The damning sin of unbelief—Unbelief is the sin of the world from which men must repent to escape eternal damnation. God saves all those who repent (turn) from their unbelief and believe in their hearts the gospel of Jesus Christ (1Corinthians 15:3-4; Romans 10:9; Acts 16:31). When John the Baptist saw Jesus coming unto him, he announced: “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin [singular] of the world.” (John 1:29) The Lord Jesus emphasized this truth when he declared: “He that believeth on him [the Son of God] is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:18) Before the Lord Jesus was crucified on the cross, he told his apostles that after his crucifixion, resurrection, and return to heaven, he would send the “Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost” (John 14:26), unto them and into the world, “And when he is come, he will reprove [charge, convince, condemn] the world of sin [singular], and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin [singular], because they believe not on me;” (John 16:8-9) The scripture says, “but now once in the end of the world hath he [Jesus Christ] appeared to put away sin [singular] by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26) Jesus declared: “He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” (John 6:47) Therefore “repentance to salvation” is a once in a lifetime operation, “not to be repented of” (2Corinthians 7:10). At the time of their “Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever” (1Peter 1:23), God imputes [sets to their account] “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” (Romans 3:22; 4:11, 22-25; 9:30; 10:6; Philippians 3:9) “without works” (Romans 4:6).
Eternal life through faith—Justification is the ‘act of free grace by which God pardons the sinner and accepts him as righteous, on account of the atonement of Christ’ (Noah Webster, 1828). After his glorious resurrection the Lord Jesus, as our “great high priest” (Hebrews 4:14), by “his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” (Hebrews 9:12) Therefore the justification of believers “is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all” (Romans 4:16) All born again Bible believers—who the Lord calls his sheep, can be sure that they have eternal life! The Lord Jesus said, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28; Titus 1:2; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8)
SEPARATED TO FELLOWSHIP
Walking with the Lord—The LORD asked the children of Israel, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3) No one can have fellowship with the Lord unless he is walking in the light of his word (Psalm 119:130). In his first epistle to born again believers, John the apostle declared: “This then is the message which we [believers] have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we [believers] have fellowship [walk together] with him [God], and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another[fellowship among brothers and sisters in Christ], and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1John 1:5-9)
Continual repentance required—After being saved by God’s grace though faith, believers are commanded to repent “of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed.” (2Corinthians 12:21); of holding false doctrine (Revelation 2:16); and of “adultery” (Revelation 2:21-22). These cases involve turning from evil works to good works. In his letter to the church at Ephesus, the Lord said: “Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.” (Revelation 2:5; 3:3) In his letter to the church of the Laodiceans the Lord said: “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.” (Revelation 3:19) Since being born again (1Peter 1:23), I do not remember one day in over forty one years that I lived without committing sin either by having foolish thoughts (Proverbs 24:9), or a sinful imagination that I needed to confess to the Lord and from which I needed to repent. It is generally true that newborn Christians commit many things during the early days of their salvation: things that they will later learn from reading, studying, and meditating on the word of God, are sins against the Lord. The scripture is very clear that no man on earth today is without sin: “For there is not a just man upon earth, that doeth good, and sinneth not.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20); and: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.” (1John 1:8) Therefore repentance for fellowship is an ongoing need in the lives of all believers. A prison inmate who was a habitual criminal, once told me that after he committed his robberies and thefts he always confessed his sins! In ignorance this man believed that God continued to forgive him even as he continued to rob and steal. But the scripture declares that confessing sins to God without repenting of them is foolish: “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13) To forsake sin means to repent and turn away from sin.
Forgiveness springs out of God’s mercy—Forgiveness is a stem out of the root of God’s great mercy; for which cause the LORD forgives iniquity and transgression (Numbers 14:18-19; Daniel 9:9): “For thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive; and plenteous in mercy unto all them that call upon thee.” (Psalm 86:5): “The LORD is nigh unto all them that call upon him, to all that call upon him in truth.” (Psalm 145:18) Therefore when we confess our sins to God in truth, we will do so with a sorrowful and repentant heart. Only then will the Lord “forgive us our sins,” and “cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1John 1:9).
Definition—A yoke is: ‘A piece of timber, hollowed or made curving near each end, and fitted with bows for receiving the necks of oxen; by which means two are connected for drawing [plows or other instruments of work]’ (Noah Webster, 1828). Therefore being under a yoke signifies bearing a burden under bondage. The LORD referred to those who were captive servants of Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon as having “their neck under the yoke of the king of Babylon.” (Jeremiah 27:8) Later the LORD promised to “break the yoke of the king of Babylon” and deliver “all the captives of Judah” (Jeremiah 28:2-4)
The unbearable yoke of the law—The law of Moses is a yoke of bondage which no natural man can keep. Only one man, the only begotten Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ who was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), kept the law perfectly! Any other man who trusts in the law to earn God’s justification is under a curse (Galatians 3:10-11). Because no natural man can keep every law of God (Galatians 3:10-14; 4:21-31; 5:1-4). When some of the believing Pharisees said that the Gentile believers should be commanded to keep the law of Moses (Acts 15:1-9), the apostle Peter rose up and rehearsed to them what had happened when he preached the gospel to Cornelius and those in his house. Peter testified how that God had put no difference between the Jews and the Gentiles, “purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” (Acts 15:10-11)
The Lord’s easy yoke—The Lord Jesus gives the invitation: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30) The yoke of Jesus Christ is easy, because “we are labourers together with God: ye are God’s husbandry, ye are God’s building.” (1Corinthians 3:9). The Spirit of Christ, who has all power in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18), is in us (Romans 8:9; Colossians 1:27) working “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13).
Repentance and work—In a general sense work means ‘to move, or to move one way and the other; to perform…to act…carry on operations…to labor; to be occupied in performing manual labor’ (Noah Webster, 1828).
Do works AFTER turning to God—During his answer before king Agrippa and others, the apostle Paul testified how the Lord Jesus told him that he was sending him to the Gentiles “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” (Acts 26:18). Paul continued: “Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.” (Acts 26:19-20)
Saved without work—The scriptures make it abundantly clear that “repentance to salvation” (2Corinthians 7:10) is not associated with any ‘work’ on man’s part: “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.” (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 11:6). The scripture also declares: “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;” (Titus 3:5)
Saved to work—All “the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:26) “are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10) For this reason believers are commanded, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12-13)