WHAT IS SALVATION?
What is salvation? Simply put, salvation is pure grace from God as He gives the gift of eternal life in eternal bliss in his own joyful, happy presence to those whom He so chooses by means of faith in Jesus Christ, who satisfied God’s wrath toward sinners. Out of His pleasure, Jesus rose from the dead to confirm death’s defeat and give us true hope. By grace and through faith, salvation is given. Most Christians realize this to some extent. Sadly, in some churches we have youths who claim to be Christians, who would not have a clue what I am talking about. But that is a topic for another day. On this “Topical Tuesday,” we will be examining God’s role in salvation. Scripture is clear that God has a defined role in the salvation of the lost. In fact, He is in control of the salvation of sinners from before the earth was formed until the earth as we know it will be know more. Today, attention and reflection will be given to God’s grace as He awakens dead sinners. I will briefly comment on Ephesians 2:5 and hopefully shed some light on the sometimes hidden reality that God in fact awakens the hearts of sinners so they are able to believe in Jesus Christ. Maybe you have been taking too much credit for your salvation. I pray through this objective look at Scripture, you would see the glory of God and His grace in a new joyful light which will lead you to sing praises of old to the King of the universe. May we rely solely on His Word and come to some realizations.
“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–” – Ephesians 2:4-5
DEAD IN SIN
Paul begins chapter two of Ephesians with a breathtaking statement: “And you were dead” (Eph. 2:1). Dead! This is our condition from birth. “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). Just as David cries out in this Psalm, Paul declares that we too are dead in “trespasses and sins.” We live each day in the flesh as spiritually dead beings with nothing to offer and nothing to anticipate except eternal ruin and just punishment for our sins. The only thing any sinner deserves is eternal hell-fire. As we walk this earth following the ways of this world, we all obey the passions of our flesh and find satisfaction in things other than the God of the universe. The essence of Ephesians 2:1-3 is that we are totally hopeless and helpless without Christ. We are slaves to sin and literally not only do not have a desire to see God, but we do not even have the ability to. We are totally blind to the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the image of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Since we are blind, not only do we not want to see God for who He truly is, but we do not even have the ability to see Him. Without Christ, we are all in a family of and are heirs of disobedience. We are born dead. We are born blind. We are helpless. We are hopeless. We are slaves. We are prisoners. Literally, there is nothing we can do to alleviate the power of sin or to live righteously in our current state. There must be a change. There must be a power greater than sin to alleviate our burden and free us from bondage. We are “children of wrath” along with “the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3).
I have painted a bleak picture for us sinners in the face of a holy God. Terms such as “dead,” “blind,” and “inability” are not pleasant and are not what we like to hear or read. However, that is the problem. We refuse to see the truth. We refuse to evaluate ourselves and view ourselves the way the Bible does. The Word calls us “children of wrath” and rightly so! In order to properly understand the grace of God, you must understand the peril in which you stand. You are dead, sinner! I was a dead sinner! Dead in my sin. The peril awaiting the band of brothers and sisters in the family of disobedience following the procession of the “prince of the power of the air” is more hopeless than any fate we could even imagine as they are all under divine wrath. What will give life? Who can give life? Ephesians 2:4 contains the most encouraging “but” in the entire Bible. “But God” (Eph. 2:4). This phrase uttered by Paul is the greatest short phrase in the history of human speech. God! It is He who is to do this impossible work! He is to do a work in a dead and blind sinner. By His rich mercy and great love, He has loved us. Oh how we should rest in this! But even further, God loved us not because of anything we have done or by anything we could do, but out of the riches of His mercy, God loved us “when we were dead in our trespasses.” How beautiful! While we sin, God loved us as Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8). There is no love comparable to this. The act is entirely on God. God is the one who shows mercy on us despite our sin. God loves us even though we sin. We have nothing in us desirable to God and yet He mercifully loved us by providing us a way to have our punishment atoned as His wrath was satisfied in the perfect death of Christ. Christian, this kind of grace is something to sing about. This grace of God should bring excitement into our worship services. We deserve hell and God gives us God.
