HOW DOES JESUS SAVE?
By Femi Aribisala
Jesus does not save by blood sacrifice. He saves by his word.
Jesus is our Saviour, but how exactly does he save? Paul says he saves by paying for our sins with his blood. (Ephesians 1:7). But why listen to the servant when we can listen to the Son? As with all such questions, God has a definitive answer. He points to Jesus and says to us: “This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.” (Mark 9:7). For salvation’s sake, Christians need to listen to Jesus.
Salvation by the Word
Jesus says: “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” (Matthew 9:13). This means Jesus does not save by blood sacrifice. He saves by his word, which calls sinners to repentance. The Psalmist does not say God shed his blood and healed men. He says: “He sent his word and healed them.” (Psalm 107:20). God is spirit; he has no blood.
Jesus does not ask the Father to sanctify us by his blood. He says: “Sanctify them by your truth. Your word is truth.” (John 17:17). Jesus “cleansed” his disciples with his word. He declared them “already clean” because of the word he spoke to them. (John 15:3). He then says we are justified by our own words. (Matthew 12:36-37). This is because our words indicate whether the abundance of our heart is the word of God. (Matthew 12:34).
Salvation comes by heeding the word of Jesus and not by drinking his blood. The blood of Jesus does not heal the heart of a sinner, but the word of Jesus does. Jesus says: “If anyone keeps my word he shall never see death.” (John 8:51). He does not say “If anyone is washed in my blood, he shall never see death.” Jesus demonstrated it is easier to forgive sins than to heal sickness when he healed a paralytic with his word. (Luke 5:23-24). Therefore, if he did not have to shed his blood and die in order to heal the sick, then he does not have to shed his blood and die in order to heal sinners.
To believe in Jesus is to believe in his word. Jesus’ word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.” (Psalm 119:105). His word frees us from the bondage of sin. He says if we abide in his word, we are his disciples indeed. And we shall know the truth, and the truth shall make us free. (John 8:31-32). Jesus’ word shepherds us from death to life. According to him, those who hear his word and believe in God who sent him have everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but have passed from death into life. (John 5:24).
Jesus’ word provides us with the blueprint for becoming sons of God. It tells us to love our enemies, bless those who curse us, do good to those who hate us, and pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us, that we may be sons of our Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45).
Jesus saves by showing us the way back to the Father. He is “the way, the truth, and the life.” No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. (John 14:6). Jesus is the Good Shepherd who shows us the way of righteousness. He reveals the path of life by demonstrating “he who loves his life will lose it; and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (John 12:25).
Jesus is “the word of God.” He is not “the blood of God.” The Good Shepherd leads with his voice and not with his blood. Jesus maintains: “He who is of God hears God’s words.” (John 8:47). Jesus’ sheep are those who hear his voice and follow him.” (John 10:27). They are those who will by no means follow a stranger, but will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers. (John 10:5). Men cannot deceive us by asking us to follow Jesus. But they can deceive by insisting we should follow anybody else.
Jesus’ word is the yardstick by which we must determine the veracity of everything spiritual. His word is our Bible by which we judge the bible. We must use the word of Jesus to separate the wheat from the weeds in the scriptures. Because Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35), we must only hold on to those things in the bible that agree with his word. Jesus says: “Moses did not give you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” (John 6:32-33).
Power in the Word
The mighty power consistently displayed throughout the gospels is not in the blood but in the word of Jesus. Luke observes many were astonished at Jesus’ doctrine because “his word was with power.” (Luke 4:32). Jesus cleansed lepers with his word. At Jesus’ word, Peter caught more fish than he could handle. At his word, water was turned into wine. At his word, money for the temple tax was found in the mouth of a fish.
Jesus stilled the storm with his word. He cursed a fig-tree and it dried up to the roots. He cast out demons “with a word.” (Matthew 8:16). He raised the dead with his word. (John 11:43). He awarded eternal life with his word. (Luke 23:43). He did all this that we might recognise he alone has the words that lead to eternal life. (John 6:68).
After speaking his word to his disciples, and before his crucifixion, Jesus said to God: “I have finished the work which you have given me to do.” (John 17:4). What is the work of salvation? Jesus told God: “I have given to them the words which you have given me; and they have received them.” (John 17:8).
To those who still insist Jesus saves by washing us from our sins in his blood on the cross of Calvary, I have this question. Did Jesus forgive sins before going to the cross? Yes, indeed! He forgave sins with his word; without the blood of his cross. Before he died, Jesus forgave the sins of a paralytic, telling him: “Son, your sins are forgiven you.” (Mark 2:5). He also forgave the sins of a woman of ill-repute who kissed his feet in the house of Simon the Pharisee. He said to Simon: “Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.” (Luke 7:47).
Since their sins were forgiven before Calvary, then a major plank of Pauline Christian doctrine comes crashing down. It shows Jesus’ blood is not a prerequisite for the forgiveness of sins. All that is required is repentance and the readiness to forgive others. (Matthew 5:7). Jesus says: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:3).