“SALVATION IS INSTANT”
1. Listen to how Webster’s New Universal Unabridged Dictionary defines salvation:
The act of saving or being saved; preservation from destruction;
2. in theology, the redemption of man from the bondage of sin and liability to eternal death; the saving of the soul through the atonement of Jesus.
2. Salvation is the subject of the Bible, the hope of every man, and the provision of Jesus Christ. But so much as we use the word in our churches there is so much about salvation that people do not know.
3. And though it is one thing to open a dictionary to read what a publisher’s view of salvation is, or how the word is commonly used by the American people, I suggest we turn to the Bible to find out a few basic things about this most important subject:
1A. First, WHAT IS SALVATION FROM?
1B. For a few minutes I would like you to relax just enough for me to accommodate the spirit of this age by talking about salvation as if it is a commodity, as if it exists in isolation from those with whom it has to do. In fact, salvation is among the most personal of all issues, dealing with the actual rescue of actual people from actual danger. But for now, just for now, we will consider salvation by itself.
2B. Salvation, in the Bible, can refer to several different types of rescue, several different types of deliverance from destruction. Sometimes salvation in the Bible refers to the rescue of God’s people from physical danger, so that they are protected from the harm that would be inflicted upon them by their enemies. But when church people deal with the subject of salvation we almost always have in mind the salvation of the sinful soul. That is our default setting when the word salvation is used, what our minds most usually assume we are dealing with unless told otherwise.
3B. With that understood, ask yourself what salvation is from, if it is your soul’s salvation that we are concerned with. What is your soul saved from?
1C. If you answer Hell you answer incorrectly. Nowhere in the Bible is there any indication that sinners are saved from Hell. As well, people who speak about being saved from Hell reveal a serious misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches about salvation.
2C. It is true that when someone gets saved he does not end up in Hell. But there is a difference between where a saved person ends up and what a saved person is saved from. That difference is both crucial and revealing, since it shows what that sinner’s real concern is.
3C. If you look into the Bible to find out what sinners are saved from you find only one answer. Matthew 1.21 gives us the most direct answer to our question. Speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, the angel tells Joseph, “. . . he shall save his people from their sins.”
4C. So it is throughout the Bible, whenever spiritual salvation is in view. Whenever the issues of eternity and the soul are before us, salvation is from sin. Remember that. Write it down. Store it in your memory banks. Burn it onto your CD. Salvation is from sin, always from sin.
4B. So important is this realization that salvation is from sin, that when people erroneously claim that salvation is from Hell I fear it is usually because they have not yet grasped the importance of sin, the destructive influence of sin, the horror of sin, or the majesty and glory of Christ’s great salvation of the eternal soul from sin.
2A. Next, WHAT IS SALVATION TO?
1B. So oftentimes we look at the negative side of something to the exclusion of the positive side, without recognizing the importance of the positive side. For example: Much is made in fundamentalism about separation from sin and compromise, and rightly so. But the apostle Paul introduced himself in his epistle to the Romans as, “a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God.” (emphasis added) So, Paul recognized that there is a positive side of separation.
2B. By the same token, we strongly emphasize the fact that salvation is from something. Salvation is rightly understood to be deliverance from sin. But what about the positive side? What is salvation deliverance to? What is salvation rescuing the sinful soul to? To what does the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, deliver the soul?
3B. Turn in your Bible to Revelation 7.10, and notice how the hymn of praise to God and to Jesus Christ begins: “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” Though most commentators are of the opinion that this statement declares that salvation is to be attributed to God and to the Lamb, which it certainly does, I am of the persuasion that perhaps this statement should also be understood to show that the deliverance of the redeemed is to God and the Lamb.
4B. Allow me to explain: The Lord Jesus Christ directs sinners to come to Him. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink.” Yet, when a sinner comes to Jesus Christ in faith believing he is reconciled to God!
5B. Thus, salvation is rightly and properly seen on one side to be deliverance from sin and its consequences. But salvation should also rightly and properly be seen to be a deliverance to God and His Son Jesus Christ.
3A. Third, HOW IS SALVATION ACCOMPLISHED?
1B. Turn in your Bible to Romans 11.6, where the apostle Paul clearly establishes how incompatible are the concepts of salvation by grace and salvation by works: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work.” The apostle Paul is strongly asserting that there are only two possible programs by which sinners could conceivably be saved, a system based upon works wherein salvation is earned by those who deserve it because they have worked for it, or a system based upon grace wherein salvation is given as a gift to those who do not deserve it. Romans 11.6 shows that a mixed system of grace together with works simply cannot be.
2B. So, which is it, works or grace? Can sinners do things to please God enough so He will willingly give wrongdoers a pass to heaven? Or are sinners so corrupted, so impotent, so dead in trespasses in sins that their utter helplessness requires that any salvation they receive be given to them as an undeserved gift?
