Salvation: Past, Present, and Future

For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.

Titus 2:11 NLT

In the South, we often think of salvation as an altar call or a sinner’s prayer, some event we responded to when we were young. It could have been a church service, camp meeting, weekend retreat, or revival week. Say the prayer, walk the aisle, make a commitment and we are right with God and all is well. Salvation is done and we are secure for eternity. But, Biblical salvation is more than a one -time prayer.

Gratefully, salvation is not only about “getting into heaven,” it is about being transformed and conformed by the Holy Spirit into the likeness and image of Jesus Christ. Salvation is my past sins being forgiven, but also, salvation is the power of sin’s hold being broken now, and thankfully, salvation is about being delivered completely from sin’s very presence at the second coming of our Lord.

Concerning the past, a Christian can say, “I was saved”—from the penalty of sin. Concerning the present, a Christian can say, “I am being saved”—from the power of sin. Concerning the future, the Christian can say, “I shall be saved”—from the presence of sin.

W. H. Griffith Thomas quoted in Nick Harrison, (2010-12-07). His Victorious Indwelling: Daily Devotions for a Deeper Christian Life (Kindle Locations 5568-5571). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

Only One Christ

Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.

Acts 2:38

Several years ago there was a controversy about whether a believer needed to receive Christ as Lord and Savior to be saved. Some said Savior only and others declared that Christ needed to be Lord of every area of our lives as well as Savior of our souls.

I asked Anglican theologian, J. I. Packer, what he thought of the Lordship Salvation Controversy, “You can’t have half of Jesus, Jesus is both Lord and Christ (i.e., Savior).” Dr. Packer was quoting from Peter’s sermon in Acts 2, “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified” (v.36) [emphasis mine].

Lordship of Christ means joyfully bowing to God’s will without hesitation or reservation while doing without question the Holy Spirit’s desire, direction, and purpose. Lordship means allowing Jesus to have his way in us no matter our fears, hesitations, anxieties, or doubts. Lordship means following the Lamb wherever he goes.

It is not logical or reasonable to speak of Him as Lord, and then to disobey him, because His Lordship implies an unquestioning bowing down to His will, and unhesitating and an unquestioning doing of His will.

Francis W. Dixon, “The Lordship of Christ,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 261.

There are not two Christs–an easygoing one for easygoing Christians, and a suffering, toiling one for exceptional believers. There is only one Christ. Fruit-bearing involves Cross-bearing.

J. Hudson Taylor

The Tree of Life

Living in the Realm Where God Lives

On either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him.

Revelation 22:2-3

Eternal life is life and life more abundantly—it is being alive in the realm where God lives (John 10:10). Life is walking with God in unending communion, enjoying his unlimited blessing, experiencing his unconditional love, and receiving his undeserved grace. The opposite of eternal life is not finite life, but eternal death. The eternal life that Christ offers is entire salvation of the whole being including conversion and new birth as well as final glorification (John 3:16).

Why can we have the tree of life? Because Jesus Christ climbed the cross, the tree of death. And because Jesus climbed the tree of death you can have the tree of life.

Tim Keller, “The Garden: City of God,” Pastor, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Manhattan, N.Y.

HT: Of First Importance

New Testament Salvation

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

2 Cor. 3:18 ESV

New Testament salvation is not walking the aisle or saying a sinner’s prayer, sitting in the pew and paying your tithe, and then waiting for heaven. Salvation is forgiveness of our past sin, present transformation of our hearts, and future obedience unto holiness. We have been saved from the penalty of our sin; we are  being saved from the power of our sin; and we shall be saved from the very presence of sin. Therefore, New Testament salvation is complete and total for the our entire lives, our entire hearts, and our entire behavior.

Our salvation is not earned, but received: a gift of God. Christ died in our place taking upon himself our just judgment. Our deliverance from sin is not based on our good performance, but based on Christ’s performance on the Cross. Through Christ’s death alone, do we receive God’s approval.

Faith tells us that what Christ did for us on the cross will be worked in us by the Holy Spirit preparing us for glory in the Father’s eternal presence. The Holy Spirit does in us what Christ did for us on the Cross. The work of the Holy Spirit in saving us from sin is a work that is past, present, and future.

