Because of the paradoxical nature in which scripture is written, and the lack of training in learning to hold those scriptures together as one whole piece in the Light of Jesus, there are MANY passages of scripture that can appear to be more difficult to understand than they actually are.
Recently, I received a question from a reader of this blog about such a “puzzling” passage in the light of other passages such as Eph 1:3-14, 1 Tim 4:9-10, which state clearly that God has adopted ALL of humanity in Christ, and is the Savior of ALL, IN HIMSELF – in and apart from our personally believing anything.
I thought you might appreciate the question and response, so here they are in that order:
Question: “I was just reading the WCG Bible Study, The Gospel According to Paul, http://www.wcg.org/lit/gospel/gos5.htm
Also at the Reconciliation site, I read where the gentiles (Cornelius to be
exact) was not saved until he received the gospel from Peter. (This did point out that his good works did not save him)
1 Cor 15:1-2
1 Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached
to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand.
2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the
word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain
Of course, I understand how you cannot know by Whom you are saved (or that you are saved to begin with) until someone comes along to tell you (the gospel). But the way it is written, the gospel is what saves you, not “the gospel tells you by whom you are saved therefore believe it”.
To live a “saved life” is different than “the gospel saves you” when you talk to your average Christian who was taught standard Western philosophy. To them, first the gospel saves you, then you live a saved life.
Can you clarify?”
My Response (edited for clarity):
Great questions and especially in light of our erroneous and abstract past teachings!
The FIRST answer, in the literal person of Jesus, instructs us in the fact that HE, JESUS HIMSELF, IS the Gospel, IS SALVATION! Luke 2:28-32! Therefore, whenever we see the words “Gospel” or “Saved”, we should first translate that word as “Jesus Christ”, the Son of God made flesh.
In other words, there is no Gospel that is JUST information about something OR someone = even Jesus! Literally, God and Man are reconciled in the literal God/Humanity of Jesus Christ! Because that is the Truth, you MUST believe it, personally, to experience its Truth and BE saved!
It is CRUCIAL how I am beginning to interpret all of this! If we do not start with Jesus being the Gospel, literally, in His very Person, then all we have are concepts and information and potential theories. Beginning with the literal Person of Jesus, we now have the most solid facts and TRUTH on which to receive information. Jesus iS the Truth! In this case, because Jesus is the Gospel, all of our humanity, and ALL people, are quite literally saved IN HIM.
Now, because that is true, we have something more than just information or a theory to believe in! We can know and trust that our salvation is IN HIM, literally, and not in ourselves! Therefore we do not have to worry that our salvation will ever be lost because we continue sinning, have doubts or challenges to our faith, or even blaspheme God after “getting saved”.
The key here is to keep the emphasis on how scripture speaks of salvation in all of its various forms, beginning with Jesus Christ Himself! Jesus is the Revelation of God in Living Person! Rev 1:1! Because Salvation really begins with God Himself, most scriptures on salvation should be interpreted in terms of BEING something we already are in the Person of Jesus! Because Jesus is the foundational truth of Salvation, we must BE transformed by that truth in the renewing of our minds by believing it and Being saved! We should BE who we already are in Jesus by embracing and trusting that objective fact.
Understanding all of this keeps us from falling into the trap of Arminianism (“I am saved primarily by my free will, repentance and belief!”) No! All of humanity is saved in the God/Humanity of Jesus Christ, quite literally! There is NO salvation apart from him and his!
However, because Jesus DID trust, believe and receive his Father as a REAL, distinct human being, in the Spirit (he IS FULLY human as we are, yet without sin!), we, too, must participate in our salvation the same way he did! This point keeps us out of the trap of universalism! He lives in us, does through us, and shares forever with us who he really is, a human being who believes and trusts God, personally, in the Spirit!
Salvation is objectively true of all, and for all, literally, in Jesus. Therefore we must subjectively accept, embrace and trust it in order to experience our salvation as Jesus does in His Humanity! We are not robots, but real distinct people in union with God in Jesus! But because we are only sharing in Who Jesus is, when we have come to personal faith, it is ONLY because he has acted graciously to help us share in his faith! We never have a faith of ourselves, doing “our part” by ourselves!!
One other important and often overlooked fact: Our salvation MUST already be complete in Christ in order for the Holy Spirit to be sent to us and awaken our minds, personally, to what Jesus HAS ALREADY DONE so that we can now share in HIS FAITH! We have to have been Adopted and Saved by Jesus (past tense), FIRST, in order to BE Adopted and Saved by the Holy Spirit’s awakening, SECOND! The Holy Spirit tells us, personally, about a finished act and fact that has happened to all people and things in Jesus, and he invites us, personally and collectively, to believe it and BE it (embrace it as truth) in God’s grace, THROUGH FAITH!
We are saved by GRACE (we already have it FREE in the God/humanity of Jesus!!), through FAITH (if we don’t believe and embrace it personally it doesn’t do us much good, even if we do get a renewed body like Jesus’ – and we WILL all get a transformed body like his, regardless – 1 Cor 15:22, Eph 2:4-10!)
In the end, as believers, what we should say to people, in one way or another, is, “You have been saved in the person of Jesus Christ, Who is the Savior of the world! Therefore, embrace and believe HIM and BE saved (BE who you really are in him!), because those Who believe Him are ESPECIALLY saved, and experience a qualitative difference and positive transformation in their human lives, NOW and FOREVER! I Tim 4:9-10! In God’s grace, we all get to participate in the exact and risen human life of Jesus Christ, in the Spirit! 1 John 4:17. Won’t you believe and participate in this life along with us?!”
Your last comment was REALLY correct: “To them, first the gospel saves you, then you live a saved life.” Right! Jesus, the Gospel, saved us – now we can BE and live a saved life in the Grace of the Spirit, proceeding from the Father and the Son! Ha-Ha!!
I hope this helps!
Peace, Love and Blessings!