Salvation – Saved From and Saved For
Exodus: God’s example of salvation
Salvation: What God does
Salvation: Our response
Faithful to Jesus
Faith that continues
Faith will be tested
True faith is shown in obedience
The people of Israel spent 400 years in Egypt as slaves to the Pharaohs. At the right time God raised up Moses who He used to deliver His people out of Egypt and lead them into the Promised Land. This account, recorded in the book of Exodus, is an illustration of how God saves us and brings us into His kingdom. Knowing how and why God saved Israel will help us understand how and why God saves us.
God, before saving Israel from Egypt, made seven promises:
1. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
2. I will deliver you from their bondage.
3. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgements.
4. I will take you for My people.
5. I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
6. I will bring you to the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
7. I will give it to you for a possession; I am the LORD (Exodus 6:6-8).
From these we can see God’s plan for Israel was three-fold:
1. To save His people from slavery and bondage to Pharaoh and redeem them.
2. That they would become His people and He their God.
3. To bring them to the Promised Land and give it to them as a possession.
So Israel was saved from Pharaoh and Egypt and saved for a purpose – to be God’s people and inherit the Promised Land.
Before God bought Israel out of Egypt, they were instructed to sacrifice a lamb and to put its blood over the doors of their houses. When God saw the blood He passed over the homes of the Israelites and they were not judged as the Egyptians. The shed blood of the Passover lamb foreshadowed the blood to be shed by the coming Messiah – Jesus, the Lamb of God. They were also told to remove leaven from their houses which foreshadowed our need to forsake sin in response to God’s call to repentance.
God’s plan for us under the new covenant is this:
1. To save and redeem us from bondage to sin, Satan (who is the god and ruler of this world) and his authority.
2. To be His people, His sons and daughters and He our God.
3. To bring us into His rest and inherit the promises.
The similarities between Israel’s salvation from Egypt and ours today through Jesus are informative. Israel experienced salvation from a flesh and blood adversary but we experience salvation from a spiritual adversary. Yet in both there is a blood sacrifice, deliverance from bondage, becoming God’s people and a promised inheritance.
We are saved from Satan’s authority and slavery to sin:
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).
…to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God (Acts 26:18).
He has delivered us from the dominion of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son (Colossians 1:13).
We are saved for the purpose of becoming God’s people, a holy people, who will inherit His kingdom.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9 ESV).
…that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me (Acts 26:18).
The New Testament also reveals God’s greater purpose – not only being God’s people but that we would, to His praise and glory, become a Bride for His Son – the Church.
That He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless (Ephesians 5:27).
Salvation is God’s rescuing us from spiritual bondage, slavery to sin and Satan’s authority. He has done this through Christ’s death and resurrection and transferred us into His kingdom and authority. Then, having been saved, we begin our life with and for God, as His people and fulfilling His purpose.
Next it will be seen how God does this.
God is the author of salvation. In our sin and blindness we don’t even know our need of salvation until the Holy Spirit convicts us:
And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgement (John 16:8).
And you were dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1).
Our attempts to save ourselves and make ourselves right before God are in vain. God provided the way to reconcile us to Himself and put His life into our spirit, so raising it from death. He does this through the death of His Son Jesus, redeeming, forgiving, justifying and reconciling us to Himself:
Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:7).
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:10).
So we are forgiven of our sins through Jesus’ blood, His sacrifice, and reconciled to God. We should note here that sin means more than doing what we know is wrong. It means missing the mark, the goal being God’s glory. It is not just what we shouldn’t have done but also what we should have done. In this respect then, we all fall short of God’s mark and glory (Romans 3:23).
Only as God justifies us and imparts His life in us is this goal is achieved. When God justifies us through Christ our record of sin is taken away and we are made right in His sight. It is a gift by His grace which we receive through faith in Christ. God redeems us, purchasing us for a price, the price being the blood of Christ. Therefore we become His possession:
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body (1 Corinthians 6:19,20).
Salvation is God’s act of grace through Christ’s death and resurrection. Without Christ we are enslaved to Satan and sin and it is impossible that we free ourselves (2 Timothy 2:26 and Romans 7:23-25). But in Christ we are set free from the power of sin.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death (Romans 8:1-2).
