Humanity’s Salvation Prepared
In recent years much has been written and said about salvation. The term born again has appeared in many newspapers and magazines, some of which have worldwide circulation. The theme of the new birth and the idea of salvation have thus come to occupy a prominent place in the public mind. Nevertheless, the experience of the new birth and the doctrines of salvation rest upon some important and basic concepts that are often misunderstood. It is these basic concepts that provide our subject matter in this lesson.
The structure of salvation rests upon God’s provision. In this lesson you will consider God’s provision of grace that made possible the plan of salvation. You will see that salvation stems from the grace of God, expressed through the atoning work of Christ. Planned in eternity and put into effect in time, God’s plan of salvation meets the needs of all people. In Lessons 2, 3, and 4 you will consider the biblical teaching concerning the activity of men and women in salvation.
As you examine the biblical teaching on salvation in depth, you will appreciate more deeply the love, grace, and wisdom of God that brings salvation to all people. And you will marvel at the great care He has taken in framing salvation’s plan.
- Salvation Stems From God’s Grace
- Salvation Proceeds From the Atoning Work of Christ
- Salvation Meets Humanity’s Needs
When you finish this lesson you should be able to:
- State the source of salvation and explain its
- Explain the relationship between your salvation and the death of Christ as a substitute for individuals.
- Explain that salvation rests upon the atoning work of Christ and fully meets the needs of persons such as you.
SALVATION STEMS FROM GOD’S GRACE
Objective 1. Define grace and explain its relationship to salvation.
When we consider salvation, we begin with a very basic truth: that a sovereign, loving God, without any apparent reason, chose to show His kindness toward undeserving people by forgiving their sins. This act of forgiveness is an expression of the grace of God.
The story is told of a small, underfed orphan boy who attended a large one-room village school. The children were required to leave their lunches and coats in the entryway, where they could be picked up at lunchtime. One day a lunch was missing. The teacher sternly asked, “Who took the lunch?” At last the small orphan boy raised a thin and shaking hand. Taking a cruel whip out of his desk, the teacher ordered the boy to come forward to receive his punishment As he stood there, guilty, alone, weeping silently, with bowed head and trembling body, a hush fell over the other children. Suddenly a husky boy came forward and said to the teacher, “I’ll take the whipping in his place!” And in front of the class he bared his back in place of the guilty orphan boy and paid the penalty for the broken rule. Compassion and sympathy caused him to suffer the punishment of the hungry, neglected, and unloved orphan boy. It was a much greater love that caused God to give His Son to take the punishment for people. Paying the penalty by taking the punishment of another is a way of showing what the Bible calls grace.
Grace is simply unearned favor. In salvation grace is the kindness with which God grants favor to undeserving people. Those who have sinned deserve only judgment and punishment. They do not deserve to receive pardon for their disobedience to God. But God showed His love for them by sending Christ to die in their place. In love He sent His Son to pay the penalty for their sin, release them from its control, and consider them as if they had never sinned. This is grace!
Grace does not mean that God excuses sin. God’s Word says that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). And God cannot set aside His righteous attitude toward and judgment against sin. However, Christ’s sacrifice on Calvary completely satisfied the righteousness of God. The penalty for breaking His law was thus paid. Grace does not overlook sin, rather it removes it.
Grace, then, originates or has its beginning in God. He is the source of grace. It proceeds from Him in an unlimited supply and through His favor it is extended to every person.
Kinds of Grace
Objective 2. State the difference between examples of common grace and saving grace.
We see two kinds of grace in God’s relationships with people: common grace and saving grace. Common grace is the kindness that God shows to all people, even though they are sinners. It helps to keep people from evil acts and encourages them to do what is right and orderly. It enables individuals to act somewhat decently, and it helps them to live together in a degree of social harmony. It is God’s grace that provides the blessings of the natural world (rain, fruitful seasons, food, and many other social and material blessings).
In addition to the blessings of the natural world, common grace provides the presence and influence of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, and the church. Common grace in itself is not sufficient for salvation, yet it reveals God’s goodness to all people. It makes them conscious of God’s provisions for life. It also creates a favorable climate for further revelation and undoubtedly makes individuals ready for salvation. Common grace also gives to the sinner the ability to make a favorable response to God. Through grace God makes it possible for all people to be saved.
