In the previous posts in our series on the “The Gospel’s Five Words,” we discussed the topics of sin, judgment, guilt, and salvation. In part one, we learned that sin means “to miss the mark” of God’s standards by disobeying God or mistreating our fellow man. In part two, we learned that because we have missed this mark there are consequences and that God will carry out those consequences. In part three, we learned what guilt is and that God uses guilt to show us our need for a savior. In part four, we learned about Salvation, God’s gift to us through Jesus Christ. Today we will conclude the series of “The Gospel’s Five Word” with our last topic: Christian duty.
You’re Saved, Now What?
So once you have accepted Christ as your Savior. What do you do next? Do you just go on with your life like nothing happened? Do you need to do good works to maintain salvation? Many people have these questions after they are saved but most of it can be summarized in the question, “What is my duty as a Christian?” And that is the question we seek to answer today.
Do I Just Go on With my Life Like Nothing Happened?
2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” From this verse, we can see that a Christian’s life is not meant to be unchanged after Salvation. Scripture teaches that everything is changed! The individual is a new creation, a new man or woman, the old man is completely gone! Verse 15 gives us the reason why: “And that he” [Jesus] “died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again.” We were dead before Christ saved us but when Christ saved us we moved from death to life. God gave us this new life, it's only right that we live it for Him. However, God doesn’t force us to live our lives for Him, we can choose to live chasing our own desires, but choosing to do so means we will miss out on the true joy that serving Christ brings.
Do I Need to do Good Works to Maintain Salvation?
Absolutely not! Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” We didn’t do anything to obtain our salvation, it was a gift! So why would we have to do something to keep it? Jesus clarifies this in John 10:29, “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.” The Bible says no one can pluck us out, not me, not you, not the guy down the street, and definitely not Satan. Once we have obtained salvation God’s grace will keep us safely within His arms. No amount of sin or apostasy can even come close to overpowering the grace of our infinite God. However, we should make a deliberate effort to do good works because it brings God glory as well as give us personal joy and satisfaction. But our question still hasn’t been answered. When someone is saved what do they do next?
What do I do Next?
Luckily for us, scripture is clear about what we should do after salvation. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus instructs us, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” Here Jesus tells those teaching the Gospel to baptize those who have received it. We can see this put into action later in Acts 2:41 where it says, “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” From this, we can see that those who are added to the church through salvation are told to be baptized. But, what is baptism?
What is Baptism?
The English word "baptism" is a transliteration of the Greek word “baptizo” which means “to immerse.” The word “baptize” can refer to two events in a believer's life. The first baptism, the baptism of the Spirit, is a spiritual baptism. It refers to Salvation, specifically, the giving of the Holy Spirit to the believer. Mark 1:8 first introduces us to the idea of this baptism when John the Baptist says, “I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” When we believe in Christ, God “immerses” us in the Holy Spirit. The Spirit fills us and surrounds us, enabling us to serve the Lord effectively. This baptism also allows us to continually live with the Spirit of God in us so that He can intercede to God on our behalf by making requests for us that align with God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27) The second type of baptism is physical and is a representation of the baptism of the Holy Spirit. It is an observance done as an outward sign of the inward change in the believer. Jesus commanded all new believers to participate in it so that they could make God’s invisible inner baptism of the Spirit visible to the outside world.
What Does Baptism Mean?
The proper process of baptism involves a believer, usually a minister, immersing a new believer in a body of water. The water itself represents cleansing. Before Jesus came to earth, baptism was a Jewish ritual which represented rededication to the Lord. The immersion in water symbolically washed away sins, giving the believer a clean slate from the sins he was confessing. After Christ came, He personally added two new illustrations to the tradition. First, the submerging of the believer in the water now represents Christ’s death and burial. Just as Christ died and was buried, in the same way, the believer dies to his old self and his old sinful man is laid to rest never to rise again. Second, the ascending from the water now represents Christ’s resurrection. Just as Christ rose from the grave with new life, in the same way, the believer is also raised to walk in newness of life. His death turns to life, he starts afresh, and truly lives for the first time in Christ. Baptism is an exciting time for a believer and a beautiful picture of what Christ has done for us.
Is that All?
