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Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Baptist Faith & Message Ch. 4 "Salvation" Part 1

"Salvation involves the redemption of the whole man, and is offered freely to all who accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, who by His own blood obtained eternal redemption for the believer. In its broadest sense salvation includes regeneration, justification, sanctification, and glorification. There is no salvation apart from personal faith in Jesus Christ as Lord."

I will comment on the various subsections under "Salvation" throughout several posts. This post will only comment on the introductory paragraph in the F&M, as shown above.

I really appreciate the first line of this introductory paragraph about salvation. It reminds us to be mindful of the whole picture of salvation as applied to individuals, and seems particularly aimed (although it's hard to say for sure) at neo-Gnostic tendencies on the part of some evangelical Christians in the West to neglect the physical aspect of our ultimate redemption in Christ: the fact that Christ's bodily resurrection was the firstfruits of the resurrection of the righteous on the Last Day, at which point all of Christ's people will receive glorified new bodies like His and inhabit a redeemed, renewed, physical, new earth. Final salvation does not consist in disembodied existence in the ether, as the cartoons would have us believe.

The language of "free offer" is also important in establishing the propriety of the universal and indiscriminate offer of the gospel, although the syntax here is a bit ambiguous. It could mistakenly be understood to read "whoever accepts Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour is *then offered salvation*," but hopefully most readers understand the intent to be "this salvation, which is received by accepting Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, is offered freely to all who hear the gospel."

That Christ "obtained eternal redemption for the believer" "by His own blood" is, of course, the heart of the gospel and the foundation of all redemptive benefits. I wish the resurrection were mentioned explicitly here as well, but the gospel is often summarized in Scripture as either Christ's cross (1 Cor 2:2) or His resurrection (Acts 4:2), one always proclaimed in light of and assuming the other.

I believe the next sentence is an overstatement. Salvation, in its truly broadest sense would include not only these existential items of the ordo salutis, but also election/predestination in eternity past (which is dealt with in the next chapter of the F&M), and also the entire cosmic context of redemptive history in the historia salutis--the unfolding over centuries of God's plan for the redemption of the whole world. But clearly, the focus here is intentionally on understanding what happens to an individual as they experience salvation in Christ.

The final sentence of this paragraph is important for at least two huge reasons. First of all, it correctly establishes Christian exclusivism. Taking the words of Jesus, the apostles, and church leaders across the centuries, seriously, absolutely precludes any notion that Christ and His gospel are just one good option for a spiritual path among many legitimate ones. Yahweh, the God of Israel, would tolerate no other gods before Him (see Exodus may sound familiar), and His Son, "Yahweh Saves by His Anointed One" basically being the meaning of the name "Jesus Christ," is the only provision God has provided by which sinful men may be redeemed and made right with a holy God. Only in the cross and resurrection of Christ is true divine mercy set forth and divine justice satisfied simultaneously--only union with the true and perfectly obedient Son of God can provide a basis in reality for the gracious adoption of sinners as sons and daughters of the Most High.

The other reason this last line is so important is that it highlights especially the saving necessity of faith in Christ as Lord, contra radical "free grace" anti-Lordship-salvation advocates who seem to think one can receive Christ on some kind of installment plan: Christ as Savior first, then as Lord later on the "second tier" Christian experience of sanctification. The centrality of union with Christ, especially in Paul's soteriological language in the New Testament, should put any such notion to flight immediately upon consideration. As we will see, faith and repentance go together as two sides of the same coin, the "coin" of a regenerate heart "living and breathing" Christ. And repentance is directly connected to a recognition of Christ's sovereign Lordship.

While I have minor scruples with this paragraph, if reading with a very picky eye, it hits a number of very important doctrines right on the head.

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