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My mother loved to tell about a little boy (whom I will not name) whom she once told to take a bath. So he filled the bathtub with water; but when she checked, he was sitting on the side of the tub dangling his feet in the water. She informed him that, to receive any good from a bath, you have to get into the water!
He wanted the benefit of a bath without doing what you have to do to take a bath! That was silly. But unfortunately, many people make a similar mistake about Jesus' death.
It promises that God gave His only-begotten son so that we can have the gift of eternal life. Many people want to receive the benefit of Jesus' death but have not done what the Lord requires in order to receive the benefit.
They either don't know what to do or are not willing to do it. In any case, like that little boy, they want the benefits without doing what it takes to receive the benefits.
If it is important to receive the benefit of Jesus' blood, then it is surely important to know how to receive that benefit. Sadly many people mistakenly think they have received that benefit when they have not. They have been misled by false teachers or by a lack of understanding. Or they simply don't want to do what they see in the Bible.
Let us consider what the Bible says about how to benefit from Jesus' blood.
Matthew 20:28 - Jesus came to give His life a ransom for all.
Ephesians 1:7 - We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
If they believe in Jesus' death, most people know this. But the question is how do we receive forgiveness by His death? Could we be like the boy dangling his feet in the water? Could it be that we want to receive a benefit without doing what one must do to receive the benefit?
1 Corinthians 1:18,23,24 - The word (message) of the cross - the preaching of Christ's death - is foolishness to some people, but to the saved it is the power of God.
Many people today think it is foolish to believe you can be saved from sin because someone died nearly 2000 years ago. They view it as a myth like Hindu or Buddhist myths, or a legend like Paul Bunyan. It is just an interesting story, but it either never happened or isn't really God's way of saving us from sin.
1 Corinthians 15:1-8 - The gospel was preached and saves those who believe. It is a historical record that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and arose from the dead. This is testified to by eyewitnesses, whose testimony is recorded in the Bible.
This is no myth or legend. It is historical fact. It is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16). Those who believe it can be saved from their sins.
We encourage you, if you have not learned that message, to study and learn it so you can benefit from Jesus' death.
John 3:16 - God so loved that He gave His only-begotten Son that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
Romans 3:22-26 - All people have sinned (v23). That is why we need to be cleansed by Jesus' blood. We are justified (made righteous) through faith in His blood. The blood saves only if we believe.
John 8:24 - Jesus said, "If you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins." We have two choices: believe so we can be saved from sin, or disbelieve and die in sin.
Romans 10:17 - Faith comes from hearing God's word. We must hear and believe the gospel message about Jesus and His death, or we will die in sins.
We encourage you, if you have not believed the gospel message, that you study the evidence that it is true, so you can benefit from Jesus' death.
Luke 24:46,47 - The gospel message says Jesus suffered (died) and arose. The gospel is a message about repentance and remission of sins. Repentance is a decision to turn away from sin and live our lives for Christ. Jesus' death offers us remission, but requires us to repent. Why?
2 Corinthians 5:14,15 - Christ died for us so we would live for Him. To receive forgiveness we must make up our mind to be willing to serve Him. That decision is called "repentance."
Acts 17:30 - That is why God commands all men everywhere to repent.
2 Peter 3:9 - God does not want any to perish, but wants all to repent. So, Jesus died so we can all be saved. But if we do not repent, we will perish.
Romans 10:9,10 - If you confess with the mouth and believe in your heart, you will be saved. With the mouth confession is made to salvation.
We encourage you, if you have not done so, to decide to turn from sin (repent) and to be willing to say (confess) that you want to serve Jesus. This is necessary in order to receive forgiveness by Jesus' blood.
Many will agree up to this point, but when we say they must be baptized, many respond, "We are saved by Jesus' death, not by baptism."
