I grew up in a traditional Southern Baptist church. I “walked the aisle” at the age of eight, prayed a prayer asking Jesus into my heart and was baptized shortly thereafter. Unfortunately, I lived a degenerate rather than regenerate lifestyle for the next 16 years.
At the age of 24, I was newly married and felt it was time for me and my wife to start attending church again. My experience with Christianity was full of cliches, but it was all I knew about Jesus and religion. To me, that’s all it was — a few cliches and some practices I had learned over the years in order to go to heaven when I died. It was a very thin and misinformed understanding of the gospel.
By God’s grace, we began attending a church where the pastor and a faithful Sunday School teacher clearly explained the Scriptures. After several months of deep conviction, my wife and I repented of our sins and placed our faith in Jesus.
Over the last 17 years, we have been growing in our understanding of the Bible and how a relationship with Christ is so much more than the thin, event-based feeling that has become prevalent in American evangelicalism. The Bible shows us a robust portrait of salvation. Many have come to articulate this as the “From-To-For-By” approach. Perhaps biblical salvation can be better understood and lived out if we think in a comprehensive, God-centered way. We are saved from the wrath of God, to the people of God, for the mission of God, by the grace of God.
A relationship with Christ is so much more than the thin, event-based feeling that has become prevalent in American evangelicalism.
We are saved from the wrath of God.
Ephesians 2:1 says that we are dead in our sins and Ephesians 2:3 points out that by nature, all people are children of wrath and are enemies of God. Without Christ, we lack hope and a future, but when the saving power of Jesus’ death and resurrection is applied to our lives, we can have everlasting hope. He has saved us from what we truly deserve.
We are saved to the people of God.
There are no lone rangers in the Christian life. God has not set it up that way. Paul tells the Ephesians that the people of God are like a body so that “…when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (Ephesians 4:16). Church is not a calendar event or a good business network — it’s a family who loves and serves one another. When the church understands this, it is a foretaste of what’s to come. In the end, we will see a mighty throng, consisting of a multi-ethnic, multi-national collection of Christ-followers dwelling with Him as heaven invades earth once and for all.
We are saved for the mission of God.
From the beginning, God’s blessing of salvation brought benefits and responsibilities. The two can never be separated. 1 Peter 2:9 states, “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.” Here, Peter encapsulates the entire scriptural understanding of salvation: from darkness (and its effects), to light (and the subsequent family that truth builds), for the proclamation (in word and deed) of the excellencies of God at work.
We are saved by the grace of God.
Ephesians 2:5 says it is by grace that anyone is saved. None of this is because anyone deserves it — no person, nation or tribe. Salvation is an act of sheer grace on God’s part and truly displays the attributes that set Him apart from the ‘gods’ of the nations — His holiness and humility. In His holiness, He leaves no sin unpunished. In His humility, He is willing to take on that punishment Himself because of the great love with which He loved us.
Let the fullness of true, biblical salvation simultaneously comfort and compel us to know Him and make Him known more and more as the return of Jesus approaches.