL 1:18-20, PHP 2:9-11) is rejected by so many who claim to be theists,
and it is ironic that this gemstone, which is the foundation and cornerstone of ultimate reality (EPH 2:20), is the
stumbling-stone (1PT 2:6-8) to faith in GRFS for many souls (1CR 1:22-25).
A crisis that threatened a
Philippian jailer with death prompted him to ask Paul and Silas this most important question in life:
“What must I do to be saved?” (ACTS 16:30) This question is most important,
because—as sinful and mortal souls—we need saving from moral corruption and existential destruction.
We want saving from physical death if we value or enjoy life, and we need saving from immorality or evil-doing
if it results in unhappy existence, especially after this lifetime. The reply of Paul and Silas
was this: “Believe in the Lord Jesus.” (ACTS 16:31) This is GRFS
in a nutshell. Jesus expressed GRFS even more succinctly using three, four and
five letter words: "Ask . . . seek . . . knock . . ." (MT 7:7). As
Hebrews 11:6 states: "he [God] rewards those who earnestly seek him." (IS 45:19) A person
who is not a truthseeker—who does not ask, seek and knock—is
not saved, even though he/she may claim to be a Christian (MT 7:21). I like to
denote GRFS by the use of the Greek word kerygma, meaning proclamation, referring to the good news (Gospel)
concerning salvation (RM 1:16, GL 1:6-12, CL 1:21-23). This Gospel was preached by Peter in Acts 2:22-24
and was summarized by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. The salient points include: Jesus was a man, accredited
by God (to be Messiah), who died on a cross, but who was raised from the dead.
A statement of the essential Gospel is called a creed. Reference to it as “essential”
implies that there are secondary teachings that may be designated by another Greek term, didache, which means
teaching. The didache may be very important and requisite for becoming spiritually
mature, but it is not most important or necessary to know/believe in order to be saved. The distinction between
kerygma/saving faith and didache was made by Jesus when He commissioned His original twelve disciples
minus Judas (MT 28:19-20). This “Great Commission” speaks of both types of information.
The kerygma is indicated by verse 19, in which Jesus says, “Therefore go and make disciples of
all nations . . .” A Christian disciple is a learner or one who accepts the good news about God’s
offer of eternal life to all who become converted to saving faith in Jesus as Lord. The
didache is implicit in verse 20, in which Jesus continues by saying “. . . teaching them to obey
everything I have commanded you.” This speaks of the information a disciple needs to know and
believe after conversion in order to grow in Christlikeness regarding how to live the law of love. It
is the “all truth” that is taught by the Spirit referred to in John 16:13. Again, it is very
important but not necessary for salvation. Witness the thief on the cross in Luke 23:39-43, who had no
opportunity to learn the didache after his conversion; although, like Paul (according to Acts 22:3) and most adults,
some didachaic truth is learned prior to knowing the kerygma.
The distinction between kerygma and didache can be seen also in 2 Timothy 3:15-17.
The scriptures “which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” refers to
the Gospel or kerygma. The scriptural teaching that is useful for “training in righteousness,
so that the man [or woman (GL 3:28)] of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” refers to the didache.
The apostle Paul also employs the difference between keyrgma and didache in 1 Corinthians 3:10-15.
The “foundation . . . which is Jesus Christ” is the kerygmatic teaching
regarding salvation. Paul alludes to the didache when he says that one should be careful
how he/she builds upon this foundation. We can see that the distinction between kerygma
and didache involves a difference in content and purpose. The kerygma proclaims
GRS, which calls for repentance and acceptance of Jesus as Lord, which is an all or nothing decision that occurs at one moment
in time. The didache teaches God’s will regarding how those who have been saved should live
in order to be a good witness for Christ, which involves learning numerous facts throughout one’s lifetime.
Another passage of Holy Scripture that paints this truth is Colossians 2:6-7: “Just
as you received Christ Jesus as Lord [kerygma], continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened
in the faith as you were taught [didache].”
