THE GIFT OF AN OPPORTUNITY
Copyright © 1996 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
The Christian salvation is the gift of an opportunity. Eternal life is the gift of an opportunity. There are gifts that require no action on our part. Then there are gifts such as a piano that, if we are to obtain the value inherent in them, require a great deal of effort on our part. The salvation, the eternal life, the glory, the joy, the peace, the redemption in Christ are always an opportunity. It is what we do with this opportunity that determines whether or not we actually gain glory, joy, and eternal life.
God has given us the opportunity to attain to resurrection life, to gain a change of character, power, glory, eternal residence in the new Jerusalem, and an eternity of service and rulership in a new world of righteousness. Best of all we have the opportunity to become God’s son. How we respond to this opportunity, this “piano,” will determine our role in the Kingdom of God—the eternal Divine rule soon to come to the earth.
The Christian salvation is the gift of an opportunity. Eternal life is the gift of an opportunity.
It is important to understand this in order to enter the salvation that is in Christ.
The Apostle Paul taught that salvation is the “gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8 and other passages).
There are gifts that require no action on our part. Then there are gifts that if we are to gain the value contained in them require a great deal of effort on our part.
One can observe in Christian literature such advice as the following: If someone were to hand you a hundred dollar bill and say, “take it, it is a gift,” you would do it. Why won’t you accept the gift of eternal life?
The assumption is that the Divine gift of eternal life is like the gift of a hundred dollar bill. Some, in spite of New Testament writings to the contrary, go so far as to claim that once you receive this undemanding gift it can never be taken from you. It is your hundred dollar bill forever. You cannot lose it.
Not only is this unscriptural, it is not true even in numerous material circumstances.
A few verses of the New Testament, particularly from Paul’s Epistles, would seem to support the concept of the gift of salvation as being an undemanding gift. The remainder of the New Testament writings establish beyond doubt that this is not so. One’s Christian life is hindered when the assumption is made that salvation is an undemanding gift.
The gift of salvation, of eternal life, would be better compared with the gift of a piano than with the gift of a hundred dollar bill. Someone may give us a piano but he cannot give us the ability to play the piano. The piano will remain a silent piece of furniture until we are willing to spend the years of disciplined effort required to bring music from the mute wood and steel.
If we are given a piano we are given the gift of the opportunity to become a pianist. The gift of salvation, of eternal life, is the gift of an opportunity. God gives to us the opportunity through the Lord Jesus Christ to attain to eternal life.
Christ is eternal Life. Eternal life is not eternal existence. All spirits have eternal existence. Rather, eternal life is the Life of Christ. In order to enjoy the Life of Christ we must seek the Lord every day with diligence and consistency. The gift Christ gives us is the gift of Himself. As we gain Him we gain eternal Life.
All the Glory of God Almighty is in Christ. As we are willing to press into Christ, to abide in Him each day through the Holy Spirit, we pass from fleshly, corrupt life to eternal, incorruptible life.
The salvation, the eternal life, the glory, the joy, the peace, the redemption in Christ are always an opportunity. God gives to us, through Christ, the authority, wisdom, and power to attain salvation, the Life of Christ, glory, joy, peace, sonship, the fullness of redemption. It is what we do with this opportunity that determines whether or not we actually gain glory, joy, and eternal life.
The Christian salvation is not an undemanding gift, it is a discipleship. Jesus does not say, Here is life, take it. Rather, Jesus says, “I am life, follow me.” Jesus is the “way” to eternal life. He is the “door.” We enter through Him and then walk in the pressured, narrow way that leads to life.
The Apostles, as recorded in the Book of Acts, stressed repentance. In order to participate in the Christian salvation we are required to repent, to turn away from the world and become Jesus’ disciple. It is the disciples who are called “Christians” (Acts 11:26).
There is a time to “believe only.” Then there is a time to lay down our life for the Gospel’s sake. Neither action is sufficient without the other.
