A Synopsis of Salvation
“Remember now thy Creator in the days of thy youth.” Thus spake the Preacher many ages ago. Well might it be said, that which was written was upright, even words of truth! How important it is that we should pay earnest heed to his final summing up of life “under the sun”! “Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, whether it be good, or whether it be evil” (Eccl. 12:13-14).
This poetic gem encompasses the whole span of human existence. It is an epitome of life.
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10); not the craven abject fear that would cause us to flee from His presence, but the wholesome awe and wonder that comes from a contemplation of His magnitude and might. Understanding follows knowledge of the Holy One and leads us into the path of true obedience. “Hereby we do know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments” (1 John 2:3). Hear the final edict of the conclusion of the whole matter. God, in keeping with His holy character, must judge all things according to His righteous standard.
Our opening quotation reminds us that it is in our youth our thoughts should turn to God; the rest of that beautiful chapter reveals that God is vitally interested in us and that interest reaches beyond the grave into Eternity. This interest amazed the Psalmist who exclaimed, “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy finger, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?” (Psa. 8:3-4). How it should bow our hearts to sing His praise! In all of His wonderful creation, God’s primary concern is for man and his salvation.
Have you ever stopped to count the number of times the words save, saved, salvation, and Saviour are used in the Word of God? You would find the number runs into hundreds. In fact you would discover that they are the key words of the Bible. The whole story of Scripture from Genesis 3 to Revelation 22 is bound up with the salvation of man. The hinge upon which the history of this world swings is the Cross of Christ; the eternal destiny of the soul is inescapably linked with the death of the Saviour.
There are many aspects of our salvation, each of which would provide a study in itself. One might profitably trace through Holy Writ such words as forgiveness, atonement, reconciliation, justification etc. We will limit ourselves to the word salvation.
The root word translated salvation in the New Testament has a twofold meaning, deliverance and preservation. Let us not lose sight of this fact as we pursue this topic.
A young girl once remarked, “You people talk a lot about being saved. That word is never used in our church. Is it really a Bible word?” Our thoughts immediately turned to the verse in Scripture that means so much to us personally, the one through which we were led to claim Christ as Lord and Saviour: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31). This happened 40 years ago. I suspect that most of our readers can look back to a time in their experience when they too took Christ as Saviour. For us this is salvation in the past; it was our beginning of days. We are not hoping to be saved; neither are we waiting to see if we are truly saved. We know of a surety that our sins are all forgiven and our “title is clear to mansions in the sky” (Luke 1:77. Heb. 9:26; 10:17).
“The doctrine of salvation — Soteriology — is of first importance to every child of God, if he is to be clear in his apprehension of the Gospel.” Salvation in the past tense is related to a work that was completed on the Cross, a work that need never be repeated. We who know Christ as Saviour possess this salvation and have been freed from the penalty of sin. This is so because God willed it, Christ purchased it, and the Holy Spirit revealed it to our troubled souls. Armed with this knowledge we are ready to meet every attack that modernism or rationalism can mount against us.
“Salvation is of the Lord” (Jonah 2:9). In a past Eternity it was conceived in the mind of God for we were “chosen in Him before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). Because God is omniscient, He knew that Adam would fall. Aeons of ages before this took place, the plan whereby we might be brought back to God was formulated by Him. Because He is holy, this plan had to satisfy His righteous claims, for He cannot look upon sin. This necessitated the death of Christ who was without sin. “The Cross of Christ is the witness of God’s justice as well as the expression of His love. Love gave the Son; righteousness demanded that He should die.” How this should silence those who think that by their own efforts they can fit themselves for the presence of God!
Salvation, however, does not stop with our deliverance from the penalty of sin. There is a present tense. Philippians 2:12b-13 speaks of this in these words; “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” When we trusted Christ, something more than a reprieve took place. “The life that comes through Christ is in no sense the polluted stream of Adam-life purified. It is entirely new.” We are told in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature.” In the true sense man cannot create. This is the prerogative of God. We are “created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Thus, our salvation is a day-to-day experience. We are not only delivered from the penalty of sin but we are preserved from its power. This is made possible by His abiding presence in our hearts, and by His constant advocacy at the right hand of the Father in Heaven. Much of our failure to live a victorious life stems from the fact that we know so little in a practical way of this part of our salvation.
“While the believer is safe from judgment by virtue of the work of Christ, he needs to be daily preserved from the concerted efforts of the enemy to regain control of the reins.” This thought is considered in Romans 5:12, which reads, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Romans 6 continues with this, and draws a beautiful picture of what is symbolized for us in our baptism.
The doctrine of deliverance from the penalty of sin was being brought into jeopardy by a spirit of licentiousness that would have found an outlet in fleshly indulgence. “Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” is the question raised. This is followed by an emphatic no. “God forbid. How shall we that are dead (have died) to sin live any longer therein?” Then comes a beautiful illustration from the first practice of Christianity. Those who had professed faith in Christ were baptized, not to His incarnation, which was the beginning of His holy life on earth, but to His death — by which He suffered the judgment that was ours. “We have been buried with Him by baptism unto death” (Rom. 6:4). The body submerged in water symbolizes the burial of Christ and is therefore, “planted together in the likeness of His death” (vs. 5). But this is not the end, even as Christ’s death was not the end. There follows a rising up “to walk in newness of life” (vs. 4). We are to reckon ourselves “to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” (vs. 11). Life in a risen Lord is our present portion.
In closing, let us speak briefly of the future tense of salvation. “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Rom. 13:11). This can refer only to a coming day. Peter, in his first Epistle, speaks of our “inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled,” and goes on to tell us that it is reserved for us “Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Incorruptibility and likeness to our risen Lord is our future condition. Then we shall be free from the very presence of sin.
For us, this is the hope “That illumes with beams most cheering, the hours of night.” For the unsaved there is no such prospect. The career of human greatness ends with the touch of the icy fingers of death. To the Christian, the grave throws open a gate presenting a heavenly vista, the like of which the human eye has never seen.
Where no shade nor stain can enter,
Nor the gold be dim;
In that holiness unsullied,
I shall walk with Him.
And if, perchance, it should please the Lord to come and take His waiting people home, we will be swept into His glorious presence in the twinkling of an eye.