The abstract noun salvation, the title Saviour, and the varied forms of the verb save appear well over one hundred times in the Scriptures. At once we are able to see the importance of the Doctrine of Salvation. In systematic theology the treatment of this major theme is called soteriology, a term compounded of two Greek words, soteria, meaning salvation, and ology, from the Greek word logos, meaning word. Thus our present study will involve words about salvation.
The noun salvation denotes deliverance, preservation, safety, the context of the passage in which the word appears determining the nature of that deliverance. Sometimes the word is used to describe deliverance from physical danger and death. When the Israelites were being pursued by Pharaoh, Moses said to the people, “Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD . . .” (Exodus 14:13). Then follows the miraculous deliverance of the children of Israel from impending death at the hands of Pharaoh, and so the chapter concludes with the words, “Thus the LORD saved Israel that day out of the hand of the Egyptians . . .” (Exodus 14:30). When Peter began to sink in the sea he cried, “Lord, save me" (Matthew 14:30). Salvation in both of these contexts meant deliverance from physical danger and possible death. It is so used by the Apostle James when he says, “And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up . . .” (James 5:15).
Many years ago, while in my first pastorate, I asked a woman if she had been saved. She told me in reply to my question that God had saved her three times; once when she was ill with pneumonia and the doctors held little hope for her recovery, again when she was involved in a serious automobile accident, and a third time when she underwent surgery. She completely missed the point in my question. I was concerned about her being saved from the bondage and penalty of sin, she was thinking merely of deliverance from physical danger and death. She was substituting the temporal values of good health and a longer life span on earth for the eternal values of God’s great salvation in Christ with its blessings for eternity. This is a common error among men everywhere. No person in his right mind wants to be held in the throes of disease, danger or death, for from these things we all want to be saved. But how utterly foolish it would be for any of us, while seeking salvation from disease, danger and death, not to want to be saved from the eternal consequences of our sins! And all that we can know about eternal salvation must be learned from the Bible. There is no other source of knowledge on this great theme.
Another use of the word salvation is in connection with Israel’s future deliverance. The Apostle Paul wrote, “And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (Romans 11:26, 27). By “all Israel" we are not to understand that every Israelite will ultimately be forgiven of his sins and be saved. There are numerous passages which show that many will be visited with Divine wrath and judgment because they continue in unbelief. Paul is saying that after the Gentiles have had their opportunity to be saved, and the Lord Jesus Christ returns to earth at the end of the Great Tribulation, every living Jew will have his last opportunity to be saved. Those who reject the Deliverer, the Lord Jesus Christ, will be judged, and then all Israelites who remain will be saved to enter the millennium. This great salvation will result in the first truly Christian nation, and that nation will be Israel. “And it shall come to pass, that he who is left in Zion, and he who remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even every one that is written among the living in Jerusalem" (Isaiah 4:3). All Israel that is “left in Zion" and that “remaineth in Jerusalem," after the great tribulation, shall be saved. “. . . and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book" (Daniel 12:1). Our Lord said, “But he that shall endure unto the end shall be saved" (Matthew 24:13). (See also Isaiah 65:8-12.) The coming day of Israel’s salvation will be her greatest.
The wonder of salvation, the very thought of God saving men, exercised the thoughts and emotions of the Old Testament prophets even though it was not to be fully revealed for generations. Indeed, so absorbing was the subject that they gave themselves to discovering when it might come to pass. Peter wrote about them in his divinely inspired homily on salvation. “Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls. Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it (He) testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow" (I Peter 1:8-11). They knew the Saviour would be born of a virgin and His name would be Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14), that He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), of the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10). The prophets saw all this and more. Little wonder they marveled! Little wonder that even the angels desired to look into this great salvation (I Peter 1:12)! So should we!
