To state that the salvation of God is worthy of its supreme author expresses all that can be said of it, in height, depth, and breadth, to the soul which already knows Him. But to souls which, to their shame, "have not the knowledge of God," it is manifest the above statement can convey little if any real meaning. Indeed, it is in this great salvation that God has been pleased to reveal Himself. Objectively, we perceive this in Simeon's adoring utterance (Luke 2), when he saw God's salvation in the blessed babe by whom God was to be - yea, was - declared. The two things go together; the salvation of God, and the revelation of God. And this is also true subjectively, so that the saved soul knows God; as we read, "Every one that loveth, is born of God, and knoweth God." (1 John 4:7.) And again, "This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." (John 17 3.)
Salvation is the precious stream which not only satisfies, but leads upward to its source in God. The living water flows from the throne of God and the Lamb in the millennial day. (Rev. 22; also Ezek. 47.) It satisfies in the wilderness also, alike on the borders of the land, and at the opening of the wilderness journey. Nor have we to wait until the millennial day for enjoyment of the blessed source. It was at the commencement of the journey God could say, "Ye have seen how I bare you on eagles' wings, and brought you unto myself" (Exodus 19:4.)
The various features of salvation may be taken to indicate various points in the unfoldings of God, as well as various stages in the history of a soul's experience. So that growing gradually "wise unto salvation" (2 Tim. 3:15) is coordinate with increasing in the knowledge of God. (Col. 1:10.)
It would be altogether beyond the scope of this paper to review the features referred to, or perhaps even enumerate them. Our purpose is to speak of three, a clear apprehension of which seems essential to our standing before God, and holiness of life; and which for this reason hold a paramount place. They bear upon our past, our present, and our future; and inasmuch as the term salvation is applied to each of these features, it is quite possible unintentionally to confound them. They are not three salvations, but various features of the same great work, in which the three persons of the blessed Trinity may be seen severally to act a special part, but which certainly link themselves severally to various interventions of the blessed Son of God in our behalf; first, as to the past, linking itself with His death; secondly, as to the present, with His life of intercession now, unceasingly, on high; third, as to the future, with His coming to take us to be with Himself and like Himself, perfectly, and for ever - His death, however, being the basis of all else.
Nothing is more sorrowful than the confusion which is made by a wrong application of the particular scripture in which any one of these features is referred to. Thus, how often has Rom. 13:11. - "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" - been used to prop up unbelief, in the erroneous thought that in no sense can the soul realize salvation as a present thing until the close of one's earthly history; - ignoring such a statement as, He "hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling." (2 Tim. 1:9.) And worse still, by such an application of the above scripture, believing is slighted, as if it merely formed one of a series of virtues, which qualified the soul to hope for mercy and salvation by-and-by. Many will also recall the mischief done by applying Phil. 2:12 - "Work out your own salvation" - to the case of such as are trusting to their own merits and activity for deliverance from the wrath of God. In truth, neither one scripture nor the other applies to the unsaved at all; for in both cases they are saints who are addressed - believers at Rome in one instance, and believers at Philippi in the other - as the context, especially the address in the first chapter of each epistle, plainly shows the matter referred to in God's grand design to have those addressed perfectly like His Son, consummated at His coming. The consummation itself is particularly in view in Rom. 13; and the process leading to that issue in Phil. H. Here God is seen as the divine operator, and the saints are besought to act in consort with Him to the desired end. It will be seen then, from the scriptural use of the term salvation - its application alike to the past, the present, and the future of believers - that nothing is more foreign to God's thoughts than the ultimate perishing of a single partaker of that precious gift. Indeed, Rom. 8:30 clearly negatives such a supposition: "Whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified." "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance." Therefore, those called, effectively of course, may be quite certain of glory to come - "the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thess. 2:14.) And this is salvation, as we see in verse 13 - the simple means of obtaining it being "the sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth." Note the order here; it is the same as that in which the apostle Peter also presents these operations. (1 Peter 1:2.)
Salvation then is what God is about soon to display in its fulness and glory - so far, at least, as it can be displayed - having conformed us to "the image of His Son."
Is this your hope, my reader? It is well-nigh vain your proceeding further with this study if you have not yet found how you stand with God in respect of your nature and your history. Have you yet learned your nature merits only wrath? Do you know your sins are so heinous that the blessed Son of God had to drink the bitter cup to render your salvation possible? It is to such as fear God that the word of His salvation is sent. (Acts 10) And if you are one of those who have discovered their deep, deep need of the Saviour's atoning work at Calvary, to you "forgiveness" and "justification from all things "are freely offered in His precious name. (Acts 13:38, 39.) The knowledge of salvation may be yours now by the remission of sins. (Luke 1:77.) "Now is the day of salvation."
Glory with Christ, conformity to His image, is our crowning portion. It is not the crown yet, however; but a cross for earth, and armour for the heavenlies now, with "the hope of salvation" as a helmet. (1 Thess. 5:8 Eph. 6.) We linger, according to the will of God, in a scene where each step forward begets fresh need, need too for divine intervention; for we are worse than weak. Thanks be to God, that intervention is assured to His own in full knowledge of what they are, and is of the most definite and adequate character. Thus, if it be "with fear and trembling" we are enjoined to "work out our salvation," we are also assured, "It is God that worketh in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure."
If we bend, in the becoming expression of real dependence upon God, in prayer, "the Spirit helpeth our infirmities." "He maketh intercession for the saints according to God," so that we may "pray in the Spirit." And the blessed Lord Himself "ever liveth to make intercession for us," so that" He is able to save them to the uttermost." (Heb. 7:25.) Indeed, it is on this matter the Holy Ghost uses, so to speak, an a fortiori argument: "If, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life."
The wonderful encouragement saints have in such assurances may be gathered by connecting the following scriptures:
In John 27 the Lord was about to leave this scene for the Father's house, and knowing how "His own" would be circumstanced, He prays the Father to keep them in His own name, giving us a precious insight into the nature, substance, and aim of His present intercession on high. 1 Peter 1:4, 5, beautifully gives the result of this intercession. Not only is the inheritance reserved for the saints, but they are kept by the power of God unto salvation ready to be revealed.
On their side is dependent faith - committing "the keeping of their souls to Him in well-doing" (1 Peter 4:19); while the affections are engaged with the blessed Lord Himself, their natural object, as Christians - "Whom having not seen, ye love." As a result they "rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory," and thus even now participate in the blessedness of salvation, the consummation of which we wait for. How blessed to be thus kept and cared for! "Happy are the people that are in such a case!" J. K.