Paul taught us the doctrine of “imputation” (ascribed righteousness) meaning God forgives us and regards us as being righteous, apart from the Law of Moses, when we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
God receives the sinner and washes away his sins when the individual places his faith in Christ and is baptized in water. Righteousness is ascribed to the sinner apart from his earning righteousness through the works of the Law of Moses.
What we have not understood, however, is that forgiveness and righteousness are all that is assigned so freely. By inferring from Paul’s doctrine that every aspect of redemption is imputed we have destroyed the program of the Christian salvation.
By far, most of the benefits of our redemption are not just ascribed to us. Rather, they are developed in us when we act in cooperation with the wisdom and power of the Holy Spirit as He imparts to us the things of Christ.
Righteousness is ascribed to us as long as we are walking in obedience to the Spirit of God. But eternal life is not ascribed to us. The fruit of the Spirit is not ascribed to us. The gifts of the Spirit are not ascribed to us. The rewards of the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation are not ascribed to us. Eternal residence in the holy city is not ascribed to us. To serve God as a king and a priest is not ascribed to us. To be a coheir with Christ is not ascribed to us.
The idea that salvation consists primarily of a righteousness legally ascribed to us is based on very few passages of Scripture. The following is a good example:
For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.
But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, (Romans 4:3-5)
Paul’s argument is founded on Genesis 15:6 where the Lord ascribed righteousness to Abraham because Abraham believed a stupendous promise concerning the number of his descendants. The concept of grace is supported also by the fact that the Lord called out Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees according to the counsel and foreknowledge of God, independently of righteous works on the part of Abraham.
Paul’s reason for stressing ascribed righteousness, in the early chapters of the Book of Romans, is essential to a correct understanding of these passages. Paul was resisting the teachings of the Judaizers (Romans 7:1) who were insisting that the Christian converts keep the Law and ordinances of Moses.
Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. (Romans 4:4)
“Him who works.”
We Gentiles have interpreted “works” to mean lives righteously. But Paul was not contrasting faith and righteous behavior. Paul never would do that because righteous works are the life of faith. Faith apart from righteous behavior is dead.
It was not “belief” that brought righteousness to Abraham, but obedience to God. God required belief at this point, and so Abraham’s belief brought righteousness. When God required that Abraham sacrifice Isaac, it was Abraham’s obedience that brought righteousness as well as a great inheritance.
If Abraham had believed that God commanded him to sacrifice Isaac, and then had not followed through with what God had commanded, Abraham would have been an unrighteous, disobedient servant, even though he had “believed.”
When God tell us to believe in Christ, we are to believe, and then we are righteous. When God tells us to put to death the sinful actions of our body, then we obtain righteousness by doing what God has commanded. It is not belief that is utterly important, it is obedience to God that is utterly important. Whatever God tells us to do we are to do, or we are an unrighteous, disobedient servant and our “belief” in Christ will not save us!
When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless. (Genesis 17:1)
Paul in his writings distinguished between faith in Christ and adherence to the Law of Moses—an adherence operated by human will power rather than by union with Christ’s Nature. The misconception that Paul was contrasting belief in Christ with godly behavior is responsible for the “hundred dollar bill” illustration of salvation.
If the New Testament writings consisted only of Romans, Chapters Two through Five, and if we were to interpret Paul’s use of the term “works” to mean lives in righteousness, holiness, and obedience to God (instead of keeps the Law of Moses, attempting to gain righteousness by one’s efforts), a good case could be made for the belief that our salvation consists only of forgiveness and an imputed righteousness.
But Paul, understanding the subtlety of his own doctrine and the possibility that some would suggest “let us do evil that good may come” (Romans 3:8), immediately raises this issue: “What shall we say then? shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1).
The sixth chapter of Romans reveals that the gift of salvation is the gift of an opportunity to gain everlasting life. It is not an undemanding gift.
