What is Salvation?

I’m working my way backwards through Romans chapter one.  Paul says the Gospel is the power of God for the salvation of all who believe.  I remember a song from back in the 90’s–when her career was just taking off and before Lance Armstrong broke her heart, Sheryl Crow sang,

I took the I-95 down to Pensacola,

All I found was a bunch of holy rollers,

They don’t know nothing ’bout saving me.

I think she was referring to a revival going on down there where people were getting slain in the Spirit–falling down backwards during the services.  This was about the same time people up north in Toronto were receiving the Toronto Blessing of uncontrolled laughter.

If you look on the map you’ll find that I-95 doesn’t go to Pensacola.  But maybe Sheryl had a point–you can’t get there from here.

What is salvation all about anyway?  It doesn’t matter whether you are a holy roller, a stone-cold Lake Wobegon Lutheran, a frozen and chosen Presbyterian–or something in between.  Christians often speak glibly about salvation, but what does it mean?

Very simply it means, in the first place peace with God.  There is a peace that comes simply from the confidence that there is a God.  Everything fits together; there is a purpose for the universe, and I have a place in it.  What we do on earth matters; there will at least be someone who will remember it.

Of course Christian faith is more than that.  It means believing that God loves me and that God accepts me.  It may be a cliche, but it is still true–God loves me just the way I am–but he loves me too much to leave me the way I am.

Second, salvation means I will have a place in what Judaism calls “the world to come.”  Salvation is bigger than me.  It is what God has planned for all of creation.  One of my colleagues says God’s eternal purpose has always been to have a people for himself, a people who will receive and respond to his love in praise and obedience.

I think God’s purpose is bigger than that.  In the short term, God is content to have a remnant, a few people who will faithful serve him and receive his blessings.  But a remnant is not the ultimate goal.  The ultimate goal is the redemption of the whole world.  The world to come is a world where peace reigns, where all of creation is perfected, where we share in and reflect God’s glory.  Salvation means that we have the hope of participating in that world.

The third aspect of salvation is that God is getting us ready to participate in the world to come.  That means he is renovating us from the inside out.

My son just bought a house at a great bargain.  It was a renovation project that someone else gave up on.  It was too much work.

But Eric knows how to do the work, and he has friends to help him.  I was there with him this past weekend, along with his son and my grandson Elijah.  All three of us can see the work left to be done–but we can also visualize the results.

Those of us who are now experiencing God’s salvation know that we are a major renovation project.  But God can visualize the results and he is not going to give up.