There is a misunderstanding today concerning salvation, many teachings have been made, and some people are misled while others are confused by them. The understanding of what it means to be a Christian is human based and eventually unbiblical. In this article, we will look at what the bible has to say about the salvation of sinners, our condition, God’s promise and its fulfilment, what salvation is not and what it is, and how one can know if his/her repentance is genuine.
A Biblical perspective of the human condition
For us to understand salvation (Christianity) better we need to know our condition as human beings. The Bible puts it very clear that we as human beings are sinful and corrupt (Genesis 3), and it is not only that we are sinful but sin has also affected every aspect of our nature, mind, will, body and even our desires. That is what Theologians call “Total Depravity”, it is plainly explained in Romans 3:9-20. I would like you to pause reading the article now and read the text of Romans 3:9-20. If you read, thank you.
I am sure you have seen from the Scriptures the description of our sinfulness and the depth of our sinfulness. In simplicity, man has turned away from God and against God. Verse 11b, “No one who seeks God”. What does this mean? It means that we hate God And there is no way anyone of us will ever look for God or pursue the restoration, just like the lost sheep we went astray. Imagine, you have a cat as a pet with a proper relationship, and somewhere along the line it went astray and it becomes a wild cat. Now it means that your relationship with your “pet” is broken and eventually you become enemies, and the wild cat will never seek his/her way home because it is just fine to be in the wilderness. That is what happened to us and our relationship with God, we are now enemies and we are not just unwilling to restore our relationship we are also unable, we are like a pet cat that became a wild cat.
Therefore, in our nature we rebel against God, we create war against him and defile his glory as we uphold our sinfulness, and that is spiritual death at its best, (Ephesians 2:1-3).
Therefore, every sinner deserves the punishment, wrath, and hell from the Holy Living God, “for the wages of sin is death”, Romans 1:18; 6:23. (to learn more about the love and wrath of God click the link to read more about “the holy love of God” by Uaundja Karamata https://gracetothenation.blog/2019/02/22/the-holy-love-of-god/). So, we are all under the wrath of God and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. In other words, we are all headed to hell for eternity.
God’s promise and its fulfilment
God knows our condition, he knows how sinful we are. He knows that we are helpless and hopeless, and he promised in Genesis 3 where the first sin was committed that one day he will put things right again Genesis 3:15.
“ I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring[eand her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.””
If we read those verses (14-15) closely we can see that God is judging the serpent but at the same time involving the woman (she/ her) but the “he” will crush the head of Satan and death (Revelations 12:9). So right at the fall of men God provided the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah) already to overcome sin and restore our relationship with God. As Derek Thomas states that this verse “establishes a principle that runs throughout the Old Testament, creating an expectation of a Redeemer who would be a descendent (a “seed”) of Adam and Eve.”.
Now this promise of the offspring and him who will destroy Satan kept on coming up over and over again in the Holy Scripture and we can clearly see that the promises are ultimately fulfilled in the Lord Jesus (Galatians 4:4).
In Isaiah 53, we see the prophesy of the suffering servant, that God will crush his one and only Son for our sake. Jesus suffered at our place, he died our death, he swallowed the wrath of God at our place, he was judged and condemned by God on our behalf. Jesus paid the price that we could have never paid because none of us can absorb the judgement of God and live again. Only Jesus can because he is God in flesh, the holy lamb of God. But all of us if we come before the Throne of the holy God will PERISH, both great and small, kings and servants. That is why the apostle Paul said, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Jesus has not only died and paid our price but he also rose from the dead “…Why do you seek the living among the dead? 6 He is not here, but has risen….”, Luke 24:5-6.
This signifies how he conquered Satan and death through his resurrection. And that is our hope that Jesus is the King of kings and there is no one like him; he is truly the one who was to come to rescue us from the power of sin and death. He is the Messiah. It is through Jesus Christ that Jeremiah 32:36-44 and other passages alike are true.
