Salvation means both ‘rescue from danger’ and ‘preservation in safety’. This joint meaning, recovery and subsequent safety and protection, is very important in fully grasping the teaching of the Bible on the subject; for instance it justifies our expression ‘once saved; always saved’. We shall see that in the spiritual realm salvation has a definite beginning, a present application and a future completion. It is a process that, once begun, moves on inexorably to its conclusion. So confident are we as to the certainty of this, that we can say, ‘we shall be saved’.
Salvation is always provided by a saviour, and presupposes the helplessness and hopelessness of the one saved. In the spiritual realm the helpless sinner is in danger of judgment because of sin; indeed once saved he, or she, is equally helpless in guaranteeing his own safety, and is then as much dependent on the Saviour as before.
In a general sense, God is the Saviour of all men, 1 Tim. 4. 10, in that He preserves life on the earth, and will continue to do so. But in a special sense He is also the Saviour ‘of those who believe’. It is this that now occupies our attention.
Salvation is in Christ - ‘Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is no other name … whereby we must be saved’, Acts 4. 12. The gospel and its preaching is ‘the power of God unto (i.e. resulting in) salvation to every one that believeth’, Rom. 1. 16; 10. 10, Eph. 1. 13, 1 Cor. 1. 21. Salvation, which is by grace and through faith, is ‘not of ourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast’, Eph. 2. 4, 8. Thus without fear of contradiction every believer can say as Paul did to Timothy, ‘God … saved us’, 2 Tim. 1. 9. In spiritual things the world is now no longer divided between Jew and Gentile, but between ‘them that are saved’, and ‘them that perish’, 2 Cor. 2. 15.
If salvation is our present possession, then there should be ‘those things that accompany salvation’ in our lives as the writer to the Hebrews informs us, Heb. 6. 9. These are the ‘better things’ that should be seen in all believers’ lives, whatever their circumstances; things that are naturally connected with the salvation that they possess. Indeed it is important for those of whom it can be said that they have ‘your own salvation’ that they ‘work out your own salvation with fear and trembling’, Phil. 2. 12. This does not mean that we are responsible for our salvation, as a pupil might be told to ‘work out’ his own sums and not rely on anyone else; rather the stress is, as one view understands it, on our working out practically what God has put in, and carrying on to a practical outward conclusion what God has begun within. Further we are immediately afterwards reminded that it is God Himself who ‘worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’, 2. 13. After saving us, God is continually at work within, but we are responsible to see that this has a complementary outward effect. Once again salvation has a very practical outcome.
Salvation has a present-day defensive effect also, for we are to ‘take the helmet of salvation’ that is offered to us, with which to safeguard our minds, Eph. 6. 17, May we really appreciate what salvation involves, even our protection against the ‘fiery darts of the wicked (one)’ by means of the shield of faith, v. 16. Our salvation and its enjoyment is protective if we take it seriously.
Without question the believer already has been saved through Him, our Lord Jesus Christ. However when we read such verses as - ‘We shall be saved from wrath through him’, and ‘we shall be saved by his life’, Rom. 5. 9, 10, we begin to realize that our salvation has future aspects also. It is the same salvation, but obviously it has a number of future phases and features. In Romans 5. 9 it can be seen in our being delivered from wrath through Him, from which wrath Jesus, God’s Son is our coming deliverer, 1 Thess. 1. 10.
The fact that ‘our salvation is nearer than when we (first) believed’, Rom. 13. 11, is reason enough for the exhortation ‘to awake out of sleep’; spiritual lethargy and apathy is all around us, but those who know the nearness of ‘the day’ and its blessings will not slumber. So we are to ‘put on the Lord Jesus Christ’, v. 14, that is, to be adorned by a Christ-like spirit. Salvation then has a completeness, and this is emphasized in Hebrews 7. 25, where we are told that ‘he is able to save them to the uttermost (unto the completion) … seeing he ever liveth’. Our final deliverance, and complete and eternal preservation are in view, again connected with the fact that He is alive for evermore.
What about those who have no rewardable works left after the fiery examination of Christ at His judgment seat? We find the reassuring words -‘He himself shall be saved’; even though his erstwhile works have gone unrewarded, 1 Cor. 3. 15. Salvation is not and will never be ‘according to our works’ in any form.
As regards our hope, we are looking for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will bring in our future salvation relative to our bodies because He will transform them from being bodies of humiliation to become bodies like His body of glory, Phil. 3. 20, 21. In this respect, the very ‘hope of salvation’ becomes a helmet, 1 Thess. 5. 8. God has appointed us ‘to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ’, v. 9. This divine appointment has salvation in its fullest prospect in view. Our expectation of this is as much a protective helmet as is our present understanding and enjoyment of the current aspect of our salvation.
God’s preserving of us now is with a view to our complete salvation which is ‘ready to be revealed in the last time’, – we who are ‘kept by the power of God’, 1 Pet. 1. 5. The inheritance is reserved; the heirs are preserved and the salvation is ready to be revealed! Indeed we have ‘so great salvation’, Heb. 2. 3 – in the fullness of its past, present and future aspects!
‘Hallelujah! What a Saviour!’