The word “saved” is banded about all the time in our culture. We talk about a goalkeeper making a “save,” but we do not mean by this that the goalkeeper provided atonement for the other players on his team. What we are referring to, of course, is simply that he “saved” the team from conceding a goal. In the same way, we say that a boxer was “saved” by the bell, but we do not mean that the boxer entered into heavenly bliss through his relationship with the bell. We mean that the bell which signified the end of the round, rang at the time when defeat looked inevitable, right at the moment the opponent was about to knock him out. The bell “saved” the boxer from certain defeat.
The point I am making is that when we use the term “saved,” we are referring to the concept of being saved from someone or something – to be rescued from an impending calamity.
So what does the Bible mean when it says that Christ “saves” us. What does He save us from? A low self esteem? A boring, purposeless life? Financial debt? Physical disease? It may be a surprise to discover that Christ made provision for all of man’s needs through His death on the cross. The word “salvation” in both Hebrew and Greek means “wholeness, deliverance, healing, restoration, soundness and protection…” The main aspect of the salvation He provided is to be saved or delivered from the wrath of Almighty God.
Saved from God’s Wrath
It was Jesus who declared that the wrath of God abides on the unbeliever (John 3:36). Christ therefore came into the world to “save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15), and if a person will repent and believe the Gospel, Christ will save them from the Father’s wrath. As the Scripture declares, “…Jesus delivers us from the wrath to come” (1 Thess. 1:10), “for God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us…” (1 Thess. 5:9, 10)
All this was the Father’s idea. He sent His Son to save sinners from His own wrath – a wrath that is sure to come on those who do not receive His provision of grace in Christ. In other words, the Gospel or “good news” is that God saves us… from God!
Sadly though, the Church of today doesn’t usually make reference to any of this. The usual modern “Gospel” message being preached is “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Though the message is heard almost everywhere around us, when I turn to the New Testament, I cannot find Jesus or a single Apostle preaching this kind of message. Certainly God is a God of love. The Bible speaks of this on almost every page. There’s no doubt about that. But God is also a holy God who will never compromise His holiness.
The Apostles, as God’s fully authorized representatives, didn’t merely “invite” sinners to repent. That’s because the Gospel is not merely an invitation that can be accepted or declined with impunity. The Apostles were sent to summon people to surrender to the righteous claims of a Holy God by commanding that they repent and believe the Gospel or face eternal, terrible consequences.
The Apostle Paul declared that God “commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained.” (Acts 17:30, 31). We cannot dismiss the fact that God hates sin and punishes sinners with eternal torment. How can we begin a Gospel presentation by telling people on their way to hell that God has a wonderful plan for their lives? Unless repentance takes place, the “wonderful plan” is hell itself!
The Importance of Righteousness
The big issue in the Gospel is therefore righteousness, rather than happiness. Happiness is important, but it’s the by-product of righteousness – right standing with God. “For the kingdom of God is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 14:17).
Note the order in the verse, first righteousness, then peace, and then joy, in the Holy Spirit. There’s no real peace or joy without first obtaining righteousness.
Once the world sees the perfect standard by which they will be judged, they will begin to fear God and hunger and thirst after the righteousness that is found in Jesus Christ alone. And that’s where the Good News comes in – for it is the Lord Jesus Christ who meets our need for righteousness as He has secured salvation as a free and gracious gift for all those who will believe (Rom. 3:28; 4:4, 5; 5:17; 6:23; Phil. 3:9). Christ is the Lord our righteousness (Jer. 23:6; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21).
Knowing the Truth of Our Sin
God is a God of love, and it is in the cross that we see God’s love for the world. How can we point to the cross without making reference to sin? How can we refer to sin without the Law?
One man wrote, “The biblical way to express God’s love to a sinner is to show him how great his sin is, and then give him the incredible grace of God found in Christ.” I wholeheartedly agree. People will much more likely run to obtain the salvation, shelter, and mercy of God found in Christ alone when they are aware of the terrible wrath that is presently abiding on them.
To appreciate the good news, sinners need to know the bad news that their sin is not just a minor blemish, but in reality, cosmic treason against a Holy and Righteous God. In hearing of the remedy found in Christ, this becomes to them an expression of love and concern for their eternal welfare, rather than merely helps towards finding a better lifestyle on this earth.
The Gospel is God’s Gospel (Rom. 1:1) and we have no right to seek to “improve” it. That’s impossible anyway. The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes…” (Romans 1:16) The power of God is in the Gospel of God. Let’s not dilute it with man-made imitations but lets go preach the real thing and see the Almighty, Omnipotent power of God awaken His elect from spiritual death. (John 6:37-45, 65; Eph. 1:3-5, 11; 2:1-4; Acts 13:48; 2 Thess. 2:13, 14).
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. – Romans 5:8-9