What is Salvation?
The term "salvation" properly denotes preservation or deliverance from danger or destruction. In Scripture it is sometimes used of deliverance from such perils as a storm, shipwreck, or prison. But usually, and far more importantly, the word signifies deliverance from the consequences of sin. It should be added, however, that the implicit outcome of salvation is not only deliverance from sin but alse the enjoyment of all that God has prepared for the saved.
Salvation from Sin
With great thankfulness Paul writes: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" (I Timothy 1:15). Christ, we are told, "gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Galatians 1:4). "So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation" (Hebrews 9:28).
Salvation from Death
It is "our Savior Jesus Christ," says Paul, "who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gosple" (II Timothy 1:10). The Apostle obviously cannot mean this earthly life no longer terminates in physical death. For it is still true that "it is appointed unto men once to die..." (Hebrews 9:27).
Those, however, who respond to the gospel and remain faithful to Christ not only shall not be held by physical death, neither shall they be subject to "the second death" (Revelation 20:14)--i.e., eternal death. James, too, has this second death in mind when he remarks: "Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death..." (James 5:20).
Salvation from Wrath
God's wrath is neither malicious nor arbitrary. It is a necessary expression of His righteous indignation against sin. It is therefore due to their wickedness that "the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience" (Colossians 3:6). The Lord shall come, "in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power" (II Thessalonians 1:8-9).
On the other hand, those who faithfully serve God are through Christ assured of deliverance "from the wrath to come" (See I Thessalonians 1:9-10). "For God hath no appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Thessalonians 5:9).
Salvation in Christ
All of God's provisions for our salvation are centered in Christ, who "hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God..." (I Peter 3:18). Christ thus "Is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him..." (Hebrews 7:25). Peter states: "Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). This vital truth is confirmed by Paul when he says: "Therefore I endure all things for the elect's sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory" (II Timothy 2:10).
The Gospel of Salvation
Having provided for salvation in Christ, God sent messengers to proclaim the good news to men. That message is called "the word of the gospel" (Acts 15:7) and "the word of this salvation" (Acts 13:26). As the Divine means of bringing men to Christ, the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believeth..." (Romans 1:16). Hence it is Christ, Paul reminds the Ephesians, "In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation..." (Ephesians 1:13).
Saved by Grace
Salvation apart from grace is impossible. And it is in the mission and message of Christ that God has revealed His wondrous saving grace to a sinful race. This is what Paul means when he writes: "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (Titus 2:11). But grace, it should be noted, is also attributed to Christ, since it is His vicarious death for undeserving sinners that has made salvation possible. Hence Peter says: "For we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved..." (Acts 15:11).
In another very significant passage dealing with salvation by grace, Paul remarks that God "hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Savior Jesus Christ..." (II Timothy 1:9-10). Here the apostle contrasts God's almighty grace with ineffectual human works. If man by his own efforts could have devised a way to save himself from the consequences of sin, there would have been no need for saving grace. But man is powerless to provide the means for his salvation. Those provisions are entirely a matter of Divine grace.
One cannot earn salvation nor compensate God for it. This does not mean, however, that there is nothing for one to do to be saved. Salvation is conditioned upon obedience to the Divine will. Christ is therefore said to be "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9). Paul again emphasizes the necessity for obedience in his letter to the Philippians. He writes: "Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12).
It is in obeying God's will that one works out his own salvation. But the apostle in no way suggests that one thereby earns or merits salvation. It is still and undeserved gift from God.
NOTE: Various aspects of obedience (i.e., specific things which God requires) will be dealt with more fully in subsequent lessons.
Saved by Faith
Faith clearly is indispensable to salvation. For, as the writer of Hebrews points out, God has said: "Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him" (Hebrews 10:38). Having made this point, the writer adds: "But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul" (Hebrews 10:39). Faith, however, must have its proper object. One cannot be saved by believing in whatever he chooses. God has conditioned salvation upon faith in "our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (II Peter 1:11). Moreover, it is the Holy Scriptures, Paul tells Timothy, that are "able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 3:15).
But faith which saves, it must also be noted, involves more than simply assenting to the fact the Jesus is Lord. In Jesus' words: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Faith which saves is thus faith which moves one to obey God. Often, therefore, faith is used as a comprehensive term embracing all that God requires men to do. Finally, saving faith entails a life-long commitment to the Lord. Hence Jesus says: "be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life" (Revelation 2:10).
The vital importance of salvation is indicated in the fact that it was provided at so great a cost. "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). Through the gospel God graciously calls upon men everywhere to turn to Christ and be saved: "behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation" (II Corinthians 6:2). Another day, the awful day of God's righteous wrath, is coming. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation...?" (Hebrews 2:3).