The salvation of Jesus Christ is God’s comprehensive solution to the seemingly insoluble problems that mankind faces. The Gospel provides more power to change human lives than any other process or program known to man.
Every day, we witness more examples of wars, international terrorism, and conflicts spiraling out of control across the globe. Closer to home, we are besieged with reports of crime, corruption, senseless violence, broken families, and other instances of human beings behaving badly.
If you have ever wondered what is wrong with the human race, and what (if anything) can be done about it, please keep reading. The Bible provides divine and gloriously hopeful answers to each of these crucial questions.
(I) WHAT IS THE MATTER WITH PEOPLE?
God’s diagnosis of the human race is that we all suffer from an underlying spiritual ailment that affects every area of our lives.
(A) The entire human race suffers from a debilitating spiritual disorder of which we are generally not even aware. This spiritual disorder affects every man, woman, and child born into this world. Though we try a multitude of remedies to fix this disorder, there are no merely human solutions that can correct it.
Jeremiah says: “For thus says the LORD: Your hurt is incurable, and your wound is grievous. There is …no medicine for your wound” (Jeremiah 30:12-13b ESV). Isaiah echoes this in the following passage: “In vain shalt thou use many medicines; for thou shalt not be cured” (Isaiah 46:11b KJV).
(B) The “wound” from which all human beings suffer is our spiritual separation from God. The spiritual illness which we all share is quite simply this: We are cut off from the One whose vital power we need in order to live properly!
(C) We have come unplugged! The Bible teaches that we are spiritual beings designed to have an intimate and life-giving relationship with God. But when our earliest ancestors chose to rebel against Him, they disconnected the spiritual lifeline between God and man and plunged the whole human race into a condition of spiritual lifelessness, powerlessness, and estrangement from God which still affects us today.
The results of this spiritual separation from God upon the world have been disastrous. Only twenty-six verses after Adam and Eve’s rebellion in Genesis 3:6, the first murder occurs in Genesis 4:8. The human race has not been right since.
(D) Sin and separation from God result in spiritual death. Because of this catastrophic disconnection from God, referred to by theologians as the Fall of Man, the Bible tells us that “death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” Romans 5:12b (KJV). All of human history bears witness to this fact.
Adam and Eve did not die physically when they disobeyed God’s warning. However, they died spiritually and passed this condition of spiritual death to all of their descendants. Though we are all born biologically and physically alive, we are spiritually dead, “alienated from the life of God” (Ephesians 4:18 KJV) and needing a way to reconnect with Him.
(E) Because we are spiritual beings, created in God’s image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-27), we need a source of spiritual life and power in order to function properly. If you have ever struggled to get an electrical appliance working only to find out that it was not plugged in, you should be able to understand this principle: Man was not meant to function without God! Disconnected from Him, we just don’t work right.
This need for a living connection with God was true even of Jesus, who said: “I can of mine own self do nothing” (John 5:30a KJV). Jesus tells us that same thing is true of us: “I am the Vine, you are the branches. Whoever lives in me and I in him bears much (abundant) fruit. However, apart from Me – cut off from vital union with me – you can do nothing” (John 15:5 Amplified).
(F) Without a close and life-giving relationship with God, we can never become all that He intends us to be or to accomplish all that we are meant to do. Romans 3:23 (ESV) describes it this way: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The word for “sinned” (Greek: “harmatano,” which means “to miss the mark”) indicates that, without Him, we have all fallen short of God’s divine intention for our lives.
(G) This fallen spiritual condition of mankind is the underlying reason for the mind-boggling array of human dysfunctions with which the world is filled. Among its most common symptoms are: (a) mental, emotional, and behavioral problems of all kinds; (b) the inability to find lasting inner peace, contentment, and satisfaction; (c) moral weaknesses and failings; (d) difficulty in maintaining healthy relationships; and (e) struggles in controlling desires and addictions of various sorts. All of these symptoms are evidence that something important is missing from our lives. That “something” is God!
(H) Through the Fall, we have all inherited what the Bible calls a “sin nature,” i.e., an inborn tendency to stray from God’s prescribed manner of living and to live according to our own fallen desires. If we are honest, we all have a troublesome part of us which causes us to think, say, and do the wrong things, even when we are trying to do otherwise.
In Romans 7:18-20 (NIV), Paul describes his battle with this vexatious part of his inner make-up: “For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do–this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it” (Romans 7:18-20 NIV).
Paul desired to live a virtuous, righteous, and holy life, but he found himself constantly opposed by what he called “an entirely different principle at work in my nature” (Romans 7:23 Phillips), or, translated another way, “another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin and death which is in my members” (Romans 7:23 KJV).
Finding that this tendency to sin seemed to be built into his very body, Paul cried out: “It is an agonizing situation, and who on earth can set me free from the clutches of my own sinful nature?” (Romans 7:24 Phillips). This leads directly to our second question.
