Students of the Bible are aware of the fact that salvation, as that term was used in the Old Testament, had an entirely different meaning than it has to us who are under the New Covenant. Then, it meant deliverance from whatever physical dangers were near, as when Israel was saved from Egypt (Exod. 14:30), and Daniel was saved from the den of lions. However, the New Testament speaks more particularly of salvation from sin.
Jesus was offering salvation from sin when He gave the Great Commission, promising that “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). The apostles began to carry out this commission on the day of Pentecost when Peter commanded his audience to “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). In view of the Lord’s offer to provide salvation, it should be worthwhile to inquire as to what is involved in salvation from sin.
First, salvation means freedom from the guilt of sin. When God forgives, He blots out all remembrance of sin, thus holding the sinner absolutely guiltless. We have His promise: “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more” (Heb. 10:17). Peter told the Jews in Acts 3:19 to “Repent and be converted that your sins may be blotted out.” Sometimes a friend will say “I forgive,” but later will again reproach you with your past mistakes. But when God forgives, we have His blessed assurance that the slate is indeed wiped clean.
Second, salvation means relief from the burden of sin. To one who has been convicted of sin, the reproof of his own conscience is an agony unbearable. The heaviest burden that man can carry is the knowledge that he has sinned against God. Perhaps all of us can remember the time when we were sinners and first realized it. But to those who are saved the Bible says, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:22).
Third, salvation means deliverance from the penalty of sin. While the saved person may have to bear the consequences of sins formerly done, still the thought of being snatched, as it were, from the very edge of an eternal hell, by the mercy of a loving God, ought to be inducement enough to make every sinner repent, and is enough to cause gratitude to spring up in the heart of every Christian. If it were not for the grace which the Lord has seen fit to bestow upon us, we should all live in fear of the wrath of God to be executed in the day of final judgment.
Fourth, salvation means that we are no more the servants of sin, but are now become the servants of righteousness (Rom. 6:17). Thus, we have the obligation of rendering the utmost obedience to Christ. In whatever His word bids us do we must be faithful. Having been made free from the service of sin, to return to it is to enter a state worse than the former (2 Pet. 1:9; 2:20-22).
Fifth, salvation means a present refuge from sin. Whenever temptation endangers the saved soul, he can turn to Jesus as one who has likewise suffered temptation but overcome it (Heb. 2:18). Thus, He can be touched by our weaknesses and will extend mercy and grace in our time of need (Heb. 4:15-16). Our God has assured us that with every temptation there will also be provided a way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). That way is Christ. Also, as God’s children we may pray that we be not led into temptation, but delivered from evil, and He will answer that prayer.
Finally, salvation means the hope of being transported to a place where there is no sin. This life offers many pleasures, but we know that it also contains many disappointments and occasions of grief. When we contemplate the fact that all of these evils are brought about as the result of sin, we are led to long for a place where there is no sin. If you can imagine what this world would be like if sin had never entered in, then you can begin to picture to a small degree what heaven shall be like for us. This is the hope of the Christian; a hope that enters in beyond the veil, where Christ has gone as a forerunner for us. (Heb. 6:19-20.)
Realizing what salvation from sin means, any sane person will earnestly desire it, and can receive it through obedience to Jesus Christ.