Deliverance or rescue from danger, evil, difficulty, sin, or destruction. When a person believes in Christ's work on the cross, salvation occurs in three basic steps. Justification (salvation from the penalty of sins) at the moment of belief, sancification (salvation from the power of sins) throughout one's life, and glorification (salvation from the presense of sin) in the future.
The largest meaning of “salvation” in the Bible is the whole of God’s work in mankind to deliver him from the clutches of sin and death and transfer him into His grace and love and give him eternal life in His Kingdom. It is an act of God (Jonah 2:9) in man and in no sense a work of man (Eph. 2:8-9).
Salvation reveals parts of every aspect of God’s character (Deut. 32:4) and His purpose and work in man. It is, therefore, nearly as multifaceted and complex as God Himself and so must be divided into parts that are easier understand and digest. Salvation may be looked at as it relates to time (what has happened? what is happening? and what will happen?), in the terms that we read in the Bible (including justification, sanctification, glorification, redemption, and atonement), and what things we are saved from (the penalty of sin, the power of sin, and the presence of sin). These distinctions are important because not every use of the word "saved" is meant to represent the entire concept of salvation. Most Christians use salvation to mean deliverance from sin so that one may enter heaven upon death. The New Testament writers sometimes use the word in this sense, but they also used salvation to mean salvation from the power of sin in a believer's life or as the rewards and inheritance recieved upon entrance to heaven.
The Tenses of Salvation
- Salvation Past – Many passages teach that salvation is wholly complete or totally in the past for someone who has believed (Luke 7:50; 1 Cor. 1:18; 2 Cor. 2:15; Eph. 2:5, 8). This person's salvation is so sure that he is said to be saved forever (John 5:24; 10:28, 29; Rom. 8:1). Knowing that part of salvation is a past completed event is of great encouragement to the believer.
- Salvation Present – In contrast to passages that indicate salvation is a past event, many passages also teach that salvation is a present and continually occurring event in the life of the believer. (Rom 6:14; 8:2; 2 Cor. 3:18; Gal 2:19-20; Phil 1:19; 2:12-13; 2 Thes. 2:13). This is an ongoing process that may result in a life worthy of praise (Matt 25:21; I Cor. 9:26) or in the shame of barely escaping the flames (I Cor. 3:15).
- Salvation Future – All that is promised from salvation – perfection, complete holiness, sinlessness (Rom. 8:29; 13:11; I Pet. 1:5; I John 3:2) – is evidently not yet complete. The fact that some aspects of salvation are yet to be accomplished in the believer’s life does not imply that a Christian should doubt his or her salvation, because nowhere does Scripture teach that that salvation is an act of man. God’s faithfulness to complete his work in every believer (Phil. 1:6).
The Parts of Salvation
- Justification – Justification (being considered righteous) by faith alone (Rom. 3:21-26; 5:1) is what separates the message of Christ from all other systems of belief. Man's condemnation comes from his inherited sin nature (Rom. 4:12-13) and from his personal sins (Rom 3:23). Justification comes from the blood of Christ (Rom. 5:9) as a payment for sins that imparts to us the righteousness of God (II Cor. 5:21). It occured in salvation past and because of this, God presently considers us holy and blameless in Christ.
- Sanctification – We participate in the continual process of daily holy living (or being set apart) so that we may be presented holy and blameless to God (Phil. 1:10; II Pet. 3:14). Although most Christians agree that justification is received by faith, most try to live a holy life by human effort and the strength of one’s resolve. The Bible teaches that living by the Law always results in failure, but instead the believer is to be set apart in holiness by faith just as he was justified by faith (Rom. 1:16; 5:2; Hab. 2:4). Just as we were required to depend on God for the forgiveness of sins, our present sanctification is achieved only by accessing what God has graciously wrought in us (Gal. 2:19-20).
- Glorification – This aspect of salvation is the future promise of hope for all believers. All those that were justified will surely be glorified (Rom. 8:30). Our flesh will be removed (Col. 2:11) and we will receive a glorified body (Phil. 3:21). This glorified state is often represented by white garments (Mark 16:5; Rev. 6:11, 17:9, 13-14) and will ultimately bring glory to God (Eph. 1:12).
The Power of Salvation
- The Penalty of Sin – “The wage of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life” (Rom. 6:23). The penalty of sin is death and eternal separation from God. The first thing that salvation saves a beleiver from is the penalty of sin which is dead. Although we may continue to sin, positionally we have no fear of condemnation. Christ's death on the cross was a payment for our sins releasing us from its penalty (Rom. 3:24; II Cor. 5:21).
- The Power of Sin – Although God has makes every believer a new creation (II Cor. 5:17), his present flesh in its complete desire for evil (Gen. 4:7; Rom. 7:9-11) continues to be corrupt. In our flesh, we have have no ability to live a holy life (Rom. 8:13). But in salvation, God has allotted resources that allow us, by living in the power of the Spirit, to have daily purity, holiness, and fellowship with Him.
- The Presence of Sin – The three things that influence us toward sin are the world, the flesh and the devil (Eph. 2:1). Even in the millennial kingdom, when the world and the devil are removed, those that have not received a glorified body will still sin because of their fallen flesh (Ps. 2:9; Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15). When the flesh is removed (the presence of sin) we will finally be able to fully experience the fullness of life in bringing glory to God for eternity.
Salvation in the Old Testament
Salvation is always received by faith in God’s provision for man’s restoration. In no period or age was salvation anything other than the Grace of God to man. The sacrificial system in the Old Testament provided an atonement (merely a covering) of sin, allowing man to be related to God, but salvation itself was always by faith (Gen. 15:6; Hab. 2:4). Abraham trusted in God’s provision and promises (Gen. 12:1-3) to him and this faith saved him. As Ryrie puts it, “The basis of salvation in every age is the death of Christ; the requirement for salvation in every age is faith; the object of faith in every age is God; the content of faith changes in the various [ages].” The Old Testament agrees with the New (Acts 10:43) that salvation is always by the Grace of God and through the faith of man (Eph. 2:8).
Chart Summarizing the Distinictions in Salvation
||Penalty of Sin
||Power of Sin
||Presense of Sin|
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