For many Christians, salvation has been reduced to a one-time prayer where one mentally and verbally agrees to a few key theological beliefs. The Bible and Jesus’ life, however, present us with a more holistic salvation that involves wholeness, new life, and transformation. Instead of viewing salvation as a legal contract, we are invited to join Jesus in a covenantal marriage where his life is poured out for us and our lives are poured out for him.
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For many Christians today, salvation is understood as a legal transaction, where one gains postmortem fire insurance in exchange for saying a one time salvation prayer. This is an anemic understanding of salvation that has led people to have a lot of belief without any change in lifestyle. This has also led people to view their relationship with Christ as a contract rather than a covenant. If salvation is a legal contract, we naturally want to know all the fine print and loopholes of our salvation so that we know exactly how far we can and cannot go before losing our salvation.
This legal contract mindset leads us to ask a few questions:
- How is this view consistent with the revelation of God in the Crucified Christ? Jesus addresses people in the here and now. He doesn’t try to get people to sign the bottom line. The legal mindset makes God seem he loves theological correctness more than he loves people.
- Why does the New Testament never divorce “belief” from “how we live” or “Jesus as Savior” from “Jesus as Lord”? 1 John 2:4-6 tells us we are to walk just as Jesus walked. It’s not just about a confession; it’s about knowing him so that the truth is in us, which gravitates us towards truth and new life in Christ.
- Why is salvation spoken of in three tenses? Ephesians 2:5 (past tense), I Corinthians 1:18 (present tense), and Romans 5:10 (future tense) helps us understand that salvation is an ongoing process that will one day be completed!
Salvation in the New Testament is much more holistic; it’s about wholeness, new life, and transformation whereas a contract is a one-time deal. Some key differences between contract and covenant are as follows:
- Contract: a legal deal between parties; doesn’t involve anything personal; it doesn’t change you. Covenant: a commitment involving the life of both parties; covenants always change you.
- Contract: acquiring something from someone. It’s about “what’s in it for me”. Covenant: an other-oriented relationship with someone; it always involves your heart.
- Contract: always predicated on mistrust, about protecting your self interest over and against the other party. Covenant: about protecting the integrity of the relationship that binds the two of you.
Scripture describes God as constantly seeking covenant with his people. This is mostly clearly seen when Jesus on the cross reveals the beautiful heart of God as well as our worth to God! Here we are a faithless bride committing adultery and yet he pursues us and woos us. The cross is his wedding betrothal to us!
The words of our “Salvation Prayer” just commit us to something. Romans 10 are covenantal words! Salvation is about the reality of the wholeness of God’s love here in our reality. It’s a process of transformation where we’re infused with the life and DNA of God, and it changes us! And someday that process will be complete. If we work with a contract mindset, we lose the joy of covenant.
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12 thoughts on “Twisted Scripture: Romans 10”
“How it must break the heart of God to be in love with a group of people that keep on treating you like a lawyer” 39:30, this is so true and so sad!
Hang on a minute!
“Lawyers’ Christian Fellowship”
It is interesting that the verses which Greg quotes were written by Paul in relation to a particular issue at Rome (between the “synagogue and the church”, so to speak, viz OT righteousness and NT righteousness…see also Acts 23:11) are now used for a different context and, in fact,on the basis that those using these verses for salvation have a “twisted” interpretation.
Anyway, accepting the pretext that salvation is more than a “legal acceptance” of God’s salvation offer, and where there is little or no spiritual/behavioural changes on the part of the convert, one would question both the conversion experience and the message of the “evangelist”.
The issue described is far too prevalent today where there is an interest in numbers and, as Greg describes this form of evangelism, more as a form of “fire insurance”, with the convert left almost in no man’s land from conversion to death or the second coming.
As most are aware from the Bible, the commission was to make disciples of all nations not converts, as such….but when the term disciple is used, most shy away from that sort of commitment. While there has been a number of books written on this subject, the one that stands out for me is Dallas Willard’s, “The Great Omission”. There are a number of aspects covered in this book, not the least being spiritual formation; that for most converts has been in regression up to the point of conversion. If it continues to regress after conversion, then the type of individual that Greg described in his message is the end result….the so called “carnal Christian”.
