"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 (Ephesians 2.8,9)."
A brother has written us regarding our use of the term saved, as we applied it in an article in conjunction with the text II Thessalonians 2.13. Our statement was as follows: "If a poor sinner ever gets saved, it will be through the electing love of God, for "...the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (Romans 11.7)." The Remnant, September-October 1993, page 18, col. 2, par. 3.
Our dear corresponding brother had this to say: "I am confused about the word saved. Its use in this writing seemed to imply something in the future. The scripture that was quoted, II Thessalonians 2.13,14 tells us it has already been done."
We are pleased our brother took the time to express his concern to us. Our association with him over the years has led us to esteem him highly in the Lord. Agreeable then to his request, we shall, the Lord willing, attempt to address the subject with what little light we may have, recognizing that our brother has probably given the matter much more serious thought than we have.
We cannot possibly, within the limits of this article, examine all the texts in the Bible that pertain to these three words. We shall, therefore, address the matter as fully as possible, and leave it to the readers, to search further. To view the grand business of salvation we shall first seek to learn, "What is salvation?" Second, we shall ask, "When are the subjects of salvation actually saved?" Third, we shall inquire, "Is there more than one salvation?"
WHAT IS SALVATION?
Salvation is deliverance. It may be deliverance from sin or deliverance from the guilt of sin. It may be deliverance from danger or temptation. It also can be the deliverance from our enemies. Salvation may also be a rescue or an extrication. Generally we think of salvation as the securing of certain poor sinners from both their deserved punishment and any condemnation, although the word salvation often means something altogether different from that in many texts. All those certain ones have sinned, and have come short of the glory of God, thus they all stand condemned by His holy law. The act of sinning, even one single sin, against our Holy God constitutes one as an alien from God. Thus sinners are separated from God, both by original sin in Adam, and in their personal sin. They must then either be reconciled to God, or be forever banished. This reconciling we shall call salvation.
"For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost (Luke 19.10)." We are fully persuaded that Jesus will be thoroughly successful in both His seeking and His saving. He will find all He is seeking, and save all He finds. No exceptions. This is salvation in its most commonly used sense. As none but those that are lost will be sought and saved, we must conclude that none but His chosen family are numbered among the lost. Whom will He then seek and save? The lost. All of them. Thus, we are brought to the unmistakable conclusion that there is no plan of salvation for all the world; only for the ones Jesus finally saves. Salvation then, may be said to be the reconciling of the lost to God. The lost are the elect. As John Newton blissfully put it, "I once was lost, but now am found." The elect being found is salvation.
It must be stated in clear terms that salvation is not synonymous with the expression "new birth." All that are born again certainly will be saved, and all that are finally saved will have previously been born again. The spiritual birth and the deliverance of the one born are but parts of the whole work of salvation. The Scriptures are firm that "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved (Mark 16.16);" but neither the believing nor the baptism gives the participant life. Quite the contrary! The wretched sinner must first be made alive before he can believe. The dead (in sin as well as in the flesh) are not capable of believing. The putting on Christ in baptism brings no life either. Rather, it signifies that the believer has hope of salvation through Him that made him alive to God and dead to sin and the law. And, as the text says, they "shall be saved" not, already are saved. We cannot think of a single passage of scripture that uses the words saved, save, or salvation when referring to the spiritual birth, and we have been thinking on the matter for a good while.
The only place in the Bible where the question is asked and the answer given on how to be saved is found in Acts 16.30. A jailor asked the question, and Paul supplied the answer. What was the intent of the jailor at Philippi when he cried out, "...Sirs, what must I do to be saved (Acts 16.30)?" He had to be aware of the events that brought Paul and Silas to be incarcerated in his care. No doubt he heard the singing and praying in which the two saints of the most high God were engaged. He felt the earthquake. He saw its tremendous effects. He was prepared to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners entrusted to him were loosed. When instructed by Paul to do himself no harm his excitement was heightened. "Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas (Acts 16.29)." Calling for light; springing in; trembling; falling down; these actions are the evidences of a man in great distress. Was this a dread of pending death? Not likely. He was prepared to die at his own hand just previous to this. Was this the results of fear that his superiors might deal harshly with him? Again, not likely, for he had been assured that there was none missing that he must account for. Was it a whim of the moment like many get at the big "Glory-land meetings" when hotshot preachers plead for decisions? Again, no. We are rather persuaded that this jailor had experienced a work of grace which moved him to ask for what he probably knew little of, if anything.
Someone might say that this is contradictory to our stated opinion that salvation and the new birth are not the same thing. It is not at all contradictory, if it is kept in mind that the jailor asked, "What must I do to be saved?" as a result of his experience, and not in order to get it.
