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The Power of Salvation

by Kim Harrington

 

Where is God?

  For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

Romans 1:16

The world around us has become a more dangerous place than we ever dreamed. Petty dictators armed with modern weaponry attack their neighbors and succeed in destabilizing the entire world. Ethnic violence is being undertaken on a scale never before imagined, literally millions of innocent people being brutally butchered in such unrelated places as the Balkans, Rwanda, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Southeast Asia. The Soviet Union, that "evil empire," has been dissolved, yet the threat of nuclear war still looms on the horizon, as many of the warheads of the former USSR are now in the hands of fundamentalist Islamic republics... while wounded pride and a crippled economy are forcing the newly freed Russian people to seriously consider a return to the leadership of the Communist party.

Meanwhile, at home in America the inner cities are once again exploding in racial violence and gang wars, drugs continue to take their toll, and the family continues to disintegrate. Many American parents are killed each year by their own teenage children. Other young people simply take their own lives. Hollywood continues to spew forth a stream of violence and filth, AIDS continues to reap its grim harvest, pornography is more popular than ever, and domestic abuse of every variety is on the rise. Women and children are snatched from laundromats and playgrounds, violated and killed; mass murders have become common-place, and backyards, basements and even refrigerators are becoming repositories of human bones and body parts. And who will ever forget Columbine High School or Oklahoma City, acts of terrorism committed, not by swarthy Arabs, but by fellow Americans?

Where is God? What answers does the church of Jesus Christ have to offer in the face of such overwhelming need? We've been accused of hiding our heads in the sand while offering "pie in the sky by and by," and that assessment is not necessarily an untrue one. We've harped on the sinfulness of man--usually defined in terms of smoking, drinking, and dressing immodestly--but have ignored the bigger picture. Recently the so-called "religious right" has become more politically active, but in spite of a few minor victories in that realm, the spiritual and moral dilemma of our nation and the world is greater than ever. Perhaps the most obvious fruit of our involvement in politics is the further muddying of our real purposes and goals, and the confused and misunderstood image we now present to the nation as a whole.

We talk of being born again, of finding personal peace with God, of being assured of eternal life... and this indeed is the message of the Bible. But it is not the entire message--it barely dips into the depths of what God has to offer our confused and sinful planet. There is more than "pie in the sky," eternal life in some vague place called Heaven. There is the possibility of victorious life in the here and now, deliverance from physical and emotional afflictions, and even normalcy in our society. There will actually be, one day soon, peace on earth. When God created this planet, He declared it to be "very good." It has since been corrupted, and grows worse by the minute. But He has also devised a plan for the redemption and restoration of His creation. That plan is known as salvation.

 

 

Part One: The Scope of Salvation

 

"Whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved."

Romans 10:13

"Are you saved?" The question might mean different things to believers in the First Century and the Twentieth Century churches. The concept of salvation is obviously very important to the Christian, and an accurate idea of what the Bible means by it is essential to our understanding of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, though theologians may be able to draft a concise definition,* in popular usage the term has become narrow, at times misleading, and actually erroneous in its glaring omissions. There is a pressing need to address and correct the popular conception of "salvation" among evangelicals today.

First, the popular definition. "Are you saved?" generally means "Have you received Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior, and do you know that your sins are forgiven and that you have eternal life?" That definition, though it no doubt sounds excellent to the casual reader, is not a definition of "salvation," but of "justification." And let me be quick to point out that we're not talking about mere semantics--we're not squabbling over hair-splitting definitions. Justification and salvation are two entirely different doctrines. Justification is but one aspect of the larger concept of salvation. Salvation is indeed justification but also much, much more.

Salvation is a general term. The Hebrew word most commonly translated "salvation" in the Old Testament is yesuah, which generally refers to God's acts of help and deliverance. In the New Testament, the Greek word soteria is translated into English as "salvation." Its meaning is also very broad, and similar to its Old Testament counterpart. The King James Version variously translates it as "deliver," "health," "salvation," etc. It speaks of deliverance from physical and temporal danger and apprehension, as well as the more spiritual aspects of salvation.

A survey of the various ways in which "salvation" is used, especially in the New Testament, reveals much about our subject. Jesus' described His ministry as going about "to seek and to save that which was lost," (Luke 19:10). (The word "save" is the verb form of the noun "salvation." -- Greek, sozo, verb form of soteria). By observing the ministry of Jesus we can see how He Himself may have defined "salvation," exactly what He did about "saving" that which was lost. His choice of Scriptures to introduce His ministry in the synagogue at Nazareth, for example, reveals the broad scope of His definition...

