by Rayola Kelley
What does it mean to be saved is the most important question every person must answer for themselves. Before we can answer this question, we must consider what salvation is. Is it a state in which people come to? Or, is it a work that must be done? There are Scriptures that imply that salvation is a work and not a state. Philippians 1:6talks about performing a work until the day of Jesus. In Philippians 2:13 we are told it is God’s will to work in believers both to will and to do his good pleasure. As you study God’s will, you will realize it has to do with salvation (John 6:26-40). One of the most interesting Scriptures on this subject is Philippians 2:12: “Wherefore my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom that is displayed in attitude and conduct. Scriptures indicate that God is working salvation in His people, while His people work out salvation through obedience and fear.
If salvation is a work, what kind of work does God do on behalf of each of us? Salvation points to deliverance, liberty, rescue, and being saved. Obviously, God must rescue and deliver us from something. Therefore, we need liberty from something that enslaves us. Once we have been delivered from the culprit of our souls, then we have been saved from its influence and destruction. The question is what do we all need to be delivered from? There are various correct answers, but we must answer this question in light of Jesus’ death on the cross. The answer is ourselves.
We are born with a tendency to sin. This fallen condition opposes God and walks in the ways of sin and death. In fact, this condition is under the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2). The fallen condition or the old man is subject to the works of the flesh that result in spiritual death or separation from God. It is easily influenced by the world and motivated by the spirit of disobedience that works in this world Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:2; 2 Timothy 2:3-4.
Most people think that salvation is a matter of being saved from hell. This is not correct. We will be spared from the consequences of death, but we are saved from something that is already condemning or besetting us. Salvation is a present work, not a future reality. Salvation is expressed in change. In other words, the things that accompany salvation are a new way of thinking and a new way of being. It is a new life that is being manifested in us. The life that is being worked in us is the life of Jesus Galatians 2:20. It is the reality of this life being worked in us that begins to transform the inner man. Instead of being conformed to this world, our minds will be transformed to establish the mind of Christ. Instead of insisting on our way of thinking, we will bring all thoughts into captivity in obedience to Jesus. Rather, then being driven by the lust of the flesh, we will crucify it so we can be led by the Spirit. Instead of letting our pride call the shots, we will deny ourselves of having an identity or life separate from the Lordship of Jesus. Once the mind is transformed, the avenue of the flesh closed down and the world loses its influence, Satan will have no inroads into a person’s life to create confusion and chaos Romans 12:1-2; 2 Corinthians 3:5, 17-18; 4:16; Ephesians 4:22-24; Titus 3:5; James 4:6-10.
It is hard for people to fathom that they do not need to be delivered from some state, enemy or eternal consequences. Rather, they need to be delivered from who they are, the way they think, feel and respond. They need to take on a new disposition, change their attitude and line up their conduct to the very character of God. Such a process doesn’t occur overnight. Salvation is an ongoing process that requires our attention, and will call us to accountability and responsibility for who we are, and how we are living. Let’s consider how this salvation is brought about in our life.
It begins with belief. God’s initial part in salvation is to convict us of sin, our lack of righteousness and pending judgment if we fail to respond in repentance (John 16:7-13). Belief is never directed at what we can do to make ourselves right, but at what Jesus did on the cross. It is true every person stands miserably lost, but all cloaks of self-righteousness need to be torn away to expose sin. Each person must be convicted of their sin, and the need to stand righteous before God so that He can accept him or her. Therefore, belief that finally brings each of us to the door of God’s intervention is not based on the reality of personal wretchedness, but of the character of Jesus and His redemption.
Scripture brings out this truth. When Jesus challenged the faith of Peter and Martha, their response was not that they believed what He said, rather they acknowledged the source or reason for believing what He said was true. Their source or reason was based on their perception of Jesus. Therefore, their statement of faith was not one about faith or devotion to Jesus, rather it was a profession of the character of Jesus.
Peter stated when Jesus asked if he would go away like many of the disciples: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou has the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:68b-69).
When Jesus asked Martha if she would believe that He is the resurrection and the life, and that a person who possess such a life will never die, her reply was: “I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world” (John 11:27).
The Word of God stresses that our belief must be based on the identity of Jesus. Jesus’ identity as God Incarnate, the Christ, the Savior of the world, and the Son of God reaffirms our faith and confidence in His words and teachings. We can trust Him to not only do right by us, but to do the impossible on our behalf. Acts 4:12 tells us there is no salvation in any other for there is no other name by which people can be saved. Name implies character. Jesus alone has the means in which to save us.
