Saved and salvation are “church words” that find their meaning in the Bible. What does it mean to be saved? Why does anyone need saving? What are we being saved from? How is salvation achieved? What happens next? Those are the questions considered in this section of The Basics.
To even begin to understand salvation, we must recognize our need to be saved. Long before the events of the New Testament, the Psalmist wrote, “I waited patiently for the Lord; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God; Many will see and fear And will trust in the Lord.” (Psalm 40:1–3, NASB95) These few verses provide a framework for what salvation looks like from beginning to end.
Poetically the Psalmist saw himself as stuck in a pit of slimy clay, unable to climb out on his own. He called, God answered. But more than just pulling him out of the mire to the rim of the pit God set this rescued soul on solid ground, changed his heart, his desires, and his purpose. So, salvation is more than being saved from something, it is also being saved to something.
But why is salvation necessary at all? I’m a reasonably ok person that has lived a reasonably moral life. I’ve done more good things than bad in life and strive to be a good neighbor and citizen. I’ve never killed anyone or cheated on my wife. All things considered, I suppose that I am a pretty good fellow. If we’re honest, most of us think we’re good people, for the most part, and don’t feel stuck in the mud.
By our estimation, we very well may be good people, but that is not the standard which counts. We can only judge ourselves by the cultural standards of our upbringing, which vary by location and across the ages. But those standards change, even today some things permissible in my youth are cultural suicide today (and vice versa). So, we need to look elsewhere. To something solid and unchanging as a standard.
God sets the standards, and no one except Jesus has come close to meeting them. The Bible says, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23, NASB95) and the results of sin is death (Romans 6:23). We may not feel like we’re stuck in a slimy pit, but we are. And we can’t do anything to fix, repay, or even save ourselves – just like the picture in Psalm 40. Our only hope is for someone to hear our cries for help and throw us a rope. That rope is Jesus.
Many folks won’t realize the pit they’re in until they come to the end of themselves. Others will hear the message early in life and avoid more destructive paths. All need saved, all can be saved. God does not judge anyone’s worthiness because no one is worthy. While I may not have committed any of the “big” sins, there are plenty of smaller ones on my account book with God. Yes, I too needed salvation.
As we said above, salvation is more than God’s plan to rescue us. We are saved from our guilt, shame, and the Kingdom of fear through Jesus. But we are also saved to a new life in Christ. We were dead, and now we’re alive. We were slaves to sin, and now we’re sons and daughters of God. The Prophet Ezekiel wrote, Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.” (Ezekiel 36:25–27, NASB95) God’s salvation plan is not just a rescue operation, it is more than a repair and reclamation job, it is a total transformation into someone brand new.
Whether we know it or not, the salvation found in Jesus is for everyone.