But how does He do such a thing? Can someone who is dead and blind even recognize this amazing mercy and great love? No! We are dead and therefore cannot truly live. We are blind and cannot truly see. How can a heart that is directly set against God begin to live for Him and see the glory of His greatness and savor it? Life must be given. Paul gives us our good news in verse 5. “[God] made us alive together with Christ.” God is the one working in the heart of a sinner before they even praise Him for who He is and before they even recognize His worth. A deliberate blasphemer, sinner, and transgressor is given life because God awakens the heart and gives life. While we lie on the ground breathless, God breathes life into us for the first time. It is not a resuscitation, but rather a new birth. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Jesus is clear that one must be given a new life in order to be in the presence of God. How can one obtain such a life? According to Ephesians 2:5, it must be given. One is saved by grace and through faith. Grace comes first and in the process of grace, the awakening of the sinner’s heart is included. God regenerates our hearts by His grace and mercy by making us alive together with Christ. All the glory is given to God in this view of grace. He is the One who awakens sinners to believe in Jesus. God looks into the depths of our dark, evil, and ungodly heart and says, just as Jesus said to the widow’s son, “Young man, I say to you, arise” (Luke 7:14). At the power of Jesus’ words in this text, the “dead man sat up and began to speak.” Immediately, a dead heart that is commanded to rise will begin to speak truth of the kingdom of God in obedience to His Word. God received great glory on this day of Jesus’ miracle (Luke 7:16). May we be gripped by fear after being made alive in Christ and glorify God by saying, “God has visited his people” (Luke 7:16). Amen! Before we have the ability to believe in Christ, we must be woken up from our death.
“LET LIGHT SHINE OUT OF DARKNESS”
I can also be certain that God awakens sinners because of 2 Corinthians 4:4-6. This vital Scripture in understanding salvation, grace, and God declares that it is indeed God who causes a blind spiritual heart to see. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor. 4:6). God looks into the heart of the sinner and shouts, “Let there be light!” And indeed there will be light! Once again, the focus is all on the works of God. We have no work in salvation and God is the only one who works salvation in the elect. All glory belongs to Him! God is our Great Evangelist! He wakes our hearts by His unfailing mercy and grace.
“BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED”
If you think that you have contributed anything to your own salvation by attending church, listening to Christian music, being a “good” and “moral” person, or by living in the “Bible-belt” of America, you are dangerously mistaken. Do not rob God of His glory by not attributing to Him every praise of His wondrous deeds! God does not work in salvation by sending Christ, He causes a dead, evil, and blind heart to live and see the glory of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. This statement rings so much more true for me after seeing how God has made a dead sinner live in Christ: “By grace you have been saved.” Yes! How I rejoice in the glory of God’s grace! He has caused this sinner to wake up from a slumber of death and live for Him, for He has caused me by His rich mercy and great love to see the glory of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have tasted and I have seen that the Lord God is good! I praise Him for His wondrous acts in salvation! We now have the ability to imitate Christ and truly follow Him as He has called us to since we are alive in Him (Colossians 2:13). God has the only role in salvation. That role is giving a free gift of grace to “children of wrath” and it begins by regenerating a dead heart by giving life and sight. Jesus promised this is John 14:19 as He assures His followers that they will live because He lives. This life is only given by our creator God! Salvation is given in grace and worked in mercy by God the Father who awakens the blind hearts of spiritually dead sinners.
REJOICE IN HIS WONDROUS DEEDS
“I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” – Psalm 9:1
Rejoice in the mercy, love, and grace of God as He has provided a way to life eternal with Him by faith in His Son Jesus Christ. Christ-follower, thank God today for making you alive together with Christ. Praise Him for He is worthy because of His wondrous deeds of salvation (Psalm 9:1; 75:1). Thank Him with your whole heart for giving you new life despite your death in sin as a child of wrath. Your ability to believe in Jesus comes from God awakening your heart. May your prayer life be fueled by the works of God in the beginnings of salvation as He makes dead sinners to live. Not re-birth. New birth.
By His Grace — For His Glory — For our Joy