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord."

Luke 4:18-19 (NKJ)

 

The New Testament references to salvation may be divided into four basic categories...

 

1. Jesus Came to Save Us From the Spiritual Consequences of Our Sins.

It is a trustworthy statement, deserving full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners...

1 Timothy 1:15

This is the essence of the good news, the "gospel" that is to be preached to the poor, according to Jesus' remarks from Luke chapter four above. He came so "that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life," (John 3:16). This is accomplished by forgiving all true believers of their sins, or justifying them before God.

Justification is the process by which we are made just or righteous before God. We have all sinned, and there is not a righteous person among us (Rom. 3:23,10). We are desperately in need of some sort of means to erase those sins if we are to get right with God, if we are to enjoy the destiny He intends for us, both in this life and the next. That provision was made for us in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He carried our sins to the cross for us, judged them there in his own body, and paid the debt we owed to God for our disobedience and rebellion. Our part is to believe in Him, and repent of our old ways. Then, and only then, our sins are forgiven and we are declared right with God. We, in fact, "put on" the righteousness of Christ Himself; we are seen in God's eyes to be as pure and holy as the Son of God Himself. This is justification. In effect, we become "just as if" we never sinned. Our outstanding account has been settled. We have peace with God. (see also Acts 20:21, Rom. 5:1, 2 Cor. 5:21, etc.)

Having peace with God, being justified in His sight, means that we are presently in possession of eternal life. Our entrance into heaven is guaranteed if we hold fast to our confession of faith in Christ. "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24)

 

 

2. Jesus Came to Save Us From the Power of Sin, to Enable Us to Walk in Righteousness

"...Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure,

Philippians 2:12-13

It is not enough to simply be saved from the consequence of sin, though that's certainly a wonderful and necessary thing. If salvation frees from the consequences of sin without rehabilitating the sinner, we'd all mess up again, and heaven would simply become another earth! We must be saved from the power of sin, as well. How can one say he is "saved" if he continues to walk in sin? The same Jesus who paid for our sins on the cross also paid for our victory over the power of sin itself. The same salvation that secures our forgiveness and justification must also be worked out in our daily life. James astutely points out that "faith without works is dead," (Jas. 2:20). How can you say you're saved if there is no evidence of it? How can anyone, including you, really know that you are saved from the consequences of sin if you cannot demonstrate salvation from the day-to-day power of sin?

Power over sin is accomplished through being born again and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Christ does not merely forgive the believer and send him or her out on the street to fend for themselves. He gives them a new nature through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. In some mysterious but very real way, the Christian's old nature dies, and he or she is born again through the agency of the Holy Spirit. The old, sinful heart is replaced with a new one which is eager to respond to the laws of God, eager to obey the Spirit of God. The believer's spirit becomes one with Christ (1 Cor. 6:1). Gone is the old alienation from God; there is a new familiarity and relationship...

"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds, and I will write them upon their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."

Hebrews 8:10-12

Before someone is born again, self-reformation seems nearly impossible, the power of sin too strong to be broken--and in fact it is. The would-be follower of righteousness is struggling against his own fallen nature. But as a born-again, Spirit-empowered individual, sin is beatable. If you will decide--and the Lord helps you even in the decision process (see Phil. 2:12 above)--He will provide the power, the wherewithal, to be free from any sin that binds you. You have Christ's salvation, you are saved from the power, as well as the consequences, of sin.

 

 

3. Jesus Came to Save Us From The Physical and Emotional Consequences of Sin

And He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it shall not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover."

Mark 16:15-18

"Heal {the} sick, raise {the} dead, cleanse {the} lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.

Matthew 10:8

Many fail to take notice of the many and varied consequences of sin. Separation from God and loss of eternal life are certainly the most important, but by no means exhaust the list. When sin first entered into the world through the failure of Adam and Eve, the door was opened to a great variety of satanic oppression and destruction. In giving in to the devil in the garden, Adam granted him a foothold in the life and development of the pristine new creation of God. The enemy lost no time in implementing his designs. He immediately began perverting what God had made... human and animal cells were maneuvered into unnatural combinations and the result was disease; animals and humans alike became predators, twisting the original plan of God for peaceful coexistence of the species. Sickness and torment were a not part of God's original creation when He "saw all that He had made, and behold, it was very good..." (Gen.1:31).

