The Five Pillars Of SalvationApril 1, 2017 Save Article
Our salvation solidly rests upon five “pillars” of salvation—eternal truths that can never be shaken, “though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea” (Psalm 42:6).
In light of events occurring even as this study was being readied to post, we see our world contorted once again with the distress of this age before our Lord’s return. Our complacency is being shaken and our own sense of security challenged once more. How easy it is for us to slip back into the unwise belief that it’s “business as usual.” But it isn’t. A sudden event in Syria shook our world once again and reminded us of just how precarious our regular routine can be.
A passage from Hebrews 12 comes to mind. Listen to how J. B. Phillips gives it (emphasis mine):
25-26 So be sure you do not refuse to hear the voice of God! For if they who refused to hear those who spoke to them on earth did not escape, how little chance of escape is there for us if we refuse to hear the one who speaks from Heaven. Then His voice shook the earth, but now He promises: ‘Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven’.
27-29 This means that in this final “shaking,” all that is impermanent will be removed, that is, everything that is merely “made,” and only the unshakeable things will remain. Since then we have been given a kingdom that is “unshakeable,” let us serve God with thankfulness in the ways which please Him, but always with reverence and holy fear. For it is perfectly true that our ‘God is a burning fire.’
Only that which is unshakeable will remain.
When you stop to think about your life, on what do you rely? Where is your hope, your security, your assurance, your sure foundation? Your salvation rests upon five unshakeable truths of the Christian faith, and you can depend upon them when everything else around you is shaking, for they are anchored in the omnipotence of Almighty God. They are all of God—His doing. Man had nothing to do with them.
In our study this time, we’re going to look at these 5 pillars, and once you understand them, you will rejoice in your salvation all the more.
1. Turn to Romans 8:28-30. These verses are very familiar, but don’t let that keep you from fully absorbing the deep truth they contain. Fill in some key missing words.
28 And we know that all things _________ ______________ for _______ to them that _______ ______, to them who are the ___________ according to His ______________. 29 For whom He did _______________, He also did _______________________ to be conformed to the __________ of His _____, that He [God’s Son] might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also ___________: and whom He called, them He also _________________: and whom He justified, them He also ________________.
We know Romans 8:28 so well, but we’ll never understand it as we ought unless we understand the two verses right after it. Remember, separating Scripture into chapter and verse divisions for convenience happened over 500 years ago, but this was not how the original text was given. It’s important to read the next 2 verses to get the full impact of the Romans 8:28 passage and what God is saying.
PILLAR #1 “29 For whom He did foreknow…..” The Supreme Wisdom of God
God’s wisdom is unlike any person’s knowledge or understanding. God is not a man, of course; His wisdom is supreme. We know things after the fact, but God knows things before the fact. His foreknowledge sets Him apart from every other being.
A CLOSER LOOK AT FOREKNOWLEDGE
The Greek word for foreknowledge is progonosco. It sounds very much like our word prognosis.
A prognosis, if made by a human being, is just an educated guess. The weatherman and your doctor make prognostications, and sometimes they’re wrong. But God’s prognosis—foreknowledge—isn’t based on a guess. God knows things before they happen.
You say, “Well, I don’t understand that.” I don’t understand it either. We don’t have to understand it because we’re not God. And I’m glad, because I wouldn’t have much confidence in a God I could understand. I’m grateful there are some things about God I don’t know.
If you watch a parade from the ground level, you see the floats as they come by you, one at a time. But if you were up in the Goodyear blimp, you could look down and see from the first float to the last float and everything in between. You’d have a different vantage point.
Human beings live in history. We see events as they come past us, one at a time. But God dwells in eternity. He dwells outside the time/space continuum. He sees the beginning, the end, and everything in between, all at one time. God foreknows. He knows everything. He’ll never “learn” anything, discover anything He didn’t know, and never forget anything. He just knows. Even when the Bible says He “forgets” our sins, it simply means He doesn’t remember them against us anymore.
God has all knowledge. That means you and I were in the heart and mind of God before He swung this planet into space. He knew that one day I would repent of my sin and receive the Lord Jesus Christ as my personal Savior. He knew I would be teaching this study and you would be reading it, for God knows the future. That’s the supreme wisdom of God. How we thank God for it! We rest in that mighty wisdom of God.
PILLAR #2 “…29 He also did predestinate…..” The Sovereign Will of God
Right behind the supreme wisdom of God, you must lock onto the sovereign will of God.