Suppose someone said, "We are saved by Jesus' death, not by faith (or repentance or confession)." How should we respond? We would agree that Jesus' death is what saves us. But Jesus died to offer salvation to everyone, yet not everyone will be saved because not everyone will respond by meeting the conditions. Some will not believe, repent, or confess. The question is what must we do to receive the benefit of the death?
The fact Jesus died to save us does not eliminate our need to believe, repent, or confess, and neither does it eliminate the need for baptism. The question is: What does the Bible say we must do to receive the benefit of Jesus death? Please consider some passages:
Matthew 26:28 - Jesus' blood was poured out for remission of sins.
Acts 2:38 - Everyone must be baptized for remission of sins.
Can you be saved without Jesus' blood? No, so how could you be saved without baptism? Both are for the remission of sins.
We should not say we are baptized because we already have the remission of sins any more than we may say Jesus died because we already had the remission of sins.
Jesus died that we might receive the remission of sins, and we must be baptized that we might receive the remission of sins.2
Revelation 1:5 - Jesus washed us from our sins in His own blood.
Acts 22:16 - Saul was told to be baptized and wash away his sins.
The power to cleanse sins is in Jesus' blood. But when does it cleanse a person? What must one do to receive the cleansing? One who hears, believes, repents, and confesses must then be baptized. Then the blood washes away the sins.
If we need Jesus' blood to wash away our sins, then we also need to be baptized. The blood washes away the sins when we are baptized, and that is how we receive the benefit.
Romans 5:6-9 - Jesus died so we might be justified by His blood and saved from wrath. [Heb. 5:9]
Mark 16:15,16 - The gospel says that whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.
What saves us? Jesus' death. But we can no more be saved without baptism than we can be saved without believing, because Jesus said we must believe and be baptized to be saved. Jesus' death saves, but we receive the benefits of His death when we are baptized.
1 Peter. 3:21 - Baptism also now saves us.
Here is the explanation that ties it all together.
We are baptized into Christ, into His death. Baptism (preceded by hearing, etc.) is the act at which we come into contact with or receive the benefit of Jesus' death. As a result, after we have been baptized, we have newness of life (v4), we are justified from sin (v7) and made free from sin (vv 17,18). [Cf. Gal. 3:26,27]
We can all see how silly the little boy was who thought he could take a bath without getting in the water. The power to remove dirt is in the soap and water. To take away our dirt, we must apply the soap and water.
Likewise, the power to remove sin is in Jesus' blood (not water). To say we must be baptized does not deny or belittle that. The point is that we must be baptized to apply the blood and receive the benefit of it.
The person who wants forgiveness without baptism is as mistaken in God's eyes as that little boy. To deny the need for baptism is not just belittling baptism; it is also belittling Jesus' blood. Why? Because you get the benefit of the blood in the baptism! To say you can be saved without baptism is saying you can be saved without the blood.
We encourage you, if you have not done so, to be Scripturally baptized so you can benefit from Jesus' death. And remember that Scriptural baptism requires being baptized with the understanding that it is necessary to receive cleansing by Jesus' blood.
Again many people think the church has nothing to do with Jesus' blood. They say: "We are saved by Jesus' blood, not by the church." "We should preach Christ, not the church." "As long as you've been saved, you can join the church of your choice."
But consider what the Bible says about the church.
The church was so important to Jesus that He died to make it His.
Ephesians 1:7 - Jesus shed His blood so we could be forgiven of sins. Do you believe His blood is essential to our salvation? Many people believe that Jesus' death is the most important event in history. It is absolutely essential to our salvation. Then they claim the church is non-essential and you don't have to be in it.
But Jesus' gave His life and shed His blood to purchase the church! If the church is not essential, why did Jesus give His life for it? Did Jesus shed His blood for a non-essential body? If the blood is the price paid for the church, and the blood is essential to our salvation, how could the church be non-essential?
If Jesus is the Savior of the body, and gave Himself for the church, how can anyone be saved outside the church?
