The question “what is salvation?” or “how am I saved?” is the most important question we can ask. The answer determines our place in eternity. It changes us from living alone, to living with God. The answer changes everything.
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So what is salvation?
This is the second in a two-part series about salvation: what it is not, and what it is. Last week, I covered the first part in my post, The sinner’s prayer.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)
It is only by the Grace of God that we can experience salvation.
I would interject here that early on in my Christian walk and subsequent church life, I was surrounded by foundational terms that, if not contextualized, were mere platitudes with which I was left to draw my own conclusions.
- God’s grace
- The Gospel of Jesus Christ
- The Word of God
- Belief in Jesus
- Faith in God
You might see how easily a checklist could be formed. Each of these terms, however, contain enough meaning and implication to propel anyone into a life of learning and discovery. A new believer must be careful never to assume the meaning of such terms.
Many of the verses I cited last week made mention of healing and salvation. One of the perils of not possessing a broader understanding of Scripture is receiving any single verse as being a complete answer.
So let’s get back to the grace of God.
In a previous post called Why does God allow suffering, I pointed out that mankind is inherently sinful (Romans 5:12; 1 John 1:18). We are fallen and the world is fallen. Sin is our default position. And there are plenty of human examples of blatant and willful sinfulness.
Sin is the opposite of holiness. God, if you will, embodies holiness. That is – holiness is His nature (Leviticus 19:2; Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8). Therefore, since sin and holiness are opposites, sin and God are also opposites and cannot occupy the same space.
Many opposites cannot occupy the same space without one succumbing to – or becoming – the other:
- light and darkness
- wet and dry
- hot and cold
- in and out
- up and down
- black and white
- delicious and healthy
It isn’t that any of these conditions’ failure to be the other condition is due to a shortage of power or ability. They simply are what they are, are not the other thing, and cannot be both at the same time.
If you are still awake, then consider this; as God is holy and mankind is sinful then God and a sinful human cannot, in these two states, occupy the same space.
As sin can be defined as an opposite of holiness, and therefore opposed to God, sin is separate from God. As mankind is inherently sinful, we cannot be in God’s presence in a state of sinfulness. We are naturally separate from God and have been since the fall.
Mankind does not “deserve” to be in God’s presence.
We, being sinful, deserve the opposite. We “deserve” to experience God’s absence.
Since God is eternal, then our ongoing conditions – be they with or without God – are also eternal. So, we either have eternal life in heaven with God’s presence, or we have eternal death in hell without it.
Nothing can change its own nature. This is also true of mankind. Mankind cannot choose to be holy or righteous. We cannot save ourselves.
God, however, can impart righteousness to us.
That is what He did, only because He loves us, not because we deserved it.
The way God imparted His righteousness to us, is by dying for us. This is what is referred to as the atonement.
Since God could not die, He became human (John 1:1, 1:14). He came to earth as the person of Jesus, the Son of God, but in human form so that He could be killed.
Jesus voluntarily allowed Himself to be killed. Like the unblemished animal sacrifices of the Old Testament, Jesus was the unblemished sacrifice to God. God sacrificed His Son to Himself.
Jesus, being God as well as human, was (and remains) perfect. This perfect, unfallen, holy human being became the ultimate sacrifice — the only sacrifice capable of satisfying God’s wrath resulting from sin — once and for all and because of that sacrifice, mankind could be forgiven. This is called the Gospel which means ‘good news.’ The fact that this happened, combined with the fact that we have faith that it happened and accept this forgiveness, is called salvation. Being saved means that we can be in God’s presence, and that is why God did it.
We can be in God’s presence now and for all eternity. Having God’s forgiveness of our sins is necessary because one day, Jesus will come back and all sin will be burned up. If we accept God’s forgiveness of our sins, we will not be burned up.
So, we do not choose to accept God’s forgiveness in order to go to heaven. We go to heaven, in part, because we accepted God’s forgiveness.
Jesus did not deserve to die for our sins, we did.
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
God’s giving us a salvation that we did not deserve is what is referred to as God’s grace.
I said that because of Christ’s sacrifice, we “could” be forgiven. That is because this forgiveness was not forced on us. The second half of a verse I quoted above from Ephesians 2 said that we are saved by grace…through faith.
This just means that if we do not believe in (and accept) God, or Jesus, or what either of them did for us, then we are not saved. We have not “received” forgiveness. We have not “accepted” Jesus, or “come to Christ.”
I want to clarify here that it is the act, God’s act, that saved us.
Our faith did not save us. Rather, we are to have faith and acceptance in God’s grace in order to realize it. Denying God’s grace denies us of God’s grace.
So it is through faith that we are able to realize and accept that by God’s grace, we experience salvation.
And this faith – as the verse continues – is not something great, or reasonable, or responsible that we did. We did not do it. God did that too. That faith, like God’s grace, is also a gift from God. So we can’t even take credit for (and boast about) that. About all we “can” do is consider ourselves blessed.
If you have recited the sinner’s prayer before, be not afraid. It does not now mean that you are not saved. If you are here, I pray it is because you now have faith in Jesus. And you were already saved before you ever recited that prayer.
You are not saved because you chose to go to heaven. You are not saved because you apologized to God. And you are not saved because you told Jesus, “come on over, you are welcome into my heart.”
He was there before you ever conceived of it.
Saved for Later is a blog for the recently – or almost – saved adult. To get more of the foundational truths that we were not taught in childhood, subscribe to this blog. Please ‘like’, comment, and share!
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.