Monthly Archives: March 2015

Salvation

Christians often wonder as to who is saved, even amongst church members.  The Bible says that many are not sincere, but false.  But here we are concerned about (a) adults who have never heard the Gospel; (b) children, anywhere, who are not able to “believe”.  These two are related, but are still different.  What we usually mean by being “saved” is “going to heaven”.  This is a poor conception of salvation.  Our problem as to adults would be far simpler if we would ask, “Are they ‘saved'”, born-again, different, Christ-like now!

There are many reasons why we ask the question: 1. Simple curiosity, like too many theological questions.  Impersonally.  2.  Exclusivism.  “Keep it few!  We don’t want just anybody.”   Strict church requirements are often less for the glory of God than for making membership elite.  Often the question stems from uncertainty as to one’s own right to membership.  The disciples quarreled for position.  3.  Selfishness.  Concern as to the salvation of loved ones, etc.  4.   Evangelistic.  Commendable desire that as many as possible be saved.  5.  The glory of God.  Christ’s “great salvation” deserves great results.  The more people that are redeemed, the greater demonstration of God’s love, mercy.  Think of Moses’ plea for Israel.  Of Abraham: “Will not the Lord do right?”  It is reassuring to know that God wants ALL to be saved; our desire is a reflection of that.  Important reminder; God’s glory is not revealed in quantity: then God would have to keep on making and saving people forever!  Christ’s BODY is being completed.  The important question: Am I really saved? Do I reflect God’s glory, purpose?

It is certain that not every one is saved.  Not even in some future life (Mt 12:32), as Jehovah Witnesses and modern Universalists teach.  Every one who is saved, is through Jesus Christ only.  This includes the Old Testament saints (sins “passed over” by “credit”, as ours paid for by “cash”).  This does not mean that every saved person has to know Jesus consciously.  Jesus paid for the sins of all men.  (Jn 1:29; Rms 14:15, II Tim 4:10, etc.)  This is the legal ground for God blessing unbelievers.  In the Judgment day (Matt 25) the lost are not condemned because they were sinners! (see also Jn 16:9)  There are not two Gods, a Creator who loves unbelievers, and a Redeemer who loves Christians.  Those who constrict Christ’s death to only Christians are those who forget that salvation is MORE than just forgiveness of sins.  “Mere” forgiveness does not get a person into heaven.

Every one who is saved has “faith”, BUT, faith comes in all sizes.  A baby has intelligence from birth; similarly, can have faith.  Old Testament people did not have faith in Jesus the way we do; He was not even born!  (Incidentally, a child is not saved via his parents’ faith.)  Faith shows itself, in both infants and adults.  (Babies show trust in their parents, versus strangers.)  Cornelius (Acts 10) prayed and gave alms; the centurion in Luke 7:5 built a “church”,  Rahab in the Old Testament .

Revelation 7:5 says that there are members of every nation, tribe in heaven.  This gets down to very small groups, and some such groups have become extinct without hearing the gospel.  For those concerned about a legal, “covenantal” basis for God’s gracious dealing with those “outside” the preaching of the gospel, every human being is descended from Noah, with whom God first used the word “covenant”.  God’s mercy to his creatures does not stop with the second or third generation, but reaches to the “thousandth” (Exod 20:6).

Some Bible-beleivers are convinced from the above considerations that all children who die without reaching the age of accountability will be saved, that is, be in heaven.  (Of course, they will not be there, if they are, because of an innocence or because their parents believed in God.  It will be through Christ.)  This would shed new light on the text, “Of such is the Kingdom of Heaven”.

This salvation of billions of human beings who never reached adulthood on earth, plus the possible salvation of some adults who never heard the gospel but were saved in terms of what was said above, would explain the countlessness of the redeemed, and the fact that Christ saved “the world” (even if that doesn’t have to mean everybody or even the majority).  An argument against the salvation of “countless” children is that it would be strange if heaven were made up mostly of those who were saved in what seems from Scripture to be the “abnormal”, exceptional way.  This world is the “rehearsal” for heaven, not just a “soul-factory” to produce spirits for God to save.

Perhaps all that we can conclude from the observations above as far as adults are concerned, is that if a person outside the gospel responds to the light which he does have (Paul says that the world of nature “preaches” to him, and God speaks to him through his conscience.  Rms 2:12-16; 10:14-18), God will reward him by giving him more light, the way that Peter was sent to Cornelius.  (“To him that has, shall be given.” Lk 16:10  Many missionaries today report finding “heathen” who were “seeking” before the gospel came (prevenient grace).