God’s salvation is not a just a past occurrence, but is on going. Scripture shows us that:
We have been saved: For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8).
This happened in the past when we first believed in Christ through His death on the Cross and resurrection.
We are being saved: Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain (1 Corinthians 15:1-2 ESV).
This is happening in the present as we grow in Christ through obeying Him and the leading of His Spirit.
We shall be saved: For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:10).
This is in the future when Christ returns and our bodies are transformed to His likeness and we be with Him for eternity.
Therefore having been saved by grace, through faith, we are to go on willingly responding to God’s ongoing work of grace to and in us.
The Gospel message calls us to repent and believe. Without repentance, without our willing commitment to turn from our own way and seek God’s, forgiveness is meaningless and faith is in vain. When Jesus began his ministry his first recorded words were:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel (Mark 1:15).
Jesus told those who heard to “repent and believe in the gospel” because the kingdom of God was at hand. That was the good news. He was proclaiming the coming of a kingdom ruled by God, supplanting all human authority and in which righteousness ruled according to God’s standard not man’s.
Repentance is a decision to change our mind about sin in response to God’s declaration, followed by a change in practice. It is an act of obedience, not just feeling sorry or remorseful.
Knowing what we have been saved from, what we will be saved for and what it cost God – the death of His Son – should fill us with a humble gratitude and lead us to repentance. As Paul reminds the Christians in Rome:
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? (Romans 2:4).
We need to repent because of God’s future judgement:
Therefore having overlooked the times of ignorance, God is now declaring to men that all people everywhere should repent, because He has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead (Acts 17:30).
Through repentance we receive forgiveness of sins:
And that repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47).
He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Saviour, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:31).
Examples of true repentance?
The parable of the Prodigal son (Luke 15:11-31) shows what true repentance means. After coming to his senses the son says:
“I will get up and go to my father, and will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight; I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me as one of your hired men.“
He acted – ‘I will get up and go‘. He confessed his sin – ‘I have sinned against heaven and in your sight‘. He humbled himself – ‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son‘.
And as in the Proverbs:
He who conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will find compassion (Proverbs 28:13).
A ‘decision’ for Christ is only meaningful if it is accompanied by repentance which is shown by a changed life not just an acknowledgement that we have sinned.
Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8).
Just as God’s first creative act was to send light into the physical world so God’s first act in making us new is to send His spiritual light. In the person of the Holy Spirit He opens our eyes and convicts our conscience of our sinfulness.
…to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God (Acts 26:18).
Jesus gave us a solemn warning of the seriousness of sin:
If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell (Matthew 18:8,9).
Though ‘cut off’ and ‘pluck out’ were not meant to be taken literally (since the source of sin is in our heart, not our body) these words never the less convey to us the seriousness of sin and to do whatever it takes to forsake it. Paul reflects the same with these words:
Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry (Colossians 3:5).
The call to repent and believe is one that needs to continue throughout our life. As Peter reminds us:
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
Repentance will mean not just feeling sorry and deciding to change your ways, but also seeking to restore what we have broken – be it a relationship or a trust. If we have committed a crime it will need to be confessed to the relevant authority. Repentance will always have a cost to us personally.
Finally, we need to humble ourselves and repent of our self-righteousness. The good things we have done have no standing in God’s sight. Only that which is done through faith in Christ (Philippians 3:7-9).
What is faith and why do we need it?
Faith is trusting in God, not in ourselves. Abraham is called the father of those who believe because he believed God for what was humanly impossible:
Yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead (Romans 4:20-24).
We need faith to come to God because:
Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).
Faith has always been the way to be right before God, before the law (of Moses), during the law and now apart from the law but under grace. It is through faith our life in Christ begins and is maintained. But our faith must be in Christ, in His righteousness, not in our own:
For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes (Romans 10:4).
A righteousness (which means to be morally right before God) based upon faith in Christ is foundational to the Christian faith. The righteousness of God is without compromise and whether we have committed many or few sins, we have all fallen short of the glory of God. And it is only through the blood of Christ our sins are forgiven, since without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness (Hebrews 9:22). Hence righteousness must be based on faith in Christ, as Paul explains:
Even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:22-24).
