What is the doctrine of salvation? What does it mean when we talk about our “salvation.” Dr. John Neufeld unpacks this doctrine.
I have been working on a series to be aired in the future on The Ten Commandments. As I have followed the Biblical material which explains both the meaning and importance of the law, I have been pondering the nature of our common salvation. It has struck me that, in an almost imperceptible manner, the doctrine of our salvation is being obscured in our day. Salvation is commonly portrayed in psychological terms rather than in legal terms.
Common to contemporary understanding is the idea that salvation delivers us from a pointless existence into a life of purpose and meaning. After all, how can there be an understanding of the reason for our existence if we are not aware of our Creator or the reason He created us? Salvation becomes a way of recapturing a true sense of who we are and why we exist.
Where there was sorrow, there is now joy.
Many baptismal testimonies in the local church now reflect this reality. It is quite common to hear people talk about how their lives before Christ were chaotic and lacking in joy and purpose. But when Christ came, all of that changed. Where there was sorrow, there is now joy.
Now, of course, a part of this is true. But when a secondary truth becomes the main truth, the result is a tragic loss of the Gospel story. Secondary truths must remain precisely what they are. Salvation is never about our search for meaning. It is always the crisis of our own sin.
1 John 3:4 defines sin as “lawlessness.” That is to say, sin both breaks the law and disregards the law.” Even though the 10 commandments do not define all points of lawlessness, they premise all of God’s laws. When we fail to worship God, when something in our lives become more important than God, when we misuse His sacred name, or when commit adultery or envy that which belongs to our neighbour, we have broken the divine law. God is infinitely righteous and governs all of His creatures according to His justice. We have come to know that we are lawbreakers who await our day.
How should we think of our relationship with God?
Whenever we define our salvation in any terms that lack salvation from the just penalty for our law-breaking, we undermine the work of the cross. Galatians 3:13 reminds us, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us – for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’” In this context, the curse refers to the just penalty for all who violate God’s altogether righteous decree – His law. Paul writes that the law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ (See Galatians 3:24). It trains us as to how we should think of our relationship to God.
Salvation is always a salvation from the just penalty for our sins. For those who argue that this message is not well received in our culture, I would concur. But, rather than change the message to include a more psychological tone, I would argue that the right response is to double down. We need to present the greatest need of the human race to expose our sins and warn of its rightful consequences. Only in this fashion will Christ be worshipped as a worthy Saviour.
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