Believe and Behave Part 2
by John Lowe
(Laurens SC, USA)
Paul then declared to them that this Unknown God is the Creator, Governor, Savior, and Judge of the world. In essence, he was announcing to them that he knew the real God, who was unknown to them in spite of their extreme religiosity. As he faced the crowd, Paul had his back to the great temples of the city, which would be instantly observed by his audience to whom he then announced that God dwelleth not in temples. Athens offered only randomness and an uncertainty about God, but Paul told the Greeks that his God can speak for Himself, and He cannot be contained by human thought.
Jesus provides an unrestricted, universally available salvation. In his letter to the Romans, Paul says that salvation is available without restriction because of several factors.
First, he said that there was a need that required it. All of us are sinners and fail to live up to God’s standard. Paul wrote this in the third chapter, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Since all of us have sinned, salvation is available to all of us. It is available without restriction because people have sinned without exception. Sin can be defined by the phrase “to miss the mark” or “falling short of attaining God’s standard.” Sin is often identified as deeds, such as stealing, murder, adultery, or lying. However, a more basic attitude deep within the human heart lies behind all “sins” and is expressed as “I know better than God in this matter.”
This attitude led Eve to that first, fatal, disobedient act in the Garden of Eden. Adam had told her that God had forbidden the eating of the fruit, but when the fruit was presented to her as good, pleasant, and desirable, she allowed her own judgment to take precedence over the Word directly from God, and she ate the forbidden fruit. God has not given us His Word so we can make a reasoned evaluation of His judgment, and decide whether or not we want to obey. He has given us His Word because that Word is truth and life, and we are to obey it without question and with unhesitating confidence. To follow our own judgments in disobedience of God’s Word is to put ourselves in the place of God.
But some may ask, “How can a holy God forgive guilty people? Is that lawful? If our judges did that, society would fall apart.” But God, who is the Law Giver and Judge obeyed His own law, and died for us, and paid the penalty for our sins. The Judge is now the Savior!
Next, Paul said that salvation was available to all because it is grace that provides it.
He wrote these words to the Romans, “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Salvation is available without restriction not because of human goodness but because of God’s grace. If salvation was available on the basis of our goodness, we would be in a hopeless condition, since God said that our righteousness is like filthy rags.
The outcome of enslavement to sin is quite different from that of obedience to Christ. Payment is the principle by which we become heirs of death. Sin always pays a wage, and that wage is a drastic one. But just as payment is the principle by which we become heirs to death, it is by God’s grace that we become heirs to eternal life. Death is earned, eternal life is purely a gift.
The third reason that salvation is unrestricted is that the price of salvation has already been paid. Paul said, “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Jesus’ love is unique. We have a name for this type of God-love; it’s called agape love. It focuses on the nature of the one loving rather than on the good points of the one being loved. God’s nature is self-giving love, which always acts in the best interest of His creation, even of His enemies.
But some might ask, “How could God ‘prove His love to us’ through the death of Christ?” The answer is, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19).
Christ died for us! He died on our behalf, and He died voluntarily. John wrote about that in his gospel. He reported that Jesus said, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from me, but I lay it down of myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18).
Friends, you can count on one finger those who are willing to die for you. The Son of God died for you because He loves you. That’s something that no one else would even think of doing.
A little boy made a toy boat, but soon he lost it in the street gutter in front of his home. It was swept down the street and wound up in a sewer. Later, he saw it in the front window of a pawn shop. He saved his pennies until he had one dollar, then he bought back his precious boat. As he left the shop he said, “Little boat, you’re mine twice—I made you and I purchased you.”
Friends, Jesus made you, and he purchased you with His own precious blood.
There’s a fourth reason why salvation is unrestricted, and that is because there is a great love that insures it. As he pondered in silence, suddenly he cried: “Hold, daughter, hold, my Master calleth me.” He asked that the Bible should be brought, but his sight failed him and he could not read. “Cast me up the eighth of Romans,” cried he, and he repeated much of the latter portion of this scripture till he came to the last two verses: “I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor heights, nor depths, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “Set my finger on these words,” said the blind dying man; “God be with you, my children. I have breakfasted with you and shall sup with my Lord Jesus this night. I die believing in these words.”
Friends, I believe that for belief to be valid, it must accompany the right behavior.
The second point that I want to make today is that THERE IS A CERTAIN BEHAVIOR THAT RESULTS FROM SALVATION.
Belief results in salvation, but a new behavior results from salvation. In other words, belief saves us and behavior proves that we are saved.
Paul points out that our belief in the gospel will affect three areas of our behavior. So let’s look at what Paul had to say.
First, he says that the gospel will affect our conduct.
Listen to what he said to the Romans. “I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Romans 12:1-2).
Paul begins by saying, “I beseech you, therefore.” Whenever we see the word therefore in Scripture, we should ask, “What is it there for?” It always looks back at what has been said before. Paul is saying, “In light of the belief that results in salvation, I now want to speak about the behavior that results from salvation. You have believed, therefore, you should behave.”