Faith itself does not save us but it is through faith that we receive God’s grace, as Paul reminds us:
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast (Ephesians 2:8,9).
Like a man in a lifeboat who reaches out to a drowning man and says “Take hold of my hand and I will save you.” No one would suggest the drowning man had saved himself through his holding on. So it is with faith. Our faith is necessary to receive, but not the means of, our salvation. It is God who saves us, by His mercy and grace.
Biblical faith is more than mental assent to the truth of something. It is not simply believing that but believing in. It is a complete trust and confidence in the one whom we put our faith. While it begins as a thought it is not complete until we act on it. Biblical faith cannot remain only as a thought.
We need to ensure our faith is in Christ, and in Him alone, not in the fact we are a member of a particular church. Many take comfort and assurance in belonging to what they believe is the ‘one true church’ which secures them for all eternity. If our security lies in any organisation or person other than Christ our faith will be in vain.
When Jesus spoke of believing in Him (in the gospels) and the promise of eternal life, the way to salvation was not yet finished. He was pointing to the time after His death on the cross and His resurrection when He had completed all God’s will by offering Himself as a sacrifice for sin. After the resurrection, the apostles preached that redemption, forgiveness of sins, justification, salvation and sanctification were given to all who had faith in Jesus.
Jesus told us to be faithful to Him and the tragic consequences if we are not:
Therefore everyone who confesses Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven (Matthew 10:32,33).
In the parable of the talents it is the faithful servant who enters into the joy of Christ (Matthew 25:14-23).
Jesus promises those who are faithful in trial and persecution:
Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life (Revelation 2:10).
To be faithful to Jesus may cost our reputation before men. It may even cost us our life as is happening now to Christians in many parts of the world.
Jesus said “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Yet it needs to be noted that the tense of ‘believe’ in this verse is present tense, that is, one of continuing belief, not just that of a single act in the past. Hence faith needs to continue, not just begin. This is the case in other passages which give the promise of eternal life, such as John 3:15, 3:36, 5:24, 6:47 and 11:25.
In the parable of the sower Jesus tells us:
Those on the rocky soil are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no firm root; they believe for a while, and in time of temptation fall away (Luke 8:13).
Jesus said there would be those who hear the gospel, believe it and receive it and so are saved. There is initially life and growth, but when temptation or a time of testing comes they fall away because their faith does not endure. This is why we are urged to continue in the faith (Acts 14:22 and Colossians 1:22,23).
This need to endure in faith will be explored in more detail in The Spiritual Battle.
Our faith will be tested through trials to prove it is real and through endurance we will grow in spiritual maturity.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
Peter also encourages us with these words:
In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honour at the revelation of Jesus Christ; and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, obtaining as the outcome of your faith the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9).
Moses reminded Israel God would test their faith in Him so He might know their heart:
You shall remember all the way which the LORD your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not (Deuteronomy 8:2).
So we can expect that our faith will be tested through trying circumstances. We may be tempted in such times to give up on God or seek an ungodly solution to our situation. Like Israel in the wilderness, when faced with difficulty or hardship we may be tempted to accuse God of neglect. So, in such times of trial our faith may be shaken and even if we face death, will we remain faithful?
Though God tests our faith He does not test us beyond our ability to endure it (James 1:2,3 and 1 Corinthians 10:13). It is through such times that God teaches us to be faithful and holy. His love is for our good, especially in the midst of trial, because He wants to see us grow into the likeness of His Son who endured great temptation and suffering.
Faith is the foundation upon which obedience to God’s revealed will grows. As James declares, ‘faith without works is dead’ (James 2:26). In other words obedience to God’s and Jesus’ commands flows from a living faith. If we claim to believe but not obey we deceive ourselves. This is not to say that if at some time we are disobedient to God’s commands we are faithless. But as we walk with God and know Him more, our faith will grow, and so will our obedience.
Jesus said we are to both believe and obey Him:
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him (John 3:36).
Nor can we pay lip service to obedience as Jesus said:
Why do you call Me, ’Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say? (Luke 6:46) and …
My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it (Luke 8:21).
And James warns us of self-deception:
But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves (James 1:22 ESV).
Clearly if we are to be doers of the word we need to know God’s word – through reading and hearing. If we have a Bible, we must take time to read and understand it.
