What is Salvation?

Exactly what does the Bible mean when it says that Jesus Christ is the "Redeemer"? What do Christians mean by "being saved"? To redeem means to buy back, or to pay a ransom to rescue something or someone. When you park in a tow-away zone and your car is impounded, you must save it - redeem it - get it back - by paying the fine for the illegal parking. How does this apply to spiritual matters?

Few people would dispute that this world needs saving! It is a place of death, misery, and wickedness. Why is this this case?

Let's look at the first pages of the Bible, Genesis chapter 1, and see what God says about His world as He created it. Five times, in verses 4, 10, 12, 18, and 21, God declares what He made to be good. Finally in vs. 31, we read: "Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good..."

But something spoiled it. The first parents of the human race, Adam and Eve, rebelled against God. When they ate the forbidden fruit, it was no small matter because of the dignity and majesty of the "Offended Party" - God Almighty. This was compounded by the fact they were at that time perfect human beings, made in God's image. There was no excuse for what they did. In that seemingly small deed, Adam and Eve acted with great wickedness, stupidity, pride, and perversion. As a result, God punished them. We read of His just judgments in chapter 3 of Genesis.

As humanity's representative and first father, Adam plunged all his descendants and God's very good world into a state of ruin. Where there had been life and bliss, there was now only death, guilt, and corruption. The world came under the just wrath of God, and remains there to this day. This is why our world is a place of sin, death, and misery! The world is not right with God. And each human being is born into that state of being at enmity with God, guilty, and corrupt. The Bible calls this being "dead in trespasses and sins".

But the same God who judged the first sin, and Who will judge all sin with perfect justice, is also loving and merciful! He has a plan to redeem His world that He created - to buy it back from from the guilt and corruption of sin, and from misery and death!

Not surprisingly then, right at the dawn of history when redemption becomes necessary because of Adam's and Eve's Fall, God begins to reveal His plan. We find that revelation in Genesis 3:15. In the midst of pronouncing His judgments on the guilty parties in the garden of Eden, God remembers mercy. Speaking to the serpent and to the deceiving, evil spirit called Satan who is behind the serpent, God says: "I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel." Here is the first promise of a Redeemer. The Redeemer, the Seed of the Woman, shall suffer a temporal bruise, but that same Redeemer will inflict on Satan and on his spiritual offspring a fatal blow.

The form that God's plan of redemption takes is that of a covenant wherein specific blessings are promised. God relates to man in terms of His covenant.

God establishes this covenant of promise with the patriarch Abraham in Genesis chapter 15. (The account of Abraham's life begins in chapter 12; see also chapter 17). God promises Abraham that the covenant will, in God's time, grow and embrace all the nations of the earth. They (the nations) will become heirs of the blessing of Abraham - his spiritual descendants - as Paul writes in Galatians 3:13, 14: "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us, for it is written, `Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree', in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the nations, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith."

And those last two words, THROUGH FAITH, explain how one shares in God's covenant blessings, whether at the time of Abraham or now, thousands of years after Abraham. In Genesis 15:6, we read that Abraham "believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness." That is, Abraham had faith in God's promises, and God accepted him.

The requirement for participating in the covenant of redemption is that one believes God as Abraham did. Abraham did not earn his spiritual blessings, he received them by relying and trusting on the One Who made the promises. God was pleased that Abraham recognized his inability to save himself and that he regarded himself as utterly dependant upon God. This faith of his resulted in Abraham's JUSTIFICATION before God, because the God in whom he had faith was going to do a work of redemption whereby man could be cleared of guilt, washed clean of corruption, set free from bondage, and restored to communion with God!

This work that God did was done in, by, and through Jesus Christ, Who IS God incarnate - God come in the flesh! Jesus said of Himself that He "did not come to be served, but to serve...and to give His life as a ransom for many. He lived a perfect life, obeying where Adam and Eve and all their descendants (including you and me) failed. Most know that Jesus died the death of an executed criminal, falsely accused and condemned by wicked men. Yet, in God's plan, this was how He, the Perfect Man, offered Himself as a sacrifice for the sins of God's people. "He bore our sins in His own body on the tree", the apostle Peter wrote. God the Father poured out His just anger against sin on His Son Jesus. God did this out of love! What a wonderful, loving God! Jesus died a real death, but He arose from the dead literally, in the same body in which He had died. This mighty conquest of death itself, called His resurrection, was a great sign. It showed to all that the Son's sacrifice of Himself through the eternal Spirit was acceptable to the Father...the work of redemption was done! Jesus now reigns in heaven, and through His earthly servants is making known this message, which is called the gospel...the good news about redemption.

Man who was once the noble and pure citizen of God's Eden has become guilty and corrupt. The Bible assumes our guilt and lack of righteousness. What can justify us before God? Keeping His Law is impossible for us in this state we are in by nature of being "dead in trespasses and sins", so what happens?

To attempt self-justification is our natural bent. We see this in the gospel according to Luke chapter10, Where Jesus encounters a lawyer who wants to justify himself. When Jesus tells him to love his neighbor as he loves himself, he says to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" The lawyer thinks he can do this acceptably, and thus be justified. Also In Luke 16 Jesus judges the scoffing Pharisees by saying to them, "You are those who justify yourselves in the sight of men..."

The point is that to have faith in this Christ must involve forsaking any attempt at self-justification and trusting in Him alone for our justification. This is the kind of faith Abraham had, and all true Christian faith is like it. It's more than just an acquaintance with Jesus' earthly life and His moral teaching...it's even more than believing in His Divine nature, although that is indispensable. Sharing in salvation or redemption means turning away from the ways of sin, and putting all confidence for forgiveness and redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Through faith in Christ, in Whom all the Divine promises meet, God provides us with the perfect righteousness of the Law. It's like a beautiful suit of clothing that covers our natural nakedness! God's plan of redemption provides One Who pays the penalty due to sinners. It gives those sinners Christ's own righteousness, and makes it possible for God to be just and loving in doing this.

At the dawn of history, God revealed His plan of redemption, and it continually unfolded as history moved on. This is essentially the "story" of the Bible. All along, in every age, faith in the One True God and His magnificent promises was the way to partake of the redemption. We are living in the days when the there is no more unfolding to come, until Jesus returns visibly and publically with great splendor, just as He promised. God's covenant is here in fullness in and by the Person and work of Jesus Christ. The question before each of us is:

"Am I trusting in Him alone for my justification before God, and eternal life? Am I one of the redeemed?"

In Revelation 7:9 the apostle John speaks of the new, redeemed humanity this way: "After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude, which no one could count, from every nation and all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, and palm branches were in their hands." However, the fact that God has a plan to redeem the world does not necessarily mean that He is going to redeem every human soul.

The Bible clearly teaches that some will go to eternal torment in the lake of fire as punishment for their sins. But today God is saying: "...let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost." There is a genuine offer by God of FREE salvation to whosoever will! God has no pleasure in the death of the wicked! Praise His name!

"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life."

Are you believing in Him? Do you share in this wonderful salvation?

Go to Pastor Graham's Teaching Page