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The
Scope of Salvation: What Does It Mean to be Saved?

            From God’s perspective, salvation includes
the total work of God in bringing people from condemnation to justification, from
death to eternal life, from alienation to filiation. From the human perspective,
salvation incorporates all of the blessings that being in Christ brings both in
this life and the life to come.2
The biblical perspective of salvation involves three concepts. First, is the
rescue from danger and death of an individual or nation. Specifically,
salvation is the rescue from sin and death. Second, is the renewing of the
spirit. Scripture explains that humanity fell from the God’s intended original
condition of moral purity into a state of sin. According to Romans 12:2, God’s
salvation always renews the spirit of a person to walk in a lifestyle that is
morally pleasing to Him. Third, is the restoration of a right relationship with
God. One of the consequences of sin is separation from God.3
The written word of God makes clear that salvation restores one’s relationship
with God. As Romans 5:10 says, “For if, while we were enemies, we were
reconciled to God through the death of His Son.”4
In both the Old Testament and the New Testament God’s salvation includes
rescue, renewal, and restoration and is accomplished solely through the person
and work of His Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Salvation is the
gracious work of God when He delivers gospel believing sinners from the guilt,
penalty, and destruction of their sins, and from the bondage of their spiritual
enemies and their works, and adopts them into a right and lifegiving
relationship with Himself; and grants them the abundant benefits of His grace.

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The
Salvation Timeline

            In
the past, there was a time when the believer trusted Jesus and His atoning work
(2 Timothy 1:9).5 Immediately
at this time of faith, he was forever delivered from divine condemnation and
bondage to his spiritual enemies—the sin force (Romans 6:6-7), Satan (Acts
26:18), and the world (John 15:19).6
During the present, this saved person’s lifestyle since the moment his conversion,
with the help of the Holy Spirit, will express the reality and qualities of his
new life in Christ as he submits to the Lord’s authority and obeys His word. And
finally, the future for the saved person anticipates deliverance of his body
from physical corruption and the resident sin force and new residence from this
world to heaven when Jesus returns for His Church. The separate aspects of salvation
(i.e. justification, sanctification, glorification) are understood as occurring
at different times.7

The
Supply of Salvation

            How
can God, who is holy and just, rightly deliver sinners from the divine
retribution that they deserve and bring them in to a right relationship with
Himself? His holiness motivates Him to oppose and condemn sinners; His justice
requires Him to deal with the sin as it deserves. Divergent to the view of the
sentimentalist, God cannot in love
override His holiness and ignore His justice.

            While He could not suspend His holy
demands against sinners, God Himself, as their substitute, could satisfy these
demands on their behalf.8
With immeasurable love and grace, God the Father gave His Son as a sacrifice
for humanity’s sins, and God the Son gave His life to pay the debt of these
sins. Jesus’ atoning work required His bearing these sins and His being made
sin, His experiencing spiritual death, the divine offering of His blood, and
His dying a physical death and rising from the dead. Based on this
substitutionary sacrifice, God can now freely and justly save everyone who
trusts in the Savior and His atoning work. What does it mean to be saved? One
must believe Jesus, as the Son of God, is the only living Savior from sin and
the only way to God.

The
Symptoms of Salvation

            Having
been forgiven of all sins, a Christian must now be forgiving towards others who
have been wronged (Ephesians 4:32).9
Also, as a result of being freed from enslavement to the sin force, Satan, and
the world, it is our duty to yield ourselves gladly to our new Master, the Lord
Jesus, and to serve Him wholeheartedly as His purchased slave. Since God has
justified the sinner, dropping all charges against him, the sinner should no
longer feel guilty about past sins or about those confessed in the present.10
Now that a Christian is God’s friend, he should show himself to be friendly by
living peaceably with other gospel believers as well with the unsaved “in all
godliness and honesty” (1 Timothy 2:2). Being at peace with God, Christians are
His peacemakers in this world, they have the message of reconciliation for
those who are God’s enemies. The attitude and character should be evidence of a
new life in Christ as seen by the completion of God’s will, the comprehension
of spiritual truth, the fellowship with God and His people, and the fervent heart-desire
to please God.11

Is
Jesus the Only Way to Salvation?

            If truth is relative, then no
religion or idea can claim exclusivity because something could be true for one
person, but not for another. This concept of relative truth or no absolute
truth has occurred more prevalently in American culture since the Postmodern
movement.12 One
of the major issues with this viewpoint is the equating preferences with truth.
When Christians claim that “Jesus is the one way to heaven,” this is a truth
claim. Truth is what corresponds to reality.13
If Jesus is the only way to heaven, then He is no matter how I respond or feel
about that claim.

