What is a Salvation Issue?

What is a salvation issue? From the time that disobedience first entered the perfect and sinless Garden of Eden, man has been asking God that very question in one form or another. In the sixteenth chapter of Acts, the Philippian jailor asks of Paul and Silas, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Do you remember their reply? “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” Acts 16:30, 31. Believe on Jesus and you shall be saved. That is all it takes? Jesus did it all for us? In that case all we have to do is proclaim that Jesus is our Savior and we can go on with our lives as before—doing our own will, following our own inclination, living our lives for this world while claiming to be part of the next. Is that what Paul was saying? Is that what the Bible teaches? Surely not! Yet we hear this message proclaimed from the pulpits both on Sabbath and Sunday.

James 2:19 says, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: The devils also believe, and tremble.” James is stating very clearly that there is more to salvation than belief. Satan is very willing that the people would think they are Christians simply by belief in Christ. “He is even anxious that they should believe in Jesus, His crucifixion, and His resurrection. Satan and his angels fully believe all this themselves, and tremble. But if this faith does not provoke to good works, and lead those who profess it to imitate the self-denying life of Christ, Satan is not disturbed; for they merely assume the Christian name, while their hearts are still carnal, and he can use them in his service even better than if they made no profession. Hiding their deformity under the name of Christian, they pass along with their unsanctified natures, and their evil passions unsubdued.” Early Writings, 227. It stands to reason that Satan would encourage our walk as Christians to end with belief, thus allowing, even encouraging, people to think they are saved when truly they are lost and, through their unconverted, unsanctified actions, they are leading others to condemnation also.

“There are those who profess holiness, who declare that they are wholly the Lord’s, who claim a right to the promises of God, while refusing to render obedience to His commandments. These transgressors of the law claim everything that is promised to the children of God; but this is presumption on their part, for John tells us that true love for God will be revealed in obedience to all His commandments. … John did not teach that salvation is to be earned by obedience but that obedience is the fruit of faith and love.” The Acts of the Apostles, 562, 563. “Doing, not merely saying, is expected of the followers of Christ. It is through action that character is built.” Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 149. We cannot earn salvation, but we are to abandon anything that would stand between us and eternal life. “Jesus said unto him [the rich young ruler], If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, [and] thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.” Matthew 19:21.

The Yoke of Christ

“Today the invitation is given: ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.’ (Matt. 11:28, 29). Christ has rest for all who will wear His yoke and learn His meekness and lowliness of heart. Here we are taught restraint and obedience, and in this we shall find rest. Thank God that in humility and obedience we shall find just that which we all need so much—the rest that is found in faith and confidence and perfect trust. Let us take the yoke of Christ and in entire obedience draw with Him.” That I May Know Him, 293. “In accepting Christ’s yoke of restraint and obedience, you will find that it is of the greatest help to you. Wearing this yoke keeps you near the side of Christ, and he bears the heaviest part of the load.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 5, 1090. His yoke is indeed easy and His burden is light. When we work with the Lord, when we take His yoke upon us, His wisdom and strength are ours. There is nothing we will be called upon to do, no trial we will have to endure, that has the power to overcome us if we are wearing His yoke of service. Obedience will be a joy, sacrifice a blessing.

“Little” Sins

“It is one of Satan’s most successful devices, to lead men to the commission of little sins, to blind the mind to the danger of little indulgences, little digressions from the plainly stated requirements of God. Many who would shrink with horror from some great transgression, are led to look upon sin in little matters as of trifling consequence. But these little sins eat out the life of godliness in the soul.” “Ellen G. White Comments,” Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 2, 1017. “In the little matters some do not think it necessary to be so very exact, but this is the deception of Satan.” That I May Know Him, 325. Satan need not attack the whole law; “if he can lead men to disregard just one precept, his purpose is gained.” The Desire of Ages, 763. “It is not the greatness of the act of disobedience that constitutes sin, but the fact of variance from God’s expressed will in the least particular; for this shows that there is yet communion between the soul and sin. The heart is divided in its service. There is a virtual denial of God, a rebellion against the laws of His government.” Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 51.

“The importance of the little things is often underrated because they are small; but they supply much of the actual discipline of life.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 356. When we look at the Garden of Eden we are reminded of this important precept. Were not Adam and Eve banished from their beautiful home because they chose to eat of the forbidden fruit? Without insight, we may think of eating an apple as a very small sin, like a child who is caught with his/her hand in the cookie jar. But let us ponder this a moment. Sin is defined as anything that would separate us from Christ. Is that not a terrible thought? To be separated from Christ? This means that every sin from the smallest neglect to heed His word to the most gruesome deed, are equal in God’s eyes. They set us apart from our Creator. Had Eve been given a test great enough to justify, in our eyes, the couple’s removal from their home, would people not have perceived God as unjust, saying that it was too hard a test for a human to bear? In truth, was God not merciful in His allowance of such a simple choice for our first parents to make? Had they been diligent in the apparently small matters; had Eve stayed by her husband, had Adam not allowed her to stray, had Eve not lingered near the forbidden tree, they would not have need to concern themselves with their salvation. Such simple commands, and yet, without careful adherence, such great consequences! “It is not the greatness of the act of disobedience that constitutes sin, but the fact of variance from God’s expressed will in the least particular; for this shows that there is yet communion between the soul and sin. The heart is divided in its service. There is a virtual denial of God, a rebellion against the laws of His government.” Thoughts From the Mount of Blessing, 51.

A Last Day People

We are living in the very last days of earth’s history. In Matthew 24, Jesus is speaking to His disciples on the Mount of Olives. They had asked Him about the Second Coming. In the verses that follow He tells them of the things that will happen in the last days. “Many shall come in my name … and shall deceive many … wars and rumors of wars … nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom … famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes … false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many … this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations … there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” Matthew 24: 5–7, 11, 14, 24. This chapter reads like today’s newspaper, does it not?

