I just finished reading Tullian Tchividjian’s book Surprised by Grace: God’s Relentless Pursuit of Rebels. The book is an interesting, insightful, and helpful commentary on the book of Jonah. The author is the pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and the grandson of Billy Graham.
In a CBN interview Pastor Tullian emphasizes that a motivation behind his book is to show that the gospel is not just for non-Christians; it is for Christians too. He says, “The gospel doesn’t just ignite the Christian life; it is the fuel that keeps Christians going and growing everyday.”
What does it mean that salvation belongs to the Lord?
Commentating on Jonah’s famous conclusion to his ‘in the fish prayer,’ “Salvation belongs to the Lord,” (ESV) (“Salvation comes from the Lord,” NIV), Jonah 2:9, Tullian makes the following observations:
Salvation means …
(1) your one-time deliverance from sin’s eternal penalty, (2) your ongoing liberation from sin’s power in your remaining time in this life, and (3) your final freedom in eternity from sin’s presence altogether (page 118).
Note that Pastor Tullian’s second definition confirms his point that salvation from God and by God, via believing the gospel, is for Christians too. We are not just initially saved by believing the gospel and then left to ourselves to get better. Salvation (a.k.a. ‘sanctification’) is also an ongoing process for believers – my summary.
Belongs to the Lord means that only Christ’s efforts will save you. It means that only God can accomplish salvation for you, extend salvation to you, and effect salvation in you – my paraphrase.
Believing that salvation belongs to the Lord means that you fully believe that you cannot save yourself and that no one or nothing else can save you either. It means that you fully trust that only Christ’s work (his perfect law-keeping and perfect satisfaction of God’s wrath toward your law-breaking – my definition) will save you.
So then we hear the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 1:16:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes …
What is the gospel?
It is God’s power to save. It is the good news – you have a Savior and it is not you. It is the story of the life and death of Christ Jesus. It is the means God’s uses to offer the benefits of Christ’s life and death to you and (through your belief in the sufficiency of Christ and his life and death work) to apply them to you.
What does believing the gospel save me from? 14 things:
- Initially, as already mentioned, it saves me from God’s wrath since Jesus fully absorbed the full and just punishment my sin deserved.
- It continues to save me from sin’s power over me, which means that even though I still sin, I don’t have to. Only as a believer can I, by the power of the Spirit that comes to dwell in me, overcome the sin that so easily entangles me.
- It saves me from engaging in the never-ending futile activity of trying to save myself by being good or nice or industrious or helpful.
- It saves me from self-righteousness since I can’t claim that I earned salvation and, therefore, have a right to it.
- It saves me from self-dependence since I must depend on Christ to save me.
- It saves me from self-sufficiency since only Christ is sufficient to save me.
- It saves me from despair since Christ has already measured up to God’s standard, and God counts his work as if it were my work. In other words, because Jesus thought, said, and did everything right, in God’s eyes, it’s like I (who bank on Jesus) thought, said, and did everything right too – I am counted worthy by God (even though I don’t deserve to be) because Christ is worthy.
- It saves me from trying to manipulate other people to do what is right since only God can free people from sin.
- It saves me from discrimination (social, racial, or otherwise) since salvation is a free unearned, unmerited gift from God that is not based on anything inherently good in me.
- It saves me from idol worship since there is no one or nothing else that can save me.
- It saves me from looking to others for love or acceptance (a form of idol worship) since God fully loves and accepts me if I have faith in Christ because he fully loves and accepts Christ.
- It saves me from looking for work or accomplishments or relationships or interests or unique quirks or characteristics or the stuff I buy to save me from meaninglessness in the sense that I look to these things to define my life (all forms of idol worship) since, Jesus’ identity is both already mine (in the sense that God counts Jesus’ life as mine) and is becoming mine in the sense that (by the power of the Spirit) my character is becoming more like his.
- It saves us from fear of losing my reputation since, in God’s eyes, Christ’s reputation is mine.
- It saves me from fearing the future, since Christ’s future is secure and his future is my future too.
I know this list is not exhaustive and perhaps you’ve already thought of other ways the gospel saves you. Please feel free to add you thoughts below so that others can benefit from them.
Praying that you experience the depth of what it means to believe that salvation belongs to the Lord.
Tchividjian, Tullian (2010-05-31). Surprised by Grace (p. 118). Good News Publishers. Kindle Edition.
A previous blog post, Already? Not Yet? Which is It? might be helpful if you want to think more about the nuances of what it means “to be saved” in the past, current, and future senses.