Question: "What does it mean that Jesus saves?"
Answer: Jesus saves is a popular slogan on bumper stickers, signs at athletic events, and even banners being pulled across the sky by small airplanes. Sadly, few who see the phrase Jesus saves truly understand what it means. Those two words pack a tremendous amount of power and truth.
Jesus saves, but who is Jesus?
Most people understand that Jesus was a man who lived in Israel about 2,000 years ago. Virtually every religion in the world views Jesus as a good teacher and/or a prophet. And while Jesus was truly a good teacher and a prophet, those job descriptions do not capture who Jesus truly is, nor do they explain how or why Jesus saves. Jesus is God in human form (John 1:1, 14). He came to Earth as a true human being (1 John 4:2) in the person of Jesus Christ in order to save us. That brings up the next question: why do we need to be saved?
Jesus saves, but why do we need to be saved?
The Bible declares that every human being who has ever lived has sinned (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23). To sin is to do anything in thought, word, or deed that contradicts God’s perfect and holy character. Because of our sin, we are separated from God and deserve judgment from God (John 3:18, 36). God is perfectly just, so He cannot allow sin to go unpunished. Since God is the infinite and eternal Creator, all sin is ultimately against Him (Psalm 51:4), and only an infinite and eternal punishment is sufficient. Eternal death—separation from God—is the only just punishment for sin. That is why we need to be saved.
Jesus saves, but how does He save?
Because we have sinned against an infinite God, either a finite person (each one of us) must pay for our sins for an infinite amount of time, or an infinite Person (Jesus) must pay for our sins one time. There is no other option. Jesus saves us by dying in our place. Jesus Christ sacrificed Himself on our behalf, paying the infinite and eternal penalty only He could pay (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2). Jesus took the punishment that we deserve in order to save us from an eternal destiny separated from God. Because of His great love for us, Jesus laid down His life (John 15:13), paying the penalty that we had earned, but could not pay. Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead, demonstrating that His death was indeed sufficient to pay for our sins and that His life conquers death on our behalf (1 Corinthians 15).
Jesus saves, but whom does He save?
Jesus saves all who will receive His gift of salvation by faith. Jesus saves all those who cease trying to save themselves and fully trust in His sacrifice alone as the payment for sin (John 3:16; Acts 16:31). Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient to pay for the sins of all humanity, but His gift of salvation is only received through faith (John 1:12). We must trust Him.
If you now understand what it means that Jesus saves, and you want to trust in Him as your personal Savior, you can, as an act of faith, communicate the following to God: “God, I know that I am a sinner, and I know that because of my sin I deserve to be eternally separated from you. Even though I do not deserve it, thank you for loving me and providing the sacrifice for my sins through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I believe that Jesus died for my sins, and I trust in Him alone to save me. From this point forward, help me to live my life for you instead of for sin. Help me to live the rest of my life in gratitude for the wonderful salvation you have provided. Thank you, Jesus, for saving me!”