We know Jesus is coming back soon. And yet, when people look at our lives, does our urgency testify to the nearness of the Second Coming? What is the purpose of having an end-time prophet and end-time prophecies if we are not going to listen in an end-time crisis? Amos 3:7 states, “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth His secret unto His servants the prophets.” God provides the knowledge. It is our decision whether to accept or reject it. We are held accountable for the choice we make. The only way that Satan can blind us is if we refuse to believe truth when it comes.

There are those who hear God’s Word and give some mental agreement to it but delay action. They say to themselves, “Someday I am going to do it.” Choosing to obey tomorrow means you are choosing to live in sin today. In II Corinthians 4:3, 4 it says, “But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” If God requests and we refuse, then Satan can come in with darkness.

Conviction and Conversion

Are we living up to the light that we have been given? The statement in Acts 16:31, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” is not in and of itself sufficient to settle our salvation as the Devil would like us to believe. The Bible makes it evident that we are required to obey God in all things. If you love me obey my commandments (John 14:15). And who is going to experience God’s plan of redemption but those who love Him?

When we read something in the Bible or the Spirit of Prophecy and do not follow the counsel, we often say it is because “I am not convicted of it.” Usually it is not conviction we are lacking, but conversion. Satan cannot blind us if we make a habit of walking in the light as it is revealed. When we read from God’s inspired Word, it is not up to us to try to reason it out, and question why, before we obey. For a Christian, when God speaks, that settles it!

“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts, saith the Lord.” Isaiah 55:9. Did Abram ask questions when God told him to leave his home and go to some unrevealed lands? Did Noah say, “Lord are you sure water will come from the sky? How can that be? I am not convinced.” If we wait until all doubts are removed, we will always have unbelief. In the finite mind there will always be room for doubt; that is where faith comes in. “Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1.

“In deciding upon any course of action we are not to ask whether we can see that harm will result from it but whether it is in keeping with the will of God.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 634. There is great danger in “waiting for conviction.” “Each time we go against the Holy Spirit, each repetition, makes it easier to yield the next time. Every repetition of sin lessens our power of resistance, blinds our eyes, and stifles conviction.” (See Patriarchs and Prophets, 268.) The word stifle means, “to suppress, to smother, to suffocate.” Did you notice the progression there? Suppress, smother, suffocate. While we continue in sin, “waiting for conviction,” we grieve the Holy Spirit and eventually harden our hearts against Him.

What are Nonessentials?

It is the work of Satan to make plausible excuses for not obeying God implicitly. “Many close their eyes to the plainest teachings of His Word. …They hesitate and question and search for some excuse whereby they may shun the cross. Satan is ever ready, and he presents plausible reasons why it would not be best to obey the Word of God just as it reads. The soul is fatally deceived.” Faith and Works, 42. Many times, when we read something that condemns our sins, we search the Scriptures looking for a “balancing statement,” or something that appears to allow us to do as pleases us. If we are searching for a “balancing statement,” does that not imply that the Scripture itself is unbalanced? Surely none of us believe that!

You have heard people say, “It is not a test of fellowship.” This is usually when speaking about a standard the Adventist Church does not require to be met before baptism, such as vegetarianism. We have been told that “the very last great deception of Satan will be to make of none effect the testimony of the Spirit of God.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 48.

Let us not have a part in this deception by allowing Satan to provide us with excuses that encourage us to ignore a plain “thus saith the Lord.”

We have a job to do. “The work that the Lord has given us at this time is to present to the people the true light in regard to the testing questions of obedience and salvation—the commandments of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.” Ibid., 165. “It should be understood that perfect unity among the laborers is necessary to the successful accomplishment of the work of God. …

“Study the second chapter of Acts. In the early Church the Spirit of God wrought mightily through those who were harmoniously united. On the day of Pentecost, they were all with one accord in one place.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 196. Unity of believers is vital to the work we have to do in these last days. The only way we are going to achieve unity is through individual daily conversion and surrender to the will and ways of the Lord. “The reason for all division, discord, and difference is found in separation from Christ.” Selected Messages, vol. 1, 259.

Disregarding Light

The prophet wrote, “The subject of health reform has been presented in the churches; but the light has not been heartily received. The selfish, health-destroying indulgences of men and women have counteracted the influence of the message that is to prepare a people for the great day of God. … If the members of our churches disregard the light on this subject, they will reap the sure result in both spiritual and physical degeneracy. And the influence of these older church members will leaven those newly come to the faith. The Lord does not now work to bring many souls to the truth because of the church members who have never been converted, and those who were once converted, but who have backslidden. What influence would these unconsecrated members have on new converts? Would they not make of no effect the God-given message which His people have to bear?” Counsels on Diet and Foods, 455.

When we disregard the light we have been given, whatever the reason, we not only risk our own salvation, but we create disunity and discord among church members and hinder the work we are called of God to do. As Christians, our actions should always reveal the grace that God has given us and His love within our hearts. There are really no nonessentials in the Christian’s life; no “ifs” in God’s requirements; His word is “Yea” and “Amen.”

“Do you ask, What shall I do to be saved? You must lay your preconceived opinions, your hereditary and cultivated ideas, at the door of investigation. If you search the Scriptures to vindicate your own opinions, you will never reach the truth. Search in order to learn what the Lord says. If conviction comes as you search, if you see that your cherished opinions are not in harmony with the truth, do not misinterpret the truth in order to suit your own belief, but accept the light given. Open mind and heart that you may behold wondrous things out of God’s Word.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 112. What must I do to be saved? It is a question of eternal consequence. We should ask it each day, on our knees, with our hearts open to receive the reply.

By Lori Ackerman