What everybody ought to know about salvation
Salvation. We often hear that term in Christian circles, but do we understand what the word means? If someone were to ask you to define salvation, what would you say? If you are part of the 74% of Americans who check the “Christian” box when filling out forms, you would probably say something like, “salvation is about believing in Jesus and assuring ourselves a spot in heaven after we die.”
Most Christians understand salvation to be about preparing for the afterlife. It’s often explained like this: God the Father and God the Son made an arrangement (Jesus’s death on the cross) that would make it possible for our sins to be forgiven. Our part is to say “Yes” to God’s invitation by believing in Jesus. Our faith results in the forgiveness of our sins and guarantees us a home in heaven after we die.
James, Part 9
He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created… Therefore, put away all the filth and evil in your lives and humbly accept the word planted in you, for it has the power to save your souls.
James 1:18, 21
The introduction to James’s letter makes it clear that he is writing to people who have put their faith in Jesus and have been regenerated (born-again). In verse 18, James affirms they had experienced “birth through the word of truth,” and he identifies them as examples of God’s grace and goodness (“first fruits”). Then we come to verse 21, where salvation is described as something yet to come. “Humbly accept the Word,” James says, “because it has the power to save your souls.”
In the Gospel of John we are given a detailed account of Jesus’s last hours with his disciples before his arrest and crucifixion. Jesus, knowing this is about to happen, speaks to the confusion and uncertainty his departure will create. He tells them in chapter 14, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”
We live in a time of acute uncertainty, and that is creating all kinds of questions and confusion in us. In John chapters 13-17, Jesus speaks to people in a similar situation, folks whose future is completely up in the air. His disciples have been with him virtually twenty-four hours a day for three years receiving on-the-job-training. Over the course of those years Jesus has taught them many truths. He will now teach them one last time before his arrest and crucifixion, and his focus is the welfare of his wavering and lightly-tested apprentices. He knows that after he is gone, wolves will attack his flock.