Salvation

Salvation

In every race and culture people have the need to find meaning and hope that goes beyond their everyday existence. Christianity is unique in that it speaks of the God of love, who reaches out to satisfy man’s deepest longing. The main reasons for becoming a Christian (or converting to Christianity) are to experience this love of Christ, to find lasting peace and joy, to experience freedom from sin, to discover true purpose and to live with Christ eternally.

Saved from drowning

Mr Armstrong was an expert swimmer and often went for a swim in the sea. One day he ventured out so far that the current caught him and carried him away. Realizing the danger he was in, Mr Armstrong fought the current with all his strength but he could not get back to shore. Loudly he cried out for help. A fisherman saw him, quickly turned his motorboat towards the exhausted man and pulled him to safety. Without the fisherman, Mr Armstrong would surely have drowned.

God’s plan of salvation (Study the previous leaflet BBT 5)

The story above is an illustration of the spiritual state of mankind. By nature, all people are lost in the current of sin and need salvation (Ro 3:23). God’s righteousness demanded that sin be punished. But his compassion led him to design a plan to save mankind from hell. “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son?…” (Jn 3:16a). Through Jesus Christ the great work of salvation was completed on the cross of Calvary. The righteous demand that sin be atoned for, was fulfilled. The door into fellowship with God was open again, so that “…?whoever believes in him (Jesus) shall not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16b).

Anybody can receive God’s salvation on the condition that he accepts and believes in Jesus Christ. But those who reject him will face God’s just punishment. The Bible tells us not to take salvation for granted (Mt 7:21). Forgiveness is not automatic. There is a decision to make. If we hear his voice today, we should not miss our chance to be saved (see Heb 4).

God’s salvation is purely an act of grace as opposed to the teaching of salvation by works. People who are encouraged to give financially, follow certain rituals or do good in order to compensate for their sins are like Mr Armstrong who tried his very best to swim out of the current. Was he able to save himself? No. He was rescued because the fisherman cared enough to save him. Similarly, we cannot be saved by our own achievements, or by sacraments, or by membership of a church but by the grace of Jesus Christ alone (Eph 2:8).

God’s way of salvation

Salvation is God’s way of rescuing sinners from eternal damnation. It is the way of grace, summed up in one name, the name above all other names, Jesus Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through him (see Jn 14:6, Ac 4:12). The most important question that can ever be asked is, “What must I do to be saved?” The answer is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved – you and your household” (see Ac 16:16-34).

Steps to faith in Christ

Man’s true purpose is to have fellowship with God through faith in Jesus Christ. Faith comes from hearing his word and responding to it. Getting to know Christ, submitting to his lordship and following him is a wonderful, life-changing experience. It involves the following points:

  • God reaches out to you. Even before you are willing to give your life to the Lord, he loves you and cares for you (Jer 31:3, Ro 2:4).
  • Repentance. Admit to God that you have sinned against him. Tell him about all your failures. Say that you are sorry. Ask him to forgive you. God’s response: Forgiveness, cleansing (Heb 3:7-11, Ac 3:19, 1?Jn 1:9).
  • Surrender. Invite Jesus to take control of your life. Commit yourself to him. Say, “Lord, I am not able to go on alone. Come into my life and help me become the person you want me to be.” God’s response: He will pour the Holy Spirit into your life and make you a totally new person inside (Ro 8:9-17, 1?Cor 6:9-11, 2?Cor 5:17).
  • Faith. Believe that Jesus died on the cross and carried the just punishment for your sin. Trust him (Ro 10:9-10, Eph 2:1-10, Is?55:6-7). God’s response: Total acceptance (Ro 8:1).
  • Gratitude. Thank him that he has saved you (Ro 10:13). God’s response: Great rejoicing (Zeph 3:17, Lk 15:7).
  • Study the Bible, pray and seek fellowship with other true Christians. God’s response: “I am among you” (Mt 18:20).

Let us look more closely at some of these biblical terms:

Repentance

The first words of the public ministry of Jesus are: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Mt 4:17, see also Mt 3:2, Lk 24:47, Ac 17:30; Ac 20:21). No one will find a meaningful relationship with God unless they do what the Bible calls ’repent’.

Repentance is basically a gift of God to man, which leads to salvation (Ac 11:18). And yet man has to cooperate. Repentance is the part a man, whose conscience has been stirred up, has to do. As he hears the message of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit convicts him of his sin and as a result a great desire to repent comes over him.