The great salvation about which the prophets inquired and searched was no mere deliverance from the diseases and dangers to which our bodies are exposed. Our Saviour came to rescue from danger that part of man that lives forever. The body alone is not the man. “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Genesis 2:7). It is the soul that needs to be rescued from eternal suffering in the lake of fire. “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" (Mark 8:36). When the shocking sin of unchastity crept into the church at Corinth, Paul could not take an easy-going view of the heinous deed even though the offender was a believer. The man was excommunicated, that is, sent out to Satan’s world, a disciplinary action exercised to awaken the guilty one, “that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus" (I Corinthians 5:5). Even though the flesh be destroyed, it is important that the spirit be saved. When a Christian shamelessly perpetrates a crime in utter disregard of his Christian obligations, God sometimes takes drastic measures, as in the case of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-10), the disorderly saints at the Lord’s Table (I Corinthians 11:30), and the man under consideration at Corinth, afflicting the offender’s body in order that his soul might be saved when the Lord Jesus comes “the second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28). Satan has ready access to our bodies (Job 1:6-19), and if one persists in using his members to sin, God sometimes allows Satan to afflict the body until the guilty one repents and forsakes the sin. When he discovers his sin to be abhorred by his brothers and sisters in Christ, he will confess it and come back. The important thing is that his spirit be saved.
Man’s eternal salvation is what the Bible is about. The angel of the Lord said to Joseph, “And she (Mary) shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). Later Mary said, “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour" (Luke 1:47). When our Lord was born, the angel said, “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). Jesus said to Zacchaeus, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). On another occasion he said, “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved . . .” (John 10:9). After Pentecost Peter said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12), a statement that includes, of course, the healing of the lame man, but emphasizing indeed spiritual deliverance from judgment as in Acts 2:21, 40, 47. Paul and Silas said to the prison guard, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house" (Acts 16:31). From these verses it is clear that God has one way only of saving men, and that salvation is the most needed and greatest gift to mankind. Whether you are young with a lifetime before you, or in your declining years, your greatest need is salvation, and the Lord Jesus Christ is the one and only Saviour. He alone can deliver you from coming judgment and bring you to God.
Upon examining the Scriptures to investigate the doctrine of salvation, we learn that being saved may have one of several meanings. A passage might be teaching any one of three phases of salvation, that is, salvation in one of three steps or stages. These three stages of salvation are related to the three tenses of time:
1. I have been saved from the penalty of sin - Salvation a Possession
2. I am being saved from the practice of sin - Salvation a Process
3. I am yet to be saved from the possibility of sin - Salvation a Prospect
We will pursue our study along these three lines.
The fundamental implication of the Christian Gospel is that all men are lost and need salvation. “If our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost" (II Corinthians 4:3), that is, if any man does not receive salvation after it has been clearly presented to him, he is lost and therefore not saved, because “the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost" (Luke 19:10). Whosoever recognizes that he is lost, and receives Jesus sincerely and wholeheartedly receives God’s great salvation. However, no man will want to be saved until he first realizes that he is lost. Thus the first great need is that we see our lost condition. It is not that a man will be lost when he dies and passes into eternity unsaved, but that he is lost now. It is true that at death the unsaved man is irrevocably lost, but the Bible is clear in its pronouncement that man is lost now. It shows him to be a naked and shameless bankrupt in God’s sight.
No man can argue his way out of the Divine charge of his sinfulness. God has issued the universal proclamation that all men are sinners by nature and by choice. “What then? Are we better than they? No, in no wise; for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin; As it is written, There is none righteous, no not one" (Romans 3:9, 10). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned" (Romans 5:12). The universality of sin and the subsequent need of salvation has been established by virtue of the fact that every man is inseparably joined to the first man. Through oneness with Adam we are partakers of his sin, death and judgment. Nowhere in the Bible is an unsaved man presented as standing in right relationship to God. “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). “The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy; there is none that doeth good, no not one" (Psalm 14:2, 3). “The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores. They have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment" (Isaiah 1:5, 6). “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?" (Jeremiah 17:9).
It is utterly useless to discuss the matter of man’s salvation apart from the fact of sin, for if man is not a sinner, then there is no need of salvation. But the Apostle Paul wrote, “This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (1 Timothy 1:15). The one thing that stands out above all in this passage is Paul’s remembrance of his own sin from which Christ saved him. To the end of his days he regarded himself as chief of sinners, but at the time of this writing he was a saved sinner, a forgiven sinner, the thought of which kept him from pride and at the same time kept his heart aflame with gratitude. It is the office of Christ to save sinners, “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28). “And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins, and in him is no sin" (I John 3:5). Paul’s statement that “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" epitomizes the very soul of the Christian gospel. Never lose sight of the fact that the salvation God offers was and is intended for sinners. The long planned journey from Heaven to earth by God’s Son was the Divine search, not for good men, but for lost men. “But God commendeth his love toward us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). “This man was a friend of publicans and sinners" (Luke 7:34), and “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them" (Luke 15:2), are glorious allegations that cannot be denied. The Bible leaves no uncertainty as to the Divine purpose of the Incarnation.
