Jesus Saves the World—How?
DESPITE the bleak outlook that many informed world leaders (including some in the United Nations) have on mankind’s future, the inspired Scriptures assure us that God is going to intervene to save the world. But each of us naturally wants to know how we are involved and can benefit. To do so we need to examine the word “world” in the Bible.
The Christian Greek Scriptures use the word kosmos, which is usually translated “world,” 187 times. The Greek word has different shades of meaning and so can be applied in different ways. An understanding of some of these meanings can help us to appreciate better how Jesus is “the savior of the world.” (John 4:42) We will also be in a better position to understand what is involved in a person’s being saved.
Early in the Gospel of John we find this interesting passage: “[Jesus] was in the world, and the world came into existence through him, but the world did not know him.” (John 1:10) Clearly, this verse is not talking about the earth, sun, moon, planets and stars, which some people include when they speak about “the world.” Rather, John was writing about people, the world of mankind in general. Jesus was born into this world, and people in general did not accept him or get to know him. Yet it is also true that “the world came into existence through” Jesus. How so? Because long before becoming a man he had been a co-worker in heaven with his Father, Jehovah God. As his Father’s firstborn Son he had shared in the grand work of creating the first human pair, who were the parents of all mankind, including us today.—Genesis 1:26; Proverbs 8:22, 30, 31; Colossians 1:15-17.
For a different, more limited, meaning of “world,” note what Jesus said to his disciples concerning what would happen at his death, “You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice.”—John 16:20.
In this verse a contrast is drawn between Jesus’ disciples and the “world.” Obviously, here the word “world” has reference only to those of mankind who are alienated from God. On this same basis we can understand what Jesus meant when he said that his followers “are no part of the world.” (John 17:14, 16) Whereas Christians definitely are a part of the “world” of mankind in general, according to Jesus’ words here they are to be “no part of the world” alienated from God. Without losing sight of our point that accepting Jesus is central to salvation, we should examine what it might mean for us to be “no part of the world.”
“What Must I Do to Get Saved?”
“Sirs, what must I do to get saved?” asked a frightened jailer of the first century when he saw that all his prisoners, including the apostle Paul and his companion Silas, had miraculously been let loose. The answer was, “Believe on the Lord Jesus and you will get saved, you and your household.” (Acts 16:30, 31) What was involved in ‘believing on the Lord Jesus and getting saved’? Was it just a matter of expressing belief and having faith in Jesus as “the savior of the world”? We can discern what was involved by looking at the Bible record of the thousands of persons saved during the first century C.E.
Some vital steps for those who at that time were saved are indicated in the inspired book of Acts. We read: “They received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so.” “Therefore those who embraced his word heartily were baptized . . . And they continued devoting themselves to the teaching of the apostles.”—Acts 17:11; 2:41, 42.
It is evident from this divine record that being saved involved learning the truth of God’s Word, studying the Scriptures regularly and applying them to their lives. Those who were saved back then did not feel that a daily study of the Bible would indicate that they were fanatics or unbalanced. Rather, their study of the Bible led to a complete change in outlook on life, in their habits and customs. It meant a whole new way of life, a very happy one.
The apostle Paul later expressed it this way: “You should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct and . . . you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loyalty.” (Ephesians 4:22-24) Others will notice a change in the Christian’s life pattern, as the apostle Peter wrote: “For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and illegal idolatries. Because you do not continue running with them in this course . . . they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you.” (1 Peter 4:3, 4) In this way early Christians were delivered from the evil system of things in which they lived.
Such saved ones had to go still further. They realized that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Satan the Devil, “the god of this system of things.” (1 John 5:19; 2 Corinthians 4:4) They felt the desire to help others to get out from under his rule. So, what did they do? “Every day in the temple and from house to house they continued without letup teaching and declaring the good news about the Christ, Jesus.” They “went through the land declaring the good news of the word.” “At the same time Jehovah continued to join to them daily those being saved.”—Acts 5:42; 8:4; 2:47.
