Saturday, January 08, 2011

What Happens When We Are Saved?

From the latest article written by Dan Barnes at SBC Voices:

"Have you ever noticed how many ideas in the Christian faith seem more hypothetical than concrete? Things like “fall into the arms of grace” or “just give it to God”. What do those look like really? Are they things that have meat to them, or are they just things we say and have no idea what they really mean? How do you fall into grace, or give something in-material to a spiritual being? There are lots of things that we say are hard to define and pin down, but I think it’s symptomatic of a larger issue. We have tried for two thousand years to define Salvation, but I am not sure we are any closer. Something so foundational to the Christian doctrine, but we can’t agree on what it looks like, how we get it and how we know we have it.

"I want to pose some questions today, things to think about. I am sure for every question there are hundreds of opinions, so here is a chance to share yours. What is Salvation? Pin it down, are we talking substitution atonement, penal substitution, ransom theory? Is the nature of salvation illumination, restoration, satisfaction, victory, justification, something else entirely or a combination?

"What happens when we are saved? Does it happen in a split second, or does it happen over time? Is it a one time thing, or does it reoccur? Are we saved once and for all time, or does it happen daily? I have heard, seen or read theories off all and more, different ideas. I have seen verses thrown at verses and arguments made for every side, when and how does it happen?"

My Response:

This is one thing I appreciate about Reformed theology. “What happens WHEN we are saved?” It’s a poor question because our life is eternal, not temporal.

Eternally, we are saved from Death: our separation from God. This salvation is accomplished by the incarnation of the Son of God who justifies His people through submission to Death even as He has power over Death.

Things eternal are worked out temporally. Our separation from God is temporally represented in our sin and the death of our bodies. It is just that our sin is paid for by death. It is for justice that Christ came as a man, Jesus of Nazareth, who, being God Himself, had no sin and gave His physical life for all sin. His people, being reconciled to God yet living in a world of sin are blessed with His constant presence in the person of the Holy Spirit. So even as His people are eternally justified by this, His people are also each temporally sanctified by the Holy Spirit to grow in the spiritual knowledge of God. That is, God reveals Himself to us temporally not by mere facts but also by our desire for Him. This makes the revelation of God through His inspired scriptures meaningful to us. As such, at some point all those who are alive by the Holy Spirit will realize at once a belief in the facts of Christ, but also a trust in His temporal work on the cross as He demonstrated His submission to death in the justification of our sins. The progression of our growth in this faith throughout our temporal life is called sanctification.

The language we use is typically not this precise, and it doesn’t need to be. Godly wisdom unto saving faith is not contingent on our ability to understand. A baby understands little, but trusts much. Therefore, it isn’t necessary to always express the gospel in difficult language. It is only necessary to speak enough truth at first for faith to resonate in the lives of people who have the Holy Spirit. After saving faith is identified, then more truth and understanding should be taught over time in agreement with the temporal work of the Holy Spirit in continued sanctification in the lives of each of His people.

As for a Baptist distinction, there really should be none. There is only one way we are saved despite our best opinions. It is our incorrect opinions where Truth is absolute that divide us in soteriology. The good news is that our salvation is worked out in the lives of believers not by any opinion or by our flawed understanding, but our mere and genuine trust in God.

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