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Preface

Preface

The vast majority of Christians will readily admit that they have little understanding of even the fundamentals of sal­vation. The Biblical teaching on 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 about 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 would be unable to draw together into a coherent pattern. This is alarming because 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 Christians 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, for example, when they hear the Biblical teaching 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. In the case of those who have at least heard of it, they have usually never been told what exactly dying with Christ means, other than that it has some kind of sym­bolic meaning. But if dying with him is something symbolic, then it necessarily follows that rising with him in resurrection is also sym­bolic. Symbols belong to the realm of ideas rather than to the world of actuality. The message of the Gospel is concerned prim­arily with practical reality, with real life, and not just with symbols and ideas.

Others consider themselves well informed when they explain salvation in terms of a substitutionary theology, yet do not indicate how the significance of dying with Christ is thereby explicated. All too often its practical application, which is where its primary importance lies, is buried under quasi-theology jargon. Thus the significance of this essential principle 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 vitally important element of being perfect in the Biblical teaching on salvation, that is a subject most preachers discreetly avoid, hardly ever venturing into so daunting a theme. Perhaps the thinking of most preachers and teachers is: “If it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved’’ (1Pet.4.18), who wants to make the Christian life more difficult by bringing up the subject of perfection, and with it the sinister shadows of “perfectionism”? Perhaps it didn’t occur to them that the “difficulty” in relation to salvation is not made less difficult but more so by the lack of per­fection!

This work first took shape through a series of messages preached over a period of almost three years, the first of which was delivered some twenty years ago, in August 1982. They were 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 Pastor Bentley Chan took the initiative to coor­dinate the transcription of the messages (taking upon himself the major share of that arduous work), and provided the editing needed to make the messages more readable in printed form, that the impetus was given to bringing this book into being. He spent long hours working on the original manuscripts, which he did in addition to his pastoral ministry. He also provided most of the chapter and section headings, as well as some of the footnotes.

Were it not for Pastor 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 gave him the spiritual insight by which he perceived the importance of these messages on salvation, which he felt needed urgently to be made available to a wider audience. His persistence in pressing on with the editorial work at a time when I was busily preoccupied with the many matters involved in a growing work and did not give the necessary attention to these manuscripts, effectively shamed me into turning my attention to completing the final stages of editing that were needed to bring this work to completion.

I wish, therefore, to record my heartfelt gratitude to Pastor Bentley for his enormous contribution, and not least for his unstint­ing assistance where computer expertise was required (that was his specialty before entering the ministry), which has made it possible to bring this work to a conclusion at this time. In addition, he has also done the proofreading, the formatting, and prepared the Script­ure Index—all this in the midst of his present busy schedule. And 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 the final editing, much of the original 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 required. Where the supplementary mater­ial was too extensive, an Appended Note was 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 following chapters. This is because those sections which were lightly edited retain more of the casual colloquial style of the orig­inal message as it was delivered from the pulpit. Supplementary or explanatory material added later has a somewhat more literary style. This is unavoidable, since we don’t write in exactly the same way as we speak. Hopefully the stylistic variations won’t be seen to detract from the work, but rather serve to enhance it by providing a touch of variety!

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

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

Given also 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

 

(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church