"You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and {how} He went about doing good, and healing all who were oppressed by the devil; for God was with Him. (Acts 10:38). Countering the devil's perversion of the world by going about healing all who were oppressed by him and his works was very much a part of the salvation plan of Jesus. It's also a part of the prophecy from Isaiah 61 which He quoted in Nazareth... "...he has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed..." (Luke 4:18).

It was no afterthought that made the Son of Man go about healing the sick; it was crucial to the Lord's plan -- and to our understanding of God, the source of sickness, and the nature of our salvation in Christ. Satan was enabled to bring sickness into the world through man's sin, and Jesus, by dealing with sin once and for all, removed the grounds for sickness, the right of the enemy to strike us with infirmity. If sin is dealt with, then it follows that sickness is, too.

The ancient Jews understood that sickness and sin were inextricably related. Jesus told the paralytic who had been lowered through the roof, "In order that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins... rise, take up your bed, and go home." (Matt. 9:6). The question had been posed by the Pharisees, "Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (Luke 5:21). Jesus answered by healing the man before their eyes. The reasoning went something like this: if you haven't dealt with the sin, you can't heal the sickness... so if Jesus was able to heal the sickness, then He also had the right to forgive sins... and therefore He was God, for only God can forgive sins!

Sin and sickness are connected. The disciples, like most Jews of their time, assumed that the presence of illness always meant that the sick person had committed some heinous sin. Jesus pointed out in John 9:2-3 that sin and sickness were not always directly linked; yet the disciples still understood there to be at least an indirect relation (see James 5:14-16), and sickness was held to be a result of the oppression of the enemy (Acts 10:38). Jesus could save people from their sins, and therefore He could also save them from their sickness.

So Jesus healed the sick. He spent the greater portion of His ministry doing it. He always taught the people, telling them of God's ways and the path of salvation, but that took little time compared with how long it took to minister to each of the sick and oppressed that were brought into His presence daily. Once the word was out that people were being healed, the multitudes understandably flocked all the more to His side, bringing their sick loved ones with them. The medical profession was in a very primitive state in those days, and the salvation that Jesus offered was the only hope for healing that most of them had. And He healed them all. He turned away none that came to Him for help. (see Matthew 12:15, John 6:37)

A definition of salvation that does not include healing of the body falls far short of that which was preached and practiced by Jesus and the early disciples. Many modern evangelicals have brought their own limited world view into their theology of the atonement, seeing it merely as a spiritual exchange which has very little to do with life right here and now on this planet. The good news preached in the Bible offered salvation, or deliverance, for the whole man, not merely a cleansing of the record book in Heaven. The apostles would not have thought of preaching the Gospel without praying for the sick and expecting their quick recovery. It was a part of the package, as they understood it. A Savior who came to defeat the evil one, but stopped short of setting people free from the most obvious manifestations of the devil's handiwork would be no Savior at all. Healing of the body is not an appendix added in recent times by the Pentecostals--it is basic to our understanding of the Gospel and crucial to defeating the works of Satan and declaring the whole spectrum of God's salvation.

 

 

Casting Out Demons

If we return to the scripture references at the beginning of this section we'll find a reference to expelling demons in each of them. Indeed, the command to cast out evil spirits is nearly always a part of the commission to the disciples, and the description of the gospel message as we find it in the pages of the New Testament. Jesus cast out demons everywhere He ministered, and the apostles and the early church followed His example. In the first few centuries following the advent of Jesus, Christians took this particular aspect of the Gospel so seriously that they initiated an "order of exorcists," specially trained individuals who ministered deliverance from demonic bondage to all prospective church members prior to their acceptance into the flock through baptism.*

Modern, so-called "civilized" people tend to sneer at such primitive superstitions as demons, and the belief that they can inhabit or otherwise influence and oppress human beings. Behavioral symptoms that were once considered demonic are now explained in terms of psychological disorders. Many Christians believe that Jesus cast out demons, not because He actually believed in them Himself, but merely to accommodate the belief system of those He ministered among. Such excuses not only denigrate the authority of the Bible, but advertise the cultural blindness and ignorance of modern man.

