Dr. C. S. Lovett’s
MARANATHA FAMILY NEWSLETTER
THE SALVATION RIDDLE
A Christian missionary stopped a renowned evangelist on the street. “Sir,” he challenged, “Are you saved?” He was hoping to impress the distinguished evangelist with his zeal. The evangelist’s reply caught the missionary off guard, “Definitely…sometimes…but not yet!”
The missionary was dumbfounded. He stared at the famous evangelist for a moment, then turned away baffled. The evangelist knew that once the young man solved the riddle, he’d have a valuable key to the Bible.
CAN YOU ANSWER IT?
Would you have understood the evangelist? If not, you might save this article. The answer is critical. He was giving the missionary a lesson in the THREE TENSES OF SALVATION, a truth every Christian should know. Without a knowledge of these three tenses, many passages baffle the believer. It should be that when you come across the word SAVED or SALVATION in the Bible, you know at once which tense is meant.
“Definitely…sometimes…but not yet!”
When the evangelist said “definitely,” he was referring to the past tense of salvation—the GUILT of sin. When he said “sometimes,” he was speaking of the present tense of salvation—the POWER of sin. And when he said, “not yet,” he was referring to the future tense of salvation—the PRESENCE of sin.
Now these three, the GUILT, POWER, AND PRESENCE of sin, are like the three speeds on a car with manual transmission—low, second, and high. As we have to pass through all the gears to get going, so must we pass through the past, present, and future tenses of salvation to reach the goal God has for us. The world “salvation” means deliverance.
I am not merely citing the obvious. See what this means. It is the GUILT of sin that sends men to hell. The act doesn’t, the guilt does. And that’s what Jesus bore on the cross 2000 years ago—OUR GUILT. He paid the PENALTY for our sins. His “once for all” sacrifice sanctifies us completely (Heb. 10:10). “For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified” (vs. 14).
When we take Jesus as our Savior, heaven’s Judge says we’re “not guilty” of all sin—sins of the past, sins committed today, or sins committed tomorrow. There is no way sin can send a true Christian to hell. Why? The GUILT is gone. To be delivered from GUILT is to be delivered from hell!
So when you hear someone talking about the security of the believer, he is referring to the past tense of salvation, deliverance from the GUILT of sin. That’s why the evangelist could say “definitely!” He knew Jesus’ shed blood removed his guilt—forever! The penalty was paid in full!
BUT WE STILL SIN
Another obvious statement, one that brings us to the PRESENT TENSE of salvation—the power of sin. When we’re saved, we RETAIN our OLD NATURES. God doesn’t take them away. He merely adds the new nature (the divine nature) so that we live in the Christian life with two natures (2 Peter 1:4; Eph. 4:22,24). Putting one’s trust in Jesus and receiving forgiveness doesn’t make him sinless. His old nature still sins.
It is the struggle between our two natures that makes for Christian growth. Paul calls it the “fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12). Without this struggle we would never change, we would never overcome, and we would never grow. If God removed or cancelled our old natures so that we no longer sinned, there would be no point in leaving us on this earth. Without temptation and the struggle against it, there’s no way for a person to develop in the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29).
God wants us to struggle against sin. So during our Christian lives (on earth) we feel the power of sin and learn to triumph over it. In the process, we get stronger and stronger, changing into Jesus’ likeness. Yes, we sin, but not all the time. Many of us sin more than we care to admit. But, praise God, “there’s no condemnation” while we’re growing up in Christ (Rom 8:1). God has already taken care of the guilt.
THE STRUGGLE IS TEMPORARY
One day we’ll be free of the POWER OF SIN. When? When the Lord returns, or when death overtakes us—whichever comes first. Once we’re out of this body, we’re FREE of the old nature and clothed only in the righteousness of Christ’s perfect nature. In that, we’ll be delivered from the PRESENCE OF SIN, enjoying the future tense of our salvation.
SEEING THE THREE TENSES IN THE WORD
Once you learn the three tenses, it’s exciting to discover them in the Word. Remembering that salvation means deliverance, let’s check some refences that may have baffled you in the past.
PAST TENSE: This is the most commonly used tense, i.e., “For by grace you have been saved through faith” (Eph. 2:8). “And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47).
PRESENT TENSE: This is the hardest to see, but I’ll start off with verses that lead the mind to hold the present tense: “But women will be preserved through the bearing of children if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint” (1 Tim. 2:15). Can childbearing wash away a person’s sins? No. A woman kept busy with children is delivered from idleness and mischief.
