Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jew, and also to the Greek, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.Acts 20:18-21

In all ages Satan has attacked and undermined the first steps toward reconciliation between God and man. Satan knows that if he can stop the first steps toward God he will have made the sacrifice of Christ to be of no avail. Thus, he has always labored very diligently to deviate man from the strait gate that gives entrance into the narrow way, and he does this primarily by deceiving man about the conditions that must be met in order to enter into life. It is much easier to deceive man about the entrance when he is in darkness than it is to deceive him about the narrowness of the way when he is walking in the light.

The work of God in man is like any other work, in that, unless the proper foundation is laid, the work can never be accomplished. The body can never be glorified if the soul is not sanctified, the soul can never be sanctified unless the spirit is regenerated, the spirit can never be regenerated unless it be born again, the spirit can never be born again unless the past sins are forgiven, but the past sins can never be forgiven unless the proper conditions are met. Hence, forgiveness of sins is the foundation upon which all of the work of restoration rests and this foundation cannot be laid unless the ground is properly prepared and the necessary conditions met.

Salvation is a work of God alone. Man can never earn his salvation, and he cannot be saved when and where he wants. Man cannot even know that he must be saved unless this be revealed to him by the power of the Holy Spirit. Although most men are aware of the innate sinfulness of the human race and although most men live with an inward sense of guilt and foreboding, no man can or ever will find out what the problem with the world is nor will he ever find the solution to his troubles of mind and soul by his own efforts and intellect. All of the religions and philosophies of man have never solved his problems. As a matter of fact, they have served more as greased planks to help men slide off into the pit of hell. And why is this so? Because, being armed with his religions and philosophies, man will shield himself from the conviction and condemnation brought by the Holy Spirit at his visitation.

Only when the Holy Spirit visits a sinful man can he be saved. There is a day of visitation and it has nothing to do with religion or doctrines or churches. It is for this reason that thousands of ministers and theologians study the Scriptures and expound about the things of God in great detail without themselves having ever experienced the real thing. Literally millions of people profess salvation and the new birth without evidencing in the least the outward marks and manifestations of this glorious work of God in the heart. In short, salvation is forever beyond the reach of man, both in the mental comprehension and in the actual experience of the thing.

As I said above, salvation is completely a work of God. Not that man has nothing to do with his salvation. It is only that man of himself can do nothing in order to obtain it. Man must be awakened by the Holy Spirit to his undone condition, and then he must be lead step by step out of his lost state into the kingdom of God. It is only by God's grace that man is saved and this is a grand piece of work that can only be accomplished by the mighty power of God, because Jesus Christ and the way of God are not at all appealing to the rebellious, self-willed sinner. As Isaiah said, "And when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him."

By the very nature of the fall man is rebellious, self-willed, proud, arrogant, self-complacent, and not at all given to confession of guilt. This is not to say that he will not readily admit to sin, because he can hardly deny it. But his nature is such that he will never confess to guilt. He will have a multitude of justifications and excuses. He will never from his heart confess that he is evil and that he does what he does merely because that is what he wants to do. Because he always thinks that he deserves special consideration and that God understands his peculiar situation, he will never acknowledge that he deserves to go to hell. Down inside he is sure that God will overlook his many transgressions. And as saith the Psalmist,

The transgression of the wicked saith within my heart that there is no fear of God before his eyes. Psalm 36:1

It is utterly impossible for the natural man to see just how depraved and sinful he really is except that the light of the Lord expose it to his own eyes. Man is willing to do almost anything except give up his will to God. He will adopt all manner of ascetic practices and do almost any service in order to obtain his salvation. He will give his body to be burned and he will give all of his goods to the poor. He will pray and fast until his body is emaciated. He will worship all manner of false gods and he will devote his whole life to their service in monasteries and convents. But when the Spirit of the Lord visits him, he will draw back from the cross that is presented to him. Jesus Christ is now and always has been a burdensome stone to the lost. It is for this reason that men crucified Him when He lived upon the earth, and for this same reason they will crucify Him now when He appears to them by His Spirit.

From the underlined portion of the Scripture at the beginning of this article we can see that there are two important questions that must be resolved before one can experience salvation. Salvation comes from conversion, and conversion comes from settling these two questions in the day of visitation, i.e., the Christ question and the sin question. One can never be said to be converted unless he changes from what he is to what he must be. That change is contained in these two issues—who I serve and how I live. Although I was not conscious of it, I was serving Satan and I was a slave to my own lusts. Now I must serve Jesus Christ alone and I must quit sinning. That is conversion.

