Almost the first thing anyone knows about as a gift from Jesus and through Jesus is salvation. In fact, many of those who refuse to look deeper into the package still accept and appreciate the fact of salvation. The gospel message is about salvation and the message of the church is about salvation. Even those who think you have to earn Heaven by good works talk about salvation.
The one thing most church people know about grace is that it is for saving us. We are, they know, saved by grace. They might even add that we are not saved by works, but so many don’t seem to believe that with their hearts. If they don’t strive to obtain salvation, they strive either to maintain it or to deserve it. After salvation, much of the church forgets about grace.
Salvation, at least, is a clear work of grace. But does anyone know what we are saved from? Most people would simply say that we are saved from hell, I suppose. Children often say that we are saved from our sins. Some people think we are saved from the evil one. There is a sense in which each of these is true.
It seems to me that the important thing is not what we were saved from, but what we were saved out of. We were stuck in a realm of darkness and evil, a river that flowed too strongly for us to escape. We could not overcome the current of that great river as it bore us ever closer to hell. There was no way for us to save ourselves. Nor could anyone in the river with us save us. They were as stuck as we were.
So we needed a Savior. Someone from the outside. Someone not in the river, not in the realm of darkness and evil. Jesus came from God. He was God Himself in human flesh, and He came to save us. In a sense, He waded into the river, unaffected by the current, and brought us out.
Now that’s important. It isn’t just that we were saved from a negative final destination, although we were. It isn’t just that we were saved from the things our sins deserved, although we were. No, we were saved out of all of it. That realm of darkness and evil is in our past, but no longer in our present. That world is no longer our home and we are no longer bound to its influences. Sin no longer has dominion over us (Rom 6:14), and we no longer must do what it suggests. Since the law was given into the realm of darkness and sin, judging it and moving people to cry out for salvation, we can no longer be under law. There’s so much more.
I also believe it is just as important to proclaim what we have been saved into, as what we have been saved out of. We have been saved into Christ, brought into relationship with Him. We were not simply rescued from darkness and left on our own. We were brought into the light. Sin is no longer our master, but Christ, the righteous One who loves us, is our Master. And we are no longer under law, but we are under grace.
This is, of course, a simple presentation of the idea of salvation. The point is that salvation was a gift. We did nothing to earn it, nor could we have done anything to earn it. God, in His love, offered it to us and we received it. It was in the gift.
I know that some people use salvation to denote everything we received in Christ. That’s fine, but I think it lessens the wonder and joy to focus on only one aspect of the gift. So we are going to look deeper into the package.
Get ready. There’s a lot more in the box than salvation!