The subject of salvation is very interesting in many different explanations and facets. Salvation is a word that is twisted and turned in many directions depending on a personal view. Looking at the word in several dictionaries you will find pretty much the same definitions. Salvation is the act of saving or protecting harm, risk, loss or destruction. That would be a secular view of the word. An example would be you are in harms ways with no way of escape and someone removed the cause of your destruction and you are saved from the threat; this someone would be your salvation. Theologically the word moves in many different directions. Some other words that reflect salvation are; redemption, atonement, delivered and redeemed. Salvation to the Christian is the act of being saved from sin and death. Redemption is the central theme of the Bible and as such has many scripture passages devoted to it. Let’s look at the word as a whole and see what God has actually said about being “saved”.
Our world has evolved to a place where we have reached so far in the area of technology and dependence that many of the great themes of the Bible have been diluted and compromised to fit our particular needs and environment. Salvation is one of the issues that have been fractured. Dependant upon your belief system your view of salvation and how it is attained or for how long it will remain in place has become a mere fog of its real meaning. Theologically salvation falls under the doctrine of Soteriology. Soteriolgy is the study of the savior and the work of redemption. To the Christian salvation is deliverance and atonement from guilt. The word comes from the Greek word soter or savior, so this is a study of Jesus Christ and His work in our salvation. As we open up our minds and attempt to remove all bias or prejudgments let’s go to God’s word and see if we can find truth. Jesus said that He was the way, the truth and the life so we can look to Him for our truth.
Ephesians 2:8 says, “ For it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that anyone can boast”. Reading on to gain the whole context verse ten says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do”. This and a few other passages have been used frequently regarding salvation so let’s dissect the passage. Three words become apparent in verse eight and they are, grace, faith and gift. God’s grace and our faith are necessary to receive salvation. The small word gift becomes so large that many times it is over looked and falls by the wayside. Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord”. With this verse we can build on the meaning of salvation. The small word “gift” is used again when describing salvation. Another word comes into view here and that is “wages”. A “wage” is something earned and in this verse the earning is death and death is imparted to us by sin. What kind of death is the passage speaking of? Now we can wander off into much theory and fact depending upon your worldview or denominational thinking. Romans 3; 23,24, “ for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus”. Many words in this passage add to those mentioned before. The word “all” includes everyone that comes into this world by birth. Sin and fall short of God’s glory are words describing the reason for a need of salvation. Sin is missing the mark of God’s glory and is exactly as the verse says sin is falling short of all that God is and for what He intended for us. Now we see another word we can add to our attempt to define salvation. The word here is justified and notice just before the use of justified is “freely”. Freely and gift are linked together in the whole context of salvation. The word redemption now works its way into our definition. Ephesians 1:7-9, “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”. So, we have moved through just a few passages and begun to build and add facts to our search for salvation. The above passage adds more by using the word “forgiveness” and “blood” but notice here the abundance of God’s grace that is lavished upon us. These words are so important to really understand what salvation is and just skimming does not give the full impact of what God is attempting to show us. True salvation is not simple and cannot be attained through simplicity of thought. Yes it is easy to gain, and it is a free gift that God gives by His grace but some head knowledge and forethought also bring us to God’s saving grace. So let’s examine the facts that we have this far and then dig deeper. We are finding out what salvation is but we have not yet looked into is how we gain salvation or what the whole of salvation is.
What we know now is simple in its entirety but can be misinterpreted. First, Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us”. Grace is tied very close to love and mercy, so it is by God’s love, mercy and grace that salvation is passed on to us. It is freely given by way of His gift to us. A gift is something given without strings, we need not do anything to receive the gift but take hold of it and use it. The gift is Jesus Christ, His son who shed His blood for the forgiveness of sin. This is major and also within the gift is redemption, justification, atonement and reconciliation. The words attached to salvation are numerous and all lead to a freedom from sin and the hope of eternal life and reconciliation whereby we have atonement and a reconnection to the Living God who created all things. The book of Romans lays out the whole plan of salvation and the hope we have. The promises made by God that are eternally bound and cannot be retracted. God’s love is not something that can be changed or retracted. What He gives by way of a promise cannot be changed. He gives the gift unconditionally and the gift is Jesus and we being made one with God and that is atonement.
