A failure to clearly discern the distinction between -- first: the sacrifice which Jesus gave for our sins, on account of which we have been granted repentance and remission of sins, and second, the sacrifice we have been called to make with Christ as sharers of his sufferings and to fit us to share his glory, has been the source of much confusion of thought. In consequence, some preach: It is ALL grace, we can do nothing; God through Christ does all. These would quote in proof, "By grace are ye saved through faith and that [grace] not [because of any merit] of yourselves -- it is the gift of God," -- "not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9). Others declare: It is grace truly, but unless you do works in harmony with it, you never will be saved. It is written, "Present you bodies a living sacrifice," and "WORK OUT your own salvation." (Rom. 12:1, and Phil. 2:12).
The party which mixes work and faith gradually comes to regard faith as if little value, and works as all important, and detracts from the value of the sacrifice which Jesus gave, while adding to the importance of the sacrifice of the sinner, or as they term it the sinner's death to sin as the means or cost of his own salvation.
The party which depends wholly on faith, generally inclines to an opposite extreme and ignores the possibility of any fallen being doing works acceptable to God. In their endeavor to show that Jesus fully and amply "paid it all," these frequently assert that the penalty of sin was eternal torture, and that Jesus endured as much SUFFERING in a few hours in Gethsemane's garden as all mankind would have suffered in and eternity of torture.
Each of these parties is without argument when confronted with the Scriptures of the opposite party, and without denying or disapproving the texts in opposition, each quotes the texts and teaches the view which seems most approved to itself; while the infidel sneers -- "Your Bible contradicts itself."
There is a difficulty somewhere -- what is it?
It is this: As we see when examining the doctrines of Election and Free Grace, both are true, both are supported by Scripture, and the difficulty has been a failure to note the two ages to which the two doctrines apply -- an election according to favor during the Gospel age, and Free and complete favor to all during the Millennial age. So also the doctrines of Faith and Works -- Belief as a ground of salvation, and Sacrifice as a ground of salvation. Both are true: We must merely rightly divide the word of truth and its beauty and harmony will be manifested. As in the doctrine of Election, the harmony was seen by observing the two ages, so with this doctrine, the beauty and force can only be distinguished by recognizing two salvations.
Does someone hastily say: I cannot believe that; the Scriptures teach us but one salvation. We reply: How do you know? Have you searched the Scriptures with that in view, to see? If you had said the catechism, etc., which teaches that there is but one kind of salvation, then we should have agreed with you. Perhaps that is what you meant: at all events we can show clearly that the Bible does teach two kinds of salvation and two totally different classes of saved.
First, then: There is a general salvation common to all the Adamic race. Adam, the representative of the race, through sin lost the perfection of manhood with all its privileges; the result being death -- extinction -- not only for himself but for all springing from him and represented by him -- "and so death passed upon all men." Jesus came to seek and to SAVE that which was LOST. If his mission was successful it must result sooner or later in the recovery and restoration of that which was lost.
Since Adam was not a spiritual but human image of God, he lost not a spiritual existence, but a human existence. He lost not a heavenly home, but an earthly paradise. He did not even lose heavenly promises, for none such were given him. Since we all sustained our loss through Adam, ours like his must have been a loss of human perfection, human existence, human likeness to God, an earthly Paradise, etc.; hence Jesus' mission was to redeem -- save -- recover -- restore "that which was lost." He commenced the work, by ransoming the race [giving a "corresponding price"]; and the Apostle assures us that he will complete the work of saving that which was lost -- "When the times of refreshing [making new] shall come from the presence of the Lord; and he shall send Jesus Christ . . . . . whom the heavens must receive [retain] until the times of RESTITUTION [or restoration] of all things which God hath spoken, by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began." (Acts 3:19-21).
Thus seen, the ransom given by Jesus and the results to be obtained are the exact offset to the sin of Adam and the loss thus sustained.
This salvation comes to all men just as freely through Jesus as the loss came unsought through Adam. As now death is upon all, so in the restitution, life shall pass upon all, and as a result, all will begin to improve and to come into full perfection of manhood, which condition when reached may be everlastingly theirs on condition of everlasting obedience to God. This then is the general salvation -- "common salvation" in which all shall share, because Jesus Christ by the grace of God tasted death for every man; because "the man Christ Jesus" "gave himself a ransom [corresponding price] FOR ALL, to be testified in due time." This salvation is the saving of man from sin and death to holiness and life; but in no sense changes his nature; he will still be man and while of the earth earthy, when saved or RESTORED, will again be an earthly image of God, and "very good" -- the lord of earth restored to his dominion -- recovered from his "fall".
Secondly, glance at the other salvation; the special one, called in Scripture, "THE salvation," "YOUR salvation," "OUR salvation," "SO GREAT salvation," etc. Like the other, this salvation is also from sin and death, but it includes a change of nature, so that the life enjoyed when this salvation is fully accomplished will be not a restoration of human nature, but a transforming to the "DIVINE nature," no longer earthly beings, but heavenly or spiritual beings. The Scriptural evidences on which a hope for this special salvation is based are familiar to our readers, and the call to this hope is mentioned as a "high calling," a "heavenly calling," etc.
