In connection with the above subject the question to consider in the first place is what is involved in salvation, or what it really consists in. What I understand by it is that the soul is delivered from that ruinous and destructive power under which it was held, and also from any evil to which it may be liable. The latter was exemplified in Noah and his house, and the former in the deliverance accorded to the children of Israel at the Red Sea. As to Noah and Israel, their salvation was temporal and did not necessarily involve new and eternal relationships with God as the salvation of our souls does, but to my mind the salvation that was accorded to them illustrates the two-fold character of the salvation which is ours in Christ Jesus. There may be other aspects of salvation, but they do not occur to me at this moment. I desire to look at the salvation under these two aspects.
The Son of God was named JESUS because He was to save His people from their sins, and this I take to be the consequences of their sins both present and future. I do not doubt the primary reference of this is to God’s earthly people, but it has also reference to those who would believe upon Him from among the Gentiles. Now, judgment and wrath are two great evils from which we need deliverance, for on account of our sins we are liable to both. In Romans 1:18 wrath is said to be revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who hold the truth in unrighteousness, and from this the Gospel is said to be the power of God to salvation, and in chapter 5:9, “Being now justified by His blood we shall be saved from wrath through Him,” and in 1 Thessalonians 5:9, “God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ”; and Peter informs those to whom he writes that the time had come when judgment must begin at the house of God, and if the righteous would scarcely be saved where would the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Peter 4:18). These passages of Scripture all present judgment and wrath as about to be inflicted and from which men need salvation. There are other Scriptures bearing upon the same aspect, but these will suffice.
But salvation is also viewed in Scripture as a present thing, for we are spoken of as being already saved. In 2 Timothy 1:9, we read of “God who has saved us, and called us with an holy calling,” and in Titus 3:5, “according to His mercy He saved us,” and in Ephesians 2:5, “By grace ye are saved.” There is therefore a present aspect of salvation contemplated in Scripture, and this I take to be the emancipation of the soul from the oppression and bondage of every adverse and ruinous power, whether it be death, Satan, sin, the flesh, or the world. We find deliverance from death, and the Devil as the one who has the power of death, by faith in that which answers to the dividing of the Red Sea; and from the working of sin in the flesh, by that which answers to the brazen serpent; and from the world, by that which answers to the passage of the Jordan.
But this salvation is said to be in Christ Jesus. He is the One who has brought it all about for us, and the One who makes it good to us. It is not to be found in our works of. righteousness, nor has it for its foundation the desires and aspirations of our hearts after God. Its foundation has been laid by Christ in His precious blood. The whole power of it is in Himself where He is. Peter tells the Jews that it is in no other than Jesus of Nazareth, and that there is no name under heaven given among men whereby they can be saved. Paul says he endured all things for the elect’s sake, that they might obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus. It is in Him in heaven, and in His name under heaven.
The Gospel is the report of this salvation which is in Him. It is preached in His name, and is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes (Rom. 1:16). The reason it is so is, because in it the righteousness of God is revealed on the principle of faith, and is upon the believer; the believer in Jesus is justified from all things, and judgment and wrath have no application to him. But this brings him into the light of the salvation of God, for he sees Jesus our Lord risen from the dead, “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” Death and the oppressor of mankind who had the power of it are annulled, and in the joy of that salvation we can sing, “The Lord has triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider He has thrown into the sea.” This brings us into the wilderness where the flesh is tested; we learn what is in our hearts, and are brought to see that there is no good there, and in the lifted up Son of Man, which is the anti-type of the brazen serpent, we see how God has condemned sin in the flesh and thus put an end to our whole sinful condition as in the flesh, and with the love of God in our hearts as a springing well and new fountain of life we are able to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ. The Holy Spirit dwelling in us occupies us with God revealed in love, enables us to put to death the deeds of the body, gives us the sense in our spirits that we are the children of God and is the Spirit of God’s Son in our hearts crying, “Abba, Father.” When we come to this point in the history of our souls we are ready to cross the Jordan; and not only are we competent to do this, but we see that it is our place. We learn in the resurrection of Christ from the dead that God has no thought of placing man on any other footing with Himself than the platform of resurrection, and by the faith of this we are risen with him. The heavenly land is now before our souls; we are dead with Christ from the elements of the world, and the working of the fleshly mind, and the religion that is adapted to the man after the fleshly order we are done with forever; we are risen with Christ, and therefore set our minds on the things that are above. Another truth connected with this is that Christ is our Head, and all wisdom and intelligence is in Him, and He is our fountain of supply—we are complete in Him. This is the way, as far as I see, by which we are delivered from the enemies under which we by nature are. The One by whom we are brought into all the blessedness of these things is the Holy Spirit; without Him we could not enjoy the smallest blessing. But I have not been speaking so much about the power by which we enter upon these things as of the light in which they are presented in Scripture.
