Remembering Our True Hope in a Day of Challenge
We are getting into some sticky wickets here in our walk through the Larger Catechism. It is often the case that parents, family members, friends, etc… want to believe that relations are in the kingdom of heaven based upon a verbal testimony, baptism, church membership, or some other outward means of confirmation. Yet, in our lesson today the Divines make clear that there is only one way to salvation: Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. They are in good company in stating this claim. For it is the very word that our Redeemer shares with the disciple Thomas after the latter inquires about the path forward. The only way men are saved is through the Son. Good intent, wishful thinking, and a hopeful longing will not allow a transference of one holy person’s vow to Christ to someone who has no desire to be named with the Lord in their active life.
In the Q/A’s today there are two pertinent examples dealt with concerning this matter. First will be the case of an individual who for whatever reason has never had the opportunity to listen to the faithful proclamation of the good news. Second is the man who is a member of a local body of believers yet has for purposes known to them refused to “close with Christ”. Each of these are lamentable situations in their own way. As we discuss both of them the manner in which to deal with the problems mentioned will also be the same. Regardless of whether Paul was preaching in a synagogue or in the midst of a pagan market his sermons contained content unchangeable, for his call was to preach the gospel to all men.
Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved.
The Church cannot forsake nor forget the simplicity of its calling to sinners. Our Savior came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. We are given the same message to give unto a fallen world, whether it be to a group of Amazonian tribes who have never had the pleasure of learning of Jesus, or a man or woman that has religiously attended worship for a generation. The same offer is given to all who need to hear it, which is everyone:
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” – Matthew 11:28-30
Here are the Q/A’s:
Q. 60: Can they who have never heard the gospel, and so know not Jesus Christ, nor believe in him, be saved by their living according to the light of nature?
A. They who, having never heard the gospel, know not Jesus Christ, and believe not in him, cannot be saved, be they never so diligent to frame their lives according to the light of nature, or the laws of that religion which they profess; neither is there salvation in any other, but in Christ alone, who is the Savior only of his body the church.
Q. 61: Are all they saved who hear the gospel, and live in the church?
A. All that hear the gospel, and live in the visible church, are not saved; but they only who are true members of the church invisible.
It has always been a difficulty convincing people that the mere fact that their name is written in a church ledger somewhere is not a sufficient cause to give them assurance for the day of Christ’s return on the day of judgment. I know of a friend who had promised his mother for his whole life that he would one day get baptized and “get saved”. Well, sadly his mom died before he did that, but in a bit different type of deathbed conversion the Lord’s Day after the funeral he went to her church and asked to be baptized, that he now believed in Jesus. He was dutifully washed by the water. However, the man has not been back in a church building since that moment. When I’ve challenged him on it the response has predictably been the same. “Ben, I got baptized and I’m on the rolls of the church. I’m good.” Now, it may seem a bit ridiculous (and it is), yet I can guarantee that each of us could name a dozen people who live in a similar nostalgic fog of ignorance as my dear friend. The details of the story may not be identical, but the effect sure is.
In our catechism questions above clarity is given to something the apostle James deals with in his letter. His concern in the opening two chapters is that the people he is writing to seem content to live in a supposed justified state that results in no affect of that faith, which is where his famous, “faith without works is dead” comment comes from. To be fair these folks are in good company. It was a common complaint of the prophets towards Israel. Isaiah opens his book noting God hates their feasts and prayers because they despise the law of the Lord. In other words, gestures towards Jehovah are meaningless unless they are mixed with faith. True devotion to Christ exhibits itself in the way that we live, treat one another, and shows itself especially in our love for the Church. If we forsake the gathering together of the saints we are testifying by our actions a lack of understanding of Jesus’ purpose in calling us unto Himself in the gospel.
That leads us to the first catechism question. No matter how good a Hindu, or Muslim, or apostate Christian Church member one might be our Lord does not grade on a curb. As the answer to Q.60 makes abundantly clear just because one is an excellent follower of the Book of Mormon does not mean they will gain entrance to the eternal blessings of Heaven. No matter the situation there is no hope for those outside the gospel grace of Jesus Christ. Good works done to Allah, Buddha, or Mary Baker Eddy are not sufficient means to fulfill the broken covenant of works. That is exclusively the provenance of the Son of the Living God, who has taken on flesh and kept the law perfectly on our behalf. If you cannot be saved by following the Ten Commandments (Gal. 2:17-21) then you most certainly cannot gain acceptance with Jehovah by rigorously heeding the word of Ba’al.
As we close this morning I want to again give a call to repentance and faith to all who may be reading this. Place not your hope in your ancestry, the decisions of mothers or fathers, or in being a “good person”. Seek the Lord of mercy and grace, hear His call of peace in Jesus Christ. Cast your sins on His account and be freed from the judgment of the law. For He is faithful to all those who place their faith and trust in Him.
Hear this testimony again:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser
Pastor, Bethany ARP Church