“How can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation?” Hebrews 2:3
The fifth hard word in our series is “salvation.” It is a word used in secular life, salvation means the rescue, the saving of something. For Christians, when we think about Jesus as our Saviour, as the one who rescues us, the one who saves us, we need to be clear about what salvation means, we need to be clear about what being “saved” means.
There is a story told of Dr Westcott, a great Bible scholar and Bishop of Durham, travelling on a train one day. A young Salvation Army officer was in the same compartment and noticed the bishop. The officer was very enthusiastic and was not convinced that a bishop in the Church of England was necessarily a believer. The officer is said to have leaned forward and said to Dr Westcott, “Bishop, are you saved?”
Westcott was surprised by the question and said, “Excuse me, what did you say?”
The officer repeated the question, “I simply asked, were you saved?”
“Yes, ” said, the bishop, “but I am not clear what you said. Do you mean “sotheis,” “sezosmenos,” or “sozomenos”?
The officer did not understand what he was saying and said, “I simply asked you – were you saved?”
“Yes,” said the bishop, “I realized that, and I asked which “saved” you meant. Did you mean, “I was saved,” or “I will be saved,” or “I am being saved?”
The bishop was making the point that salvation is about something that has happened to us in the past, it is about something that is happening in the present, and it is about something that will happen in the future.
When we read the New Testament, we can see the bishop’s point for ourselves. In the letter to the Ephesians Chapter 2 Verse 8, Paul writes, “it is through grace you have been saved, through faith.” Being saved is something that has happened to us in the past.. In the letter to the Romans Chapter 5 Verse 8, Paul says, “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”
If we are to understand the word “salvation,” we must begin with the point that we were saved through what Christ did for us at Calvary. Saint Paul is very concerned to emphasise this point. Salvation is not through anything that we do, it is what has been done for us. Salvation did not happen because we deserved it, it did not happen because we were very religious, it did not happen because of what we believed, it happened because it was God’s gift to us.
When we think about salvation, our thoughts must always begin with the Cross. The Cross is not popular because it says to us that we are not good people, it says to us that we are so bad that this is what God has to do in order to save us. When we remember the Cross, it puts everything else in the right perspective, it enables us to see ourselves as we are, and not as we would like to imagine ourselves to be.
The past tense, we have been saved, salvation is something complete in what Jesus has done. The present tense, “we are being saved.”
When Jesus goes to the home of Zacchaeus, he says, in Saint Luke Chapter 19 Verses 9-10, “‘Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek out and to save the lost.” Salvation is something happening at that moment, Zacchaeus is being saved. In the Acts of the Apostles Chapter 2 Verse 47, Saint Luke writes, “And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.” Salvation is complete in what Jesus has done, but it is something that is also ongoing. Writing to the Christians at Corinth, Saint Paul talks about salvation as an ongoing process. In the First Letter to the Corinthians Chapter 1 Verse 18, he says, “For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” Salvation is ongoing because it is a matter of choice, God does not compel us. We have a choice of whether we wish to be saved.
An air force chaplain tells a story of a jet fighter going down in the Mediterranean. As advanced as the technology was, it ended up on the seabed. The pilot had time to eject and floated down on s parachute. On hitting the water, a liferaft inflated and the airman was left adrift, miles and miles from anywhere. Sending out a radio distress signal, he waited. The sun was burning hot and he didn’t know what other hazards there might be. It was not an experience he would ever wish to repeat. Eventually, there was the sound of a helicopter sent from an aircraft carrier. The sound of it became deafening as it hovered overhead and the winchman came down to rescue. The hand of the winchman assisted the pilot into a harness and both of them were lifted clear. The pilot had a choice, though. He could have refused the assistance of the winchman and there is nothing that the winchman could have done.
If we were all compelled to enjoy eternal life, then Jesus would not have needed to die. If we were all compelled to be saved, then we would be no more than robots. Choice allows us to be among those who are being saved, it also allows us to reject God.
We have been saved. We are being saved. We will be saved: salvation is something in the future.
Jesus talks about salvation as something that will happen for those who believe, in Saint Matthew Chapter 10 Verse 22, he talks about the persecution of believers and says, “But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” Salvation is something that awaits. Saint Paul looks forward to salvation. There is a disagreement among the first Christians and a Council is held at Jerusalem, in Acts Chapter 15 Verse 11, Paul says, “we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.” The salvation that awaits is being saved from God’s judgement, so in the Letter to the Romans Chapter 5 Verse 9, Paul writes of our salvation being in what Jesus has done for us, ” Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God.”
Being saved in the future means we can look forward to the future with confidence, it means that no matter how difficult the present moment may be, great things await.
Are we saved? We have been saved, we are being saved, we will be saved.