We must obey God’s word to be saved

Lecture presented at the Ghanaian church of Christ in Amsterdam, Holland on 25 September 2010.
The audio includes a Twi translation.

“Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls’” (Jeremiah 6:16). The Bible reveals the old paths we must follow to be saved.

Many people are ignorant of the Bible.

They may believe in God, but they do not know the gospel. They do not have saving faith because “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). If you want to be saved, you must learn the gospel.

Some people reject the Bible.

They may know the Scriptures, but they reject what God says. People who reject God’s word will be rejected by God. Like it or not, they will be judged by the Bible, not by their own ideas.

Jesus said: “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him --- the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

Some people know the Scriptures but do not obey God.

They will be lost.

Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23).

“Be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22).

Some people have been deceived by false teachers.

Jesus commanded: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15). The apostle John warned: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

We must check everything by the Bible to know what is true and what is false.

Some obey the commandments of men rather than the word of God.

Even though they are religious, they will be lost.

Jesus said: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matthew 15:8, 9).

Many people confuse the Old and New Testaments.

This causes many wrong practices.

The Old and the New Testaments together form the Holy Scriptures.

“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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16,17).

This does not mean that everything in the Bible applies to us as law.

Noah was commanded to build an ark. We learn from his example of faith and obedience, but we do not have to build an ark!

God gave a law to Israel through Moses.

Although we learn much from the Law of Moses, it is not the law of the church of Christ. The church obeys the teachings of Jesus and His apostles.

In the first century some confused the law of Moses and the gospel.

Some Jewish Christians wanted to force non-Jewish Christians to keep the law of Moses. “But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses’” (Acts 15:5).

“And when there had been much dispute, Peter rose up and said to them: ‘Men and brethren, you know that a good while ago God chose among us, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. So God, who knows the heart, acknowledged them by giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He did to us, and made no distinction between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore, why do you test God by putting a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they’” (Acts 15:7-11).

This applies to all disciples, not just to the Gentiles. Christians are not under the law of Moses because it is a yoke that no one can bear.

The Old Testament has value for instruction.

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).

Jesus said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17, 18).

Although the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount was different from the law, He did not come to destroy the law, but to fulfill its predictions.

Jesus came to replace the old law with a new one.

Although the law would be replaced, the law would not be destroyed, because this replacement was predicted in the Old Testament itself!

Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted in Hebrews as proof that the Old Covenant no longer applies.

“But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah -- not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, Know the Lord,” for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’ In that He says, A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:6-13).

Many people support non-Christian practices and doctrine with the Old Testament.

Some examples are: centralized denominational governments; a separate priest class; the use of candles, incense and music instruments in worship; observing the sabbath; obligating people to give a tenth. None of these things are part of the New Covenant. But people who want to practice such things, quote the Old Testament in an arbitrary manner to support their ideas.

I say “in an arbitrary manner” because to be consistent they would have to do everything in the law of Moses, but of course they do not want to do that.

Some claim that we must keep the ten commandments as law, although they admit that the rest of the Old Testament no longer applies. Their argument is: “What? May we murder, steal and commit adultery?” Some are deceived by this false argument.

We are not under the ten commandments because Christ’s teaching is superior. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus demands more than the ten commandments. Jesus not only forbids murder and adultery, but also the causes: hate and lust (Matthew 5:21, 22, 27, 28).

Paul explained that the ten commandments have been replaced by something greater. “But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which [glory] was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious?” (2 Corinthians 3:7, 8).

The ten commandments, engraved on stone, were a ministry of death that has passed away. The glorious teaching of Christ brings life.

The gospel contains all fundamental moral truths of the ten commandments.

Certainly, Christians may not steal or murder. But they are to avoid such things because they love God and their fellow man, not because there is a command: “You shall not kill.”

Certain externals in the ten commandments are not included in the New Covenant.

A Christian has never been forbidden to be a sculptor and make a statue. All idol-worship is forbidden, however. Under the ten commandments one was not allowed even to make an image.

Christens are not commanded to keep the sabbath. “So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ” (Colossians 2:16, 17).

