29 Jan Why We Believe What We Believe: What is Justification? (Ep 9)
The word “saved” is important to every Christian. It is perhaps the greatest of all themes of the Bible. Listen here, in Episode 9 of Why We Believe What We Believe, as we unpack the word and learn more about the Doctrine of Salvation, or the big word, Soteriology.
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EASLEY: Grace is not simply undeserved favor. Grace is undeserved favor in the face of deserved wrath.
INTRODUCTION: Well welcome to the next episode on Why We Believe What We Believe. You know the word saved is a funny word. I remember years ago seeing a cartoon mocking Christian lingo. Some of the words that Christians use, Christian-ese we might call it. When we think of the word “saved” all sorts of things might pop into our mind. I had a daughter who played soccer for fourteen seasons and I remember when they would “save” a goal. It’s just an odd word and when we add the religious overtones to it, it becomes a little cliche, a little cheeky. We’re not real clear on what it means to be saved.
In the first century the words saved had two meanings: it meant to be saved from death; and then of course in the New Testament a spiritual salvation, a eternal life salvation. When Paul talks about being saved from the sea, he’s speaking literally. “We didn’t drown. Our lives were spared and we were saved.” When we think about the word in the New Testament, we’re not only speaking in the literal saved from death, saved from the sea, saved from torment; we’re speaking eternally, that man does in fact have an opportunity to be saved, not merely from dying, but from eternal death; not merely from a disease, but eternal disease; not merely separated from family and friends, but an eternal separation. Hence, the Doctrine of Salvation. The big word is soteriology. So let’s join the message in progress, again originally delivered at the Moody Bible Institute for the students, faculty, and staff.
How can anyone in a few minutes, how could you explain the grandeur of salvation? How would you talk about salvation so rich and free? What would you say? Where would you turn? Seems to me that the Doctrine of Soteriology is the most important, is the greatest theme in all the Bible. Soteriology of course, from soteria, (Greek translation to English), soter the Saviour, soteriology the study of salvation. At the most basic definition we would think salvation from something, but we need to elaborate salvation to something. We are being saved from and being saved toward.
In this semester, I have been encouraging and nudging everyone, myself probably more than anyone, as I read and reread and study these themes anew to look at some of the key doctrines as to Why We Believe What We Believe. Today I want to briefly touch on Why We Believe What We Believe about soteriology. Why We Believe What We Believe about the Doctrine of Salvation, this great, perhaps the greatest of all themes of the Bible and that you and I and these earthen hands are to handle. When you start studying this salvation concept you can begin a lot of ways like with any branch of theology. Where would you start if you had a blank sheet of paper in your Bible? Where would you begin to think through the issue of salvation? We could think about terms. If you come from different traditions, church experiences, some of us come from Bible church backgrounds, Methodist, Pentecostal, Assemblies, Catholic, all kinds of ologies, and isms, and doctrines, and different denominational backgrounds. You bring those to the table and there’s lots of synonyms. People will use words interchangeably to talk about what it means to be saved. The list I made this week not necessarily inclusive of all important terms but adoption, assurance, atonement, baptism. Many traditions baptism is inseparably sown into what it means to be saved. The concepts of election and predestination which I love, but many people hate. The idea of eternal security, the simple concept of faith, of belief, justification, perseverance, which is another theology that when you walk to you get gum all over your shoes very fast. What does it mean to persevere? Reconciliation, redemption, regeneration, repentance. Does repentance have a role, a part of the process of a person getting saved? Or is it something else? Sanctification, all these and others, a sort of a cocktail of terminology that give us this drink called salvation. Sometimes they’re confusing; sometimes they’re related; sometimes they’re just distant relatives, but they’re terms that all fold into this idea. The crucial piece is how precisely is a person saved? What has to happen?
In our doctrinal statement, I read article four: Man was created in the image of God, but fell into sin. And In that sense is lost. This is true of all men and except a man be born of men, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Salvation is by grace, through faith in Christ who His own self bore our sins in His own body on the tree. The retribution of the wicked and unbelieving, the rewards of the righteous are everlasting and as the rewards is conscience so is the retribution.
