I think that the majority of Christians would more than likely quote John 3:16-17 and say ‘Salvation.’ However, what is salvation, what do we understand this word to be saying. Let’s look at that passage:
16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever commits [himself] unto Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
Most Bibles would use the word ‘believe’ in verse 16 ‘whoever believes on Him.’ However, the modern word ‘believe’ is a very weak word that allows room for doubt about whether the thing believed will, in fact, happen. However, the Greek word that is commonly translated ‘believe’ is the word ‘Pisteuo’ and it is a verb. Verbs are words that express the occurrence of an action or the existence of a state. It has a very strong sense of dependence on Jesus rather than on ourselves and of absolute surrender and obedience towards God. It is a word that is requiring us to make a strong commitment of all that we are and all that we hold dear, to God. In short, to obey Him and depend on Him at all times rather than on our own strength and wisdom. To ‘believe’ is the New Testament way of saying ‘obey My voice’, a phrase that is often found in the Old Testament. It has a strong sense of a sacrificial commitment of ourselves to obey and trust in God, and none of the modern sense of the word ‘believe’ which is usually understood to mean ‘giving mental assent to without cost or commitment’. Therefore I have translated it as; ‘commits [himself] unto Him’
There is, however, a serious problem with the word ‘salvation’ in modern usage due to the erroneous teaching of many evangelists over the last 50 or 60 years. Being saved has become like instant coffee, say the sinner’s prayer and you will have a ticket to Heaven that you will never lose. This is not what Jesus taught, nor is it how He lived.
Philippians 2:12 says:
12 Therefore my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.
1 peter 2:2
1 Therefore, put off all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisy, and envy, and all evil speaking, 2 as newborn babes, desire the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow to salvation, 3 if you have tasted that the Lord [is] good.
Now some of you will have a quite different rendering of 1 Peter 2:2. This is a case where the two major groups of Greek texts disagree quite profoundly. I have followed the NIV and used the Nestle Greek as the basis of my work.
When looked at in this light one gets a strong sense of ongoing commitment over time, not instant coffee; in fact, when we look at Galatians 2: 20 we see that we are, in fact, to consider ourselves dead; it is no longer I that lives but Christ that lives in me. The Christian life, and therefore salvation is all about Christ living in and through me. It is Christ’s life not mine.
The majority of your Bibles will have the phrase ‘faith in Christ’ in this verse and in many other places .This translation has no support in the original Greek and should read, ‘the faith of Christ’ as it is in the KJV. We are not required or capable of having faith in Christ. Since we are dead this is a contradiction in terms; a dead person cannot produce or achieve anything. The fact is that faith is both a gift and a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
So we see that growing unto salvation is actually a process of dying to our old man; this body of death, as Paul puts it in Romans 7:24. It is this ‘body of death’ which is our sin nature, and to be saved means to be freed from that sin nature. Salvation is not a question of where we go when we die; it is a question of who we are while we live.
God said to Adam in the garden, “Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The fact that may often be missed is that this instruction still stands. It is, in fact, addressing the very nature of sin, which is to be separated from God because I choose to act independently of Him and be lord of my own life. In other words, I choose to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil instead of submitting to God and allowing Him to lead and empower me.
To paraphrase CS Lewis; ‘there are two types of people in this world; there are those who say to God, thy will be done and there are those to whom God says thy will be done.’
The key thought in this quote is our attitude to God; are we totally independent of Him and seeking to impress Him with our righteous behaviour, or are we fully aware that we can do nothing without Him. Paul address’s this issue in Romans 3:10:
10 As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; [Eccl 7:20]11 there is none who understands, there is none who seeks after God.
According to this passage righteousness comes from seeking after God. Jesus said in John 14:6:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father, except through Me.
The key thought that I suspect is often missed in this passage is that we are to come to the Father.
It is not about following a set of rules, Old or New Testament; neither, with all due respect to John Wimber, is it about “doing the stuff”.
It’s about coming to the Father. This means to seek Him with all of our heart as we are told in the greatest commandment in Matthew 22:36-38:
36 “Teacher, which [is] the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus said to him: “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your understanding’. [Deuteronomy 6:5]
38 This is the first and greatest commandment.
Jesus elaborates on this commandment in Matthew 6:25 -33 where He explains how the Father cares about every little thing in the world so therefore how much more will He care for us. He then goes on to explain what it is that we are to do.