When a man recognizes that he is lost and needs salvation, he has overcome a mighty obstacle. However, at that point he needs clear direction from the Word of God. The recognition of his need of salvation is no sure guarantee that he will be saved. Possibly some of you are surprised, and even shocked, at my having said this. But I must remind you that there is a wrong way of trying to get salvation, and the tragedy is that many pursue the wrong way. Read Romans 10:1-3 and you will see the Apostle Paul condemning the wrong way of trying to attain salvation. He is not angry with his Jewish brethren, but with wistful longing and heart-felt yearning he reminds them that he prays for their salvation (10:1). He credits them with having a zeal for God, “but not according to knowledge" (10:2). When religious zeal is misguided, misdirected, it is a dangerous thing. Now the Jew was desperately in earnest about his religion, but his earnestness was not according to a full and accurate knowledge. Sincerity that is based on a wrong assumption can be dangerous.
Now note carefully the Jews’ error in their efforts to attain salvation in the wrong way. Paul adds, “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Romans 10:3). The righteousness the Jews proudly sought to establish was a righteousness that was in character their own, one marked by their own efforts, a righteousness for which they would feel obligated to thank no one. There is a difference between that which man calls human perfection, that which man labels righteousness and God’s righteousness. The idea of attaining salvation through self-effort and good works is a fundamental characteristic of human nature. But try as hard as one will, he cannot remove the guilt and penalty of his own sins.
Now the Jews about whom Paul is writing were not lacking in zeal and sincerity; they merely were “ignorant of God’s righteousness," that is, they were ignorant of the nature of the righteousness which alone can satisfy God. Any and all righteousness that has its point of origin in man, either in his works or in his character, is not acceptable with God. Even in the prophets we read, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away" (Isaiah 64:6). It is true not only of Israel, that man’s righteousnesses are as a polluted cloth, but of Gentiles as well. Note the last four words of Isaiah 64:5, “We shall be saved,” and then read verse 6. It is very plain that salvation cannot come to man through his righteousness nor through the sum of all his self-righteous deeds. This is the meaning of the plural righteousnesses. By nature man is polluted and defiled, meaning that the pollution extends to all his deeds. No language could convey deeper abhorrence of the deeds of man’s righteousness than this reference. Our best efforts are marred by our sinful condition. When an unsaved man considers the very best of his deeds, his righteousness, far from honoring and glorifying to God, they are in God’s sight as a filthy rag, a stench. The problem is not that man is ignorant of righteousness, but that he is ignorant of God’s righteousness.
The New Testament contains a narrative which is a classic illustration of the point under discussion, namely, that a person may know he needs to be saved and may seek salvation but never receive it because he sought it in the wrong way. I am thinking of the incident of the rich young ruler which is recorded in the synoptics. From Matthew we learn that he was young (Matthew 19:20); Luke records the fact that he was a ruler (Luke 18:18); Matthew, Mark and Luke all three tell that he was rich. Here then is a man who, in the eyes of the world, had everything going for him, or as some might say, he had it made. He had youth, position and wealth, but he wasn’t saved, and he knew it. As Jesus passed by, the man ran to Him, knelt down, and saluting Him reverently, asked, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" (Mark 10:17).
In reply to the young man’s inquiry, Jesus said, “Thou knowest the commandments: Do not commit adultery; Do not kill; Do not steal; Do not bear false witness; Defraud not; Honor thy father and mother" (Mark 10:19). There were two tables of the Decalogue. “On one, four commandments were engraved; and on the other, six. Our Lord made no reference at all to the first four" (G. Campbell Morgan). Those that our Lord cited were the six commandments that refer to man’s relationship to man, and of these the rich young ruler could say, “All these have I observed from my youth" (Mark 10:20). His reply to Jesus was an immediate and straightforward statement of honest truth. I do not believe that he was proud or hypocritical. As far as the letter of the Law was concerned (not its spirit), he was sincere and honest. He had not willfully and knowingly broken the six commandments Jesus mentioned. And then in loving compassion the Lord said to him, “One thing thou lackest . . .” (Mark 10:21).
