Soteriology: Salvation Pictures

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Salvation Pictures

A look at the New Testament theology of salvation


Today we are going on a brand new adventure.  As we continue our worship by opening up the Word of God, we are going to take a brief but deep look at the only way you and I can be right with God.  We’re going to look at the theology of salvation, and seek to understand the doctrine of soteriology.  We are going to dive deep, and it’ll be a lot like how people approach the ocean.

There are some who only talk about the water.  They discuss the ocean, write poems about rivers and look at views around the lake–but they never go in the water.  There’re others who only go on the water–they’ll walk out on the dock, ride in a boat or paddle a canoe.  They may even water ski, but they’re almost exclusively surface people.  Then there are a few skin divers–they enjoy diving down and looking around.  They love exploring a rich and deep environment.  Fewest of all are the scuba divers, who spend as long as they can underneath the surface in order to be at home deep under the water.

Today, FBC, we’re going to scuba dive into the Word of God.  Most Christians and churches invest their time just talking about the Word of God–they speak in clichés, and refer to the Word, but don’t study it.  They have some biblical verbiage, but don’t know God’s Word, nor understand God’s will.

Other Christians actually spend time on the water–they go to church or listen to the radio, but they’re surface in their understanding about the Word of God.  They’re familiar with it, but it’s not in them nor are they in it.  Then, as we strive to do at FBC in our services, RMG’s and ministries, we seek to be a people who regularly skin dive into the Word.   We seek to go under the surface to discover, learn its secrets, and grow deep in the truth of God’s Word in order to live it and share it.  And on occasion, through various means, we seek to scuba dive–to go under the surface for 45 minutes or more, and take a good hard look at God’s profound truths.

Today, we’re gonna go down for a 40-minute dive.  Now I have to warn you–it may be uncomfortable for some of you.

1  It could be foreign to some of you.  You’ve never gone deep into God’s truth, and so it is really strange to even think about breaking the surface.

2  The idea of diving deep could be really odd, since it is something you only do once a week on Sunday.  You’re not regularly in the Word, so it’s odd.

3  Maybe you’ve lost the desire.  You used to explore, discover, and seek to know God deeply, but now others do it for you.  You don’t do any diving yourself–you’ve gotten out of the habit.

4  Others may have grown cynical.  You figure, when you go deep, different people disagree on what those deep things are, so to avoid struggle you avoid going deep, all the while missing the best God has for you.

5  Still there are others who are afraid of what you are going to find under the surface, since you may discover something about God or yourself that may require you to change.

6  Some think preaching is motivational talk, and teaching is informational talk–but the Bible says preaching is exposing God’s Word as God recorded it, without messing it up.

But whatever your reasons, we need to take a brief dive in order to understand our God and His salvation.  So I invite you to put your tanks on, stay alert, pay attention, think hard, and let’s take a swim together.  Don’t be afraid, I am a certified instructor, working to make it simple, but not shallow.  I’ve done my best to make these deep truths understandable, and I promise it’ll be short.  I also guaranty, when we surface you’ll love God more, you’ll have some great new truth to wonder at, and be all the more thankful for what Jesus did for you in saving you.

Remember, men and women of Faith, we are limited, but God is limitless.  We are finite but God is infinite.  There will be truths that are beyond us–that is why God is called awesome.  And that is good news too.  I invite you to “Ooo” and “Ahh” today, as we let God be God.  Ready?  Let’s dive in and look at what Jesus did for us.  How are we going to do it?  First, let’s look at . . .

#1  The Panorama of Salvation

Take a look at the underwater chart in your notes.  We’ve been ransomed for a reason, and there are some deep truths involved in saving us.  In fact Psalm 8:3 says that to create the world took the finger work of God, but to save us, Isaiah 63 says it took the right arm of God.  That means, creation was God’s finger painting, but salvation was God’s powerlifting.  The chart before you is a general map to understand powerlifting, not an order of salvation.  Many of the truths overlap, and can’t be viewed in chronological order.  What are they?

The route of salvation begins with God electing His children before the foundation of the world–choosing to love us before we were born, and selecting our destiny in advance, sovereignly calling us to be in His forever family.  The reproach of all of humanity is our sinful nature we were all born with, along with our choices to sin, which results in the wrath of God being expressed against every one of us–and the only way to avert God’s wrath is for God Himself to provide a ransom.  The cross of Jesus Christ was required to avert the wrath of God against sinful humankind.

