Be Faithful Until Death
In a world full of varying theologies, a simple answer to the question, “What must I do to be saved?” is not always available to us, or sometimes the answer given may even be too simple. For example, “Just believe”, or, “Just pray and ask Jesus into your heart”. Both of these answers will leave the diligent truth seeker scratching their head. They wonder why Jesus, Peter, and Paul connected baptism with salvation (Mark 16:16), the remissions of sins (Acts 2:38), and becoming a child of God (Galatians 3:26, 27), if all that was necessary for salvation was belief. Additionally, no amount of searching will yield even one passage that teaches a person to “pray and ask Jesus into your heart”. Such a passage does not exist.
However, when one has come to realize all that the Bible does teach concerning the question, “What must I do to be saved?” - they may find themselves relieved, believing that their search is finally over, but they would be wrong. It is true that baptism brings us into contact with the blood of Jesus, for how can we argue with the words of Ananias to Saul of Tarsus: “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” (Acts 22:16) Yet, it is not true that baptism is the end of anything. Baptism puts us into Christ (Galatians 3:27), but if we are in Christ we are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). In baptism, we identify with the death of Jesus, but we also identify with His resurrection (Romans 6:4, 5). We are raised to walk in newness of life and we live in view of our own resurrection from the dead. Thus, baptism is not the end. It is the beginning, but...the beginning of what?
It is the beginning of a life sometimes described as a race (Hebrews 12:1). This race must be run with endurance because God expects us to run this race all the way to the end (1 Corinthians 9:24-27). Baptism is the beginning of a life lived in faithfulness, or loyalty, to that which we have come to believe - that God is and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6); that Jesus Christ is the Son of God (John 20:30, 31); that salvation from sin is available to men by the power of the gospel (Romans 1:16).
This faithfulness to what we have come to believe by the preaching of the gospel must become the strongest and most abiding pursuit of our lives. We can love no person or thing to the same degree that we love God. In fact, our love for others may seem as hatred when compared with our love for God (Luke 14:26). Everything else must come second to Him and His will (Matthew 6:33). Consider the words of Jesus to the church in Smyrna: “Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer. Indeed, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and you will have tribulation ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” (Revelation 2:10) The context of this statement indicates that, for some, the question of faithfulness will literally be a question of life or death.
How can one be prepared to choose to remain faithful to God under the threat of persecution and death? One must know the certainty of the things in which he was instructed (Luke 1:4). Our faith can be strengthened by a careful examination and review of the things that we have been taught. We come to be more and more convinced of the fact that God is and the believer views every aspect of his life through this lens. When one is intimidated by the enemies of truth, he is willing to suffer because he knows that God is. He knows that God has prepared a home for the faithful, that a crown is waiting for those who finish the race.
One must realize that, in spite of how secure riches may make us feel, and in spite of how pleasurable sin can be, nothing in this world will last forever, and nothing in this world can redeem one soul or cleanse us from even one sin (Matthew 16:24-27). Sin is a problem that only God can solve. When we lose sight of the reality of eternity, we become like a withered plant or a tree choked by thorns (Matthew 13:20-22). We bring forth no fruit for the harvest to which all men will one day be called.
The church in Smyrna had been solemnly charged to remain faithful to Jesus until death and we cannot believe that He would give them the crown of life if they did not finish the race. Baptism is important, as is repentance and confession, but baptism is only the beginning of our service to God. Faithfulness in running the race that has been set before us, all the way to the end, is just as important. The obstacles and the duration will vary from person to person, but we can run in hope because we know that God loves us and wants us to be saved. Perhaps this is why the writer of Hebrews tells his audience to look to Jesus. They may stumble on the path, they may fall along the way, but if they would look to Jesus they would be reminded of the lengths to which God went to save men and they could find the strength to get up and keep running. Surely, in light of God’s love and sacrifice we can live in faithfulness to Him despite Satan’s most horrifying taunts or enticing allurements - and, friends, we must.
All quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994, Thomas Nelson, Inc.