When we speak of a present salvation, it is often understood to mean that a sinner can be saved now, at this moment. That is quite true, but that is not what I am meaning, but rather that there is a salvation for the present moment. A salvation for whom?
For people that are saved. But how can saved people require a salvation? Well, because when we speak of them as saved, we mean that through the finished work of Christ, through His precious atoning blood, He has saved our souls from sin’s bitter consequences and all that threatened us: that eternal doom which lay before us. In that sense our soul is safe. But now there is another way of speaking of salvation and that is what the young believer feels he wants. Well, he says, “I have trusted Him, but I don’t know how I’ll get on,” and he begins to measure his own frailty and weakness against all the odds he has to meet with in the school, in the office, at the workplace, or wherever he is, and he feels he wants someone who can stand by him. Well, God has found that someone for us in the same Person that died for us, but now ever lives for us, and that to carry us through.
In the epistle to the Hebrew chapter 9, we have the three appearings of Christ because it says He appeared here once to “put away sin.” He appeared on earth, and His mission was to put sin away by “the sacrifice of Himself.” He now appears “in the presence of God,” in “heaven itself”; that is, for all those who belong to Him, His people. Then it says He shall “appear the second time,” apart from any sin question. He took up the sin question when He came the first time and He settled it; therefore it does not require to be taken up again. When He comes again He won’t have to touch that question at all, but He is coming for salvation.
There are not three salvations; there is only one. But although it is one salvation, there are three ways of looking at it. If I am a bankrupt, there is facing me nothing but beggary and ruin. Who is to save me? I cannot save myself; I am hopeless and helpless!
The man who can save me is the man that will grapple with my debts, and settle them righteously to the satisfaction of my creditors. That is the man that can save me. There is no salvation for me except by the settling of that debt question. What puts my soul into peril? It is the sin question, and there is no salvation for me until the settling of the sin question. Christ came into the world to save sinners. He grappled with that question of sin and settled it. Paul writing to Timothy says, “God who hath saved us”; it is a thing that is put in the past tense. “Oh, but,” said a young lady to me the other day, “I don’t think anybody should speak so positively about that. My teacher says we ought to say, we are being saved.” Now there is a certain sense in which that is true, but in connection with the sin question, the soul salvation question, it is absolutely untrue. Why? Because all that rests on the work that is finished. It is true that we are being saved, but that rests upon an unfinished work. Whose unfinished work? Christ’s unfinished work, as unfolded to us in Hebrews 7:24–28.
In that passage the salvation spoken of is preservation, the keeping of our feet from falling and stumbling along the road. Those who have taken Christ as their Savior and confessed Him as their Lord, now want to live so as to please Him; to walk down here to be a testimony to Him, and to be used of Him to bring others to Him. But then, you see, Christians are only reckoned by their walk and ways.
The world does not measure you by how much you know; it measures you by how much you show. The Lord has left us here to be His disciples, to be fruit-bearers, and to be a testimony for God. Here comes the whole power of the enemy to defeat that object, and if he can get you back into your old worldly ways and associations he has practically brought about a defeat of the present object God had in saving you. Now Christianity does not only mean that I have got my soul saved, and am going to heaven by-and-by; Christianity means also the reproduction of Christ, in His moral features, in our everyday life. And I can tell you the world knows how a Christian ought to walk, and behave, but we may bring our utter feebleness to our Lord Jesus Christ who has set Himself apart in heaven to be the Priest, and therefore a Deliverer, a Preserver. So you see there is an aspect of salvation with reference to that.
A Priest is not for sins; a Priest has been set apart in order to help us in our weakness and infirmities—so it says at the end of the fourth chapter of Hebrews.
Infirmities! What are they? They are not sin. I have heard people say when they got into a bad temper and rage—“this is one of my infirmities. It is one of my family failings.” But that is not an infirmity. We must call things by their right name. Where is the infirmity? In the tendency. There may be that natural inherent inclination to be very short in the temper, with very little patience. But the Lord has set Himself apart to supply you with grace to preserve you in the midst of your temptations and your frailties and your weakness. That is what the Priest is for.
So we have a High Priest that is touched with the feeling of our infirmities. He was in all points tempted as we are, except sin; there was no sin in Him. There was nothing in Him to answer to temptation; He suffered being tempted.
The Devil never tempts with anything that costs us suffering; he tempts us with something we like. But the temptation to the blessed Lord caused Him suffering. We have to suffer if we resist the temptation, but He is there a great High Priest and for all that come to God by Him. Them “that come unto God by Him,” is a term that covers all the Christian company; those are the people He is interceding for.
I might just say, by the way, that we read, “to them that look for Him shall He appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”
People tell us it is only those who are looking for Him He is going to take up when salvation, in the third and final way, comes to pass at His second advent. He will leave the other believers behind.
Make no mistake about it: “Them that look for Him” is a term which covers all true Christians, the same people that “draw near to God by Him.” So also “them that love God” is a term that covers the whole Christian company.
He is a Priest that does not die. Other priests died; their priesthood passed from one to another: He ever lives, and He is able to save us for evermore, right on to the end of the journey. He knows our frailties, and He is able to sympathize, to succor, and ever to keep our feet from failing.
Where can I find all this help? Come boldly to the throne of grace, and obtain the mercy and seasonable help. That throne, which otherwise would have become the throne of judgment, has become the throne of grace, and you draw near and you get His succor, His sympathy, His tender compassion in your hour of need.
Our High Priest is “made higher than the heavens”—a good thing too! Why? Well, if you fell out of a rowing boat, and I came to you in a rowing boat, I might be able to lift you where I am into the rowing boat, but I couldn’t lift you into a tugboat. I could only lift you where I am myself; if I were in the tugboat I might lift you into the tugboat, but I couldn’t lift you into the big ocean liner. No, I am not there myself. If He is going to bring us to heaven, isn’t it a comfort to know He is higher than the heavens; He can bring you there.
What kind of a Priest is He? Holy. That is the path He trod; it was one of holiness and separation from sinners; is that the path you want to tread? You say, “Yes, Lord, that is what I want.” Then He is for you, though the devil is against you. The Lord has been in our circumstances, and He feels with us; if we want to tread in the way of holiness we have His sympathy. The people that know this present salvation are people who want it.
If I tied you to a seat you would not be much inconvenienced by it until the moment came for you to get up and go; then you would be in difficulties. When a person begins to move on, then they find there is a hindrance.
If you want to tread the heavenly way, the pathway of holiness and separation from sinners, you find you are against the stream, with the power of evil against you. But in all your weakness the Priest is for you, your helper and your Sympathizer. This is the “present salvation,” and I can get it at the throne of grace.