You’ve probably seen it boldly printed on billboards or scratched into the side of a bathroom stall, the two simple words Jesus saves. Within my denomination (Southern Baptist) we talk a lot about the need people have to be saved and so we encourage them to get saved. But it seems that the obvious question no one is asking is from what? To say I need to be saved is to imply that I’m in some sort of danger from which I need to be rescued. So what is this danger? What exactly is it that Jesus saves me from?
There are a lot of answers we could supply here: from ourselves, from our sins, from hell, etc. And I would contend that these are all biblical answers. Yet even these still don’t quite get to the root. Behind all these is a sovereign God who responds to sinners with His fierce and justified wrath. In Romans 3:19-20 Paul makes the case that no one will escape condemnation by observance of God’s law. Rather, the more we look into His law and begin to perceive how pure and lofty is His moral excellence, the better acquainted we become with our own depravity and wickedness.
And knowing this about ourselves, we’re left with the inevitable and hopeless conclusion that God, being just and righteous, will pour out His wrath on all sinful humanity. Because we each, in some shape or form, have all chosen the ugliness of sin over the beauty of the King, ours is a dark and empty fate. It is at this point that we are tempted to despair. But then…He came.
Who? Jesus Christ. Literally, the wrath bearer. God’s holiness demands that sin be punished, but God’s love also desires to save the sinner. So how does God satisfy these two seemingly polar opposite sides of His character? Enter Jesus. In love for us, God sent forth His Son to suffer the justified wrath of God in our place. Some have refered to this as the substitutionary death of Christ. It’s the idea that Jesus, being totally innocent and morally perfect, took on our sin and guilt, as if He Himself were guilty of the sins you and I have committed, and then suffers and dies in our place. This is why Isaiah writes that it was the Lord’s will to crush Him (53:10). Did you hear that? As Jesus hangs on the cross, God is literally pouring out His wrath on Him. In love and incomprehensible mercy, God takes the wrath which was aimed toward us in our sin and then directs it to His Son. Our darkness has now been shattered by the initiating, pursuing, conquering love of God!
This is the scandal of the Gospel and this is why Paul writes in Romans 5:8-10,
But God demonstrates His love toward us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.
The way has now been made for you to be saved from your condemnation because Christ has already stood condemned in your place. Yes, Jesus saves. He bore the wrath Himself, saving us from the wrath we deserve. Therefore, all who look to Him, trusting in this finished work, receive life!
He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not believe in the Son will not see life, for the wrath of God remains on Him. -John 3:36