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Salvation: Introductory Bible Lesson

by William W. Orr (1905-1992)

In Scripture the entire work of God by which He rescues man from his sinful ruin and bestows upon him the infinite riches of His grace, both now and in the heavenly glory which is to come, is what is known as Salvation. It is always a work of God for man, never a work of man for God (Eph. 2:8-9; I Pet. 1:18-19).

Man's condition apart from God was pitiful indeed. Helplessly dead in trespasses and sins, he was utterly unable to extricate himself. Added to this was the inexorable condemnation of a just God against whom he had grievously sinned. In the sinner there was no hope but only the blackness of eternal night (Rom. 3:10-18; Eph. 2:1; 2:12).

For a human race that could not help itself, God did something. In the fulness of time God sent His only begotten Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who was born of a virgin, lived a completely sinless life, and died a sacrificial, substitutionary death. After three days in the tomb He came forth with power to offer a full and free salvation to all who will come unto God by Him (Gal. 4:4-5; I Pet. 2:24).

Now the fact that Christ has died does not save men, but rather provides a ground upon which a thrice holy God is able at infinite cost to save men in a manner consistent with His holiness. This is the good news which is to be proclaimed to all the world (Mark 16:15; Matt. 11:28).

The conditions by which God saves men are the simplest possible. Men are simply asked to "believe" what God offers. They are asked to take God at His Word. Over one hundred times on the pages of the New Testament the whole wonderful gift of salvation is conditioned on the word "believe" or its cognate word "faith." This is the exact opposite of doing anything. As a matter of fact, everything has been done and the sinner is merely asked to freely receive the matchless gift inherent in salvation (John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Rom. 1:16).

The message of salvation is therefore not "believe and confess" or "believe and pray" or "believe and be baptised." All of these have their place in God's economy, but are never essential to salvation (Rom. 3:22; John 20:31).

God's salvation, which is accomplished instantaneously the moment one believes on Christ, includes many phases. There is redemption, reconciliation, propitiation, forgiveness, regeneration, imputation, justification, sanctification, perfection and glorification. All of these are important and distinct and completely wrought out in the believer.

Salvation also makes us "meet" (Col. 1:12); "accepted" (Eph. 1:6); "the righteousness of God" (II Cor. 5:21), "made nigh" (Eph. 2:13); "made sons of God" (John 1:12). These are all facets in the marvelous miracle which is our salvation.

More than that, the new believer is made a "citizen of heaven" (Phil. 3:20, RV); "made a new creation" (II Cor. 5:17); "made a member of the family and household of God" (Eph. 2:19; 3:15); "made complete in Christ" (Col. 2:10); "delivered from the power of darkness and translated into the kingdom of God's dear Son" (Col. 1:13) and said now to "possess every spiritual blessing" (Eph. 1:3).

Still more of the wonder of God's salvation is seen in its three tenses. Salvation is something which is wholly and completely accomplished for us in the past (John 10:28-30). There is also a present tense to salvation in that because of the work of Christ on the cross the believer is here and now being saved from the reigning power of sin in his life (Phil. 2:12-13; Gal. 2:20). Nor is this all, for the believer is still to be saved from the presence of sin when God's fulness of time has arrived. We then shall be in Christ's presence and in His likeness (I Pet. 1:4-5; I John 3:2; Phil. 1:6).

The important matter of daily victory over sin in the Christian's life is also included in this so great salvation. While all of these things are said to be fully accomplished in and for the believer the moment he trusts the Saviour, there is still the problem of overcoming sin in daily living. This is completely available in the power of the indwelling Spirit of God who has come to bring such victory to pass (Gal. 5:16; Rom. 8:4; Eph. 5:18-20).

From Believer's First Bible Course by William W. Orr. Wheaton, Ill.: Scripture Press, 1956.

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