The “Irreducible Minimum” of the Saving Gospel of Jesus Christ (Revision of Pages 72-77 of The Salvation Meter Book)

INTRODUCTION

Pages 72-77 of my book The Salvation Meter – Biblical Self-Diagnostic Tests to Examine Your Salvation and Spiritual Growth articulate what I believe to be the “irreducible minimum” of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  By the expression “irreducible minimum,” I refer to the minimum elements necessary for the gospel to have salvific efficacy, i.e., to be the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  The saving gospel of Jesus Christ is God’s power for salvation according to Romans 1:16 (NET):

16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Therefore, it is critical to strive to identify the “irreducible minimum.”

First, I do not want to advocate more than the “irreducible minimum” for the gospel to be salvific.  For example, to add works (e.g., circumcision) to the gospel results in a “different gospel” that is not saving per what Paul wrote in Galatians 1:6–7 (NET), which reads:

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are following a different gospel—7 not that there really is another gospel, but there are some who are disturbing you and wanting to distort the gospel of Christ.

Along this line, the reader may want to consider my blog article entitled “Does an Absolute Requirement of Water Baptism Negate the Salvific Efficacy of an Otherwise Saving Gospel?” (link: Does an Absolute Requirement of Water Baptism Negate the Salvific Efficacy of an Otherwise Saving Gospel? | Steve Belsheim ).  The conclusion reads:

In conclusion, my opinion is that the requirement of water baptism destroys the salvific efficacy of the message-in-question.

What about a convert who trusts in the message-in-question, can he or she be saved?  My opinion is that a convert who placed his or her trust or faith in a “different gospel”, i.e., a message that lacks salvific efficacy, cannot have been saved.  While on the surface it seems harsh, my opinion makes sense.  If a message lacks salvific efficacy, how can it save?  It cannot save.  No matter how sincere or committed the convert, a non-saving message cannot save.  This means that the convert who placed their trust or faith in the message-in-question cannot be saved. 

If my analysis is correct, and based on my current understanding of Scripture I believe it is, what does it mean for me?  How am I to interact with those who attend a church that mandates water baptism as an absolute requirement for salvation?  If I care about them, and I do, how to do I approach the issue?  These are important questions to ponder.

            Second, I do not want to proclaim a gospel with less than the “irreducible minimum” necessary to possess salvific efficacy.  For example, some may water down the gospel to such an extent that it falls within the ambit of Jude’s warning in Jude 3–4 (NET):

3 Dear friends, although I have been eager to write to you about our common salvation, I now feel compelled instead to write to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints.4 For certain men have secretly slipped in among you—men who long ago were marked out for the condemnation I am about to describe—ungodly men who have turned the grace of our God into a license for evil and who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

One commentary refers to the problem as “cheap grace” [emphasis added]:

The third charge confirms the second charge in that it states that the interlopers change God’s grace into a “license for immorality” (NIV) or, better, “into licentiousness” (NRSV). … The basic Christian confession was not a statement about Jesus forgiving sin, but about Jesus as Lord (Rom 10:9–10). In fact, Paul himself several times underlined the fact that those who show no repentance but continue in sin are not citizens of the kingdom (e.g., 1 Cor 6:9–11; Gal 5:19–21). Jude encounters the teaching of “cheap grace,” that is, grace without repentance or even grace that grants license to sin more than before, in the interlopers, and it becomes one of the charges against them.

Davids, P. H. (2006). The letters of 2 Peter and Jude (pp. 44–45). William B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.

            Another issue for the early church was the denial of the resurrection of the dead.  1 Corinthians 15:12–14 (NET) reads:

12 Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty.

One commentary reads:

While this Corinthian heresy probably arose around the general resurrection of believers on the last day, Paul referred more generally to the idea of resurrection. The phrase “resurrection of the dead” (anastasis nekron) appears in the Book of Acts without reference to a general resurrection (Acts. 26:23). Paul duplicated this use in Romans 1:4. Moreover, in 1 Corinthians 15:21 he used it as counterpart to physical “death.” He did not use this terminology solely as a technical term for the general resurrection.

The New Testament makes it clear that, like the Sadducees, Greek philosophers resisted the gospel because they rejected the idea of bodily resurrection. The argument that there is no resurrection of the dead may have been advanced by those Corinthians who had become enamored with such worldly wisdom. Perhaps these were the same opponents Paul addressed throughout the letter. Some commentators argue that these Corinthians spiritualized the resurrection of believers.