Why then is salvation necessary? That question can be answered by one simple word and that is sin. Sin, as we seen earlier is missing the mark or standard of holiness and righteousness that is found in God. The rules are set out in scripture and can easily be found. Let’s note first that scripture uses the term sin (singular) and sins (plural) so there is one sin and then there are many sins. When speaking of sin alone it is that one thing that separates us from God, it is something that we are born with or inherited (Romans 5:12ff). Now we need to look at sin (singular) or what some call “original sin”.
Sin, or at least the thought of sin began even before God created the heavens and the earth. Up in the place where God and the angels lived there was a rebellion. Lucifer, one of the highest of angels thought he could actually replace God and become sovereign. Lucifer (Satan, the Devil) went against God in defiance and sin emerged. From this point on you are familiar with the story. “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1) and the story goes on and we see in verses 26,27 that God created man and He made him (Adam and Eve) in His image and likeness. This is another major statement. Adam, the first man was told to multiply and bring forth fruit. Down through the ages, we are the fruit. We are all descendents of Adam and Eve. So, we will move on with the story of sin. This is one of the most told stories in history. Leaving out some of it the point of the story is that within that paradise man had a close relationship with God, they walked and talked with each other and like God they had eternal life they would live forever. Also in the “garden” was everything needed to live by, there was the tree of life, the river of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why this particular tree was placed in the garden, we don’t know, probably it was a test for man. A rule was set in place and fruit from this tree was forbidden. God said if you eat of this tree “you will surely die”. Now being in God’s likeness man had been given the option to choose, he had a free will and first Eve and then Adam made a choice to eat and immediately after eating they knew good and evil, first they noticed they were naked and after that you can imagine some of what came into their minds. Evil entered the world by way of the serpent (Satan, the Devil) through deception. Satan deceived mankind through the use of their ability to reason and then choose and they chose wrong. Because of the one act sin entered the world of mankind. Deception is the cause of all sin, a persuasion to disobey God and like Adam when sin occurs judgment is necessary. Adam and Eve were removed from paradise and burdens were placed upon them and the most sever was they were separated from fellowship with God, they died and this death came upon the fullness of man, they would die physically but also spiritually, their spirits were dead. This is sin (singular) all of mankind would have this sin placed upon him/her because of inheritance. This is original sin and we are all born with it. That brings us to the necessity of salvation or deliverance. Redemption is the gift of God and that comes through His son, Jesus Christ the savior of the world.
We have no factual reason why God placed all this into His creation but with foreknowledge and a plan conceived by Him this is what we have, yes it is a testing. We must be “born again”. Look closely at all the uses of the singular word sin and you will find that they all refer to that original sin we gain through inheritance. The most familiar verse of scripture that we see even at football games is John 3:16. “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”. Read the verse carefully and not just pass over the words because they have been so repetitious. One of the problems many of us have is we take a verse and do not see the whole context. This is a tremendous mistake because this is how things get distorted. “For God so loved the world (Romans 5:8) that He gave (gift) (Ephesians 2:8) His only son to pay (redeem) the price of sin (atonement, reconciliation). Can you feel the importance of combining all of scripture to gain the real and whole truth? The context of John 3:16 is so necessary we should not overlook it. The chapter begins with the familiar story of Nicodemus, you know the story but do you get the meaning. Questions are asked and answered within this story, important questions they are. First, he recognizes Jesus as someone special then Jesus tells him if he wants to see the kingdom of God, he must be born again. Nicodemus asks Him how can he be born again? The answer comes in verses 5-8. You must be born of water and spirit (this is new birth) and can only come through Jesus Christ. Water represents our birth in the natural sense that is “born of the flesh”. Spiritual birth comes when we are “born again” and that is when our spirit, the one that remains dormant when we are born physically is made alive as the spirit of God comes to us and within us; 1 Corinthians 3:16. This regeneration brings us back into fellowship with the one who created all things and now we can walk and talk with Him just as Adam did back in that garden. The rest of the passage explains regeneration. The verses I love are 17,18;”For God did not send His son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world in Him. Whoever believes in Him is not condemned (Romans 8:1) but whoever does not believe is condemned already because he has not believed in God’s one and only son”. We stand condemned before God while in the flesh (physically born) but when we are found in Christ Jesus (salvation) there is no condemnation, not one iota. Do you now understand what I mean by reading the whole context of scripture? False teachings and doctrine come by picking out one verse of scripture so it can be used to vilify and fit their particular belief system. Salvation is needed to cleanse or remove sin from our total being, remember we are made in God’s image and likeness, we have body, soul and spirit and to be found righteous and holy we must be born again and reclaimed through the one man, Jesus Christ. God is a trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit and all three are equal working to bring us to fullness and to a place that God originally intended. When we receive Christ as our savior we truly do become alive for our whole makeup is changed and now we have the reconnection necessary for a relationship with God. We will deal with the plural sins in awhile but for now just be happy to be born again and if you are not or feel you are not born again, read on and your answer will come to you just as it came to Nicodemus when He asked that all important question “how can a person be born again”?