Now that phrase is full of many nuances of soteriology. Not only does it address the issue of mans lost estate, man’s need of salvation by faith through grace, but it also branches into a retribution idea. Not only the salvation, but what happens to those who are not saved, so you can see right at the getgo, and as you study different books of theology on your own, “You’ll say, Wow! There are a lot of pieces in here.” Which ones are the crucial pieces that we need to hold onto and understand? Why We Believe What We Believe about the Doctrine of Salvation is not important men and women. It is crucial! It is perhaps the most crucial piece you will ever own to know Why You Believe What You Believe about this Doctrine of Salvation.
If we started with terminology and looked at the Old Testament, we would find a hand full of terms that will tip God’s hand, so to speak, to show us what the Doctrine of Salvation is about. If you have a Bible, open to Exodus 14:13. As you might expect when you hear this term, you will hear the ideas of deliverance and salvation folded into the end of the Exodus. Exodus 14 vs 13. As Moses has lead Israel through the plaques and now hot on their heals, Pharaoh and his army changing his mind once again, pursuing them and in front of them is the sea, and they are wondering what’s going to happen. Moses says vs 13 of Exodus 14, But Moses said to the people, “Do not fear. Stand by and see the salvation of the Lord which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again forever.” As you might imagine, the word here is Yeshua (translation Greek word) salvation which gets folded into our term Joshua and Jesus. The root of Yahshua, which occurs 350 plus times in your Old Testament. Now there’s a temporal of almost every time the word salvation occurs. This being saved from. What are they being saved from? Well the threat of Pharaoh breathing down their necks to kill them. The fear of drowning in the Sea of Galilee. Amazing they were afraid of drowning in those small puddles, isn’t it? That was supposed to be a joke. (laughter) The sea in front of them is death; Pharoah’s army behind them was death, and unless God saved them and delivered them. Now when you think through these kinds of salvation, they’re all temporal, they’re only saving from context, an enemy, a disease, an illness, fear, save me from this thing, and then God saves them, but they have to yet wait again for the next issue. These are all sort of shadow of salvations, postponement, until a greater salvation is needed. Salvation gained spiritual significance very quickly, in fact as you walk through the Old Testament this concept of the deliverance of Israel out of Egypt, is often found in the prophets and in the Psalms of looking back for Israel. Look how God saved us. Psalm 106, Isaiah 43, Hosea 13, all point back many others to the Exodus from Egypt that God delivered us. Of course, the great Passover significance, all the imagery, the innocent lamb, blameless, guiltless, spotless, the blood on the doorpost, and the lentils, the killing of the animal, the eating of the roasted meat, haste with which it’s prepared, the herbs to remind them of the bitter times in Egypt, all that imagery, and then the Angel of Wrath destroys all the firstborns who are not under the blood. What a horrid night that must have been! Then under the cloak of darkness they escape and they lead out and knowing that God has saved their firstborn by the death of a firstborn animal. The image can’t be missed! You make this a perpetual memorial. Don’t forget it! You were saved. You were delivered by the blood of that shadowing lamb. This concept of deliverance carries all through the Old Testament, again and again, and again. God saved His people from their sin, parallel bondage in Egypt, to a new land of rest, both literal and spiritual which they did not enter. The haunt of that remembrance, the aroma of that first roasted lamb, would transfer all the way through the Jewish generation of believers and pious looking forward to salvation, men and women who loved God.
Now when you make this transcontinental jump, you look at the way the words are used outside the Bible. For example, if you look at Greek before our New Testament is penned, there are a number of fields of meaning of the term salvation, sozo, that are quite interesting, to be saved from a peril. If a Physician cures you, outside the Greek New Testament, you are saved. Also an interesting nuance I discovered, was keeping, as in keeping alive pardoned by the law. Think about that for a moment. To be saved, if you are in trouble legally, you have to be pardoned or somehow justice must be paid or you’re going to be killed, if it’s a capital offense. In that sense saving means to be kept alive by the law, interesting use beyond the Bible.
Well if we make another transcontinental jump to the New Testament, let me give you six ways salvation is colored in. First of all there are stories of healing. Jesus uses the term no less than sixteen times in this way in the New Testament. We have both soteria and sozo(Greek word for English translation) central to this discussion. For example, in Luke 7:3, When he heard about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders asking Him to come and save the life of a slave. I find it interesting, those of you who’ve been abroad, when you’re in a culture that has no phone, no fax, no technology, just rumor in a village is amazingly quick. A couple of times I’ve been overseas where there’s zero technology, where it’s like a campout, just a person entering a village runs through that entire village in seconds and you can hear the rumor of “This guys raised somebody from the dead!!” Racing through these villages and cities and this leader says, “Go get Jesus to save the life of my servant.”
