Why do we need Salvation?
We need salvation because we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We have denied, ignored or rejected God’s love, both as individuals and as members of society. We have all sinned through action and inaction and have, as a result, damaged others, ourselves and the world around us.
We human beings are made in the image of God for relationship with God (Genesis 1:28). Through our sin we have defaced that image and damaged that relationship (Genesis 3:1–19). We need God’s grace to restore his image in us and make us fully human once more.
The medieval Church identified seven deadly sins: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, anger and sloth. That is a fairly comprehensive overview of the self–centred human impulses which are in conflict with God’s values. It is from the personal and communal consequences of these sins that we need to be saved and moved from self–centredness to God–centredness. In that way we can with confidence stand before our creator and our judge.
What is Salvation?
At the heart of the Christian understanding of salvation is a transforming relationship with God. This embraces all of creation. Ultimately, salvation is sharing in God; returning to the One who is the source and goal of all things.
The benefits of salvation extend beyond essential healing and forgiveness to include a state of wholeness and liberation from all that is evil in our world. In addition salvation entails the fulfilment of our true human potential enabling us to overcome the transience and mortality of earthly life. Salvation means experiencing the fullness of life in God just as he intended.
Salvation is not something that we can achieve for ourselves. It is a gift from God through which God gives of himself in order to restore our relationship with him. Our sin, the barrier which separates us from God, is removed, and our lives freed from its grip. We are reconciled and restored to a harmonious relationship with God, each other and all creation, in this world and the next.
The Means of Salvation
The good news of the Gospel is that God has acted and continues to act in and through the person of Jesus, to liberate all of creation from the power of sin and death and enable us to share in the divine life. It is the whole life of Jesus, a life of self–giving, reconciling love, which is the channel of the healing and saving power of God. That life of love came to its climax in the cross and resurrection.
The New Testament contains many different metaphors and images to help us understand the mystery of the cross. Different passages speak of it in different ways:
Some passages speak of the cross as a sacrifice to atone for human sin.
- “He [Christ] has appeared once for all at the end of the age to remove sin by the sacrifice of himself.” (Hebrews 9:26)
Some use the language of the law–court (“justification” means in effect acquittal).
- “For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.” (Romans 5:16)
Some speak in more personal terms of reconciliation with God and one another.
- “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace…” (Ephesians 2:13–14)
Some use language drawn from the freeing of slaves (and the “ransom” by which this is achieved).
- “For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:45)
Others speak of a paradoxical triumph of Christ over the powers of evil even at the moment of “defeat” on the cross.
- “Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” (Hebrews 2:14)
These different perspectives all support our belief that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, God acts to liberate us from the crippling effects of sin and offers us a new life of reconciliation, compassion and forgiveness in Christ.
The Promise of Salvation
The promise of salvation is that we and all creation will be in true relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, in which sin and its consequences will be no more. This is the life in all its fullness that Jesus said he came to bring (John 10:10) as portrayed in the vision of a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21and 22).
As Christians, we experience a foretaste of the reality of this salvation on earth. Through the work of the Holy Spirit, we have a deepening awareness of the presence of God in our daily lives. Our lives are changed as we forgive and receive forgiveness and as we seek to live as followers of Jesus, working out our salvation in different areas of our lives. We join with others on the way of salvation, as a new community of faith and love, an alternative society which seeks to challenge the self–centred values of the world, and to model life as God intended it to be.
At least that is the theory! In practice we know that our transformation is not yet complete, and that sin continues to deflect us, both individually and corporately, from the path of holiness. We continue to “press on toward the goal” (Philippians 3:14), aware that we will not fully attain it in this life. The Christian experience of salvation has always been a combination of the “now” and the “not yet”, the gift of God which we have received and seek to live out in our daily lives, knowing that the best is yet to come.
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