What Is Salvation?
Lets look at some key verses and see if the definition of salvation can be extracted from them…
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” -Romans 1:16
“For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which he confirmed to them by oath.” -Deuteronomy 4:31
“Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” -John 14:6
“If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” -Romans 10:9-10
As we look at these passages we begin to learn some Key ingredients to the definition of salvation. First, we see that it is something supernatural and done out of the power of God. Only God has the power to give salvation. Second, we see that it is given out of a promise from God. Salvation is not some personalized deal for each person, but a “one-size-fits-all” agreement from the creator of the universe who never backs out of a promise. Next we see that Jesus is a necessary and crucial part of the process. Finally we see that there is some inner and outward effect on a human from this process.
Allow me to take all these things into consideration and submit to you this definition of salvation:
Salvation: the state that one finds themselves in when they receive freedom from sin as promised by God and by His power through the actions and sacrifice of Jesus.
Let me give you an example of this definition. It comes from scripture. In the book of Luke, chapter 23. The writer of the book is describing the last few minutes of Jesus’ life on the cross. Jesus is hanging by nails from this piece of wood along with many other criminals. The people on the ground are mocking Jesus along with the Roman soldiers. Soon, even one of the criminals who is dying right along with Jesus begins to taunt him saying, “Look man, if you got all this power, and you are who you say you are, then save yourself and us!”
Let me just pause here for a minute and point out the wrong way to address Jesus. This guy is like so many people I meet today. They want proof, and they want to get something out of the deal. They think that salvation is something that will make their life better. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard people pray and ask God to come into THEIR life. Jesus did not die on the cross so that the Holy Spirit could be your genie in a bottle to give you everything you want. Jesus Died so that God could give you everything HE wants.
Let’s return to the story…
Jesus is in so much pain that he can barely address the people or the mocking prisoner, but he doesn’t have to. Another prisoner yells at the first one on behalf of Jesus,
“HEY! What’s wrong with you!!?!? If you really believed that this guy had all that power, you wouldn’t even talk to him like that! But that’s beside the point, cause you and I are getting what we deserve.”
Then he turned to Jesus and said, “Don’t worry Jesus, I got your back. I know you are taking all this punishment for a reason, and I’m not sticking up for you cause I want something, but could you find time to just remember me? I’m gonna die here today and it would be a lot easier to handle if I knew that you were just thinking of me…”
Jesus can’t talk. The weight of his torso and the placement of his arms are restricting his air pathway. He has to pull himself up by his pierced hands and place all his weight on his feet that are punctured to simply get a breath. His side is pierced and only one lung was working at this point. But Jesus fights the pain. He denies his body any hope of recover or temporary release from pain. He make fists with his hands, curls his toes, shifts his weight and takes in a great amount of air to give the second prisoner this message of reassurance, “today…you and I… are gonna party … in heaven…”
This prisoner was hanging on a cross. He could not physical do any good works to prove his salvation. He was dying and had no time to display his salvation though works to others save for proclaiming to the other prisoner that Jesus is lord.
This prisoner was on death row for crimes he committed. He was probably not part of a church. He was probably not a member of a para-church group and probably did not give money to needy and worthy causes.
This prisoner did not demand anything from Jesus, but offered his devotion…
…and he was saved.
You do not have to do good things to be saved, but when you are saved, you will want to do god things. I imagine if the second prisoner found himself alive and well on the ground, freed from his sentence, he would probably go around doing wonderful and good things for Jesus out of his love and appreciation for what God had done for him though Jesus.
You are not part of an elite club when you are saved, but I bet this prisoner would have joined up with a church. Not so that he could hide, but so that the story of what Jesus did for him, could be told to others.
So, how do you know that you are saved?
When you think about being saved, and it’s something you have to prove, you need to rethink it.
When you think about being saved, and you feel better than other people, you probably aren’t
If you love Jesus, and you are sharing that love with others, you are saved. These desires do not present themselves in people who are bound to sin. Loving God is not something a slave to sin is interested in doing. Sharing the love of God is not even a thought for people who are slaves to sin. No, only people who have been set free from that sin nature can love God. Only people who have been broken out of prison of hate, shame and guilt by the power of God though the acts and sacrifice of Jesus can share that love.
So go and do good. Join with other believers and do good together. But more importantly, believe in your heart that Jesus is God, and confess with your mouth that God raised Him from the grave, and you… will… be… saved.