Salvation is the restoration of the communion of man with God and the salvation of all creation from the bondage of sin and death. God gives salvation not only for the present life, but for eternity to every person who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Salvation is a gift of God, made possible by grace, given by faith in Jesus Christ, not earned by personal merit or good works. (Ephesians 2,4-10, 1, Corinthians 1,9, Romans 8,21-23, 6,18.22-23)
Salvation - a rescue operation!
Salvation, redemption is a rescue operation. To approach the term "salvation" we need to know three things: what the problem was; what God did about it; and how we should react to it.
What man is
When God made man, he created him "in his image" and called his creation "very good" (Genesis 1: 1,26-27 and 31). Man was a wonderful creature: created from dust, but enlivened by the breath of God (Genesis 1:2,7).
The "image of God" probably includes intelligence, creative power and violence over creation. And also the ability to form relationships and make moral decisions. In some ways, we are like God Himself. Because God has something very special in store for us, His children.
The first book of Moses tells us that the first people did something that God had forbidden them to do (Genesis 1: 3,1-13). Their disobedience showed that they did not trust God; and it was a violation of his trust in her. By unbelief they had tarnished the relationship and had failed to do what God wanted them to do. As a result, they lost a bit of godliness. The result, God said, would be: struggle, pain, and death (Vv. 16-19). If they didn't want to follow the Creator's instructions, they had to go through the Valley of Tears.
Man is noble and base at the same time. We can have high ideals and still be barbaric. We are god-like and at the same time godless. We are no longer “in the spirit of the inventor”. Even though we have "spoiled ourselves", God still thinks we are images of God (Genesis 1:9,6). The potential to become godlike is still there. That's why God wants to save us, that's why He wants to redeem us and restore the relationship that He had with us.
God wants to give us eternal life, free of pain, a life on good terms with God and with each other. He wants our intelligence, creativity and power to be used for the better. He wants us to become like him, to be even better than the first humans. That is salvation.
The centerpiece of the plan
So we are in need of rescue. And God saved us - but in a way no one could have counted on. The Son of God became man, lived a sinless life, and we killed him. And that - says God - is the salvation we need. What irony! We are saved by a sacrifice. Our creator became flesh so that he could represent our sin punishment vicariously. God resurrected him, and through Jesus he promised to lead us also to the resurrection.
The death and resurrection of Jesus reflects the death and resurrection of all mankind and makes it possible in the first place. His death is what our failures and mistakes deserve, and as our Creator, he has made all our mistakes. Although he did not deserve death, in his stead he willingly took it upon himself.
Jesus Christ died for us, and he was raised for us too (Romans 4,25). With him our old self died and with him a new person is brought to life (Romans 6,3-4). With one victim, he served the sentence for the sins of "the whole world" (1 John 2,2). The payment has already been made; The question now is how we can benefit from it. Our participation in the plan is done through repentance and faith.
Jesus came to call people to repent (Luke 5,32); (For Luther, "repentance" is usually translated as "buses"). Peter called for repentance and conversion to God for forgiveness (Acts 2,38:3,19;). Paul recommended people to "repent to God" (Acts 20,21, Elberfeld Bible). Repentance means: turning away from sin, turning to God. Paul announced to the Athenians that God overlooked idolatry in ignorance, but now "he commanded men that everyone should repent at all ends" (Acts 17,30). Say: You should refrain from idolatry.
Paul worried that some of the Corinthian Christians might not be able to repent of their sins of fornication (2 Corinthians 12,21). For these people, repentance meant the willingness to stop fornication. According to Paul, man should "do righteous works of penance", that is, prove the authenticity of his repentance through deeds (Acts 26,20). We change our mindset and behavior.
The foundation of our teaching is the "repentance from the dead works" (Hebrews 6,1). This does not mean perfection from the beginning - the Christian is not perfect (1Joh1,8). Repentance does not mean that we have already reached our goal, but that we are starting to go in the right direction.
We no longer live ourselves, but the Savior Christ (2 Corinthians 5,15; 1 Corinthians 6,20). Paul tells us: "As you gave your limbs to the service of impurity and injustice to ever new injustice, now give your limbs to the service of justice so that they will become holy" (Romans 6,19).
