Questions on Salvation: What is the Gospel?
by Rich Deem

What is God's plan for our lives?

God originally created man with the intention of having a direct, personal relationship with Him. Adam and Eve, the first humans, had this direct, personal relationship with God for a short period of time. However, one of the angels, now called Satan, rebelled against God, along with one third of the remaining angels, and came to earth to deceive Adam and Eve (1). When Adam and Eve chose to commit the first sin, they were driven away from the presence of God (2), because God is holy, and cannot stand in the presence of any sin (3). Therefore, mankind lost their personal relationship with God.

The presence of sin prompted God to make laws by which mankind was commanded to live. Those people who chose to live by God's laws were declared righteous by God. However, even the righteous people would, on occasion, commit sin (for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, Romans 3:23). Sin, according to God's laws could only be exonerated by a blood sacrifice, as described in detail in the Old Testament. The Old Testament also foretold of the coming of the Messiah, or the anointed one of God, who would take away the sin of those who accepted the sacrifice He would make. Jesus Christ, in coming to Earth, living a sinless life, dying on the cross for the sins of the world, and rising from the dead fulfilled the Old Testament prophesies. By accepting Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are declared righteous in the eyes of God through His atonement for our sin.

When you accept Christ's sacrifice on your behalf, His Spirit will come to dwell in your body. This Spirit, known as the Holy Spirit, or Holy Ghost, will instruct you and guide you in your life. Through prayer and obedience to the Holy Spirit, we are able, once again, to have a personal relationship with God.

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Can I really have a personal relationship with God?

I know a personal relationship with God probably seems out of reach to most people who have not committed their lives to Jesus Christ. Before I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior, I thought the idea of having a personal relationship with God to be completely impossible. But I have found that the more I submit to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, the closer I get to God, and the more joy I have in my life. If the Holy Spirit is knocking at the door of your heart open the door and let Jesus into your life. I guarantee you will not be disappointed.

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Is it necessary to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me." (John 14:6). Jesus wants you to have a personal relationship with Him on Earth and live forever with Him and fellow believers in heaven ("For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16).

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How do you enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ?

You can enter into this personal relationship at this very minute through believing prayer to God. Tell Him you have sinned and led your life apart from His direction and will. Tell God you repent of your selfishness and that you desire to enter into a personal relationship with Him. Tell God you accept Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior and ask Him to forgive your sins. Invite the Holy Spirit into your life to direct you from this time until you die.

If you have sincerely prayed to accept Jesus Christ into your life, congratulations! You are now a child of God, destined to spend eternity in heaven. In order to establish an ever-increasing relationship with Jesus, you need talk to Him through prayer and seek His will for direction of your life. Get a Bible and read parts of it on a daily basis. One of my favorite passages, and the one that convinced me that Jesus truly is the Son of God is the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-7:29). The gospel of John is an excellent place to begin learning more about Jesus.

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What do I do now that I have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior?

It is also important to enter into fellowship with other believers. If you know some other Christians ask them for advice about attending a specific church in your area. Picking a church is very important. The church you select should preach from the Bible only, under the headship of Jesus Christ. Be aware there are many non-Christian cults, which claim to be Christian, but are not. Most cults will tell you theirs is the only true church and the only way to gain salvation. Avoid these churches or religions. Remember that Christ Himself is the only way, and anyone who has a personal relationship with Him is part of His church. If you are not ready to make a commitment to Christ, I encourage you to continue learning more about Jesus. I spent several months of study before I was convinced of Christ's authenticity.

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Why did Jesus have to suffer and die a cruel death on the cross?

This most important question asks what was the necessity of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in the plan of salvation. In order to understand the reason for Christ's crucifixion, we must know the plan of salvation revealed from the Old Testament. Since the fall of mankind in the garden of Eden, every person has had a problem with sins they have committed. God, in contrast, is holy, which means He never has and never will commit any sin and will not stand in the presence of anyone who has sinned (3). In the Old Testament, God provided a means of eliminating sin through a blood sacrifice (4). Why did God choose to use a blood sacrifice? No one can say for certain, since none of us have the mind of God (5). However, I believe God wanted to make sure that we knew how costly sin is to Him.

