Sunday, April 10, 2016
What Is Salvation? #JesusFollowers
A strict adherence to the language of the Scriptures will keep us from the error of imagining that the evil from which Jesus saves is the curse of man's original condition - the fearful destiny in which we are "cursed" by Nature.
It is not only inconceivable that a benevolent Being should have subjected His creatures to such a miserable fate prior to their sinning, or even to their existing, but, which is more to the point, the sacred writers perpetually teach that the misery to be saved from is that of sin, not of our natural condition; that the wrath to be escaped is that which comes from their own transgressions, not that which awaits them because they are simply human.
They speak of no evil prior to or greater than that of active sin. They speak of no curse before this, or independent of it. And they propose to save from this as the grand, the essential, the all-comprehensive ill, leading to consequences of wretchedness and despair.
To avoid the penalty, yet still enjoy the sin, has always been a chief object of false religions. But let us not be deceived. No such preposterous compromise has been made.
What, then, is the nature of salvation, and from what does Jesus save us?
If we inquire of religion, as taught either by nature or by revelation, what is it, in strict truth, which God designs especially to promote by his government and his dispensations? Happiness? Yes, unquestionably. But how? Happiness only? Of any kind or of any description? If so, there were no need of laws and restraints, and moral laws, or institutions of discipline and instruction; for God might by the arbitrary appointments of His will lavish it abundantly on His creatures. But surely it is not so.
Being a holy God, whose hatred of sin is equal to His desire of happiness, and in whose view there is no true happiness where there is no holiness, He, therefore, makes holiness the primary object of His government, and the moral perfection of His offspring the favorite purpose of His dispensations.
God provides the means for the regeneration of free, intelligent, voluntary agents, existing in a state of probation.
There is nothing either arbitrary or compulsory in the Gospel. Salvation is offered to us, but not forced upon us. It is left to depend upon the use which is made of those privileges and aids which the grace of God has bestowed.
It is thus entirely conditional. It is dependent on every person’s free choice.
The waters of life flow by us in copious and inviting streams; if we will come and take them, we shall live forever; but let us act our own pleasure; there is no constraint. The table of heaven is spread, and urgent invitations are sent abroad, and a joyous welcome awaits those who will be guests. But it rests with ourselves to accept or refuse.
Jesus has thrown wide the doors of everlasting day, and poured a strong light on the true path of peace. He has placed himself at its entrance, to invite, and urge, and warn us - by our allegiance to God, by the miseries of our present condition, by the welfare of our souls, by the inconceivable glories of heaven – to pursue the way of holiness and life.
Jesus has offered us guidance, direction, aid, and blessing. We need only come to him, and we shall have life.
It is thus that salvation is by grace. Grace provides the means. Sinful and undeserving people, by an act of essential Benignity, by the unmerited favor of divine love, is put in the condition to escape from sin, and reach the bliss of heaven.
It is a general provision for the human race ; not a plan for the recovery of a selected few, nor a favor bestowed upon individuals; but an impartial offer of mercy to all — which offer having been made, and the opportunity having been given, each one is then, separately, to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling.
The grace of God makes the most ample and munificent provision, even, as it were, the wings of an angel for his flight upward; but if we will not stretch them and rise, it sends down no chariot of fire to bear away our reluctant souls.
God saves us through Jesus — by opening to us a free path of escape from sin and misery, and guiding and aiding us in it, through the perils of life, to our heavenly home.
God opened the way and provided the means; and in each of us must walk in the way and use the means; or, instead of inheriting the blessing, we perish in the wilderness.
(Adapted from a sermon by Henry Ware, Jr. ca. 1850)