The book of Acts begins with 120 frightened and powerless believers. But ten days later the promised Holy Spirit came in a demonstration of power (wind) and light (fire). Peter preached the gospel, many were saved, and began to assemble to be taught the Word, fellowship, break bread, and pray. Peter and John continued to preach the gospel, which drew the attention of the religious leaders with the predictable persecution (Acts 4:1-12). Today it would be a huge mistake for us to believe that the enemy of souls has ceased persecuting and deceiving the Lord’s people (Gen. 3:1).
Many years ago, our family moved from England to Canada and we made friends with some dear folk who had some different views on scripture. One of the more startling differences was their refusal to say they were “saved.” They would say that they “hoped to see us in heaven,” but had no firm assurance that they would.
The word “saved” is not popular in some quarters and is under attack in others. Rather than using the word “saved,” a popular teaching today speaks of being “Christ followers.” This term is popular among those who reject the teaching of eternal security. But should we replace “saved” with “Christ follower?” Is there a difference between being a follower of Christ and being saved?
Clearly there is a difference in tenses. Saved speaks of a past completed action (Luke 7:50; Eph. 2:8), while following speaks of ongoing action. Following speaks of doing, saved speaks of done. In fairness, one may say that because they are saved they are following Christ, but avoiding the word “saved” raises very serious questions. How does the Word of God use these two words?
By definition, the word “disciple” is literally “a learner” or one who follows the teachings of Jesus Christ. The Bible does speak of being followers of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) and of God (Eph. 5:1). But the word is also applied to followers of John the Baptist (Matt. 9:14), and the Pharisees (Matt. 22:16). The disciples of the Pharisees certainly were not believers in Christ, and in fact some of the followers of Christ do not appear to have been either. John 6:66 says, “From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him.” One may say that the Lord instructed His disciples to follow Him, and most did. However, before Pentecost they were afraid, fearful, and powerless. That is until they were indwelt by the Holy Spirit, receiving the very life of Christ which equipped them to serve Him.
Acts 11:26 says, “And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” It is significant that the word “disciple” isn’t used after Acts 21:16. The focus in the epistles is on believers being “in Christ,” rather than being followers of Christ. Followers can stop following but those who are saved cannot become unsaved. Many times, in the gospels we see the Lord urging people to follow Him. In the epistles those who are in Christ are encouraged to follow after: peace; charity; good; righteousness; faith, etc. Since believers are in Christ, and He in them, the emphasis is on the life of Christ being lived in and through them.
The doctrine of salvation is called Soteriology. It is an examination of how Christ’s death and resurrection secures the salvation of those who believe and seeks to explain the doctrines of redemption, justification, sanctification, propitiation, substitution, and eternal destiny.
Acts 4:12 says, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” The Greek word for salvation (soteria) means “the spiritual and eternal deliverance granted immediately by God to those who accept His conditions of repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus, in whom alone it is to be obtained…” (Vines). The word “saved” is used no fewer than fifty-seven times in the New Testament. Not all occurrences apply to being saved from eternal punishment, but many very clearly do (Rom. 5:9; 1 Cor. 1:18; Titus 3:5).
Perhaps the best illustrations of being saved are shown in the Old Testament. In Exodus 12, the children of Israel were in bondage to the Egyptians. Their position was hopeless until the Lord intervened. Having given Pharaoh many opportunities to let His people go, God gave the final instruction for their salvation. God spared all who put the blood of the sacrifice on the door posts and lintels, a clear picture of Calvary. The Lord led the people to the Red Sea while they were pursued by Pharaoh and his army. God protected them and led them through the sea on dry land. After they had passed through the Red Sea, God closed the waters and the enemy was destroyed. They were saved. They were safe.
Another clear illustration of what it means to be saved is shown in the case of the deadly snake bites during Israel’s wilderness wanderings. The people had rebelled against God and His corrective punishment was to send fiery serpents amongst them. Numbers 21:8-9 says, “And the Lord said unto Moses, make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looks upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.” The Lord’s solution to their sin problem was simply to look and live.
The Lord Himself confirmed this simple truth. John 3:14 says, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life.”
There is no following in either of these accounts but simply believing and being saved.
We are in a vicious spiritual warfare with an enemy who will use all and any levels of subtly, cunning, and craftiness to deceive the saints. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 says, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” Again in 1 Peter 5:8-9, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour: Whom resist steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same afflictions are accomplished in your brethren that are in the world.”
Sadly, many today are easily deceived and led astray because they fail to spend adequate time feeding on the Word of God. It is easy to say one is following Christ, attempting to follow His precepts, attending church, and spending time with other believers. However, before we can follow Christ we must be saved and we can only truly follow Him by the power of the indwelling Spirit. By Raymond Jones