Propitiation means to avert God’s wrath, to satisfy God’s holiness and justice.  It involves Jesus’s substitution on our behalf.  The result is we are now reconciled to God, no longer God’s enemy but His friend, and the cross secures our redemption.  The price of death for sins has been paid by Jesus on the cross for us.  But in order to rescue people who are dead in sins and blind to their own need, God’s reaction to His children is to regenerate us–He awakens us.  God causes us to be born again so we can respond to Him.

The result of His action in our hearts is the gift of faith and repentance.  We respond to His regenerating, born again work but fulfilling our requirement and that is to turn in repentance from the self-will of sin to faith in Jesus–a dependent commitment of trust.  The result of our conversion is we are declared not guilty, adopted into God’s family, set apart for God’s use, promised future perfection in glory, and made secure in that promise forever.

And why would God do all of this?  What is the reason?  To bring Him glory, to display His character to all people while we live here, and to reflect Him in perfection for all eternity–which will also be our greatest joy and satisfaction.

Now some of you are already confused (panic—it’s hard to breathe, I thought I saw a shark–this is scary).  So let’s briefly see if we can enjoy these deep truths by looking at one picture at a time.

#2  The Pictures of Salvation

Now in order to understand the Bible, there is some language that must be mastered by every Christian.  There are certain words every believer must know if he or she is to become intimate with Jesus.  Just as a big door swings on small hinges, big truths about our Lord depend upon single words.  Let’s look at a few of these words one at a time.

First  The Route of Salvation involves election to salvation.

Election: God chooses His children.  So many people think this snapshot is fuzzy, but it nevertheless is clearly in focus in the Scripture.  Election is the action of God where He graciously chooses out from among sinful people the ones who will be saved–God elects or chooses His children.  God doesn’t look ahead and see who will respond in faith.  God doesn’t look ahead and see who will be good or work real hard, but for His own glory God chooses some to be His children.

Jesus says clearly in John 15:16, “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.”  Read with me Ephesians 1:4 and 11, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world . . . 11 we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”  Second Thessalonians 2:13 says, “Because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation.”

The Word of God clearly teaches the only reason you chose to follow Jesus is that Jesus first chose you.  That means that God has predestined us.  In your notes,

Predestined:  God decides our eternity

Our final destination, heaven or hell, is decided by God not only before we get there, but before we were even born.  Our ultimate destiny is in the hands of God.  Let me put it more directly–from all eternity, before we even existed, God decided to save some members of the human race and to pass by the rest of the sinful human race, allowing them to remain in their sin and rebellion and ultimately perish.

Listen to what God says in Proverbs 16:4, “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.”  Wow, that’s heavy!  Listen to the warning of Jude 4, “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.”

Some feel that God does this by foreknowledge.  But foreknowledge is another way of describing God’s choice, not merely knowing beforehand.  Some wrongly interpret foreknowledge to mean that God knew in advance who would respond to Him, and therefore He chooses those people.  The only problem is, our faith is a gift from God—right?  (Ephesians 2:8, “Saved by grace through faith, it is the gift of God.)  Therefore, if foreknowledge is merely to know before, then it would mean that God looked ahead to see who He would give faith to, then chose them.  But that still makes God the one who chooses–not merely looking to see who would respond, then chose them.

Foreknowledge actually means God chose in advance to have an intimate love relationship with some before they were even born.  The word foreknew literally means, fore-loved.  It wasn’t that Jesus knew facts about you, but chose to intimately love you beforehand.  In your notes,

Foreknowledge:  God’s predetermined love relationship with His children

First Peter 1:2 says, “To scattered Christians . . . who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the sanctifying work of the Spirit that you may obey Jesus Christ.”  God loved you as His own before you were even born.  If you are a Christian, God has been loving you since before time began.  (If you have a poor self-image, think on this everyday).  And in order for us to experience election, God calls you and me.  In your notes,

Calling:  God awakens His own

The Bible talks about two kinds of calls from God.  One is a general call made to all through creation, conscience and the proclaimed Word.  But this call of God can be rejected, like many in Israel did.  The other call of God, sometimes called the internal, efficacious call or special call, is never rejected.  When God gives His special call, it results in someone becoming a Christian, just as Romans 8:30 says, “And whom He predestined, these He also called, and whom He called these He also justified.”  If He calls you, you’ll be saved, and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

But Chris, if I believe this, then I have to believe that God elects some to eternal life but not everyone.  Why doesn’t God choose everyone?  Well, the issue is not why God didn’t choose everyone, but why did God choose anyone?  Men and women, God reserves the right to have mercy upon whom He will have mercy.  Some of fallen humanity receive the grace and mercy of election–the rest God passes over, leaving them in their sin.

