Who is Man and What Does He Need Saving From?
©1999, 2009 Kimberly Hartfield
Man is a created spiritual being weighted down with the chains of flesh, that is, our physical desires which seek to engulf us in our own selfishness. Without God, we have no mastery over them, let alone the will to even try to overcome those things which we know to be detrimental to our very being. We are constantly seduced by indulgences of every kind, led astray by our own lusts (James 1:14). Whatever we lack we want, and what we have we want more of. The only relief we may find is not in our physical satisfaction but in the contentment we find in the peace of mind we have in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Phil 4:7). From the very first sin committed in the Garden of Eden, even to today, the sin of covetousness or selfishness rules us. It was not enough for man to walk with God, but man’s desire to be like God, just as Satan himself desired to be like God, we dethrone God in our hearts and lives, enthroning ourselves where God should be (Gen 3:5-6, Isaiah 14:13). Our disobedience constantly puts us in peril of ourselves. It is not until we put God back in the rightful place in our hearts can we ever hope to be at peace with ourselves. Without God we cannot hope to be happy, for “there is no peace, says God, to the wicked.”
Even the best of Christians find themselves humble before God when they see themselves in the mirror of Scripture, perceiving themselves as God sees them, and knowing that their works are as filthy rags but for God’s grace (Isaiah 64:6). By grace, God looked down on a sinful and disobedient children, cried bitter tears of remorse, and then did what any loving father would do. God put himself in our place to save us from the despair that we brought on ourselves. God put on the chains of flesh, incarnate in Jesus Christ, taking all of our sins upon himself that we might not ultimately suffer what we rightly deserve, death and Hell (Rom 3:25, Phil. 2:6-8, II Cor. 5:19). In His wisdom, he foresaw all of us who cling to his strong arms with tears of repentance streaming down our cheeks, as we cry out, Abba, Father.
As Christ was lifted up on the cross, we are lifted up with him on the strong arms of salvation, saved from both our selves and all the wiles of Satan. Yet even in our salvation, we continue to defy the One in whom we put our trust, forgetting that only through God’s patient loving-kindness are we kept from destroying ourselves. As the Apostle Paul says in Romans 7:15,
Lord, I do the things I would not do,
I do not the things I would,
I crucify my flesh to You,
That I might do the things I should.
This statement is true of all of us. Though we desire to do good, we do not. But if we should fall seven times, yet will we rise up again when we lift our hearts and hands up to the One who loves us unconditionally (Psalm 145:14). As inconceivable as that kind of love is, we falteringly begin to emulate that love to our brothers and sisters in Christ, putting forth the new buds of the fruits of the spirit, which are love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and self control. We bring forth the love of God in the lives of ourselves and others, both the saved and the lost, so that they may experience God’s fullness also (Galatians 5:22-23).
When Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” three times and replied to him three times “Feed my sheep.” He implied three different stages in the sheep’s’ development. Peter was first told to feed the lambs, the baby Christians, or those new to the faith. The second time, Jesus told Peter to shepherd his sheep, the mature Christians, strong in the faith. The third time, He told Peter to feed his little sheep, the adolescents of Christianity, those who aren’t new, but aren’t yet mature either for their lack of growth (John 21: 15-17). They are the weak ones, the runts, not strong in faith. They must still be fed on milk for a long while yet, until they can handle the meat of the word (Hebrews 5:12-14).
Sometimes we find that we ourselves are the runts turned out, or left to struggle on our own just to survive, but when we persevere, maturing enough to not only survive, but rejoice in the living, often we become the strongest in the fold. We must continue to exert ourselves in the good fight of faith, until we are able to stand up with God as our nurturer and deliverer. In return we go on to nurture those around us who are now where we once were. We must bring them to the sincere milk of the Word, the message of God’s salvation to all mankind. Then we can gradually feed them with new meat, one small bite of truth at a time, as they are able to comprehend (I Cor. 1: 1, 2).
The salvation experience is both an instantaneous act of God and a continuing process until we are ultimately and finally saved in Heaven. As in the physical realm we are born, we live and grow, and then we die, so we are in the spiritual realm, we experience the new birth (Ephesians 2:1,5, 8), we live in the newness of life working out our own salvation (Phil. 2:12-13), in the growth process of grace and then when we finally die physically, we are saved completely and fully in Heaven, our soul to remain with Christ forever (Romans 8:21-22, Phil. 3:21, Romans 5:1-2). We are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved, once and for all time and eternity. We are justified, sanctified, and glorified.
Justification is God’s gracious and full forgiveness, based on the righteousness all saved sinners have in Christ. In laymen’s terms, it’s just if I’d never sinned. Sanctification is the process by which the renewed in Christ reach to moral and spiritual perfection through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, who lives within their hearts (spirits). This is when we learn to walk the walk, not just talk the talk. Glorification is the final state we will find our immortal souls in when we reign in heaven with Christ. The bodies of the righteous saints will finally conform to the spiritual body of Christ. Our ultimate hope (Col. 1:27) is to finally share the glory of God (Romans 5:2) as fully as Christ shares it forever (John 17:24)!
It is in the sanctification process that we live and grow in the grace of Christ Jesus. Just like lambs and children, we have growth spurts in the process. If we feed on the Word properly, we grow. But if we are not fed, or by our own stubbornness, refuse to eat, we will stay that little runt, not much good for anything. Just like little ones, if we fight hard enough to get at that milk, or if we are coaxed enough to eat even when we really don’t feel like it, we will eventually begin to grow. When our appetites are whetted, we begin to crave the Word more and more. It is then that we are set apart for God’s use. With sufficient growth, we can help others who are coming along beside and behind us. If we halt the salvation process at the new birth, skipping the sanctification process and go on to our glorification, we miss our vitality as a Christian. We miss the fullness of life in Christ. Jesus came to give us life and to give us life more abundantly. Are we to be the hired hand who when the wolf comes, flees leaving a bunch of scattered sheep? Or will we hear the voice of the good shepherd and follow the path of God, helping others along the way? (John 10:10-12)
In this process of the salvation experience, we find in our love for God, God’s love for mankind in our own hearts. We must be responsible not only for accepting our own salvation, but for the salvation of all we come in contact with. What if that Good Shepherd should ask us, “What about the sheep you passed along the way, the lamb, the little runt, and the old feeble sheep?” Must he go to find them himself because we are too concerned with our own salvation to worry about where others are on the path of life? What about those who are lost, and without hope, and in danger of being torn apart by the wolves of this world, because we fail to tell them about the fold of God? Can we in good conscience, go safely to God’s fold to peacefully rest, knowing others are still outside the gate? I think not! We must go to the ends of the earth with the message of the gospel of Christ, so that they may also come into the fold and share in God’s glory (Matt. 28: 19-20). There are wolves and dogs outside, waiting to devour them.
Man even in his sinful state was of infinite worth to God in that God gave the only One that came from God, so that whoever believes in Christ, wouldn’t die forever, but have eternal life (John 3:16). If God loved mankind that much, should we not love others enough to tell them the good news of God’s salvation? Man is lost indeed, alienated from God and others by the sins and selfishness of the flesh until he is reconciled to God in Christ. Then he will be saved by the power of the Holy Spirit in this life and for all eternity. He will once again become the immortal soul, perfect and whole as God intended for him to be.
The Holy Bible
D. Martin Lloyd Jones The Plight of Man and the Power of God (1943)
B.H. Carol Christ and His Church (1940)
Herschel H. Hobbs New Testament Evangelism (1960)
W.R. White Baptist Distinctives (1940)
William E. Hull The Christian Experience of Salvation (1987)