"This great salvation" must take place first, before the "common salvation" shall be accomplished, for those who experience the "great salvation" are to be God's instrumentalities through whom the "common salvation" shall be bestowed upon all the world of mankind. They without us shall not be made perfect. (Heb. 11:40).
These who share in "so great salvation" are but a "little flock" and in it are not many rich or great or noble according to the course of this world, for to this salvation God hath chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, heirs of the kingdom. "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world and things which are despised hath God chosen, yea and things which are naught, to bring to naught thigns that are." (1 Cor. 1:28).
The Apostle speaks of these two salvations in the same sentence, when he says, "We trust in the living God who is the SAVIOR OF ALL MEN, specially of those that believe." (1 Tim. 4:10).
As these two salvations differ, so do the conditions differ. The only conditions for the common salvation are a recognition of Jesus who bought us with his own precious blood and an acceptance of the salvation provided coupled with their best endeavors to abstain from sin. No works must be here added to the work of the Redeemer to merit this recovery of that which was lost.
Those who will share in the "great salvation" and be "especially" saved to heavenly conditions, must first share by faith in the common salvation. These during the Gospel Age have accepted Jesus and his atoning sacrifice as the ground and substance of restored rights and privileges as men, not getting that restoration to perfect manhood actually, as the world will during the Millennium, but accepting it now by faith it is to such, a reckoned perfection; an imputed justification, a reckoned recovery from all that was LOST to all that human perfection and blessing which Jesus' ransom [corresponding price] recovered for all. But if such would accept of the "heavenly" calling," they must do more than thus believe and accept. They are believers and are already subjects of this common salvation from death and sin, before they are called to run for the heavenly prize.
The Apostle forcibly impresses this when he says: "I beseech you brethren [already believers in Jesus as their Savior, already reckoned restored or justified through faith, hence called brethren] that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice unto God."
This proves that sacrificing is not the condition of becoming brethren, for these were brethren but had not presented themselves as sacrifices. Thus all who are freed from sin are not only children of God, but are all brethren whether they are of the human nature, justified, or like the Apostle, begotten to the divine nature. The earthly and the heavenly when complete and perfect will be all one family, as there is one God and Father of all.
Then as though anticipating an objection from these brethren, that they were unworthy to be sacrifices since all sacrifices must be pure and holy else they could not be acceptable to God, the Apostle answers this objection by reminding them of their justification and reckoned purity on account of Jesus' sacrifice, and assures them that being thus justified their sacrifices would be "holy" and "acceptable to God" as well as a "reasonable service" for them.
This "service" of "sacrifice" after having been justified from sin and death by Jesus' ransom alone, is the condition upon which any shall be "accounted worthy" of the heavenly prize, the great salvation. Only upon the condition of sacrificing WITH the Master, sharing in and filling up that sacrifice for the world, are any promised a part in that "little flock" which shall share Jesus' resurrection [the same sort] because they share his sacrifice.
This is the salvation which can only be obtained by sacrifice -- by "working out YOUR own salvation" and the dissimilarity of this, from the salvation which no man can work out for himself, but which was purchased by the precious blood of Jesus, and which must be accepted by all as the free gift of God through Jesus Christ our Lord, should be apparent to all critical readers. And when this distinction is recognized all those Scriptures which before seemed contradictory on the subject of salvation by faith and salvation by works, become beautifully harmonious and clear.
But, some may inquire: Do you then claim and teach that those who gain heaven and become members of the little flock and share in divine nature and honors will gain them by their own works simply? that they will merit such high honors? Ah no! Do not misunderstand us thus.
The recovery of man from sin and death was God's favor through the sacrifices of his Son. Restitution to his "former estate" was not merited, hence was the manifestation of God's grace or favor. So, the offering to some of the redeemed race of the infinite "prize" in exchange for the human rights and privileges which he himself had just presented to us freely through Jesus, is but a further manifestation of the grace of God. We do not bay any works or sacrifices merit an exaltation to the divine nature and glory -- "far above angels and principalities and powers" as joint heirs with Jesus. And not only so, but we never could have dreamed of such an offer being made us! It is simply astounding to us; to many this "EXCEEDING RICHES OF HIS GRACE in his loving kindness toward us IN CHRIST JESUS", is wholly inconceivable, and unbelieved. But those who believe the offer and give their little all, [justified -- saved through Christ] in exchange for a prize so great, can only say:--
"God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform.
* * * *
Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill,
He treasures up His bright designs,
And works His sovereign will."
This "great salvation" is to be to all eternity the great monument of God's grace by which all his creatures angelic as well as human, shall have indubitable proof that God's grace is boundless and his love and wisdom and power by which he is able to cause all things to work together for good to those who love and serve him are unfathomable.
Z.W.T. April, 1885, page 741