The answer to sin is Jesus Christ. It is now necessary to examine the scripture for the truth in how we gain salvation. My fear is that many who believe they are born again simply by saying a simple prayer or words that may go over the top of our heads have simply not been born again. Why does man distort and compromise what God says? Do they subconsciously think like Satan that they can overrule what God has said? Have we reached the time of what The Revelation says about the church at Laodecea? This church was so into itself that it made Jesus sick. Luke warmness is compromise, deception and distortion. Jesus said He “was the way and the truth and the life” so let’s look to Him for our answer. First, we must remember that Jesus is also “God”. John 1:1 tells us that He was in the beginning with God and that He is God. If you look closely in the first three chapters of Genesis you will see the trinity or what some call the “Godhead”. At each point in the creation the term “us” is used, meaning more than one and in the second verse we see the Spirit moving in the creation. All three were present and if you study deeper you will find the Hebrew word used in these first passages is a plural word meaning more than one. Sin, salvation and the doctrine of the trinity are all found within the first chapter of our Bible.
Nicodemus asked the question and it must be asked and answered by each one of us. How can I be born again? How can I be reconciled to God? How can redemption come to me for forgiveness and cleansing? Now we need to study further and find our answers.
Romans 8:1, “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”. This verse of scripture is one that we should memorize and keep hidden in our hearts. The verse can easily stand-alone but as stated earlier the context before the verse is important to fully understand what Paul is trying to say. The word therefore at the beginning of the verse is telling us that a conclusion is made. Chapter seven is dealing with our struggle with sin and this verse removes that burden we carry because in our flesh we cannot escape the sin in our lives without the help of Jesus and the Holy Spirit. This is the freedom we gain by accepting Jesus as our savior and salvation occurs. Again, the question that Nicodemus asked, “how can we be born again”? So now we can get into the way of true salvation. Ephesians 2:8, “For it by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God”. Here we have an answer to the why and how of salvation. The whole context of chapter two is we being “made alive in Christ”. Chapter two restates much of what we were before Christ, that is filled with the temptation and deception of the evil one who is sin and when he has control of us we are sin, only Jesus can remove that control and free us from who and what sin is. Read the chapter and see where we came from and where we are now and in the future, but how do we really get to that place. Now we can look plainly at the how of salvation. First verse eight says it by God’s grace that salvation is given to mankind, His mercy, grace and justness is the reason Jesus came to us (John 3:16). So many of the salvation passages start with some measure of God’s grace. So we are told that it is by God’s grace and our faith that salvation can happen. We need to look real close at this word faith. Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see”. Read all of chapter eleven and see the examples of faith that cannot be seen but also a certainty of the result. Acts 16:31 say, “ believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved”. If you look at all of the New Testament passages that deal with salvation you will find that they all use the words faith, trust or belief. These three words are basically speaking of the same thing. Faith is not a blind leap and neither are trust and belief. How did Abel know to bring the correct offering? How did Moses parents know to place him in that river and know that he would be safe? What about Abraham? He was an old man and so was Sarah but he believed God’s promise and was considered faithful. You can look these words up in a dictionary to get meaning or you can simply read in your Bible the occurrences where faith can be seen. All of the healings that happened during the ministry of Christ show us what faith is. The woman who believed by just touching the garment of Jesus, she would be healed. Peter’s sick mother-in-law was another instance, the woman at the well, Mary Magdalene and many other such stories show how faith, belief and trust work together. A good example of belief can be seen in Satan, he certainly believes who Jesus is and what He can do. So what kind of belief is necessary to receive salvation? Of all the passages that deal with salvation my belief is Romans 10:9,10 gives the best