What is salvation? I like to use the example of a saved drowning person. The saved person is the one who’s standing on the shore. The unsaved person is the one in the water, flapping their arms in the air and going under for the 3rd time.
It’s the same with Christian salvation. Peter likes to talk about escaping the corruption or pollution that is in the world through lust (2 Pet. 1:4; 2:20).Â The writer of Hebrews describes people who are enlightened and taste of the heavenly gift and the power of the world to come (Heb. 6:4-5). Paul tells the Corinthians that they “were” unrighteous, but now they’re “washed,” “sanctified,” and “justified.”
Those are impressive religious words, but if we don’t define them, then they don’t mean anything at all.
- “Washed” means baptized. (Everyone–and I mean everyone–believed that from the time of the apostles until a 100 years after the Reformation. So if that’s not true, then the apostles didn’t know how to preach the Gospel.)
- “Sanctified” means made holy. It means separated or set aside for the use of God.
- “Justified” means made righteous. It literally means that. It’s a cousin to the adjective “righteous.” It’s popular today to define righteousness as nothing more than being seen as righteous by God. George MacDonald called this a “revolting legal fiction,” and that’s exactly what it is. “Justified” means to actually be made righteous so that you walk in righteousness (1 Jn. 3:7).
So how does one obtain all these things?
Obedience: The Path to Christian Salvation
The Bible makes the general statement that Jesus has become the author of salvation to all who obey him (Heb. 5:9). (Did you know the Bible said that?)
However, it has a lot more specific things to say about obtaining salvation by obedience.
At the top of this post, do you remember I defined salvation from drowning as standing on the shore? There are a lot of specific ways that you can see the fruit of your Christian salvation in the way of a transformed life. I’ve been listening to Psalms and Proverbs on tape the last couple days, and they have a LOT to say about that.
Obedience and Tangible Salvation in the Psalms
Let’s start with Ps. 111:10. It says:
A good understanding have all those who do his commandments.
I quote that a lot because Noah, the head elder of our church, quotes it a lot. What I didn’t realize is how often that’s repeated over the next 40 Psalms and the first few chapters of Proverbs.
It starts in the very next Psalm:
Praise the Lord! Blessed is the man that fears the Lord and takes great delight in his commandments.
His descendants shall be mighty on the earth.Â The generation of the upright shall be blessed. Wealth and riches shall be in his house, and his righteousness will last forever. To the upright light will arise in the darkness; he is gracious, full of compassion, and righteous. (112:1-4)
Now that’s standing on the shore, rescued from drowning! That’s real, tangible salvation!
Psalm 112 goes on and gets better than that, but so do later Psalms. How about this incredible passage from Psalm 119. It’s not even just a promise. It’s what David says was his actual experience:
Through your commandments, you make me wiser than my enemies … I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the ancients because I keep your precepts. … How sweet are your words to my taste! Sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your precepts I get understanding, therefore I hate every false way. (vv. 98-104)
Wow! You can’t beat that!
How’d David get so wise? How did he understand more than the ancients?
He kept God’s precepts.
A good understanding have all those who obey him.
Obedience and Tangible Salvation in the Proverbs
What sort of wisdom can you gain from Proverbs?
The proverbs of Solomon … to give subtlety to the simple, to the young man knowledge and discretion. A wise man will hear and increase learning; a man of understanding will obtain wise counsel to understand a proverb and its interpretation, to understand the words of the wise and their riddles.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (1:1-7)
Proverbs is all about obeying God. Proverbs is practical wisdom. Leaf through the proverbs. They do not talk about esoteric things or deep theology. They talk about lending money, border disputes, laziness, getting up early, and a lot of other very down-to-earth, practical things.
But if you will obey, Jesus–who is the Wisdom of Proverbs–will give you understanding in all those other things.
If you try to get understanding of deep theology by study, then Paul tells you what will happen:
The purpose of the command is love out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. Some have turned aside from this to empty words. The desire to be teachers of the law, but they don’t understand what they teach nor the things about which they make confident assertions. (1 Tim. 1:5-7)
Solomon begins the Proverbs by telling his son–probably a general reference to any student listening to his Proverbs–to avoid stealing and murder and the people who steal and murder (1:10-18).
Pretty basic, isn’t it!
The fear ofÂ the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, not deep study!
After saying only that, Solomon says that Wisdom is walking around in the streets, crying out to the simple, trying to get someone to listen.
So later, she says, when they are in trouble and crying out for her, she will not answer.
Why? Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the Lord.
Discretion will preserve you; understanding will keep you; to deliver you from the way of the evil man, from the man who speaks perverse things. (Prov. 2:11-12)
Do you want to be delivered from error? Obey God. Discretion will preserve you. Understanding will keep you.
Uprightness and Righteousness
This is really important. I don’t know where to put it or how to phrase it so that its importance is properly emphasized, but this is really important:
Uprightness is a choice; righteousness is a gift.
And the gift of righteousness is given to the upright in heart.
Ps. 36:10 reads:
Prolong your lovingkindness to those that know you, and your righteousness to the upright in heart.
Ps 112:4 says:
To the upright light arises in the darkness; he is gracious, compassionate, and righteous.
All these things are another way of saying what Hebrews 5:8 says. Jesus is the author of eternalÂ salvation to those that obey him.
Faith and obedience were intertwined in the Hebrew mind. Only we western legalists could conceive of something so utterly ridiculous as claiming to have faith in someone and then ignoring what he tells you.
Imagine a guide on an African safari. He’s leading a group through the jungle. One of the guys keeps patting him on the back and telling him, “I have faith in you.” However, the next time the group stops to rest, and the guide calls an end to the break and starts forward, Mr. I-have-faith-in-you says, “Hey, I thought this trip was by faith. I don’t have to do what you say.”
What do you think? Spiritual? Or just ridiculous?
- The righteousness of the upright shall deliver them. (Prov. 11:6)
- Righteousness keeps the one that is upright in the way. (Prov. 21:18)
- He became the author of eternal salvation for them that obey him. (Heb. 5:9)