“SO, WHAT IS THIS THING YOU CALL SALVATION?”
What is meant when some fellow asks, “Are you saved?” What notion is being referred to by the word “salvation”? These legitimate questions are rarely addressed these days, which is a tragedy. It is a normal and natural question for anyone who has never before been to church, or who is somewhat unfamiliar with the teachings of Christianity, to wonder about these words that Christians so frequently use. The word “saved” and the word “salvation” are bantered about so carelessly by those who attend church that the words have been effectively stripped of any real meaning in our culture.
Consider what the dictionary definitions of the words mean: The word “saved” is an English past tense verb that refers to having been rescued from danger or possible harm, injury, or loss. “Salvation,” on the other hand, is a noun. It refers to the state of being delivered from or protected from harm, risk, loss, destruction, etc. The difficulty associated with using the words “saved” and “salvation” in connection with spiritual issues is that people, generally, do not see themselves in need of protection or deliverance because they do not recognize the danger they are in, the harm that they are threatened with, the risks they are running, or the destruction that they face.
Since words are so heavily dependent upon the context in which they are used for their meanings, to talk about “saved” and “salvation” while sitting in a Starbucks, where there is every appearance of safety and security, can cause a person to lose site of the words’ force. However, if you were in a tenth floor apartment of a burning building and the words “saved” and “salvation” were being used, then the words would be stuffed with meaning . . . because of the context you are in at the time the words are being used. You would then perceive danger and the need for deliverance. So (and everything I am saying is to answer the question “What is this thing you call salvation?”), allow me to establish a context to get your mind from where it is now to where I want it to be when we turn to God’s Word. After I have established a context, I will devote this morning’s sermon to providing a specific answer to the question.
Time constraints limit me to touching lightly on four topics that will provide the proper context in which to answer the question, “What is this thing you call salvation?”
First Topic, THE BIBLE
A thinking person might wonder why I begin with the Bible. I begin with the Bible because the Bible is the Word of God. I begin with the Bible because the Word of God is the only authoritative source of truth pertaining to God and the things of God. If you do not resort to the Bible for information about God and the things of God you are engaged in speculation. And when you are speculating you are gambling. So, to avoid gambling with your soul, consider the Bible.
What does the Bible say about the Bible? This is an expansive subject, so allow me to narrow my answer to what the Bible says about the Bible insofar as the titles of the Bible are concerned:
· The Bible is called “thy word” in Psalm 119.9, 11, 16, 17, and 25.
· The Bible is called “scripture” in Second Timothy 3.16.
· The Bible is called “the word of God” in Hebrews 4.12.
· The Bible is called “the holy scriptures” in Romans 1.2.
· The Bible is called “the oracles of God” in Romans 3.2.
· The Bible is called “the word of truth” in James 1.18.
· The Bible is called “the fear of the LORD” in Psalm 34.11.
I could preach a hundred sermons on the subject “What does the Bible say about the Bible?” without exhausting the subject. But we can see that when this book of God carries so many lofty titles, and speaks to such important themes, it would be foolish to ignore what is written on its pages.
One other comment before we move on; concerning the origin of the Bible. Written over a 1,400 year span of time, by more than 40 men, on three continents, in three languages, the Bible is a unique book. Without errors, its truths affirmed by scientific discoveries and archaeological findings, no reward has ever been claimed by anyone in response to long standing offers of cash prizes given to anyone who could prove a mistake in the Bible. Interesting facts, but how did the Bible come to be? Two verses in scripture tell us, Second Peter 1.21 and Second Timothy 3.16:
21 For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.
16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.
The Apostle Peter informs us that scripture is not the product of man’s will, but is the direct result of the actions of the Holy Spirit of God upon certain men. The Apostle Paul reveals to us that the product, the result of God’s actions upon men, is scripture that is “inspired,” which is to say god-breathed, breathed into by God.
Thus, the Bible is our objective and unchanging source of truth. Not like the Koran, a deeply flawed book with numerous historical errors, serious Arabic grammatical errors, and many loan words from other languages though claiming to be purely Arabic, containing no earmarks of revelation, and having profound conflicts with Biblical facts it claims to faithfully represent. And not like other religion’s so-called holy books, which never even make claims of divine origin. The Bible, therefore, is unique. It is God’s book. Therefore, we use it as our infallible guide.