3B. Let me address this vital question in two ways:
1C. First, consider Jesus Christ. If you could work for your salvation, why did Jesus come to suffer and bleed and die? Why would God the Father put His only begotten Son through such degradation and humiliation, why would the holy One of Israel have suffered the agony of being made sin for us who knew no sin, why the cross and His Father’s wrath, if we could have taken care of our sins ourselves? My friends, the reason for the cross of Calvary is because there was no other way. Jesus died a substitutionary death to atone for sins.
2C. And this is supported by two verses, which also show salvation to be the result of God’s grace:
Ephesians 2.5: “by grace ye are saved”
Ephesians 2.8: “For by grace are ye saved”
3C. So, because the Lord Jesus Christ would never have suffered the cross of Calvary except to provide the basis for the free gift of salvation, and because God’s Word clearly declares salvation to be by grace, salvation cannot be the result of any works of righteousness which we have done. It is for this reason, because of what Jesus Christ has done, that “the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
4B. So, salvation is accomplished by the Lord Jesus Christ. Jonah, that Old Testament prophet, was absolutely on target when he cried from the belly of the great fish, “Salvation is of the LORD.” And so was Simon Peter, when he declared about his Lord Jesus Christ, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Saved from what, we remind ourselves? Saved from sin.
5B. But how do you get saved from sin? How are you to enjoy the blessing of sins forgiven? How do you escape the fate of so many others who know that Jesus is the Savior, but who still die in their sins because they do not know Jesus? The Philippian jailor asked Paul and Silas that question long ago, when he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” How was that man to be saved from his sins? How are you to be saved from your sins? They answered him, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.”
1. So, you know a bit more about this grand and glorious subject of salvation than you did a few minutes ago. I just hope you realize that though it is a topic that can be discussed apart from Jesus Christ, in real life it cannot be divorced from Jesus Christ . . . because He is the Savior.
2. After brother Spicer comes and leads us in another song I will bring this morning’s sermon from God’s Word.
1. The most important man in the Bible, after the Lord Jesus Christ, is Adam. Adam was the man God created, in His likeness and after His image. Adam was the man who sinned. It is in Adam that all men die.
2. If Adam is the most important man because of condemnation, then Abraham is the second most important man because of salvation.
3. Abraham is the prototype throughout the Bible of how a sinner is reconciled to God, the illustration of the means by which God justifies the sinner, the example held up in the New Testament for all to see and emulate.
4. In Romans chapter 4, the apostle Paul uses the patriarch to illustrate God’s dealings with men through the instrumentality of faith to the Romans. In Galatians chapter 3, he does the same. And in both epistles a single episode in Abraham’s life is referenced, which will be our text this morning.
5. Turn in your Bible to Genesis 15.6. When you find that verse in the Bible, stand for the reading of God’s Word: “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
6. This is what Paul referred to in Romans 4.3-5:
3 For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.
4 Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt.
5 But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
7. And in Galatians 3.6 we read these words: “Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.”
8. My friends, it cannot be denied that Abraham is set by God to be a pivotal figure in his dealings with mankind, not only as the patriarch of the nation of Israel, not only as the man to whom God established His covenant, but also as the man by whose experience we are taught the doctrine of justification by faith. To put it simply, Abraham is the man God used to show people how to get saved.
9. So, what do we learn about how to get saved from Abraham? This morning I want to focus your attention on three things:
1A. First, SALVATION IS A MIRACLE, NOT A METHOD
Read the text again: “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
1B. How can it be seen in the life of Abraham that salvation is a miracle worked by God instead of a method employed by Abraham? Think about it for just a moment. What did Abraham do here? Folks, Abraham did not do anything here. It was God Who counted him for righteousness. It was God who took a man who was unrighteous (all men are sinners) and gave him the standing of a righteous man. Thus, Abraham employed no method, did no deed, accomplished no task, derived no merit to be saved.
2B. Sadly, no matter how obvious it is that Abraham’s salvation was the result of a miracle and not a method, different religious systems still try to deprive God of His glory so that Abraham might be glorified. Here is how they do it:
1C. Some would ascribe to the rite of circumcision some kind of saving efficacy. And God did give to Abraham the rite of circumcision.
2C. Others would ascribe to the Law some kind of saving efficacy. And God did give the Law to Abraham’s people.
3C. Still others would ascribe to faith some kind of saving efficacy. And Abraham certainly did believe.
3B. But let us apply just a little bit of sanctified logic to these methods that some would argue are able to save sinners:
1C. First, there is the rite of circumcision. In what verse of the Bible do we first read of Abraham getting saved? It is our text, is it not, Genesis 15.6? But when does God give to Abraham the rite of circumcision? In Genesis chapter 17. Folks, either circumcision is not an effective method to save from sins, or it is so effective a method that it can save from sins committed some 15 years earlier. The events of Genesis 17 occur about 15 years after Abraham got saved, so circumcision had nothing to do with Abraham’s salvation.
2C. Next, there is the Law. Folks, this is an even more ridiculous argument than circumcision, since the Law (the Law of Moses) was given more than 400 years after Abraham’s salvation. Thus, the Law could not have figured in his salvation.
3C. That leaves only faith.
1D. But is salvation the result of a method called faith and not the result of a miracle of God? Not if you know what the Bible says about faith.