We have seen that common grace makes it possible for a man or woman to respond favorably to God. However, it is God’s saving grace that brings people to Christ (John 6:44), renews their hearts, and frees them from sin. The saving grace of God is uniquely demonstrated in Christ. In his gospel record, John says, “grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). This does not mean that God didn’t extend saving grace before Christ came to earth. All Old Testament saints were saved, that is, accepted before God on the basis of their faith in God’s provisions, which includes obedience to His commandments. John simply means that Christ is the full revelation of saving grace, and the only Person through which saving grace may be received since He came.
Grace in the Bible
Objective 3. Appreciate the importance of grace in the Bible by noting its frequent use in both the Old and New Testaments.
The word that is translated grace is used 166 times in the Bible. It is used 38 times in the Old Testament and 128 times in the New Testament. Grace is most often used of God, since He is by nature gracious (Jonah 4:2). God expressed His grace in (1) giving good things to all people (Matthew 5:45), (2) desiring that all people be saved (2 Peter 3:9), (3) offering His riches to those who believe (2 Corinthians 8:9), and (4) keeping the Christian during times of trouble (1 Peter 5:6- 10). The apostle Paul emphasizes in Romans 5:20 that the grace of God has no limit. It is sufficient for all the needs that sinful people bring to the Cross, and more. It is a vast supply.
Did you notice in the endings of the Epistles that grace is connected with Jesus Christ? You have probably come to realize that grace is highly important in the teachings of the New Testament and that Christ is the fullest expression of God’s grace. Indeed, it is by His grace that our hearts are drawn.
Consider the story of Tigranes II, a powerful king of Armenia, who was taken captive in 69 B.C. by an invading Roman army. The defeated king, his wife, and all his children were brought before the commanding general to receive the sentence of death. Tigranes threw himself at the feet of the victor and pleaded for the lives of his family. He begged, “Do with me whatever you like, but spare my wife and children.” His plea so moved the Roman general that he set the entire family free. As Tigranes and his family traveled away from the Roman camp, the grateful king turned to his wife and said, “What did you think of the Roman general?” She responded, “I never saw him.” Her husband exclaimed, “You were in his presence. Where were your eyes?” She said, “They were fixed on the one who was willing to die for me. I saw no one else.” When we look at God’s salvation and the cross we see only Jesus, the one who was willing to die for us. The death of Christ is the greatest expression of God’s grace.
SALVATION PROCEEDS FROM THE ATONING WORK OF CHRIST
Objective 4. Identify statements that describe the relationship between our sins and the atonement.
If we are to understand the nature of salvation, we must consider the atonement. Atonement is a word that gives the idea of enemies being brought together to make peace. It refers to reconciliation, the change from a state of enmity to one of friendship. In salvation it speaks of the action by which the sinner is reconciled, or brought back, to God. Another meaning of atonement is to cancel or cover. As a result of Christ’s sacrificial suffering and death, people’s sins are covered over by His blood and the penalty for their sin is canceled.
To fully grasp the importance of the atonement and its place in the plan of salvation, think of the following scene. A father and his son had a violent argument. As a result the son left home, vowing never to return as long as the father lived. The mother suffered greatly, for she dearly loved both her husband and her son. After many months the son received an urgent message to return home because his mother was seriously ill and not expected to live. As the son walked into her hospital room, he saw his dear mother pale and weak on the bed. Both father and son looked silently at their loved one, knowing she was very near death. Summoning her last reserves of strength, the mother reached out with one hand and took the hand of the father; with her other hand she took the hand of her son. As a final act of love, she brought the hands of father and son together across on her chest . . . as she died.
Christ’s death on the cross was the means of bringing a holy God together with sinful people. Through the cross we have atonement for sins; that is, sins have been covered by the death of a substitute, the penalty has been paid, and God and people have been brought together.
Necessity of the Atonement
Objective 5. Explain why the atonement was necessary.
Some may wonder why God didn’t just abandon people in their sins, or else simply declare them good and make them upright. Scripture, however, shows that God is holy and loving as well as righteous. He was not willing that any person should be lost, but He could not excuse people’s guilt or accept them in their sin. In order to restore people to himself, therefore, God provided a solution through the atonement. The solution lay in the person and work of Jesus Christ. In Christ all the requirements of righteousness were met, both in His life as He kept the Law perfectly in our place and in His death as He died under the penalty of the broken Law.
In atonement the purpose of perfect justice and divine love was accomplished. People were set free from the power and guilt of sin and restored to fellowship with God.