"What must I do to be saved?" Clearly the jailor did not know what salvation by grace was. Had he known he would not have inquired what he must do. It is obvious that he knew that there was some sort of salvation, or he would not have asked for it. Shall we castigate this miserable jailor for wanting to do something to obtain that salvation? The jailor seemed to make an honest inquiry unworthy of serious reproof, for when he asked, Paul simply informed him to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul did not lay into him with an anti-Arminian harangue. The Apostle must have assumed the poor fellow had life enough to believe, or he would not have so instructed him. An so, we feel this man was delivered from his miserable condition at that time. He was delivered; saved; not by doing something or by becoming what he was not before, but simply delivered by free grace. God had afore prepared him for this moment and thus saved him. We will comment further on the salvation of the jailor under our second heading.
While we generally think of salvation in the soteriological sense, some of the Bible accounts of one being saved are clearly outside of that realm. Peter's brief attempt at walking on water is a good example. Peter, often impulsive, concluded that if the Lord would but bid him come, he too could walk on water. The Lord did bid the enthusiast to come, and for a moment Peter actually walked toward Jesus; that is, until he became afraid. "...and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me (Matthew 14.30)." "Lord, save me" seems clear enough language. There was nothing vague or ambiguous about Peter's entreaty. Peter was not in a dither about being born again, nor about finally arriving in heaven. No! Peter pleaded to be saved from drowning--right then and there. If Peter had said, "Lord, deliver me from this deep, for I shall surely drown" it would have meant substantially the same. However, he did not have time for a well phrased string of polished expressions. The impetuous fisherman was in immediate danger of going under unless the Master of the seas was pleased to rescue him at once. Peter needed salvation in the worst way, and cried out for it. "Lord save me" is clearly unmistakable language.
"And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt (Matthew 14.31)?" Jesus did deliver the panicky Peter. Peter begged to be saved, and the Lord was pleased to grant him that salvation. Otherwise it would have been all over for Peter. Did the Lord then save Peter because he was rich in faith, believing the promises, etc., etc.? Quite the contrary, the Lord saved him because Peter was unable to save himself. While this account does not directly address the inquiry regarding salvation, it does show another view of salvation or deliverance that is often presented in the Bible.
We believe the heart of our brother's inquiry is addressed in our second question of this article:
WHEN ARE THE SUBJECTS OF SALVATION ACTUALLY SAVED?
Before we settle the question of when the subjects of salvation are saved we will put to rest the erroneous, yet somewhat popular, notion that they were saved in eternity. Not a single sinner was saved in eternity! Why? Because there were no sinners in eternity. No single son of Adam stood in need of salvation or deliverance until they fell with him in the first transgression. Then they needed salvation, but not before. As the elect family, all those to be finally saved in heaven had a sinless presence in Christ. They were, as clearly stated in Ephesians 1.4, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. That "in Him" should be all we need to know that they were not yet sinners. Thus they could not possibly be (or get) saved while yet sinless.
The case of Peter, previously cited, is a fair example of when a sinner is saved. Peter was not saved while in the boat, before his abortive attempt at walking on water. Nor was he saved while actually sauntering on the water. He was saved, only after he began to sink, for it was only then he needed to be saved. It is comforting, though, to know that as regards the purposes of God, Peter was as safe as if he had never gotten out of the boat. The reader will readily see that the immutable purpose of God to save, and the salvation itself, are two distinct things, though inseparable.
There are many well-known texts in the Bible touching on the subject of salvation. Many of these texts make the conclusion to be unmistakable that salvation was accomplished in time past, and yet is to be accomplished. None make this clearer than the following: "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life (Romans 5.9,10)."
"Being now justified" is clear enough, even to those of us that are not language scholars. "Now," does not mean off in the far distant future. Those "being now justified" are surely now delivered, or presently saved from their culpability. The next expression does place salvation in the future, however. "We shall be saved from wrath." "Shall be" was true when Paul penned it, and it is equally true today. As for the word, wrath, we understand its use in this verse to mean the final doom of the unsaved. We see, then, salvation in verse 9 to be both present and future, yet one whole salvation as described in Matthew 1.21, "He shall save his people from their sins."
Verse 10 of Romans 5 employs a division of present salvation from future salvation as well. "We were reconciled to God" cannot possibly be construed to mean a future salvation any more than "being reconciled" can. In this text reconciliation to God is essentially the same as being saved from enmity, or as it is stated in verse 8, "While we were yet sinners." Again, however, verse 10 shifts from present salvation to future salvation with the following language: "we shall be saved by his life." No one with a grain of honesty could make shall be anything but future.
What we have tried to show is that salvation, as used here is what we might call a multi-dimensional work. First, last, and always, "Salvation is of the Lord." Salvation involves His every activity that could be embraced in His words, "Lo, I come to do thy will, O God (Hebrews 10.9)." It was for the salvation of the elect when Jesus lived under the law. It was for the salvation of the elect when He died at the hands of sinners. So too was it for their salvation when He came forth from the tomb. He sits at the right hand of the father for the salvation of His family. Surely he will return in glory to finally save His people. In whatever tense the word salvation may be employed, it is of grace. We could safely say that Jesus is our salvation, whenever or wherever salvation takes place.
