1 Timothy 2:4
The word saved is not at all foreign to the New Testament, and is used scores of times, but what does it mean? The Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which is lost, says the Scripture. To understand the meaning of lost, we have to go back to the place where man first got lost, the book of Genesis. In Genesis, Adam and Eve are tempted by the serpent, and both give in to that temptation. It is at that point that the “deed” of mankind is turned over to the tempter. Perhaps the whole of earth is included in the transfer, for we know that Jesus refers to Satan as the “prince of the power of the air”, and we certainly know from Paul that the whole of creation is groaning because of its lostness. Isaiah tells us that one day, when the earth is restored, everything will be so different. He tells us that the child will play next to the snake and not suffer harm, that the wolf and the lamb will lie down together, and that the lion will come to eat straw.
Earth will have to undergo radical changes for these things to happen; and there is a plethora of other things that will happen in the final judgment of mankind, the time when Satan will at last be judged for his folly. If you are at all like me, you have to be wondering why all of this unfolded the way that it did, but we are not exactly told the why. We do have a bit of information on what happened, though. If I may speculate a bit, I would guess that we have been used as an instrument to foil the plan of Satan, that God took us, the least of beings, and made us to be that which brought the folly of Satan to light, that all of heaven may see it plainly. In other words, God is using the least of beings to confound one of the highest of beings, and wants to at the same time, put on a demonstration for all to witness. Certainly, the scripture says that “you shall bruise his heel and he shall bruise your head”. From the beginning of time man has waited for the Redeemer, seeing him come at last and allow himself to be put on a cross, to die for all who should receive him.
Receiving him will lead to being “saved”, for we were under the indictment that had stood from the time of Satan’s Garden temptation, and were to be judged. When we accepted the temptation, we became the mirror image of our new father, but what does it mean to be in the image of our father? In Isaiah, Satan purposes for himself five “I wills” that seem to give us a glimpse of what we became. Let’s look at those five “I wills”:
1. I will ascend into heaven (Is. 14:13).
2. I will exalt my throne above the stars of God (v.13).
3. I will sit on the mount of the congregation (v. 13).
4. I will ascend above the heights of the clouds (v. 14).
5. I will be like the most High (v. 14).
Heaven must have shaken on the day that it heard these five “I wills”, and I am not going to look at each of them and try to figure out what they might mean, but this much is evident. The “I wills” are statements of pride lifted up against the Most High. In transferring our ownership from God to Satan, we transferred our likeness from being like that of God our father to that of Satan our father. I would guess that our biggest folly has to do with imitating the last “I will” which says I will be like the most High. In the case of Lucifer, the shining one, there was at least some reason behind the pride. He held the glory of God and was responsible to make it shine for all to see. In the case of men saying I will be like the most High, it is utterly ridiculous, for compared to God we are nothing.
And yet there is a basis for the claim. Somehow when we were created, God breathed his image into us, and we are forever stamped with something of his nature in us. And that image has become horribly marred with our sin. God chose to judge that sin, our sin, in the body of his own Son. “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Thus, we are “saved” from the wrath of God, just as we were all condemned in sin through Adam, so we are all made righteous through believing God. Not everyone is saved; only those who believe. “To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Eph. 1:6). God has saved us from wrath and judgment through faith in what Jesus, his Son, has done.
So in mankind, God has chosen to rescue those from judgment who will believe. But, what, you may ask, does God do about those who do not believe? “He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18). Thus, the saved are those who believe God. In the instant that you first believe, then the wonderful processes of God are put into motion, sealing you forever to Christ. Chafer says it this way: “Being in Christ, they are one in each other in a mystic union which is both incomparable and incomprehensible—a unity like that within the blessed Trinity (John 17:21-23). They are already constituted citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20). These blessings are not only as exalted and spiritual as heaven itself and eternal, but they are secured apart from all human merit at the instant one believes on Christ to the saving of the soul.”1 At the point of belief, the work is all God’s, and none of ours.
In giving the gospel, which means literally “good news”, to all of mankind, men have been cunningly creative in missing the message. There is not any “saving” available to any, except to those who will believe. Men and women famously put off this important decision; others when they hear the claim, consider it well, and then go on with their lives, forgetting all about it. That will simply not do. Men and women have thought over the centuries that somehow God will “fudge” things in their favor, and they think that they will not be condemned, because they know of many who are behaving more wickedly than they are. That will simply not do. We are not in a contest, vying with one another to see who is better. Rather, we are all condemned under Adam with the same death penalty. Unwittingly, we placate ourselves with platitudes, thinking that someday we will work it out, and frequently we go to our graves without ever having worked it out. That, too, will simply not do. The day of choice is here and now, and the claims of Christ are the most important claims you will ever consider. Listen to the very words of Jesus, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). No one—not one person will ever come to God under his own power, with his own deeds. We are under a blanket condemnation that can only be removed by accepting the sacrifice of Jesus—sometimes referred to shortly as “accepting Christ”. That is what it means to be saved. Simply, it is the only thing that will do.
1. Chafer, L. (1947). Systematic theology (Vol. 4, p. P.16). Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press.