**

As far as Paul was concerned, any argument that opposed bodily resurrection denied Christ’s bodily resurrection. Because believers’ eternal resurrections and Jesus’ are of the same type, one cannot be possible and the other impossible. If people cannot be resurrected bodily, then Jesus was not resurrected. The fact of Christ’s resurrection invalidated any philosophical objection to the possibility of resurrection.

Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 261). Broadman & Holman Publishers.  Boldface in original.

Furthermore, it is critical to identify the “irreducible minimum” because believers in general are reluctant to identify what they believe is the “irreducible minimum” of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  Years ago, I taught a class at church that focused on defining the “irreducible minimum” of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  The final assignment was to choose a favorite gospel-centered passage and unpack it identifying the “irreducible minimum.” Unfortunately, only about 10% of the class completed the final assignment.  I then realized that most folks are not comfortable with defining the “irreducible minimum.”

Such a discomfort with defining the “irreducible minimum” seems to exist with some published works.  Hopefully, the content of The Salvation Meter shows that I have read a lot of publications about the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  Many of these publications have been authored by well-known Christian writers.  One trait that a surprising number of these publications have in common is a lack of an identification of the “irreducible minimum” of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  A person can read an entire book about salvation and never find an understandable, straightforward concise presentation of what is necessary for salvation. 

I believe what I wrote in the published The Salvation Meter book is a credible job.  However, as I wrote, “I am always open to review my work.”  Please do not hesitate to contact me with any concerns, criticisms, comments, etc. 

            Before I discuss the “irreducible minimum,” let me make one cautionary statement.  In trying to accomplish my goal to articulate the “irreducible minimum,” I do not want to dissuade anyone about the efficacy of their conversion event because every element was not set out in bullet points.   Some of the elements of the “irreducible minimum” are inherent in many gospel presentations. 

Typically, at their conversion, no one has extensive knowledge of soteriology.   Please do not become overly concerned if you cannot recollect if all of the “irreducible minimum” elements were present at your conversion.  It is not unusual that a believer is unsure about the specific time and date of their salvation.  But, what every believer ought to be sure of is that conversion did happen!  As you will appreciate from the tests of salvation in The Salvation Meter, the significant tests pertain to post-conversion evidence of salvation, and not evidence contemporaneous with the conversion event.  

THE “IRREDUCIBLE MINIMUM” OF THE SAVING GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST

The Two Basic Elements: Repentance and Faith

            It has been said that repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin meaning that both must exist for salvation.  The preceptaustin,org website (link: https://www.preceptaustin.org/acts-20-commentary ) quotes Brian Bell:

Brian Bell – Repentance and Faith must go together to complete each other like a door & its post.3.7.1. Repentance is the door which shuts out our sin. Faith is the post on which its hinges are fixed. A door w/o a doorpost to hang on…is not a door at all. A doorpost w/o the door hanging on it…is of no value whatever. “What God has joined together, let no man separate!” Repentance = turning from sin; Faith = trusting Christ for salvation. Let go of sin, lay hold of Christ! Patrick Morley writes that the church’s integrity problem is in the misconception “that we can add Christ to our lives, but not subtract sin. It is a change in belief without a change in behavior.”

Jesus identified repentance and faith as the basic components of the gospel per Mark 1:14–15 (NET), which reads [emphasis added]:

14 Now after John was imprisoned, Jesus went into Galilee and proclaimed the gospel of God.15 He said, “The time is fulfilled and the kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the gospel!”

Acts 20:20–21 (NET) records where the Apostle Paul identified the same two components [emphasis added]:

20 You know that I did not hold back from proclaiming to you anything that would be helpful, and from teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus.

Let’s learn more about each of these components.          

More Details about Repentance

Jesus issued the expression “Repent and believer the gospel!”  The NET translates the Greek verb metanoeō [lexical form] as “repent.”  The Logos 9 sense of this verb is to reconsider (repent) – to have a change of self (heart and mind) that abandons former dispositions and results in a new self, new behavior, and regret over former behavior and dispositions.  Louw et al. defines it to mean:

to change one’s way of life as the result of a complete change of thought and attitude with regard to sin and righteousness—‘to repent, to change one’s way, repentance.’

Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 509). United Bible Societies.

