After 35 years of Bible study, prayer, and reflection, I am more convinced than ever that the message of Justification by faith needs to be taken more seriously. Many pastors and teachers give it lip service, but their hearts are geared towards teaching morality and Christian living. They forget the Holy Spirit is only given to those who have assurance of salvation.
Justification by faith is not “once salved always saved” or “cheap grace.” It is possible to lose salvation by walking away from Christ, by taking ones eyes off Jesus, or by perverting the gospel of grace by placing conditions other than simple faith. Salvation is a free gift and is only cheapened when one believes salvation can be earned by keeping a set of rules.
Many Christians believe they are saved by grace, but act like they are saved or lost based on behavior. They tend to be critical of other Christians who don’t “measure up” to their expectations of Christian living. They lack the joy and peace of knowing Christ, because there is always another habit to overcome or level of holiness to attain.
The saints who are alive when Jesus returns will keep the commandments of God and have the faith of Jesus (Revelation 14:12). However, the saints will keep the commandments, because they have the assurance of being declared perfect “in-Christ” and have the verdict of the final judgment. The saints endure because they refuse to question the promise of salvation freely given to all who trust in the merits of Christ alone.
Being obedient to Christ is not legalism. Keeping Commandments is not legalism. Focusing on the rules over relationships is not legalism.
PLACING CONDITIONS ON ETERNAL LIFE OTHER THAN SIMPLE FAITH AND TRUST IN CHRIST IS LEGALISM.
Legalism is a curse upon professed followers of Christ who are more concerned with their own righteousness than with admitting their sins and pleading the grace of God.
The devil is deceptive and knows how to slip in the back door of the church. Few legalists will ever tell you that you have to keep the law in order to be saved. Instead, they are quite adamant that one cannot be saved without keeping the law. This type of double talk is present in every Christian denomination. We need to recover the genuine teachings of the Apostles that state we are saved apart from keeping the law (Romans 3:28).
Christians do not keep the law in order to be saved but strive to keep the law because they are saved. Their motivation is not fear of damnation but love for the sacrifice Christ made on the cross to grant assurance of eternal life.
The relationship between the old and new covenants of the Holy Scriptures have perplexed many theologians over the last 2000 years. Some bible scholars believe the old and new covenants represent two separate plans of salvation. Others have a difficult time separating the mosaic laws from the original covenant God made with Adam and Eve. In reality, there is only one major difference between the original covenant and the covenant given to us by Christ after the cross.
Here are some points to ponder concerning the simple and yet profound relationship between the old and new covenants:
1. There is only one plan of salvation provided to human beings.
2. The original covenant began with Adam and Eve and looked forward to what Christ would accomplish, while the new covenant looks back on what Christ has accomplished.
3. All human beings are saved because of the blood that Christ shed on the cross. If Christ had not been the once for all sacrifice for sin then every human being would be doomed to eternal destruction.
4. The laws given to Moses for the nation of Israel were only binding on those living within the borders of Israel and did not add or subtract from the original covenant. The Moral Law of God, the 10 Commandments, was written by the finger of God and summarizes the eternal law for the human race that was violated in the Garden of Eden and for which Christ died.
These four points are evidence that every human being who is saved will be saved by grace alone through the atoning blood of Jesus. The same blood that was shed for us who live under the new covenant saves those who lived before Christ under the original covenant.
The major difference between the covenants is the original covenant promised a future messiah who would save His people from sin, while the new covenant fulfills that promise and identifies Jesus as the divine son of God who shed His blood as the once for all sacrifice for all people, for all time, and for all sin (Hebrews 10:1-18).
The notion that those who lived before the cross were saved by law and that New Testaments Christians are saved by grace is false. There is only one plan of salvation for all humanity—the blood of Christ that was shed once for all.
Stephen Beagles (2019)
Founder of Gospel Adventist Ministries