What is salvation?
Understanding the Gospel is a prerequisite for understanding salvation, because the Gospel brings salvation. Therefore, review What is the Gospel? if you haven't already.
Briefly, the Gospel--the good news--is that each person, through Jesus Christ, can be forgiven of sin, brought back into fellowship with God, and filled with Godís Spirit for newness of life. Salvation is the bundle of benefits received by the person who believes the Gospel and entrusts his or her life to Christ. The "benefits" include forgiveness of sin, a totally right standing with God, heaven instead of hell upon physical death, new life (the Spirit of the life of Christ Jesus), awesome joy and contentment, and power to change bad habits.
A Christian is a person who has decided to trust in Jesus Christ for a right standing before God, and to turn the reins of his or her life over to Christ (see What is a real Christian?). After expressing this decision in prayer, the Christian receives salvation. The word salvation indicates that the Christian is saved from something. Saved from what? In short, we are saved from deathóspiritual death. More specifically, we are saved from the following:
Hell exists. Jesus spoke about it:
"But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be guilty before the court; and whoever says to his brother, 'You good-for-nothing,' shall be guilty before the supreme court; and whoever says, 'You fool,' shall be guilty enough to go into the fiery hell.
Mat 10:28"Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
Mat 23:33"You serpents, you brood of vipers, how will you escape the sentence of hell?
Mark 9:43"If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life crippled, than, having your two hands, to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire,
Mark 9:45"If your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame, than, having your two feet, to be cast into hell,
Mark 9:47"If your eye causes you to stumble, throw it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye, than, having two eyes, to be cast into hell,
Those who place their trust in Christ receive mercy. Picture a court of law: Each of us is charged with sin. Each of us is guilty. We can plead either innocent or guilty. In pleading innocent, we are claiming to be righteous enough to be accepted by God on our own merits. But if we plead guilty and ask for mercy, the penalty is paid by Christ, we are declared righteous by God, and we are not judged with respect to heaven or hell:
"For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.
John 3:16-18"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 "For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. 18 "He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.
John 5:24"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.
1 Pet 3:18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God
1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
John 14:6 Jesus said to him,"I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.
Rom 3:23,24 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus;
Rom 5:8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Rom 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
2 Cor 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
Col 2:13,14 When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, 14 having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus
When we give ourselves to Christ, we exchange our unrighteousness for His righteousness. Our old self is crucified with Christ--buried. We get a new life--Christ's life--by way of the Holy Spirit. Therefore we are no longer slaves to sinful and destructive behavior (e.g. gossip, anger, lying, short temper, bitterness, immorality, impurity, greed, pride, boastfulness, foul language, homosexuality, adultery, fornication, child molestation, incest, irritability, quarrelsomeness). We will still experience temptation because we still have bodies with "fleshly" cravings, but we are able to live victoriously over sinful ways by trusting Christ to live through us:
Bear in mind that we are saved from "ourselves" not by trying to change, but by trading ourselves for Christ. Christ gives us new life--His life. He completely transforms us. As we submit our will to His control, Christ manifests Himself through us--His thoughts, words, and actions become our thoughts, words, and actions. God is pleased and glorified to see His Son manifested through Christians. (See How can one change bad habits?)
Self centeredness, self indulgence, and discontentment stem from an effort to get "life" (value, identity, love, security, fulfillment, joy, contentment, inner peace) from anything tied to ourselves and how we compare with others (skills, intelligence, possessions, physical appearance, spouse, kids, friends, success) instead of from Christ. If we do not seek life from Christ, we will naturally, perhaps unconsciously, compare ourselves with others, searching for contentment through recognition, pleasure, power, or control--but without satisfaction.
It is impossible to be "selfless" without being filled and controlled by the Spirit of Christ. Self-centeredness cannot be overcome by the most diligent effort to be selfless. Self cannot simply be removed--it has to be replaced--and only Christ can replace it. Christ frees us from the slavery of comparison with others! He fills the emptiness of our heart with Himself. And He escorts us to the Father so that we can have joy in continual fellowship with Him. (See What does Jesus have to do with contentment? and Why do Christians experience discontentment and discouragement?)
