Tuesday, November 06, 2007
WHAT IS SALVATION?
THE SCRIPTURES distinctly declare that the evangel is "Gods power for salvation" (Rom. 1:16). This evangel consists of three facts: (1) that Christ died for our sins; (2) that He was entombed; (3) that He has been raised the third day. Those who accept this evangel, and continue to stand in it are being saved through it (1 Cor. 15:1,2). But what is salvation? What does it include? At least five basic elements comprise Gods wonderful salvation.
I. RIGHTEOUSNESS OR JUSTIFICATION
Man is irreverent and unrighteous. This subjects him to the indignation and condemnation of God. Man needs to be saved not only from the wrath of God, but from the irreverence and unrighteousness which call it forth. Gods first provision for this need is justification. Three outstanding passages of Scripture dealing with this aspect of salvation are as follows:
(1) "Being justified gratuitously in His grace, through the deliverance which is in Christ Jesus" (Rom.3 :24).
(2) "To him who is not working, yet is believing on Him Who is justifying the irreverent, his faith is reckoned for righteousness" (Rom.4 :5).
(3) "Being now justified in His blood, we shall be saved from indignation, through Him" (Rom.5 :9).
If the subject of justification is to be clearly under stood and enjoyed, three areas of truth relating to it must be carefully distinguished: (1) the declaration of righteousness which God confers upon those who are believing at present (Rom. 3:21-24); (2) the believers own progress in practical righteousness even today (Rom.6:1-23); (3) the future gratuity for all mankind of being constituted or made righteous through the obedience of Jesus Christ (Rom.5:19).
II. CONCILIATION AND RECONCILIATION
This aspect of salvation deals with mans enmity toward God, and his estrangement from God.
"For if, being enemies, we were conciliated to God through the death of His Son, much rather, being conciliated, we shall be saved in His life. Yet not only so, but we are glorying also in God, through our Lord, Jesus Christ, through Whom we now obtained the conciliation" (Rom.5:10,11; cf 2 Cor.5:18-21).
"And you, being once estranged and enemies in comprehension, by wicked acts, yet now He reconciles by His body of flesh, through His death, to present you holy and flawless and unimpeachable in His sight" (Col.1:21,22).
Justification is glorious, but justification plus reconciliation is even more glorious. A judge may acquit the accused, but this does not mean that the justified one is received into friendship and fellowship. Enmity and estrangement may well remain. In salvation, God does not merely justify the sinner: He also reconciles him to Himself, thereby removing all alienation and enmity, thus bringing him into intimate friendship and fellowship with Himself.
III. SANCTIFICATION OR HOLINESS OF LIFE
Those whom God justifies and reconciles to Him self are, positionally speaking, freed from the lord ship of Sin, and are enslaved to God and to Righteousness. Righteousness of life, however -- practical righteousness -- calls for a vital realization of the believers death, entombment and resurrection with Christ. That is, we need to realize, and intensely and actively believe that since, in the accounting of God, our old humanity was crucified together with Christ, in Gods appointed time, God will rouse us from death and vivify us in glory. The influence which this great truth will have upon us is "Gods power for salvation to everyone who is believing" (Rom. 1:16). This practical salvation is the fruit of active faith in the evangel. The power of the evangel results in "newness of life" (Rom.6:4), and "obedience [into] righteousness" (Rom.6 :16).
"Are you not aware that to whom you are presenting yourselves as slaves for obedience, his slaves you are, whom you are obeying, whether of Sin for death, or of Obedience for righteousness?. . . Now, being freed from Sin, you are enslaved to Righteousness. . . . For even as you present your members as slaves to Uncleanness and to Lawlessness for lawlessness, thus now present your members as slaves to Righteousness for holiness" (Rom.6:16,18,19).
