Belief of our Fathers: Sin and Salvation (Chapter 8)
January 1, 2020
This continues a study on the beliefs of our forefathers, based largely on the 1632 Dordrecht Confession of Faith. This section tells about Soteriology, or the study of Sin and Salvation. This has been edited for space.
To read other chapters in this series on the Beliefs of our Forefathers, click below:
Sin and Salvation
For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. (1 Corinthians 15:21)
If you look forward to eternity in heaven, then it is critical to know and understand who Jesus Christ is and what He has done. In the Gospel of John, we find the longest recorded prayer of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Holy Scriptures. A portion of this prayer is, Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (John 17:17). In the Greek, the word “sanctify” means to set them apart for God and His purposes. In this chapter, we will look at what sin is and how we are saved from the consequences of sin, based on truth found in the Gospel of John. Let’s take a look at what the Amish teach.
What the Amish Teach
From Article 2 of the Dordrecht Confession of Faith
“We believe and confess, according to the holy Scriptures, that these our first parents, Adam and Eve, did not continue long in this glorious state in which they were created, but that they, seduced by the subtlety and deceit of the serpent, and the envy of the devil, transgressed the high commandment of God and became disobedient to their Creator; through which disobedience sin has come into the world, and death by sin, which has thus passed upon all men, for that all have sinned, and hence, brought upon themselves the wrath of God and condemnation; for which reason they were of God driven out of Paradise, or the pleasure garden, to till the earth, in sorrow to eat of it, and to eat their bread in the sweat of their face, till they should return to the earth from which they were taken; and that they, therefore, through this one sin, became so ruined, separated, and estranged from God, that they, neither through themselves, nor through any of their descendants, nor through angels, nor men, nor any other creature in heaven or on earth, could be raised up, redeemed, or reconciled to God, but would have had to be eternally lost, had not God, in compassion for His creatures, made provision for it and interposed with His love and mercy.”
With God “there was yet a means of reconciliation, namely, the immaculate [spotless] Lamb, the Son of God, who had been foreordained thereto before the foundation of the world, and . . . that He by His coming, would redeem, liberate, and raise the fallen race of man from their sin, guilt, and unrighteousness.”
Jesus was “yielded up as a sacrifice and offering, for a sweet savor unto God, yea, for the consolation, redemption, and salvation of all mankind. . . . He is the Son of the living God, in whom alone consist all our hope, consolation, redemption, and salvation, which we neither may nor must seek in any other. . . . [Jesus] was crucified, dead, was buried, and on the third day, rose from the dead, and ascended to heaven; and that He sits on the right hand of God the Majesty on high, whence He will come again to judge the quick and the dead.”
“For neither baptism, supper, church [membership], nor any other outward ceremony, can without faith, regeneration, change or renewing of life, avail anything to please God or to obtain of Him any consolation or promise of salvation; but we must go to God with an upright heart, and in perfect faith, and believe in Jesus Christ, as the Scripture says, and testifies of Him; through which faith we obtain forgiveness of sins, are sanctified, justified, and made children of God, yea, partake of His mind, nature, and image, as being born again of God from above, through incorruptible seed.”
Martyrs Mirror, First Confession
“For although the blessed Lord Jesus Christ is the only meritorious [worthy] cause of the justification of man, their adoption by God as His children, and the foundation of their eternal salvation, God the heavenly Father . . . has nevertheless been pleased to impute the merits of His Son Jesus Christ to man, and make him partaker of the same, through the means of faith in His only, and only-begotten Son . . . according to the testimony of John, who says: He [Christ] came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God (John 1:11–13).”
The statements regarding salvation found in the Dordrecht Confession of Faith and Martyrs Mirror are accurate, but not particularly clear. Sometimes there is a disconnect between what we say we believe and what we practice.
The Dordrecht Confession of Faith and Martyrs Mirror use the phrases “Son of the living God, in whom alone” and “Jesus Christ is the only meritorious cause,” which tell us we can do nothing to earn our way to heaven. It is only through Jesus Christ, His sacrifice, and His shed blood that we are adopted as children of God. This then begs the questions: Do we really believe what we say we believe? Do we truly know, in a personal way, what Jesus Christ has accomplished on our behalf?
Be sure to . . . pray that God would open your heart to the truth of His Word.
What the Scriptures Teach
What Is Sin?
It became obvious in the Old Testament that man could neither keep the law of God nor do anything to earn salvation. The law was really given to man to show that we could never obey on our own. Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Galatians 3:24).
Consider what the apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament to the church at Rome:
Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God.
Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall be no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:19–24).
Later, Paul tells the Romans that whatsoever is not of faith is sin (Romans 14:23). James says, To him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin (James 4:17).
The Entrance of Sin into the World
God’s plan for us to live in perfection forever with Him came to an abrupt end in the garden. God gave them just one restriction to exercise their will, and they chose wrongly. Eve was deceived into disobedience, but Adam chose to disobey. Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression (1 Timothy 2:14).