(II) WHAT IS THE SOLUTION?
Since man’s key underlying problem is spiritual, there are no naturalistic solutions which can remedy it.
(A) Problems such as separation from God and indwelling sin are not something that can be fixed using purely human means.
(1) For example, there are no medical solutions to these spiritual conditions. There are no types of surgery, medication, or medical treatment which can heal a person’s broken relationship with God, eliminate their indwelling sin nature, or provide them with spiritual life.
(2) Neither are there educational, legal, correctional, or political cures. We can teach classes against sin, pass laws against it, and punish people for yielding to it, but none of these measures have the power to set a person free from its inner working.
(3) There also are no psychological cures for these problems. There are no secular psychiatrists, psychologists, or therapists to whom a person can go to complaining of being spiritually dead, overrun with sin, and separated from the life of God and be told: “I can fix that for you!”
(B) God has provided for us a glorious solution for sin. It is called the salvation of Jesus Christ, and in that salvation lies humanity’s greatest hope for a vastly improved life here on the Earth and a perfect eternal life to follow in Heaven.
(1) Jesus is the answer! God has, in Jesus Christ, devised a divinely effective solution to our fallen condition and its plethora of bad side effects. The “glorious gospel” (II Corinthians 4:4), or “good news,” is that God sent Jesus Christ to earth specifically to heal our incurable wound and connect us with Himself in a living way. Jesus described His mission in these words:
(a) “I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” John 10:10b (KJV). By this, Jesus obviously means spiritual life, since the people He was speaking about were already physically alive. Jesus came that we might have the supreme blessing of experiencing the very life of God through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit (see II Peter 1:4).
(b) “He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted [and] to proclaim liberty to the captives” (Isaiah 61:1b HCSB). Jesus came to repair our broken relationship with God, and to set us free from the domination of our fallen sin nature.
(2) Jesus is the only answer to our problem of separation from God because He alone has the power to cancel out the “sin debt” which stands between us and God. I Timothy 2:5 (NIV) declares that “…there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus.” A mediator is someone who brings about peace, reconciliation, and harmony between two estranged parties.
(a) Jesus is the only “Savior of the world” (I John 4:14b NIV), “mediator,” and Messiah who has been appointed by God to rescue the human race from its captivity to sin. There isn’t another.
(b) Salvation through Jesus is the only plan of salvation designed and executed by God through which we can be saved from the power and consequences of sin. As Acts 4:12 (ESV) tells us: “there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
(C) The salvation of Jesus Christ is God’s perfect and sufficient answer to what ails the human race. Its great and glorious purpose, according to Ephesians 1:10 (Expanded Translation), is to reverse the effects the Fall and “to bring back again to their original state all things in the Christ.” No matter what we may have done, salvation brings us back into a state of perfect harmony and fellowship with God. It does this in two important ways:
(1) Legal salvation. Legal salvation addresses the root cause of mankind’s separation from God, which is sin. Isaiah 59:2a (NIV) says: “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you…”
(a) We all have “legal charges” (a LOT of them) recorded against us in Heaven (II Corinthians 5:1; Revelation 20:12-13). They include every wrong thought, word, deed, and act of rebellion against God of which we are guilty. Our sins are actual legal charges that must be dealt with through God’s system of justice before we can be reconciled to Him and qualified to enter His kingdom.
(b) The purpose of Jesus Christ coming to the earth, living a perfect life, and offering Himself on the cross was to dispose of the sins which stood between us and God so that we could be reconciled to Him. I Peter 3:18a (ESV) says: “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God…”
(c) By a divine pre-agreement (Ephesians 1:4-5), God has chosen to accept the perfect offering of His spotless Son as payment-in-full “for the sins of the whole world” (I John 2:2 KJV). His death on the cross completely settles the sin debts of anyone who comes to Him for salvation.
(d) Therefore, Hebrews 10:14 (ESV) declares: “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” By a stupendous act of grace and mercy, Jesus Christ Himself paid all of our debts to restore our broken relationship with God!
(2) Spiritual salvation. Once we receive the salvation and forgiveness offered to us by Jesus Christ, three wonderful and life-transforming things happen:
(a) The “grievous” spiritual “wound” of separation between us and God (Jeremiah 30:12 KJV) is completely healed and we become spiritually connected to Him in a living way. I Corinthians 6:17 (KJV) says: “But he that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit.”
(b) The moment that this happens, a new flow of the divine life of God capable of healing all of the effects of the Fall of Man enters our soul through the Holy Spirit. God begins, as Ephesians 1:3 (KJV) testifies, to bless us with every spiritual blessing which heaven contains: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ.”
(c) This new life in the Spirit (see Romans 6:4) disables and disconnects the old sin nature and frees us from its control. Romans 8:2 (NAS) declares: “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.” We become those “who have been separated once for all from the sinful nature [no] longer to live in its grip” (Romans 6:2 Expanded Translation).
