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A Matter of Life and Death

Good Bible doctrine, otherwise called good theology, is indeed a matter of life and death.  Now, to be perfectly clear from the start, all the right knowledge is not what is essential to salvation, but faith in the message that God gave to us to believe through the Apostle Paul:

1 Corinthians 15:1–4 — “Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you THE GOSPEL which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand; BY WHICH ALSO YE ARE SAVED, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that CHRIST DIED FOR OUR SINS ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES; AND THAT HE WAS BURIED, AND THAT HE ROSE AGAIN THE THIRD DAY ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES…”

As simple as that gospel message is, as Larry Moyer of EvanTell often says:

“The Bible is 66 books. The gospel is 10 words: Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead.”

the importance of that which is in the “66 books” should not be underestimated, and as we often point out, we must “rightly divide the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15) to properly understand it.  The example above is an example of such “rightly dividing”, taking out the essential gospel to show “this is what you need first” or as the Apostle Paul stated, “I delivered unto you first of all”.

As we have in the past few articles been examining the classic hymn “It is Well With My Soul”, we have now come to the 4th stanza:

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan¹ above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.


Knowing and believing the gospel of Christ that we just presented is absolutely enough for a sinner to be saved, completely forgiven, and completely justified before God.  So what makes good, correct doctrine a matter of life and death?  We are saved anyway, are we not?

Answering the second question first, yes, indeed, absolutely we are saved.  In the stanza under consideration, however, salvation from sin is not in question.  The hymn-writer’s “inspiration²” in that verse comes from Paul’s epistle to the Philippians:

Philippians 1:19–21 — “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

Bad doctrine will not rob the saved man of his salvation.  His life is hid with Christ in God (Colossians 3:3);  but without the full assurance of understanding, how can one be assured, even of that salvation?  Why do so many live in fear and in lack of hope?

One cannot live in hope, nor can he die in hope, if bad doctrine has taken hold of him, robbing him of that assurance.  How many have been truly saved by grace through faith and yet live their entire lives trying to prove that they really are saved, or to be sure that they have not lost that which is hid with Christ in God?  We can, and most certainly would lose it.  He will certainly not!  But lack of that assurance will certainly rob us of that assurance that for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.

To live for Christ, one must first be in Christ.  To live for Christ, the apostle Paul beseeches that the believer present his body as a living sacrifice:

Romans 12:1 — “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.”

This is not a further clarification of how to be saved, or how to remain saved, but it is the apostle beseeching — requesting in a way that calls the believer to availability, not as a matter of “this do or else”, but as a matter of reasonable response to the mercies of God.  The Greek word is parakaleō which has a literal sense of calling along side and is a leading by example type word.  It has a sense to it here as the Apostle stated in 1 Corinthians 11:

1 Corinthians 11:1 — “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”

That is in life — to live is Christ.  But what about in death?  How can we face death with a song that says “it is well with my soul”?

It is by belief in the word of God.  When we read the entire 15th chapter of 1 Corinthians, where we quoted at the beginning the first four verses as the simple, essential gospel message, we find that the Apostle reminds his reader of this to make a clear and essential point:

1 Corinthians 15:4 — “…and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures…”

And from that point Paul continues, after stating just how many witnesses and heralds of the resurrection there were:

1 Corinthians 15:12 — “Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?”

A loss of hope in the resurrection will cause all hope to be lost.  Without the hope of resurrection, to die is gain of what?

But the Apostle makes it absolutely clear:

1 Corinthians 15:20–23 — “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.”

Believing the gospel of Christ as stated in verses 1 through 4 is the one essential for the salvation that is by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8).  For a productive Christian life, with full assurance in our own soul in life and in death, we must truly understand and believe all that the resurrection of Christ means, so that we truly can say in life and in death “it is well with my soul”.

Belief in the gospel is salvation from sin and its just punishment.  As we further understand the gospel as the scriptures do surely teach, it is salvation from a life of fear and despair.

Good theology is truly good for the soul.


  1. Theologians often speak of “Jordan” as representing death.  That is the way that the hymn-writer speaks of Jordan here.  People speak of “crossing Jordan” meaning dying, and entering into the promised land, which to them is Heaven. I really do not see that in scripture.  Every time that I see the river Jordan in Scripture, it is actually referring to a real geographic entity, the Jordan River, a river that is like our Mississippi River or any other.  The “promised land” is the land of Caanan.  The Old Testament scriptures never spoke of Caanan as representing anything other than the land promised to the fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  But, we understand what he meant so we will not make a big deal about it, other than to point this out.
  2. Here we use “inspiration” in the way that human writers speak of it.  This is indeed very different than the inspiration of God that the apostle Paul speaks of in 2 Timothy 3:16, where the written word (scripture) is said to be breathed out by God (θεόπνευστος).

Charles Miller View All

Husband, father, engineer...Enjoys fishing, archery, guitar, running, and lifting, but most of all reading and studying God's Word.

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