Thursday, January 29, 2015

Salvation On Its Way

Charles Spurgeon gave this memorable summary of definite (i.e. limited) atonement:
“We say Christ so died that He infallibly secured the salvation of a multitude that no man can number, who through Christ’s death not only may be saved, but are saved, must be saved, and cannot by any possibility run the hazard of being anything but saved.”
Contrarily, advocates of general atonement argue that Christ’s death, strictly considered, did not actually save anyone. Rather, his death simply made all men savable. At this point, definite atonement advocates may struggle with how best to tease these things out. After all, what about our conversion in the here and now? Is the new birth somehow unnecessary if Christ’s death and resurrection effectively saved us?

I think the trouble arises because of our common tendency to speak of salvation monolithically. That is, we talk like salvation only means one thing, as if once you’re saved, you’re saved in every sense of the word. But I don’t think this is the way God wants us to think about salvation. Because in Scripture, salvation is spoken of not only with respect to the past and present (Rom. 8:24; 1 Cor. 1:18), but also with respect to the future:
“Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28).
“. . . kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:4-5).
So right now, at this moment on January 29, 2015, I am indeed saved. And yet, at the same time, I’m not yet saved in the fullest sense of the word; because the Bible tells me Jesus is bringing more. I am saved, and I will be saved. There is no discrepancy here if we’re thinking biblically.

Now given that Scripture itself sets up this “already/not yet” category, I don’t have a problem rewinding the progression back a step and applying it to our original question. Did Christ’s death on the cross actually save anyone? Yes, it did.
“. . . having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross” (Col. 2:13-14).
“Those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant” (Heb. 9:15).
When Jesus died, my sin debt was cancelled. When Jesus died, I was redeemed. So it’s hardly a stretch to say, with Spurgeon, that when Jesus died, I was saved. But even so, I had yet to be saved in a more complete sense. My salvation had been secured by Christ’s work, but I still needed to be converted. I still needed to be born again and brought from death to life on September 1, 1996. Once that happened, I was saved in a fuller and more realized sense. And even today, I understand that I’m still not yet saved in the fullest and most realized sense. That final salvation, though secure, is still on its way.

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