Man in his unconverted state is a servant of Satan and he lives to fulfill the lusts of the mind and of the flesh. He may not believe that he is a servant of Satan, and he may not even believe in Satan. But because there are only two masters in this world, God and Satan, he is serving Satan if he is not consciously serving God in newness of life.

Is a sinner really free to choose between good and evil? Is he not a slave to his lusts and to Satan? Can a sinner cease from sin whenever he desires? I know from experience that no sinner has free will because he can never perform the good that he might desire to do and he cannot cease from the sins that so rule his life. Thus, a sinner only has an illusion of free will.

Free will means not only the power to choose between good and evil but it also means the power to do good or evil. No sinner has this power and, therefore, he does not have free will. He is a slave to sin and to Satan. He is driven by his lusts, whatever they may be. Good sinners are driven to commit good sins, and bad sinners are driven to commit bad sins. High minded men are driven to fulfill the lusts of the mind, and low minded men are driven to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. But in both cases they are each slaves to Satan and to their own peculiar lusts.

Men in the fall do not serve Satan because they love him, but because they have no choice. According to the apostle Paul, Satan is the god of this present world and they are his subjects. He doesn't care if a man believes in him or not. He is totally indifferent to man's opinion because the power is in his hands to rule this world. He is the prince of this world and shall be until Jesus Christ comes back, destroys him and his kingdom, and sets up His own glorious kingdom upon the earth. In addition, he is equally indifferent to man's goodness and man's religions because in both they remain servants of sin and under his power and dominion. As long as a man sins, he is a servant of Satan. This is what the apostle means when he says,

Whosoever abideth in Him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen Him, neither known Him...He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifest, that He might destroy the works of the devil. Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for His seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil... I John 3:6-10

From these verses of Scripture we can readily see, if we want to see it, that there is one and only one way to know whom we serve. If I sin, I am a child of Satan. If I do not sin, I am a child of God. All men in the natural, unconverted state sin. Thus, all men, whatever their pretenses, are servants of Satan until they are changed by the mighty power of God and pass from death unto life.

In view of this, is there any activity of the natural man that is free from the rule and dominion of Satan? Can man in his natural state ever be free from Satan's power? The apostle John tells us that "the whole world lieth in wickedness," or as most versions of the Bible translate it, "the whole world is in the power of the evil one." Is this an exaggeration on the part of the apostle? If it is not, then this means that all that man does is tainted by the power and influence of Satan. It means that Satan rules in all of man's affairs, including his religions. In short, it means that man worships Satan and gives obedience to him in all that he does—in his religion, in his politics, in his work, in his play, in his family life, in his evil deeds, and in his good deeds. Seen in this light, life becomes frightening.

The Scriptures reveal and experience teaches that man is a slave to Satan from his birth. He has no free will because he is not free. He is free to theorize, but he is not free to act because he lacks the power necessary to put into effect his choices. But there comes a time in every man's life when he is visited by the Holy Spirit with light and power. The light reveals to him his lost and undone condition and the power enables him to act so as to determine his destiny. This is what John means when he says,

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.John 1:12

It is at this point that a man becomes a free will agent. Now he is capable of choosing to do good or to do evil. Now he is capable of choosing whom he will serve because the power of the Holy Spirit is available to him to break the power of Satan if he desires to be free.

Prior to this visitation a man may become religious, a man may accept Christ as his Savior, or a man may seek to live a holy life in a monastery, but it is impossible for him to accomplish anything other than a reformation, i.e., an outward conformity to man's piety. He can never truly repent and conform himself to the image of Christ. He must be visited by the Holy Spirit in heavenly power and he must be changed by this power in his inward being. Just as a leopard cannot lose his spots and an Ethiopian cannot change the color of his skin, neither can a man change who he is in his inward being.

In the day of a man's visitation by the Holy Spirit the divine light of Christ shines into the darkness of his heart and reveals to him the true state of his soul. For the first time in his life his eyes are opened so that he can see the truth about himself and about the world around him. For the first time in his life he can see that he has been a willing slave to Satan and that he has never in his whole life served God in truth. He can see his hypocrisy and his self-deception, and he can see that he is lost and undone, without God and without hope.

This revelation from the Spirit of God brings the individual for the first time in his life to the state of free will. The light of Christ enlightens him to his true condition and gives him power to choose his destiny. Because he is made aware of his lost state, he is also made aware of his bondage to Satan. He can see plainly that God is calling him out from his servitude to the great enemy of mankind in order that he might serve Him in newness of life.

