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Winter 2011: The Savage Saved by Grace
Publish date: Mar 7, 2012
Summary: There is only one way to receive salvation: grace.
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“Does my righteous behavior have anything to do with whether I’ll go to heaven?” asked the Bible study leader.
“Absolutely not,” came the quick reply from one corner.
“It most certainly does,” came a retort from the other corner.
I watched as round one began.
So just how does one receive the right to enter heaven? The answer must fit all people, of all ages, in all regions of the world. Whatever the answer, it must be the answer for the savage who lived 4000 years ago anywhere in the world.
If you answered, “accept Jesus as your personal Saviour” or “believe that Jesus rose from the grave,” or “believe on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ,” or “have a personal relationship with Jesus,” that would not have worked for the savage who never did have an opportunity to read a Bible or hear about Jesus.
Can the savage receive salvation without knowledge of Jesus and the plan of salvation? The Bible says he can.
In fact, the person who has knowledge of Jesus and the Bible receives salvation in exactly the same way as the savage who has never heard of Christ. There has always only been one way to receive salvation and that is by grace alone. So just what is grace?
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age (Titus 2:11-12).
An important insight on the meaning of “saved by grace” is found here. Grace is an active principle that enters into the heart and changes the conduct. Grace is not simply an attitude of God that causes Him to overlook lawlessness.
It is possible to have two savages, totally ignorant of Jesus and the plan of salvation, and one will be saved and one will be lost. What is the defining difference between the two? They both live well-ordered lives. They both avoid all appearance of evil. They both perform generous actions.
The reason one is saved and one is lost has to do with the source of power that drives the conduct. The redeemed savage has yielded to the grace of God that has spoken to his heart. Because of his choice to yield, the robe of Christ’s righteousness has been placed upon this savage.
He resists worldly lust and lives soberly and righteously in his village. He treats his neighbor as he would want to be treated. He doesn’t steal because he loves his neighbor as himself.
The power that drives this conduct comes from the robe of Christ’s righteousness that has been freely imparted to him. His eternal salvation and his present righteous behavior are found in the robe of Christ’s righteousness alone.
The lost savage resists God’s grace that has also been speaking to his heart and yet he still avoids all appearance of evil and lives a well-ordered life. The source of power that drives his conduct is self-centered love. He wants to be thought of well by others.
According to Zechariah 13:6, the obedient savage will first learn of Christ’s sacrifice for him when he gets to heaven:
And one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
A savage who has never heard of God can practice pure religion:
But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. . .Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. (James 1:22, 27).
For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, [savages] which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another (Romans 2:13-15).
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. (Acts 10:34-35).
Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way (James 2:24-25)?
Likewise, was not the savage justified by works, when he treated others as he would like to be treated?
The savage can no more live in harmony with the law of God than can a leopard change his spots (Jeremiah 13:23). Righteous living does not originate in the heart of the good savage. Rather, he is simply cooperatively working out the grace that God implants in his receptive heart.
For it is God which worketh in [the savage] both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).
Some Christians believe that if they claim the blood of Jesus to cover their sinning, they have salvation whether or not they put away the evil of their doings. The Christian is in danger of doing as the Jew did—substituting the sacrifice for the covenant experience.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven (Matthew 7:21-23).
The savage did not sidestep obedience to the Spirit’s voice to his conscience. He did not claim he was vicariously covered by a substitutionary sacrifice whether by a lamb as the Jew did or by the cross of Jesus as the superficial Christian does.
He simply did the will of God: he ceased from sin by the power of an indwelling Saviour now enthroned in his heart.
For where sin did abound, grace doth now much more abound, not to the concealment or excusing of sin, but rather to its pardon and eradication (Romans 5:20-21).