Calvary Road Baptist Church

“SALVATION IN THE ‘PAST TENSE’”

Hebrews 2.3

 

It has been my observation when counseling with lost people who are concerned about their spiritual condition, and who are not at all assured of their eternal destiny, that the words “saved” and “salvation” are frequently used, but without any real awareness of what the salvation spoken of in the Bible really is. Not that there is not some sense of foreboding, some awareness that all is not well with your soul, with most lost people. However, there is no firm comprehension of what is at stake, no real idea what the issues related to God, related to final judgment, and related to the danger of endless punishment happen to be. Most lost people give very little thought to God in any meaningful and coherent way. They may acknowledge that God is, but they pay little attention to what God is, who God is, and what He is like. Of course, that is a fatal error.

I illustrate by reading a passage to you showing the prophet Isaiah’s experience, recorded in Isaiah 6.1-5:

 

1      In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

2      Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

3      And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

4      And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

5      Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

 

Whatever his concept of God was before this experience, it was profoundly altered once the prophet caught a glimpse of this One who is terrible in majesty.[1] Once his understanding of God was illuminated by this vision, he saw himself in a different light, as undone and defiled, and in the midst of a defiled people, because his eyes had seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

However, this is not all. It is one thing to come to a true sight of yourself from an understanding of God, His nature, His holiness, and His astonishing glory, while it is quite a different thing to take note that this same God will someday sit in judgment upon you.[2] That is right. You will be held accountable someday by God for two things, your nature, and your deeds.

Of course, if you come up short on Judgment Day (and you will come up short on Judgment Day, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God”[3]), then you will be cast into outer darkness, the lake of fire, that place of endless punishment reserved for the Devil and his angels, as well as those who die without Jesus Christ, the Savior of sinful men’s souls.[4] However, once a sinner begins to think on God as He reveals Himself in scripture, and then upon his own shortcomings related to God, he typically begins to think about a means of escape for himself, an alternative to endless punishment, or some way by which he can be reconciled to God. Thankfully, God is gracious and merciful and has provided just such relief for the undeserving sinner. It is called salvation.

Salvation is a very broad term that is not found in the Bible as frequently as most people who have not read the Bible might think. However, that is only because great attention is paid to different aspects of salvation, forgiveness, conversion, regeneration, justification, sanctification, glorification, along with others. Have no fear, this morning. There is no requirement that you remember any long words. I will restrict my comments to the very broad topic of salvation, without focusing on the more difficult words and their meanings. However, I would like to lay just a little bit of groundwork.

In the Greek New Testament, the word “saved” and the word “salvation” commonly translate the word swzw, and the word swthria, that were in common usage in the Greek-speaking world for centuries before the time of Christ and His apostles. First, Greeks used these two words in connection with “to save” and “salvation” in the sense of an acutely dynamic act in which gods or men snatch others by force from serious peril.[5] I usually introduce the concept of salvation to children by pointing out that salvation has to do with being rescued from danger, as a lifeguard “saves” someone from drowning, so they understand that salvation is more than a word. It refers to the rescue from real and imminent danger of someone who is helpless. One difference being that folks who are drowning usually know they are in danger, while those who are lost and who need for their souls to be saved are usually unaware of their real and imminent danger. This is where the Spirit of God begins to work, with one of His initial tasks in the life of a sinner being to persuade him of his lost condition and his genuine need of salvation.[6]

Another problem I have seen, in addition to the tendency of people to think of salvation apart from it being the very real rescue from very real danger, is when people think of salvation without thinking of Jesus Christ. My friends, any disconnect of salvation, or of being saved, from Jesus Christ is a serious mistake. Keep very much in your thinking what the Apostle Peter forcefully expressed in Acts 4.12 about Jesus Christ and any notion of salvation: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Salvation is a rescue from a very real danger, by Jesus Christ. However, we should ask, what does Jesus Christ rescue people from? To put it another way, what does Jesus save from? Matthew 1.21 shows us that before Jesus was born, Joseph was told in a dream by an angel, among other things, “thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” Therefore, Jesus saves His people from their sins. Alongside that, keep in mind that no less than ten times in his letter to the Romans, the Apostle Paul makes mention of God’s wrath.[7] Romans 5.9, being one of those mentions: “Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.” Thus, Jesus saves His people from their sins, which is to say that He saves people from the punishment of their sins, the visitation of God’s wrath.

