PART 2-THE BIBLE DOCTRINE OF SALVATION
CHAPTER 1-THE NATURE OF SALVATION
Salvation-the blessed gift of God--without money and without price--paid for by His blessed Son, and yet that which conceited men think they can earn with their own puny hands!
Salvation presupposes the fact of sin. And sin involves a Supreme Being Whom we call God. If there is no God, there can be no sin, and if there is no sin, there can be no sinners, and if there are no sinners to be saved, there can be no salvation. Salvation means deliverance, and Bible salvation is deliverance from sin.
Sin consists of a guilty standing and a depraved state before God. Salvation is deliverance from both guilt and defilement. Salvation is to be made safe and sound in relation to the thrice-holy God. Man, as a sinner, is in danger from the wrath of a holy and just God, and is also outside the pale of Divine fellowship. Salvation is deliverance from the eternal consequences of rebellion against the government of Almighty God. Without salvation the sinner is forever excluded from the glorious presence of God and forever exposed to the terrible wrath of God.
In the light of eternity salvation is the only need. In comparison all other needs fade into insignificance. All other needs are temporal; salvation is for eternity. All other blessings are for a season; salvation is an everlasting blessing. It is called everlasting life. The opposite of everlasting life is everlasting punishment in the lake of fire, called the second death.
Salvation covers every eternal need. It covers the housing problem, for in the Father's house are many mansions. It covers the food problem, for Christ is the bread of life of which one may eat and never hunger. It covers the employment problem, for the saved will serve God day and night in His temple. It covers the social problem, for the saved of all the earth will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God--all language and cultural barriers will vanish. It covers the health problem, for in the new heavens and the new earth there will be no more pain, for the former things are passed away. Moreover, God Himself shall dwell with His people, and will wipe away all tears from their eyes.
Salvation is a universal need, for all have sinned and come short of the glory of God. Every normal person has a guilt complex. A New York preacher once announced as his subject, "How to Get Rid of Guilty Feelings." He told the audience he would pause while all who were free of guilty feelings might leave the building. To his surprise nobody left. He said he would not have been surprised if it had been a small town congregation where everybody would be known to each other, but in New York where all were more or less strangers to one another, he had not expected all of them to acknowledge they were sinners. But that New York congregation were true to their feelings in this matter-every one of them had a guilt complex. This, in itself, is proof of the existence of God. Conscience testifies loudly to the fact that there is a God with whom we have to do.
The story of religion is made up of the efforts men make to get rid of guilty feeling. This is the explanation of what is called "conscience money; "the thief is trying to get rid of his guilty feelings by returning what he had stolen. This is why the Romanist goes to confessional; he is wanting to get something off his conscience. This is the explanation of Communism; the Communist rids himself of a guilty feeling, if and when he can persuade himself to believe there is no God to Whom he must give an account. The very fact that the atheist raves against the idea of God indicates that his own conscience gives him trouble on the question. This accounts for all heathen religions; people are striving to get rid of guilty feelings. It explains the faith of God's elect; they are trusting Christ for acceptance with God and freedom from condemnation.
Human nature is bad. The Bible does not have one good thing to say about man apart from the inwrought grace of God. The Bible says "the carnal mind is enmity against God; ...and that they that are in the flesh cannot please God" (#Ro 8:7,8). Man, as a sinner, is beyond repairs; he must be born again---there must be a new creation. Donald F. Ackland puts this truth in another way, when he says that sin has created a God-shaped vacuum in the human heart, and that the story of religion is the way men try to fill that vacuum.
We do not find human nature fully developed in countries where gospel privileges have been enjoyed over a long period of time. Christ said that His people would be the salt of the earth. Salt is a preservative, and saved people will preserve human society from utter moral corruption. Many are blessed temporarily by the gospel who are not eternally saved by it. Humanity as such is safer in a community where there are Christian people.
When Carey went to India about 165 years ago, he found human nature in the rough, human nature fully developed. Andrew Fuller tells us what Carey found in India. He found religions by which the natives were trying to get rid of guilty feelings. These religions consisted in a large part in self torment. One would hold his hand above his head until it would be so stiff he could not take it down. Another would lie on iron spikes just blunt enough not to pierce him to death. They had what was called the worship of the Juggernaut. A massive wooden god was carried on a huge carriage drawn by many men howling and shrieking, and anyone who would throw himself under its wheels to be crushed to death was counted happy. Another part of their religion was the burning of widows on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands. It was common to throw new--born infants into the river as offerings to the gods. And the baby that would not take its mother's milk would be placed in a basket and hung in the branches of a tree to be devoured by ants and birds of prey. And that was human nature---the same nature possessed by both writer and reader. God be praised for the grace that made us new creatures in Christ.
