What Must I do to be Saved?

Love Tries to Make the Loved One Happy

Why does a man use his money to support a wife and family when he could live much better if he kept all of his money for himself? Why does a woman work so hard to cook and keep a house for a family when it would be so much easier to live alone and just cook and clean for herself?

“That is love,” we say. Love wants to make the loved one happy. Those questions are easy to answer. But the next question may not be so easy.

Why do fathers and mothers make rules for their children and families to follow? Fathers and mothers will quickly answer, “Because we love them and we want them to be happy. The rules are to keep everyone happy.”

Sometimes children do not see it that way. They think they would be happier if there were no rules. But usually when they become fathers and mothers, they do the same thing—they make rules. Somewhere along the way, they seem to learn that love does make rules, rules that call upon all of the members of the family to be nice to each other so everyone can be happy.

So how about God? If God is love, and love makes rules for happiness, should we not expect God to make rules? Yes we should. And when we look closely at God’s rules, it is easy to see that their purpose is to make us happy. They are God’s happiness rules, given to us because God is love.

What Must I do to be Saved?

This is a question that a certain young man asked Jesus. (See Matthew 19:16.) Of all the questions that we might talk about tonight, surely this is the most important. Eternal life! Think of it! A thousand years—ten thousand, a hundred thousand years—endless life! If I could offer you a medicine that would make you live forever, what would you pay for it? Would you sell your car, your house, and your lands to buy it? Of course you would. Eternal life, what a glorious thought!

I once listened to an old man preach a sermon about eternal life. He said that when he was twenty he thought fifty years of life would satisfy him. When he reached fifty, he thought he would be satisfied if he could reach seventy-five. “But I am seventy-five now,” he said, “and I am sure that I could not be satisfied with less than a hundred and fifty years of life.”

I want to offer you eternal life! Not 50 years, not 75 years, not 150 years, but eternal life in which time is counted because it means nothing. Why count your birthdays if you are going to live forever? I offer you eternal life in the words of Jesus, as He answered the young man’s question: “What good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” How eagerly we listen to the Saviour’s answer. All conversation stops, every head is turned; every eye is on the Master. Every ear strains to hear. What will He say? Surely this is the great question of all ages. How will He answer it?

Keep the Commandments

Kindly Jesus looks at the young man and answers, “Why callest thou Me good. There is none good but One, that is God. But if thou wilt enter into life”—[now it is coming, listen carefully—] “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

The young man thought he knew what Jesus meant, but he asked, just to be sure, “Which?” In answer, Jesus quoted several of the age-old Ten Commandments, which had been the standard of life for centuries past, and which must still continue to be.

The young man, like many today, knew about the commandments already, but he was hoping for a new way, a modern, easy way to enter into eternal life. But Jesus kindly reminded him that the pathway to eternal life has never changed and never will be changed!

“If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

Those words of Jesus fall strangely on the ears of modern Christians, who are used to hearing ministers sneer at the Ten Commandments, and at those who endeavor, by the grace of Christ, to keep them. Many people are greatly surprised by His answer. Try quoting the question to someone, just to check my statement. See if they do not think the answer to question is; “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.” But that is not the answer Jesus gave!

Jesus didn’t give that answer to the question. Not because belief is not necessary, for it definitely is. But He knew that one who thinks he believes but does not keep the commandments actually does not believe at all, but has deceived himself. This is clearly shown in 1 John 1:9: “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him.”

The apostle James also adds a word of caution about this empty, intellectual agreement that some people would call belief: “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” James 2:19.

Somebody says, “But I thought all I had to do was love God and nothing else mattered.” Yes, but notice how God tests your love to see if you really love Him: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not grievous.” 1 John 5:3.

Yes, the law of the kingdom is the law of love. Not simpering sentimentality, not lip service, but love that is seen in action and in deed, more than in empty words. Christian, do you love your Saviour? Then listen to His words: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.” John 14:15.

The Law of the Kingdom of God is the Law of Love

In our own America we cherish freedom. Freedom, liberty, is the law of our great land. Our constitution, our court system, our government, our laws—all are built upon the one great basic principle of liberty and freedom for every man.

Even so, in the kingdom of God the basic principle is the law of love. It is the great principle upon which everything else depends. See how Jesus explains this. “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matthew 22:36–40.

Notice these words—on these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. May I remind you that it does not say, “From these two commandments are cut off all the law and the prophets, so that you do not have to worry about them anymore.”

You would be surprised how many people think it says that. But it does not. It says, On these two commandments hang—how much of the law? Read it again. “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

Remember also what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17–19: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

What Does Fulfill Mean?

