Ok, round two.
16 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.”
Are you saved? How many times have we heard that growing up? Living in the buckle of the Bible belt, I have heard this question asked so often, it no longer has meaning. I have been asked this question by pastors, preachers, worship leaders, camp counselors, friends, random people on the street, and even people just trying to irritate me. This question has been so over-played by evangelical Christians, that it has lost its meaning. When they ask this question, they really mean “Have you confessed Jesus as Lord?”, but the connotation it now gives is “Do you have your Get Out Of Hell card?” We have strayed far from the Biblical meaning of salvation.
Salvation is not only being saved FROM an eternity in hell, it is being saved TO an eternity with God. Even then, we tend to focus on the “salvation prayer” aspect more than what God has done for us in salvation. We say “I did this, now I’m not going to hell”, instead of saying “God has saved me from hell, and to a restored relationship with Him”. I submit that Paul outlines salvation in Romans as consisting of four parts: Redemption, Justification, Sanctification, and Restoration.
The word “redeem” means “to buy back”. This is a financial term indicating that there was a debt which needed to be paid in order for the original owner to get back something that belonged to him. This is most common when someone owed a debt and couldn’t pay it, they would then become a servant or slave in order to work off the debt they owed. If someone in their family came and paid the debt, redeeming the debtor, then that person was released from slavery. Scripture teaches us that when Adam sinned, man died spiritually, becoming slaves to our new-found sin nature, and all of creation fell as well. Christ’s blood on the cross bought back the elect and all of creation.
The word “justify” literally means “to make right”. In fact, the Greek root word for justification and righteousness are the same. This is a legal term, so when we read that God justifies us through Christ’s blood; it is as if in a court of law, God declares us to be right through Christ. Make no mistake, He sees that we are wrong, but because we are covered by Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, He declares us justified.
The Greek word for “sanctify” is hagiazō, which means “to make holy and set apart for God”. Scripture talks often of God having a chosen people, even in the New Testament (look up the term “elect”). Let’s not make the mistake that we see the Pharisees make though. We have been set apart for God, but 1) it’s nothing that we deserve, and 2) it isn’t just this euphoric, spiritual separation that has no affect on our daily lives. The Greek word for “sanctification” is hagiasmŏs, which means “the conduct befitting those who are separated”. What this shows us is that not only are we being separated in a spiritual sense, but this separation is to change our conduct on a daily basis to reflect our separation to God, our holiness in Christ. So God not only separates us spiritually, He changes our actions to that which brings Him glory and represents Him. How does He do this? Complicated question and answer; the simple answer is that He changes our affections from “all about me” to “all about God”. He gives us the desire to strive after Him, and to set an example for the rest of the world to follow. We were created imago dei, the “image of God”. How do you image forth Christ to this lost and broken world?
The concept of restoration is two-fold: 1) It restores our relationship with God, which had been broken by Adam, and 2) It restores us to the perfected state in which humanity was originally created.
The first part of this happens when one confesses Christ as Lord. Some say this confession happens as a result of the internal restorative work that God had already done, and while I don’t disagree with that, the verbal confession is where others begin to see this change. Unlike sanctification, which is a process we go through our entire lives, restoration is done immediately. When we confess Christ, we have been restored into right relationship with God, and when we fail and make mistakes throughout our sanctification process, we do not have to be terrified that God will throw us back out of His graces. We have been adopted as His children, and can approach God boldly with humility and ask His forgiveness.
The second part happens when Christ comes back, and while it’s immensely important, I’m not going to say much else on it here, in attempts to keep this from being a Tolstoy long post.
When we look at salvation, and we see how God redeems us, justifies us, sanctifies us, and restores us to right relationship with Him, it is easy to think “wow, I must be something for Him to go through all that.” This is foolish. When a king dies for his people, it does say something about the people, but it says much more about the king. Understanding salvation should make us humbly ask “God, why in the world did you go through all this for me?” The answer is, He did this for His glory above all. God sent His Son as a sacrifice so that He would be just in restoring creation and the elect to right relationship with Him. He did this for His glory first, and our good second. God’s plans are not thwarted, and His will is not frustrated. God created man; Adam rebelled, bringing sin, death, and separation from God into the world. And everyone since Adam has been born separated from God, hanging by a thread over the mouth of hell. God reached down and saved us. God declared us “right” based on the price that He paid. God is making us more like Him. God restored our relationship to Him. God will restore those who believe and the rest of creation to its perfected state in which He originally created it.
You may see this and ask “then what did I do?” The answer is, “nothing”. We didn’t do anything to deserve it, and we didn’t do anything to earn it. God in His grace began, and completed, everything necessary to accomplish all of this. This is both fantastic, and frightening at the same time. It is frightening because it means that I’m not in control. I didn’t “accept” Jesus as Lord, I “confessed” Jesus as Lord. It wasn’t a logical thought process, where I had empirical data with which to make a “decision” of yes or no. It was a confession. God changed my affections and my relationship with Him to the point that confessing became the only option. It is fantastic for all the same reasons. I didn’t do anything to deserve this, or make it happen. So I can’t do anything to NOT deserve it. I didn’t make a reasoned out decision, so I can’t be convinced that this isn’t what I want to believe. I didn’t do anything to gain my salvation, so I can’t do anything to lose it. My salvation, my future, and my confidence in this life is secure in Christ.