First Timothy 4:16 is similar. Here Paul tells Timothy he can save himself and others by paying “close attention to yourself and to your teaching.” You know that won’t save anyone from hell.
Philippians 2:12 says to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.” The only phase of our salvation where we fear and tremble is the PRESENT TENSE, where the power of sin can affect our working out what God works in us. This is something under our control. There’s no fear or trembling connected with the PAST and FUTURE tenses, for they are performed by God, not us.
FUTURE TENSE: This is easy to see. Usually the text indicates the future is intended. First Peter 1:5, “…kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” To nail it down, Peter adds, “receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls” (vs. 9). This occurs at the appearing of Christ (vs. 7).
Hebrews 9:28 states Christ will “appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” Jesus’ second coming is definitely in the future. Therefore, this is our future salvation from the presence of sin, for we appear with Him (Col. 3:4).
In summary, the evangelist’s riddle looks like this:
The Three Tenses of Salvation
Past Tense (Definitely) GUILT
Present Tense (Sometimes) POWER
Future Tense (But Not Yet) PRESENSE
THE DIFFICULT TENSE
Sin in the life of the Christian is always a problem, but it is vital to see that God purposely leaves us in a sinful environment with our OLD NATURES, knowing we’ll be tempted to sin. It’s not because He wants us to sin. He wants us to fight against it. He knows that’s the only way we can become strong in Him. But in the process, He also knows WE'RE GOING TO SIN. He knows there are times we’re going to yield to the old nature and sin, even when we have the power to say “NO.” But there’s nothing unfair about this. It’s just temporary, and we’re all in the same boat. However, knowing this solves a big problem.
A look at First John 1:10 tells us that WE SIN, and we’re liars if we say we don’t sin. Now look a little further to First John 3:9. It says a person born of God CANNOT SIN! (Some modern translations water this down to read “practice sinning or continue sinning.” But the Greek text clearly says CANNOT SIN).
What do you think of that! In the very same book the same author says, “We’re sinners,” and in the next breath says, “Those born of God cannot sin.” Some problem? What’s the answer? You should see it by now, but I’ll point it out.
When John says we sin, he’s referring to the OLD NATURE, to which you and I yield at times. When he says we CANNOT SIN, he’s referring to the NEW NATURE, to which you and I also yield at times. The reason we can’t sin while yielded to the new nature is because it is Jesus’ own nature, the nature “born of God.” The old nature is “born of flesh” (John 1:13). It is because we have this NEW NATURE that we are God’s sons and suffer “no condemnation” even though we sin. It also GUARANTEES our future with the Lord (Eph. 1:13,14).
ISN’T THAT BEAUTIFUL?
Doesn’t it excite you to see such a big TRUTH leap from the pages of the Word! Once you see the PRESENT TENSE, you’ll never again be baffled by your own sin. We’re going to sin in the process of growing up in Christ, but hopefully it will be less and less. And then, one day, it will all be behind us.
To me it’s a SUPER TRUTH. It can free Christians from confusion, doubt, and even FEAR concerning their salvation. How the devil likes to pounce when a believer gives in to the old nature (flesh). Now that you know better, don’t let him work you over the next time it happens to you.
I feel privileged to touch your life with a truth as this. I know that once you lay hold of this truth, you’ll never be puzzled by the. . .
THREE TENSES OF SALVATION!
C. S. Lovett
(Edited by Marjorie Lovett)
© 2018 Personal Christianity. All rights reserved.
Question: “How can anyone be sure the Bible is true. It was written by different men over a period of centuries. So how can it possibly be something anyone should take seriously?”
Answer: The Bible is also called God’s Word. Most Christians claim that title for it. So if it really is God’s Word, then God is the One Who has to make it real and certify it to the hearts of men and women. And that is just what He does. How? By the witness of His Spirit to the person who reads it with the eyes of his heart. As the person reads the Word, eager to know if what he is reading is true, then it becomes the responsibility of the Holy Spirit to certify what he’s reading is the true Word of God.
The open-hearted reader senses he is reading something God has put before him and with his heart a conviction arises, “Yes, this is true.” He doesn’t question it. No one can do this for another. Only the Spirit can confirm God’s Word to a believing heart. There is no outward proof of any kind. All we have is the Word of God on the outside and the Spirit of God on the inside.
“But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14 NKJV).
For information on how to get you and your family ready for the Lord's appearing, read Dr. Lovett's book, The Prepared Life, available now on Amazon.com HERE. Some Bookstores can order it for you if you don't have the internet.
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"Preparing for His Appearing" Since 1951