Someone says, “What does fulfill mean? When Jesus fulfilled the law did that bring it to an end?” No, indeed, dear friend. The word fulfilled meant the same thing in the language Jesus spoke as it does in English—to carry into effect, to perform completely. By looking at a few verses where the same word is used, you can easily find the answer to your question.

In Galatians 6:2 Paul writes, “Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Does this mean bring the law of Christ to an end? Obviously not. Paul writes again in Philippians 2:2, “Fulfill my joy.” Does he mean bring his joy to an end?

In Colossians 1:25 we find these words, “…to fulfill the word of God.” Does this mean bring the word of God to an end? Paul sent word to a man named Archippus, “Take heed to the ministry which thou hast received in the Lord, that thou fulfill it.” Does this mean to bring the ministry of the Lord to an end? Certainly not! It means to perform it perfectly and completely. And when John objected to baptizing Jesus, and Jesus said to him, “Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness.” Matthew 3:15. Does that mean bring all righteousness to an end? Of course not. It meant to perform it completely.

So Jesus did not say, “I come not to destroy the law, but to bring it to an end.” He said, “I come not to destroy the law, but to perform it perfectly and completely.” And all true followers of Jesus will, by His grace, do the same thing.

May I recommend this to you as a good way to find the true meaning of words used in the Bible. You do not have to know Hebrew and Greek. Just see how the word is used in other verses, and you will not go wrong.

Another good example of this is the statement by Paul in Romans 10:4: “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” What does that mean? Look at other verses which use the same word, “Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful and of tender mercy.” James 5:11.

Does this mean the Lord is finished? Of course not. It means you have seen the purpose of the Lord.

In 1 Peter 1:9 it says, “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls?” This means the purpose of your faith is salvation. Likewise, when Paul wrote that Christ is the end of the law unto righteousness, he did not mean that the law was finished. He meant, Christ is the purpose of the law. He gives the same thought in Romans 8:4: “That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”

The Two Great Commandments

So the two great commandments are love to God and love to man, and on these two hang all the rest.

As you look at the Ten Commandments you can easily see how true this is. Love to God is the first great principle on which hang the first four commandments. He will have no other gods, he will make no idols or images, he will not take the name of the Lord in vain, and he will keep the Sabbath day which God has commanded.

Love to our neighbor is the second great principle of the law of love. If a man loves his neighbor he will carefully follow the last six of the Ten Commandments. He will honor his father and mother, he will not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, or covet.

Love is the law of the kingdom, and genuine love is seen in action, not in empty words.

Did you ever notice how young girls make plans about the man they will marry? Talk to a young girl. She is going to marry a man who is handsome, cultured, educated, and wealthy. You may be sure that she will not settle for anything less than that.

But you come back in a few years. She is going to get married. You look at her finance. You have seen more handsome men and more cultured men. He does not have much education and he has no money at all! “Why are you marrying this man?” you ask. She has only one answer for all the questions: “He loves me!”

By the mysterious wisdom of a girl’s mind, she knows that it is better to have a poor man who loves her than a rich man who does not truly love her. She knows that a man who loves her will provide for her all he can and treat her kindly. She knows that true love will be seen in action.

A lady came to me in Honolulu one day in deep distress. She had a marriage problem that she wanted to discuss, and I listened in amazement as she told her story.

This woman had been married for about ten years to a certain man, she said, and in all those ten years she had been supporting herself. Her husband kept his food on one side of the refrigerator, and she kept hers on the other side. She bought her own clothes, and he bought his. She paid her expenses, and he paid his. He was not letting marriage cost him anything. They had lived this way for ten years, but now they were having trouble. So she came to me to find out what was wrong.

Of course, it was obvious what was wrong, but how do you tell a woman that her husband does not love her? I had to tell her. “Your husband does not love you, and apparently has never loved you. What his reasons were for marrying you, I do not know, but I am very sure that he does not love you.”

If You Love Me, Keep My Commandments

No man would treat a woman like that if he loved her. Love—true love—is seen in every action of the life, not just in empty words. This is why Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep My commandments.”

This is the test by which you may know whether you truly love Him, or if you are among that class of people whom He describes in Matthew 15:8. “These people draweth nigh unto Me with their mouth, and honoureth Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.”

Eternal life is not for such people—those who say they love God but despise His commandments and those who keep them. You must realize, of course, that Jesus is the author of the Ten Commandments. It was His own finger that traced them in the tables of stone. This is revealed by many verses of Scripture, such as Colossians 1:16: “For by Him [Christ] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him and for Him.”

Obviously then, the Ten Commandments were written by Jesus Himself. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made…And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” John 1:1–3, and 14.

