BUOY RING - © Sashkinw | Dreamstime.comThe saving work of Messiah is a central topic for believers regardless of denomination or theological leaning. It is only as a consequence of our salvation that we can follow the Savior, Yeshua.

Numerous questions arise when we ponder the topic:

  • What is salvation?
  • Who does the saving?
  • Who is saved?
  • How does a person get saved?
  • From what are they saved?
  • What does it mean to be saved?

 

Let's examine Scripture and see what answers it provides.

What is salvation?

The first and most obvious question regarding salvation is what IS it?

Since this article is written for an English-speaking audience, we'll start with an English definition.  Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary of American English defines salvation in the following way:

1. The act of saving; preservation from destruction, danger or great calamity.

2. Appropriately in theology, the redemption of man from the bondage of sin and liability to eternal death, and the conferring on him everlasting happiness. This is the great salvation.
Godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation. 2 Cor 7.

3. Deliverance from enemies; victory. Exo 14.

4. Remission of sins, or saving graces. Luke 19.

5. The author of man's salvation. Psa 27.

6. A term of praise or benediction. Rev 19.{foonote}Noah Webster's 1828 Dictionary of American English, eSword{/footnote}

 

Salvation is the redemption of humanity from bondage to sin and liability to eternal death.

Why is humanity in bondage to sin?

As descendants of Adam and Eve, we are born into bondage to sin (Romans 5:12).

The mind of sinful man is death; his mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by their sinful nature (i.e. in bondage to sin) cannot please God. (Romans 8:6-8)

What is the consequence of sin?

The result of sin is death (Romans 6:23) and not just physical death...eternal death.

 

According to this definition, salvation is being spared from the consequences of our sin.

 

Who Does the Saving?

This is probably one of the easiest questions to answer: Salvation is accomplished by G-d in His sovereign power and authority.

"You are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me. It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, And there was no strange god among you; So you are My witnesses," declares the LORD, "And I am God."  (Isaiah 43:10-12)

 

There is no priest, pastor, or minister that can save you. G-d says that there is no other savior aside from Him.

Since G-d is the savior that means that there is no salvation in any "ism": Catholicism, Lutheranism, Pentecostalism, Methodism, etc. Only G-d can save us.

Yes, truth is lacking; And he who turns aside from evil makes himself a prey. Now the LORD saw, And it was displeasing in His sight that there was no justice. And He saw that there was no man, And was astonished that there was no one to intercede; Then His own arm brought salvation to Him, And His righteousness upheld Him.  (Isaiah 59:15-16)

 

This also means that we cannot save ourselves. As Paul writes to the believers in Ephesus:

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)

 

Even the faith that saves us is not of ourselves...it is a gift from G-d. Without G-d giving us that gift of faith, we would be unable to believe. For example, consider Lydia in the book of Acts: 

A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. (Acts 16:14)

 

Here we see the Lord doing the work of opening Lydia's heart so that she was even able to respond. 

For consider your calling, brethren, that there were not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble; but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God. But by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption, so that, just as it is written, "LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD." (1 Corinthians 1:26-31)

 

Over and over again, Scripture tells us G-d has chosen and by His doing we are in Christ.

In his letter, James, Messiah's brother, affirms this point yet again:

In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. (James 1:18)

 

 

Who Is Saved?

This question is much harder to answer.

We know from Scripture that everyone has sinned (Romans 3:23), that there is none who does good (Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 53:1-3), and that there are none who are righteous (Romans 3:10).

Does anyone seek G-d in order to be saved? Scripture tells us no:

THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;  (Romans 3:11)

 

Who then can be saved?

This was the very question the disciples asked Yeshua (Luke 18:26).

His answer?

But He said, "The things that are impossible with people are possible with God." (Luke 18:27)

 

Yeshua says salvation is impossible for people but yet it is possible with G-d. In His words we are again reminded that no priest, pastor, or minister can save us.

Who does the Savior say are saved?

My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father's hand. (John 10:27-29)

 

Those whom the Father gives to the Son will be saved.

Whom does the Father give to the Son? Whomever He chooses.

Numerous passages in Scripture indicate that those who are saved are chosen by G-d for salvation.

All who dwell on the earth will worship him [the beast], everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. (Revelation 13:8)

 

Those who are saved and written in the Lamb's book of life were recorded there from the foundation of the world...before any of them were born or had done a single thing.

Paul uses the example of Esau and Jacob in Romans 9 to teach us that before Esau or Jacob had been born that G-d already had a plan for their lives. In the same way, before we have done a single thing in our lives good or bad, G-d has already chosen those who will be saved and those who will not. As Paul put it: "It does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on G-d who has mercy." (Romans 9:16). Our salvation isn't up to us.

The prophet Isaiah indicated this in his writings calling it "G-d's salvation" (Isaiah 25:9).

 

While G-d chooses who is saved, other passages tell us that G-d also decides who is condemned:

For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. (Jude 4)

For My sword is satiated in heaven, Behold it shall descend for judgment upon Edom And upon the people whom I have devoted to destruction. (Isaiah 34:5)

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? (Romans 9:22)

 

Please note that these passages do not say (or even suggest) that G-d simply knew ahead of time that they would not accept Him.  It says that G-d actively "marked them out", "devoted", and "prepared" them for destruction.

