“But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3 NKJV).
Man has the knack of making things complicated. He has certainly done this in matters of religion. God, on the other hand, has the knack of making things extremely simple. Let us look at just one example of this. In Genesis 1:1-31, God tells us the whole story of how he created the earth with all its vegetation. He tells us how he made the sun, moon, and stars. Then he relates how he made the waters swarm with living creatures and the dry land teem with animals and birds of all kinds. At last, he relates how he created man and woman. God summed up all this in a mere thirty-one verses. No doubt it would have taken man vast libraries to relate the same account. How utterly amazing!
Although man has greatly complicated God’s plan for his own redemption, it too is very simple. Let us look at the main points of this redemption.
MAN ALIENATED FROM GOD
God made man in his own image, and that creation was entirely good. Man was made to have continuous fellowship with the Almighty, and indeed he did so, by walking and talking with God in the Garden of Eden.
Unfortunately, man was beguiled by the sorcery of the serpent and through that act, he began to look to the tree of knowledge and to himself as the source of salvation. The result was the fall of man from fellowship with God and from the Garden. In fact, man is still falling to this very day. The results of that fall are obvious all around us. For instance, although God gave man dominion over the earth and over all living things, today we see the earth having dominion over man. Consider the fruit of the vine, the tobacco plant, the marijuana plant or the poppy flower. God made all these things for the service of man (Psa. 104:14), but we see man serving them through his alcohol and drug addiction. This is but one small example of the fall.
Christianity looks upon man as inherently evil and totally fallen. We base this upon the account of Genesis that we have mentioned, and upon several other scriptures. In Psalm 14:2-3 we read, “The LORD looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. All have turned aside, they have together become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” In Psalm 53:1 we read, “…They are corrupt, and their ways are vile; there is no one who does good.”
The great prophet Isaiah adds: “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away” (Isa. 64:6). This whole concept is summed up succinctly by Paul in Romans, with these words, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,”
When we can come to the place that we realize there is no good thing in us, we have at that moment come to the place of God’s help. When we are willing to turn away from our own evil and turn to God and to his way, we come into the state known as repentance. We must come into this state to ever reach God (Acts 3:19). This is somewhat akin to the concept of te’shuvah (repentance) in Judaism. Repentance is best illustrated by the parable of the prodigal son in Luke chapter 15. The boy went off into a far country away from his father’s house. There he wasted himself with evil. Finally, he was reduced to feeding pigs and would have happily filled his stomach with the husks they ate. At that point the lad repented and decided to return to the father’s house. This he did, but he did not come in pride. Rather, he came in great humility, turning from his sins and having a willingness to be only a slave in his father’s house.
MAN CAN RETURN BY GRACE AND THROUGH FAITH
In ages past, God dealt with man concerning his sinfulness. All the complicated offerings of Israel dealt with this subject. God required the slaying of animals to illustrate to man the gravity of sin and of his fallen condition. However, the offerings of these animals could not take away sin. Could they have done so, these offerings would not have been repeated year after year (Heb. 10:2).
Almost two thousand years ago, God himself moved in a dramatic way to deal with man’s sin problem and to bridge the gap separating himself and man. Since we could not go to God because of our sinfulness, God came to us. This is the essential message we celebrate every Christmas – “God with us,” or the Hebrew word “Immanuel.” The Prophet Isaiah foretold: “…The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). We Christians believe that God himself came to live in this world of flesh and blood. He came in the person of Jesus or Yeshua, the Son of God, whom we believe is the Messiah or the Immanuel. He lived, he died an atoning death, and he was resurrected by God’s power, taking his seat at the right hand of God.
Yeshua came to Israel first of all, and then through Israel he also came to the world of the Gentiles. He came to us in divine simplicity. The Bible says in Romans 10:9, “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” The Bible makes it even simpler with this appeal to all people, “for, ‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom. 10:13). It is a simple salvation by grace and through faith (Eph. 2:8). It does not depend upon our righteousness because we have none to offer. That is why it is called “gospel” or
Father Abraham discovered this type of imputed righteousness long ago. The Hebrew scriptures say of him, “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness” (Gen. 15:6). David also discovered this type of righteousness when he said in Psalm 32:1-2 “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.”
Today millions the world over have followed this simple plan of salvation. It is summed up for everyone in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” It is such a simple plan that a small child can understand it. It is so simple that a savage in the jungle can receive it and be saved.
WITH SINS FORGIVEN WE ARE FREE TO SERVE GOD
Salvation is never a matter of getting saved and then doing our own thing. Once we are saved by believing in Yeshua, we are expected to live our lives in his service. The Lord becomes the Master and we become the servants. He commands us first of all to be baptized (Acts 2:38). However, our outlook on good works has been drastically changed. We no longer do good works in an attempt to please God. We do good in response to God’s great saving mercy toward us, and in response to his wishes. We could never repay him for his goodness to us.
Salvation by grace and through faith is definitely not of works. We Christians know that even our faith is a gift from God, as the scripture says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9). There is no room then for boasting in what we are, or what we have done. We can only boast in the Lord Jesus who has made the free
When Jesus died on the cross he scored a complete victory over the devil and over sin. When he arose from the dead, his victory over death was likewise completed. In our own lives when sin rears its ugly head, as it surely will, the Lord has already given us the victory. The Bible says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Just as Yeshua was raised from the grave to have complete dominion over death, we will likewise be raised. The Bible says, “We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:4).
What a simple salvation! Let us keep it that way. By doing so, our lives should always be full of praise and not of condemnation. We will be able to say with the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our
Lord Jesus Christ.”
– Jim Gerrish
This updated article is presented courtesy of Bridges For Peace, Jerusalem. Original publication date, 1996.