By Finley Hunter
Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary defines commitment as an “agreement or a pledge to do something; the state of being obligated or emotionally impelled” (pg. 226, 1976, G & C Merriam Company, Springfield, MA). In the realm of life in the Spirit and Biblical theology, commitment involves intelligent dedication to one’s Lord and the principles of Christian discipleship.
Because such a pledge requires basic knowledge of the three dimensions of Biblical relationship (i.e., doctrine, dispensation, and devotion), it is applicable to those who are more than recent converts to Christ.
The illustration Jesus used for salvation is physical birth. Such phrases as, “Ye must be born again,” and “that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is Spirit” (Jn. 3:3-7) apparently were well known to James and Peter. Notice their incorporation.
“Of His own will begat He us with the Word of Truth, that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures…Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted Word, which is able to save your souls” (Jas. 1:18, 21).
“Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the Word of God which liveth and abideth for ever” (1 Pet. 1:23).
Peter goes on to speak of growing after being “born again.”
“As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the Word that ye might grow thereby: if so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. 2:2-3).
The Christian baby was to increase over a period of weeks and months by assimilating the Word of God in the five means provided:
- Hear – “So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).
- Read – “’Til I come, give attendance to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:13).
- Study – “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of Truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).
- 4. Memorize – “Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to Thy Word … Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Ps. 119:9, 11).
- Meditate – The purpose was to be able to meditate, i.e., digest the spiritual food. “But his delight is in the Law of the Lord; and in His Law doth he meditate day and night” (Psa. 1:2).
When this maturing new creature in Christ takes a stand for this doctrine, it will cost him some companions. Half of the mainline Protestant churches, as well as the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions, do not hold to it. And what is this doctrine? It teaches that once a person believes the good news that Christ died for our sins, he is saved. He has placed his trust 100 % in the finished work of Christ. He is not trusting in any merit of his own to gain Heaven. He is born anew by the Spirit of God, thus, he has eternal life, right then and there.
“And this is the record, that God hath given unto us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 Jn. 5:11-12).
The teaching of the eternal security of the believer is that he cannot lose this eternal life under any circumstances.
“And I give unto them eternal life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand” (Jn. 10:28).
“And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30).
Indeed, it seems too good to be true; but it is true! We do not receive eternal life when we die. We receive eternal life when we receive Jesus Christ and it lasts forever. If we sin after salvation, we lose fellowship with the Savior; we don’t lose eternal life! Our standing in Christ is always perfect, although our state may be imperfect. At salvation the believer is delivered from the penalty of sin. Day by day the believer is being delivered from the power of sin. At the coming of Christ, the believer will be delivered from the very presence of sin. This is all guaranteed at the moment of salvation. The outworking of it, of course, consumes the rest of one’s life.
Coming to understand this truth is priceless. Taking a stand for it is costly.
The next area of commitment involves dispensational truth. All who do not bring a lamb or goat or two turtledoves to church are practicing dispensation truth (Lev. 5:6-7). All who do not keep Saturday as the Sabbath Day are breaking the Mosaic Law and recognize that they are not Israelites (Ex. 31:13-17). All who do not observe religious prohibition against eating catfish (Lev. 11:12) are recognizing that they “are not under the Law but under Grace” (Rom. 6:14-15), and are practicing dispensational truth.
Just as surely as the Dispensation of the Law was given through Moses (Ex. 20:1-20), and the Dispensation of the Kingdom through Peter (Mt. 16:18-19, cf. 19:28), so the present Dispensation of the Grace of God was given to and through Paul (Eph. 3:1-3).
As we speak of being in the Democratic Administration under President Carter, or being in the Republican Administration under President Bush, so Biblically we are in the Administration (Dispensation) of Grace under Paul. The commission and message of the Twelve Apostles were very different from those of Paul. Their message included the promises of signs: healing, miracles by the laying on of hands, raising the dead, and cleansing lepers (Mk. 16:15-20).
Water baptism, the speaking in tongues, and the gift of supernatural knowledge were in order for a while in the post-resurrection ministry of Peter and the other Apostles as they preached the Gospel of the Kingdom (Acts 2:38; 5:1-10). Then, two earth-shattering events took place: the leaders of the Jews, God’s sign people, committed the unpardonable sin against the Holy Spirit (Acts 7:51-59, cf., Mt. 12:31-32); and the chief persecutor against the Kingdom Church, Paul, was converted to Christ (Acts 9:1-20).
