Our Glorious Salvation, 4

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The Benefits of Salvation

Aside from the obvious one – going to heaven and not going to hell – we Christians are the fortunate recipients of certain benefits the come along with God’s gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.  But these benefits aren’t noticed all at once.  Becoming a Christian may happen in a moment, but being a Christian is a definite growing process.  That’s the reason for well-known phrases like these:  “babe in Christ,” which describes a new believer and “spiritual father or mother,” describing a more mature believer who may have had a positive impact on your development as a Christian.  Even the conversion experience was called “being born again” by our Lord!

Many of the benefits of salvation come with maturity.  The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and makes us part of God’s family immediately, but from that moment on, our growth from “babes in Christ” to mature believers is a gradual, lifelong process that depends as much on our co-operation with the Spirit as it does on the work of the Spirit Himself in us.

Let’s take a quick look at some of the benefits of salvation.

We are made children of God 

John 1:12 – 13 

But as many as received him, to them gave he  power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.  (JKV) 

That phrase, “as many as” when paired with “to them” is awkward English but was a very common way of speaking in Aramaic.  While the Jews by and large rejected Jesus, there were others who accepted Him as Savior.  Those who accepted Jesus, whether they were Jews or Gentiles it didn’t matter, received the greatest of all spiritual benefits.   For the most part, the Jew failed to realize that in the Kingdom, established spiritually by Jesus at His first coming, there are no “special privileges” based on nationality or sex.  That’s why John used that Aramaic expression, which amounted to:  “Whoever received Jesus became sons of God.”  How that single statement, so precious to us today, must have galled the proud, nationalist Jew of John’s day!

John says a lot in these two verses, so I’ll stay out of the tall theological grass to focus on a single aspect:  transformation.  In an instant out of eternity, one is transformed into a son – a child – of God.  And yet, it is also a gradual process.  In the physical world, a baby born is a child, yet remains a child for years as it grows and matures into adulthood.  The principle is the same in the spiritual world.  We become a child of God the instant life from above enters the soul.  But many of the benefits of this new relationship won’t be realized for years to come, or even until we are set free from the bonds of the flesh.  This notion squares with what John wrote, years later, in his first epistle:

Yes, dear friends, we are already God’s children, right now, and we can’t even imagine what it is going to be like later on. But we do know this, that when he comes we will be like him, as a result of seeing him as he really is.  (1 John 3:2  TLB)

Romans 8:14 – 17 

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  And so we should not be like cringing, fearful slaves, but we should behave like God’s very own children, adopted into the bosom of his family, and calling to him, “Father, Father.”  For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we really are God’s children.  And since we are his children, we will share his treasures—for all God gives to his Son Jesus is now ours too. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.  (TLB) 

In Romans 8, the word “Spirit” is seen some 20 times.  This fact prompted John Knox to write:

The Spirit is the theme of this culminating section of the argument which began at 6:1 with the question, “Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?” 

The only true and lasting solution to man’s sinfulness is not anything a man can do to help himself, but the sanctifying work of the Spirit.  That doesn’t absolve us of some responsibility, though.

So, dear brothers, you have no obligations whatever to your old sinful nature to do what it begs you to do.  For if you keep on following it you are lost and will perish, but if through the power of the Holy Spirit you crush it and its evil deeds, you shall live.  (Romans 8:12, 13  TLB)

We used to be obliged to follow our sinful nature, but now that the Holy Spirit is in us, our obligation is to follow the Spirit.  That obedience is the debt we owe the Holy Spirit.  This is sanctification in action; a gradual process of righteous living.  As Oswald Chambers was fond of saying:

We are to sacrifice the natural for the sake of the spiritual.

But, as we honor our obligation to follow the way of the Spirit, we don’t have to be fearful or scared, even of the occasional failure.  Fact is we have been adopted into God’s very own family, and the occasional mess-up on our part can’t change that.  Under grace, we have this close a relationship with God – it’s a familial relationship.  All this happened because of what Jesus did for us.  Because of Christ’s work, we are able to call God by the most personal name of all:  Abba.  How close is our new relationship with God?  Irenaeus put it best:

Jesus became what we are that we might become what He is. 

Jesus is the Son of God by nature, we by adoption.  R.C. Sproul noted:

Nobody is born into this world a child of the family of God.  We are born as children of wrath.  The only way we enter into the family of God is by adoption, and that adoption occurs when we are united to God’s only begotten Son by faith. 

