The Salvation of God

Acts 28  •  15 min. read  •  grade level: 8
" The salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles and they will hear it," (Acts 28) What a fact that is, that it is " the salvation of God;" nothing less than that great and blessed thing that has been now sent of God into this wide, wide world I God will satisfy Himself, when He speaks in law, to speak in a sequestered nook of the earth, and in the hearing of the smallest of all the nations; but when He comes to speak of grace or of salvation, at the end of law, He must let the whole earth hear.
And of salvation He had been speaking from the beginning. The first promise, "it shall bruise thy head," told of it. Patriarchal stories, Mosaic ordinances, prophetic voices, evangelic records, all had witnessed it; and now that God was leaving Israel and going abroad, would He go as bearing with Him less or other than this same glorious and precious thing, His own salvation, counseled and accomplished by Himself?
The close of the book of the Acts tells us this; and then all the Epistles, in different ways, unfold the excellencies and the glories of this salvation; and then in the Apocalypse we find this same thing, the salvation of God, celebrated in the heavens and on the earth of the millennial world, in the nations of the blest, and in the ages of eternity.
Salvation is too great a thought for the heart of man to suggest. God must provide us with it. The religious mind of man resents it as inconsistent with the obligations he owes to God, and with the relationship and responsibility under which he stands to Him. The moral sense resents it as being no security for practical life and righteousness. How deeply at fault they both are! How unequal is the best human thing to reach the divine! While neither man's religion, nor man's morality give toleration to the idea of salvation, God, as we see, is occupied with it from first to last. The mention of it, the history of it, the gradual display of it, the exercise of it, illustrations of it in one sinner after another' stretch along the whole volume. He dispenses it now, and calls on us to enjoy it; He will perfect it by and by, and will call on us to celebrate it.
Having, as we said, begun to tell of itself as soon as it was needed, that is, as soon as sin entered, in the very first promise, and having given further and various notice of itself in patriarchal, Mosaic, and prophetic ages, when the Son, in due time, was manifested, when the Word was made flesh, salvation, so to speak, was presented in a person. God in flesh was named " Jesus;" and this because " he shall save his people from their sins." Jesus is the imperishable name. " Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, to-day, and forever." It is the name which abides in bloom and freshness, the unfading title which eternity has no power to efface. Time wears away the rocks, eternity will do nothing with that name, save to celebrate it. " Jesus," or Savior, was the first word written by the finger of God in the record-book of this world of sin, and it has ever since been kept, like the bow in the cloud, in the freshness of its first hour. It is the unchanging, unchangeable, name. God's salvation, the anointed Savior, Jesus Christ, is the enduring, pervading, commanding thought. It is not the 'unutterable, but it is the imperishable name. Israel under the law found the divine name to be too high, too distant, too sacred for human lips. It was the unutterable name. But the sinner under grace talks of the divine name now, and will forever.
The salvation of God comprehends a wondrous system of high and glorious, privileges, which are all ours, through the faith of Jesus. I have said that it is in the Epistles specially we get an account of this great comprehension. As for instance, we there learn that divine righteousness, sonship, and the spirit of adoption, the indwelling Spirit, the glorified body, translation in the hour of the Lord's coming, share in the kingdom, and place in the house of the Father, acceptance in the Beloved, the confidence and friendship of the Lord, and inheritance of all things with Him, His own eternity-these are among the high conditions of those who are in the salvation of God.
But while it comprehends all this and more of like excellency, that on which it rests is simple as it can be. It is satisfaction-the satisfaction which God has found in the sacrifice on Calvary. This sustains everything. Call our good things by what name we may, justification, acceptance, grace, peace, glory, sanctification, sonship, reconciliation, redemption, or whatever description in name it may carry, all rests on the simple fact that Christ has satisfied God, in that which He has done for us sinners. The rent vail and the resurrection, His seat in the highest heavens, on the right hand of the throne there in the character of the Purger of sins, and the presence here of the Holy Ghost, are the blessed witnesses of this satisfaction; such august and wondrous witnesses as none can gainsay them on the side of our accuser, and none can exceed them as from God Himself. We are to accept salvation from God because He has accepted satisfaction from Christ.
We have to receive it with all thankful, worshipping assurance. Confiding faith is the due answer to abounding grace. If God have rent the veil, it is obedience in the sinner to enter. If God be satisfied, we ought to be reconciled-consciously saved. Satisfaction sustains everything, as we have said. When I lay my burthens and loads on God's foundations, knowing that they will be sustained there, I am glorifying, as well as using, those foundations.
