For students of language, one of the most interesting phenomenon is the metamorphosis of language, as they study the continuous shifting of meaning with any giving system of verbal communication. Think about how terms have changed over the years. A hundred years ago gay meant to be happy or light hearted, cool meant to have a slight chill or to be cold and hip was a part of the body above which the belt was fastened. And you don't have to go that far back to see the effects of changing language, if you have a teenager at home you know exactly what I'm talking about. When I was growing up if something was extraordinary or exceeded the normal standards of expectation, we said that it was "far out," or "cool." Today if something exceeds the normal standards it is said to be "sick," or to be, "the bomb." I mention this to highlight the reality that as language changes and precise communication becomes more complicated, words have a tendency to lose their impact and meaning.
Nowhere has this been more pronounced than in the church. When I was growing up terms like, "Giving your heart to Jesus," or "being born again," were often used to speak about salvation but over time, like a lot of other language, in the minds of many these terms have tended to lose some of their impact and the need for more specific language has become evident. It is to that end that we as Christians need to be clear and unambiguous as we present the gospel of Jesus Christ to others.
Part of my rational for preaching this series on doctrine is to help us, as a body of believers, to become more theologically precise; to once again reassign meaning to terms like, "being born again," so that when we use these terms there is a common understanding as to what it is we are referring.
We come today to the doctrine of salvation, which, in theological jargon is called, "Soteriology," coming from the two Greek words, "Soter," to save or deliver, and "logos," which simply means word. Thus, Soteriology is simply a word about salvation.
Of all the doctrines of the Bible, the doctrine of salvation is one with which every Christian should be familiar. Not only because our salvation depends upon it, but because it is the one message which we as God's people have been commissioned to share with the world around us and it is the only message whereby lost people can come into a personal and saving relationship with God the Father through Jesus Christ the Son.
Over the last several weeks we have been following the general outline of our confessional statement, the Baptist Faith and Message. Here's what it says in article 4, in reference to the doctrine of Salvation.
For the purpose of our study this morning, we are going to keep it simple and discuss salvation within the context of three simple points. We will begin with our need, then move to God's provision and then conclude with our response.
I. Our need
As we studied last week, when we considered the doctrine of man, in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve sinned against God and because of their sin all of us are born with a sinful nature. That is, by our very nature we are predestined to sin. The Bible makes it clear in Romans 3:23 that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. Romans 5:12 says, "Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all men, because all sinned." So you see sin is universal. Everyone is born a sinner. As we noted in our study of anthropology: We sin primarily because we are sinners; we are not merely sinners because we sin. It is our inescapable destiny, we are all born with a natural bent toward sin.
Understanding the universal nature of sin, we should consider some of the consequences or realities of sin.
Sin does several things. First of all, sin separates us from God.
Isaiah 50:1-2 assures us that our sin separates us from God. It says, "Indeed, the Lord's hand is not too short to save, and His ear is not too deaf to hear. But your iniquities have built barriers between you and your God, and your sins have made Him hid His face from you so that He does not listen."
In the Garden of Eden, before the fall, Adam and Eve had fellowship with God, but after the fall, their fellowship with God is broken. The result is that all of us are born out of fellowship with God.
The Bible tells us that our problem is one which we cannot solve. That means that there is nothing we can do within our own ability to get back to where Adam was before the fall.
When confronted with these biblical truths, people have come up with different ways of dealing with man's problem.
One popular philosophy is that if you are just good enough, if you do enough good deeds while you are on earth, that someday, when you stand before God He will put all of your good deeds on one side of the scale and all of your bad deeds on the other side of the scale and if your good deeds outweigh your bad deeds then you'll get into heaven.
The only problem with that philosophy is that it is not biblical. The bible tells us that we cannot be saved by works. Titus 3:5 tells us that we cannot be saved by works and Ephesians 2:8-9 says that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by our own doing, our salvation is a gift of God, not of works so that no one can boast about how good they have been.
Our problem is not lack of self esteem, as some would have us believe. Our problem is not ignorance or lack of knowledge; if man has anything today he has intelligence and information. Our problem is that we are sinners and that our sin separates us from God.
But not only does it separate us from God, it condemns us before God. The scripture is clear is in Romans 6:23 which says that the penalty for sin, or God's just punishment for sin, is death. Ezekiel 18:4 says that the soul that sins shall die.
It is important to remember that when we talk about any one doctrine, we must remember to be consistent with all the other doctrines of the bible. For instance, when talking about the doctrine of salvation, we must be consistent with the doctrine of God. We know God is righteous and perfectly just. That means He must punish sin. To do anything less would not be in keeping with His character. He is a just God and His justice demands full payment for our sin.
Therefore our understanding of how and why God saves us must be in consonance with Theology proper, or what God has revealed to us about Himself. You see, because God is righteous and just, He must punish sin and because we are all sinners, we are condemned before God. And knowing that we cannot do anything in and of ourselves to escape our just punishment, our plight is really rather desperate.
That's why the Bible tells us that salvation is rooted and grounded in the character of God Himself. Not only is God just, but God is loving and as a loving God He wants to save sinners.