Never did any story stress so clearly the basic and essential Christian truth that religion, riches and respectability are insufficient to save any man. When our Lord said, “One thing thou lackest," He was answering the rich young ruler’s question as recorded by Matthew, “What lack I yet?" (Matthew 19:20). The verb translated to lack (Greek hustereo) is the same word Paul used and which is translated “come short" (Romans 3:23). It means simply that every man, no matter how religious or self-righteous, has failed to reach God’s standard of goodness. In effect, the rich young ruler was asking, “In what respect am I still inferior? What do I still lack? In what way do I still fall short?" You see, a man’s mind may be open and honest in the observance of his religious duties, and still that man can miss salvation.
Where did the rich young ruler fall short? What “one thing" did he lack? Look again at those six commandments mentioned by our Lord and you will see that they are all negative commandments, with one exception, and that one commandment is related to the home and family relationships. In effect, the man, like so many of us, was saying, “I don’t do that; I don’t do this; I don’t harm other persons.” This all may be perfectly true. But the important question is, “Why have you left undone the one thing you must do in order to be saved?" In his self-righteousness and moral respectability the man failed in the one thing. He lacked the righteousness of God which comes by faith. He was one of those of whom Paul wrote, “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God" (Romans 10:3). The young man was satisfied to abide by an external observance of the Law while putting self before God. His earthly riches meant more to him than God. He lacked obedience to the first and greatest of all commandments, namely, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. There is no other commandment greater than these" (Mark 12:30, 31). In order to prove the sincerity of his desire for eternal salvation, he was asked to abandon his idol, which was his wealth, and follow Christ. This he refused to do, “and went away grieved: for he had great possessions" (Mark 10:22). He wanted salvation, but not enough to give away his money to get it.
As the rich man turned his back upon Christ and walked away, the disciples were amazed and said, “Who then can be saved?" (Mark 10:26). The reaction of the disciples was that to be saved at all is well-nigh impossible. The popular Jewish belief was that prosperity was the mark of a good man and a sign of God’s blessing (See Psalm 37:25; Proverbs 3:16). But wealth is not always the evidence of excellence of character and of favor with God. The Devil and many of his followers are not poor.
In answer to the disciples’ question, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus stated the doctrine of salvation in a nutshell. Salvation is impossible with men but possible with God. What good works, law observance, wealth and rank cannot effect God in grace has made possible. If salvation depended upon one’s religion and his own efforts, it would be impossible for anyone to be saved, but “salvation is of the LORD" (Jonah 2:9). God Himself does all the saving from start to finish. “According to His mercy He saved us" (Titus 3:5). Salvation is the sovereign work of God through which He rescues and delivers fully the believing sinner from the guilt and penalty of sin. And He has only one way of saving men. All hope of man being saved through his own efforts came to an end at Calvary when Divine love completed the work of redemption through the death of Jesus Christ.
And the wonder of it is that salvation becomes the present possession of every believer the moment he receives Christ. A word addressed to the Christians at Ephesus will help us at this point: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God" (Ephesians 2:8). I have italicized the two words grace and saved, for in that word grace, one sees the warm, spontaneous generosity that prompted God to save sinners when they had no claim or merit and without anything to offer in return. Since salvation is by Divine grace, then it must of necessity be a total deliverance from the guilt and penalty of the believer’s sins. Nowhere has the grace of God been more tragically asserted than in Christ’s death at Calvary for human salvation. Because “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" (I Corinthians 15:3), and because His death is the only saving remedy for sin (Acts 4:12; Hebrews 9:22, 26, 28), then it must follow that there is a completeness and finality to that saving work. “The grace of God that bringeth salvation" sees in the blessed hope of Christ’s return the completion of the believer’s redemption (Titus 2:11-14).
