Salvation Matters

               I have blogged before about salvation and I firmly believe this to be an important concept to understand. Have you ever heard the phrase, “it’s not a salvation issue”? This has always concerned me because I try to define what exactly is a salvation issue. This is pretty serious right? We have this prevailing understanding that you are either saved or not. The next question we must ask is, “what are we saved from?”. I have heard many answers. I was led to Christ understanding I was saved from living an unfulfilled life (John 10:10), whereas I have heard many others refer to being saved from “eternal damnation (Matthew 25:46)”, or even from the “futility of our minds (Ephesians 4:16-19)” or more recently, “the old mode of existence (the body of Adam). So…which is that and how does that apply to us in the 21st century?

               First and foremost, Scripturally I see a major issue of salvation being the preaching and understanding of the gospel, the true gospel. In Galatians chapter 1 we read, “But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be ETERNALLY CONDEMNED. As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be ETERNALLY CONDEMNED (Galatians 1:8-9)”. We also read similar thoughts in 1 Corinthians chapter 15 verses 1-11 and 2 Corinthians chapter 11 verses 1-4. I recently made a video explaining that the jesus many so-called “christians” profess, believe in, and claim to follow is not the same Jesus Christ I profess, believe in, and follow His teachings. You can watch that video here:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5CjuIOHqrk

               The most apparent issue that is seen is the lack of context given with the popular message. Who was waiting and to whom was salvation and Jesus Christ the Messiah coming to? In reading the Old Testament and let’s say Luke chapter 2, you can learn more about the context and purpose of the Messiah- remember He came to fulfill prophecy and the Scriptures (Old Testament) prophesied about Him. As Andrew Perriman stated in one of his blogs:

“One basic consequence of the narrative-historical approach is that what we find in the New Testament is not primarily a gospel of personal salvation or teaching about how to live a good Christian life. What we find is the story of a people going through a protracted and traumatic historical crisis, a crisis which is radically reinterpreted in the light of the death and resurrection of Jesus.”

“We live with the consequences of the transformation that was brought about through the death and resurrection of Jesus, just as Old Testament Israel lived with the consequences of the exodus as a defining redemptive event”.

This seemingly confuses many who have been led to the “Romans Road” view of salvation. It seems many have taken the historical message of salvation to Israel and therefore a light to the Gentiles (Luke 2:32) and have made it a personal, relavistic, subjective “feeling” they have when they “accept Jesus into their heart”. FRIGHTENING NEWS: THIS IS NOT THE GOSPEL PREACHED BY THE APOSTLES!

                                             “let them be ETERNALLY CONDEMNED”

               Let me get a bit personal here. I am known for my critical attitude, which I and some others would label “reforming”. I read about, listen to, and engage the “gospel” that is being taught to many people and it is a play on their ignorance of Scripture, and therefore rebuke it with the intent to lead people closer to a TRUE, REASONABLE, AND CONTEXTUAL UNDERSTANDING of the gospel delivered and fulfilled by Jesus Christ and His Apostles. Otherwise, I am making concessions for eternal condemnation.

  Read Romans 1:16. It is therefore vital to understand what salvation was to the Jews, after all Jesus came only to the lost sheep of Israel (Matthew 15:24) as the “consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25).

“Judaism of the second Temple period (and prior) considered the concept of salvation more national (corporate) than exclusively personal, as modern Christianity views it. The salvation of the individual Jew was connected to the salvation of the entire people. This belief stemmed directly from the teachings of the Torah. The idea of corporate salvation of Israel is reflected in Paul’s letter to the Romans, particularly in chapters 9-11. The concept of salvation was tied to that of restoration for Israel. It included such ideas as: Rescue from national enemies, Restoration of national symbols, State of shalom among peoples, Inauguration of the age to come, Liberation from Rome, Restoration of the Temple, Free enjoyment of their own land and Inauguration of a new covenant between Israel and her God”.

Some of the Scriptures that testify to these things are: Isaiah 2:1-4; 11:9-10; 27:12; 33:22; 42:1-6; 45:14,23; 49:5-6; 23; 51:4-5; 52:7-10; 54:3; 56:1-8; 60-66; Ezekiel 17; 20:42; 34; 36:9-12; 39:26; 47:13-48; 48:35; Daniel 7; Micah 2:12; 4; 5:10-15; 7:17; Amos 9:11-13; Zechariah 2:11; 8:20-23; 14:1-11; Zephaniah 2:9;10; Joel 3:17.

The Jews of the first century expected to be rescued from foreign dominion. This would occur after they suffered (a purification process) for past breaches of their covenant with God. (See: Deuteronomy 4:32, Isaiah 40:1-2, Jeremiah 31:27-40, Ezekiel 18; 36:24-28, and Hosea 14:2.)”.

