What does it mean to be saved?
It is very common to hear professed Christians say that they are saved or that they have been saved from sin. But at the same time, they still consider themselves sinners and admit that they still fall into sin. They will also admit that they are still affected negatively by sin around them. So, what then does it mean to be saved? In this presentation it will be shown that salvation has three parts to it and that atonement for past sins is only one part, which many professed Christians often refer to when they say that they are saved, without recognizing the other two parts.
Salvation means deliverance or rescue. Atonement means reparation for an offense or injury. When there is no offense or injury, there is no need for atonement. But if one is in danger, whether or not one has offended, one needs salvation. If Christ has forgiven you of all your past sins and you are saved from the penalty of those sins, you still need to be saved from the power of sin so that you are able to live without committing more sins. Further, you still need to be saved from the presence of sin around you so that you are not in danger of being robbed, murdered or in any other way negatively affected by sin. Hence, complete salvation from sin requires that we be saved from the three ‘p’s – the penalty, the power and the presence of sin.
Atonement – Salvation from the Penalty of Sin
Atonement is for the purpose of securing salvation from the penalty of sin – the first ‘p’. The Bible speaks of atonement as the intercessory work that a priest does on behalf of someone who has done something wrong, for the purpose of securing forgiveness for that person – “27 And if any one of the common people sin through ignorance, while he doeth somewhat against any of the commandments of the Lord concerning things which ought not to be done, and be guilty; 28 Or if his sin, which he hath sinned, come to his knowledge . . . . . 35 the priest shall make an atonement for his sin that he hath committed, and it shall be forgiven him.” (Lev. 4:27-35).
Christ earned the right to intercede on our behalf because He was tempted just as we are tempted and yet did not sin – 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Heb. 4:15). Further, by allowing himself to be killed by Satan and his wicked agents without the slightest justification for Satan’s doing so, He has showed the extent of His love and His Father’s love for us and has exposed Satan to the entire universe as a liar and a murderer. We are told:
“13Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13).
“16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16).
“32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32).
David’s weeping on account of the death of his son Absalom gives just a faint glimpse of what may have happened when God turned His face away from beholding the death of His only begotten Son – “33And the king was much moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept: and as he went, thus he said, O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! would God I had died for thee, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Sam. 18:33). “4But the king covered his face, and the king cried with a loud voice, O my son Absalom, O Absalom, my son, my son!” (2 Sam.19:4).
Some people tend to think of God as an emotionless ethereal entity. But God is a Person and He has feelings. In vision, Ellen G. White saw God’s pain and described it as follows:
“The Eternal Father, the unchangeable one, gave his only begotten Son, tore from his bosom Him who was made in the express image of his person, and sent him down to earth to reveal how greatly he loved mankind.” (Review and Herald, July 9, 1895, pr.14).
Again, she wrote:
“Said the angel, “Think ye that the Father yielded up His dearly beloved Son without a struggle? No, no.” It was even a struggle with the God of heaven” (Early Writings p. 127.).
By the death of Christ, Satan has been unmasked before the entire universe and his condemnation is ascertained. In the judgement, he will be condemned and the kingdom of this world will be taken from him. (Dan. 7:26, 27).
14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil (Heb. 2:14).
15 And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it.” (Col. 2:15).
26 But the judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. 27 And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him.” (Dan. 7:26, 27).
The pagan concept of atonement is that of blood being shed to appease an angry god. The Biblical concept of atonement, however, is that of Christ interceding on behalf of the sinner, presenting arguments for the sinner before God, and ultimately to the entire universe. In the first instance, the argument is for the sinner to be forgiven based on two things: one, the sinner’s repentance and two, Christ taking the sin on Himself as the ‘responsible officer’, so to speak, being the second Adam, or the new head of humanity. In the second instance, the argument is that Satan is the real instigator who deceived us and caused us to sin and therefore is the real culprit who should bear the responsibility and hence the penalty. Thus, in the earthly sanctuary’s representation of the reality, after the priest makes an atonement for the sinner and the sinner is forgiven, at the end of the year, all sins that were previously confessed, were then placed, by the priest (representing Christ), on the head of the scapegoat (representing Satan) and the goat bearing the sins is removed from the camp (Lev. 16:20-22).
Salvation from the Power and Presence of Sin
Salvation from the power of sin – the second ‘p’, is secured by the gifts of the spirit. We are told:
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. . . . 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: 14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:8, 11-15).
Salvation from the presence of sin – the third ‘p’, is secured by God changing us from mortal to immortal at the second coming of Christ and afterwards creating a new heaven and a new earth for us to live in forever. We are told:
51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:51-54).
1And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. 2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. 5 And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new.” (Rev. 21:1-5).
Some people think that God is dwelling with us now. But God is in heaven. He will dwell with us then. Christ is gone to the Father in heaven and will return to take us to Him. Then the Father and the Son will come back to earth to dwell with us. In the meantime, Christ has not left us comfortless. He is with us in the person of His representative, the Comforter, who will be with us until He returns. The angels are ascending and descending between us and Christ, ministering to us and passing on to us the blessings that Christ secures from the Father for us.
May the Lord help us to repent of our sins so that we may be saved from the penalty of sin and may we pray to God for His Spirit that we might develop perfect characters and be saved from the power of sin in our lives so that when Christ returns we might be saved from the presence of sin and will live with God, with Christ, with the holy angels and with the host of the redeemed throughout eternity.
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
- Zerubbabel (Zech. 4:6)