A second way we see is salvation from sin. The fact that the announcement of Jesus birth in Matthew 1:21, we read, She will bear a son and you will call His name Jesus. (Back to the Yeshua, salvation) for He will save people from their sins. Here we have the being saved from their sinful condition.
A third way the word is used in many applications is salvation for the lost. Paul says it this way in Romans 10:1: Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God is for their salvation. Paul is praying for other people to be saved. I’ve been asked this question many times over the years. Do we pray for people who are elect? Well the answer is Yes! It says right there, Paul says, “I pray for them to be saved.” That shouldn’t even be a question in our theology. I know many of you like me have a list of names. Some of you have written them down, some of you have them in your head. There are people I have prayed for long as I’ve been a believe of Jesus Christ that they will come to know Him. I at times get weary and tired and say, “Lord, why don’t you answer my prayer?” Then when God in His kind way gives me a dope slap, He says, “Michael, this is my work, not yours. You just keep praying. All I’ve asked you to do is pray. I haven’t asked you to fix everything.”
A fourth way the word is used is salvation from wrath. We don’t like to talk about this in our culture. Romans 5:9. Much more than, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. Back to the Angel of Wrath in the passover, those not under the blood will suffer. So salvation is not just from sin, it’s from wrath that’s going to accompany those who are still in their sinful estate.
Fifth, we’re saved to something and this is kind of fun to study. We’re saved to a glorious future. Listen to Philippians 3:20 and 21, For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Saviour. Are you eagerly waiting for a Saviour? Are you eagerly waiting for a paycheck? Are you eagerly waiting for a job? Are you eagerly waiting for a husband, a wife? Are you eagerly waiting for your firstborn? Are you eagerly waiting your retirement? When’s the last time you or I eagerly awaited our Saviour? I got to be honest. I don’t wake up everyday and say, “Lord, I really wish you’d come today.” Now when lifes really crummy I say, “Lord, I wish you’d come today.” When life is joyful, and sweet, and easy, and the weather’s nice, my kids basically like each other, Cindy and I basically love each other, money in the bank, feel healthy. I’m not eagerly awaiting Christ’s return. Are you? Maybe you’re better than me, God bless you. Eagerly wait for a Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Vs 21, who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. God the Father through Christ has the power to take this thing and resurrect it. And by the exertion in His power glorify it to a new state. That sounds pretty compelling.
Sixth way salvation is used is that it is of God. Two passages in Revelation 12 and Revelation 19. Rev 12:10, I heard a loud voice in heaven saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of God and the authority of His Christ has come. For the accuser of the brethren has been thrown down, He who accuses them before our God, day and night.” So what God is doing, but in that end scene, He’s getting rid of satan and the accuser to ultimately, bring salvation about and Rev 19:1, After these things I heard something like a loud voice, in a great multitude in heaven saying, “Hallelujah, and salvation, glory and power belong to our God.”
What are the issues then and now? What are the issues if Why We Believe What We Believe about salvation is critical? It’s crucial. What are the issues you’re going to face?
