Some Christians need to lose their “definition of salvation”.
Our 21st-century church culture usually uses the term “salvation” to describe someone who says a prayer at an altar, or raises a hand in response to an invitation. We say things like, “Did you hear about (insert name here)? He got saved last Sunday!”
Whether it happens in a church building, at a summer camp, or at the corner table in a coffee shop… that’s pretty much the width of meaning most Christians give the term. When people use “saved” in that way, they are talking about the “point in time” event that happens when someone comes to initial faith in Christ as their Savior. That’s certainly an appropriate way to use the term, but is that the only way we should understand “salvation”?
When looking at the gospel of Jesus Christ, in its original context, we’ve got to head all the way back to the beginning of God’s story. We must be willing to jump back into the Old Testament and set the stage for the arrival of Jesus. To do this we will consider the problem of sin… and the promise, that God offered, to fix that problem.
We will look into the common role of faith in the salvation of all people. We must understand the purpose of the law in the Old Testament and how God used it with people of faith. The Old Testament law had a definite purpose and limitations.
Probably the most important idea we’ll delve into, is the concept of the “believing remnant”. This is the idea that since sin entered the world, God has always had “people of faith” on the earth. At any given time, there has always been a group who truly believed God was the only one big enough to solve the sin problem. Continue reading
One of the things I hope to do… is encourage people to reconsider some things about the four gospel accounts and the book of Acts. As readers of the story of Jesus, our generation and culture has become very familiar with what happened while Jesus was on earth. For instance, most people know, in general, what miracles He performed. We are somewhat familiar with the people He healed. We can repeat the story of His birth, His death, and His resurrection. These “events” are similar to the interior of a house. We are comfortable with them. We like the way they feel. We’ve lived there, theologically, for a while. They have become familiar.
One reader might really like the way John’s gospel reads. Another might like insight that the words of Christ offer. Someone else might really like the story of Pentecost… or Paul’s theology. These are the interior features of the gospel. As much as we love certain aspects of the scriptures, we often fail to leave them in their first-century Jewish context. Continue reading
The book of Genesis introduces us to the beginning. God created and, as the story goes, man corrupted. The “problem of sin” was introduced early in the story. Sin is a problem because it causes separation from the creator. Sin can prevent our relationship with God, and it always disrupts our fellowship with Him. The Bible teaches that sin has affected all people. It’s even disrupted the physical make-up of our planet. The problem of sin is world-wide. As big of a deal as it was when it happened, God still wasn’t caught off-guard.
The gospel means “good news”. Most people know that. There is a promise in Genesis chapter 3 that some call the first presentation of “the gospel”. Genesis 3:15 is often called the first promise God made to take care of the problem of sin. If I’m Adam or Eve… hearing God’s words would have been really good news. It was God’s first promise in this regard… and it suggested that one of Eve’s seed… someone down the line a ways… would take a blow to his heel… but he would crush the head of the deceiver. That’s code for… I’ll send someone who will take care of the problem of sin. That’s the first mention of the promise. Continue reading
I’ve been contemplating some words Jesus said right before he died.
Before I get to those thoughts… I need to give a little background information. I grew up in a good Bible-believing evangelical church… and I took communion on a regular basis. The symbolism of “taking communion” was always a really hard thing to understand. (I come from a tradition that views communion as a symbolic act. I acknowledge that other traditions within the church apply different understandings.)
Regarding communion, Jesus said that we are supposed to “do this in remembrance” of Him (1 Corinthians 11:23 and following). So, in my adolescence, I would sit, in the pew, with the small plastic cup in my hand (trying not to spill)… and hold the even smaller square of mass-produced “bread” between my two fingers (trying not to drop)… and I would try my hand at “remembrance“.
It went something like this…
“Jesus died… Thank you, Jesus…. His body was broken… His blood was spilled… He died… Jesus died… remember that Jesus died… Thank you… Died.”
Then when everyone else had received their same small cup and bead of bread… the pastor would allow us to eat and drink. I’d lick out the bottom of the cup with my tongue… and put it in the round rubber cup holder in front of me.
I did a lot of “remembering”… but never got much past that. Every time communion was served… I remembered… but it seemed really repetitive. I mean… I never really forgot about Jesus’ death between times. Continue reading