As you might surmise, I am still building on a message which started two weeks ago. When Joseph and Mary brought the infant Jesus into the temple to give Him to Jehovah, Simeon was there to greet them. He had been looking for the “consolation of Israel” – the comfort which would come through the Messiah. This may be a reference to Isaiah 40 which begins, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’S hand double for all her sins.” Simeon could see that Jerusalem indeed had received the Lord’s judgment for her sins. But let’s go on and read the next few verses in Isaiah 40. Verse 3 says, “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: And the GLORY of the LORD shall be REVEALED, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.” I have no doubt whatsoever that the consolation Simeon was seeking, he knew, was to be found in Christ. “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
At that point, as we have said several times, elderly Anna joined the happy little group. “And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.” Anna and her friends were looking for redemption – for deliverance – and she knew that in this baby redemption was to be found. Colossians 1:14 – In Christ “we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins.”
I have hinted at this morning’s theme a couple times over the last two weeks. But this morning I’d like to develop my thought a bit more. My purpose stems from my fear that not many professing Christians – and even true children of God – fully understand what salvation really is.
If you glanced at the bulletin and the title of this message, you might have been disturbed just a bit. My intention was to disturbed. My sermon titles are sometimes designed to catch your attention. The short title of this message is – “Salvation is my God.” Doesn’t that sounds somewhat idolatrous? “SALVATION is my God.” It suggests that I might worship God’s greatest gift to man – deliverance from sin. But I was just trying to employ some slight of hand. The full title of this message is – “GOD is my Salvation; Salvation is my GOD.”
So let’s ask: What is salvation to you? When you hear the term “saved” what pops up into your mind?
Salvation may mean different things to different people. Or there may be certain parts of salvation which seem to be more important to you than others. That is okay – if from time to time you open your eyes a little wider to look at the broader picture.
Salvation is not merely an act of God, or an act of God’s grace. One aspect of salvation is described in the Bible as “justification,” and that is an act of God. Justification is the declaration of God that a specific sinner is now righteous in His sight. It is the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the sinner – as the sins of that man are imputed to Christ. Romans 3:24 – “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.” But while justification is an important Bible doctrine it is not the sum and substance of salvation. There is also atonement, regeneration, adoption, reconciliation, propitiation and more.
Perhaps a Christian, whose former life was particularly wicked, thinks of salvation as forgiveness. That is a perfectly good word. In Christ “we have redemption through his blood, the FORGIVENESS of sins, according to the riches of his grace.” Salvation is sometimes described as a note in God’s ledger that the spiritual debt of that sinner has been paid by the sacrifice of Christ.
Besides these acts of God, salvation contains several important promises. II Peter 3:13 – “We, according to (God’s) promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” I John 2:25 – “And this is the promise that he hath promised us, even eternal life.” We have the promise of Holy Spirit – the earnest of God’s inheritance – and the promise of His comfort. There is the promise of God’s preserving grace; the promise of answered prayer. Christians have been given many wonderful promises, some of which are future. But if someone thinks of salvation only in the context of promised, future blessings, his salvation is faulty. Salvation from sin is not only about eternal life in Heaven.
When I had my recent eye-surgeries, each time as the nurse started my preparation, she threw a wonderful warm blanket over me. Salvation is not a warm blanket to make us feel good. And it is not God’s gift of higher self-esteem. It is not an antidote for a guilty conscience. This isn’t to say that the saved person doesn’t feel better and his conscience isn’t relieved. It should be. And, yes, Heaven is guaranteed; a blessed eternity has been promised by the promise-keeping God. Salvation has many aspects, some of which, I suppose, are more important than others. And each of us may focus on some single point, while others rejoice in another point.
Christians often use the word “salvation” when speaking among themselves. I am using that word to summarize all the aspects of this subject – inward and outward; now and in the future. “Salvation” is an umbrella word covering everything from justification to propitiation. But there is another word, perhaps a more blessed word, which we might use, but seldom do. Remember our title – my sermon title? “God is my Salvation; Salvation is my God.” Perhaps if Simeon was preaching this message, he might have said – “This CHILD is my Salvation; Salvation IS the Person of CHRIST.”
There are a great many scriptures which EQUATE SALVATION with the SAVIOUR Himself.
Yes, there are dozens in both testaments which tell us that Jehovah is the God OF salvation. “Save us, O God OF our salvation, and gather us together, and deliver us from the heathen, that we may give thanks to thy holy name, and glory in thy praise.” “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God OF our salvation.” “O come, let us sing unto the LORD: let us make a joyful noise to the rock OF our salvation.” And from our New Testament perspective, we can be more specific in saying that “Christ Jesus saves from sin.” There are several dozen scriptures which describe those things which Christ has done to redeem us. But my point this morning is that God in Christ is not only our Saviour, but SALVATION itself.