Trusting in the Lord for guidance I will now examine the different epistles, that we may see how salvation is treated in each of them. In Romans 1 the apostle is not ashamed of the Gospel, because it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes. The reason it is this is because righteousness on the part of God is revealed on behalf of man, and that in view of the revelation of wrath against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men. God meets this state of sin in which all men are by nature, by the revelation of His righteousness on behalf of man, and by justifying the ungodly sinner who believes on Jesus. In chapter 10 Christ is said to be the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believes; but the righteousness which is of faith says, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thy heart that God has raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.” Here the Lord becomes my salvation. I call upon Him, and find that He is rich unto all that call upon Him; “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” I take this to be the way we enter the kingdom, and in coming into the kingdom we are under His protection and influence, and find salvation. In chapter 5, “Having been justified by His blood we shall be saved from wrath through Him”; and, “Being reconciled we shall be saved by His life.” Before the wrath comes He will remove us from the scene where it will be inflicted, so that it will not hurt us. In chapter 13:11 it is said to be nearer than when we believed. Evidently this last passage contemplates it in its perfect character, which will be when we are glorified. What we see in Romans is that the Gospel is the power of it, it is realized in subjection to the Lord, and we are going on to the day when it will be perfected.
In 1 Corinthians 1:21, as in Romans 1:16, the Gospel is the means by which God brings us into salvation, “It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” In chapter 15 the apostle declares the Gospel by which they were saved to be, “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.” Their salvation hung upon the resurrection of Christ from the dead. If He were not risen, their faith was vain, they were yet in their sins, and all who had fallen asleep in Christ had perished. But He is risen, and will quicken all His own out of death, change the living, raise the dead in glory, and thus perfect the salvation that is ours in Him. Moreover, He will reign until He has put down every enemy, and brought in a universe secure from evil.
It is the same in Ephesians 1 as in Romans 1 and 1 Corinthians 1, the Gospel is that of their salvation, which having heard and believed they were sealed with the Holy Spirit. In chapter 2 they are said to be quickened together with Christ, and immediately the apostle adds, “By grace ye are saved.” Next we get raised and seated in Him in the heavenlies, and again the apostle adds, “By grace ye are saved through faith.” This is because, as I have tried to point out, salvation in its fullest sense (apart from the actual change of the body) lies in the life of Christ across the Jordan; that is to say, as risen with Christ.
In Thessalonians salvation is from coming wrath. In the Son of God they had found a Deliverer; and God had not appointed them to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ; and for an helmet they were to have the hope of salvation, unlike the Ephesians who were to put on the helmet of salvation, a salvation that was already theirs.
The Philippians were to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, for it was God that wrought in them. And this was to be done by obedience. By being brought into subjection to God they were delivered from every evil domination, and by being in subjection to God they came out down here in this lawless world as doers of His will, and therefore descriptive of Christ. Like Him they were to be blameless and harmless, shining as lights in the world, and holding forth the word of life. Their conversation was in heaven, from whence they looked for the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, who would change their vile body, and fashion it like His own, according to the power by which He was able to subdue all things to Himself.
In Titus the grace of God that carries with it salvation to all men has appeared; and, “According to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” It has often been remarked that the only other place where we get the word “Regeneration” is in Matthew 19:28, and there it is introduced in connection with the kingdom of the Son of man. It is a new order of things, brought about by His assumption of the throne of the world. We enter now into this regeneration in a moral and spiritual way. It is spoken of as the washing of regeneration, and answers, I think, to “Born of water and the Spirit,” and baptism may be associated with it. It answers to translation into the kingdom of the Son of God’s love. We are brought into a new order of things, and the Holy Spirit, Who has been shed on us abundantly, is the power by which we enjoy such a sphere of light and blessing. Paul was told to arise and be baptised, calling upon the name of the Lord; and whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. The doctrine of God our Saviour, even the slave was privileged to adorn. He was to be a witness of the power of the grace of God to deliver man from the thraldom of sin.
Peter speaks of the salvation of the soul, in contrast with temporal deliverance, with which the Jew was accustomed, and for which he looked. It was a salvation from spiritual foes, such as we have been contemplating. To this salvation they were to grow up, for, as I have pointed out, it is only fully enjoyed in the life of Christ, and in association with Him in resurrection, and as seated in Him in the heavenlies. To realize salvation fully, we have to grow to perfect men. Peter also speaks of baptism saving, and this is consistent with his address to the Jews in the early part of Acts. Wrath was coming upon the nation guilty of the rejection of Christ, and the only way to escape this was to break with the nation, and this was done by baptism. By baptism they broke with the nation and escaped the wrath of God in a governmental way; and where this was accompanied by repentance and faith in Christ, the eternal salvation of their souls was assured to them.
In Hebrews we have the word of salvation spoken by the Lord, and continued by the apostles, the Spirit bearing them witness by signs and wonders and various acts of power. Then we have Christ as Leader of our salvation made perfect through sufferings. He through death destroyed him who has the power of death, and set us free from bondage. This answers to the destruction of the power of the oppressor at the Red Sea. Next, the Priest is able to save us to the uttermost; that is to say, He can save us through every circumstance of the way on our heavenward journey. Salvation will be fully realized when we reach the rest of God. While on the way we are exhorted not to be dull of hearing, nor slothful; but to keep our ears open to Him who speaks from heaven, and to have our eye upon Jesus where He is, and to run with patience the race set before us, for there is no escape for us if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven.
