October 20, 2002              

APrayer of Jesus

I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will.

Salvation History, Part IV

By Edgar Jones


The first three papers in this series defined three tiers of salvation as follows:

Jesus defined these tiers, and one learns of them by carefully listening to his Word.  Now I suspect that all of you who read this will have read or heard his Word as he has spoken through the canonical gospels.  Therefore you should understand that, for you, the first two tiers are no more available.  This results from the simple fact that the hearing of his Word puts one in a category that has acquired a new accountability to the Father.  In addition, hearing his Word opens the opportunity to accept the supreme privilege of becoming children of God.  It is as Jesus said:
John 15
[22] If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have sin; but now they have no excuse for their sin.
Hearing Jesus imposes full accountability.   We must now aspire to salvation as infants (little children of God) or not at all.  All the qualifications that Jesus expressed are incumbent on us, for we have heard them and must not deny or reject any one of them. Therefore the Word of Jesus rules, not that of Paul or any other person who may have arisen after Jesus, claiming to have new revelations.

We defined the last of these tiers in the third paper of this series, but there are other issues yet to be resolved and other questions to answer because life long exposure to Paul's teaching has injected many false ideas into salvation doctrine.
 This brief paper looks at only two of the most common of these ideas, faith and works.  By "faith" I mean to define what we believe, and by "works" what we do.  The latter we often relate to works of obedience to the Law of Moses because of Pauline terminology in the New Testament Epistles but here it also relates to any supposedly "good work" that anyone may perform in the service of God or man.

The Law and Salvation

Must one keep the Law to receive salvation?

I mentioned Paul because his word is a direct contradiction to the Word of Jesus, and so can never lead to salvation.  This contradiction is most obvious when we compare their words about the law and salvation, for Paul taught that salvation must be received by faith apart from works of law (Ephesians 2:8,9).  I have made this comparison elsewhere and will not repeat it here; furthermore, most of you will have knowledge of Paul's words, so let us just turn now to the Words of Jesus.  

The synoptic gospels include two incidents in which Jesus was approached by persons with questions that are obviously relevant to our subject.  We list these two incidents, as they occur in the gospels, in parallel format so that you can have convenient access to the complete record in each case.

The Lawyer's Question

Matthew 22

[34] But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sad'ducees, they came together.
[35] And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him.
[36] "Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
[37] And he said to him,

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.

This is the great and first commandment.
[39] And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.

On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."

Mark 12

[28] And one of the scribes came up and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, asked him,

"Which commandment is the first of all?"

[29] Jesus answered, "The first is, `Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one;
[30] and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.'

The second is this, `You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

There is no other commandment greater than these."

Luke 10

[25] And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying,

"Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

[26] He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?"
[27] And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind;

and your neighbor as yourself."

[28] And he said to him,
"You have answered right; do this, and you will live."

The Question of the Rich Young Man
Matthew 19

[16] And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?"

[17] And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
[18] He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
[19] Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

[20] The young man said to him, "All these I have observed; what do I still lack?"

[21] Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
[22] When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
Mark 10

[17] And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
[18] And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud,  Honor your father and mother.'"

[20] And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth."

[21] And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
[22] At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
Luke 18

[18] And a ruler asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"

[19] And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.

You know the commandments: `Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.'"

[21] And he said, "All these I have observed from my youth."

[22] And when Jesus heard it, he said to him, "One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
[23] But when he heard this he became sad, for he was very rich.

In the case of the lawyer's question, it is only necessary to note that there are actually two questions, and Luke's account is probably of a separate event.  The rich young man's question only repeats one of these so that, looking over all these responses of Jesus, one sees that there are only two questions and Jesus' answers to both questions are clear.  We list the questions here:

1.  What is the first (or greatest) commandment of the law?

There are two, the commandment to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself.  In keeping these, one will keep all the law and the prophets, for:

On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.