That the atonement was necessary is shown clearly in the Scriptures. First, God’s holiness cannot overlook sin (Exodus 34:6,7; Romans 3:25,26); it must be covered, canceled. Second, God’s law, which reflects His very nature, made it necessary for Him to require satisfaction of the sinner (Deuteronomy 27:26). Then, the truthfulness of God requires atonement (Numbers 23:19; Romans 3:4). God had plainly said to Adam and Eve that they would die if they disobeyed His commandments. (Compare Genesis 2:16,17 with Ezekiel 18:4 and Romans 6:23.) God’s truthfulness demanded that He uphold His word and required that this penalty be carried out on either the offenders or their substitute. And finally, the great cost of the sacrifice suggests that the atonement was necessary. God would not have required the death of His Son unnecessarily (Luke 24:26; Hebrews 2:10; 9:22,23).
The Biblical Doctrine of the Atonement
Objective 6. Identify statements that give the biblical doctrine of the atonement.
The Bible teaches that mankind fell into sin by disobedience and that Christ by obedience in the sinner’s place paid the penalty that the sinner had brought upon himself (Romans 5:12-19). This means that Christ died as our substitute—He died in our place. His sacrifice for sins makes God favorable toward us. This act of paying the penalty for our sins and dying as our substitute is referred to as penal substitution.
The penal substitution of Christ is basic to the Bible teaching of atonement. In Isaiah 53:5,6 we read:
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.
These verses (as well as 53:4) teach quite clearly the atonement by substitution.
Jesus said concerning himself, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). In Galatians 3:13 the apostle Paul writes “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” These words can only be interpreted to mean that Christ, the sinless one, took upon himself the penalty that sinners should rightfully have borne. And in Romans 3:21-26, Paul, who wrote at length on this subject, insists that the atonement through the death of Christ shows God to be both just and merciful.
Aspects of the Atonement
Objective 7. Identify definitions of five aspects of the atonement.
When we speak of aspects of the atonement, we simply acknowledge the fact that no one term is able to include and explain all of the greatness of the atonement. The following terms are given to help you understand Christ’s saving work more fully.
Obedience. Of the various aspects of the atonement, the one that most unifies the whole concept is Christ’s obedience. Since it is the general aspect on which all the others depend, we shall consider it first.
In providing salvation for us, Christ became our obedient sacrifice. He did not assume His own rightful status of equality with God but willingly took the form of a servant (Philippians 2:7,8). It was thus necessary for Him to become, for a time, limited as we are (Hebrews 2:14). John described this by saying, “The Word became flesh and lived for a while among us” (John 1:14)—as a man. Luke records that during His youth Jesus was obedient to His parents (Luke 2:51). And Jesus himself testified that His mission on earth was to do God’s will obediently (John 6:38).
As the Son of Man, Christ obeyed the demands of the Law. He kept the civil law as one born a Jew and observed the ceremonial law as well. He also kept the moral law, fearing God and keeping His commandments. In addition, He submitted to all the penalties that resulted from human disobedience to the law of God.
In addition to the general aspect of the atonement, obedience, there are four special terms which describe what God did in Christ’s death: sacrifice, propitiation, reconciliation, and redemption. Each term describes the provision of God that meets a specific need of sinful individuals. These words are especially crucial because they are the ones used in the New Testament.
Sacrifice. This is a broad term and includes all that Christ did to provide salvation for us. His sacrifice covers the sins of humanity. It is directed to the need created by our guilt. Paul tells us “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:2). Nothing is clearer in the New Testament than the use of sacrificial terms to describe the death of Christ. When Scripture describes Him as the Lamb of God, says that His blood cleanses from all sin, and teaches that He died for our sins, we clearly see that Christ’s death was a real sacrifice for sin (John 1:29; 1 John 1:7-9; 1 Corinthians 15:3). His death is described as a death for sin, as a bearing of sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). God made Him a sacrifice for sin (Isaiah 53:10). He paid the debt we could not pay, and blotted out (erased) the past that we could not undo. He is our sacrifice, for His death is set forth as an act of perfect self-giving (Hebrews 9:14; Ephesians 5:2). His one sacrifice was sufficient to turn away the wrath (anger) of God and to remove all barriers between God and man (Hebrews 9:28; 1 Peter 3:18) that interrupt fellowship.
Propitiation. Propitiation meets the need that arises from the anger of God. To propitiate is to appease (satisfy) the righteous anger of God by an atoning sacrifice. Christ is described as such a propitiation (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). The concept of God’s anger is found throughout the Bible, but especially in the Old Testament. It emphasizes the seriousness of sin. By the suffering of the sinner’s atoning substitute, Jesus Christ, the divine anger is propitiated (appeased). As a result of this propitiation, the punishment due to sin is not placed on the sinner.
