Sweet Hope for Us Who Are Sinners
SET IN THE MIDST of Paul's powerful Ephesian statement that tells who and where we are in Christ, there come six principles of lostness. They show us the pit from which we all have come. And, they reveal how deep is the salvation that is ours in Christ. It reaches under our lostness and delivers us from it all. We listed these principles in the last article as: (1) sin, (2) the world, (3) Satan, (4) the flesh, (5) the unregenerate mind, and (6) the wrath of human nature. We find all this in Eph 2:1-3.
In Romans, where Paul sets forth the Word of our Salvation, we find six words pointing us to our hope of freedom from lostness. They show us what becomes ours in Christ. Each word presents us with something far more powerful than any of the lostness. They're wonderful words. We need to get to know them, and in knowing them, open ourselves to the fullness of our salvation. What a hope we have!
While the six words occur in a few verses, it takes several chapters to tell of their glory. See them here first:
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto (1) salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
Romans 3:24,25 Being justified freely by His grace through the (2) redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a (3) propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the (4) remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God...
Romans 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by Whom we have now received the (5) atonement (or "reconciliation").
Romans 5:16 And not as it was by one that sinned, so is the gift: for the judgment was by one to condemnation, but the free gift is of many offences unto (6) justification.
There is another term with which we should become acquainted although we don't find it, as such, in the Scriptures. It is substitution, a powerful and important concept set forth in Rom 5:8--But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. He became our Substitute in the battle with sin, Satan, and the world. What a victory He won!
This gives us seven powerful words to describe that victory of Jesus for us. As seven is the number of perfection, so there's a perfection in our salvation. At no point of lostness are we left to wander about trying to find our own way. It's all ours in Jesus, for He is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him--Heb 7:25.
I BECAME ACQUAINTED with the above seven words some years ago in a class I was teaching on "The Doctrine of Salvation." We first took note of the ones in Rom 3:24,25. Gradually we discovered the others. As we began holding ourselves before them, there came a visitation of the Holy Spirit upon us. Before that, the words held a theological meaning, with ideas that were somewhat vague. They sparked little response in anyone. But, when the Spirit of Revelation came upon us, they became words at which we wept. We stood in awe of them. Our lives began to be changed. I still remember the look of wonder and relief on faces. Out of that class came a movement of the Holy Spirit that spread. Our theme song became "Arise, My Soul, Arise. Shake off thy guilty fears. The bleeding Sacrifice in thy behalf appears..."
Those were special days, so powerful with the moving of the Holy Spirit that we approach the same study now with extreme care. There's something holy and awesome in the truth we are about to take on--and it grows with us as we grow in our relationship with the Lord.
The words drawing our attention are for sinners. They were dear to the Apostle Paul who called himself the chief of sinners--I Tim 1:15. How great must have been the conviction that had come upon his soul for him to say this! What he wrote, especially in Romans, is all about being delivered from the penalty, the power, and the results of sin. It was just after he made the grand statement that all have sinned in Rom 3:23, that he presented most of the words we're considering. Because many souls never know the depth of their lostness. they never know the power of the redemption. They never know what actually took place when Christ's blood became the propitiation for their sins. They never know the full peace that could have been theirs because of the remission of their sins. They never know the joy of the atonement or the full extent of their justification. For those who don't know the extent of their lostness, the term salvation remains distant. It seems to mean some kind of remote hope about going to heaven--maybe. But our Substitute has obtained far more for us than a distant hope--even though He has secured that also.
There is a holy majesty about what the words convey. They take us out of sin's power and condemnation and lead us through human hopelessness to a relationship with God that reaches into the heavens. There is an awe about the words that only the Holy Spirit can reveal. This is because they work at describing something that can never be fully known, for they lead us into eternity. Yet, they all remain simple enough to reach into the condemnation of any sin and bring life to anyone who will simply believe.
Each word is like an aspect of a beautiful gem catching every glimmer of light that comes-both from the soul who is undergoing enlightenment as well as from the Holy Spirit Who brings the light.
THE FIRST WORD we come upon is SALVATION in ROM 1:16. It is the all-inclusive word, the one with which more people are familiar. It is used most often to describe what takes place when a sinner receives Jesus as Savior.
The word salvation is related to the word salvage. Early I came to know the meaning of this word. I grew up in the years of World War II. My father and both brothers participated in the war, but I was too young. To help, I went out into the fields around our house and found some old aluminum pots that could be taken to the salvage depot. We were told they could be used in the manufacture of airplanes. Youngster that I was, I remember looking at that "useless" trash wondering how that could ever be. I was told to get every piece. There was nothing useless. There was a process, I learned, by which all the aluminum could be reclaimed-salvaged-and made useful.
That's only a glimmer of what salvation can mean to the life of a ruined sinner. But, we are learning there is no life too ruined. There is no trash-heap of humanity where any ruined soul can be found that cannot be salvaged by God's grace for His Kingdom.