God has predestined certain things to happen. Simply put, God says, “I am determined to do something,” and then He does it. The Bible calls that predestination.
Theologians have raced their theological motors talking about predestination.
Dr. Scofield, who edited the Scofield Bible, described it this way, and I think rightly so,
“Predestination is the effective exercise of the will of God by which things before determined by Him are brought to pass.”
When God predestines something to happen, all hell can’t stop it because God has predetermined what He’s going to do. Then He puts His omnipotence behind it to get that thing done.
Does this mean that some are predetermined to go to hell and others are predestined for heaven…and there’s nothing we can do about it? Absolutely not! The Bible teaches that anyone who wants to be saved may be saved.
In February, we devoted an entire study to this subject, “Predestined for Hell? Absolutely Not!” You will find that study here.
There’s nothing more debilitating or chilling to evangelism than the idea that some are going to be saved, regardless, and some are going to be lost, regardless, and there’s absolutely nothing anyone can do about it.
2. Let’s look at some Scripture on that. Turn to 1Timothy 2:3-6
3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 who _____ have _____ men to be saved… and ________ to the _______________of the ______.
a. What is the clear will of God as expressed in this verse?
5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 who gave Himself a ransom for _______________”
b. A ransom for how many? ______. Jesus was not a ransom for “some.” Some teach that Jesus Christ only died “for the elect.”
3. Now turn to 2 Peter 3:9
9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, ______ willing that ______ should perish, but that _____ should come to repentance.
a. Who does God desire to die and go to hell?
b. What would it mean about the character of God to say that God created some people to die and go to hell?
4. If some people are not saved, why are they not saved?
Let’s look at more Scripture that tells us what God wants in this matter.
5. Turn to Matthew chapter 23.
A CLOSER LOOK AT MATTHEW CHAPTER 23—“THE 7 WOES”
Matthew 23 contains the last public address of our Lord. It is known as “The Seven Woes,” a famous address that takes up the entire chapter. It will be Jesus’ last time to speak publicly before He will be betrayed and crucified.
a. In verse 1, who is Jesus speaking to?
b. By verse 13, who has He turned His attention to?
c. Lastly, in verses 37-39, Jesus weeps over the city. Who is He speaking to?
Note 3 KEY words as Jesus weeps over Jerusalem:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ____ __________ _____.”
Jesus said, “I would have saved you. I would have forgiven you. I would have gathered you together. I wanted to redeem you, but you said no. It is not because I did not will it; it is because you refused it.”
These three New Testament passages affirm that God’s desire is that all be saved. Does this mean (since all are not saved) that He doesn’t get His sovereign will? What happened to the “sovereign” part?
THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD VS. THE FREE WILL OF MAN
This is an age-old debate, almost as old as the New Testament itself, and we will not solve the debate today. Some think that if you say “man has a free will,” this takes away the sovereignty of God. It does not! The Bible teaches both the sovereign will of God and the free will of man. These are not contradictory; they are mutual truths. Somebody asks, “Well, how can God be sovereign if man has a free will?”
Because the sovereign God has ordained that man would have a free will, that’s how. God says, “Because I’m sovereign, that’s the way I want it.” And if God wants it that way, whether you can understand it or not, that’s no problem. The sovereign God has said, “Whosoever will, may come.”
Dr. J. Vernon McGee, who taught “Through the Bible” on radio for many decades, once explained how he settled the question for himself. He said,
I imagine that when I get to Heaven and see the pearly gates in front of me, over those gates will be written the verse, “Whosoever will may come.” And when I walk through those gates and turn around and look back, on the inside it will read, “You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you.” It’s the two sides of the coin. That’s how I see it.
Remember what we said earlier in the section “A CLOSER LOOK AT FOREKNOWLEDGE”?
You say, “Well, I don’t understand that.” I don’t understand it either. We don’t have to understand it because we’re not God. And I’m glad, because I wouldn’t have much confidence in a God I could understand. I’m grateful there are some things about God I don’t know.
Romans 8:29 says,
29 “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son….” [Not being predestined to be saved, but predestined to be conformed to the image of God’s Son], “…that He [God’s Son] might be the firstborn among many brethren.”
What does that mean?
- God only had one Son. His name was Jesus.
- God loved Him so much, He said, “I want some more like Him.”
- And so God is redeeming a whole race of people, that all of these might be conformed to the image of God’s Son.
- If you are saved, you are predestined to be like Jesus. It’s settled! And all hell can’t stop it.