Simply calling people to repent does not save them from their fallibility. People have been called to obedience for millennia, but are still in need of rescue. A second element is required, and that is belief. The New Testament says much more about faith than it does about repentance (Repentance) - the words for faith appear more than eight times more often.
Whoever believes in Jesus is forgiven (Acts 10,43). "Believe in the Lord Jesus, you and your house will be saved!" (Acts 16,31.) The Gospel "is a power of God that blesses all who believe in it" (Romans 1,16). The Christians are nicknamed believers, not regrets. The decisive characteristic is belief.
What does "believe" mean - accepting certain facts? The Greek word can mean this kind of belief, but mostly it has the main meaning "trust". When Paul calls us to believe in Christ, he does not primarily mean the factual. (The devil also knows the facts about Jesus, but is still not saved.)
If we believe in Jesus Christ, we trust Him. We know he is loyal and trustworthy. We can count on him to take care of us, to give us what he promises. We can trust Him to save us from the worst problems of humanity. When we come to him for salvation, we acknowledge that we need help and that he can give it to us.
Faith as such does not save us - it has to be belief in him, not something else. We entrust ourselves to him and he saves us. When we trust Christ, we stop trusting ourselves. While we strive for good behavior, we do not believe that our efforts will save us ("Striving effort" has never made anyone perfect). On the other hand, we do not despair when our efforts fail. We trust that Jesus brings us salvation, not that we work it out ourselves. We rely on him, not on our own success or failure.
Faith is the driving force of repentance. If we trust Jesus as our Savior; when we realize that God loves us so much that he sent his Son to die for us; When we know that he wants the best for us, it gives us the willingness to live and be pleasing to him. We make a decision: we give up the meaningless and frustrating life that we have led and accept the God-given meaning of life, the God-given life direction and orientation.
Belief - that is the all-important inner change. Our faith does not “work” for us and does not add anything to what Jesus “worked” for us. Faith is simply a willingness to respond to what it has done. We are like slaves working in a clay pit, slaves to whom Christ proclaims: "I bought you free." We are free to stay in the clay pit or to trust him and to leave the clay pit. Redemption has taken place; it is up to us to accept them and act accordingly.
Salvation is literally a gift from God: God gives it to us through his grace, through his generosity. We cannot earn it no matter what we do. "Because by grace you have been saved by faith, and not from you: it is God's gift, not from works, so that no one can boast" (Ephesians 2,8: 9). Faith is also a gift from God. Even if we obey perfectly from that moment on, we don't deserve a reward (Luke 17,10).
We are made for good works (Ephesians 2,10), but good works cannot save us. They follow salvation but cannot bring them about. As Paul says: If the laws could be saved, Christ would have died in vain (Galatians 2,21). Grace does not give us a license to sin, but it is given to us while we are still sinful (Romans 6,15; 1Joh1,9). If we do good works, we have to thank God because He does them in us (Galatians 2,20; Philippians 2,13).
God "made us happy and called with a holy call, not according to our works, but after his decision and after grace" (2Tim1,9). God "saved us - not for the sake of justice that we had done, but for His mercy" (Titus 3,5).
Grace is the heart of the gospel: we receive salvation as a gift from God, not through our works. The gospel is "the word of his grace" (Acts 14,3:20,24;). We believe "to be saved by the grace of the Lord Jesus" (Acts 15,11). We "are doing justice to His grace through salvation through Christ Jesus without merit." (Romans 3,24). Without the grace of God, we would be beyond rescue from sin and damnation.
Our salvation depends on what Christ has done. He is the Savior, the one who saves us. We cannot boast of our obedience because it is always imperfect. The only thing we can be proud of is what Christ did (2 Corinthians 10,17: 18) - and he did it for everyone, not just us.
Salvation is circumscribed in the Bible in many terms: ransom, redemption, forgiveness, reconciliation, childhood, justification, etc. The reason: people see their problematic in different light. If you feel dirty, Christ offers purification. He who feels enslaved offers redemption; He who feels guilty, he gives forgiveness.
He who feels alienated and set back offers reconciliation and friendship. He who appears worthless, he gives new, secure esteem. He who does not feel affiliated anywhere, he offers salvation as a child and inheritance. Anyone who feels aimless gives him meaning and purpose. He offers peace to the weary. He gives peace to the timid. All this is salvation, and more.
