This title presupposes that the human race is in need of salvation. We may ask - “from what do we need to be saved?” The very well-known words of John 3:16 will supply an answer.
“God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not PERISH, but have everlasting life”.
Salvation is therefore of God.
THE NEED FOR SALVATION
One of the many proofs that the Bible comes from God lies in the kind of thing it says about the human race. Mankind, generally speaking, likes to believe pleasant, comforting things, and if the Bible were an ordinary man-written book it would tell us the sort of things we like to hear: as indeed do the mainstream churches of Christendom. However, the Bible tells us the plain, often ugly, truth. This applies particularly to the subject of death. Men hate to think of death as the end of all being and so nearly every religion in the world teaches that man has, inside him, a soul that goes on living after his body is dead. Surveys have shown that many people who do not believe in God still cling to the belief that their “souls” will survive death, claiming that the word used by Christ (ie PERISH) cannot apply to them. Without any doubt the idea of the immortality of the human soul is the most popular religious belief in the world. Yet the Bible teaches no such thing.
The Bible teaches that the “soul” is essentially the person; that is, the body, and not an independent part of the individual. This can be clearly seen from the words of God in Ezekiel 18:4:
“All souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth it shall die”.
As for death the Bible describes it as a state of complete unconsciousness.
“His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his THOUGHTS PERISH” (Psalm 146:4)
The greatest tragedy in the world is that so many millions of people hold on to false beliefs and so perish at death.
WHAT COMPRISES SALVATION
Yet Jesus says that they COULD live for ever if - and only if - they will accept his conditions. These conditions form the terms of the great salvation of our title. Jesus said, “I am come that they MIGHT have life” (John 10:10). But very few people seize the opportunity. “Ye will not come to me, that ye might have life,” Jesus lamented to the masses of people of his day (John 5:40). He also told his disciples,
“Enter ye in at the strait (narrow) gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and FEW THERE BE THAT FIND IT” (Matthew 7:13,14)
So Christ is telling us that we could live for ever, but we shall not unless we make an effort to find that narrow way and walk along it. God demands three things of us if we would find salvation. These are faith, baptism and love and each of them is equally important.
“Faith” and “belief” are the same word in Greek, the language in which the New Testament was written. The apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesians, “By grace are ye saved through faith” (chapter 2:8). Also in Hebrews we read, “Without faith it is impossible to please him” (chapter 11:6). But the Greek word translated “faith” in these two passages is translated “belief” in the next passage.
“God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and BELIEF OF THE TRUTH” (2 Thessalonians 2:13)
Evidently the “faith” of the early Christians to whom these letters were written, was not just a FEELING in their hearts as many Evangelical churches today would have us believe. It was based upon an acceptance of the teaching of the Word of God. In the same chapter quoted above at verse 10 the apostle Paul refers to unbelievers as “…them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved”. Because of the great importance of Bible teaching, the apostle Paul gives the following advice to his young friend, Timothy.
“Continue thou in the things which thou hast learned -and hast been assured of-, knowing of whom thou hast learned them; And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:14,15)
This was good advice for young Timothy. It is good advice for us too. We cannot expect to please God unless we read His book and believe its teaching.
God’s book teaches us that without belief, then baptism which is complete immersion in water, symbolising a burial into Christ’s death - we cannot find the great salvation which will rescue us from perishing at death (see Mark 16:15-16).
From then on we must love the Lord our God with all our being so that we desire to please Him in all our ways. The words of Christ in Matthew 22 summarise the true Christian:-
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” (verses 37-39)
It is not possible to do all this without making an effort, for Christianity is not an armchair religion. The way of salvation is a narrow and, at times, an uphill road. But it is a joyful road and those who tread it in truth will, at the last, have no regrets.