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Salvation and Knowing the Truth
By David A. DePra
Ö. God our Savior, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Tim 2:3-4)
It is important to note a distinction between the two things in this verse that Paul says are Godís will for all people. First, God wants all people to be saved. Second, He desires for all to come into the knowledge of the Truth. Despite the fact that you must see and embrace some Truth to be saved, there is nevertheless a big difference between these two things. The first is the event of salvation. The second speaks to what Truth (or error) we walk in after we are saved.
This is important because there are thousands of people out there who are saved, but deceived. Some of them belong to cults. Never think that the church a person attends, or whether they are Catholic or Protestant, is necessarily indicative of whether they are saved. No. But it surely is indicative of whether they are coming into, or walking, in the Truth.
People often ask as to whether a Roman Catholic can be saved. This is a good question, since the Roman Catholic Church teaches error as to HOW to get saved: A mixture of faith and works. But as is the case with any church, Protestant or Catholic, the rank and file member either doesnít know what the church teaches, or bypasses it as far as personal faith. Consequently, it is just as possible for a Catholic to be saved, belonging to a church which teaches grave error, as it is possible for a Protestant to be lost, belonging to a church which may teach the Truth. The question is not what church they belong to Ė when we are talking about salvation. The question is: Have they repented and believed on Christ?
Salvation is the outcome of God bringing light into your world, in order to draw you to Christ. If you then come to Jesus, which means to repent and believe Ė you are saved. But that is not the end of your experience with Christ. It is the beginning. God wants all of us to be in the process of growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
It is here, regarding the need to grow in Christ, that the issue of what church I belong to emerges. It is one thing for God, just as I am, to draw me to Christ, no matter what church I belong to. But it is another for me, once I begin to discover the Truth, to stay in a church which teaches contrary to Christ. Thus, if I receive Christ while Iím in a cult, Iím going to leave. The same thing might be said about me if I am a Catholic. Can I really continue to walk in some of those errors if I want to walk with Christ?
But there is a bigger problem here. People often do get saved, in a errant church, but then come under that error. So they donít grow. They, to paraphrase Paul, are saved, but donít come into the knowledge of the Truth.
Some saved people have their Christian life hijacked by error and deception. Sometimes this is their own fault. For others, it is less their fault, and more the result of ignorance. And then there are those who did know the Truth, but sold out to something else. None of these conditions speak of losing oneís salvation. But they do mean those folks are not coming into the knowledge of the Truth.
If we did not have the promise of Jesus, to the effect that the Holy Spirit would guide us into all Truth (Jn. 16:13), it would be easy to despair and throw in the towel on these matters. But it is precisely BECAUSE God desires all men to be saved AND to come into the knowledge of the Truth, that Jesus promised this. It is therefore a promise of God that right now, the Holy Spirit is seeking to guide me into the Truth.
The problem, however, is that most Christians have never been taught what that means. Most of us think that, "Truth," is doctrines. And we think to, "learn Truth," means to study the doctrine. Not so. Truth is Jesus Christ. And to, "learn Truth," means to BE FORMED in accordance with Jesus Christ. In short, when the Holy Spirit guides people into the Truth, He shapes and adjusts us Ė morally and spiritually Ė in accordance to Christ.
We see this in the Greek word for TEACH. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would, "teach us all things." (John 14:26) The word there for TEACH is DIDASKO. My Greek authority says that, "the thing aimed at when one teaches, didasko, is to shape the will of the one taught by the communication of the knowledge." THAT changes everything, and no pun intended. In short, the Holy Spirit does just dish out info about Jesus. The Truth the Holy Spirit brings will SLAY everything about me which does not harmonize with Jesus, and will set me free by ALTERING ME so that I can walk with Him.
Can doctrine alone do that? No. Doctrine, if it is Biblical, will tell us what the Truth is. But only the Holy Spirit can take the Truth, and, if you will, "DIDASKO us," through the revelation of it to our hearts. Head knowledge wonít do. Knowing Jesus is what this is all about.