Repentance is not only being sorry for one’s wrongdoings. Many weep because of the consequences of their misconduct. But as soon as the pressure is off their back, they return to the same old way of life. Repentance means a person must change his attitude and face God instead of running away from him. Remember the Prodigal Son. At the pigpen he regrets the self-will that has brought him that far away from his father. His repentance becomes evident when he returns home and humbly asks his father for forgiveness. His father runs to meet him and arranges for a welcome party (Lk 15:11-24). Likewise, there will be rejoicing in heaven over a sinner who repents and returns to God.

Forgiveness

God’s response to repentance is forgiveness through Jesus Christ. When he forgives, he removes completely the debt we owe or the punishment we deserve. He gives up all claims for compensation. Because he has forgiven us, we too must forgive those who have wronged us (Mk 11:25, Mt 18:21-35).

Surrender

When a person becomes a Christian Jesus Christ is the new king in his life. From now on Jesus Christ helps him to live according to biblical teaching. The Christian gives up those things that are contrary to God’s will and is committed to do what God designed him to do (Ac 26:20). A thief who repents is determined not to steal again. A liar who turns to God is eager to speak the truth. A person living an immoral life takes a turn and stops gratifying the desires of the sinful nature (1?Jn 2:3-6). Of course this is impossible in our own strength. Surrender means we give up our pride, admit and confess our failures and accept God’s grace and power. This leads to a change of behaviour and brings a time of refreshing from God (see Ac 3:19).

Just as I am, I come

At a gathering of well-known personalities in London a young lady sang most beautifully. Everybody enjoyed the presentation. After the performance, the famous preacher Caesar Milan went to her and said, “How remarkably the cause of Christ could be furthered if you placed your talents in the Lord’s service. You must know, my lady, that in God’s sight you are just as well a sinner as a drunkard in the gutter or a prostitute in downtown. But the blood of Christ can cleanse from every sin.” That night the lady could not sleep. At two o’clock in the morning she jumped out of bed and wrote the famous hymn:

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that your blood was shed for me,
And that you bid me come to you,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, you will receive,
Will welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because your promise I believe,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Charlotte Elliot

The blessings of faith

At the moment a sinner accepts Christ as his Saviour, his sins are forgiven and he has peace with God. But besides this he is blessed with countless other spiritual blessings. By and by his eyes are opened and he can’t stop marvelling at the abundance of God’s grace.

Redemption – by grace set free from the bondage of sin

Redemption means the act of “buying back” or “saving from captivity by paying a price”. The Israelites, captives in Egypt, were told to paint the blood of a faultless lamb on their doorposts. Thus the death-angel passed over, sparing the life of the first-born son. Then God led them out of slavery to freedom (Ex 12). He continued to accept animal sacrifices to atone for sin, but it was never enough until Jesus came. He substituted his perfect life for our sinful lives by his death on the cross and said, “It is finished!” He forgave us and cleansed our hearts with his precious blood, setting us free from the power of sin. He brought us peace and by his wounds we are healed (see Is 53:5). As we are united with Christ by faith, Satan has no rightful claim on us. “Christ forgave us all our sins?… and having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col 2:13b.15, see also BBT 2).

My Christian experience

As a Senior High School student, I called myself a Christian, but I was not living for Christ. I was involved in so many immoral activities. We plotted evil, created confusion and fought with other colleagues. My tutor at that time talked to me about believing and the need to be born again. On 28 February 2007 we were reading John 1:12 and 1?John 5:9-13. I believed that message and became a new person, a child of God. God forgave my sins and gave me his Spirit. He assured me that I have eternal life. Since then the Holy Spirit works in diverse ways in my daily life to transform me.

Paul Darko, Ghana (adapted and abridged)

How wonderful! From the moment we commit ourselves to Jesus Christ, we are no longer slaves to sin (see Ro 6). Jesus is our king. He sets us free (see Jn 8:36) and helps us to become the person he wants us to be.

Some people have come to the wrong conclusion regarding redemption. They mistakenly think that God must prosper those who are saved, give them success, keep trouble away, give healing to the sick or deliver them from suffering. He might, but he is under no obligation to do so. To think that I will get what I want if I believe with all my heart is a faith focussing on my own self, not on God. The object of faith must always be Jesus Christ and the Word of God (Mt 6:33). He gives us the assurance that in all things (including sickness and troubles) he “works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Ro 8:28).