Jesus believed very much in demons. They recognized Him when He came into town. They should, for He created them long ago. He is their Lord as well as ours, but they've chosen not to submit to Him. Instead, they go about attempting to thwart the plans of God, infiltrating life on earth at every level. "The whole world lies in the power of the evil one," John said (1 John 5:19), and that is largely due to the activity of the demonic forces at Satan's command. From powerful fallen angels who influence the destinies of whole nations to smaller spirits of lust and greed that plague individuals, demons make their presence felt in many ways in the affairs of men. The Bible is not absolutely clear on their origins, but it is adamant about their existence and their power over men's hearts and minds.

They gain access to men and women through a variety of sinful and foolish behavior, ranging from occult involvement to sexual immorality, and once in, they begin to bring about a bondage that is not breakable outside of the power of Jesus Christ. Sometimes they are directly responsible for physical afflictions, as in the case of the deaf and dumb boy, and the woman with spinal deterioration (see Mark 9:17-27 and Luke 13:11). Demonized people frequently exhibit severe psychological problems, such as depression, uncontrollable anger, obsessive behavior, and an overpowering desire to commit suicide. They are the most miserable of people, and outside of the salvation of Jesus Christ, without real hope in this world.

Thank God, provision has been made in the Gospel for their deliverance! "In My name they shall cast out demons," Jesus said. It's high time the church of Jesus Christ became educated in this neglected but essential part of the salvation plan of God. Though it's a highly controversial subject, evidence and experience show that even many Christians are seriously bound by demons, struggling valiantly, but in vain, against the powers entrenched within them. Deliverance from demonic bondage is provided for in the atonement of Christ; it is a part of the salvation offered by our God. Let's quit debating the subject and start helping the people around us by delivering them of their demons. To be disobedient to the command to "cast out demons," is just as negligent as refraining from praying for the sick or preaching the gospel itself--for all are mentioned in the same breath by our Lord Jesus.

 

 

4. God Intends To Save The Whole Earth

...the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.

Romans 8:21-22

But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells.

2 Peter 3:13

The whole earth is defiled by the sinfulness of mankind, and that corruption is not confined to man and his society alone, but has spread to the entire creation. Isaiah points out that "the earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth..." (Isa. 24:5-6, NIV). Nature itself is brutal and merciless. We take this for granted, and we rationalize it... "the animals only kill for food, not for lust or power..." But even those statements are not true. Animals do kill for the joy of killing, as the farmer whose hen-house has been devastated by a fox can tell you. They do kill their opponents in order to be the top dog, the alpha male in the group. They act pretty much like humans in many ways, if the truth be told. The entire creation is corrupt, preying upon one another, inflicting pain upon the innocent, engaging in the wanton destruction of those weaker than themselves.

The earth itself seems to rise up in judgment against the sins of mankind. Floods, earthquakes, typhoons, and other natural disasters annually take hundreds of thousands of human lives, not to mention the toll in wildlife and habitat. From the arctic cold to the intense heat of the Indian plains, from the lofty peaks of the Himalayas to the stark wilderness of the Sahara, the earth itself seems to resist the survival of both human and animal life.

The creation is truly groaning and suffering , even our text above declares. But it says, too, that "the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God." God's plan of includes the salvation of the animals, and the earth itself -- all of His creation. He has no intention of letting it fall by the wayside, of writing it off as an unavoidable loss. The groaning is not in vain. God hears the cry of His creatures, and has provided for them. As Adam brought the world into bondage through his concession to Satan, and corruption subsequently spread throughout creation, even so, Jesus of Nazareth, through His obedience to God has brought about the means for its salvation.

We, the born-again Christians, followers of Jesus Christ, are not the sum total of the saved. We are merely the first fruits of an entire new creation, as Paul also says in Romans chapter eight. James echoes the thought in his epistle: "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we might be, as it were, the first fruits among His creatures, (James 1:18). You see, some time before the crop is ripe and ready to harvest, there are always a few early-bird fruits on the trees or the vine. They are not numerous in comparison to the rest of the coming harvest, but are very special to the farmer, being the first fruits of his labor. The Christians are the Lord's first fruits, and they will have a special place in the coming kingdom of Christ, but the rest of the earth will also be redeemed--animals, earthquakes, and all. It's provided for in God's plan of salvation...