What a full word salvation is! The Greek is sotería. Basically, it means "deliverance, safely and soundly, out of a difficult situation." It took on greater meaning than this, however, in the New Testament. It is related to the word sózo which means "to save." In fact, we have three words related and with which we need to become acquainted. Besides sotería and sózo, there is sotér which means "savior." The first occurrence of any of them in the New Testament is in Mt 1:21. It instantly defines for us the source and the extent of our salvation. . . . and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins. The Source is Jesus-none other. The extent is His people. We soon learn this embraces the whole world for all things were made by Him--John 1:3. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son--3:16. Every person in the world who has sinned and come short of His glory can be saved. That's everyone!
WHEN WE GIVE OUR FIRST TESTIMONY, we may say "I've been saved. Salvation is mine." For most people this means, "Now I'm not going to hell. I'm going to heaven. I've been saved from the penalty of my sin." As we look on at the word sózo in Matthew, however, we find that it has more meaning than that. It is an exceedingly full word. In 8:25 the disciples cried out for deliverance from danger by saying, Lord, save us: we perish. In 9:21 the woman diseased with an issue of blood used the same word when she said, If I may but touch His garment, I shall be whole. Jesus responded, using the same word, thy faith hath made thee whole. Jesus used it again in 10:22 to speak to His early disciples about coming through the dangers they would encounter preaching the Gospel. He told them, ... he that endureth to the end shall be saved. Peter used this word in 14:30 when he was about to sink after taking his few steps on the water. ...He cried, saying, Lord, save me. Jesus used it in 16:25 when telling His disciples, For whosoever will save his life shall lose it.
He used it again in 24:13 when telling of the end-time tribulation. He said, But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And again in the same discourse, He said, . . . except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved (24:22).
We soon see the word means not only salvation from sins, but from physical danger, from sickness, from the perils of being a Gospel witness, and from the perils of the tribulation.
In Luke's Gospel sózo takes on an even fuller meaning. Being a physician, he used it with reference to the healings and deliverances that took place through the ministry of Jesus. We find it in the following passages. There is the enlightening hope that our salvation also includes deliverance from demons. They also which saw it told them by what means he that was possessed of the devils was healed--Lk 8:36. It includes release from long-standing disease. Jesus, speaking to the woman healed of the issue of blood, said, Daughter; be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole--8:48. It reaches even into the powers of death. To the ruler of the synagogue whose daughter had died, Jesus said, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole--8:50. It reaches into physical uncleanness and blindness. He said to a leper who was healed, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole--17:19. To a man born blind, Jesus said, Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee--18:42.
We find the same word in John 3:17, For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved. This is where I first saw the word saved in the Bible, followed soon after by Eph 2:8--For by grace are ye saved through faith...
That we are saved from the penalty of sin was the first thing I perceived regarding my salvation. But when I saw sózo used in other places with more meaning, light began bursting upon my soul. Our salvation includes not only our deliverance from sin's penalty and power, but it includes also our healing, our deliverance from Satan's domain, our protection from danger, and our security for the final days of peril. And, its power follows us into death.
IN THAT CLASS I was teaching, as we were considering what it means to be saved, it wasn't long before we found our way to Isa 53. This is a powerful chapter with much prophetic detail about what would happen when Jesus came as the Suffering Servant of the Lord. We've gone to this passage often through the years. It always amazes and gives life.
In that class we took note of the words sorrows and griefs, and transgressions and iniquities. We took particular note of verse 5 as it tells about our healing. The Prophet saw that what Jesus would accomplish would have effect on our sorrows, on our griefs, on our transgressions, and on our iniquities. In His saving work He would heal us in all these areas. See the passage now.
3 He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
4 Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed.
The words sorrows and grief are revealing when we understand their fuller meaning in the original Hebrew. Dr. I. W. Slotki, a Jewish theologian with no desire to prove that this passage has reference to the Lord Jesus, but with open honesty, translated verse 3 this way: "He was despised, and forsaken of men, a man of pains, and acquainted with disease." Then in verse 4, "Surely our diseases he did bear, and our pains he carried..." (Isaiah Hebrew Text & English Translation; Soncino Press, London).
Sorrows, from the Hebrew machohv, means "pain," whether physical, mental, or emotional. Grief, from the Hebrew gholee, means "sickness, disease, or affliction." It even covers what is brought on by calamity, or by the waywardness of ones own actions.
One young man in that class asked if Isa 53:3, speaking of His being acquainted with grief, might not mean that Jesus was acquainted with pain and disease much like a physician who understands and recognizes all types of illness. The question was quickly answered by the next verse which says, Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows... Like no other physician, He has born our diseases and carried our pains. He offers more than a remedy; He, Himself, becomes our remedy.
Soon we were learning to say, "Healing is in the atonement"--something we had not known before.