Our text this morning is the initial portion of Hebrews 2.3: “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation?” How shall we escape God’s wrath, if we neglect the great salvation Jesus provides? I want to speak to you about this great salvation. However, I first want to read to you the comments about this great salvation written by the 19th century commentator, Albert Barnes:

 

So great salvation. Salvation from sin and from hell. It is called great, because (1) its Author is great. This is perhaps the main idea in this passage. It “began to be spoken by the Lord;” it had for its author the Son of God, who is so much superior to the angels; whom the angels were required to worship, (Heb 1:6;) who is expressly called God, (Heb 1:8;) who made all things, and who is eternal, (Heb 1:10-12.) A system of salvation promulgated by him must be of infinite importance, and have a claim to the attention of man.

 

(2.) It is great, because it saves from great sins. It is adapted to deliver from all sins, no matter how aggravated. No one is saved who one feels that his sins are small, or that they are of no consequence. Each sees his sins to be black and aggravated; and each one who enters heaven, will go there feeling and confessing that it is a great salvation which has brought such a sinner there. Besides, this salvation delivers from all sin--no matter how gross and aggravated. The adulterer, the murderer, the blasphemer, may come and be saved; and the salvation which redeems such sinners from eternal ruin is great.

 

(3.) It is great, because it saves from great dangers. The danger of an eternal hell besets the path of each one. All do not see it; and all will not believe it when told of it. But this danger hovers over the path of every mortal. The danger of an eternal hell! Salvation from everlasting burnings! Deliverance from unending ruin! Surely that salvation must be great which shall save from such a doom! If that salvation is neglected, that danger still hangs over each and every man. The gospel did not create that danger it came to deliver from it. Whether the gospel be true or false, each man is by nature exposed to eternal death--just as each one is exposed to temporal death, whether the doctrine of the immortality of the soul and the resurrection be true or false. The gospel comes to provide a remedy for dangers and woes--it does not create them; it comes to deliver men from great dangers--not to plunge them into them. Lacking the gospel, and before it was preached at all, men were in danger of everlasting punishment; and that system which came to proclaim deliverance from such a danger is great.

 

(4.) The salvation itself is great in heaven. It exalts men to infinite honours, and places on their heads an eternal crown. Heaven, with all its glories, is offered to us; and such a deliverance, and such an elevation to eternal honours, deserves to be called GREAT. If that is neglected, there is no other salvation; and man must be inevitably destroyed.

 

(5.) It is great, because it was effected by infinite displays of power, and wisdom, and love. It was procured by the incarnation and humiliation of the Son of God. It was accomplished amidst great sufferings and self-denials. It was attended with great miracles. The tempest was stilled, and the deaf were made to hear and the blind to see, and the dead were raised, and the sun was darkened, and the rocks were rent. The whole series of wonders connected with the incarnation and death of the Lord Jesus, was such as the world had not elsewhere seen, and such as was fitted to hold the race in mute admiration and astonishment. If this be so, then religion is no trifle. It is not a matter of little importance, whether we embrace it or not. It is the most momentous of all the concerns that pertain to man; and has a claim on his attention which nothing else can have. Yet the mass of men live in the neglect of it. It is not that they are professedly Atheists, or Deists, or that they are immoral or profane; it is not that they oppose it, and ridicule it, and despise it; it is that they simply neglect it. They pass it by, They attend to other things. They are busy with their pleasures, or in their counting-houses-in their workshops, or on their farms; they are engaged in politics or in book-making; and they neglect religion NOW as a thing of small importance--proposing to attend to it hereafter, as if they acted on the principle, that everything else was to be attended to before religion.[8]

 

