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Preface

Dedication

To all the faithful disciples of Jesus Christ

in China who “loved not their lives even unto death” 

(Revelation 12:11)

Because of their lives, and sometimes also because

of their death, “the Lord added to the church daily 

those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47);

this He continues to do in large numbers 

up to this present day.

 

Preface

Most Christians will admit that they have little understand­ing of the fundamentals of sal­vation. In Biblical teaching, salvation can be described by the terms regeneration, renewal, and perfection as its three main elements. Most Christians are unfamiliar with any of these terms, and are gen­erally uninformed of what it means to be saved. Their under­stand­ing of so import­ant a matter as salvation is often limited to a few scattered verses of the Bible which they are unable to draw together into a coherent framework. This is alarming for it indicates that the average Christian doesn’t really know what it means to be a Christian. And Christians who don’t know what it is to be a Christian are, in effect, Christians who are non-Christians. For how can we be Christians without knowing what the basic principles of the Christian life are?

Many Christians, when they hear that dying with Christ is the first step in becoming a new person in Christ (Romans 6:3-5), are so taken aback by it that they wonder if this is some new doctrine. And in the case of those who have at least heard of it, they usually do not know what dying with Christ means exactly, other than that it has some kind of sym­bolic meaning. But if dying with Christ is merely symbolic, it would follow that rising with him in resurrection is also sym­bolic. The message of the Gospel deals mainly with practical reality, with real life, and not just symbols and concepts.

Other Christians consider themselves well informed for being able to ex­plain salvat­ion in terms of a substitutionary theology, yet with­out explaining how it brings out the meaning of dying with Christ. All too often, its prac­tical application, which is where its primary importance lies, is buried under quasi-theological jargon. As a result, the meaning of the new life in Christ is lost from view and, with it, the hope of living victoriously in our daily Christian walk.

As for the crucial element of perfection in the Biblical teaching on salvation, it is a subject that most preachers discreetly avoid, regarded as a daunt­ing theme to be sidestepped. The thinking of most teachers and preachers probably goes like this: “If it is with difficulty that the righteous one is saved’’ (1Peter 4:18), why make the Christian life more difficult by bringing up the subject of perfection, and with it the sinister shadows of “perfectionism”?

This work first took shape through a series of messages preached over a period of three years, the first of which was delivered in August 1982. They were made available in the tape libraries of a number of churches and published in condensed form in Oasis, the newsletter of Christian Disciples Church.

It was not until Bentley Chan coor­dinated the transcription of the mess­ages and edited them to make the messages more readable in written form that there was an impetus to bringing this book into being. Were it not for Bentley’s dedication, determination and, above all, devot­ion to God, it is not at all certain when this work in its pre­sent form could have reached the general reader. Moreover, the Lord had given him the insight by which he perceived the spiritual import­ance of these messages on salvation, which he felt ought to be made available to a wider audience. I wish, therefore, to record my heartfelt gratitude to Pastor Bentley for his enormous contribution. He has also done, in the midst of his busy schedule, the proofreading and the formatting, and prepared the Script­ure index. Even though it is my obligation and joy to acknowledge my thanks to him, it was of course not my gratitude he sought in the first place. Rather, it is the “well done my good and faithful servant” which he seeks from the Lord that motivates him. I am certain that, by God’s bountiful grace, he will not fail to receive that commend­ation on that Day.

In my final editing, much of the material had been rewritten to reduce even further the colloquialisms which still re­mained, to im­prove the flow of thought where needed, and to add supplement­ary material where more clar­ification was called for. Where the supple­mentary mater­ial was extensive, an Appended Note would be added at the end of the chapter. As a result of these additions, about one third of the material is new.

Those conscious of literary style will notice variations in style in the book. Some sections retain more of the casual colloquial style of the original messages as they were delivered from the pulpit, whereas supplementary material added later has a more literary style.

Though based on careful exegesis, this work is not meant to be an acad­emic discourse on soteriology, but is addressed to everyone who is con­cerned about the vital matter of salvation.

It remains for me to state, even though it should be self-evident, that responsibility for any infelicities, inad­equacies, or mis­takes rests solely with me. Every time I re-read the manuscript, I feel that some­thing could be improved. But if I carry on in this fashion, I suppose the book may never reach the pub­lishers.

Given the constraints of administrative responsi­bilities, I must now leave the work as it stands, realizing that absolute perfection is unattainable in this present age. We must therefore be content with a relative perfection, if by God’s grace we can attain even that. May the Lord our Redeemer be glorified in spite of our “spots” and “wrinkles” (cf. Eph.5:27). May God’s church be built up in these last days, and may the word of His mighty and wondrous salvation reach the ends of the earth.

Eric Chang

August, 2004

Montreal, Canada

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church