Jesus is Our Savior
This past Sunday, March 19, we welcomed seven new members into our church family. Part of this process is a membership class where I take them through a time of learning the history of the Christian and Missionary Alliance (aka the CMA and/or The Alliance) Denomination. I also help them understand what makes an Alliance church distinct from all the other denominations. A.B. Simpson, the founder of the Christian and Missionary Alliance, taught what is known as the “Four-fold Gospel;” how Jesus is our Savior, Sanctifier,
Healer, and Coming King. Over these next several weeks, I thought that I would take each one of those ideas and do a blog post about what the Alliance believes when we talk about each idea. This Four-Fold Gospel is foundational to the Alliance as you can see from the symbol. Each element of the symbol represents one of the parts of the Four-Fold Gospel. As we begin, we will look at the cross, which stands for Jesus is our Savior.
God did what we could never do, all because of His love for us. When we look at God’s gift of salvation, our hearts should be overflowing with joy knowing that God has provided us a way to become right with Him again. For us to understand that Jesus is our Savior, or the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we must begin by understanding the beginning of human history and the consequences of our first parents’ decision to disobey God.
As a person opens his or her Bible, that person begins to read how God created the heavens and the earth. God reveals in Genesis 1 and 2 that He is the creator God, that everything on this earth was created by Him (the sky, land, stars, moon, sun, plants, animals, etc.), including the first people. Genesis 1:26 tells us that God decides to make man in His own image. God created man to have dominion or rule over all of creation. Man was unique in all of creation in that God molded man from the dust of the earth and gave man the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). No other creature, no other part of creation could say that God molded it or gave it the breath of life. Only man could, making people unique from all of creation. Human beings, men and women, were created in the image of God and only they can have a relationship with their creator.
When we come to Genesis 2, God gives Adam, the Hebrew word for man, some commands, and places Adam in a garden that God made for him. He tells Adam that he can eat from all the trees in the entire garden, except for the one, in the center of the garden, the Tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If Adam ate from this tree, then he would die (Genesis 2:17). Adam and his wife Eve enjoyed a perfect relationship with God and with each other. But everything was about to change in their relationships.
In Genesis 3 we have the scene of the serpent, which is identified as Satan in Revelation 12:9. He tries to cause Adam and Eve to doubt God’s Word and is successful. Eve sees that the forbidden fruit looks good to eat, that the fruit would make them wise, and she eats the fruit. Then Adam eats the fruit, and their eyes are opened (Genesis 3:7). Their relationship towards each other had changed, which is why they tried to cover their nakedness with fig leaves, and their relationship with God had changed, which is why they hid from God and were afraid of God. Their relationship with God had been broken and God demonstrates this to them in that not only will they now experience physical death, they will return back to dust, but they also will experience spiritual death. We see how God shows them this spiritual death by the fact that God sends them out of the garden away from His presence (Genesis 3:23).
Adam and Eve were disobedient to God, they had broken God’s command and because of this one act, sin now entered the world. This is why Paul tells us in Romans 5:12 that sin entered the world through this one man, Adam, and now all people die because everyone has sinned. Paul spends Romans 1-3 telling the believers in Rome that everybody on the face of this planet is a sinner, that they have broken God’s standard. Paul tells them that it does not matter who a person is, a pagan person (1:18-32), a moral person (2:1-16), or a Jewish person (2:17-29), every single one of them are without excuse. In Romans 3:22b-23 Paul tells us that there is no difference between a Jewish person and a non-Jewish person, but every single person is a sinner and has fallen short of the glory of God. The sad new is that when a person experiences that physical death that was brought into the world because of Adam’s disobedience, they also get to experience a second death, separation from God for all of eternity (Revelation 20:11-15). This is the fate of humanity because all people are sinners. Every single person has broken God’s laws. They have disobeyed God and when men and women die physically, they will also experience an eternal spiritual death.