Probably the most irrefutable text dealing with future salvation is "....for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed (Romans 13.11)." If Paul's, and the Roman's, salvation was nearer than at the time they believed then belief did not accomplish for them that future salvation. They yet awaited it. The belief spoken of is a product of faith, and faith is the gift of God, imparted to us, imputed to us, and worked in us when the Spirit brings forth His fruits.
Returning to the case of the jailor who sought to be saved we see there as well that Paul and Silas spoke in future terms: "And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house (Acts 16.31)." Thou shalt be saved! No question but they referred to the future. How far into the future is not for us to say except that the clear intention was for something beyond the moment.
All of this leads us to the conclusion that salvation is the whole work of deliverance embracing everything that finally brings us to heaven our home. Salvation embraces all that is past, that is present, and that is to come, which delivers us to our eternal union with the Triune God when time shall be no more.
Were we to confine ourselves to one text that sums up the whole matter of our deliverance it would be the following: "Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that he will yet deliver us (II Corinthians 1.10)." Past, present, and future deliverance; a whole salvation, and all the work of God.
David, the sweet Psalmist of Israel, spoke of this deliverance also. "Although my house be not so with God: yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow (II Samuel 23.5)." David's salvation was bound up in the everlasting covenant. It was ordered in all things. And too, it was all his desire. Surely if David's salvation was bound up in the everlasting covenant he knew nothing of the conditional, time salvation theory. His salvation was all of free grace. So too, will it be all of our desire, if we are numbered in that everlasting covenant of grace.
IS THERE MORE THAN ONE SALVATION?
Salvation is always in the singular in the Bible. In no case will the reader ever find the letter "s" on the end of salvation. No writer ever mentioned salvations in the plural. Until the latter part of the last century no writer we have ever known of wrote about two, or plural salvations. Regrettably, there has crept in among us some, hating predestination, who have sought to weaken it by advocating two salvations, or time versus eternal salvation. Eternal salvation, they say, is the work of God; time salvation they say, is the work of the born-again sinner. The eternal salvation is by grace, and the time salvation is conditional, say they. On eternal salvation we agree, and on time salvation we strongly dissent. We will say bluntly that this mongrel time salvation doctrine is heresy and briefly say why.
The main reason we call it heresy is because it is not in the Bible. We are well aware of the texts used (more properly stated, AB-used) to prop up this perversion. We confine our remarks to only one. "And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation (Acts 2.40)." To the conditionalist this text seems to be unanswerable by us. "There the words are; 'save yourselves"' they argue; "this is conditional time salvation, and it is up to you." We would admonish these smug promoters of the duty-faith system, however, to consider that Peter used this phrase as a conclusion to his message, not a prelude. There were the many other words that he testified and exhorted them with, such as Repent and be baptized in verse 38. Since repentance is the gift of God we hardly see how it could be conditional. They were also to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, verse 38, and it was predicated on the promise, verse 39, to be given to the ones described in the following; even as many as the Lord our God shall call. Why then attempt to make Peter's final statement to be conditional when none of the others were?
When Peter said "save yourselves" he was not bartering or pleading with his hearers; it carried the force of a command not to be dismissed. It was well received too, for three thousand glad hearers received his word and were baptized. Lest someone thinks these three thousand "joined the church" we note that the text says "there were added unto them about three thousand souls." "Were added" hardly means they added themselves. The whole matter is settled in the closing words of the chapter. "Praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved (Acts 2.47)." Did they add themselves? No, they were added. Who will dare to suggest they were added on their conditional obedience? If they may or may not obey, may or may not repent, be baptized or save themselves, then is it not possible that some could fail to be in the church that the Lord had intended to be there? If they could fail to obey, then we could not obey as well. If it is possible, that even one child of God may fail to obey, then the possibility exists that all of the elect may not obey; then what of the church Jesus said He would build? Could the church possibly be complete if all the lively stones were not fitly framed together? Will the Lord of our Salvation have some, one or more, lively stones stacked up somewhere outside of the church not fitly framed together? We believe the honest reader can see the fallacy of the conditional salvation theory.
One salvation, or two salvations? We say there is but one salvation, and that salvation is multiplied countless times over, in every age, for all the elect in their every need of deliverance. There is only one Saviour of sinners and salvation is from sin. "For so hath the Lord commanded us saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth (Acts 13.47)." "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1.21)."
We conclude with the following brief remarks. First, Jesus "shall save" clearly establishes that the saints were not saved in eternity. Second, it is only His people that He saves. Others need not apply. See Matthew 7.21-23. Third, "from their sins" means all of their sins. Thus there is nothing left for us to conditionally save ourselves from, since He took care of all of them. And if, somehow a sinner could save himself from sins in time, would he not, at least for time, also be a saviour? Let those that revel in a conditional time salvation wrestle with that problem; for Predestinarians, by the grace of God, are free from such.
Volume 8, No. 1