Two Ways to Understand What It Means to be Saved

In most cases the New Testament uses the words “save” and “salvation” to refer to deliverance from sin (Matthew 1:21; Mark 16:16; Luke 19:10; Ephesians 2:8; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 3:21).

But we also find a number of uses of the same words in reference to deliverance from physical calamities.

Rescue from danger

Today we speak of someone being saved from a fire, from drowning, etc. Note these biblical uses:

The panicking disciples woke Jesus during the storm they thought was about to sink their boat: “Save us, Lord; we are perishing” (Matthew 8:25).

Luke records that during another storm on another sea, “all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned” (Acts 27:20; see verse 31). But by God’s mercy, everyone made it safely to shore.

Cure from a bodily affliction

“Whenever He [Jesus] entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured” (Mark 6:56). The word translated “cured” is the same usually translated “saved.”

What this teaches us

These two non-religious uses of “saved“ help us understand that when Christ saves us from our sins, we are being rescued from a danger far worse than the threat of bodily death. We are also healed of a soul sickness that unless treated would result in our spiritual death forever in hell.

“Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound! /That saved a wretch like me! /I once was lost, but now I’m found /Was blind, but now I see” (John Newton).

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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In Exchange

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One day I accidentally dropped a large paper clip into the crack between the seat cushion and the back of the couch in our den. In trying to retrieve it I pulled out a ballpoint pen, then another, and then another. I never did find my paper clip.

Not a bad trade-off—three pens for one paper clip! Maybe I should drop another paper clip down the crack.

Loss is bearable if we get something better in return. In everyday life we are perfectly willing to exchange our hard-earned dollars for something we really need or want, especially if it’s a real bargain.

Jesus’ offer

Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). He had just said that we must deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him (verse 24; see Galatians 2:20; 5:24; 6:14).

We must give up ourselves (our own desires and comfortable, familiar ways of thinking and living) and instead let Christ determine our values and goals.

We let Him own us completely instead of our trying to direct our own little world.

In exchange, He promises us life that is life indeed (John 10:10). But if we’re not willing to let go of ourselves, then we’re the ultimate losers.

Our response?

If we should trust Jesus enough to do as He directs, will we be disappointed in the long run? Does Jesus offer what He can’t deliver? Can He be trusted?

The Rich Young Ruler was unwilling to make the trade—and he was sad (Matthew 19:16-22). Paul was willing—and he was glad (Philippians 3:4-14).

Are we willing to stake everything we’ve got on the conviction that His way is best for us—and that someday we will be glad we took Him up on it?

Ever so glad!

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Now Revealed

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Want to know a mystery?

Forget what you know about mystery novels, weird stuff, and all that. This mystery’s not like that.

In his letter to the Ephesians Paul refers to the mystery (secret) which God kept hidden for many centuries but finally made known in the first century A.D. The mystery has to do with the salvation of all people in Christ, Jew and Gentile, on an equal basis (Ephesians 3:3-5, 8-11).

If we put what Paul says here in the form of a flow chart, here’s how it looks:

For ages the mystery of Christ was not known (vv. 5, 9).

God revealed it to Paul and other apostles & prophets (vv. 3, 5).

Paul wrote what had been revealed to him (v. 3).

The reader can then understand Paul’s knowledge (v. 4).

The mystery unveiled

God did not reveal the mystery to a select few so they could take special pride in possessing this inside knowledge unavailable to the masses. No! The apostles and prophets were God’s agents for transferring this wonderful message to all the world.

For some time they preached it orally. Since these men would not live forever, God wisely arranged for them to record for all time the message, resulting in what we now call the New Testament (John 20:30-31; Jude 3).

Now that we have the New Testament, we have access to all we need to be saved. Now we can know what God has planned for us in this life and throughout eternity.

The mystery is no longer a secret—it has been revealed!

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The Exclusive/Inclusive Christ

Christ is inclusive.

His salvation is offered to all without distinction. Christ invites the poor, the oppressed, and people of all nations to receive freely the blessings that are in Him (Mark 16:15-16; Luke 14:21-23).

Jews and Gentiles are saved on exactly the same basis (Acts 10:1-11:18; Ephesians 2:11-22). Slave and master stand as equals in His sight (Galatians 3:28). Though He has assigned men and women their respective roles, He treats them both as fellow heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).

