This is the fifth and final part of a series that reveals my thoughts on salvation from the Christian perspective. It might be important for you to catch up, so here is the introduction, part 1, part 2, part 3, and part 4.
I told you in my last post that I’m not a Calvinist in that I don’ t believe that God just randomly chooses who is going to heaven and who is going to hell (and before I get comments below of Scripture as arguments for Calvinism, just keep in mind that both Calvinists and non-Calvinist arrive at their conclusions with the use of Scripture). In my view, if God elects people randomly then there’s really no need for Jesus. It’s like sending someone on an arduous errand that left them tired and beaten, only to tell them when they got back, “Oh nevermind, I’m going to take care of it myself…but thanks for the effort.” No. Christ was sent on this earth to die and be raised again for a reason. Because the event of the Passion of Christ, though it happened over 2000 years ago, demands a response from us. Your response may vary from “I believe” to “That’s a load of crap” to “I’m still figuring that out;” but it still demands a response. If it doesn’t demand a response, then God has already made up His mind about you and it doesn’t really matter what you believe or how you live…or even what Christ did for that matter.
CHRIST DIED FOR…SOME?
Now if the gift of salvation through the Passion of Christ is held out to be received by us, I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that God is offering that gift to every human being on earth based on the reasons above. Paul says in Titus 2:11, “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” And in 1 Timothy 2:4, Paul explains that God “wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.” So if God indeed is offering salvation to all, then it must be assumed that God is giving all people a chance to receive the gift…otherwise it’s not really offered. Is God really the big brother that teases the little brother by dangling a chocolate over the little brother’s head but then holding it up too high for the little brother to reach? No. So somehow, someway I have to believe that God is offering the gift of salvation to all people. What does that look like? I don’t know. But Paul even says in Romans 1:20 that “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” Based on Paul’s words, “excuse” means the excuse that God somehow left them out in offering his salvation. Look, nobody’s responsible for the context in which they were born. What if someone were born into a family that understood Jesus to be the devil of the West? Is it fair that that person would grow up believing such things while I was born as a pastor’s son singing Sandi Patty, Amy Grant, and Psalty songs on the way to church camp? Does God say, “sorry for your luck, kid” and send them to eternal hell? That simply doesn’t compute with God’s claim to be a loving God.
SALVATION BY CHRIST THROUGH FAITH…AND ALTAR CALLS
Finally, let’s consider that responding to Christ’s gift of salvation may be a little more than our modern, Evangelical view of saying a sinner’s prayer or coming forward to an altar call. In my earlier post I said that God is the one who saves, not us. How the gift of salvation is received is another question. I don’t have enough space on this entry to name all of the things that the Bible says about receiving that gift, but one thing is for sure…there doesn’t seem to be a great deal of consistency. Even the simplified “just have faith” raises several questions. What does “having faith” mean? Is it just a cognitive recognition in the existence of God like many people think, or are we called to leave our own “fishing nets” and follow Jesus even if it demands our own lives here on earth? Even the word in the ancient Greek for faith, πιστις (pi’stis), can be accurately translated “faith” or “faithfulness,” which connote two very different things. The point is that one cannot spell out clearly the exact “do’s” of receiving the gift of salvation. It’s typical for Evangelicals to require someone to “pray a sinner’s prayer,” which is found in some instances of Scripture, but not all. And I have found that method to be very powerful! Many of the modern Evangelical methods of leading someone to salvation in Christ are effective and life-changing…but are they the ONLY methods for someone receiving the gift of God? Based on variety in Scripture of how people come to receive Christ, I say no. There may be a variety of ways that people can respond to the gift of Christ and begin their journey towards the center that is Christ. All I can do is share the story of how I too once was lost, but now I’m found. I can share of the savior I’ve found in Jesus and point the way towards a life in him. And I hope that others do the same.