Paul is making one simple statement in the sixth chapter of the Book of Romans. He is saying that now that we have received Christ we have the authority and ability to choose to live righteously. If we choose to obey righteousness we will attain eternal life. But if we, having received Christ and been baptized in water, choose to obey unrighteousness, we will reap spiritual death.
Romans 6:23 often is used to support the “hundred dollar bill” concept of salvation. Actually, Romans 6:23 is the conclusion of an argument that completely refutes this concept. Romans 6:23 is testifying that if we Christians choose to yield our bodies as instruments of unrighteousness to sin we will reap the wages of sin. The believer who, after having received Christ, continues to serve unrighteousness, will die spiritually.
Romans 6:23 is not addressed to the non-Christian, although sin results in spiritual death whether or not the individual is a Christian. Rather, the purpose of Romans 6:23 is to balance the extreme emphasis that Paul in the earlier chapters of Romans had placed on receiving righteousness by belief in the Lord Jesus. The key to the understanding of Romans 6:23 is Romans 6:1,2.
What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?
Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? (Romans 6:1,2)
The Scriptures themselves acknowledge that Paul’s doctrine is easy to misunderstand and that unlearned and unstable believers can distort Paul’s writings to their own destruction. This is what has taken place in the churches of today.
Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless;
and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you,
as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures. (II Peter 3:14-16)
“These things” refers to the events which shall take place at the end of the thousand-year Kingdom Age. Both Paul and Peter warned that the doctrine of imputation can be interpreted incorrectly. Paul’s doctrine of ascribed righteousness can be distorted to mean that the Christian salvation is an undemanding gift and requires no action on our part in order to gain the values contained in it. The Apostle James found it necessary to warn the Lord’s flock that true faith in Christ is expressed in action.
But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20)
What would move James to raise such a question? It is obvious that some of the Christian teachers were overemphasizing Paul’s doctrine of ascribed righteousness. The Holy Spirit in James pointed out the danger of depending on the type of faith that is not true scriptural faith at all but a mental grasp of the facts of theology.
True faith always recognizes that the Christian redemption is an opportunity for glory. Salvation never is handed to us apart from true faith, the faith that works through obedience to the written Word and to the personally revealed Word of God.
Salvation always is an opportunity, an access, an authority, an invitation to drink of Christ’s Virtue. We must ask and continue asking. We must seek and continue seeking. We must knock and continue knocking.
In the Kingdom of God there are seasons of refreshing and restoration (Acts 3:19-21). It is up to us to act in faith while the waters are troubled, so to speak. If we do we will gain the glory of the Kingdom of God. If we do not the glory will pass us by. Our destiny is determined by how we respond to the Lord’s invitation.
When we receive the Lord Jesus Christ, placing our faith and trust in Him for salvation, righteousness is ascribed to us by the Lord. Also, the door to eternal life and glory is opened to us. How much eternal life and glory we gain depends on the faith and diligence we apply to seeking the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Eternal life is not imputed to us, it must be attained.
Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, to which you were also called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. (I Timothy 6:12)
For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:8)
But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end [result is], everlasting life. (Romans 6:22)
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,
if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection [Greek: out-resurrection] from the dead. (Philippians 3:10,11)
The fruit of the Spirit is not ascribed to us, it must be grown with patience.
But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge,
to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness,
to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.
For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (II Peter 1:5-8)
We must cooperate with the Holy Spirit until these virtues abound in us. Otherwise, we run the risk of being “barren and unfruitful” in the knowledge of Christ.
Eternal life, the resurrection from the dead, the fruit of the Spirit, which is the moral image of Christ (that to which we have been predestined—Romans 8:29), are all opportunities. Our inheritance in the Lord Jesus cannot be received without a consistent seeking of it.
And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. (Jeremiah 29:13)
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. (Philippians 3:12)
Neither are the gifts of the Spirit imputed to us. They are given to us on an individual basis, and then we are responsible for the wise and diligent use of them.