Please turn to Exodus 15 – Moses’ song of praise. We find this psalm immediately following the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. “Then sang Moses and the children of Israel this song unto the LORD, and spake, saying, I will sing unto the LORD, for he hath triumphed gloriously: the horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. The LORD is my strength and song, and he is become my salvation: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Verse 11 – “Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders? Thou stretchedst out thy right hand, the earth swallowed them. Thou in thy mercy hast led forth the people which thou hast redeemed: thou hast guided them in thy strength unto thy holy habitation.” I may come back to this passage next week with another purpose, but at this point notice verse 2 – “The LORD is my strength and song, and HE is become my SALVATION: he is my God, and I will prepare him an habitation; my father’s God, and I will exalt him.” Under the direction of the Spirit, Moses didn’t just praise God for what He had done, but for Who He IS. “The LORD is my strength and song, and HE is become my SALVATION: HE is my GOD.”
II Samuel 22 is quite similar in scope and intention as is Exodus 15. The first was Moses’ song of salvation, and the other is one of David’s. “And David spake unto the LORD the words of this song in the day that the LORD had delivered him out of the hand of all his enemies, and out of the hand of Saul: And he said, The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; The God of my rock; in him will I trust: HE is my shield, and the horn of my SALVATION, my high tower, and my refuge, my SAVIOUR; thou savest me from violence. I will call on the LORD, who is worthy to be praised: so shall I be saved from mine enemies.” Verse 47 – “The LORD liveth; and blessed be my rock; and exalted be the God of the rock of my salvation. It is God that avengeth me, and that bringeth down the people under me, And that bringeth me forth from mine enemies: thou also hast lifted me up on high above them that rose up against me: thou hast delivered me from the violent man. Therefore I will give thanks unto thee, O LORD, among the heathen, and I will sing praises unto thy name. He is the tower of SALVATION for his king: and sheweth mercy to his anointed, unto David, and to his seed for evermore.” In verse 3, and elsewhere, David calls Jehovah “the God of my rock… HE is my shield, and the horn of my SALVATION, my high tower, and my refuge, my saviour; thou savest me from violence.” Notice how the Psalmist blends what his Saviour DID with who, by his very nature, his Saviour IS.
Psalm 35 is another Davidic Psalm. Not only are these the words of David, but they are patterns for us. Verse 1 – “Plead my cause, O LORD, with them that strive with me: fight against them that fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, and stand up for mine help. Draw out also the spear, and stop the way against them that persecute me: say unto my soul, I am thy salvation. Let them be confounded and put to shame that seek after my soul: let them be turned back and brought to confusion that devise my hurt.”
Is there a difference between the prayer, “Lord, save me” and “Lord, be my Saviour”? I will let you think about that this afternoon. “Lord, save me” and “Lord, BECOME my SAVIOUR”? At the end of Psalm 38, David prays, “Make haste to help me, O Lord my salvation.” Is he saying, “Help me; save me Lord?” or is it “I plead with you, my Salvation, help me”?
In Psalm 62 I see a blending of what the Saviour does with Who or what salvation is. “Truly my soul waiteth upon God: from him cometh my SALVATION. HE only is my rock and MY SALVATION; he is my defence; I shall not be greatly moved. How long will ye imagine mischief against a man? ye shall be slain all of you: as a bowing wall shall ye be, and as a tottering fence. They only consult to cast him down from his excellency: they delight in lies: they bless with their mouth, but they curse inwardly. Selah. My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him. He only is my ROCK and my SALVATION: he is my defence; I shall not be moved. In God is my salvation and my glory: the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.”
In Psalm 118 the Psalmist rejoices in God’s salvation and prays for its continuation. Verse 19 – “Open to me the gates of righteousness: I will go into them, and I will praise the LORD: This gate of the LORD, into which the righteous shall enter. I will praise thee: for thou hast heard me, and art become my SALVATION. The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the LORD’S doing; it is marvellous in our eyes. This is the day which the LORD hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” I admit there is a fine line between the Saviour and His salvation, but that is just my point. We are in error if we separate salvation from the Saviour. We are in error if we think of salvation merely as some mechanical act or an entry in God’s legal ledger.
I have always loved Isaiah 12 – “And in that day thou shalt say, O LORD, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my SALVATION; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my SALVATION. Therefore with joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation. And in that day shall ye say, Praise the LORD, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted. Sing unto the LORD; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth. Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion: for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.”