Because some people misunderstand the love of God, they reject the idea of God’s anger. But His anger is not like ours. We become angry because we have been hurt or offended, and we strike out in a fit of rage. But God’s anger is judicial and is directed against sin and sinful people. He does not lose His temper.
Reconciliation. Reconciliation meets the need that is created by God’s separation from sinful persons. The Bible tells us that sinners are enemies of God (Romans 5:10,11; Colossians 1:21; James 4:4). The broken relations between God and mankind were caused by sin (Isaiah 59:2). But Christ died to remove our sins that were the cause of the hostility and separation. In restoring fellowship between God and man, God took the first step to correct the problem: “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8) and “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:19). Reconciliation, then, refers to the adjustment of differences between God and humanity. It makes things right.
Redemption. Redemption answers the need created by our bondage to sin. Redemption speaks of deliverance from certain evil by the payment of a price. In order to set us free from sin and its penalty, a price was paid. That price was the atoning death of our Savior. The writer to the Hebrews declares that “he has died as a ransom” (Hebrews 9:15) to set us free from sin and Satan. Also, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Without this deliverance from the curse we could not have salvation. In addition to deliverance from the curse of the Law, we have been set free from bondage to the Law, and from keeping the Law as a condition of acceptance with God.
Extent of the Atonement
Objective 8. Describe the extent of the atonement.
When we discuss the extent of the atonement, we must consider these questions: Was it God’s intent for Jesus to die for all people? Or did He intend that Christ should only die for a select few?
The value of the atonement is unlimited, but its application is limited. The atoning death of Christ is sufficient for all, but it is sufficient only for those who believe. God so loved the (whole) world (mankind) that He gave His Son to provide salvation, but as we shall see in a following lesson, each person must respond to God’s provision (John 3: 16).
SALVATION MEETS HUMAN NEEDS
One of the basic reasons for studying about salvation is that salvation meets man’s needs. Our responsibility as Christians is to share the good news with all people. However, if we are to be effective in showing them how Christ can meet their needs, we must know what their needs are.
Objective 9. Define sin and list two ways in which all people are sinners.
Two things stand out in the Bible concerning the nature of mankind: our sin and our predicament (or condition). Sin is failing to live according to the law of God, or else openly breaking the law. Sin is more than disobedience, however. It is also the exalting of self and the belittling of God. Since we are reasoning, thinking creatures, we know that when we do what we should not do, or do not do what we ought to do, or are what we should not be, or are not what we should be, we are guilty of sin.
Every person is a sinner in two ways. One is that he or she is born into sin, and the other is that he or she chooses to do sinful acts. Adam’s sin has been charged to all people because he was the representative head of the human race (Romans 5:12). When Adam and Eve fell, therefore, the human race fell, and all people inherited a sinful nature, which is responsible for attitudes of stubbornness and rebellion toward the law of God. In addition, people are responsible for their own sinful acts (Galatians 5:19-21).
Objective 10. Recognize true statements that show the predicament of people and how salvation meets their needs.
The result of people’s sin is separation from God and from each other. Because of the sinful nature that resulted from the Fall, people are totally evil. Every part of their nature has been affected: their intellects, emotions, and wills. Because of this they are completely incapable of saving themselves. Their minds have become so darkened by sin that they cannot understand spiritual things (1 Corinthians 2:14). To them spiritual things are foolish. And since they are without spiritual insight, they cannot understand the truth of the things of God. Their natural minds cannot grasp these issues; they need information that is made available only by the work of the Holy Spirit.
People’s wills are bound in slavery to sin. Paul says this is so “because the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by their sinful nature cannot please God” (Romans 8:7,8). We can draw a number of conclusions from these facts:
- Fallen persons cannot think, will, or do what is truly
- They may, on occasion, do good deeds because of common
- Their ability to choose and act is limited by their slavery to sin (Romans 6:17, 20).
- The only deliverance from this bondage to sin is God’s redeeming
It is thrilling to know that people’s wills are free to turn to God, to repent, and to believe. This is the teaching of Scripture.
We see then that sinful persons are commanded to repent. And if they were not free to respond to these commands, they would be without meaning or real force. With the help of God, people can will and act according to God’s good purpose: repenting of their sins, believing in Jesus, and accepting His salvation (Philippians 2:12,13). Salvation through Christ is the only solution to people’s sin.