Cathy and my kids are fond of saying that I am the dumbest guy they know with a Ph.D. I think at times they wonder how I ever got a Ph.D.! What they mean when they say I am a dumb guy is often I am the slowest guy in the room. If we are learning a new card game, I am the last one to get it. If someone tells a joke, often everyone else is done laughing and I have to ask why that was funny. But I do understand salvation and the mechanics behind how God saves us.
I have been walking with the Lord and studying the Bible long enough to understand not only how salvation works but also how our salvation relates to our spiritual growth. Understanding the relationship between the mechanics of salvation and spiritual growth is important for growing spiritually.
The basic mechanism of salvation is a transaction, which occurs instantaneously the moment we place our faith in Jesus Christ. This means acknowledging we are sinners, that Jesus is the resurrected Son of God, and inviting him to be our Lord and Savior. God then takes our sin and allows the death of Jesus on the cross to pay the penalty for our sin. This is the first part of the mechanism of salvation. It is what Paul meant when he wrote that God made us alive with Christ by forgiving us all our sins even when we were dead in our sins (Ephesians 2:5).
This is huge because, according to the Bible, all sin must ultimately be punished by death. According to the Bible, everyone dies because everyone is sinful. That is why the writer of the book of Hebrews said that without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). He did not mean that we can prick our finger, shed a drop of blood, and be forgiven. Someone must give their life for sin to be forgiven. Since we were born sinful, the only question is who will die for our sin? Will it be us, or someone else? Since every other human being is sinful like we are, another human being can’t die for our sin because they have to die for their own sin. This is why Jesus, as the Son of God, is so important to our salvation and our spiritual growth.
Paul was direct when he wrote to the Christians in Rome. He said that sin entered the world through one man, which was Adam, and then death came to all men because all have sinned (Romans 5:12). Since every human being is sinful, each person must die as the penalty or punishment for his or her own sin. No human being can die for the sin of another human being; not anymore, at least. There was one man who could, and did, die for another’s sin. His name is Jesus. He was both God and man. One of the important things to know about Jesus is he was sinless.
The Apostle Peter in 1st Peter 2:22, says that Jesus committed no sin. The writer of Hebrews in Hebrews 4:15, says that Jesus did not sin. This is important because since Jesus is the sinless Son of God, he did not have to die for his own sin. Therefore, God is able to take his Son’s punishment on the cross and apply it to your sin.
Let me say that again. Since Jesus did not have to pay the penalty of death for his own sin, he can pay the penalty of death for our sin. This is how we become forgiven of our sin. Jesus dies in our place, punished in our place, paying the penalty for our sin, so that we do not have to.
There is a second part of the mechanism of salvation that is vitally important to our spiritual growth. In addition to our forgiveness, as part of the salvation transaction we also receive the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Jesus as God’s sinless Son was perfectly obedient in all things. Therefore, Jesus is the only person who is completely and wholly righteous. Think of righteousness as perfection, holiness, perfect obedience. When we place our faith in Jesus, in addition to being forgiven, we also become completely righteous, receiving the righteousness of Jesus himself.
In the first chapter of Paul’s letter to the Christians in Ephesus, he praises God as the father of our Lord Jesus Christ because he has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3). Then, in the next verse, Paul describes the primary blessing we have received. Through salvation, we have finally become holy and blameless in God’s sight. This means we have also become righteous.
Our righteousness through faith in Jesus Christ is perhaps one of the greatest paradoxes of the Christian faith. After receiving the righteousness of Christ, we will continue to sin. Yet, even in the midst of ongoing sinful behaviors, the righteousness of Christ remains in us. From God’s perspective we are righteous for the rest of eternity even though we continue sinning.
Why is this important to you? Because understanding the mechanism of salvation will help you experience the spiritual growth you desire.