You have just given your heart to Jesus. You have repented and your sins have been forgiven. In other words, you have been saved! Saved from the consequences of sin, which is death. Jesus Christ has paid that debt for you, and now, because you believe in Him, you have received eternal life! (John 3:16.) This is a wonderfully great gift of grace.
But is that all? Is that the whole definition of what it means to be saved? What about what the author of the letter to the Hebrews writes? “… He is also able to save to the uttermost [completely] those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession [pray] for them.” Hebrews 7:25. What does it mean that He will “save to the uttermost”?
He is able to save to the uttermost – a much deeper salvation
Hebrews 7:25 speaks of a much deeper salvation, a salvation not just from the result or consequences of sin, but from the very slavery and chains of sin. You can be saved from being bound to doing the same sins over and over again, from needing forgiveness again and again! You can actually be saved not just from the punishment for giving in to outbursts of anger, for example, but you can be set free from the source of anger which lies in your flesh, in your human nature. This happens when you are obedient to the reminding of the Holy Spirit and deny these sinful desires and tendencies in your flesh, in your human nature. You make a conscious decision not to give in to them, and by the help of the Spirit say “No” to them before they develop into sin, into a sinful deed. (Romans 8:13 - CEV.) Doesn’t that sound amazing? And since Jesus always lives to make intercession for you, to pray for you, it is guaranteed that it will succeed through the help and power you receive from the Holy Spirit, the Helper He has sent us.
When you are faithful to say “No” to your sinful desires and tendencies whenever you are tempted – things like impure thoughts, jealousy, pride – then you will, if you don’t give up, completely overcome and defeat these sinful tendencies. Piece by piece, they will lose power, until they are completely dead! Virtues will grow where these sinful tendencies were so deeply rooted. This is what is meant in Hebrews 7:25 by “save to the uttermost”.
This is not a quick, once-off process, but a lifelong process of faithfulness. You have to be faithful to the reminding and voice of the Spirit every day. The Spirit will lead you into the whole truth as Jesus said in John 16:13, He will for example show you the source of your anger and jealousy, that it is not other people causing you to get angry or become jealous, but that you are tempted from your own sinful desires and nature (James 1:14). And every time you acknowledge the truth, this truth will make you free in a much deeper degree.
The process of this salvation
This is described and explained by the words of the Apostles, and by Jesus’ own words as well:
“… let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works …” Hebrews 6:1. “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48. “Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on … I press toward the goal …” Philippians 3:12-15. “And let endurance have its full effect…” James 1:4 (CSB).
This is how you “… work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Not because you are so strong and skilful, but because you look forward to your goal with great expectation, to the end or final purpose of your faith. You are obedient to “God who works in you both to will and to do,” and who gives you the power to do! You can be “… confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 2:12-13; Philippians 1:6.
If you are still choosing to sin, then you are not in the process of salvation, let alone being saved to the uttermost. But if you are walking in obedience to the Spirit, you say “No” to the sinful tendencies in your flesh, your human nature, as the Spirit shows them to you, then you will win the fruit of the Spirit. Things like love, joy, kindness, self-control, etc. Then you are in the process that Paul describes in Romans 5:10: “For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” Following Jesus’ example, you are on the way to being saved to the uttermost.
The final purpose of your faith
You will not go into eternity with nothing, but you will be rich with fruits of the Spirit in your own spirit! This is what you have won in the different opportunities that come to you – these opportunities come as trials, temptations, and challenges in your everyday life that show you the sin that is in your flesh. You will be transformed – you will be conformed to the image of Jesus, you will become like Jesus! (Romans 8:28-29) You will share in divine nature! (2 Peter 1:3-4).
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4 (NRS).
“In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed… for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9 (NIV).