Question: Why do I need to be saved?

To answer this question I will address two further questions: 'What are we saved from?' and 'What are we saved for?' In answering these two questions the answer to the question 'Why do I need to be saved?' will become evident.


'What are we saved [rescued or delivered] from? '

Most Christians would answer, probably without thinking, that we are saved, that is rescued or delivered, from sin, or from our sins. This answer, while true, focuses only on part of the truth and therefore of necessity has inbuilt potential for error and misunderstanding.

My answer would be more in the line of:

[1] We are saved, primarily, from our ignorance of the one true God. If you read John's Gospel carefully, listening to what Jesus says there, he basically affirms that only those who really know him actually know God. So his coming to earth was not in the first instance to save us from our sins but so that we might know God. Unless we know Jesus as God, our 'god' is an idol - either a physical idol or a conceptual or philosophical idol, but an idol none the less. So we all need to be saved from our ignorance of God. Why? Because it is only in knowing and being related to the one true God that we optimize our potential as humans. We were created to live in positive relationship with him.

[2] Secondly, we are saved from the state of alienation from God in which all of mankind has been existing since the original rebellion against God and his authority recorded in Genesis 3. Read this chapter: it reveals alienation on four levels: between man and God (I use the word 'man' generically!), between man and man, between man and the world around him, and, in addition, an internal, inner alienation within our own being. Jesus came to reconcile us to God, and with that reconciliation, the alienation at the other 3 levels can be dealt with and progressively renewed and peace restored in these other relationships as well. You can read about this in Romans 5:1-11; 2Corinthians 5:14 -21 and Colossians 1:14 -22.

[3A] Thirdly, we are saved from the just condemnation (including the penalty and punishment) that hangs over all mankind because of that rebellion in Genesis 3 and our own personal rebellion against and rejection of God. The Bible tells us that sin incurs God's judgement and a stated penalty. It also teaches that all have sinned and therefore have incurred this condemnation, judgement and penalty. Jesus Christ's death on the cross was a death as our substitute. Because he had no sins of his own to be punished for, he was qualified to bear the punishment due to us. That is the significance of his death. When we believe in Jesus (that is when we believe that he is who he claimed to be) God counts Christ's death as ours. In other words, all of our guilt, all that is due to us because of our sin, was so completely taken by Jesus Christ as our substitute, that God no longer holds it against us and never will hold it against us - this is the meaning of God's forgiveness. Read the Romans studies in this website for extensive input on our human sinfulness, the condemnation due, and salvation (there called 'justification' or 'righteousness from God' or 'peace with God').

[3B] Included in this third point is the fact that, as far as God and the Bible are concerned, no one is good enough to merit acceptance by God, and no one, therefore, can save themselves. In this, Biblical Christianity differs from all world religions, cults and sects, and also from nominal Christianity. Each of these, at least all that I have studied, suppose and teach that we, by our own efforts and performance, can work our way to acceptance with whichever 'god' is believed in in that religion or cult, and that therefore, we can 'save' (or whatever the ultimate goal is in the belief system) ourselves by our own efforts. The Bible teaches that we simply cannot do so, that we trapped in an impossible situation in which it is impossible for us to meet the 100% standards set by God. In fact the Bible teaches us that we are spiritually dead, cut off from God, the source of spiritual life, and unable by our own efforts to make contact with God. Jesus saves us from this impossible impotent state: for this reason he is said to redeem us: to set us free from the mentality/mindset that tells us that we have to perform in order to gain and maintain a right relationship with God. Jesus saves us, liberates us, from the heavy necessity of trying to make ourselves right with God. This is why the Christian gospel is described by the word 'grace' - because the right to live in God's presence is his gift, not something we have earned, deserved or merited. This is dealt with extensively in the Romans studies.

[4] Fourthly (and the only subjective, incomplete and progressive aspect) we are saved from our own personal sinfulness.
There is much more that could be said about each of these.


What are we saved for?

The answer to this that the Bible gives seems at first to be rather selfish on God's part: that is: we are saved for God. This answer has a number of aspects:

[1] God loves us, therefore he wants us to live in relationship with him. This is only possible (a) if we know him, and (b) if we qualify. So, because he loves us and wants us with him, he sent Jesus to do all of the above so that we can know him [by knowing Jesus Christ] and are qualified [by Christ living and dying our substitute]. I suppose we could say - we are saved so that God can enjoy loving us and we can enjoy his love.

[2] God created us to image or reflect him (see Genesis 1:27 ). In our state of rebellion and alienation and ignorance it is simply impossible for us to image him. When he saves us through Jesus all of this is reversed and we from that point onwards have the potential to increasingly image him as we live in positive face to face relationship with him.

[3] Related to this is God's stated purpose that he saved us so that we can glorify him: that is, so that we, in our living, demonstrate his glory - his nature, his character etc.

[4] While that seems, superficially, to be selfish and self-centred of God, it is in fact the only way in which we can be truly human. Assuming that imaging God is the purpose for which we were created it is only when we are imaging God that we are truly and fully human. It is only here that we maximize the meaning of 'human'. God actually has our well-being and fulfilment in his mind when he saves us to glorify him. [It is actually possible to observe the increasing degradation of the meaning of 'human' in our society as the Biblical standards and values, and the knowledge of God, are increasingly set aside by society in general.] It is only in union with God that we are truly human.

I will say one thing more: the central question posed by the New Testament is not, as commonly communicated, 'Do you want to be saved?' or 'Have you received Jesus as your Saviour?' Rather it is the question Jesus posed to his disciples: 'Who do you say that I am?' The central concern of the Gospel is not my salvation but that Jesus Christ be recognized and acknowledged as the one true God. When we see Jesus as he really is, when we realize that in seeing him we are seeing God, when we honour him as God - then we are saved, even if we were not seeking salvation. Study John's Gospel. It's really radical, powerful and enlightening. [The recognition of the one true God is also the central concern of the Old Testament – where, if you read the whole lot through in a few days you feel an overwhelming impact of the contrast between God and the ‘gods’ of the nations, and of the continuing tendency of the people to exchange the one true God for idols. It is our common behaviour to reject God and substitute our own god-concept in his place.] If you have time, also study Who is Jesus? Studies on this site. They identify the urgency of this central question, and facilitate our answering it accurately by analysing the New Testament presentation of Jesus Christ.

I would respectfully and gently ask you here to carefully and honestly think about this question: ‘Who is the God you believe in?’ Is he the God who actually exists and has revealed himself to us in his Son, Jesus Christ, or is he a god conceived by human hearts, minds or hands? And I would suggest to you, on the basis of what I understand from the Bible, that this is the most important question you can ever be asked.

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2009