Book: Why Were You Born?

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In the Old Testament, salvation and eternal life was given to only a select few—namely the patriarchs, some kings of Judah, and the prophets. God’s covenant with the twelve tribes of Israel, the physical seed of Abraham, did not contain promises of spiritual salvation and eternal life. Rather, God’s promises and blessings to them were limited to the physical or material realm (Deut. 28; Lev. 26). Nevertheless, the Old Testament does contain a few prophecies concerning the resurrection and eternal life.

It was through Jesus that God first began to reveal the promises of the Holy Spirit and eternal life to the apostles and disciples of Christ. The Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain narratives of Jesus’ life, ministry, death by crucifixion, and resurrection. These accounts are not mere traditions that were orally transmitted for hundreds of years before being written down. Rather, as Luke records, written records of Jesus’ teachings were made by His disciples throughout His ministry—including accounts of His healings and miracles: “Since many have taken in hand to compile a written narration of the matters which have been fully believed [and accomplished] among us, as they delivered them to us, those who from the beginning had been eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word [those who recorded the teachings and events], it seemed good to me also, having accurately understood everything from the very first, to write these things in an orderly sequence to you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you might know the absolute certainty of the things in which you have been instructed” (Luke 1:1-4).

In this chapter, we will focus on Jesus’ teachings about salvation and how a person may receive eternal life.1

The most frequently quoted verse in the Bible gives us an overview of God’s “master plan” for mankind: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not perish, but may have everlasting life” (John 3:16). This simple, yet profound passage introduces a number of little-understood aspects of God’s plan, some of which are yet future. In fact, this verse reaches back in time to God’s creation of Adam and Eve and projects forward to the New Heavens and the New Earth.

God the Father’s love is so awesome and all-encompassing that the vast majority of mankind will be given an opportunity to receive eternal life. This is why Jesus said, “ ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending,’ says the Lord, ‘Who is, and Who was, and Who is to come— the Almighty’ ” (Rev. 1:8; 22:13; Isa. 46:10). (Today is not the only time for salvation, as God will ultimately make salvation available to every person who desires it. See Appendix 3 for an overview of this vital truth.)

Mark writes that when Jesus began His ministry in Galilee He proclaimed repentance of sin and the Kingdom of God. “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…. Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time has been fulfilled [for Him to begin His ministry], and the kingdom of God is near at hand [because He personally represented that kingdom]; repent [of sin], and believe in the gospel [the entire message and all the teachings of Christ]’ ” (Mark 1:14-15).

When the above passages are combined with John 3:16, we see the steps a person must take in order to receive eternal life.

 

First: We have to believe in Jesus Christ. This means that we know and believe that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God the Father—and that He is the Savior of the world, as well as our personal Savior. He alone is the Creator of the heavens and earth—and everything in them. He is the personal Creator of all human beings. This is why we must believe in Him. Notice what Jesus told the religious Jews who did not believe in Him: “And He said to them, ‘You are from beneath; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. That is why I said to you that you shall die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I AM, you shall die in your sins’ ” (John 8:23-24). When Jesus told them that He was, in fact, the “I AM”—the God of the Old Testament manifested in the flesh—they were greatly afraid. Yet they still did not believe in Him.

 

Second: We are also to believe the Gospel—that is, every word of Jesus’ message (I Tim. 6:3). We cannot pick and choose which parts of the Gospel message we like and reject the rest. Unfortunately, this is exactly what most mainstream “Christian” ministers do. Even the Catholic Pope at Rome claims he has the power to change the Ten Commandments!

When some of Jesus’ disciples were offended at what He taught, they left Him and the other disciples. “These things He said in the synagogue as He was teaching in Capernaum. Therefore, after hearing these words, many of His disciples said, ‘This is a hard saying. Who is able to hear it?’ But Jesus, knowing that His disciples were complaining about this, said to them, ‘Does this offend you? What if you shall see the Son of man ascending up to where He was before?

“ ‘It is the Spirit that gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you, they are spirit and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.’ For Jesus knew from the beginning who were the ones that did not believe, and who would betray Him. And He said, ‘For this reason, I have said to you, no one can come to Me unless it has been given to him from My Father.’

“From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him. Therefore, Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Are you also desiring to go away?’ Then Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have known that You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ ” (John 6:59-69).

 

Third: We have to repent of our sins, which are the transgressions of the laws and commandments of God (I John 3:4, KJV). Repentance means we are greatly sorrowful for our sins against God. We are to turn away from living a sinful life and turn to God with all of our being: “ ‘Therefore even now,’ says the LORD, ‘turn to Me with all your heart, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning. Yes, rend your heart and not your garments, and return to the LORD your God: for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and of great kindness…’ ” (Joel 2:12-13).

Then we are to live the way of God through Jesus Christ. We need to realize that Jesus gave Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for all human sin. His death is the only acceptable payment for our sins (John 1:29, 36). This means we all had a part in killing Him! This is why we are to be deeply sorrowful for our sins. Jesus also teaches that unless we repent of our sins, we will perish—we will not be saved or receive eternal life. He said: “Now at the same time, there were present some who were telling Him about the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were sinners above all Galileans, because they suffered such things? No, I tell you; but if you do not repent, you shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and killed them, do you suppose that these were debtors above all men who dwelt in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but if you do not repent, you shall all likewise perish’ ” (Luke 13:1-5).