The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 3:9 that the Lord is, "...patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance." This brings us to God's provision.
II. God's provision
Remember that God created us for His glory and for fellowship. As long as we remain in our sin we can neither be in fellowship with Him, nor can our lives give Him glory. In order for us to live for our created purpose we must somehow be reconciled to God. This is the great story of salvation. The Bible states this very clearly in 2 Corinthians 5:19 when it says, "...in Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and has committed the message of reconciliation to us."
The Bible tells us that salvation is from the Lord. That is, if it were left to us we would forever be lost. God is the one who initiates and consummates our salvation. It is His work alone. There are several things about salvation every Christian should understand.
First we need to consider the WHY of our salvation. Why did God save us? The reason God saved us has more to do with who God is than it does with who we are.
The Bible tells us that God is merciful - Psalm 103:17 says, "But from eternity to eternity the Lord's faithful love is toward those who fear Him."
Lamentations 3:22-23 says, "Because of the Lord's faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness!"
The principle word used for mercy in the Old Testament is the word, hesed, which describes God's steadfast lovingkindness. You see, it is God's mercy which stays His hand of judgment against us. It is because He is loving and compassionate. That's what Lamentations 3 tells us.
But not only is God merciful, but He is gracious. God's grace is simply God's unmerited favor towards us. We do not deserve it; we did nothing to merit it or to earn it; again, it is grounded in God's character. Because God is merciful and loving and gracious, He offers us salvation. He does not offer us His salvation because of who we are; He offers it to us because of Who He is. That means that because of God's mercy He does not punish us the minute we sin, and because of His grace, He offers us forgiveness of sins, salvation from the penalty of sin and eternal life.
Our hymns teach us profound theological truths. One of them says, "Marvelous grace of our loving Lord, grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt. Yonder on Calvary's mount outpoured, there where the blood of the lamb was spilt. Grace, grace, God's grace, grace that will pardon and cleanse within, grace, grace, God's grace, grace that is greater than all our sin."
But secondly we consider the HOW of our salvation. How did God make it possible for us to be saved? This is where we want to talk about the atoning work of Christ, or the doctrine of the atonement. There are many today who don't like to talk about the cross or the shed blood of Jesus. They say it is bloody, violent and barbaric. Instead they like to talk about the example Jesus set or the love that He wanted us to share with each other. But folks without the blood atonement we have no hope of salvation.
The Bible story is this: since we are all sinners and thus under the condemnation of sin, and since we could not do anything to bring about our own salvation, John 3:16 says, "For God love the word in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life."
You see God's justice demanded a sacrifice which would pay the price for our sins. Our own lives were already forfeit because we were under the condemnation of our own sins. Only a sinless person could pay the price and be an acceptable substitute for us. That's why God sent Jesus to die on the cross for us. Because Jesus was sinless, He was an acceptable sacrifice for our sins. The Bible says in 1 John 2:2 that He is the propitiation for our sins, not only for ours but for the whole world. This simply means that Jesus was a sacrifice which turned away the wrath of God.
And when He died on the cross, He died in our place. This is what we mean when we talk about the substitutionary atonement or the vicarious death of Jesus. Very simply put, Jesus died in our place. The death of Jesus was foreshadowed by the sacrificial system under the old covenant in the Old Testament. You remember that in ancient Israel each year the high priest would take a spotless lamb and would sacrifice that lamb, taking its blood and sprinkling it on the Ark of the Covenant to cover or atone for the sins of the people for that year. This was a picture which pointed to what Jesus would do. His blood would not merely cover our sins; instead it would wash our sins away, making us right before God.
When Jesus died on the cross He took our place and paid the penalty for our sins. That's why the cross is central to our understanding of salvation. Hebrews 9:22 says that without the shedding of blood our sins cannot be forgiven. On the cross Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, shed His blood to atone for our sins. As Baptists we believe that it was absolutely necessary for Jesus to shed His blood on the cross, otherwise the just demands of a holy God could not have been met and we would have no hope of salvation.
Jesus says the same thing in Matthew 26:28 at the last supper table. He told His disciples, "For this is My blood that establishes the covenant; it is shed for many for the forgiveness of sins."
Revelation 1:5 says, "And from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead and ruler of the kings of the earth. To Him who loves us and has set us free from our sins by His blood..."
Again, the hymns of our faith give witness to our understanding of this truth.
What can wash away my sins? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. Oh precious is the flow, that makes me white as snow, no other fount I know, nothing but the blood of Jesus.
There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Emanuel's veins, and sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilt stains, lose all their guilty stains, and sinners plunged beneath that flood, lose all their guilty stains.
You see because the blood of Jesus was shed for you and me, for our sins on Calvary's cross, there is no other way for us to be rid of our sins except through Jesus.
Jesus said in John 14:6, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes to the Father, except through Me."
One of the foundational truths of our doctrine of salvation is that there is no other way to get saved except through Jesus. While this is extremely exclusive on one hand, it is nonetheless what the Bible teaches.
There are many who have a problem with that truth.