This is clearly talking about our blessed Lord. It is Jesus who is the author and finisher of our salvation. He is the one who has set up all the plan whereby we may be saved. He is the one with whom we have to do, and the one with whom all men have had to do all the way back through the centuries. He startled the Jews, who honored Abraham, with the statement: “Before Abraham was, I am.” John 8:58.

The Unchanging Christ

The unchanging Christ has provided an unchanging plan of salvation. You must not suppose that Christ changes His mind about anything or experiments with anything. You may not suppose that He will have one plan of salvation for one age and another plan for a different age. We read in Hebrews 13:8, “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and today, and forever.” His love is the same; His law is the same; and His grace is the same throughout all past ages and throughout eternity.

Someone may be saying, “I thought before the cross was the age of the law, and since the cross was the age of grace.” I do not doubt that you may have heard some men say that, but what does the Bible say? Did the grace of Christ begin at the cross? Read 2 Timothy 1:9: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”

Beyond any doubt, we can understand His grace better since the cross, just as we can understand His love and mercy better since the cross, but that does not mean that the age of grace began at the cross. The age of grace covers the whole life span of this planet, dear friend. No man has ever been saved except by the grace of Christ. Adam, the first sinner, desperately needed the grace of God, and without it he would never have been forgiven. But the grace of Christ was there, ready to cover the repentant sinner with the blood of Christ, even though Christ had not yet died, because we read in Revelation 13:8 that in the true sense Christ was “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.”

Noah needed the grace of Christ, and it was there for him, too. Read it in Genesis 6:8: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” If he had not found grace, he could never have been saved. But thank God, grace was there to pardon and cleanse him from sin.

Lot, who lived in the sinful city of Sodom, was able to say, “Behold now, thy servant hath found grace in thy sight, and thou hast magnified thy mercy, which thou hast shewed unto me in saving my life.” Genesis 19:19.

The sinners of that city were the first on earth to be punished by eternal fire from the Lord, but Lot found grace and was delivered and saved by the grace of Christ. (See Jude 7.)

In Exodus 33:12 we find the words of God to Moses, “I knew thee by name, and thou hast also found grace in My sight.” In Jeremiah 3:2 we read, “Thus saith the Lord, The people which were left of the sword found grace in the wilderness, even Israel, when I went to cause him to rest.”

Unchanging Grace

The unchanging grace of the unchanging Christ was there, dear friend. It was there for the first sinner who needed it, and is still here for the last, until the door of mercy will be finally and forever closed. No, the age of grace did not begin at the cross, but grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, as we have read in 2 Timothy 1:9.

Why did they need the grace of Christ? Because they were sinners. Why were they sinners? Because they had missed the mark, had fallen short, had broken the unchanging law of the unchanging Christ. Remember that it was the unchanging Christ who wrote the Ten Commandments on the tables of stone with His own finger. It was this same unchanging Christ who answered the young man’s question so many years later: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

The pathway to eternal life has never changed and will never change. The people who enter the gates of the eternal city will be commandment-keeping people: “Blessed are they that do His commandments, that they might have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” Revelation 22:14.

The judgment of the unchanging Christ will eliminate all commandment breakers. Yes, the unchanging Christ is to be our judge. “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself; And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.” John 5:26, 27.

How will He judge us? By that unchanging law which He Himself wrote into the tables of stone. Is this true of those of all ages? Yes, the unchanging Christ will judge all men by the same standard. Here is a statement from the Old Testament on this point. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” Ecclesiastes 12:13, 14.

Now look at how the unchanging Christ will judge New Testament Christians. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law. So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.” James 2:10–12.

So, the unchanging Christ is going to judge all men of all ages by His same Ten-Commandment law, just as He saves all men of all ages who are willing to be saved by His unchanging grace.

These two things—the law of Christ to show us our sin, and the grace of Christ to forgive us and cleanse us from our sin, are two great pillars of the plan of salvation that cannot be moved. They remain the same through all the ages, as unchanging as Christ Himself. You cannot destroy one without destroying the other.

Destroy the Law—You Destroy Grace

If you take away the grace of Christ, you make the law helpless and the sinner helpless. The purpose of the law is to show you your sin and make you feel the need of the grace of Christ to forgive you. But if there is no grace of Christ, the law cannot save you because it cannot forgive.

On the other hand, if you take away the law, then no one needs the grace of Christ at all because, “Where no law is, there is no transgression.” Romans 4:15. What does this word “transgression” mean? “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law, For sin is the transgression of the law.” 1 John 3:4.

