Bible and Salvation


In hindsight, most individuals begin questioning the little things. Why couldn’t they have been stopped at a traffic light or why couldn’t the road have been just a little wider at that particular spot. But these endless questions do very little to stifle the grief and pain that accompanies a sudden horrific tragedy. Few church families have not experienced the devastation of losing teenagers prematurely in automobile accidents. In fact, many congregations have sent their children off on mission trips or retreats only to wake up in a nightmare—receiving a late night call that there had been a tragic wreck. It could be that an oncoming driver fell asleep at the wheel, or was intoxicated and unable to control his car. Or it might be that debris was in the roadway or the streets were slick. No matter what the cause, a common question that rings through out such tragedies is “Why Lord?”
As telephones ring into the night and news crews scramble to provide details about such tragedies, many individuals began to question: “Where was God, and why did He allow this to happen to these amazing young people?” Did God momentarily turn His back? A semblance of these questions was echoed thousands of years ago by King David, who desperately asked: “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1). During grief and turmoil, questions similar to this are asked, not only in front of news cameras, but also whispered through sobs and tears in the dark recesses of private bedroom closets.

The appeal is simple enough to understand: “If there really is a God, then why do so many congregations experience these horrendous nightmares?” Evolutionists often phrase it this way: “If God is a loving God, then why do bad things happen to good people?” This simple question frequently becomes a stumbling block for some individuals—who end up making a conscientious decision not to believe in God. Unfortunately, all too often it is during pain and suffering that we forget that God is in the same place now that He was when His own Son was being maliciously nailed to an old rugged cross almost two thousand years ago. And how thankful we should be that on that grim day, God did remain in heaven as the sin of all humanity was placed on His Son’s back and nailed to that cross! Had Christ not died for our sins, we would have no hope of inheriting heaven (1 Corinthians 15). We must remember that while we may not understand every facet of human suffering in the here and now, we can explain enough to negate the charge that misery is incompatible with the existence of God.

Why Does God Allow Suffering?

Some of the suffering comes from past generations

Much of the suffering present in the world today is a direct result of the misuse of the freedom of choice of past generations. Aside from Adam and Eve, we are currently living with decisions our forefathers made that have greatly impacted our lives. Who knew fifty years ago that filling our schools with asbestos and painting our homes with lead paint would cause cancer? Who knew that spraying our troops in Vietnam with Agent Orange (in an effort to kill the foliage) would have mutagenic effects? Who knew that treating pregnant women with thalidomide would produce infants with gross deformities? Past generations have carried out actions that result in suffering, even today. This does not mean we should blame people of the past or toss up our hands and “give up.” Rather, it simply explains why we see some of the evil, pain, and suffering around us today.
Some suffering results from our own mistakes

But do not think that all the pain and suffering in this world can be blamed on past generations. Each one of us makes wrong decisions and incorrect judgments, and in doing so, we frequently inflict pain and suffering upon ourselves and upon others. Thanks to God’s incredible love (1 John 4:8), humanity has been endowed with free will (see Genesis 2:16-17; Joshua 24:15; Isaiah 7:15; John 5:39-40; 7:17; Revelation 22:17). God loves us enough to allow us freedom of choice. However, consider the young man who decides to “sow his wild oats” eventually will learn that every person reaps what he sows (Galatians 6:7).

Many destitute people have awakened in a gutter because they freely chose to get drunk the night before. And many drunk drivers have killed themselves, their passengers, and innocent victims, because they chose not to relinquish the keys. All of us must understand that actions have consequences! What we do today can (and often does) determine what our life will be like tomorrow. God will allow us to be forgiven of our sins, but He will not always remove the painful consequences of our actions. Let’s face it: much of the pain and suffering that we experience in this world is our own fault!


Some Suffering comes from violating Natural Laws


Evolutionists are quick to ask why, then, didn’t God reach down and save Christian teenagers on their way home from a mission trip? Why didn’t He just stretch out His almighty arm and cradle those faithful believers in the palm of His hand? As odd as it may sound at first, God did not act in such a fashion because He loves us! We live in a world regulated by natural laws that were established at the creation of this world. For example, the laws of gravity and motion behave consistently. Thus, if you step off the roof of a fifteen-story building, gravity will pull you to the pavement beneath and you will die. If you step in front of a moving bus, the laws of motion will keep that bus in motion, even though it will result in your death. But individuals still ask, “Why?” Why could not God intervene to prevent such disasters? Think for just a moment what sort of world would this be if God directly intervened, suspending His natural laws, every time a human encountered a life-threatening situation. This would cause indescribable chaos and confusion all over our planet. This chaotic, haphazard system would argue more for atheism than it would for theism!