 

"The wolf and the lamb shall graze together, and the lion shall eat straw like the ox; and dust shall be the serpent's food. They shall do no evil or harm in all My holy mountain," says the LORD.

Isaiah 65:25

 So we see that the term "salvation" encompasses much more than the average Christian realizes. God has provided, through Jesus Christ, complete deliverance for every one that believes and embraces the Gospel: forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the just penalty of damnation; victory over the power of sin right now; deliverance from the physical, mental and emotional bondages of the enemy; and the ultimate redemption of the entire creation. What a great salvation we have!

  

 

 

Part Two: The Time Element In Salvation

 

There is more. There is also a sense in which our salvation encompasses the three tenses of time: past, present, and future. We cannot have a full understanding of what is ours in Christ Jesus without grasping this important aspect of what it means to be saved. That's what we'll concentrate on in this chapter.

 

1. The Past Tense of Salvation

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, {it is} the gift of God;

Ephesians 2:8

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life."

John 5:24

"But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus..."

Acts 15:11

 It is clear from the Scriptures that a person is saved the instant he or she exercises faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Note the tense of Ephesians 2:8 above: "you have been saved through faith..." Our salvation is treated as an accomplished fact. If we have truly believed and made Jesus our Lord and Savior, we are already saved.

Our sins are already forgiven. Look at Luke 7:48, 50. "And He [Jesus] said to her, "Your sins have been forgiven... Your faith has saved you; go in peace." We don't merely entertain a nebulous hope that our sins may be forgiven some day if we perform all the right rituals in the meantime; we know our sins are already forgiven on the authority of God's word. (See also Ephesians 1:7).

Eternal life is the present possession of the true believer. Look again at John 5:24 above. It says that the believer, the follower of Jesus already "has eternal life," and "has passed out of death into life." Everlasting life is not something that becomes ours when we die. We have everlasting life right now. We have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, and He is greater than death, greater than any spirit in this world (see 1 John 4:4). We cannot die. We are eternal.

This is great news, especially to those who have labored under the complex salvation programs of certain historical denominations like Roman Catholicism. You can know you have eternal life... "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, in order that you may know that you have eternal life," (1 John 5:13). You may have it now! You needn't wonder about it and hope for the best. You can have assurance before God and man. This is salvation in the past tense. This is salvation as an accomplished fact.

And this past-tense salvation covers the whole spectrum of salvation that we discussed in the previous chapter. Your sins are forgiven. You are justified before God and at peace with Him, (Rom. 5:1). It's an accomplished fact. You are born again. You are a new creature, (2 Cor. 5:17). You are as righteous as Christ, (2 Cor. 5:21). You are free from sin, having been buried with Christ and risen again to walk in the newness of life, (Rom. 6:5-11). It is a finished work. The physical aspects of your salvation are also an accomplished fact because of the cross of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 2:24 says, "By His wounds you were healed." "Were" means past tense. It's done. You are healed. And you are also delivered from the power of the evil one--Jesus came to accomplish just that, and He succeeded (see 1 John 3:8).

Yet, you may say, it's obvious that we are not all completely free from sin. It's apparent that the devil still tempts, seduces, and even sometimes even seems to control Christians from time to time. It's painfully obvious that Christians do fall sick. That brings us to the next tense of salvation...

 

 

2. The Present Tense of Salvation

 

For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing;

2 Corinthians 2:15

So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling;

Philippians 2:12

 

Our sins are forgiven. It is done. We have eternal life residing in us through the agency of the Holy Spirit. It's already ours. Salvation is a crisis experience that you can have, and henceforth refer to in the past tense (i.e. "I was saved on January 20th, 1974"). But there is also a process of salvation. There is a sense in which we "are being saved," according to the reference from 2 Corinthians above. It takes awhile for that which is within us to work its way out in our everyday lives. That's why Paul also said, "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." Salvation is within you, but it needs outworking, it needs to filter out from your inner spirit to the rest of your life. This is a process. This is the present tense of salvation.

The Holy Spirit within is a reality. The possession of eternal life is a reality. The provision for healing and deliverance from demons is a reality. But these things need to be made a part of our present experience through faith and determination, and through yielding to the life of the Spirit within. It's not automatic--it requires response and action on our part.