Acts 20:21 [NET] records that Paul identified “repentance toward God” as a component of the gospel.  The NET translates the Greek noun metanoia as “repentance.”   The Logos 9 sense is reconsideration – a change of self (heart and mind) that abandons former dispositions and results in a new self, new behavior, and regret over former behavior and dispositions.  Louw et al. defines to the noun the same as the verb.   Another Greek-English lexicon reads:

repentance, turning about, conversion; as a turning away μετάνοια ἀπὸ νεκρῶν ἔργων turning away from dead works Hb 6:1. Mostly of the positive side of repentance, as the beginning of a new relationship with God: ἡ εἰς θεὸυ μ. repentance that leads to God Ac 20:21.

Arndt, W., Danker, F. W., Bauer, W., & Gingrich, F. W. (2000). In A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament and other early Christian literature (3rd ed., p. 640). University of Chicago Press.

The NET translates the Greek preposition eis as “toward.”  Eis functions as a preposition of reference which is used to express the reference or regard in which the author views another sentential element.  See Lukaszewski, A. L. (2007). The Lexham Syntactic Greek New Testament Glossary. Lexham Press.  Here, Paul linked repentance with God using eis so that the repentance comprises abandoning ungodly things in favor of God and godly things.  One commentator writes [emphasis added]:

REPENTANCE, as distinguished from faith, is that state of the “honest and good heart” which arises from a discovery of one’s contrariety to the righteous demands of the divine law. This is said to be “toward God,” because seeing Him to be the party dishonored by sin, it feels all its acknowledgments and compunctions to be properly due to Him, as the great Lawgiver, and directs them to Him accordingly; condemning, humbling itself, and grieving before Him, looking also to Him as its only Hope of deliverance.

Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 209). Logos Research Systems, Inc.

            Repentance stems from a person’s recognition that they are a hell-bound sinner where sin is an offense to God.  They cannot save themselves, but must turn to God for salvation. 

Romans 3:23 (NET) teaches the human condition that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”   According to 1 John 3:4 (NET), to be a sinner means that a person has broken God’s law:

4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; indeed, sin is lawlessness.

The proper mindset is like David’s when he realized his sin with Bathsheba was against God per 2 Samuel 12:13 (NET)

13 Then David exclaimed to Nathan, “I have sinned against the Lord!” Nathan replied to David, “Yes, and the Lord has forgiven your sin. You are not going to die.

Romans 6:23 (NET) teaches that an unbeliever is hell-bound:

23 For the payoff of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Ephesians 2:8–9 (NET) teaches the truth that no one can earn themselves a spot in heaven:

8 For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 it is not from works, so that no one can boast.

            Although the next section will discuss faith in Jesus Christ, out of the many religious systems globally, Christianity is the only effective way to receive salvation which leads to an eternity in heaven.  Jesus made this clear in John 14:6 (NET):

6 Jesus replied, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Peter made the same point as recorded in Acts 4:12 (NET):

12 And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among people by which we must be saved.”

            In summary, one Bible dictionary discusses repentance [emphasis added]:

REPENTANCE Literally a change of mind, not about individual plans, intentions, or beliefs, but rather a change in one’s attitude about God. Such repentance accompanies saving faith in Christ (Acts 20:21). It is inconsistent and unintelligible to suppose that anyone could believe in Christ yet not repent. Repentance is such an important aspect of conversion that it is often stressed rather than saving faith, as when Christ said that there is joy in heaven among the angels over one sinner who repents (Lk 15:7). The apostles described the conversion of the Gentiles to Christ as God granting them “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). Evangelical repentance and faith in Christ are in fact inseparable, though a convert may be aware of one aspect more than another.

Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). In Tyndale Bible dictionary (pp. 1119–1120). Tyndale House Publishers.