- Because God foreknew that I would receive Jesus Christ as my personal Savior and Lord, and that I, of my own free will, would repent of my sin and receive Christ, He could say, “It is settled! Adrian, one day, will be like the Lord Jesus Christ.”
6. Turn to First John 3:2
Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, ____ _______ ____ _____ _____, for we shall see Him as He is.”
We don’t guess it. We don’t think it. We know it! We who have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior are “predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son.”
Don’t get the idea that you don’t have a choice about it. You do! And you’re going to give an account for the choice you make today.
I have often said, “You are free to choose. You are not free not to choose. And you are not free to choose the consequences of your choice. Once you make your decision, your choice chooses for you.”
There is no contradiction between the sovereign grace of God and the free will of man. Both are taught in the Bible. Put it down big, plain, and straight: the Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. And our job is to preach the gospel to every creature, as the Great Commission commands us to do.
LET’S REVIEW WHERE WE’VE COME SO FAR:
PILLAR #1: THE SUPREME WISDOM OF GOD. He knows all things.
PILLAR #2: THE SOVEREIGN WILL OF GOD. God has predetermined that those He knows are going to receive Christ will also become like the Lord Jesus Christ.
PILLAR #3 “30 …them He also called….” The Seeking Word of God
Continuing in verse 30:
“Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called…”
“Call” here literally means to “issue a summons.”
Again, the timeline:
- God foreknows we will or won’t receive Him.
- God predestines that those who receive Him are going to be like the Lord Jesus.
- Then He calls—issues a summons to us—through His word.
Some people think the call of God must be an emotional thing. You’re sitting in church, feeling all warm and fuzzy. A tear comes to your eye, goosebumps to your arms, and you say, “Hey, that’s the call the God.”
You don’t read anything like that in the Bible. Instead, you read, “Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called…” through His Word.
7. Turn to 2 Thessalonians 2:13-14
13 But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the________________ ____________ you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth:
14 Whereunto He ____________ you by our Gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
a. How did God call you to Himself?
b. When did He choose you? (v. 13) “…from _________________________________"
c. What attribute of God makes it possible for Him to make this choice this early on?
Whenever the Gospel is preached, God has seen this scene before it ever happens. The Bible is open, the preacher has been ordained by God to preach, given the Word to preach, and he has been filled with the Holy Spirit. God has brought the hearers there to hear the Word. And God calls through His Gospel.
8. a. Read 1 Corinthians 1:23-24:
23 But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness: 24 But unto them which are _____________, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.
God doesn’t just go through a congregation and call this one but not call that one. He’s calling everyone.
b. Remember what we read before, in 2 Peter 3:9—
The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, ____ willing that ____ should perish, but that ____ should _______ to repentance.
God tells His ministers, His prophets, His teachers, His preachers, “Call My people by preaching the Word of God.”
One day God will hold you and me—everyone—accountable for what we do with His summons. It’s not from any preacher, denomination or church. It’s a call from God Himself through the Gospel, saying, “Repent of your sin and receive the Lord Jesus Christ.”
PILLAR #4 “…30 and whom He called, them He also justified…” The Saving Work of God
30 Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them he also justified:
When God calls you by the Gospel and you answer His call, then you are “justified.”
Justification is God’s act whereby He declares those who have trusted in Christ to be as righteous as Jesus Christ Himself is righteous. Just as righteous as Jesus!
Sometimes it’s explained this way: “Justified” = “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned.
10. Turn back four chapters to Romans chapter 4. We need to look at verses 5-8, verse by verse.
5 But to him that worketh not, but _______________ on Him [God] that _____________ the ungodly, his ___________ is counted for righteousness.”
Salvation is not because of the works we do, but when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, God counts our faith for righteousness. God says to the believer, “You are righteous.”
6 “Even as David also describeth the blessedness of the man unto whom God _______________ righteousness without works.”
God is saying through Paul in Romans chapter 4, “I credit righteousness to you, the believer, apart from your works.” Then Paul looks back to Psalm 32 to help further explain this to the church at Rome by telling them what David had said centuries earlier:
7 “Blessed are they whose iniquities are forgiven, and whose sins are covered. 8 Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.”
Or, more clearly stated,
7 “Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven, and whose sins have been covered. 8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into account.” (NASV)
A CLOSER LOOK: WHAT DOES “IMPUTED” MEAN?
What does God mean when He says He has “imputed righteous” to me? Here’s a way to remember it:
You know what amputation is. You take something away. Imputation is the opposite: you put something in.
