Saved and Serving is one way to understand our purpose as Christians. It’s how I like to distill Ephesians 2:8-10 –
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. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
Another way to describe our purpose is Saved for Service. We are saved by grace through faith with a view toward service (good works). Grace and faith are “not from ourselves.” They are “the gift of God, not of works.” We are not saved by works, but are saved for good works.
People often get that confused and think salvation is by works. It’s not.
[Podcast version available at the end of this post.]
Understanding how someone is saved is the first step in making disciples.
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.’ Amen.Matthew 28:18-20
It is impossible to “make disciples” of people who are not saved. The Apostle Paul explained it this way:
And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 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. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.Ephesians 2:1-10
Everyone is born into spiritual death. Everyone is dead (νεκρός – dead, lifeless, what lacks life) “in trespasses and sins.” Everyone walks according to the course (αἰών – age, space of time, course) of this world. Everyone walks according to the prince (ἄρχων – chief ruler) of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience. Everyone is by nature “children of wrath, just as the others.”
“But God” – love those words! – “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved).”
Making disciples begins with preaching the true Gospel of Jesus Christ. I say the ‘true Gospel’ because we hear so many false gospels today. False preachers and teachers are promising everything they can to people who want to hear good things about themselves and what they can get from God. That is not the Gospel. The Gospel begins with repentance toward a holy God –
Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel. Mark 1:14-15
Then He said to them, ‘Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the 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 to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Luke 24:46-48
Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead. Acts 17:29-31
From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them: ‘You know, from the first day that I came to Asia, in what manner I always lived among you, serving the Lord with all humility, with many tears and trials which happened to me by the plotting of the Jews; how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. Acts 20:18-21
And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:3-4
Salvation begins with repentance. Repentance (μετάνοια) means “a change of mind.” It means far more than just ‘regret.’ It means a change of mind that leads to a choice, a decision. When someone ‘repents’ they do have regret about their life choices and behavior, but true repentance also means a change of mind that leads to a desire to change in life choices and behavior. As Paul said to the Ephesian elders, his preaching was “repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” That’s the Gospel.
Jesus explained repentance toward God in some depth in Luke 13:
There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Luke 13:1-5
There can be no true salvation without repentance. Jesus and His apostles made that clear in their preaching and teaching. ‘Making disciples’ begins with emphasizing ‘repentance’ – “unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”
Being a disciple of Christ means being a follower of Christ. It means going where He tells us to go and doing what He tells us to do. Where do followers of Christ go and what do followers of Christ do?
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations …
… repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations …
Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name … Romans 1:5
… you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth. Acts 1:8
Jesus Christ is building His Church and it will be made up of people from every nation, tribe and tongue:
After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb! Revelation 7:9-10
The Spirit of Christ is sending followers of Jesus Christ around the world preaching the Gospel of God’s Grace to all people:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. Romans 1:16
Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands— that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace, and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity. And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near. For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father. Ephesians 2:11-18
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:26-28
This is where and to whom we go – everywhere to all people.
What follows salvation for a new disciple of Jesus Christ? We’ll look into that in the next part of our special series – There’s Work To Be Done.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.