Elder Neil Phelan, Jr.
SALVATION (Part 2)
"For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; To them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. To the weak became I as weak, that I might gain the weak: I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" -I Corinthians 9:19-22
When we speak of salvation, we speak of Christ, for in Him we find salvation in every form and fashion. His very name, "Jesus", means Saviour: one who delivers; one who saves. Whether we look for salvation from the evils of this present life, or salvation from the eternal consequences of sin, Jesus should be sought very diligently as the object of our faith because, "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" -Acts 4:12. He alone has power to save us from every circumstance, both natural and spiritual.
MANY KINDS OF SALVATION
The word "save", as found in our text, is translated from the Greek work SOZO, which means "to heal or deliver." This word is used about one-hundred times in the New Testament as it describes many kinds of salvation.
According to Spiros Zodhiates, "SOZO" occurs over fifty-four times in the Gospels alone: "Fourteen instances related to deliverance from disease or demon possession....in twenty instances, the inference is to the rescue of physical life from some impending peril or instant death....the remaining twenty times, the reference is to spiritual salvation."(The complete Wordstudy Dictionary, New Testament, Zodhiates p.1353).
From just a topical reading of the New Testament, one will readily discover the many uses of the words "salvation" and "save"; the many perils we are subject to in this life; and the source of our deliverance: Jesus Christ.
THE LEGAL PHASE OF SALVATION
The first occurrence of the word SOZO, is found in Matthew 1:21, "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins." These words were spoken by the angel to Joseph concerning the immaculate conception and birth of our Lord Jesus Christ and His ultimate purpose as He came to this world to save a particular people. The angel referred to these people as "his people", a people owned and loved of God from everlasting: the elect. This salvation is of utmost importance to every heir of grace. This is a legal salvation from the just demands of God's righteous law; a complete salvation from everlasting torment; a salvation from eternal hell.
From his "Five Phases of Salvation", Gus Harter refers to this salvation as "The Legal Phase of Salvation" and writes: "This phase of salvation comprises God's reconciliation and satisfaction of His Holiness in forgiving the sin of His people by the atoning blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. It took place at the crucifixion of Christ about 33 A.D. The legal phase of salvation is clearest seen in the doctrines of justification, substitution and propitiation.
A. Justification: The divine act of a Holy God who judicially declares a believing sinner to be righteous because Christ has borne the sinners sin on the cross (Romans 3:24-26).
B. Redemption: (Particular Redemption or Limited Atonement) Christ died only for the elect and by His death redeemed all for whom He died (Matthew 1:21).
C. Substitution: By the death of Christ, He took the place of His elect (II Corinthians 5:21).
D. Propitiation: By the death of Christ, He satisfied God's wrath (Romans 4:25)."
Concerning this facet of salvation, the elect are completely passive: they had no hand in it. From the mouth of the prophet, Jesus claims all the honor as He ardently declares: "I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me..." -Isaiah 63:3a. Rather than looking to Jesus as the object of their faith, many have replaced Him with their religion, their confession, their baptism or their good works. Is Jesus the object of your faith concerning this salvation?
When Jesus descended from glory and died a substitutionary death for "His people", He did not accomplish a partial job for He did nothing in part. He didn't make "his people" savable. He saved them. He didn't perform a portion of the work needed to save "his people" from the eternal consequences of sin leaving a portion of the work undone for churches and preachers to finish. He did it all! The elect stand before God today as innocent, legally bought and paid for. They belong to Him.
A most common error among believers is to confuse this legal phase of salvation with the new birth. Regeneration, or being born again, is not the same event as being saved from the eternal wrath of God. One event occurred at the cross and the other event occurs in the lifetime of every child of grace. The elect are not saved from hell and born again at the same moment. Birth is an extension of salvation. The elect are not born again that they might be saved, they are born again because they are saved. Those who were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world and represented by Jesus Christ upon the cross of Calvary will, at some moment in their natural life, between conception and death, be born of God's Spirit; not by choice, but by the sovereign work of God. Many examples are given in scripture to prove this. David wrote: "But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother's breasts"-Psalm 22:9. Even as a babe, David had hope in God, faith being the substance of that hope. John the Baptist manifested joy while yet in his mother womb, "For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy"- Luke 1:44. According to Galatians 5:22, joy is a fruit of the Spirit. And Saul, later known as the Apostle Paul, was born of God's Spirit before Ananias delivered his message and baptized him.
When the new birth occurs, it is God, by the Holy Spirit, bringing one into a living relationship with Him. Not a stranger, but one who has already been saved by Jesus Christ upon the cross. This new birth does not take place when one makes a decision for Christ, or even when one is immersed in water. This Spiritual birth is a sovereign act of God, a creative fiat, which occurs without the cooperation of the creature, for "The wind bloweth where it listeth (pleases), and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit" -John 3:8. Is there some other way one may be born of God's Spirit? Jesus said "every one that is born of the Spirit" is born precisely this way.
