Saving the Saved

Title: Saving the Saved

Bible Book: Selected Passages

Author: Paul E. Brown

Subject: Salvation; Growth, Christian; Christian Living



The title of this sermon is “Saving the Saved.” That may strike you as a strange title. Perhaps you are saying, “But I thought that once a person was truly saved he never needed to be saved again.” But I come this morning to declare, on the authority of the Word of God, that multitudes of saved people desperately need to be saved.

I. Salvation Consists of Three Stages

In explaining what I mean, let me begin by calling attention to the fact that, according to the Bible, SALVATION CONSISTS OF THREE STAGES.

A. Conversion or the New Birth

First, there is that initial stage which is called conversion, or the new birth. When a person repents of his sins and in faith commits himself to Jesus Christ, he is - that very moment - forever saved from the eternal PENALTY of sin, that penalty being an unending hell.

In Ephesians 2:8-9 we read: “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

Once you have been saved in that initial sense - that is, converted, born again - that experience need not and cannot be repeated; it is forever. Upon becoming a child of God through repentance and faith, you are his child permanently. Jesus said, in John 10:28, “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”

Earlier, in John 5:24, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.”

B. Christian Growth

But, as profoundly important as conversion - the new birth - is, that’s not all there is to salvation. The Bible teaches that from the moment of conversion until the time we die, we are to grow spiritually - and that‘s the second stage of salvation: Christian growth. 2 Peter 3:18 says, “But grow in grace [or it could be legitimately translated, “go on growing in grace”], and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ....”

Philippians 1:6 says, “Being confident of this very thing, that he [God] which hath begun a good work in you [the good work of salvation] will perform it [literally, in the Greek, keep on performing it] until the day of Jesus Christ [that is, until we meet Jesus in death, or until he comes again and we meet him in the air].”

Even though we received a new nature when we were converted, the old nature continues to rear its ugly head, so that the believer is constantly engaged in spiritual conflict. But as we utilize the resources that God makes available to us and as we call on him day by day, he increasingly saves us from the POWER of sin in our daily lives. That’s what Paul was referring to when he wrote in Romans 5:10: “For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.”

C. At Home In Heaven

There is, then, a third and final stage of salvation, which occurs at the moment of death. At the instant of death the Christian goes immediately to heaven. His body, of course, awaits the final resurrection, but his soul - or spirit, sometimes the two terms are used interchangeably - goes immediately to heaven and is forever saved - in other words, set free - from even the very PRESENCE of sin.

Paul, writing to Christians, said, in Romans 13:11, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” Paul says, “If you’re ever going to get moving and make an impact for God, you’d better do it now - because time is running out; every day brings you nearer to that final stage of salvation, that time when you’ll go to be with the Lord and all earthly opportunity will be gone.”

In 1 Peter 1:3-6 we read:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by he resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled [that is, there will be no sin there! - yet you and I who are believers will be there - which means, obviously, that you and I will be free from every single taint of sin!], and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you, Who are kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need by, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.”

II. Christian Growth

Now, it is to that SECOND STAGE OF SALVATION that I wish to direct our attention.

Of course, if you’ve never experienced conversion - the first stage of salvation - then the second and third stages have no meaning for you - they are moot issues to you. So, if you’ve never been born again, I beseech you to repent of your sins, yield yourself in faith to Christ, and thereby receive God’s matchless gift of eternal life.

But if you’ve already been converted, then I call your attention to that second stage of salvation, Christian growth - because it is in that regard that many of us so often foul up - some to one degree, some to another, but most of us to a far greater degree than we like to admit.

Why is that the case? Why is it that so many of us who profess Christ as Lord and Savior seem to make such slow spiritual progress, are so often weak, and so often give in to temptation? The reason is that so much of the time we don’t do our part.

“But, preacher,” someone says, “I thought it was God who causes us to grow spiritually and to win victories over temptation.” It is, of course, true that ultimately God is the one who causes spiritual growth - but it is also true that he brings about growth in our lives to the extent that we cooperate with him.

In Philippians 2:12-13 we read: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”

That is NOT a passage on how to be converted; rather, it is written to people who are ALREADY converted as to how they can make progress in that second stage of salvation, spiritual growth.

You and I who are Christians must work at the process of spiritual growth - we must work out our own salvation. I used to raise cotton. God would miraculously make that seed sprout, and the young, tender cotton plants would appear - then we would work out that crop. We didn’t work to GET cotton plants; we worked to GROW those plants that God had already given us. When you work out at the health club, you’re not working to get a body - you’re working to develop the body you already have. So, when you work out your own salvation, you’re not working to GET spiritual life - you’re working to DEVELOP the spiritual life that you already have. In other words, you’re working to grow spiritually.

The passage says that we’re to work at it with fear and trembling. That doesn’t mean that we are to cower or to be intimidated. It means that we are to recognize the awesome responsibility that is ours in the matter of spiritual progress. Thus, we are to utilize all the tools God has placed at our disposal for growth. We’re to read the Bible; we’re to pray; we’re to be faithful in attending church; we’re to look for ways we can serve and help carry God’s work forward.

And, as already emphasized, all the while that we’re working at the matter of spiritual progress, we must at the same time look to God for the ultimate victory. Paul said that God works in us “both to will and to do.” That is, as we pour our very best into the battle, God strengthens our resolve, our will - and then he spiritually energizes us, he empowers us, so that we can overcome temptation.