There is an interesting story told about the venerable Bishop Moule and an encounter he had with a Salvation Army lassie on the streets of Durham, England in the latter part of the nineteenth century. The young girl stopped him rather abruptly and said: “Sir, are you saved?” With a winsome smile and a twinkle in his eye the grand old Bible scholar replied: “Lassie, do you mean have I BEEN saved, or am I BEING saved, or shall I yet BE saved?” Then, in a most gracious manner, the aged Bishop proceeded to explain to the simple lass that God, in Christ, had provided a salvation for us sinners that encompasses far more than deliverance from the Lake of Fire. It is salvation from the penalty of sin which alienated us from our Creator, to complete restoration to Him. It is deliverance from the dominion or rule of sin to the rule or dominion of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It is salvation from even the presence of sin, in a day yet to come, unto a position of eternal safety from all evil, debilitating forces. In short, the Bishop told the Salvation Army lassie, Salvation is the continuous work of deliverance by the One who was named Jesus, because He saves His people from their sins. (Matt. 1:21).

From God’s standpoint as the One who is time-less and who dwells in eternity, it is true that our salvation was accomplished once, and for all whom the Father predetermined to save. On the other hand, from the point of view of the Elect whose days are reckoned in terms of the passage of time, it helps to use the “tenses” by which we describe time. Let us remember, however, that “salvation” is a continuous process of deliverance and not something that happens at a given point in time and then is all over with.[9]

Using Bishop Moule’s comments as a jumping off point, I want to briefly examine what might be called the “past tense” of salvation, salvation from the penalty of sins. Keep in mind that we are engaged in a somewhat artificial dividing up of this great matter of salvation into three inseparable pieces, which can be divided in our considerations, though no division in reality is possible.

For reasons that will be evident as we proceed, we take up the “past tense” of salvation as a sequence related to an event:

 

First, BEFORE THE “PAST TENSE” OF SALVATION BEGINS

 

Before the “past tense” of salvation begins, which would be expressed by most people as “before I was saved,” “before my conversion,” or “before I trusted Christ,” the sinner is in a lost condition. We know this to be true because the experience of everyone who has ever lived, excepting Adam and Eve who were created in innocence, and the Lord Jesus Christ who is the eternal and sinless Son of God, has been to be born in a state of sinfulness. This state of sinfulness has to do with nature, rather than behavior, and is recognized by David in Psalm 51.5: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Thus, the reason every man is a sinner is not because he became a sinner by first committing a sin. That has been the experience of Adam and Eve only. Everyone else has been conceived in sin and born sinful. The result of having an inherited sinfulness is a natural tendency to commit sins. Psalm 58.3 declares, “. . . they go astray as soon as they be born, speaking lies.” No wonder the Apostle Paul rehearsed the spiritual condition of the Ephesians before they were saved by reminding them, in Ephesians 2.1, “And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins.” People may talk about the concept of innocency in the lives of children who have not yet been saved from their sins, but the Bible knows nothing of such innocency. Only Adam and Eve were innocent for a time, and Jesus is holy. Everyone else before they are saved is dead in trespasses and sins.

It is to those who are spiritually dead, those who are lost in their sins, that the saving gospel message must be brought, lest they die in their sins and suffer a fate far worse than death, endless punishment. There are some who are of a mind to think that only those who reject Jesus deserve Hell when they die, somehow discounting the guiltiness of those sinners who have never heard the gospel. However, endless punishment awaits the lost for their guiltiness in the sight of God, not only for rejecting Jesus Christ. Were it otherwise, the worst possible thing you could do to a sinner would be to preach the gospel to him, since any rejection of the gospel would guarantee eternal torment for him. However, the Lord Jesus Christ’s Great Commission to preach the gospel to every creature is proof enough that people are already Hell-bound sinners, even before they hear the gospel. Otherwise, preaching the gospel to a man would be a great curse to him rather than a benefit.

Since we know that salvation is not by works of righteousness which we have done, there is no such thing as a person being almost saved, or what some claim when they say, “He is getting close.” There are no degrees of salvation or lostness. The lost are completely lost, and the only way to avoid the damnation of the soul is to be completely saved.