That is the bad news, but nw for some good news! God had a plan for rescuing humanity from sin and death even before the foundations of the earth were formed. Peter tells us in 1 Peter 1:19-20 that Jesus was chosen beforehand, before the foundations of the world to redeem us. We see God’s plan of salvation throughout the entire Bible; what Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden did not catch God off guard, but He knew from the very beginning of creation that they would disobey Him and He had a plan in place already. Genesis 3 makes this clear to us. The serpent causes Adam and Eve to doubt God’s word, they disobey God and sin now enters the world. God comes to Adam and Eve and gives them consequences for their sins. In the midst of these consequences, we also see God’s grace and mercy shown to Adam and Eve several times. The first time was when God is talking to the serpent. In Genesis 3:15, God tells the serpent that there will be hostility now between him and the woman; between the woman’s seed, which is singular in the Hebrew and the serpent’s seed, which is also singular. God then explains to the serpent that this seed of the woman will crush your head, cause you to be defeated, but at the same time you will injure his heal. Ultimately this seed of the woman refers to Jesus and this promise that God gave to the serpent on that judgment day was fulfilled when Jesus not only died on the cross (serpent bruised woman’s seed heal), but when Jesus rose from the dead (woman’s seed crushed serpent’s head).
Throughout the Old Testament, God begins to reveal to the world, through the nation of Israel that all of humanity are sinners; their relationship with God has been destroyed. God does this through the giving of the Law. Paul tells us in Galatians 3:21-25 that the purpose of the law was to teach us about sin. The Law was never given to save a person but was to reveal humanity’s heart of sin. The Law was also given to teach us that God takes sin very seriously and there are consequences to sin. We see this in all the sacrifices that the priests had to do, initially in the Tabernacle, then later in the Temple. Hebrews 10:1-3 teaches us that these sacrifices were to never make people perfect but were a reminder of sin every year.
During this time, God was also revealing His perfect plan of salvation. Through the prophets, God wanted the Israelites and the entire world to look forward to a day when that perfect lamb, when the promised Messiah, would come and provide salvation. God promised that one day He would institute a New Covenant with His people. A Covenant that will not be written on stone tablets, given by angels but would be written on people’s hearts that would be given by the promised Messiah. God gave distinct prophesies telling the nation of Israel that this is what they were to be looking for, and then they will know that the Messiah was here. Who was this Messiah? Jesus. How do we know? John tells us that the reason why he wrote his gospel was for his readers to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God (John 20:30-31). When a person believes in Jesus, that person has life (John 20:31). Paul calls that person a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). Their old sinful lifestyle is gone, and they have new life in Jesus because of His death and resurrection.
The purpose of God’s plan of salvation is to justify humanity and to restore the broken relationship that humanity has with God. When a person believes in Jesus, that Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for his or her sin and rose again three days later, God declares that person pure, or righteous. In addition to this, our broken relationship with God is restored. Just as the father in the parable of the prodigal son rejoices because his son who was dead or separated from him has returned and is now with him again, that is true for every single person who believes in Jesus. God rejoices when a person believes in Jesus because that person was separated from Him and is now with Him. The purpose of God’s plan of salvation from the very beginning of time was to restore the broken relationship that started with Adam and Eve, our first parents.
But what happens when a person believes in Jesus? When a person puts their trust in Jesus for their salvation, the Bible gives us four different pictures of what Jesus’ death and resurrection means in their lives. The first picture the Bible gives to us is a picture of propitiation. Propitiation means to appease or pacify a person’s anger. We typically do not like to think about God getting angry at us or pouring out His wrath upon us, but this is exactly what God does because of sin. Throughout the Old Testament we have numerous examples of God’s wrath towards humanity because of sin. Genesis 6:5-7 tells us that God decides to destroy the entire human race because of their sin. Even after the flood, God tells Noah that He puts a sign of His covenant, the rainbow, in the clouds. Yes, the rainbow is for us to remember God’s promise of not destroying humanity again by a flood, but in Genesis 9:16 tells us that it is a reminder for God as well. God takes sin seriously because He is holy and can have nothing to do with sin (1 John 1:5). 1 John 2:2 tells us that Jesus is the propitiation for our sins; when Jesus went to the cross and died for our sins, He satisfied God’s anger or wrath against sin. On the night that Jesus was betrayed, He went to the garden of Gethsemane and He prayed three times, “O my Father, if this cup cannot pass away from me unless I drink it, your will be done” (Matthew 26:42). The cup that Jesus was referring to was the drinking the cup of God’s wrath (Isaiah 51:17). God’s wrath or anger was going to be poured out on Him because of the sins of humanity. When Jesus died on that cross, He became our propitiation by turning God’s wrath away from us and unto Himself.
