In the last couple of posts,* I’ve outlined what I find scripture to say about salvation … and what it doesn’t say. I do not read it saying that everyone who does not hear the gospel of Jesus Christ is automatically lost and doomed to an eternity of torment – any more than it says that in the final judgment, everyone will be saved.
Those are extreme readings of scripture. Both require some rather torturous logic to reach them. The truth, I believe – as is almost always the case – lies between the extremes. But where?
Where scripture has led me is to a God who judges through His Son, and who judges the works of all. Those who have heard and believe in Jesus, the Christ and Son of God, have faith and the gift of His Spirit to inspire them to good works, which testify to their faith as surely as their words do. Those who have not heard still have a kind of built-in moral compass which should lead them to deduce the existence of God from the good works He has created, and to desire a life marked by good works as well.
Still, there will always be those who will turn their backs on everything good – whether they know the Name for it or not – and live a life full of self … which ultimately becomes self-destructive.
What do we as believers lose and what do we gain from adopting these conclusions, as opposed to more traditional extremes?
We do not lose conformity with scripture.
We do not lose the urgency of the great commission; the importance of the gospel.
We do not lose the sovereignty of God, nor His justice, nor His mercy, nor His desire that we choose the One who has chosen us.
We do lose a picture of a “God” who vengefully tortures – eternally – those who have never heard of Him, or do not fully understand him, even though they may have led very moral and generous lives marked by very few sins of a temporal nature and influence. This is a picture which sees only His justice, but little or none of His love and mercy.
We also lose a view of a “God” who capriciously says He was just kidding about justice for martyrs or victims or slaves; who yawns that it doesn’t really matter what you did or what you believed or how important you thought you were; who winks that you’re loved now and you have the right perspective about Who’s in charge and so you’re saved. This is a view which describes only His mercy, but little or none of his righteousness and justice.
We gain a glimpse of a God who perfectly balances justice and mercy; a God inarguably fair; a God who – even when meting punishment – does not over- or under-prosecute. (See Luke 12:35-48 regarding how unfaithful servants are to be treated. It does not speak of those who are not servants.) Nor does He over- or under-reward, since the work of salvation is His work. (See Matthew 20:1-16 regarding how servants working for short or long spans are to be treated.)
And, I believe, that glimpse is a much more balanced, realistic, accurate – and heart-winning – conception of God. Yet, the fact is, He has chosen to do that winning through us when He could have done it any way He desired.
So another thing we have to lose is our arrogance. (And I mean we have to lose it. We’ve got to.) We can no longer hold it over the heads of those who have not heard the truth of Christ that we have something they can’t have unless they do what we tell them to do. You see, it too often sounds like that to someone who has not yet heard the full Story. It sounds like a power play. It sounds judgmental. It sounds exclusive rather than inclusive. And it does not sound genuine. (No wonder. It’s not.)
At the same time, the other thing we have to lose is our own complacency. Not everyone is going to be saved. There are those who will themselves not to be saved, as well as those who are most willing if they only knew why and how and Who. And the Story of Jesus, the perfect example of selflessness and self-sacrifice, when humbly shared has great power to turn hearts toward God, toward good, toward belief and a life marked by good works that draw still more to Christ. It is important, because to those who have heard and believe, the promise of salvation is sure, written in blood.
So the final thing we should and must lose is self. We have to become the Story (Galatians 2:20). We have to learn to balance love/mercy with justice/righteousness in our own lives. All of our words alone will not do what must be done, nor are all of the good works we can do sufficient to communicate the Story. We must tell it. We must live it. If we who believe and act justly and love mercy will commit to walking humbly in this way with our God (Micah 6:8), we have something extraordinary to gain:
The fellowship of the souls around us whom we love – and whom God loves even more.
He has given us everything we need to live and speak the truth in love and win them, even the time in our days. Yet that time is a limited commodity:
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ~ 2 Peter 3:9
I believe they have a chance, even not knowing Him. But the odds of repentance and therefore salvation weigh so much more heavily in their favor when the possibility becomes a promise.
5 thoughts on “Scriptural Salvation: Loss-Gain Analysis”
Posts like this are the reason you’re my favorite blogger. You explain your thoughts well, they are supported by Scripture, and they seem to be in line with what the Bible teaches about the entirety of God’s nature…His justice and His mercy…by considering “both the kindness and sternness of God”. Thanks for giving us something to think about.
Great post brother!
“Who [is] this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?”
Job 1:1 There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name [was] Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil.
(We see here a man after “Gods own heart” we don’t have to take his word for it, even the Lord said so.)
Job 1:8 And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that [there is] none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil?
(And yes it is said that God will not aflict, )
Job 37:23 [Touching] the Almighty, we cannot find him out: [he is] excellent in power, and in judgment, and in plenty of justice: he will not afflict.
Job 1:12 And the LORD said unto Satan, Behold, all that he hath [is] in thy power; only upon himself put not forth thine hand. So Satan went forth from the presence of the LORD.
“Thy sons and thy daughters [were] eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: And, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead;”
(as we see God forbade harming Job personally, but not his children)
Jam 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
In other words Keith I don’t see where God is going to destroy anyone, just that he is not going to save some from the destroyer.
Mat 10:28 And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.
You may be right, Laymond. We’re not told whom is referred to as “destroyer of body and soul,” are we?
Great series, Keith. In the end, we’re not responsible for knowing the answer to the question. We ARE responsible for doing our best to minimize the number of souls to whom the question applies. Time to get to work. Maybe this is what Peter refers to when he says we can “hasten the coming of the Lord.”