Salvation

Salvation

Jesus said, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him." (John 3:17) There are many today who call themselves "Christians" and who think they are "saved" but their lives testify against them. Today there are theologians who teach that all that is necessary for salvation is that a person at one time or another "confessed Christ." They teach that all that is required by God is that we believe that Jesus died for our sins. Simple assent to the facts of the gospel is sufficient, and any commitment to Christ is optional. By some this is is called "grace theology," by me, "taking the name of the Lord in vain." Others believe that they can make up for their sins by doing good deeds, trying to keep God's commandments, and by means of the sacraments of the "Church." Yet the churches who teach this way to God cannot even demonstrate the ability to deliver their own bishops and priests from slavery to the worst of sins, the rape and defilement of children.

Any so-called salvation that does not transform the fundamental nature of the sinner into that of a saint is not salvation. Let me make it simple: if you "got saved" and your insides were not changed, then you have been scammed. Paul warned that in the last days there would come those who "hold to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power."(2 Tim 3:5) We are saved solely by the grace of God through faith, but the salvation that comes from God is not the empty, powerless thing that is talk only and so common today. God's salvation not only delivers from the penalty of sin, but also delivers from the power of sin. Jesus will never be content with those who are content with a mere appearance of righteousness.

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Mat 23:27,28)

The word translated 'save' in the New Testament is 'sozo' and means: save, rescue, deliver; keep safe, preserve; cure, or make well. Perhaps the first question we need to ask is saved, rescued, or delivered from what? When God sent an angel to Joseph, He said, "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." So we find at the very beginnings of the New Testament accounts of Jesus' life the reason for His coming was to save His people from their sins.(Matthew 1:21)

Now we must ask what sin is. The word translated as sins in this verse means 'to miss the mark, to fall short.' When God created mankind the Bible says that 'He created them in His own image.' (Gen. 1:27,5:2) Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, "Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Matthew 5:48) Sin is therefore, in its essential meaning, falling short of the perfection God intended in creating mankind in His own image. We often say such things as "to error is human" but this was not God's plan. We were intended to perfectly reflect His image and nature in this world. When our first parents rebelled against Him, that image of God in them was deeply marred and their position in the world as His representatives was lost. They cut themselves off from the very source of life itself and brought death into the world. Having lost their connection with God and with it, the life of God within them, they were only able to pass their loss, their terribly marred nature, and their legacy of rebellion and death on to their descendants, -that is, to us.

This then is what Jesus came into the world to save us from. He came to rescue us from the consequences of that tragic rebellion of Adam and Eve so many years ago. He came to restore us to the image of God. But God is a holy God, a God of justice as well as love. The justice and holiness of God will not tolerate rebellion and sin, for such things are by their nature incompatible with the nature of God and in opposition to Him. God justly could have simply cast the human race into hell and washed His hands of us, but His love would not allow it. If He was to restore us to His intended purpose, two things had to be dealt with.

  1. Our sinful acts had to be dealt with in a manner in accord with God's justice and holiness as well as His love.
  2. Our sinful nature or self, which is the root and source of our sinful acts, must be changed to again reflect God's own nature.

In summation, in order to save us from our sins God had to deal with both what we have done and with what we are.

God, before Adam and Eve rebelled had already pronounced what the punishment or result of disobedience and rebellion would be - death; death being not merely a separation of the spirit from the body, but primarily the separation of a person from God. Sin immediately severs mankind from their relationship with God, then progresses to the separation of the spirit from the body and this physical world (the first death), and finally ends in the eternal separation from all that is good and pure in the Lake of Fire - the garbage dump of the universe (the second death). God, who cannot lie, cannot simply annul His Word. But He had a plan whereby He might justly deal with our sin in accordance with His Word and His Law and yet restore us to Himself in love.

He Himself would take on human flesh and become a man, yet a man without sin, the man we were intended to be. That innocent and perfect man would suffer the punishment of sin, not for Himself, but for us. Having thus satisfied His justice, God would be free to deal with the root of sin itself and transform and restore our nature and our fellowship with Him to what He intended from the beginning. In the Prophets He has promised:

"...I will put My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them," declares the LORD, "for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." (Jer. 31:33,34)

"Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances." (Eze. 36:24,25)

Here then is the promise of the New Covenant Jesus spoke of at the Last Supper. Here then is God's final answer sin. When Jesus commands His disciples to love their enemies, it is because He loves His enemies, His death on the cross in our place, bearing our just punishment, is the ultimate expression of God's love.