What is NOT salvation
Even though God has done everything for us to be saved from sin, there are still some misunderstandings regarding how we receive God’s gift of salvation. Below are six things among many that highlight what salvation is not, which are alluded to in our context:
1. Mere belief in God. To truly believe that God exist, that he is all powerful, and that there is a Jesus Christ called a Son of God who died on the cross for sinners and rose from the dead, does not make you a Christian because even Satan and demons believe that (James 2:19). So, it is good to know all that but it is insufficient.
2. Living a Good Life. Good works and being good does not mean that one is a Christian. Giving money to church or even attending Church regularly does not make you a Christian. Acts 10:1-2, speaks of a God-fearing man, Cornelius, who only got saved later in 11:13-14 when he heard the good news and accepted it in his heart.
3. Blessings. Today whenever people buy cars or houses, they usually thank God for such blessings and this is a good thing; however, we must know that even wicked people do prosper. This is so because of the common grace of God to all men (Psalm 73:3). Thus, to possess materials does not mean that you are a Christian.
4. Feeling Spiritually high. You can get goose bumps or turn into tears during a sermon or during a ‘praise and worship time’ at church or wherever else and still not be saved because you are an emotional being. If you watch idols you can recall that it is possible to turn the judges into tears with your voice and not your message. (Hebrews 6:4 and Matthew 7:22-23)
5. Healed or Delivered from the power of darkness by Jesus. God does take care of us both the saved and unsaved. When a person is healed from a certain illness, it does not mean that they are saved. In Luke 17:11-19, we have an account of 10 people getting healed, but only one got saved.
6. Baptism or Sinners prayer. There is no verse in the Bible that say, be baptized if you want to be saved, rather it says BELIEVE and be baptized. On the other hand, the sinners’ prayer does not save, firstly just like baptism, salvation is an issue of a heart and not words because sometimes we can say what we do not mean to say. Secondly, to make the situation worse, there is no reference in the Bible about the sinners’ prayer or a verse that encourages the church to do it. The book of Acts is the historic book of the very early church history and there is no where we find the apostles or church elders practicing sinner’s prayer. As a result, it must worry you if you claim to be a Christian on that basis. On the other hand, we should also keep in mind that repentance requires confession of sin, but not in the form of sinner’s prayer. It is you weeping because of your sins before God, with the help of Christian only when it is needed.
What is salvation
Thus far we have seen that all men are sinful, and fall short of the glory of God, and the wrath of the holy God rests upon all of us. But the righteous and gracious God paid the penalty, he did all to justify sinners like me and you. God also did this by his own grace to save us from his own wrath (holy anger).
But it does not end there, we need to do something, for us to be saved. Our responsibility is simple and yet profound; we need to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1:15, John 3: 16-18).
“Repentence means changing one’s mind so that one’s view, values, goals, and ways are changed and one’s whole life is lived differently…Repenting means starting to live a new life” (Packer 1993:162). It is to decide that enough is enough, it is time for me to be changed from my ways of living. Thus, it is to surrender your life to the Lord Jesus Christ to rule it, and trust in his finished work on the cross for the forgiveness of your sins.
The Bible says “It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:26. We only need faith, a saving faith which leads to true repentance. It is on that account alone that we are to be set free from the coming wrath of God. But without repentance there is no salvation, and if there is no salvation; condemnation, judgment, hell and the wrath of God rests upon you wherever you go. “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:36, notice the word “remain” in that verse.
Lastly, repentance is a matter of self-honesty, because it is very easy to tell people that you have repented when you have not at all, and you know that you haven’t turn away from your sin and rebellious life. And that is what I would call self-betrayal/ self-deception. O how I pray that you will not deceive and betray yourself when it comes to eternal business.
How can I be sure that I am saved?