Our salvation is not totally consummated at the moment of our rebirth. We have the seed of everything that is ours in Christ, but it's not fully developed. All the ingredients are there, but all are not yet realized. A newborn child has all the necessary parts to become a full grown person. In that sense he or she is complete. There is nothing to add, nothing to earn or do to improve upon what is given at birth. But there is a great deal of development still to come. That infant can't walk or work, eat solid food, or reproduce. It needs to go through a process of growth in order to fully realize its potential. So it is with our spiritual life. Though we may have a complete salvation in one sense of the word, we still have to develop that which is inherently ours.

Victory over sin isn't automatic. True, we find that once we're born again, the desire to be righteous is within us, but the habit of sin is also still present. The carnal nature is still making its desires known. "For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want," (Gal. 5:17, NIV). We overcome that sinful nature and learn to walk experientially in our salvation by purposefully yielding ourselves to the desires of the Spirit while ignoring the lusts of the flesh. It's not impossible, for the power of God is resident within us--it merely needs to be activated, to be allowed to have its way. The battle of the "inner man" against the "sinner man" is much more than a matter of will power. The power lies solidly in favor of righteousness. The secret is in the yielding, and the subsequent discovery that the carnal nature was all bluff, with little strength to back up its desires.

The same is true when it comes to sickness and demonic oppression. Though Christ's sacrifice on the cross bought our freedom once and for all, each individual must personally appropriate his deliverance. Some have called this the positional and experimental aspects of our healing. Positionally, everything is already mine in Christ. I'm not only saved and healed, but according to Ephesians 2:6, I'm actually seated in the heavens in Christ Jesus. Experimentally (in actual physical experience), however, I'm still on this earth. And experimentally, I may also become sick, or still be in need of deliverance from demonic bondages that remain from my life without Christ.

Many have theological problems with the idea that a Christian can be in need of deliverance from demons. They say, "How can a demon and the Holy Spirit inhabit the same person? If we're saved, aren't we supposed to be free indeed, free from the devil and his workers?" Yes, of course you're free--positionally. But just as you may still be sick, or may still have areas of sin in your life -- even though you're positionally free from those -- so you may still be in need of deliverance from demonic bondage. It shouldn't be any more of a stigma for a Christian to have a demon than for a Christian to have a cold. We've simply had a lot of incomplete teaching on these subjects. We don't fully understand the "whys and wherefores" of the implementation of our salvation in Christ.

Faith is the key element in appropriating what is ours positionally and realizing a more complete salvation in our life here on earth. First we must understand and believe the promises of the Bible; we must get more thoroughly familiar with the spiritual dynamics of our salvation, and not settle for the partial gospel of forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternity in Heaven. Then we must take the necessary steps, which may include seeking special prayer from the church leadership, rebuking evil spirits, or commanding diseases to depart.

We mustn't settle for less than what can be ours in Christ Jesus. We have the power that created the universe--the power of God Almighty--resident within us. We need to learn how to activate it and live by it. We can grow daily in our grasp of the wonderful salvation provided for us in the cross of Christ. We must continue the process of salvation, or we will be guilty of neglecting this great gift, and perhaps even in danger of losing it...

 

How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,

Hebrews 2:3

 Many think that salvation beyond the individual -- the renewing of society -- is the subject of prophecy, something to be accomplished when the kingdom of God comes in the future. But this aspect of salvation is also in process right now. Daniel, in interpreting Nebuchadnezzar's dream, prophesied that the kingdom of God would strike a death blow to the worldly powers, and then grow until it was a mountain that filled the whole earth (see Daniel chapter two). That death blow was struck at the cross of Calvary, and the kingdom of God has been advancing ever since. More progress has been made in the last century than in all of prior history. God's kingdom is on the march. Jesus said the kingdom was in the midst of the people even during the days of His own earthly ministry--and it's been expanding its influence ever since. The kingdom of God itself is an accomplished fact (past), a developing reality (present), and a future hope.

Therefore, God's salvation is even now transforming villages, cities, societies, and even whole nations (the president of an once-Marxist African nation has declared his country to be Christian, and when he says "Christian" he means born-again and Spirit-baptized). Cannibals who once ate their neighbors now seek to evangelize them. Indian women who were once burned alive with the bodies of their deceased husbands now find a sense of self-worth and dignity through the transforming message of the gospel. As God's Spirit moves in the hearts and lives of individuals, His salvation can touch and change the world around those individuals. They become salt and light to those around them. The kingdom of God is growing in the world today; the deliverance of individuals and society as a whole is in process. This is the present tense of salvation.

