What is Salvation?
When we understand that there is a holy God, we
may desire above all else to be reconciled to Him despite our innate
separation. We are so sinful (unholy) that we cannot achieve the
perfection His holiness requires on our own. The law that was
given to describe to us that holiness (in human terms) is impossible
for us to achieve. We find that we are completely and totally unable to be reconciled to God
because of our state, and even unworthy to be reconciled to Him.
There is literally nothing we can do. To an individual facing
this dilemma, it is horrifying.
In the Old Testament, the old covenant (before Christ) between God and His chosen people was based upon the law, described by God through the commandments and by His prophets. Reconciliation to God was accomplished by the shedding of innocent and perfect blood (as in the spotless lamb), to atone for the death (the separation) that sin (unholiness) causes. While the people delighted in the holiness and majesty of the Lord of creation, they also trembled in fear at His wrath for the wicked. Sacrifice (of property and blood) drove home to them the seriousness of their position when compared to the Almighty benchmark, and gave them the image that reconciliation was achieved outside of their own personal means. And it meant that something dear to them, and perfect, had to suffer and die because of their faults.
Sometimes it is hard to understand why God requires so much for this reconciliation - why not just wipe the slate clean with the pass of the hand, or something else that is 'simple'? (After all, He is omnipotent and can do anything, right?) But if He did that, it would lessen the importance of His Holiness, and it would make insignificant the amount of the trespass we have committed. Think of it this way: perfection plus anything less ruins the perfect state. It would be the ultimate disruption of perfection, and by the definition of His nature, He could not do this (just as even an omnipotent being cannot make a square circle. Consider the thoughts of A.W. Tozer:
"God's first concern for His universe is its moral health. To preserve His creation God must destroy what ever would destroy it."
Predictions of a Savior - The ancient believers were looking for a messiah - a savior who would set them free from the bondage of sin. They had faith in this messiah because of references to Him in the scriptures.
"We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all." Isaiah 53:6
"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit." Psalm 32:1-2
"...though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow..." Isaiah 1:18b
"But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed." Isaiah 53:5
"Therefore I will give him a portion among the great...because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors." Isaiah 53:12b
It is clear from these passages, written as much as 1000 B.C., that the prophets were speaking of a Messiah that will provide peace and reconciliation with God.
The NEW Covenant – Now that we can understand the seriousness of the problem, we see the significance of the 'remedy'. We know that we ourselves could never achieve this 'remedy', our only hope is in God Himself. God has provided the means of reconciliation to us, fulfilling the same requirements as the old covenant, with a pure and innocent sacrifice, this time for all that believe. This sacrifice for us was his very son, Jesus the Christ (chosen one.) Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice - the one of perfect purity and of unlimited worth (because He is Himself God!) His sacrifice now justifies sinners freely without compromising the perfection of His holiness. The law of the old covenant is now fulfilled in those who believe in the Christ as their salvation to God. This new covenant replaces the old, and this trust (aka faith) is the cornerstone of this new covenant.
To Summarize, the need for a Messiah (savior) comes from the unreachable distance we have between ourselves (known as imperfection) and the perfect (God). Praise God for His love and mercy to us, for His gift of grace and of redemption - His Salvation plan for us!
"So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty." Luke 17:10
"We who are Jews by birth and not ‘Gentile sinners’ know that a man is not justified by observing the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. So we, too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by observing the law, because by observing the law no one will be justified." Galatians 2:15-16
"For if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing." Galatians 2:21b
"Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because ‘the righteous will live by faith.’ " Galatians 3:11