More Details about Faith

The Concept of Faith being Complete Trust

            As recorded in Acts 20:21 [NET], Paul identified “faith in our Lord Jesus” as the second basic component of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  The NET translates the Greek noun pistis in Acts 20:21b as “faith”.  The Logos 9 sense of pistis is to trust in the gospel – trust in Jesus as contained in the content of the Gospel.  Louw et al. defines pistis as to believe to the extent of complete trust and reliance—‘to believe in, to have confidence in, to have faith in, to trust, faith, trust.’  See Louw et al. supra at Vol. 1, p. 375.  One translation handbook reads:

That they should turn from their sins to God. and believe in our Lord Jesus is a summary of Paul’s message. The first part, turn from their sins to God, is literally “repentance with respect to God.” But in biblical thought “repentance” always means “to turn from one’s sin,” and it always presupposes that in so doing one would turn to God. Therefore, within the phrase “repentance with respect to God” there are two clearly implied elements: (1) to turn from one’s sins, and (2) to turn to God. In the Christian sense one “turns from his sins to God” by believing in the Lord Jesus, though the Greek here has these two elements connected as though they were separate and distinct. Believe in our Lord Jesus is literally “belief with respect to our Lord Jesus,” but “belief” is one of those nouns which is basically verbal, that is, “to believe.”

Newman, B. M., & Nida, E. A. (1972). A handbook on the Acts of the Apostles (p. 390). United Bible Societies.

As one practical example, in the summer of 1859 a man named Charles Blondin pushed a wheel barrow across Niagara Falls while blindfolded.  Afterwards, he asked the audience if they believed he could carry a person across in the wheelbarrow.  The crowd responded that they believed he could do so.  Yet, when he asked for a volunteer, no one came forward.  It was apparent that while the people said they believed, no one trusted that Blondin could carry them across. 

To acknowledge something and to trust in something are two vastly different actions.  In this context, faith is to trust completely in who Jesus Christ is and what He did for one’s salvation.  The foundation of Christianity is historical facts.  Therefore, a person must “jump in the wheelbarrow” about some nonnegotiable historical facts about who Jesus Christ is and what He did. 

Jesus Christ is the Subject of Biblical Saving Faith

            As I see it, there are four critical attributes of the saving Jesus Christ in whom a person must trust.  These four attributes are: (1) He is the Son of God who is 100% God and 100% human; (2) He lived a sinless life on earth and so He is perfect; (3) out of His love for them, Jesus took their sins upon Himself, so when He willingly died on the cross as their substitute, He was the perfect sacrifice as full payment to God the Father for the forgiveness of all their sins; and (4) Jesus bodily rose from the grave, i.e., physical, bodily resurrection from death to life, showing that His death on the cross was satisfactory payment for their sins to have eternal life in Heaven.

To ignore or deny one or more of these attributes puts a person’s conversion event on shaky ground.  A person cannot place their complete trust in a non-saving Jesus and experience genuine conversion.

Let’s look at these essential attributes.

First, the Lord Jesus Christ in whom a person must trust in the truth that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who is 100% God and 100% human.  Theologians term the attribute that Jesus is 100% God and 100% human as the “hypostatic union.”  A formal definition reads:

hypostatic union: The union of Christ’s human and divine natures in one person (from the Greek ὑπόστασις, G5712, “being”). (26C.2)

Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine (p. 1244). Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.

In 1 John 1:1–3 (NET), the Apostle John taught about the deity of Christ and the humanity of Christ:

1 This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life—2 and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us).3 What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ).

Along the lines of the earlier discussion about the preexistence of Christ (see pages 43-46 of The Salvation Meter book), by using the phrase “what was from the beginning” John established the preexistence of Jesus Christ, which meant that He always has been, is, and always will be God.  So we see that one attribute of the “what” is eternal preexistence with God the Father, i.e., “the eternal life was with the Father.”  Since we learn that the “what” is Jesus Christ, we know that preexistence, i.e., before the beginning of time, space and matter, is an attribute of Jesus Christ.  Jesus’ preexistence makes Him 100% God.

Throughout 1 John 1:1-3 we learn that the “what” was heard, seen, looked upon and touched.  This language describes the incarnate Jesus Christ, i.e., He is 100% human.  Further, in 1 John 4:2-3, the Apostle John made it clear that to deny the true humanity of Jesus Christ was to deny a fundamental precept of Christianity.  Such a denial was so severe that it could only come from the antichrist.  1 John 4:2–3 (NET) reads:

2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now is already in the world.

The phrase “has come in the flesh” refers to Jesus’ incarnation, which proves the fact that Jesus Christ is truly human, i.e., 100% human.  Any spirit that confesses Jesus’ incarnation “is from God.”  To be clear, John instructed his audience that the spirit that does not confess Jesus’ incarnation is “the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and now is already in the world.”  The humanity of Jesus Christ is a critical attribute of the “saving” Jesus Christ.