(D) This opens the door to the most transformative process of inner change and liberation which a human being can experience. So great is this radical change of condition that Jesus calls it being “born again” (John 3:7b KJV) and the Apostle Paul proclaimed: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (II Corinthians 5:17 KJV).
(1) Paul’s life is a powerful example of this dynamic spiritual renewal. Paul went from being “Saul of Tarsus,” an angry and hate-filled man who persecuted the Church, to “the Apostle Paul,” a love-filled pastor and missionary who spent the rest of his life planting churches!
(2) This power of the gospel to revolutionize people from the inside out is so great that the Bible uses the word “transform” (Greek: “metamorpheo”), from which we derive the word “metamorphosis,” to describe it: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (II Corinthians 3:17-18 ESV).
(III) THE PURPOSE OF CHRIST’S SALVATION IS NOT MERELY TO FORGIVE WHAT IS WRONG WITH US, BUT ALSO TO FIX WHAT IS WRONG WITH US.
(A) God does not save us to leave us as we are; He saves us to make us what we were meant to be – reflections of His own divine nature and glory (see Genesis 1:27).
(B) In doing so, He solves the biggest and most difficult problem facing the world: How to make better people! Science and human ingenuity have found ways to make better things (better buildings, better cars, better computers, better phones, and better machines), but not better people! Hence, we have a world filled with amazing and wonderful things, but horribly fallen people.
(C) God can and does make better people—reborn, God-inhabited, spiritually-revitalized, holy, right-living, Christ-like people. He can turn a mess into a miracle and a sinner into a saint! And this is what the entire New Testament and its glorious gospel is all about. It is what salvation, sanctification, spiritual growth, discipleship, and the Christian life are all about.
Hebrews 7:25 KJV makes the extraordinary claim that Jesus Christ “is able also to save [people] to the uttermost that come unto God by him.” To “save” means to deliver, set free or liberate. The word “uttermost” (Greek: “panteles”) means that He is able to do this perfectly, completely, entirely, to the fullest extent, and forever for those who come to Him.
(D) This means that no matter how far someone has fallen from God’s intention for their lives or how deeply they have become entrapped in sin and ungodliness, there is no limit to God’s ability to set them free and transform their lives.
(IV) THE SALVATION OF JESUS CHRIST HAS THE POWER TO CHANGE PEOPLE’S LIVES MORE DEEPLY, MORE THOROUGHLY, AND MORE PERMANENTLY THAN ANY OTHER PROGRAM KNOWN TO MAN.
There are several reasons for the gospel’s extraordinary ability to change people’s lives in such a remarkable way.
(A) A Christian is not just an outwardly-improved person who is trying harder to manage the reactions of their “flesh” or fallen sin nature. This is what Paul called making “a fair shew in the flesh” (Galatians 6:12 KJV). Rather, a Christian is someone who undergone a radical change in their inner life through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit.
(B) Instead of trying to revamp their old nature, Christians are those who have had a new nature implanted within them, and that new nature is nothing less than the divine nature of God Himself. II Peter 1:3-4 (NAS) explains this concept as follows: “His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence. For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.”
This spiritual rebirth and reconnection is called “regeneration” (Titus 3:5) and allows for three remarkable things to take place:
(1) Spiritually reborn Christians live by a fresh infusion of God’s Holy Spirit that allows them to partake of God’s matchless divine life. Like a branch which is connected to a vine, they are directly connected to God as a source of spiritual life. Paul calls this “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:19b KJV).
(2) At the same time, whenever the Spirit is operating in Christians, their old sin nature is rendered inoperative and they are able to become free from its control (see Romans 6:6 and Galatians 5:16).
(3) Hence, Christians are able to switch life-sources from the polluted stream of fallen, earthly, fleshly and carnal human life to the pure, heavenly, divine and spiritual stream of God’s life.
(C) There is virtually no limit to how much a person, living in the power of God’s Holy Spirit, can change. A Christian, drinking from this new source of life, is no longer bound by who they are or what they have been in the past. Instead, they have a source of divine life which is able to make them as much like Jesus Christ as they are willing to become.
(D) This intimate connection with God produces what the Bible calls “the fruit of the Spirit…love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22b-23a NLT). The fruit of the Spirit is not merely a set of human emotions or attributes; rather, it consists of God’s own perfect love, joy and peace and other divine qualities being supplied to Christians by the Holy Spirit.
(E) This kind of spiritual transformation makes it possible for people to become the exact opposite of what they were before they came to know Christ. Weak people can become strong. Depressed people can become joyful, and hopeless people can become filled with hope. Insecure and anxious people can become relaxed and confident, the angry and embittered can become forgiving and loving, and the harsh can become gentle. Dishonest people can become honest, ungodly people can become godly, and sinful people can become holy. Those who were slaves to sin can become free.
This list can be endless because it is God—infinite in His holy perfection—who does these things through His Spirit, and He is passionately committed to this project.