5 — What We Believe About Salvation

The wickedness of the ancient city of Nineveh got God’s attention – so much so that He determined to destroy it and everything that breathed within her walls.  What she needed was forgiveness – salvation.  But God did not offer her that.  Instead, if she repented, He offered her a stay of execution.  Nineveh was not the community of God.  Salvation was not a blessing open to her.[1]

The idea of salvation involves three things: First, the forgiveness of sins that are past.[2] Second, citizenship in the community where God’s forgiveness, protection, guidance and strength are provided in the present.[3]  Third, salvation involves hope for the future.  All three blessings become ours at once when we are “saved.”

Salvation comes by God’s grace.[5]  We could never be worthy of rescue in the eyes of God. Nor is there any way we could pay the price for our own sinfulness.  So in Christ, God became human, and offered Himself as the sacrifice for our sins once for all.[6]

When we trust that what Jesus has done for us provides that salvation, we move toward Him, turning from the past life of sin[7] that separated us from God in the first place, entering his death that provides the payment price, and clothing ourselves with his life so that when people look at us they see Jesus.[8] This response is called “faith” and it is expressed in repentance and baptism and a different way of living.

The result of this move is that God forgives us of our sins and places us in Christ, making us a part of His body, His family, the community of the redeemed, the Church.  Here, we have hope for the future, an inheritance from God reserved by Him for us in heaven.

Can we lose our salvation?  Certainly not the forgiveness of sins that are past – God no longer remembers those sins.  Certainly not our place in the family of God.  But the future inheritance?  Yes.  Behaving badly is cause for loss of inheritance.

Can we regain our inheritance?  Yes.  When a wayward child of God returns in penitence and requests forgiveness, God’s love does not bear a grudge.  Forgiveness is assured, and the inheritance is restored.[9]

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Footnotes:
[1] This is the story of Jonah in the Old Testament. Nineveh is not promised an inheritance. She is not offered a chance to become God’s people. Her choices are two: change or die. Forgiveness is offered only within Israel in the Old Testament. It is exclusively the blessing of the people of God.

[2] 1 Peter 1:5-9 – 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But whoever does not have them is nearsighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins.

[3] Note the following from Ephesians 2 – 1 As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2 in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. 3 All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath. 4 But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. 6 And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. 8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—9 not by works, so that no one can boast. 10 For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)—12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord.

[4] 1 Peter 1:3-9 – 3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, 5 who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.

[5] Ephesians 2:8-9

[6] Jesus is called the “atoning sacrifice” (Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10)

[7] This is called “repentance” in the New Testament.

[8] Note these passages that speak of baptism – Romans 6:3-4 – 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. Galatians 3:26-27 – 26 So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

[9] So John writes: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”