Friday, January 06, 2006

NBB Theology: Salvation

Okay, so a while back I started this theology series in response to a post at Evangelical Update asking for our thoughts on salvation. I wanted to delve a bit deeper into some of the background before I got to my general view on salvation. I have now covered, at least at a high level, what I wanted to, so finally I'm at the point of wrapping up my series on theology, leading to salvation. There are myriad theology concepts, though, that I did not even come close to touching in this series. If you're interested in more detailed doctrine/theology material, let me know and I'll recommend some sources.

I've often heard something akin to, "God won't send me to Hell; I'm a good person." Or, "a loving God wouldn't send people to Hell just because they didn't believe in Him." Or, "there are many ways to God, and just because I find mine in Christianity doesn't mean people of other faiths won't be saved too." Or, "what about those who haven't heard of God?" All of these are, to say the least, based on a misunderstanding of what the Bible says about salvation. The foundational material in this series provided some of the clues about what the Bible actually does say about salvation.

What the Bible says about salvation is this:

  1. God created us to be in fellowship with Him, and with free will, able to "go our own way."

  2. We used that free will (and continue to do so) to sin against God

  3. Unfortunately for us, the penalty for that rebellion is death. Eternal separation from God. Hell.

  4. God, though, loves us enough to provide a way back to that fellowship. To eternal life with God. Heaven.

  5. That way was to accept the blood sacrifice of His son, the only perfect human (yet also God!) in history, who died for our sins and was raised from death by God

  6. But, this gift needs to be accepted to be any good to us. To be saved, we need to accept what God offers.

  7. Accepting salvation, offered by grace (meaning we don't deserve it, but God offers it anyway) is done through faith.

  8. The object of that faith is the redeeming, atoning work of Jesus.

In summary, John 3:16-1716"For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him..

The Bible doesn't say we're good people. Nobody is good except God. Yes, we can be "good" compared to others. But before God our standard is perfection. We all fall short. Regardless of whether we have received a sin nature we can trace back to Adam or not, each of us have our own sins which convict us. Even were we able to make it through life committing only one sin, that would (for all intents and purposes) be as bad to God as committing all. So forget the idea that "God won't send me to Hell; I'm a good person." Not compared to perfection you're not. And I know whereof I speak. I haven't killed anyone, raped anyone, beat anyone or embezzled millions from my company. In the eyes of the world, I'm not a bad guy. But I've sinned, and have earned condemnation.

Likewise, God is loving. But He is also just. His love and justice are equal attributes. Love requires justice, in fact, since love does not allow its object to engage in harmful activities. A loving God is just and righteous. And the Bible is very clear that God is just.

This just God is also the only God. This is why doctrine is so very important. The Bible is clear that salvation is through Christ alone, yet other religions do not accept this. In fact, there is not another religion in the world that worships the same God. Islam does not worship a triune God. Judaism does not accept Jesus as God and/or Messiah. Hinduism rejects the idea of only one God. Contra the universalist, it is logically impossible (since every religion is mutually exclusive of every other) for there to be multiple paths to the one true God since no two religious paths lead to the same God.

In regards to those who haven't heard, I addressed this a while back. But honestly, if this is what's keeping you from God, it's a poor excuse. For one thing, we should trust God to do what's right. For another, we have heard. We are not in the camp of "we haven't heard the Gospel." Our choice is informed, and should not be determined on the fate of those who haven't. Raising this objection is like telling the teacher that because some people haven't taken geometry I won't believe the angles in a triangle sum to 180 degrees. We've heard, we should choose. And then we should continue to work to ensure that the number of those who haven't heard the Gospel decreases.

The truth is that none of us is good enough to save ourselves from the penalties we've earned. But a loving and righteous God has provided a way out, which we can accept through faith. Lose the excuses. Accept God's grace, through faith. And then help reach the world for the one true God.

How do you accept this? Believe what the Bible says: we are all sinners, and deserve death. Believe that Jesus died to pay that penalty for us, and that He was raised again so that death is conquered. Believe that God loves us enough to make this sacrifice, and acknowledge that Jesus is the Lord and Savior of your life. Nowhere does the Bible say that you have to say a certain prayer; salvation comes from belief, not a formula. But if you want to say a prayer acknowledging your new faith, that is fine. God loves to hear from us. Then, find a good, Bible teaching church that can help you grow in faith.

Oh, and read the Bible for yourself. Test what I've written against it and make sure I am right in what I say. I'm not right just because I have a blog. I'm only right if I'm right. Better to take God's word for it than my own.

God bless!


cwv warrior said...

Your writing is excellent! There aren't many who can concisely explain God's plan for salvation. I have missed some of your series but am happy to have jumped back in. The "blame God" excuse because He isn't being fair is what set me back in my Christian walk for years. I befriended a Jew. Thus, I believed God was not being fair to judge him. So i have given these matters much thought. Thanks for your bold witness.
In recent years, I have concluded that God simply IS. His judgment results from His Being, not from cruel, harsh punishment. In other words, God cannot help it! He is wholly Love and wholly Righteous. It is not so much choice for God; the choice is OURS.
Will you be talking about the big questions: What about those who haven't heard or are closed vessels because of upbringing? Your statement that "We should trust God to do what's right" is the answer I have rested on for years. Blessings to you, Ron. This was worth the wait.

R. Stewart said...

I posted a link (can't remember exactly where) to a post I did a while back on those who haven't heard. I don't foresee expounding on "I don't know, but I trust God to do what's right." We'll see, I guess, where this goes.