Let’s say you go down to the department store and buy something. You have a charge account. You say, “Charge it!” You might just as well say, “Impute it!” It means the same thing as “Put that on my account.”
When God “imputes righteousness” (v. 6), He puts righteousness into your account. “Blessed is the man to whom the Lord [puts into his account] righteousness without works.”
I don’t deserve it, I didn’t earn it, I don’t merit it, but when I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, God just imputes that righteousness. And when God sees me, He sees that righteousness—the righteousness of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
So many people think of being saved as merely getting their sins forgiven. But that’s only part of it. Do you see here that justification is more than just pardon? It’s not simply God forgiving our sins. He does far more. These verses (Romans 4:7-8) show He takes it a step further and makes us righteous in His sight. The hymn says, “Be of sin the double cure, save from wrath and make me pure.
Only God can justify. Only God can take that guilty person, that sinful person, and give that person righteousness.
God sees the righteousness of Jesus Christ in every one of His blood-bought children. This should make you shout, “Hallelujah!” This is the saving work of God.
How can God do such a thing? On what basis can He do it? He is a holy God. How can He declare someone who is unrighteous “righteous”? What is the basis of our justification? Again, Paul tells us in Romans.
11. Turn to Romans 3:24-25a:
“Being justified freely ___ _____ __________ through the _______________ that is in Christ Jesus: whom God hath set forth to be a __________________ through faith in His blood….”
“Propitiation” means the same thing as “satisfaction.” If you’ve committed a crime and served your sentence, you have “satisfied” the law by paying for your crime. If you get a parking ticket and pay your ticket, you’ve satisfied the law. You’ve made “propitiation” for having broken the law.
But when it comes to breaking God’s law, falling short of the glory of God, the penalty is far more serious. The punishment isn’t a few years in prison or dollars out of your pocket—it is eternal separation from a holy God.
Because God is holy, He has sworn by all He is that sin will be punished. There must be a satisfactory payment for sin.
But here was the choice God faced:
“If I punish man for his sin, the debt will be satisfied, but man will die and go to hell, and I love him. I don’t want that! But on the other hand, if I don’t punish man for his sin, justice will never be satisfied. I will no longer be a holy God, because I am sworn by My holiness to punish sin.”
So God made a choice—which had already been resolved in eternity past, since Jesus Christ was the “Lamb slain before the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).
Here it is:
“To have that sin paid for and let the sinner go to heaven, I will become man’s stand-in, his substitute. I will take on human flesh. I will go down to earth. I will take the sin of mankind upon Myself. And in agony and blood I will pay for that sin. I will become the satisfaction (propitiation) for sin. By My death as man’s substitute, I Myself will pay for man’s sin.”
12. This is the way it happens. You are already in Romans chapter 3:24. The next 2 verses make it plain:
25 [Christ Jesus] Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation [satisfaction] through __________ in His _________, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 to declare, I say, at this time His [God’s] righteousness: that He [God] might be_______, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.”
By this divine, incredible, merciful plan, God both satisfied the requirement of the penalty for sin and made it possible, through the substitutionary death of His sinless Son, for sinners to have their sin paid for, so that they could be reunited with God in a restored relationship, and live with Him throughout eternity.
The Amplified Bible sets it out so clearly:
24 and [sinners] are being justified [declared free of the guilt of sin, made acceptable to God, and granted eternal life] as a gift by His [precious, undeserved] grace, through the redemption [the payment for our sin] which is [provided] in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God displayed publicly [before the eyes of the world] as a [life-giving] sacrifice of atonement and reconciliation (propitiation) by His blood [to be received] through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness [which demands punishment for sin], because in His forbearance [His deliberate restraint] He passed over the sins previously committed [before Jesus’ crucifixion]. 26 It was to demonstrate His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the One who justifies those who have faith in Jesus [and rely confidently on Him as Savior].
By this plan, God remains holy and just, and is the one who justifies the sinner and restores our broken relationship with Himself. God did the reaching out. God did the saving. God paid the price. We couldn’t do the reaching out or the restoration.
13. Why couldn’t we? Turn to both Ephesians 2:1 and Colossians 2:13 and compare these 2 verses side by side:
And you hath He quickened [made alive], who were dead in trespasses and sins;
And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened [made alive] together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;
a. In both these verses, the Bible tells us just how bad off we were before God saved us. What phrase does it repeat two separate times to be sure we don’t miss it?
b. What condition were we in?
c. How can a dead person do anything to restore himself?
