This is the first in a series of excerpts from the MBC resource, “What Every Christian Should Know About Salvation,” available at mobaptist.org/apologetics.
People use the words salvation and saved in a variety of settings, from sporting events to political campaigns to natural disasters. Even within Christian circles, there is disagreement as to what it means to be saved and how salvation is acquired. So, it’s critical for us to begin with a definition.
Stated simply, salvation is God’s remedy for the sin that has ruined everything and alienated everyone from Him. The Lord reveals this remedy as soon as Adam and Eve rebel against Him. He promises a future Redeemer who crushes the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15). Then, He provides additional promises throughout the Old Testament, granting us more than 400 prophecies, appearances, or foreshadowings of the Messiah.
Jesus of Nazareth bursts onto the scene at just the right time (Gal. 4:4). He lives a sinless life and dies on a Roman cross, taking upon Himself our sins and paying the penalty of death for them (2 Cor. 5:21). Then, He rises physically from the dead on the third day, conquering Satan, sin, and death, and freely offering forgiveness of sins and everlasting life by grace through faith in Him.
Before ascending into heaven, Jesus promises to return one day to fulfill all things – that is, to complete His work of salvation, judge every person, and set everything right.
Deliverance from danger
The word salvation has its roots in the Hebrew yasa, which means “to be wide or roomy.” It’s often rendered “to save, rescue, deliver.” The word salvation is used in many ways throughout the Old and New Testaments, and it’s important to consider the context to determine the proper application.
For example, the words save and salvation often refer to physical, not spiritual, deliverance. In the Old Testament, people are saved from enemies on the battlefield (Deut. 20:4). Daniel is rescued from the mouth of the lion (Dan. 6:20). And the righteous are delivered from the wicked (Ps. 7:10; 59:2).
In the New Testament, the Lord delivers Paul from shipwreck (Acts 27:20, 31, 34). In other passages, salvation in the physical sense refers to being taken from danger to safety (Phil. 1:19) and from disease to health (James 5:15).
Of course, the greatest type of salvation is holistic in nature, involving the spiritual as well as the physical aspects of the whole person. God sends His Son to be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14). Jesus comes to seek and to save lost sinners (Luke 19:10). Because of His finished work on the cross, those who call upon the name of the Lord are saved (Rom. 10:13).
This salvation comes by the grace of God, through faith in Christ (Eph. 2:8-9). While the Lord has saved us from the penalty of sin, He is working, even now, to save us from sin’s power (Rom. 5:10; Heb. 7:25; James 1:21). One day, God’s work of salvation is complete, when the very presence of sin is eradicated (Rom. 13:11; 1 Peter 1:9). These wonderful truths prompt the writer of Hebrews to exhort followers of Jesus not to neglect the great salvation given to us (Heb. 2:3).
An unbreakable relationship
For followers of Jesus, salvation is experienced as an everlasting, unbreakable relationship with Him. It has both temporal and eternal benefits. In fact, of the 12 terms we are examining, several cannot be confined to time or expressed in chronological order. Consider, for example, that we are foreknown, elected, and predestined in eternity past. Put another way, we are saved before time began.
Other elements of salvation are experienced personally within our lifetimes as God calls us to Himself; regenerates us, or makes us spiritually alive; justifies us, or declares us in right standing before Him; indwells us, or takes up permanent residence in our human spirits; baptizes us in the Holy Spirit, or places us positionally into the church; sanctifies us, or sets us apart and begins the process of making us more like Christ; adopts us into His family; and seals us, or places His mark of ownership on us.
One day, the final act of salvation is completed in glorification. We are physically resurrected and given incorruptible bodies similar to the resurrected body of our Savior.
Since Christians possess a relationship with Christ, which already has begun and extends out into eternity future, it is biblically faithful to say we were saved (from the penalty of sin), are being saved (from the power of sin), and will be saved (from the presence of sin). The 12 terms we explore in this series show how God applies these marvelous elements of salvation to our lives.
Please keep in mind that these are not 12 separate works that God cobbles together. Rather, they are elements of a unified whole.
Next: You are foreknown