“The safety card is in your seat pocket. Please study it carefully.” That’s how the little announcement went just before the plane took off, and as usual, nobody bothered, no one cared. However, during the flight there was a problem. The captain’s voice came over the tannoy saying that they were experiencing difficulties and they may need to perform an emergency landing. He appealed for all passengers to study the safety card. Needless to say, everyone was interested in it then. They realised This card contains vital information that could save my life.
I think many people treat the Bible like that safety card – they think it is irrelevant to them. But when we face up to the danger we are in, we see that the Bible contains information that is vital to our salvation.
We will explore four issues relating to this subject.
1. The need of salvation
Salvation is needed when someone is in danger and is helpless to get himself out of it. That is precisely the predicament the Bible says we are in.
We are in danger because we have broken God’s law. The Bible declares that the whole world is guilty before God (Rom. 3:19). We all stand condemned before Him, justice demands we are punished for the wrong we have done, and, because of the infinite holiness of God, that is a punishment we can never exhaust. Nothing we do can ever rescue us from the danger we are in and the punishment we deserve. No matter how good we are, how much we give or how hard we try, it doesn’t get rid of the guilt of the past. Left to ourselves the situation is hopeless. Little wonder the Bible says, “we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
2. The nature of salvation
The salvation we need is a salvation God has provided. The Bible presents salvation is three ways:
a) Salvation from the penalty of sin
God’s law demands sin be answered for, yet God’s love desires that we go free. What could be done? How could the demands of God’s justice and the desire of His heart both be fulfilled? This is a question the religions of this world cannot answer. According to their messages, if grace is to be shown to the guilty it is shown at the expense of justice. But this is impossible. God can never act any way other than righteously. The gospel provides the answer – God’s love provided what His law demanded.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
On the cross, the Lord Jesus paid the penalty we could never pay, satisfying the demands of God’s righteousness against sin, and rising in triumph from the dead three days later. Grace can be shown, not at the expense of justice, but at the expense of Jesus – He has paid the price. God calls on us to repent and accept His provision for our sin – His Son. When we do that He forgives every sin and clears us of every charge – we have been saved from the punishment our sins deserve.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. (Eph. 2:8-9, NKJV)
b) Salvation from the power of sin
Imagine a man who has committed a crime because of his enslavement to alcohol. The man has two problems, one is legal and the other is moral. He is guilty of a crime; he is bound by vice. If he was freed by the judge, that would take care of the legal problem, but he would leave the court to live the same kind of life as before and commit the same crimes – his need has not really been met. If somehow he was set free from his dependency on the drink but was condemned to prison his need would still not be completely met. What he needs is salvation from the consequences of his crime and salvation from the cause of his crime. The man’s problem illustrates ours. We have a legal problem – we have broken God’s law, but we also have a moral problem – the Bible describes us as being slaves of sin (e.g. Rom. 6:17).
If we are honest we find that we do not live the way we want to, never mind how God wants us to. We give in to habits we want to break and temptations we know we should avoid. We find the thought of the Christian life not only undesirable but unliveable. We were created to live lives of holiness in friendship with God, but we aren’t able to do it or even to want to do it. This is all because sin exerts a power over us and has a grip on us that we can’t escape.
The gospel not only sets us free from the guilt of sin but also from its grip, enabling us to enjoy God and live the kind of life He wants us to live. We still feel the lure of sin, but we have a new power now due to the Holy Spirit of God living within. He gives us appetites and abilities we never had before. We are being saved from the power of sin in our lives and have the liberty to enter into the enjoyment of things that we never could have enjoyed or even imagined before.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Cor. 1:18, NKJV)
c) Salvation from the presence of sin
When God created man He placed him in paradise, but the entrance of sin has spoiled that. It has ruined God’s creation. That is why there is sickness and disease, sorrow and misery. Those who are saved look forward to the day when the Lord will return to redeem their frail bodies and restore fallen creation. The Christian will then be forever saved from the problems that blight his life and darken his sky.
And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. (Rom. 13:11)
3. The nearness of salvation
The words of the Buddha before his death were, Strive with earnestness. The words of Christ before His death were, It is finished (John 19:30). This illustrates the difference between the salvation religion offers and the salvation the gospel offers.
As far as the messages of religion are concerned, salvation is always out of reach. You can’t have it now or be sure that you will have it at all. You have to keep working and striving, and you will only find out if you’ve done enough once you’re dead. The message of the gospel is unique because it says you can have salvation now and know it. The work was all done by Christ on the cross, and salvation is a gift to be received not a reward to be earned.
When you receive that gift the record of your sins is cleared, the dominion of sin in your life is broken, and your future with Christ is glory is guaranteed.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes... (Rom. 1:16, NKJV)
4. The neglect of salvation
It would have been a sad thing for the human race if salvation had never been provided. We all would have been doomed to perish without hope. But how much more sad it is to think that millions will perish when there was salvation provided for them, but they didn’t take it.
If there is the slightest possibility that the Bible is true (and there’s an abundance of evidence that it is), then there is nothing more important than ensuring you are saved.
How shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation? (Heb. 2:3)
The Bible isn’t merely a book of ethics, a code of conduct or a record of history. It is the revelation of the need of mankind and the answer to that need in Christ. The apostle Paul states that the Holy Scriptures are able to make us “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:15, NKJV).
To possess salvation is the greatest blessing – words could never express how wonderful it is to be saved. To miss salvation is the greatest tragedy – words could never express how terrible it is to be lost. Treat salvation seriously and take salvation soon, because, “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2).