The Apostle Paul told the jailer who asked him how he could be saved in Acts 16:31b: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” To believe on something means you put all of your confidence in that movement, cause or person. For the jailer he needed to put all of his confidence on the Lord Jesus Christ.
Jesus is referred to as the Lord Jesus Christ in relationship to salvation. The term “Lord” shows us the position He must hold in our lives. When you study the concept of Lord in Scripture, you will discover that the Lord in the Bible is God, Creator, King, Holy One of Israel, Savior, and Redeemer Isaiah 43:10-12, 14-15; 44:6; 45:11, 15-17, 21-22. As Lord, Jesus carries authority over our lives. This is why the Apostle Paul made this statement inRomans 10:13: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” We see in the case of Abraham and Isaac that they called upon the name of the Lord. But, keep in mind that each time they called on the name of the Lord, they were asking for His presence or intervention. You just do not occasionally call on the name of the Lord to save or spare you of something. We are a needy people. We are limited in our abilities to change our reality. Every time we are confronted with obstacles, we call upon His name because of who He is. We acknowledge that we are in need of His intervention in some way.
As Lord He has total say over every aspect of our life. We do not belong to ourselves. As our Lord, we must obey Him. The reason many people are oppressed is because of disobedience to His Word. Most people want to be delivered from unpleasant realities. However, people find deliverance through a situation, as they trust God with each step of obedience.
Disobedience is the product of unbelief. People do not obey because they do not believe Jesus. Jesus tells us if we love Him, we will obey Him. Hebrews 5:9 tells us: “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” Obedience is the response of active faith. If you truly believe what God says, you will obey His words. Steps of obedience lead to deliverance as one walks in the ways of God. These ways are righteous, and will bring truth and liberty to a person’s life. God will count such obedience as righteous, allowing Him to meet the person in greater ways John 8:31-36; 14:15; Romans 6:20; 7:23.
Jesus clearly deserves the position of Lord since He was the one who redeemed us back from the claims of sin on our lives. This redemption identifies us to an eternal inheritance. However, this redemption will not be realized until we meet Jesus face to face. In fact, the Holy Spirit has been given to us as a seal. He serves as the earnest pledge of God upon our souls. He is the one who does the work of sanctification in us (Ephesians 1:11-14).
As you study the concept of being redeemed, you realize that we are servants of God. Servitude in God’s kingdom is not a duty, but a privilege. He is a loving, just and caring Lord. Such a commitment would encourage each believer to become a bondservant. Bondservants are those who love their master. They totally consecrate their life to serve the one who redeemed them from a debt they could not pay. They give up the life they could have to honor their master with faithful and committed service. Consecration of this nature says more about the master, then the servant. We read about this consecration in Deuteronomy 15.
As our Lord, Jesus deserves this type of service. It is an honor to serve in His kingdom, household and at His feet in love and adoration. Sadly, many Christians are just servants out of duty. They decide how, where and when they will serve. They reserve certain rights to themselves as they glory in what service they are involved in. The areas that have been reserved for personal purposes are weak and vulnerable.
Studying salvation proves that it is a work and not a state. We cannot earn this salvation, but we must work all deliverance out in faith and obedience to what we know is right. Salvation is a matter of being delivered from that which entangles us. It means walking through the dark places, while trusting the unseen hand of God. It involves clinging to Him in the floods of despair, hiding in Him through the storms of life, and trusting Him in the fires of separation. Deliverance is a matter of faith in the character of God, His work and His Word. Therefore, salvation is a matter of believing God by walking according to His character, giving way to His sanctifying work and obeying His Word.
Some Christians struggle over the issue of salvation. They fight doubts because their lives are compromising or a contradiction of what they deem is righteous. They are confused by the emphasis of the different belief systems that have strayed away from the salvation that can only come from Jesus. However, such a matter will never be settled in the mind, doubts will never be silenced through wishful thinking, and there is no one denomination that can secure salvation. The matter of salvation is a heart issue. It must be settled as a fact in the will area, believed as truth in the heart, and daily worked out in obedience in accordance to the Word. It is on this basis that the work of salvation is established as a reality that cannot be moved, challenged and swayed no matter what confronts us in this present life.