People have always been in a search of salvation. Our ultimate goal is to go to Heaven – what steps are necessary to do that? We often ask the question, “Are you saved?” If we have been brought up in the Church we understand the question. If we have not been brought up in the Church we don’t understand. Saved from what?
The simple answer is “Hell.” None of us what to go to Hell. We struggle with our own mortality and finally when we come to the conclusion that there is life after death, we have a choice to make. For there are only two choices, Heaven or Hell. The only thing worse is not having any choice.
Scripture and tradition habitually put the joys of Heaven into the scale against the sufferings of earth, and no solution of the problem of pain which does not do so, can be called a Christian one. We are very shy nowadays of even mentioning Heaven. We are afraid of the jeer about “pie in the sky,” and of being told that we are trying to “escape” from the duty of making a happy world here. But either there is “pie in the sky” or there is not. If there is not, then Christianity is false, for this doctrine is woven into its whole fabric. If there is, then this truth, like any other, must be faced.
It is safe to tell the pure in heart that they shall see God, for only the pure in heart want to. John was baptizing with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. Can we trust someone like John? He wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
When God created humanity, He created humanity to be like Himself, sinless. But God’s creation was not to be sinless. The Apostle Paul tells us, 2CO 5:18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them.
There have been four stages to God’s plan to save humanity.
1. Conscience: (Genesis 2:16-17) And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” What was the real temptation? Would they be dependent on God for all their knowledge? Or would they be independent from God? No innocence was to be found in man. Salvation was found in being dependent upon God alone! God gave humanity the freedom to choose between good and evil. We choose evil. In the middle of this God sent the flood and destroyed humanity and started over, only to find failure again.
2. Promise: If you can’t count on a person’s conscience to do the right thing, then we try a covenant (agreement) or promise. (Genesis 12:2-3) “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Now, all the Jewish people have to do in return, is worship and serve God. Salvation was found in keeping the promise. After 430 years they are not keeping their promise.
3. Law: God sends Moses and the Law (expectations) are written down. Ten simple moral laws written into the heart of every believer. If a law is broken, then a sacrifice is required for forgiveness. HEB 9:22 In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. For 520 years the Law stood firm! The Laws continued to be broken and the sacrifice forgotten. What was the plan of salvation – keep the Law and live.
4. Grace: We could not depend on our conscience. We could not depend on keeping our promise. We could not keep the law. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God changed the whole course of expectation:
Salvation was now not to be found in human expectations, but in divine expectations. (Ephesians 2:8-9) For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. The Law demanded that we earn the right to come to God. Grace is a free gift. FORGIVENESS is man’s deepest need and God’s highest achievement. Salvation is found in the one who gave the gift, Jesus! JOH 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (NIV)
Are there other ways to God? Yes, there is a conscious, a promise and a law. You can depend on your conscious, but the first time it lets you down there is no redemption. You can promise God that you will serve Him and only Him. But when you break your word, who will forgive you. You can keep the law and not break a single law. But what happens to your salvation when you cannot keep the law?
Then we understand why we confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, and proclaim him Lord and Savior of the world!