Doesn’t this argument for the possible salvation of those who have not “heard”, discourage evangelism?  (Paul says everybody is getting “preaching” in some way.)  All that we have said is wishful thinking.  The Bible does not answer our question specifically, so at best we are only hoping.  (It is a worthy, a “Christian” hope – if it is concerned about God’s glory.)  If we would like it, how much more must God, whose love so far exceeds ours.  If we are wrong in our reasoning, then we are overlooking something important which we should ask God to show us. If any “heathen” adults are saved in this “irregular” way, their number is certainly very few.  If preaching has great results, as the Bible says it does, it is criminal if we settle for he minimum.  The few who might be saved in this fashion have only the scantiest enjoyment of God’s “full salvation”.  Jesus didn’t die so that people would just squeeze into eternal life, but have it “more abundantly”.  Such people, of course, are scarcely able to be God’s means of saving others, both because of their limited number and meager personal faith.  God’s great program of saving the world (numerous individuals and society itself, by Christian living) cannot be accomplished in this way.

What about baptized children who die before maturity; are they all saved?  Every one realizes that a little water saves nobody, so the question is, are children of Christians saved if they die before maturity?  If ALL who die before maturity are saved by Christ (never having rejected him), there is no problem.  Some people believe that the children of Christian parents are saved (and unbelievers’ children are not, or we “leave them up to the Lord”.  This is hard to accept;  Many do not “remain” Christians when they grow up.  This situation would make a parent prefer their children to die young!  Since we know that all do not become Christians, perhaps the best answer is to say of ALL children who die in youth, baptized or not, that God knows their nature, or, putting it in human terms, knows what they would become if they had grown up and were able to make a decision for Christ.  While all these guesses are legitimate, the Bible wisely gives no final answer.  (Deut 29:29 and Luke 13:24 are OUR golden texts.)

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Union Life in the Epistle to the Hebrews (Hebrews Part II)

The dynamic, “vital” aspect of salvation (in contrast to the legal, objective – justification) is admittedly the more neglected, ignored part of our “so great salvation” (2:3), namely SANCTIFICATION.  And Paul states plainly that Christ (and Christ alone) is our sanctification, “holiness”, “redemption”.  (I Cor 1:30)  “Work out your salvation….for it is God who is at work within you, both to will and to do.”  The dominant theme of Hebrews is “more, better, let us go on”  to that higher understanding.

The “new covenant” to which Hebrews refers repeatedly, is more than just the full-fill-ment of the Old, a reality of which the Old was a picture.  The New is to the Old as a butterfly is to a caterpillar.  In the Old there was no admittance to the heart of the tabernacle/temple, the ark of the covenant, the Mercy Seat, the “throne” of God.  But at Christ’s death (which initiated the New and the Old was “finished”) the door, the heavy curtain closing the entrance to the Most Holy Place, was shredded.  Therefore, says Hebrews, “let us approach the throne of grace boldly.”  This is the climax, the acme of God’s creation desire for man, namely, intimate fellowship, to an “in” degree, rather than “with” or “upon”, as in isolated instances in the Old Testament, where God came upon certain individuals or places in “spirit”.  “Christ went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle”, not to come back out again, a la the Old Testament high priest, than whom (again) Christ was far better, unique.  Note as well that in Hebs 9:3 the golden altar of incense (at which “ordinary” Zachariah officiated) is said to be inside the Holy of Holies, while in the Old Testament it is specifically outside, in front of that forbidding curtain.  Reflect what this means as to the efficacy of New Testament prayers (as described in Jesus’ farewell discourse, “in Him”, a phrase repeated seven times) versus those of even the most devout in the Old.  Rms 8:26 – “WE (in ourselves) do not know what/how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit (of Christ) himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”

Hebrews is the only Bible book, besides I Thes 5:23, with a proof text for trichotomy (see 4:12), a doctrine (that human beings consist of body, soul – psych – , and spirit) which is basic to Union Life.  “He that is joined to the Lord is one spirit.”

What we customarily regard as the “fundamentals” of the faith – repentance, faith, instruction for baptism, resurrection, eternal judgment, the “word of God”, the Holy Spirit – are regarded in Hebs 5:11-6:6 as “elementary”, not to be repeated, but to be built upon. (6:4-6)

Christ’s inseparable identification with us – see 2:10-18 – has the practical application that as Christ fulfilled the glorious words of Psalm 8, so has that promise been fulfilled by him for us.  Ephesians makes it more specific by saying we now reign with him. Paul says when Christ rose, we rose, etc.

Hebrews 3 is not content to say that Christ is greater than Moses, but that God is the builder of his house, Christ is the builder’s son.  Moses was a servant in the house, and WE are the house itself.  This picture is repeated in I Peter and Revelation where Christ is called the corner-stone, and we the lively stones (in a class with “precious” ones) built upon him.

The idea of God’s “rest” being a here-and-now attainability (not held in escrow until the hereafter) is made crystal clear in Hebrews (see I Cor 10 as well) in which it is said that God was not pleased with the Israelites “spinning their wheels” in the desert sand for  40 years, though that static condition is often regarded as a parable of our “normal” life upon earth.  The Red Sea experience of death to the “old” life had to be repeated in the Jordan River by the new generation, thereby enabling them to enter the Promised Land (which had foes enough, but guaranteed victory, security, prosperity, possession.)