The second picture of salvation that the Bible gives to us is the picture of redemption. In the first century many people understood this term because it was used commonly in dealing with slaves. To redeem or ransom a slave meant that a person would go through a process that involved releasing the slave from his or her slave masters and this process was usually very costly. Jesus tells us in Mark 10:45 that Jesus came to give His life as a ransom for many. Jesus was going to pay the price, the ransom that would set humanity free from the enslavement of sin. 1 Peter 1:18-19 tells us that we have not been redeemed with corruptible things, our freedom from sin and the curse of the law was not paid for by the things of this world, but instead our freedom was bought with the precious blood of Christ. This is why Paul can tell the church in Corinth that they are not their own because they have been bought at a price (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), that price being the blood of Jesus. Jesus has bought our freedom from sin; Jesus has redeemed us.
The third picture of salvation that the Bible gives to us is the picture of justification. This picture deals with the court of law. When a person stands before a judge, there are two possibilities that a person could hear from the judge, guilty or not guilty. To be justified is the opposite of condemned. To be justified means that a person has been declared not guilty in the court of law. Paul tells us in Romans 8:33 that it is God who justifies us. Sinful humanity stands before God condemned, guilty on all accounts. But God, when a person puts their faith in Jesus, as judge declares that that person is no longer a condemned sinner, but is righteous. John Stott says, “When God justifies sinners, He is not declaring bad people to be good, or saying that they are not sinners after all; He is pronouncing them legally righteous, free from any liability to the broken law, because He himself in His Son has borne the penalty of their law-breaking.” This is why Paul tells us in Romans 8:1 that there is no condemnation to those in Jesus because God has declared us free from the penalty of breaking the law.
The last picture that the Bible gives to us in regard to our salvation is the picture of reconciliation. Reconciliation simply means to restore a relationship that was broken. Jesus gives us three parables that teach us about reconciliation in Luke 15. The most famous parable is the parable of the prodigal son. Humanity’s relationship with God can be seen in the younger son. Adam and Eve, our first parents, went to God and basically said, “God, I wish you were dead” when they disobeyed in the Garden of Eden just as the younger son went to his father and demanded his inheritance even while his dad was still living. Adam and Eve along with all of humanity have gone away and is like that younger son in a distant country. The relationship of the younger son and the father has been broken just as the relationship between God and humankind has been broken. But Jesus continues in the parable and tells us that the younger son comes back, and the father son relationship is restored. The father celebrates with a party and says, “For this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found” (Luke 15:24). The younger son was separated from him and has returned is now with him again. Our relationship with God is broken and as we put our faith in Jesus, our relationship with God is restored and we become reconciled to God.
When we put these four pictures together, we get a fuller picture of what Jesus has done for us on the cross and how He provided for us this great gift of salvation. When Jesus died and rose again, He turned God’s wrath away from us and became the propitiation for our sins. He paid the penalty of our sins and redeemed us from the slavery of sin and death. God declares us righteous and we now are justified by what Jesus has done. Our broken relationship with God has been restored and we are now made alive to Him. Only what Jesus did on the cross can save a person. Jesus Himself said that He is “…the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Him” (John 14:6). What a great gift God has given to us through His Son.
Salvation is a gift from God, we cannot earn it. Ephesians 2:8-10 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith…” The gift of salvation is received through faith, by trusting in Jesus and Jesus alone. Salvation is by faith and by faith alone. This is why Paul continues in these verses and says that it is not of ourselves, and salvation is not based on what we do, good works. Salvation is only found in Jesus through faith. Have you received this gift from God? If not, then contact me and I will explain how you can receive this gift of salvation.