The apostle Paul explains this idea very plainly in his letter to the Philippians as follows: out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. Philippians 2:12,13

As can be seen, God works in the individual the desire to do His will and He also gives him the ability to do what He desires him to do. The visitation of the Holy Spirit brings this willingness and ability, and this must be worked out by the individual in fear and trembling lest the visitation pass away. This is free will, a thing that he has never had before, the ability to desire and the ability to do the will of God. And if in fear and trembling one converts to this visitation, he will witness a continuance of this free will, this ability to choose and to do the will of God working in his inward parts, until he passes out of this life into heavenly glory. But from the beginning to the end it must be worked out in fear and trembling, else joining with the evil, the Spirit will depart and the free will will also depart and the man returns into the pit of darkness and slavery to Satan.

In the Sermon of the Mount Jesus says,

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13,14

By examining these words of Jesus we can see that there are three roads in which one may walk in this life. First, there is the common road into which everyone is born and in which everyone walks during the first part of his life. Although it may appear that life is unequal and that, therefore, there is not really a common road, this is only an illusion. Spiritually, all men are born on an equal basis—with their backs toward God and with their mouths full of lies. No matter what their outward stations may be in this life, whether they are white, black, yellow, or red; whether they are stupid, average, or intelligent; whether they are poor, middle class, or rich, before the all-seeing eyes of the Almighty God they are walking in the same road, the road leading to their day of visitation.

Second, we see that this road leads to two gates, one wide and one narrow. We see that the wide gate, which can be easily passed through, gives access to a broad road which is obviously very easy to the travelers. Because of the wideness of the gate one can pass through it without being required to lose anything that he is carrying in the first road. And since the road to which the gate leads is such that it is no more difficult than what one wants it to be, it is the choice of most wayfarers in this life.

Third, we see that the strait or narrow gate, which is passed through only with much difficulty, gives access to a narrow road which is obviously very difficult to traverse. This gate is so narrow that one must let loose of everything that he is carrying in the first road in order to pass through it. Because of the wideness of the one gate and the straitness of the other and the broadness of the one road and the narrowness of the other, almost everyone chooses the broad road which leads to destruction, and almost no one elects the narrow way that leads to life.

From these words of Jesus we can conclude that at some time in his life everyone is brought to the choice implied by the two gates and their corresponding ways. Also, we can see that one does not accidently or unconsciously pass through the strait gate; this gate is so narrow that one can pass through it only by great exertion. Thus, it is only by a conscious, adult choice that one can enter into the narrow way that leads to eternal life. This gate is called repentance. and this road is called the Way of Life.

It must be remembered that according to Jesus' words the gate itself does not give access to eternal life, but rather to the life-style that leads to it. Entering into the way does not guarantee an entrance into heaven. To inherit eternal life, one must persevere until the end. But the way in which one must walk after he chooses his gate is just as wide or narrow as the gate through which he passes. Thus, passing through the gate that gives entrance into the way that leads to life everlasting is just the first step in a new way of life, a life that is hid with Christ in God.

The folly of modern fundamentalist churches is that they offer a salvation without a true repentance toward God. They think that they can have their world and their heaven too. The emphasis today is in faith toward Jesus Christ. One is told that all that he must do is accept Christ as his Savior and he shall be saved. But it should be obvious that a faith toward Jesus Christ that works a true repentance toward God is not the same thing as accepting Jesus as Savior. As a matter of fact, the church world is so far removed from the Truth that they don't even know that the very popular doctrine of accepting Jesus as Savior is not to be found in the Bible.

What then does it mean to have faith toward Jesus Christ? What does it mean to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ so that we may be saved? In order to understand this we must have a clear idea of salvation. What does it mean to be saved? This is the key question because it is the key to understanding the Gospel. The word gospel means good news. So what is the good news that the coming of Christ into the world was to bring to us? It is the good news that Jesus Christ has come to save His people from their sins. When the angel announced to Joseph that Mary was to give birth to Jesus, he said,

And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. Matthew 1:21

Salvation is salvation from sins. Man in the first birth is a slave to sin, and Jesus Christ has come to set him free from this bondage. This is salvation, and anything that comes short of this is not salvation. If a man claims to be saved while he is in bondage to sin, he is deceived. Or as the apostle says,

He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his command-ments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
I John 2:4

Jesus Christ cannot save us from our sins unless we turn from them by a sincere repentance. But man cannot repent by his own will and efforts. Repentance is the gift of God whereby a man is enabled to turn his back on the world, the flesh, and the devil and to turn his face toward God to walk in conformity to His will. And this gift comes only through faith toward Jesus Christ. When the Holy Spirit visits the individual and reveals the truth about himself to him, he may begin to feel a sorrow for his past. But there are two kinds of sorrows that he may feel, as explained by Paul,

Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death. II Corinthians 7:10

If we examine the behavior after Jesus death of the two men who betrayed Him, we can see an example of each of these sorrows and the result of each. Peter betrayed Jesus by denying Him, but Peter repented of his great sin and followed Jesus faithfully ever after. On the other hand, lets consider Judas who betrayed Jesus for money. Although he wept bitterly afterwards and even returned the money to those that paid him, which shows plainly that he was sorry, what did he do? He killed himself. Clearly his sorrow was not a godly sorrow as was the sorrow of Peter, seeing that it did not work the same good end.

