In the next two blog posts, we are going to look at two parts of salvation—the personal and the cosmic aspects of salvation. It is easy to emphasize either one at the expense of the other, so we want to avoid that—both are true at the same time, and we want to hold firmly to both.
As Josh mentioned in the last blog post, God created the world good, but mankind sinned and so we have two problems: guilt and rebellion. We need saved from both of these problems. So God provided for both of those things! He sent Jesus to be the perfect sacrifice to atone for our guilt. (Yes!) He also gave us His Holy Spirit to transform us. (Wahoo!)
We couldn’t fix either of these problems on our own. That is why salvation is by grace through faith. We can’t accomplish forgiveness, which is why we need to trust in the blood of Jesus for that. Neither can we accomplish transformation on our own, which is why we need the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives for that. However, we have to participate with the Holy Spirit in that work.
Here is the issue in the church. Because we have often unknowingly embraced a shrunk-down view of salvation that has only to do with guilt, this leads to a “ticket punch” approach. If we do whatever our strand of the Church says about the conversion experience (for some it is the sinner’s prayer, for others it is confirmation, for us it is baptism), then I have my ticket to a place called heaven, so, discipleship is really optional. It is for the super-Christians. Discipleship doesn’t really have anything to do with salvation.
But there are big problems with this view. For example, if we have “trusted” Christ in the ticket punch way but are still in rebellion against him, are we really saved? We are still slaves to sin! If our hearts are still self-ruled, then we don’t really want to be in the kingdom of heaven—which is all about God’s rule and reign.
So the question is, “What is saving faith in Christ?” Is it simply a mental assent to the deity of Christ and a particular theory of the atonement? No! It is certainly believing those things about Him, but it is also walking by His Spirit in faith. All throughout the Scriptures, saving faith has always been about trusting in and obeying God. Not in a rule-based way, but in the way of the Spirit.
So, we believe that from first to last, salvation is from the Father, through His Son Jesus for forgiveness and through the Holy Spirit for transformation. And our faith is both open/receptive to His work, and actively participating with Him in that work as we seek Him and follow Him. You see, with this larger view of salvation, Jesus’ call to discipleship and the apostles instructions to us make sense! They are not just a “tack-on” for super-spiritual people. They are in fact integral to having a saving faith in Jesus.
The challenge with this larger view is to keep our faith in Jesus—not in ourselves and our attempts at following Jesus. Trusting in ourselves leads to condemnation of ourselves and others. So we keep our faith firmly planted in Jesus, both for forgiveness and also for transformation.