In further support of the fact that the true believer is in possession of salvation from the guilt and penalty of his sins, Paul adds, “By grace have ye been saved" (Ephesians 2:8). The perfect tense “have been saved" emphasizes two facts: the first is that the work which effected salvation has been perfected in the death and resurrection of Jesus; the second is that all believers have been saved, that is, they have been the recipients of God’s free gift of salvation, a gift that is unique in character because it is a spiritual or supernatural gift. “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Romans 11:29). Because of the faithfulness of God His gift of salvation cannot be abrogated. The veracity of God insures the believer’s salvation from the penalty of sin. God is not a man that He should change; consequently, those whom he has saved must rest in His grace. The people whom He has saved must forever remain His people. Salvation is God’s gift to man, and “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord" (Romans 6:23). God’s gift of salvation is not subject to a change of mind on His part.
The present possession of salvation is made real to the believer by faith, “For by grace are ye saved through faith . . .” (Ephesians 2:8). Faith is the appropriating agency in salvation, and even that is not of ourselves; “it is the gift of God" which comes to man through the hearing of the word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith is not the ground or procuring cause of salvation, but it is the means or instrument whereby the sinner avails himself of the salvation which God offers him. God’s side is grace in the offering of the free gift of salvation; man’s side is faith; the result is the present possession of salvation from the penalty of sin.
The rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking salvation but he went away unsaved. Let us now examine the narrative which talks of another rich man who sought Jesus and who received instantly, through his faith in Christ, the present possession of salvation. I am thinking of Zacchaeus in Luke 19. When he knew that Jesus was to come through Jericho, he sought to see Him. Zacchaeus was wealthy but he was not happy, so he was determined that nothing would prevent him from coming in contact with the Saviour. His desire to see Christ did not spring from mere curiosity, but rather from his awareness that he was lost. Our Lord’s influence upon Zacchaeus made him realize his selfish attitude and, unlike the rich young ruler, led him to give half of his goods to the poor. So genuine was his change of heart that Jesus said, “This day is salvation come to this house" (Luke 19:9). That very day the believing sinner was in possession of salvation. He did not have to wait until death to know whether or not he was saved; he knew salvation was his possession that day because Jesus told him it was so.
If God offers graciously and freely a glorious salvation, He also makes it clear and certain to the recipient. Nothing must be allowed to obscure the essential truth of the assurance of one’s salvation. The saved man should be able to say that he knows he is saved because the Lord wants him to know it. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God, that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God" (I John 5:13). The point of this verse is not that the reader may believe and receive eternal life, but that having believed, he may know that he is in possession of eternal life, that he may possess here and now the present certainty of the life he has received in Christ. This Epistle is to assure the saved man that he has salvation. My friend, do you know with absolute knowledge, beyond the peradventure of a doubt, that you are saved? If you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation, then you have it now (Acts 16:31). It is not that you hope you have, or suppose you have, or think you have it, or feel you have it, but that you know you have it. You know it because God said it; you accept it by faith.
The Christian life commences in faith and continues likewise in faith. “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him" (Colossians 2:6). You received Him by faith; now walk by faith, “For we walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7). The basis of assurance is faith in the Word of God. It is not merely a rational faith, or an emotional faith, but a knowing faith. We shall pursue further the idea of Assurance in an ensuing chapter.
Receiving salvation is not a stopping-place, but a starting place. The saved man must “press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:14); “increase and abound in love" (I Thessalonians 3:12); “go on unto perfection" (Hebrews 6:1); “add to your faith" (II Peter 1:5-7); “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ" (II Peter 3:18). Where life begins it must mature, so where there is no process in operation, it is quite likely that there is not a present possession of salvation. No man can be saved from what he is and still remain the same. To be a saved man means to be a changed man. Reginald White said, “The gospel announces the salvation of the sinful, not from deserved punishment only, but from sinning. The first purpose of the good news is not to comfort the sinner, or to cheer him, but to confront him, to convict him, to convert him by creating him afresh.” True, our Lord said to the woman taken in adultery, “Neither do I condemn thee," but in the same sentence he added the words, “go and sin no more" (John 8:11).
