IMPORTANT SALVATION CONCEPTS
The “Foundation of the Church” rests firmly on our great Savior, Jesus! There are several other terms regarding salvation that have been used in this issue. These and others will be used in future issues of ACTS Magazine. Because of their importance, it would be good to list and define them at this time.
This refers to the work of God’s grace in Christ by which we are:
- Saved “from” the penalty, power and future presence of sin.
- Saved “for” God’s purpose, and placed in His family in which we express the likeness of His Son.
When Christ died on the cross for our sins, He became our Savior. He died in our place and paid the price (penalty) for our sin. When we by faith receive Him as our Savior, we also receive the power of His resurrection life. As this new life flows into us, it brings wholeness (healing) for our spirit, soul and body.
To be “saved” means to be forgiven, healed, released, made whole (or complete) and restored. We are safe, sound and set free. We are free to become everything God has called us to be as His royal and beloved sons and daughters.
The term “generates” means to create or produce life. Regeneration, as we learned above, refers to the return or restoration of life after death.
We are “dead” in our sins. Therefore we must have a “new input” of spiritual life (be born again) to be brought back into the family of God.
There is only one way we can be born into an earthly family. That is by the impartation or input of natural life. This occurs through the process of biological reproduction. The germ or sex cells bring together the life that is needed to produce a new little baby boy or girl.
The same is true when it comes to being “born” into the family of God. There must be an input of spiritual life – a Divine seed. That “Seed of Life” is a Person – and that Person is Jesus Christ. When we receive Christ into our heart, He is the Life which brings us to birth in God’s holy family. Therefore every Christian has had two births: a natural birth and a spiritual birth. This is what it means to be “born again.”
The word “atone “means to become “at-one” with another (at one-ment). It speaks of agreement and peace which is the result of making wrongs right.
Sin is a wrong against God. Therefore it separates or “alienates” us from God. We need to be “reconciled” or brought back into fellowship with Him.
The only way the results of sin can be made of no effect is by “justification” (counting a sinner righteous). Justification is not the act (as some suppose) of overlooking sin or blindly ignoring transgression. A holy and just God cannot overlook sin.
Sin can be canceled, covered or put aside only if the penalty of sin has been paid. Only then can justice be satisfied and the sin be blotted out. When the penalty for the wrong has then been fully paid, fellowship can be restored.
The penalty for sin is death. Jesus, in His grace and mercy, paid that penalty for us when He died on the cross for our sins. In this way, we can say that His blood has covered and canceled our sin. (“Cancel” means to make of no effect.) Atonement, then, is God’s action – through Christ’s death – by which our fellowship is restored. We are made “at-one“ with God.
This refers to the holy character of God. He is ever “right” in thought, word and deed in attitudes and actions. He is right, good and true in all ways and in all things.
This is the “righteous” standard of the Law. Whatever is not righteous is wicked, evil and wrong – in short, sinful. For this reason, sinful man can never stand before a holy God. Righteousness and unrighteousness are forever against one another. There is no basis for fellowship.
For this reason, God sent His Son to “atone” for our sins. When we accept Christ into our hearts as our Savior, our sins are covered and canceled. God no longer sees us in our sins, but in the righteousness of His Son. Not only is He in us, but we are in Him.
This is called “imputed” righteousness. The word “impute” is a legal term. It means that something has been put to our account by another. What is theirs now also belongs to us. Their position and possession becomes our position and possession. It is a joint account. The righteousness of Jesus has become our righteousness. The position of Jesus at the Father’s right hand has become our position (see Ephesians 1:20-22; 2:4,5).
Besides “imputed” righteousness, which is our legal position, there is an “imparted” righteousness. “Impart” means to put something in. When we became Christians, something was “put into” our lives. Not only are we “in Christ” in the legal sense, but Christ is “in us” in a personal and practical sense.