Notice that the kerygma or Gospel fulfills and supersedes OT revelation, yet does not contradict its
correct interpretation (HB 8:6-13), but that the NT revelation of GRFS will never become obsolete (PHP 2:9-11, RV 22:12-13).
Thus, new revelations from God’s Holy Spirit will never contradict the Gospel, although they may express its
truth in a different way or form, or else God would be inconsistent or tricky. There may be new wineskins,
but no new wine (MT 19:17). Non-messianic Muslims and Mormons would do well to ponder this truth. Post-NT
inspiration must be didachaic information regarding contemporary moral/political issues, such as abortion, biomedicine
the kerygma/GRFS is the key to understanding history and experiencing eternal reality, it should be every Christian’s
creed, and only belief in this crucial truth should be viewed as a test for orthodoxy or heresy.
As Paul wrote in Romans 10:9, “If you declare
with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
Conversely, judgments concerning a person’s spiritual orientation or ultimate destiny should not
be made on the basis of didachaic or secondary doctrines. (If any judgment is made, it should
begin with a self-examination per MT 7:1-2 & 2CR 13:5-8). A major reason many Christians throughout
history have not manifested the love and unity of God’s Spirit (EPH 4:3) as well as they should is because of failure
to realize this truth. If Christians would recognize this fact, it would free them
to speak honestly and to fellowship without animosity, enabling them to relax and not to get unduly upset about relatively
minor issues or disagreements. They would receive God's blessing as peacemakers, who
draw inclusive circles around people based on the kerygma rather divisive lines between them due to didachaic
differences. The main points of Christian orthodoxy implicit in the normative
way of stating the kerygma/GRFS (accept Christ Jesus as Lord, as in 2CR 4:5 & CL 2:6) can be explained
or elaborated as follows:
1. There is a/one Lord or God (DT 6:4), able (2TM 1:12)
and willing (1TM 2:3-4) to save sinners.
2. All normal adult human beings are morally accountable sinners (RM 3:23): selfish, greedy, vain, etc. (2TM 3:2-4, CL 3:5),
miserable (GL 5:19-21), and hopeless (EPH 2:12) when they reject God’s salvation (JN 3:18, RM 1:18-20).
3. Salvation means being resurrected to heaven—a wonderful life full
of love, joy and peace forever (JN 3:16, 1CR 15:17)—and thus NOT being condemned to a just hell (MT 23:33, 2THS 1:6)
and destruction (JN 17:12, RM 9:22, GL 6:8, PHP 3:19, 2THS 1:9, 2PT 3:7).
4. Jesus is God’s Messiah/Christ or the way (means of providing salvation) that God
has chosen (JN 3:16, ACTS 16:30-31, PHP 2:9-11).
5. Thus, every person who hears the Gospel needs to accept
God in Jesus as Christ/Messiah the Lord or Supreme Commander (LK 2:11, JN 14:6, ACTS 16:31), which
means trying to obey His commandment to love one another (MT 22:37-40, JN 13:35, RM 13:9)--forever (MT 10:22, 24:13, 1CR 15:2,
JM 1:12, PS 113:2).
6. Then God's Holy Spirit will establish a saving relationship with those who freely accept Him (RV 3:20) that will eventually achieve heaven when by means of persevering in learning God's will everyone cooperates fully with His Word (RM 8:6-17,
GL 6:7-9, EPH 1:13-14, HB 10:36, 12:1, JM 1:2-4).