Before the birth of our Lord, the angel said to Joseph, “And she (Mary) shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21). The name Jesus is the same as Joshua, a contraction of Jehoshuah (Numbers 13:16; I Chronicles 7:27), meaning “Jehovah is salvation.” As applied to our Lord, the word “He" is emphatic, and means He Himself, and no other shall save His people from their sins. This was no mere national or political salvation, but salvation from sins, both the penalty and practice of their sins. If Christ’s people are immoral and selfish and proud and hateful, then the Word of God is blasphemed.
The Gospel of salvation has ethical consequences and moral responsibilities. Doctrine and deportment are inextricably intertwined with the Christian gospel. Peter wrote, “Who His own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed" (I Peter 2:24). “That we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness" puts salvation on a practical level here and now. We are expected to live unto righteousness. Salvation is not from sin’s penalty only, but from sin. Any omission of the Christian ethic from the Christian Gospel invitation is a misrepresentation of that Gospel. Faith alone saves, but it saves from the power and practice of sin as well as from sin’s penalty. The faith by which the sinner finds salvation is the faith by which he walks after he has been saved, “For we walk by faith, not by sight" (II Corinthians 5:7). “Giving all diligence, add to your faith . . .” writes Peter (II Peter 1:5). Faith accepts Christ, assumes the responsibility of a Christian and aspires to be like Christ.
Look carefully at Paul’s words to Titus: “For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present age" (Titus 2:11, 12). The saving purpose of God is stated here both negatively and positively. We are to renounce, repudiate “ungodliness,” which means any and all lack of reverence toward God, all irreligion. The person who receives the salvation which God’s grace made available to him must lay aside those things in life which are offensive or dishonorable to God. Then, too, he must lay aside “worldly lusts,” those passionate desires which possess the character of this present evil world system, because Christ “gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Galatians 1:4). The Christian who yields to sinful desires belonging to a world estranged from God blasphemes both God’s Word and God’s name. Positively, the grace of God that brought salvation teaches us to live “soberly,” that is, to be guided by a mind that is set in proper balance, a mind that is mastered by the same grace that saved us from sin’s penalty. A sober-minded man exercises self-control; he is temperate and discreet. The saved man will live “righteously,” that is, in right relation toward his fellow-men, right dealings with his neighbors. Finally, the saved man will live “godly,” that is, in a godly manner, giving due reverence to God Who provided salvation.
The Good Shepherd Who died to save us from sin’s penalty (John 10:11) is also the Great Shepherd Who was raised from the dead to save us from sin’s power (Hebrews 13:20). “Wherefore, He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Hebrews 7:25). Here we have a two-dimensional salvation. By reason of Christ’s death we have been delivered from the penalty of sin; by reason of His present ministry as our living High Priest, He is able to save the believer from practicing sin. His Priesthood combines intercession and saving power. He saves “to the uttermost," which means that there are no limitations on His saving ability either as to time or degree. His power to save His people from sinning is due to His unchangeable Priesthood. Children of God, as our Royal Priest, Christ can save us completely. By bringing the grace of God to us through His death, He saved us from the penalty of sin; by communicating God’s grace to us by His life, He saves us from the power of sin. He is able to carry the believer right through every temptation. Thus we have been saved, and we are being saved.
Christ is able to save completely all those who draw near to God through Him. There need never be a moment in which His saving power is not effective in the Christian’s life. Is your salvation complete? If not, then draw nigh to God through the Lord Jesus Christ. He is able to save. And who are the partakers of this present-tense salvation? Those who draw near to God by Jesus Christ in holy worship.
"For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Romans 5:10). Much more than our reconciliation by Christ’s death, we are to experience in daily life the power of His resurrection. When the Lord Jesus Christ died, He left with us the gift of salvation. But how are we to manage it now that we have it? On the third day after His death the Lord Jesus rose from death and the grave. And so He lives in Heaven today, not merely as our Advocate to represent us legally, thereby securing our justification, but to make possible to us the “much more,” salvation in its highest earthly victory, daily conquest over the power of sin. “Much more . . . we shall be saved by His life.” Have you entered into that much more salvation? Our present deliverance from sin is dependent upon the living Christ Who lives in us by the Holy Spirit. If Christ died to save us from the penalty of sin while we were yet sinners, how “much more" is He willing to save us from the power of sin? Christ by His death saved us from the past; Christ by His life saves us in the present. If God can save His enemies, “much more" can He deliver His children. If the death of Christ is the means of our justification, the life of Christ is the means of our sanctification. If the more difficult has been accomplished, the less will not be withheld.