1) You’re going to face the corruption, the attack, the watering down, the additon to the gospel. It has always been and it always will be. It was in the first century In Paul’s writing. There’s no surprise that it exists today in our time frame. I find the two issues that seem to always kind of bubble up: The role of works and the assurance, and the security of the believer. What role does works play in salvation, and how does a person know he or she is eternally secure? Two aspects of that: the assurance of salvation; that I am assured of my salvation and secondly, that I understand the eternal security in Christ positionally and literally. If you were to look at denominational splits over the decades, this is the wedge that has hammered the split of the church. It’s what role does works play? What role does repentance play? Is repentance a work? How do you know if you’re really saved? Can you lose your salvation? And this is where the gum on the shoes and the hair starts sticking to the gum on your shoes. Ephesians 2:8 and 9 are very common to all of us. We know it well. We can quote it backwards and forwards in the King James and the NIV, but often we forget verse 10. Let me read it and you try to listen from a fresh set of ears. For by grace, you’ve been saved through faith and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God, not as a result of works that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand, so that we would walk in Him. Let me give you a couple of definitions. Grace of course, is by which we are saved. Grace is not simply undeserved favor. Grace is undeserved favor in the face of deserved wrath. It’s not that God decided to overlook our sins and like we overlook a childs minor disciplinary issue. God, by His grace didn’t just overlook it and say, “Ok, I give you a walk; I give you a buy; I give you a do over.” Grace is His unmerited favor in face of deserved wrath. How do we embrace this? How do we get it? Faith! For by grace you’ve been saved through faith. Faith is the means by which, we might say, the embracing, the connecting, the way we appropriate grace and salvation. I put my trust in someone. I believe in them to do for me, what I cannot do for myself. I shared with you before, many times in my postgraduate degree I had to have help. I had to find people that were smarter than me and say, “Will you help me?” Sure, they’d say, “Sure I’d be happy to help you.” I trusted them to do for me, what I could not do for myself. I’ve had a few minor surgeries in my life and when I tell that doctor, “Will you fix me?” “Sure, I can fix you. It won’t be a problem.” They always say that by the way. Have you ever thought about when they put you to sleep, what could possibly happen to you? They could draw pictures on you. (laughter)They can make fun of you. They could take videotape you and make you do funny things under the influence of anesthesia. They could take the wrong organ. It happens! They can also make a mistake and kill you. There’s a morbidity rate at almost every surgery. They tell you, “Ok, there’s’ a one percent morbidity.” Meaning out of one hundred people who get this surgery, one dies. Next time you go under the knife ask, “What’s the morbidity rate for this procedure?” The doctor will say, “Wow, you know a big word.” And when I say, “Yes” to that doc, I am trusting him to do for me what I cannot do for myself. And when I wake up the pain communicated he did something for me. Wow! when you trust someone you are saying, “I believe in you. I put my faith in you. I put my mental, my heart, my kind of whole in you to say, “You know what? I trust you to do this thing.” You’re going to do something for me, I cannot do for myself. Grace through faith. It’s a gift of God and the word is so profound. It’s something God gives. We can’t fix it; we can’t appropriate; we can’t earn it. It’s a gift. I don’t know about you, but the last time someone gave me a birthday present, I did not pull out my wallet and say, “Can I reimburse you?” How silly.
CONCLUSION: Perhaps we make this too difficult sometimes: to be saved, to have a relationship with Christ is to trust Christ to do for me what I cannot do for myself. So when I say, “I’m putting my trust in Him, I’m believing in Him,” it’s as simple as that. Let’s don’t overwork it, just like that gift. If someone gives you a gift you accept it. You receive it. You trust that the person giving you that gift intended you to say, “Thank you.” I mean at best send a thank you note. You’re not going to send them a reimbursement check. When Christ died in your place and mine, He provides us a gift. He provides us that gift by means of grace, meaning you nor I cannot find our way to God, that God was good enough to come to you and me. I often think of a set of scales in my mind. On one side would be the things I do right;on the other side, the things I do wrong. I think it’s human nature, for most of us at least; we do bad things and the scale tips to one angle, and so we do some good things thinking if I do some good things I’ll compensate for the bad things, and vise versa. On it goes, we don’t do some good things, let’s do some more good things. We try to have this magical set of scales in our head, always trying to balance so the good side is better than the bad side. It’s a false system. It’s a lie. Very confusing. Christ died for you. He offered you a gift called salvation. You and I trust. We believe in Him that He’s granting us this free gift called eternal life. How do we get it? How do we accept it? How do we receive it? Scripture says by faith. We trust. We believe in what He’s done for you and me. So back to that present that your parents gave you on your last birthday, or when you were a child and you ripped it open eagerly and said, “Thanks mom and dad” You enjoyed that gift. Well living the Christian life is just like that. It’s trusting in Christ to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. You and I, by faith appropriate that gift and once you believe in Him, once you put your trust in Him, once you put your faith in Him, He gives you a gift called eternal life.
It couldn’t get any better than this. Love to hear from you. You can come to the inContext website. You can leave a voicemail. You can send me a message. We’d love to hear from you. If you’d like to hear more about what it means to know Christ. This is Michael Easley inContext.