 

Next, WHEN SALVATION IN THE “PAST TENSE” OCCURS

 

There is a most wonderful example in the Old Testament that shows the wonder of a sinner being saved, Abraham when he believed in the LORD. Recognizing that he was saved before the fuller revelation of the New Testament, his experience is nevertheless instructive: Abram, of course, had faith from the time God’s glory appeared to him in Ur of the Chaldees.[10] However, he was not actually saved until that night, about ten years later, when “. . . he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness,” Genesis 15.6. The Apostle Paul, in his epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, and James in his letter, both point to this event as the occasion when Abraham was saved.[11]

With our completed revelation including the New Testament on this side of the cross of Calvary, we see that four things must intersect at the sinner for him to be saved from his sins; the Spirit of God, the Word of God, and the preacher, whose message seeks to introduce the sinner to Jesus: We know from God’s Word that salvation is by faith.[12] The sinner actually comes to Jesus, encounters the Savior, by faith. The question is, how does faith come? Romans 10.17 shows us that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, primarily through the means of preaching. Romans 10.14 describes the preacher’s delivery of God’s Word to the sinner, who then believes to the saving of his soul: “How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?” Mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament, the Spirit of God’s convicting and persuading work shows the sinner the hopelessness of his situation and his desperate need of Christ as the only savior of sinners.[13] Then, in a way that is both mysterious and miraculous, God uses the Word to impart spiritual life at the precise moment the sinner comes to Christ. James 1.18 shows God’s side of the equation (“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth”), while Luke records the sinner’s side of things in Acts 16.30-31: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” John 1.12-13 shows both sides in wonderful harmony: “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”

Being mindful that this aspect of salvation is an event, it is important to note that moments before salvation occurs the sinner is as lost as lost can be, while moments after salvation occurs the new saint is as saved as saved can be. There are no degrees of salvation. A man is either completely saved or completely lost, because salvation is a gift that is either given or not given, either received or not received.[14] There is no in between.

 

Finally, AFTER THE “PAST TENSE” OF SALVATION HAS TAKEN PLACE

 

If a man is either completely saved or completely lost, what can be said about the man who has been saved? Many things can be said, but we have time remaining for me to make only a few observations related to the “past tense” of salvation:

Colossians 1.13: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” The Apostle Paul here informs his readers that when a sinner is saved he has been removed from one spiritual domain to another, from the realm of darkness and its power to the kingdom of God’s dead Son.

Ephesians 2.5-6: “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Similar to Colossians 1.13, one who has been saved is now alive and no longer spiritually dead, and is mysteriously seated with Christ in heaven, all the while still here in this world.

Second Peter 1.4: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.” People who have been saved are partakers of the divine nature, actually sharing God’s life with Him, and have escaped the corruption that is in the world.

Here are some other passages showing the “past tense” aspect of salvation:

 

·        Luke 7.50: “And he said to the woman, Thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.”

·        John 5.24: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”

·        First Corinthians 1.18: “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.”

·        Second Corinthians 2.15: “For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish.”

·        Second Timothy 1.9: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”

 

Though we have only considered a portion of this topic of salvation, it is easy to see that it truly is a great salvation. There is a great need, to be reconciled to a great God, made possible by a great Savior, for great sinners, who will come to Jesus by simple faith.

What aspect of this salvation we considered today, the “past tense” of salvation, is salvation from the penalty of sins, having your sins forgiven. If you come to Jesus, you will be saved from the penalty of sin.



[1] Job 37.22

[2] Daniel 12.2; Matthew 25.46; 2 Thessalonians 1.8-9; Jude 6; Revelation 20.11-15

[3] Romans 3.23

[4] Matthew 25.41

[5] Gerhard Kittel, Editor, Theological Dictionary Of The New Testament, Vol VII, (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971) page 966.

[6] John 16.8-11

[7] Iain H. Murray, The Old Evangelicalism, (Carlisle, PA: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), page 15.

[8] Albert Barnes, Albert Barnes’ NT Commentary, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), bible@mail.com

[9] Duane Spencer, Word Keys Which Unlock Calvary, (San Antonio, TX: Word of Grace Press, 1973), pages 86-87.

[10] Genesis 12.1; Acts 7.2; Hebrews 11.8

[11] Romans 4.1-5; Galatians 3.6; James 2.23

[12] Ephesians 2.8

[13] John 16.7-11

[14] Romans 6.23



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org