It is one thing to have a promised salvation, one in which you hope to be saved in the end. But it is another thing altogether to have a present salvation—to know that you are currently saved, no ifs, ands, or buts.
So . . . which do you have? Take a look at what the apostle Paul had to say on this matter.
By grace are you saved. (Ephesians 2:5)
Herein lies both the sum and substance of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. By the grace of God, you are saved presently. Paul does not tell us that we will one day be saved. Paul does not tell us to hope that we will be saved. No, Paul says we are already saved; our salvation is a completed act. Charles Spurgeon, “the prince of preachers,” powerfully underscored this truth:
A present salvation cannot consistently be preached by any beside those who hold the Doctrine that salvation is by Grace. Appeal to the very best of men, the most devoted, the most earnest who are seeking salvation by their own works and ask if they have obtained eternal life. You cannot find one who has done so—they are all hoping that, through the mercy of God, they may somehow and sometime be saved—but none of them will declare that they are now saved.
If you are trusting in anything other than the finished work of Christ on the cross (such as your obedience and/or good deeds), you cannot ever consider yourself to be saved! When would you know you had done enough or been good enough? When you put both your good works and sinful deeds on the scales of justice, are you counting on the “good” scale to outweigh the bad? Or are you more than a little unnerved by Jesus’ words, “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”? (Matthew 5:48 NASB) Perhaps, when you read those words and consider how ruinously short you fall from God’s standard of perfection, you are moved to cry, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24).
If this resonates with you, know this: if Adam had always kept the law of God and never sinned, his works would only have brought him to a place of doing his duty; and doing his duty would merit him nothing. Our Creator owes nothing to His creation. What would God have owed Adam for keeping the law? Nothing! Eternal life would still have been a gift of God’s grace. And Jesus warns us, “You also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’” (Luke 17:10).
Unworthy servants that we are, should we not abandon any and all notions of keeping the law to merit salvation? Do we not recognize that we are sinners—both by nature and habit? We cannot keep the law of God for a single hour! Which one of us has ever loved God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength?
If by grace, then it cannot be based on works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace. (Romans 11:6)
Those who are hoping only in a promised salvation find that there is no rest for their souls. It is a never-ending, life-draining, heart-sapping run on the performance treadmill of life. With every step, we hope we have moved one step closer to the goal of final forgiveness and eternal life. And these are the individuals who will say it is a presumptuous thing to believe in a present salvation! I would reply that it is far more presumptuous to imagine that we could be good enough to make God our debtor! Spurgeon argued,
The Scriptures teach that the moment a man believes in Christ, he is not merely put into a salvable state, not have saved—he is not placed in a position where, if he remains, he will be saved, but concerning which there is fear that he may fall from it—but that he is already completely saved! I verily believe that the saints in Heaven, albeit they have received the crown of salvation, are not, as to its essential reality, more truly saved than the meanest and weakest believer in Christ who is struggling through floods of temptation here upon earth. For what is it to be saved? It is to have sin forgiven and to be accepted in the Beloved. The moment a sinner believes in Jesus, his sins are as much pardoned as they ever will be! They are as fully and as finally blotted out of God’s Book of Remembrance as they would be if he should live a thousand years of piety. He is as completely clear, as far as the forgiveness of his sins is concerned, as he will be when he stands at the right hand of the Judge at the Last Great Day.
Only the truths of the Gospel take us from a promised salvation to a present salvation. And only by preaching these truths to ourselves each and every day that we can live with the freedom and joy that comes with knowing we live under the banner of the finished work of Jesus Christ.
When grace comes knocking on the door of our hearts, it opens our hearts and takes up residency there, now and forevermore, because we are saved by His grace alone and not by our works. From beginning to end, and all points in between, salvation is God’s gift of grace which moves us beyond a promised salvation to a present one.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!