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Are all saved then since "He Himself is the propitiation [He paid the penalty for] for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world"(1 John 2:2)? No, for though Jesus says, "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him," in the next verse He says, "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Jesus makes plain here and in other places that only those who place their trust in Him will be saved. Everyone will receive either the grace and forgiveness of God or the justice of God. Those who reject the first will receive the second. Jesus proclaimed that He "is the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father but through Him." You see, Jesus is God's only solution to the problem of sin. Apart from what He did on the cross, there is no way for us to be forgiven and restored to fellowship with God. To reject Christ is to reject the love and grace of God.

The Bible speaks of the relationship with Christ of those who are saved in terms of a marriage. Jesus is called the bridegroom and the saved are called the bride. The Bible make plain that within the relationship of marriage, the two individuals become one. It is only within this marriage with Christ that a person fully shares in the grace of God. Jesus brings to the marriage His innocent death ( He did not need to die, because He had never sinned -"the wages of sin is death"). And we come with a sentence of death hanging over us because of our sin.

'FOR THIS CAUSE A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER, AND SHALL CLEAVE TO HIS WIFE; AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH'? "Consequently they are no longer two, but one flesh. (Mat 19:5b,6a)

Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. (Romans 6:3-10)

Because those who have united with Christ in a relationship the Bible depicts as marriage, are made one with Him, Paul declares, we have been crucified with Him. His death becomes our death and His resurrection is also our resurrection. Not only this, but we are also made one spirit with Him, "the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him." (1 Cor. 6:17) Christ's death on the cross was the price He (God) paid to bring about the New Covenant He had promised in Jer. 31, Eze. 36 and other places. Jesus holds out the cup of wine to us and offers a proposal of marriage in which He brings all He has and has done and we bring all we have and have done to the altar.

He and He alone is the solution to our sin and separation form God. In Him and Him alone, is forgiveness and healing, love and hope and eternal life.

Salvation is all about what God has done. It is God's good work, not ours. This is why Paul in his letter to the Galatians says to those who are placing their hope in Christ AND their own works, "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace."(Gal. 5:4) For a sinner or saint to place even a part of his hope in his "good works" or his "goodness" is:

1) In essence to deny the seriousness of sin. That it is beyond our capacity to repair. It denies "the soul that sins shall die." The serpent is the one that said, "you shall not surely die."

2) It makes the cross of Christ a mere theatrical stunt on the part of God rather than a necessity. Yet Jesus prayed, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt." The cross was not merely a demonstration of love as some teach, but a necessity. No other way was possible. As the Apostle Paul states: "I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain."

That is, if there was some other way for us to be restored to a right relationship with God, besides Christ dying on the cross, then Christ died for nothing.

God has declared, "My glory I will not share with another." He will not permit any who would enter His kingdom to say that "I did it my way." No friend, there is only one way -Jesus. There is only one door -Jesus.

Salvation is the result of God's work, not ours. But true Salvation results in good works because it changes what we are. Salvation is not merely forensic justification (merely forgiveness and God declaring us just) but also a transformation of our very nature. We are changed from sinners into saints. Though every saint falls short of the perfection of God, it is because we still dwell in a body of flesh and have a brain that was programmed for sin. Sin is no longer our nature, but now an imposition on that nature. When sin occurs in us or in others, it brings grief rather than delight. In fact, a sign that one has been saved is the change in attitude toward sin. Before salvation, open sin may have been avoided because of fear of its consequences; I might not have stolen a car because I feared getting caught and imprisoned. But after salvation, sin is hated because it is sin and an offense to God. Until sin itself becomes an offense to a person, it cannot be said that that person has truly been saved. This is why Jesus said, that unless a man is born again (or from above) he cannot enter the kingdom of God. We must be changed in our very nature. A band-aid and an aspirin cannot heal the mortal wound of sin. Only the cross. Only Christ can heal us. Unless we are united with Him, we will continue on the path of destruction.

The message of the gospel is a invitation to a wedding. Those who would marry must be willing to give up family and friends, home and personal possessions, position and privilege, and go and follow the one they love. Will you accept His proposal? Will you join the Bride of Christ?

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