explanation, “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord”, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, thou will be saved. For it is with your heart you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth you confess and are saved”. If you notice the whole context you will find for the most part that within the total passage we are looking at God’s sovereign choice. This is a wonderful passage and if you read carefully you find the grace of God and how salvation can be found. First we find here that a confession is necessary and the confession must be made with your mouth that is verbally. Confession is an acknowledgment or recognition that something is true. Second, we must believe in our heart (our total being) that God raised Jesus from the dead. Belief in our total being brings justification. Twice we are told that a verbal confession must be made in other words you cannot keep it a secret. Confession is not a secret thing it is a verbal commitment that “Jesus is Lord”. The word lord here is important because when you make Jesus Lord you are confessing that you are ready to be His servant and He is your master. Why is belief in the resurrection necessary? Belief that God can and did raise Jesus is a probable conclusion that He can also raise you.
Belief, trust and faith are the necessary ingredients for salvation to happen. We can reasonably assume that these three come into play at the time of our salvation. God, who is sovereign, makes it plain to mankind that He exists (Romans 1:18-20). The Holy Spirit comes to us when we are at a place where reception of the way of salvation is made plain. At this point we have the God given right to accept or reject Christ. When through forethought and consideration of all the facts we either choose to believe, trust and have faith or reject. Upon acceptance in the heart (our whole being) acknowledgment must take place (verbally with our mouths) and salvation is gained. This acknowledgment can take place through a variety of ways but most often is concurred at baptism. What happens upon being born again is repentance, a turning from our old self (life) and the new that has come. A sure way of telling weather you are truly “saved” or not can be seen in your new life. A change is made and new life begins. If you see no change in your life, if you are not repentant about sin and life goes on as normal you may look into the fact that it is possible you are not truly a child of God and born again. I say these things not to judge, only to show the biblical way of salvation. My opinion is that all to often, because compromise has made it’s way into the church a false impression is given to the how of salvation. Scriptural salvation is not a simple raising of a hand or an agreement to something said, it does not come with baptism it is just the opposite. Acknowledgment, forethought and recognition that God loves each and everyone of us and has given us a way to reconcile ourselves to Him by way of belief in the life, death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ. Salvation leads to baptism and a new life that is recognized by a changed life. All to often it is said that a person need not do anything to gain salvation but that is not true. There are promises in the Bible that are unconditional and then there are promises that have a condition. The promise of the way of salvation is unconditional but the process of being saved carries the condition of acknowledgment and belief, if the conditions are not met then salvation is not gained.
Salvation when it happens brings with it many new things the first being a new life. Scripture says that the old is gone and the new has come. Rebirth is giving life to a before dormant spirit. The Holy Spirit enters our spirit and we become reconnected to the God of creation, we will no longer die but we will have eternal life. Our sin is forgiven and covered (redeemed) by the blood of Jesus Christ and this includes past, present and future sins (1 John 1:9). The Holy Spirit now begins a work in us (sanctification) that allows us to grow in this new life. You are a new creature in Christ Jesus.
Knowing that the majority of people who read this are born again believers in Jesus Christ, I write to give a thorough identity to the subject of salvation and to help when you find yourself sharing the “good news” of the Gospel, which is Jesus Christ. If you feel you are a non-believer follow this path. Know that you are a sinner (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Know that God loves you (John 3:16; Romans 5:8). Know that you must acknowledge God as sovereign and able to “save” and accept His free gift by trusting and believing (Ephesians 2:8; Romans 10:9,10). My prayer is that you will all grow in grace and the Love of the Father would be with you.