The non-elect receive justice.  The elect receive mercy, but no one receives injustice.  God isn’t obligated to be merciful to any or to all alike.  It’s His decision how merciful He chooses to be.  Yet He is never guilty of being unrighteous or unjust toward anyone.  God’s answer to this question of why He didn’t choose everyone is found in Romans 9:20, “Who are you, O man who answers back to God.  The thing molded will not say to the molder, ‘Why did you make me like this,’ will it?  Be quiet and know I am God, the potter, the creator.”

But if this is true, then why evangelize?  If God elects, predetermines and calls, then why share Jesus with anyone?  Because God has also sovereignly chosen you and me to be the vehicle to communicate His good news.  The angel in Acts 10 couldn’t tell Cornelius the good news, but Peter had to go share the Gospel.  Why not have the angel tell Cornelius?  He was there.  Because God has chosen His children to be the vehicle to share the truth of the good news.

That’s why God told Paul to stay in Corinth in Acts 18:10.  God said, “I have many people in this city.”  God says, Paul I elected many people in this city, but you need to stay in order to proclaim the good news so they will hear it and respond–that’s why.  Acts 13:48 says, “As many as had been appointed to eternal life believed.”    That’s why Romans 10:13 says, “Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.  How then shall they call upon Him in whom they have not believed.  And how shall they believe in Him who they have not heard.  And how shall they hear without a preacher?  And how shall they preach unless they are sent.”

God has chosen us to share, but God is the one who saves.  That is good news, since I’m not responsible for anyone responding to or rejecting the Gospel.  Can you imagine if it was your fault they rejected?  But I am responsible to share the good news.  Keep breathing–you will be okay.  Remember, this issue is not what I say, but what the Bible says.  But there is a problem with God electing anyone, because all of us have a . . .

Second  Reproach

We all have a serious sin problem.  It’s not only that we choose to rebel against God’s authority and choose to do our own thing.  It’s not that we merely fall short of God’s perfect standard.  It’s not that we merely can’t give God the glory He deserves and reflect His character.  Romans 3:10, “There is none righteous, not even one.”  No one bats a thousand.

Sin is the cause of all those serious problems, but ultimately sin results in us being totally depraved.  That doesn’t mean we’re all as bad as we can possibly be.  Rather it means sin has so pervaded every aspect of our natures, we’re totally incapable of achieving our own salvation.  Sin is so bad, it even keeps us from calling out for help.  God must help us.  Romans 3:11, “There is none who seeks for God.”

Therefore, God must start the process.  God must work in us just so we can respond to Him in faith.  Each of us (all people) is like abandoned babies who don’t know why we are cold, hungry and in pain, but we are in no position to help ourselves.  And because God is holy and just, He must judge sin.  His wrath must be expressed against our sin, which means we’re in great danger, but don’t even know it.  So what did God do for us?

Third  God provided a ransom

By sending Jesus to die for us on the cross, He provided propitiation–a satisfaction for God’s justice and holiness.  In your notes,

Propitiation:  from wrath to mercy

Propitiation was a common religious word used in heathen religious rites to win the favor of the gods, or to avert the wrath and disfavor of the gods.  The biblical writers adopted this word for their own use in picturing how Christ’s work on the cross had dealt with the righteous wrath of God toward all who have sinned.  Propitiation describes that facet of our salvation which takes us out from under God’s righteous judgment, and places us under the safety of the cross of Christ.  You are no longer an object of God’s wrath, but a recipient of His mercy.

Remember when you were a kid and there was danger outside.  What happened? You ran inside.  You are protected because God’s judgment already fell upon Jesus.  He took it for you.  Jesus took your whipping–you are inside Him.  Jesus took God’s wrath for us, and in taking the punishment we deserved on the cross, God did two dynamic things.