Let us take a closer look at a single term: justification. The Greek word comes from the legal field. The justified is spoken “not guilty”. He is relieved, rehabilitated, acquitted. When God justifies us, He declares that our sins are no longer attributed to us. The debt account has been repaid.
If we accept that Jesus died for us, if we acknowledge that we need a Savior, if we acknowledge that our sin deserves punishment and that Jesus bore the punishment of sin for us, then we have faith and God assures us that we are forgiven.
No one can be justified - declared just - by "works of the law" (Romans 3,20) because the law does not save. It's just a yardstick that we don't live up to; nobody lives up to this standard (V.23). God makes righteous "who is there by faith in Jesus" (V.26). Man becomes righteous "without works of the law, only through faith" (V.28).
To illustrate the principle of "justification by faith", Paul quotes Abraham: "Abraham believed God, and that was counted as righteousness" (Romans 4,3: 1, a quote from Genesis 15,6). Because Abraham trusted in God, God counted him as righteous. This was long before the code of law was established, proof that justification is a grace from God, received by faith, not earned by keeping the law.
Justification is more than forgiveness, it is more than deleting the debt account. Justification means: From now on we are considered just, we stand there as someone who has done something right. Our righteousness does not come from our own works, but from Christ (1 Corinthians 1,30). By believing in Christ, Paul writes, the believer becomes just (Romans 5,19).
Even the "godless" will have his "faith counted for justice" (Romans 4,5). A sinner who trusts in God is just in God's eyes (and will therefore be accepted at the Last Judgment). Those who trust God will no longer want to be godless, but this is a consequence, not a cause of salvation. Paul knows and emphasizes again and again "that man does not do justice by works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ" (Galatians 2,16).
A new Start
Some people come to believe in an instant. Something clicks in their brains, a light comes on, and they profess Jesus as their Redeemer. Others come to believe in a more gradual way, slowly realizing that they are not for salvation (more) on yourself, but build on Christ.
Either way, the Bible describes it as a new birth. If we have faith in Christ, we will be born again as children of God (John 1,12: 13-3,26; Galatians 1:5,1; John). The Holy Spirit begins to live in us (John 14,17), and God sets in us a new cycle of creation (2 Corinthians 5,17:6,15; Galatians). The old self dies, a new person begins to become (Ephesians 4,22-24) - God transforms us.
In Jesus Christ - and in us, if we believe in him - God annuls the consequences of the sin of humanity. With the work of the Holy Spirit in us, a new humanity is forming. How that happens, the Bible does not tell us in detail; it just tells us it's happening. The process begins in this life and will be completed in the next.
The goal is that we become more like Jesus Christ. He is the perfect image of God (2 Corinthians 4,4: 1,15; Colossians 1,3; Hebrews), and we must be transformed into his likeness (2 Corinthians 3,18:4,19; Gal 4,13:3,10; Ephesians; Colossians). We should become like him spiritually - in love, joy, peace, humility and other God qualities. This is what the Holy Spirit does in us. He renews the image of God.
Salvation is also described as reconciliation - restoring our relationship with God (Romans 5,10: 11-2; 5,18 Corinthians 21: 2,16-1,20; Ephesians 22; Colossians). We no longer resist or ignore God - we love him. We become friends from enemies. Yes, more than friends - God says he accepts us as his children (Romans 8,15; Ephesians 1,5). We belong to his family, with rights, duties and a wonderful inheritance (Romans 8,16-17; Galatians 3,29; Ephesians 1,18; Colossians 1,12).
In the end there will be no more pain and suffering (Revelation 21,4), which means that nobody makes mistakes anymore. Sin will no longer be, and death will no longer be (1 Corinthians 15,26). This goal may be a long way off when we look at our present state, but the journey begins with a single step - the step of accepting Jesus Christ as Savior. Christ will accomplish the work He begins in us (Philippians 1,6).
And then we will become more like Christ (1 Corinthians 15,49:1; 3,2 John). We will be immortal, imperishable, glorious and sinless. Our spirit body will have supernatural powers. We will have a vitality, intelligence, creativity, strength and love that we cannot dream of now. The image of God, once stained by sin, will shine with greater brilliance than ever before.