Eat This ‘Roll Forward’

Maybe you’ve heard it taught before – the doctrine that all of the sins of Israel were not forgiven by God; but “rolled forward” to the cross.

Where did that teaching come from?

As nearly as I can tell, it didn’t come from scripture. I can’t find the term “roll forward” or “rolled forward” in the Bible at all.

I think the closest you’ll come to it is Hebrews 10:3-4:

But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

And as for the part of the teaching that says the sins of the people of Israel were not forgiven … well, I have a problem with that because scripture has a problem with it.

In Leviticus 4:20, 26, 31 and 35; 5:10, 16, 18, and Numbers 15:25-28. Unintentional and accidental sins could be forgiven. Sins that weren’t understood to be sins could be forgiven.

And in Leviticus 6:7 and 19:22. Sins that restitution was made for could be forgiven.

And in Numbers 14:19-20. Some sins prayed about by the leader of the people could be – and were – forgiven.

And in 2 Chronicles 7:14 and Isaiah 33:15-24, God promised forgiveness for sins when penitence was shown.

And in Psalm 51:1-9, and 130:4; and Isaiah 43:25; and Micah 7:18, where God’s forgiving nature is recognized and praised.

How is that possible, if Hebrews 10:3-4 is true?

Because of the context of those verses – the surrounding chapter, Hebrews 10.

Only the blood of Christ – His sacrifice; His death; His burial; His resurrection – can bring about forgiveness of sins.

So one can only conclude that the power of His blood is as potent when “rolled back” through time all the way to Eden as it is “rolled forward” through time to its end. One can only determine that the blood of bulls and goats was powerless to do anything – except to serve as an “annual reminder of sins” – including any presumed “rolling forward” of sins from one era to another. God had no delight in it.

Now I realize that this is an inconvenient fact – a bitter-in-the-stomach roll – for those who would completely separate the Old Covenant from the New, and who maintain that there was a different kind of God in the Old Testament from the kind of God we find in the New, and who insist that what we do now in obedience is the only way anyone can or ever could achieve forgiveness.

Well, too-bad-and-have-a-Pepto-Bismol. Nobody achieves God’s forgiveness. Not by righteous acts of obedience, whether animal sacrifice or penitence or confession or even baptism. Nothing we can do, apart from the power of the blood of Christ, can save us or anyone who has ever lived. We accept that by obedience, just as those long before us accepted God’s grace and forgiveness by obedience. It’s not like any of us has done any heavy lifting in removing that burden – not even accepting relief from it by living lives of gratitude for the atonement that was made.

It isn’t our obedience that saves us. It’s His. We just have to accept that.

Christ Himself made the sacrifice. Only He could. Only He did.

That’s just the kind of God He is.

And He does not change:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. ~ Hebrews 13:8

So I don’t think we have to worry about the eternal destiny of those under the Old Covenant. Guilt was never “rolled forward.”

Forgiveness “rolled back.”

The GraceFaithWorks Sandwich – A Third Bite

In the second bite of this way-too-long running series (which began here), I made some unsubstantiated claims about what I believe. Unsubstantiated, that is, by citing scripture references – and I would like to correct that. I said:

”… whatever a Christian does in this life is really not his or her own work, but God’s work through her or him (1 Corinthians 12:6; Philippians 1:3-6; 2:13; Galatians 2:8; Hebrews 13:21). It is no longer we who live, but Christ in us (Galatians 2:20). He created us for good works (Ephesians 2:10). We’re partners in the good works He does through us (1 Corinthians 3:9; 2 Corinthians 6:1). He gives us the eyes to see them and the ears to hear of the need for them. He gives us the bodies, hands and feet to accomplish them (Luke 14:13-14). They become His hands, His feet (Acts 4:32-35; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 6:20; 12:27). He gives us the energy (Colossians 1:29) and time (2 Corinthians 9:8) with which to do them. He gives us His own example to show us how and why (John 13:15; 1 John 3:16). He gives us His own Spirit to empower us to do those good works (Ephesians 1:19). If we don’t do them, we don’t really believe (James 2:26). If we know to do good and don’t do it, it’s sin to us (1 Peter 4:10; James 4:17). And if others judge our gospel by the way we live it or don’t (Galatians 2:14; Philippians 1:27), by whether we do it or not – why should God judge us any differently (Matthew 25:31-46)?”