Satan doesn’t usually come face-to-face when tempting us to do wrong. He is the great deceiver, at times even hiding behind those we trust. Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). That is how he came to Eve. He hid within the snake and talked her into believing the same lie that brought him down. Revelation 12:9 calls him the great dragon, . . . that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world. Satan said they could be as gods, deciding for themselves what was right or wrong (Genesis 3:5). He continues, even to this day, to carry out his goal of destroying as much of God’s creation as possible, for he was a murderer from the beginning and the father of [lies] (John 8:44). He walks about as a roaring lion . . . seeking whom he may devour (1 Peter 5:8). We were not made to operate under our own power. We can only function properly according to the Creator’s direction—in accord with His Word.
The Result of Man’s Sin
God said Adam and Eve would surely die for their disobedience (Genesis 2:17). To die is to be separated from God. Your iniquities have separated between you and your God (Isaiah 59:2). First, their fellowship with God was severed. They were now under the wrath of God (Ephesians 5:6; Romans 1:18). They would eventually be separated from their bodies to die and return to their dust (Psalm 104:29). The devil that deceived them would be cast into the lake of fire . . . and whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10, 15).
Adam and Eve were dead in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), just like a branch separated from a tree. A tree branch doesn’t show its death immediately. It looks green and healthy for quite a while before it shrivels and decays back into the ground. Adam and Eve didn’t look dead immediately, but they were. They were separated from their Source of Life, left to their own resources, blinded in unbelief by Satan, the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Was God justified in allowing this? Of course! He was their Creator, their owner, their highest authority. His holiness demanded righteousness. All sin results in death, as the Lord said: When a righteous man turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth iniquity, and dieth in them; for his iniquity that he hath done shall he die (Ezekiel 18:26). This helps us understand why James wrote, For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all (James 2:10). God’s only recourse was to cast Adam and Eve out of His presence, for His law says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23).
Sadly, Adam’s death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned (Romans 5:12). Adam lost the holiness of God for the whole human race. God’s original plan for them to prosper in perfection died. Romans 1:18–2:1 describes our human nature in strikingly clear detail and declares us all without excuse.
Genesis 3:7 tells us the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. What a weak, human attempt to make themselves acceptable to God. Like Adam, we tend to hide our wrongdoings with outward measures. Whether by our behavior, words, or the way we dress, we cannot hide our sinful nature from God and expect to be accepted by Him.
It was the inner man—the part made in God’s likeness—that needed to be cleansed. God gave Adam and Eve their chance to confess their sin and receive forgiveness when He called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? (Genesis 3:9). Sadly, they clung to their pride and cast their blame on one another, on the serpent, and on God. As a result, the whole world was cursed and they remained in their sin, absolutely helpless against the powers of evil (Genesis 3:14–19). Adam and Eve were kicked out of the garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23–24).
God is first of all holy, but He is also a very gracious and loving God. In spite of the fairness of His judgment, He mercifully provided a way of escape from the condemnation of their sin, for God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). At that moment, God killed an animal in order to cover Adam and Eve’s nakedness so they could properly stand in His presence. Innocent blood was shed in order to cover them.
Even from the foundation of the world, God planned to provide a substitute, an acceptable Savior, who would give His life in exchange for all mankind, freeing them from the power of Satan, sin, and death. This redemption (buying back) was accomplished with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot (1 Peter 1:19). The innocent substitute would willingly shed His blood in order to clothe us in His righteousness (Romans 4:3–5) so we could be brought back into the family of God. He gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father (Galatians 1:4).
The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul (Leviticus 17:11). God instructed them to continue killing animals on an altar as a covering over their sin until the day when the woman’s seed, the Savior, would come to deliver them by offering His own life’s blood in exchange for theirs.
The blood of animals was only a picture of what was to come. They still carried guilt. It was a temporary cleansing they had to repeat year after year to delay God’s judgment until the true and final Day of Atonement; but God did take into account their faith in the future Lamb of God, who would spill His blood in exchange for theirs (Romans 4:3; John 1:29). God will not tolerate man’s effort to make himself acceptable to Him. Man can only come to God by God’s way, for Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me (John 14:6).
Adam’s offspring, Cain and Abel, had to decide for themselves whether or not to believe God’s promise of redemption. As we see in Genesis chapter 4, Abel came to God with a lamb, the firstling of his flock, and shed its blood on the altar. Abel demonstrated his faith by offering a more excellent sacrifice than Cain (Hebrews 11:4). On the other hand, Cain brought of the fruit of the ground, but the Lord had not respect for Cain’s offering (Genesis 4:3, 5). He obviously came to God with his own idea of an offering and was rejected. Cain’s pride led to an unrepentant attitude, jealousy, and the murder of his brother (Genesis 4:8).
