One of the best Bible passages on salvation is Ephesians 2:8-10. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”
Because this is such a straightforward explanation of how to obtain salvation, it warrants careful analysis. This passage teaches us that salvation is something that a person can possess now because of something that happened in the past.
The Apostle Paul is writing to the church at Ephesus. He tells these people in no uncertain terms, “you have been saved”. Regardless of what “saved” means, please note that they have already been saved. It’s a done deal. It happened in the past.
The word “saved” means to be rescued or delivered. It implies there’s some kind of threatening condition — a dangerous, desperate, or deadly condition from which we need to be rescued. And so this begs the question, “Saved from what?”
What are we saved from? A bad marriage? A dead-end job? A boring life?
For centuries the Christian message has been based on this essential claim: Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. What, exactly, does the world need to be saved from?
The answer is found in Scripture. The angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “She (Mary) will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)
Jesus can save your marriage. He can help you find a better job and a more meaningful life. But before He can do any of that, He must save you from the consequences of your sins, namely guilt and eternal punishment.
Because of our sins, our relationship with God is fatally flawed. Every person stands before God as a guilty sinner, deserving of eternal damnation in hell. This is the Number One problem faced by every person on this planet. We need to be saved from our sins, and Jesus is the only one who can provide that salvation. By dying on the cross, He paid the penalty for our sins – this is what theologians refer to as “the substitutionary death of Christ” – and because He died, God is offering salvation from sin to the human race. Through Jesus, God is giving you and me the opportunity to be saved from the consequences of sin.
Paul took this message of salvation to Ephesus and many accepted it. (The events surrounding the beginning of the church in Ephesus are recorded in Acts 19.)
Then he kept in touch with these new Christians by writing letters, and that is why he wrote this letter to the Ephesian believers. He says they “have been saved” from their sins, and the brevity of this simple three-word phrase does not do justice to its profound significance. Make no mistake about it: every person needs to be saved; every person can be saved; and like these Ephesian Christians, for those who come to the Savior to be rescued from their sin, salvation should be viewed as a present reality because of a past event.
This truth is present throughout the Bible, not just in the writings of the Apostle Paul. When the Apostles Peter and John were imprisoned for proclaiming the gospel in Jerusalem, Peter declared to the Jewish religious leaders, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). What name is that? “The name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth” (Acts 4:10).
Peter and Paul proclaimed the exclusivity of Jesus Christ without apology, for Jesus Himself claimed to be the one and only source of salvation: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).