There’s a danger in studying small bits of scripture the way we do from week to week in that we fail to see the forest on account of the trees. So I thought it well that our theme should kind of summarize it all, look at the whole of it, under the theme of our Great Salvation, which is a quote from Hebrews 2:3, which says that “How shall we escape if we neglect a so great salvation?” And I thought for years that if we don’t repent and become Christians, we would go to hell. But Hebrews is talking about static Christians, carnal Christians, who don’t press on. A bicycle or an airplane have to move forward or they are going to fall. And so Paul says, “How will we escape the inevitable consequences of not moving ahead?” Of just being comfortable in the status quo. How should we escape if we neglect all the dimensions and the great proportions and the stupendous beauty of our salvation. In other words, God is not happy when we are scarcely saved, when we scrape in to heaven so to speak, by the skin of our teeth. Jesus says, “I want your joy to be full!” And he says, “I came to give you life, and that you may have it more abundantly….full life.” That’s the way it ought to be. And the Bible says in I Peter 4:18 that “the righteous are scarcely saved.” Isn’t that a damning inditement?
Now, how do you square that with the fact that the Bible also says that everybody is fully saved? Even little babies, who we trust possess the Holy Spirit. We all possess the Holy Spirit. This isn’t an elite group, the disciples and apostles, who happened to be Spirit filled. We are all Spirit filled. But like air in balloons, some are little tiny balloons and some are larger, but we are all supposed to be filled with the Spirit. Charismatic, pentecostal. This isn’t new, it is in our creeds and catechisms, where it says when Jesus was buried, we were buried with him too, so that our old nature is dead and gone. But the problem is that we don’t enjoy it. It may all be theoretically true, you may say, “He was right, it was all in the Bible and in our creeds,” but it hasn’t dropped from our heads to our hearts.
So, a few thoughts, and the first is that salvation is far more than having our sins forgiven. (The other topics which will be further amplified or delineated is that baptism is far more than the washing away of our sins, and finally, that heaven is far more than “pie-in-the-sky-by-and-by-when-we-die.” Heaven is something here and now, we should be citizens of the kingdom of heaven already now. We have risen with Christ, we’re reigning with Christ. And we shouldn’t be “under our circumstances” but looking down on them. We shouldn’t be all the time looking up but should be looking down and getting the view point that Christ has.)
You ask the average Christian, “What did Jesus do for you?” And the answer is, “Oh, he died for my sins.” But that is just the tip of the iceberg. The thrilling fact, as Paul put it in Galations 2:20, “I was crucified with Christ.” If I may digress, we all learned John 3:16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his own begotten son, that whosoever….” Well I’m not “whosoever”. I don’t know if that includes me or not. I really don’t. We can’t go on a verse like that that is so general. But we can on the basis of Galations 2:20 which says, “When Christ died, I died, I was crucified with Christ. Never the less, I live. Yet not I live, but the life which I now live… in this earth suit…, I live by faith, the faith of the son of God who loved me and gave himself for me.” Now that is personal, that is individual.
We pay a lot of attention to Jesus and his work on earth. But Paul says in II Corinthians 5, “I don’t know Christ after the flesh anymore. I don’t know anybody, I don’t even know myself after the flesh. I’m a new person, and I look at other Christians as though for whom Christ died.” If you forget everything else, you just say to yourself, “I was crucified with Christ.” Don’t say “Christ died for me,” but “I died with him.” Someone has said that liberal Christians stress imitation. There are bumper stickers and bracelets that have WWJD on them. And so we are to ask ourselves, “What would Christ do if he was in this situation?” I just don’t know what Christ would do in my situation, I just don’t. He didn’t live in this century. Imitation is the gospel of the liberal. And the “fundies” as we speak despairingly of them when we are fundamentalists ourselves, speak of a gospel of substitution: “Christ died for me, he took my place.” Their atonement can be so commercial, something that we don’t practice on earth at all. When Mr. A has been sentenced to die that Mr. B can take his place. This is contrary to human justice…mere substitution. But the whole gospel is unification, identification. When Christ died, we died. That’s justice. And when he rose, we rose. And that’s love, that’s grace.
Paul is discussing in Romans 5 this precious doctrine and he says, “How can I make this plain? Oh, I know. We all know that we have descended from Adam. That’s agreed upon.” Anybody who has studied genetics knows that you get your traits from your folks, even the way you walk, what you look like, it’s in the genes. Well, now, when we’re children it seems preposterous that we can leave our family, our home of which we are an integral part, a genetic part, and take up with a perfect stranger, and that he or she becomes closer to us than our dad or our mother, the woman who bore us. But it is fact, it’s true. That’s the way it works, that’s how a new family begins. The two become one…psychologically, emotionally, etc. And the Bible says that that is the way it is with salvation. He is our husband and we are his wife. We can repudiate Adam and Eve and say technically, legally, “We have nothing to do with you anymore. By the grace of God we got our bodies from you but that is as far as it goes.” II Corinthians 5:17 “If anyone is in Christ he is a new creation…” Just as Jesus was, a new creation. “Old things are passed away,” done, gone and buried, “all things have become new.” Do you know that if you look up the work “cross” is a concordance, the New Testament talks more about your and my crucifixion than that of Christ? It does. “If anyone would be my disciple let him take up his cross and follow me.” That is what Jesus said. And Paul said, “God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, whereby I am crucified unto the world and the world is crucified unto me.”