Pristine Grace

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Jesus "Saves" or Does he?
by Stanley C. Phillips
“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,” - II Timothy 1:9 

     From sophisticated church bulletin boards, to roadside crucifixes, bumper stickers, and bathroom walls; from coast to coast, and from Canada to the Gulf of Mexico, one is bombarded with the slogan, “Jesus Saves.” It is so evident that hardly anyone takes notice of it, or seemingly is affected by it. 

     But the subtlety of the slogan is deceiving. It is unseen, yet subconsciously perceived and mentally set. Even if it is not found in the Scriptures, it still must be true. Like the mythical “Santa Claus,” it just must be so, for, it is instilled in the total fabric of the culture and in America’s modern concept of religion. Surely no one, not even The Predestinarian, would dare assault this “sacred cow.” 

     The intent of the slogan “Jesus saves” is designed as most of the slogans designed by the anti-christ) to instill false conceptions and to deceive the unwary natural religionist. It assaults the basic doctrine of Christ — which we will endeavor to prove. As with other slogans, it is a part of the world’s propaganda technique to discredit free grace and the plenary sacrifice of Christ’s redemptive work. 

     Examples of other such slogans are: “Give God a chance,” — as if to say that the wicked should not be unsportsmanlike; that he should be fair enough to allow God at least an equal opportunity (or a “handicap”) in the game of chance salvation! Again, “crusade for Christ,”— as if the God of righteousness utilizes the bloody and horrible instruments of the Inquisition to compel men to be evangelized. Or, “Let God save you,” — as if He is a helpless, frustrated, and defeated God before the stout hearts of the almighty wicked freewiller; or that He is a beggar before the door of man’s corrupt heart. As a famous modernist theologian once said: “Hell is a ghastly monument to the failure of the triune God” — that is the stuff slogans are made of!

     The slogan “Jesus saves” is an assault made upon the glory of Christ’s finished salvation. To any who may not have noticed the basic subtility of the slogan, never once in the Scriptures is Jesus presented in the work of salvation in the present tense of the verb “save.” Just as the word “salvation” never has an “S” following it; neither does “save”. Rather, His work is, after its accomplishment on the tree, always presented in the past tense as “saved.” - “Who hath SAVED us, and called us.” 

     Not only is this true, but it follows doctrinal consistency in the work of the Godhead in our salvation. It was the Father who hath “chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.” (Eph. 1:4) It was in Christ, the Son of God, that the Father “reconciled us by the death of His Son;” and “being reconciled we shall be SAVED by His life.z.” (Rom. 5:10) It was about two thousand years ago when God reconciled (past tense) us by the death of His Son, thus saving us by answering the full legal requirements of the holy law of God, ,and saving us THEN from the penalty and “curse of the law.” Today, it is the Holy Spirit who calls us “with a holy calling” and that, not according to our own works, or cooperation, but according to God’s own purpose and grace which the Father gave us in Christ before He created the world. Thus, the true and precise doctrine is “Jesus SAVED.” (Past tense) 

     In this writer’s escape from mystery Babylon’s freewill darkness, the experiential path was from freewillism to Calvinism, and then to experimental free grace. In the Arminian (freewill) camp, the major theme was: “Jesus saves,” - if you let Him, of course. In Calvinism, there was but little difference. There, too, we often heard such statements as: “I was saved in 1956,” or, “My husband isn’t saved.” Often they also button-hole someone with: “Are you saved?” etc. These statements, although extremely important, still imply that “Jesus now saves” —if you’ll let Him. They betray their misconception that salvation commences in effectual calling and regener­ation. This certainly is inconsistent with the doctrine of Christ, with true Calvinism, and with experiential heart-religion. Salvation COMMENCED WITH GOD, and that BEFORE He created puny little man. (See Rom. 8:28-33; & Eph. 1:3.12) Effectual calling and regeneration, the gracious work of the Holy Spirit, is based upon and effectual through Christ’s redemptive work. His work was completed on the cross, and He said: “It is finished. ” (John 4:34, 5:36; 19:30 inclusive.) 

