Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved (Acts 16:31). But what does that mean? Is it the Greek-like concept of intellectual knowledge? Or is belief a continual action? Is salvation a one-time event? Do we say we are saved and that’s it? Or do we continue to work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13)? Do we need to “endure to the end” to be saved (Matthew 10:22, 24:13 Mark 12:13)? One thing is for sure: We must continue to look upon the cross for salvation.
One of the most well-known salvation verses is John 3:16. Let’s read it in context.
John 3:14-21 ESV And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, (15) that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. (16) "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (17) For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (18) Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (19) And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. (20) For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. (21) But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God."
Believe in Jesus and you will inherit eternal life. But look at the context of John 3:16 for a true understanding of the gospel. The verse right before, at John 3:14-15, says: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life." The people of Old Testament Israel were told to look upon the serpent to be healed of sickness and disease. But Christ was “lifted up” so that we can be healed from sin as well as sickness and disease. Sin is at the very heart of sickness, disease, and death. “By his stripes, we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5).
We must be saved from sin. All sins are habitual. If we still sin, we must continue to look to the cross to stop sinning – to be healed from our sinful habits, so that we no longer sin. We must daily take up our cross and follow Christ. Only then can we inherit eternal life. This journey, or process, is called sanctification.
Romans 6:22-23 HCSB But now, since you have been liberated from sin and have become enslaved to God, you have your fruit, which results in sanctification--and the end is eternal life! (23) For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We are “enslaved to God.” This means we do the Father’s works. The fruit of this labor “results in sanctification,” which means we become holy. It means we overcome all our sinful habits. The result of this journey is eternal life, according to this verse. Under the New Covenant, we do the works of the Father because that becomes our desires as God writes his law on our hearts (Hebrews 8:8, Jeremiah 31:31).
Galatians 6:7-9 HCSB Don't be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap, (8) because the one who sows to his flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit. (9) So we must not get tired of doing good, for we will reap at the proper time if we don't give up.
We must realize that continued sin is like a disease. Jesus can heal us from that disease. If you want to inherit the kingdom and eternal life, you must be completely healed from all sinful habits. We must believe that Jesus can heal us. If we say that Jesus can't or won't do this, then we do not fully believe in Jesus for salvation from sin. We must continually look upon the cross for healing just as the people of Israel looked upon the serpent for healing. We must have faith and not doubt. We must turn our lives completely over to Christ in order to inherit the kingdom. If any sinful habits remain, then we have not yet finished our journey back to the Father. When no sinful habits remain, then we are completely sanctified. This is necessary before we can receive the gift of eternal life.
1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 ESV Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (24) He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
True believers are saved (sanctified) by God’s presence and work in our lives. As we do the Father’s works, the “God of peace himself sanctifies us completely.” After overcoming all our sinful habits, we are then ready for Christ to return.
Notice that we don’t sanctify ourselves. We don’t make ourselves holy. It is the “God of peace” who sanctifies us. “Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness are blessed, for they will be filled” (Matthew 5:6 HCSB). I believe Jesus was saying those who really want to overcome their sinful habits will be filled with the Holy Spirit.
The true meaning of grace is the presence or work of God. When Paul often started and ended his letters with something like “grace be unto you,” it was like saying, “God be with you” (Romans 1:7, 1 Corinthians 1:3, 16:23, 2 Corinthians 1:2, 13:13, Galatians 1:3, 6:18, Ephesians 1:2, 6:24, Philippians 1:2, 4:23, Colossians 1:2, 4:18, 1 Thessalonians 1:1, 5:28, 2 Thessalonians 1:2, 3:18, 1 Timothy 1:2, 6:21, 2 Timothy 1:2, 4:22, Titus 3:15, Philemon 1:3, 1:25, Hebrews 13:25). Paul was not saying, “unmerited favor be unto you.” Paul was asking for God’s presence and/or works to be with us. Also, Christ was given grace as a young boy (Luke 2:40, John 1:14). He was not being given “unmerited favor.”
John 1:17 ESV For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
What is the difference between the Law of Moses and grace? The Law is God’s written word concerning what is good and what is bad. Sins, however, are habit forming. People become slaves to their sins. Under the Law, they had to overcome their sinful habits through self-effort. Under grace, believers can all be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit works on the inside to change us so that we no longer sin. We are filled with the Holy Spirit as we do the works of the Father. Grace is the presence and/or works of the Holy Spirit. Grace is not “unmerited favor” whereby we are simply forgiven of our sins. It’s true that the blood of Christ ransoms us from sin. When we ask God to forgive us our sins, the Father does that by the blood of Christ. But sinful habits must be overcome. We need God’s grace (presence and work of the Holy Spirit) to change us.
