Now, given our five foundational assumptions, let us begin building a frame of Biblical truth. If we are going to battle back confusion and fear, we must anchor deep in the Scriptures.
Specifically, if we lack assurance of salvation, if we are confused surrounding issues of salvation (can you lose it?), if we are fearful concerning those who appear to walk away from their salvation, then let’s study what the Bible says about salvation.
It seems a simple diagnosis: confusion over issues surrounding salvation are caused by misunderstandings about salvation.
So, here are some basic truths, clear truths concerning salvation on which we can begin to build a greater understanding: *
1. Being saved is not a one-time event.
The work of salvation is spoken of in three tenses: we have been saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved. Without expounding on the richness of each tense, let us just say for now that all three are the work of God.
In Christ, we have been saved from the penalty of our sin (Eph 2:8). He has died on a cross for our sin, removing our offense before a holy God, and has clothed us in His righteousness (2 Cor 5:21) so that we can by faith stand before God justified and in right standing with Him (Rom 5:1ff).
By His Holy Spirit, we are being saved (2 Cor 2:15-16) from the power of sin in our lives. Having been made new creations in Christ(5:17), we are being conformed into His image (Rom 8:29) one degree of glory to the next (2 Cor 3:18). Our minds are being renewed by His Word (Rom 12:2), our wills are being conformed to His will, and our perspective is being shaped by eternity (2 Cor 4:16-18). As we work out our salvation, God is at work in us, to will and to work His good pleasure, our sanctifying transformation toward holiness (Phil 2:12-13).
Finally, we will be saved at the end of the age (1 Peter 1:5) when the Father sends Jesus back to the earth to rescue His children. His angels will gather us from the four corners of the globe (Matt 24:31) and we will be caught up with Christ in the air (1 Thess 4:16). We will always be with the Lord, never to suffer the pains and temptations of sin. We will finally be like the Lord Jesus for we will see Him in His fulness (1 John 3:2).
2. From beginning to end, salvation is ultimately a work of God.
Each of these is the work of the Lord. God, through the Holy Spirit, brings conviction of sin unto repentance (John 16:8), takes up residence in our hearts (John 14:17), and seals us for the day of redemption (Eph 1:13). Every one the Father gives to the Son is secured by the Son (John 10:28-29) for He said He would not lose a single one (John 6:39). Every work the Lord begins, He promises to finish (Phil 1:6).
3. Salvation is by grace, through faith, and not by works. (Ephesians 2)
While we are saved for good works (v.10), we are not saved by good works (v.8-9). Salvation is wholly the work of grace demonstrated by faith apart from works. Salvation given by grace cannot be maintained by works (Galatians 3:1ff). If ever salvation can be achieved, maintained, or improved by works it is no longer of grace.
4. The grace that saves us works transformation within us.
Paul told Titus that grace trains us in holiness and faith, making us eager to produce good works (Titus 2:11ff). For all who are in Christ are new creations (2 Cor 5:17), producing spiritual fruit (Gal 5:22-23) to the glory of God (John 15).
5. Salvation is the gift of “eternal life.”
“Eternal life” by definition cannot be temporary. It is everlasting. When God saves someone it is a forever, unalterable act. We are moved from one kingdom to another, from one family to another, and one identity to another (John 1:12, 1 Pet 2:9-10). We are given a new family, a new citizenship, and a new nature (Eph 2:19). In salvation, we die to ourselves and our lives become hidden with Christ in God (Col 3:3). We die, no longer to live, and given a new life by faith in the Son of God (Gal 2:20). Having become like Him in His death we are raised to newness of life (Rom 6:3-4)… eternal, ever-lasting, never-ending life.
There is much more we can say about salvation. Yet, exploring and understanding these clear realities concerning salvation will help us wrestle through some of the other issues surrounding salvation and the questions that weigh heavily on our hearts because of painful experience.
When our experience creates questions and the answers seem to elude us, these clear gospel realities serve both to anchor us to the truth of God’s Word and provide handles by which we can seek answers. Answers to which we can explore next.
* Remember the “rule of faith” is that we use Scripture to interpret Scripture, and that clear, more easily understandable Scripture should be used to interpret less clear passages.