In the last three posts in our series on the “The Gospel’s Five Words,” we discussed the topics of sin, judgment, and guilt. In the first part, we learned that sin means “to miss the mark” of God’s standards by disobeying God or mistreating our fellow man. In the second part, we learned that because we have missed this mark there are consequences and that God will carry out those consequences. In the third part, we learned what guilt is and that God uses guilt to show us our need for a savior. Today we will be continuing our study by looking at what it means for us to need a savior.
Oftentimes we hear this common phrase used by Christians: “Have you been saved?” This is a proper question to ask. After all, saved is the word used in the English Bible to refer to God’s redemptive work in one’s life. But to those who are outside the church, it can sound somewhat cryptic. So what does “being saved” actually mean?
What is Salvation?
There are other words we could use to refer to the act of salvation, but for the sake of simplicity we’ll stick with “saved.” The word “saved” that is translated in our English Bible comes from the Greek word “sozo” which means “to make safe.” So the question becomes “to make us safe from what?” As we previously learned in the sin and judgment posts, when we sin and fall short of God’s standard through wrongful actions against God or our fellow man, we place ourselves directly in line for God’s judgment. There may be an earthly consequence for our sins since there are natural results for mistreating others, but that may not always be the case. It may seem like we get away with doing wrong in this life without any harm coming to ourselves. But whether or not we think we are getting away with doing wrong, our wrong will be punished in the end, if not in this life, it will be in the next. This punishment in the next life is the eternal judgment also known as Hell and the Lake of Fire. This is what salvation saves us from, but what exactly is Hell?
What is Hell?
Hell, although not originally intended for humanity, is the place where all who are not saved will be sent once they die. There they will wait until the time they are judged forever for their wrongful actions in the Lake of Fire. These are places that once someone is there, there is no way out for them. It is final. It’s a place of darkness, a place where the fire burns so hot that it's black. There is nothing in this place that would give someone joy. There is only utter darkness and torment for all of eternity. But the good news is no one is forced to go there.
Why do I need God for Salvation?
God loves humanity and that includes you! He did create us after all! God doesn’t desire to have anyone in Hell. The Bible says God is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” The catch is though, that God must do what is right and judge sin. If God did not enforce consequences for sin, He would not be just, fair, or righteous. For example, if a murderer was on trial, you would consider it wrong for a judge to say to the murderer, “Well, it looks like you did some good things in your life, so you are sentenced to one week of community service.” If this occurred there would be a public outcry! How can a few good actions, in this case, community service, override the fact this man is a murderer? Obviously, it can’t. In the same way, our good works cannot override our sins in our life. No amount of good works can undo what has been done. For example, when there is a major breach of trust in a friendship can one ever truly make the results of it go away? It's unlikely. No matter how many good things that friend does to make up for it, there will most likely always be some doubt about that friend’s trustworthiness. They may partially restore the friendship, but they will definitely think twice before entrusting the trust-breaker with confidential information again. We can see from this, that even in our human opinion, good actions don’t override wrongdoing. So what's the solution? Can one even exist?
Since man cannot undo his wrong and a punishment must be carried out, God took a personal effort to save humanity. God decided that since someone who is not guilty and has never sinned must pay for the punishment of this “sin debt”. He would need to have the punishment for man’s sin be carried out on Himself. By doing so, He would take the punishment, paying off the spiritual fine, so that man could be declared innocent. So to fulfill this plan, God came to the earth as a man named Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, He was the wholeness of God in a human body and He came for one reason: to die in our place. You see, in the beginning, God declared that the punishment for sin would be death, so for God to take man’s punishment He had to die in man’s place. He must receive the death penalty. So God came to earth as Jesus, lived sinlessly with mankind for around 30 years, teaching and preaching about what He desired mankind to be, and then when the time was right, He willingly allowed humanity to turn on Him and take Him before the Roman authorities on false charges.
Jesus’ sacrifice wasn’t a quick and painless process. Jesus was mocked, beaten beyond recognition, and left barely alive when He was finally condemned by both Rome and the Jews to die an excruciating death on a cross. (In fact, the word excruciating itself comes from the pain associated with crucifixion) Now covered in His own blood with torn and openly exposed flesh, He was forced to walk down the road with His cross on His back, that is until He stumbled from exhaustion and pain and was unable to carry it any further. The soldiers then told another man to carry the cross to the location of the crucifixion: Golgotha, (meaning the place of the skull) where they nailed Jesus to the cross by driving spikes through His hands and feet. They then lifted up the cross with Jesus attached and dropped it into its place where they left Him to suffer in agony while they gambled over His clothes and mocked him. After hours of suffering and having endured punishment and affliction for mankind, Jesus willingly offered His life for our sins as He declared: “It is finished.” Referencing that in the next moment He was to free mankind from the consequences of their sin debt through the willful surrender of His sinless life. And with that said, He gave up His spirit to the Father. The God of the universe had died for man’s sin, and man was now able to be set free. It wasn’t pretty, but God had accomplished humanity’s salvation.
Three days later Jesus returned alive from the grave, showing His victory over death as God and Savior, instructing His followers to tell the world that salvation was now available to humanity through His sacrifice. But just because salvation was available it didn’t mean it was automatically applied to everyone. You see, God chose to give each person an individual choice to choose whether or not to accept His sacrifice for them. Whoever desires salvation can have it. Whoever desires to pay for their sins eternally, may do so. God allows people to do with their lives as they desire. But we all have to choose option one or option two. And this choice is time sensitive, we must choose before we die. If we die and have not chosen to accept the gift it will be too late. We never know when death may come so we must choose now. Failing to choose God’s gift today is choosing to pay eternally for our own failures. So the question becomes: how do we choose? and what do we need to do to choose?
Belief and Repentance
The good news (called the "Gospel" in the Bible) is you don’t have to work for your salvation. As we previously discussed, no amount of right we can do can correct our wrong, so God gives salvation freely. He only asks that you believe in the gift that He has offered on behalf of you. "If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." (Romans 10:9) If you believe that it is true that you have done wrong and need salvation, that God Himself came and died to give the opportunity of salvation to you, and that you can receive that gift of salvation, you will receive it. There are no strings attached, Jesus Himself, gives the challenge to repent and accept the gift saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel." The word repentance simply means “to reconsider.” So reconsider today, believe the good news, and accept Jesus’ sacrifice for you. Be free from your guilt and sin! God doesn’t require you to be good or holy to come, He doesn’t require you to be living righteously to gain salvation, but rather He says, “Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.” Come taste the life that Jesus has given to you. If you would like to do so, just talk to God and let Him know you want to accept the gift. If you don't know what to say, here's an example of how you could start:
“God I know that I have wronged you and others through my actions, I know that I can’t save myself from my own sins, and I need your salvation, I believe in the salvation that you have offered to me when you paid for my sins on the cross. God, I accept your gift.”
If you truly believe these words and what they represent, God will hear your desire for salvation no matter where you are. It doesn’t have to be these words either, what God desires is not an oath or pledge, but rather a tender accepting heart who searches for Him. I hope today I was able to teach you what salvation is all about. If you haven’t put your belief in God, I would encourage you to believe in Him today and let Him be a part of your life.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.”