#1  Jesus reconciled us to Himself

In your notes,

Reconciliation:  from enemy to friend

Reconciled is a word used to describe a relationship of animosity that has been changed into a relationship of friendship and harmony.  Your reconciliation to God is made possible by the cross of Christ.  All of God’s claims against us were settled through Christ’s death.  As Colossians 2:13 and 14 say, “You were dead in your transgressions . . . He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt against us, having nailed it to the cross.”

All of the obstacles preventing our fellowship have been removed.  That’s why Paul calls us ambassadors of reconciliation (in 2 Corinthians 5:19 to 21), when we share the good news of salvation with others.  We are inviting people to step from the dangerous ground of animosity with God onto the safe ground of a restored friendship.  The Gospel is the offer to restore a friendship with God.  Are you, friends?

#2  Jesus redeemed us

In your notes,

Redemption:  from slavery to freedom

The Bible teaches each of us is a captive of sin, death, the law and Satan.  All of them hold people in their deadly grip.  But just as a person could be released from jail by payment of money, canceling out the certificate of debt against him, they can be set free from the darkness of prison, into the light and freedom of day.  And just as a slave in ancient times might be legally purchased by a generous man and set free, so God has paid the purchase price by the blood of Christ to release sinners held captive by spiritual oppressors.  Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood.”  First Peter 1:18 says, “You were not redeemed with perishable things, but with precious blood.”  But how did all this process get started in us?

Fourth  What was God’s reaction?

What did God do in order to awaken us?  He caused us to be born again.  He regenerated us.  In your notes,

Regeneration: from death to life

In His interview with Nicodemus in John 3:1 to 15, Jesus told him, “Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Now Jesus was speaking to one of the most moral, religious men of His day, but He also knew the spiritual condition of all people.  All people are in need of a change that will penetrate to the core of the human heart and break the dominion of sin–a change that will replace our self-centered bent with a new spiritual center, focused on God.

But because we are helpless to make these changes for ourselves, God must do this for us.  (We’re dead in sin, spiritually blind, and naked).  We are all in need of the gift of eternal life.  Ever heard someone lament, “God make me a better person”?  The truth is, it is easier for God to make you a new person.  That’s regeneration–that divine act of making the believer a “new” man or woman in Christ by imparting of new divine life through the gift of the Holy Spirit.

God calls it being born again, born of God, becoming a new creature in Christ (John 3, I John 2:29, 5:4, 18, 2 Corinthians 5:17).  God must do this in us, in order for us to respond in faith and repentance–just as Acts 16:14 says of Lydia, “And the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.”  But how were we involved?  Don’t we do something?  How do we become converted?

Fifth  The requirement of conversion is faith and repentance

Paul said in Acts 20:21, explaining his ministry, “Solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Faith is a dependent turn upon Jesus alone for salvation, and repentance is a heart commitment to confess sin, make it right and a resolution to turn from sin.  Both of these occur in the heart of a true believer at salvation, and continue as a way of life in the behavior of every genuine believer.

What is one of the key signs of a true believer?  Dealing with Sin and pursuing Jesus–is that you?  So what happens when we are converted?  What does this great salvation involve?  What does God give us?

Sixth  What are the results of salvation?

#1  God justifies us,

makes us right with Him, by His grace.  Romans 3:24, “Being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.”  In your notes,

Justification: from guilt to innocent

As Paul compares the universal effect of the sin of Adam to the universal effect of the work of Jesus on the cross,  Romans 5:18 says, “So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.  In justification, God transfers to us, by faith alone, the righteousness of Christ–not just legally but actually.  We are made right with God because we are in Christ.

#2  We are also adopted into God’s family

In your notes,

Adoption:  a change in families

Adoption means in Jesus Christ we’ve become sons and daughters of the living God.  We are in His forever family.  We have changed families.  The Bible tells us when we were lost, we were children of the devil (I John 3:10), and children of wrath (Ephesians 2:3).  But when Jesus saves us, we claim a new set of family relationships and a new set of affections which reflect the character of our heavenly Father.  As children of God, we’re said to be children of wisdom (Matthew 11:19), children of obedience (I Peter 1:14), and children of light (Ephesians 5:8).

