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?
How do you know you are saved? Do you do something to get saved? Is there a work involved, do you just go “get” it, do you “accept” it and if so, how is that not a work. Is not the action of reaching out and taking something an action that constitutes a work, albeit a small work, is it still not something I can boast it? How much “accepting” do I have to do, if it’s like accepting a gift, is it a heavy gift? Do I have to unwrap it, take it out of the box, does it require assembly? I am a father of 3, and I know how much work accepting a present can be, kids toys have more moving parts than the space shuttle. Are we saved with works, through works, do we have works because we are saved, can we be saved without works, and if we have no works, are we saved? If we believe in works theology, can we still be saved? If we can’t be saved because of works theology, but accepting is a work, where does that leave most SBC churches?
How do we know we are saved? Can we have faith apart from works, and can we have works apart from faith? If we prophecy in His name and cast out demons in His name, if we preach and teach in His name, does that mean we are saved? Can we think we are saved and not really be saved? Can we be saved and not really know it? Who decides who is to be saved, do I make the choice or was it made for me? When was it made, when I made it, or before the foundations of the world? Does God know who is going to be saved? If He does, when does He know? How limited is God’s view of human action? Can we surprise God? If God knows what I am going to do before I do it, can I make the choice to do something else?
I asked a whole lot more questions that I am going to attempt to answer. I know what I think and what I believe, but to be honest, I have no idea what we as a denomination believe. We seem to be divided over the foundational issue more than any other issue, from both extremes to some place in the middle, to those who don’t even want to discuss it. This is the most important doctrine in the life of a Christian, it is what makes us a Christian, yet we can’t even come together in agreement on what it means, what it looks like or how it happens.
Come, let’s reason together and see if maybe we can come to an understanding. Let’s try to be civil and disagree like Christian adults, even if there is a possibility that none of us are either.