By Wayne Reynolds, Pastor
I was raised in a Christian home. My dad was a deacon, Sunday School superintendent, church treasurer, and church handyman. Therefore I had no choice (grin), I attended almost all church services, and almost all our friends were acquaintances from church.
I was saved when I was 12 years old and scripturally baptized into the membership of Forest Hill Baptist Church in Benton, Arkansas. The doctrine of eternal security was always taught at Forest Hills Baptist Church; therefore I accepted that doctrine as correct. After all, that is what the church believed, my parents believed it, and my friends believed it. Who was I to dispute such a doctrine?
I always carried my Bible to church and Sunday School. Wasnít that what I was supposed to do? After all, carrying my Bible made me appear to be a true and faithful believer.
But reading the Bible was something I did not do. There were people in the church that did read their Bibles. They were the dedicated group. They read their Bibles and studied what it said, and tried to pattern their lives after its teachings. Of course, there were others who, like me, carried their Bibles without paying too much attention to what it said. My excuse: I was a child and surely nobody would expect me to understand Bible doctrines. As a child, I thought my part was to unquestionably accept what the elders said.
In 1961, I graduated from high school, and started attending Arkansas Polytechnic University in Russellville, Arkansas. In my junior and senior years, I joined the Missionary Baptist Student Fellowship, was elected vice-president, then president. But I still didnít read my Bible very much. I graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting, and accepted a job with Farmers Home Administration in St. Louis, Missouri.
After I began my new job, I began to understand the importance of God and serving him. I still did not understand exactly how to do this, but I had a deep yearning to obey Godís instruction. To discover Godís instructions, I began to read the Bible.
Much of the Bible confused me, especially when I tried to study the doctrines of the New Testament. Therefore I turned to the Old Testament. I loved to read the stories in the Old Testament because they were living examples of how I was supposed to live.
About that time, Independence Baptist Church was being formed. On Sunday afternoons, the pastor and I would go out on visitation, inviting people to church services. One Sunday afternoon, the pastor and I were invited into a home and discovered it was filled with "religious" people. These people believed that salvation came only through being baptized in water, and that you could lose your salvation if you did not live right. The pastor and I were in that home all afternoon. When I left, I was more confused than ever.
I knew I was saved before I was baptized, and I knew I was saved eternally, but I did not know a verse in the entire Bible that proved it. I was really in a fix. Therefore, I began to diligently search the scriptures to see if what I had in salvation was real, or if I was just fooling myself.
As an aid in finding out whether I was saved eternally by Christ or temporarily by baptism, I developed a plan. I took a sheet of paper and wrote this title at the top of the page: For Salvation. Then I drew a line down the middle of the sheet. The title of the left hand column was "Through Christ" and the title of the right hand column was "Through Baptism". As I read my Bible and came across a verse that spoke about salvation, I would put that verse in one of the two columns. By the way, I still have that sheet of paper, and am looking at it as I write.
I know you are thinking that I had no verses listed in the column "Through Baptism". But you are wrong. I was surprised and more confused than ever because I found verses that actually seemed to be saying I could lose my salvation, or that salvation came through baptism, not through Christ.
In the left hand column, "Through Christ", I listed a total of 54 verses that taught salvation came through Christ and that I was saved eternally. In the right hand column, "Through Baptism", I listed 18 verses that seemed to say I was saved when I was baptized, or that I could lose my salvation. Confusion reigned in my feeble mind!
As I thought of the sheet before me, I considered God. My Bible told me God is "Önot the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints", I Corinthians 14:33. I also remembered Isaiah 55:8,9, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." My confusion did not come from God! Satan was confusing me because I was not thinking like Christ. If I could just think like Christ, I would not be confused. That seemed simple enough, but to accomplish it was, and is, very difficult.
God does not say one thing in one part of his Bible, and then say something exactly opposite in another part of his Bible. Everything in Godís word fits together. If I cannot make it fit together, then I am not interpreting the verses correctly. I must change my mind as to the meaning of any verse that clashes with or distorts another verse.
