Sunday, June 10, 2018

The Languauge of Salvation

I think some of the language relating to salvation needs some fine tuning, and the date when we were saved needs a major correction.

Many a person will say something like "It was on the 3rd December 2009 when I decided to invite Jesus into my heart and become a Christian".
And we praise God for such a person's experience and their inclusion in the Body of Christ, becoming part of the first fruits of God's great harvest.

Let's assume this person's name is Shirley.
Then may I suggest we rewrite this description of Shirley's experience in more Biblical terms, not to be petty, but to help us understand God's ways a little better.

Firstly, we were all saved about 2000 years ago when Jesus died, was entombed and rose again in about 30AD. (Notice I didn't say Jesus was buried because he wasn't, he was placed in a tomb.) Shirley was saved at that time - she just didn't realise it or had been given the faith to believe it until 2009.

"For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died." [2 Cor 5 : 14]
And
"one who has died has been set free from sin". [Romans 6:7]
Sometimes an enthusiastic evangelical Christian will ask a new acquaintance, "Are you saved?", which demonstrates a limited understanding of what happened on the cross. If Jesus was successful when he died for the sins of the world then it should be obvious that the new friend is saved, even if they are not aware of it.
God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their sins against them, and entrusting to us this message of reconciliation.
[2 Cor 5 : 19]

Jesus praying to his Father: 
"I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do." [John 17: 4]
And on the cross, just before he died, Jesus said,
"It is finished." With that, he bowed his head, and gave up his spirit.
[John 19 : 30]

So Shirley was saved when Jesus finished his work on the cross about 2000 years ago.

Secondly, Shirley did not choose God, but God chose Shirley, just as he chose his first disciples. [John 15 : 16]
He chose her to be one of His first fruits, by drawing her to Him and giving her the faith to believe the good news on that December day.

People cannot come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them to me. [John 6 : 44]
(And Jesus promised that everyone would eventually be drawn, see John 12 : 32)

So here's the rewrite:
"It was on the 3rd December that God gave me the faith to believe that Jesus died on the cross to deal with my sins and has chosen me to serve him in the Body of Christ."
And she may well add, "What a joy and privilege that was, and still is."

So is this being petty?  I don't think so.  It recognises the full value of what Jesus accomplished on the cross and corrects our theology by putting God in control, not us.
I am more persuaded by the Biblical doctrine of God's sovereignty than the mainstream church's doctrine of mankind's free will.
However, I know I am in a fairly small minority as we have been indoctrinated with the "free will" message for so long, both inside and outside the church.

Blessings, Barry

Monday, June 4, 2018

Don't Leave John 3:16 Alone

John 3 : 16 is probably the best known verse in the Bible and has been committed to memory by millions.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
(As long-time readers of this blog will know, "eternal" is not a correct translation of the Greek in this verse, but we won't focus on that in this post.)

Clearly this verse states that belief is needed for anyone to attain life.
So this restricts life to those to whom God has given belief (faith).

Now let's look at the next verse (sentence).

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. [John 3 : 17]
This verse claims that God is going to save the world, for this is the reason Jesus came.

So let's put these two claims together.
Belief (faith) is needed to attain life AND God is going to save the world (everyone).


These two claims can only be consistent with each other IF God is going to give belief to the world, to everyone.
And if he hasn't done so by the time anyone dies and leaves this planet, he must be planning to do so in the ages still ahead of us.

One of our most-quoted verses shows this link ...

For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.
[1 Timothy 4 : 10]

So to understand God's plan for everyone we can't afford to consider John 3 : 16 on its own. We need the next verse with it to complete the picture.

Blessings, Barry