A Case Study of Salvation
As a rule, such a title as "A Case Study of Salvation" would simply involve a study of the "nine" recorded cases of people being saved in the Book of Acts. Such a study is indeed advantageous in that it reveals the necessity of faith, repentance, confession of Jesus deity, and water baptism for the remission of sin (see Acts 2: 14-41, 8: 5-13, 35-39, 9: 17, 18, 10: 34-48, 16: 13-15, 30-34, 18: 8, 19: 1-12). In this study, though, we shall not use the examples of initial salvation as found in Acts (except for one), but cases from different time periods, cultures, and dispensations. Our aim shall be to establish certain constants in the matter of how man has come to enjoy salvation.
The case of the fiery serpent (Num. 21: 4-9, please read). Allow me to inject, before there is an objection, that I am aware that the salvation involving the fiery serpent was physical salvation or deliverance. However, Jesus teaches concerning this historic event that there are basic spiritual parallels (Jn. 3: 14-17). We may deduce from this case that the power to save resided in God. Certainly there was no efficacy residing in the brass serpent (Num. 21: 9). It is clear the bitten people were doomed to die without Gods intervention (vs. 8). Their salvation, though, was conditional, "When he looketh upon it, shall live" (vs. 8). The means of salvation, while requiring mans participation, offered no occasion for boasting. In other words, none are reported as saying, "look what I did " (vs. 9). It is also apparent that the means of their salvation could be and was to be accessed by each one and each one alike (vss. 7-9). One basic deduction would also be that if one so bitten refused to cooperate or choose some other method to attempt to acquire salvation, he would have died there was only one choice, look or die!
The national restoration of Israel (Nehe. 9). The people of Israel had sinned but are now desirous of being restored. They severed all alliances with "strangers," those opposed to Jehovah (vs. 2). They are ashamed of their sins and confess them (vs. 2). They return to revering and respecting the authority of the scriptures (vs. 3). They acknowledged a failure to keep Gods word (vs. 34). They again come to realize that God is the true source of all blessings and that they needed to return to God according to the directives of his word (vss. 26, 34, 35). It is also apparent that they understood they had to "turn from their wicked works" (vs. 35).
The case of Nineveh (Jonah 1: 1, 2, ch. 3). The people of Nineveh were a pagan people. Jonah was commissioned to "go cry against it" (1: 2). Nineveh had become powerful, but the people were in sin (3: 2,3 ). When Jonah warned of Gods impending doom, the people believed God (3: 5). They evidenced their repentance with sackcloth (3: 5). They "turned from their evil way" (3: 10).
The saving of Zacchaeus (Lk. 19: 1-10). Many children in Bible classes can sing the popular childrens song about Zacchaeus. However, briefly consider Zacchaeus from the perspective of a case of salvation. Zacchaeus exercised effort, "he sought to see Jesus" (vs. 3). He even demonstrated eagerness, " he ran before, and climbed up into a sycamore tree " (vs. 4). When Jesus issued commands, Zacchaeus immediately obeyed (vss. 5, 6). Zacchaeus was penitent and willing to do whatever was necessary to please Jesus (vs. 8).
The robber on the cross (Lk. 23: 33, 39-43). There were two robbers crucified with Jesus but only one was saved (vs. 33, 43). The malefactor rebuked his scoffing companion (vss. 39, 40). He urged the scoffer to fear God (vs. 40). He confessed his own guilt (vs. 41). He boldly defended the innocence of Jesus (vs. 41). He also evidenced knowledge of Jesus and expressed a desire to be saved (vss. 42, 43).
The penitent Jews on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2: 14-41). These religious people had rejected Jesus and had been responsible for the murder of Jesus. Peter thus boldly charged them regarding Jesus, " ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (vss. 23, 36). When they heard about Jesus and realized they had murdered the Messiah, they exclaimed, " men and brethren, what shall we do?" (vs. 37). They were told to repent and be baptized for remission of sins and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit (vs. 38). They obeyed by receiving the word and doing what was told them. Hence, "they saved themselves " (vss. 40, 41).
Truths which are static and constant in all these cases of salvation. Keep in mind, these six case studies span aeons of time, cultures, "counties," situations, and dispensations. For this reason, there are some variables (fiery serpent, , etc.). However, there are certain constants which hold true today: God is the source and the authority in matters pertaining to mans salvation, man must do what God says or be lost, Gods requirements are not beyond mans ability to perform but do not offer occasion for boasting, implicit belief in God is essential, realization of sin, repentance, and mans participation are all consistently seen. Beloved, any teaching that denies these always present conditions is patently false. For instance, such teaching as God saves by faith only, universally, unconditionally or by arbitrary predestination, which excludes mans involvement!
In closing, some of these variables were also exceptional even as variables, such as the fiery serpent. However, the matter of belief, repentance, confession, and water baptism for initial salvation are seen as being universal in this dispensation (see introductory paragraph and Mark 16: 15, 16, Acts 2: 14-41, also visit "Salvation," and, "God's Eternal Plan of Salvation.)