Salvation As God Describes It
“Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them. Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah. He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.” (Psalm 68:18-20)
This is a prophetic declaration of Christ’s resurrection, ascension and glory as our Substitute. We know that because that is the interpretation given to this passage by God the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 4.
“Thou hast ascended on high.” — Having accomplished all that he came here to accomplish, having redeemed his elect from all sin, having brought in everlasting righteousness for us, when he had made an end of sin, having obtained eternal redemption for us, the Lord Jesus took his seat in glory by the merit of his own blood as our Mediator.
“Thou hast led captivity captive.” — We do not have to guess what this means. The Apostle Paul tells us that our all-glorious Christ, “blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us,…took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it” (Col. 2:14-15). He took every enemy of our souls into captivity. That includes Satan (Rev. 20:1-3).
Next we read, “Thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the LORD God might dwell among them.” — The ascended Christ, who entered into heaven as a Forerunner for us, received gifts for us? What gifts? All the gifts of grace, righteousness, and salvation for men, even for us rebels “who are by nature children of wrath even as others,” that God the Holy Spirit might come down here and dwell in our hearts in grace, and that the Holy Lord God might dwell among us forever in the world to come. As the result of this, he daily loads us with the benefits of grace.
“Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation. Selah.” — Pause and just think about that. He daily loads us with mercy, forgiveness, righteousness, grace, access into the holy place, promises of goodness, a refuge in every time of need, and peace. Now, read verse 20…
“He that is our God is the God of salvation; and unto GOD the Lord belong the issues from death.” — He who is our God, he alone, and none but he, this holy Lord God, Jesus Christ our almighty, effectual Savior, he is the God of salvation. To him, and to him alone, belong the issues from his death. That is to say, all the fruits, benefits, and blessings issuing from his death as our Substitute are his to give.
We all want to be saved. We all want salvation. But if you asked a dozen men to describe salvation, if you asked them what salvation is and where it is to be found, you would get a dozen or more answers. With all the confusion and babel there is in this world about salvation, I think it might be wise for us to lay aside the church creeds, confessions, and catechisms, — all of them! Lay aside the theology books, the religious papers, and even the opinions of great men, past and present. Let’s try to forget what Calvinism says salvation is and what Arminianism says salvation is, and try to find out what God says salvation is. Can you do that? Will you do that? Will you lay aside everything you have ever heard, or thought about salvation, and look into the Word of God to see what God says about it? Begin in Ephesians 2:8-9. — “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.”
First, we must be agreed upon what we are talking about when we are talking about salvation. Salvation is the deliverance of our souls from sin: from its curse, its dominion, and its consequences, and ultimately even from its being. Salvation is our complete restoration to God and holiness in the eternal glory of heaven. That is what I am talking about when I am talking about salvation: not an experience but an emancipation, not a decision but a deliverance, not a reformation but a restoration!
Second, I want you to see that wherever salvation is spoken of in the Word of God four things are always asserted emphatically about it. (1.) Salvation is by grace alone. (2.) Salvation is through faith alone. (3.) Salvation is in Christ alone. And (4.) this salvation, by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone is accomplished entirely without works on the part of the one saved.
Our relationship with the eternal God does in great measure determine what we do; but what we do does not, in any measure or to any degree, determine our relationship with God. God’s grace has much to do with our works; but our works, good or bad, have nothing to do with God’s grace. Is this, or is not, what the Book of God declares? (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 3:28; 4:3-5, 16; 9:15-16; 11:6; Galatians 2:16; 5:2, 4; 2 Timothy 1:9-11).
This is, without question, the doctrine of Holy Scripture. — Salvation is the work of God alone, a gracious work of God wrought for and in sinners, without their aid or assistance, through the mediatorial work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the omnipotent, power and grace of the Holy Spirit.
I want you to look at nine passages of Holy Scripture and see salvation as God describes it. Here are nine Bible descriptions of salvation. It is not my purpose in this article to expound these verses in their context. I simply want to pick from them nine descriptions of salvation, nine God given descriptions of salvation. This is salvation as God describes it in the Book he has written.