This isn’t the only thing that God desires Christians to do. We just mentioned a new life, after all, this is just the start. The question is, how does one begin to live as a new creation? How do we begin to fulfill our Christian Duty? The Bible tells us that we ought to be continually growing closer to the image of God. (Romans 8:29) But how can we do something that seems so… Impossible… Where can we start? There's so much to learn! So to keep it simple, let’s just go to the basics. There is a good summary of our duty to God in Micah 6:8 which says, “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?” From this we can see God desires three things from His followers: doing justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with Him.
First, let's look at doing justly. The Hebrew word here is “mishpat” which in this verse is being used to say that God wants you to do what is right. The basic idea of the Hebrew word for a righteous person is “one who makes things right” and that ties directly in with the word “mishpat.” “mishpat” is the process of making things right. It is the word that is used for what the judge assigns as repayment in a trial. For example in Jewish law if a man accidentally killed someone’s ox, by law the mishpat was to give him enough money to purchase a new ox. (Ex 21:33-34) From this, we can see evidence that mishpat means “to make things right” because the man at fault was to restore the exact value lost by the death of the ox and as a result reset the balance. With a proper understanding of justice, we can see that God’s desire for us as Christians to do what is right and when we fail to do right to make an effort to make things right between us and the one we have wronged. It’s not our sinlessness that sets us apart as Christian, but rather how we respond when we sin. As the Scriptures say, “a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again” part of this rising up is making things right. We should always try to treat people right and fairly. So when we realize we have messed up our first response as Christians should be to make things right and settle the balance any way we can.
Secondly, we have loving mercy. This one is pretty straightforward, God wants us to be quick to give mercy and forgive rather than quick to condemn. As Christians, we shouldn’t be quick to be filled with rage, focused on getting even, or ones who judge others. Rage and getting even are two things most Christians realize they shouldn’t do but judging, on the other hand, is one we often forget. John 12:47a-48 says, “For I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.” Here we can see that not even Jesus came to judge the world, rather He left judgment for its proper place in the end times. In the same way, we should emulate Christ and make an effort to avoid judging others. We should be understanding and realize that we ourselves also fail and fall short of God’s standard. Instead of giving judgment, we should choose to kindly encourage Christians through love to follow the Lord and take great care to introduce Christ to the unsaved in a manner that would properly represent Christ’s love for them.
Walk Humbly with God
Lastly, we have walking humbly with God. Titus really sums up this situation when he teaches the believer what walking humbly with God looks like in chapter three.
“Put them in mind to be subject to principalities and powers, to obey magistrates, to be ready to every good work, To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men. For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;”
It's extremely easy for us to be proud of how “spiritual” we are and remove humility from our Christian walk. We grow to think we are good because we choose to put effort into being good people. We forget that we too were godless and living in sin. We forget that we didn’t get saved because we were good people, but because God was good to us. We forget that we would never have come to God if He hadn’t shown love to us first. We could never have come to the Father unless He drew us to Him in love. So Praise the Lord that He chose to invite us all to His mercy when He lifted up Christ and drew all people to Him. Despite this, it’s easy to be proud and try walking with God with disdain for all those who live sinfully or in a state we would consider less than optimal for a Christian. When we do this, we forget that we were broken without God and we weren’t the ones that changed ourselves. We become proud. It was God who started the work and is still performing it until Christ returns. We should not be focusing on what others choose to do. We should leave that to God and instead choose to focus on our own walk by ensuring that we are always ready to follow God’s leading to do good works. If we start focusing on others we’ll begin to become blind to our own shortcomings. By comparing ourselves to people that we feel are “worse” than us we lift up ourselves in pride. Instead, we should compare ourselves to Christ, the perfect standard, and suddenly the shortcomings we have will become extremely evident.
Hopefully, this post has helped you get a greater understanding of our duty as Christians. Sadly, it is time for our series on The Gospel's Five Words to come to a close. I hope it was a blessing to you! We will continue to develop our understanding of our Christian duty in a future series called "Practical Christianity." If you haven’t done so already you should subscribe to Nerd in the Word by email right under this post. It’s free, and you’ll be notified the exact moment a new post goes up. Don’t worry, Nerd in the Word will never spam your inbox with offers!