“But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” Ephesians 2:4–6

Saving has always been a part of my nature for as long as I can remember. I do not think it is solely because of my Scottish ancestry, but it does seem to be in my DNA. Even Oreo cookies did not escape my saving inclinations. While I followed the usual inclination of “kid-dom” by twisting the wafers apart, I defined success by whether the icing made a clean break, staying on one wafer. I stalwartly resisted the temptation to scrape the icing off with my front teeth and consuming the sweet stuff first. My general inclination was to peel the layer of icing away from the second wafer and save multiple layers of icing together to be enjoyed later, after all the wafers had been eaten.

This kind of saving is a form of preserving for future purposes. It is one of the important distinctions that God was making when He chose to employ the word to describe the eternal life He has offered through faith in His Son.

The Greek word is sodzo, to heal, to rescue, to preserve, to save. To heal is to cure, restore, get well, be made well, and to recover (Matthew 9:22). To rescue is to deliver from judgment and danger (Matthew 8:25). To preserve is to bring safely forth from a threatening situation (Jude 4, Matthew 16:25). To save is to be made a partaker of all the blessings offered in Christ (2 Timothy 1:9). To ignore any one of these four aspects is to fail to grasp the magnitude of the boon God grants in offering salvation.

As preachers have often said, “God’s saving grace is to save you from the worst possible state of loss, to the greatest possible benefit.” Any conception of soul-salvation, other than a biblical understanding of it, robs God of the glory due to His name. Your sin has placed you under the severest jeopardy humanly imaginable. Any human input of virtue by doing good, or leaning on the efficacy of self-reformation, cannot be real salvation since the source of both is earthbound. The greatest possible blessing must come from a heavenly source (Ephesians 1:4).

When God does the saving, He saves you from guilt for sin unto positive righteousness. We are sinners by nature and sinners by choice. We sin in word, thought, and deed; nothing escapes God’s notice. We are not “graded on a curve.” Your guilt piles up throughout your life. Such guilt can find no solace from any human virtue. Only God can wipe away guilt. Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace.”

In God’s grace, guilt gives way to positive righteousness. God does not just save you from sin’s eternal consequence by granting you a clean slate, He actually imputes the righteousness accrued to His Son’s account to your account. Romans 3:21–26 states, “Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith?…?to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just, and the Justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 5:1 adds, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

When God does the saving, He saves you from slavery to freedom. Sin goes way beyond indebtedness to God for personal evil. The sin nature enslaved mankind from the moment it entered into the human experience in the Garden of Eden. It is a slavery to both physical and spiritual death. Romans 7:24 reads, “O wretched man that I am! who will deliver me from this body of death?” Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death?…?.”

In God’s grace, slavery gives way to freedom. Sin has no claim on the sinless Son of God. His blood paid your ransom price and bought you out of the slave market of sin. His work is to redeem you from the tyranny of sin unto liberty, and to place you in the state of freedom so that you might serve Him. Galatians 5:1 states, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”

When God does the saving, He saves you from everlasting punishment to everlasting blessing. The state of being lost is a state of alienation from God (Ephesians 2:12), being an object of the wrath of God (Ephesians 2:3), and ever deepening confirmation of everlasting death in Hell (Ephesians 2:5f).

In God’s grace, punishment is replaced by the blessed state of salvation. Ephesians 1 explains the transformation from the state of total loss. In Christ, alienation gives way to fellowship with God (Ephesians 2:13), transforming objects of wrath to objects of love (Romans 5:5), and a state of confirmed everlasting death to everlasting life (John 3:16ff, Ephesians 2:1).

The total loss for your soul is what “perish” means; it is not personal annihilation, but your total loss of hope. What misery for eternity awaits all who die in unbelief! Only in Christ can you be made alive (Ephesians 2:5). You can only be saved by God’s grace. Trust and obey.