The Fullness of Salvation

Dan Melhus

Any person who is at all conversant with the New Testament knows that therein is set forth the teaching that the connection between the death of Christ and the salvation of man is inseparable.

Scores of other passages regarding the death of Christ could be cited.

In view of the teaching of the above passages it is rather strange that so many think they will attain salvation apart from Christ's death. When one points to his morality as the basis for salvation he is, in effect, saying that Christ died in vain so far as he is concerned. There is in the thinking of many religious people a total disregard of the New Testament emphasis on the vicarious death of Jesus.

Some Proposed Answers

Anti-supernaturalists have seen in the death of Christ nothing more than the death of a martyr, one who believed in the cause he espoused strongly enough to die for it. Some of the writers in the early centuries of the Christian era proposed the "Ransom Theory," the idea being that the death of Christ was a ransom paid by God to Satan in order to free man from sin. Later writers suggested the "Moral Influence" theory, insisting that Christ died in order to show God's great love and thus move man toward God. Other theories could be shown. The cross does indeed have a strong effect upon man in moving him to God, but this is not the main purpose.

The Biblical Teaching

Why was it necessary for Christ to die? What connection is there between what took place on Calvary nineteen hundred years ago and our salvation? There are truths here too deep for human comprehension. But perhaps we can at least obtain a working knowledge of the connection between Calvary and salvation.

The clearest statement in the New Testament as to why Christ died is made by Paul in the Roman letter: "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation . . . that he might be just, and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus" (3:25, 26). Christ died so that God might be just and justifier. To turn the statement around a bit, he died so that God could justify man and at the same time maintain his justice.

If justice were the only attribute of God in operation, man would have no hope of salvation. When man sins he incurs the penalty of death and if justice asserted itself, justice would demand man's eternal condemnation from God's presence. God's justice requires, demands penalty for transgression.

In addition to being a just God, our God is also merciful and loving. And because he loved man he could not cast him away from his presence. The mercy of God desires man's salvation. God desires that all men be saved. At this point someone is ready to ask why God does not reach down and indiscriminately bestow pardon and take all men into his presence forever? Why not overlook man's sin even as a father overlooks the disobedience of a wayward son? But this could not be done without God's relinquishing his justice, His justice demands the penalty; his love demands man's salvation.

What we describe here is salvation, pardon. Pardon is not such a simple thing as many imagine. The governor of a state has pardoning power but there are limitations to his use of such power. To bestow pardon promiscuously would mean an end to government. Pardon is not simple and easy. The majesty of law and of government must be maintained. Indiscriminate pardon may lead to a general disrespect of law and justice.

There is an example of this problem in the book of Daniel. A group of shrewd politicians had induced King Darius to make a law which would prohibit any person to “ask a petition of any god or man for thirty days except you, O King” and the penalty for any who would violate the decree was that “he should be cast into the den of lions” (Dan. 6:7). Daniel was soon charged with violation of the statute for he was found praying to his God. His accusers brought the matter before Darius and the king was very upset and determined to pardon Daniel (v. 14). However, he knew that he had to deal with the fact of the law of the Medes and Persians which he himself said may not be changed (v. 15). However, he set his heart to the task of pardoning Daniel. The writer tells us that “he labored till the going down of the sun to rescue him” (v. 14). But Darius could find no way whereby he could free Daniel even though he sought diligently. Daniel was cast into the den of lions. Darius failed to find a way whereby justice and mercy could both be satisfied.

Now, at the precise point where Darius failed, God succeeded. Jehovah has made a way for man's deliverance and that way is provided in the death of his Son upon the cross. The Father “laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). “Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf” (2 Cor. 5:21). By the way of the cross, God provided a way for man's salvation while holding fast the majesty of divine government. If any man on earth or any demon in hell should ever feel disposed to accuse God of taking sin lightly or of letting disobedience go without notice, Calvary is the answer! Who can look at the cross and think Jehovah considers sin as a thing of no importance? On the other hand who can look at the cross and think of our Creator as one who has no love for his sinning creation? We see both justice and mercy at the cross.

The Glorious Church

Jesus told Peter that He would establish “His church” in Matthew 16:18. This makes “the church” singular, a divine institution (1 Cor. 1:2). In Ephesians 5:23 Jesus is the “Savior of the Body.” In chapter one and verse 22 “And He (the Father) put all thing under His (Jesus) feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church.” Well here is “the church” Jesus spoke about in Matthew 16 while Ephesians 5 tells us Jesus is the "Savior of the Body” and 1:22 directs us back to that church that Jesus built. Paul goes on to say in vs. 23 that the “body” and “the church” are one in the same. Cross reference that with Colossians 1:18, “He (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church.” The “body,” the “church” is the “fullness of Him.” The apostle to the Gentiles also teaches that there is “one body,” “one church” (Eph. 4:4) and that the obedient are “members of that one body” (1 Cor. 12:12).

When individuals discuss the church, there needs to be an understanding of authority. Please read and study Matthew 21:23-27. In this section of Holy Writ, the question of authority is addressed to Jesus and about Jesus.

By way of illustration, when the authorities come to someone’s home, the statement is made, “open in the name of the law!” That is, by the authority of city, county, state or federal powers. That is the same thing we have when we discuss authority of Jesus and the church. Notice Acts 4:12: “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” It is by the authority of Jesus that we do what we do in Spiritual matters in the church. This is the “fullness of Him who fills all and all” (Eph. 1:23) and is to be made “manifest in the church” (Eph. 3:9-10).

Universal and Limited

The atonement for the church is universal. God has provided a way for all men to be saved. Christ tasted death “for every man” (Heb. 2:9). “One died for all” (2 Cor. 5:14). However, the fact that Christ's atonement for the church was universal in its provisions does not mean that all will be saved. Appropriating, contacting, taking advantage of the benefits of the church, of the atonement is clear and conditional according to inspiration. Paul pleads, “Be ye reconciled to God” (2 Cor. 5:20). “Examine yourself to see if you are in the faith. Test yourself.” We have access into grace Paul declares and affirms that the way of access to that grace is an obedient faith (Rom. 5:1f). The writer of Hebrews affirms, “he (Jesus) became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:9).

Any who are not saved cannot lay the blame at God's door. He has mercifully provided. Failure to be saved must be failure on the part of man.

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