Chapter 7 - Salvation

A Present Possibility

The New Testament throughout speaks of salvation as obtainable by men in their present state on the earth. When the Philippian jailer asked, “What must I do to be saved?” the answer was quickly given, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). Paul said: “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth.” (Rom. 1:16). (See also Rom. 10:9; I Cor. 1:21.) And in language still more emphatic he declared, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:2).
One of the best proofs that salvation is a present possibility is the fact that some have already obtained it. In II Timothy 1:9 Paul affirms that God “hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling.” Peter writes to certain brethren who had received “the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (I Pet. 1:9). Paul refers to the work Christ wrought in human hearts in these words: “According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5); “By grace ye are saved” (Eph. 2:5, 8); “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved, it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18).

What Salvation Means

But what does this term “salvation” signify? Its literal meaning is deliverance; hence, in its spiritual usage it signifies deliverance from sin. Let the Word of God define its meaning: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21); “Ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins” (I John 3:5); “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil” (vs. 8); He “gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4); “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). Yea, he hath “loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood” (Rev. 1:5).
If the actual results of salvation are not accomplished in the heart and life, then it is because the person is not yet saved. Many people who are still continuing to do the works of sin claim to be Christians, declaring that they are “saved by faith” or are “sinners saved by grace.” Now, how can a person be saved by faith or by grace while at the same time he is not saved at all? Salvation is received by faith, but a definite result is obtained, for we receive the end, or object of our faith, which is the salvation of our souls. (See I Pet. 1:9.) Of what use is a mere profession of religion unless one has a real experience in the soul?
Notice how the Apostle Paul also connects salvation with its results in the individual heart and life: “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 world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
In the Scriptures salvation is described by different terms, as justification, conversion, and the new birth, each of which conveys a certain special idea relative to the subject. The reader must understand, however, that all these terms used in the remainder of this chapter relate to but one work—the first work of grace. For example, we are not justified at one time, converted at another time, receive the new birth at another time; these terms express only different aspects of the same work.
We will consider justification first. This is the legal aspect. To justify means to absolve from guilt. “All have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness … that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.… Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith” (Rom. 3:23-28).
God “made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (II Cor. 5:21). “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1).
Widely prevalent in Christendom is a false and deceptive doctrine to the effect that Christians can continue in sin and disobedience every day and still be righteous; for the righteousness and the obedience of Christ is imputed to them simply because they recognize him as the world’s Savior. We must bear in mind, however, that the righteousness of God which Paul says is imputed to us covers only the ground of our “sins that are past”—those committed before we found Christ. From the moment of our justification we must ourselves live “in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Luke 1:75). Paul anticipated and repudiated this false conclusion regarding the imputing of Christ’s righteousness to Christians, saying, “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” The very idea was repulsive to his mind, and he answered, “God forbid. How shall we that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” (Rom. 6:1-2).
While justification signifies primarily a judicial acquittal, the opposite of condemnation, the primary meaning of Bible conversion is a change wrought in the individual himself.
So far as the term “conversion” itself is concerned, it signifies merely “a change from one state to another”; hence, it is often used for a mere outward reformation or a change of beliefs or doctrinal convictions. Bible conversion is more than this; it signifies a real change of heart and life. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19). (See also Ps. 51:9-10, 13; Matt. 18:3.)
The experience of salvation received through Christ is also represented as a new birth of the Spirit. Jesus himself introduced this doctrine. “He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:11-13). According to this text, all who during the incarnation received Christ and believed on his name were born of God.
So, too, when Nicodemus came by night to interview the Savior, acknowledging him as a teacher come from God, “Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Nicodemus understood about natural birth, but could not comprehend this idea of a second birth that even an old man might experience. So Jesus explained: “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again” (vss. 6-7).
The prominent idea connected with birth is a bringing into life. In the Scriptures sinful man is represented as being in a state of spiritual death. To know God and to be associated with him in holiness and fellowship is life eternal, the normal sphere of the soul’s happiness (John 17:3). On the other hand, to be cut off by sin and separated from that vital union with our maker is spiritual death. “I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died” (Rom. 7:9). Isaiah 59:1-2 declares that sin separates men from God. Paul says: “She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth” (I Tim. 5:6); “You, being dead in your sins” (Col. 2:13); “You hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world” (Eph. 2:1-2). (See also John 10:10; 5:24; 1 John 5:11-12.)
The new birth is an experience to be obtained now. “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God” (I John 5:1). “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.… Beloved, now are we the sons of God” (3:1-2). (See also I John 3:9, 14; 2:29; 4:7; I Pet. 1:23; 2:2; Rom. 8:16.)
We must not overlook the miraculous feature of this new birth, this bringing into life. In the natural world, life proceeds only from life. Things inanimate can never endow themselves with natural life. So it is also in the spiritual realm. Man, who is “dead in trespasses and in sins,” can never endow himself with spiritual life. He may possibly reform himself in certain particulars and perform many good works, but after he has reached the end of all self-effort he will simply be a good moral man, and not what the Scriptures describe as a Christian; for a Christian is a good man plus something else. The additional something is life from God, which is infused by the divine Spirit into our hearts. “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life”; for “this life is in his Son” (I John 5:12, 11).