Yes, beloved, Matthew 1:21 declares a very specific salvation. The angel did not say, "He shall save His people from demon possession"; "He shall save His people from the wind and the storm"; "He shall save His people from diseases". This salvation echoed by the mouth of the angel is a salvation from the eternal effect and damage of sin. Do you believe that Mary brought forth a Son? Do you believe that she called His name Jesus? Do you believe that He saved "his people" from their sin? If we can say yes to the first two questions, we must say yes to the third! We must believe that this salvation is accomplished. The elect are eternally secure. This legal phase of salvation is complete. To put it in the words of Jesus, "It is finished."
All through the Bible, we find numerous deliverances from impending dangers. In Matthew 8:25, the disciples of Jesus "came to him, and awoke him, saying, Lord, save us: we perish." The word "save", as used in this passage, is translated from the same word, SOZO. What kind of salvation were these disciples of Jesus asking for? Were they asking for a home in heaven? Were they asking to be saved from the eternal consequences of sin? Obviously not. They were asking Jesus to save them from the immediate danger of drowning in the sea. But even here, they sought Jesus, one who has power over all things, even the wind and the waves.
In Matthew 9:21, we find another kind of salvation: a salvation from a physical affliction. In this passage of scripture, the word "whole" is translated from the word SOZO, "And behold, a woman, which was diseased with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment: For she said within herself, If I may but touch his garment, I shall be whole" -Matthew 9:20-21.
Having suffered many things of physicians, spending all of her money for human healing, this woman was "nothing bettered". But hearing of Jesus and His miracles, her faith sought Him out very diligently. Just a touch of the hem of His garment was all that was needed to procure her salvation from the effects of the sickness that had conquered her body. Was not Jesus the object of her faith as well?
These are just a few of the many salvations found within the scriptures. But our point has been made: every time the Bible speaks of salvation, it does not point to an eternal salvation. But let us return to our text and discover yet another kind of salvation.
When Paul wrote, "I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some", which salvation was he referring to? Was he referring to a salvation from the wind and the waves? Was he referring to a salvation from sickness and disease? Was he referring to a salvation from eternal hell and damnation? No, Paul was referring to yet another salvation: the salvation which is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ; the salvation which is found in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, who He is and what He has done for His people.
Again, from his "Five Phases of Salvation", Elder Harter refers to this salvation as "The Practical Phase": "This is the progressive work in the child of God after regeneration in conforming his life practically to the life of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is based on God's mercy but it is the only phase of salvation conditioned upon man's obedience. This phase of salvation is best expressed in the doctrine of conversion(emphasis mine) and practical sanctification. Conversion is the act of a child of God after being born of God in conforming his life, mind, conversation, and walk to the teaching of the word of God." The gospel is the power used to bring about conversion. Paul wrote, "for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" - Romans 1:16.
Conversion is another event that many Christians confuse with the new birth. Conversion is a change or converting of the mind while regeneration is a change of nature.
When one is born of God's Spirit, God writes His law in the heart(Hebrews 8:10). At this moment, they know God in a very intimate way as He teaches them that they are sinners(V.11). It is through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ that their heartfelt experience comes to light; their experience is explained and their savior is declared; thus comes conversion. Birth...then light.
In Acts, chapter 3, when Peter preached to thousands, his message was not designed to give life, but rather to give light unto spiritual hearers: "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, (not born again) that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord" -Acts 3:19. Peter called upon them to be converted. The word converted means "to revert, to turn about."
Yes, repentance is involved in conversion. It begins with the mind, when the Holy Ghost convinces the "mind of Christ"(I Corinthians 2:16) that the message spoken is true. There is a spiritual conviction; a recognition of truth; a new evaluation of self; a change of direction; which results in a change of life. It does not give life, but causes one to change the direction of the life that they already possess. And the closer one gets to the Lord, the more they are changed and converted.
Even from the mouth of Jesus, Paul's commission was not to give life, but rather "To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me" -Acts 26:18. Beloved, that is conversion in biblical terms!
When Paul preached to "save some", what was his emphasis concerning the salvation which is found in Christ? "For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more" -1 Corinthians 9:19. The word gain means "to win". Paul would not give them life, but rather win their lives over to Christ. And from his language, he was interested in "the more". This means "more in quantity, number and quality". His emphasis was this: turn many in number around to the quality of life found in Jesus Christ. Is this the goal of your ministry and church?
When Paul preached to "save some", he didn't preach a plan; he preached a man: Christ Jesus! He didn't preach a fast track, he preached a bloody track! He didn't point to gospel steps for salvation, he pointed to the cross of Calvary! His hope of heaven was not in his own works but in the finished works of Jesus Christ. His confession was thus: "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" -I Timothy 1:15.
When we stop and think about it, life is full of deliverances or salvations. What do you need to be delivered from today? Have you sought the Saviour?