Foundations of the Christian Faith- Salvation
1st Baptist Church,
Des Moines, NM
Here we are, reaching the end of my 3rd series on KLMX radio. This week I’ve been talking about the “Foundations of the Christian Faith”. Once, I remind you that you can find these sermons on our website at www.fbcdesmoines.org, or you can call us 505.278.2421 and we’ll send you a free CD. I’ve established a foundation with the authority of the Bible and then built upon that the character of God, the character of man, and Christ as the God-man.
Today, we’re going to take a look at how all of these come together in salvation. I think that a good understanding of the Bible, God, man, and Christ will really help us understand our salvation. So many times, sermons start and end with the message of salvation, but as a result, I see many misunderstandings about what exactly salvation is. For instance, unless we understand that man was created to glorify God, we can fall into the trap of thinking that salvation is all about us. It really isn’t. Instead, it’s all about God.
Let’s review what we’ve looked at this week so we can get a proper perspective on salvation. First, that “proper” perspective is Biblical. We must base our knowledge of salvation upon what the Bible says and not upon the philosophies of mankind. Likewise, the Bible should shape our doctrine and not vice-versa. From the Bible, we see that God is holy, just, Almighty, righteous, angry, wrathful, creator, destroyer, loving, kind, beautiful, awesome, perfect, Judge, truth, upright, merciful, wise, eternal, everlasting, omniscient, omnipotent, and sovereign. As a holy and perfect God, He will not tolerate the continuing presence of disobedience and rebellion, which we know as “sin”.
Man, not being God, but only an image of God, and an inexact image at that, is none of the things God is. Man, by himself, is not holy, not just, not Almighty, not righteous, is sinfully angry, is barely merciful, not wise, not eternal, not everlasting, not omniscient, not omnipotent, and definitely not sovereign. But, mostly, natural man is a enemy of God, as we saw from Romans 5 and he cannot accept the spiritual things of God, as we saw in 1 Corinthians 2:14. As we saw in Genesis 3, man’s rebellion has separated him from God. As we also saw in Genesis, God clearly laid out the penalty for rebellion and that penalty is death. Romans 6:23 tells us that “the wages of sin is death” and Romans 3:23 tells us that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” One of the attributes of God is “just” and for God to be just, He must carry out the sentence of death that He has prescribed for disobedience.
Fortunately for us, God is also merciful and loving and this is where Christ comes in. God Himself, out of his love for us, has provided atonement, propitiation, and a payment for our sins in the form of Christ- we see this in 1 John 4:9-10. As we saw in our study on Christ, Jesus was not only willing to make this payment, but more importantly, He was qualified for this task. As I pointed out, a person who cannot pay his own debt cannot assume the additional debt of another. Christ, however, as a sinless man made in the exact image of God- facts that we saw from Hebrews 1:3 and Hebrews 4:15- has no debt of his own and thus was able to make the payment for us. John 3:16, among other verses, makes it clear that God Himself provided Christ for this purpose. That Christ is essential for salvation is seen in Peter’s words in:
Act 4:12 Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved."
How, then does salvation occur? First, let’s define “salvation”. Strictly speaking, salvation itself occurs after death, at the time of judgment. In the sense that this will happen at that time, it can be said that you are “saved” right now. But in another sense, the actual salvation itself doesn’t occur until you are actually saved from the pits of hell. In other words, if you proclaim with your mouth Christ as your Lord and savior and believe this in your heart, you are “saved”, but you are also still alive in the flesh and this flesh is not glorified but it will die. Your soul is “saved”, but the flesh is lost. I think you’ll see this distinction in action in a moment. For now, let’s turn to Scripture:
Rom 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (17) For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "THE JUST SHALL LIVE BY FAITH."
The statement “The just shall live by faith” brings us two new words to examine: “just” and “faith”. I discussed justification several weeks ago and we saw that justification is the exact moment at which a guilty person-a sinner in this case- is declared “not guilty” by God. Justification, then, is the pivotal moment in the salvation process. Prior to justification, the sinner is guilty and immediately afterwards, he is not guilty.