     Specifically, there is no way one can truly and knowingly say “My husband isn’t saved,” for he may well be included in the glorious redemption of Jesus Christ, who actively in His life, and passively in His death, redeemed all His people from ALL their sins. Merely because he has not yet been effectually called by the Holy Spirit, does not in the least imply he was left out of the covenant of redeeming grace. As finite (and often arrogant) creatures, we do not possess sufficient knowledge of the fullness of the redemptive work of Christ so as to “judge righteously” whether Christ died for, and saved, this one or another. Indeed, millions who “know they are saved’’ may not be in that electing covenant, and thus partakers of His election. They may only be called to a profession by the Gospel, “for many are called, but few be chosen.” While we, as creatures, cannot know who is, or is not, saved, “The foundation of God standeth sure, the Lord knoweth them that are His.” (II Tim. 2:19) This should cause us to act towards those that are without as if they were objects of mercy yet to be made known. Harsh creature judgments are exceedingly severe and ungracious; and are a hindrance to a good hope in the salvation of loved ones. In fact, it is a sure way to create strife, hardness, and bitterness towards the truth of God unnecessarily. 

     Again, one will search the Scriptures in vain to find an instance where any minister or individual ever pried into the secret counsel of God by asking another “Are you saved?” The reason appears clear: That is the specific ministry of the Holy Spirit, who is sent into the world, “And when He is come, HE WILL reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment.” (John 16:8) It is certain that if He does not, we shall not! Such an inquiry is inconsistent with the doctrine of particular redemption, of the total depravity of man, of Holy Spirit regeneration, and of the necessity that one be born from above. If the one quizzed answered “no,” it is evident by the above doctrines that there is absolutely nothing he can do about it. He cannot quicken himself to life from above. He cannot born himself again, no more than he did the first time. He cannot include himself in the number of God’s purchased possession. He cannot truly believe the Gospel, nor evangelically repent of himself. And certainly, he cannot advance or hinder God’s salvation in his own behalf. If he could do these things, then Christ need not have died; nor would salvation be by grace. The question is strictly an Arminian freewill approach. The question exposes the doctrinal ignorance of the inquirer and demonstrates more zeal than knowledge. 

     Salvation is much more comprehensive than many people seem to realize. It certainly transcends all the little humanly devised “plans of salvation.” In a purposeful manner, all God’s people were “saved” in the covenant of grace by divine election. That is, they were objects of God’s particular and everlasting love even before the foundation of the world. (Jer. 3 1:3) They were by election given to the eternal Son of God, and thus in this sense, were saved from perdition. By that divine choice, they were never numbered with the “sons of perdition” such as Judas. (See John 17:12; Philippians 1:28; II Thess 2:3; I Tim. 6:9; Heb. 10:39; II Peter 3:7; and Rev. 17:8, 11) From eternal election, they were sanctified by God the Father, and PRESERVED in Jesus Christ.” (Jude l) As our text states: They were both SAVED and CALLED according to God’s own “purpose and grace,” and this “before the world began.” It should be noted that, in the text, “saved” precedes “called.” That is, the whole number of God’s elect are as saved and safe IN Christ by divine election in the purpose of God, as though they were in fact already in the presence of eternal glory. 

     However, a warning ought to be sounded here. It is not Scripturally proper to refer to divine election as “being saved,” for to do so neglects the proper emphasis which must be ascribed to the Saviour in His redemptive work. This would equally be as erroneous, it seems, as saying that “Jesus saves” now. For surely nothing can excel the glorious display of the love of Christ than his sacrifice for His people’s salvation, indeed, the central theme of the Gospel is the meritorious and sacrificial work of Christ for them. That is the “Glad tidings of salvation” to any who have been given faith to believe that He died for them. 