Ephesians 2:8-10 ESV For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, (9) not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (10) For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
This, and many other verses that speak of grace, can be vastly misunderstood if the definition of grace is misunderstood. It’s by “God’s work” that we are saved, through continual faith. It’s not our own works, that no one may boast. We are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” As we do the good works, the Holy Spirit works inside us to make us holy. This is salvation.
Philippians 1:6 being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:6 ESV And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
Notice the subtle difference between these two translations. Do we hope that this work is completed before Christ returns? Or do we limit our faith such that God’s work can only be completed upon receiving new spiritual bodies? Those who believe salvation is a journey to completion would say the former. If we truly have faith in God to transform us on the inside, should we limit that faith by saying that God’s work of sanctification cannot be completed before Christ returns?
If salvation is a journey without the need of completion, then the need for the journey becomes diminished. If we do not believe that God can truly transform us so that we no longer sin, Satan will have a big hole in our theology that he can use while tempting us. In our weakness, we will believe that we can’t stop sinning. So, we will give into temptations. Given the fact that God hates sin, what plan of salvation is most likely to be God’s plan?
If salvation is viewed as a one-time decision, then grace and faith become one-time events. This tends to be true even if salvation is viewed as a journey that doesn’t require completion. The start of the journey tends to become the main requirement for salvation. When this is the case, grace becomes “unmerited favor,” meaning that God forgives us of our sins even though we do not deserve this favor.
On the other hand, if salvation is viewed as a journey to the Father that must be completed, then grace must be defined as a continuous work of God. The Holy Spirit changes us on the inside so that over time, we no longer have sinful habits. Thus, grace is God changing us instead of God forgiving us. From this perspective, the work that Christ did on the cross is certainly a finished work of God. But it’s not the primary meaning of grace. The Greek word for ‘grace’ means favor. God’s favor is given to a specific group of people. But Christ’s work on the cross was for everyone.
Christ’s work on the cross is extremely important. Without it there could be no grace. All our sins were paid for at the cross. Christ’s sacrifice was a ransom for everyone. But the work of the Holy Spirit, to transform us on the inside, is the work of grace. It’s done only for believers. Only believers receive the Holy Spirit.
Hosea 13:14a I will ransom them from the power of Sheol. I will redeem them from death! Death, where are your plagues? Sheol, where is your destruction?
1 Timothy 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all; the testimony in its own times;
The Holy Spirit continually changes us as we do the Father’s works. This definition of grace has Old Testament support. Ever since Pentecost, all believers can now be filled with the Holy Spirit. But in the Old Testament, only a few of the covenant people were selected to receive the Holy Spirit. They were considered as favored by God. The Greek word for ‘grace’ is also the word for ‘favor.’ Thus, the Old Testament concept of grace is to be favored by God to be filled by the Holy Spirit. Under the New Covenant, all believers are favored to receive God’s grace in that they can be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Salvation is by grace and through faith. Continual grace is being filled with the Holy Spirit to change us on the inside. But what about continual faith? Faith is a continual belief, hope, and deep prayerful desire that God will change us so that we are no longer sinning. We have continual faith that God will continually change us. We become spiritual beggars for righteousness. These changes could take a lifetime. For others, it could be much faster.
If salvation is a one-time decision, then faith is a matter of believing in Christ to save us. If salvation is a journey to completion, faith is becoming a spiritual beggar. We must desperately desire the Holy Spirit to change us. We desperately desire to overcome all our sinful habits because of our love for Christ.
If one incorrectly understands grace to be “unmerited favor,” one tends to live under the Law instead of under grace. When living without God’s power of grace, the overcoming of sin is all but impossible. Thus, people assume that their sins are forgiven and that continued sins are unavoidable. In Romans 7, Paul talks about the struggle of overcoming sin while living under the Law. But when grace is incorrectly understood to be a one-time decision to receive “unmerited favor,” then Paul’s struggle with sin is assumed to be on-going while living under grace. Thus, Romans 7 is often used as an argument against Christian perfection. Even believers can live under the Law when they don’t understand the true definition of grace. The following verse is often taken out of context. But read Romans 7 and 8 in one context. Paul is talking about living under the Law in Romans 7 and living under grace in Romans 8.