What happens when we don’t do our part - when we don’t work at it like we should? What happens is that we become spiritually weak and vulnerable, and the devil temporarily overpowers us. I say “temporarily” because God will not allow a truly born again person to go on and on in sin, without addressing the problem. Either we will repent and get back in line on our own, or else he will chastise us. On rare occasions he has even been known to take people out if they continue in their obstinacy. The Bible gives examples of that happening.

Whatever sins have temporarily overcome you in your daily walk as a believer, God wants to save you from them - and he will, if you’ll confess them, ask his forgiveness, and resolve that from this point forward you will more determinedly than ever cooperate with him. James 4:7 says, “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

A. Sins of the Body

Many of us who are Christians need to be saved from sins of an outward, bodily nature. All of us continually face the threat of bodily sins overpowering us - although the particular form of the temptation varies from one person to the next. With some it’s the sin of gluttony. Some others have rationalized and convinced themselves that it’s okay to take a drink of alcohol now and then, even though Proverbs 20:1 warns: “Wine is a mocker, strong drink is raging: and whosoever is deceived thereby is not wise.” With some other professed Christians it’s drugs, or sexual immorality, or laziness. But the Bible teaches that proper treatment of the body is a sacred trust. Listen to Paul’s admonition in 1 Corinthians 6:13b, 19-20:

“Now the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord; and the Lord for the body. What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” To whatever degree you and I are guilty, we need to ask God to save us from those sins involving mistreatment or neglect of our physical body.

B. Sins of the Tongue

Many of us desperately need to be saved from sins of the tongue.

Ephesians 4:29-30 says, “Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.”

Christians sometimes sin with their tongue is by using foul language. Another way we often sin with our tongues is by unkind, abrasive remarks. A certain woman who had a reputation for cutting other people down once said to John Wesley, “Mr. Wesley, I always say whatever is on my mind. That’s my talent.” To which Wesley replied: “Well, lady, I believe that’s one talent God would not mind your burying.” Some people pride themselves on being brutally frank; but it’s better to be kindly honest.

We also sin with our tongue when we engage in gossip. The author of Proverbs 18:8 declared: “The words of a talebearer are as wounds, and they go down into the innermost parts of the belly.”

We’ve all heard the statement that “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” That’s a lie from the depths of the bottomless pit. Words can break up friendships. Words can split churches. Words can destroy marriages or reputations. Words can do all sorts of damage.

There are many of us who - even though we’ve been born again and are going to heaven when we die - desperately need to be saved from sins of the tongue which have dragged us down and have wiped out or at least severely crippled our credibility and effectiveness.

C. Sins of Attitude

Many of us need to be saved from sins of attitude. You may be as straight as an arrow theologically and as clean as a whistle in terms of outward morals - and that’s all well and good, and is to be commended. But if you’re harboring within your heart a wrong, ugly attitude, you’re dishonoring God, you’re nullifying your influence as a Christian - and you need to be saved from that unholy mindset.

With some it’s the sinful attitude of jealousy, with others it’s the sin of lust, with some it’s covetousness. With still others it’s the sin of an unforgiving spirit. You’ll never know the joy that God wants you to experience, and you’ll never exert the influence God wants you to have, so long as you carry around that unforgiving attitude. Ephesians 4:31-32 says: “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamor, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.” Jesus said, in Matthew 6:14-15: “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” That’s as plain as it can get. If you refuse to forgive those who have offended you, you are thereby burning the bridge over which you yourself have to walk - and you need to ask God to save you, to deliver you, from that unforgiving attitude.

D. Sins of Omission

Multitudes of us need to be saved from sins of omission. James 4:17 says, “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.”

If we know that we ought to minister to someone and don’t do it, or if we know that we ought to be using a particular talent for God and don’t do it, that’s sin. If we fail to tithe, or to be faithful to our church in attendance or other ways, or if we fail to do anything in the line of our responsibility as a believer, we’re sinning against God, and we need to cry out to him to save us from that sin of omission.


A man told of visiting a wild-life refuge. As he made his way through the resort, he was saddened to see a great eagle standing on the ground. He wondered why that majestic bird didn’t soar into the skies, then he saw the reason. Attached to the eagle’s leg was a small but strong chain 20 or 30 feet in length, with the other end bolted to a giant rock. The visitor remarked that there was something pathetic about seeing that great king of birds, destined for the heavens, chained to earth.

I’m afraid that describes many of us who name Christ as Lord and Savior. We’ve been converted, and we ought to be soaring on the wings of faith to new heights of Christian growth and effectiveness. But alas, we’ve allowed sins of the flesh, or sins of the tongue, or sins of attitude, or sins of omission, to chain us - so that we are spiritually stymied; at best our lives are flat, and at worst miserable and defeated.

You can change that situation, and you can change it right now. Face up to the sins that have contaminated your Christian walk, ask God to forgive you and cleanse you, make right any broken relationship, make restitution wherever that’s possible - and God will save you from the power of those sins that have crept into your life and drained you of your best.

Then, this word to every person present who has never been converted: You can’t grow spiritually until you’ve been made alive spiritually - and that’s exactly what God wants to do for you: he wants to give you eternal life. The way you receive that gift is by meeting his two non-negotiable conditions set forth in Acts 20:21: “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for your sins, and he stands ready to save you if only you’ll surrender to him. Romans 10:13 says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

Make your decision for Christ. If you’re a Christian who needs to get some things right and rededicate your life, come and make known that decision as we sing our hymn of invitation. If you need to make a first-time commitment to Jesus and be born again, make that decision and share it publicly while we sing.

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