Salvation is one of the most important issues in the life of a believer, for one does not become a believer in Jesus Christ without His intervention into their lives. Jesus made it possible for all humanity to find salvation through His death on the cross and resurrection from the grave. Jesus' sacrifice made it possible for us to be forgiven of our many sins, and to be place in right standing with God again, after many years of turning our back on Him.
What does it mean to be saved in the complete sense? Let's look at what salvation meant to those who came before us, those who lived in a time before Jesus came into the world, and to those who saw Him when He was here. First, let's begin with the differences between what salvation meant to those of Old Testament times. Then we will look at what it meant to the Gospel writers, and to the Apostle Paul.
In the Old Testament, as Gilford W. Stafford tells it in his book entitled "Theology for Disciples" (1996), salvation is "God's decisive action and ongoing work of bringing God's people to a spacious place of peace, freedom, service, and wholeness. It is God's work of delivering them from bondage, protecting them from enemies, and establishing them in peace, prosperity, plenty, and righteousness" (pg. 335). Salvation in that time was also for the nation of Israel only Abraham's descendants were the focus of God then (pg. 336). Through the salvation of His people, God tested their trust of Him again and again (pg. 336)
God does the same for us today. Everything He did for His own people, He does for all of us today. Since the beginning of time, God has been performing an ongoing work within humanity to make us His own, to make us whole again, and to give us His peace.
In the Gospels, "Salvation has to do with the appearing, growth, and consummation of the kingdom of God (pg 335). It also has to do with our receiving eternal life through God's grace. Those of us who have found salvation are a people who have put their trust and faith in Jesus Christ's reign over us (pg. 336). We are born again people who are now disciples of Jesus, to learn and to grow in our faith with His wisdom to follow, instead our own misguided intelligence. Because we have done this, God has made us a part of His growing kingdom. God created us to be with him, but through the fall of man, sin has kept us from seeing Him as we should. His kingdom can only grow and be completed as more and more people accept His Son, Jesus, as their Lord and Savior.
In the Apostle Paul's time, salvation was "understood as the justification, sanctification, and glorification of human life by God's grace working through faith" (pg. 366). This grace could only come to us through a loving God who cares about His creation and the people who inhabit it. The acts of Justification, sanctification, and glorification are a lifetime, ongoing process; they don't happen all at once. Stafford exclaims to us that "Paul's emphasis on righteousness and justification is rightly understood in connection with the divine will expressed as law. Righteousness has to do with obedience to the divine standard whereas justification has to do with acquittal in relation to it" (pg. 336). Believer's are continually being justified as God's people; sanctified by the blood of Jesus; and glorified as we become more and more like His Son, Jesus.
What is the process of being saved by Jesus? God made His requirements very easy for us since He took on all of the sins of humanity upon Himself when He died in the flesh on a cross. God extends His free gift of salvation to all who hear His call to come. But how does He do this? Let's explore the process ourselves.
We cannot save ourselves. We, as sinners, cannot take our sins and just throw them away -- it's not that simple. Only a sinless man could do that for us. Jesus Christ was that man, God in the flesh. God knew that His creation would deny Him long before they did. But He also had a way prepared to bring us back into a relationship with Him. Through His grace, God gives us a chance to reconcile with Him forever.
It is God's grace that we need to be deemed worthy to be saved. Through this grace we are no longer declared sinners in God's eyes, but are now seen in the light of Jesus' sacrifice that makes us holy and righteous. We can now stand before God as blameless people because of what Jesus did on the cross.
Next, we need to have faith in Jesus. Without faith in Jesus, we can never be saved. Apart from Jesus, we can do nothing (John 15:5) ourselves, not even to create the faith we need to believe. Only God can give us this faith; not only to believe in Jesus, but also to respond to Jesus' call for repentance.
Without repentance, you cannot be saved. Repentance is the Holy Spirit helping you to realize that you are a sinner in need of a Savior. When this happens, you can use the faith that God has given you to respond to His offer of salvation. When you respond freely to God of your sins, He will forgive you and declare you holy and righteous.
Lastly, there is water baptism. Once you have repented and have been declared Jesus as your Lord and Savior, you are to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Water baptism is an act (also done by Jesus Himself (Matthew 3:13-17)) whereas we go under the water as a sinner and come up out of the water washed clean of the stain that sin had left upon us. It is believed that the water baptism is a symbol of Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection.
Thanks to Jesus' work in our lives we are being sanctified daily. Sanctification is the continued growth of a disciple of Jesus Christ. As believers, we need to let the Holy Spirit reign supreme in our lives to guide us from one glory to another. God wants us to be as much like His Son as we can while still living on this earth. This is accomplished by all that we have discussed in this paper. Without grace we cannot find the faith to believe; without faith we will never believe that Jesus is Lord; without repentance we are still lost in our sins; and without water baptism, we have not completed the process. Salvation is God's idea, and only by following His path before it and after it, can we ever hope to be God-like people.
Stafford, Gerald W. (1989, 1996). Theology for disciples: systematic considerations about the life of Christian faith. Warner Press
Bobby Bruno was saved 15 years ago in a way that left him no doubt that Jesus wanted him to reach others with His great and abounding love. He started writing at the age of 12 and hasn't stopped since. He achieved Associates Degree in Biblical Studies from Ohio Christian University in early 2014.
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