God’s sign program gradually ended. The Dispensation of Grace superseded the Dispensation of the Kingdom. Peter’s ministry diminished; Paul’s expanded. The Mystery (Secret) of the present age and the Mystery (Secret) of the Church, the Body of Christ, are unfolded exclusively in the thirteen Epistles of Paul.
To take a stand for the truth of Grace over Kingdom, the Body of Christ over the Pentecostal Church will be very costly. Many of one’s friends will not see “the big deal” or the importance of recognizing this change in God’s order of accomplishing His purpose. They will not see why committing oneself to the secret changes completely changes one’s views on water baptism, speaking in tongues, anointing with oil for healing, claiming to practice other sign gifts, etc.
In addition to commitment to security (doctrine) and the secret (dispensation), there is a third stand to take for the mature believer. It is the dedication of the body. It involves surrender and separation.
If spiritual birth is the absolute essential for salvation, then spiritual marriage is the requirement for the service resulting in fruit bearing. We needn’t dwell on the fact that birth is primary and involves infancy. Marriage is reserved for the mature.
The key verse on the subject of surrender is Romans 12:1 with the Greek language emphasizing the once-for-all act:
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”
The sequel of separation from the world is Romans 12:2 with the Greek emphasis on the progressive, day-by-day, nonconformity to the world system.
“And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”
It seems quite significant that Paul’s exhortation to surrender appears at Chapter twelve and not in the earlier part of the Epistle which deals with the subjects of sin and salvation.
The legitimacy for dubbing this once-for-all act of surrender spiritual marriage is found in Romans 7:4:
“Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the Law by the Body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to Him Who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.”
Thus, the marvelous invitation to present one’s body a living sacrifice has for its basis the fact that salvation is a free gift (Rom. 6:23), that the recipient of this gift has been justified freely by God’s grace (3:24), and that it is the result of faith and not of works (4:4-5; 5:1). This righteousness is imputed, i.e., accounted to us without the deeds of the Law (3:28; 4:24).
The believer has been spiritually circumcised, spiritually baptized, crucified with Christ, and raised with Christ to newness of life (2:29; 6:3-4, 6). He is promised no condemnation and no separation (8:1, 38-39).
The most logical step, therefore, for those who understand such grace is to respond to the call to surrender one’s body and to practice this surrender in joyful daily separation and sanctification.
Such dedication to the life of humility and submission, doubtless, will restrict one’s circle of close friends. It will be difficult to explain to others and sometimes even to oneself that the exercise of the higher privilege of the “right to give up one’s rights” actually is joyful for the Lord’s sake. The piety that produces spiritual power in witnessing and in prayer would not be retracted for anything! To know that one is not only right with God, but that he is in the center of God’s will and purpose and producing fruit for Him is the happiest experience known to mortal man. Jesus said,
“…It is more blessed [happier] to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).
Can the failure to give of one’s self be the reason why so many Christians merely exist instead of living the Spirit-filled life of joyful victory? Lack of understanding the blessed security for the believer, failure in accepting the truth of the secret committed to the Apostle Paul, refusing to surrender to Christ and separate from the world, is taking its toll.
Philosophy declares there are three unanswerable questions for man: Where did I come from? What am I doing here? And, where am I going? Bible Doctrine tells us that we came from the slippery places of sin to the blessed eternal security of the Rock: Christ Jesus. Devotion to Christ, as found in the Bible, tells us that when we surrender, we make ourselves available to Him to bring forth fruit unto God. Dispensational Truth teaches us what God is doing in the present age and what the closing event of this age is – that we are Raptured and to appear with the Lord Jesus Christ in Glory (Col. 3:1-3).
Dear Reader: If you are not sure you are saved, consider once again the plan for this Dispensation of Grace:
“For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).
“For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Rom. 10:13).
If you have called upon the name of the Lord for salvation, hear the words of the Apostle Paul:
“As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving” (Col. 2:6-7).
“Now to Him Who is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery…” (Rom. 16:25).
Then, give up!
“Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God” (Rom. 5:13).