THE STORY OF SALVATION
When God created man, He fashioned us in His image (Genesis 1:27). As a privileged consequence, humans can interact with and know the Trinity in a dimension that nothing else can (Job 32:8). During our early life in Eden, we were perfect (Genesis 2:17) and walked with God side by side as a cherished member of His family and as a friend (Genesis 3:8). The hydra of sin that now envelopes all of us in evil was a foreign and unknown terror (Genesis 3:13).
Our eternal purpose, declared by God, is to serve Him (Deuteronomy 11:13). That’s never changed, nor will it. Nothing satisfies the longing of the spirit but God. By themselves, isolated from the Divinity, wisdom, intellect, and riches will never satisfy the soul (Ecclesiastes 1:2-3). The scourge of depression and cry of vanity that has historically ailed the man who chases these things proves it—only the complete person of God and a life dependent on Him will forever fulfill (John 14:4). Christ is our deepest will.
Adam, positioned as the proxy for all subsequent generations of man, was created with free choice, thus satisfying the conditions for love (Genesis 1:16). Adam and Eve’s ability to obey or disobey God revealed the contents of their heart and the nature of their soul. As long as they obeyed God and kept his command, a very unobtrusive one at that (Genesis 1:17), Adam and Eve were perfect (Genesis 3:3).
But, being tempted by a disgraced being, captivated by exaggerations of riches that lie beyond the gates of the garden, their hearts swelling with pride, Adam and Eve disobeyed God (Genesis 3:6-7). They sinned (Genesis 3:11)! And as just consequence, we are destined to die (Genesis 2:17). Because death comes through a man (1 Corinthians 15:21), because Adam represented the whole of human race (Romans 5:12), we inherit his evil nature and stand condemned, separated from God (Psalm 51:5). Our spiritual jugular’s been severed, we’ve become slaves to sin, and everlasting death is our punishment (Luke 13:28).
It would’ve been perfectly justifiable for God to administer righteous retribution immediately (Job 41:1-11). He could’ve decided to eliminate Adam and Eve, start over, or scrap the enterprise of creation entirely. Neither of these options violated His nature; God is free to do what He wills (Romans 9:20), and our sin warranted a wrathful response (John 16:8). But, evidenced in part by our present existence, The Lord decided to exercise, and continues to exercise, one of His most evident natures, mercy (Ephesians 2:4).
However, this abounding mercy does not permit sin to go unpunished (Revelation 20:12). God is the Law itself (Matthew 5:17); it’s a reflection of His nature. He is the embodiment of the Eternal Law that declares right from wrong. But if the consequences of transgressing The Law are never enforced, it’s no law at all, and God’s holiness is violated. Therefore, the wage of sin, death, must be paid (Romans 6:23).
There would come a day when God’s prophesied gospel (Genesis 3:15)—a perfect, sinless man—would atlas the sins of the world, miraculously transfer every transgression of all who have ever lived onto Himself, and pay the price for our iniquity thus reconciling us to God and satisfying divine justice (2 Corinthians 5:18-21). But until that Son of Man became incarnate, a shadow of condemnation covered the ruins of Eden (Hebrews 10:1); the institution of atonement was implemented.
During this wilderness of waiting, God commanded His beloved Israel (Hosea 2:19-20), acting as an example for disinherited nations to follow (Exodus 19:6), to adopt a system of sacrifice (Leviticus 16:16). The High Priest of Israel would present an animal without any defect or imperfection, say it’s a lamb, and put it to death in place of the sinner (Leviticus 16:15). Though the convicted deserved to be on the altar, the lamb acted as a substitution and presented a picture of the salvation that was coming (Hebrews 9:13). The transgressor’s sin was temporarily “covered” by the shedding of the sacrifice’s blood, and for a moment, the believer’s evil was shielded from the consuming fire of God (Hebrews 12:29).
