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Many agree that Jesus is the Savior. But there is considerable confusion about what that means.

One cause of confusion is that people define “salvation” differently. This frequently results in people talking past each other. In this particular article, we will define the term “salvation” to mean living eternally with Heavenly Father.

An area of confusion or disagreement revolves around the question: How did Jesus save us?

Some feel that he saved us by showing us what we must do to save ourselves. This view can be recognized by an emphasis on Jesus being a great teacher and example.

Others believe that he saved us by removing several huge obstacles (i.e. death) thus clearing the way for us to contribute to our salvation.

Still others think that he paid our crushing debt but we have to pay part of it back.

These views, and others like them, have two things in common:

1) Without Jesus’ help, there would be no salvation.

2) We must, in some way or other, to some degree or other, do something to be saved and become worthy in God’s sight.

In striking contrast, Scripture states that Jesus saved us by doing everything for us. It emphasizes, not so much his role as teacher or Exemplar, but his role as mankind’s substitute. This is seen in the many passages describing what he did for us. (That little phrase “for us” is one of the most comforting phrases in all of Scripture!)

Scripture tells us that he not only suffered all of God’s punishment for us, (Isaiah 53:5) but that he also kept all of God’s commands perfectly for us. (Romans 5:19) This highlights the main difference between a substitute and an example. Examples don’t do things for others. They teach or model the correct thing to do. But others still have to do it. That’s not the case with substitutes. Substitutes do it for people.

Jesus did it all for us. He didn’t leave anything for us to do. Scripture reveals that God gave us salvation itself, not a plan of salvation. In many different ways, and in many different verses, it proclaims this startling truth. (Romans 3:24; Psalm 103:11-12; 2 Corinthians 5:19)

Not only did Jesus do everything for us, Scripture further states that he had to do everything for us. It stresses that nobody has the ability to help in their salvation. Jesus didn’t just give us an extra boost. He didn’t just extend a helping hand to weak people. He didn’t just give us more time to work on our salvation. He couldn’t just help us because we all were spiritually dead — unable to do anything good. “There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.”  (Romans 3:10-12, my emphasis)

This divine evaluation of mankind is looked at in more detail here.

Because of this sobering reality, we couldn’t help in our salvation. Jesus had to do it all for us. He was like a fire fighter who runs into a burning building and carries out its unconscious inhabitants. Like them, we contributed nothing to our rescue.

This amazing truth can tremendously bless you. It can give you the wonderful relief of knowing for a certainty that all your sins are forgiven. It can instill in you the profound joy of knowing that God sees you as completely worthy, as perfect right now. It can make you totally confident that you will spend eternity living with Heavenly Father. It can inspire you to joyfully live each day as a person unabashedly loved by God. This truth is not just amazing – it is life-changing.

Here are 3 ways God sees us as perfect right now
1.  We are Perfected by Jesus’ Offering

That Jesus was our substitute doing everything for us is the message John the Baptist proclaimed when he said, “Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

All who heard John identify Jesus as a lamb would immediately think of the temple sacrifices where, for centuries, lambs were sacrificed for people’s sins. An important part of that ritual occurred before the person handed the lamb over to the priest. He would hold his hand over the lamb’s head as he confessed his sins. This symbolically transferred his sins to the lamb. Only after was the lamb sacrificed.

What was symbolically pictured with these lambs, actually happened with the Lamb of God. Scripture tells us that “the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). The result? “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5) Do you see Isaiah’s strong emphasis on substitution? Incredibly, God punished Jesus for our sins instead of punishing us.

 Since this is the greatest act of love ever, it is not surprising that Scripture deals with it in many passages. One striking verse, especially in light of Matthew 5:48, is Hebrews 10:14. “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” Here is the light at the end of the tunnel. Here is relief in the midst of despair. Here we are told that we can meet God’s standard of perfection through Christ’s one sacrifice!

Note that people are perfected not by two or more offerings. It is not by Jesus’ offering plus what we do. “By one offering he hath perfected.” Also note the past tense “hath perfected’. That indicates a done deed. There is nothing left to do. This thought is repeated a couple of verses later. “And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin” (v.17-18).

 Some are troubled by the last phrase in v. 14, “them that are sanctified”. They think this means we first have to do something – we first have to be sanctified – before we are perfected by Christ’s one offering. But the context clarifies that this is not so. It clearly says that being sanctified also rests on Christ’s supreme offering. “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (v.10). If anything, this last phrase strengthens the fact that Jesus did everything for us. Through his one offering, people are both sanctified and perfected. That is why Scripture often calls believers God’s holy people, his saints.