“. . . He died for all . . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Christ is exclusive.

He Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). He made it abundantly clear in His teachings that there are but two alternatives: either Christ or destruction (Matthew 7:24-27; Mark 16:16; John 8:24; 12:48).

Peter said of Him, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Paul describes it this way: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord . . .” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Offensive?

Those who find repugnant His claim to be the only way to God are invited to consider a few points:

  • We all deserve hell because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
  • God owes us nothing, but because of His mercy He extends the opportunity to everyone alike to find salvation in His Son. That’s true love!
  • The gospel of Christ is a tremendous offer. But it can be rejected. God does not force His grace on anyone. He respects our freedom of the will.

Yes, there is only one way to God, but there is a way.

What if there were no way?

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The ABCs of Sin

A—The ATTRACTION of Sin: Pleasure.

There is pleasure in gossip, pornography, fornication, alcohol, drugs, etc. Isn’t that why sin is so tempting? Satan really knows how to bait a hook! He doesn’t want us to know that sin is deceptive (Hebrews 3:13), its pleasures are passing (Hebrews 11:25), and its momentary pleasures are far outweighed by the joy of being within the will of God.

B—The BASIS of sin: Self.

Sin is the rejection of God—both of His goodness toward us and His authority over us. Two qualities can help preserve us from sin. One is gratitude. How can we take God’s good blessings and then rebel against Him? Another is humility. It takes humility to do His will instead of our own.

C—The CONSEQUENCE of sin: Death.

Sin results in alienation from God and eternal death (Romans 6:23a; James 1:13-15; Revelation 21:8). Shouldn’t knowing what a high price tag sin carries make us all the more wary of it?

There is another set of sin’s ABCs:

A—The ANSWER to sin: Christ.

He took the punishment we deserve so we don’t have to pay the eternal penalty in hell. What He offers in its place is life that is life indeed (John 10:10)!

B—The BANISHMENT of sin: Forgiveness.

God promises to remove all our sins, every single one of them, when we respond in faith, repentance, and baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16). What a wonderful God!

C—The CONQUERING of sin: Sanctification.

We need not only to be forgiven, but also to root out the practice of sin of our lives, replacing it with a holy new lifestyle (Colossians 3:5-17). Sanctification means: 1) being separated from sin and the world, and 2) being set apart, devoted to God’s good purposes.

Sin. May we see it for what it is: deceptive, defiling, destructive. It just isn’t worth it. It never is.

Christ. May we see Him for who He is: the best Friend we could possibly ever have. We are powerless by ourselves to remedy our sin problem. Only He can erase it.

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Wouldn’t It Make Sense?

Either baptism is essential to salvation, or it is not. Either we are forgiven the moment we are baptized or at some other point.

Why then?

If baptism is not essential, why then were the people at Pentecost told to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:37-38)?

If baptism is not essential, why was Saul of Tarsus told, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (Acts 22:16)—although he had already believed in Christ for three days and had been fasting and praying (Acts 9:4-11)?

If baptism is not essential, why would Paul say, “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ” (Galatians 3:27)? Are we saved when we believe, and later we put on Christ?

If baptism is not essential, why did Paul say, “He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness [or as he said elsewhere, “not of works, lest any man should boast”—Ephesians 2:8], but according to His mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit . . .” (Titus 3:5—emphasis added)?

 Who would want us to think differently?

But if baptism really is the actual moment we receive forgiveness, wouldn’t it make sense for Satan to do all he could to persuade us otherwise?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Helps Along the Way

The help he needed

Could he have ever made it into the city on his own?

Temporarily blinded by his vision of the glorified Christ, Saul was led by the hand into the city by those traveling with him (Acts 22:11).

Three days later he was told, “Get up and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name” (22:16).

In obeying he depended on the one who immersed him, but primarily on the Lord who cleansed him.

Could he have ever found salvation on his own? Can we?

More than once, friends saved his life. Others assisted in countless ways. Above all, the Lord sustained and protected him along the way.

The help we need

Today believers often draw strength from one another, but especially the Lord.

Thank God for all the helps along the way!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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