AfterGlow: The Difference Between Recovery and Salvation (Sept-Oct 1993)

By Matt Dabbs

by Phillip Morrison
September – October, 1993

The phone call came at a most inconvenient time, but I paused long enough to talk with the recovering alcoholic. It didn’t take long; he just wanted me to know he’d been sober for 10 days. As I shared the excitement of his victory, I remembered another alcoholic I had met a few days before. “My name is Bill, and I’m an alcoholic,” he began. “I haven’t had a drink since July 5, 1978.” One had been sober just 10 days, the other more than 15 years, but both were still alcoholics, still in recovery.

That’s the big difference between recovery and salvation: recovery programs treat, but salvation heals. Yet, although the blood of Jesus takes away sin in a definable salvation experience, it is no one-shot miracle potion which never needs renewing. We have been saved by the blood of Jesus, and it continues to cleanse us, continuously washing our sins away (I John 1:5-7).

People in recovery need to stay in close touch with their fellow-victims, leaning on one another, remembering the goals they have set, drawing strength from a power higher than themselves. Likewise, people who are saved need to stay in close touch with their fellow sinners, sharing Christian fellowship, looking forward to their heavenly destiny, trusting their Lord and Savior for constant cleansing (1 John 1:9-11).

It would be great if we could say that we have been sinless for 15 years…or even for 10 days. If we could make such a claim we would likely be praised as super-righteous. Even such saintly behavior, however, would not exempt us from the need of Jesus’ cleansing.

By God’s grace I may have been spared addiction to alcohol or drugs. But I have not been spared addiction to sin. Like every person who has ever lived, I have forsaken my Creator and I must, for the sake of my soul, turn back to him and accept his gift of grace (1 John 1:8-10). I may not need recovery (though that’s debatable), but I do need salvation (and that’s not debatable).

Recovery and salvation are sometimes seen as separate and unrelated, but the truth is that they are inseparably linked. Salvation is the logical end result of biblical recovery. And continuing recovery is the daily commitment of one who has come to know God’s salvation.

The recognition that salvation and recovery are linked has led to the publication of The Life Recovery Bible (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1992). The biblical text is supplemented with a variety of helpful notes, devotionals, and other recovery-based materials. As the Preface correctly notes, “Without God, there is no recovery, only disappointing substitutions and repeated failure.” We must better understand “who God is and how he wants to heal our brokenness and set us on the path toward wholeness.” That’s the recovery that results in salvation.Wineskins Magazine

Phillip MorrisonPhillip Morrison was, for many years, managing editor of Wineskins Magazine and wrote the column “AfterGlow” opposite its inside back cover. He was also the former managing editor for Upreach magazine, and worked as a fund-raising consultant and conducted study tours to Bible lands.

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Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of


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