In Luke 13:2-5, Jesus told the story of eighteen people who died when the tower of Siloam fell on them. Did they die because they were wicked or more deserving of death than others around them? No, they died because of natural laws that were in effect. We know that God is “no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34). Fortunately, natural laws are constant so that we can study them and benefit from them. We are not left to sort out some kind of random system that works one day but not the next. Once a car crosses the center line, laws of nature take over—and oftentimes death is the result.


Some suffering may be beneficial


Furthermore, there are times when suffering is beneficial. Think of the man whose chest begins to throb as he begins to have a heart attack, or the woman whose side starts to ache at the onset of appendicitis. Pain often sends us to the doctor for prevention or cure. Without that pain, these individuals would never have their ailments tended to. Also, tragedy can help humans develop some of the most treasured traits known to mankind—bravery, heroism, and self-sacrifice—all of which flourish in less-than-perfect circumstances.


There are times when suffering seems illogical


But sometimes there seems to be no logical explanation for the immense suffering that a person is experiencing. Take the Old Testament character of Job as an example. He lost ten children and all of his wealth in a few short hours. Yet the Bible describes him as upright and righteous. Why would God allow such a man to suffer? James 1:2-3 helps us see the answer: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Jesus Christ was the only truly innocent individual ever to live; yet even He suffered immensely. The fact is, pain and suffering have benefits that we sometimes cannot see and therefore do not appreciate. But God knows what is best for us in the long run.

Instead of blaming God for pain, or denying His existence, we should be looking to Him for strength, and let tragedies remind us that this world never was intended to be our final home (read Hebrews 11:13-16). James 4:14 instructs us regarding the fact that our time on this Earth is extremely brief. The fact that even the Son of God was subjected to incredible evil, pain, and suffering (Hebrews 5:8; 1 Peter 2:21ff.), proves that God does love and care for His creation. He could have abandoned us to our own sinful devices, but instead, “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Is the premature death of a Christian teenager the “end of the story”? Far from it. Consider for just a moment the ministries that often spring up as a result, the legacy they leave behind, and the reminder they are to each one of us about that great reunion we will have one day when we reach our heavenly home. Most assuredly, their lives speak, though being dead (Hebrews 11:4).


In preparation to teach our high school class about the beliefs of the various denominational bodies, I have noticed one common and consistent practice among them. While most denominations varies widely in their unique doctrines, when it comes to the plan of salvation they mostly agree on the doctrine of faith only. Typically associated with this teaching is a statement regarding their acceptance of other denominational bodies as part of the church as a whole. They will then state that they will gladly accept into their membership those from other denominations. This statement is usually accompanied with the idea that the denomination doesn’t question the salvation of those in other denominations. So, in this study we want to answer the question, “Does the Bible teach that we ought to question our salvation and the salvation of others?”
Are you certain of your salvation?
 
It should be noted that Jesus’ ministry involved questioning the salvation of others. Jesus’ primary work was to teach and preach the gospel to the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24). These were God’s covenant people, yet Jesus called them “lost sheep.” Because their salvation was in jeopardy, Jesus appropriately told them to “repent or perish” (Luke 13:3, 5). In fact, upon multiple occasions Jesus called for their repentance (Matthew 4:17, 9:13, 11:20-21, Luke 15:7,10) and even declared to them that they would be lost if they did not (Luke 10:12-14). Remember, these were Jesus’ fellow Jews, and yet, He questioned their salvation.
 
The apostles also questioned the salvation of those who were saved. Consider the example of Simon the Sorcerer. In Acts 8:13 we have this statement: “Then Simon himself believed also: and when he was baptized, he continued with Philip, and wondered, beholding the miracles and signs which were done.” Simon was a believer; Simon was baptized. According to Mark 16:16, Simon was saved. However, not long after this Peter questioned Simon’s salvation when Simon sought to purchase the ability to bestow miracles. Peter said to Simon, “Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity” (Acts 8:21-23). Simon was a Christian, yet his salvation was questioned.
 