 

 

3. The Future Tense of Salvation

And this {do,} knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.

Romans 13:11

Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.

Romans 5:9-10

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,

1 Thessalonians 5:8-9

 If you didn't understand the tenses of salvation, all of the verses above would seem confusing and contradictory when compared to the other references we've examined concerning our salvation. How can Paul say "we are saved" in one place, and "we shall be saved" in another, as though our salvation is an event somewhere in the future? The answer? There is a future tense to salvation, as well as a past and present.

Whereas the past tense of salvation can be referred to as a completed crisis experience, and the present tense as an ongoing process or appropriation of what is already ours in Christ, the future tense is the full realization of our salvation. There will be a day when everything that remains to be accomplished in us is finished, perfected, in one fell swoop.

Remember, technically speaking, we are dead to sin and its power. The Christian has the potential of becoming totally free from the dominion of sin. But has anyone yet achieved that state this side of glory? I haven't heard of one. Occasional bouts of selfishness and jealousy, and moments of impatience continue to plague even the most devout and disciplined believers. They repent, and try to crucify the flesh even more, but perhaps no one yet has ever managed to walk in the perfection of Christ. Their salvation is not complete. But it will be one day--they shall be saved--future tense.

Do Christians die from sickness or disease? On a daily basis! In spite of the vehement assertions of many who proclaim the "uncompromised faith message." I recently heard a preacher say that old age shouldn't even have an effect on the believer. Neither should sickness, if in fact we were healed by His stripes. But I'm afraid that even that outspoken preacher will have to die some day--either of sickness or old age--unless he is alive at the coming of the Lord and is instantly transformed into his glorified body (see 1 Thess. 4:17).

Does this detract from our salvation? Didn't we say that sickness and disease were covered in our salvation? Doesn't the Lord's plan cover the whole spectrum of human existence? Spirit, soul, body, society, and even nature are all saved in Christ. Hasn't that been our major thrust in this message? Yes, but there is this element of time. Those things are all provided for, and are in process even at this very moment, as people personalize and appropriate the promises of God. But they will not be totally accomplished--completed--until the coming of Jesus Christ. Even after His coming certain aspects of His salvation will not be totally entered into by the majority of mankind. Death, for example, though without sting, and though prolonged as in the days of the patriarchs, will continue even through the earthly reign of Jesus (see 1 Cor. 15:24-26, 55, Isa. 65:20).

At the social level the Christian life is not always an easy one. Believers suffer many of the same hurts and rejections, and go through many of the same battles as everyone else. Sometimes the faith itself becomes the source of trials and afflictions; people may vehemently resist the followers of Christ, in misguided zeal for their own religious beliefs, or in jealousy of the calm assurance with which we face life. Many Christians are actually martyred each year to this day, and many others have to meet clandestinely because of the anti-Christian stance of their governments.

Many who worship in comfortable America would assert that there must be something wrong with the faith of those who are martyred or persecuted. But the simple fact is that our salvation is not yet complete. One day, however, it will be. One day we will be vindicated before our enemies. One day the struggles will cease and we will be released from our present state like a butterfly from its cocoon.

Christ promised His disciples that He would come again, not to suffer and die to purchase our salvation, but rather, to rule and reign and perfect it, to bring it to full realization. The wicked will be judged, the righteous will inherit the earth. The believers in Christ will be instantly transformed, their minds and emotions freed from sin and pain; all sickness will flee as their bodies are glorified, fixed in perfect health and strength forever. Every tear shall be wiped away. The earth itself shall be re-made. The enemy and all his hosts will be confined, and the Lord Jesus shall reign among His subjects here on earth.

And so shall the salvation promised in the Gospel of Jesus Christ be fully realized. All those who submit to His lordship will be saved--completely and eternally. The drama that began thousands of years ago shall be brought to a finish, and a new era shall be ushered in. The salvation of this planet shall be complete.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

1 Peter 1:3-5

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes

 

1. Charles C. Ryrie, in So Great Salvation, defines the term in keeping with the theme of our message here: "Salvation. God's deliverance for the believer from all the effects of sin, plus all the benefits which He bestows now and forever." (Wheaton, IL, Victor Books, 1989) p. 157.

Copyright 2001   Kim Harrington, Masterbuilder Ministries. All rights reserved.

 

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