Paul gave to us another word about our present salvation when he wrote, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness, but unto us who are saved it is the power of God" (I Corinthians 1:18). Here he uses a pair of present participles: “them who are perishing,” and “us who are being saved.” The force of the present participle is in a process that is still going on. Yes, we are still being saved, and this is a proof that we are not as those who are perishing. God’s great salvation deals with our needy present as well as our guilty past.
There is, however, something which we must know and understand. In this second stage of salvation, in which we are being saved from the dominion of sin, we have a responsibility. It is found in Paul’s command to the believers in Philippi, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure" (Philippians2:12, 13). Now do not misinterpret this Scripture. It does not mean that one must work in order to obtain salvation, because the words are addressed to those who had already been saved from the guilt and penalty of sin, “to all the saints in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:1). Salvation from sin’s guilt is God’s gift to us, “not of works" (Ephesians 2:9) nor “by works" (Titus 3:5). The “work" Paul speaks of in the Philippians passage is not in order to be saved, but because we are saved. Good works can never earn salvation but they must accompany it. If you have received God’s great salvation, then work it out, that is, “adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things" (Titus 2:10), in words and in works. The process of spiritual emancipation from the dominion of sin is not merely human, “for it is God which worketh in you.” The indwelling Holy Spirit makes it possible for the saved person “to maintain good works" (Titus 3:8). “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work” (II Corinthians 9:8).
The Apostle Peter, in one divinely inspired stroke of the pen, sets down the three steps in a sinner’s salvation, and he too shows us the how of the second step. First read the verse--"Elect according to the foreknowledge of God, the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ" (I Peter 1:2). The first step is the sinner’s election according to the foreknowledge of God the Father. God chose us because He had us in His heart to save us. The second step in the sinner’s salvation is found in the words, “through sanctification of the Spirit unto obedience.” Here we see the Holy Spirit in action setting the believing sinner apart and empowering him for a life of obedience.
The grand finale of God’s saving plan is the triumph of His eternal purpose. The Psalmist wrote, “The LORD will give grace and glory" (Psalm 84:11). Surely those among us who are saved have tasted of His “grace,” and now we look for the “glory.” The grace and the glory are inseparably linked together. The latter is just a matter of time. We experienced His grace through Christ’s sufferings; now we look for His glory at Christ’s second coming (I Peter 4:13; 5:1). The saved man is both God’s child and God’s heir. “And if children, then heirs--heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ--if so be that we suffer with Him, that we may be also glorified together" (Romans 8:17). A grand and glorious future awaits the child of God at the consummation of his salvation.
In order to be saved from the possibility of sin, we will need a new body, one that is immortal and glorified. Paul wrote “. . . we groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body" (Romans 8:23), and then he added, “For we are saved by hope . . .” (Romans 8:24), that is, in the fulfillment of that hope we will be fully and finally saved. The redeemed body will be a glorified body, for “whom He justified, them He also glorified" (Romans 8:30). Our new body will be incapable of sinning because it will be like that of the Lord Jesus, “Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things unto Himself" (Philippians 3:21). The words “our vile body" should be translated to read “the body of our humiliation.” When God created the body it was not then a humiliated body. The Psalmist prayed, “I will praise Thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made . . .” (Psalm 139:14). But through Satan and sin the body is subject to death and corruption; it has been defaced, so that in our present state even we Christians wait for the final stage of our salvation. The saved man is God’s masterpiece in redemption; however, God will not complete the final stroke until Christ returns for His own. Then our bodies will “be fashioned like unto His glorious body.”