Now that the Christian creed has been delineated, let
us address a few questions that might be asked. The first question (avoided by many Christian preachers) is this:
"What is GRFS for those who have never heard of Jesus?" (which includes everyone living B.C.
and millions of people who have lived A.D.) Obviously, if God loves the world (JN 3:16) and wants everyone to be
saved (2TM 2:4) [HD#6], then He must provide an opportunity. Paul indicates that
a proto-Gospel is implicit in pre-NT history (RM 1:20, 10:17-18, GL 3:8, CL 1:23) [HD#14]. (Note that
the previous two statements cite in brackets two of the key "hermeneutical doctrines" discussed in Lesson
11.) The fullest statement is found in ACTS (14:16-17, 17:27&30): "In past generations,
God allowed all the nations to go their own way, although He did not leave Himself without a witness, since He did good...
satisfying your hearts with food and happiness... so that men might seek God and perhaps find Him... Having overlooked
the times of ignorance, God now commands all people everywhere to repent...". In this way, Paul affirms what is
called general or natural revelation. He also cites the role of conscience
or “common sense” (RM 2:14-16), which manifests morality or a moral Authority in every culture. These
combined with special revelation (1PT 1:8-12), especially the NT Gospel of salvation, comprise the basis
of divine judgment (ACTS 17:31). Souls are saved via faith in God/Christ as revealed (1CR 10:1-5).
God's just judgment is illustrated by Jesus in the Parable of the Talents (MT 25:14-29), which indicates that God will
judge souls on the basis of the truth (Word = Christ) they have received or rejected. Truthseekers around
the world in all times are pilgrims at various places along the road of life, and all true roads eventually lead to the Way
to eternal life in heaven (JN 14:6, ACTS 24:14, PHP 2:10-11).
Regarding the NT Gospel, the kerygma
or GRFS can be stated in various ways, which may cause confusion. I have found over seventy statements of this
doctrine in the NT (listed in an article in Lesson 18). These statements can be grouped into two types.
Some explanations, such as Acts 16:31 (quoted previously) and Ephesians 2:8-9, are stated in terms of believing right;
while others, such as Matthew 7:21 (“only he who does the will of my Father” will enter heaven) and Galatians
6:7-9, are stated in terms of behaving right. This prompts the question: Is salvation obtained by believing
God’s words or by doing God’s works? I believe the answer to
this question is indicated by John 6:29: “The work of God is to believe in the one [Messiah/Christ]
He has sent.” As Jesus stated (in JN 14:6): “I am the way and the
truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” The body of
Jesus is truth incarnate (JN 1:14), and all truth manifests the Spirit of Christ or God (1JN 5:6). If
a moralist truthseeker (on the basis of general revelation) is taught about the one true God (the Almighty Creator
and Judge per the OT), then he/she may choose to believe in God or become a theist. If theists
are taught the Gospel (NT), then they may choose to believe/accept Jesus as Christ. In both cases salvation
is a gift from God received by faith “from first to last" (RM 1:17).
Of course, God, God's Word and the gift of salvation may be rejected because of faith in
lies or their father (JN 8:44-47). The latter decision is called “the spirit of the antichrist”
(1JN 2:18 & 4:2-3), and Jesus said (in MT 12:30), “He who is not with me is against me.” The
purpose of evangelism or teaching everyone on earth the Gospel (MT 28:18-20) is to fulfill God’s desire for those
truthseekers who are saved either on the basis of belief in natural or general revelation and obedience to conscience (moralism)
or on the basis of belief in God as Lord (theism) to learn the whole truth (NT kerygma) and be one spiritual body or church
united by faith in Christ (CL 1:15-23). It should be understood that although God's love is universal
and unconditional, receiving His gift of salvation is conditional upon repentance or choosing to accept it by non-meritorious
faith defined as cooperating with GRFS, because if we truly believe in Jesus
as Christ, the One who represents God the Father, then we will also accept Him as God the Son (MT 16:16)
or God in the human dimension (CL 2:9) or as Lord (LK 2:11). The term “Lord” means Supreme
Commander, so accepting Jesus as Lord means that we will want to please Him by doing His will (MT 7:21, EPH 5:8-10).