The hypostatic union is a difficult, if not impossible, concept to understand.  Even so, a person needs to put their complete trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who is 100% God and 100% human. 

Second, a person must trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who lived a sinless life on earth and so He is perfect.  By what he wrote in 1 John 3:5 (NET), the Apostle John taught the sinless nature of Jesus Christ:

5 And you know that Jesus was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.

By the statement that in Jesus there “is no sin,” John assertively communicated to his audience that Jesus was without sin, is without sin, and always will be without sin. Therefore, because Jesus is sinless He is God, i.e., God the Son who is the Second Person of the Trinity. 

The attribute of Jesus’ sinlessness, i.e., perfection, is taught throughout the Bible.  Paul taught that Jesus is sinless when he used the phrase “who did not know sin” in 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NET), which reads:

21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

The author of Hebrews taught that Jesus is sinless when he wrote in Hebrews 4:15–16 (NET), which reads:

15 For we do not have a high priest incapable of sympathizing with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us confidently approach the throne of grace to receive mercy and find grace whenever we need help.

Jesus Christ had to be perfect for His death on the cross to be a sacrifice that appeased the wrath of God the Father against sin.  It is vital that a person place their complete trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who is sinless, therefore, perfect.

Third, one must trust in the truth that out of His love for them, Jesus took their sins upon Himself, so when He willingly died on the cross as their substitute, He was the perfect sacrifice (1 John 2:1-2) as full payment to God the Father for the forgiveness all of one’s sins.  2 Corinthians 5:21 (NET) teaches Christ’s substitutionary death:

21 God made the one who did not know sin to be sin for us, so that in him we would become the righteousness of God.

The New Living Translation adds some interpretative gloss to 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NLT) when it reads:

21 For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin, so that we could be made right with God through Christ.

One commentary on 2 Corinthians 5:21 reads:

Third, Paul explained that sinful people, who are the enemies of God, can be reconciled to God only through Christ and his work on behalf of the human race. Paul summarized Christ’s work in two elements. On the one hand, God made Christ, who had no sin, to be sin. Paul did not mean that Christ actually became a sinner. Throughout his humiliation, Christ remained faithful and righteous. It is likely that Paul followed the Septuagint’s practice of using the term sin (harmartia) as a circumlocution for “sin offering” (e.g., Num. 6:14). The New Testament frequently refers to Isaiah 53 in which the Messiah’s death is declared to be “an offering for sin” (Isa. 53:10, NRSV). This language stems from the Old Testament sacrificial system and identifies the sacrifice that brought forgiveness to those for whom it was made (Lev. 4:5–10).

In this sense, Christ became the sin offering for us—for all who believe in him. In the gospel of the New Testament, salvation comes to enemies of God because Christ himself became the perfect and final substitutionary sacrifice on behalf of those who have saving faith in him.

Pratt, R. L., Jr. (2000). I & II Corinthians (Vol. 7, p. 360). Broadman & Holman Publishers.  Emphasis added.

            In another English translation, 1 John 2:1–2 (NET) teaches that Jesus was the perfect sacrifice (the atoning sacrifice or the propitiation) that comprised full payment to God the Father  for the forgiveness of all sins:

1 (My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One,2 and he himself is the atoning sacrifice [hilasmos] for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.

1 John 2:1–2 (NASB95) reads:

1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; 2 and He Himself is the propitiation [hilasmos] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.

            The catalyst for a person surrendering their life in obedience to Christ (i.e., Jesus is the Lord of their life per Romans 10:9a) is their appreciation that out of His love, God provides the only way of salvation through Jesus Christ who is the Jewish Messiah.  The classic verse John 3:16 (NET) reads:

16 For this is the way God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John reinforced that fact when he wrote 1 John 4:10 (NET):

10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice [hilasmos] for our sins.

            For both usages of hilasmos, the Logos 9 sense is propitiation – the means of appeasing wrath and gaining the good will of an offended person; especially with respect to sacrifices for appeasing angered deities.  Note what Louw et al. says about the translation “propitiation:

Though some traditional translations render ἱλαστήριον as ‘propitiation,’ this involves a wrong interpretation of the term in question. Propitiation is essentially a process by which one does a favor to a person in order to make him or her favorably disposed, but in the NT God is never the object of propitiation since he is already on the side of people. ἱλασμός and ἱλαστήριονa denote the means of forgiveness and not propitiation.

Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). In Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 503). United Bible Societies.