Romans 7:24 ESV Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
Some argue against Christian perfection by saying that very few will make it. Many believers have died while still sinning. Will very few go to heaven? As it turns out, the blood of Jesus Christ was a ransom for everyone. That doesn’t mean everyone will go to heaven. It means that everyone can be resurrected to live here on the earth when Christ returns. Go to the New Wine for the End Times ( www.newwine.org ) website for more information. The essential point is that God does not give up on his children simply because they die. Death is not an obstacle for God. But for us to return to the Father in heaven, we must first overcome all our sinful habits.
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 ESV Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, (10) nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 ESV Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, (20) idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, (21) envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
If you die before overcoming sin, before becoming completely sanctified, that doesn’t mean you will go to hell. But those who continue to sin will not inherit the kingdom.
(1 John 1:5-10 New English Translation) Now this is the gospel message we have heard from him and announce to you: God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. (6) If we say we have fellowship with him and yet keep on walking in the darkness, we are lying and not practicing the truth. (7) But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. (8) If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (9) But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous, forgiving us our sins and cleansing us from all unrighteousness. (10) If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar and his word is not in us.
Verse 5 tells us that Jesus did not sin. Verse 6 says that if we are still sinning, we don’t have fellowship with Jesus. He will say, “I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23, 25:12). Verse 8 says that if we walk in the light, in the same way that Jesus walked in the light, then we not only have fellowship with Jesus, we also have fellowship with one another.
Verse 8 says, “If we say we do not bear the guilt of sin, … then the truth is not in us.” Most translations get this verse wrong. The King James Version, for example, says “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves.” Many translations follow the lead of the KJV on this verse. A good literal translation would be, “If we say we don’t hold sin, then we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
In the Greek, the verb means ‘to have or to hold.’ In this specific verse, the word for sin is a noun. The word for ‘no’ is an adverb. So, it must modify the verb and not the noun. The translation, “have no sin,” strongly suggests that “no” modifies “sin,” which is not the case in the Greek. Many read “have no sin” with sin being thought of as a verb. It’s like, “if we say we don’t continue to sin,” where sin is a verb, then the truth is not in us. But in the Greek, the word for sin is a noun. Thus, verse 8 is saying basically the same thing as verse 10. We all have the guilt of sin. But we are not all continuing to sin.
John is not negating everything else that is being said in these verses and in the entire letter. This one verse has been taken out of context, translated incorrectly, and used as a poster-child verse to negate the meaning of the entire letter. If we continue to sin, then Jesus will say, “I never knew you” when he returns. However, preachers today say, “nobody is perfect (pure).” What does John say about making oneself pure? And how does that purity compare with the purity of Christ?
1 John 3:1-10 HCSB Look at how great a love the Father has given us that we should be called God's children. And we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it didn't know Him. (2) Dear friends, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him because we will see Him as He is. (3) And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself just as He is pure. (4) Everyone who commits sin also breaks the law; sin is the breaking of law. (5) You know that He was revealed so that He might take away sins, and there is no sin in Him. (6) Everyone who remains in Him does not sin; everyone who sins has not seen Him or known Him. (7) Little children, let no one deceive you! The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. (8) The one who commits sin is of the Devil, for the Devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the Devil's works. (9) Everyone who has been born of God does not sin, because His seed remains in him; he is not able to sin, because he has been born of God. (10) This is how God's children--and the Devil's children--are made evident. Whoever does not do what is right is not of God, especially the one who does not love his brother.
Some will argue that some sins are bad and must be overcome, while other sins are a part of our nature, and cannot be overcome. The argument is that John is referring only to the type of sins that can be overcome. However, John concludes his letter by describing three types of people. (1) Some commit sins that don’t lead to death. In other words, they can be forgiven. (2) Others commit sins that lead to death and cannot be forgiven. (3) Those who are born of God don’t sin. John also makes it clear that “all unrighteousness is sin.” John includes the sins that don’t lead to death as also being unrighteous. Again, “everyone who has been born of God does not sin.” They’ve sinned in the past, and the blood of Jesus Christ is a ransom for us all. But if you continue in any type of sin then you are not born of God, and Jesus will say he doesn’t know you.
