WHAT IS SO URGENT ABOUT SALVATION?
2 Corinthians 6:1-2
“There is no more urgent and critical question in life than that of your personal
relationship with God and your eternal salvation.” 1
“The knowledge of sin is the beginning of salvation.” 2
GOD’S FELLOW WORKERS
Paul begins the next section of second letter to the believers at Corinth by affirming that
he was God’s co-worker. Paul was amazed that it could be true, but recognized that it was only
because of God’s grace (1 Co 3:9). He put it:
“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you
came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed,
Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he
who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The man
who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded
according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers” (1 Co 3:5-9).
Paul understood his place. Although he was God’s co-worker, he was so as a servant.
Paul urges the believers at Corinth
“not to receive God’s grace in vain” (2 Co 6:1).
How could the Corinthian believers toss aside God’s message of grace? How could they
squander any part of what God had in mind for them? Perhaps they were doubting Paul and his
words, confused by the false teachers who taught a different message—a message of salvation by
works through meticulous obedience of the law. The people heard God’s message, but did not let
it affect what they said and did.
To live for oneself is one way to receive God’s grace in vain. Remember what Paul said a
few verses previous to this? He said that since Christ “died for all [then] those who live should no
longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and was raised again” (2 Co
To strengthen his appeal Paul uses a quote from David, the psalmist, and Isaiah, the
prophet. David said,
“But I pray to you, O Lord, in the time of your favor; in your great love, O God,
answer me with your sure salvation” (Ps 69:13).
Paul changed this prayer into an answer to prayer:
“In the time of My favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.”
(2 Co 6:2)
At the nick of time God lovingly hears our prayer. The day we need Him, He is there to
The root meaning of the word “salvation” in classical Greek is fourfold:
1. Being snatched from danger (Homer).
2. Keeping someone in safety (Putarch).
3. Benefiting or keeping someone in good health.
4. Preserving someone’s inner being.
The combined meaning then in classical Greek is the preservation of inner being
(wholeness, which in psychological terms means integration) and outer safety.
The terms for salvation in many languages are derived from roots like salvus, saos, heil,
whole, which all designate health, the opposite of disintegration and disruption. The word saos
means “to make safe or to deliver from a threat.” Salvation is safety and healing in the ultimate
In various forms the words save, savior and salvation are used 185 times in the New
Testament and usually refer to God’s work in human lives. In each case God or Christ is the
Savior. Scripture is very clear that the only One who can save people is God Himself:
“Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our Savior and of
Christ Jesus our hope” (1 Ti 1:1; 2:3; Titus 3:4).
“This is a trustworthy saying, that deserves full acceptance (and for this we labor
and strive), that we have put our hope in the living God, who is the Savior of
all men, and especially of those who believe” (1 Ti 4:9-10).
“And at his appointed season he brought his world to light through the preaching
entrusted to me by the command of God our Savior” (Titus 1:3).
“While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God
and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13).
It is of grace and excludes any human works:
“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not
from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can
boast” (Eph 2:8-9).
“He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because
of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the
Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).
“Who saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we
have done but because of His own purpose and grace” (2 Ti 1:9).
Jesus said that His purpose was to seek and to save the lost (Lk 19:10; 2 Ti 1:10).
Similarly, in Isaiah 49, a chapter which speaks of the future Redeemer, the Servant of the
Lord, Isaiah said,
“This is what the Lord says: ‘In the time of my favor I will answer you, and in
the day of salvation I will help you” (Isa 49:8).
In chapter 55 Isaiah emphasizes the urgency of seeking the Lord,
“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call on Him while He is near” (Isa 55:6).
An affirmation that is true in a general sense of all God’s saving acts in the history of His
people, but that finds its particular fulfillment in this present age of grace between the two
comings of Christ. This understanding does not exclude from grace and salvation those who lived
before Christ’s coming, for the believers of the Old Testament period received the promises that
in due course were fulfilled in Christ (2 Co 1:20) and they saw and welcomed their fulfillment
from a distance (Jn 8:56; Heb 11:13).