The word “Muslim” means “one who serves God”, so in that sense all godly Jews and Christians may
be termed Muslims, just as Messianic Jews and Muslims are Christians, and Christians and Messianic Muslims are spiritual Israel
(RM 2:28-29; see Lesson 12 on ecumenical monotheism).
Learning the manifold teachings or doctrines describing God’s moral will takes a lifetime, but Jesus
summarized ("kissed", HD#9) God's Word in Matthew 22:37-40 by means of a teaching known as
the law of love: Love the Lord God (DT 6:5), oneself (EPH 5:28, 1CR 3:16-17)
and one’s fellow human beings (LV 19:18). Christians will try to learn God’s Word and
to manifest the love of God. As Jesus said in John 13:35: “All men will
know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” [HD#10] We must emphasize
the words “try” and “if” however, because Paul indicates (in PHP 3:12-14) that moral perfection remains
the goal in this life that is not attained until life in heaven (cf. Lesson 5). [I cite Paul and
other NT writers as authoritative and essentially accurate or sufficiently reliable for Christian doctrine, because God (who
is not tricky) either caused or allowed their words to be collected in a canon of Scriptures, thereby steering the flow
Jesus as Christ and Lord indicates the reason that the kerygma is stated in terms of believing right and behaving
right. For example, Ephesians 2:8 (cited previously) says: “For it is by grace you have been saved
through faith [in Jesus as Christ].” However, James 2:24 says: “You see that a person is justified
by what he does [obeying Jesus as Lord].” Also as we have noted, Jesus commanded people to do the will of the
heavenly Father (MT 7:21), but He also said the will or work of God is to believe in the Messiah/Christ (JN 6:29). We
can harmonize these two categories of teachings by understanding that right or saving faith precedes and produces
good works or working faith that loves. The (logical) priority of saving faith is implied
by James 2:17, which says that “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied [manifested] by action, is dead.”
And Paul in Galatians 5:6 states, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
Ephesians 2:8-9, which emphasizes salvation by grace through faith, is followed in verse 10 by: “For we are God’s
workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works.” In other words, right faith in God/Christ is the
horse that pulls a cartload of good works. Good or loving works are significant as the sign of saving faith,
but we should never put the cart before the horse. A person who claims to be a Christian, but who seems selfish
and unloving, may be making a false profession; but no particular work—even including outward confession and water baptism—is
necessary in order to be saved and to become a Christian.
Someone might ask whether or not souls who have had the opportunity to learn the gospel of Jesus as Messiah
but choose to believe that God does not exist and Jesus is not Messiah may be good or have good "hearts"
and merit heaven without accepting Christ's atonement. The NT says no, but does not consider whether
a person might have a psychological excuse (such as being abused as a child by an unloving "Christian"
father who forced him/her to go to church, thereby causing resentment contra Paul's command in EPH 6:4). Regardless
of how a person behaved and acted while alive, the fact they did not believe the Gospel of Jesus (assuming they had the opportunity
to do so, both physical and psychological) would make them evil, because they reject the only One who is good, the source
and Spirit of good, and its Rationale. All who attempt to be good apart from cooperating with God, but who instead
reject His Lordship and inspired Word, actually go in the opposite direction. God initiates; we cooperate, or not.
[However, those who reject God, even Satan, can imitate love and appear as an angel of light per 2CR 11:14.] IOW, "good"
is not an objective natural entity that exists independently from God or even prior to Him, determining His morality,
but rather it is God's creation, determined and continually/eternally chosen by Him (cf. Lesson 2,
part IV). Thus, God is good, and love is God.
Again, "God is good"
(MT 19:17) means that God is the source or creator and criterion of all that is good in the world.