Although we can learn much from the Old Testament, we live under the New Testament, a covenant of grace.

We are not under the law of Moses.

“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not!” (Romans 6:14, 15).

“Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:24, 25).

The New Testament took effect after the death of Christ.

“For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives” (Hebrews 9:16, 17).

Jesus Himself lived under the Old Covenant. “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4, 5).

This means that many things in the four Gospels relate to the Old Covenant, although Jesus taught many things in the Gospels that are part of the New Covenant. If we use our common sense, we can tell the difference.

Certain false doctrines result from confusing the old and the new in the Gospels.

Some say, for example: “Jesus kept the sabbath, so we must do the same.” Jesus was also circumcised and worshipped in the temple. Must we do these things? Of course not. Circumcision, temple worship and sabbath-keeping were part of the Old Covenant.

Some have claimed that Jesus’ teaching about divorce and remarriage in the Sermon on the Mount does not apply to us because that was said before His death, when the New Covenant took effect. From the context, however, it is clear that Jesus is teaching something different from the law of Moses.

“But I say to you,” is found five times in the Sermon on the Mount to introduce something different from what was taught previously.

All the Scriptures, both the Old and the New Testaments, are useful for our instruction. But we are not under the law of Moses. We obey the gospel of Christ.

We are saved by the gospel of Christ, not by the law of Moses.

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son” (Hebrews 1:1).

The blood of Jesus cleanses us from sin.

“If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

“All have sinned” (Romans 3:23) and sin separates us from God. “Your iniquities have separated you from your God” (Isaiah 59:2).

Only the blood of Christ can cleanse us from sin.

Many people do not understand how blood can take away sins.

Because sin is rebellion against God, God determines how sins are forgiven. God has given blood as the means of atonement. In Leviticus 17:11 He explains: “The life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul.”

Atonement is satisfaction for an offense, resulting in the restoration of a broken relationship.

“According to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission” (Hebrews 9:22). Under the Old Covenant there was atonement through the blood of animals. This prefigured the blood of Christ, the true Lamb of God.

“For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).

“Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:12-14).

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

Christ was qualified to pay the penalty for our sin because He was without sin. Since He was not under the same condemnation, He could voluntarily take our place. “Who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24).

What must we do to be saved?

We must believe in Christ. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

If you believe in Christ, that is wonderful.

But if you have accepted the false doctrine that one can be saved by faith only, you are still lost. James wrote: “You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only” (James 2:24). No one in the New Testament was ever told that he could be saved by faith only.

Repentance is also necessary.

Repenting is being sorry for one’s sins and deciding to obey God.

Jesus told His hearers: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). In addition to believing, one must repent.

One must also confess his faith.

Peter confessed that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).

Paul wrote: “With the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Romans 10:10).

Timothy had “confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).

If you believe in Jesus, have repented of your sins, and have confessed your faith, that is wonderful.

Yet, if you accepted the false doctrine that baptism is not necessary for salvation, you are still lost, even if you have been immersed.

It is not enough just to believe “ in” Jesus. One must also believe Jesus, believe what He teaches. And Jesus said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved” (Mark 16:16).

Peter, inspired by the Holy Spirit, commanded: “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38).

If you were not “baptized for the remission of sins” but only “as an outward sign” as is taught by many false teachers, you have not obeyed the gospel of Christ and are still lost.

Paul was told: “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16). If Paul had to be baptized to wash away his sins, is anything less required of you?

By one Spirit we are “all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13) which is the church of Christ (Ephesians 1:22, 23). The Lord adds those who are saved to His church (Acts 2:47).

Thus, if you believe that Jesus is the Son of God, if you are sorry for your sins and want to dedicate your life to God, if you are willing to confess your faith in Christ, but have not yet been baptized for the forgiveness of sins, we urge you to do so as soon as possible so your sins can be blotted out, washed away by the blood of Christ, so you can be saved and added to the Lord’s church.

Roy Davison

The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982, Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers.
Permission for reference use has been granted.

Published in The Old Paths Archive