For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost.Matthew 18:11
In this week’s Bible study on what does it mean to be saved, the same scripture is also cross referenced in Luke, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.” [Luke 19:10] Notice though how Luke adds an important aspect to this statement from Jesus and that is with the phrase, to seek. This means to look for or go out and find which makes sense in the context of Luke’s account because Jesus sought out a man named Zacchaeus.
The transformation that took place from his encounter with Jesus was remarkably evidenced by Zacchaeus’s comments to give half of his possessions to the poor and to provide fourfold recompense to anyone he had wronged. Not surprisingly, Jesus thereafter made a proclamation of Zacchaeus’ salvation, “And Jesus said unto him, This day is salvation come to this house, forsomuch as he also is a son of Abraham.” [Luke 19:9] To read of such accounts where people’s lives are forever changed upon encountering the Lord Jesus Christ should be encouraging and inspiring for seekers of faith.
This short introduction to this study brings us back to the title question though on what does it mean to be saved? What are we saved from, how do we become saved, what do we need to do to get saved and what role does God have in this process and decision? Many inquisitive questions involve many complex answers from scripture so perhaps it is best to start right at the beginning of the New Testament with the birth of Jesus to better understand what role he plays in this process.
It is noted early on in the gospel according to Matthew where the detailed ancestry leading up to the birth of Jesus is carefully documented. This brings context to the family lineage not only for Mary, the mother of Jesus but also the man whom she was engaged to named Joseph. Little did the two of them know, the Holy Spirit was about to intervene on their lives through the miraculous birth of Jesus. This marked the foray into the world for the one who was to come as Matthew notably stated, “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]
The Chief of Sinners
So here in the very first chapter of the New Testament we have in the same sentence the name of Jesus along with the bold proclamation that he will save people from their sins. This statement starts to answer some of the questioned posed earlier on in this study but quite often with every answer it beckons another question. If Jesus will save us from our sins, how will he do this and what is he saving us from? After all, most of mankind is quite content wallowing in the sins of the world but what are the consequences of these sins?
Well, there was a notable apostle in the Bible called Paul who wrote the majority of letters to the early church. In his writings, some of the most profound statements were recorded, “This [is] a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” [1 Tim.1:15] Let us unpack that verse for a moment.
Paul confirms that Jesus came into the world which parallels with many other scriptures such as documented in Matthew. Paul also confirms that Jesus came to save sinners, so here we have two key words joined together creating a distinctive correlation between the two words, which are – save and sinners.
Paul then notably demonstrates his humility before the Lord Jesus by making the claim that he is the chief of sinners! What a contrast to the world and its trappings where wealth, fame, and notoriety are applauded. Who of us would ever want to be labeled in today’s culture as the chief of sinners? In one of Paul’s other letters, he went on to describe his former noble heritage and standing in the religious community, but he considered all of this as nothing in comparison to knowing Christ [Phil. 3:8].
The Depth of Sin
Readers of this blog however may be saying to themselves, perhaps Paul really was a bad sinner, perhaps he committed awful sins before God. Maybe some readers are saying to themselves, I’m not a sinner, I don’t commit things like adultery, or murder and so on. But did you know the teachings of Jesus took those commandments to a deeper level such as in his sermon on the mount? He challenged people on what comes out of the heart, such as lust, anger, evil thoughts and hatred since these were precursors to other more serious and explicit sins.
But here is the painful reality of the state of mankind before God as Paul describes, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” [Rom. 3:23] Yes, all of us have sinned and even if someone pats themselves on the back for being an upstanding citizen in the community, they are nonetheless sinners before God. To make matters worse, there is a penalty to pay for sin and it is death as Paul noted, “For the wages of sin [is] death.” [Rom.6:23] What a pay check!
But God does not want this to be our outcome in life. The apostle Peter wrote about this, “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” [2 Pet. 3:9] This was also written about by Jesus, “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.” [Matt.18:14]
God does not want us to perish with eternal consequences but sin must be dealt with in the here and now; it cannot be put off or it may be too late. Dealing with sin can only be done if we pay the penalty ourselves, which we absolutely cannot do. But if someone takes our place in atoning for our sin before a Holy God then this is where Jesus comes into the picture.
The scripture reading for this week says that Jesus came to save that which was lost. Dear readers, we are all lost without Christ, we are all dead in our sins, we have no hope of restitution back to God for there is no effort or work on our part that will redeem us before God’s holiness. It is only through the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross, his death, burial and resurrection through which we can be saved from the eternal consequences and penalty of our sin.