The corollary is that apart from God all humans are sinners in need of God’s salvation from selfishness
(RM 3:23, 6:23). The command of Jesus to be perfect (MT 5:48) means to become like God morally, or as Paul
says, to be imitators of God and “live a life of love, just as Christ loved us.” (EPH 5:1-2) Paul
calls this goal the “fullness” of God/Christ (EPH 3:19, 4:13). “The
fullness of Christ” signifies the reason for creation, the purpose of salvation and Believers' blessings
in heaven. Although God views believers in Christ as sharing His perfect righteousness (sometimes called
imputed or positional perfection), practical perfection or continual loving behavior as an immortal being in heaven
will begin when our physical life on earth is finished (PHP 3:12, 1JN 1:8, 1CR 15:42-50). What a wonderful
hope! Paul's command to be perfect/complete/full [the slashes denote equivalent
terms] essentially means first to believe in Christ and then to become more like Him morally or in loving attitudes and
actions (PHP 3:7-9, EPH 5:1-3) until the day we die. Apparently, achieving this goal is aided by an earthly
lifetime (no matter how brief) of learning lessons that prepare us for eternal
life and teaching what we learn to others, encouraging them to do likewise (1JN 1:3-4). This might be a
reason believers are not immediately translated to heaven when they become Christians (PHP 1:21-26). How
long this earthly history will continue only God knows, but some scriptures (MT 24:14, 2PT 3:9-15) indicate that it will be
until everyone living in the world at the time of the end has the opportunity to hear the Gospel and accept Christ.
Someone might ask, "Why did God's plan of salvation include the gruesome death of Messiah?"
The NT answer is because humans cannot pay the just penalty for their sins without experiencing hell. As
was explained in Lesson 2, God created humanity with moral free will (MFW) by providing the possibility of choosing between morally
opposite options, good and evil, that are opposite because of essentially different ultimate consequences for choosing them: heaven
and hell (DT 30:19). Because God knew that all humanity would be sinful and deserve hell, He provided a Way for
people to go to heaven based on His loving grace rather than on human merit or good works. This Way is
for Him to pay the penalty Himself as Messiah Jesus.
Jesus is the only person qualified
to be Messiah and atone for sins, because he was innocent of sin even though tempted like every human (HB 4:15, 5:7-9
& 6:26-28). The crucifixion of Jesus or God the Son is the way for God the Father to forgive sins
justly without abrogating free will and abetting sin. Jesus bore the just consequences of the sins of all humanity
so that those who truly repent can receive forgiveness rather than having to experience those consequences or hell.
We emphasize "truly", however, because free grace is not cheap or unjust, allowing
evil to go unpunished. A person cannot play games with God, who knows the heart (GL 6:7-10, HB 4:12-13).
Jesus' atonement was signified by OT prophecies of a "suffering servant" (IS 53), and it also completed
and ended the Mosaic sacrificial system, as explained in Hebrews 7:18-10:1. Although the Bible does not state it this
way, it is logical to believe that an all-loving God's plan of salvation would be just, the best and save
the most. God would not need to atone for sins if all sinners were content with going to hell, but truthseekers
who find Christ desire heaven and appreciate His sacrificial love, even if not understanding every detail of His POS perfectly—just
as we do not understand much of natural phenomenon very well (cf. JN 3:7-17).
Anyone who thinks God should punish each individual
for his/her own sins thinks too highly of himself and too little of the holiness of God. Even
though some sins, such as murder, seem worse than others quantitatively, because they cause more obvious harm, all sin—even that of omission (JM 4:17)—is evil qualitatively and
equivalent to murder for being diametrically opposed to the perfect will of God. Thus, while it might seem
that the just consequence for your own sins would be a hell much less horrible than for someone like Hitler, all ungodly
souls are on Satan's side and cannot earn heaven by trying to be good without faith or cooperating with God, who alone
is good (MT 19:17). Besides, even one day in hell would seem like eternity. So instead
of using imperfect understanding of divine logic regarding the Gospel of Jesus' atonement as an excuse for seeking salvation
our own way (remember the Naaman-Nicodemus Principle in Lesson 1), it is wise to be grateful for grace and ask for clarification
of one's (mis)understandings in heaven.
