Louis R. Torres
Vice-President, Mission College of
Suppose you were able to take all the nutritional elements provided for in food with the exception of vitamin B12. How long would you live? What about if you received all the amino acids, minerals, and vitamins, except for vitamin C. What would be the result? The answer is obvious. Complications would result that would eventually end in death. All the nutritional elements are essential. Megadoses of one element will not negate the need of the others, though the amount needed be ever so small.
The Gospel of God is the same. It has all the necessary ingredients, but one or any number of the elements of salvation cannot substitute or do away with the need of the others. As humans, we tend to dissect and isolate those factors that contribute to making our comfort level acceptable. For example there are those who console themselves in having a Saviour, but not a Lord. There are others who claim to demonstrate their Christian walk by faith apart from works, while the apostle James declares, “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith without thy works, and I will show thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18). “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” verse 17).
God works in packages, not isolated items. Every aspect of God’s revelation constitutes the ingredients essential for salvation. And while it may be true that there may be exceptions, God is the only One to make them.
I met a man unwilling to be baptized. When I questioned him concerning baptism, he told me it was not essential. In any event, even if it were, he had already been baptized as a baby. When presented with the prerequisites for baptism—repentance, belief, conversion, acceptance of Christ, and confession, he switched to another argument. “The thief on the cross was not baptized, yet Christ promised him the kingdom,” he retorted. I then made mention that the thief was not able to get off that cross and be baptized. Therefore, God in mercy made an exception. I then suggested that if he wanted to be part of God’s exceptions, then he should be placed in the same extraordinary circumstances as the thief. He was not very interested in becoming a special example. Turning to the Scriptures, I read to him the words of Christ: “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Then in response to Nicodemus’s ironical retort, Jesus answered again, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God” (verse 5). Fortunately, my friend saw the light and was baptized, for he died three months later.
To Christ, baptism is one of those essential elements to salvation. In His instruction to His disciples He declared: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:16). And Peter wrote under inspiration, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21). One can very quickly see that the omission of one element can be dangerous.
This danger is also true concerning Christ’s ministry. There are some who declare, “Christ did it all on the cross.” However, there is a serious problem with this claim. It can be truly stated that Christ paid the full price on the cross—nothing can be added to His sacrifice. But there is a great difference between paying the ultimate price and doing a complete work solely on the cross. Not only His death, but also all of the different aspects of Christ’s life and ministry are essential elements to our salvation. “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Timothy 3:16). Notice that Paul does not isolate one element, but rather speaks in inclusive language.
First let’s consider the Lord’s preexistence. Without Christ’s preexistence, there would be no life, death, burial, resurrection, or anything else of Him. It was for us that the whole plan of salvation was devised with Christ at the center. Had there been no preexistence of Christ, there would have been no cross. The Bible declares, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:5–8).
Paul also wrote, “God, Who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, Whom He hath appointed Heir of all things, by Whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express Image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:1–3). The cross would have no significance if a mere man hung on it. It had to be a divine Being paying for man’s sins that made the cross momentous.
His miraculous birth (called the Incarnation) also played a monumental role in our salvation. His condescension in transforming Himself from divinity to humanity brought hope to the world. It was the expectation of a Saviour from the first Gospel promise in Genesis 3:15 that prompted Old Testament women to want babies. They knew that Earth’s only hope was in the coming Deliverer. Two chapters in the Gospels are dedicated to this essential event. Christ must be born! Without His birth, there would be no death.
Said the angel, “And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:31–33). “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that Holy Thing Which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (verse 35). Concerning the prophetic significance of this crucial reality, Paul wrote, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law” Galatians 4:4).
If Christ had not been incarnated, there would be no hopefulness for the human race that is made of flesh. That is why John was inspired to write, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only-Begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). To the Hebrews the consolation was, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same” (Hebrews 2:14). If there had been no Incarnation, there would be no cross!
His earthly life: “In Him was life; and the Life was the Light of men” (John 1:4). Without Christ’s life on Earth, man would never have had a living example of a victorious life. Christ’s conquering the Devil as a human being brings salvation to mankind. In Jesus we can see how it is possible to live above sin. It is said of Him, "Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17, 18).