2.  What must one do to inherit eternal life?

If you would enter life, keep the commandments.
(Matthew 19:17 above)

Or, in Luke's account: do this, and you will live.
The rich young man claimed to have kept the law, yet he lacked something.  It was necessary for him to give all his wealth away to inherit eternal life.  He stands out as a special case only because of his attachment to his wealth.  This is not yet another universal qualification for eternal life (salvation)  This particular young man was unable to love God with all his heart, which is the First Commandment.  He only provides a deeper insight into the significance of the First Commandment.  All who are attached to their wealth, as was this young man, must forsake it before they are found to be loving God with all their hearts.  

So, Jesus' answer to the No. 2 question above is still the same:  
If you would enter life, keep the commandments.

The Law Condensed and Explained

The above expresses, in the Word of Jesus, the qualifications for eternal life that apply to all people everywhere.  Jesus condensed all the law into two, and all who keep the two will receive eternal life.  That is his word.

Condensing the detailed and elaborate Law of Moses into only two commandments surely simplifies things when one seeks seriously to obey them.  It would seem that it should also make the keeping of the Law much easier.  This is not the case.  Far from relaxing the Law of Moses, this condensation by Jesus makes it far more difficult.  We see, in the case of the rich young man above, that keeping these laws, especially the first one, requires radical changes when one is attached to wealth. The Law of Moses never made such a demand!

So Jesus, early in the gospels, took great care to explain what the keeping of these two laws, that are the summation of all the Law, requires of us.  This explanation constitutes what we usually call The Sermon on the Mount. (Matthew 5, 6 and 7 and Luke 6)  

There, he introduces the subject of 'the law and the prophets" as follows:
Matt. 5
17] "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.
18] For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished.
19] Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Jesus came to "fulfill" the law and the prophets.  He fulfills the prophets by bringing to pass what they prophesied.  He fulfills the law by perfecting it, condensing it into two,  explaining these and finally, by obeying it.  He warned against relaxing God's commandments, then stiffened them greatly by recasting them in a manner that explains what we must do to be found obedient to the two Great Commandments.  When he speaks of "the least of these commandments" in Matt. 5:19, he is not referring to the Mosaic Code, but to the commandments he is about to deliver in the following verses of the Sermon on the Mount.

This "sermon" simply explains the application of these two commandments.  Look, for example, at this word:

[43] "You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'
44] But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
45] so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
46] For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
47] And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?
48] You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
 All that he is doing, you see, is explaining the meaning of the Second Commandment.  To be found keeping this commandment, we must do the things listed here.  Then he concluded the sermon by the Parable of the Two Builders, which illustrates the consequence of either keeping or not keeping the law as explained by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount.
Matt. 7
24] "Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock;
25] and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock.
26] And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand;
27] and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell; and great was the fall of it."

Therefore, all who abide by the law as condensed and explained by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount will receive eternal life, precisely as he stated.  Those who do not abide by the law so condensed and explained are building houses of faith without foundations that will fall at the Judgment.

The Great Principle -- the Ultimate Explanation of the Law

We saw, above, the case of a rich young man who could not receive eternal life, or be saved, because his heart was attached to his wealth.  That was a special case that applies only to those who love their riches.  As I said, this is because it is not possible to love God with all one's heart while loving riches with that same heart.  There are doubtless many other special cases that, to be thorough, one needs to address.  But Jesus cut to the quick of things and did not bandy words.  Therefore he summed up all special cases in a single utterance from John 12:

[25] He who loves his life loses it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.

You see how it is?  Like the rich young man whose heart was attached to his wealth and therefore he could not respond to God with all his heart, so it is that anyone whose heart is attached to life in this world -- to its wealth and all its attractions, to the life that holds one apart from the fellowship with the Father in heaven -- cannot respond to God so as to love Him with the whole heart.  Anything else that we love, such as the rich young man's wealth, is only one of the many elements of life in this world and Jesus has, by this simple statement, covered them all.  This Great Principle is therefore the bottom line explanation of what is entailed in keeping the law that has its ultimate and condensed expression in the First and Second commandments.