Propitiation is how sins are forgiven in the sense of appeasing the wrath and gaining the goodwill of an offended person.  By his use of hilasmos, John taught that a person’s sin was something through which they would incur God’s wrath in the absence of the death of Jesus Christ who was the suitable sacrifice.  Today, Jesus Christ is a believer’s “atoning sacrifice.”

Fourth a person must trust in the Lord Jesus Christ who bodily rose from the grave, i.e., physical bodily resurrection from death to life, showing that His death on the cross was satisfactory payment for their sins to have eternal life in Heaven.  In other words, Jesus’ death on the Cross was an atoning sacrifice or propitiation.  See 1 John 2:2.

A part of the role and work of Jesus Christ was that He had to die a physical death on the cross.  The Apostle John wrote 1 John 1:7 (NET), which reads:

7 But if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

The expression “the blood of Jesus his Son” refers to Jesus’ sacrificial physical death on the cross.  By using the Greek verb kathorizο, which the NET translates as “cleanses,” in the present tense, John intended to convey to his audience that they were continually being cleansed from all their sins by the blood of God’s only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The same is true for a believer today.  Notice Wuest’s translation:

Translation. But if within the sphere of the light we are habitually ordering our behavior as He Himself is in the light, fellowship we are having with one another. And the blood of Jesus His Son keeps continually cleansing us from every sin.

Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament: for the English reader (Vol. 13, p. 103). Eerdmans.

It is imperative to understand that the death of a sacrifice is necessary for forgiveness.  The sacrificial lamb of the Passover is a type or picture from the Old Testament of the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ, who is the Lamb of God.  John 1:29 (NET) makes the point:

29 On the next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!

Paul made this connection when he wrote 1 Corinthians 5:7 (NET):

7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch of dough—you are, in fact, without yeast. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.

A bedrock principle of the Christian faith is the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.   The historical fact of the physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a necessary component of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.  In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 (NET), Paul included Jesus’ physical bodily resurrection as a key component of the gospel (emphasis added):

1 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel that I preached to you, that you received and on which you stand, 2 and by which you are being saved, if you hold firmly to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. 3 For I passed on to you as of first importance what I also received—that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the scriptures,

With a focus on the importance of the physical resurrection of Jesus Christ, Paul made the point in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19 (NET) that Christians are to be pitied if the resurrection of Jesus Christ was not true because their hope in salvation would have no valid basis.  This passage reads:

12 Now if Christ is being preached as raised from the dead, how can some of you say there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. 14 And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is futile and your faith is empty. 15 Also, we are found to be false witnesses about God, because we have testified against God that he raised Christ from the dead, when in reality he did not raise him, if indeed the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then not even Christ has been raised. 17 And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is useless; you are still in your sins. 18 Furthermore, those who have fallen asleep in Christ have also perished. 19 For if only in this life we have hope in Christ, we should be pitied more than anyone.

The fact of Jesus’ Second Coming establishes Jesus’ physical bodily resurrection from the dead.   By writing 1 John 3:2 (NET), John taught his audience that Jesus would come back again, i.e., Jesus’ Second Coming:

2 Dear friends, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet been revealed. We know that whenever it is revealed we will be like him, because we will see him just as he is.

The expression “when he appears” refers to Jesus’ Second Coming.  For Jesus to come a second time, He had to have been resurrected in a physical body from the grave.

Conclusion

            The faith component must comprise a person placing their complete trust and reliance in the Lord Jesus Christ who possesses the following attributes: (1) He is the Son of God who is 100% God and 100% human; (2) He lived a sinless life on earth and so He is perfect; (3) out of His love for them, Jesus took their sins upon Himself, so when He willingly died on the cross as their substitute, He was the perfect sacrifice as full payment to God the Father for the forgiveness of all their sins; and (4) Jesus physically, bodily rose from the grave, i.e., resurrection from death to life, showing that His death on the cross was satisfactory payment for their sins to have eternal life in Heaven.

CONCLUSION

            The basic components of the “irreducible minimum” of the saving gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ comprises repentance towards God and complete trust and reliance in the saving Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible.  Practically speaking, repentance towards God and complete trust and reliance in the saving Lord Jesus Christ of the Bible comprise two sides of the same coin.

            In order to repent, a sinner must realize their sinful condition and their resultant separation from God.  A repentant sinner turns away from their sin and toward God resulting in a complete change of thought and attitude with respect to sin and righteousness. 