In dealing with the challenges and temptations of Earth and overcoming them our Lord gives us the assurance of victory. “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus had to dwell among us. It was on this turf that a pure life had to be lived out. Without His victory over the Devil’s harassments, trials, and temptations, the cross would be inconsequential. If the cross was the only essential, then He could have skipped over everything else, descend to the earth, hang on the cross, and die. But then there would never be any proof that man could ever overcome.
His death: In the letter to the Philippians we have this statement: “And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:8). Without His death there would be no redemption price for lost sinners. Only His perfect spotless life could atone for man. “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a Lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18, 19).
By means of His death we are justified and reconciled to God. “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him” (Romans 5:8, 9). “And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath He reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy and unblamable and unreprovable in His sight” (Colossians 1:21, 22). “And that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby” (Ephesians 2:16). His death also plays an integral part in our salvation.
His resurrection: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Romans 5:8–10). “Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46, 47). “For since by man came death, by Man came also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Corinthians 15:21).
And, Paul declares that without His resurrection there is no hope. “And if Christ be not raised,” he wrote, “your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable” (1 Corinthians 15:17–19). Christians that argue that Jesus did it all on the cross would find it impossible to convince Paul that the resurrection was not essential to our salvation. There had to be victory over death and the grave.
His ascension: Christ promised, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John14:1–3).
The astrophysicist Stephen Hawkins warned: “I fear that since the evolutionary process has worked through the dialectic of determinism and aggression, our long-term survival and any hope of our species is in question. However, if we can keep from destroying each other for next one hundred years, sufficient technology will have been developed to distribute humanity to various planets, and then no one tragedy or atrocity will eradicate us all at the same time.” Unwittingly, even science is confirming the reality of Christ’s words. We must get off this decaying planet. Jesus’ ascension gives reality to this truth! There is a route of escape for God’s children. Because a Divine Being has been able to demonstrate entrance and exit from this planet, then through His ascension the death on the cross makes the escape a reality.
The concerned disciples were consoled when the angels said, “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into Heaven? This same Jesus, Which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven” (Acts 1:11). The efficacious nature of the cross could not have become a reality without Jesus’ ascension to sit on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in Heaven. Nor could the promised trip to Heaven be a reality for the waiting saints. By taking a “multitude of captives” (see Ephesians 4:7–10) on His ascension He removed all doubt that man could be eternally safe.
His heavenly ministry: “And for this cause He is the Mediator of the New Testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15). The Scriptures refer to Christ as the only "Mediator between God and man” (1 Timothy 2:5), and as the Advocate in the event that we commit future sins. (See 1 John 2:1). To the Romans Paul wrote, “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ That died, yea rather, That is risen again, Who is even at the right hand of God, Who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).
In his Epistle to the Hebrews, Paul makes the argument that just as prior to the cross Jesus was a Mediator of the first covenant, so “now hath He obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (Hebrews 8:6). This language of Paul places Christ’s active mediation, not pre-cross, but post-cross. The cross necessitates a Mediator. Just as the blood of bulls and goats needed a mediator, so without the mediation of Christ in the heavens, the cross once more loses its great significance.
“It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the Heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into Heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us” (Hebrews 9:23, 24).
His Second Coming: Finally, if He does not return to gather what He died for, then His sacrifice would be in vain. In His promise to His bewildered disciples who had just heard Him announce His soon departure from Earth, He said: “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:3). From this statement we know that the disciples would remain here on the earth until His promise would be realized.
That is why the aged apostle Paul could write with such certainty, “But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with Him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord Himself shall descend from Heaven with a shout, with the voice of the Archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18).
In conclusion, let us make sure that we are getting all the spiritual ingredients the Lord has provided for our salvation. God did not place them in the Bible just to take up writing space. All of the different aspects of Christ’s ministry are essential to our salvation. That is why the final warning is registered in the Bible: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the Book of Life, and out of the Holy City, and from the things which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18, 19).
In this last book of the Bible are included every phase of Christ’s ministry: His preexistence (1:8, 11; 3:14), His activity in Creation (4:11; 10:6; 14:6, 7), His life on Earth (1:5; 5:5; 12:4, 5), His death (5:6, 9), His resurrection (1:18; 2:8), His ascension (12:5), His mediation in Heaven (1:12-17; 3:5; 8:2–4), His Second Coming (1:7; 19:11–22; 22:12), and the establishment of His kingdom (2:26; 3:21; 7:14–17; 11:15).