By which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
—1 Corinthians 15:2
Each doctrine within the Christian faith must be held in a balance. We are in great danger of error whenever we overemphasize the importance of one truth to the demise or neglect of others. However, it is impossible to overstate or overemphasize the preeminence of the gospel. We cannot become too extreme with the gospel. This truth is seen in the fact that the gospel is the greatest revelation of God to man, and it is the only message by which men might be saved. Consequently, it is also the one message we must hold onto tenaciously. Although even the most minor departure from biblical truth is dangerous, we may misunderstand many things without putting our eternal destinies in jeopardy. However, to be wrong about the gospel is to be wrong about everything! Not giving the gospel preeminence is to misunderstand it altogether!
A GOSPEL THAT SAVES
In our text, the phrase, you are saved is translated from a present tense verb which describes both a “present process and a future reality.” It may be translated: “by which you are being saved.” It is important not to forget that the Scriptures describe salvation in three tenses—past, present, and future. To ignore any one of these tenses or aspects of salvation will cause us to have a skewed or unhealthy view of salvation as a whole. In the past, God saved the believer from the condemnation of sin. This occurred at the moment of conversion, when the Christian believed God’s testimony concerning the gospel and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.2 Scripture commonly refers to this as justification.
In the present, the believer is being saved from the power of sin. This is a gradual process known throughout the New Testament as progressive sanctification. The believer is God’s workmanship, and God is working in him both to will and to work according to His good pleasure. Through the Word and the Spirit, trials and tribulations, blessing and discipline, God is transforming the believer and bringing the whole of his or her life into conformity to the image of Jesus Christ.
In the future, the believer will be saved completely and eternally from the power and presence of sin. This final stage is commonly known as glorification and is as certain as the others because He who began a good work will perfect it. As the apostle Paul declares in what has come to be known as the golden chain of salvation: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.”
We live in a day in which the temporal and the trivial are exalted to a prominence they should not be given among God’s people. We desire these momentary pleasures as though they were actually worthy of such affection. However, we must hold to a singular truth: the greatest promise of the gospel is salvation. All other promises and all other benefits pale in comparison to this one thing: the gospel is the power of God for salvation, and whoever will call upon the name of the Lord will be saved.
According to the apostle Peter, salvation is the very outcome or goal of the believer’s faith.9 It is the purpose behind all that Christ has done for His people, and it ought to be the believer’s great longing and the goal toward which he strives. God can give no greater gift and the believer can have no greater hope or motivation than that of final salvation through the gospel of Jesus Christ.