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SALVATION

By Jim Roberts

 

Many years ago, while I was just a boy, a rough, tough, lumberjack, surrounded by a group of equally hardened men, barked teasingly at my Dad saying, "Hey Ed, we hear ya got saved last night!"

Though that particular atheist's words were meant to be sarcastic, they were, nonetheless...true. My father had indeed received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior the night before at a little church in the logging town in which our family lived. Word gets around fast in a small town...a very small town, I might add.

What do those words mean, anyway? Just what IS "salvation," in the Christian context? What does it mean to be "saved?" Saved from what? Who saves? Why is one saved? How is one saved? Where is one saved? When is one saved? If you were a reporter for a major newspaper assigned to do a story on salvation, are these not the questions you would ask? Is this not the approach you would take in order to acquire enough meaningful information to reach a solid conclusion? Of course it is; so this is precisely the manner in which WE will deal with the subject of salvation.

Many people are convinced that most healthy, accident-free individuals usually live 70 to 85 years, give or take a few years, and then die. They claim that's all there is to life. Therefore, they feel that while we're here on this earth we are to live it up, do the best we can, make as much money and enjoy as much success as possible, and then simply fade away into oblivion when "our time comes."

In school we're taught that we evolved from some amoebic form of life that simply began when the entire universe was formed due to a massive explosion of - well, of whatever is capable of exploding before anything exists; in other words, the "Big Bang!" A little poem we learned as children explained the results of a portion of the explosion's aftermath this way (read it aloud):

Once I was a tadpole
Then I learned to swim,
And became a bullfrog
With my tail tucked in.
Soon I was a monkey
Hanging from a tree,
And today I am a doctor
With a Ph.D.

Despite the myriad "scientific" theories concerning mankind's origins and existence, we all continue to ponder things like, why we're here and what the meaning of life is. Somehow, for many of us, the idea that we originated from some obscure cellular substance, having no definitive beginning and no predetermined purpose, makes no sense. So let's look for some answers concerning salvation that DO make sense.

SAVED FROM WHAT?
Following their creation by God in his own image and likeness, Adam and Eve fell from God's grace through an act of blatant disobedience. By inheriting the effects of their fall, all mankind has been fatally tainted with sin. The Bible (God's word) states in no uncertain terms that "...the wages of sin is death..." (Romans 6:23)

That's right; every one of us is born dead. Please don't misunderstand; we have life as it is defined by medical science. We breathe, see, hear, smell, taste, feel and produce bodily function(s). But we are not born with LIFE as it is defined in the New Testament, under God's New Covenant with mankind.

Being "saved" in the context of God's word, since the time of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ, clearly means being saved from ultimate death and eternal separation from God.

WHO SAVES?
I suppose that many, if not most of us, picture parents, teachers, peace officers and elected leaders, among others, when we envision those who are in "authority." In the final analysis, however, where do we find the ultimate authority? This, too, is made very clear in God's word. Following his resurrection, and before leaving this world, Jesus said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me." (Matthew 28:18)

That doesn't leave much room for ultimate authority resting elsewhere, does it? There is only One with the power to save, and that One is Almighty God. His salvation is extended through the life in his Son, Jesus the Christ.

And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14).

"Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12)

No wonder there have been and still are bright neon signs in so many places that proclaim, "JESUS SAVES!"

WHY IS ONE SAVED?
In the first place, we need to understand that God created us for his good pleasure.

Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for your pleasure they all were created (Revelation 4:11).KJV

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

Does this mean everyone will be saved and none lost? No, that's not at all what it means. Mankind was given the power to choose between good and evil. Whom we choose to follow (God or Satan), what we choose to do, i.e., follow Jesus or yield to our own desires and lusts as a way of life, has a direct bearing on our eternal fate. We may think a certain direction in life is the correct one, but unless Christ is leading us, we will be lost.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death (Proverbs 14:12).

"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13)

...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God... (Romans 3:23a)

Why is one saved? We are saved in order to have fellowship with the Father; with Jesus the Christ and with all believers.

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3)

...for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. (Philippians 2:15)

For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 1:10)

We are also saved in order to become a separate people:

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)

HOW IS ONE SAVED?
Man failed in the Garden of Eden. Man has failed to keep God's law as expressed in the Ten Commandments. If each of us were completely honest and above-board, we'd have to admit or confess that we have not loved God with our whole heart and that we have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We would say that we have failed to worship God with our entire being, and that we have further failed to share with others the grace God has given us. We would examine ourselves closely and find that we have acted out of selfish ambition rather than the interests of others; especially those more needy than ourselves. We would see that we have nursed grudges instead of seeking reconciliation and peace. Finally, we would come to the realization that there is no way we can save ourselves - no way that we, under our own power, can avoid the judgment so rightfully due us.

We need a Redeemer. We need a way out of our downward spiral, and we know that we, ourselves, are helpless and unable to keep the law that condemns us and brings sin to our attention. In short, there's no way we can possibly save ourselves; no way we are able to win God's favor by doing good works or performing honorable deeds. We also know, based on the law, there can be no remission for sins without the shedding of blood. A sacrifice is required.