The other word in the Romans passage is “faith”. That justification and faith are forever intertwined can also be seen in:
Romans 5:1-2 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (2) through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
Man is justified by faith. We call this “saving faith” to distinguish it from other kinds of faith. For instance, you can have faith that the Bible is a book, you can have faith that the fire-station whistle will blow at noon, and you can have faith that KLMX is 1450 on your dial right here in Clayton New Mexico, but none of these faiths will save you. What saves you is faith that God has provided the man Jesus Christ to be the propitiation for our sins, that Christ died for our sins, and was raised again on the third day. As Christ was raised after death, so will we. We can get a glimpse of this truth in this passage where Jesus is talking to Martha, sister of Mary.:
John 11:25-27 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. (26) And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?" (27) She said to Him, "Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world."
There are many other places where we can see this presentation of the gospel, incl. John 3, Acts 2, Acts 3, Acts 13, Acts 26, Romans 4, Romans 6 and…well, the Bible is full of places. This is saving faith.
Now, if you’re concerned about saving faith, and you should be, the obvious question should be “Where do I get this saving faith?” We find the answer to that in Ephesians:
Ephesians 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Here again, we see that “by grace you have been saved through faith.” It is through faith that we are saved, because of God’s grace. According to this passage, faith is not of ourselves but is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast of their faith. It is this faith that produces the evidence seen in:
Romans 10:9 that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
Here’s where I see the distinction between justification and salvation, and between being saved right now vs. the promise of actually being saved at the Day of Judgment. Romans 10:9 says you “will be saved” and Ephesians 2:8 says you “have been saved.” The Romans passage use future tense while the Ephesians passage uses past tense. Therefore, I see a slight distinction between the now and the then. Those who are justified by faith will be saved and the promise is so sure that they effectively are saved, right now. It’s a lot like being in line for a guaranteed inheritance- the prince is not yet King, but the inheritance is so sure that we can say he is King.
If justification is the pivot point for salvation, what happens at that moment? The justified person receives a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), is changed from a natural man to a spiritual man (1 Corinthians 2:14), is conveyed from the power of darkness to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13, 1 Peter 2:9), and is “born again” (John 3:3). The person become a spiritual brother to Christ and adopted child of God (Romans 8:15, Ephesians 1:5), and as such receives the promise of resurrection (Romans 6:5). Their sins are literally taken and placed on Christ who has already paid the price from them and who is already our propitiation (1 Peter 2:24, 1 John 4:10). Christ’s righteousness is likewise placed on the sinner (Romans 4:22-25). The saved sinner is not, himself, righteous, but thanks to imputation, is covered by the righteousness of Christ (Philippians 3:9). Their justification is complete, their salvation is assured, and from this moment on, God begins the process of conforming the justified and saved person to the image of Christ (Romans 8:29-30, 2 Corinthians 3:18).
Earlier in this message I said that salvation is really not about us but is about God. If you’ve followed this whole process, from the Bible to this point, then you should see that all things are done to the glory of God. The Bible testifies to the glory of God; the attributes of God show that He alone is worthy of glory; the inherent sinfulness of man shows that man falls short of the glory of God; that Christ is qualified to be our propitiation shows the brightness of God’s glory in Jesus; and finally the salvation of man show the glory of God’s infinite mercy, grace, and love. Remember, God doesn’t need to offer salvation to man- He owes us nothing but rather, we owe Him everything. We saw in our study of God that He needs nothing (Acts 17:24-25) and all things are created by his hand- what can we offer him? He already owns all things, including our own souls! (Ezekiel 18:4) We saw in our study of man, that man was created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Isaiah 43:7). Therefore, there is one thing that man can offer to God- praise and glory. Salvation reconciles us to God and enables us to once again become lovers of God, to change from being an enemy of God to allowing us to call Him “Abba, Father.” (Romans 5:10, Galatians 4:6) And the fact that we can do nothing to save ourselves- God puts the new heart in us, God gives us the faith by which we believe, God opens our eyes so that we may see- all of this only gives God the glory (1 Timothy 1:17). If can we see these things, we can say with Paul:
Ephesians 3:14-21 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, (15) from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, (16) that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, (17) that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, (18) may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height (19) to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (20) Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, (21) to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.