The Author and Finisher of our Faith

If you or I read a mystery novel, we can always skip to the end and find out how things turn out.  It is this same kind of ability that many point to and say "G-d is omnipotent and He knows ahead of time who will or will not choose salvation."  This view of salvation is erroneous.

Hebrews 12:2 describes Messiah as the author and finisher of our faith.  The author of a book chooses who will live or die and decides the ending of the story.  The author isn't simply "reading ahead".  Like the author of a book decides things in an exercise of his will, so, too, The Author and Finisher of our faith decides in an exercise of His Will.

 

How Are People Saved?

Consider these passages:

Yet You are He who brought me forth from the womb; You made me trust when upon my mother's breasts. Upon You I was cast from birth; You have been my God from my mother's womb. (Psalm 22:9-10)

 

King David writes in this psalm that he had faith when he was a child upon his mother's breasts and that G-d had chosen him before he was even born.

 

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; (Romans 11:7)

 

Those who were chosen obtained salvation. The rest were hardened. 

When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. (Acts 13:48)

 

Here Luke tells us that all the Gentiles who had been appointed to eternal life believed.

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. (Colossians 3:12)

 

Paul exhorts the believers in Colossae that, since G-d has chosen them to be saved, they should respond with a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, etc.

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

 

Paul tells the believers in Thessalonica that G-d chose them from the beginning for salvation.

For this reason I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:10)

 

Paul writes to Timothy that he endures all things for the sake of those whom G-d has chosen. 

Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness, in the hope of eternal life, which God, who cannot lie, promised long ages ago, but at the proper time manifested, even His word, in the proclamation with which I was entrusted according to the commandment of God our Savior, To Titus, my true child in a common faith: Grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior. (Titus 1:1-4)

 

Here Paul opens his letter to Titus by describing himself as "for the faith of those chosen of G-d...". Peter begins his first letter in a similar fashion:

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who reside as aliens, scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit, to obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood: May grace and peace be yours in the fullest measure. (1 Peter 1:1-2)

 

Peter says believers are chosen. Do we choose if we are saved or not?  No, G-d does the choosing.

G-d chooses certain individuals to be saved and instills faith within them as a gift. There is a day appointed for the salvation of every person who is saved (2 Corinthians 6:2). That is the day when each person becomes aware of their sin and their need for salvation, and (by faith) cries out to G-d with a repentant heart.

We see this mirrored in the work of Messiah Yeshua as He tells His disciples:

You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. (John 15:16)

 

People often describe those who are saved as "born again". The apostle John has a bit to say about this rebirth:

He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right [authority/power] to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13)

 

Our "born again" status is not by our own will... but by G-d's will and choosing.

Paul affirms the repentance that is required for salvation only comes from G-d:

For the sorrow that is according to God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.  (2 Corinthians 7:10)

 

When the Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, we are sorrowful and repentant... leading to salvation.

 

Why Are People Saved?

Once again Paul provides an answer to our question:

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; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)

 

Here Paul reveals three purposes in salvation:

  1. For the demonstration of G-d's righteousness
  2. For the demonstration of G-d's justice
  3. For the demonstration of G-d's ability to justify those whom He chooses

 

G-d is revealing to the world that:

He is righteous... that He lives according to His Word and does not violate it.

He is just... that He condemns the wicked and judges sin correctly.

He is all-powerful... that He has the ability and power to save those whom He chooses from the consequences of their sin.

 

Paul reiterates this and expands upon it in Romans chapter 9:

What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so to make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. (Romans 9:22-24)

 

How much more is G-d glorified by enduring with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction in order to make the known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy?

This passage also reaffirms that G-d prepared believers beforehand (before we ever existed in any form) for glory. G-d's work also gives greater glory to Himself by showing that he has saved and called individuals not only from among the Jews but from among all nations (Gentiles) as well.

 

Summary

What is salvation?

Salvation is being spared from the consequence of sin that we have earned (Romans 3:23, 6:23)

Who does the saving?

Salvation is accomplished by the sovereign power of G-d (Isaiah 59:16, 1 Corinthians 1:30-31).

Who is saved?

The Father chooses those who are saved (Mark 13:20; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).

How are they saved?

The Son died for them (Romans 8:34) to pay their penalty for sin. The certificate of debt against them has been canceled by His work on the cross (Colossians 2:14).

The Holy Spirit makes Messiah's death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance (Acts 2:38), thereby enabling them to willingly obey G-d's Law as He writes it upon their heart (Hebrews 8:10).

Why are they saved?

G-d saves His people for His Name's sake (Ezekiel 20:44). Salvation is by G-d's grace alone and not as a result of any works (Ephesians 2:8-9).

 

Let's pull it all together-

Salvation is being spared from the earned consequence of sin. Salvation is accomplished by the sovereign power of G-d. The Father chose the individuals; the Son died for them; and the Holy Spirit makes Messiah's death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby enabling them to obey G-d's Law willingly. This entire process (election, redemption, regeneration) is the work of G-d, by G-d, and for G-d and is by grace alone. Thus G-d, not man, determines who is saved.

 

Torah Portion

ואתחנן (Va'etchanan)

 

 

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Today is

Yom Sheni, 11 Av, 5778

Monday, July 23, 2018

 

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