Next Topic, THERE IS GOD
Again, it might seem to some people that God is relegated to second place when considering the Bible first and God second. However, Psalm 138.2 shows us how important to God is His Word. That verse, in part, reads, “. . . thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.”
Thus, we honor God by honoring His Word. This is good, because it is in the Bible, God’s Word, that we discover God in a way that He cannot otherwise be discovered. Consider Psalm 19.1:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.”
This verse shows us that we can learn certain things about God from observing nature. Specifically, we can see His glory, that He is majestic and powerful, from our observation of the stars and our study of the universe around us. As well, it becomes clear that God is the Creator when we see what amounts to His fingerprints on everything He created, from the smallest particle to the expanses of the galaxies. That understood, it must be insisted that is only in the Bible, the Word of God, that we find described for us the other attributes of God. It is in the Bible that we find declarations and examples of God’s love, of God’s mercy, of God’s goodness, and of God’s kindness.
Many people these days have a seriously warped view of God because they do not approach the Bible properly. That is, they do not approach the Bible with the humility of one seeking to learn, seeking to understand, seeking to be taught. Rather, they effectively impose upon the Bible their own misconceptions. This results in an improper emphasis of one of God’s attributes, while diminishing another. You have, no doubt, heard it frequently said that “God is love.” And, indeed, First John 4.8 and 16 do assert that “God is love.” However, the Bible establishes God’s holiness before it establishes that God is love. As a matter of fact, the theme of the Old Testament book of Leviticus is holiness, with the Hebrew word for holiness used 87 times.
What is holiness, if God is holy? From a dictionary of theological terms, I read to you the definition of “holy”:
“holy. A biblical term generally meaning ‘to be set apart.’ The term is used widely in Scripture to refer to a variety of people and objects alike but ultimately points to God as the one who is qualitatively different or set apart from creation. Holy may also be used to describe someone or something that God has ‘set apart’ for special purposes. In the NT holiness takes on the sense of ethical purity or freedom from sin. The fullness of the biblical witness, then, testifies to God’s holiness, understood as God’s ‘otherness’ and ‘purity,’ as well as to God’s prerogative to set people and things apart for God’s own purposes, together with the resulting godliness in the lives of those whom God declares to be holy.”
So you see, God is important because God is God. He is the First Cause. And though many people pay little attention to this aspect of His nature, it is profoundly important to recognize that God is holy.
Third Topic, THERE IS CREATION
How did everything that is come to be? What started it all? What was in the beginning? Atheistic scientists claim that all the universe and all that herein is resulted from what is called the Big Bang, a giant explosion that resulted in the physical universe we observe around us.
The Bible, on the other hand, clearly declares that the universe had its origin, not in a Big Bang, but in God’s creative activity. Something was first. Either God was first and He then created the universe, or something was first and there is therefore no God. There are no other viable options.
· Genesis 1.1 reads, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.”
· John 1.3 reads, “All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.”
· Hebrews 11.3 declares, “Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.”
There is no getting around it. How things got started is the great divide. Either something came from nothing, as many secular scientists insist, or there is a God and He created everything, as the Bible declares and quite a number of scientists accept. Either way, creation is a matter of faith and not science. Science is limited to what can be observed, and since no one was around in the beginning, we are all left to take a position without real science being able to help.
It is a matter of faith, as the Bible honestly declares and as the atheists in the scientific community dishonestly deny. You take a position on something you cannot verify. You operate on an assumption you cannot prove. Either God made everything, or stuff just came from nothing.
Final Topic, THERE IS THE FALL
To restate: The Bible is God’s Word and is the product of God’s activity. God wrote it using human instruments. In the Bible, which is the only book that speaks with authority and accuracy about God and the things of God, we are told that God is holy. He is many other things, but He is revealed in scripture to be a holy being; separate from others, clean, and pure. We also learn in the Bible that God created everything. Everything.
But things are not now the way God created them. God’s creation was a reflection of His Own nature. He is holy and His creation was originally very good, and completely without sin. That is, it was clean and pure. When God created Adam and Eve, the first people, they, too, were clean and pure, without the knowledge of, or the experience of, wrongdoing. But Adam and Eve disobeyed God. They did the one thing God told them not to do, which was to eat forbidden fruit from a particular tree. That one act of rebellion has had catastrophic consequences. Just as God warned, when Adam and Eve disobeyed God they died spiritually. Theologians refer to this catastrophe as The Fall.