The very first time the word “salvation” is used in the Bible, it is used by Jacob in the prophetic words given to his sons, regarding the twelve tribes of Israel in Genesis 49:18. There Jacob says, “I have waited for thy Salvation, O LORD.” If we had nothing else to go on but the law of first mention, this is enough to teach us that wherever the Bible talks about salvation it is talking about something that is the peculiar property of God alone. — “Salvation is of the Lord!” And “salvation is the Lord’s” (Ex. 14:13; 2 Chro. 20:15, 17; Isa. 41:10, 11, 13, 14). As Jonah put it, “Salvation is of the Lord!” Salvation is God’s work alone, God’s possession alone, and God’s prerogative alone. He gives it to whom he will (Rom. 9:16; John 1:11-13).
This is the universal message of Holy Scripture – “Salvation is of the Lord!” He planned it. He purchased it. He performs it. He preserves it. He perfects it. And he shall have the praise of it. When you think or talk about God’s salvation, remember these two words – “Thy Salvation!” Salvation is the Lord’s!
Second, in Hebrews 5:9 we read that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Author of “Eternal Salvation.” – “Being made perfect, he became the Author of eternal salvation unto all them that believe.”
Though it was purchased at Calvary by the blood of Christ, though it is wrought in the hearts of chosen sinners by God the Holy Spirit at God’s appointed time of love in regeneration, salvation is an eternal work of God. It was devised and secured, predestinated and purposed, and in the mind and purpose of God, it was performed and executed in the covenant of grace before the world began.
Read your Bible and you will see that this is so. I am not talking to you about what Calvinism says, or even what logic and reason necessitate. I am talking to you about what God says. Christ is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Rev. 13:8). We were chosen and predestinated unto salvation, and blessed with all the blessings of salvation in Christ before the world began (Eph. 1:3-6; 2 Tim. 1:9-10). We were redeemed, justified, called, and glorified from eternity (Rom. 8:28-30). We were accepted in the Beloved before we were ruined in Adam (Eph. 1:6). We were blessed of God with all the blessings of salvation and grace in Christ before ever the worlds were made (Eph. 1:3). Our salvation in time is neither more nor less than the outworking of “eternal salvation!”
“The Salvation of the Righteous”
In Psalm 37:39 God the Holy Spirit describes salvation in another way. He calls our salvation — “The Salvation of the Righteous.” Here is the gospel of the grace of God. — “The salvation of the righteous is of the Lord” (v. 39). The righteous is the perfect man, made perfect by grace spoken of in verse 37. The only difference between him and the transgressors who shall be destroyed (v. 38) is the difference grace has made (1 Cor. 4:7). Here our experience of grace is stated. — “He is their strength in the time of trouble” (v. 39). The promises of grace are summarized in verse 40. — “The LORD shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them.” And the great evidence of grace declared. — “Because they trust in him” (v. 40).
Fourth, Jude writes to us of “The Common Salvation”. (Read Jude 1-3).
“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: Mercy unto you, and peace and love, be multiplied. Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.”
Certainly, Jude does not mean for us to think that God’s salvation is common in the sense that it is ordinary or cheap. Not on your life! But he does mean for us to understand that salvation is the same wherever it is found. It is the same in the experience of all who are saved. Every true child of God has experiences the same salvation. All are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.
We do not all experience grace the same way. Paul’s experience was not the same as Lydia’s. Both experienced the same grace, but not the same way. The experience of grace is not always the same. Our needs are the same, the grace is the same, and the results are the same; but the experience is not the same. Yet, all who are saved have a common salvation, a common Savior, a common family, a common hope, a common blessedness, and a common inheritance of grace and glory.
How do you imagine that salvation is most often described by God in his Word? What term do you think is most frequently used in connection with salvation throughout the Book? The term God the Holy Spirit most commonly uses in his Word to describe salvation has to be the very sweetest. In Psalm 118:1 that salvation which God gives to and works in chosen sinners is called “My Salvation.” — “I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.” Habakkuk sang, “I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:18).
How I love the way our great, gracious, all-holy God teaches us to use this personal, possessive pronoun in connection with his great gift of grace!— “My Salvation!” My salvation is God my Savior; not a doctrine, not a decision, not an experience, but Christ himself! Christ is my salvation because God gave him to me and wrought salvation in me. It is my salvation because I receive it as my own by faith from his bounteous hand of grace.