The great thought in salvation is that the soul is rescued from destruction and recovered for God. In Mark 16 it is put in contrast with judgment, and in 1 Corinthians with perishing, and with the latter it is usually contrasted in Scripture. In James 4:12 we have “One Lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy;” and in Luke 19:10 we have the Son of Man come to seek and to “save that which was lost;” and in 2 Corinthians 2:15 we have the apostles a sweet savour of Christ to God, “in them that are saved and in them that perish;” and in all these places the word in the original for “destroy,” “lost,” “perish” is the same. The thought therefore connected with salvation in Scripture is easily laid hold of. The idea being that the soul is rescued from destruction, and recovered to God in new relationships, life, power, and blessing. I have said it is complete in a moral and spiritual sense in quickening with Christ, and in association with Him beyond Jordan. When we have come to this in the apprehension of our souls we can put on the helmet of salvation, we are in the enjoyment of an accomplished salvation, and have it as armour for our heads in battle; and to this Peter would have the babes grow up.
In dependence upon God who alone can give light, I would desire to examine the Scriptures, with the object in view of seeing what place the ministry of the word and Christian fellowship have in this. It is plain enough that it is by the preaching that God is pleased to save souls. The Gospel is called “The Gospel of your salvation,” and “The word of this salvation.” The reason of this is because the preaching is the preaching of Christ. Every blessing lies for man in the knowledge of God, and Christ is the One by whom God has made Himself known. The enjoyment of forgiveness lies in the apprehension of the disposition of God toward man. Eternal life lies in the knowledge of the Father and Jesus Christ His sent One. It is because of this that we have God saying to Christ, “I have set Thee to be a light to the Gentiles, that Thou shouldst be for salvation to the ends of the earth.” This is why salvation is realized in the life of Christ. Christ is the light of God to the Gentiles, and the light of God in Christ is the means by which we are quickened out of our death of sin, for that light is the light of life; and not only do we see the power of the oppressor destroyed, and death abolished, but we see also God declared in His nature in that death which has destroyed the enemy’s power, and this love of God revealed in Christ becomes the life of our souls. We have now a greater object for our hearts than the things of the world; the love of God takes the place of self-gratification, heaven takes the place of earth, and the Father’s things the place of the things of the world.
Now, the object of all ministry is to keep Christ before the hearts of the saints, that the babes may be nourished by the sincere milk of the word, the young men get better acquainted with what belongs to the Father, and the fathers be kept going on with Him that is from the beginning; and this that we may be better grounded in the great salvation of God. The minister of Christ sets Him forth in his doctrine and manner of life, and by this means saves himself and them that hear him, for all who come into contact with him are directed to Christ, and have Him ministered to their hearts. If the servant directs them to any other object, he is no true servant of his Lord.
As to Christian fellowship, though salvation is individual, and though one may be outwardly in the Christian company and perish in the end, yet where the heart is true to Christ, and the saints walking in divine love, and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it is a circle fraught with richest blessing. Of course Christians are themselves warned against neglecting the great salvation, a fact which shows that they are not in any way either the source or depositories of that salvation, and we are warned not to neglect it. Still, as I say, if we are walking in the love of God we will be a source of strength and encouragement to one another, and we are likely to be preserved from many dangers that we would be liable to fall into walking in isolation. Still we must keep in mind that it is an individual matter, and that even companionship with an apostle will not save us nor keep us from falling, if we become unwatchful. Demas is a striking instance of this, not to mention Judas. Nothing will make up for individual faith, exercise of heart, and watchfulness to keep near the Lord. Even the companionship of the saints will not make up for the company of the Lord Himself.
Jude would have written to the saints about the common salvation, but found it necessary to exhort them to contend for the faith; and yet towards the close of the epistle he sets before them the way by which they were to be in the enjoyment of that salvation. He says, “Beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith; praying in the Holy Ghost, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” This is how their souls would be kept in the continual benefit of salvation. By keeping themselves in the pure atmosphere of the love of God they would be far removed from the influence of evil. And the way in which they would keep themselves in the love of God is set before them. By building themselves up on their most holy faith and praying in the Holy Ghost, by these two means.
What a place to keep oneself in! The love of God! What evil thing can enter there? And to think that this is our unspeakable privilege, even while we are upon earth, and in a world hostile to God! What could heaven itself add to it? except that there we shall not need to keep a guard upon our thoughts lest they should wander away after the corrupt and perishing things of earth. Here we need constantly to be on the watch, and in dependence upon God, lifting up our hearts to Him in earnest prayer that we may not turn aside after earth. There no such exercise will be needed, for—
“There only to adore,
My soul its strength may find,
Its life, its joy, for evermore,
By sight nor sense defined.”
May the blessed God lead the hearts of His beloved people into a deeper appreciation of Christ, and into the continual enjoyment of the love of God, and consequently into a better realization of His great salvation, that salvation which is in Christ Jesus, and which carries with it eternal glory.