And what is the body of our Lord like? It is an immortal body “Knowing that Christ, being raised from the dead, dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him" (Romans 6:9). Our bodies are slowly dying because they are “mortal" (Romans 6:12; 8:16), the word mortal meaning subject or liable to death. But at the Rapture, when our Lord appears, “This corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality (or deathlessness)" (I Corinthians 15:53). As long as we are in this life we are death-doomed, and therefore our salvation is incomplete. Now Christ’s resurrected body is no more subject to death, and one day He will make our bodies like His own, sinless and deathless. The sin principle now resident in our bodies will not be present after we have been changed (Romans 7:17, 18). The resurrection body of our Lord is not bound by time, space, nor substance, and neither will ours have such limitations. Let us rejoice that “when He shall appear, we shall be like Him; for we shall see Him as He is" (I John 3:2). David prayed, “As for me, I will behold Thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with Thy likeness" (Psalm 17:15). Praise God for “the appearing of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (II Timothy 1:10). “. . . Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (Romans 13:11). My heart thrills at the very thought of it.
When we are finally saved from the presence and possibility of sin, we shall have a perfect environment. Peter wrote, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, in which dwelleth righteousness" (II Peter 3:13). In our new environment righteousness will dwell, or, as has been translated, “righteousness will be at home.” It is obvious that righteousness is not at home in our present environment, but in the new heavens and earth, “there shall in no wise enter into it anything that defileth, neither whatsoever worketh abomination, or maketh a lie: but they which are written in the Lamb’s book of life" (Revelation 21:27). The eternal state will be a perfect society, its perfection resulting from the fact that sin has been banished. Not so much as an evil spirit will be permitted to enter the portals of the New Jerusalem. There will be no sin to allure us, no worldliness to attract us, no inordinate desires to overcome us. What a glorious salvation!
At the consummation of our salvation we shall be free forever from sickness, pain, sorrow, tears and death. “There shall be no more death" (Revelation 21:4). Death is the result of sin (Genesis 2:16, 17; Ezekiel 18:4; Romans 5:12; 6:23; James 1:15). Death is man’s worst enemy, his last enemy to be destroyed (I Corinthians 15:26). We never face a new day without looking death squarely in the face. There is the mortician, the hearse, the funeral procession, the cemetery, the obituary column in our daily newspaper, all reminding us that “it is appointed unto men once to die" (Hebrews 9:27). And if Christ does not return in our lifetime, we wait, not knowing the year, or month, or day, or hour we shall be called from this earthly scene by means of death. But when we are fully and finally saved, death shall be no more. Then the desire of all believers of all ages will be fulfilled even as the Prophet Isaiah wrote, “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from all the earth; for the Lord hath spoken it" (Isaiah 25:8). Thank God, there is a time yet future when there will be no more sad farewells caused by death.
"Neither sorrow" (Revelation 21:4). I have examined more than thirty passages in the Bible where the words “sorrow" and “sorrowful" are mentioned, and in most instances there is the idea of grief, distress and travail. Sorrow follows each of us regardless of the path of life we choose. It pursues the rich and poor alike. It appears that some have experienced more than their share of grief, mourning and heaviness of heart, but we praise God that there is a boundary which sorrow cannot cross. Ours is a great salvation.
"Nor crying" (Revelation 21:4). I am taking the liberty to quote a paragraph from my book on Revelation:
The Bible speaks often of those who cry. Jesus told His disciples that they would weep. We read of weeping saints (John 16:20-22); weeping soul-winners (Psalm 126:5-6; Acts 20:31); weeping sinners (Matthew 22:11-14); weeping sorrowers (Luke 7:12-15; John 20:11-15); weeping servants (Acts 20:19); and the weeping Saviour (John 11:35; Luke 19:41). Not all tears are justified. I don’t believe that God has any respect for the tears of self-pity which are shed merely to draw attention to ourselves. But the tears of many a saint have flowed for a worthy cause. Jeremiah felt the burden of a good cause when he said, ‘Oh that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!’ (Jeremiah 9:1). It is good for us when we weep over our own sins and the sins of others. But soon our crying will be over. ‘Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning’ (Psalm 30:5) (The Book of the Revelation, page 353).
Here on earth we are limited to the experiences of two-thirds of God’s great salvation. But this is enough to occupy us full-time until we see our Saviour face to face. We rest in the results of His saving death and find our present resources in His saving life until He comes.
Then we shall be where we would be,
Then we shall be what we should be,
Things which are not now, nor could be,
Then shall be our own.