33 But seek first His Kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
The key emphasis here is on seeking the Father’s kingdom because He loves us so much, and since he loves us so much He wants us to open ourselves to Him so that He can cleanse us and set us free: i.e. He wants to save us!!
How are we to do that? Jesus answered that question in John14:6. (See above) In that passage Jesus says “I am the way the truth and the life.”
To me this speaks of an intimate, personal, submitted relationship with the Father, through Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the same way that Jesus lived when He was on earth.
Jesus loved the Father and was always totally submitted to and dependant on Him. JOHN 14:8-11:
Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.”
Jesus said to him, “I am with you [for] such a long time, and you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I speak not of Myself; but the Father Who dwells in Me, He does the works. 11 Believe Me that I [am] in the Father, and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the very works’ sake.
This is just one quote of many quotes from the book of John and elsewhere that speaks of Jesus love of the Father. John 5:19-21; John 5:30; John 7:16-18; John 8:26-29; John 12; 14; 15; 17.
Jesus never separated Himself from the Father; he never chose His own way before the Father’s; He always did and said only those things that the Father gave him to do. He was always totally submitted to the Father, and by that, demonstrated His love for the Father. It was that fact, and not His divinity, that caused Him to be sinless.
It is very important for us to understand this truth about Christ’s sinless perfection. We are told in Philippians 2:
5 Let this attitude be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, being in the form of God, did not think it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and became in the likeness of mankind. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted Him, and gave Him the Name that is above every name, 10 that in the Name of Jesus every knee should bow, of [those] in Heaven, and [those] in earth, and [those] under the earth, 11 and [that] every tongue should acknowledge that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to [the] glory of God [the] Father.
Jesus emptied Himself of all of His Godly nature, although not of His divinity, and humbled himself and became like a man; just like you and I, although without our sin nature. Unlike us, Jesus was never separated from the Father until the Father separated Himself from Jesus whilst He was on the cross.
Jesus said from the cross “Why have you forsaken me.” He was experiencing for the first time what it was like to be separated from God as we are from the moment of our conception.
It is important that we understand this; sin is being separated from and independent of the Father; righteousness is in being totally submitted to the Father. And doing only those things that the Father gives us to do in the same way as Jesus did.
It is the love relationship with the Father that is the key, not what we do or fail to do or what laws we obey.
Philippians 2 that we looked at before says in verse 10-11 that every tongue should acknowledge that Jesus Christ [is] Lord, to [the] glory of God [the] Father.
Matthew 28:18-20, the so-called ‘great commission says:
"All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore [and] disciple all the nations, baptising them into the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
The key to the Kingdom of God is in acknowledging that Jesus has been given "All authority" by the Father, and therefore in living out that truth in our lives.
It is Jesus Christ that has been given“All authority” not the Church, its leadership, its laws or its sacraments.
Jesus is the sole mediator between the Father and His children.
1 Timothy 2:5-6:
5 For [there is] one God, and one Mediator between God and mankind, the Man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave Himself a ransom for all,
As we are told in Matthew 23:8-12 we are all brothers; there is no legalistic authority structure in God’s Kingdom and no one of us can rightly presume to lord it over anyone else. Jesus Christ alone is Lord!
8 But you, do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brethren. 9 And do not call [anyone] on the earth your father; for One is your Father, who is in Heaven. 10 Neither be called leaders, for One is your Leader the Christ. 11 But he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12 And whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and he who humbles himself will be exalted.
In Matthew 7:21-23 Jesus gives us a very stern and sobering warning:
21 Not everyone saying to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but those doing the will of My Father in Heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name, and in Your Name expelled demons, and in Your Name done many powerful works?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me, those working lawlessness!’
What a terrible thing to spend our lives “doing the stuff”, prophesying, teaching, pastoring, casting out demons, etc. and then getting to Heaven and having Jesus say “I never knew you.”
Salvation is a process not a place; it’s a love relationship not a behaviour pattern; it’s a work of the Father, not a legalistic effort on our part; it’s a way of life not a quick fix; it’s His love and grace, not our righteous behaviour.