“By grace are ye saved…” — Ephesians 2:5
Salvation is the most important issue that thinking people will ever face. “For what is a man profited if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Matt. 16:26). Salvation will never be appointed unless men feel the desperate need for it. Who will cry out, “Men and brethren what shall we do to be saved?” unless there is a sense of destruction? The Psalmist said, “The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow. Then called I upon the name of the Lord” (Psa. 18:4,5).
Salvation is the glorious deliverance of the soul from the power and pollution of the wrath of an angry God, and the eternal flames of hell in a bottomless pit. To be saved presupposes that there is something to be delivered from. The Bible calls what men are to be delivered from, damnation, or the sending of the soul to everlasting torment. The existence of hell is a testimony of the seriousness of sin. Though men consider sin lightly, God views it as being worthy of the greatest punishment He can administer. Concerning the salvation of the soul, it is best to understand the various aspects of this great work.
First, it may be said to be saved is the purpose of God before the world began (2 Tim. 1:9). The apostle says that God “saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” The very beginning of our salvation is in eternity past. The great emphasis on this fact is reflected in the fact that the love of God for Christians is often presented, in the past tense.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Rom. 8:37).
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless, I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us” (Eph. 2:4).
“We love him, because he first loved us” 1 John 4:19).
The salvation of the soul has its origin in the purpose of God before the world began.
Second, it can be said that we are saved before we are converted, or called to Christ (2 Tim. 1:9). The apostle said that, “He saved us and called us with a holy calling.” The apostle puts the saving before the calling.
The concept is stated again in the word order of Jude 1:1 where we read of “them that are sanctified by God the Father and presented [saved] in Jesus Christ, and called.” God bears long with those who shall be the heirs of salvation, which explains why life is granted to many who were marked for death, and would have died apart from Divine intervention.
One example is Moses. Though reared as a son of Pharaoh, Moses was charged with murder. By all accounts he should have been imprisoned, and executed, but God spared Him till he could be saved.
Manasseh, the king of Judah, was a great sinner. He was driven from his land and led captive to Babylon. For all his great sins he should have been put to death many times, but his life was spared.
Why? Because he had not called upon the Lord. Before his death, Manasseh was preserved so that he could be converted.
The thief on the Cross-offers another example. Death was reaching for this criminal soul. It was opening its mouth wide to receive another prey. But the thief on the Cross-did not die until he was safe in the arms of Christ.
John Bunyan, author of the Pilgrim’s Progress, was almost drowned twice and suffered a violent fever. Yet his life was spared, and he came to faith in the Lord. God is long-suffering with those who are to be the heirs of salvation.
Third, to be saved is to be brought to Christ, and enabled by the Holy Spirit to lay hold of Him. The Bible explains this as being saved by grace through faith (Eph. 2:8).
“No man,” said Christ, “can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him” (John 6:44).
Men can be invited to the Lord all the daylong, but gospel words fall upon dead ears (Hos. 11:2,4). As they called them, so they went from them, therefore… He [God] drew them with cords. Those who are finally led to an encounter with Christ are enabled to lay hold on Christ by faith. How the Holy Spirit does this is a great mystery, but that He does it is certain. We are said to believe “according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead” (Col. 2:12; Eph. 1:19, 20).
A fourth aspect of salvation, is that to be saved is to be preserved in the faith to the end (Matt. 24:13). “He that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved”. All who come to faith will be saved to the end, because they “are kept by the power of God, through faith unto salvation” (1 Peter 1:3-6). Perseverance is absolutely essential to the salvation of the soul, because to fall short is to miss heaven. A person who will board an airplane in New York to fly to London, cannot arrive there if the plane crashes into the sea. God has promised that spiritual Israel shall arrive at its destination at last. “Israel shall be saved in the Lord “with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end” (Isa. 45:17).
The ultimate salvation of the Saint requires the protection of Almighty God, because the soul has many enemies seeking its destruction. The Christian is confronted by his archenemy the Devil, who is called a god, a prince, and a lion.
It is said that Satan has the power of death. What Christian could hope to stand against such an adversary, apart from Divine restraining grace?
In addition to the Devil, all the world is against the soul that shall be saved. The world does not hesitate to laugh, ridicule, scorn, reject, and undermine Christian values and practices.
It was said of Demas that he loved the world, and turned from Christ (2 Tim. 4:10).
The world has crucified before, and it will continue to kill the faith of the followers of Christ, which is why Paul declared in Galatians 6:14, “the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” Jesus came into the world to save sinners (1 Tim. 1:15), and yet, the world does not want to be saved.
In addition to the devil, and the seductive nature of the world against the faith of a Christian, there is the weakness of the flesh. The best of men, are but men at best, and as men, Christians sin.
Sometimes the sins of the saints are grievous.
Noah got drunk.
Lot committed incest.
David committed adultery and murder.
Moses displayed a violent temper.
Peter denied Jesus.
James and John were ambitious men.
The sins of the saints would shipwreck their faith apart from sustaining grace. The heart of the Christian wants to be different but finds it difficult.
As God saves the soul, so He must keep on preserving the soul against its many enemies.
Fifth, to be saved means to have a place in heaven which is called ‘the end of our faith’ by Peter (1 Pet. 1:9). “Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” The author of Hebrews agrees, for we read in Hebrews 10:39 that “we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”
There is a sixth aspect. To be saved means to be transformed while in heaven, for the soul and body cannot ultimately be saved until it is like Jesus. The body of man can be said to be saved when it is no longer under the sentence of decay and death (1 Cor. 15:54). It is no longer the means of expressing sinful behavior (2 Cor. 5:1-3). It is no longer subject to sickness.The soul of man in heaven is saved when it is perfect in knowledge. “Now we know but in part” (1 Cor. 13:10), but the day will come when we shall know God and His Son, Jesus Christ. Then there shall be ‘joy unspeakable and full of glory.” The soul of the saint in heaven is truly saved when it loves the Lord without self-serving motives out of a clear conscience. Only in heaven will our emotions, intellect, and will, be perfectly saved.
Finally, salvation is truly and forever completed when the body and soul is re-united in the promised resurrection to dwell in righteousness on the new earth which has been redeemed by fire.
There is coming a day when the saved of the ages will enjoy all that was briefly enjoyed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Paradise Lost will be paradise restored.
In light of these truths, how wonderful, deep, and far reaching is the matter of salvation. When it is all done the soul will sing the Lord’s highest praise for, “Salvation is of the Lord!”