What is salvation? Is it only the forgiveness of sins through Jesus’ death, or is there more to it?
What is salvation? The common understanding of salvation is receiving the forgiveness of sins through Jesus' death for us. That certainly is the beginning of salvation, but there is much more than that.
The “much more” salvation
Paul wrote about salvation in Romans 5:10, “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
Unfortunately, this “much more” salvation is little understood. What does it mean to be saved by His life? Jesus said, “He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.” (John 15:5). These are the fruits of the Spirit we read about in Galatians 5:22-23, which come about as a result of crucifying the flesh with its passions and desires (v.24). We have the power to do this if we have Jesus’ Spirit abiding in us.
Paul exhorts us in Philippians 2:12 to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling. But aren’t we trying to save ourselves then? Certainly not! It says in the next verse “for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure”. That is God’s grace, for apart from Him we can do nothing.
Everyone would like to be gentle, kind and patient, but what is that makes it so difficult to live this life in all life’s situations?
Everyone would like to be gentle, kind and patient, but what is that makes it so difficult to live this life in all life’s situations? It is our sin—our pride, and our own will and desires. When God works in us to do His good will and to crucify our own self-will and egotism, we can easily become unwilling. That’s why Paul continues by saying “Do all things without complaining and disputing."
Full salvation: Possess the Promised Land
In the Bible we read an illustration of this unwillingnes when the people of Israel were to possess the Promised Land. By God’s power they had forsaken Egypt (the world), and were saved in that sense. But when God instructed them to take up the battle and possess the Promised Land, they complained and disputed and rebelled. If God had destroyed their enemies for them they would have possessed the land gladly, because they acknowledged that the land was good and its fruits were good. But they said it was too difficult—the giants were too big and the cities too strong. And so they refused to obey. Instead of “full salvation”—possession of the Promised Land, they were consigned to wander in the desert for the next 40 years.
If they had obeyed when God the Almighty was working in them they would have taken their enemies like bread, as Joshua prophesied. When they were told to turn back to the desert, they changed their mind and wanted to go and take the land after all, but God wasn’t working in them anymore. They had no grace over them and were hopelessly routed. We can read all about this in Numbers 13 and Numbers 14.
So let us not be content with just being saved from Egypt (the world), and then spending the rest of our Christian life wandering in the desert, never possessing the Promised Land—the life of Christ with the fruits of the Spirit. No, let us get hold of this “much more” salvation by faith and obedience to the promptings of God’s Spirit within us, so that by the Spirit we put to death the sin which dwells in our body. (Romans 8:13) Then we shall live!