     It is in the active and passive obedience of Christ that salvation is judicially, or legally, accomplished. This, we believe, is what is meant when it is written, “In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.” (Eph. 1:7) Now we have that, not as of when we believed, but as of the acceptance of His offering by the Father; which was when He “through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God. ” (Heb. 9:14) Why? Because, “by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” (Heb. 10:14

     None will dispute that Scripture repeatedly refers to the redemptive office of Jesus as “the Saviour, ” which certainly places His work as the lone cause of salvation. The enunciation of the angel to the shepherds, in part, was “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a SAVIOUR, which is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) His message and promise to Joseph was, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name JESUS: for He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matt. 1:21) When the Holy Ghost was upon Simeon, he praised God and testified, saying, “for mine eyes have seen THY SALVATION.”(Luke2:30). To her cousin Elizabeth, the mother of Jesus declared, “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God MY SAVIOUR.” (Luke 1:47

     To deny the work of our Lord in salvation, or to imply that He merely made an uncertain provision for it, is to deny Him as THESaviour of sinners. In fact, the whole Arminian freewill world insists that it is the preachers and soul-winners that do the saving. Furthermore, to teach that He did not actually accomplish the end for which He came, is to declare Him a failure in the endeavor; this too, negates Jesus as the Saviour of sinners by such that hold this concept. The declaration by Christ of His role in salvation was, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the Father’s will which hath sent me, that of ALL which HE HATH GIVEN ME I should lose NOTHING, but raise it up again at the last day.” (John 6:38-39) This being so, if He failed here, then He failed altogether, and is not a savior. 

     Perhaps some of the confusion over the above view of salvation as a finished work of Christ in His redemptive work may be because the Scripture does not identify single identifiable components of His work with the word “saved.” This, we believe, is because redemption, reconciliation, ransom, surety ship, propitiation, etc., are in reality the affects and purpose of ONE WORK - salvation. We, as finite creatures, subdivide large concepts to better understand them. Surely the Lord need not do so. Nevertheless, it was by that work that He, as the federal head of His people, judicially saved them before He called them; and in fact, before most of those of the Gospel dispensation had even been born. 

May we indulge your logic? If Christ did not save one by His particular redemption, must this one then believe that Christ died for him in order to be saved? If so, would he not be required to believe a lie in order to be saved? Conversely, if Christ died for one, is it not faith which lays hold upon this accomplishment of Christ which delivers him in conversion? In other words, it must first be true, before it can be truly believed! Belief on Christ is given only to those IN Christ Jesus. We can understand this when we consider that Christ’s redemptive work was completed, or finished, by Him two thousand years ago, while most of His elect in this dispensation were not yet born. As prophesied, “And He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore HIS ARM BROUGHT salvation unto him; and His righteousness, it sustained Him.” (Isa. 59:16

     Redemption speaks of slaves, even as ransom speaks of captives. Redemption always must be accomplished by the owner, and by him only. Before an object can be redeemed the holder requires proof of ownership. Thus, election to salvation gives Christ the “right of redemption.” It does NOT give ministers and soul-winners such a right! If a slave is redeemed, he is saved from bondage, and this is a legal act. So we see that Christ legally saved His people when He redeemed them by His blood. However, the word “saved,” as used in the New Testament, most often refers to the deliverance of quickened sinners to Gospel conversion. But even here, the Scripture never uses the word “saves” in the present tense. Why? Because, until it is done, it cannot be known! It is not an instantaneous and single act as most nominal believers suppose. Conversion takes place at an appointed time, in the quickening of regeneration, as the sinner struggles to be delivered from sin’s awful bondage. In the process of deliverance, there is a dying to sin, the law, and the mammon of self-confidence. The sinner is emptied of himself, and of all false hopes of deliverance by his own efforts. He is brought to resignation; and godly sorrow worketh repentance. (II Cor. 7:10) It is the goodness of God that leadeth him to repentance, (Rom. 2:4) and this repentance to life God must grant as an act of grace and mercy. (Acts 11:18) So too, faith, which is bound up in conversion, is a “gift of God.” (Eph. 2:10-11) Sanctification is by the Spirit and through belief of the truth. All these things, and a great deal more, are included in “salvation.” 

     Those things which commence with the Holy Spirit’s quickening of a sinner become experiential knowledge of the Lord’s dealings with the soul. Those things which precede this experimental are finished in Christ’s obedience and work. The satisfactory answering of the judicial claims of the law of God against the sinner is Christ’s work in salvation. It is always past tense. The experiential work is by the Holy Spirit, and while it does cover a period of time, it is never acknowledged in the Scripture until it, too, is past. Thus, we believe, it is wrong to say that “Jesus saves;” rather, it is true to say “Jesus saved.