               It is clear that the Jewish understanding of “salvation” was a corporate thing that would occur after a big judgment-style event, can someone say “resurrection”? The theological terms within the New Testament need to be interpreted by way of an Old Testament Hebraic method; otherwise we end up adding a different meaning to words which they were never meant to convey. For example, ““wrath” has reference to the destruction of Jerusalem and the overthrow of pagan imperialism; “gospel” is the announcement that God is about to transform the status of his people in relation to “the nations”; Jesus’ death is an atonement for the sins of Israel, the means by which the people of God would escape complete destruction; “justification by faith” has reference to the historical vindication of those who believed that Israel’s God would make his Son, Israel’s king, Lord of the nations; and so on”.

You can do more studying pertaining to understanding Jewish “salvation” by visiting sites such as:

http://boldlyproclaimingchrist.wordpress.com/2012/01/24/the-abstract-enemy/

http://www.abideinchrist.com/messages/amos9v11.html

http://www.yashanet.com/studies/romstudy/rom2.htm

 Many times I get into discussions and seek to explain this corporate understanding of salvation but so many people are concerned about their individual salvation. I can’t begin to account how many times I hear, “are you saying I am not saved?”. Andrew Perriman explains this dilemma:

“For evangelicals today, however, conditioned by their history, theology and culture to prioritize the interests of the individual, this way of relating to the New Testament sounds much too detached and depersonalized. We have become theologically reliant on a paradigm that makes personal salvation the unmovable centre of Christian thought. It requires a considerable leap of the imagination to shift from a universalizing, concentric, synchronic theological model to a particularizing, linear, diachronic historical model, but it has to be done. Certainly it has to be done for the sake of an intelligent and consistent understanding of the New Testament, but I would also argue that in the long run the personal dimensions to our theology—pastoral and evangelistic—should also be reconstructed in keeping with the narrative-historical reading”.

               In the same light, properly understood “salvation” exposes the issues we have with the popular “gospel”.  If you take away personal salvation and replace it with corporate salvation that is individually realized, then surely the gospel isn’t personal either.

“The good news, then, is that Jesus died for the sins of Israel in order that a remnant might escape the coming destruction and experience new life, in the Spirit, in the age to come”- Andrew Perriman

 Again to quote, Andrew Perriman, “Redemption, therefore, is not a personal event but a corporate and historical event: redemption is when God’s people get through the coming crisis of God’s judgment of the ancient world: they have been sealed by the Holy Spirit for an impending “day of redemption” (Eph. 4:30). Because this future redemption was secured outside the Law, through the faithfulness of Jesus, membership of redeemed Israel was thrown open to Gentiles, which is a crucial factor in how YHWH shows himself to be God of the whole world and not of Israel only (cf. Rom. 3:21-22, 28-30; Eph. 2:11-22)”.

               Are you getting it yet? The whole context of Scripture was and is Gods’ relationship with His people- Israel. What we see occurring through their salvation would be a “light to the Gentiles” (for clarification purposes: Gentiles are all who are not Jewish). We (Gentiles) can give God glory because of how He has shown Himself faithful to His people and now through Jesus Christ we are welcomed into that ‘covenant relationship’ “ meaning that they (or we) in turn were delivered from the wrath of God against the idolatrous, immoral and unrighteous pagan world, to share in the life of the age to come”.

“But what about Jesus dying for my sins?”

… the New Testament is otherwise not much concerned to assert that Jesus died for any particular person’s sins. The point is not made with regard to any particular Jew in the Gospels or any particular Gentile in Acts. Neither Cornelius nor the Philippian jailer are “saved” by believing that Jesus died for their sins; they are saved by believing that God had made Jesus Lord and judge (Acts 10:42-45; 16:31). The pagans of Antioch in Pisidia are “saved” because they believed that God had brought a saviour to Israel (Acts 13:23, 38-39, 48). Nowhere in Acts are Gentiles told to believe that Jesus died for their sins. What mattered to the Gentiles was that God had made him judge and Lord of the nations (cf. Rom. 10:9, 13). When they came to believe that, they repented of their idolatry and its associated “sins”—in effect, they repented of their culture—and were forgiven. They received the Spirit, and so were incorporated into the redeemed people of God”.

               I absolutely loved Andrew Perriman’s blog about Acts chapter 13:

“Paul briefly tells the story of Israel from the patriarchs to David, and then claims that from David’s offspring “God has brought to Israel a Saviour, Jesus, as he had promised” (13:17-23). When we hear the word “Saviour”, we instinctively think of the cross, but I would suggest that, as elsewhere in the New Testament, the salvation of Israel is a future event: Jesus is the one who will save a remnant of Israel when the day of God’s judgment comes (cf. Acts 3:19-21). Salvation means escaping the coming wrath of God against his people. Individuals must believe, repent, be forgiven, and receive the Holy Spirit, but only in the context of this narration. When the Gentiles hear this, they rejoice and glorify the “word of the Lord”, and those who were appointed to share in the corporate life of the people of God following judgment, the life of the age to come, believe what the Jews have not believed, namely that God is saving his people by making Jesus king of Israel and judge and ruler of the nations (13:48). In this way the believing Gentiles become part of a saved people”.