Sin is breaking the law, and where there is no law, there is no sin. No one can arrest me for preaching a sermon, because there is no law against it. Suppose a policeman did arrest me and took me to the judge and said, “I caught this man preaching about Christ to the people.” And suppose the judge said to me, “You shouldn’t have done that, but we will forgive you this time and put you under grace.” What then? Should I accept that? Certainly not! I would say, “Your honor, I have broken no law, and until I do break a law I do not need either grace or forgiveness.” Even so, if you take away the Ten Commandments and have no law to show the sinner what sin is, he has no need of grace.

“Where no law is, there is no transgression.”

Which Law?

Someone says, “But Dr. Larson, I read some verses in the New Testament which talk about the law being all changed and done away with.”

Yes, I am sure that you have. But you must always remember a very important thing. There are two laws in the Bible. One is the Ten Commandments, the one that we have been talking about. The one that tells us what sin is. Most Bible scholars call it the Moral Law because it deals with great and unchanging moral principles.

The other law is called the Ceremonial Law and is frequently referred to in the Bible as the Law of Moses. It tells how lambs should be sacrificed, how meat offerings and drink offerings should be made, how the annual, or ceremonial sabbaths, should be kept, and how the ritual of the old sanctuary service should be observed. This is the one that has passed away, not because God changed His mind about it, for God never needs to change His mind. He knows what will happen even before it happens.

The Ceremonial Law passed away because its work was done. It was only supposed to last until Christ came. “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” Galatians 3:24. Now that Christ has come, He has taken away the old ceremonies that pointed forward to the cross and has given us new ceremonies, which take our minds back to the cross. In place of the old Passover, we have the Lord’s Supper with the bread and unfermented wine as emblems of His body, which was broken for us, and His blood, which was spilled for us.

In place of the old ceremonial washings we now have the ceremony of baptism, which He said is the memorial of His burial and resurrection.

In place of the sacrifice of a lamb, we now have the sacrifice and atonement of Jesus, the Lamb of God, as John the Baptist called Him.

Paul writes, “So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Hebrews 9:28.

So we are no longer under the ceremony of sacrificing a lamb, but we look instead to the one great sacrifice of the Lamb of God. And instead of the many priests of the Old Testament, we now have Christ Himself as our one and only Priest. “And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death; But this man, because He continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore, He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an High Priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins, and then for the peoples: for this He did once, when He offered up Himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the Word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore. Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an High Priest, who is set upon the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” Hebrews 7:12–8:2.

So now we have a new set of ceremonies for the old ceremonies are no longer appropriate. They have brought us to Christ and their job is done, and they are now replaced by the new ceremonies.

Plan of Salvation is Still the Same

Under the two covenants, the old and the new, the plan of salvation is just the same. Sin is the same; the Ten Commandments are the same; the unchanging grace of the unchanging Christ is the same; but the sacrifice is different; the ceremonies are different; and the priesthood is different.

Some people think the gospel is only this side of the cross, but read what the Bible says, “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.” Galatians 3:8. “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them; but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith I them that heard it.” Hebrews 4:2.

There is only one gospel of the one unchanging Christ, and it is salvation by faith. No man has ever been saved except by faith in the unchanging Christ. Go to Hebrews 11 and read the names of the heroes of faith, from the earliest times right on down through the ages. By faith Abel; by faith Enoch; by faith Noah; by faith Abraham; by faith Isaac; by faith Jacob; by faith Moses—and so on down through time. They were saved by the only plan of salvation that there ever was, and the only plan of salvation that there ever will be—faith in the unchanging Christ and obedience to His unchanging law, which is possible only through His grace (or indwelling power).

So when you are reading the New Testament, and you find a passage referring to law, always stop and ask, “To which law is the writer referring, the moral or the ceremonial law?” If you cannot be sure from one verse, read a few verses before and a few verses after it. That way you can always be sure.

And so, dear friend, the voice of the unchanging Christ comes ringing down to us through the years: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”

There is no other way. There is no modern way. There is no newer, easier way. There is only one way to heaven, and if you want to go there you will have to go that way. Someone has said, “You are free to go to heaven in the way that God has provided, or go to hell any way you want to go.”

You and I stand facing the unchanging law of the unchanging Christ, and we realize our weakness, our helplessness. We are almost afraid to start. But here is where the grace of Christ comes in. We are forgiven for our past mistakes and by His grace we are able to live in harmony with His law. Leaning heavily upon Him, we take our first faltering steps. He helps us, as it says in Hosea 11:3: “I taught Ephraim to go, taking them by their arms…”

But sometimes we grow careless and forget to trust in His power. We stumble and fall. What, then, shall we do? “My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” 1 John 2:1.

Is that not wonderful? If we fall, what should we do? Repent; place our hand in the hand of Christ and go right on again. And as we go, the prayer of Paul will be fulfilled in us:

“Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:20, 21.

Excerpted from His Mighty Love by Ralph Larson