God stated very explicitly that the daily sacrifice for sin, performed by the priests, would be replaced through the establishment of a new covenant (6) and foretold what He would do to satisfy His requirement for a blood sacrifice for sin (7). The sacrifice was to be done by His Servant (8), who is His Son (9), both man (descended from David) (10) and eternal God simultaneously (11). Only a sacrifice by a holy God, who is Jesus Christ, could pay the penalty for our sin. His sacrifice would be costly (12) and would require death by crucifixion (13), which would pay the penalty for our sin (14). Crucifixion is one of the most cruel and tortuous ways to die. When we think how Jesus died on the cross for us, it is to remind us of the cost of our sin, and God's love for us, in His willingness to personally die for us, so that we can commune with a holy God. God, in His mercy, has reduced the plan of salvation to simple faith (15), so that all people can be saved by believing God's promises and accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior (16).

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What is this gospel stuff?

Gospel merely means "good news." The good news is that God has provided a means to re-establish a relationship with Him through His Son. The gospel of Christ is defined by the four "spiritual laws" stated below:(17)

  1. God is Holy (without sin, and will not tolerate the presence of any sin) (18).
  2. I am a sinful person (I cannot live up to God's holy standards) (19).
  3. Jesus is God's only provision to cleanse me of all my sin (He died for my sins) (20).
  4. I am declared righteous by faith alone if I accept Jesus as Lord and Savior (21).

A person is saved by faith through the grace (free gift) of God, not by works (22) or belonging to any particular church. Any system of religious works righteousness, similar to that of the Pharisees, cannot save a person from the righteous wrath of God. Jesus did not come to Earth to establish a religion, but to restore the personal relationship between a holy God and sinful mankind. You and any other person can establish this relationship through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I pray you will consider the gospel of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible.

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Why do we have to die?

God has made us mortal, with a limited life span so that we will be forced to face our mortality and ultimate reliance upon Him, instead of our own strengths. We are created for the purpose of having a relationship with God (23). However, being filled with pride, we tend to rely upon our own abilities to get through life. I used to be one of these people - ignoring God and doing things on my own strengths - until God brought me to the point at which I was no longer sufficient in myself, when I developed Crohn's disease. Jesus will gently knock at the door of your life even if you have ignored Him or turned to human institutions or religions. Jesus may knock a little louder on the door, but He will never break it down ("Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him, and will dine with him, and he with Me." (Revelation 3:20). Jesus wants to come into your life, but He will not come in uninvited. Mortal life is not the ultimate purpose of the universe. This short mortal life was designed to allow people to choose or reject God's love. Those who choose God will live forever with Him in a far superior life.

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Isn't loving my fellow man good enough to get to heaven?

Many people feel they have fulfilled the second commandment of God, in loving other people, but to a large degree, they have ignored the first and most important commandment - to love God with all your heart. We are created in the image of God to love God and love one another. If we choose to ignore God and not love Him, we are rejecting Him, and as such will not be forced to live with Him in heaven, but will be eternally separated from Him and His children (those who love Him). Many churches do good things, and many people do good works in their church and in their community. However, without a personal relationship with Christ, these works are "dead works," often done to glorify ourselves and gain esteem within the church:

how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)

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Can't I have a relationship with God without Jesus?

The main problem in having a relationship with God is the gap that exists between the two of us. God is completely holy and cannot tolerate the presence of any sin (24), whereas we are selfish sinners (25). God, recognizing this problem, sent Jesus as God's only provision (26) to cleanse us of all our sin (He died for our sins) (27). By accepting Jesus' sacrifice on our behalf and committing to follow Him we am declared righteous by God on the basis of our faith (28). Therefore as new creatures, declared righteous, we are able to come before the throne of God blameless and cleansed, reestablishing our relationship with God.