            At the same time, the repentant sinner repents, they put their complete trust and reliance in the finished work of the saving Lord Jesus Christ.  The necessary attributes of the saving Lord Jesus Christ are: (1) He is the Son of God who is 100% God and 100% human; (2) He lived a sinless life on earth and so He is perfect; (3) out of His love for them, Jesus took their sins upon Himself, so when He willingly died on the cross as their substitute, He was the perfect sacrifice as full payment to God the Father for the forgiveness of all their sins; and (4) Jesus physically, bodily rose from the grave, i.e., resurrection from death to life, showing that His death on the cross was satisfactory payment for their sins to have eternal life in Heaven.

QUESTIONS

The intent of the below questions is to allow you to reflect on the substantive beliefs and actions connected with your conversion.  Would you please take the time to consider these questions carefully?  Would you please not omit details even if your answers are repetitive to your answers to earlier questions?

Question 3-1: Can you remember your conversion event?  If so, please describe your conversion in as much detail as you recall.  Did your conversion have  a specific “trigger” that caused you to realize your need for Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?  Please explain your answer.

Question 3-2:  If you lack recall of details about your conversion, is there any reason why?  Does your lack of recall cause you to question if you are a believer?  Please explain your answer.

Question 3-3:  Is it possible that you recall more than one event that could have been your conversion event?  If so, describe the details of these events.

Question 3-4:  Prior to your conversion event, what was your spiritual condition?  Please explain your answer and include a description of whether you were religious, irreligious, had some belief or interest in spiritual matters, some religious or spiritual background and the like.

Question 3-5:  Before your conversion event, do you recall the proclamation of the saving gospel of Jesus Christ?  Please explain your answer and include an account of what you recall about the proclamation.  For example, you could have heard the gospel multiple times and in different ways (e.g., one-on-one, small group, in a church service, large evangelistic crusade). 

Question 3-6:  Did the person proclaiming the gospel appear to do so with authority and credibility?   As best you can recall, had the gospel made a significant impact in the life of the one proclaiming the gospel?  Did that impact have any effect on the credibility of the proclamation?  Please explain your answers.

Question 3-7: Referring to your conversion event or prior thereto, can you recall a point in time when you felt God had opened your heart to respond to the gospel message?  If so, describe God opening your heart.

Question 3-8: Referring to your conversion event or prior thereto, can you recall various points in time when you felt God working in or on you to respond to the gospel message?  If so, describe how God worked on you.

Question 3-9: Referring to your conversion event, do you recall a point in time when you recognized that you were a sinner who could not save yourself?   Please explain your answer.

Question 3-10: Referring to your conversion event, can you recall a point in time when you felt you had repented of your sins?  If so, describe your repentance of your sins. 

Question 3-11: Referring to your conversion event, do you recall a point in time when you accepted and trusted in the truth that out of His love, God provided you with the only way of salvation, and that was through Jesus Christ?   Please explain your answer.

Question 3-12: Referring to your conversion event, do you recall a point in time when you accepted and trusted in the truth that Jesus Christ is fully (100%) God and fully (100%) human?  Please explain your answer.

Question 3-13: Referring to your conversion event, do you recall a point in time when you accepted and trusted in the truth that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth and so He is perfect?  Please explain your answer.

Question 3-14: Referring to your conversion event, do you recall a point in time when you accepted and trusted in the truth that out of His love for you, Jesus took your sins upon Himself, so when He willingly died on the cross as your substitute, He was the perfect sacrifice as full payment to God the Father for the forgiveness all of your sins?  Please explain your answer.

Question 3-15: Referring to your conversion event, do you recall a point in time when you accepted and trusted in the truth that Jesus bodily rose from the grave, i.e., resurrection from death to life showing that His death on the cross was satisfactory payment for their sins so that you could have eternal life in Heaven?   Please explain your answer.

Question 3-16:  If you believe that you have never experienced a conversion event, do you understand the eternal ramifications if you physically died right now?  Please describe these ramifications.

Question 3-17:  Do you want God to save you right now?  If there is a facilitator or teacher of your class, please talk to them immediately.  If not, please pray the Sinner’s Prayer, meaning each word from the bottom of your heart. Then, talk to your Pastor or someone you know to be a Christian to discuss what you prayed.  Or contact us at the contact information set out above.