Knowledge of Salvation

This experience of salvation taught in the New Testament is not imaginary; it is a blessed reality. When presenting this subject the Apostles always spoke with certainty. John affirmed: “We know that we have passed from death unto life” (I John 3:14); “We know that we are of God” (5:19); “We are of God.… Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (4:6-7).
Negatively, we are made conscious of this great change by the fact that all our sins are removed. It was the purpose of God “to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins” (Luke 1:77). When the seeker, who is made deeply conscious of his sins and is heavily burdened with the load of his guilt, comes to Jesus, confesses and forsakes his sins according to the requirements of the Bible, the good Lord graciously sweeps them all away by the power of his grace. Then the sweet peace of heaven flows into the regenerated heart, and no one is needed to inform him that he is saved; for he is the first one to realize it. The experience of freedom from sin and its guilt is now as real as the fact of sin was. But this is not all. New feelings, new hopes, and new aspirations spring up in the soul, and he is made to realize the truth of Paul’s words: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God” (II Cor. 5:17-18).
Another clear evidence of our salvation is the radical change that is wrought in our affections. First, they become centered on God. While living a sinful life, men do not really love God from the heart, for they are living in rebellion or in a state of indifference toward the claims of God upon them. Some descend so deeply into sin that they even become “haters of God” (Rom. 1:30). When our souls become awakened to the reality of the great love that God has shown to us, the manifestation of divine affection in the death of our Lord for us wins back our wandering affections, and we are ready to exclaim with the Apostle, “We love him, because he first loved us” (I John 4:19). Then how natural it is to obey God! “If a man love me,” says Jesus, “he will keep my words” (John 14:23).
Second, we experience a real change in our affections with reference to those who have been our enemies. Instead of the hatred and the bitterness that we have felt for them, we now experience a sense of love reaching out toward them, and we are able to obey the very words of Christ: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:44-45).
Third, our feelings toward God’s people are also changed, and “we know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren” (I John 3:14). “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments” (5:2). “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him” (3:18-19). So great is our holy love toward all the children of God that Christ has said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (John 13:35).
The best and clearest evidence of our acceptance with God is the internal witness of his Spirit. Salvation is received by faith. Paul said to the jailer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” The Apostle John says, “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself” (I John 5:10). There is no such thing as exercising saving faith in Christ without experiencing within the assurance of the Holy Spirit that we are now saved. This witnessing cannot be well explained in words, but, thank God, it can be experienced. “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God” (Rom. 8:16).
Reader, are you conscious that your sins have been definitely canceled and that you are now in possession of the Christ-life? If not, then let me inform you that you are not born again, hence you are not a true Christian. You may be a good moral person, humanly speaking, bearing an excellent reputation among men and professing to be a Christian, but you are not a Christian when measured in the light of God’s Word. “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

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