The Bible says we are justified by the grace (29) (free gift) of God not by works (30) but by faith (31) in His Son, Jesus Christ (32). Jesus Himself said regarding doing the works of God:

They said therefore to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." (John 6:28-29)

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Can't I go to heaven on the basis of being a good person?

Jesus says no! Jesus Himself said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me." (John 14:6). In a parable referring to Himself, Jesus said, "And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." (Matthew 21:44). Jesus is the stone upon which we must fall and "be broken" (humble ourselves). If we fail to do this, He will fall on us and "grind us to powder" (obviously not a good alternative).

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What is in it for me in this life if I accept Jesus as Lord and Savior?

Coming to faith in Jesus Christ will change your life and your attitude toward life. You will no longer have to worry about the future, since Jesus has promised to be with us forever (33). Knowing with certainty that we will spend eternity in heaven produces a peace in our spirit, which you will not have experienced before. The Bible says, "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7). Jesus said:

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful." (John 14:27)

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Besides this peace, fellowship with God (in which we talk to Him on a daily basis) produces a joy in one's life that is difficult to describe. Before I became a Christian, life was meaningless and repetitious. Now, each day is an adventure with God, as we walk together in life. Jesus said:

"These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. (John 15:11)

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What is the true church?

The Bible defines the church as "those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus" and those who call Jesus Christ their Lord:

to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: (1 Corinthians 1:2)

The church is simply a gathering of individuals as opposed to an organization, as indicated by Paul:

For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part, I believe it. (1 Corinthians 11:18)

The church is equivalent to the "body of Christ," as Paul used the terms interchangeably:

Now you are Christ's body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. (1 Corinthians 12:27-28)

In Ephesians and Colossians, Paul even defines the church as the body of Christ:

And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all. (Ephesians 1:22-23)

for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. (Ephesians 5:29-30)

He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything. (Colossians 1:18)

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I do my share on behalf of His body (which is the church) in filling up that which is lacking in Christ's afflictions. (Colossians 1:24)

In conclusion, a church is an assembly of professed believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, living for the most part in one locality, who meet together in His name for baptism, the Lord's Supper, worship, praise, prayer, fellowship, testimony, the ministry of the Word, discipline, and the furtherance of the Gospel (Acts 13:1-4; 20:7; 1 Corinthians 5:4-5; 14:26; Philipians 4:14-18; 1 Thessalonians 1:8; Hebrews 10:25). The Church, composed of the total number of regenerate persons from Pentecost to the first resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:52), united together and to Christ by the baptism with the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:12-13), is the body of Christ, of which He is the Head (Ephesians 1:22-23). As such, the Church is a holy temple for the dwelling of God through the Spirit (Ephesians 2:21-22); is "one flesh" with Christ (Ephesians 5:30-31); is espoused to Him as a pure virgin to one husband (2 Corinthians 11:2-4); and will be translated to heaven at the return of the Lord in the air (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17). There is no way for mortal humans to know for certain who belongs to Christ and who doesn't, since Christ alone will be judge (34).