And, further, the salvation of God is a present salvation. We wait not for a judgment-day to accredit the cross. The rent vail has already accredited it, and so has the resurrection, and so has the mission of the Holy Ghost; and so likewise, faith in the cross waits not to know its rights and privileges and possessions, it is entitled to know them now-" receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls." The judgment-day will have its own business to do, but it is not committed to it to accredit either the cross or faith in the cross. The cross has already led Jesus to His glory; faith in the cross leads the sinner at once to peace and favor and hope and joy, to the things that accompany salvation, and that witness a present salvation of the soul.
" Unto you is born this day in the city of David, a Savior," is language which conveys the sense of a present salvation. Mary's song and Zacharias' prophecy, are breathings of the soul over the like blessing. "He hath visited and redeemed," is the burthen of each. Simeon, too, when holding the child in his arms, spoke as one who knew that he was, at that moment, in possession of salvation; and Anna spoke of Jesus to all those in Jerusalem, who were then looking for redemption. In her esteem, that child was the end of their expectations, set for the very purpose of turning hope into enjoyment.
And surely, I may say, the joy that fills all this most precious scenery, which itself fills the opening chapters of St. Luke, is not the joy of hope, but of fruition; not the joy of a probable, but of a certain salvation. Heaven there is seen announcing such a blessing, faith on earth is seen accepting it. And then the passage in Isaiah, with which the Lord opens His ministry, as we get into the fourth chapter of the same evangelist, tells of a present salvation in the same way. The spirit that filled the prophet of old was the spirit which was now uttering Himself through anointed vessels, such as Mary, Zacharias, and Elizabeth, and was of one mind with the glory and the angelic hosts touching God's salvation. For that prophet, like these vessels, like the glory and the angels, told of a present healing, quickening, cleansing, reconciling work, " an acceptable year;" a season or ministry of acceptance for sinners with God, as now really and actually arrived.
All this is in concert. And shortly afterward, in this same Gospel, Peter illustrates personal engagement of this present salvation—salvation on the spot. He discovered himself in the light of the glory. There convicted, he takes his place and character as " a sinful man." But quickly Jesus told this convicted sinner not to fear—His language to all such—and Peter receiving this word, walked forth, or rose up, in the liberty of a present salvation. He feared not, he doubted not. He no longer judged that distance from the Lord became him, but he left all else in the distance, that he might then and there, at that moment and on that spot, in nearness to Christ begin the long and bright and happy future of his eternity. (Luke 5)
And a little further still, a little onward in the same chapter, as though to bring this matter to the simplest, surest conclusion, we get the case of the palsied man. There, the Lord says, " Man, thy sins are forgiven thee." And when this offends the religious human mind which instinctively thinks of forgiveness as a future thing, a thing to be reserved for another and a higher court, for the day of judgment rather than for the cross of Christ to decide and pronounce, Jesus has but to repeat the thought, and say, " the Son of man hath power upon earth to forgive sins;" and seals it by healing the man of his palsy. He insists on a present salvation. If the prophecy of Isaiah, as we lately observed, were in company with the angels and the glory and the anointed vessels of the Spirit, so are the works and the words of the Son of man now.
It is, indeed, salvation that has come down from heaven to earth, a present salvation, and all join in uttering and celebrating this great mystery. But how, I ask, has this been communicated? What style has accompanied the gift? Does cheerfulness wait on the occasion?
The opening of St. Luke, already referred to, is full of character in connection with this. All is salvation there, and all is joy in heaven. The angels speak of salvation, and so do the vessels anointed and filled by the Spirit, and rapture of no common measure animates them all in this their service. The glory itself, angelic hosts, and anointed vessels, shepherds, priests, old men, babes, and maidens, and long-waiting, patient saints, are alike summoned to share the joy of that moment, when salvation was coming down from heaven to earth. And I now further ask, has heaven repented of this joy, or changed its tone in the sight or thought of the salvation of God? Let the 15th chapter of that same Gospel give its answer to this. It will tell us that this joy is as-fresh this moment as it was in the day of Luke 1;2 If it accompanied the announcement of it at the first, it has ever since, and still does, celebrate the acceptance of it by a poor sinner.