Consider also the frequent words of warning that Paul gives regarding over confidence toward salvation. 1 Corinthians 10:12 states “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall.” 2 Corinthians 13:5 says “Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates?” And there were some that became reprobate to the faith. Consider Paul’s words to Timothy regarding Hymenaeus and Alexander. He said that they had put away a good conscience and made shipwreck of the faith (1 Timothy 1:19-20). Yes, he questioned their salvation!
Moreover, there are also some who think they are saved when they haven’t been. We must question the “salvation” of these as well. Jesus said in Matthew 7:21-23 “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 which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.” Here are some who thought they were saved when they were not; would it not have been better for them to have had someone question their “salvation?” Wouldn’t someone who isn’t really saved be eternally grateful if we will simply question whether or not they are saved to ensure that they are doing the will of the Father? I would think they would.
 
I’m sure that those in the denominational world who fail to question the salvation of others think that they are doing them a great service. However, they are actually doing them great harm. A true Christian friend will encourage someone to examine their life by comparing it to the teaching that is found in the Bible and also to make correction where correction needs to be made. Questioning someone’s salvation isn’t an act of betrayal, it’s an act of love; it’s an act that just may lift someone out of hell and into heaven (Galatians 6:1). Are you sure you’re saved?

Many in the religious world today claim for themselves additional infallible sources of information other than what is found in the Bible. Some of these religious groups claim that these additional sources are necessary because the Bible isn’t a sufficient source of information for man’s salvation. However, if it can be shown that inspired writers do, in fact, teach the sufficiency of the scriptures in supplying the necessary information for man’s salvation, this means that other sources are not needed.
 
Are the words in this book sufficient for salvation?
 
There are two ways that one could show that the scriptures supply all of the necessary information that man needs for salvation. One could either show where the scriptures directly say that they supply all of the information man needs, or one could show that in the entirety of the teaching of the scriptures, there is a complete picture given that would be sufficient for salvation. Because the later of these two would require a volume of information to prove, we’ll focus upon the first method in this article.
 
The word sufficient means adequate for the purpose; enough according to the Random House dictionary. The American Heritage dictionary defines sufficient as being as much as is needed. Princeton University’s WordNet defines sufficient in this way: of a quantity that can fulfill a need or requirement but without being abundant. So, in order for scripture to be sufficient for man’s salvation it must be adequate to provide for man’s salvation; it must be enough information, as much as is needed, or in a required quantity to fulfill the need. Does the Bible make such a claim for itself? There are several scriptures that answer this question.
 
Consider that the apostles themselves considered the written scriptures to be sufficient for providing for man’s salvation. Romans 15:4 says, For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Paul says that the written scriptures are given that we might have hope for salvation. If they were not sufficient to provide for salvation, how could they provide hope? If the scriptures were less than sufficient to provide for salvation, they could not give hope. What kind of hope does the Christian have? Hebrews 6:19 says, Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and stedfast, and which entereth into that within the veil. Such a hope is sufficient for salvation, hence, the scriptures that provide that hope, are sufficient for man’s salvation.
 
Consider 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 which says, Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures. Paul tells the church at Corinth that the gospel he preached to them was sufficient to save them. What was the basis of that gospel? It was the death of Jesus for our sins, His burial, and resurrection. Paul makes it clear in this passage that these truths were according to the scriptures. It is sufficient for Paul that the scriptures declare, in prophecy, the gospel message sufficient for salvation. Were the scriptures sufficient to provide this information? They were. See also Romans 16:25-26.
 
In Acts 17:10, Paul and Silas made their way to Beroea. There they preached the gospel. Acts 17:11-12 says, These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed; also of honourable women which were Greeks, and of men, not a few. The Beroeans, prior to Paul and Silas’ arrival were not believers. Paul and Silas then preached the gospel to them. What was said? Whatever it was, it caused the Beroeans to search the scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. When they looked to the scriptures, they believed and as a result became Christians. Did the scriptures supply that which was needed for salvation? They did.
 
Finally, however, we must look at 2 Timothy 3:14-17. Paul wrote to Timothy: But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. Paul says several things here. First, he says that the scriptures were able to make Timothy wise unto salvation. Thus, they would be sufficient for man’s salvation. Paul, however, doesn’t stop his discussion here. He then says that the scriptures are given by inspiration; that is, they were given by the very breath of God. He then says that these scriptures are profitable for the purpose of making the people of God complete and that they furnish completely all the information one needs for all good works. In other words, there is not one good work in which man must be involved for salvation that the scriptures don’t supply. They supply it all. Hence, the scriptures are sufficient for man’s salvation.
 