2D, You see, not all men have faith, Second Thessalonians 3.2. It is not something you can just work up. Romans 10.17 tells us that faith comes by hearing the Word of God. And James 1.17 tells that every good thing, and faith is certainly a good thing, comes from God.
3D. So you see, faith can hardly be some method a sinner uses to get himself saved. It is rightly understood to be the means by which God miraculously imparts faith to a sinner so that he can trust Jesus Christ, to the saving of his eternal and undying soul
2A. Second, SALVATION IS A GIFT, NOT A REWARD
I touched on this a bit in my exposition, but it is a point that deserves being visited again.
Some cling to the notion that salvation is the reward that God gives a sinner for doing something that makes God so happy He will let you into heaven.
1B. But how can salvation be a reward when God had already given Abraham what we call the Abrahamic Covenant before He saved him?
1C. My friends, the Abrahamic Covenant is that promise God made to Abraham that shows us what God committed Himself to doing throughout the rest of human history.
2C. The Abrahamic Covenant is the basis for the salvation of the Jews, the basis for the salvation of the Gentiles, the basis for the continued existence of the promised land, the basis for the permanency of the Davidic throne, and the commitment by God that will result in the millennial kingdom rule of Jesus Christ here on earth.
3C. How, then, could Abraham’s salvation be considered a reward and not a gift when all of those things were promised to Abraham by God before he got saved?
2B. As well, how can salvation be Abraham’s reward when he got saved before he did any works of righteousness?
1C. Keep in mind that whatever a man does before he gets saved is defiled and unclean. Job 14.4 tells us, “Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean? not one.” Thus, there are no clean deeds done by an unclean sinner. None.
2C. That being true, what do we know about any attempts at works of righteousness by Abraham before he got saved? Isaiah 64.6 speaks loudly to this point: “. . . all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”
3B. A reward is “something given in return for good.” Since people are neither good, nor do they do good, how can salvation be a reward? Thus, salvation must be seen as, can only be seen as, a gift.
3A. Finally, SALVATION IS AN EVENT, NOT A PROCESS
Ever hear someone answer the question, “Are you a Christian?” by saying, “Almost”? When someone says she is almost saved, or that she is “Gettin’ there,” you can be sure that person thinks salvation is a process and not an event. But when you are talking about getting saved you are not talking about something that happens over time. That is a process. Getting saved is something that happens in a moment. It is an event.
Imagine what things would be like if getting saved was a process that took place over some period of time. What would happen to you if you died when you were half way there? Where would you go, heaven or Hell? What would happen if you were 74% there? Would you still get to heaven?
My friend, I am here to tell you that even if you were 99.999% forgiven of all your sins when you died, you would still go to Hell forever. How do I know? I know because the only thing that keeps you out of heaven is sin. And all it took to damn Adam’s soul was one sin. So even if you are 99.999% saved, but not yet 100% saved, you will still go to Hell . . . because you have to be 100% saved to go to heaven.
Want to know what that means? It means you’d better hope getting saved is an event that happens that fast, and not a process that takes time, lest you get caught halfway there when you die.
Let me quickly show you why getting saved is rightly understood to be an event and not a process:
1B. First, in the narrative that shows Abraham getting saved, and everyone gets saved exactly the same way Abraham got saved, we see that getting saved is an event.
1C. Read the verse with me out loud: “And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness.”
2C. Friend? How long did that take? One minute Abraham was a lost man and the next minute Abraham was a saved man. How long did that take? Did it take any time at all? No. The narrative is clear.
2B. Finally, Bible doctrine shows getting saved to be an event.
1C. Look not only at the salvation of Abraham, but at the salvation of the 3,000 on the day of Pentecost, at the salvation of Saul of Tarsus, at the salvation of Lydia, at the salvation of the Philippian jailor.
2C. Wherever the actual salvation of someone in the Bible is shown for us to examine it is shown to be an event and not a process.
3C. Besides, if getting saved was a process, why is there no place in the Bible where you are told “You’re almost there. You’re getting close. Oops, you barely missed it”?
4C. The reason we find no such warnings is because those kinds of warnings would be necessary if getting saved was a process and not an event. But since getting saved is an event and not a process, such warnings are not found.
1. Salvation is in many respects a mysterious thing. It is miraculous, a wonderful gift that God gives throujgh faith in Jesus Christ, and something that occurs in an instant.
2. There are many things about getting saved that we will have to wait to heaven to more fully understand. But one thing we can all understand right now is that you are either 100% lost or 100% saved.
3. There is no in between. There is no almost getting there. Salvation is instant.
New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes &
Noble Books, 1996), page 1602.
 Romans 1.1
 Matthew 11.28
 John 7.37
 Romans 5.10; 2
Corinthians 5.18, 20; Colossians 1.21
 Romans 6.23
 Jonah 2.9
 Acts 4.12
 Acts 16.30
 Acts 16.31
 1 Corinthians
New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes &
Noble Books, 1996), page 1553.
 Romans 3.10, 12, 23