All through the Old Testament, God graciously gave mankind shadows, or pictures, to remind them to put their faith in the coming Savior (Hebrews 10:1)— shadows like God’s provision of escape for Noah and his family (Genesis 6–9), Abraham sacrificing his son (Genesis 22:1–19), the serpent on the brass pole (Num. 21:6–9), manna (Exodus 16:11–36), the law, the tabernacle (Exodus 25–27), and the Passover lamb (Exodus 12:1–13:10), to name a few. These shadows could never have saved them from their sin. They only pointed forward to the day when the true Messiah would come. The Messiah, Jesus Christ, would become the second Adam (1 Corinthians 15:20–24, 45–48; Romans 5:14–15). He would be the true image of God, replacing the first Adam and showing us what we were created to be.
Christ is the only one qualified to give back to mankind that which the first Adam lost. By allowing His own innocent Son to die as the ultimate sacrifice for sin, God is able to clothe us in His righteousness (Romans 3:22–26).
What Is Salvation?
We read in John 15:16 that God takes the first step concerning our salvation: Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you. Luke 19:10 tells us that the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost. God takes the first step because He knows we will not (Romans 3:11). God’s purpose for every man, woman, and child is that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. He prearranged for our adoption by Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4-5; Romans 8:28-30), yet He makes us responsible to respond to Him with repentance and faith. The jailer in Acts 16:30-31 cried, What must I do to be saved? The answer from the apostles was, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.
Salvation is the change from our natural life to a spiritual life which God meant for us to have on this earth and for eternity, not something we might have in the hereafter (Romans 8:12–16). Jesus calls us to know Him deeply, love Him with all our hearts, walk closely with Him, and make Him the central focus of our lives. One of the religious leaders of the day asked Jesus a question: Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment (Matthew 22:36-38). This is the difference between knowing about Jesus and entering into a personal relationship with our living Savior. Knowing about Jesus is only knowing the facts that we learn, but this does not always impact our lives. Knowing Jesus by faith moves Him from our head to our hearts and dramatically changes our lives. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things become new (2 Corinthians 5:17).
John 1:29 states that Jesus Christ is the perfect Lamb of God who taketh away the sins of the world. He met the demands of the law for the atoning sacrifice—a male without blemish, offered voluntarily, and killed by the pouring out of his blood (Leviticus 1:3–5; Hebrews 12:24). He is the only person without sin, worthy to die in our place.
Why was a better sacrifice necessary? Because it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins (Hebrews 10:4). That was the condition of the old covenant, which did not satisfy God’s law. A perfect sacrifice and a new covenant were found in the person of Jesus Christ—the only one who could satisfy God’s wrath and justice. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).
On the evening before Jesus was crucified, while eating with his disciples, He lifted a cup, saying: This cup is the new testament [covenant] in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me (1 Corinthians 11:25). The shed blood of Jesus on the cross cleanses us of our sins once for all. If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved (Romans 10:9). Just as the Israelites were delivered from the hand of the death angel by the blood of a lamb (Exodus 12:21–51), so are we delivered from the hand of Satan, sin, and death through the blood of the Lamb of God (Hebrews 9:14). Speaking of Jesus, the apostle Peter said: Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved (Acts 4:12). Jesus is our perfect Savior!
Why do we need a savior? When we are dead, we are unable to bring ourselves to life spiritually. Our destiny is hell. Only the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ is able to accomplish the miracle of giving everlasting life. We who were dead in trespasses and sins were made alive by Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:1). Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour (Titus 3:5-6).
Right from the beginning of the church, we see the apostles preaching that we should repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38). “Repent” simply means to turn and go in the opposite direction. When we come to the realization that we cannot possibly make ourselves acceptable to God, we turn from what we’ve always believed in order to turn to what God says is true about Jesus Christ. We say to God, “You’re right, and I’m wrong. I’m going to obey Your instructions from now on.”
One of your first acts of obedience should be baptism, which identifies you with Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection. Jesus should be at the center of your life. Knowing Him should fuel a hunger within you to love God, love His Word, love His people, and love sharing the gospel with the lost. Seek Him in the Scriptures with all your heart. He alone is our only hope of salvation. Are you a child of God?
I would not work my soul to save,
For this my Lord hath done;
But I would work like any slave
For love of His dear Son.
He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life. These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God (1 John 5:12–13).
Thank You, Father, for giving us truth in Your Word. We do not even understand how sinful we are, and Your Word teaches us that we can’t do anything of ourselves to be cleansed. We are lost, but You have provided a way for us through the blood of Your Son. Thank You for loving us enough to send Jesus to suffer and die on our behalf. Our hearts bow down before You in love and admiration for Your goodness and Your righteousness. Thank You for saving us through Your Son, Jesus Christ.
Do your beliefs line up with our Anabaptist forefathers?
In this 160-page book, What Do the Amish Believe?, nine authors took the time to go back and study the original beliefs of our forefathers and compare what they believed to what many of us believe today.
Order your copy(s) from:
The Amish Voice,
575 US Highway 250
Greenwich, OH 44837
A $5 donation covers the cost of printing and postage.
Or you can purchase What Do the Amish Believe? online by clicking Here.
To read other chapters in this series on the Beliefs of our Forefathers, click below:
Chapter Eight: Sin and Salvation
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