God is not going to change his mind because he is the eternal unchanging one, and the Bible is Godís word. If God does not change, his word does not change. James 1:17, states, "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning." God is the same as he always has been. There hasn't been any improvement in God, for he is perfect. There hasn't been any diminishing in God for he is perfect. He will never be any less or more than he is right now, for any change would indicate he wasn't exactly perfect. There is no such thing as more perfect, or most perfect. God is perfect; he cannot be more perfect. Therefore the word of God, the Bible, is perfect. My problem is not God, or the Bible. My problem is my understanding of Godís word.
II Peter 1:20 teaches proper Biblical interpretation by stating, "Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation." I must interpret every verse with another verse.
So that is what I did. I continued to daily read, study and pray about the meaning of scripture. I would like to tell you that the answer came in a flash, that everything fit together in an instant of time and I have never had any trouble since that time. But I cannot tell you that. The answers came slowly, but surely. The answers came one verse at a time, as I studied and prayed concerning that verse. God continues to bless me with answers as I pray, study, and ask his guidance everyday.
Proper interpretation of the Bible is not for the lazy person, or the casual observer. Proper Biblical interpretation is not for the person that has already made up his mind. Proper Biblical interpretation will come only to the person that is willing to lay their own opinion aside and diligently and earnestly seek the facts from Godís precious word.
I first understood that I am saved eternally because God has given to me the same kind of life he has. God never had a beginning and he will never have an end. God is eternal because he has a different kind of life than we have. Jesus Christ, who is God, is raised from the dead because he has eternal life, not life until he dies.
God has eternal life but our fleshly bodies have temporary life. When Adam was first created, he would never die, because there was no sin in the creation. Adam disobeyed the only command God gave him, and ate the forbidden fruit, therefore death and all its accompanying misery came into the world. Philippians 2:6-9 reveals that Jesus Christ was in heaven with his Father, and was equal to God, yet he left heaven and came into the world, taking upon himself the form of a man, yet without sin. Jesus did not have any sin, but took our sin upon himself and died that we might have life. Salvation comes to us when Jesus replaces the sinful temporary life we have with the kind of life he has, eternal life.
I also discovered the Bible doctrine of the "trichotomy of man", that man is created in three parts, just as God is revealed to us in three parts. Man has a spirit, a soul (mind and life), and a body. God is revealed to us in three parts: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. The three parts of man make a complete man, just as the three parts of the Godhead make a complete God.
Sin affects the complete man: spirit, soul and body. Ephesians 2:1 states, "And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins;" The word "dead" refers to the entire man; spirit, soul and body, and means "destitute of a life that recognizes and is devoted to God." The spirit of the unsaved person is dead to Christ, therefore his soul (feelings, which includes the mind) is dead to Christ, and his body is also dead to Christ.
Salvation also affects the entire man: spirit, soul and body. When a person is saved, his spirit receives eternal life. His soul (mind and life) is saved (sanctified) as he progressively yields each day to the gentle proddings of the Holy Spirit of God. His body will be saved (glorified) at the resurrection.
Titus 2:11-14 clearly explains the three-fold salvation of man: past, present and future. "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, 12 Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; 13 Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; 14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works."
Past tense is salvation of the spirit. Verse 11 states, "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men". The guilt and condemnation of sin is gone when we are saved. Eternal life is granted, guaranteed, and assured by the eternal God, who possesses eternal life.
Present tense is the salvation of the soul or life. Verse 12 declares, "Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world". After we have been born again and have assurance of eternal life, we posses the power of God to deny ungodliness and worldly lust. Godís grace empowers us to live soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.
Future tense is salvation of the body. Verse 13 exclaims "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." We are removed from the presence of sin at the resurrection, where we will be given new glorified, sinless, perfect bodies.
Verse 14 recapitulates salvation of the entire man; spirit, soul and body. Verse 14 states, "Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." The word "gave" is past tense and speaks of our salvation. The word "redeem" is present tense and speaks of our sanctification. The word "purify" is future tense and speaks of our glorification.
There are many more scriptures that reveal the very important doctrine of eternal security, but I have run out of room for this newsletter.
Remember this very important fact: There is never an excuse for sin. Eternal security never gives anybody an excuse to sin. Those who believe they can sin because they are eternally saved, are either not saved, or rebellious against the God that saved them.
Independence Baptist Church is a happy church, a friendly church, which has a great desire to share Godís happiness, Godís joy and Godís friendship with you. If you are looking for a church home, please consider Independence Baptist Church. You are welcome in all of our services.