Paul wrote of this by using the word justified because through the redemption provided in Christ we are then justified before God, “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth [to be] a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins.” [Rom. 3:24-25] That verse says a lot. In Christ, we are justified before God, or in other words it is just as if we had never sinned! Christ is our propitiation which means he served as the atonement for our sins; he paid the penalty required by God for sin. He was the only one who could do this because he was without sin and yet he took our sin upon himself.
Sins Penalty Paid in Full
Furthermore, this verse highlights how it is through the shed blood of Christ on the cross where the penalty of our sins is atoned. Finally, here is the climactic point in the whole process; because Christ took our sin, who knew no sin, in turn, as we believe on him, his righteousness is then imputed unto us. This is the great exchange of sin for his righteousness and it gives us the incredible blessing of being able to stand before God, completely and fully justified in Christ.
Paul also stated that our redemption and justification in Christ is a gift, “…but the gift of God [is] eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” [Rom. 6:23b] A gift is a gift, it does not require payment because payment has already been made! Paul was also the one to highlight that our salvation is not through our own prideful efforts or works, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” [Eph. 2:8-9]
This is the good news of the gospel readers; we were spiritually dead before and Christ has given new life into our spirit, “Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;).” [Eph. 2:5] Quickened is an old term meaning bring to life. What a statement, what incredible good news, to be freed from sin, to have our sin atoned for by Christ, to now have his righteousness imputed upon us for eternity!
How Can I be Saved?
At this time, you may be asking, what do I need to do to be saved? Well, that very question was once asked by a man in scripture and the apostles gave him the answer, “And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” [Acts 16:30-31] This is where is starts for all of us, realizing we are sinners, realizing we cannot redeem ourselves no matter what we do, acknowledging and repenting of our sins and believing on the Lord Jesus Christ for his atoning work and redemption.
This is why Jesus stated, “And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.” [John 12:47] This is why the scripture states it is, “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour.” [Titus 3:5-6] This is why Jesus states, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life.” [John 6:47] It is all about believing in Christ!
Let us close off this Bible study on what does it mean to be saved. The scriptures abound on this subject and it is important not to overwhelm seekers of faith when learning of this important path to eternal life. It is truly life changing and requires learning, knowledge and prayer to God in seeking his wisdom to understand and come to a position of repentance over one’s sins. Always remember, God is calling us, he wants us to come to him, to repent and turn from our sins, to believe on his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Promise of Salvation
Paul wrote of this in his letter about the one, “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.” [2 Tim.1:9] This is such a profound verse in scripture; we are called with a holy calling, not because of who we are or anything we have done to merit notoriety, but it is all about him. We are called according to his own purpose and grace and to think that this was ordained before the world began is truly a blessing for all of us from God!
Finally, never doubt whether God has the capability and capacity to save you or to keep you saved during your life. For it is written, “Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” [Heb.7:25] Christ is our intercessor, Christ is our mediator between man and God. It is God who sanctifies you, it is God who will preserve your whole body, soul and spirit.
It is God who is calling you, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and [I pray God] your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful [is] he that calleth you, who also will do [it.]” [1 Thes. 5:23-24] With this precious promise, why not come to him now, repent of your worthless sins and believe on his atoning sacrifice for eternal life?
Bible Study Questions
- What were some of the things stated by Zacchaeus that showed he was a changed person after encountering Jesus?
- Who was the apostle in scripture that described himself as the chief of sinners?
- Fill in the blanks from Rom. 3:23, For ______________ have sinned, and come __________ of the glory of God.
- This study explains that Jesus Christ is the only one who can redeem us from our sins, true or false? Hint – Rom. 6:23
- Fill in the blanks from John 6:47, Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that _______________ on me hath _________________ life.
- How would you explain the importance of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ to someone who has just read this study?
- If you made a decision to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, please consider sharing this study with someone you love.
For reference, here are some frequently asked questions that are answered in this Bible Study. It is with sincere prayer that they have been answered through carefully researched and written commentary for seekers of faith. The absence of answers in the study is perhaps indicative that the events and circumstances were deemed less worthy of documentation in the overall importance of biblical scripture. What is meant by being saved? What does it mean to be saved or born again? What did Jesus mean by saved? What does it mean for Christians to be saved? What does it mean to be truly saved? What does it mean to be saved by faith? What does it mean to be saved from our sins?