In the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 6:29-31), Abraham tells the Rich Man regarding the salvation of his brothers, They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them. The Rich Man, in essence, objects and says that if only they had an additional source of information, they would believe. Abraham replied, If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead. The implication is clear; the written word of God is sufficient to provide for man’s salvation. Any information that one requires beyond that simply indicates unbelief.

Last week, we asked the question, “What would this world have been like if God had not intervened?” Noah’s world gives some insight into this when every thought of mankind was continually evil. God did not leave this world without hope and revealed His expectation of holiness through Moses and the prophets. Yet, in spite of this, the world almost totally forgot about Him. Had God’s people listened, the history of mankind could have been so different.
 
It is by the Power of God, His Word, that man has hope. Yet, man continually forgets.
 
It was God’s plan for the Levites to teach His ways to Israel. When the Promised Land was divided among the Jews, the priestly tribe was not given a portion. Instead, they were scattered throughout Israel in 48 cities. Moses described their work in these words, “They shall teach Jacob Your judgments…” (Deut. 33:10). Read the history of the Jews to see what happened when Israel was not taught God’s word.
 
It was God’s plan for parents to teach His way to their children. Deuteronomy chapter six showed that God intended for the homes of Israel to be a place where families openly talked about God—when sitting in their houses, when walking outside their homes, every night and every morning.
 
What happened when the first generation after Moses gave these words failed to do them? The first two chapters of Judges showed that the generation after Joshua was untaught, and the nation left God in one generation! The history of Israel showed what happened when Israel was not taught God’s word.
 
It was God’s plan for the entire nation to assemble and read the entire Bible together. One of the annual feasts of the Jews was the Feast of Tabernacles. Every seventh year they were commanded to assemble and live in booths made of tree branches and publically read the Bible. This included all the men, all the women and all their little ones (Deut. 33:11-12).
 
How did this turn out? Nehemiah chapter eight reveals that for the next 900 years after Joshua this was not done! Read the history of the Jews to see what happened when Israel was not taught God’s word. Imagine what would happen if our nation devoted time to read the Bible publicly together!
 
It is God’s plan for us to teach His ways to the world. Our holy God did not leave this world without direction, but those most trusted with being part of the plan failed. Having looked at God’s plan for His words to be taught, next week we will take time to specifically look as His plan for you to help Him. The history of the Jews shows what happened when Israel was not taught. There is an amazing parallel in the history of untaught America. Think about it!
 
Salvation comes from the mighty hand of God.
 
After David’s sin with Bathsheba he was approached by the prophet Nathan and told the story of a poor man and his beloved lamb. A rich neighbor sent and killed the poor man’s lamb to feed a traveler who had stopped to visit. David’s anger was kindled and declared that the rich man would die for his actions. To this Nathan replied, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:1–7).
 
Soon after these events David sits down and penned Psalm 51 and acknowledged his sin before God. What made David such a great man was his humility and trust in the Lord. His love for God trumped everything else that he could have put his trust in. Whether it was sin, an enemy, or the betrayal of a friend David put his hope and trust in God. He knew that this is where salvation came from!
 
The truth is that we too need to come to the same humble conclusion and place our trust and hope in the Lord. So many put their hope in financial independence, luxuries of life, governments, armies, sinful pleasures, and even fleeting inanimate things such as time. Common sense and God’s word tells us that such things are not lasting (James 4:14) and that what is really important are the treasures we lay up in heaven (Matthew 6:19–20).
 
There is no hope without Christ for without him we are strangers to God and lost in our sins, separated from Him (Isaiah 59:1–2; Ephesians 2:12). There is no salvation (1 Timothy 1:1; Hebrews 6:18–19) and only sorrow (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Hope cam by the grace of God (2 Thessalonians 2:16; 1 Peter 1:21), is available through the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Colossians 1:23), and will be realized in eternal life at the resurrection and the return of Jesus (Titus 1:2; 2:13; Titus 3:7).
 
We must humble ourselves and acknowledge our utter dependence on Him. Peace, joy, and hope will follow! Let us be faithful to the One in whose hands is our eternal salvation. And let each of us hold fast to this hope (Hebrews 10:23).
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