daily biblical sermons


WHO WILL BE SAVED?
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, Third Week of Easter, April 12, 2018
Acts 5:27-33, Psalm 33, John 3:31-36


Scripture quotations are from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted.

 

"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 3:36).


This is indeed a striking verse. It tells us who does and who does not have eternal life. Those who believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God have eternal life, which begins now and lasts forever in a glorious life with God in heaven, and at the end of the world they will rise in glorified bodies to live with God on a new earth under a new heaven (2 Peter 3:13).


This teaching most people rather easily accept. Few, I think, are offended or troubled by this beautiful promise of eternal life with God in heaven after death.


But then comes the second half of this verse, "He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him" (John 3:36b). Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ will not receive the great blessing of eternal life now, nor after death forever with God in heaven.


We do not have a natural right to eternal life with God in heaven after death. We believe that our soul is immortal, but that does not mean that it automatically goes to heaven at death. Eternal life with God in heaven is a special gift of God that is only given to those who fulfill the conditions required for receiving it. The conditions are believing in Jesus Christ and obeying him. "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 3:36).


Why does Jesus lay down this condition? It is because we have all fallen into sin and must be punished by God, who is just. Adam lost this special gift of life by his sin, and we his children inherit what he had left to bequeath to us. He could not bequeath to us the gift of eternal life in the light that he himself had lost. Furthermore, we have also sinned and so by our own sins lose this gift of eternal life. Therefore punishment, not eternal life with God, awaits us at death.


Those, however, who believe in and obey Jesus Christ will be freed from this punishment and will have eternal life restored to them. Why? Because the Son of God was sent by God the Father to become incarnate as a man and die on a cross in reparation for our sins. "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:3).


We were condemned to eternal death in hell for our grave sins, starting with Adam and Eve. But then Christ was sent by God as a sin offering to take our place and suffer our death sentence for our sins for us so that all who believe in him will have Christ's death on the cross counted by God as fulfilling their just punishment for their sins for them. So those who believe in Christ and obey him will have eternal life, both now and after death, because of what Christ did for us on the cross. Therefore "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 3:36).


No one would have eternal life if it were not for Christ's death on the cross. But since he has died on the cross, all who believe in him and obey him (obey his moral law once they are justified by their faith in him) will have eternal life. Those who do not believe in him and do not obey him will not have eternal life, but the wrath of God rests upon them (John 3:36b) for their sins. Christ's death would have been counted by God as serving their death sentence for them if only they had accepted him as their Savior.


Hence we see that Christianity is a missionary religion by its very nature. The Son of God was sent on a mission to the world to save it. All who accept his salvation will be saved. He is the only Savior that God ever sent to the world (Acts 4:12). So all who reject him reject God's salvation. God would have let his wrath for their sins fall upon his Son rather than upon them if only they had accepted him and his gift of salvation. Those who do not want his gift of salvation are not forced to accept it. God honors their rejection of his salvation and lets them have what they want - his just wrath for their sins.


I say that Christianity is a missionary religion, because God has chosen to depend on those who believe in his Son to preach to the whole world the good news that God has sent us a Savior and that all we have to do to be justified and have eternal life now is to believe in this Savior. This act of faith of ours allows God to credit our personal account with his Son's death on the cross as though it were our own death in just punishment for our sins so that God could justly forgive us and declare us righteous and heirs of eternal life.


Once we are justified in this way by our faith in Jesus Christ, we are actually made righteous by God and are now enabled to keep his moral law. We are therefore expected to keep it, and if we do, we will receive eternal life. Those who do not believe in him and henceforth obey his moral law will not see life. "He who does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God rests upon him" (John 3:36b).


So the mission of the Church is to preach this message (the gospel message) to all nations so that all might have the opportunity to know this and accept it with faith and obey Jesus Christ for eternal life. This explains the urgency of Christian mission.


According to God's revelation in his word, this salvation is not automatic, but requires knowledge of Jesus Christ and faith in him. Such faith can only come about through preachers being sent to all parts of the world, for "how ... shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how are they to hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?" (Romans 10:14-15 NKJV). This is because "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17 NKJV). So people must hear about Jesus Christ and about his saving death on the cross and must come to believe in him and accept him as their Savior in order to have eternal life now and forever after death with God in heaven.


If God has some other way of saving people, he has not revealed it to us in his normative Scriptures. All God has chosen to reveal to us in the Scriptures about salvation is that to receive it knowledge of and faith in Jesus Christ is necessary. The scriptural conclusion is therefore that Christian mission and preaching in all parts of the world is urgently needed.


The Church is not authorized to create new revelation and new doctrines, but only to preach and preserve for every age God's revelation in his word. It does not have the authority to create new doctrines not revealed in the Scriptures.


So this is the biblical teaching about salvation:


"He who believes in him [in Jesus Christ] is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God" (John 3:18). "He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned" (Mark 16:16). "God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who has not the Son of God has not life" (1 John 5:11-12). "He who rejects me and does not receive my sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day" (John 12:48). "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 3:36). "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but by me" (John 14:6).

 

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