Fall. The event in which Adam and Eve, the first humans, disobeyed the explicit command of God, thereby bringing sin and death onto the human race. As a consequence of the Fall humans have become alienated from God, from one another and from the created order.
Why is the Fall important? Two reasons: First, the Fall explains why things are the way they currently are, and not the way God originally created things. Many people wonder, “If God is good, how could He permit such suffering and misery?” The answer is, “God is not responsible for suffering and misery, sinful man is.” Do you think a good God would create a world in which no animal in the wild dies a natural death, but dies in terror as he is ripped to pieces by other animals? No. Suffering is because of sin, and sin was introduced into our world by the disobedience of one man. The Fall is also important for another reason. Our relationship to Adam as his descendants has resulted in our own sinfulness being inherited from him. And since sin is moral defilement and uncleanness, imagine the consequences that produces with a holy God. Romans 5.12 tells us,
“Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”
Everyone is born into this world with a death sentence hanging over his head because of an inherited sinful nature.
So, the Bible tells us that God is holy. The Bible tells us that God created everything, and that it was originally created good and clean, without any sin or wrongdoing going on. But Adam rebelled against God and his disobedience wreaked havoc on all his descendants, casting over us all a sinful nature that brings us into this world opposed to God and condemned by God for our natural opposition to Him. At the end of this life on earth each one of us dies. After death comes divine judgment and eternal punishment for all those who are not reconciled to God.
You now have the backdrop against which most professing Christians’ comments about being “saved” and “salvation” should be considered. God, Who created everything and Who gave the Bible to us, has been sinned against. You have sinned against Him. Because He is holy, sinning against Him is an outrage that is both criminal and intolerable. Though He is long-suffering and not willing that any should perish, He is holy. And His holiness must find expression in the just punishment of crimes against Him. His long-suffering explains why He is not at this time punishing all sins committed against Him. His holiness explains why He must someday punish all sins committed against Him.
May I shift gears to bring this home to you in a different way? I used to be a lifeguard. Oh, I was never in the class of former President of the United States Ronald Reagan as a lifeguard. I think he saved 75 people from drowning over the two or three years he was a lifeguard. Critical to the notion of being a lifeguard is the concept of saving people. Saving people? What does it mean to save people? It depends upon the context. In the context of a lifeguard saving people, saving people refers to rescuing people from imminent danger of drowning, it means saving people’s lives. When I first entered the pastorate the wife and kids of a fire fighter attended the church. I really could not say that the fire fighter attended the church because fire fighters do not as a rule attend church. Their lifestyles, and their work schedules, almost always preclude anything like regular church attendance. But as a fire fighter, what that guy did for a living was put out fires and, on occasion, rescue people from burning buildings. That is, he saved people from death by burning, by asphyxiation, from falling, or out of wrecked automobiles.
So, someone who is rescued from a burning building is saved from a fire. Someone who is delivered from a rip tide or an under tow is saved from drowning. Salvation refers to the state of being delivered from or protected from harm of dying in a fire or drowning in water. However, what would be the reaction of a fellow sitting in his recliner on a Sunday afternoon watching television if a fireman broke through his front door and assured him he was now safe? The fellow would think the fireman was nuts. Yet that is pretty much how most professed “soul winners” attempt to deal with lost people, seeking to rescue them from a danger they have no perception or awareness of.
This context firmly established in your thinking, turn to Acts chapter 4. At the time the events of this chapter occurred the Lord Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead after His death on the cross for our sins and burial, and ascended to His Father’s right hand in heaven perhaps only a few months previously. It has been only a matter of days or a few weeks at most since Simon Peter preached his sermon on the steps of the Temple and accused both Jews and Gentiles of being complicit in the death of the Son of God. The entire population of Jerusalem has been electrified with the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. Stand as we read beginning at Acts 4.1:
1 And as they spake unto the people, the priests, and the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees, came upon them,
2 Being grieved that they taught the people, and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead.
3 And they laid hands on them, and put them in hold unto the next day: for it was now eventide.
4 Howbeit many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.
5 And it came to pass on the morrow, that their rulers, and elders, and scribes,
6 And Annas the high priest, and Caiaphas, and John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the kindred of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem.
