Home > Hermeneutics > Distinguish between the three tenses and the various aspects of God’s salvation: Example 7

Distinguish between the three tenses and the various aspects of God’s salvation: Example 7

For clearness of thought and soundness of doctrine, it is most necessary to distinguish between the three tenses and the various aspects of God’s salvation. Familiar as we are with that word, it is used with unpardonable looseness (even by the majority of preachers), through failure to recognize that it is the most comprehensive term to be found in the Scriptures, and to take the trouble of ascertaining how it is used therein. Only too often a most inadequate concept is formed of the scope and contents of that word, and through ignoring the distinctions which the Holy Spirit has drawn nothing but a blurred and jumbled idea is obtained. How few, for example would be able to give a simple exposition of the following statements: “Who hath saved us” (2 Timothy 1:9, and cf. Titus 3:5); “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12); “Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11, and cf. 1 Peter 1:5). Now these verses do not refer to three different salvations, but rather to three aspects of one salvation. The first as an accomplished fact—from the pleasure and penalty of sin. The second as a present process from the power and ragings of sin. The third as a future prospect—from the very presence of sin.

If the balance of truth is to be preserved and the evil practice of pitting one aspect against another, or of over-emphasizing one and ignoring another, is to be avoided, a careful study needs to be made of the different causes and means of salvation. There are no less than seven things which concur in this great work, for all of them are said, in one passage or another, to “save” us. Salvation is ascribed to the Father: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling” (2 Timothy 1:9)—because of His electing love in Christ. To the Lord Jesus: “He shall save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21)—because of His merits and satisfaction. To the Holy Spirit: “He saved us, by the… renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5)—because of His almighty and efficacious operations. To the instrumentality of the Word: “The engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21)—because it discovers to us our need and reveals the grace whereby we may be saved. To the labors of the Lord’s servants:

“in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:16)

—because of their fidelity to the Truth. To the conversion of the sinner, in which both repentance and faith are exercised by him: “save yourselves from this untoward generation” (Acts 2:40)—by the repentance spoken of in verse 38: “by grace are ye saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8). To the ordinances: “baptism doth also now save us” (1 Peter 3:21)—sealing the grace of God to a believing heart.

Now those seven concurring causes of salvation need to be considered in their order and kept in their proper places, otherwise incalculable harm will be done. For instance, if we elevate a subordinate cause above a primary one, then all sense of real proportion is lost. The love and wisdom of God are the root cause, the first mover of all else. Next are the merits and satisfaction of Christ, which are also the foundation of all else that follows. The effectual operations of the Holy Spirit produce in sinners those things which are necessary for their participation in the benefits purposed by the Father and purchased by Christ. The Word is the chief means employed by God in conviction and conversion. As the result of the Spirit’s operation and the application of the Word in power to our hearts, we are brought to repent and believe. In this, it is the Spirit’s usual custom to employ the minister of Christ as His subordinate agents. Baptism and the Lord’s supper are means whereby we express our repentance and faith, and have them confirmed to us. Nor must those concurring causes be confounded, so that we attribute to a later one what pertains to an earlier one. We must not ascribe to the ordinances that which belongs to the Word, nor to conversion what originates through the Spirit, nor give to Him the honor which is peculiar to Christ. Each is to be carefully distinguished, defined, and kept in its proper place.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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