We read in Acts 5:42 concerning the apostles: “And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” They had only one text and one sermon — God’s salvation in a Person.
Paul, in Acts 9:20, preached his first Christian message: “Immediately he preached the Christ in the synagogues.” In Acts 10:36, 43, Peter preaches the same message. Paul again in Acts 13:38 testifies: “Through this man is preached to you the forgiveness of sins.” Again in Acts 17:18, Paul preached unto the Athenians: “Jesus.”
Just consider, they had no buildings, no plans, no committees, no programs, no organizations, but they did have power. It was said of them: “These who have turned the world upside down have come here too” (Acts 17:6). What a complaint! The point was that all their preaching was related to the Person of Christ, not only His work but His Person. He Himself is God’s full salvation.
Organization or Organism?
Today many so called Christians have fallen into the mistake of approaching the spiritual along the lines of the earthly. We seek to reach men in their bitter need by our places (churches), our programs, our plans, our preparations, our peculiarities, our personalities. These things are good and useful in their proper places, but they have no power in themselves alone. They can characterize an organization but never an organism; an organism has life, which no organization has. Without the Person of Christ they are merely social, but when Christ is the only text-the meanest and simplest group becomes charged with the dynamic of God.
There is a famous painting called “The Presence.” The artist has painted it as looking from the back of a church. Away at the other end a colorful religious ceremony is being enacted. The altar is bright with candles and crucifixes. The priest and choir are superbly robed and singing with majestic wonder. The congregation, rather small, is attracted to this scene as moths to a candle. But in the back seat, away from it all, a poor woman is bowed, the picture of abject sorrow and misery. Yet standing alongside the woman is the mystic figure of the Person of Christ, His hand laid on her bowed head. How powerful is the message of the painter. Religion can attract, but it cannot heal the brokenhearted.
The Roman Catholic faith centers around the place of Bethlehem. There is the greater, more effective, figure of the holy mother Mary and the tiny, weak, helpless Babe. All true to a point, but when this aspect is magnified the balance is destroyed and Christ only fits into the picture. Gone is the clean, wholesome fullness of His power. This wasn’t the message of the early church warriors.
The evangelical Christian often counters this by concentrating on the place of Calvary, the place of the center cross, the place of the empty tomb. But this, in turn, can limit the truth of God. Hymn writers have written poetically of the cross, “To the old rugged cross I will ever be true.”
We know what is the true meaning they seek to convey, but not everyone does. God’s salvation is not in a place. God’s salvation is not only the work of Christ, but in the Person of Christ — He is God’s salvation. Simeon’s famous prayer was:
“For my eyes have seen Your salvation” (Luke 2:30).
The Person of Jesus Christ: God’s Salvation
This is not a quibbling over words, but an essential aspect of a vital, dynamic faith. If my faith is fixed to a place it easily becomes sentimental, with a sense of respectable ineffectiveness. But Christ is alive! If He is my salvation, then from this springs all the endless excitement of a vivid, living experience of His life in me.
In John 5:39 Jesus said to very religious people: “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.”
Jesus Christ is bigger than Bethlehem, greater than Calvary, and more precious even than His own precious Word. Thousands have tried to run their lives by His teachings, quoting or misquoting the Word of God as their guide, but there is no salvation in the Word of God. Some with a fanatical zeal appear almost to worship the Bible. Let us be careful; salvation is not in the Scriptures — Jesus said so!
“The letter kills” (2 Corinthians 3:6). It is possible to have an intimate knowledge of the Word of God and still be lost. It is possible to know the truths of God’s Word and still be a hard, bitter, narrow-minded person without the joyous, powerful effectiveness of the Christ-centered life.
There is such a freshness in relating my salvation to a living Saviour. There is that extra something that triumphs over the weakness of suffering and the weariness of age, that fullness of salvation which keeps me living in the present tense of One who could say, “I am”– never “I was”; “I am”– never “I will be.” A present tense experience of victory, joy, worth-whileness, the absolute certainty in a Person. Remember it is “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). He is always and at all times the same. Churches have changed; denominations have passed away; doctrinal truths have risen and fallen in importance and emphasis, but always “He is the same.”
“Lo, I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20). What a blessed promise from a blessed Person. If our faith is dependent on the Word of God only, how dangerous that can be.
Geoffrey Bull, an English missionary, was imprisoned by the Chinese Communists for several years. He records in his book, When Iron Gates Yield, how he was imprisoned in a terrible dungeon. Then his Bible was taken away, but his faith triumphed because, “But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me” (2 Timothy 4:17). He only had Christ. But Christ was the power who turned the world upside down in apostolic days, and it is Christ who today can make “iron gates yield.” If Christ Himself is your full salvation you need nothing more. “You are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). He is yours and you are His for all times and for all places and conditions.
Living in the light and truth of this fact is the everlasting answer to all testing and temptation, to all sorrow and suffering, even to defeat, and death itself: “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me” (Psalm 23:4).
This article is an excerpt from John Hunter’s, Living the Christ-Filled Life (Zondervan) pp. 24,25,26,27. The book is online at http://www.ccel.us/Hunter.toc.html
“John E. Hunter (1909-2005) was an educator, Bible teacher and Christian counselor. He spoke many times at Mount Hermon Christian Conference Center. He was associated with Major Ian Thomas, The Torchbearers and the work of Capernwray Hall for many years. He authored more than twenty books including Limiting God, Going On to Maturity, and Knowing God’s Secrets.”
Nona Hovey has several music albums thaat uniquely feature her piano music with Scripture readings. These can be heard and downloaded at BeStillMusic.com