Many people treat the Bible like that safety card – they think it is irrelevant to them. But when we face up to the danger we are in, we see that the Bible contains information that is vital to our salvation.
We will explore four issues relating to this subject.
1. The need of salvation
Salvation is needed when someone is in danger but is helpless to get out of it. According to the Bible that precisely is our predicament.
We are in danger because we have broken God’s law. The Bible declares that the whole world is guilty before God (Romans 3:19). We all stand condemned, for justice demands that we be punished for the wrong we have done. Moreover, because of the infinite holiness of God, the punishment is one we can never exhaust. Nothing we do can ever rescue us from the peril we are in and the punishment we deserve. No matter how good we think we are, how much we give or how hard we try, nothing can erase past guilt. Left to ourselves the situation is hopeless. Little wonder the Bible says, “we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
2. The nature of salvation
The salvation we need is one God has provided. The Bible presents salvation in three ways:
a. Salvation from the penalty of sin
God’s law demands sin be answered for, yet God’s love desires that we go free. What could be done? How could the demands of God’s justice and the desires of His heart both be fulfilled? This is a question the religions of the world cannot answer. According to their messages, if grace is to be shown to the guilty it is shown at the expense of justice. But this is impossible. God can never act any way other than righteously. The gospel provides the answer – God’s love provided what His law demanded.
On the cross, the Lord Jesus paid the penalty we could never pay, satisfying the demands of God’s righteousness against sin, and three days later rising in triumph from the dead. Grace can be shown, not at the expense of justice, but at the expense of Jesus – He has paid the price. God calls on us to repent and accept His provision for our sin – His Son. When we do that He forgives every sin and clears us of every charge – this means that we have been saved from the punishment our sins deserve.
b. Salvation from the power of sin
Imagine a man who committed a crime because of his enslavement to alcohol. The man has two problems, one legal and the other moral. He is guilty of a crime; more, he is bound by a vice. If he was freed by the judge, that would take care of the legal problem, but he would leave the court to live the same kind of life as before and commit the same crimes – in other words, his need has not really been met. If somehow he was released from dependency on drink but was condemned to prison his need would still not be completely met.
What he requires is salvation from both the consequences and the cause of his crime. The man’s problem illustrates ours. We have a legal problem – we have broken God’s law; but we also have a moral problem – the Bible describes us as slaves of sin (e.g. Romans 6:17).
If we are honest we shall confess that we do not live the way we want to, never mind how God wants us to. We give in to habits we long to break and temptations we know we should avoid. We find the thought of the Christian life not only undesirable but unrealistic. We were created to live lives of holiness in friendship with God, but we aren’t able to do it or even to want to do it. This is all because sin exerts a power over us we can’t escape.
The gospel not only sets us free from the guilt of sin but also from its grip, enabling us to enjoy God and live the kind of life He wants us to live. We shall still feel the lure of sin, but we now have a new power due to the Holy Spirit of God living within. He gives us appetites and abilities we never had before. In short, we are being saved from the power of sin in our lives, and have the liberty to enjoy things we could never have enjoyed or even imagined before.
c. Salvation from the presence of sin
When God created man He placed him in paradise, but the entrance of sin spoiled that. It ruined God’s creation. That is why there is sickness and disease, sorrow and misery. Those who are saved look forward to the day when the Lord will return to redeem their frail bodies and restore fallen creation. The Christian will then be forever saved from the problems that blight his life and darken his sky.