It is, for example, impossible for us to love the enemy who seeks to harm us while we remain in love with life in this world.  He poses too much of a threat to the life we hold dear, and one simply cannot love him.
 Turn the other cheek?  Hardly!

Keeping the Law, as condensed and explained by Jesus, is therefore the prime qualification for the salvation of the infants.  This Law is much more rigid than the Law as Moses applied it, but Jesus has enabled us keep when we comply with his Great Principle.

Faith and Salvation
Jesus has clarified this subject in the following utterances from the Fourth Gospel:
John 3
[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.
36] He who believes in the Son has eternal life; he who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him.

John 5
24] Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes him who sent me, has eternal life; he does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.
One cannot enter into salvation, which is to receive eternal life, apart from having faith in, or believing in, Jesus.  John 5:24 explains the significance of this.  To believe Jesus is to hear his Word and believe it.  Then one does a certain thing: according to John 3:36, one obeys the word of Jesus (the law as condensed and explained by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and elsewhere).  One who hears the Word of Jesus and does not obey him does not receive eternal life, because he does not believe the the Word that he has heard, and so does not have faith in Jesus.  Such a one also does not receive eternal life because he is without the required works of obedience to the commandments of Jesus.
Faith is not another requirement for salvation in addition to works.  It is not the requirement for salvation alternative to works.  Rather it is this faith in Jesus that is the life of works, that exists only together with works, and that operates in lock step with works and without which all works are dead works.
Contrary to Jesus, most of the Protestant churchmen believe that they are being saved by faith, defined as believing something about Jesus -- specifically that one obtains salvation by believing that Jesus died on the cross as a lamb of sacrifice and that he requires only that we "accept" him as our personal savior so conceived and that he does not require obedience to his Word or to the commandments of the Sermon on the Mount.  Far from securing salvation, this heinous doctrine securely insulates one from salvation!  Proof of this is the simple fact that good Protestants are as quick as anyone to strike back, to war, to sue and to seek vengeance.

Contrary to Jesus, Catholicism and Orthodoxy generally teaches that one receives salvation through participating in the church and it sacraments and, like the Protestants, believing things about Jesus as specified by the church.  Their faith is therefore ultimately faith in the church and its ministry.  It is believing the words of the popes and patriarchs, whose words only lead their members away from Jesus and away from a serious acceptance of his Words in the gospels.  Proof of this is the simple fact that good Catholics and Orthodox are as quick
as anyone to strike back, to war, to sue and to seek vengeance.

Suppose I Break the Law?

Do not think of this as a mere supposition.  You almost surely transgress God's law as delivered (condensed and explained) by Jesus.   In every case it constitutes a sin against God.  But again, if only one listens to the Word of Jesus, one learns that the Father is wondrously merciful, requiring only that we who are his little infants repent of our sins and that we similarly forgive others who repent of their offenses toward us so as to receive forgiveness.  I have discussed this in the prior paper entitled The Salvation of the Penitents.  Here I will only remind you of the words of Hosea that Jesus made his own:
I desire mercy and not sacrifice.
Our Father requires that we grant mercy to others so that, when we repent of our sins and seek his mercy, we will receive his mercy and his salvation.

Contrary to the doctrine of Paul and the churchmen, the law as delivered through Moses is not too hard to keep.  That very law certifies that it is not too hard:
Deut. 30:11- 14
For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?"  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, "Who will go over the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?"  But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

But when Jesus condensed and explained the law as it is in the Sermon on the Mount, he did indeed make it impossible for the children of this world.  They must inevitably disobey him in every way and in all their dealings.  But the children of God are those who have received the Law of God as delivered by Jesus who indeed brought it down from heaven for us.  Thus receiving the Word of Jesus, they also receive and apply the Great Principle delivered to us by him, that enables one to keep even the laws of the Sermon on the Mount. Still, when we fail (and fail we do) the Father's mercy never fails so that, if we repent, he will receive us, forgive us and restore us to his fellowship as did the father of the prodigal son.

