Devotional Readings, John Bunyan

Mark 15 – Save thou self!

I’ve been spending some time on the doctrine of election and a new one to me Final Justification by Works.

The initial question is can we actually save ourselves. Often phrased that we are saved by Grace, through Faith alone, through Christ alone…essentials of the 5 Solas of the reformed faith…..but that’s only 99% of the process, we must though our own will provide the other 1%, our accepting God’s gift of His election and call.

The second part…is our final salvation and entry into heaven actually based on our works….presummed to be added to our initial faith. In our post-reformation culture today this is actively debated. You can read a portion of the debate here: Trinity Foundation

Through faith alone we appropriate Christ and his righteousness, which is why the Larger Catechism provides the following answer to question 73: “How doth faith justify a sinner in the sight of God?”

Faith justifies a sinner in the sight of God, not because of those other graces which do always accompany it, or of good works that are the fruits of it (Gal. 3:11; Rom. 3:28), nor as if the grace of faith, or any act thereof, were imputed to him for his justification (Rom. 4:5; Rom 10:10); but only as it is an instrument by which he receiveth and applieth Christ and his righteousness (John 1:12; Phil 3:9; Gal 2:16).

John Bunyan wrote a whole book on those who make a false profession, and decieve themselves and others: The Barren Fig Tree, or, The doom and downfall of the fruitless professor.

Further on the faith doctrine we read:

J. G. Vos On Good Works And Salvation In Westminster Larger Catechism 32

6. What condition is attached to the covenant of grace?
The condition attached to the covenant of grace is faith in Jesus Christ.

13. Why Should a Christian want to obey the law of God as an evidence of the truth of his faith and thankfulness to God.
A Christian should want to obey the law of God as an evidence of the truth of his faith and thankfulness to God.

14. What other reason is there why a Christian should want to obey the law of God?
A Christian should want to obey because that is “the way which God hath appointed to salvation.” This does not mean that obeying God’s law is any part of the ground of our salvation, but that being saved from sin unto righteousness, obedience to the law is the way that God has appointed for a saved person to walk in, and the person who is saved will want to forsake sin and follow righteousness more and more.

J. G. VOS, Commentary on the Westminster Larger Catechism, Larger Catechism 32.

So what does this have to do with Mark 15. It just strikes me that even Jesus as the Son of God did not take up the challenge to save himself, so how can we expect credit for doing so?

Can we save ourselves…I don’t think so, but if we do hear the call and the Spirit opens our hearts to our salvation, as we read we should want to walk in that grace, both believing in faith and doing as instructed, but neither of these are what saved us. I know it is a subtile distinction….is it faith because we will it, or are we given even this by grace, the ability to have faith. If that be the case then that truly is an amazing grace.


Mar 15:30  Save thyself, and come down from the cross.

Gill writes on this in Matthew 27:40

And saying, thou that destroyest the temple,…. The Vulgate Latin, and Munster’s Hebrew Gospel, read, “the temple of God”; and add “ah!” here, as in Mar 15:29, and so Beza says it is read in a certain copy. They refer to the charge of the false witnesses against him, who misrepresenting his words in Joh 2:19, declared that he gave out that he was able to destroy the temple of Jerusalem, and rebuild it in three days time; wherefore it is added,

and buildest it in three days, save thyself. They reproach him with it, and suggest, that these were vain and empty boasts of his; for if he was able to do any thing of that kind, he need not hang upon the tree, but could easily save himself:

if thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. The Jews themselves say (a) that the following words were said to Jesus on the cross,

“if thou be the Son of God, why dost thou not deliver thyself out of our hands?

As Satan before them, they put an “if” upon the sonship of Christ: and seeing his followers believed in him as the Son of God, and he had owned himself to be so before the sanhedrim, they require a sign of it by his power, and to do that which they believed no mere man in his situation could do; which shows, that they had no other notion of the Son of God, but that he was a divine person: but his sonship was not to be declared by his coming down from the cross, which he could have easily effected, but by a much greater instance of power, even by his resurrection from the dead; and no other but that sign was to be given to that wicked and perverse generation,

(a) Toldos Jesu, p. 17.

Further recall…

Mat 4:5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
Mat 4:6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.

Plus Gill clarifies a verse from Paul.

1Ti 4:16 Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.

1 Timothy 4:16

Take heed unto thyself,…. Not as a man, or a Christian only, but as a minister; and as every minister should take heed to his life and conversation, that it be exemplary, as in 1Ti 4:12 to his gifts, that they be not lost, or neglected, but used and improved; to the errors and heresies abroad, that he be not infected with them; and to his flock, which is the other part of himself, that he feed it with knowledge and understanding: and to thy doctrine: preached by him, that it be according to the Scriptures, be the doctrine of Christ, and his apostles, and according to godliness; that it tend to edification, and is pure, incorrupt, and all of a piece; and that it be expressed in the best manner, with all boldness and plainness; and that he defend it against all opposition:

continue in them; or “with them”; the members of the church at Ephesus; or rather in the doctrines of the Gospel; which should be done, though a majority is against them; though rejected by the wise, learned, and rich; though not to be comprehended by carnal reason; and though loaded with reproach and scandal; and though persecuted, yea even unto death for them:

for in doing this, thou shall both save thyself; a minister by taking heed to himself, and doctrine, saves himself from the pollutions of the world, from the errors and heresies of false teachers, from the blood of all men, and from all just blame in his ministry.

And them that hear thee; by being an example to them in doctrine and conversation, a minister is the means of saving and preserving those that attend on him, from erroneous principles, and immoral practices; and by faithfully preaching the Gospel to his hearers, he is instrumental in their eternal salvation; for though Jesus Christ is the only Saviour, the only efficient and procuring cause of salvation, yet the ministers of the Gospel are instruments by which souls believe in him, and so are saved; the word preached by them, being attended with the Spirit of God, becomes the ingrafted word, which is able to save, and is the power of God unto salvation; and nothing can more animate and engage the ministers of the word to take heed to themselves and doctrine, and abide therein, than this, of being the happy instruments of converting sinners, and saving them from death; see Jas 5:20.

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