SERMON BY THE REVEREND AMOS MCCARTHY
5TH SUNDAY OF LENT
APRIL 7, 2019
Title: “The Essence of Salvation”
Text: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
Salvation is God’s gracious work of bringing people back to a right relationship with him. One might say it is God’s rescue effort. When people realize their lostness and cry out, “What must I do to be saved?” there is only one answer: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31 RSV). The Bible says that there is salvation in no one else but in Jesus Christ.
Salvation is a rescue from lostness.
Every person who turns away from God or who has not known God is described as “lost.” Luke 15 records Jesus parables about a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. In all of these stories, the emphasis is on the lostness and a seeker who comes to save. The gospel story is that God in heaven sent his Son, Jesus Christ, into the world and proclaim the simple story of God’s love so that people may be saved from their lostness.
You can understand salvation better if you have been lost at some time. Have you ever been lost in the woods, in a large city, the desert, or at sea? If you ever participated in the search for a lost person, you would experience how much you want to find that person. Likewise, God in Christ comes to seek the lost. Why is God seeking the lost?
God is seeking the lost through salvation because it is God’s work of reconciling lost people to himself. We need to think of salvation as God’s salvation. It is not something others do for us; it is something we do for ourselves; it is not even something we do along with God. Rather, it is God’s work throughout. “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith… and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…not by works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV).
Elizabeth Keckley was a slave in Missouri before the Civil War. Her greatest desire was to purchase freedom for herself and her son. Her owner agreed that if she could raise $1,200 she could gain her freedom. Keckley worked as a seamstress and came up with a plan to go to New York City and work there to raise the money, but her owner feared that she would not return.
Instead, some of her wealthy clients in St. Louis contributed the money she needed, and Elizabeth Keckley paid the price for her freedom as well as her son’s. She moved to Washington, DC, where she counted Mary Lincoln among her dressmaking clients. Without the help of someone else, Keckley would never have been able to purchase her freedom.
All of us were enslaved to sin with no hope of ever gaining freedom. In mercy and compassion, Jesus gave His life for us, purchasing our salvation by shedding His blood on the cross. We are now free from sin, but that freedom does not mean that we do whatever we want. Instead we are to live how Jesus wants us to live.
The parables in Luke 15 stress that the shepherd went looking for the sheep that was lost, and this woman searched for the lost coin. The father of the prodigal son could not forget. When the wayward son contemplated a return to the father, he was motivated by the awareness of his father’s character. Again, salvation was in the seeker.
Salvation is reconciliation to God. It is not something we get, but a relationship with God into which we enter. People think too often of salvation in terms of going to heaven, and therefore they think it is something to obtain. A rich young ruler came to Jesus saying, “I have everything else. They tell me you have eternal life, How do I get it?” Jesus told him that if he would enter into eternal life, he would have to give away all his wealth, take up his cross, and follow Jesus. The young man failed in this not because he had wealth but because his wealth had him. In other words, he depended on wealth and would not depend on God. Salvation is a relationship of depending on God. It is the acknowledgement that as God’s creatures we do not live in our own strength or on our own resources. Rather, we live in the strength of God. So Paul is correct in his statement that salvation is reconciliation to God (2 Corinthians 5:14-21).
Salvation is from sin and self. Salvation is release from the power of sin and self. Sin may be described as unbelief or pride. In the first instance, unbelief is distrusting God or ceasing to trust God. Adam and Eve came to God. This unbelief may also be seen as pride. Pride is humankind’s inordinate love for self or exaltation of self above God. This overweening self-centeredness is the very essence of sin.
Therefore the only salvation that will deliver us from the tyranny of sin and self is the larger reconciliation to God our Creator. All other efforts to break loose from the power of sin and self have met with failure, but Jesus Christ has delivered us from this tyranny (Romans 8:3).
It is important for us in Christianity to understand that the Christian faith knows “no other salvation.” It is our command and privilege to announce the good news to every creature. We must offer salvation freely and guard against the temptation to offer people salvation providing they will join our faith or become part of our efforts. Salvation is free in Jesus Christ. We must not add stipulations to it.
Further, we must constantly share the gospel because there is no other means of salvation. We are in a seriously responsible position. A pastor told a story of how one night during the Korean War, the ship on which he was serving as chaplain received a message by radio that an aircraft had gone down in the sea near Okinawa. The chaplain explained that their ship was the nearest ship, and they sped to the scene knowing that the pilot could not survive long in the water. The chaplain pointed out that they were the only salvation the pilot could expect. It was dark, but the chaplain and others knew the pilot would survive if he had some kind of light or flare with him if he had survive the crash. Fortunately for everyone, the pilot was found floating in a life jacket and holding a flashlight in his hand. The chaplain recall all too well the joy both on the pilot’s part and theirs as the pilot was being pulled from the water.
As christian, we too were lost and had absolutely no chance of saving ourselves. But God in his gracious love came seeking and saving us. Then he entrusted to us, whom he has already saved, the message of salvation for others. We will not escape if we neglect this great salvation.
R. A. Torrey narrated a story about D.L. Moody visit to a school he attended. When D. L. Moody visited New Haven in 1878, R. A. Torrey was a student in the University there. He said, “The ripest scholar in the University at the time, if not the ripest in America, was President Wolsey, Ex-President of Yale University. One night a young man went up to hear Mr. Moody preach and President Wolsey sat on the platform, and when they sang the old Gospel hymns, President Wolsey, himself a gray-haired scholar, joined in singing the hymns with all his heart. That young man said, ‘Well, if one of the greatest scholars in America can sing those hymns in that way, there certainly must be something in it,’ and he was converted, not through Mr. Moody’s preaching, but through President Wolsey’s singing. Everyone was joyous of the young man’s conversion.
Salvation is a joyful experience. In the parables of Luke 15, every instance of salvation is followed by rejoicing. On the night the chaplain and the others pulled the pilot from the water, there was rejoicing. The rejoicing was not just on the part of the pilot, but also those who pulled him out of the waters. There was also rejoicing on the aircraft carrier when they received the radio message that the pilot had been found. In the church, there is rejoicing when someone is saved. It costs us nothing to give away the good news, and it is like rescuing someone from the depths of the sea.
We are all surrounded by people who are lost. We have the message of salvation. These lost people have no hope for salvation other than our message. We have the obligation to spread that message. Let us immediately pledge to share that faith and to rejoice when the lost are saved. God bless you!