Thursday, December 22, 2011

What is Salvation, Part 1

Q: What is salvation and can you lose it?

There's the saying "once saved always saved". Using the scripture that no one is able to snatch them out of the Fathers hand. (John 10:29) but it says in verse 27 My sheep hear my voice, I know them and they follow me.  So the no snatching is referring to those who hear and follow, in other words who are obedient to His Word.  So, the ones that do not heed the call of the Lord and follow can be snatched?

What about sin hardening the heart? (Hebrew 3:13)

Shipwrecked faith? (1Tim 1:19)

I have heard the saying - "It's not how you start the race but how you finish it."

In Hebrew 3:14 For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end,

If you aren't a true follower of Christ then how can you have the strength on your own to even run the race.  It is because of Christ and who He transforms you to be that you would even want to run the race at all.  So maybe some were never saved at all?

A: This will be the first post in a series of five to address the many facets of this excellent question. Keep in mind, the nature of the question is dealing with the “what” of salvation and not the “how.”

As we focus on “Salvation” we must understand at the beginning that it is a salvation from something and for something. We also must understand that salvation has a past, present and future element. In this first post we will examine the past element of salvation which pertains mostly to what we are saved from.

For someone who has genuinely received salvation, it is (at least partially) right to say, “I have been saved.” This statement is what grammarians refer to as past perfect which refers to a completed action that has taken place in the past.

The work of salvation (accomplished through the life, death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ) was accomplished in history, about 2000 years ago. What this salvation has rescued the individual believer from is two-fold: 1) slavery to sin and death & the penalty for sin as a result of Adam, and 2) the penalty for our own personal sins.

First, let’s look at the mess that Adam got us all into. In Genesis 1-2 we read about the creation of Man (male and female; Genesis 1:27) in the image of God. Part of the purpose and work of Man was to rule over and subdue the rest of God’s creation (Genesis 1:28). When Adam rebelled against God through his disobedience, Adam ruptured the relationship between God and Man and handed over authority to rule this world to the Devil. We see this reality when Jesus is being tempted by Satan in the wilderness:

8 Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; 9 and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." 10 Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'" (Matthew 4:8-10, NASB, underline added for emphasis)

Notice that Jesus doesn’t correct the Devil and tell him, “You don’t have the right or the authority to hand over any kingdoms!” Jesus rightly understands that Satan does have that authority, but this is not how Jesus came to restore the kingdom! Many other passages describe the reality of this world being in Satan’s power and authority.

Not only was authority handed over, but death also entered the world through sin and spread to everyone (Romans 5:12) and every human being was made a slave of sin (Romans 7:14). As slaves of sin, we are incapable of pleasing God (Isaiah 64:6; Romans 3:9-20; Hebrews 11:6) and served the lusts of our flesh and the will of the Devil (Romans 6:19-20; 1 John 3:8-10, Ephesians 2:3, 1 Peter 4:1-2, 1 John 2:16).

While this claim of the Scriptures may seem harsh and is likely to be dismissed as foolishness by the one who rejects Jesus as Lord (1 Corinthians 1:18), the reality is that the “will of the Devil” is not always what people think – it’s not always drinking blood and fornicating and murder or whatever else. The will of the Devil is to bring lasting death and destruction – even if that means bringing lots of pleasure to the individual along the way (Hebrews 11:25). The sinner in his rebellion will often live the life that they want, but the end of the path they are travelling is not a place they really want to go! (see Psalm 73 and Proverbs 14:12)

The truth is, whether we like it or not, the whole world has been sold into slavery to death, sin and the Devil as a result of the Fall of Adam (Romans 8:22). Even worse than being under the wrath of the Devil, the world is also under the wrath of God (John 3:36, Romans 1:18)!

While this is terrible news, the good news of Jesus is that we can be saved from the wrath of God through Christ (Romans 5:8-9) and transferred from the domain and dominion of the Devil into the kingdom and reign of God (Colossians 1:13; 1 Peter 2:9-10). So what is salvation? It is being saved from the wrath of God and the reign of Satan through the substitutionary death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ! Jesus bore the wrath of God on the cross so that all who trust in Him (Jesus) could be set free (Romans 10:9-13; Colossians 1:19-23; 2:13-15).

While we were enslaved to do the will of our flesh and the Devil, we committed multitudes of sins against the Almighty (Job 15:16; Romans 2:5; 3:23) and the penalty for sin is death and Hell (Matthew 25:31-34, 41-46; Romans 6:23a; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Revelation 21:8).

While sin entered the world because of Adam, death spread to all because all sinned (Romans 3:23, 5:12). Again, this is terrible news! Every man, woman and child who has ever lived is under the condemnation and judgment of a Just and Holy God! Everyone is guilty before Him because everyone has fallen short of His righteous requirements.

Those outside of the Christian faith often object to the idea that anyone would go to Hell simply because they didn’t believe in Jesus, but this is a misunderstanding. People don’t go to Hell because they haven’t heard of Jesus – they go to Hell because they have rebelled against the King of the Universe! Their penalty is due to their rebellion. Jesus is the Savior from the penalty, not the reason for the penalty. Everyone deserves to go to Hell because that is where rebels go … but God, in His great love and mercy, has made a way (singular) to be reconciled to Him and to receive pardon for your rebellion.

This is good news!

One of the biggest lies of the Devil is that there are degrees of innocence. While most people will readily admit that they've made mistakes ("no one's perfect!"), these same people will profess their own goodness (Proverbs 16:2). Unfortunately, "innocent" is not a comparative term. It's an absolute -- you're either innocent or you're not.

I know many people who have gotten speeding tickets. Often, people lament the fact that they received a ticket even though they "were just keeping up with traffic!" The fact that everyone around you was breaking the law does not change the fact that so were you. You are not "innocent" because you're just as guilty as everyone else ... you're guilty just like everyone else!

Someone that I love very much remarked to me once, that if this is true, then everyone is headed to Hell. Sadly, yes. (see Matthew 7:13-14; Romans 3:23). We're all in the same boat (so to speak), but the boat is sinking and it is sure death for everyone on board.

If it were not for Christ, no one would be saved (John 14:6; Galatians 2:21).

We cannot trust in our own goodness, because it's never enough. God does not put our good deeds on a scale and weigh them against the bad. He requires moral perfection. Consider what Jesus said:



7 "Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, 'Come immediately and sit down to eat'? 8 "But will he not say to him, 'Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink '? 9 "He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? 10 "So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.'  (Luke 17:7-10, NASB, underline added for emphasis)

We don't get "credit" for being good and kind and loving ... we're supposed to be those things! A criminal doesn't get acquitted of murder and theft because he has paid his taxes on time. You're supposed to obey the law of the land, and you are penalized when you break the law (even if you've kept other parts of the law). Innocence is like hanging from a chain, if one link is broken you will fall because breaking the law means you're guilty (see James 2:10).

If we receive the gift of salvation, we have been saved from the wrath of God which is currently upon all who do not believe (John 3:36; Romans 1:18) and the Lord has removed our past sins from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12) and He promises to remember them no more (Jeremiah 31:34).

If we understand that the King of the Universe has freely offered pardon for our foolish rebellion against Him, then we can understand why David so wisely wrote: How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered! 2 How blessed is the man to whom the LORD does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit! (Psalm 32:1-2, NASB)

Amen!

Those who accept Christ as Lord and Savior through repentance and faith have been saved from the reign of Satan, the penalty of Adam’s sin, and the penalty of their own sin.

In the next post, we’ll look at what we are saved from in the present.

(Continue reading Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

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