Now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. We are warned not to put if off, to
show up late.
God’s and Man’s Initiative
Some teach universal salvation, that is, that everyone will eventually be saved. But is this
true? But such a teaching should be rejected on the basis of both biblical and philosophical
grounds. In the first place the Bible is clear that it is not. The word “eternal” in reference to hell
means the same as in reference to heaven. If there is eternal life in heaven, there is eternal death in
hell. And each last the same amount of time—eternally. In the second place it doesn’t make sense.
Is it not a contradiction for God to give us a will to be exercised in all areas but in the most
important–our relation to God? How can the supreme voluntary act of self-surrender be
involuntary? And if we are given the freedom to exercise our will, if we do not give in to God,
will He make us do so? Hardly! As St. Augustine put it:
“He who created us without our help will not save us without our consent.” 3
Because there will be no sin in heaven it is a prepared place for a prepared people, and if
we are not prepared, we will not enter in.
ALL OF GRACE
Salvation is certainly worth working for. It would be worth going around the entire earth
to find. It would be worth climbing every mountain on our hands and knees, crossing every valley,
swimming every river, going through all kinds of hardships in order to attain it. But that is not
God’s way of finding salvation. Salvation is all of grace. It is a matter of accepting God’s gift by
GOD HAS NO GRANDCHILDREN
There are many who believe they are God’s grandchildren, those whose parents were
Christians, but they themselves are not. Nowhere in the Bible does God claim grandchildren–just
children, born again by faith in Christ (Jn 3:3-8).
Someone asked Martin Luther:
BASED UPON GOD’S WORD
“‘Do you feel that you have been forgiven?’
He answered: No, but I’m as sure as there’s a God in heaven.
For feelings come and feelings go, and feelings are deceiving;
My warrant is the Word of God, naught else is worth believing.
Though all my heart should feel condemned for want of some sweet token,
There is One greater than my heart whose Word cannot be broken.
I’ll trust in God’s unchanging Word till soul and body sever;
For though all things shall pass away, his Word shall stand forever!’” 4
A RELUCTANT CONVERT
C. S. Lewis provides a paradoxical look at conversion for he was a reluctant convert. He
put it this way:
“You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling,
whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting
approach of him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly
feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in and
admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most
dejected and reluctant convert in all England. I did not then see what is now the
most shining and obvious thing; the Divine humility which will accept a convert
even on such terms. . . . The hardness of God is kinder than the softness of men,
and his compulsion is our liberation.” 5
Conversion always requires a change of the will. And such a change does not occur
without the intervention of the supernatural.
How often does God’s message reach us in vain?
The first prerequisite to salvation is humility. Before a person can be saved, he must first
learn that he cannot save himself.
John Newton, who was a slave trader before his conversion, confessed after his
“I remember two things: that I am a great sinner and that Christ is a great Savior.”6
It was John Calvin who said,
Open to All
“Since no man is excluded from calling upon God the gate of salvation is set
open to all. There is nothing else to hinder us from entering, but our own unbelief.”7
The Scriptures put it,
“Whosoever will, may come” (Ac 2:21; 10:43; Ro 10:13).
God offers salvation to everyone!
After numerous warnings, Noah eventually shut the door of the ark. And the people on the
There comes a time when it is too late. And no one knows when that is but God.
No one has a lease on life.
It is easy for us to put off a decision for Christ, to think that there will be a better time–but
we can easily miss our opportunity altogether. There is no time like the present to receive God’s
forgiveness. We dare not let anything hold us back from coming to Christ. And this is not only
true in the case of salvation, but in our walk with Christ. If there is anything in our lives that is
keeping us from intimacy with Him, from walking close to Him, then it is never too soon to make
things right, to confess our sin and receive His forgiveness.
Mark Water, The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations (Grand Rapids: Baker
Book House, 1984), 903.
Edythe Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World (Wheaton:
Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), 540.
Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World, 539.
C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1955), 228-229.
Draper, Draper’s Book of Quotations for the Christian World, 539.
Water, The New Encyclopedia of Christian Quotations, 902.