After generations of longing for the fulfillment of the covenant first made with Eve (Genesis 3:15), then Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15), then Isaiah (Isaiah 53) and the prophets of antiquity, the Saviour arrived. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, had descended from Heaven (Luke 2:11). He proclaimed the good news of Heaven while divinely teaching and healing those who followed Him and heard His gospel (Matthew 4:23). The magnanimity of his life and the message that he taught revealed His eternal kingdom to be not one of Roman dominion or Babylonian brutality, but of righteousness, joy, and peace (Romans 14:17).
After three years, continuing to live a perfect life totally void of sin (1 John 3:5), enduring in His submission to the will of His Father in Heaven (Philippians 2:8), Christ, an innocent man condemned to die (Matthew 27:22-23), faced the terror cross to atone for the sins of the world (1 John 2:1-2).
At Golgotha, every sin of every man in every age was transferred onto the beaten body of Christ Jesus. Once the Son’s transformation into sin was complete (2 Corinthians 5:21), the Father unleashed the full measure of His wrath reserved for us sinners onto Christ (Matthew 27:46). At this, Christ endured the condemnation of sin, released His spirit (Matthew 27:50), died, and paid the punishment of our iniquity once for all (Romans 5:8-9). The substitution is perfect, sin is conquered, and the eternal sacrifice is complete (Hebrews 10:14).
Fulfilling the prophecy of the Scripture, Christ was buried for three days (1 Corinthians 15:3), but He didn’t stay dead. The Father vindicated Christ and validated all of His claims by raising Him to life (Romans 6:9-10). On the third day, Jesus, enveloped in power and glory, was physically resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:4); this certainly wouldn’t have happened if He was a maniac and a liar.
It’s not as though this radical claim of resurrection is without proof:
The grave was empty (John 20:1-18).
Christ was seen by Peter, the disciples, James, the apostles, and more than 500 other witnesses (1 Corinthians 15:5-8).
The physical interaction of Christ with those witnesses (John 21:12).
The fulfillment of Scripture (Hebrews 10:7).
The explosion of Christianity, its triumph over the ruins of the empire that persecuted them so severely, and its continued perseverance (Acts 4:4).
The compatibility of every gospel with each other despite their author’s separation.
The present testimony of countless others.
Therefore, evidenced by His resurrection, everything Christ said was true. In accordance with His teachings, salvation is “by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone” (Ephesians 2:8-9). If we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), if we believe in Him for the forgiveness of our sins (Acts 10:43), and if we trust in Him for our coming resurrection to eternity (1 Corinthians 15:12-19), we are saved. Salvation is placing of one’s entire faith in the person and atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus (Romans 5:1-5), for the forgiveness of their sins (Acts 2:38), so that they might be reconciled to God (Romans 5:8-11) and receive eternal and everlasting life (John 3:16). No part of this so great a salvation is a product of our works or deeds (Isaiah 64:6), but only by the sovereign grace of God (Ephesians 1:4-5). Because our forgiveness of sin is not won by works but by God, forgiveness cannot be lost by works, either (1 John 1:9). Therefore the Christian is freed from sin (Romans 8:1-4). Its debt is paid (Romans 6:23). And because of this newfound perfection in Christ, one day, the believer shall be utterly sinless and live with Christ eternally, in perfection, in Heaven on Earth (Revelation 21).
But this gospel comes with a solemn warning for those who reject Christ. There is no forgiveness without Christ (Hebrews 9:22), and a sinner cannot be with God (Exodus 33:23). Hell must be prepared for the wicked (Matthew 25:41). Above the entrance hangs a sign that says “THE DAMNED.” Many men and women who have rejected Christ, young and old, rich and poor, are sentenced to its eternal horror as a punishment for their sin (Hebrews 9:27). The anguished screams of the sinner are forever soundproofed and silenced behind the impenetrable door of evil welded shut by their pride.
But the Christian is not with them. He never will be because he is the bride of Christ (Revelation 19:7). Jesus is the captain of the believer’s soul; “Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:37-39).