Some, known as pluralists, say that there are many roads to God. After all, they reason, how could God love the world and yet allow so many people to live and die without having a chance to accept the free gift of eternal life in Jesus? Their problem, of course, is that their theology is not biblically based but is rooted and grounded more in their fallen sense of what they deem to be right and wrong.
God would have been justified in sending us all to hell. None of us deserved to be saved. The love of God is seen in that He has made it possible for any of us to be saved. But at the end of the day we cannot escape the words of Jesus Himself Who said that He is the only way to God the father.
That means the Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and all others who fail to put their faith in Jesus Christ alone, have no hope of heaven. Jesus Himself claimed to be the only way. But let's not forget what Romans 10:13 says, "For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." You see, salvation is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. But Jesus Himself says in John 3:18, "Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God."
So there you have it. God saves us because of Who He is and He did it through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross. Jesus died in our place. Because He was sinless He was an acceptable sacrifice to satisfy the just demands of a righteous God.
But how do we receive this gift of salvation? While it is freely offered to all who will believe, what is the process whereby we become recipients of His grace and become Christians?
III. Our response
Perhaps you've heard a preacher or two talk about giving your heart to Jesus, or being born again, and you've wondered what exactly they were talking about. When it comes to our response the Bible gives us some clear instruction.
The first thing the Bible says is that we must repent of our sins. Preaching at Pentecost Peter called upon the crowd to repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus the Messiah for the forgiveness of your sins." And preaching to the Athenians on Mars Hill, in Acts 17:30 Paul said that "God now commands all people everywhere to repent."
Repentance simply means to stop going one way, to turn around and to go another way. R. L. Scarborough, who was president of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, from 1914, till he died in 1945, defined repentance this way. He said, "What is repentance? It is turning away from your sins. It is giving up the love of your sins, your affection for everything that you know to be wrong in your life. It is turning right about with a new view and a new vision of God."
Repentance is not popular these days. Many people want to get to heaven without having to change who they are. They want to add Jesus to the many other things in their lives. But Jesus tells us that we cannot come to Him that way. We must take up our cross and follow Him. In repentance we turn away from sin, and in faith we turn to Jesus Christ as our Savior. That brings us to the subject of faith.
The Bible tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 that salvation comes by grace through faith. That is, God's grace makes it available, and we must accept it by faith. Salvation comes to us by the grace of God, but faith enables us to reach out and receive it.
Faith means to believe. It means to put your trust or confidence in someone or something. Many times in the Bible the command is to believe, this is referring to faith. In order for us to receive the salvation offered in Christ Jesus, we must abandon any hope we might have in our own goodness, or in our ability to get to heaven on our own merit, and we must put our faith, our confidence, our trust, in Jesus Christ and what He did on the cross.
The great preacher Charles Spurgeon once said, "Why is faith so essential? It is because of its receptive power. A purse will not make a man rich, and yet without some place for his money, how could a man acquire wealth? Faith of itself could not contribute a penny to salvation, but it is the purse which holds a precious Christ within itself. It holds all the treasures of divine love. If a man is thirsty, a rope and a bucket are not in themselves of much use to him. But yet if there is a well near at hand, the very thing that is needed is a bucket and a rope, by means of which a man may draw water out of the wells of salvation and drink to his heart's content."
Faith is not simply knowing that Jesus died for your sins, it does not merely mean agreeing that Jesus died for your sins, many people have religious knowledge but do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. Faith means making a personal decision and commitment to surrender control of your life to the Lordship of Jesus and to trust Him and Him alone to save you. This is what we are talking about when we ask if someone wants to give their heart to Jesus, or to ask Him into their heart. That's what it means to exercise faith.
Which brings us to what happens when you trust Him.
By repenting of your sins and placing your trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, the instant that takes place, the Bible says you become a new creation, you are given spiritual life, or you are born again. The theological term is regeneration, which simply means that you are made new in Christ.
Second Corinthians 5:17 says, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation; old things have passed away, and look, new thins have come."
And the Bible says God gives you eternal life. That means once you are truly saved, you can never be unsaved. Once He gives you spiritual life, you are His from that time forever more.
When you ask Jesus to forgive your sins and place your trust in Him, not only does He create in you a new person, as we have studied in weeks past, He places His Spirit within you and He will never leave you nor forsake you. He will always be with you. He writes your name in the Lamb's book of life and when the roll is called up yonder, you'll be there. But till then He will work in your heart and your life to grow you in your spiritual life to a greater maturity. This is what we call, sanctification.
Once you place your faith and your trust in Jesus Christ, He begins a process of growth and spiritual development in your life which will never completely stall.
Philippians 1:6 says, "I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." That means that God, who has begun the work of transforming you into the image of Jesus, will continue to do His work in you till Jesus returns. This is
So there you have it, it's really rather simple. We are sinners, our sin separates us from God and condemns us to eternity in hell. God loves us and sends His only Son Jesus to die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins. Through His death, burial and resurrection He defeated sin and death and made it possible for all who will place their trust in Him to have their sins washed away and receive eternal life. All you have to do is believe; to place your trust in Him today.