(For those converts looking to take the next step I found Ken Boa’s book, “Conformed to His Image – Biblical and Practical Approaches to Spiritual Formation” to be very good, but there are other books around including Dallas Willard’s on this matter.)
The other aspect to conversion is the gift of the Holy Spirit in the well known verse of Acts 2:38,
“And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptised every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
The one aspect that is often overlooked here is that the Holy Spirit is holy…and we are called to be holy (“be you holy, for I am holy says the Lord.” (Lev 11:44)). In the absence of fallen man’s ability to achieve any level of holiness on his (or her) account, the Spirit leads us into all truth and away from our fallen behaviour and to producing fruit and character consistent with our conversion and ongoing discipleship.
Great message that makes a profound point. Romans 10:9 does say that “if you confess with your mouth Jesus as LORD, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved”. I believe that is absolutely true. It’s the Lordship of Jesus in the context of a marriage-type covenant that is left out, HOWEVER, that is something that could be further defined as the person is immersed in fellowship as the discipleship process begins and continues. After all, the most important thing for a new Christ follower is a family, an army, and a body. Even if the new convert enters into his/her covenant relationship with Jesus correctly, without that family/army/body, the odds of carnality multiply. That means that we also have to honor our covenant by obeying Jesus’ command to make disciples. I would imagine that many, if not every, new believer must need direction and examples to follow as they begin their walk with Jesus. Fine tuning their understanding of what has happened to them, and helping them by bringing them into our family/army/body, showing them Christ-like love, etc. is a means to accomplish that fine tuning both in them and in us right?
When someone makes a commitment to become a Jesus follower, they probably have little idea of what they are even doing at the moment. Just enough to get started. It is on us to take it from there. I’ve seen many people (including myself) who get started without all the information that Greg mentioned today, but it didn’t take long for those who shared with me to move with me in a direction that “fleshed out” what it means to be a “believer and follower”.
It’s not quite “Pixar” but since Greg mentioned his Truck Stop encounter –
So many speak of the “gift of salvation” or the “gift of eternal life” as a thing that transfers ownership. God has it, gives it to you, and now you have it and He doesn’t. And “God is not an ‘Indian Giver.'” But the gift is not like that at all. This kind of gift would be endowing us with immortality, which Scripture says God alone has. This “gift” is simply the sharing of His life. We become partakers of the divine nature as we’re grafted into the Vine. We never have own very own eternal life apart from Him; rather we have the inexpressible privilege of sharing His intrinsic eternal life. What an incentive to serve Him and live “holy for He is holy!”
Re “assurance of salvation” – The Holy Spirit alone knows whether He indwells or not, and it’s His responsibility to testify so. If He does not testify to His indwelling, then He’s not there. Romans 8:16. Anyone who tells you “because you did___ or said ___ therefore you’re saved” is usurping the Holy Spirit’s exclusive role, and in dangerous waters. He knows and we do not.
Why did Greg never explain what the verses actually mean? He just avoided the text at hand.
I read an article on a friends blog called “Jesus’ Third Way” by Walter Wink. It’s quite good, and fitting for this message.
Thanks Greg, great message. Blessings.
Great preaching! Timely reminder of the fact that our faith should be a living faith in the living God – not the God of bare doctrinal facts – but the God of ‘Abraham, Isaac and Jacob’ – the God who has to do with real people in real time and in real situations. Paul writes about ‘being saved’ (I think in 1 Corinthians) but your preaching on this subject makes is alive and exciting.
It’s interesting, I just started watching these but it seems like Peter’s only job is to make a backhanded compliment and then to show that he basically paid no attention to the words that Greg uttered. Almost as if he watched the whole thing (if he watched it) while planning his rebuttal in his head.
“My father once told me that nothing a man says before the word “but” really counts.” – Benjen Stark
Re watched this today and thought; people can’t use this verse to say that Jesus is my savior but not my Lord’ because the verse says ‘if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord…’
Technically, salvation, in the first tense, is our accepting the bridegroom’s marriage proposal. Greg even said that “one day the marriage will be consummated”. We’re not exactly married to Jesus until He comes for His bride, right?