There must be a just basis for salvation, else God would cease to be just in forgiving sin. There can be no salvation at the expense of justice. And justice cannot be dispensed apart from the punishment of sin. There is no miscarriage of justice in heaven's court, for every sin shall receive a just recompense of reward. Divine justice must be vindicated and the law of God must be upheld in the case of every sinner. In the death of Jesus Christ, God's eternal Son, there is a just basis for salvation. Christ died the Just for the unjust. He redeemed us from the curse of the law by being made a curse for us. He was made to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God through faith in Him. Christ put away the guilt of sin by the sacrifice of Himself. God forgives the sinner for the sake of Christ. As our Surety He paid the sin-debt to the last farthing. As our Substitute He took our place under the law and died the very kind of death which denoted that He was accursed of God (Cf. #Ge 33:13 21:23). Terrible price to pay for our salvation, but it was what the law of God demanded and the only way in which God could be just and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus: "To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus" (#Ro 3:26). "For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings" (#Heb 2:10). Christ could not be a perfect Saviour apart from suffering the just demands of the law for His people.
We have seen in previous articles that sin has wrought awful havoc with the human race. It has ruined every man and every part of man. The consequences of sin are manifold, and there is an aspect of salvation for every aspect of sin. And there is a Bible word by which each of the several parts or aspects of salvation is described. If the sinner be viewed as in a state of death, then regeneration or the new birth is the Bible word to denote the impartation of life. If the sinner is considered as a child of the devil, then adoption is the term which expresses the judicial act of God by which he is made a son of God. If we think of the sinner from the standpoint of his body, being mortal and having in it the germs of death by which it will be turned into a dust-heap, then glorification is that aspect of salvation in which the body will be fashioned like unto the glorious body of Christ. If the lost person be regarded as in a state of depravity or moral defilement, sanctification is the work making him holy and pure before God. If we think of the sinner as in a state of spiritual darkness unable to understand the gospel, then calling is the Bible term to express the act of God giving light by which the sinner can see or understand that Christ crucified is the wisdom and power of God in the plan of salvation. If the sinner be thought of as in a position of condemnation-- cursed by God's law he has violated---then justification speaks of his perfect standing before the throne of God. If salvation be approached from the standpoint of the eternal purpose of God, according to which He graciously saves sinners, then election and predestination are the Bible terms which denote the choice and destiny of God's people.
Some aspects of salvation are instantaneous, while others are progressive. The deliverance from the guilt of sin is at the very instant of faith; the deliverance from the defilement of sin is a long process, in which the believer experiences pain as well as pleasure. While mourning over indwelling sin, he rejoices in-hope--the well founded expectation---of the glory of God. The believer rejoices in Christ, has no confidence in the flesh, and painfully longs to be perfectly whole. Being poor in spirit, conscious of his lack of personal worthiness he expects God to perfect that which concerneth him. He believes that God who began the good work of grace in him will perform it until the day of Christ. The believer is perfectly justified---no charge can be laid to his account---but he is not yet glorified, and will not be until Christ comes and he awakes in His likeness. It is positively beyond comprehension what God has prepared for them that love Him. And may we not forget that we love Him because He first loved us, and loosed us from our sins in His own blood.
Salvation is by grace, which means that it is undeserved, and also that there is no divine obligation to save any sinner. Salvation by grace means that it is not of debt or reward, but is the free gift of God. God might have left every one of us to his fate, to perish in his sins. It was love in God and not loveableness in the sinner that accounts for salvation. "God commendeth his love towards us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (#Ro 5:8). Salvation is, therefore, the gracious and sovereign work of God. All our graces are children of His grace and the fruit of His Spirit "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (#Ga 5:22,23). From foreknowledge in eternity past to glorification in eternity future, salvation is all of grace, "For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren" (#Ro 8:29). God thinks so much of His only begotten Son that He has determined to make all His sons just like Him. And there is no human merit or human strength at any stage or in any aspect of salvation. "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast" (#Eph 2:8-9).
"Lord, I was blind: I could not see
In Thy marred visage any grace;
In radiant vision dawns on me.
"Lord, I was dead: I could not stir
My lifeless soul to come to Thee;
I rise from sin's dark sepulche.
"Lord, Thou hast made the blind to see,
The deaf to hear, the dumb to speak,
The chains of my captivity."