Obviously, Paul was familiar with adoption in Roman and Greek culture.  In extreme cases, a man who had no son but needed an heir to his estate would actively seek out a young man willing to fulfill the obligations of a son (Ben Hur).  The legal requirements would be worked out, and the adopted son would be brought into the family with all the rights, privileges and obligations of any true son by birth.

As Christians, we have a new relationship of intimacy, trust and dependence.  We can cry out, “Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6), which is an Aramaic term for “daddy,” a term of the utmost intimacy and personal endearment.  Are you enjoying that intimacy?  It’s yours–keep breathing.

#3  God gives us sanctification

In your notes,

Sanctification:  a change in ownership

The Bible uses “sanctify” two ways.  First is, as a result of salvation, it describes God’s choice to rescue lost people from the kingdom of darkness, and claim them for His exclusive possession and special use.  The second use of sanctification refers to the process of overcoming sin and becoming like Jesus.

Your special position as a set apart saint is found in Acts 20:32, “And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”  And in Acts 26:18, “Jesus told Paul he was called to preach to the Gentiles so that… to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me.”

Ever seen the sign, “Under new management”?  Every Christian here wears one of those.  You are under new management–managed by the Master.

#4  God gives us security

In your notes,

Security:  from danger to safety

The Bible teaches, if you have saving faith you’ll never lose it, and if you lose it, it means you never had it.  As John writes in I John 2:19, “They went out from us but they were not really of us for if they had been of us they would have remained with us; but they went out, [left the church body] in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.”  This eternal security isn’t based upon our performance, but on God’s promises.

As Paul says in Philippians 1:6, “For I am confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”  Or God’s guarantee in Romans 8:30, “Whom He predestined He also justified and these He also glorified.”  Or as Paul reminds us in Romans 8:39, that “nothing . . . shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

But how do we know we are positionally secure?  How do we experience our eternal security practically?  The Bible calls the practical awareness of our secure relationship with Christ assurance.  And assurance is only experienced by examining the fruit of our lives.  Do we have a correct understanding of who God is?  Does it show in how we live, with our words, money, and actions?  Do we love Jesus–do we show it through our obedience?  First John 2:4 says, “The one who says, I have come to know Him and does not keep His commandments is a liar and the truth is not in Him.”  Today do you have a right or false assurance?

#5  Finally, God gives us glorification

In your notes,

Glorification: from eternal punishment to eternal perfection

First Corinthians 15:53 says, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable and this mortal must put on immortality.”  Our God is going to make everything right and keep it that way for all eternity.  No more death, sin, suffering, struggling, emotional hurts, physical pains, or rejections–only perfection forever in joy and love.  Looking forward to it?  Amen?  Right on!

Wow, that’s great!  But why has God left me here?  If God has saved me to glorify Him, and I can better glorify Him in heaven in a perfect body without sin, then why doesn’t He just take me home now?

Seventh  What is the reason God saved me now?

To know Jesus, enjoy Him, serve Him–so that you might share Him, to bring Him glory and show Him off.  What do you get to do on earth that you can’t do in heaven?  Sin and share Christ–which one do you think He left you here to do?  Then let’s get after it–with your life and lip, let’s display Jesus with sacrificial deeds, and the fruit of the Spirit.  Let’s show the world how attractive Jesus is—with our kids, friends?  He is so beautiful, let’s not hide Him.  Amen?

Ready to come up for air?  Congratulate the person next to you–good dive!  One truth you need to take away today is that you have the answer for people’s greatest need.  People have died spiritually, but God offers them regeneration and new life in Christ.  People are God’s enemy, but God offers them reconciliation through the cross of Christ.  People are slaves to the law, sin, death and Satan, but God intervenes to purchase them out of their prison and bring them to a place of freedom.

People are in Satan’s family, but God reaches down and adopts them as a son or daughter.  People are the objects of wrath, but God sends His Son to be the propitiation for their sins.  People will stand guilty before the righteous Judge, but God mercifully declares them not guilty because of Jesus’s work on the cross and resurrection.  The moment a non-believer embraces the Gospel, God does all this for them and more!  Let’s share the message–its good news.  Won’t you turn to Christ?  Cry out for salvation–and the rest of us, thank Him for His grace.  And never forget, you have the only answer.

About Chris Mueller

Chris is the teaching pastor at Faith Bible Church - Murrieta.