            There are many famous illustrations
of this concept that skeptics will use to demonstrate how there must be many
ways to heaven and refute the truth claim of Jesus’s Lordship. A very common example
is the blind men and the elephant.14
The story goes that there is an elephant in a room with four blind men all
trying to guess what this object might be and all coming up with a different conclusion.
One man feels the elephant’s trunk and claims it is like a snake. Another man
feels its ear and claims it is soft. Another man, holding its tusk, claims that
it is hard. Still another man, after feeling its tail, describes it to be
rope-like. The person offering the example then says, “they all grasped
parts of the same truth. This is like religion, all religions are true in their
own way, each reaching a different part of the same truth.” There are two
logical fallacies demonstrated with this illustration. First, there was a truth
to be grasped, yet everyone was wrong. Second, knowing part of a truth is not
the same as knowing all the truth. This example does not show how all the men were
right, it shows how all the men were wrong. They were standing in the presence
of truth —a living elephant—but they missed it.  

            A quick review of other worldviews
through the lens of the elephant illustration will give a better understanding
of this topic. Christian monotheism claims that there exists only one God, who
is personally knowable and is distinctly “other” or separate from His creation.15
Pantheism is like polytheism
(the belief in many gods), but goes beyond polytheism to teach that all are part
of the impersonal divine and everything is God. A bird is God, a flower is God,
a boulder is God, the sky is God, the moon is God, you are God, etc. Furthermore,
atheists claim that God does not exist. Are these three perspectives all
describing a part of a whole, larger truth? They are mutually exclusive, meaning
that they can not each be true because they directly contradict each
other.  The idea that they are all
describing different aspects of the same thing does not really make logical
sense. There cannot be one God and no God at the same time. Or a rock and a
tree cannot both be God and there exist only one, true God at the same time.
God cannot be personal and impersonal or separate and everything as the same
time. Logic dictates that either all world religions are false or one of them
is true, but they cannot be all true. Just because there are similarities
between these worldviews does not mean they are all true. For a Christian, all the
various conceptions of God or ultimate reality are not on the same level. Neither
is God to be grasped as the “common denominator” of all the religious and philosophical
ideas of ultimate reality.16

            What is we applied the same logic of
the elephant illustration to mathematics? One person claims that two plus two
equals four. Another person claims that two plus two equals five, and still
another claims that the sum is 7. Are they all right? Is it narrow-minded and
intolerant to believe there is only one true answer? Obviously, the absolute
truth of two plus two equals four and only four; personal feelings about this
fact does not change the fact.

            When examining the Bible for truth
claims, one can see that Jesus made many truth claims about Himself, sin, and
God. In the Bible in John 10:9, Jesus said, “I am the gate; whoever enters
through me will be saved. They will come in and go out, and find pasture.” In
Acts 4:12, while preaching about Jesus, Peter said, “Salvation is found in
no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we
must be saved.” The question is not whether this is an “intolerant”
position, but whether or not these claims are true. Christianity stands in stark
contrast of the other “all -inclusive” faiths that claim, “all roads lead to
heaven.”17
Jesus Christ did not leave room for another path to salvation when He said, “I
am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except
through Me.” (John 14:6) The includes all Pantheists, Buddhists, Hundis,
atheists, and the good neighbor who is trusting in his goodness to be enough.
Without trusting in the finished work Jesus did on the cross and only His
sacrifice to pay the debt for sin, salvation cannot be claimed.

            The truth claims of Christ have
their underpinning in His identity. Jesus claimed to be God incarnate, who came
to earth to suffer and die for the all sins, to be raised again from the dead
after his crucifixion. Jesus gave many specific truth claims concerning Himself
that corresponds with reality. Jesus said, “before Abraham was made, I am” in
John 8:58 and “the Father and I are one” in John 10:30. Many witnesses heard
Jesus forgiving sins and supplementing the law God had given to Moses as one
having total authority. They were witnesses to miracles which were the divine
guarantee of His message.18

            Here is the conclusion. The created
do not set the rules. The Creator sets the rules. The fallible, feeble, beings
do not define the terms for entering the kingdom of heaven. God did. God must
be acknowledged and allowed the inherent rights over all aspects of life as
God. Once His Lordship is established in heart and mind, then His words carry
more weight than our own. When Jesus says that He is the only way, then that’s
the truth.

            Christianity is unique in that it is
the only worldview in which the divine reaches out to the creature. All other
worldviews represent some attempt of the creature to reach up and hopefully
grasp the divine.19
God has provided the supply of salvation. His word says that “he is not willing
that any should perish.” (Matthew 18:6) God has provided salvation through His
Son, a lifeline for the perishing. Consider this story published on December 3rd,
1987 in the Daily Bread devotional:

“In
1981, a Minnesota radio station reported a story about a stolen car in
California. Police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the
driver, even to the point of placing announcements on local radio stations to
contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers
that, unknown to the thief, were laced with poison. The car owner had intended
to use the crackers as rat bait. Now the police and the owner of the VW Bug
were more interested in apprehending the thief to save his life than to recover
the car. So often when we run from God, we feel it is to escape his punishment.
But what we are actually doing is eluding his rescue.”

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