As we’ve already seen, Simeon and Anna suggest this blending of the Saviour and His salvation when they first met him. And moving on in the New Testament, I hope you all remember how another character – Zacchaeus – met the Saviour – Luke 19. Zacchaeus was wee little man who was big among the tax collectors – he was “chief among the publicans, and he was rich.” He had heard much about the Nazarene, and he wanted to be able to tell his grandchildren that he had actually seen the Christ. So “he ran before, and climbed up into a sycomore tree to see him: for he was to pass that way.” Christ Jesus, in His limited omniscience looked up, calling him by name, told him to make ready because He and His disciples were going to his house. When the multitude heard and “saw it, they all murmured, saying, That he was gone to be guest with a man that is a sinner. And Zacchaeus stood, and said unto the Lord; Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have taken any thing from any man by false accusation, I restore him fourfold. And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” The Lord Jesus used a precise set of words when He spoke to the man. “And Jesus said unto him, This day is SALVATION come to this house.” Was Zacchaeus saved that day? I think so. But was Jesus speaking of salvation or of Himself, when he said, “this day is salvation come to this house”? I’m not going to debate the question, because perhaps the Lord was referring to both. But the point is – the salvation of Christ cannot be separated from the Christ of salvation.
Think about the famous words of Acts 4:12. Peter was defending his part in God’s healing of the lame man at the Beautiful gate of the temple. “Then Peter, filled with the Holy Ghost, said unto them, Ye rulers of the people, and elders of Israel, If we this day be examined of the good deed done to the impotent man, by what means he is made whole; Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” When Peter said, “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved,” was he saying that salvation is found only in what Christ has done? Or was it “salvation is found in the person of Christ – the only name under Heaven whereby we must be saved?”
There are other scriptures to which I could make you turn, but I don’t want to tire you too much before I get to my application. Assuming that God through Christ has saved you, what was His purpose? Assuming that God through Christ has saved you, how should you perceive that salvation? Is salvation merely a collection of divine promises which ultimately ends up in Heavenly bliss? Is salvation the gift of God to make you feel good through the preheated blanket of Christ’s righteousness? Is salvation merely an idea expressed in a bunch of theological jargon?
There are pseudo-evangelists who lead people to pray a little prayer or to repeat the words of a special formula in order to be saved. I have known people who repeated those words and prayed those prayers, believing themselves to be eternally saved Children of God. But they were not. The testimony of their lives proved they had not been regenerated or converted. They were not saved, in some cases, because their faith was in their prayers, or in their words of contrition or in their practice of faith. And some were not saved because their salvation had nothing to do with the Saviour. Perhaps they were interested in deliverance from God’s punishment for their sins, but they had no interest in worshiping and serving the Saviour.
Luke 8 vividly describes the salvation of a demon possessed wretch of a man. Luke 8:27 – “And when (Jesus and the disciples) went forth to land, there met him out of the city a certain man, which had devils long time, and ware no clothes, neither abode in any house, but in the tombs. Oftentimes (the devils within him) had caught him: and he was kept bound with chains and in fetters; and he brake the bands, and was driven of the devil into the wilderness.” But the Lord Jesus delivered the man and saved his soul. Verse 38 says, “Now the man out of whom the devils were departed besought him that he might be with him: but Jesus sent him away, saying, Return to thine own house, and shew how great things God hath done unto thee. And he went his way, and published throughout the whole city how great things Jesus had done unto him.”
In this incident we have an illustration of true salvation. Yes there were practical aspects – deliverance, forgiveness, soundness of mind, and so on. But the saved man wasn’t focused on these things – his focus was on Christ – his Saviour, his salvation. I have no doubt, but that man thought about Christ every day for the rest of his life. He wasn’t called to become one of the disciples, and he had no opportunity to join the church in Jerusalem. But he began to live out his salvation at home, with his eye of faith firmly fixed upon the Person who was his salvation. His new life wasn’t theoretical or theological; it was as practical as a cure for leprosy. And it was directly tied to the Person who saved him. Christ was his Saviour and his salvation.
That is the way it is supposed to be with you and me. “God, in Christ, is my salvation. My salvation – is my God.” If Christ is not the Lord of your life, then you should reexamine your heart. Are you truly born again? I am not suggesting that unless you deliberately meditate on Christ every day, you are not a Christian. But I am saying, if He never crosses your mind except on those few hours when you are forced to sit in church, then perhaps you are not indwelt by the Spirit of Christ. And if you have not the Spirit, then you are none of His. I am asking you, under the Lord’s leadership, to examine your faith, your salvation and your Saviour. Despite your prayers and your professions – without Christ, you remain a hell-bound sinner. “CHRIST must be your Salvation or you will not be saved; your Salvation must be GOD.”