What Saves


Here’s one way the Bible presents the gospel: “Brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,” 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. This passage, in seed form, contains, “The gospel.” It is, “What they received” from Paul. It is the truth by, “Which also you are saved, if you hold fast” and all that. Jesus’ death, burial and Resurrection is what saves sinners who repent and believe what God gives them in Christ.

     But is this all that saves us? What about all of Jesus' life? Jesus’ suffering and death at Calvary was His idea and He did it most freely. See John 10:18 and Matthew 26:53. Jesus’ suffering and death is what theologians refer to as His, “Passive obedience.” This obedience is that which the Savior endured at the hands of those who betrayed, tried and crucified Him. It stands distinct from what’s called His, “Active obedience.” Jesus active obedience was His lifelong faithfulness to God the Father up to and through His passive obedience. It is both His active and passive obedience that saves us. It is Jesus who saves us. We are blessed to remember this.

     What Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4 above is therefore, like most truths, only part and parcel of the gospel. When we remember that it is the whole of Jesus’ life that saves us from our sin we are reminded that it’s not just a message that saves us, or even just the work of the cross, but it is the truth that we receive from Him that saves us. It is the Savior who saves. It is His Person. It is a He that saves and not just an it. Christians do not have faith in faith. We have faith in Christ AND what He has done. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” God the Father made God the Son to be sin for the salvation of sinners. Jesus’ nature was impeccable. This means He could not sin. He was truly tempted, but resisted sin entirely and so, in His very nature though fully man, was completely without sin, Hebrews 4:15.

     Was this perfection in Christ required by the Father to save us? The answer is yes. Even Jesus Himself, if He was not sinless, could not have entered heaven post His Resurrection. I know this because God repeatedly says things like, “…There shall by no means enter it anything that defiles, or causes an abomination or a lie…” Revelation 21:27. Sinful things don’t enter heaven. This is true of us too; that’s why we need a perfect righteousness. Sinners cannot ever provide such a thing. Man can't do it. Moses says in Deuteronomy 21:23 that, “…He who is hanged is accursed of God.” Paul reiterates this for us in Galatians 3:13 when he says, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree).” Just before this, in Galatians 3:10, Paul is recalling Moses’ same discourse from Deuteronomy 21 and says, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” Jesus was not cursed by God because of His sin. Isaiah writes that men sometimes wrongly thought so (Isaiah 53:4) but it was not truly the case. Jesus was stricken and abandoned by God on the cross, but it was not for His own sin. It was for our sin, beloved. Peter boldly declares that death, which is the penalty for sin, could not remain on Jesus. Why? “…Because it was not possible that He should be held by it,” Acts 2:24. This is because death had no claim to Him for sin. If Jesus had ever sinned He too would need a redeemer. And who could do that?

     God instituted the blood sacrifice with the Hebrews for one reason, and that was to make them look forward to a more perfect sacrifice that would do away with all sacrfices. Not just any sacrifice would do to accomplish this. Even for the least of sins in olden days it was only the best of the flock or field that God accepted. For the sacrifice of all the SIN of God’s elect He would not receive anything less than the best offering. Jesus was that offering. Jesus lived the life as the last Adam that the first Adam did not. He perfectly obeyed God’s commands. This alone reversed the curse. He is God. He is perfect. He is the one to whom restitution for sin is due, and He can share His righteousness with whomever He chooses. It is both Jesus' life of obedience and work on Calvary that saves.

     So remember as you head into this Easter season that it was not just Jesus’, “Passion week” that saved you if you’re born again. It was His entire thirty-three years of perfect living and His death and Resurrection that saved you. It is Jesus who saves and we see this in all that He came to do among us.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *