When it comes to our understanding of salvation, most Christians have a pretty good grasp on what we are saved from. Many churches and pastors spend a lot of time talking about this, to their credit, and this is certainly an aspect of the Gospel of Jesus Christ we cannot neglect or forget. However, there is another essential part of salvation that we seem to be missing. It’s not what we are saved from but what we are saved to.
We are delivered from sin, but we aren’t delivered in a vacuum. We are taken from one place and put in another. And if it’s true that we are saved from sin, and it is, then we must be saved to something else that is somewhere else.
Let’s look at the entire arc of Scripture. Take as our first example the Israelites deliverance from the hand of Egypt recorded in Exodus. God saves them from the oppressive hands of their slavemasters, but the story doesn’t end with the Egyptians floating facedown in the Red Sea and the Israelites dancing and singing on the shore. God takes them to the desert…do you remember why? So that “they can worship me,” (Exodus 4:23, 7:16, 8:1, 8:20, 9:1, 9:13, 10:3) and “to teach” them to trust and obey (Exodus 15:25, 16:2). God’s primary purpose in saving the Israelites and taking them to the desert was to teach them to trust and obey.
Unfortunately, the generation of exiles failed the many ‘tests’ God put before them and they were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Yet, despite their failures, they raised up their children as a righteous generation and prepared them to go into the Promised Land by teaching them to obey in the ways they had failed to. In Deuteronomy, Moses gives a final speech to the children of the exiles before they enter the Promised Land. He carefully recounts the tests the exiles failed and tells their children how they should have obeyed. During that discourse, Moses explicitly declares that God’s purpose in bringing them out of Egypt and into the desert was to teach and test them “to know what was in [their] heart, whether [they] would keep his commandments or not,” (Deut. 8:2). The Israelites were saved from oppression to obedience.
Following the theme of Exodus, the prophets of the Old Testament saw a second Exodus coming. But they knew this Exodus would be different. This Exodus would be freedom from our slavery to sin instead of slavery to man, yet one thing would remain the same. Like the first, the goal of this second Exodus would be for God to save the elect to obedience.
Then Jesus came and lived the perfect life we haven’t lived, died the death for sin we should have died, and rose from the dead to give us a gift we could not attain. In that process, he defeated sin, Satan, Hell, death, and the grave for us fulfilling what the prophets had foretold. This was the second Exodus. Just as God defeated the enemies of Israel on that Red Sea shore (while all they needed to do was be still [Ex. 14:14]), Christ defeated all of our enemies on our behalf. He has saved us from them. This is the essence of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Yet, like the story of the Israelites in the desert, God’s ultimate desire is for his children to trust and obey. So, the rest of the New Testament unfolds with Paul, Peter, John, and James teaching us how to do those things. Because we were saved from sin to obedience.
It seems that Christians have fundamentally forgotten this part of the message, because so often we abuse the gift of grace that God has given us. We treat grace so cavalierly. Instead of using as an opportunity to do the right thing and become more like Jesus, we use the second chances we have been given to run right back into the same constant habitual sin continuing to do whatever we want. “Should we go on sinning so that grace may abound?” Paul asks rhetorically in his letter to the Romans. We so often forget what this grace means and what this grace has cost. We often forget the purpose of this grace. One of the primary purposes of the second chance that God’s grace offers is that it gives us second opportunity to obey.
Put all this in perspective.
Don’t forget what Christ has set you free from. Remember those chains and remember that they are gone. But don’t forget what Christ has set you free to. God’s desire has always been trust and obedience. And He has lovingly given you grace so that you have yet another undeserving chance to obey.
“If you love me you will keep my commandments. Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Not everyone who calls me ‘Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father. If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death. Go make disciples and teach them to obey.” – Jesus
“Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness…For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” – Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans
“[B]y this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says ‘I know him’ but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.” – Apostle John’s 1st Letter
This is Christianity.