Isaiah 6:3 – “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
Is salvation of man or of God? There are some that might be inclined to think that salvation is of man, that is to say, brought about by man, but nothing could be further from the truth. Not only does God make it explicitly clear through the Bible that no good deed that man can do can merit standing with God (see Isaiah 64:6; Titus 3:5; Ephesians 2:8-9), but also that man in an unsaved state is spiritually dead: “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Eph. 2:1-2). Therefore, salvation can only be a work of God.
Now that we have established that salvation is of God through the Bible, we face our next question: is salvation for man or for God? In other words, is the end purpose of salvation? In our man-centered society we may be tempted to think that salvation is ultimately for our benefit. To be sure, those who experience salvation are the beneficiaries of eternal benefit, but is that the ultimate purpose? Staying in Paul’s letter to the Ephesians we read that “God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ” (Eph. 2:4-5). In Romans, the Apostle Paul lays out the chronology of salvation for us – “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Think of that for a minute: while we were still sinners! From Eph. 2:1-2 we piece together this truth that this “while” of Rom. 5:8 equals spiritual death. Paul informs us of another aspect of this “while” in Rom. 8:7-8 – that those who have not been justified freely by the grace of God in Christ Jesus are “hostile to God,” and furthermore, that “those who are in the flesh cannot please God.”
We have established man’s complete inability to save himself as well as his hostility to God, but a picture of God is starting to emerge in the “while” statement. What have we learned so far? That in our dead, sinful, hostile state God is
Rich in mercy
Has great love for us
Actively demonstrates His love for us in sending Jesus Christ to earth to die for sinners.
If you are big in your own eyes and have some awareness of sin, you may desire salvation so that you may obtain a pass from the Day of Judgment. While this is certainly true of the one who confesses Jesus as Lord and believes in their heart that God has raised Him from the dead (see Rom. 10:9-10; Jn. 5:24), may I say that this is rather small-minded of such a person? If salvation is all about you, then I will also note that your God is small. In Paul’s glorious letter to the Romans he walks the reader through this great salvation and begins to talk about the future. In Rom. 8:17 he states that there is coming a day in which believers “may also be glorified with him.” He goes on to say that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Rom. 8:18)! 1 Cor. 10:31 gives a preview of things to come when the believer – the one who has been saved by God’s grace – is commanded to “do all to the glory of God.”
In the text listed at the beginning of this post we read that “the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3) So now we begin to for a more complete picture. While we were spiritually dead, God who is loving and merciful and gracious (cf. Ps. 103:8) acted toward us when we were incapable of anything, by sending His Son, Jesus Christ, into the world to perfectly fulfill the Law and to die a sinless death on the cross for sin, that we might have so great a salvation. But that salvation is not primarily for us. The salvation that we have in Christ serves to bring God glory! And friend, Christian, we should not begrudge God this. He will fill the earth with His glory as the water covers the sea (Hab. 2:14), and part of what will bring Him the glory due His name is the salvation of those whom he has predestined, called, justified, and glorified (Rom. 8:28-30). As was stated earlier, we reap eternal benefits in salvation, but it is not for us… it is all for God! When salvation ceases to be about us and is rightly ascribed to God, we decrease and God increases (cf. Jn. 3:30) – then God becomes big, as He truly is!
“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom. 11:33-36)