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 Salvation According to Jesus

 Jack O'Grady

  • Photo of: Jack O'Grady Jack O'Grady is a former Theology Network Associate Staff Worker at Kings College London, where he is currently completing a PhD in biblical studies. View all resources by Jack O'Grady

'Theology According to Jesus' is a course from Theology Network specifically designed to be used by Theology Network groups over five lunchtime sessions. Read the introductory article. This is session 4. 


 

Aim

To understand that Jesus is the only saviour of the world and that we receive his salvation by grace alone, through faith in him.

Talk

In this talk we’ll take a look at what Jesus taught about salvation under three headings: by grace alone, through faith alone and in Christ alone.

By grace alone

In the last session (Sin According to Jesus) we saw how Jesus teaches that every human being is sinful. That means that we are inwardly corrupt, guilty before God and deserving his punishment. It is a gloomy picture which gives us no hope of self-salvation. Against that backdrop, the whole content of the gospels teaches that salvation is by grace alone – the only way out of our predicament is by God rescuing us. The coming of Jesus is in and of itself a gift of sheer grace, his healings require no help or participation – they are gifts of grace, his message is a proclamation of repentance and faith (Mark 1:15), his death on the cross brought forgiveness of sins (Matthew 26:28), he gives the gift of adoption in to God’s family as a gift (John 1:12), his resurrection secures the gift of eternal life (John 11:25-26) and he promises that his ascension will be followed by the gift of the Holy Spirit (John 14:15-27, 15:26-27, 16:12-15). From start to finish, the four gospels are accounts of how God has acted in history, in the person of his son, to rescue sinful people as a gift of grace. The magnitude of the events, God becoming man, dying on a cross for the sins of the world and rising from the dead, make any suggestion that humans have something to contribute to God’s saving work seem completely ridiculous.

As well as the gospel narratives being in and of themselves stories of God’s grace, there are places where Jesus directly teaches that salvation is by grace alone. He says that salvation is impossible for humans but possible for God (Luke 18:27), he teaches that our good works don’t justify us (Luke 18:9-14), that God is like a Father who abundantly forgives rebellious sons (Luke 15:11-32), that the offer of the gospel is like an offer of a banquet to people who would never be invited on their own merits (Luke 14:21), he offers rest rather than law (Matthew 11:28-30) and says that he will die as a ‘ransom’ – implying that he is rescuing people who couldn’t rescue themselves (Mark 10:45).

Through faith alone

Jesus taught that those who believe in him receive the free gifts of forgiveness and eternal life (John 11:26, cf. John 3:16). This faith is not self generated, but is a gift from God (John 6:29), without which people will die in their sins (John 8:24 cf. John 3:18). Jesus commended people who had faith in him and responded by offering healing (Matthew 8:10) and the forgiveness of sins (Mark 2:5). He offered the forgiveness of sins to a sinful woman, telling her ‘your faith has saved you’ (Luke 7:50). In his parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, it is the sinful tax collector who is justified rather than the Pharisee, because of his faith and repentance (Luke 18:9-14). It is worth noticing how, when Jesus tells Peter that Satan has asked to sift him like wheat, Jesus says that he has prayed that Peter’s ‘faith may not fail’ – such is the necessity of faith for salvation that it is the very thing Satan wishes to destroy and Jesus promises to protect.

In Christ alone

According to Jesus, it is only through him that God is revealed. He says in Matthew 11:27 ‘no-one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’. He rebukes the Pharisees despite their diligent reading of scripture and adherence to the law of Moses and tells them that they will not receive eternal life unless they believe in him (John 5:40-46). He says that it is only him who can set people free from sin, regardless of whether people are physical descendents of Abraham or not (John 8:34-38). Alongside these and other propositional statements which state that salvation is in Christ alone, we again find that the entire narrative of the gospels present Christ, and Christ alone, as the saviour of the world (John 20:31). The gracious extent to which Christ went to provide salvation would be made meaningless were there some other way of salvation available.

Conclusion

Jesus taught that salvation from sin and judgement is by grace alone. God does not save us as a response to something we have done, but in his grace he takes initiative by coming in the person of his son, dying and rising for us. Because his salvation is by grace alone, we are not saved by our works, but by faith alone. This saving faith is placed in Christ alone, who is the perfect revelation of God the Father and the redeemer of the world through his death and resurrection.

Questions for discussion

  • How does the whole narrative of the gospel assume that salvation is by grace alone?
  • What does Jesus explicitly say about salvation being by grace alone?
  • Look at the three ‘alones’: grace, faith and Christ and ask ‘how does this shape our posture and focus as we do theology?’
  • What sort of theologies do you get when one of these three elements of Jesus’ teaching on salvation is denied?
  • How might you use what you have learnt in this study when speaking to someone who claims that the emphasis on grace, faith and Christ alone are Pauline/Augustinian/Reformational additions to Jesus’ teaching?
  • Has any aspect of what we have looked at especially warmed your heart? Why?

Resources

Further reading on the Cross and Justification