7 And when they had set them in the midst, they asked, By what power, or by what name, have ye done this?
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel,
9 If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole;
10 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole.
11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.
12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.
The previous day Simon Peter had miraculously healed a crippled man as he was entering the Temple courtyard. The miracle so astonished the crowd observing it that Peter seized upon the opportunity to preach to the gathering multitudes, strongly rebuking them for having preferred that a murderer be set free so that Christ might be crucified. He then preached the forgiveness of sins and thousands were converted to Christ. The passage that we have just read takes place on the next day following the miraculous healing of the crippled man and the conversion of thousands to Jesus Christ. The religious officials are now in an uproar. So they arranged for Peter to be arrested, stood him before them, and demanded an accounting. They were in search of an explanation of the miracle of the healing of the crippled man. How dare he do what he did? But Peter uses their anxiety about the man’s physical healing to confront them with the claims of Christ.
Notice, if you will, verse 9: “If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole.” Do you see that word at the end of the verse, the word “whole”? That word translates the Greek verb “saved.” But what was the crippled fellow saved from? He had been saved from his crippling affliction. He had been delivered from a pathetic state to physical wholeness.
Now look at verse 12, which is really my text and contains the point that I seek to make before concluding:
“Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”
Peter is arguing from the lesser to the greater, from things physical to things spiritual. In verse 10 he makes reference to the physical salvation of a crippled man by the power of Christ. But in verse 12 he refers to the spiritual salvation of a sinner’s soul by the power of Christ, claiming that Jesus Christ is the only savior of sinful men’s souls.
Two points and I conclude, keeping in mind that this sermon’s design is to answer the question “What is this thing you call salvation?”
First, THE CONTEXT IS SPIRITUAL REALITY, NOT PHYSICAL DANGER
Fire fighters deal with physical danger that can usually be seen or perceived in some way. Lifeguards deal with physical danger that can almost always be see in some way. In such contexts a person can usually see for himself that he is in danger and is in need of rescue, in need of salvation.
However, spiritual danger is not perceived by the five senses. You cannot see, or smell, or taste, or hear, of feel spiritual peril. Therefore, you typically cannot perceive spiritual danger to your eternal and undying soul.
Thus, ONLY THE BIBLE, GOD’S WORD, WARNS OF THE NEED FOR SPIRITUAL SALVATION
“What is this thing you call salvation?”
The Bible shows that you are in grave danger. You are sinful and God is set to judge you for your sins against Him. If you die without remedy to your sins you will be judged by God and judged in Hell. The Bible also shows that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came from heaven’s glory, was born of a virgin named Mary, and suffered, bled, and died in payment for sins. He was then buried and rose from the dead after three days and three nights. Then, after appearing to hundreds of His disciples He ascended to heaven, where He presently waits until the time of His second coming in power and great glory.
Salvation, in a spiritual sense, has to do with a sinner being delivered from his sins by Jesus Christ; being rescued from his sins and from the wrath of God for his sins by Jesus Christ. Why Jesus Christ?
· No one else is the Son of the living God.
· No one else left heaven’s glory to become a man so He could die on the cross for men’s sins.
· No one else shed His blood an atonement for sins.
· No one else rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God on high.
· No one else has power to forgive sins.
· No one else has the power to give life to those who are spiritually dead.
There is, obviously, much more to tell. These are but the bare minimum essential details to answer your question. There is a God in heaven. He did send His Son to die on the cross for sins. The reason this was necessary is because you are a sinner. We are all sinners.
Saved has to do with saving you from your sins. Salvation has to do with being saved from your sins. Jesus Christ is the only savior of sinful men’s souls. If you want the salvation that only He provides, you’d best respond.
 Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 1707.
 Ibid., page 1696.
 Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 647.
 Anis A. Shorrosh, Islam Revealed: A Christian Arab’s View of Islam, (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1988), pages 191-221 and Robert Spencer, Did Muhammad Exist?: An Inquiry Into Islam’s Obscure Origins, (Wilmington, Delaware: ISI Books, 2012), pages 125-201.
 See introduction to Leviticus in The First Scofield Reference Bible, (Iowa Falls, Iowa: Barbour and Company, Inc., 1986), page 126.
 Stanley J. Grenz, David Guretzki & Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms, (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1999), page 60.
 Ibid., page 50.
 Acts 2.23, 36
 Rienecker, page 269.
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