Some of my beliefs are insubstantial and unsubstantiated. These are not among them.

And I hope they give a few moments of quiet meditation to those who disagree.

Frankly, it gives me pause to realize that I am not applying the Nike hermeneutic as often as I should.

The GraceFaithWorks Sandwich – A Second Bite

See previous post, The GraceFaithWorks Sandwich, if you like to take the second bite after the first. Long after!

I’m really not sure how to explain what I believe on the subject of salvation by grace, faith and/or works because I’m not sure that my language supports it. English is a very rational language, and speaks very easily of things logical and of things that are oppositional and therefore mutually exclusive because one is true and the other is false.

Maybe that’s because the cultures which speak it tend to think that way.

But the way scripture speaks on the subject puts the lie to salvation by grace through faith being totally oppositional to salvation through works.

My previous post, linked above, insists that it takes all three. That they are all integral to the process. That salvation is a process, rather than a one-time event. That faith without works is dead.

I alternate between two ways of looking at that perception:

  • That salvation is a binary thing: the here-and-now and the hereafter; what we do here-and-now is integral to our salvation in this life by giving us purpose and serving God and testifying daily to our faith; what Jesus has done on the cross and in exiting from the tomb is irreplaceable to our salvation in the next life.
  • That whatever a Christian does in this life is really not his or her own work, but God’s work through her or him. It is no longer we who live, but Christ in us. He created us for good works. We’re partners in the good works He does through us. He gives us the eyes to see them and the ears to hear of the need for them. He gives us the bodies, hands and feet to accomplish them. They become His hands, His feet. He gives us the energy and time with which to do them. He gives us His own example to show us how and why. He gives us His own Spirit to empower us to do those good works. If we don’t do them, we don’t really believe. If we know to do good and don’t do it, it’s sin to us. And if others judge our gospel by the way we live it or don’t, by whether we do it or not – why should God judge us any differently?

I don’t know which, if either way at looking at the subject is correct, or better, or even if they are mutually exclusive.

But I remain convinced that my old aphorism is still true: “Faith becomes fact when we act.”

No, not real fact; not fact that you can put in an encyclopedia. But functional fact. Something you believe so strongly that you act upon it as if it were true, every time, all the time.

Do you remember that great moment in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade when Indy has his instructions to cross a nearly-bottomless underground chasm on faith in order to reach the chamber where the holy grail resides? He steps out in the darkness, as instructed, unable to see the invisible stone bridge – camouflaged to look like the chasm! – until his foot rests on its solidity. Then, as he moves forward, his perspective changes; he can see it as clearly as can be.

Faith is still faith. It does not literally become fact.

But it does save us, like stone under our feet, to get us where we need to go in this life and the next.

If we’re willing to act on it.

Okay, that’s a big chunk to bite off and chew – expressed in as few words as I could write.

What do you think?

Next in this series: The GraceFaithWorks Sandwich – A Third Bite.

How We Are Saved

Not by law, through certainty
Nor concord, through unity
Nor uneasy community
But by grace, through faith

Not by works of our doing
Nor correctly construing
Nor judgmental spewing
But by grace, through faith

Not by logic contrived
Nor by having arrived
Nor by feeling revived
But by grace, through faith

Not by praising heaven
Nor by having striven
Nor by our blood given
But by grace, through faith

To reach every nation
with words of salvation,
why not this recitation:
“It’s by grace, through faith.”

By Grace, Through Faith, Expressed in Works?

You can pretty much ideologically prove what you want to by citing one or two Bible verses and ignoring the rest of the Bible.