Hebrews 12:10 says that “we may share in God’s holiness” – not that of angels, or Paradise “earned”.  See also I John and his equating of Christ’s righteousness with that of ours. God’s very “will” – what gives him personality identity, power, “good pleasure”, choice – is engraved into our very hearts, as Old Testament prophet Jeremiah predicted of the “New Covenant”.  (8:10; 9:16)  We become possessors of Christ’s “mind”.  (Cf. I Cor 1:30, 2:16, 3:23)

Hebrews (Part I)

Hebrews can be divided into two parts:  1. Why we should go on (Ch. 1-10:18) and 2. How to go on (10:19-end).  Alternatively, it can be divided into three parts:  1.  Our SAVIOR is “Better” (Ch. 1-7);  2. Our SALVATION is “Better” (Ch. 8-10:18); and 3. WE should be “better” (10:19-end).  Part one shows that Christ is superior to the angels and to Moses and Aaron, all of which were important in the Old Testament and in any “good” religion.  Part Two shows that the NEW covenant is really new.  Salvation is complete, total (8:12,13).  The word “covenant” has been replaced by “testament”!  Part Three holds up for our example the Old Testament heroes of the faith, saying that we ought to go on beyond them!  Murray finds a neat text for chapters 11-13 in 10:22-24; Ch. 11 – Fullness of Faith; 12 – Patience of Hope; 13 – Labor of Love.

There is interspersed in the argument five solemn warnings:  1. Neglecting (note, not “rejecting”) salvation’s GREATNESS (settling for “less”; 2:1-4).  2. Not entering God’s “rest”.  Israel, out of Egypt, but not in Canaan, which is not a picture of heaven, but of victorious eternal life now (3:7; I Cor 10).  3. Spiritual immaturity; what doesn’t grow, dies (5:11-6:8).  4.  Sinning against better knowledge, deliberately (10:26-39).  5.  Low esteem for one’s spiritual birthright; covenant-breaking (12:15-29).

The great theme of Hebrews is what is variously known as “full salvation”, the deeper or more abundant life, victorious living.  Jesus spoke of “full” joy; more abundant life.  Paul said we are to be filled with the Holy Spirit; he scolded the Corinthians (compare 5:13) for being “half-saved” (I Cor 3:2).  So Hebrews says “Let us leave elementary doctrines and go on to maturity”, “Run the race set before us”.  “Let us” occurs 13 times, “summoning the believer to a higher stage of spiritual perfection.”  The word “better” also occurs 13 times, so that Hebrews is urging us not to settle for the merely good, but covet the best, the most.  This theme is elaborated in such books as Watchman Nee’s, especially “The Normal Christian Life”; Andrew Murray, especially “The Holiest of All” (A commentary on Hebrews); and “How to Live The Victorious Life,” by an “unknown Christian”.

In other words, Hebrews is not a warning against back-sliding, apostasy per se, but the idea that Christianity is a static thing and salvation is a gift like a package, instead of an eternal, infinite, constantly-growing life.  To stand still (by repeating fundamentals like “Jesus saves”) is to fall, just as certainly as a plane or bike will topple and crash if they do not move forward.  Contrary to usual ideas, Hebrews is not warning against going back to Judaism, which would be a false religion.  Paul took care of that idea in Galatians.  And Judaism had been destroyed, or was about to be, with the fall of Jerusalem.  The title to this book, “Hebrews”, is misleading; it is not genuine.  The book is addressed to all Christians.  The error it fights is very common; only within the last few years has the Christian at large come to understand what “full salvation” is all about. When Hebrews talks about all the Old Testament religious customs, it is only using that to show how complete and wonderful the Gospel is, by comparison.  And the sad fact is that many Christians have an Old Testament faith!  No, they do not offer sacrifices, etc.  But they think confession and repentance have to be constantly repeated, as though Christ has to be continually crucified instead of once for all; they have no more assurance of salvation than many Old Testament “saints”; they make much more of Christmas than of Christ’s Ascension and Pentecost.

Now, what IS being saved “to the uttermost”? (7:25)  To what must we press on?  Salvation has a legal, objective, external aspect – justification and the forgiveness of sins.  The Old Testament typified that with its vicarious sacrifices.  Christ’s death on the cross took care of that.  This is where most Christians stop; “Christ died for me.”  But this gives no peace, joy, security, nor change in the believer, except a sort of thankfulness for one’s salvation that is no more permanent than one’s momentary feelings.  In addition to all this, the “more” and “better” of Hebrews is the fact that Christ now lives!  And lives within the believer; this is his sanctification.  This is the “rest” that he is supposed to enter.  (3:7-4:13; 12:1,2)