In his letter (epistle) to the Philippians, the apostle Paul releases two powerfully illuminating truths. First, Paul reiterates that God and Jesus Christ are One and the same. Second, Paul describes plainly the Deity of Christ. Consider Paul's words:

Your attitude should be the same as that of Jesus Christ: Who being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." (Galatians 3:13)

How is one saved?

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Then there is what is probably the most famous and well-known statement in all of Scripture. Sunday school children know it; soldiers in mortal combat remember it; preachers proclaim it with confidence and gusto, and we often see it's chapter and verse painted on signs behind home plate in baseball parks, and beyond end-zones on football fields. Jesus himself teaches Nicodemus...and all of us:

"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

WHERE AND WHEN IS ONE SAVED?
These two questions are so closely linked to one another, it's nearly impossible to treat them separately without their responses overlapping constantly. So, we'll deal with them as though they represent a single query.

There are several points of view, opinions or beliefs about where and when salvation occurs. These positions hold that salvation is:

  • An Event - An individual, upon hearing the Gospel believes it and "receives" or "accepts" Christ as Lord and Savior. Those who hold to this position will declare that their salvation took place at such-and-such a time and at a specific place. An example of one in this group, describing their salvation experience, might sound something like this: "I was saved in December of 1968 at a revival meeting in Memphis, Tennessee."

  • A Process - There are those who believe their salvation took place over an indefinite period of time. As a result of years of study, learning, familiarization with the Gospel, and Christian upbringing, they were confirmed in their faith and thus...saved.

  • The Result of Baptism - Still others, depending on their denominational affiliation, contend they were saved when they were baptized. They claim that "believing" in Jesus Christ is simply a "given," and that their baptism sealed their salvation; whether or not they were even capable of believing in Christ at the time of their baptism; e.g., as in the case of infant baptism.

  • A Dual Work of Grace - Those who promulgate this position believe that salvation and receiving the Holy Spirit are two different works of God's grace. In this case, one may be saved, but not filled with the Holy Spirit unless the latter "gift" is evidenced by their speaking in other tongues; regardless of whether such tongues are distinguishable as a genuine language.

The proponents of each of these positions support their beliefs with a variety of Scriptural passages. Their salvation, however, is not dependent upon their positions.

Consider the following major biblical truths:

1. There is nothing we "do" to achieve salvation. We don't deserve it. We can't earn it. We can't acquire it by works - of any kind. Baptism, in and of itself, will not save us. Apart from Christ we can do nothing.

2. You might be tempted to say, "Since my faith is required, there IS something I do to gain salvation. As salvation must be appropriated by faith, there is one string attached; I must believe!

3. Martin Luther has declared, "I believe that by my own understanding or strength, I cannot believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but instead the Holy Spirit has called me through the Gospel, enlightened me and sanctified me with his gifts, made me holy and kept me in the true faith, just as he calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and makes holy the whole Christian Church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one common, true faith."

4. Martin Luther's conviction that his ability to believe was only due to God's help is validated by what Jesus Christ once told Peter. Listen carefully to our Lord's words in this instance, as they were recorded by Matthew:

5. When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven."

6. We are saved only one way, by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ; faith in him and all he has accomplished for us by his sacrificial death in our place and his resurrection.

CONCLUSION
Jesus took all our sins upon himself at the cross. When he said, "It is finished," he meant it! Everything he came to do here on earth was done. Every reason for which he came was met and completed. He had come to:

  • Take away the sin of the world. (John 1:29)

  • Destroy the works of the devil. (1 John 3:8)

  • Bear witness to the truth. (John 18:37)

  • Give us abundant life. (John 10:10)

  • Fulfill the law. (Matthew 5:17)

  • Save the lost. (Matthew 18:11)

  • Preach the Gospel. (Luke 4:18-21)

  • Bring a sword on the earth. (Matthew 10:34-39)

  • Proclaim release. (Luke 4:18-21)

  • Recover sight to the blind. (Luke 4:18-21)

  • Free the downtrodden. (Luke 4:18-21)

  • Proclaim the year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18-21)

Those words ("It is finished") are the greatest and most powerful "Emancipation Proclamation" the world has ever known. By shedding his precious blood on the cross, Jesus Christ set us free. He freed us from the bonds of guilt by fulfilling the law. He took away our sins - all of them and God will remember them no more. How decisively the Son of God has dealt with our sin!

Look at the results...

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2) KJV

For if, when we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Romans 5:10-11)

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. (Ephesians 1:7-8)

...you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
(1 Corinthians 6:11)

But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation. (Colossians 1:22)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. (Romans 5:1)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:1)

And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:10)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)

Our salvation was won at Calvary. It's a free gift offered to every man, woman, boy and girl. It must be taken in faith and by God's grace. There is much more scriptural testimony of what Christ has done concerning our salvation. Jesus himself puts an exclamation point on it all when he says:

"I tell you the truth, whoever hears
my word and believes him who sent
me has eternal life and will not be
condemned; he has crossed over
from death to life."
John 5:24

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