Doctrine will inform us. Truth will FORM us. Doctrine will tell us what is the Truth, and what God wants to do in our lives because of it. Truth itself will DO it. It will bring us into a living relationship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would take the initiative to teach us all things, and to guide us into all the Truth. The fact that so many Christians disagree about so many things is obviously evidence that SOMEONE isnít listening. Theology about Jesus has taken precedence over Jesus Himself, and this always ends up resulting, in time, in WRONG theology!
The Holy Spirit will guide us into all Truth. The Truth will set us free. That is quite positive. But there is a, "catch." In order to know the Truth, I have to unlearn error. And that is never fun.
But again Ė unlearning error is not a matter of unlearning theology or academic doctrines. Certainly it may include that. But there are many Christians who know the correct doctrines of the Bible, but know almost NOTHING about God Himself. They know facts, but donít have a clue about the Truth. That is the, "catch," because it is here that many people who profess Christ WILL NOT SUBMIT TO HIM.
Christianity is a living relationship with Jesus Christ. It is not belief in a list of facts about Him Ė although our doctrines and teaching need to BE true. Failure to see the distinction stands as one of the primary reasons why people donít grow in the knowledge of God.
There are Christians Ė and I mean truly SAVED people Ė who absolutely will not budge from their erroneous theological position. Some have been so totally trained and brainwashed along a certain denominational or religious line, that it has become a security blanket. For others, it is simply a matter of pride or arrogance. This is often the case with ministers. Some go to seminary, learn theology, spend years preaching it, and that is that. To discover it isnít the Truth, or that there is much, much more, is unthinkable. So they reject any correcting revelation as possibly from God.
Knowing the Truth is primarily the result of unconditional surrender to God. This kind of surrender is really a DEATH to our control over our own lives. God will put us in a situation where such a surrender Ė by faith -- is necessary. And if we finally DO surrender, there comes LIFE from our DEATH. And carried with that LIFE is a greater knowledge of Jesus Christ. The two always go together: HIS LIFE and KNOWING HIM.
We are here talking about being enlarged in our hearts for Christ. There comes a surge of resurrection life when we fall into the hands of God by faith. But with the life of Jesus comes all of Jesus Ė including the renewing of our minds according to the Truth. We will grow to KNOW HIM only if we surrender to Him. And this is a process which grows over a lifetime.
Now we see why some people donít know Him: They donít really surrender to Him. They donít open themselves unconditionally to Him. It is just that simple.
To use a Biblical metaphor, we need to surrender to THE LIGHT. We need to COME into the light. The Bible says, "For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light." (Psalms 36:9) This means that until we personally come into the light and open ourselves before God, we cannot see light and Truth. Why? Because if we are not willing to come into the light, it is because we have error and darkness in us Ė in our attitude towards God Ė that we will not surrender. In short, until we are willing to face the Truth about our own relationship with God, we arenít going to see God Himself.
You will note that I did not say that our problem is error as to facts, doctrines, or teachings. No. Those errors are the outward manifestation of something deeper Ė for there are ALWAYS REASONS why we believe error. Maybe it is just ignorance. But too often, the reason we believe error is because we are WRONG in our heart with God. We have folded ourselves away from Him, rather than expose ourselves to Him. The result? The place we have folded away from God has provided a pocket of darkness wherein the enemy can deceive us.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon. (Matt. 6:21-24)
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God. (John 3:19-21)
Can we see that WE ALONE are responsible, perhaps not for getting deceived, but for remaining deceived? At some point, we are responsible Ė maybe not now, but eventually, namely once the Holy Spirit begins to deal with us. And according to Jesus, the Holy Spirit seeks to guide us into all Truth.
There is a big difference between being saved, and growing in Christ. God does not want us to remain babes in Christ forever, much less to be deceived after we were saved. Thus, we need to hand ourselves over to God for the freeing work of the Holy Spirit.
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