Discussion of salvation also might prompt the question, "We are saved from what?" Because
perfect justice is not attained during this earthly existence, there is a resurrection and judgment (HB 9:27-28),
when those who serve the Spirit of love (although imperfectly, PHP 3:12) are separated from demonic souls (who do not even
want to try to cooperate with the Holy Spirit (MT 25:31-46). Otherwise, there would be no heaven and the
entire biblical revelation would make no sense (1CR 15:14&19). If atheists/evil-doers remained unconscious
after death, such ignorance would be relative bliss and morality would be nullified (ECC 2:12-17). Thus, hell (like the
evil option discussed in the previous lesson, as a theoretical or potential destiny only) as well as heaven is good!
It gives us both humanity and heaven.
The horror of self-condemnation for serving
(and to serving) Satan is this: apparently the misery of hell does not motivate genuine repentance.
Thus, God abandons people assigned to hell or second death (RV 20:6,
RM 1:28-32), because they are hopelessly corrupt, so attempting to influence them to repent is a waste of time (JN 6:44).
(See the discussion of coercion in Lesson 2.) Is this
destiny eternal? Yes, for anyone whose sin is infinite/eternal (i.e., perhaps only Satan).
For the rest, hell will end in destruction or non-existence per the following passages:
“None has been lost except the one doomed to destruction so that
Scripture would be fulfilled.”
RM 9:22, “What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with
great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction?”
GL 6:8a, “Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction.”
PHP 3:19a, “Their
destiny is destruction.”
2THS 1:9a, “They will be punished with everlasting destruction.”
2PT 3:7, “By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved
for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”
In conclusion, the good news is that God has provided a Way
for sinners to be saved from the suffering of hell to eternal life in heaven. If someone did not desire
heaven, then he/she would not accept God’s gift, but no one who is happy wants to commit suicide. The
desire for eternal joy is not selfish but rather the proper motivation for attaining immortality the right way.
Death and judgment may occur at any moment, so we need to help each other prepare rather than waste time wondering
when will be the exact time (MT 24:36&42-46, 25:1-13, LK 12:16-20, ACTS 1:7, 1THS 5:1-6, 2PT 3:3-10). What "gospel" is more credible than the Christian hope of heaven? None!
And who is a better candidate for Christ/Messiah than Jesus of Nazareth? No one! (CL 1:15-20)
If history evolved in a way that produced a false gospel and pseudo-Christ, then I want to know it. All
truthseekers want to know whether the NT is a reliable revelation of reality/God, but why choose to doubt the reality of
a loving God, revealed by Jesus, who provides eternal joy in heaven until this hope is disproved or discredited?
Doubt this if you want, but I prefer to doubt such doubts. I want to know the truth, even if
the truth is that there is no hope of heaven and life is meaningless, but if Christianity is true, then life is not
The didache consists of much information that a Christian should want to learn as soon
as possible, but which takes a lifetime to absorb, since there is always something new the Lord's Spirit desires
to teach. This is why the NT conceives of genuine saving faith as a lifelong commitment analogous
to that which God desires for earthly marriages (MT 19:3-9). Thus, although learning any specific part of the didache is not GRFS, a person who does not "hunger and thirst for righteousness" (MT 5:6) or want
to learn "every word that comes from the mouth of God" (MT 4:4) fails the self-examination Paul commanded (2CR 13:5)
and Jesus implied (MT 7:5). A person's decision to accept Jesus as Lord is defective if it
is not meant to be forever. Jesus said, "He who stands firm to the end will be saved" (MT 10:22).
Paul urged Timothy "to continue in what you have learned" (2TM 3:14). This aspect of faith is called perseverance
(HB12:1, JM 1:2-4). Although perfection is not achieved in this life, the necessity of learning the
didache in order to strive for perfection indicates the need for perseverance or to keep on learning and growing
spiritually until the day we die physically. This truth is so important that it is the subject
of the next lesson.