2. We are Perfected by Jesus’ obedience

Some people agree that Jesus paid for all their sins but think that they still must keep the commandments in order to be worthy. It’s as if Jesus got them out of the hole they had dug for themselves – giving them a fresh start to become worthy themselves. That gives some relief, but not much especially when we keep in mind what is all involved in keeping the commandments. The Lord is not interested in just an outward keeping of them. That is something he despises as seen in his condemnation of the Pharisees.

Scripture tells us that the Lord looks at the heart – at our innermost thoughts and deepest motives. We can hide nothing from him. Even when we say nice things about people but are thinking badly about them, he is not pleased. The bottom line is that adding the idea of keeping the commandments to any discussion of worthiness places a heavy burden on people. And when we are honest with ourselves, we realize that it is an impossible burden.

There is no way that anybody can keep the commandments like God wants us to. Instead of giving hope, an emphasis on keeping the commandments creates despair. Instead of relieving people, it crushes them.

But the good news of Scripture is that Jesus did not only die for us, he also lived for us. He kept every commandment consistently and perfectly for us. One passage bringing that out is Galatians 4:4-5. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” The very reason Jesus was born under the law was to redeem us who were under the law by taking our place and keeping the commandments perfectly for us.

During his entire life he wove a perfect robe of righteousness for us. Every act of obedience was like another stitch in that robe. This is the sacred garment that gave Isaiah so much joy. “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God, for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” (Isaiah 61:10)

This is the righteousness that can also give you great joy. This is the only righteousness that makes you worthy before God. This is the only righteousness that meets God’s standard of perfection. This is the only righteousness that God will accept on Judgment Day. And wonder of wonders! God freely gives this righteousness, this perfection. He clothes people with this robe by bringing them to faith.

3. We are Perfected through Faith

Faith is the other important component of salvation. (Romans 3:20-21). We are saved by Jesus’ work for us which comes to each individual through faith.

Here too disagreements abound. One disputed subject is the definition of faith. Some define it as a principle of action and power. In support they quote passages like Matthew 17:20. “If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you”.  But Jesus is not talking about salvation. When salvation is the subject, faith is nothing other than trust. It is believing, or placing your trust in Jesus’ work.

That brings us to another area of disagreement. Some agree that faith means trust but they differ on the object of that trust. The object of saving faith, according to Scripture, is Jesus’ substitutionary work: his perfect life for us and his atoning death for our sins. But some make his words, not his works, the object of faith. That wouldn’t be so bad but then they focus not on his promises but on his commands – commands God designed to show us our sin. They, however, encourage people to trust that these commands and the keeping of them are the way to become worthy. In this way, a heavy burden is again placed on people.

Faith is nothing less, and nothing more, than trusting that Jesus has done it all for you.

It is basing your claim to worthiness entirely on the two different ways Jesus sacrificed his life for you:

1)  By dedicating his entire life to weaving you a perfect robe of righteousness.
2)  By giving his life as payment for all your sins.

Article: Faith and Works

Faith in Jesus abhors the thought of bringing anything else into the discussion. It knows that introducing human work as a cause of worthiness will destroy our worthiness because human work only adds imperfection to Christ’s perfection. Faith in Jesus rests its hopes of living eternally with Heavenly Father completely on Jesus’ doing and dying.

That makes it a sure hope. That makes it a confident hope. That removes the burden of guilt and replaces it with indescribable joy.

Honor Jesus by Marveling at His Sacrifice

The best praise we can give Jesus is by being in awe of his great sacrifice for us.

There are two passages that vividly underscore what this meant to Jesus. The first is 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” God laid our sins on Jesus so completely that it was as if Jesus became Sin Personified. “He hath made him to be sin for us”. So much so that not only was Jesus Sin Personified, he was also a “Curse Personified”. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

We cannot imagine the pain and agony this caused Jesus. Think of being seen by God as the very personification of sin! Think of being the embodiment of God’s curse! Often we focus on Jesus’ physical sufferings. They were truly horrendous. The cruel mistreatment he underwent and the merciless flogging he endured were just the preliminaries to the excruciating pain of crucifixion. As horrible as all that was, however, it paled in comparison with his being cursed by his Father as Sin Personified.

Jesus gives a glimpse of his anguish over that when he cries out from the cross, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). With that cry, Jesus was revealing that he was being cursed by his Father – because being forsaken by God is what being cursed by God entails.

But nothing less would do. Nothing less would redeem us, that is, buy us back, from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13) To redeem us, Jesus had to pay the full price for our sins – being cursed by God and abandoned by him.

Article: How about Enduring to the End?

No matter how long you meditate on that, you won’t fully understand it. But you can be careful that you don’t diminish it. Show your appreciation of it by always giving him all the credit for your salvation. Look to his work and his work alone as the one reason why you will live with Heavenly Father for all eternity.

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Further reading:

Did Jesus say that we must be or become perfect?

Four Tests to Examine your Spiritual Health

How does a person know they are forgiven by God?