The Sum Of the Matter

We have already noticed that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are not isolated religious deeds we do to save ourselves. Rather, they are the way God has directed us to respond to His marvelous gift of grace in Christ in order to receive the benefits of forgiveness and salvation. Some other observations about our response are important as well.

First, each aspect of our response is a matter of faith. Repentance is not merely a turning away from sin, it is also a turning toward God. That's not something a person will do unless he or she truly believes in God. The same is true of confession. As we noted previously, to confess Jesus as Lord is to embrace Him as Lord of one's life. I wouldn't dare embrace someone as Lord of my life unless I was thoroughly convinced that he indeed is the Lord. Faith is a part of real baptism as well. In baptism we are "raised up with Him through your faith in the power of God" (Colossians 2:12).

This means that, even though there are tangible actions included in repenting, confessing Jesus, and being baptized in His name, all these responses are a matter of faith. Apart from faith, they would be empty rituals. With faith, however, they are the saving response. The faith-nature of every aspect of our response to God's grace may explain why the Bible sometimes summarizes the necessary response simply in terms of faith or believing (John 3:16).

New Spiritual Life

We should also observe that every aspect of our response to God's gift is a response to Jesus Himself. We are to believe in Jesus. We repent and turn back to God by turning to Jesus. We confess Jesus as Lord and embrace Jesus as the new master of our daily lives. When we get baptized, we die to our old life, are joined with Jesus in His death, and are raised up with Jesus to begin new, spiritual lives. God is not calling us to an impersonal performance of certain procedural matters. He is calling us to respond personally to Him by responding to Jesus, the Savior.

Finally, we should observe that faith, repentance, confession, and baptism are not items on a check list that are to be routinely and mindlessly completed and then crossed off the list. Hopefully this is obvious from what has already been said. Such an approach would be too mechanical and human-centered. God wants our hearts. He wants our souls. He wants our very being. Out of a deep awareness of our sinfulness and failure to measure up to God's will, we humbly beg for mercy. Because He is a merciful and compassionate God, He made an abundant provision of mercy and grace available in Christ. When we understand the good news that Christ's death is available as payment for our own personal sins, we humbly believe in Him, sincerely repent of our sins, earnestly confess Him as Lord of our lives, and get baptized with faith in Him. When we do, God blesses us beyond imagination. He forgives us for all our sins (Acts 2:38), comes to live inside us by means of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38-39), and makes us a part of His family, the church (Acts 2:41-47). We are saved at last! It then becomes our life-long calling to grow closer to Him, learn more of His will for our lives, and live obediently under His charitable lordship.

Marvin Bryant, Minister, North West Church of Christ

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