Regeneration – by grace born again into God’s family

When a baby is born, it leaves the darkness of the mother’s womb and starts a new life in the light. The umbilical cord is cut, and the baby’s lungs fill with fresh air. Something similar happens when a person repents and believes in Jesus for his salvation. God forgives his sins, cutting off his dark, sinful past. The Holy Spirit comes into his life, breathing “fresh air” into him, and gives him life. Now he is a newborn child of God, a new creation (1?Jn 3:1a, 1?Jn 5:1). What a privilege! Just as Christ became alive and rose from the grave, so the new Christian also is spiritually resurrected, passing from death into a new life in union with Christ (Jn 5:24, Gal 2:20). Whenever we are tempted to doubt our new position, the Holy Spirit in us testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. And being children we are also heirs – heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ (Ro 8:14-17, 1?Pe 1:4). Even if we will die physically one day, our bodies will be resurrected to live forever in heaven.

Justification – by grace made right with God

Justification is God’s act of declaring us “not guilty” for our sins. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2?Cor 5:21).

Life for life

There were once two brothers. The elder one of the two was a real good fellow, the younger one a good-for-nothing, looking for trouble everywhere. One day the younger brother murdered another man. With the police behind him, he ran to his older brother and told him what had happened. Quickly the older brother exchanged his own clean clothes with him and put on his brother’s blood-stained clothes instead. Soon the police arrived and, without checking, arrested the man with the blood-stained dress. He was tried, sentenced to death and executed. Later, the younger brother was terribly sorry and went to the judge to admit his crime. But the judge said, “Too late. Your brother has already been punished in your place. You are free.”

Full story available as a tract at DCL (address page 4)

Jesus is our older brother. By his grace we are free from the punishment of sin. With our heart we believe this and are justified, and as we confess with our mouth that Jesus is Lord, we are saved (Ro 10:9-10). This is a very significant recipe for a victorious Christian life.

Reconciliation – by grace brought back to God

Reconciliation means that Jesus has made peace with God for us (Eph 2:13-18). He presents us holy and without blemish and free from accusation before God (Col 1:22). We are brought back to God because Jesus has fulfilled the law for us (Ro 10:4). Nothing separates us from him anymore (Ro 8:37-39). In Christ, we are a new creation?… all this from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ?… not counting men’s sins against them (see 2?Cor 5:17-19). Being reconciled to God will also affect our relationship with others (Jn 15:12-17). Christ breaks down the walls of hostility and prejudice towards others (Eph 2:11-18) and helps us love even our enemies.

Sanctification – growth generated by the Holy Spirit

Sanctification is the change that God makes in our lives as we grow in faith. At birth, an infant is already a complete person but its purpose is to grow and become an adult. In the same way Christians must grow to become mature. This happens through the power of the Holy Spirit. The NT often uses the expression ’in Christ’. As we take part spiritually in Christ’s death, we put to death our own selfish desires, taking captive every thought in obedience to his word (see Ro 13:14, 2?Cor 10:5). By faith in Christ we can overcome temptation (1?Jn 5:5). In Christ we have been given access to all his spiritual treasures for our daily Christian life (Col 2:3.9.10). When we fail to love we can draw from his love. When we lack purity we can go to him for cleansing. When we lack patience we can clothe ourselves with his patience. The Holy Spirit works in our life to produce good fruit (Gal 5:22, Ac 1:8).

And what if anyone falls in sin again?

Although we are saved it is still possible that a Christian is caught in sin. What should we do then? We should never take it lightly but confess our sin and go to the Lord for cleansing. He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. The Lord Jesus will speak to the Father in our defence (1 Jn 2:1). Boldly we may speak to our adversary, “Do not gloat over me, my enemy! Though I have fallen, I will rise. Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light” (Mic 7:8).

Falling from grace?

There are many passages in Scripture that affirm our eternal salvation. Probably the most beautiful is, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no-one can snatch them out of my hand” (Jn 10:27-28). When we talk about the possibility of falling away, we should never diminish the force and beauty of this promise. We are indeed safe in the arms of Jesus. No power in the world is able to separate a believer from the love of God (Ro 8:35-39). However, the Bible also teaches that a Christian lives by faith. “But my righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him” (Heb 10:38). The Apostle Paul writes to the Romans about standing by faith, “They (the Jews) were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off” (Ro 11:20b-22). To the Galatians, who were trying to be justified by law, Paul plainly said, “…?you have fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4b). Therefore let us remain true to the Lord, banishing any doubts and fears.

A visible sign of salvation

Before Jesus went back to heaven he told his disciples to go into all the world and make disciples of all nations and to baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Mt 28:19). His followers are all baptised by one Spirit into one body (1?Cor 12:13). A new community of believers, called Church, came into existence. Since then, water baptism has been an outward sign of what has taken place by faith in a convert’s inner life. Just as the water washes away the dirt of the body so the blood of Jesus cleanses us from inner contamination. Moreover, baptism is a public testimony of the new believer’s union with Christ in his death and his resurrection.

P. Mattmann, DCL team