1 Peter 2:9, 10 

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy.  (NKJV) 

Peter is saying some remarkable things about Christians here.  We move from the notion of Christians as the adopted “children of God” to a different way of viewing them:  by way of their citizenship.  We have been adopted into God’s family and our citizenship has necessarily changed!  Peter was writing to fellow Jews who had become believers, so what he wrote about “a holy nation,” for example, may hold a more special meaning to them, but as God’s adopted children, it should mean something to us too!  We are as much His people as the children of Abraham are!

Think about these things:

  • A chosen generation.  Another way of saying it could be, “an elect race.” That may have reference to the Jews, but remember this:  we have been chosen, too.  He has chosen us.  We think we chose Christ, but the truth is He chose us first.
  • A royal priesthood.  This has reference to the Jewish priesthood.  But in Christ, we are all “ministers” because we can all minister to God and we can all enter into His presence.  And we can minister for God as we take His message to the lost.
  • A holy nation.  Well, we would have to concede that the nation of Israel has never been holy in terms of their conduct.  But the same could be said of the Church!  And yet, because of our relationship to God, we are holy because Christ has become our righteousness.
  • A special people.  In the KJV the word is “peculiar,” and maybe that describes you better than does “special.”  However you want to word it, what it means is this:  God acquired us and we are now His possession; we belong to God.

These verses tell us a lot about what God sees when He looks at this world we are living in.  There is a new nation here.  There are new people here.  The old order of things is slowly disintegrating but the new order is growing and growing.  You and I became part of this new order because God called us.  It wasn’t our idea to join it.  God called us and we responded.

We are declared righteous 

Romans 4:4 – 8  

Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt.  But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…  (Romans 4:5, 6  NKJV)

The contrast between “as grace” and “as debt” can teach us a lot.  “Works” and “wages” go together as correlatives, while “faith” and “grace” go together.  Paul’s argument is logical:  If Abraham had righteousness counted to him, then works had nothing to do with it. Therefore it must have been an act of grace.   It follows that to be justified by grace through faith is to be given a righteousness which one doesn’t deserve.  Abraham, with his checkered history certainly didn’t deserve to be called righteous, but then neither do we.  That simple sentence is scandalous to works-based religions, of which there are plenty.  When God “justifies the ungodly,” God acquits the guilty sinner for reasons of His own mercy apart from any human merit, worthiness, or even need.  Justification is an act of God’s grace, plain and simple.

No wonder Martin Luther called this kind of righteousness “alien righteousness.”  He wrote:

Everything is outside us and in Christ.

That’s a good way to look at it.  It’s such a simple concept, this justification by faith, that it escapes so many people.

2 Corinthians 5:17 – 21 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  (2 Corinthians 5:17 – 19  NKJV)

These oft-quoted verses are stunning in their implications.  New converts quote them  all the time and preachers love to recite them during altar calls.  What do they mean, though?  When we are born again, at that very moment we are re-created.  We become a “new species of being that never existed before.”  Think about this for a moment.  As a Christian, you are NOT the same person you were before.  You may look the same and talk the same, but you are definitely NOT the same.  You are no longer associated with Adam, you are identified with Christ.   The fact that you may not feel different is irrelevant.  Nor can you base your new status on your salvation experience.  You are a new creation because God says so.

You, as a believer, have been reconciled to God.  This is God’s call to all lost men.  That’s what the “ministry of reconciliation” is all about:  God calling sinners to Himself.  Reconciliation is not salvation.  Reconciliation is all about changes; changes in relationships and changes within us.  Just about the only thing that doesn’t change in this ministry of reconciliation is God, because He never changes.  He changes us and He allows us to enter into a close relationship with Him.  Paul puts it another way in Colossians:

It was through what his Son did that God cleared a path for everything to come to him—all things in heaven and on earth—for Christ’s death on the cross has made peace with God for all by his blood.  This includes you who were once so far away from God. You were his enemies and hated him and were separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions, yet now he has brought you back as his friends.  He has done this through the death on the cross of his own human body, and now as a result Christ has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are standing there before him with nothing left against you—nothing left that he could even chide you for…  (Colossians 1:20 – 22  TLB) 

Through this great work of God’s, we have been reconciled to Him.  He has not been reconciled to us.  Remember, God can’t change.  We’re the ones that needed to change, and God makes those changes possible.

 

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