What is the Gospel? #5: Salvation

Here’s a reminder of the seven-fold summary:

1: the announcement of good news concerning the glory of God in King Jesus

2: bringing to conclusion the story of Israel in his

3: life, death, resurrection, & return (which)

4: brings victory over sin, Satan and death, (which)

5: brings salvation by grace to all who 

6: repent and believe in Jesus as Lord and Saviour, 

7: following Him unashamedly with hope through suffering and life.

5:..BRINGS SALVATION BY GRACE TO ALL WHO…

The victory of Christ that we announce to the world, brings about our ‘salvation by grace’. These might only be three words, but they have massive implications for what the gospel is. Let me take the reality of grace first, before looking at salvation.

Grace

Grace in the gospel means the free gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus. A gift we don’t deserve or earn. This means the gospel isn’t something we can buy or gain by our own good works. Like any gift, it is one we receive with thankful arms. If we do not stress the idea of grace, then people won’t get the gospel.

Paul said to the elders of Ephesus that his ministry which Christ gave him was ‘to testify to the gospel of the grace of God’ (Acts 20:24). When he writes to the Galatians telling them that there’s just one gospel, he says, ‘I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ’. (Gal 1:6-7).

Most distortions of the gospel happen when grace is compromised. It is such a counterintuitive notion. We get something we don’t deserve. But that is how we are saved – we are saved by grace and only grace (Eph 2:8-9). Which brings us to the reality of salvation…

Salvation

The gospel of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and return – his victory over sin, Satan and death brings salvation. So often we make the gospel only about salvation, which is wrong because then the emphasis can be placed on what happens to us, rather than what Jesus has done for us. Others suggest salvation is the benefit of the gospel, and not the gospel itself.[1] For what it’s worth, I think salvation is part of the gospel, but it shouldn’t be prioritised over points 3 and 4. Making Jesus known is key, but we can’t divorce it from salvation, since Jesus literally is the one who saves us (see Matt 1:21). In other words, we cannot separate his mission from the events and interpretation of those events, even though we can (and should) distinguish between them.

Once again, Paul helps clarify this in two places:

In Romans 1:16 he writes: ‘For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.

The gospel is God’s power to give us life through the Spirit in Christ. The gospel brings salvation.[2] Without the latter, we do not get the full reality of the good news.

Then in Ephesians 1:13, Paul writes about how being in Christ is ‘the gospel of your salvation’. The good news includes our salvation! This verse is in the middle of an amazing section that explains this salvation (Eph 1:3-14), and what is clear about it is that the unifying theme of our salvation is unity in Christ.

Because we are in Christ we are saved and therefore get all the blessings of Christ. That is salvation in a nutshell. But the implications of this union needs to be teased out.

In fact, the implications of salvation (being united to Christ) means at least seven things:

1: Regeneration – in Christ we’re born again, given new birth, a new heart by the Spirit’s power, turned from being dead in our sin to alive in Christ. It’s a spiritual resurrection. We are a new creation.[3]

2: Justification – in Christ we’re declared not guilty in God’s court, acquitted of our rebellion. The gospel makes us innocent in God’s sight.[4]

3: Reconciliation – in Christ we’re forgiven[5] and reconciled to God – brought back into relationship with him so we can know peace with him. It also means God has made us into one people from all nations – both Jew and Gentile are one![6]

4: Sanctification – in Christ and through the indwelling of the Spirit we are given the status holy, no longer unclean or sinful. A status we seek to apply and live out practically this side of heaven, choosing holiness in our actions, thoughts and emotions, instead of sin.[7]

5: Restoration[8] – in Christ God has restored what was broken as those reflecting the image of God; we are now his kingdom of priests. In Christ, God is restoring to us his kingdom and our place as his representatives and priests. We are living stones being built on the Cornerstone.[9] 

6: Adoption – in Christ we are chosen as God the Father’s children and co-heirs with Christ, part of His royal family. The Spirit inside us cries ‘Abba! Father!’[10]

7: Glorification – in Christ we will experience the full reality of God’s salvation through the new heavens and new earth, no longer tasting death, evil, pain or sorrow as resurrected worshippers. The new heavens and the new earth will be a new and better Eden where we enjoy God’s glorious presence forever.[11]

Though each point really deserves more treatment, one vital part of our gospel message as those saved by grace is that we are saved into a relationship with the Triune God! The good news we proclaim is that we can know God. For this is what eternal life is (John 17:3). Knowing God and worshipping God for ever and ever! Amen!

This good news that brings salvation really requires a response. The final two summary statements help provide one…


[1] See for example Graeme Goldsworthy’s excellent book where this view is expressed, Gospel-Centred Hermeneutics: Biblical-Theological Foundations and Principles (Apollos, 2006), pp. 58-59.

[2] By now I hope you realise ‘gospel’ is shorthand for ‘the conclusion of Israel’s story in Jesus’ life, death, resurrection and return, which brings victory over sin, Satan and death’. So when I say ‘gospel brings salvation’ = Jesus brings salvation.

[3] See for example John 3:1-21 and 2 Corinthians 5:17.

[4] See for example Romans 1:17; Romans 3:21-28 and Galatians 2-3.

[5] Forgiveness could easily be a separate category but in the logic of salvation forgiveness is followed by reconciliation.

[6] See for example Romans 5:1-11 and Ephesians 2:11-22.

[7] See for example Romans 6:15-23 and 1 Corinthians 1:30. For what can be termed ‘progressive sanctification’ see 1 Thessalonians 4:3.

[8] The word ‘restoration’ can mean lots of things in the Bible – in the OT it often refers to the promise of a restored kingdom, tied to the land and covenantal blessings of God’s people in the land. Here I am using it, for want of a better word, to describe the reality of restoring our broken image now we are in Christ; that part of our salvation is to become a ‘kingdom of priests’, which is the functional part of what it means to be ‘made in God’s image’. The priesthood of all believers is one way to look at this, but I don’t want to lose the ‘kingdom’ part either. For Biblical references see for example Genesis 1:26-28 and Genesis 2:15; Exodus 19:5-6; 1 Peter 2:9; Rev 1:6; Rev 5:10.

[9] See for example 1 Peter 2:4-10 and Colossians 3:10. The gospel of the kingdom of God is breaking through into this age by those charged to go to all the nations, (Matthew 28:19-20) his people – the church. See Acts 1:6-8 and Acts 28:31. God’s kingdom is spread to the ends of the earth as more and more churches are planted, proclaiming the glory of God in King Jesus.

[10] See Romans 8:14-17 and 1 John 3:1

[11] Romans 8:30 and Revelation 21:1-22:5.

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