Excellent surely these secrets are! Can we get our welcome to God's salvation sealed by more blessed witnesses? Can we doubt that our title is written out under our eye, clear, large, and simple? No perplexing difficulties as to meaning and force, as to what it conveys to us, when we read it. We cannot mistake it, nor do we want any lawyer to give us his opinion upon it. The morning stars sang together, when of old the foundations of the earth were laid: God's own joy and glory were in the works of His hands, awl His delights as with the sons of men; and His creature could not have walked in the garden He had prepared and furnished for him with a doubtful heart. He could not but have read his assured title to be there, rich and bright and plentiful as it all was. It was not too good for him, for the Lord God had planted it expressly for him. And the title of a believing sinner to the salvation of God is written out in the same language, and may be enjoyed with the same liberty and assurance of heart.
Following the thought of God's salvation still for a little longer, I may put another question. To whom does this salvation address itself?
Poverty and impotency were made to mark the scene that was visited by it at the first, the poverty of Mary of Nazareth, and the impotency of Zacharias and Elizabeth, the childless Abraham and Sarah of that day. And when it comes to be ministered by the Lord Himself, it is only the needy that get it, yea, they who have discovered their need as sinners.
Blessed thought! Sinners are welcome to Christ, but none other.
This we see in the same Peter, the fisherman, of the 5th of St. Luke. In him conscience and faith did their several needed work. He discovers himself in the light of the glory which then filled his boat, and then he discovered the stranger that could set him at ease in the presence of that overwhelming moment. He was a sinner, and conscience had now discovered that: the Divine Stranger was a Savior, and faith had now discovered that. The sinner and the Savior, that instant, began eternity together. The poor fisherman's boat was holy ground, a sanctuary; the synagogue at Nazareth, a little before, with all its religious show of worship and of sanctity, was common and profane.
And thus is it still. We see the link that is formed between God and us. We see the joy with which God in the highest, and all that surrounded Him, or went forth from Him, ushered in the materials that formed that link. Grace and faith have formed it as between the Savior and the sinner, joy waits on this mighty process on the part of heaven; liberty and assurance are to mark the heart of the sinner, as he enters upon it and takes his place in this wondrous mystery.
And now let me ask, has " the salvation of God," promised and undertaken, and sent forth into whatever scene of judgment it might have been, has it, I ask, ever disappointed the poor, wretched, exposed or guilty sinner that committed himself to it?
At the beginning it was sent after guilty Adam, as he hid himself behind the trees of the garden. The promise about the woman's seed carried it to him there; he trusted it; he committed himself to it, and came forth; and the Lord God justified his faith, redeemed His own promise, made good his own pledged salvation, and covered Adam with a robe of His own making from head to foot.
It was sent to Noah, who was then in the midst of a world that had been already judged of God, and was soon to have that judgment executed upon it. Noah trusted it, like Adam. According to the word he prepared an ark; and the Lord God put him into it and shut the door upon him; and he was as safe in the midst of the waters of death, as though he had been on the heights of Ararat, or in millennial days, or in the glories of heaven itself.
It was sent to Israel in the heart of judged Egypt-it was sent to Rahab in the heart of judged Canaan. But to both, all its undertakings were fully verified. Israel was saved, and. Rahab was saved; though the sword was there both in Egypt and in Jericho, to do its work of death and judgment.
And now, after these patterns, and others like them, it has come forth into this wide world of sinners; and no sinner will it ever disappoint, no sinner can it ever disappoint. It is God's-the salvation of Him who cannot lie. The present evil world is as deeply under judgment as the world before the flood was, as Egypt or as Canaan. The salvation of God is near to us as it was then to Noah, to Israel or to Rahab.
It was then, and is still, to be enjoyed by faith. As we read, " the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and they will hear it." Faith comes by hearing. It did so with Adam, Noah, Israel, and Rahab. We have, like them, to hear it; to receive by faith these tidings of it. We cannot get it by working. We dare not count on it by deserving. It is God's salvation, " prepared," as we read, by Him. (Luke 2:28-3228Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:28‑32).) It is counseled, wrought out, revealed by Himself. We have but to gaze and to listen; to be debtors to the provisions of divine grace for the most ruined and wretched condition in which creature sin and misery can find themselves. And as salvation has thus been provided by God, so is it sent forth by Him. It has been prepared by Him in the face of all people, and now is it published there. (See Luke 2:3131Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; (Luke 2:31); Acts 28:2828Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it. (Acts 28:28).)