The salvation which God has provided and procured, and proclaimed in the Scriptures, through Jesus Christ, is not merely a salvation that is designed to change a man’s eternal destiny: it is a salvation which is designed to transform his character into the likeness of Christ. Nothing less than this is New Testament salvation.

Eric J. Alexander, “Inner Renewal by the Spirit,” Daily Thoughts from Keswick: A Year’s Daily Readings, ed. Herbert F. Stevenson (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1980), 27.

“For Us and For Our Salvation”


“For Us and For Our Salvation”

But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

Titus 3:4-5 ESV

Q. Why did the Son of God come down from heaven?

A. For us and our salvation, as it explained in the Nicene Creed.

Q. What does it mean when the Creed says the Son of God came down from heaven, “For us”?

A. This phrase teaches us that He came to earth neither for one nation or for some people only, but for all.

Q. What does it means when the Nicene Creed says, “for our salvation”?

A.  Salvation is God’s deliverance of men and women from the effects of the Fall through Christ’s life, death, and resurrection by bringing full and complete restoration to creation, transformation of our hearts and lives, and renewal of God’s intentions and purposes.

Q.  Is this salvation effective for our past sins, present ills, and future judgment?

A.  In fact, salvation has three tenses, past, present and future. We have been saved (in the past) from the penalty of sin by a crucified Savior.  We are being saved (in the present) from the power of sin by a living Savior.  We shall be saved (in the future) from the very presence of sin by a coming Savior.

Q.  What did Christ come to save us from?

A.  Christ came to save us from the world and its influence, sin and its bondage, the flesh and its passions, the devil and his temptations, and death and its finality.

Salvation is a big and comprehensive word.  It embraces the totality of God’s saving work, from beginning to end.  In fact salvation has three tenses, past, present and future.  I am myself always grateful to the good man who led me to Christ over forty years ago that he taught me, raw and brash young convert that I was, to keep saying: ‘I have been saved (in the past) from the penalty of sin by a crucified Saviour.  I am being saved (in the present) from the power of sin by a living Saviour.  And I shall be saved (in the future) from the very presence of sin by a coming Saviour’. . .

If therefore you were to ask me, ‘Are you saved?’ there is only one correct biblical answer which I could give you: ‘yes and no.’ Yes, in the sense that by the sheer grace and mercy of God through the death of Jesus Christ my Saviour he has forgiven my sins, justified me and reconciled me to himself.  But no, in the sense that I still have a fallen nature and live in a fallen world and have a corruptible body, and I am longing for my salvation to be brought to its triumphant completion.

John Stott, “The Messenger and God: Studies in Romans 1-5”, in Believing and Obeying Jesus Christ, ed. J. W. Alexander (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1980), 10 (paragraphing mine).



Heart Change Wrought by the Holy Spirit

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

Ezekiel 36:26

He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, [6] whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Titus 3:5-6

Regeneration is a change wrought by the Holy Spirit in the heart of a person transforming their motivation from a heart of self-centeredness to a will that is Christ-loving and people-serving. This work of regeneration is released by faith and changes us from hearts of stone, that can only sin, and nothing else, to hearts that serve, love, and sacrifice.

This means that our regeneration is owing to the historical work of Christ. . . . New birth is not a vague spiritual change disconnected from history. It is an objective historical act of the Spirit of God connecting us by faith to the historical, incarnate—the appearing—Lord Jesus, so that the life he now has as the crucified and risen Savior has become our life because we are united to him. New birth happens because Jesus came into the world as the kindness and love of God and died for sins and rose again.

John Piper, Finally Alive: What Happens When We Are Born Again (Christian Focus, 2009), 94.


No Other Savior

Only By Faith

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.

Eph. 2:8

Dependence is the state of relying on or needing someone for spiritual aid, emotional support, or physical assistance. Jesus is worthy: he is reliable, dependable, and faithful. We do not have to fear for Jesus is the one and only person capable of being our Savior. We can depend on him without reservation or equivocation. Only Jesus was truly human and fully divine in one person. Jesus identified with us as humans knowing our struggles and temptations. Jesus is fully divine, he is able to deliver us by the power of God. No one else is able to be our Savior.