IT WASN'T LONG before we found our way to I Pet 2:24 with its powerful words by whose stripes ye were healed. They were much like Isa 53:5; but we noted there is a difference. Isaiah said we are healed; I Peter said ye were healed. Isaiah spoke prophetically of something that was yet to come. My Hebrew professor of many years ago, Dr. Watts, translated the passage this way: "By reason of his stripes there shall be healing for us." When Peter wrote his words, however, he was telling of something that had by then already taken place. It was after that Day on Calvary. Our healing then became an accomplished fact. Therefore he could say, "You were healed." He used the Aorist form of the Verb which emphatically made the point that it was a matter finished, completed, brought to an end, no more to be undone or ever repeated.
What did this mean? Simply that when Jesus died with those stripes on His back, He accomplished our healing.
Can we dare reach through the maze of human reasoning--and pain--and lay hold on this? Whereas our human faith may fail in it, there is a faith born of the Holy Spirit ready to work in us that can receive it. Paul touched on this kind of faith when he said, I live by the faith of the Son of God--Gal 2:20b. The grace that makes this faith available is open to us all. Let us receive it now.
But what is the healing of which Isaiah spoke? Matt 8:16,17 helps our understanding. . . . they brought unto Him many that were possessed with devils: and He cast out the spirits with His word, and healed all that were sick: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses.
Jesus cast the spirits out of those possessed with devils. This meant He delivered those who were oppressed, suppressed, depressed, as well as possessed by demons. The Greek word from which possessed with devils comes is daimonízomai. It means "afflicted, or vexed, by a demon" with no particular reference as to whether the demon is possessing or merely afflicting the person.
Jesus cast evil spirits out by His word. We might take note that "His" is not in the Original. The verse should simply say, "He cast out the spirits with a word." As we watch Him in other passages, we find the word He used was simply, "Go!"
But, oh! What was behind that word! In this passage the word word comes from the Greek lógos. This is more than a rhéma word about which so many are inclined to speak today. Rhéma means a word which is spoken. Lógos means a word spoken, but also includes all that is behind the word to give it its power and authority. Behind the simple word Jesus spoke to demons lay the power and authority of God's Kingdom.
I JOINED THE CHURCH when I was a young boy, but I wasn't saved then. Coming forward in that Sunday morning meeting, filling out that little card and giving it to the church secretary, and going through water baptism all left me the same lost boy I was before. I became a lost church member. I could have been saved then. I was ready, but no one knew to show me the Scriptures or even to pray with me. It was when I was a senior in High School that conviction took hold on me that I was a lost sinner.
And, indeed, salvation is only for sinners.
I came home one night from a Gospel meeting where I had gone with my girlfriend. The fiery young preacher had said something simple that stuck with me. He said, "When Jesus comes again, He will not ask for the church membership roll. He knows who is saved and who is not." For a week I was rather miserable--and frightened.
I went with that girl again the next Sunday night. Then I heard something I'd never really heard before. Jesus died for me. Oh, I'd heard about that as long as I could remember, but it had never dawned on my heart that He actually died for me.
Not knowing what to do, I went home--still lost. I didn't know I could go forward at the invitation. I thought it was for those who were not members of the church. Frightened and alone, I went to bed--but with conviction. Late in the night, I got out of bed and on my knees. I didn't know what to say to the Lord, but I did know I was a sinner. For the first time I knew Jesus died for me. In that condition I trusted He saved me then. That was fifty years ago.
I'm still coming to know the power that's in my salvation that began way back then. It's so great a salvation!
PAUL SAID SOMETHING in II COR 1:10 that illustrates the power and extent of our salvation.... Who delivered us from so great a death, and doth deliver: in whom we trust that He will yet deliver us. Delivered is from the Greek rhúomai and means "to drag, or rescue, out of danger." It's similar in meaning to our word for saved. The thing to note is that there are three stages in it. • He delivered us. It's past, finished, accomplished. This points to a salvation that knows all its completeness in what Jesus did. In the sense of my trusting Him, I can never be more saved than I was when I first believed. Yet, • He doth deliver us. There's something going on right now. This salvation that became so complete that night fifty years ago continues its work. It goes deeper and deeper into the lostness with which I was once overcome. It never gives up searching out and destroying the pain, and rebellion, and sickness of my inner man--as well as continually offering me healing and deliverance for my conscious soul and body. Then there's more. • He will yet deliver us. This is the confidence that has overtaken me. There shall come no testing, difficult trial, or even death itself, but that the work He has begun in me will continue and bring me through in His victory.
I remember the night when that word from Paul in Phil 1:6 became very real to me. Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit released that into my own heart. Something became settled as to whether or not I would hold out in the salvation that had begun its work in me.
Look at that word perform. It's from the wonderful Greek word epiteléo that means "to carry out to completion." What a word to hold us through the days ahead! There's no sickness, no attack from demon or man, no enticement from the world, and no failure of our own minds, that can overcome the work He has begun in us. There is no sin that can arise in us from what we are by nature but that the power of the salvation that is ours in Christ can overcome it.
This has become my settled point of confidence. It can become yours also.
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