True Christianity is not a religion. Religions generally require that one live according to a set of standards. If one's performance is good enough, one will go to heaven or another desirable place after the earthly life, and will have a good life on earth. If performance is substandard, the person will be rejected by the higher being and go to hell or some other unpleasant place. Christianity, by contrast, is based on the work and life of Christ imparted to us, not on our performance. Christianity teaches that no person is good enough to be accepted into Godís kingdom and, therefore, we can be accepted by God only by Godís grace and mercy, which are possible through Jesus Christ:
Put differently, our favor and acceptance before God is based on Christ, not us. We do not have to earn favor with God; indeed we can't. Christ saves from self effort by paying the penalty for our sin. We merely receive forgiveness of sin as a gift (see What is the difference between Christianity and other beliefs?):
What's more, just as we cannot earn our way to heaven by doing good deeds, we are not burdened to earn favor with God by doing good deeds after we receive Christ. In fact, we can't. The Christian life was not intended to be a struggle to please God and pay Him back for forgiving us. God is pleased with faith, and only with faith. We cannot earn favor with God by trying in our own strength to be "good Christians." Just as we received Christ by faith for forgiveness of sin, we are to live by faith in Christ. We are to trust Christ to live an upright and holy life through us:
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him
God is pleased, not by our effort, but by our willingness to let Christ do His works through us. We can do nothing for God, except perhaps to say "Yes" to Him, submitting to Him and letting Him have His way with us, and then giving thanks for what He's done.
In sum, there is nothing performance-based in Christianity. God has done it all through Christ. We can do no more than receive and thank. Only Jesus can make a person a Christian--neither works nor ceremonies can do it. And only one person can live the Christian life: Jesus Christ. We need only to let Him live His life through us. Thus Christ saves the Christian from the burden of self effort and performance-based acceptance.
The Bible says that those who are in Christ overcome the world. Taken in context with all of scripture, this does not mean that Christians are given authority to rule over others. Nor does it promise Christians a life absent of struggles and disappointments. Quite the contrary, Jesus said those who follow Him would be persecuted and have tribulation. But the Christian overcomes the world by having, through Christ, perfect peace, joy, contentment, and inner rest in the midst of any and all circumstances:
"These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
John 14:27"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.
1 John 4:4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.
1 John 5:4,5 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Christians have struggles just as everyone else, but can have perfect joy, inner peace, and restfulness in the midst of them. Bear in mind that there are two ways to satisfy a want--whether the want is to have something or to be relieved of difficulty. One way is to get what we want. The other way is to not want it anymore. This is what Jesus offers--not to get everything we want, but to be content in all circumstances through our relationship with Him. Jesus does not remove all our struggles, but fills us with His perfect peace and joy in the midst of them. This is no small victory! It is true freedom. It is salvation.
Satan is all about death; God is all about life. Satan is full of hate; God is love. Satan is all lies; God is all truth.
God is more powerful than Satan. But Satan has power-- through sin, death, and hell--over an individual who has not entrusted his or her life to Christ. God, through Christ, offers salvation from sin, death, and hell. Those who trust Christ are saved from the power Satan because Christ has defeated Satan and removed his power.
Jesus Christ has crushed Satan's head. Jesus has won victory over sin, death, hell, and fear. Below are verses about Christ's victory over Satan. Stand firm on these verses. Choose to believe what the verses say. Say the verses out loud, declaring that you believe what is written. Don't boast about your victory over Satan; just give praise and thanks to God for Christ.
As Christians, we reap the benefits of Christ's victory over Satan. We are victorious with Christ, because we are now in the family of God, on the winning team, covered by Christ Himself. Christ, whose Spirit lives in us, is greater than Satan:
"I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. 19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven."
Luke 10:19,20"Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing will injure you. 20 "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."