Jesus also said that those who know Him will obey His commands:
By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments.The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him (1 John 2:3-4).
Obedience should not be burdensome but like David be a delight flowing from a heart of love for God and His word:
I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart (Psalm 40:8).
In Hebrews 11 we are given many examples of men and women of God who, through their faith in Him, accomplished many things. Yet it should be noted that in each case their faith was accompanied by action. It involved trusting and obeying God for that which humanly seemed impossible.
Is this suggesting we are initially saved by God’s grace and are finally saved by our obedience? No. Our obedience will never make us right before God or earn His grace. Only through our faith in Jesus and by God’s grace are we justified and saved. Obedience is the outcome of true faith in Christ and love for God. It is like the drowning man referred to earlier. No one would suggest he had saved himself by his obedience in holding on. Our obedience is necessary, but never merits God’s grace.
As Jesus said:
So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ’We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done (Luke 17:10).
God’s redemptive plan, while because of His intention, grace and power, is not fulfilled in us without our willing obedience. It is God who gives the rain and sun and causes growth of the wheat but a farmer needs to prepare the soil and sow the seed. In the same way, it is God’s life and power which enable us to grow, but we need to co-operate with Him if we are to grow spiritually. We prepare for battle, but it is God who gives the victory. Yet we should not expect growth to be smooth and uninterrupted because we face a spiritual battle. There will be ups and downs, but with faith and perseverance we will grow.
1. Israel, in faith, passed through the Red Sea and so escaped bondage to Pharaoh and Egypt. Would they have been saved had they remained on the shores of the Red Sea? No, they had faith, obeyed and so were saved (Hebrews 11:29 and Jude 1:5).
2. A blind man was told by Jesus to go and wash in the pool of Siloam. His obedience by washing in the pool of Siloam was not the cause of his receiving his sight. It was Jesus who healed him not his act of washing. Yet would he have been healed if he hadn’t washed in the Pool of Siloam? No, for that would have shown he didn’t have faith in Jesus. The blind man had faith and obeyed, and so was healed (John 9:1-7).
3. Naaman the leper was told to wash in the Jordan seven times by Elisha. At first he resisted thinking other rivers would surely be better. Yet he obeyed Elisha and God healed him. Would he have been healed had he washed in the Abanah or Pharpar rivers, or had he washed himself only six times in the Jordan? No, yet through his faith followed by obedience, God healed him (2 Kings 5:1-14).
4. Abraham obeyed God in leaving his home country for the land of promise, believing God would fulfill His promise (Genesis 12:1-5). He obeyed, offering up his son Isaac believing God would raise him from the dead (Hebrews 11:17-19).
Obedience to God flows from faith in and love for Him. The reality of our faith in and love for God will be shown in our willingness to obey Him (especially in difficult circumstances) and His commands are not burdensome (1 John 5:3) but rather they should be our delight.
Baptism should be our first act of faith and obedience after repentance and believing in Jesus. Throughout the book of Acts we see baptism as being the normal response after repentance and faith and receiving the Holy Spirit. Jesus commanded His disciples be baptised:
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19).
And Peter on the day of Pentecost:
Repent, and each of you be baptised in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).
We should not think of baptism as merely a symbolic act of union with Christ but an act of faith in obedience to Jesus’ command. Like Israel’s act of faith in passing through the Red Sea and becoming separated from their old life in Egypt, so baptism, though a physical act, is a spiritual event through which, in faith, our old self is buried and we receive new life. Paul spoke about baptism as the burial of our old self:
Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptised into Christ Jesus have been baptised into His death? Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life (Romans 6:3-4).
The English word ‘baptise’ is actually a transliteration (not translation) of the Greek word ‘baptizo’ which means ‘to immerse or submerge’.
When and how should we be baptised? Because baptism is our response in faith and obedience to the call to repent and believe the gospel of Christ it must be a conscious and willing decision on our part. For this reason infant baptism (or christening) cannot be regarded as valid. As to the manner: it ought to be by immersion (as a true translation of the Greek word indicates) in water and as to when it should happen: as soon as possible after believing. This was certainly the practice in the early church.
The next section will look at the significance of what Jesus accomplished at the cross.