What does it mean to be saved? The New Testament talks about salvation a lot. We talk about getting saved in church quite a bit. So who gets saved? And what are we getting saved from?
Salvation suggests that people need to be saved from something. The Bible tells us that everyone needs to be saved. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says Paul in Romans 3:23. What we need to be saved from is the judgment and consequence of sin. We can theoretically say if a person were good enough, he or she would not need to be saved. But the New Testament insists that none of us are good enough.
Fortunately, though we cannot earn God’s eternal life, God has offered it to us. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8).
Saving faith is not mere belief. It is a spiritual act that God brings about in our hearts. We cannot just do it when we want to. When saving faith occurs, the Spirit of God produces a change in the spirit of the person who is saved. Jesus referred to this as being “born again.” This is a change in the heart and life of a person.
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Salvation begins when we receive the gift of God’s saving faith in our lives. Salvation has three aspects. In that moment when we receive Christ, we are justified. That means God has forgiven our sin and declares us righteous. We are accepted into God’s family and our eternal life is secured. This is only the first phase of salvation.
While justification takes place immediately, the second phase of salvation has only begun. In addition to justification, we begin the process of sanctification. When we are justified, we are set free from the judgment of sin. As God’s Spirit sanctifies us, we are set free from the power of sin. We begin to improve, not just in our outward actions, but in our inner motivations. The most certain evidence of salvation in a human life is that a person is growing in holiness motivated by love. “so now offer yourselves as slaves to righteousness leading to holiness” (Romans 6:19).
The final phase of salvation is when we die. At that time, we go into eternal life with God. When we do, God completes the perfection of our hearts and lives that He began when we were first saved. “being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
So who will be saved? Salvation is available to anyone who will acknowledge that they need salvation and will have faith in Jesus Christ. “For God so loved the world that He gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).
Love in Christ,
Greg Burriss, Pastor
Rocky River Baptist Church
Siler City, NC