Sunday, January 04, 2015

S1. Jesus saves.

It dawned on me that last week's post should probably have been the second in the unit on salvation in my ongoing series, theology in bullet points. So here now is the first one.

The first section of the series was on God and Creation, and I have also finished units on Christology and Atonement.
Jesus saves.

It is a core belief of Christianity that the default state of humanity is one of alienation from God. As Romans 3:23 puts it, "All have sinned and are lacking the glory of God." This state of humanity, sometimes called a state of "total depravity," is one from which no human can lift him or herself. [1] It is thus only by way of God's grace, his "unmerited favor," that we can be reconciled to God, that we can be "saved."

Salvation has to do with escaping something harmful or undesirable. There are a number of different respects in which Christ's death saves us, and the study of salvation is called soteriology.

1. Ultimately, Christ's death saves us from death. It rescues us from physical death as the final word of our existence and it saves us from eternal death in hell, however it is conceived. We escape the finality of existence because of Christ's death.

2. In the New Testament, the primary sense of salvation is escape from God's coming wrath. As Romans 5:9 puts it: "Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God" (NRSV). It was the belief of the earliest church that Jesus would literally return to earth to rule God's kingdom and that preceding his full reign would be a judgment (e.g., 1 Cor. 6:2-3). Salvation, in its primary New Testament sense, thus had to do with escape from the coming wrath of God (e.g., Rom. 1:18).

This future salvation should not be a matter of doubt for us if we have the Holy Spirit, who is a seal of God's ownership and who guarantees our inheritance (2 Cor. 1:22; 5:5). Paul and the New Testament do not teach that this guarantee is an absolute. Amazingly, a person can despise the grace of God and throw it away (e.g., Heb. 10:26, 29). But the normal expectation is that those who have received the Spirit will end up being saved in the end. Therefore, we can say, figuratively, "I am saved," now, in anticipation of the literal salvation that will occur on the Day of Judgment (e.g., Eph. 2:8).

3. We might also say, however, that Christ's death can save us now from power of Sin. While the New Testament does not use the word "save" (sozo) in this way, it is certainly true to the meaning of the biblical text. Paul tells the Romans that they are not to let Sin rule over their bodies (e.g., Rom. 6:12) and that the Holy Spirit sets us free from the power of Sin and death (Rom. 8:2). Therefore, it is perfectly appropriate to say that the Spirit "saves" us from the power of Sin. We are saved from our enslavement to Sin as a power over us.

4. The Gospel of Luke also attests another distinct meaning to the word sozo, namely, "to heal." [1] Jesus says to the blind man in Luke 18:42, "Receive your sight; your faith has healed you" (NIV). While it is possible that Luke intends us to hear a double entendre here, the primary meaning of the word is "heal" rather than "save."

Certainly Christians believe that Jesus' death makes possible our healing as humans. Part of our salvation is the restoration of the image of God in us. God begins to restore us to what true humanity is supposed to look like. God heals us of our sin.

5. The process of salvation, which Wesley called an "order of salvation" (ordo salutis) begins with God and ends with the full restoration of both humanity and the creation to its intended glory. It begins with God's plan (predestination), which included his reaching out to us long before we knew it, indeed long before we were ever born (prevenient grace).

When we respond, by God's power, to his invitation by faith and repentance, he forgives us of our past. He fills us with his Spirit and puts his seal of ownership on us (initial sanctification), freeing us from our past enslavement (redemption) and making us spiritually alive again (regeneration). We are "born again." New creation has taken place. He incorporates us into Christ and makes us his children (adoption). He pronounces us in right standing with him (justification). We are at peace with God.

This process of restoring us to life is a process (progressive sanctification) that requires every bit of us (entire sanctification). As long as we are in our current flesh in this world, there will always be temptation to sin. We long for the transformation of our bodies and the creation when Christ returns (glorification).

Next week: S3. God was reaching out to us far before we knew it.

[1] Words have distinctly different meanings each time they are used. It is thus the "overload fallacy" to try to mix different meanings of a word together when interpreting a single instance of the word. Sozo either means to save or to heal, but it doesn't mean both at the same time, unless an author is intentionally making a play on words, a double entendre. Therefore, Ephesians 2:8 does not mean, "By grace you have been healed," and it at least is not clear that Luke 18:42 means, "Your faith has saved you."

1 comment:

Steve Finnell said...


The assumption of the Virgin Mary according to the Catholic church is that Mary was bodily taken to heaven after her death.

Why would anyone assume something that is contrary to Scripture? Why take for granted a fact that is demonstrably false?

John 3:13 No one has ascended into heaven , but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.(NASB)

The Virgin Mary has not made the trip to heaven.

Acts 2:34 For it was not David who ascended into heaven... (NASB)

Davids body is still in the grave and so is the body of the Virgin Mary.

1 Corinthians 15:50-53 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.....(NASB)

Mary's flesh cannot nor has it inherited the kingdom of God.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-17.....16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first....(NASB)

Christians will be bodily resurrected from the grave when Jesus returns, until then then they will remain in the grave as will the Virgin Mary.

1 Corinthians 15:20-23 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by man came death, by man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming,(NASB)

There will be no bodily resurrections of the dead until Jesus returns. The Virgin Mary was not granted a special resurrection from the grave.

NOTE: Today, the belief in the corporeal assumption of Mary is universal in the East and in the West; according to Benedict XIV(Defestis B.V.M viii, 18) it is a probable opinion, which to deny were impious and blasphemous.(Ref. Catholic Encyclopedia:Assumption of Mary)

Would it be blasphemous to reject an opinion or blasphemous to reject the written word of God?