               That’s the gospel that Jesus and the Apostles preached! What we believe is that we as individuals would have no place in the corporate body of Christ (where the blessings of being His chosen people are) unless salvation was given to the Jews and became a light to the Gentiles. That my friends, is the kingdom of God- the new heavens and new earth. The highlighted ‘evangelical’ emphasis on personal salvation not only completely destroys the historicity of the Biblical gospel, but goes about to create a new one.”…it takes a large political narrative about Israel, pagan empire, and the future existence of the people of God and hacks it down to the dimensions of a personal narrative of salvation and life after death. Secondly, it takes a particular historical narrative and converts it into a universalized narrative that no longer has anything to do with the vicissitudes and accidents of history”. As for my God, He is not the author of confusion!

“The narrative-historical approach does not in the least leave the modern church—or the modern world—with no compelling interest in the content of the New Testament. On the contrary, I would argue that it provides us with a much more rigorous and credible connection with the scriptures than the selective, reductive and distorting approach of much modern evangelical theology”.

               Once we take notice of the problematic “individual focus” of the ‘evangelical “gospel”’ we can then see how “futurism” has prevailed. We put our individual selves in the story- “I will see the Lord come again”, “I will be resurrected to a new body”, “I will be judged”, rather than recognizing the corporate story and language used all throughout the Bible. A failure to see the gospel as fulfilling the hope of Israel and therefore understanding the context that is laid out throughout the Bible is nearly impossible. The false “gospel” creates a failure in understanding what WAS the salvation of every individual- the kingdom of God and instead replaces it with a personalized “eternal life”.

               I personally have come to the conclusion that “salvation” isn’t the current issue. “Salvation” in the Biblical context was fulfilled for Israel and all nations in AD 70 when the destruction came on the temple (the old system) and brought about the NEW. In evangelizing, I am not saving people from an afterlife hell, but rather a hell-on-earth, which is due to the absence of the knowledge of God. I believe the “salvation”, if I may use the term outside of its’ historical context, of today is for people to be saved from the failure of anything in this ‘world’ to offer fulfillment, since Jesus along brings “life to the full” (John 10:10). By learning the teachings of Jesus Christ, every man and woman can build a “foundation upon the rock” and be “set free” from the lies of this world (Matthew 7:24-27; John 8:31-32).

               The other night I was the third party to a conversation that went like this:

ONE GUY: “I don’t believe that God would send a bunch of people to hell because they didn’t know of Him or didn’t believe in Him. Look at Buddhists, there are plenty of good Buddhists, why would they go to hell”.

SECOND GUY: “God is perfect therefore up against His perfectness all men are sinners. In the deeper parts of that Buddhists mind, he is a sinner, he doesn’t so everything right. Doesn’t ALWAYS live in love”.

               As I sat there and simply listened to this conversation, I had so many thoughts. What have “we” “pitched as the gospel”? What’s up with the obsession with the afterlife? I so wanted to intercede and explain that I agree there are good Buddhists and I don’t see God sending them to hell because they didn’t accept a certain message, but wouldn’t they want to be encouraged to grow in Truth? That’s the gospel for today- grow in the grace and knowledge of God- build a solid foundation upon His teachings of Truth. In Scripture we do not see an obsession with the afterlife in another realm, but rather the afterlife of the ‘age to come’ which began in AD 70. It’s about life in the here and now!

               I have come to realize that it isn’t necessarily that many people are rejecting the Truth of Jesus Christ, rather the fact of the matter is, they are not hearing it at all. Majority of “Christians” don’t read the Bible therefore are not preaching the Biblical gospel. Talk about a ‘salvation issue’!

So I repeat my points from above: “salvation in the New Testament is a political matter that has radical implications, first for Jews, then for Gentiles. Jesus dies as part of Israel’s story; he is raised from the dead as part of Israel’s story; and as Israel’s new king, he will come to judge and rule over the nations. What we see at the end of this incident and at the end of the account of Cornelius’ conversion in chapter 10 is what happens when the Gentiles believe this new story about Israel. If we reduce this all down to “Jesus died for my sins”, we are bound to lose sight of the political narrative and its implications for understanding the place of the people of God in the world”.

“A narrative-historical reading of the New Testament suggests that the “gospel” is the proclamation of what God did for his people during a period of eschatological crisis. The personal dimensions to faith have to be worked out in relation to the “political” narrative. One consequence is that at the personal level evangelism is not so much the offer of salvation as the call to become part of an obedient community that bears witness—always fallibly, always on the basis of grace—to the full scope of creational righteousness. That requires personal “salvation”, but as a means to a missional end. Once we get this clear, there are countless ways in which both the Old and the New Testament can be used to instruct the church in practical creational righteousness”- Andrew Perriman

To read more about Andrew Perriman and his awesome blogs, visit www.postost.net

               Until next time…let us continue to bring ‘healing to the nations’ by spreading the message of a faithful God and how He fulfilled His promises! That’s the gospel of salvation!

               Blessings in Christ,

                              Michael Miano

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