We believe that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, received only through personal repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. Believers have forgiveness of sin, salvation from sin, reconciliation with God, and eternal life. Believers have assurance of their salvation as they live in faith and obedience.
What is Salvation?
ARE YOU SAVED? For anyone who has been asked this question it can mean a lot of different things. Salvation, one of the single biggest pursuits in a person’s life, is prized as much as it can be misunderstood. Such a simple, open-ended question like “Are you saved?” assumes a lot of theological factors. Sometimes, if misunderstood, this question can be used to get at something altogether different. “Are you saved?” can be used instead to ask something like “Do you think God exists?” or “Do you agree with what I believe?” or “Are you behaving properly?” or, most sadly, “Are you good enough?”
What does it mean to be saved? From what? And for what? Who does the saving? These are questions that every believer must answer in order to grasp what salvation truly is.
Salvation is defined as a condition where something or someone has been delivered from some- thing. As evangelical Christians, we confess that salvation is deliverance from sin, death, and judgement through the atoning sacrifice of Christ. We understand that salvation is foundational to any sort of life, relationship or purpose, and only given to us through God’s grace, as a gift.
How does Salvation work?
We believe that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, received through personal repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour.
Is salvation, or “being saved” something we do or something God does? This is an age-old question that historically has caused considerable grief and disagreement, even wars. For many, following various religions, salvation is something that is achieved either through a lot of hard work, in either thinking right, or being right. And salvation is the ultimate prize. In order to achieve what they would call salvation, people have endured and willingly subjected themselves to unimaginable suffering.
But what makes us different? Where do we stand? Is salvation something that we, as it says in Philippians 2:12, “work out with fear and trembling,” or something that God does, when it says in Ephesians 2:5 that He “made us alive with Christ, even when we were dead in sin?”
The short answer is both. Let me elaborate.
Salvation comes from God through Christ, and is done without any input, effort or contribution
from us. This is extremely important. The origin of salvation comes exclusively from God. This is why we confess that salvation is a gift of God’s grace. In many other religions, even ones that speak of “grace,” they argue that salvation is, in the very least, something humans can at least partially achieve on their own. In effect, in at least some way, they believe that they stand shoulder to shoulder with God in generating their salvation.
But what about us? What role do we play in salvation? Paul tells us in Philippians that we work our salvation out. How so? As evangelical Christians we confess that we do this with the continual repentance of our sin and putting our faith in Christ. Through continually repenting of our sin, we begin to follow God’s leading in our lives. Being sensitive to the leading of God allows us to follow him. This is what Paul is talking about when he says “work out your salvation.” Paul continues on to explain that this working out our salvation is the product of God “who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purposes” (Philippians 2:13).
An Event and a Process
Believers have assurance, forgiveness of sin, salvation from sin, reconciliation with God, and eternal life as they live in faith and obedience.
Salvation works when you understand it both as an event and a process. It is a common mistake to fall into the trap of thinking of salvation as “either/or.” People who take salvation as simply an event, typically adopt the attitude of “clocking out” when they invite Christ into their lives, and have little to no change in their life practices. Others who take the opposite perspective and believe salvation is a process only, usually live very rigid and moral lives, but they are devoid of love, grace and compassion for others.
The key lies in understanding how the two work together. Paul says in Romans that “If you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9). Confessing with your mouth, in effect, means admitting that you are wrong. This is the event of salvation. The first time you become aware that you are wrong and admit to God your faults, your sin, and your total inadequacy and yield authority of your life to Him, you receive what we call in theology, God’s saving grace.
The other half of the equation, believing in your heart, means experiencing sincere conviction to act, and doing so by trusting in something outside of yourself or your actions. In other words, this is feeling bad for what you have done and earnestly wanting to do what it takes to change. This is a process, often an unpleasant one, and one that requires the continual confessing and earnest desire to change and put those changes into concrete actions. In theology, this is what we refer to as God’s continuing grace.
This is truly significant. In some church traditions it’s confessing only that makes you a believer. In other traditions it is behaviour (which sometimes gets disguised with a different word like “community” or “inclusion”) alone that makes you “saved.” We believe in God’s saving grace (through repentance) and God’s continuing grace (faith in Jesus Christ lived out) as the means of our salvation.
Can We Take This to the Bank?
Believers have assurance…
It never ceases to amaze me how many people live in perpetual fear that they are not saved. They secretly pray the sinner’s prayer over and over again, re-inviting Jesus into their heart, just in case “God didn’t hear” them the times before. Others sternly hold back any confidence of salvation, claiming a sort of virtuous humility in never feeling confidence in whether or not they are saved.
We confess that as believers, we have assurance of salvation as we live in faith and obedience. Why is this important? Confidence is the product of hope. Hope is what we receive from love. Love is what God gives us graciously. If we actively kill our confidence, we erode our hope. If this continues long enough, we don’t feel, see or know what God’s love is.
The Bible repeatedly promises eternal salvation again and again to those who confidently live in faith and obedience. Confidence is what is needed to apply and continue the process of God’s continuing grace. Put simply: we can tackle what life throws at us, the good, the bad and the ugly. We can do this because confidence in our salvation is the fuel that drives us to continually repent, believe and act.
And this we do ultimately because we trust in God saving us. So, are you saved?
Clint Langelaar is a member of Hague Gospel Church, SK, and a member of the EMMC Theology Committee. He and his wife Karen have four children.
EMMC Confession of Faith
Part 6 of 12-part series
January / February 2015 The Recorder