Satan hates Christians. He is jealous of us because we possess the Spirit of God. He wants desperately to keep Christians from realizing the power that we have through Christ. Satan wants to blind Christians from knowing the authority that we have in Christ, and the power of Christ in us, because when we abide in Christ, we experience great joy, we love others with the supernatural love of Christ, and, as a result, those around us will come to know Christ. Paul prayed for the Christians in Ephesus, that their eyes would be opened to see this power:
Satan also delights to see Christians engage in sinful behavior, because he knows that doing so hinders the power of Christ from working through us. Although Satan cannot make a Christian sin, he attempts to lead us into temptation and deceive us into thinking that we do not have the power to resist it. But if we abide in Christ, we will not be deceived. When we do face temptation, the power of Christ in us is able to resist it (see How can one change bad habits?):
We need only to be alert, submit to God, trust in the power of the name of Jesus Christ, and resist the devil. Satan will flee from us:
The word glory in the following verses indicates who God is--the sum of His awesome attributes:
The verses below indicate that God wants us to have His glory:
God wants us to be filled with His glory, but this does not mean that man is God. Only God is God. And God does not share praise with humans:
The above verses confirm that man is not to be praised, so having God's glory does not mean that God intends for us to be glorified or praised by other people. Just the opposite is true. True humility results from realizing our utter dependence on God; we see that only He is worthy of praise. When we transfer our trust from ourselves to Christ, we exchange all we are for all Christ is. As a result, we are filled--glorified--with the Spirit of Christ, God's glory. Our spiritual death is replaced by the Life of Christ.
Think of God's glory as electricity. We will become electrified--filled with electricity--if we put our finger into a high voltage electrical outlet. We did not generate the electricity. We did not earn it through hard work. And we did not get it by being smart or talented. We simply received it and became electrified by it. We deserve no praise for it.
We need to be filled--"glorified"--with God's glory in order to be complete, whole, and full.
As mentioned above, Paul's prayer for the Christians in Ephesus was that they would understand and experience the power of the glory of Christ in them:
The following verses, written for Christians, tell of salvation to be received--apparently after conversion. Thus the verses indicate that salvation is not only the forgiveness of sin received by the new believer upon conversion, but the life of Christ that saves the Christian from "self" after conversion. It is salvation indeed to have our "self" flushed out by the Life (glory) of Christ:
Salvation, then, entails not only forgiveness of sin that gives us a ticket to heaven instead of hell, but power--the Spirit of the life of Christ Jesus in us--to be whole in every way. The freedom referred to in the following verses applies not only to life after earth, but to life on earth through the power of Christ:
"Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin.35 "The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son does remain forever. 36 "So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed.
Humans were designed to function with Godís Spirit in them. Without Christ, man is dysfunctional within himself and in relationships, like a car without an engine, or a table with only two legs. No wonder itís called salvation--Jesus Christ not only saves us from hell, but is the cure, the only cure, to all dysfunction experienced by the human race.
Contentment, joy, inner peace, the manifestation of the supernatural love of Christ, and other aspects of wholeness through Christ, will be experienced only as the believer is abiding in Christ. Although Christians have been given the Spirit of Christ to meet all our real needs, we still tend to seek life apart from Him. Like Adam and Eve, we pick from the tree of "independence and self sufficiency." This is what the nation of Israel did in the Old Testament era; God had chosen them and filled them with His glory, but they wanted to be in control of their own lives instead of letting God take care of them. They exchanged the glory of God for "self":
Just as God wanted to fill the nation of Israel with His glory, and for them to enjoy Him, He wants to fill Christians with His glory--the Spirit of Christ. And He wants us to enjoy His presence. But we Christians are often deceived into loving the glitter of the world instead of the glory of God, and to seeking control over our circumstances instead of living by faith in Christ. Thus the awesome paradox given in John 12:24,25: If we don't let go of our life in this world, and allow Christ to become our identity, security, joy, and contentment, we will never bear fruit because Christ will be hindered from pouring His Life in and through us.
Trials and suffering, therefore, can indeed bring great blessings for the Christian. In love God may deny us the security, comfort, control, pleasure, power, and riches that we seek in this world, at least for a time, to turn our eyes from our circumstances to Christ, the real Bread of Life, who wants to fill us with His joy and love, and bless others through us:
"I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.