What is Salvation?

Are we saved by grace? Are we saved by our faith? Are we saved by our works? Many debates have been had on this and I find that many of us are talking right past each other. What many people fail to realize when it comes to the concept of salvation or what it means to “be saved,” is that salvation is multifaceted. Many debates are rendered useless and a waste of time because neither side defines their terms in regard to what is meant by “salvation.” There are 3 aspects of salvation or 3 different ways in which we are saved. We are saved from death by resurrection that is accomplished by grace. We are saved from punishment by way of justification that is accomplished by faith. We are saved from sin by way of sanctification that is accomplished by works. So any and all discussions involving the idea of salvation or being saved must have clarification of which aspect of salvation is being referenced. If one person is talking about sanctification, but another is talking about justification, then there is a 0% chance of finding agreement between them. I can’t tell you how often I see this happening. And the conversation is rendered useless. When you read any Bible verse talking about the issue of salvation or “being saved,” you must ask yourself what aspect of salvation is being talked about. 

Many people understand how the Bible talks about how we are saved now already, at the same time we are currently in the process of being saved, while also at the same time we will be saved in the future. To break this down, we are justified today and saved from punishment, we are currently in the process of being sanctified and saved from sin, and in the future we will be saved from death by way of resurrection.

1. First, we are saved from death. How are we saved from death? We are saved from death by way of resurrection from the dead. The Bible teaches that both the righteous and the unrighteous will be raised from the dead. In this sense, Jesus saved the whole world because we will all be saved from death by way of resurrection from the dead. Not a single person did this by way of works or faith. It was 100% by grace and the work of God that this is accomplished. 

2. Second, we are saved from punishment. How are we saved from punishment? We are saved from punishment by way of justification. The Bible teaches that those that have faith in Christ as their Lord and savior are justified before God. We are clothed figuratively with Christ’s righteousness so that when God sees us we are not held in punishment for sin because we are clothed with Christ’s righteousness. Now at this point it is often debated whether our faith is 100% a gift from God to us, or if our faith is 100% a work of our own. I hold the position that it is a combination of the two. Faith is a free will choice that we have to willingly submit or not to God’s way. But that faith is rendered useless without the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ. Ultimately we are saved by the grace of God, but he accomplishes justification through our faith in him. So we are participants in our salvation in regards to justification. We were a 0% participant in our salvation in regards to being saved from death. 

3. Third, we are saved from sin. How are we saved from sin? We are saved from sin by way of sanctification. Sin carries with it natural consequences. If I touch a hot stove as a kid, my parents do not need to inflict a consequence on me by way of punishment, that action carries with it the natural consequence of being burned. Being burned teaches me to stop doing that so that I do not experience that consequence again. The natural consequences of sin teach us to stop sinning. But God, or our parents as well, often will inflict a punishment on us. Why? So that we will learn and correct the behavior before suffering the even greater punishment that natural consequences inflict upon us. I believe that the natural consequences of sin are greater than the inflicted consequences of God’s punishment. God wants to teach us and correct the behavior to spare is even greater punishment of sins natural consequences. For example, I may spank my kid for crossing the road without looking. But that spanking, is to teach my child not to do that, because I know that if he doesn’t learn the lesson, an even great lesson will come. I’d rather spank him than he get hit by a car for not looking before crossing the street.

Is sanctification accomplished by works? Yes it is. How else can we avoid the natural consequences of sin? If we keep sinning, we keep suffering those consequences. If we stop, we are saved from the consequences of sin. God helps us do this as our Heavenly Father and teacher. This is a process that plays out in our lives, and perhaps continues in the age to come. We are to strive to be like Christ and be conformed to his likeness every day. We do this by our works. Our works save of from the natural consequences of sin. This is why God tells us to obey him. You can not dismiss obedience in this aspect of our salvation. 

Ultimate salvation is to be saved from all 3. If we are not saved from death, punishment, and sin, then we remain in bondage to some degree. We need to be saved from all 3 of these things to be completely restored to God.
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