Salvation by water baptism only? Just isolate 1 Peter 3:18-22.

Salvation by belief and confession only? Romans 10:8-10 will do.

Salvation by belief only? Acts 16:31

Salvation by belief and baptism only? Mark 16:16

Salvation by loving the truth alone? 2 Thessalonians 2:10

Salvation by just hearing? Ephesians 1:13

Salvation that follows only through repentance and godly sorrow? 2 Corinthians 7:10

Savlation for women through childbearing alone? 1 Timothy 2:15, though you have to stretch the word “she” into “women” there.

Salvation only by staying with the ship? Acts 27:31

Salvation only by being an Israelite? Romans 11:26

Salvation only by being a Gentile? Acts 28:28

Salvation only by doing good things: feeding and clothing the poor, helping the sick, visiting the imprisoned? Matthew 25:34-40

Salvation only by grace through faith? Ephesians 2:8

Okay, the contexts of some of those are deliberately spurious, having nothing to do with the kind of salvation or “being saved” that we usually talk about. A few are outright silly.

My point is that we don’t always know what we’re talking about when we speak of salvation, or in what context it’s found in scripture, or how God bestows it.

Salvation isn’t a matter of “either-or,” but “and” and “and” and “and.”

Personally, my hermeneutic on salvation is seeing a lot of those scriptures describing it as becoming as much like Jesus as humanly possible.

He was human, so it is theoretically possible. He was and is divine, so it may be functionally impossible for the rest of us.

That shouldn’t keep us from trying.

Many of those scriptures above are attributes of an ongoing process called salvation which, according to Philippians 2:12-13, we work out by letting God work through us, “according to His good purpose.”

Therefore, the good works that we do are not our works, but His; He chooses to achieve them through us.

We give up doing what we want to do, and do what He wants us to do. We crucify self, and enthrone the Crucified in our hearts:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. – Galatians 2:20

Salvation begins here and now, and continues in eternity forever.

As Christians, we choose and are chosen by God to be agents of that salvation in our own lives and in the world. We are literally God’s work in progress. He equips us for it with His own Holy Spirit.

So there is never a point, as long as we live, at which we can live a Christian life – a life of worship – without letting Him work through us. We do so in gratitude for what He has done for us, but also for what He will yet do through us.

And as long as we are His instruments of peace, there is never a point at which we have to be worried about our salvation.

It is given by God’s grace, accepted in faith, expressed through His work in us.

The GraceFaithWorks Sandwich

Don’t miss the convicting and motivational post today on Chris Gonzales’ blog.

And give me just a moment to share (again) an insight that one of his thoughtful, earlier posts inspired me to add as a comment:

“Grace, faith and works are inseparable components in the way God saves us.

“Which component can you leave out and still have a peanut butter-and-jelly sandwich? Bread? Peanut butter? Jelly?

“I think grace, faith and works are part of the sandwich.”

May I add that grace and faith are great … but by themselves they don’t paint the barn?

My crumbling preference for a grace-and-faith only relationship with God keeps getting bowled over by things like Jesus’ prophecy of the sheep and the goats (“…you did it not unto me.” – Matthew 25:31-46) and what He revealed to John (“The dead were judged according to what they had done ….” – Revelation 20:12).

When I feel proud that my faith is deepening and must be sufficient, I get jousted right off my high horse by Ephesians 2:8 (“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God”).

Deep down I know that I can blog all I want to, teach all the Sunday School classes I’m asked to and write all the HeartWorship encouragements I can … but if I don’t LIVE OUT what I believe, I have absolutely zero credibility and my faith without works doesn’t work … it doesn’t even breathe (James 2:14-26).

And then there’s the secret ingredient to the GraceFaithWorks sandwich.

If I do what I do to puff up myself – instead of doing it out of love – I’m just making noise … I am nothing … I gain nothing (I Corinthians 1:1-3).

Next in this series: The GraceFaithWorks Sandwich: A Second Bite