Securing a ship to a dock requires several mooring lines, or anchor points. Spiritually speaking, these anchor points represent the essential beliefs to which we secure our lives as well as the personal experiences that confirm these beliefs. In this series of essays David K. Bernard reexamines core Christian beliefs through the branch of theology termed “apologetics,” or a defense of the faith. In doing so, these essays counter the tides of postmodernism and relativism while addressing pressing issues of our time.
We need assurance and stability in our spiritual life. An anchor is a device that holds something fast and prevents movement. Especially in these challenging times, we need an “anchor of the soul.”
Anchor Points, Chapter 4 – The New Birth
After faith in God, the Bible as the Word of God, and Jesus Christ as the revelation of God, the fourth anchor point for Christian life is the new birth. This experience is our conversion from sin to salvation and our initiation into the New Testament church.
Jesus taught, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God,” and further explained, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3, 5). His teaching is fulfilled when repentant believers are baptized (immersed) in water in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and baptized in the Holy Spirit. (See Acts 1:5; 10:44–48; 11:12–18.)
The bad news for humans is that all have sinned and have consequently been alienated from the holy God (Romans 3:23). Separation from God means spiritual death, followed by physical and eternal death (Romans 6:23). The gospel, literally, “the good news,” is that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again with victory over sin and death (I Corinthians 15:1–4).
To be saved from sin and death, we must believe this gospel. “The gospel of Christ . . . is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16). Faith is not merely a one-time decision but a continuing relationship with God, a new way of life. “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’” (Romans 1:17). Salvation comes by God’s grace. Grace is God’s gift to us and God’s work in us, which we don’t deserve and can’t earn by our works. Instead, we are saved by trusting in God and opening our hearts to receive forgiveness and spiritual life. “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Ephesians 2:8–9).The apostle Peter, supported by the other eleven apostles, explained that tongues meant God has poured out His Spirit, as prophesied by Joel. Click To Tweet
Faith Involves Obedience to God’s Plan (Romans 1:5)
To believe the gospel is to act upon it. Believers are saved from sin because they have “obeyed” the doctrine from the heart (Romans 6:17). Judgment will come upon all who “do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (II Thessalonians 1:8).
To illustrate, suppose that during a worship service the building catches on fire and the preacher shouts, “Fire! Run for your lives!” If we truly believe the report, we won’t merely sit still and confess our faith orally. Instead, we will act immediately; we will obey the command. We could then describe salvation from the fire in various ways: we were saved by the preacher, by the preacher’s word, by believing the word, and by obeying the word. So it is with salvation from sin. We are saved by God’s grace, by the gospel, by believing the gospel, and by obeying the gospel. Faith and obedience are two sides of the same coin. We are saved by grace through faith as we obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.
How do we obey the gospel? Acts 2 answers this question. Just before Jesus ascended, He commanded His disciples to wait in Jerusalem to be baptized with the Holy Ghost. On the Day of Pentecost, the birthday of the Christian church, all 120 believers who obeyed His command were filled with the Holy Spirit with the initial sign of speaking in tongues.
By the Spirit’s power, they spoke miraculously in languages they had never learned. Jews from many nations, who had come to celebrate Pentecost, gathered to see this amazing event and asked what speaking in tongues meant.
The apostle Peter, supported by the other eleven apostles, explained that tongues meant God has poured out His Spirit, as prophesied by Joel. Then He preached the simple gospel: the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus is both the Lord (God of the Old Testament manifested in flesh) and the Christ (Messiah, anointed King of Israel). Now, He has bestowed the promised Holy Spirit.
When the crowd heard this message, they were convicted of their sins and asked the apostles, “What shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). How could they receive forgiveness for crucifying Christ, accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior, and obey the gospel message? Peter answered, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost” (Acts 2:38, KJV). By repentance we die to the old life of sin, by water baptism we are buried with Christ, and by the Holy Spirit we receive the resurrection life of Christ. (See Romans 6:1–11; 8:1–11.) Jesus Himself taught this pattern of saving faith. (See Mark 1:15; 16:16; John 7:38–39.)
This command and promise is for everyone today (Acts 2:39). When we believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are born again and receive salvation.