In receiving Jesus, we also receive His holy, righteous nature. We have a new nature – a new source of inner power – by which we can now begin to live a “righteous” life. Our “old nature” died with Jesus on the cross, which gives us the right and freedom to express our “new nature” (see Romans Chapter 6).
To “justify” means to make right before the Law, and therefore make free from guilt or condemnation.
To “condemn” means to judge someone guilty before the Law. Sin is breaking the laws of God. Therefore all sinners are guilty before God. The penalty for our sin is death. The demands of the Law cannot be satisfied without the penalty for sin being paid “Justice” cannot overlook sin as if it didn’t happen.
In God’s plan of redemption, mercy and justice can join hands in only one way. And it is this: the Judge (God) not only passes the sentence, but also pays the penalty (Christ’s death) Himself! The guilty party is now “justified” and made right before the Law.
The sinner can now go free because his Judge was not only just (which required Him to enforce the penalty of the Law) but also full of mercy (since He paid the penalty that His justice required Him to impose upon the sinner).
This is what God did for us in Christ’s death upon the cross. Sin was judged. The penalty was paid. And we were forgiven and set free! We were thus JUSTIFIED.
THE CHURCH: FAMILY LIFE AND KINGDOM POWER
The phrase “family of God” describes human and heavenly relationships of life and love. It is not only a “beloved” family, but also a “royal” family. Christ is not only our Redeemer-Brother, but also our Royal-Brother – the King of kings and the Lord of lords. We were born not only into the family of God, but into His Kingdom as well. In God’s “family” we have life; in God’s “Kingdom” we have power and authority.
The Church of Jesus Christ includes the concepts of both the “family” and the “Kingdom.” Christ is the royal Son of God. His life and His authority will be expressed through us as we become “one” with Him. The Apostle Paul teaches us that “by one Spirit we were all baptized into one Body –whether Jews or Greeks… and have all been made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13).
The term “baptize” means to be placed into or become one with something. We have been placed into Christ and have become one with Him. At salvation, the Holy Spirit puts us into Christ (imputed righteousness) and Christ into us (imparted righteousness). We truly become members of His Body. He is the Head of that Body, and that Body is the Church. (See Colossians 1:18.)
The first time we find the word “church” in the New Testament, it is from the lips of Jesus Himself. Peter has just spoken out and confessed Jesus as “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” Jesus tells him that “the Father” had blessed him with that revelation.
Then, calling Peter by name, Jesus told him: “Upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven…” (Matt 16:18,19; see also – and think about -verses 13-17).
The “rock” upon which the Lord would build His Church is the revelation, given by God to Peter, that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (v. 16).
Jesus assures Peter -and all believers – that His Church, founded on that firm “rock” of God’s revelation, will be so strong spiritually that the very defenses of hell will not be able to withstand the Church’s victorious assault against them.
The “keys” in verse 19 represent the authority of the Kingdom of Heaven.
A CHIEF CORNERSTONE AND A SURE FOUNDATION
Jesus was telling the disciples that He was going to build His Church upon a sure foundation. He would be the Chief Cornerstone, but there would be other foundation stones as well. (See Ephesians 2:20.)
They would be men who, like Peter, had a “relationship” with the Father – and a “revelation” from the Father.
The relationship with the Father would come “through” Jesus: “No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
The revelation from the Father would be “about” Jesus: “Blessed are you, Simon Bar – Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father Who is in Heaven” (Matt 16:17).
The Apostle Paul explains these truths with much feeling in his letter to the Ephesians:
“Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the Chief Cornerstone, in Whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in Whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph 2:20).
What a holy wonder and marvel it is! Our heavenly Father has chosen us to be a part of His eternal plan. By His grace, we have a special place in His family, in His Kingdom, and in the Church of His Son. We too, therefore, can join Paul in these beautiful words of worship: “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from Whom the whole family in Heaven and earth is named …. Now to Him Who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the Church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.” (Eph. 3:14, 15, 20, 21).