Since there is a misunderstanding of salvation in our context today, how can I be sure that I am saved? The Bible teaches that God has given us the eternal life; and this eternal life is in the Son Jesus Christ; the one who has the Son has eternal life, the one who does not have the son has no eternal life. If you have truly repented from your sins and believed Jesus Christ as your Saviour and Lord, then you are saved (1 John 5:11-12; Romans 8:1-2). But you may still ask, how can I know that my repentance and faith in Christ is genuine? Let me make it clear that genuine repentance leads to a dramatic change in our lives, and to become more like Christ in all spheres of life. Packer puts it this way “The change is radical, both inwardly and outwardly; mind and judgement, will and affection, behaviour and life-style, motives and purposes, are all involved.” (1993:162). Therefore, if we claim to be Christians but there is no change in our lives and spiritual maturity advancement, then it is extremely possible that our repentance and Christianity is fake and with no eternal value. (1 John 2:3-4)
Below are few questions to help you reflect and know whether you are saved or not. And how I plead with you to answer these questions with an honest heart.
- When did you get saved/ become a Christian?
The most common answers that I have heard are: when I was baptized, I was born a Christian or when I said the sinners’prayer. If your answer is among those, I would like to caution you that you might not be a Christian. The evidence of true salvation is repentance. Have you repented from your sins? My plea with you is that you humble yourselves before the holy God so that he can grant you strength to turn away from sin and run to the Savior Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins.
- How did Jesus Change your life?
If you do not have a testimony on how Jesus have changed you, you might not be a Christian. Because we know that if we make Jesus the Lord of our lives, he changes everything, replacing the heart of stone with the heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:25-27). But when it comes to this change conversion/regeneration we must not mistake it with moral goodness or change. True godly change pursues holiness, becoming more and more like the Lord Jesus and glorifies God (Ephesians 4:17-5:2).
- How do you feel after you have sinned?
All non-Christians are comfortably living in sin, be it envy, murder, gossip, boastful, disobedient to parents, sexual immorality, witchcraft, and others alike (Romans 1:28-32). Now if you claim to be a Christian you must be in discomfort when you fall in sin. But if you are comfortable in sin than it might strongly mean that you are not a Christian.
- Is there a sin in your life that you are refusing to renounce?
If you are holding onto a certain sin in your life, that you are unwilling to let go it means that you are ruling your life and Jesus is not your Lord and King. You must be willing to let go of every and single sin in your life. If you cannot, it is very possible that you have not surrendered your life to Jesus.
- How are you serving God?
All Christians are gifted, and are all eager to serve God. Therefore, we must all use our talents and gifts to serve God our Savior. If you are not willing to serve God, or do all things in life, be it your job or schooling as service unto the Lord’s glory it is because you are happily investing your life, resource and time on other things that do not express and manifest God’s glory. Christians are required to offer their lives as a sacrifice to Jesus, (Romans 12:1-2). You might not be a Christian if you do not willingly and passionately desire to serve God.
- How are you partaking in Mission?
All Christians are missionaries! Are you partaking in the mission of God, which is the mission to bring people to salvation? John Piper once said that as a Christian “you will either go, send or disobey”. If you are not interested in mission work of sharing the gospel, it is highly possible that you yourself need the gospel.
God created us in his own image to live in communion with him, but sin ruined our relationship with God, and there is nothing we can do to restore this relationship. But God made a way for us through the Lord Jesus Christ so that we can escape his coming wrath, and one thing he asks us to do is to repent. So that we can be renewed and live in peace with God again. Have you repented and believed the gospel? Are you saved? If not. Would you consider to repent and turn to the True, Loving, Gracious, Holy and Living God?
Horne, C. M., 1984. The Doctrine of Salvation. Chicago: The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, USA.
Leod, F. W. M., 2007. How can I be sure?. Sydney Mines: Light To My Path Book Distribution, Nova Scotia.
Packer, J. I., 1993. Concise Theology: A guide to historic Christian beliefs. Carol Stream, Illinos: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, USA.
Thomas, D., 2018. Ligonier Ministries. [Online]
Available at: https://www.ligonier.org/blog/significance-genesis-315/#
[Accessed 11 March 2019].