‘Being no part of the world’ meant a good deal to those early Christians. Various history books offer the following reports on the conduct of early Christians: “They lived quiet, moral, indeed model lives . . . In every respect except that single matter of [the patriotic idolatry of] incense-burning they were exemplary citizens.” “Christians refused to share certain duties of Roman citizens . . . They would not hold political office.” “Zealous Christians did not serve in the armed forces or accept political offices.”
In explaining the reason for this drastic change in the lives of those becoming Christians, the apostle Paul wrote: “He delivered us from the authority of the darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son of his love.” (Colossians 1:13) Thus it is evident from the Scriptures and also from the example set by early Christians that being saved from this present system of things means that Christians took a completely neutral stand as far as political and military matters were concerned. Jesus declared, “My kingdom is no part of this world.” (John 18:36) Is this what you see among the millions of persons today who claim to be saved? Do you perceive any adjustment in your life that this calls upon you to make?
Jesus’ Role in Your Being Saved
The person who is saved has new hopes and aspirations. Rather than resting his hopes on the accomplishments of this present system of things, he looks forward with confidence to the realization of what his Savior, Jesus Christ, has promised for him. He realizes from the Bible that the whole world of mankind, as descendants of the willful sinner Adam, are under the condemnation of sin and death. When Adam sinned, he “sold” all his descendants into the slavery of sin and death.—Romans 3:23, 24; 5:12.
However, Jesus Christ offered his perfect human life in sacrifice on the torture stake as the price to redeem what Adam had lost, thus ransoming mankind. Jesus paid the exact price required—a perfect human life for a perfect human life—no more and no less. Paul stated: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, a man, Christ Jesus, who gave himself a corresponding ransom for all.” (1 Timothy 2:5, 6) You have reason for hope then. If you accept Jesus’ ransom, you can be ‘set free from the law of sin and death.’ (Romans 8:2) Saved mankind thus has a new hope of life. It is a prospect of everlasting life, even as Adam originally had the prospect of living forever on a paradise earth.
The marvelous benefits of being saved through Jesus Christ do not come automatically to anyone. At Hebrews 7:25 Paul shows that Jesus ‘is able to save those approaching God through him.’ In accord with this, to be saved a person must appreciate the difference between God and Christ. They are not equal parts of a triune god but are separate persons. Jehovah God is the Supreme One. He arranged for his Son to provide the ransom. Clearly, then, for a person to be truly saved he must separate himself from those religions of Christendom who teach falsely that Jesus and God are one and the same. Jesus himself said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
However, you need more to be saved. The apostle Paul wrote: “After he [Jesus] had been made perfect he became responsible for everlasting salvation to all those obeying him.” (Hebrews 5:9) Such obedience is not easy in this world alienated from God. Jesus stated: “I am giving you a new commandment, that you love one another; just as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” (John 13:34) This obviously means that those who are saved do not steal from another person, do not live immoral lives, do not lie or defraud one another. Our eternal salvation depends on obedience to God in such things.
Saved to a New Order
There is another aspect to being saved that involves especially the present generation. The Scriptures point to an early end of the present system of things in what Jesus described as a “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21) This will be in “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” (Revelation 16:14-16) At that time Jesus will act, not as a great preacher and teacher, but as Jehovah’s King and Vindicator. He will eliminate God’s enemies but will preserve alive his saved ones who, according to Revelation 7:9, will be “a great crowd.” Those persons who have persevered and who have been counted worthy to be carried through that “great tribulation” will cry in a loud voice: “Salvation we owe to our God . . . and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 7:10) They will have been saved from destruction and will have before them the prospects of everlasting life on a paradise earth.—Compare Revelation 7:16, 17; 21:1-5.
Would you not like to share in that wonderful salvation? You can do so by gaining an accurate knowledge of what is actually required to be saved. As you do so, follow the example of the early Christians who were encouraged to ‘keep working out their own salvation with fear and trembling.’ (Philippians 2:12) Learn more about how Jesus saves now. This is not just a brief, emotional experience, but one that involves our accepting him and then following a new way of life doing God’s will. Even if you have difficulties and opposition walking on the narrow way to life, remember Jesus’ words, “He that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—Matthew 10:22; 7:13, 14.
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The Philippian jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to get saved?”
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Jesus offered “a corresponding ransom”