A Verse on Salvation

1 Corinthians 1:18

Verse 18 is pegged on verse 17 where Paul explained that the cross, Jesus Christ, is the source of salvation not humanity’s wisdom. It is not in the ability of the speaker sharing the Good News; it is the Good News itself that changes men and women.

Paul asserts in this verse that the “message of the cross” which can be the teaching about Jesus, His death and resurrection and the salvation by grace through faith, is “foolishness,” absurdity, or silliness to people who are perishing.

In other Bible translations, “are perishing” which is in present progressive is rendered in the present perfect. Basically, the tenses tell us that the action, though it happened in the past, continues to the present. Originally, this part of Paul’s letter highlights the certainty of death and judgment. Those who do not have Christ are sure to suffer eternal punishment. That is why the action continues to the present.

Those who are perishing refer to men and women who refuse to acknowledge Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. They are those who do not have a personal relationship with Christ. Remember that Christ’s invitation is an invitation of relationship. He calls everyone to know Him more. The first step, which is usually the most difficult, is repentance, the acknowledgement of one’s sinfulness and the turning away from darkness to light.

The message of salvation means nothing to such people. They may even laugh at and ridicule the bearers of the message. This is true then and it is very true now. But I believe what exists today is more of apathy to the message. People are simply uninterested. They think such topics are null, mindless and stupid. Without even analyzing the facts, they easily conclude that faith, Jesus, and salvation are only for the “religious.” These things have no room in a modern, scientific and empirical world.

This is a sad reality. However, in the same verse Paul said the same message is viewed by “those who are being saved” as the “power of God.” Those who are saved here refer to men and women who are delivered from the penalty of sin which is eternal death (Romans 6:23). They are those who have accepted Jesus as personal Lord and Savior by grace through faith and are slowly walking with Him into Christlikeness.

The verb may appear to suggest that salvation is a process. That it is not received in a one-time-big-time event. To misread the verse as such can strip the cross of its power. In fact, some use the verse to argue that salvation—being a process—is attained when good works are done. Is salvation a process?

Yes and no. To answer this, I will be a bit technical. Salvation in its fullness is viewed in three events—justification, sanctification and glorification. Our real issue is the first event which justification or the rendering of a verdict on a person as not guilty because it’s as if the person has not sinned.

Justification is the work of Jesus Christ on the Cross. It is the most important for non-believers because it is here that they are ushered into the family of God. When one is justified, he or she is saved though still in a corrupted and fallen body. Justification gives the gift of eternal life, that is, a person is assured of eternal fellowship with God the moment he or she dies.

In Romans, Paul is focused on justification whenever he talks about salvation. If one is not justified, he or she cannot be sanctified much more glorified. Sanctification happens only to Christians. It is the continuous work of the Holy Spirit, molding a person into Christlikeness. It is the sanctification aspect of salvation that is a process. However, a person is already saved even before sanctification begins as long as he or she is justified.

Glorification will happen when Jesus Christ comes again. It is here when all believers are made perfect in and with God.

It is clear that justification is by grace through faith. Several passages in Romans show this. One such example is Romans 3:23-24: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus…”

What is the implication of justification and salvation as something acquired by grace through faith in Jesus? Simple. This tells us that everyone, in the eyes of God deserves to suffer eternal damnation because this is the righteous punishment for sins (Rom 6:23). Because all have sinned (Rom 6:23) all must suffer eternal death.

However, the Good News is this: By God’s grace and love, He sent Jesus Christ to be the substitute for our sins. Jesus became the perfect sacrifice because He never sinned (Hebrews 4:15). His death satisfied the required punishment for sin. He died for us, so that we may live. He rose from the dead after three days for sin is not in Him, thus, death does not have a hold on him either.

By putting one’s faith in this revealed Truth, one is justified. It is grace (undeserved gift) and faith (trust and belief in Jesus) and nothing more, not good works, not religion, not philosophy. “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this not from yourself, it is the gift of God. Not by works so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).”

No matter how many good things you have done as long as you have no personal relationship with Jesus, salvation cannot be given to you. Good works are products of salvation for Christians. Those who try to use such as means will never attain salvation because of sin. Good works do not nullify sin. Sin is sin. It stays on the record. The Bible is clear that death is the only just equivalent of sin. God never said good works will negate sin. Besides, if one decides to pursue God by human effort, what God requires is perfection. Perfection here includes sinlessness. This can never be for sinful humanity.

Paul showed that for people who are saved and walking closely with Christ, the message of the cross is the “power of God.” It is such first because God’s Word changed them, plucked them from darkness to light. Second, it is through this message that they too can be channels or instruments for the spread of the Good News. Those who are saved hold on to this message and eagerly spread it. But those whose eyes remain closed find it either confusing or void.

Do you also want to view the message of the cross as the Power of God? If yes, say a little prayer. Acknowledge before God that you are a sinner and ask for forgiveness. Invite Him into your heart and ask Him to help you walk with Him, to get to know Him more and to mold you into Christlikeness.

If you have prayed and asked God to enter into your life, you have made the first step. You have sought Him and He will surely answer. You have started a relationship with God. It will be long but one worth-taking. Amen.
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