This is what Moses taught the children of Israel to sing, as they stood on the glory side of the Red Sea (Ex. 15:2). This is the song David taught us to sing in the inspired hymnbook of Zion (Ps. 18:2, 46; 25:5, 27:1; 62:1-2, 5-7; 118:14). This is the song our God teaches us to sing in the day of his visitation. “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation” (Isa. 12:2). Yes, “I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my salvation.”
“Your Own Salvation”
Sixth, the Apostle Paul speaks of salvation in terms almost as sweet. He calls salvation, “Your Own Salvation” (Phil. 2:12). I like that. If you are saved, the salvation you have is “your own salvation.” God devised it for you. Christ purchased it for you. The Holy Spirit brought it to you and wrought it in you. It is your possession forever. If you trust the Lord Jesus Christ, all that is included in that word “salvation” belongs to you by the grace of God. The faith God gives you is your faith. The forgiveness God gives you is your forgiveness. The righteousness God gives you is your righteousness. And the salvation God gives you is your salvation.
Here is a gracious admonition. – “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” That does not mean, “work that you might be saved.” It means “work outwardly the salvation that God has wrought inwardly” (Phil. 2:1-11).
Here is a blessed assurance – “For it is God which worketh in you both to will (to desire and purpose) and to do of his good pleasure.” If you are saved, your salvation is “Your Own Salvation!”
“So Great Salvation”
Seventh, Hebrews 2:3 describes salvation in these words: “So Great Salvation.” – “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed with us by them that heard him?” That is a good description of salvation. It comes from a great God! It is for great sinners! It comes to us thought the merits of a great Savior. It secures for us a great inheritance in heaven. It flows to us from a great reservoir of great grace, the great heart of God’s infinite love!
“Could we with ink the oceans fill,
And were the skies of parchment made,
Were every stalk on earth a guile,
And every man a scribe by trade –
To write the love of God above
Would drain the oceans dry;
Nor could the scroll contain the whole,
Though stretched from sky to sky!”
“An Everlasting Salvation”
Eighth, the prophet Isaiah calls it “An Everlasting Salvation.” – “Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end!” (Isa. 45:17). Salvation is eternal both ways. It is from everlasting to everlasting. If salvation is God’s work, it is an everlasting work (Eccles. 3:14). Sinners saved by grace shall never perish. They are beyond the reach of condemnation, or even danger! God’s love is an everlasting love (Jer. 31:3). His election is an everlasting election (Mal. 3:6). His grace is everlasting grace (Rom. 11:29). Christ’s redemption is an everlasting redemption (Heb. 9:12). The Spirit’s seal is an everlasting seal (Eph. 1:14).
What is God’s description of salvation? It is “Thy Salvation,” “Eternal Salvation,” “The Salvation of the Righteous,” “The Common Salvation,” “My Salvation,” “Your Own Salvation,” “So Great Salvation,” and “An Everlasting Salvation.” In 1 Peter 1:5 we have one more blessed description of salvation. This is salvation as God describes it.
“Salvation ready to be Revealed”
Here the Apostle Peter tells us that it is a “Salvation Ready to be Revealed.”
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1:3-9)
Heavenly glory is a kingdom prepared for us from the foundation of the world. Eternal life is that which God, who cannot lie, promised us before the world began. And he has made us worthy to be partakers of the kingdom in Christ by his matchless grace. Yet, “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him!”
“We read of a place that’s called heaven.
It’s made for the pure and the free.
These truths in God’s Word He hath given.
How beautiful heaven must be!
In heaven no drooping nor pining,
No wishing for elsewhere to be.
God’s light is forever there shining.
How beautiful heaven must be!
Pure waters of life there are flowing;
And all who will drink may be free.
Rare jewels of splendor are glowing.
How beautiful heaven must be!
The angels so sweetly are singing
Up there by the beautiful sea.
Sweet chords from their gold harps are ringing.
How beautiful must be!
How beautiful heaven must be!
Sweet home of the happy and free,
Fair heaven of rest for the weary,
How beautiful heaven must be!”
“Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end” (Isa. 45:17).