What is salvation?
There have been different answers.
Perhaps a very frequent one has been “salvation is going to heaven when you die”. That’s not wrong but is it adequate? Matthew 1 v 21 “the angel said to Joseph “do not fear to take Mary as your wife … you shall call his name Jesus because he will Save his people FROM their sins”” Jesus = Joshua = Yahweh (or Jehovah in some translations) “Yahweh saves”.
So what does this teach us?
SALVATION means that God’s purpose – his purpose in the birth, life and death of Jesus was, as the angel said, to save people FROM their sins – not necessarily from the earthly consequences of their sins.
Look at another view of salvation:-
1 John 1 v 9 “if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. Now that is salvation!
But let us understand it a bit and “unpick” the words a little…
What are sins? – not just murder, stealing, adultery and so on, sins really mean SELFISHNESSES – thoughts and deeds that are not in accord with God’s will, God’s desires for us. They may be great or may just be small self-centrednesses, but if they are contrary to God’s will they are SINS.
1John 1 v 9 “if we confess our sins he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness”. UNRIGHTEOUSNESS is the state of mind leading to actions, deeds, SINS. If there is no unrighteousness, if that is all cleared away there will be no sins – no follow-up.
So what does the faithful and JUST God do? He forgives our sins IF we repent and turn against them. that means that He puts them behind his back, which of course means that they are no longer visible, they are not seen by God. They are no longer hindering our relationship with God. It does not mean that there are NO CONSEQUENCES. If we have committed a crime we have to pay the penalty which the state imposes, but we, if forgiven by God, can be in a close loving relationship with Him.
But is that ALL?
No! John goes on to say that we will also be CLEANSED from all unrighteousness. Now that cleaning out, or purifying as it is called elsewhere is a lifelong process. Paul says that sin, selfishness, clings closer than a garment which is why we have to keep confessing sin and desiring freedom from it. AND and a big AND we must keep trying to obey God’s commands.
1 John 2 v 3 says “by this we know that we have come to know him (Jesus) if we keep his commandments. whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a LIAR”. This is added to elsewhere when John says that if we (that is believers) do sin Jesus is our advocate (one who speaks on our behalf) with the father.
We must remember that our natural selfishness or sinfulness is a barrier, it prevents us from enjoying God’s gift to us of being SONS and HEIRS. (by the way, we are told quite clearly by Jesus that there are no males and females in the new creation. He said we will be like angels, neither male nor female. We have no word to replace “sons”, “children” is a bit too juvenile.)
So when Jesus saves us FROM our sins He is cleaning us out, freeing us from the inner unrighteousness, selfishness, that is part of our inborn human condition. It is that natural human condition that separates us from God, but wonderfully NOT, repeat NOT, from God’s LOVE. God’s intent from before Genesis 1 v 1 was to have beings, people, who would be with HIM in a relationship of LOVE. They would be SONS and HEIRS.
Romans chapter 8 tells us a lot about that. We are adopted as sons, it tells us. We inherit, that is to say, receive by RIGHT, that which comes to Sons. The Greek word used does not mean as does our word inherit to receive after the previous person’s death it means “to receive a portion by right” and so when we become God’s sons we then receive something very special from God, our share of God’s characteristics of love and righteousness. This follows after the gift of forgiveness.
And ALSO, what a big ALSO! after forgiveness of sins we have DONE, comes not only cleansing, but the absolutely wonderful gift of God’s Holy Spirit. somehow the Holy Spirit gives us or rather imbues us with those Christ-like characteristics. The more we CHOOSE to allow this to take place the more we will grow and then display the FRUIT of the SPIRIT Galatians 5 vs 22 and 23 which are “ love, Joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control” and Paul adds “against such thing there is no law”. remember also that wonderful chapter 15 of John‘s Gospel. To produce good fruit the tree must be pruned. That is similar to discipline. We get essential pruning and discipline, which of course we do not like, before we develop that wonderful FRUIT. That is all part of salvation.
This is ALL part of salvation. We humans cannot, by our own efforts, change our nature, what Paul calls “the flesh”. Our task is simply to turn against (repent) our natural characteristics and to ask God to change us. In some way that we cannot possibly understand, but which we can and need to ACCEPT. Jesus accomplish that on the cross. “He was MADE SIN for us” 2 Corinthians 5 v 21 “so that, in Him, we might become the righteousness of God.” He completed that astonishing work and as Hebrews 1 v 3 says “having made by himself the purification of sins he sat down (i.e. task done and completed) on the right hand of the Greatness on High.” I repeat that astonishing promise – “so that we (that is YOU and ME and ANYONE who so desires it) that we may become the righteousness of God”. And because, if we so desire, we can be made clean, pure, as RIGHTEOUS as God himself. we can be part of that amazing vision that John had and describes in Revelation chapter 21 v 2 “I saw the new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God prepared as a bride adorned for her husband and I heard a loud voice saying “behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them and they will be His people and God Himself will be with them as their God.” Please read the rest of the chapter which has more wonderful metaphorical pictures, and it even calls the bride i.e. the church, all Christians, The Wife of the Lamb i.e. Jesus.
So, this is the salvation we are offered and which God has prepared from before creation and which the Messiah, God’s anointed one, Jesus, brought about.
- We learn what we are by nature, the flesh, at enmity with God, Galatians 5 vs 19 to 21 and unable to be His sons
- forgiveness offered for sins and for sinfullness if we REPENT.
- adoption by God as sons and heirs.
- The total CLEANSING of our innermost motives and drives – a life long PROCESS.
- The gift of God himself to be our driving force – the Holy Spirit within us.
- The PROMISE of being united to Christ for eternity and unending enjoyment of the Fruit of the Spirit.
This prospect and indeed present experience is truly salvation.