If you wrote, “He can’t,” you’re onto something. We were dead. When you’re dead, you can’t save yourself or anybody else.
God never overlooks sin. He is still just when He justifies me because that sin has been propitiated/satisfied/paid in full. When Jesus died on the cross, He bowed His head and said, “It is finished!” [tetalesti]—a Greek word that means “paid in full,” and, therefore, God is both just and the justifier of the man who believes in Jesus Christ. This is the gospel.
14. How does this justification get applied to me? Thank God, we don’t have to guess.
Romans 3, verse 24: “Being justified freely by His ___________…”
Romans 5, verse 8: “God ________________ His love toward us, in that, while we were _____ _____________, Christ died for us.”
Grace is the unmerited favor of God. It’s what causes God to love us while we were yet sinners.
There are three words you must never forget:
Justice, Mercy and Grace
Justice is God giving us what we deserve. If we get justice, we’ll die and go to hell. Don’t ever ask for justice because our sins deserve hell.
Mercy is God not giving us what we deserve.
Grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve.
Grace is where God in His love says, “You don’t deserve this. It’s not by works of righteousness that you’ve done. But I am going to make you righteous. By grace I’m going to impute this righteousness to you
15. How do we get hold of that grace? We saw it in back in Question #10—
a. Romans 4:5 “But to him that worketh not, but _______________ on him that justifieth the ungodly, his ___________ is counted for righteousness.”
b. Romans 5:1 “Therefore being justified by __________, we have peace with God __________ our ______ __________ _________.”
You lay hold on it by faith, not your good works. I’m not against good works. You ought to do good works. But these things don’t save you. When a person receives the Lord Jesus Christ as personal Savior, then, and then alone, you are justified and have peace with God.
The moment any sin-soiled, sin-darkened, sin-ruined person bows their head and says, “God, in repentance and faith I come to Jesus Christ. I trust You, Jesus,” that moment he’s justified and has peace with God. The war is over! Hallelujah!
That is justification, made as righteous in God’s eyes as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, “just-as-if-I’d” never sinned.
PILLAR #5 “…30 and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” The Settled Ways of God.
“Whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.”
16. Look at the word “glorified.”
a. Is it past, present, or future? _________________
b. When did everyone who is saved become “glorified”? _______
c. Is it yet to happen? _________
Paul is talking like every believer is already glorified! It’s already done—settled in the heart and mind of God. You would expect Paul to say, “…them He also will glorify.” But He doesn’t say that. He puts it in the past tense. Could he have made a mistake and God just let it slip through all these centuries because Paul did such a good job with so much of the rest of the New Testament?
Remember what we said at the beginning—
- God sees from an eternal, not earthly perspective.
- God can see the past, present and future all at once.
- He is infinite as regards time and space.
- He is not bound by or restricted to the time/space continuum.
- He already sees me as glorified like Christ and says, “Adrian is glorified.”
That’s the settled ways of God. It is predetermined I’ll be like Jesus. All hell can’t stop it.
This is the reason I believe in the eternal security of the believer. How could you be any more secure than being predestined to be like Jesus and already glorified? Friend, that is not me talking—it’s black print on white paper. We’ve just read it in Romans chapter 8! We are secure—and not because of our own righteousness. If it depended upon my works of righteousness, I’d lose it.
God keeps us. He looks at me as already glorified. And what has been settled in eternity can never be undone in time. Rely on the 5th Pillar: The settled ways of God.
The five pillars of salvation are:
- The Supreme Wisdom of God. He foreknew us.
- The Sovereign Will of God. When He foreknows that we’ll receive Christ, He predestines we’re going to be like Jesus.
- The Seeking Word of God. He sends His Word, the Gospel, to call us to Himself.
- The Saving Work of God. When we believe on Jesus Christ, we are justified. He will not impute sin to us. He does impute righteousness without works.
- The Settled Ways of God. His will is settled in eternity.
We have a wonderful salvation. We can relax. Not “let down,” but rest in our salvation! This is a message the devil doesn’t want preached.
So many Christians I know remind me of a man who swallowed an egg. Afraid to sit still, thought it might hatch; afraid to move, afraid it might break. That’s the reason the Bible says in Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God.”
No matter what happens, friend, God says, “There you are, glorified, sitting in the kingdom. I have predestined you’re going to be like Jesus, and all hell can’t stop it.”
He’s not willing that any should perish. It’s your decision. He’s not going to force Himself on you. “Whosoever will, may come.”