"Are you saying I have to join your denomination to be saved?" What I say doesn't matter. But Jesus says He died for His church. His church is not a denomination. It is not part of a denomination and it does not consist of denominations.
Jesus never wanted there to be denominations. All modern denominations are human in origin, unknown to the Bible, and constitute religious division contrary to the Lord's will. If you join a denomination, you do something Jesus never taught anyone to do.
But Jesus did begin His church in the first century. He died to make it His, and He urged everyone to become part of it. Jesus' church is simply the body of people who belong to Him.
When people say you don't have to be in Jesus' church, they are not just belittling the church. Unknowingly they are belittling Jesus' death, since He died for the church!
The church is simply the group or body of people who have been forgiven by Jesus. When Jesus saves people, He puts them into His church.
But suppose someone thinks the church is not necessary and refuses to become part of it. What is his condition? All the saved are added by the Lord to the church, but a person refuses to be part of the church, so what is his condition?
"Are you saying the church saves us?" No, Jesus saves us. The question is: Whom will He save? Those whom He saves are in the church.
To claim that we have the benefits of Jesus' death, but we are not in the church, is like the little boy who wanted to take a bath without getting in the water. All who are saved are in the church. You can't take a bath without water and you can't be saved without the church.
Some people think that, once a person has been forgiven, the way they live afterward will not affect their salvation. "Once saved, always saved." Some members of the church act like being a member and attending once a week is all that matters. Living a faithful daily life seems unnecessary.
He gave Himself to redeem and purify us. But He saved us by grace so that we might deny worldly lusts and live righteous and godly lives, zealous of good works.
The final purpose of Jesus' blood in our lives is not just that we might be forgiven and added to the church. That is just the beginning. Once saved, we must live an acceptable life.
Some people think: "It's my life. I'll live it the way I want." Such a view is totally foreign to the meaning of Jesus' death.
If Jesus died for us, we owe it to Him to live for Him. If He has forgiven our sins, we no longer belong to ourselves. We were purchased by His blood. If we want His blood to cleanse us and make us His, then we must allow Him to use us for His purposes.
Being forgiven and entering the church put us in a right relationship with God, but that is not the final goal of Jesus' death. It is just the beginning of a lifetime of service to do His will. If we do not live faithfully, once again we are back in sin and in need of forgiveness.
When we are baptized, Jesus' blood washes away all our past sins. But what happens when we sin afterward (as we all do - vv 8,10)?
We are not "once saved, always saved." Cleansing by the blood is not a one-time thing. Neither is it a constant, uninterrupted cleansing where the blood constantly and immediately washes away any sin we commit afterward.
When we sin, we need cleansing. Jesus' blood cleanses us conditionally: we must repent and confess our sins to Him.
Acts 8:22 - Children of God who sin must repent and pray for forgiveness.
[1 Peter 2:21-24; Phil. 2:5-8; Rom. 6:4-23; Heb. 9:14]
Truly Jesus' death is absolutely essential to each person's spiritual well-being.
We need His blood to forgive us; but receiving forgiveness requires us to be willing to hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized.
We must also realize that, when His blood has forgiven us, then He adds us to His church, where we have responsibilities, including the responsibility to live faithful lives.
Like that the little boy, we need to understand how to receive the necessary benefits, then we need to take the necessary steps. Until we submit to Jesus' will, we have no promise of receiving the benefits of His death.
Have you submitted to God's will so He can forgive your sins and make you part of His church? If so, have you been living a faithful life?
Copyright 2011,David E. Pratte; www.gospelway.com
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(Picture copyright Bob West)
Things that Are Essential to Salvation
Is Obedience Essential to Salvation?
Is Baptism Essential to Salvation?
Have You Been "Born Again"?
Individual Responsibility in Salvation
Why Must We Be "In Christ"?
Should Babies Be Baptized?
Is Baptism Sprinkling, Pouring, or Immersion?
Salvation by "Faith Only" vs. Obedient Faith
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.