So, if and when we break the perfect law of Jesus, the Father forgives us and restores us to himself provided only that we repent and similarly have mercy on others.  So, the desire of the Father remains forever as Jesus said,
I desire mercy and not sacrifice. (Matt. 9:13, 12:7, Hosea 6:6)
Summary and Conclusion

The Father in heaven is ever loving and of great mercy.  Therefore he continues as always to receive the soul that dies in innocence, be it the little child or the adult with the mind of a child.  These all become His ministering angels in heaven.  Even those who have never heard the Word of Jesus and who sin by breaking His laws he yet receives due to His great mercy. The only requirements are that they repent towards Him and extend similar mercy to those who repent of their offenses to them. These all are saved as penitents and become His dear servants in heaven.

But the Father did not create the world and bring forth human beings so that they would become angels and servants in his heavenly glory.  He wants children, not angels and servants.  To this end he sent his son, Jesus, into the world to reveal his will for us and to speak the Truth.  Jesus both explained and showed by example how to become a child of the Father.  Everyone who hears the Word of Jesus becomes a candidate for divine childhood.  This puts each one of us in the situation of testing whether we will receive the Truth delivered through the Word of Jesus.  All who believe Jesus -- that is, all who believe what Jesus said and place their faith in him -- a
re born of the Spirit and become children of God.  They love Jesus, and because of that love, they apply themselves to keep his commandments while they abide in this world.  Should they disobey, the Father in His mercy is quick to forgive provided only that they repent and similarly forgive others, as is the case of the salvation of penitents.  We must emphasize that their faith in Jesus is not a belief in a doctrine about Jesus, but is utter faith and trust in Jesus himself and in the truth of his Word.

Those who hear the Word of Jesus and do not receive it so as to become infants of God -- that is, they do not believe Jesus -- have placed themselves in an impossible situation. They have spurned the Son of God and counted his divine Word as a lie and of no effect.  It is the Holy Spirit who mediates the Word in the world and so they have also spurned the Holy Spirit and blasphemed the divine presence by counting his Word as false and of no value or effect.  This is the sin that has no forgiveness.  Such persons can no more obtain salvation as penitents who have heard the Word and rejected it.

To repeat for emphasis, saving faith is faith in what Jesus of Nazareth said, not in what someone has said about him.  All who simply believe a doctrine about Jesus have no hope of salvation either as penitents or infants, for this is not faith in Jesus and his Word.  What do I mean by this?

A common doctrine about Jesus is this:
Romans 10
9] because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Multitudes place their hope of salvation in their faith in this doctrine about Jesus while ignoring the Word of Jesus, the Word that states plainly that salvation comes from obeying his commandments, those commandments that consist of the Law of Moses condensed into the two Great Commandments and explained in the Sermon on the Mount.  Our love for Jesus is manifested, therefore, as he said;
John 14
15] If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
[24] He who does not love me does not keep my words; and the word which you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.
The enabler -- the one thing that enables humans to keep his commandments -- is the Great Principle as delivered by him.  This Word is the heart of all his words.  And the Holy Spirit?
The Spirit accompanies the Word:
John 6
[63] It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.

John 14
[23] If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
Finally, some may be asking, "What differentiates the penitents from the infants since repentance is required of both?"

If, after all the explanation that Jesus has provided in his Word, you yet do not understand, perhaps a simple statement of distinction will help to clarify this difference:
The infants are those who have heard and received the Word of God through Jesus and are thus among those born of God.  As God's little children, they love their Father and truly want to leave life in this world and go to him.  Their repentance is that of children who sorrow at having transgressed their Father's will as defined by Jesus.  The penitents are those who have never heard (or read) the Words uttered by Jesus and are not born of God.  Their repentance is that of servants who are truly sorrowful at having disobeyed their master but, unlike the children, they do not know God's will and so have no desire to forsake life in this world to go to Him.  Both the penitent servants and the penitent infants will take on the characteristics defined by Jesus in the Beatitudes because both were created in the image and likeness of God.

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