If the individual gives place to a godly sorrow when he is visited by the Holy Spirit, he will begin to desire to change his life in order to live in conformity to God's will. He will realize that he has sinned greatly against the Lord and will seek forgiveness for his many trangressions. He will know that the wrath of God rests upon him and that one day he will receive his just recompense of reward. A great fear will begin to fill his soul because he will be conscious that he is unable to atone for his own sins and, in addition, he will be painfully conscious that he himself can never change his heart. For the first time in his life, whether heathen or Bible scholar, he will understand who Jesus Christ really is and why He came into the world to die on the cross.

This knowledge is not something that the natural man can ever acquire on his own because it is a knowledge that one must receive from the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit alone. It can not be dug out of the Bible nor can it be received from a preacher. It can be infused into the soul only by the Spirit of God. Men may think that they see it and they may claim to be saved by it, but without a revelation from God to the soul all that they can have is a mental conception about Jesus Christ and the gospel and all that they can receive is a mental salvation without the life and power.

What is this great knowledge that not even an intellectual genius can learn by long and arduous study? What is this great knowledge that not even great Bible scholars and theologians can dig out of the sacred writings? What is this absolutely indispensable knowledge that can be known only by its being infused into the heart by the Holy Ghost? It is the unmistakable and certain knowledge that no sinner can enter into the presence of God. Once one fully understands this startling fact that can never really be understood except by revelation from God, one will be fully persuaded that he must miserably perish forever unless he has a Savior who will give him power to live above sin. This is a Savior that staggers the mind, a Savior that sets a man free from the power of sin so that he may be perfect as the Father in heaven is perfect. To believe in this kind of a Savior is more than most men are willing to do because they love darkness rather than light.

Most men are not willing to believe in a Savior of any kind because they do not want to change their manner of life. They love their sins and they have no desire to be free from them. However, there are many who are willing to believe in a Savior that can save from the wrath of God as long as they do not have to give up their pet sins. They love some of their sins and have no desire to be rid of all of them. So they refuse to believe that no sinner can enter into God's presence. In other words, they want to believe that a sinner can enter into the presence of God as long as he accepts Jesus as his personal Savior and is somehow mysteriously clothed with Christ's righteousness so that God can't see the filth of his sinful soul or as long as he is a faithful member of some particular church that claims to have some special powers on the earth to save its adherents.

There are few indeed who want to believe in a Savior that saves from all sin. It is not that men cannot believe that Jesus Christ can set them free from the power of sin so that they need not sin. Rather it is that they wickedly do not want to believe it. The truth is that they do not want to be free from all sin. Yet no man who has experienced the visitation of the Holy Spirit can possibly believe any other thing without first hardening his heart against the Lord. He must then refuse to believe that God is a holy God who's eyes are too pure to behold iniquity and that He dwells in a holy heaven surrounded by holy angels who sing day and night, "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty." It is utter folly to think that that most holy God would allow a sinner to taint His holy domain with the foulness of his sinful presence.

So then what does it really mean to have faith toward Jesus Christ? It is to have no doubts at all that He is able to save to the uttermost and to make us more than conquerors, as the apostle Paul expressly declares; it is to have no doubts at all that all men everywhere have the same opportunity to experience the love of God through Him—the Chinese man, the Hindu, the Amazonian, the African Pygmy, the Englishman, the German, the American; it is to have no doubts at all that God is just in all of His dealings with man and that at the Judgment no man will rightly be able to accuse Him of unfairness; it is to have no doubts at all that Jesus Christ is the eternal Word of God, that Word which was in the beginning with God, that Word which is God, and that He must be obeyed in all things in order to escape the just damnation of hell forever; and it is to have no doubts at all that Jesus Christ can and will save from the power of sin anyone who comes to Him in full obedience to His will.

This is a living faith toward Jesus Christ. This is what it means to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ with all of your heart so that you can be saved. This, then, is what it means to settle the Christ question. Any faith in Jesus Christ which is less than this is no saving faith because it can't prepare and enable the soul to repent toward God. And without settling the sin question no man can be saved.