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: (I Corinthians 12:7)
Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. (II Timothy 1:6)
‘And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (Matthew 25:30)
The rewards of the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation, which are elements of the first resurrection from the dead, are not legally ascribed to us. Rather, they are given to us on the basis of overcoming the love of the world, the love of sin, and the love of self.
Speaking to the churches, the lampstands of the Divine Testimony:
“I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. (Revelation 2:23)
The second and third chapters of Revelation are unusually important because they announce the rewards to be given to those who seek and receive the grace of Christ to the extent they are able to conquer the world, sin, and self-will. It may be noticed that none of these rewards is based on belief or imputation. They are given because of our diligent application to the things of Christ.
“You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. (Revelation 3:4)
If someone gives us a piano we are not required to work for him or her in order to earn the piano. The piano is a gift. But if we are to gain the benefit from the piano, pleasing the person who gave it to us, we must spend many years of disciplined effort and thousands of dollars for instruction. The gift of salvation cannot be earned. But in order to profit from it, to really “receive” it, we must give our whole life to gaining it.
The teaching today is that Christ not only gives us the piano but also imparts the ability to us to play it excellently without any practice or effort on our part. This is not scriptural.
Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ (Philippians 3:8)
Christ Himself is not imputed to us, He has to be won.
Eternal residence in the new Jerusalem as a servant of Christ and of God is not ascribed to us. We qualify for citizenship on the basis of the kind of character we have. We must “do” what Christ commanded.
But there shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of Life. (Revelation 21:27)
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)
Residency in the new Jerusalem is not imputed to us, we must keep God’s commandments. Nothing unclean can ever enter the holy city. We cannot enter by “grace,” by ascribed righteousness. We must be holy in order to enter the holy city. Holiness cannot be imputed. Holiness is created in our personality by the Holy Spirit as He cleanses us by the body and blood of Christ and by the Word of God. We must become holy because our Lord is holy.
To serve God as a king and priest is the awesome eternal destiny to which each of the elect has been called. But in order to attain our predetermined destiny we are required to overcome the hurdles placed before us.
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, (I Peter 2:9,11)
“To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. (Revelation 3:21)
“To him that overcomes.”
It can be seen that we are not kings or priests of God by imputation. We are not “paper saints.” Rather, we are to actually display the Glory of God’s righteous and holy Person as the Holy Spirit works in us the Character and Spirit of Christ.
Coheirship with Christ is not just ascribed to us. We must share the suffering of Christ in order to be qualified.
and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together. (Romans 8:17)
“If indeed we suffer with him”!
The idea that we are not required to make any effort, that Christ does it all, governs the thinking and actions of many Christians. But this viewpoint hardly is scriptural. It has robbed the Gospel of its authority and power. Instead of saints we have sinners who “legally” are acceptable to God. Instead of a new creation we have a “ticket” to Heaven. Instead of a glorious holy city we have a city occupied by sinning, self-willed people whom God regards as righteous.
It is being implied that Christ saves us in our sins, not from our sins. This means if we are fornicating God sees us practicing holiness. If we are cheating someone God sees us as upright and honorable. If we are drunken God sees us as self-controlled. If we are lying God hears only the truth from our mouth.
It is being assumed today that the Lord Jesus can only forgive us, He does not possess enough power to deliver us or change us.
This concept is not at all true. God does not impute righteousness or sonship to us. In order to become a son of God we must conquer through Christ all of the powers and obstacles that God allows to challenge our ability to receive the inheritance assigned to man from the beginning.
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (Revelation 21:7)
God has given to us the opportunity to attain resurrection life, to gain a change of character, power, glory, eternal residence in the new Jerusalem, and an eternity of service and rulership in a new world. Best of all, we have the opportunity to become God’s son.
What we do with this opportunity, this “piano,” will determine our role in the Kingdom of God—the eternal Divine rule soon to come to the earth.
(“The Gift of an Opportunity”, 3604-1)