This is the very reason Jesus had to die and be resurrected from the dead. After He was resurrected and appeared to His disciples, Jesus commissioned them to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins: “And [Jesus] said to them, ‘According as it is written, it was necessary for the Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day. And in His name, repentance and remission of sins should be preached to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem’ ” (Luke 24:46-47).

 

Fourth: To receive eternal life, Jesus taught that we must keep the commandments of God. “Now at that time, one came to Him and said, ‘Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?’ And He said to him, ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good except one—God. But if you desire to enter into life, keep the commandments’ ” (Matt. 19:16-17). The young man who had approached Jesus was already keeping many of the commandments of God—according to the letter of the law. But Jesus told him that if he wanted to receive eternal life he should sell everything he had. When the young man heard that, he walked away and declined to follow Jesus. He apparently thought more of his wealth than eternal life (verses 18-22).

The young man’s wealth had become an idol—thus, he was breaking the very first and second commandments. Today, many people keep some of the commandments, but they especially stop short of keeping the Sabbath command. And like the young man in Matthew 19, nearly everyone has some kind of idolatry in their life. 

Likewise, many have heard the name of Jesus Christ, yet very few are willing to repent, believe, and obey Him—to love God and keep His commandments! All professing Christians have Bibles, but they ignore certain key scriptures—like this one: “By this standard we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God: that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:2-3).

Admittedly, some Bible passages are hard to understand, but this one is absolutely clear. Here are two more: Jesus said, “If you love Me, keep the commandments—namely, My commandments…. If you keep My commandments, you shall live in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and live in His love” (John 14:15; 15:10).

How Are We to Love God? Since Jesus willingly gave His life for us so that we might have our sins forgiven and receive eternal life, we must lose our lives in Christ. What does that mean? Jesus explains, “The one who loves his life shall lose it, and the one who hates his life in this world shall keep it unto eternal life. If anyone will serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant be also. And if anyone serves Me, him shall the Father honor” (John 12:25-26).

To “hate our lives” means we are not to let anything or anyone except God be first in our lives—in our minds and hearts. Jesus further explains, “And great multitudes were going with Him; and He turned and said to them, ‘If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers and sisters, and, in addition, his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not carry his cross and come after Me [that is, follow in His footsteps] cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:25-27).

Please understand that we are not to actually hate anyone! What Jesus means is that we are to love others less, by comparison, than we love God. In putting God first, we love others less—but we do love them. In Matthew 10, Jesus shows that we are to put following Him above all else: “The one who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and the one who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me. And the one who does not take up his cross and follow Me is not worthy of Me” (verses 37-38). 

To love God the Father and Jesus Christ is so much more than an emotional expression. Rather, such love demands complete devotion to God— with one’s entire being! Jesus tells us how we are to love God: “And one of them, a doctor of the law, questioned Him, tempting Him, and saying, ‘Master, which commandment is the great commandment in the Law?’ And Jesus said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second one is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets’ ” (Matt. 22:35-40). This is why the Law and the Prophets were never abolished, because they fully reflect godly love!

These first four points are the beginning requirements for receiving eternal life. However, in order actually receive eternal life, God has one more essential requirement.

 

Fifth: We must be baptized by full immersion in water and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit from God the Father. Just before Jesus ascended into heaven, He instructed His apostles and disciples to go into all the world, make disciples, baptize them, and teach them to observe everything He had commanded. “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore, go and make disciples in all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit; teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you. And lo, I am with you always, even until the completion of the age.’ Amen” (Matt. 28:18-20). 

In the parallel account in Mark, Jesus makes it clear that baptism is necessary for salvation. “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized shall be saved [receive the gift of eternal life], but the one who does not believe shall be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16).

After Jesus was with the disciples for 40 days following His resurrection, He commanded them to remain in Jerusalem until they received the power of the Holy Spirit. On the Day of Pentecost, when the apostles and disciples were gathered together at the Temple in Jerusalem, God sent the Holy Spirit in a great display of power. God performed a great miracle on that day. When the apostles began preaching the Gospel to the multitudes gathered there, they spoke in a variety of languages. They proved that Jesus’ birth, life, death and resurrection fulfilled many Old Testament prophecies.

Then Peter called on the people to repent of their sins—for having a part in crucifying Jesus. He instructed them to be baptized in His name: “ ‘Therefore, let all the house of Israel know with full assurance that God has made this same Jesus, Whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.’ Now after hearing this, they were cut to the heart; and they said to Peter and the other apostles, ‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’

“Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized each one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you yourselves shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all those who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God may call.’ 

“And with many other words he earnestly testified and exhorted, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.’ Then those who joyfully received his message were baptized; and about three thousand souls were added that day” (Acts 2:36-41).

In the next chapter we will see why Jesus said, “Many are called, but few are chosen.” As we will see, this is one of the great mysteries of God’s marvelous plan!

 

Chapter 8 Note:

1. It is beyond the scope of this book to delve into all four of the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, from His birth to His death and resurrection. However, in A Harmony of the Gospels—the Life of Jesus Christ, the author presents a complete, detailed account of Jesus’ life as God manifested in the flesh. Chronologies and commentaries are included. Please see the “Other Works” page for ordering information.

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