When you realize just how dependent you are on Jesus for your salvation — his death for your sin, his life for your righteousness — you understand why the Bible is so insistent that salvation comes only through faith in him. There is no other way, no other savior, nothing and no one else in the world on which we can rely for salvation, including our own efforts.

Greg Gilbert, What is the Gospel? (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010), 78.


Coming to Christ

One Thing and One Thing Only

Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens.

Matt. 11:28 NLT

In the early eighties, I worked with the Agape Force in Tacoma, Washington. We all reached out to one older man and his family for several months. It was obvious that the Holy Spirit was convicting him and drawing him to Christ. However, he refused to yield his whole heart and soul to Christ’s Lordship.

Who would direct his life? Jesus or him. This tug-of-war was THE major issue. It was odd, he wanted to do spiritual things and think he was spiritually-minded, but he refused to give his whole heart to Christ. As an alternative, he joined the Mormons, then the Witnesses, then a motorcycle group, and then . . . . You get the picture, he did everything, but come to Christ. Salvation is simple, but not necessarily easy: yield your whole life to Christ and trust his finished work on the Cross. You see, God asks just one thing and one thing only–come to Christ.

When a person turns to Christ empty—that they may be filled; sick—that they may be healed; hungry—that they may be satisfied; thirsty—that they may be refreshed; needy—that they may be enriched; dying—that they may have life; lost—that they may be saved; guilty—that they may be pardoned; sin-defiled—that they may be cleansed; confessing that Christ alone can supply their need—then they come to Christ. This, and nothing more than this, is coming to Christ.

J.C. Ryle, Tract: Come!

HT: J C Ryle Quotes



“The Gospel Actually Makes Them Free”

Free Indeed

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:36 NIV

We often sell the gospel short. We don’t believe that God can really change a life: freedom from sin, healing from brokenness, and transformation of character. God loves us as we are, yet God loves enough not to leave us as we are. He can free us and others from the sin that so easily binds us.

For sin’s human captives, God never intends anything less than full deliverance. The Christian message rightly understood means this: The God who by the word of the gospel proclaims men free, by the power of the gospel actually makes them free. To accept less than this is to know the gospel in word only, without its power.

A. W. Tozer, God’s Pursuit of Man (Camp Hill, PA: Wingspread, 1950), 27.

Our One and Only Savior

Salvation Found Only in Christ

And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12

To the post-modern mind, no one religion can claim to have all the truth. No one way can be the only hope of salvation. No one person can claim to be the sole means to living life in all its fullness. Post-moderns assert that those individuals who make such an exclusive claim are intolerant and arrogant.

Yet much to their dismay, Jesus makes that very claim: He is the exclusive Savior of the world, the only means to salvation, and the only one who can bring true fulfillment (John 14:6).

To claim that Jesus Christ is unique is not to say that there is no truth in other religions and ideologies. Of course there is. For we believe in God’s general revelation and common grace. The Logos of God is still ‘the true light’ coming into the world and enlightening every man (Jn. 1:9). All men know something of God’s glory from creation and something of God’s law from their own nature, as Paul argues in Romans 1 and 2.

But how does this argument continue? Not that their knowledge of God saves them, but the very opposite! It condemns them because they suppress it. Indeed, ‘they are without excuse, for although they knew God they did not honour him as God   . . . .” It is against this dark background of the universal rebellion, guilt and judgment of mankind that the good news of Jesus Christ shines with such dazzling beauty.

There is salvation in no other, for there is no other mediator between God and man but only Jesus Christ who died as a ransom for sinners (Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5-6). Firmly to reject all syncretism in this way and to assert the uniqueness and finality of Jesus Christ is not ‘doctrinal superiority’ or imperialism, as it has been called. Conviction about revealed truth is not arrogance. Its proper name is ‘stewardship’, the humble and obedient stewardship of a church which knows it has been ‘put in trust with the Gospel’.

John Stott, “Response to Bishop Mortimer Arias,” International Review of Mission (January 1976).

HT: Langham Partnership