IV. IMMORTALITY -- VICTORY OVER DEATH
The teaching of the Scriptures concerning immortality is specific and clear. In the original Scripture the word for immortality, athanasia, is used only three times. In 1 Timothy 6:15,16, Christ Jesus is said to be "King of kings and Lord of lords, Who alone has immortality." The other two occurrences of immortality are in 1 Corinthians 15:51-55 which reads: "Lo! a secret to you am I telling! We all, indeed, shall not be put to repose, yet we all shall be changed, in an instant, in the twinkle of an eye, at the last trump. For He will be trumpeting, and the dead will be roused incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal put on immortality. Now, whenever this corruptible should be putting on incorruption and this mortal should be putting on immortality, then shall come to pass the word which is written, Swallowed up was Death by Victory. Where, 0 Death, is your victory? Where, 0 Death, is your sting?"
Immortality is the fullness of the resurrection life of Christ Jesus. It is life above and beyond the reach of death -- all death. Man is not inherently immortal. The Hebrew and Greek words for soul, respectively, nephesh and psuchê, appear 859 times in the Scriptures. The soul is never said to be immortal, but it is often said to die. Immortality is a most important part of Gods salvation which comes to mankind through the sacrificial and saving work of Jesus Christ.
Some idea of what this aspect of salvation involves is indicated in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 where the present mortal body is contrasted with the body we shall have when we have been made immortal.
Body of corruption Body of incorruption
Body of dishonor Body of glory
Body of infirmity Body of power
Body soulish Body spiritual
Those whom God saves are to become fully conformed to the risen, glorified Son of God. Notice how this is set forth in the following passage. We "are called.. . to be conformed to the image of His Son, for Him to be Firstborn among many brethren. Now whom He designates beforehand, these He calls also, and whom He calls, these He justifies also; now whom He justifies, these He glorifies also" (Rom.8:28-30).
Think of the grace, the love, the humility of our Savior in fully conforming us to Himself that He should be the Firstborn among many brethren.
In the Scriptures, our glorification is spoken of in numerous places and in different ways. We are to be completed for the entire complement of God (Eph. 3:19). The ecclesia is the complement of Christ, the One Who is completing the all in all (Eph.1:23). We are to attain to the measure of the stature of the complement of the Christ (Eph.4 :13).
When our glorification is complete, Christ presents us to God "holy and flawless and unimpeachable in His sight" (Col. 1:22). In that day, we shall both express and reflect God according as His risen Son does now.
Having ascended to the highest heights of the glory of Gods salvation, let us briefly consider three additional blessings comprised in salvation.
(1) Forgiveness of Sins--for believers today is in accord with the riches of Gods grace, not according to their forgiveness of others, as was the case with the disciples of old (cp Mark 11:25,26). God deals graciously with all our offenses (Col.2:13; cp Eph.4:32). We are having the deliverance through Christs blood, the forgiveness of offenses in accord with the riches of Gods grace, which He lavishes on us (Eph.1:7). It is true that the believers sins hinder his fellowship with God, destroying peace, joy, and usefulness. Yet it is true as well that God always deals graciously with our offenses (even though He does not exempt us from their consequences). This glorious realization encourages us, restoring us in fellowship, and invigorating us in worthy service.
(2) Personal Cleansing--from sinful and corrupt practices is also a vital part of Gods salvation. Personal cleansing, ultimately speaking, is the work of God. As much as we want to be rid of sin and to avoid suffering, we must not lose sight of the fact that God alone is our Savior. We will therefore remain in our weaknesses until God graciously delivers us. We cannot "help Him out Even so, as Gods means of saving us, He may well awaken us and cause us to do many things to "save ourselves Hence, "Be carrying your own salvation into effect, for it is God Who is operating in you to will as well as to work for the sake of His delight" (Phil.2:12,13).
(3) Eonian Life -- is an aspect of salvation which few believers understand due to incorrect and misleading translation. In the popular versions, the Greek word aionion, which in English is "eonian," is translated "everlasting" or "eternal" Though there is a close association in some contexts, eonian life is not synonymous with immortality. Life eonian is the life of the coming eons of blessing and glory (cf Luke 18:30). Immortality is the state of deathlessness which we will enjoy in that day.
The phrase "eonian life" sometimes has in view a quality of life (e.g., John 17:3). When believers today walk in fellowship with God, the righteousness, peace, and joy of eonian life is experienced as a foretaste of things to come. In this sense, believers are exhorted to "get hold of life eonian" now (1 Tim.6:11,12).