1 John 5:16-19 HCSB If anyone sees his brother committing a sin that does not bring death, he should ask, and God will give life to him--to those who commit sin that doesn't bring death. There is sin that brings death. I am not saying he should pray about that. (17) All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin that does not bring death. (18) We know that everyone who has been born of God does not sin, but the One who is born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. (19) We know that we are of God, and the whole world is under the sway of the evil one.
Many will argue that they don’t know any perfect people. But Christian perfection doesn’t mean we don’t make mistakes. It’s not a sin to have an error in judgment. We learn from our mistakes. If we have hurt someone, we ask for their forgiveness even if we never intended to hurt them. The need to ask forgiveness of others does not necessarily mean that we have sinned.
We try and avoid honest mistakes. But honest mistakes are not habitual. Sins are tempting. All sins are habitual. They draw us in and enslave us. They are hard to overcome.
Honest mistakes are not sins. Honest mistakes do not tempt us and draw us in. People often see honest mistakes in others and interpret it as sinning. Among Christians, most sins are hidden in our hearts. Lust is addictive and sinful. Sins hide in darkness. Even sinful anger can be hidden. But honest mistakes are not hidden. You can be in the light and still make honest mistakes.
Others will look you in the eye and say, “So how is this holiness thing going for you? Have you stopped sinning?” The problem with this question is that we don’t change ourselves on the inside. Perhaps there is an area of our lives in which the Holy Spirit still intends to work. We might say that we feel at peace with God and are not aware of more sinful habits. But we never judge ourselves as having completed our journey because we must still allow the Holy Spirit to work in our lives. I think that’s why Paul always associates the completion of the journey (in his case the race) with either being near death or with the return of Christ.
It’s always possible for those who have overcome all their sinful habits to fall back into sin. We can never know for sure that we will never sin again. But we must believe in God to save us from all our sinful habits. This means we must believe in God that all our sinful habits will be overcome. We have faith that he will complete this work in us, even if the work may have already been completed. We won’t know for sure before we receive our spiritual bodies.
The disciples asked Jesus, “Tell us, when will these things be? What is the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age" (Matthew 24:3)? Jesus responds by saying:
Matthew 24:11-15 ESV And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. (12) And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. (13) But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (14) And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (15) "So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand),
Jesus tells us that “many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.” Are we living in the end-time generation that will see the abomination of desolation? If so, where are the “many false prophets” who are leading many astray? In previous generations, preachers preached against sin. In previous generations, sex outside of marriage, between a man and a woman, was broadly condemned by society. Today, it’s encouraged. Most churches today no longer even mention sin. They want you to “get saved.” But repentance is not required.
The “four spiritual laws” includes a recognition that we are sinners and need a Savior. But nobody ever talks about overcoming all your sinful habits. In one church that I used to attend, the pastor stopped a men’s accountability group from meeting because he thought it might scare off new members. These pastors say, “Come as you are. Nobody’s perfect.” But they never say you can become perfect by living for Christ.
I believe most churches today have pastors who are false prophets. Prophets are not just Christians who declare what God is saying. Prophets are also pastors who preach from the Scripture. You can be a false prophet and still love Jesus. Most false prophets are unaware that what they preach is false. They are simply unaware of how far the churches today have drifted away from the true gospel of the kingdom.
I don’t think the true meaning of grace was understood in the past. Even Martin Luther could not understand the book of James. He didn’t see how James could fit into his understanding of grace. But error leads to more error. It’s only been this generation that the churches have truly given into sin. It’s only this generation that the gospel has been so badly distorted to the point where sin no longer matters. This baby-boom generation is the end-times generation of false prophets leading our churches. But the true gospel of the kingdom will be preached to all the nations. And then the end will come.
Those who will inherit the kingdom are those who will have overcome all their sinful habits before Christ sets up his kingdom. They will reign with Christ, during the millennium, over those who don't overcome sin. The point being, we need to go back to the basics of salvation and faith in Christ to completely overcome sin. Without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14).
This, then, is the gospel of the kingdom. You probably have many questions. Go to the New Wine for the End Times ( www.newwine.org ) website for more information. Click on the picture of three books for an introduction to the New Wine System. If you agree that this is the true gospel of the kingdom, then consider emailing this article to your family, friends, and pastor. You can cut-and-paste this entire article into an email. Forward the email and let it spread around the world. Stand up for what you feel the Spirit has been saying to the churches.