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References Top of page

  1. Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Indeed, has God said, 'You shall not eat from any tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat from it or touch it, lest you die.'" And the serpent said to the woman, "You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." (Genesis 3:1-5)
    And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. (Revelation 12:9)
  2. So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken. After he drove the man out, he placed on the east side of the Garden of Eden cherubim and a flaming sword flashing back and forth to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:23-24)
  3. "Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you lest He turn away from you." (Deuteronomy 23:14)
    And the men of Beth-shemesh said, "Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?" (1 Samuel 6:20)
    "This also will be my salvation, For a godless man may not come before His presence. (Job 13:16)
  4. He shall also bring his guilt offering to the Lord for his sin which he has committed, a female from the flock, a lamb or a goat as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin. (Leviticus 5:6)
    "Next he shall slaughter the lamb of the guilt offering; and the priest is to take some of the blood of the guilt offering and put it on the lobe of the right ear of the one to be cleansed and on the thumb of his right hand, and on the big toe of his right foot." (Leviticus 14:25)
  5. "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways," declares the Lord. "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:8-9)
    Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:33)
  6. Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah,...But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. (Jeremiah 31:31)
  7. Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:12)
    And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him; And His righteousness upheld Him. (Isaiah 59:16)
  8. "Behold, My Servant, whom I uphold; My chosen one in whom My soul delights. I have put My Spirit upon Him; He will bring forth justice to the nations. (Isaiah 42:1)
  9. "I will surely tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to Me, 'Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Thine inheritance, and the very ends of the earth as Thy possession'... Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!" (Psalm 2:7-8, 12)
    Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know! (Proverbs 30:4)
  10. "Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, 'The LORD our righteousness.'" (Jeremiah 23:5-6)
  11. Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of uprightness is the scepter of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated wickedness; therefore God, Thy God, has anointed Thee with the oil of joy above Thy fellows. (Psalm 45:6-7)
    "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity." (Micah 5:2)
    "Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the LORD, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming," says the LORD of hosts. (Malachi 3:1)
  12. Therefore thus says the LORD God, "Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone, A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed. He who believes in it will not be disturbed." (Isaiah 28:16)
  13. "And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born. (Zechariah 12:10)
    For dogs have surrounded me; A band of evildoers has encompassed me; They pierced my hands and my feet. (Psalm 22:16)
  14. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)
  15. "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12)
    "By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  16. "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
    "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me'" (John 14:6).
  17. Four Spiritual Laws from Campus Crusade for Christ.
  18. "Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you lest He turn away from you." (Deuteronomy 23:14)
    And the men of Beth-shemesh said, "Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?" (1 Samuel 6:20)
  19. "When they sin against You (for there is no man who does not sin) and You are angry with them and deliver them to an enemy, so that they take them away captive to the land of the enemy, far off or near; (1 Kings 8:46)
    For the choir director. A Psalm of David. The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they have committed abominable deeds; There is no one who does good. (Psalms 14:1)
    For the choir director; according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David. The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God," They are corrupt, and have committed abominable injustice; There is no one who does good. God has looked down from heaven upon the sons of men To see if there is anyone who understands, Who seeks after God. Every one of them has turned aside; together they have become corrupt; There is no one who does good, not even one. (Psalms 53:1-3)
    Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
    All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him. (Isaiah 53:6)
    For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
    "Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. (Daniel 9:11)
    as it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one;" (Romans 3:10)
    for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
    Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned-- (Romans 5:12)
    If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. (1 John 1:8)
  20. "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
    "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me'" (John 14:6).
  21. "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12)
    "By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  22. how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)
  23. Let them praise the name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. (Psalm 148:5)
    Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made. (Isaiah 43:7)
  24. "Since the Lord your God walks in the midst of your camp to deliver you and to defeat your enemies before you, therefore your camp must be holy; and He must not see anything indecent among you lest He turn away from you." (Deuteronomy 23:14)
    And the men of Beth-shemesh said, "Who is able to stand before the Lord, this holy God? And to whom shall He go up from us?" (1 Samuel 6:20)
  25. for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23)
    as it is written, "There is none righteous, not even one;" (Romans 3:10)
    "The wages of sin is death" [spiritual separation from God] (Romans 6:23)
    For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. (Isaiah 64:6)
  26. "And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)
  27. "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8)
    "Jesus said to him, 'I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me'" (John 14:6).
  28. "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name" (John 1:12)
    "By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  29. being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24)
  30. how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? (Hebrews 9:14)
  31. But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction (Romans 3:21-22)
  32. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him, may have eternal life; and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:40)
  33. "and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matthew 28:20)
  34. There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor? (James 4:12)
    But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. (Romans 14:10)

http://godandscience.org/apologetics/gospel.html
Last Modified February 16, 2005

 

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